Review of Unifying Hinduism by Andrew Nicholson: Errors in Reasoning

Although I’d like to praise this work, as I largely liked Nicholson’s analyses and enjoyed reading some of them, I’m compelled by my own academic standards to give Unifying Hinduism a negative review. First, let me just say that for the average reader that this book will possibly satisfy interest in examining interesting parts about Hindu philosophy that can be parsed through this text, but its largely with opinion pieces presented with an academic veneer. I read this book in conjunction with Oxford’s handbook of Indian philosophy in the hopes of better understanding the ancient Indian theology and its differences with Modern Hinduism since it was argued by Western academia that modern Hinduism can’t be called anything but a modern invention in reaction to oppressors. Nevertheless, I’ve since concluded these people don’t even bother following the clear references in the text, or understanding the legacy of inclusivity within Hinduism, or look into India’s history for a fuller understanding, or well . . . anything resembling what is typical in academia. Religious Studies is known as the least academic of all disciplines since it doesn’t use actual history, archaeology, or any type of credible research; the Oxford handbook is rife with paranoid conspiracy theories taken as fact, as an example. Religious Studies seems to try to purport some privileged understanding, but they seem to hold no real knowledge of Western analytical philosophy and seem to just be glorified translators with mistaken perceptions on their knowledge.

I was initially discouraged because reading the arguments of Edward Said, and the fact Indology takes them seriously, was very disconcerting. Nicholson prefaces the book by detailing how an entire school of Indology is based on Edward Said’s views on indigenous people. Said seems to be considered a pillar of Indology, and his assertion is that indigenous people were formed into their way of thinking by imperialism and therefore have no right to any opinion regarding their own ancient texts. Said argues none of an indigenous person’s views are credible, because they’ve been brought up as a result of imperialism. Allusions to the idea that indigenous people were merely savages before Western colonization abound as implications for this reasoning. However, Edward Said’s entire argument is a fallacy of Circular Reasoning; he asserts the premise with the conclusion. That is, he argues that indigenous people are products of Western imperialism and therefore can be dismissed because their opinions are products of Western imperialism. This is very flawed reasoning and the fact it’s a respected opinion in Indology seemed asinine to me since I could easily pick apart the flaws using analytical philosophy. In fact, this is even more bizarre than at first glance, since Indology seems to parade analytical philosophy in many of its texts . . . but don’t even have a basic understanding of it. There’s simply no logical or reasonable basis to respect Edward Said’s assertions; he’s homogenizing billions of people based on their ethnic background and literally devaluing the very idea they have any say based on their race. Moreover, the premise is false; it was the literal opposite of what Said espoused. Schools from Ireland to India were shut down or demolished, people were repeatedly starved, and mass genocides in internment camps due to cholera or starvation or both ensued under imperialism. As a direct result, religious fanaticism increased to a fever-pitch in response to such brutality. Pre-modern India, with mathematicians like Aryabhata and Brahmagupta, were more focused on logical reasoning than the sadly illiterate India that followed after British colonial rule. Nevertheless, I thought it couldn’t be comprised of all what Nicholson had to say, so I bought the book and eagerly began reading.

Some arguments are just teeming with arrogance. In one such argument in favor of a unified Hinduism, Nicholson argues in support of a Hindu identity and contends the assertions of his Indologist colleague Paul Hacker who tries to assert some bizarre generalization that a billion Hindus feel inferior and his even more bizarre re-contextualization of Modern Hinduism and pre-modern Hinduism into some neo-terms that have no basis. I held a favorable disposition for Nicholson and an unfavorable one for Hacker, I readily admit this and I found Nicholson provided a better argument . . . but by the end, Nicholson diverges into ad hominem and implies Hacker has no right to an opinion because he’s a Christian. I sort of just stared at that as it took me a moment to process that a Western scholar could be so blatantly bigoted and provide such a ridiculous error in reasoning. Nicholson attempts to argue a middle approach that rejects what he sees as Hacker’s presumable extremism. He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s using the logical fallacy of ad hominem against Hacker. He’s also committing the middle-ground fallacy. He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s given ample cause to dismiss this entire branch of Western academia as worthless; if even his fellow Indologists are considered to have valueless opinions, based on a bigoted notion against their religious beliefs, then how on earth is one suppose to make any progress in this discipline? What does progress even look like? What viewpoints can even be called worthwhile? Also, Indology admits it makes random guesses and will never actually progress with anything meaningful. What even is this? How can an entire department of academia lack so much in its credibility?

Sadly, this isn’t the first time Nicholson has done this. Andrew Nicholson, the translator of Siva Song and author of this book Unifying Hinduism, seems to lack the critical thinking faculties of the much-loved Analytical Philosophy that his colleagues repeatedly harp about when he adamantly defends his thesis advisor. He made a response to Rajiv Malhotra, claiming on twitter that Malhotra had plagiarized him, yet he never took Malhotra to court. In his criticism of Rajiv Malhotra, he actually argues that Malhotra has no right to an opinion because he doesn’t understand Sanskrit; Nicholson proceeds to completely destroy his own argument against Malhotra’s assertions that Western academia is making spurious assertions against Hinduism by attributing his own personal guesses on ancient Hinduism to the influence of his thesis advisor Pollock. Why is this self-refuting? Because it means that both Nicholson and Pollock’s ideas have absolutely nothing to do with Hinduism and are their own personal opinions on the religion. If Pollock’s ideas are original, which I don’t dispute, then he isn’t actually doing research since that means he isn’t trying to uncover an ancient philosophy of a religion analogous to an archaeologist, but rather just making things up without sufficient evidence. Evidently, Malhotra has no right to an opinion because he isn’t a translator and Hacker has no right to an opinion because he is a Christian.

