Monday, 26 March 2012

Future Civil Rights Issues

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

In the 20th century, it was racial equality and women's rights. Right now, it's LGBT rights. What about the future? Are there more issues to be addressed?

I want to look at 2 specific issues in this post: polygamy and incestuous marriage. I've only ever heard polygamy in 2 contexts: first in the slippery slope fallacy used by opponents of gay marriage, and secondly in a video by YouTuber, lacigreen, called "2 BOYFRIENDS!? - POLYAMORY". Incestuous marriage gets far less attention.

I support both. Now, before you run away thinking I'm mad, let me make the case. What I advocate is being treated like a responsible person. A responsible person knows the risk of entering into a relationship with someone. The only difference between polygamy and an incestuous marriage, and monogamous gay or straight relationships is the increased level of responsibility required to make it work.


Polygamy is a marriage consisting of more than 2 participants. A man could have 2 or more wives, a woman could have 2 or more husbands, there could even be 2 or more of both genders if enough of the participants are bisexual. Such a relationship requires a lot of responsibility. Each participant must make sure all other participants are happy. The fact that they are even in the relationship would suggest that they are happy with the situation. Each person would have to spend enough time with the other participants in the relationship and not make anyone feel they are left out. If any 2 of the participants wish to have kids, this would have to be discussed with what would later become the non-biological parents in the relationship. All participants would need to understand that the kids' needs come first. The above requires enormous responsibility, but it should be the decision of a consenting adult to choose whether to enter such a relationship instead of any government's to make it impossible.

Incestuous Marriage

The only true problem with polygamy is the extra responsibility involved. While possibly contentious, I wouldn't imagine it would be that controversial, especially compared to this next issue. First, I want to emphasise the wording. I specifically wrote "incestuous marriage" and not incest. Incest is sex between family members. What I am calling an "incestuous marriage" is when family members get married. This could be monogamous or polygamous. Many of us get a visceral feeling of disgust towards such a concept as family members being intimate, but, taking out breeding, there is no longer any rational basis for this disgust. Incestuous breeding has been shown to result in problems with the resulting kids in terms of genetic diseases or abnormalities, and so perhaps this disgust has an evolutionary function. Nevertheless, if we take breeding out of the equation, this disgust truly becomes baseless. We might perceive it to be weird, and colliding with social and cultural norms, but at this point, it is in no significant way different to any other relationship. Remember, I advocate responsibility. Any participants in an incestuous relationship should be aware of the risks associated with breeding, and, in my opinion, a truly responsible incestuous family would adopt rather than breed, but again, it's a decision between 2 or more consenting adults.

Finally, the above considerations are very far removed from modern society. As such, it is understandable that many people will come at this with the social and cultural norms they're used to, and might not be able to look past them to the actual arguments that I've made. What I ask is that you try. Set aside whatever preconceptions you might have about both types of relationship and weigh the issue as critically as you can. If, at this point, you have rational reasons for objecting to the legalisation of both, I would, as always, be very interested in hearing your point of view. In case it comes up, yes, this post is 100% serious, and it is what I truly believe.


Sunday, 25 March 2012

Review of "The Voice"

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

Yesterday, a new music talent show debuted on the BBC called "The Voice". In this post, I'm going to review the show, specifically comparing it with ITV's "X Factor". First, a bit about myself.

I personally despise the X Factor. I have so many reasons for this but I guess the most important for me is that it fails, and never tries, to live up to its title. An X Factor would strike me as being something which is unique. In the case of an artist or band, something which makes them vocally different to everyone else. Very few of the people that audition for the show, or at least the ones that are shown to us, have anything original to offer at all, and fewer still are unique in a good way. People either rehash what's currently saturating the market or may appear to be more original by imitating an even older style (which is, of course, still not original). This is my main gripe with the show but I have many more: cringe-worthy false drama, the deliberate preference of style over substance both in contestants' appearances and when it comes down to who the judges send through, an almost complete lack of creative control for the winner, the car crash element added by painfully bad singers being put in front of the judges in the auditions, the false hope that these same people are given as a result of it, the arbitrary new rules added on the spur of the moment that could see contestants having to do things they weren't expecting to have to do or get kicked out without even having a shot at the round they were otherwise meant to participate in...

I could honestly go on and on. One criticism which I don't agree with, though, is that talent shows give people success when others have been trying for years with no luck. It's good that people get that shot, but that's all it is. A shot. Once they get it, they must prove that they are worthy, and the X Factor has spectacularly failed at this. The success stories tend to be runners up, and the only truly successful winner was Leona Lewis. All others fell into obscurity not long after releasing their 2nd original single, except Shayne Ward who coasts along. If you don't think people shouldn't even get that shot, you have a fundamental problem with TV talent shows. The Voice is no different, so I don't wish to waste your time any further by leading you to believe otherwise. For everyone else, that's enough about X Factor, is The Voice any different?

Short answer, yes. Very very much so. Instead of coming out and telling your story to the judges while you sing in front of them, you walk in and start singing while the judges sit in chairs turned away from you. These judges are Jessie J, Will.I.Am (Black Eyed Peas), Tom Jones, and Danny O'Donoghue (The Script). If the judges like what they hear, they push a button in front of them and the chair spins round so that they can see the singer. Until they press the button, they can't see you, and this is the fundamental premise of the show. It's all about the voice. This fact alone leads me to respect it more than the X Factor. The contestants are allowed to play instruments if they wish, and there does seem to be some quality control. There was no-one that was terrible, that could only have been put through for us to laugh at them. Mistakes were made by many contestants, but they would all have gotten the initial "yes" if they went on X Factor.

There is still some excessive dramatisation, although I can look past this as it seems to be a part of every reality show. It is relatively toned down on "The Voice" though. There were still some sob stories, but they have no effect in the show because the judges won't hear them until they've made their decision. If it's not the kind of thing you like, though, I can see it putting you off.

Let's talk about the judges. All of them are currently successful musicians. Whether you like the choices will likely depend on whether you like each individual person as a musician but I'll talk briefly about each one.

Tom Jones is the really big name. He has proven himself for decades and still attracts an audience. Whether you like him or hate him, he became popular at a time when the industry had far more quality control, and many of the contestants specifically wanted his approval, which he gave to the majority of the contestants.

Will.I.Am has been around for the next longest amount of time in the Black Eyed Peas. Personally, I only liked 1 of their songs, "Where Is The Love", their debut track. It had a unique message unlike all the others I've heard which seem to talk about either partying or love, something which can be said for most music around at the moment. He also relies far too heavily on autotune.

Danny O'Donoghue is the lead singer of The Script. I've heard their stuff on the radio for a few years now. Musically, the songs are relatively simple, but lyrically, they are brilliant. While the theme of love is prevalent in many of their songs, something which I criticised about the Black Eyed Peas, they come at it from a different angle. It's not as simple as "I love you", "I want you" etc. The lyrics involve complex and specific situations including a man who sits on a street corner who is believed to be homeless by passers-by ("The Man Who Can't Be Moved"), and putting it in the context of the recession ("These Times Are Hard").

Finally, Jessie J is genuinely brilliant. The songs for me are hit and miss ("Price Tag", although cheesy, and pretty much structurally identical to the previously mentioned "Where Is The Love", again diverges from the usual themes of love and partying), but she is an extremely good singer.

