Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Race Matters....Damn Right it Does

Race has always fascinated me. As a product of an interracial marriage I can tell you that race is a major factor in human relations. Its the first thing we notice about someone who we see, aside from gender. In the U.S., the melting pot of the world, more specifically in the Big Apple, arguably the most diverse city on Earth, race relations here get tested in ways akin to a giant social experiment.

In Queens where I grew up I grew up around people from all over the world. I interacted with whites, blacks, and all different kinds of Latinos and Asians. Since the U.S. isn't a country based on race, and instead based on an ideology, becoming "Americanized" is easier for many immigrants here. I've noticed that many second generation Asians Americanize pretty quickly. You'll see many people of different races hanging out with one another in New York. Many "ethnic" neighborhoods are mixed among different immigration populations. I believe becoming Americanized is a key ingredient for immigrants and American born citizens alike to finding a unifying commonality between the diverse backgrounds that their ancestors inhabited.

American culture is the glue that holds us all together. Otherwise, when we see some immigrants who never adopt American cultural values, they are often found living in a cultural bubble and usually do not interact with members outside their race or ethnicity. I've seen this first hand many times in New York City. Some immigrants live in ethnic enclaves and live as if they are still at home in their country. They watch TV in their native language, listen to music in their native language, read books and newspapers in their native language, eat traditional foods and never speak English except when they have to. Well the U.S. constitution doesn't force anyone to adopt American values and replace them with their old ways of doing things. It has to do a lot with the age of an immigrant when they come to the U.S. There is an age somewhere around 15-17 where if an immigrant comes here before that age they will have enough time growing up in the U.S. that its culture will rub off on them enough for them to become Americanized maybe even fully. After about 17ish a person is already almost an adult and solidified in their ways and might never become fully Americanized. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule.

As far as being "Americanized" goes there is an interesting point I observed. Traditionally in the U.S. there were two cultures: White America and Black America. Each with their respective traditions and ways. There is not doubt that white and black America have distinctions in their culture. So when immigrants come here they have two choices of how they can become Americanized. Depending on their environment, I've noticed many immigrants becoming African Americanized and adopt aspects of black culture in America. Adopting black slang or Ebonics, hip hop as their favorite music of choice, and traditionally black ways of walking and dressing. I was speaking with a Puerto Rican friend who I used to work with a few months back about how all the second generation Indian Americans are now all "acting black" and how we are annoyed by that. I remember him asking me why, if you could imitate any subculture in America, would you choose to imitate the one that is at the bottom of the list in terms of socioeconomic status. I agreed with him.

On issues regarding black and white, the two traditional groups in America (besides Native Americans who never had a significant place in American culture) many cultural and economic problems occur. I've always been fascinated talking and thinking about white and black people in America. The history of slavery and racial discrimination come to mind. Class and economics, and crime come to mind. For example, in New York City, which is almost evenly sliced into quarters in terms of the racial makeup of its people, black people at about 25% of its population are responsible for about 65% of the known homicide perpetrators as well as victims. So fully two-thirds of murders are committed by and against black people. This over representation, which is reflected in most other cities with black populations, is the root cause of negative stereotypes of black people and in particular black men.

As long as you have statistics like this being reported of the evening news and in the newspapers black men will continue to be seen as violent criminals. Blacks are also usually the most poverty stricken and jobless groups in every city and state where they live (although sometimes Latinos give them strong competition). I was talking with a friend recently about the lack of blacks and Latinos in the fields of science. Name me one famous black scientist, or Latino one for that matter. I dare you. They exist but we don't have one famous non-white scientist that is a household name in the U.S. Is it do to white racism? A white washing of history that we learn? No doubt we learn history mostly from the white man's perspective in American schools. Still statistical evidence shows that only about "4 percent of minority high school graduates have taken the math and science courses necessary to start working toward an engineering degree (NY Times). So minorities, I'm not sure if this includes the "model minorities" the Asians, are underrepresented in science and math. That's not really news to anyone. I respect black intellectuals like Cornell West and Michael Eric Dyson (although I don't always agree with them) for their passion of knowledge and analytical skills at race relations in America. We need more minority men like this. These men are real role models. They aren't perfect, but they are examples of making the right choices in life and doing something positive for a world with so much negativity.

I want to be a writer!

That is a good writer. I want to write nonfiction. I want to write about my ideas and experiences with life; about growing up where I have grown up; when I grew up and about the people I grew up with; about the politics and culture of today; about religion and race my two favorite subjects. I want to start reading more; good writers read the works of other good writers. I hardly ever read. I've gotten sucked into this visual world of simple 5 or 10 minute clips that has been built. Why read a lengthy book or article when I can simply watch the video or movie on the internet? Reading takes time, patience, diligence. When I come across a book I really like I can devour it rather quickly. I haven't even read a single Christopher Hitchens book, a writer I greatly admire. Maybe it's because I haven't had much time considering school. I have kept a journal for years. It has helped my writing a bit. I guess I'll keep on writing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Burqa's Insult

The burqa insults me. I as a man am insulted by the burqa because it attacks my character and gender, and implies that men cannot be trusted around women even modestly dressed, and therefore women need to be covered up almost completely. Many critics of the burqa have focused on the plight of the women having to wear it, even though Islam doesn't mandate it officially, but my take on the effect of the burqa is that it is just insulting to men as it is to women.