In what could have been an interesting final analysis, Nicholson consistently asserts his confusion about why Islam wasn’t integrated into Hinduism and tries to use the Rama re-tellings of replacing Asuras with terms identifying Muslims as proof of Hindu bigotry. He poorly asserts that arguments about Islam being nihilistic is proof Hindus were ignorant since it was the same assertion against Buddhists. He seems entirely unaware of the genocide of approximately 8 million people that Islam committed in Northwestern India, he seems to fail to understand that the re-tellings are parallels to the religion of Zoroastrianism which also forbids the usage of interest rates and believes in sinfulness, and it’s made abundantly clear that he has absolutely no understanding of Islamic theology at all when trying to figure out why Hinduism never tried to adapt it. He consistently asserts Hindu bigotry, but makes no attempt at actually comparing the religions. How hard would it have been to simply seek advice and information from a fellow colleague within his own Religious Studies department? Failing that, how hard would it have been to google search a local Mosque or Islamic center and go ask about Islam there? How hard would it have been to simply research Islamic theology through google or go on the multitude of Islam learning websites to gain a better understanding in order to compare and contrast the religions? Yet, he doesn’t even bother to put even that much effort into this chapter that supposedly tries to compare the religions. This is just laziness on his part and it really repudiates his credibility. Even a ten minute google search of the basic facets of Islam would have answered this question; Islamic jurisprudence is specifically designed to prevent such attempts since any outsider’s views on the theology is considered worthless unless they follow Sharia, Jihad against non-believers of the Abrahamic God is a religious doctrine among the four forms of Jihad that a Muslim must commit to, and any Hindu that did compare them would have been brutally murdered similar to the massacres that made the Hindu Kush (Hindu Murder/Hindu Slaughter) mountains that the Islamic invaders named in their triumphant massacre of approximately 8 million people. Something these Indologists evidently refuse to even engage within any discussion. Never mind the silent destruction and cultural genocide of Zoroastrianism in Iran, Zoroastrianists and Jews of Iran are still persecuted to this very day in modern-day Iran.

He harps about the Hindu extremism, yet seems to be utterly ignorant of the fact India took in Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir that were being persecuted with kidnappings, mass murder, and organized rape campaigns by Muslims in all three countries and rebellious Indian State. Evidently, Pakistan is happy to protest against extrajudicial killings by their police on Pashtun groups that support Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but don’t concern themselves with the sprees of murder, rape, and torture of Hindu and Sikh minorities that have all but left for India for their own safety. Nor does Nicholson seem to think over Intra-Abrahamic violence that could also pose a substantial problem to his own confusion of why Hinduism never adapted to anything of Islam’s theology, he seems blissfully unaware of the outright genocide of Christian Iraqis by ISIS. Both of these events are contemporary and happened only a couple of years ago as of this writing. This shouldn’t be perceived as an attempt to deflect Hindutva or Indian army human rights crimes. The deaths of journalists throughout India and the Indian army’s rapes and murders should absolutely be held accountable with punishable jail time, but these horrible crimes cannot be the only issues highlighted regarding controversial topics for the sake of intellectual honesty. I don’t support the anti-intellectual stupidity of Hindutva or would ever condone what unsavory people in the Indian army have done to civilians, but the refugee crises that Islamic militia groups caused cannot be ignored. Hundreds of thousands of Hindu and Sikh men, women, and children were being gang raped and/or murdered by Islamist groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. This is not limited to just them as victims; reports of Christian minorities being gang raped and mass murdered have also abounded but gain less notoriety in the West for whatever reason; evidently, forced conversions in safer countries like India of Hindus who respect Christians is more important to US Christian missionaries than helping their fellow Christians who suffer in the absolute worst offenses to human rights and human dignity under Sharia (Islamic Divine Law) in three separate countries. Not surprising, since helping their fellow Christians would cause them great personal risk and would actually be an act of compassion; instead of their forced conversions and unvarnished hatred of Hindus who respect their beliefs.

He and fellow Indologists argue about theories on how to unify Hinduism or why it’s impossible to unify Hinduism, but after reading several chapters of this book and the Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy, I no longer believe they have honest intentions. In fact, I suspect this entire academic discipline never had any honest intentions and never focused on explicit texts or social customs. It should come as no surprise considering its imperialistic background. Nicholson admits that various forms of belief were accepted under the inclusiveness of Ancient India, he uses one example of Rama’s belief and how people who believed in Rama were free to practice belief when placed under as a component of Vishnu, but he actually seems to argue that this doesn’t prove any unified form of Hinduism. After that, he goes on the most vapid of arguments saying it doesn’t prove inclusiveness just because Hindus were inclusive by nature… What is even being argued anymore? He tries to argue the word Hindu not being used constitutes there being no unified Hinduism, but that’s an argument of semantics. Sanatana Dharma could easily qualify and we’d know what was being referred to. Overall, the fact they try to ignore the inclusiveness or denigrate Hinduism as not unified when not even looking at any historical accounts, denigrating the inclusivity they themselves find in their Sanskrit translations, and the fact they pick and choose such as when Nicholson ignores the parts of the Bhagavad Gita (in which Krishna says all ways, even those that don’t believe in him are acceptable and can lead to Moksha (self-liberation) so long as someone is selfless and helps others) in order to argue that Samkhya isn’t atheistic when their previous research asserts it had theistic and atheistic followers and that by the time of medieval translations the entirety of India had recognized Samkhya as atheistic school of Vedic theology.