They also interact extremely well. Contestants who successfully turn more than 1 judge end up being pitched to by the judges. The competition was extremely fun to watch, especially when Tom Jones and Will.I.Am started name-dropping. It is a far richer chemistry than anything I've seen in X Factor.

It's only been 1 episode. It remains to be seen how the development of the contestants will be handled, but so far the series was a very pleasant surprise to me. On principle, I would favour it over X Factor, but I'm glad that it doesn't come to that as I have reasons I can point to for doing so. Now, you get your say.


"If you don't like my country, get out!"

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

I'm not American. This is immediately obvious to anyone who's watched even 1 of my YouTube videos. I live in Scotland where I've never heard the title statement said by a Scot to anyone else. I've seen it in documentaries about racially insulated communities like Bradford in England (specifically the channel 4 documentary, "Make Bradford British") but I've never personally heard it. On the other hand, I've seen it written in YouTube comment sections by Americans more times than I can count.

First off, don't mistake this for a generalisation. Most people likely to read this post will be American and I know that most of you want nothing to do with these nationalists. I do feel, though, that we need to talk about a more severe case of this statement, in writing on the body of an Iraqi woman, Shaima Alawadi, living in San Diego. A note saying "go back to your country, you terrorist" was put on her after she was beaten to death.

I'd like to give anyone who agrees with the message on the body a perspective on the issue which I think you'll find enlightening. Under Bush, the US invaded Iraq. The premise of the invasion was the mistaken belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. During the US' time in the country, millions of Iraqis were killed, many innocent, many intentionally despite this fact (see the "Collateral Murder" video made public by Wikileaks). Although Shaima's family came to America in the 90s, there is enough reason above for her to legitimately view the US government with contempt, and it is understandable that such contempt would be applied to anyone who supported the war, and certainly to those who continue to believe it was good. However, her father and husband worked as cultural advisers to the US military during their time in Iraq.

So let's review. The family came to the US in the 90s of their own free will. The US invades Iraq for no valid reason. Despite there being very legitimate reasons for them to despise the actions of the US government, they actually help the efforts of the US military. This family has done far more for the US than likely anyone who could possibly have written that note and so, in my books, could not possibly have more of a right to call the country their home. Yet Shaima is killed in an action that, as far as I can see, could only have been motivated by her appearance. I know my blood's boiling. What about you?

This is, of course, the title statement taken to its extreme. The average usage of this statement doesn't have that outcome. It is tossed around in mild political discussions against someone who might be too liberal or atheist. Let's deal with all likelihoods quickly.

Criticism of a country's government to prevent dangerous or unwise ideologies from harming the citizens is an act of respect towards that country, not hate. Someone who believes differently to you most likely is still driven by the same ambition of a better world, they are just proposing an alternate way of getting there. There is no basis to chalk up that difference to lack of patriotism. Most importantly of all, someone who chooses to immigrate to your country is most likely doing so to pursue a better life for themselves. For them to even consider your country as their new home shows an enormous amount of respect for it. For you to tell them that they do not belong there is a baseless act of racism that has no place in a civilised society.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Current Mainstream Music

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

I've made many videos about music and posted a lot about it on HubPages. It's time I said something here.

There is a widespread view that today's mainstream music is terrible. I even did my university dissertation on why people think that and what could be done about it. What I'm going to do in this post is go over the reasons people have given and say whether I agree or not.


Agreed. There are many constructive ways in which autotune could be used. If a singer has already proven him/herself then some vocal effects can be used to contribute to the overall atmosphere of the song. Off the top of my head, the best example I can think of is Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter". A vocal effect is used to make Robert Plant's voice sound watery. Since, by the time of the release of the song, he has nothing left to prove to anyone, there isn't much to object to there, and there's no reason autotune couldn't be used in a similar way but primarily it's not. It's used as a form of vocal correction, a way to mask lack of talent.

Now, it would be wrong to paint the entire mainstream with the autotune brush. Many people in the mainstream  don't use, or need, autotune, and many of those people are perfectly decent singers, but for those who do, they're not going to score many points among musicians.

Don't/Can't play any instruments

Again, for those that this criticism applies to, agreed. I would say that if they don't use autotune, if they actually make an effort to sing, I'm not too concerned about whether or not they can play an instrument, but if both criticisms apply to them, then anyone can do what they are doing. It becomes even worse when you combine it with the next criticism.

Don't/Can't write own songs

If the above 3 criticisms apply to anyone in the mainstream, it's a joke that anyone takes them seriously. If you're reading this post, I guarantee that you could do what they are doing. However, is this particular criticism, on its own, such a big deal? Elvis didn't write his own songs. If millions of people can call such a person "The King", I'm not entirely sure it's a deal maker. Unless, of course, people are hypocrites. There are shades of grey to this one though. Many pop artists co-write songs with other songwriters. The credited artists might write the lyrics or contribute a melody while the songwriters flesh out the background. All of the above approaches are represented in the mainstream.

Many songs sound robotic/artificial/electronic/overly produced etc.

Whether I agree with this criticism depends on what is meant here. I can't agree with people who oppose the use of electronics or fully electronic music in principle. There is still an art in assembling electronic sounds in an aesthetically appealing way, and some people go as far as to develop instruments to play them on, preserving the live talent attribute of their musicianship. What I would agree with though is, like autotune, electronics are often misused. Electronic sounds in mainstream music are, in my opinion, the most wasted resource in current music production. They give us the potential to create literally any sound imaginable, yet we recycle them on identical sounding dance tracks and devalue them by using them as cheap gimmicks to increase the chance that 1 particular pop song will be a mega-hit.

Narrow range of lyrical themes/negative lyrical themes

Even people who claim to otherwise have no problem with sex, money, violence etc. complain about the sheer amount of it present in current mainstream music. Their central criticism is that they use these themes to sell their music: a particular pop star is scantily clad to appeal to teens, rappers that rap about their money and fame and who they iced etc. Even the far more innocent love songs are criticised for their sheer saturation of the market. I want to address each theme individually.


I would encourage people to take care about how they perceive this theme. To me, there is nothing wrong with Lady Gaga dancing in her bikini in the video to "Telephone" or disproving the hermaphrodite claim at the beginning of that same video. This, in and of itself, doesn't concern me in the slightest. There is a criticism that it is used specifically to draw attention to themselves for financial gain. While I agree, this is where I need people to take care. There is more than 1 reason why someone might appear in a video with less clothes on than might be expected of them. I don't rush to judgement that it's because they want the fame and money. Check out Tool's music video for "Hush". All of the band members are fully naked with their mouths taped up and "Parental Advisory" boards over their genitals. Is this for fame and money? Clearly not. It's a dig at censorship.

As far as Lady Gaga and her kind have taken things I would argue that they haven't gone far enough. They are at the very limit of what most forms of media that will air their videos find acceptable, but I believe these limits are without basis. There is nothing wrong with nudity. At some point, I am hoping someone will fully cross the line. As to sex specifically, the problems with it are down to what can go wrong. Diseases, pregnancy etc. Keep making contraceptives, get the word out, educate people about STDs and stop trying to defund Planned Parenthood or any equivalent organisation, and you have nothing to worry about. Honest!


