Category Archives: Philosophy

What is Anthropology to Anthropologists?

by 罗子禾

At a social event that took place not so long ago, I met a group of anthropologists, some of whom recently received their PhD’s. I have always thought that scientists are a strange bunch. They tend to not place so much value on monetary gains in life.

Instead, they spend their time digging up true and important assertions that further our understanding of the world around us and help us develop tech that makes life easier and more interesting.

However, they are exactly like the rest of us. They have coffee, go see their family, pay their bills, go hang out with friends, etc. I wanted to understand their life choices a little bit better. So, I asked them what anthropology was to each of them, and here are their answers…


The quiet and polite PhD candidate:
Whatever anthropology is, it’s attractive to me because of its depth. As a cultural anthropologist, I believe that everything, every behavior is reasonable or legitimate in its home environment. I’m not speaking of ethics here. I believe that stealing is morally wrong, but I get more attracted to the stories of why people do what they do. There’s always a reason, and that reason is almost always interesting to me.

The youngest PhD candidate at the table:
Anthropology taught me tolerance. The world is a big place and every one of us grows up only in a little corner of it. We are all accustomed to our own sets of traditions and norms, which are often regional. Anthropology is the thing that helps me rise above my own prejudices and faulty preconceptions.

The PhD graduate with a nice smile:
Anthropology is a way of thinking. It’s a set of rules and skills that helps me delve deeper when I think about things.

The extremely sociable PhD graduate:
Anthropology is a lifestyle. It’s a tool for me to understand other people better, including people around me. It’s that part of my life where I can unleash my passion for knowledge and scrutiny. As an anthropologist, I think critically about myself, especially about my values. Critical thinking at this level helps me jump out of traditions or social constructs and design my own way of life. Anthropology is my soul-searching journey.

The old professor:
When I was just starting my post-graduate education, I went against my sponsor’s wish and gave up economics to throw myself into anthropology. I did that because upon arriving in Japan, where I received my PhD, I was suddenly exposed to a whole new world. Unlike China at the time, a lot of people in Japan were bursting, no, imploding with original thought and the associated passion. Left wing extremists would hijack planes to go to North Korea and set up their resistance against the government. I just said to myself, how can I be an economist now that I’ve seen this? I want to understand it, explain it. Anthropology is what helps me understand and explain.

The poetic PhD candidate:
Anthropology is like a romantic partner. Don’t you guys think so? Anthropology, or rather, the idea of anthropology is quite romantic. There is an undeniable attraction between the field and the people studying it. Anthropology brings me ups and downs. It’s exactly like a life partner.

The new chair of the department:
Anthropology kind of became my identity at some point. Even though my job is 9 to 5, I don’t stop being an anthropologist after work. I may not have any work to do, but I’ll think about stuff. Once I started being an anthropologist, I became an anthropologist every second of every day. It’s an identity, or at least a lifestyle.

The composed PhD candidate:
Anthropology is a way to understand the world. It’s one of the fields of study that gives you fresh and interesting ways to think about the fundamental questions in life. Why am I here? What’s it all for? At the same time, anthropology, for me, is the platform that helps me get acquainted with other branches of science.

The happy PhD graduate:
Anthropology is that thing that helps me to come to terms with the coexistence of opposing thoughts and perspectives. What’s more, it’s also a path to change the public’s opinion or to convince people of things that I believe to be true or right.


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The Duality of Christianity

A Brief Summation of a Facebook Debate on the Duality of the Christian God 

by Bernice


Yesterday was just like any other day. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, liking memes, and laughing at nonsensical videos. I stopped scrolling at the sight of this meme:

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It intrigued me. It made me stop, and think. I shared the post, knowing that any one of my devout Christian friends would jump onto my post and try to explain away the obvious issues with the biblical passage. My caption was:

Something to think about for sure. These scriptures in the bible are right around the sections that Christians often use for evidence against homosexuality. Well, if homosexuality is an “abomination.” Then, raping and marrying a woman is ok.

But no self-respecting Christian would argue that rape is ok. But in denying the legitimacy of the rape passage, they’ll also have to deny the legitimacy of the homosexuality passage.

First of all, this caption isn’t all that clear. On Facebook, and other social media, I tend to shorten my thoughts. But the message is clear: there are many inconsistencies in the bible. And these disparities are often overlooked and/or rationalized away by Christians.

A Christian friend eventually commented, posting a link to a website that supposedly explains common misinterpreted scriptures. The website is The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

It started out by explaining this scripture: Deuteronomy 22:23-24

“If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife.