It seems peculiar to me how so many Indologists can translate texts in which deities of various Gitas explain repeatedly that all other Gods and Goddesses are unified with them and that Brahman is an aspect of them; but somehow, even despite Nicholson himself translating the Ishvara Gita which has 2 whole chapters devoted to Shiva explaining how all the other deities and him are unified, they somehow conclude there is no unified Hinduism . . . despite the explicit, blatant, and repeated assertions on this unity in the texts themselves. In Siva Song (Ishvara Gita), Great Goddess Song (Devi Gita), and the Song of God (Bhagavad Gita), they all detail this unity with Brahman and the voluminous amount of other deities. If they had argued denominational differences, that would have been valid based on the evidence, but instead they argue different religions even when religions like Rama grow out of Vishnu. It no longer makes any sense. Hinduism has been based on inclusiveness, the belief in Brahman, and even acceptance of Atheism since ancient times; in fact, myself and even the average Westerner who’ve asked questions or been curious about researching Hinduism come to believe – based on Hindu theology – that it’s just separate interpretations and denominations of a unified belief and that people can take whatever interpretation they like from the Upanishads, Gitas, Vedas, and Mahabharata to form our own interpretation. The philosophical aspects of selfless service or doing good based on intrinsic desire in the Upanishads is just as paramount in understanding Hinduism as a philosophy too. Truth seeking and selflessness are paramount teachings. That’s how my family has seen it, how I’ve seen it, how the average US citizen who takes an interest sees it, and even how historically pre-modern India saw itself – the last one is according to Nicholson himself. The belief that they’re different religions seems largely unfounded and the Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy repeatedly references a paranoid conspiracy theory of an Aryan invasion, doesn’t use actual history or archaeology, and doesn’t present any credible evidence for its assertions beyond guesswork; Nicholson’s book also follows suit in this meaningless and trite guesswork presented as “academic” but lacking any actual substance or evidence-based reasoning. Therefore, this book by Nicholson, and possibly everything Indology does from Pollock’s racist and Nazi-friendly assertions (since the Aryan Race Theory is a debunked Western conspiracy only asserted by Neo-Nazis outside of Indology) to Doinger and Larson’s poorly reasoned and poorly argued books, and essentially this entire attempt by translators to act in the most pretentious manner possible should be rebuked and identified as the poorly reasoned trash that it is.

None of these people display any firm understanding of Analytical Philosophy, Nicholson’s book repeatedly uses several logical fallacies, his reasoning of Hindu bigotry largely lacks any historical or reasoned basis and he clearly never bothered to look into Islam before positing possibilities of why Hinduism never adapted it (in fact, I provided a more valid reasoning in this one review then he did in his entire chapter about the subject in his book), and like with the Oxford handbook, Larson’s books, and the actual texts of Hindu theology; I’m simply given more reasons to believe Hinduism was a unified theology and that Nicholson and his ilk are simply acting in bad faith since they never bring any valid evidence for their assertions. In fact, Nicholson’s very book gives ample evidence to this; from his ridiculous ad hominems, to the fact that he pointed out a medieval Marathi text that proves awareness of Islam was very well known at the time of its conquest in India. However, this example of the Marathi texts only gives me further credence to doubt the veracity and validity of Indology as an academic discipline since an entire department claiming to do religious studies was too lazy or too stupid to look into other language translations of a country with approximately 3000 different languages to verify any of their guesswork on evidence. These Indologists instead chose to make assertions strictly based on their fabricated ideas of Sanskrit teachings with no attempt at evidence-based research at all.

I can only conclude that the assertions of this book, and frankly all of Indology, are a worthless failure. These people are translators and they don’t have any special or privileged knowledge. Their books are nothing more than wild speculation and are of no value to understanding Hinduism / Sanatana Dharma.

Indology Is A Worthless Academic Discipline

Research and Book Update

Indology is a Worthless Academic Course: Why Hindutva Needn’t Fear Western Academia and How My Research Has Disappointed Me

After having finished writing my chapter on Islam, I proceeded to conduct further research into Buddhist and Hindu history that I had began before even finishing the chapters on Christianity and Islam. To this end, I decided to research more into Indology departments in Western Academia since I was under the assumption they could provide me with the most accurate and well-researched information. Indology is a branch of Religious Studies that focuses on the religions indigenous to India so I had no doubts when beginning to read into the studies. Indology has made bold claims about Hinduism being a modern invention and that Indians have largely deluded themselves into believing a unified Hinduism existed. I was apprehensive, but completely willing to accept historic facts and any theological contradictions brought up should they be present. I resigned myself to such possibilities and I knew of the Hindutva outcry that made me worry about an increasing anti-intellectual streak in India. I had wiki’d the Religious Studies course in order to gain a better basic understanding, but the terms seemed overly broad. Undeterred, since a wiki being unable to provide accurate or useful information was nothing new to me, I decided to look up research by Indologists and skimmed through some passages about one such book by a Indologist named Gerald J. Larson. Unfortunately, what I found was a broad generalization based on nothing more than one subset of Hindus singing a Christian song in unity with Christians in a local village in India. The man used one event to paint a broad generalization, but never submitted any other evidence for the claim that Hinduism was a modern theological invention with an unfounded religious history. This was one anecdote of a village trying to have inter-religious unity with Christians and the man took it as proof that Hinduism was some sort of deluded copout of modernity. I checked his other book on a specific Hindu Atheist philosophy, and found that he listed a bunch of people making assertions without any archaeological or historical evidence about how the Hindu atheist system existed in India and then claiming they were wrong based on his own baseless assertions. These weren’t expert opinions with historic facts present in any arguments, although they seem to believe their own views as more credible than the random guesses that they were. All I saw was just a listing of random guesses on how the belief structure worked based on insufficient evidence. I looked up Andrew Nicholson’s sample beginning in Unifying Hinduism before purchasing it as this seemed to be the most interesting and recent book, and he outright admits that pre-modern India had overlap with branching beliefs and that Indologists evidently know this . . . so why aren’t these schools and their overlap seen as denominations by Indologists? Why aren’t the re-contextualized axioms seen as denominational differences within Hinduism similar to other religions? I investigated further . . . .