I'd be lying if I said I fully understood why such songs are popular. I guess it would have something to do with looking at their wealth as a life goal for yourself. I don't personally care if people sing or rap about their huge reserves of money, but I certainly see why many would, especially in economically gloomy periods like this one.


Rap is infamous for this theme. Once again it's important to avoid the broad brush: many rappers want nothing to do with it. There are many problems, however, surrounding the ones who do. A few of the most successful rap stars, especially in the 90s, were genuine criminals. Some were rivals, and some were even killed by those rivals. So this is certainly not a new phenomenon. The problem comes down to the big question: does violence on the screen translate into violence in real life? I'll leave anyone reading this to fight about it in the comment section.


This isn't a big mystery. Love has been the forefront musical theme for the whole of music history because it's the most powerful human emotion. Sooner or later, everyone is going to be able to relate to it. In that sense, there's nothing new about the saturation of love songs in the market and there certainly shouldn't be anything surprising about it. I would eat all my CDs if that ever changed.


Otherwise known as female-oriented sexism. We've spent most of history doing just that but it's still alive in some forms of music, and music videos. This is an enormous debate with many different frontiers: are female pop stars sex objects or empowering women? Is an unhealthy body image being promoted? Are dancers in music videos fairly treated and selected fairly? Again, I'll leave this to the comment section, but I'll just say that if the debate can be more public, that gives the industry the opportunity to fix itself.

Repetitive/unoriginal music

This is one of my main criticisms. Many mainstream songs I've heard consist of a repeating 4 chord sequence. In many songs it's even the same sequence. I don't necessarily have a problem with this if the melody sounds original, the lyrics are powerful and unique, the actual note structure is relatively complex and especially if the sequence is unusual. That's not really the case in the mainstream though. Another problem is that, although mainstream songs have always adhered to the verse-chorus formula, that adherence is now more rigid than ever. It's rare that I hear ANY variation on it. This adds to the effect of so many mainstream songs sounding the same.

Bring back <insert old genre here>!

I couldn't disagree more. Not only should we not do that, we have been doing exactly that. What about the indie bands of the last decade? Quite a few, to me, sounded identical to Madness. All of them were pretty much clones of earlier bands from the 80s or even going as far back as the 60s. We should look to the past to see how they did it but not to emulate them. Sure it might be nice to hear grunge in the mainstream again, but that would just paint us as being terribly unoriginal. We need something NEW. New and good.

I would now like to make my biggest criticism of mainstream music and I'll do it by quoting The Simpsons:

"I used to be with it, until they changed what "it" was. Now what I'm with isn't it, and what's it sounds weird and scary to me. And it'll happen to you too." - Abe Simpson

I vowed very early on never to be like Abe. Music that sounds weird and scary to me, generally speaking, is music I like. I want to hear something so unlike what I've heard before and know that it is popular. My biggest criticism is that the vast majority of music I hear doesn't do that. It all sounds identical to what came before.

Having said that, there are exceptions. One of these is Dubstep. When I first heard it in 2009, and I was told it was dance music, I was very confused. It just seemed too slow to qualify as dance music, yet within the next couple of years, it became massive. It was explained to me that the wobble bass was what I had to focus on to really get it. Even hearing this was a breath of fresh air: this was genuinely brand new. Sure, it's not too far removed from drum and bass, there's a limit to what can be done within the genre, and generally the same sounds are reused from song to song, but it is a form of music that's appreciated in a very different way to other dance styles and on that fact alone, I have a lot of respect for it. I predict it will be short-lived, based on what I've already said, but it's a start.

The other 1 is Florence & The Machine. They made a bad 1st impression on me with their cover of "You've Got The Love" but their own songs are incredible. They only pay lip service to the pop formula, they use uncommon instruments in their music, and use the ones that are common in very innovative ways. It sounds weird and scary to me, but most importantly, it sounds awesome!

I just want to leave you with 1 final thought. 1 that really should be obvious. The music industry is more democratic than it's ever been. In the past, record labels had some degree of quality control, but now the mob rules. This, I'd imagine, is 1 of the main reasons for the music in the mainstream at the moment. We chose this. Or, by inaction, we allowed this to happen. So if you agree that music today sucks, why continue to be a bemused spectator when you can do something to help? Here's my suggestion. We look for 1 band. It could be 1 that's already around, it could be 1 that's generally unheard of at the moment. We promote that band and encourage people who think like we do to get behind them. Of course, this means we have to be careful in choosing that band: they have to have talent, they have to be original, they have to have meaning behind what they say. We use the democracy that currently propels crap to the top to change things. We do this by BUYING, not illegally downloading as it won't chart then, but buying the music en masse. Don't think it can work? It already has. Remember the Rage Against The Machine Christmas number 1 campaign in 2009? This just requires the same concentrated effort. The difference is we want to make it last. With the right band, and the willingness to change the status quo, we can do it. The only barrier to that is your doubt, and the inaction that doubt inspires.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

About Ideologies

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

In this post I'll be getting to the heart of why Orygyn exists. This relates to any instance of an opinion being expressed on the internet. It is an excellent forum for the free exchange of ideas, and I couldn't disagree more with the "special Olympics" remark. Even if you lose, you gain something. In the community I've been a part of on YouTube, many atheists have found a place where they can interact with like-minded people when, in their private life, expressing their atheism would be the death sentence to their social life, or career, or both. Likewise, sheltered children (used loosely here) of extremely religious parents can be exposed to other belief systems, and their indoctrination can be challenged. To belittle these benefits with the "special Olympics" remark or something like it is disgusting to me.

While I play my role in these arguments myself, first and foremost, the purpose of Orygyn is to encourage those arguments to be well thought out, for that thought to be your own, and to discourage idolisation of popular internet figures. At times I've made videos stating the obvious because it became clear to me that maybe it's not as obvious as I might have thought. At other times I've had confrontations with mindless drones who support certain popular YouTubers no matter what. At all times, though, I feel like I've contributed.

What I want to say in this post is probably the most important thing I'll ever say. Don't label yourself.

In the discussions I had about tax, it was clear to me that most of the people who disagreed with me assumed that I disagreed with them on the wider issue, that I was a statist. This is not an assumption that I can confirm or deny, as my position on the issue is context-specific. My fundamental view is that societies should be formed with an awareness of the environment it is formed within. Depending on the ability of the land to produce certain resources, technological progress, weather, size, and many other things, a smart society would be formed with these factors in mind. Sometimes that might require a government, sometimes it might not, but my position is always in 2 parts: the first being what I think is the best way to run a society at this point in time, the second being my ideal society, but I couldn't advocate such a society if we couldn't pull it off today. I would advocate for any means of achieving those conditions first. If I ever use a label to describe my position, I have no allegiance to it, it is only a simple (at most times, overly so) way of summing up my position. As things currently stand, my "current society" position is closer to liberalism than anything else, but this will change in accordance with new information about human behaviour or feasible, less authoritarian societies.

I would guess that such an approach to forming your political perspective is common, and that I've simply expressed it in an explicit form, but in case I'm wrong, forming your political perspective around a label is naive IMO. Becoming too set in such a mindset leaves you closed to information which challenges that mindset. If you've ever argued on the internet, you must have some experience of this. I know I do. To those who agree with what I've said and found it to be common sense, I encourage you to do your bit to spread these thoughts to people who haven't considered them.