The ERLC argues that this law is describing a consensual encounter, signified by the lack of violent descriptive words. I.e, the lack of the words ‘forced,’ ‘attacked’, etc. They further argue that the setting is important. Because the alleged assault took place in a city, there would have been witnesses to a violent rape. Therefore, this is consensual and they both should be punished.

Raise your hand if you know that rape isn’t always violent and bloody. Raise your hand if you know that screaming isn’t always an option. Raise your hand if you think this is pure speculation. Me too.

This is Deuteronomy 22:25-27 

But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.

This passage is clearer than the first. It condemns the rape of a woman, but this one isn’t free of issues. I’ll get to the issues in all of these passages at the end.

Here’s the passage that started this debate: Deuteronomy 22:28-29

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Wow. You read that right, but don’t be so surprised. This is an ancient book! So the ERLC doesn’t deny that she must have been ‘overwhelmed.’ Nor do they deny that the man is guilty. But what’s problematic is that they don’t condemn this scripture. Their translation leads them to believe that it wasn’t a ‘violent rape,’ which is apparently ‘not so bad.’ The ERLC argues that there is some sort of mutual responsibility here, because the man didn’t violently rape her. Apparently, the only rape that counts is the violent kind, where you’re constantly screaming for your life.

My Christian friend brought up a good point though. The Christian god is supposed to be a just god, who hates all sexual sins and provides these laws in order to protect the weak.

He also said, The rapist deserves death. The adulterer deserves death. I deserve death, and so do you, but the good news is that Jesus died in the sinner’s place to bring about forgiveness, healing, and restoration.

I’m not a Christian, but I respect that. However, what he says and what I’ve read are at odds with each other.

The first law condemns both the man and woman. Even though it’s obvious that the man did the action of ‘finding’ and ‘lying,’ the woman is put to death. She’s put to death for not screaming, and drawing witnesses. But there could be a number of reasons why she didn’t. The man, it says, is put to death because he damaged another man’s property. Yes, property. Women were commodities that were bought and sold by their fathers and husbands. Where is the protection of the weak in this scenario?

The second law is also problematic because it’s also on the basis of the woman crying out. However, it’s still leagues better than the first and third laws.

The third law condemns only the woman. In this scenario, the woman is not engaged. After being raped by the man in this scenario, she is essentially damaged goods. Her family becomes unable to marry her off, and protect their investments. The solution to this problem is to marry her off to the man who violated her to begin with. Where is the protection of the weak in this scenario? How was this man punished?

In the first and second scenarios, there’s another problematic issue that may go over some heads. Both of the men in these scenarios are put to death. How come the man isn’t put to death in the third scenario? If rape is punished, then all three men should be put to death. Unless, rape isn’t the real issue these laws are tackling.

*coughinvestments*cough

I’ll repeat my closing argument here:

 If god is truly a just god, and he hates all sexual sin, then laws like marrying a rapist would be against what this god stands for. If all rapists deserve death according to this god, then this god would not sanction a rapist marrying his victim. If the laws were truly created by an impartial god to protect the vulnerable, then a victim would not be forced to marry her attacker. How is the victim in this instance protected? She is forced to endure being raped by her attacker legally, every night until she dies. That doesn’t sound just or good to me. So there are only two conclusions here: the christian god is evil, or he did not make those laws. Man did.

What do you think?

Blank Canvas

by Alan Fleming

Philosophy is my passion. I know, I know, but it is not what you think. That image in your head of a slightly unhappy dude, with a grey cardigan and brown carpet tie, sitting alone in a corner reading some obscure text and rambling on and on about the thoughts of dead people is wildly inaccurate…

I don’t read obscure texts.

To be fair, I don’t read much philosophy at all any more. Partly I don’t have time, but partly I just don’t care for the opinions of professional philosophers anymore. That is not to say I don’t drop quotes from my list of legends, like Sartre, Nietzsche and Laozi, or dabble in some modern ideas from the land of the living, but rather that I prefer a purer form of thought now. A clean, free form that allows me to rid myself of labels and dogma and just think, for the sake of thinking.

Of course this is not without risk. My free form thinking could be as wildly inaccurate as your image of a lover of philosophy! But so what? Who cares if I get the details wrong? So what if quarks aren’t what I think they are or someone has discovered that the nature of water can be determined purely through an understanding of its chemical make-up? Or if my ideas are exactly the same as those of Wittgenstein or Quangzi? The fun and joy in thinking is not diminished, even if the end product is not so original or correct.