After reading more translated Hindu texts and comparing them with the opinion pieces, I was thoroughly confused by how these people could argue inclusiveness in Hinduism as proof that they were different religions and not a unified religion. In fact, they ignore the explicit texts of each Gita (Song) favoring unity with Brahman under a specific God or Goddess to argue that it’s not “unified” and even argue that such arguments are proof they’re different religions and not denominational differences. I thought perhaps I didn’t understand something crucial, but in my mind, I was already comparing Hinduism to the history of Christianity that I knew. I decided that I had to look into the veracity of these claims made by the Indologists and so I took the time to purchase the Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy. I eagerly began reading to try to ascertain why my personal views were so diametrically opposed to the texts that these Indologists have read and translated themselves. The first chapter explains that this entire enterprise of Religious Studies of Indian Philosophy has no true understanding of Indian philosophy at all and are simply making guesswork. This is not a strawman or an attempt at some character assassination; this is literally what their explanation is for their so-called theorizing. Evidently, all they do is make a bunch of empty guesses and nothing else. They don’t do archaeology or read into Indian history, despite noting changing trends in Hinduism . . . which they take as proof that Hinduism isn’t a unified religion. I sifted through other chapters relevant for my research and to try to satisfy this confusion I felt. A chapter explaining how they don’t know the history of India and don’t bother researching it. To my surprise, they repeatedly reference a paranoid conspiracy theory about an Aryan Invasion which has been debunked by other departments of Western Academia and is now recognized as a paranoid conspiracy theory celebrated by Nazis and formed from Western racism. I’m sorry to say this pervasive usage of a paranoid conspiracy theory tarnishes the content of their research; the Four Noble Truths are interpreted as racialized categories instead of the philosophical precepts since the term “4 Arya Truths” is repeatedly presumed to be a racialized concept — which they compare to an even more fictitious pre-Aryan civilization (since Aryan and Pre-Aryan are both fictions as there is no such thing as an Aryan race). The Aryan race paranoid conspiracy thereby causes massive failures in historical accuracy and reasoning throughout this book. This is supposed to be teaching eager young minds the basics of Indology and it completely fails. I’m genuinely surprised they were too lazy to check themselves and instead repeatedly reference a paranoid conspiracy theory as their cited evidence.

Even if I were to be generous about this massive failure, there’s even worse failures in historical accuracy. The Oxford Handbook implies that Indian civilization never had contact with the West and never once seems to have any reference to or knowledge of Alexander the Great’s failed conquest and the direct result of that failure: the cultural trade, Greek immigration, and eventual creation of a Greco-Buddhist empire in which the Greco-Romans and indigenous Indians joined together in what is historically seen as one of the most peaceful unifications of culture in all of world history. There’s no mention of this at all. It incorporated such an important component of Northern Indian history and there’s no indication that any of these so-called scholars have ever even researched this important cultural and transnational milestone. In fact, they celebrate keeping Indian and so-called “Western” culture separate and see them as opposed; they largely homogenize and generalize Hinduism as something that supposedly failed to be consistent . . . from 300 BCE to around 1700 AD. I don’t understand how or why anyone could or should believe any culture could remain in some static state for that long or why the changing times would be seen as proof that Hinduism is a modern invention, but it’s clear these Indologists don’t understand how math and history are interrelated. They don’t have any clear concept or theory, it’s just random guesswork. I’m sorry, but their reasoning simply lacks any critical faculties; they repeatedly harp on about Analytical philosophy of the West being so different from Hindu philosophy, but apart from one person using Hobbes as some go-to to understand the diverse literature of philosophy as a basic comparison (and even this is putting it mildly, as the person using Hobbes doesn’t actually appear to understand Hobbes, but rather generalizes his philosophy for a miniscule comparison), there seems to be no deep comparison of philosophy between Hinduism and the Western traditions. They don’t even seem to be aware of the progress in mathematics that India can rightly be proud of like the mathematical formulas of Brahmagupta and Aryabhhata.

To my genuine surprise, this entire so-called discipline seems to be largely incurious of doing any actual research into Indian history. The Oxford book complains about the lack of comparative religious and philosophical studies, but no Indologist seems to genuinely want to attempt such an enterprise. I asked two friends, one who has a degree in History and another in philosophy, and both informed me that Religious Studies really lacks in actual historical research and accuracy. They simply don’t bother doing it before making any assertions about other people’s religions. Out of all of Western academia, Religious Studies lacks in critical examination of actual history, archaeology, and understanding of cultural diversity. I can presume then, that all these people really know how to do is translate texts. If that’s the case, then they don’t have any unique knowledge or special privilege. Their research is bogus and based on bad evidence. From my own research, I can personally attest that they use paranoid conspiracy theories liberally. Even the arguments from some of these so-called scholars don’t make any sense and are teeming with arrogance. Andrew Nicholson, the translator of Siva Song and author of Unifying Hinduism, seems to lack the critical thinking faculties of the much-loved Analytical Philosophy that his colleagues repeatedly harp about and whom he adamantly defends. He made a response to Rajiv Malhotra, claiming on twitter that Malhotra had plagiarized him, yet he never took Malhotra to court. In his criticism of Rajiv Malhotra, he actually argues that Malhotra has no right to an opinion because he doesn’t understand Sanskrit; Nicholson proceeds to completely destroy his own argument against Malhotra’s assertions that Western academia is making spurious assertions against Hinduism by attributing his own personal guesses on ancient Hinduism to the influence of his thesis advisor Pollock. Why is this self-refuting? Because it means that both Nicholson and Pollock’s ideas have absolutely nothing to do with Hinduism and are their own personal opinions on the religion. If Pollock’s ideas are original, which I don’t dispute, then he isn’t actually doing research since that means he isn’t trying to uncover an ancient philosophy of a religion analogous to an archaeologist, but rather just making things up without sufficient evidence. Now, Nicholson does this in his own book, Unifying Hinduism. In one such argument in favor of a unified Hinduism, Nicholson argues in support of a Hindu identity and contends the assertions of his Indologist colleague Paul Hacker who tries to assert some bizarre generalization that a billion Hindus feel inferior and his even more bizarre re-contextualization of Modern Hinduism and pre-modern Hinduism into some neo-terms that have no basis. I held a favorable disposition for Nicholson and an unfavorable one for Hacker, I readily admit this and I found Nicholson provided a better argument . . . but by the end, Nicholson diverges into ad hominen and implies Hacker has no right to an opinion because he’s a Christian. I sort of just stared at that as it took me a moment to process that a Western scholar could be so blatantly bigoted and provide such a ridiculous error in reasoning. Nicholson attempts to argue a middle approach that rejects what he sees as Hacker’s presumable extremism. He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s using the logical fallacy of ad hominen against both Hacker and Malhotra. He’s also committing the middle-ground fallacy. He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s given ample cause to dismiss this entire branch of Western academia as worthless; if even his fellow Indologists are considered to have valueless opinions, based on a bigoted notion against their religious beliefs, then how on earth is one suppose to make any progress in this discipline? What does progress even look like? What viewpoints can even be called worthwhile? Evidently, Malhotra has no right to an opinion because he isn’t a translator and Hacker has no right to an opinion because he is a Christian. Also, Indology admits it makes random guesses and will never actually progress with anything meaningful. What even is this? How can an entire department of academia lack so much in its credibility? Why has this ridiculous department not been shut down yet?