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Re: What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

This is a response to the article, "What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist", by N. Stephan Kinsella. The article can be found here:

The first thing I want to say is that not every article written by everyone will be written with the main intention to be as logical or internally consistent as possible. In many cases, people will simply be expressing their passion. After reading this article, it seemed to me that this 1 fits largely in the latter category. I realise, then, that this is probably not Kinsella at his best. I'm well aware of his significance among the anarchist communities and his academic credentials. However, responding to this article as if it fits in the aforementioned former category, I believe, has great worth here. There are several important general points that can be made as a result of taking this approach.

He begins by outlining the anarchist position as not necessarily believing that anarchy will work or can be achieved, but instead opposing aggression. Libertarians, he says, have been arguing against a straw man when they think that anarchists are looking to achieve an actual stateless society. Right off the bat, I have a huge issue with this. Many anarchists, and I've spoken to a few, do want a stateless society. Kinsella is presuming to speak on behalf of anarchists in general, instead of only himself and anyone who agrees with him. It is not a straw man for someone to attack the position of some anarchists when you, as an anarchist, don't agree with them. If the extent of your anarchism is that you simply oppose the government on the grounds that it necessarily acts with aggression, that's all well and good, but some anarchists go further. In short, Kinsella is addressing an argument that wasn't addressed to, or doesn't include him to begin with.

The next statement is a perfect example of why this is a passion-driven article rather than Kinsella at his best.

"It's an ethical view, so no surprise it confuses utilitarians."

I don't doubt that he has a basis for this dig at utilitarians but he doesn't provide one in the article. In my view, utilitarianism is the most ethical philosophy on morality and ethics because it is based on actual information about how people feel. If someone makes someone else happy, they have done a morally good thing. If someone causes someone else harm, they have done a morally bad thing. It is the foundational philosophy of Sam Harris' proposed "science of morality" which seeks to use neuroscience and real-life data about the amount of happiness and suffering which certain actions cause to place a mathematical value on a particular moral action. I will expand on my thoughts on utilitarianism, and any objections people might have with it, I can deal with on that post, but for now, back to the article.

"Accordingly, anyone who is not an anarchist must maintain either: (a) aggression is justified; or (b) states (in particular, minimal states) do not necessarily employ aggression."

I have no problem admitting that states behave aggressively. It would be extremely hard to argue against this: a military, by definition, is aggressive, a police force will need to employ aggression to arrest people etc. I reject part (b). Let's discuss (a).

Kinsella defines for us how he is using the word aggression: "the initiation of force against innocent victims". The obvious consequence of this definition is that "innocent" can't be being used here in the legal sense. Kinsella has already pointed to taxation and outlawing competing defence agencies as acts of aggression. By not paying tax, someone would be committing a crime, and would therefore not be innocent in the legal sense. "Innocent", then, is being used in a different way. The consequence of this is that someone trying to defend Kinsella could exploit the ambiguity over Kinsella's use of "innocent".

Kinsella then makes his biggest mistake. He says that it is not possible to show that aggression is justified. The words "not possible" and "this" are links to other literature. It really doesn't matter what he's linked to, Kinsella's argument is inherently flawed. Claiming that it isn't possible to justify something necessarily implies objective morality. This is impossible: The existence of morality is contingent upon our existence. It is something we invented to keep ourselves in check. To believe otherwise, you would have to invoke the supernatural, specifically religion. Saying that something is justified is not a statement that can be grouped into a "true" or "false" category, then. It is a matter of opinion. Technically, then, Kinsella is correct, as it is not possible to show that aggression is justified, but it's also not possible to show that it isn't. Kinsella does later state that it is a "normative or ethical position".

"Conservatives and libertarians all agree that private crime (murder, robbery, rape) is unjustified, and "should" not occur. Yet no matter how good most men become, there will always be at least some small element who will resort to crime. Crime will always be with us. Yet we still condemn crime and work to reduce it."

In the same way, Kinsella condemns the aggression of the state, and since he argues that the state necessarily employs aggression, this leads him to condemn the state itself (anarchism). There is a problem with saying this, though, and it goes back to the practicality of anarchism. I don't know about other people, but if I were to make the statement that "anarchy won't work", I am not talking about how likely it is that it can be achieved. I am talking about the results the system produces. If it can't produce a populous that feels happy and free, if it creates problems for the every day person going about their business, it is not a society I could ever support, and if anarchy cannot achieve my aforementioned criteria in any form, it is impractical. It's got nothing to do with whether enough people support it. Reducing crime to zero, regardless of if it can be achieved, results in a happy populous. If reducing aggression to zero wouldn't do the same, the analogy is flawed.

Finally, Kinsella compares anyone who supports any form of state aggression to criminals. It doesn't matter if we "need it", we are criminally-minded if we support it. Well OK if you feel that way, billions of us are no worse than criminals. Only anarchists are civilized. This once again becomes a popularity contest of views where logic can go no further so let me make my case.

Aggression is certainly not something I intentionally support in principle. However, principles, while they may leave you with a warm sensation that a person who has them is consistent and can be trusted, have to be chosen wisely. I don't think condemning aggression in principle can be considered wise. If there is ever a case where employing aggression can do enormous amounts of good where nothing else can, I wouldn't hesitate to support it. The question, then, once again comes back to whether an anarchist society can provide for the physical, psychological, and social needs of its populous. If an anarchist society can't facilitate a scenario where the populous can be safe, where they can be taken care of when ill, where they can generally feel happy and free, it would be, in my opinion, morally wrong to support such a society. In this case, the morality of the use of aggression goes head-to-head with the morality of accepting an inherently inferior and unimprovable (without the use of aggression) society. Finding out whether an anarchist society of such a sort is possible would mean reading the other literature I was linked to, so give me some time to get to it. Until then:


Thursday, 8 March 2012

Concise Information

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

Having a discussion on YouTube or between blogs has a number of enormous advantages which are impossible in a real-time debate. In a debate, what you bring there is all you have. If you can't immediately respond to your opponent's argument, even if you can do it eventually, you will likely come out the loser. These debates are biased in favour of persuasive and quick-witted individuals instead of the most logical ones. Moreover, unless you've memorised a number of key studies or quotes to support your argument, the audience will simply have to decide whether or not to take your word for it. On the internet, neither of these issues is a problem. When someone posts a critique of your argument, you have all the time in the world to really think about what they're saying, assess it for flaws and, where possible, find sources to back up your counterargument.

If someone cites a statistic or study but fails to name it, I will ask them to. I expect them to name it and to not have to go looking for it myself, as it may be a wild goose chase. I've outlined this requirement several times and I see it as perfectly fair to ask. In turn, I've not had many people express a problem with it. Now, though, I think I need to refine this request.