Just the other day I was rambling to some of my students about my latest breakthrough about the nature of memories and time stamps. I was in top form; excited, slightly over animated, my favorite brown tie swinging from side to side. The rant went something like this:

Our memories are a collection of experiences, real or imagined, stored in a time order in our heads. This time order, however, is not attached to the sense datum that assaults our senses and gives us the fodder for thoughts and memories. Nay! Sense datum and by extension our memories are free of the concept of time. We add the time.

There was a prolonged silence. Then one of my padawans spoke, “so what?” she said.

“So what!” I exclaimed, shaking my head in amazement.

If our memories have no independently attached time stamp then they are timeless. Which means, if, somehow, we managed to remove our concept of time, then our memories would be order-less. We wouldn’t be able to tell when our experiences occurred, nor could we separate them. In fact, we wouldn’t even be able to establish when now is, except that we are experiencing it… um… well… now. Which means, if we started recalling an event from our memory it would seem real. Like we were literally living it.

Silence.

Don’t you see? This explains how the aliens in ‘Slaughterhouse-five’ knew everything that was, is and will be, and were able to jump between those ‘times’.

More silence as I caught my breath. Then the student, finally seeing my idea said, “wait, I get the past and present bit, but how can they see the future if the future hasn’t happened yet.”

A salient point, I thought, as I flushed with pride that this young philosopher actually understood what I was ranting about.

I don’t know exactly, but I think the future is whatever we want it to be. I have ‘memories’ of my future. Not experiences that I have lived, but dreams I have imagined of what my future life will be like. If this parallel universe were real and we could shed our concept of time, then unlived and lived experiences would be indistinguishable. Therefore, I would have access to everything that was, is and will be, albeit having no way to know reality from dream.

After making this last point, and feeling both excited and confused at what it all meant, I looked up to see one of the other students crying. Not an unusual reaction to one of my rants during break time when students are trying to catch up on homework. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “I can’t foresee anything in my future beyond falling short of my parents expectations. There is no success in my dreams, just disappointment.”

This amazingly intelligent human being was crying because she was worried that if she could make her future through dreams, her future would be terrible. How unbelievably sad. I almost starting crying with her.

All is not lost! I said slightly too loudly.

Your experiences would not suddenly become fixed once your concept of time was shed. They would still be as fluid as they are now. New memories would form, new dreams can be had. There is still and always will be hope. Just because right now, in this pressure cooker that is the final years of high school for an Asian student, you feel lost and unable to conjure a positive outcome does not mean one is not possible. If we can shed ourselves of our concept of time, we can definitely shed ourselves of our parent’s bullshit.

“But we can’t shed our concept of time.” She replied.

Student 1 : Teacher 0.

She was right, of course. We can’t, at least not easily. Which implies that we are stuck in our artificially time structured reality, and by logical extension, our parent’s unrealistic expectations.

I was overcome with despondency, which, in my experience is a wonderful catalyst for breakthroughs! And as if on cue, I had a eureka moment.

We don’t need to shed our concept of time to have access to all that was, is and will be. We still have it, with or without the time concept. Our memories are just like a deck of cards. They have no pre-set order, but rather, the order is added by the dealers shuffle or the game itself. With or without the order the cards are the same. Our memories are no different. I can conjure any future I want, as long as the card is in the deck! And, because of the fluid nature of our mental deck, pretty much anything and everything is possible.

Naturally, my time concept is going to tell me all sorts of things about past, present and future and probably about reality and dreams, but so what. I have survived nearly 4 decades listening to unhelpful inner voices, this is just another to ignore.

Just like your parents unrealistic expectations, I said. Don’t allow yourself to be trapped in the dealers pattern, break free and conjure up a new future filled with wonder and hope.

We both smiled.

Why I Believe the Earth Is Round

by 罗子禾

The first time I heard about a theory of the shape of earth, I was in elementary school. I saw this children’s history program, which said that, centuries ago, people (in China) believed the earth was flat and square-shaped like a chessboard, and the sky was an umbrella, which was connected to earth by a pillar at the center of the world. Later in this program, I was told that nowadays people believe that the earth is an approximate sphere. In retrospect, I bought into this narrative immediately, even though I found the chessboard/umbrella imagery way cooler than the sphere. I carried on for almost two decades, thinking that the earth is a rough sphere until I was met with alternate theories in college.