In what could have been an interesting final analysis, Nicholson consistently asserts his confusion about why Islam wasn’t integrated into Hinduism and tries to use the Rama re-tellings of replacing Asuras with terms identifying Muslims as proof of Hindu bigotry. He poorly asserts that arguments about Islam being nihilistic is proof Hindus were ignorant since it was the same assertion against Buddhists. He seems entirely unaware of the genocide of 8 million people that Islam committed in Northwestern India, he seems to fail to understand that the re-tellings are parallels to the religion of Zoroastrianism which also forbids the usage of interest rates and believes in sinfulness, and it’s made abundantly clear that he has absolutely no understanding of Islamic theology at all when trying to figure out why Hinduism never tried to adapt it. He consistently asserts Hindu bigotry, but makes no attempt at actually comparing the religions. How hard would it have been to simply seek advice and information from a fellow colleague within his own Religious Studies department? Failing that, how hard would it have been to google search a local Mosque or Islamic center and go ask about Islam there? How hard would it have been to simply research Islamic theology through google or go on the multitude of Islam learning websites to gain a better understanding in order to compare and contrast the religions? Yet, he doesn’t even bother to put even that much effort into this chapter that supposedly tries to compare the religions. This is just laziness on his part and it really repudiates his credibility. Even a ten minute google search of the basic facets of Islam would have answered this question; Islamic jurisprudence is specifically designed to prevent such attempts since any outsider’s views on the theology is considered worthless unless they follow Sharia, Jihad against non-believers of the Abrahamic God is a religious doctrine among the five forms of Jihad that a Muslim must commit to, and any Hindu that did compare them would have been brutally murdered similar to the massacres that made the Hindu Kush (Hindu Murder/Hindu Slaughter) mountains that the Islamic invaders named in their triumphant massacre of 8 million people. Something these Indologists evidently refuse to even engage within any discussion. He harps about the Hindu extremism, yet seems to be utterly ignorant of the fact India took in Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and Kashmir that were being persecuted with kidnappings, mass murder, and organized rape campaigns by Muslims in both areas. Evidently, Pakistan is happy to protest against extrajudicial killings by their police on Pashtun groups that support Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but don’t concern themselves with the sprees of murder, rape, and torture of Hindu and Sikh minorities that have all but left for India for their own safety. Nor does Nicholson seem to think over Intra-Abrahamic violence that could also pose a substantial problem to his own confusion of why Hinduism never adapted to anything of Islam’s theology, he seems blissfully unaware of the outright genocide of Christian Iraqis by ISIS. Both of these events are contemporary and happened only a couple of years ago as of this writing. This shouldn’t be perceived as an attempt to deflect Hindutva or Indian army human rights crimes. The deaths of journalists throughout India and the Indian army’s rapes and murders should absolutely be held accountable with punishable jail time, but these horrible crimes cannot be the only issues highlighted regarding controversial topics for the sake of intellectual honesty. I don’t support the anti-intellectual stupidity of Hindutva or would ever condone what unsavory people in the Indian army have done to civilians, but the refugee crises that Islamic militia groups caused cannot be ignored.

As a final note of contention, I have to say that I’ve never been so disappointed in researching an academic discipline to gain a greater understanding. I love academia, I’m a proud product of US academia, but I’m sorry to say that Religious Studies has no value to its claims within Indology and far too often relies of paranoid conspiracy theories and outright ignorance of history. It’s the only discipline I’ve seen that is so thoroughly incurious with researching its own baseless assumptions to see if there’s any veracity to them. I’m sorry, but if you’re an Indologist, then your views aren’t more credible than others and you clearly have nothing but guesswork to offer; you have no right to parade it as somehow more studious or truthful than any random person’s opinion on religions. At no point have I seen any attempt to even look at Hinduism on the basis of doctrinal beliefs or holy texts as signs of unity, and after looking more into the controversy of Pollock, who placed himself into political controversy by signing a demand to break-up India even further by recognizing Kashmir and Jammu as independent without any thought to the ramifications of his decision, I’m forced to conclude that too much narcissism and downright ignorance exists in this discipline for it to be recognized as equal to other academic departments. Based on interviews, Pollock simply comes off as narcissistic and fueled by animosity and revenge towards an entire racial group. Yes, I’m calling Pollock a racist. He tries to present himself as blameless after signing an incendiary petition over a controversial political topic and then makes deliberate threats about waiting until all the Sanskrit texts are destroyed in order to blame an entire nation-state for being too vindictive, racist, and narcissistic to translate them. This man doesn’t deserve a position in academia and Nicholson acting as his lapdog and providing excuses by asserting that Pollock’s opinion pieces are his unique copyright – and thereby refuting that Indology has any credibility whatsoever – leads me to believe there’s no point even trying to meaningfully discuss these issues. This so-called academic discipline doesn’t even correct itself with regards to paranoid conspiracy theories and actively refuses to engage in historic and archaeological research. I’m sorry, but after analyzing and researching, these are my conclusions on these sensitive matters.