Ever since I uploaded my YouTube video, "Taxation Is Not Theft", I have been in a discussion with a person going by the username "Peace Requires Anarchy". My most productive discussion to emerge from the video and it's follow-up blog posts was with him. In his last blog post, and I will link the blog at the bottom of this post, Peace Requires Anarchy responded to my post "A Society Without Mandatory Tax". To answer my questions, he linked a number of articles, essays, books and a YouTube video. The effort he has gone to is appreciated, but there is a problem with this approach to sourcing your posts, and that is that there is an upper limit on how much the one who is to read the sources can reasonably be expected to read. I have read Kinsella's article and watched the YouTube video, and 1 of my future posts will be a critique of the article, but citing entire books without pointing to a specific page, chapter, section etc. goes beyond this upper limit that you can reasonably expect your opponent to read.

To that end, I want to share an idea with anyone reading this post, that of concise information. If you're struggling for something to write a blog post about, or make a YouTube video about, may I suggest that if you've read a book, or watched a documentary, which outlines a certain concept, that you condense that concept down into a video or blog post. Maybe the video or post would be quite long, but I've never personally come across a concept which cannot be condensed in this way. For example, I condensed all my thoughts about what a society without mandatory tax might look like down into 1 blog post. There might have been more I could've said, but I would never have had to post a 2nd post in order to accommodate it. What I'm saying is, if I can condense all my thoughts on the issue into 1 post, it shouldn't be hard for someone to condense their vision of an ideal libertarian or anarchist society into 1 post as well.

Lastly I want to address Peace Requires Anarchy directly. I'm not expecting you to do this. I'm grateful for what you've linked me to already. This is just a general post meant for everyone.

Peace Requires Anarchy's blog:


Monday, 5 March 2012

A Society Without Mandatory Tax

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

So now that we've gone over the meaningless and seemingly endless argument over whether tax is theft, let's actually do something constructive. Let's contemplate the merits of taxation. How I want to do this is to pose a series of questions that I generate from my own examination of a hypothetical society without mandatory taxation.

First, government. Tax funds government. Government in turn funds the military, roads, emergency services, and, in most developed countries, healthcare. Now if mandatory taxation is immoral for whatever reason, the logical alternative is voluntary taxation. So now we have a system where people can pay tax if they want to, but they never have to. We now need to determine the conditions under which tax will be paid.

I walk into a supermarket, do my shopping and bring my items to the checkout. One possible method of taxing people would be a simple question asked by the cashier: "would you like to pay VAT?" The ideal person who's informed as to what tax is, where it goes, and understands the importance of the services the government provides will say "yes". However, there's already numerous problems with this scenario. How many people meet the ideal? What if you don't have much money? What if, like right now, there's a recession, or a general period of economic hardship? Even the homeless are refused by the majority of people, can anyone expect a less needy group of people to get even that much with much slower transactions (people walk by a homeless person, maybe 1 per second, people queue at the supermarket, if you're very very lucky, 1 person per minute)? I would reject this approach then, as it seems unworkable.

Instead, let's say that roads, emergency services, hospitals, the military etc. would be paid the same way they would be paid if a business owned them. Roads would be toll roads, the emergency services would be paid by you if and when you need them, you would either pay hospitals directly or implement the insurance option that the USA are using. Frankly, I'm lost as to how the military would be paid. Let's start with roads.

There's an immediate problem with tolls. All you need to do, as a driver, is to avoid the roads which have tolls on them. On large roads such as motorways (freeways) or dual carriageways, there are relatively few so you may be able to put a toll on all of them, but what about towns and cities? There are thousands of roads in towns and cities so it would certainly be impractical to toll every single 1. No-one would like having to stop at every single toll. If you don't toll every road, a toll must cover a few roads and it becomes a question of whether enough drivers would choose to pay the tolls to cover all the roads in the town or city or simply plan their routes to avoid them. This, then, would seem impractical.

What about a taxi-like system? You install every car with a meter that activates automatically on start-up. There's an upper limit on the meter and you have to pay for your mileage before the meter reaches that upper limit. This could be done at a petrol station for convenience and the money would be given directly to the government. I don't see this working either. First, a competent enough amateur mechanic, electrician, engineer etc. could disable the meter, although it could be argued that a competent enough government would notice when such a thing has happened. That would result in an Orwellian system where every car is monitored by the government though. The other problem is that it's no different to a customer paying VAT. If you're going to argue that it's theft to pay VAT on your items, even though you hand over the money yourself but that's irrelevant because you have to pay VAT to buy anything, it must also be theft in this scenario. If you want to use the roads at all, whatever you drive must be installed with a meter. The alternative is walk to work, which is OK if work is close, but what if you have to commute? The system would also push up the prices of public transport. All in all, I don't see this catching on.

I don't want this post to be long so I'll stop there with roads.

How about emergency services then? This could be done along the same lines as health: have your home and life insurance pay the emergency services. The problem here though is something I don't need to think about because it's already happening in America with health: the insurance companies are denying people insurance on the basis of them having a pre-existing condition. The exact same conditions could be used to deny you life insurance, and a house that is perceived to have too great a fire risk could be denied home insurance. There are a significant number of people arguing against universal healthcare in America but regardless of that, the insurance method has proven to be unworkable as millions are being denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Still, off the top of my head, I can't think of a better way that doesn't involve mandatory taxation.

Regardless of the huge problems I've presented already, there is still the issue of how we fund the military. We never come into contact with them on a regular basis. This is a stretch, but the only thing that comes to mind is corporate sponsorship. An existing business voluntarily gives a certain amount of money to the government to fund the military. It could really be used to fund anything paid for by the government. There are a few problems with this though. Without tax, there is no incentive a government could give the business to donate this money beyond their own encouragement, and so the amount donated might not be enough. The military's size would be adjusted to account for this, but what if it's still not large enough? It makes the government far more vulnerable to lobbying and so the military might be used to serve the interests of those businesses.

An anonymous libertarian commented on my post "Taxation: What's the worst thing it can be?" They said that taxation on property and on non-essential material items is fine because you can avoid having to pay such tax without being faced with a Hobson's choice and that there's an implicit understanding that having such rights is contingent upon the country's ability to defend itself. This is a far more reasonable position, although it will still mean a significant reduction in governmental income. It would be impossible to say where cuts would be made, but the important thing is that they will. Certain essential services might not be sustainable.

In conclusion, if you posit that mandatory taxation is immoral, it falls to you to posit a society that can function well without it. This alternative has to be practical and humane, otherwise however much you want the current society to tend towards your ideas, it will not have any chance of doing so. I've written this post pre-empting demands to "think about it myself and I'll see how it can be done". You can't say I haven't tried. My last post on tax was criticised for being "long winded" but I'm just being thorough. If people fail to understand my shorter answer, I have to spell it out so that they do understand. I've done so much of the work I expect from you for you. It is only fair at this point that I ask people who believe that mandatory taxation is immoral to come up with solutions to the problems I've posited where I couldn't. I've thought about it from your perspective for a week, you've almost definitely had your opinions on the issue for far longer. You should be more adept at developing a workable libertarian or anarcho-capitalist society than I am. So let's see what you guys can come up with. In all sincerity, good luck!


Sunday, 4 March 2012

This Is Racism?!

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

Let me be absolutely clear. If I've successfully made the point that I want to make in this blog, there should be no mistaking the fact that I am neither racist nor advocating racism. I will not respond to anyone who makes such an accusation. What I want to argue, and nothing more, is that we are ridiculously quick to call people racists and under a ridiculously broad definition. Alright, let's get to it.