“The earth is flat.” says my friend Joe (pseudonym).

Me and my friends made so much fun of Joe after bursting out in laughter. Joe was enough of an adult to be a good sport. After everybody calmed down, I asked him for real why he felt that way. Why did he choose to go against the testimony of basically every person he’s ever known since he was born?

“I think there is an appropriate time to go against testimonies and current theories. It’s when you have a) strong doubt of the current theory or its evidence and b) an alternate theory with some evidence.” Joe patiently explained.

“I think this is a decent doctrine for belief formation. What are your doubts about the round-earth theory?” I got intrigued by him on another level. He’s intelligent. With the community of flat-earthers steadily growing, if I wish to converse with one, I probably shouldn’t just call them all stupid and try to “enlighten” them.

“Here are some of the predominant reasons to believe that the earth is round. Everybody says so; it’s common sense. But common sense is virtually the worst source of rational knowledge. Common sense suggests all sorts of nonsense for irrational reasons. It was common sense that lipid was the leading cause of obesity when carbohydrates were; it was common sense that weed is extremely addictive and kills; it was common sense that witches don’t float when thrown into water tied to cement while innocents do. I do not source common sense for serious rational matters. Consider a serious, rational source like NASA, you say. NASA is a federal institution, which means, knowingly or not, it looks out for federal interests, which may be epistemic and rational, but it’s safe to assume that it gets political frequently. So, I can’t know which claims are genuine. Some people tell me that they can see the curvature of the earth with their naked eyes on a ship at sea. This can’t be. The naked human eye can see up to about 5 km on a perfect day. If the earth is as big as everyone believes, no curvature should be detectable within 5 km by the naked human eye.”

“OK, interesting.”

“So, maintaining these doubts, I turn toward evidence for an alternate theory. You can refer to the experiment conducted by this guy Darryl with a spirit level on a plane. If the earth is round and thus planes must dip their heads constantly to remain on the same altitude, the air bubble in the spirit level should move backwards instead of staying in the center. The bubble stayed steadily in the center.”

 

I thought about all this for a few moments and I prepared a response. “I, too, discourage sourcing common sense when it comes to serious rational matters, and I appreciate your skepticism of scholar’s arational or irrational interests. To the best of my knowledge, it’s a fact that there is no first-hand experience on the surface of the earth without any equipment that shows the curvature of the earth. So, I recognize the doubts that you may have about the narrative of how the earth is round. However, I dismiss your evidence for your alternate theory. Even if the plane’s dipping of its head is significant enough to be reflected on the air bubble, the bubble wouldn’t go backwards, it would float upwards as a result of centrifugal force, which, as the plane dips its head, pulls the liquid down for being heavier than the air bubble. In fact, after watching a lot of Youtube videos which is where most flat earth ‘research’ is, I found that I can argue why every single one of those experiments cannot possibly show its hypothesis by middle school physics and geometry. My biggest problem with your flat earth outlook, however, is this: even taking into consideration the unintelligibly esoteric, sometimes suspicious, claims by the scientific community and its members’ various arational and irrational behavior, the scientific community is still a better source of facts and rational interpretations than an untrained individual’s experiments and reasoning. Your flat earth outlook is vitally based on the rejection of this claim. I have heard some of you guys call yourselves realists because you think scientists tend to act and talk with their heads in the clouds. In the spirit of that realism, perhaps you can see a degree of realism in my claim about a faulty scientific institution being more credible than an untrained individual?”

After being forced to reflect, I chose to maintain my belief that the earth is round. To the best of my knowledge, a round earth is compatible with everything I hold true, while a flat earth is compatible with a small subset of everything I hold true. Even if all scientists are wrong or lying to me, which is such a radical and unrealistic thing to believe, my best option to reach optimal epistemic status is still to assign high credence to scientists’ claims.

Shout out to my friend Joe.

Tolerance of Narratives

A Rule of Thumb Inspired by Rudolf Carnap


Written by: 罗子禾


One day, I was striking up an interesting conversation with a friend about laws. We looked into the diversity of laws, viz. laws differ from region to region, from country to country, from era to era. We shared a moment of silent admiration after our shared realization that ages of legal and moral laws were all products of human actions. It’s funny that humans authored this intricate and enormous system of rules and norms, but we can’t seem to escape the banality of our lives.

All of a sudden, my friend said, “you know, even though humans wrote all these laws. The credit goes to God.”

“Here we go…” I replied with a deep sigh.