The forced submission of women to the will of men is partly because of men's fears of the desires of other men. Men stereotype themselves just as much as women do, often more. However, as a man I give more credit to our nature: we aren't always all about sex. I think that many men feel they have to live up to the image society has anointed them and behave like stereotypical sex-craved dogs in order to be "normal." This has the larger effect that is mostly in my mind, economically driven to get guys to spend more money on products designed to make them think they are more sexually attractive. I don't always agree with the excesses of capitalism, and I know that it often conflicts with many of the traditional ways of Islam. I do think that the answer to the problem concerning this money-driven, over-sexualization of our society, for both men and women is not Islamo or the burqa, but rather another more rational path that uses science and reason.

I can behave myself around women as can many men, who are modestly dressed, that is not having their head covered, or a sheet covering their full body. The burqa is going to far, plain and simple. It's overkill. I can understand that a woman provocatively dressed in some situations is inappropriate and that modesty is something that is needed, but the answer is not to cover our women with tarps. That would be like putting out a lite match with fire hose.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

But What if There is a God....? Part Two New Age Gods

I had a conversation with a friend recently and immediately I turned the conversation to the big God question. He is a former Catholic who I think might be in the closet about his catholic beliefs, but likes to profess his faith in his own personal customized God. His God is the universe, it's matter, it's thought, it's conscientiousness. He even believes that we are living in a world that is not real, that is instead virtual like a matrix style program conjured up in some advanced virtual reality synthesizing machine or in the mind of a deity. He doesn't believe in matter. He thinks everything is a thought. So I asked him "What if a hammer fell on your head? Wouldn't it affect you? Wouldn't your head be damaged?" To which he replied that the hammer isn't real and neither is his head.

We got really deep into the idea of relativity. We came to the agreement after an hour or so that yes, our emotional perception of events are relative in that they are subjective to how we perceive them. September 11th was a sad day for some and a joyous day to others, for example. But we disagreed that events are relative in the matter of them actually happening. I came up with an example. I put a pink lighter on the table, and asked him if was there. He basically said it was relative to the person. Well I told him that if a person didn't acknowledge the lighter I could use the lighter to light their pants on fire, and then they might notice. We never did really come to an agreement but I think I made my point pretty clear.

These new age Gods that many people believe in nowadays can manifest themselves into things more dangerous than some of the traditional monotheistic Gods. Most of these beliefs seem benign. My sister is into the power of crystals and water and Fung Schway. She really believes that if you organize your residence in a certain way it can summon powers. Now yes a well arranged and designed dwelling can affect your mood in positive and negative ways, but I believe that is due to the atmosphere it creates and not due to spirits or energy.

To believe that God is anything is crazy. Straight up. If I rape a child is that God right there? This idea that you can apply the divine to anything strikes me as remarkably absurd. A murder, rape, or war could be God then. For those who say "so what?" Who cares about saying God can be a rape or murder, why does God have to be moral? Why can't something immoral be God? Well the monotheistic Gods certainly are immoral from time to time, there's no doubt about that. I just have trouble with people saying that it's God. It opens up the possibility of taking the responsibility away from the person committing the act.

Then there are the traits of this new age God that can be anything. Does it have a conscience? Does it have the power to intervene and suspend the laws of physics for certain human beings some of the time? Does it have a relationship with us at all? Did it create the universe and the laws of physics? If it has a conscience then it has a personality, and therefore it can love and hate and take sides on an argument or position. If it is a thinking God then it is a God like the ones a theist believes in, but maybe it chooses to not intervene at all or hear our prayers like the deist's God.

What if it is real? What if this new age God can be anything is real? Well it doesn't need to be worshiped in the way the theist Gods do. If I meditate or arrange my furniture a certain way I might be able to tap into an energy source that could benefit my life in many ways. The problem I have is where is this supernatural element and where does it differ from the material world that we see. Is it in another dimension? The problem with identifying this type of God is that it is customizable to the individual. Basically it could be anything and it could be nothing, at the same time. I think these are people who are disillusioned by traditional religion, but somehow feel the need to have faith in something, so they invent this God in their own imagination, and apply it to whatever they feel comfortable with. It could be energy, it could matter or thought. It doesn't punish, or only does when the believer wants it to. It has no shape or could be shaped like anything. It is what it is in the mind of the beholder.

I'm having trouble imagining this God being real because it could literally be anything. That conjures up infinite scenarios of possibilities. As long as a person keeps their personal God to themselves, and doesn't impose it on me or the general public I think I can live with that.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Don't take refuge in the false security of consensus"

This is a quote by Christopher Hitchens who if you've read my blogs will know I admire. I don't know if he was quoting someone else when he said that but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that it made me think for a moment about what it says. It made me question my own beliefs for a moment and ask myself why I really believe in them.