If I were to call someone fat, that person might be offended. It might, on the other hand, roll off their back. I might be challenged by others for my insult or not. Regardless, it is generally seen as uncalled for to call someone fat. However, the incident is likely to have very little real impact on anyone. It might even be a sign of affection if I mentioned a friend's weight during a conversation, if it falls under the description of banter.

The above is true for most insults: hair colour, height, fashion sense, music taste, movie taste etc.

When it comes to age and gender, there are some differences. Some people really don't like it if you make an age related insult, and it could have a lasting effect on how you are viewed if you make such a remark. I've seen this personally. Other times, it'll fall into the above categories. As for gender, it depends on the gender and the insult used. If you call a guy anything (e.g. a dick), it's unlikely to cause any more offence than most other appearance-based insults. If you insult a woman, it depends on the woman and the word used, but generally "bitch" is similar to "dick", whereas "slut", "whore", "ho" or "cunt" can have a lasting impact.

And then there's race. It really doesn't matter what your skin colour or ethnicity is, all race-based insults are taboo. People are even terrified of describing race-based characteristics for fear of being labelled racist. Even impressions which make use of race-based characteristics are considered racist. Miley Cyrus was criticised when she and her friends pulled back their eyes and made an "asian" face, even though there was an Asian boy in the photo, who was clearly friends with them, and it was a friendly jab at him. As for using any 1 word insult along the lines of "bitch" or "dick", don't even think about it!

In short, we have a double standard. There are differences between how different targets of insults are treated and no rational reason for having this double standard. Some people might point to our history. They may say that these women are sensitive to such insults because they were once viewed to be inferior to men, and that certain races were viewed the same way, and that certain ages still are (albeit there are better reasons for doing so with respect to age). Of course, in many places, this tendency to value certain types of human beings differently still exists. However, there is a difference between saying that someone is inferior to you, and using one of their physical features as a target of an insult. In most cases, someone who does the latter doesn't think the former. It's not hard to figure out which is the case. If they talk down to you, if they're aggressive towards you for no other reason that makes sense to you, then it's the former. If you know them and they're angry for some reason, especially if you made them that way, in the heat of passion, they'll use what they see on you against you. Even if it's a stranger, the remark may not have been intended in the dehumanising manner.

Now, why am I bothering to write about this? Does it matter that we exaggerate claims of racism? Of course it does. Getting along with people requires common ground. If people are afraid to even point out someone's ethnicity, there will always be tension and uneasiness around any conversation which even seems like it's approaching the issue. Even having to think about avoiding the issue makes their different ethnicity stand out to you all the more. It makes their ethnicity the 1st thing you notice about them and, while that's not racism in and of itself, it might lead to some subconscious unwitting behaviours such as trying to avoid looking at them or the opposite, staring at them. These may not seem substantial but, on a large scale, they could make a huge difference. Bottom line, you want their skin colour and other ethnic features to be just another few physical features, just something else which makes them them.

Racism, to me, is viewing someone as inferior based on their ethnicity. That's as far as my definition stretches. I never insult anyone, but to me, an insult which involves someone's race, and nothing more than that, is not racism. Yes, treatment of people based on race has an unusually chequered past, but we shouldn't be focusing on that. We should be assessing racism outside of all cultural contexts and based on logic. Doing so has led me to the following conclusions:

- The moral weight of insults varies in relation to offence caused and not what trait is attacked.
- Each trait differs as to whether the individual was born with it or not, whether it has a beneficial or detrimental effect on their health, and what it means they are able to do, and none of this is the primary basis for determining the moral weight of an insult on principle, regardless of offence. It should be.
- Our current society should strive to meet these logical ideals.

The big civil rights issue of the 21st century is LGBT rights. We are starting to make the same mistakes around bisexual, homosexual and transgender people as well, and we're already well along that path. Let's quit while we're ahead and bask in conversations where mentioning any physical or psychological feature is not taboo, with the intention of creating a healthier, more humane society. Let's strive never to insult anyone, and to never view insulting someone based on a certain attribute of them as being akin to truly horrible crimes. Let's be rational.


Revisiting Dragonball

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

We all have favourite things from our childhood. Without question, my favourite show was Dragonball Z. However, how many of us are the same when we're barely-double-figures-year-olds as when we're 20-somethings? So, just on a whim, I saw every episode of Dragonball, Z, and GT again. Every episode was a FUNimation dub apart from 1 that was Ocean because I couldn't find the FUNimation version. Even though my perspective on the show now is very different to how it was 10 years ago, my appreciation for it largely remains undiminished and, in other ways, has been improved. It should be noted that there are spoilers.


Chronologically, this is the 1st one. It takes place within a 7 year period and centres around the main character, Goku, and his development from a worldly ignorant, pure-hearted, superhumanly strong 11-year-old boy with a tail who has only seen 1 human being in his entire life (his adopted grandfather, Gohan) into a slightly less wordly ignorant, even more pure-hearted 18-year-old protector of the Earth. Goku's character is a work of genius. The extent of his initial ignorance gives us frequent, slightly low-brow comedy, especially when matched up with Bulma, the girl who first discovers Goku in the woods while searching for the dragonballs. One thing I really liked about the FUNimation version was the music. It was very memorable, slightly Japanese themed, and was generally quite upbeat, although the best of it was what I'll call Bora and Upa's theme: more downbeat and mellow but absolutely stunning.

A lot of the action is focused around the dragonballs. First is where we get the real chunk of character development as Goku learns about the world mostly through Bulma, but also through Oolong, Puar, Yamcha, and, to a lesser extent, Master Roshi. Crucially, Goku isn't interested in the dragonballs at all, he comes along simply because the 4-star ball is one of his only possessions and reminds him of his grandfather. Contrast this selflessness with the selfishness of both Bulma and Yamcha who are essentially just trying to find an other half (Bulma has no luck at all, and Yamcha is cripplingly shy around any girl old enough for him). At the same time, Emperor Pilaf seeks the dragonballs to become ruler of the world. I won't spoil what the wish ends up being but, in the end, evil doesn't get what they want and the dragonballs aren't needed to satisfy Bulma and Yamcha's wishes.

The 3 big enemy stories all precede a world martial arts championship and so are each set 3 years apart. These championships give us a reference point for where each character stands in relation to the others and gives us additional reason to cheer on the characters: in this case of the type that you would normally only find in sporting events. From a storytelling perspective, I liked this.

I would say the best part of the series is Goku's confrontation with the Red Ribbon Army, collectively representing the 2nd main enemy. Pilaf is looking for the dragonballs again, but he is a footnote compared to the Red Ribbon Army who are, funnily enough, an army, although several of their members and associates are superhuman or androids. After the 1st wish, the dragonballs were scattered and so Goku is looking for his grandfather's ball. This brings him into conflict with the Red Ribbon Army, but for the most part, he is simply searching for 1 ball, he is not interested in making a wish for himself. Once again, Goku's selflessness contrasts starkly with the selfishness of Commander Red, who simply wants to be taller. However, this time there's a brilliant twist. Goku finds the ball, but when Mercenary (later General) Tao kill sthe Native American-style hermit, Bora, father of Upa, Goku's priorities shift, and he vows to collect all of the dragonballs to wish Bora back to life. This is Dragonball's shining moment for me.