“No, man, look. Where did intelligence come from? Where did moral intuitions come from? Intelligence and moral intuitions are teleologically meaningful things. They are meant for something, i.e. helping us establish and further our pursuit of truth and goodness. It’s natural to think that they exist by the design of a creator. If you see a watch on the beach, would you think it’s more likely that some watchmaker fashioned it or would you prefer to think that the watch formed naturally? I’m allowing the possibility of a watch forming naturally. It is indeed possible, however remotely. But I choose to believe that something as intricate as a watch, which clearly has a specific purpose, is the product of thoughtful design. Now, would you really rather believe that intelligence and moral intuition formed naturally?”

“A scenario of intelligence and moral intuitions forming naturally, by means of mutations and natural selection is actually more plausible. My narrative tells a much fuller story. Check it. The origin of intelligence is just one or a few mutations. Before you say your creator is behind mutation, there is a full bio-physics story that explains how a mutation occurs as well. Let’s leave that aside for now. The genes of intelligence get added to the gene pool and get passed onto future generations. This ability turned out to be advantageous or even the key to survival in a lot of situations. So intelligence and its corresponding genes stayed in a lot of species’ gene pools rather stably, until hominids began consuming cooked foods, which, in time, increased brain capacity and gave intelligence a huge boost. So, to answer your question, yes, I’d much prefer believing that intelligence formed naturally rather than by the design of some creator, of which I see no evidence. The same goes for moral intuitions; there is a full narrative that does not involve a creator.”

Our stimulating conversation eventually turned into a repartee, and it could have gone a lot worse if we weren’t friends.

Too many of us get lured into these disagreements, which trap everybody in an atmosphere of anger and rashness, and nobody ever gets convinced. Then, perhaps we shouldn’t wantonly get into these arguments.

A Christian, who praises Jesus for her fruitful day, shouldn’t be met with my scorn if I asked about her day; if I wanted to convince an atheist, empiricist good-samaritan to come with me to a Hare Krishna soup kitchen, and he says no, I can either try to persuade him by making the case that humanitarian work is humanitarian work with or without religious branding, or I could move on to the next person. Barring extreme situations, there is really no need to discuss a person’s narrative of life, the cosmos, everything, unless the narratives are the topic that is agreed upon.

Make maximal use of what agreements you can solicit, and tolerate other people’s alternative narrative.



Like this article? For more about communicating and tolerance, click here.

 

Augmented Communication–A Brief Opinion

Communication is one of the things that humans are incredibly savvy at. At least, humans seem to be the only ones capable of communicating the most complex ideas and representations.

We opened up possibilities for skyscrapers, video games and so on by communicating complex ideas to other people. The feat of our achievements is unthinkable if not for the possibility of efficient and effective ways to communicate.

Norms of communication are vital to even the most trivial tasks of our day. For instance, if you wanted to make a new dish, you might want to read a recipe, which requires the skill to read, let’s say, English and maybe some short hands such as “tsp”. Grocery shopping is impossible without knowing the norms on exchanging information about what you want and how much things cost; not being familiar with these norms slow down your grocery shopping.

One time, I was at a restaurant in Hawaii placing my order. I told the cashier I wanted a pop, and she looked confused so I had to change my choice of word and say soda instead.

Successful communication seems awfully dependent upon social norms. Americans prefer the imperial system of measurement while most of the world prefers the metric system. Clothing sizes vary from Northern China to Southern China. When describing things, literary authors use more adjectives than scientists. Modern German recommends the passive tone, while modern English practically frowns on it. There is a difference between casual language and professional language.

So if communication is dependent on social norms or customs, can we change the rules or norms of conduct to make communication more efficient and effective?

Actually, we already do this.

A customer service representative is trained to talk and listen in a specific way that registers a list problems or complaints about some product; a medical doctor is trained to talk and listen in such a way that registers a list of symptoms.

My personal favorite is this: academics are trained to frequently use terms with specific, well-defined meanings. How convenient! This practice of agreeing to use terms that are chewed over and closely examined avoid so much confusion and unnecessary disagreements.

To me, academia stands out among all frontier pursuits of truth, meaning and value precisely because of its tempered norms of communication. There is rarely any name calling at the end of a poorly handled debate; there is no yelling and little physical confrontation. There is, however, vanity and meaningless rivalry. But if academia gave us democracy, knowledge of the stars, and insight into the human heart, in all its imperfect, ever-growing infancy, I sit back and watch in awe of future augmentations of human communication and the wonders it may bring.