Works Cited

Ahmed, Manan. “Why Hindutva Groups Have for Long Had Sheldon Pollock in Their Sights.” Scroll.in, Https://Scroll.in, 3 Jan. 2017, scroll.in/article/804517/why-hindutva-forces-have-for-long-had-sheldon-pollock-in-their-sights.

Sanujit. “Cultural Links between India & the Greco-Roman World.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 23 June 2018, http://www.ancient.eu/article/208/cultural-links-between-india–the-greco-roman-worl/.

Ganeri, Jonardon. The Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Ghosh, Tanushree. “I’m a Target Because I’m an Outsider: Sanskrit Scholar Sheldon Pollock.” The Indian Express, Thursday, May 03, 2018, 4 June 2018, indianexpress.com/article/express-sunday-eye/im-a-target-because-im-an-outsider-sanskrit-scholar-sheldon-pollock-5191995/.

Larson, Gerald James. Indias Agony over Religion. State Univ. of New York Press, 1995.

Larson, Gerald James., and Īśvarakr̥ṣṇa . Classical sāṃkhya: an Interpretation of Its History and Meaning. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2014.

Nicholson, Andrew J. Unifying Hinduism Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History. Permanent Black, 2015.

Nicholson, Andrew J. Lord Śivas Song: the Īśvara Gītā. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2016.

Nicholson, Andrew J. “’Upset about Rajiv Malhotra’s Plagiarism, Even More Upset about Distortions of My Work’.” Scroll.in, Https://Scroll.in, 3 Jan. 2017, scroll.in/article/742022/upset-about-rajiv-malhotras-plagiarism-even-more-upset-about-distortions-of-my-work.

chandraiitk. “Rajiv Malhotra’s Hard-Hitting Response to False Charges of Plagiarism.” YouTube, YouTube, 23 July 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGpB0ITyNVQ.

In Support of Ex-Muslims of North America: Promoting Secular Values and Challenging Islam

Their Website: https://www.exmna.org

Some Ex-Muslims have formed an organization to challenge the faith of Islam and argue against apostasy, the idea of Islamaphobia, and safe spaces to challenge the narrative and reframe the discourse so that more Ex-Muslims will come out to challenge the religious faith. At the moment, they can only focus on North America; their chief aim is to get more ex-Muslims to come out and to form a social community for them after they’ve (likely) been abandoned by their loved ones. Ex-Muslim panels also help detail facts that need to be made clear: i.e. that most Muslim terrorists converted to Islam. There’s this attempt by Liberal circles to try to downplay the harmful aspects because they don’t want to further promote violence and discrimination against Muslims themselves by the Right-wing; unfortunately, Ex-Muslims argue that this merely hushes up the domestic violence and discrimination within Muslim communities themselves. Perhaps more importantly, Ex-Muslims solely focus on trying to change the minds of liberals; they’ve long since held that Right-wing groups are too hateful and don’t treat any Muslims or Ex-Muslims as if they’re human beings worthy of equal respect.

A First Draft Sample of My Next Book, Faith in Doubt

The following is the first draft of my book’s chapter on Original Sin, which is given a thorough critique. I’ve since changed some elements, but I thought this would be valuable to know what to expect when reading my book. Unfortunately, the line spacing doesn’t come out properly when posting it on a blog, so please try to ignore the messiness. If you have any detailed analysis or criticisms then please share them. My book will be critiquing religion broadly in the first part, then going into specific criticisms pertaining to the major world religions in the second part, and then the third part will be detailing some historic and contemporary consequences as a result of religious faith.

I am criticizing them on the basis of human psychology and philosophy, the potential failings of faith axioms based on logical fallacies, and my own personal perspective on religious faiths themselves. The following is a detailed examination on the failings of Original Sin as a moral compass, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Chapter 6: Original Sin, the failure of all Abrahamic morality

If you truly believe in morality, then you should honestly consider Original Sin to be the ultimate mockery and subversion of morality. Cloaked under the veneer of religious piety and goodness, this belief allows for all forms of savagery: genocide, war rape, child rape, torture, mass bombing campaigns, and every other horrific atrocity to be viewed as an inevitable part of the human experience. Humans who observe such occurrences from the outset through television or through the internet use such anecdotes as a justification that violence is an inevitable and inescapable part of humanity. Thus, people use such events as “proof” to believe that our biology is evil and that evil is merely a fact of life because we observe stories of street violence, rapes, wars, and genocide on social media. People may believe that without religious morals that they will go into sprees of murder, rape, and other forms of violence. They might be led to believe that sinfulness and the capacity for absolute evil is just waiting to be acted upon but strictly controlled through the guidance of an absolute good from religious teachings. Original sin teaches them to believe humans are imperfect and so falter into sinfulness. As a consequence, we observe atrocities around the world through the lens of apathy or indifference while believing the victims are in heaven for our own comfort. Yet, on any given day, it is impossible to know why each specific tragedy happened unless we individually fact-check them; it is easier to simply believe that all people have some evil in them since it gives a quick and coherent worldview of such events. Yet, if the perpetrator was raised as a Christian, Muslim, or Jew – or was taught Abrahamic value of sinfulness in the Muslim or Christian schools that help to teach children such values around the world – then what stops them from believing that their actions were simply inevitable because of their humanity? In fact, why wouldn’t the perpetrator just perceive their acts as an unavoidable aspect of being human after committing such atrocities? The human body would be like a cage where carnal pleasure was misunderstood to be evil intent and thus acts of rape and murder would be viewed by the perpetrators as simply a product of their humanity. Relying strongly upon the religious precept of sinfulness would mean that you must believe that you are capable of child murder, child rape, the torture of children, and you are likely to believe that these are aspects of humanity that can never be changed because murder, rape, and torture are intrinsically part of human nature. It is unalterable and all humans; you, your spouse, your children, your friends, your caretakers, and every human on the planet is simply born with a deep malice that predisposes them for crimes such as murder, rape, torture, and genocide. God created conditions that allowed everyone to be capable of these horrors. Thus, the belief in original sin provides a convenient excuse to ignore morality because acts of evil are somehow intrinsically part of human nature. The following is an examination and repudiation of this self-harming belief system.