I would place this series in the middle in terms of how I rank the 3.

Dragonball Z

Whereas Dragonball focused on the development of Goku, Dragonball Z develops entirely from his origin story. Goku is revealed to be a member of an alien warrior race called the Saiyans, and that his real name is Kakarot. He was sent here to sterilise the Earth of human beings for the purpose of it being sold. The mission failed after Goku suffered a head injury which wiped the aggressive Saiyan tendencies from his brain. The structure of this series is far more complicated. First, Goku and his friends have to prevent a Saiyan invasion. Then, after several of his friends were killed by the Saiyans, and crucially they were brought back once before in Dragonball so they can't be brought back again with the same dragonballs, they travel to the planet Namek, homeworld of Piccolo, Goku's rival turned friend, to use their dragonballs. They then have to deal with Vegeta, the Saiyan prince who Goku spared on Earth, and Frieza, a being capable of destroying planets with a single blast from his finger. Then they go back to Earth and get told that 2 androids are going to turn the Earth into a Terminator-style apocalyptic wasteland in 3 years by Vegeta's son from the future, Trunks. Then they find there's another android, Cell, who was sent to absorb the original 2 androids to become "complete". Then, a further 7 years later, they have to deal with the wizard, Babidi, and his monstrously powerful creation, Majin Buu, who was capable of killing supreme Kais (basically the Dragonball universe's equivalent of gods).

There are numerous plot holes and problems with realism in this series. We can quite easily accept, as a premise of the story, as was in Dragonball, that characters are able to summon and manipulate their internal (ki) energy to use as a weapon against their opponents. That's fine. However, Goku's brother, Radditz, the first enemy in the series, who explains Goku's origin story, is equipped with a device called a Scouter, which measures that aforementioned internal energy, and essentially gives us a numerical method to determine where 1 character stands in relation to another. It becomes useless at Frieza's level, but given the power levels that we're told about throughout the series, and assuming a linear scale, as any other would be even more preposterous, you can work out that Goku literally becomes 1 million times stronger within, at most, 2 years! I need to be clear here. This isn't any form of exaggeration as in "well Dragonball Z's a MILLION times better than Dragonball", and I'm not using "literally" incorrectly here where some people might. No, Goku's power level, as an accurate mathematical measurement, jumps by a factor of 1 million in less than 2 years. By the end of the series, that's probably 1 trillion, and certainly more than 1 billion.

Most battles take several episodes, with the truly big ones taking 10 or more. 5 minutes on Namek seems to be quite a long time. Good and evil have objective existence in this world and affect what you can do with your ki. The public always look shocked at displays of ki but there seems remarkably little interest in actually finding out anything about it (you'd think Goku and his friends would constantly be hounded by reporters), the same disinterest is shown towards repeated invasion attempts and natural disasters caused by such ki, they seem to have absolutely no memory of it being used after only 20 years (Hercule is celebrated as the greatest fighter on Earth when less than a generation ago, Goku, Tien and Piccolo were levelling Papaya Island where the World Martial Arts Tournament was held). Finally, near the beginning of the series, Hell's minions are shown to be ineffective at keeping Goku in line, but they seem oddly capable of controlling Frieza, Cell and all other villains sent down there, the vast majority of which are vastly superior in power to Goku's when he fell of Snake Way. The disturbance after Cell's death is child's play compared to what they should logically be able to accomplish.

1 thing I'd like to note is that the classic line, 1 of the greatest internet memes ever ("it's over 9000") sounds TERRIBLE in the FUNimation version. OK, it's overkill in the Ocean version but I'd take that over the underplayed FUNimation 1 any day.

Having said all that, this series is so entertaining and so intelligent in many other ways that none of these plot holes are a big enough issue to detract from such entertainment. The Saiyan invasion is made to seem an insurmountable obstacle to Goku and his friends, as are the androids, Cell's perfect form, and Majin Buu. The strategy-based plot of the events that take place on Namek (which are kind of like playing the board game, Risk)  is fascinating. The importance which pride plays in the series makes it unavoidable as a theme to contemplate. On top of that, the series contains one of the saddest scenes I've seen in any form of visual media: Vegeta, who has destroyed many civilizations and planets, breaks down in tears in his final moments, after being pummelled to death by Frieza, and tells Goku that he must not spare Frieza's life. Vegeta did not want Frieza to turn anyone else into a monster like he did to him.

Finally, I praised the music of Dragonball. Dragonball Z's is even better. It is every bit as catchy as the Dragonball music, but it is very different in tone (more serious, even vicious). The best piece of music is in the Ocean dub when Goku arrives at the scene against the Saiyans and against the Ginyu Force on Namek, however the rest in the Ocean dub, while still good, isn't great. The FUNimation music, composed by Bruce Faulconer, is consistently brilliant. The sad theme played when Vegeta dies and when Frieza is begging for his life, Vegeta's theme, Majin Buu's theme, Hercule's theme, and Android 19 and 20's theme: all of these are masterpieces.

This isn't just the best series of the 3, it is that by an enormous margin. Even if you don't see the others, this is essential viewing.

Dragonball GT

Now you know that, by process of elimination, I must view this 1 as the worst. I'm guessing you think I'm going to say that it's still really good but 1 had to be the worst. Actually, no. This 1, this time round, sucked. I wish I could satisfactorily explain why, but I'll do what I can. First, the music, because this was the biggest disappointment. There is nothing catchy about it, and it doesn't even vary much. I can best describe it by saying that it sounds like they asked KoRn to go into a recording studio and jam for 5 hours, and the result would be spliced into the soundtrack where they thought it might loosely fit.

I think Dragonball GT tried to recapture the magic of Dragonball in the Baby saga. Goku was turned back into a child, and the team of Goku, Pan and Trunks travel the universe to collect the Black Star Dragonballs to prevent the destruction of Earth. However, I just didn't get any feeling of urgency that you'd think you'd get knowing that the Earth was going to blow up. There wasn't any character developing interaction of the kind that there was between Goku and Bulma. OK, there's maybe that 1 episode on the desert planet where Pan wants to feel useful in order to avoid being sent home.

Actually, let me talk about Pan. Apart from that 1 scene, she is literally of no use at all to the entire story. She is extremely annoying and pretty much does nothing but get in the way. I would say that she's like the Jar-Jar of the franchise but the robot, Giru, is even worse and more fitting of that description. However, at least Giru serves a useful purpose consistently, albeit only because he ate the Dragon Radar.

Really there were only 2 parts in the series where I even felt like it was still Dragonball: the end of the Baby saga covering everything from Baby's arrival on Earth, and the fight against Omega Shenron at the end of the series. Beyond that it was action devoid of any feeling of suspense or danger. The only interesting theme addressed in the series was the overuse of the dragonballs, basically the theme of karma.

Finally, there's a debate as to whether GT can be considered canon due to the lack of involvement by Akira Toriyama, the franchise's producer. I have no problem calling it canon, but the quality of this series is lacking compared to the others. I also wouldn't say that that's because of Toriyama's lack of involvement, as it shouldn't have been hard to find competent enough writers to work on it. What I would say though is that it is worth watching. It's not terrible, just not like the previous 2. It's worth it just to see how Goku's story ends, and to see Super Saiyan 4!