Author
罗子禾

Momentarily Many Things

I teach. A couple of days ago I was discussing poetry with a grade 11 student. I don’t teach literature, I teach psychology and a subject called ‘theory of knowledge’, which sounds like philosophy, but isn’t. In the same way that the movie, ‘World War Z’ sounds like the book of the same name, but isn’t.

Anyway, the student is far more intelligent than I will ever be and is constantly seeking intellectual stimulus. Sometimes through philosophical thought (I also philosophize), and sometimes through seemingly random creative pursuits. This time it was poetry, in the slam format.

I must confess, I know very little about poetry. But after watching a few YouTube clips that she suggested, I became intrigued. My intrigue combined with some recent philosophizing on the role and appropriateness of social labels, and we started throwing out possible poetic lines.

“Sometimes I fight, but I’m not a fighter,” I said.

“Sometimes I lie, but I’m not a liar,” she said.

“Sometimes I cry, but I’m not a crier,” I said.

We became excited by the prospect of creating something that questioned, philosophically, the role and value of permanent labels and whether, in fact, we should not label each other at all and instead accept that we are momentarily many things.

We quickly concluded that we cannot be defined by a single action. That we are made up of millions of billions of actions, like drops of water in a swimming pool, and not one of those can define us on any permanent level.

So, yeah, sometimes I cry, sometimes I fight, sometimes I lie, sometimes I do lots of things, but at the same time I am not permanently any of those things, I am just momentarily them.

It was all going so well until I added the following line:

“Sometimes I rape, but I’m not a rapist.”

The mood changed instantly. Faces became contorted. Other students, who were clearly eavesdropping instead of doing the task I had set and then promptly forgotten about, gasped in horror.

Fair play, I thought. Rape is not something that can simply be brushed aside, hidden amongst the other millions and billions of actions that a person performs. No person who has had sex with an unwilling other should be free of the label ‘rapist’. I mean, that is what they are. If they rape, they are a rapist. The logic is sound. But this is not a question of logic. It can’t be, because the logic is sound for all of the other statements too.

My issue with permanent labeling is that I hate the idea that a single action that I may perform is then used as a lens to view and review every other action I take. I say this with some conviction, but then quickly contradict myself with the line about rape. Part of me clearly believes that anyone who rapes should be permanently labeled and forever treated differently.

At first I thought my contradiction was justified through some noble idea about the effect of actions on other beings. I had diagrams of circles touching and overlapping. The idea was that if my actions are contained within my own sphere then no-one can label me. However, if my actions impinge on the rights of other beings then I am open to being permanently labeled. This idea sounds nice, and quiet noble, but it is wrong.

John Donne is right; ‘No man is an island’. There is not a single action that I take that does not impinge on other beings. The world is not full of individual swimming pools that only occasionally spill into each other, the world is an ocean of water droplets, all of them inter-related and inextricably linked.

Of course, if we follow this increasingly weird water analogy, that would imply that the single action of rape is not just a red dye that taints the water of the individual’s pool, but an industrial strength dye that taints the water of the whole ocean.

This might be the eureka moment. My desire to maintain my contradiction about labels may be borne from a simple desire of denial. I want to permanently label a rapist because I want them separate from me. I want an acknowledgement from the universe that they are different from me and I am not responsible in any way for their actions.

‘No man is island’, however. If my actions are a drop in the ocean, then I am as tainted by rape as the rapist, and as responsible.

‘Sometimes I acknowledge a culture that not only tolerates but quite openly encourages rape, but I am not part of that culture.’

This is blatantly false. I am not just part of this culture, I am this culture. I am at the same time every water droplet in the ocean and the ocean itself.

So what does this mean for my crusade against permanent labels?

Quite frankly, I am unsure. My ideas, as stated here, will take a while to properly formulate and settle in my mind. The level of discomfort I feel about them are a good sign that I have opened a seam that needs deep exploration.

That said, I think my position is changing. I think that rape should be treated as any other action that a human can perform. It is abhorrent, yes, but it should not be used to permanently label a life. Instead, it should be used as the catalyst of major societal and cultural reflection. If we are our culture, and I think we are, then we are responsible for a situation, no matter how momentary, where a member of our community thinks it is acceptable to rape. That is on all of us. Instead of throwing shade, through demonizing and isolating labels, maybe we need to initiate change so that no members of our culture think this is an acceptable action.

I think we can do that by removing labels.

 

 

Author:

Alan Fleming