Sin is an Entity Theory
Sin is an entity theory; it is a concept about ourselves that we believe to be intrinsically part of our behavior. That is dangerous and it has consequences for how we act towards others. Sin is an unsubstantiated entity theory. It has no scientific and psychological basis to be considered true about our species. The apologists for sin primarily use tragic events or horrible human actions to argue in favor of sin being an objective truth about human existence. However, utilizing tragic events to prove the objectivity of sinfulness anchors too much focus upon events that aren’t the norm of the majority of the human species. Moreover, any terrible deed conducted by people who grew up within Abrahamic cultures or Abrahamic communities could justify their violence through the belief in sinfulness. Sinfulness could become circular reasoning because the perpetrators believe that an intrinsic part of their humanity, the concept of sinfulness, allows them to conduct horrific crimes and the observers of terrible crimes use those specific events as proof of sinfulness.

 
That may seem silly, but it is psychologically true that what we believe about ourselves and what we believe that we’re capable of has consequences on the actions that we choose to pursue. A mundane example is a society’s attitude towards mathematics. If you believe that you’re just not good at math after struggling with the subject during your schooling, then you will be disinclined to pursue the subject matter and may believe yourself to be incapable of learning the advanced mathematical topics. This is actually a self-delusion and results in a self-fulfilling prophecy, people who believe that they’re “not a math person” or “not good at math” have overemphasized the difficulty and closed off a possible academic future for themselves as a result. These people can improve their math skills by emphasizing efficacy and incremental effort in attaining math skills from their studies but they sincerely believe that they are incapable of achieving mastery in mathematics because of an intrinsic flaw. The belief has a lifelong consequence on their future and they don’t realize it.

 
Now, consider the concept of sin and what the concept of sin encourages people to intrinsically believe about themselves and the actions that they’re capable of committing. Do you see the problem?

Sinful Thoughts or Intrusive Thoughts?
A principal reason for the belief in sinfulness may derive from the concept of sinful thoughts. Certain personal thoughts and beliefs are categorically labeled evil to even think about and such a distinction leads to constant self-blame and weariness with ourselves for having the “evil” thoughts. The belief that being good means you must have good thoughts isn’t healthy or rational because it’s a misunderstanding of how thoughts actually function. Believing that being good means that you must only have “good” thoughts is mental self-torture because you would constantly need to try to “expunge” the “evil thoughts” from your mind. Under the distinction between good and evil thoughts, violent thoughts aren’t what good people should have. It may not seem normal to you to have thoughts of throwing people down a flight of stairs, jumping out of a moving car, shouting something blasphemous during religious ceremonies, or other deplorable activities. These offensive thoughts would instill people with unease or anxiety because people may worry why such thoughts even entered their mind. We would be looking for some deep “cause” for why these thoughts were circulating in our minds. It may seem reasonable to view these thoughts as sinful and believe that you must constantly fight against such thoughts to maintain purity and moral goodness. These terrible thoughts become a “proof” of sinfulness because people don’t know why they have them and fear that there is something evil or criminal within them that are the cause. Many people begin to avoid situations that trigger violent thoughts and feel too ashamed to speak of them with loved ones.

 
There is an important element in this subject matter that most people don’t seem to be aware of: violent or blasphemous thoughts aren’t a reflection of you or your inner desires. Unless these thoughts make you feel pleasure or happiness, they aren’t what you would want to do to your loved ones or others. Assuming you have such unsettling thoughts, which you do because every human being has them, your feelings of unease and anxiety are your personal reflections on any violent or blasphemous thoughts that you may have. You are not crazy and it doesn’t mean that you have the capacity of inflicting violence upon others. The thoughts themselves are just ideas that you gain from your environment or your imagination; ironically, monitoring your thoughts to make sure the bad thoughts will go away will only cause them to become more frequent thus increasing the unease and anxiety. Prayer sessions could become a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the frequency of attempts to remove the bad thoughts from your mind could increase the frequency of the thoughts returning. This is because our minds need to check on the unsettling image when we try to monitor our progress of not thinking about the bad thoughts. Psychological studies have shown that trying to ban ourselves from thinking certain thoughts will only increase the frequency of the thoughts occurring in our mind. They were never a reflection of you as a person or what you may think you’re capable of committing upon others. They’re just thoughts that come to your mind. The increased fear and anxiety from the violent ideas or images probably comes from our honest dread of harming our own loved ones because we don’t understand why these thoughts are occurring. The increased frequency and misunderstanding can lead to self-hate, a deep fear of ourselves, self-blame, shame, and depression because of an overemphasis on trying to understand some deeper meaning behind why we have these bad thoughts and fear of what others will think of us. Rest assured, it is entirely normal to have these thoughts. They’re labeled intrusive thoughts by modern psychology, they’re not a sign of mental illness (unless you feel pleasure from the idea of committing them, which is probably the opposite of what you feel), and everyone has them. They’re not a reflection of you and they’re not a desire of what you secretly want to do to others. They’re thoughts that come and go in your mind; similar to thinking about breakfast or thinking about another route to work. Having intrusive thoughts isn’t a reflection of how good or evil you are as a person.