In conclusion, there's enjoyment in the franchise for people of all perspectives, except maybe GT. If your only knowledge of Dragonball is "it's over 9000", you've been missing out. You will not regret watching this franchise.


Friday, 2 March 2012

Proud and Prejudiced: My Thoughts

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

There was a documentary recently released on Channel 4 called "Proud and Prejudiced". It followed 2 extremist political groups: the English Defence League (EDL), headed by Tommy Robinson, and a group of Muslim extremists, headed by Sayful Islam from the beginnings of the EDL, following an anti-war protest by extremist Muslims in Luton through to the present day.

I watched this documentary yesterday out of curiosity. All I was expecting to get out of it was a greater understanding of an extremist group I'd heard a few of the channels I watch on YouTube mention. If that was the case, I wouldn't bother blogging about it because honestly, who cares? What I got instead I found surprising.

First, a little bit about myself. I'm an atheist. I generally find religion to be a bit silly. Having said that, the atheist community that I'm a part of on YouTube has some quite shady characters at the top. These people are openly bigoted specifically towards Muslims, and all their talk about logic and reason breaks down around this issue. I am not a bigot. I don't harbour any hatred for anyone, let alone simply for having beliefs I don't agree with, different sexual gender preferences, skin tone etc. With all that in mind, the opinion I was left with, at the end of the documentary, was that Tommy Robinson, ideologically speaking, is better than those aforementioned atheists.

In the documentary, he repeatedly has to restate misconceptions which people have about him being racist. In a discussion with Jeremy Paxman on NewsNight, Jeremy uses a blatantly racist Facebook post to demonstrate the racism in the EDL, and Tommy defends the group saying that he discourages such behaviour and that out of the thousands of members of the group, anyone can upload photos to their page, that just because a few people might upload inflammatory pictures, it doesn't mean the group supports racism or is itself racist. Tommy is seen repeatedly chastising his group for racism which is often expressed by some of its members. He frequently has members of all different backgrounds and ethnicities follow his speeches. The best example, though, comes in response to David Cameron's line "multiculturalism has failed". His response is that it hadn't, that Britain was very multicultural and most cultures had integrated successfully. However, I was left confused as to his exact views on Islam and Muslims. We see him talking to a Muslim security guard (I think it was a security guard, but I can't be sure) while drunk. The guard claims Tommy thinks that "all Muslims are bad". Tommy, in a banterous manner, says something like "no, not all of them, just most of them. HAHAHA. Just kidding, mate. You are though. HAHAHA." Contrast this with something he says near the beginning: "3% of British people are Muslim! 3%! Look at what they did (talking about the protest in Luton). Just imagine what it'll be like when it's 20 or 30%." This assumes a similar proportion of extremists and that it'll ever reach that number. Tommy seemed to be of 2 minds then: one moment he has friendly banter with a Muslim and tells him he doesn't have a problem with them, the next he's decrying all Muslims at 1 of the EDL's rallies. Even the uncertainty of that would put him above the atheists I was talking about, if we were just going by ideology alone. Unfortunately, Tommy has a criminal record for assault, and ignoring a ban on 1 of his protests.

Now for Sayful Islam. His ideology, while he tries to emphasise the good parts in the documentary, is poisonous. He advocates Sharia law, and he tries to make it sound appealing by saying: "when people think of Sharia law, they think of stoning and cutting off people's hands. That's not what Sharia law is about. Sharia law is marriage. Sharia law is peace" etc. I see 2 huge problems with this. First, Sharia law CAN be about stoning and cutting off hands, if you have the Taliban, or someone like them, in charge. Secondly, even if it's not, Sharia law is still oppressive. Sayful said that under Sharia law, there wouldn't be a drug problem or prostitution. How? Only a kind of totalitarianism that would make Orwell cringe could achieve that. Or are we expected to believe that Sharia law is some work of legal and psychological genius that will disincentivise the behaviour and disassemble our drug abuse culture without making it feel like our liberties are being intruded upon? I'll eventually get to this topic on another post, but I would say the solution to those problems, counter-intuitive though it may be, is to go in the opposite direction: relax our current laws.

What I'd like to leave you with is this: generalising is bad. I made the mistake of prejudging Tommy by the actions of the EDL and I am dead set against generalising anyone. This was 1 that simply crept into my head. There are legitimate reasons to criticise Tommy but not for the same reasons you can criticise the EDL. As for Muslims, I've never generalised them. I've been fighting back against the popular atheists on YouTube that I described who do for some time, and I've had a lot of their mindless drones spew bigoted garbage at me for it, but bring it on I say. What Sayful and his group want is in direct conflict with what the vast majority of British people want, but very few Muslims are like him. The ones who are either grew up in a place where this is already normal, or were turned by people like Sayful Islam or Andy (or Anjem) Choudary. The vast majority of Muslims just want to live their lives in peace like the rest of us. While I have no reason to accept their claim of the existence of their God, disagreeing with them is as far as I'm prepared to go, or ever could go. If the top YouTube atheists are bigoted, a generalisation could be made against us, but if anything, I've seen far more understanding of ideological nuance among theists (especially Muslims) than even my fellow atheists. All I ask is that we never lose our awareness of these nuances.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Composers' Block

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

Yesterday was probably my most creative day ever. I posted my comprehensive response to my video "Taxation Is Not Theft", and I finished and uploaded 2 songs to my other YouTube channel, AxyssTV, and my music library which can be found from that channel. It was in stark contrast to every single day I've had since I set up that music library. I know for a fact that I want to write music professionally. I have a very good ear for music, even perfect pitch, and I can hear what mainstream songs seem to religiously have in common, or tell when someone's done something very different. However, this is simply not enough to be a composer. Being able to identify norms so you can do something different, while being in tune with music so that you can tell what works and what doesn't: all of that is simply the first step.

The next step, actually writing the music, whether it's in sheet music form or transcribed on some computer software, requires enormous patience and persistence. Whenever I listen to what someone else has done, and then compare my own stuff to it, no matter how proud I might be of what I've written it always seems to come up short. This idea is common among artists that they hate their own works, but in my case, I can point to specific examples. I repeat phrases a lot. I feel like all the chord progressions I use are similar, even though I'm aware of many different types beyond what appears all the time in the mainstream. I could blame my software, as much of the synthesised sounds are woefully inadequate, but an experienced user of the software can use its capabilities to overcome that, and whenever I've tried to do that, it's felt so much like a chore that I mentally can't put myself through it. This is my single greatest failing as a composer. My lack of patience and persistence leads me to, as a motivational move, say "this is good enough, I can stop here, I need to publish it in my library to feel like I've achieved something", when this is only how I feel about it after hours of trying and failing to find something that works. I'm not truly satisfied with anything I've ever made. One song, "Falcon", I've listened to literally hundreds of times, but even it seems really simple to me, and the most musically complex parts are samples that came with the software.

I'm writing this because it's been rare that I've heard this particular kind of introspection from other composers. Admittedly, I haven't gone out and looked for it, but I guess this just confirms that failing I mentioned. A piece you've written which you think is written well can be extremely rewarding, and that was the case with "Falcon", but never be in any doubt that it requires work.