I believe in evolution, but why? Is it because the majority of scientists do so? There is a problem with science and the scientific community that could become very dangerous. The problems is our tendency to believe whatever the scientific community tells us almost without question. If we hear one day on the news "scientists believe the Earth is now 4.9 billion yeas old instead of 4.6 billion years old" or that "scientists now think birds evolved from dinosaurs", we have this tendency to take it at face value and believe it simple because it is being made by the scientific community. A lot of Atheists do this all the time. I've wrote recently that I love the evolution vs. creationism debate. I really do wish it would go on forever. There is another debate over climate change raging on now and I still think we need to have rigorous debate on all of these issues.

Even though I firmly believe in evolution due to the evidence I've seen and read, I still think it needs to constantly be tested and retested from its critics. If the scientific community were to ever one day (not to suggest that is has never been in the past) become corrupted by individuals or organizations with selfish or evil agendas, they could have at their arsenal, a board of experts who yield tremendous credibility and influence over the beliefs of billions of people. They could use science to promote evil agendas that are counterproductive to freedom and true scientific inquiry. We must keep watch of this possibility.

The creationists think this has already happened with evolution. Some creationists think that there is a worldwide conspiracy among the worlds scientists to deliberately lie to the public over the evidence for evolution. Some like religious Christian and Biblical literalist, Kent Hovind whose debates with evolutionists I've seen, think they can disprove some of the science that evolutionists claim is true. We really need to see expert biologists and evolutionary biologists go at it in depth and to keep the dialogue continuing.

Is the science settled? I'm not sure, it is for me but we still need debate. I would actually hate it if evolutionists claimed victory and the debate was over. I love hearing the best minds go at it in debates on all sorts of issues. It's truly fascinating.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The debate rages on...

That is the creationism vs. evolution debate. There are dozens perhaps hundreds of these debates available for free to watch on YouTube. I love them. I can watch them for hours, one after the other. It is a fascinating debate. I of course am on the side of the evolutionists so I have a bit of a bias. Amazing intelligent points are made in these debates. It is a debate that I hope never ends because it's just so damn entertaining.

I hope to one day maybe, engage myself in these debates. I have gotten over my fear of public speaking for the most part and have given some amazing speeches while in school. I'd really like to add to the voice of science, reason, evolution and atheism sometime in the future.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oh Allah. The Benificial, The Merciful????

I've been reading and watching up on many stories about the threat of Islam in the West. In Europe the problem is bigger than it is here in the U.S. Radical Muslims as well as those considered moderate are demanding separate laws for themselves within the country they live in. They want Shar'ia Law for Muslims, and many don't care much for any assimilation to the Western culture or ideology. They are subversives who want to slowly take control of each country they immigrate to from the inside out. Some don't even hide this objective.

Could it be true? I used to be very liberal on the subject. I was against the war in Iraq. I hated Bush and Cheney. Still do. I was on board with Michael Moore and even Ron Paul. I used to believe that it was our involvement in Islamic land and affairs that was the source of their hatred and aggression toward the West. Now I'm hearing from writers like Christopher Hitchens that the Islamic world and the West are mutually incompatible with one another and that there will be fighting inevitably regardless of Western imperialism. I'm not saying that I disagree with my liberal views on the War and Islam or that I have adopted Hitchen's beliefs, what I'm saying now is that I believe both have some good points and that the truth probably lies somewhere between the both of them.

I believe Western imperialism has led to a stronger more aggressive response by the Islamic world but I do agree that Islam and Western secular liberal democracy are incompatible. The U.S. is based on a Western European Christian culture, even though we are not officially a Christian nation (thank God). We live in a Western culture, the Islamic world is a Eastern or Middle-Eastern culture, with far different values from ours despite Islam being an Abrahamic religion.

I've been reading the Koran a bit lately, not deeply. It disturbs me as does the Bible and Talmud does. It mentions many times that Allah hates the unbelievers (infidels) and that the unbeliever is not the equal to the Muslim and that Allah will get his way with the unbeliever. If Allah hates unbelievers then what is to stop or discourage Muslims from hating the unbelievers as well? Many Muslims don't hate nonbelievers but the Koran can be interpreted in justifying hatred and even violence against non-Muslims. That is why Islam scares me.

Will I when I'm older be living in a Muslim majority country? Will the U.S.A. become the United States of Allah? Will a Muslim majority use democracy to vote in Shar'ia law and change our country forever? Where the conservatives right when they warned us about the threat of Islamofacism? Where us liberals simply ignorant or in a complete state of denial of the threat to our Western democracy from Islam? Only time will tell but I'd hate to realize the threat when it's too late.

I've noticed that many second generation Asian and Muslim-Americans do Americanize very fast. I hope that keeps up and that they drop the religion their parents forced them into altogether.


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