 
What are more important are your feelings towards these thoughts than the thoughts themselves. It is also possible to obsessively think about such intrusive thoughts but that isn’t a reflection of you, it just means that you have an obsessive compulsive disorder regarding your thoughts. That doesn’t mean you’re crazy; it means that you have an OCD regarding your thoughts and it’s possible that it developed because human behavior is habit forming. What people believe to be “normal” is really just people going through various forms of mild psychological issues every day through the habits that they form. It only truly becomes an issue when habitual behavior becomes excessive or it is a behavior that is objectively self-harming such as smoking or physically harming one’s body. If you have had anxiety because you misunderstood what intrusive thoughts meant, then please learn to relax. Let them come and go, and recognize they’re not a deep personal reflection of you as a human being.

Sin is Nihilism
The belief in sinfulness is the belief in ubiquitous nihilism. I am not referring to nihilism that is defined by lack of belief in a God or Gods. Nihilism as defined by the belief that existence is senseless and useless, a belief that destroys all forms of objective morality from the basis that humanity is insufficient to ever create everlasting objective morality, that all forms of human progress are arrogant and useless in the end, and the implicit belief that all human constructions of morality will lead to total failure because humanity isn’t intelligent enough to know God’s will. The argument by the pious in favor of objective moral values implodes under the belief in sinfulness; it’s a complete self-contradiction that Abrahamic believers seem to have cognitive dissonance towards. Human progress itself is seen as futile and self-depreciating despite people having modern conveniences like cars, surgeries, cell phones, the internet, and educational institutions. The nihilism is disguised as morally necessary to make people concede to religious doctrines; all human expression, all human inventions, and all forms of human happiness are to be under constant suspicion because humans are always prone to sinfulness everywhere. If you truly believe in sinfulness then you must always feel regret for the crime of your existence to God, you must always feel regret for failing to curtail your biological desires of reproduction because you find others attractive and God judges that to be sinful, you must feel regret for the mutual act of lovemaking if it isn’t specifically under the terms of marriage that God defined as the only acceptable form, you must feel ashamed of lovemaking because it’s a sinful act regardless of if it’s under marriage because God deemed sex to be sinful, and people who don’t make these concessions are arrogant because they insult God by not believing in Him. There are obvious detriments to this belief that create a harmful standard: you may believe that everyone around you is predisposed to acting evil because they’re born sinful, you may believe that anyone who doesn’t go through these concessions for the one true God is immoral, you may view the failure to uphold the moral code as a form of humility in accepting that you’re an imperfect human being compared to the perfect creator deity, and yet you may not see the circular reasoning in believing that your failure is a humility but that others who fail, who aren’t part of your in-group of Abrahamic religions, are perceived as evil by the precepts of your religious faith. People outside of your religious faith are automatically assumed to be more evil because they don’t seek redemption and forgiveness from God like you and your community. People who commit atrocities but have the same religious faith as you are assumed to have either misinterpreted the faith, used reasoning that is completely different from the tenants of your faith, or are imperfect human beings who are sinful. In the case of non-violent offenses such as adultery, the people of the same religious faith as you are simply assumed to have been an imperfect human being and their failure is seen as an admittance of humility. A non-believer or person of another religious faith is perceived to be conducting similar behavior out of evil or self-delusion in believing a false religion that led them astray because they lack your exact religious faith. Yet, no matter what they do, they’re viewed as repulsive because they refuse to accept the one true God as the irrefutable truth, they don’t seek redemption for their sinfulness as you probably do, and they should be awaiting the end of the world as prescribed in all the Abrahamic holy books. No matter what, your view of them is antagonistic to a certain degree because that is what the belief in sinfulness requires you to believe. You aren’t allowed to perceive outsiders as anything but less significant than your in-group under the belief system of sinfulness.

 
If the argument seems extreme, you should consider that many religious believers within Judaism, Islam, and Christianity still believe and advocate these positions when acting as missionaries in foreign countries and many Christians and Muslims are conducting forced conversions. Even in a first world country like the United States, there are over 50 million people who believe in this interpretation of their religion and proudly believe in the literal truth of their religious books. However, even if you don’t agree with the extremist version of sinfulness, through open interpretation you may believe in degrees of sinfulness and you may still believe the teaching of sinfulness has worthwhile merits for instilling moral values. Yet, does it truly have moral value? If anything, sin is a belief that promotes the destruction of all morality under a fatalistic concept that morality will be destroyed because of human nature. There is a pernicious presumption that humans will always harm each other because it is human to destroy each other with no regard for the wellbeing of other humans. It allows for a circular reasoning that makes humanity synonymous with rampant destruction, rampant brutality, and rampant cruelty upon our own species and everything else in the world. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that uses sin as a justification for violence: when we justify bombing campaigns that slaughter foreign civilians, when we see people riot in our streets, and when we act out of anger upon others. These acts are justified by sinfulness from both observers and perpetrators through a rash generalization that all humans are capable of horrors because of innate human imperfection. Sinfulness is a self-fulfilling prophecy because it’s also a coping mechanism to understand violence: when we see news of sectarian wars in foreign countries, when we learn of cruel criminal behavior conducted upon children by pedophiles and rapists reported in the news, gang rapes in third world countries, beheadings, genocide, child slavery, and indoctrinated child soldiers. Sinfulness means it is all unalterable because that is the expected outcome of human nature. It is always the expected standard of human interaction within our own communities and outside of it to view wars, bombings, genocide, the torture of children, and less offensive wrongdoings to be common occurrences because of an innate faultiness in humanity. We just expect people to fail in keeping up with the tenants of their faith and the failure of keeping with the tenants is just a form of humility for our group and evil for the outside group. We give violence a total pass because horrific atrocities are an expected norm of sinfulness; violent events in the news serve as anecdotal “proof” of sinfulness.

 
These attitudes and expectations of sinfulness in humanity are dangerous. It creates apathy towards horrific atrocities, indifference towards our own country bombing civilians in a foreign country, and presumes evil intent from the victims before they have actually done anything against us. There is an insidious and disgusting implication that the innocent victims killed would kill us because it’s the due course of human nature so we need to harm them before they can hurt us – a pathological form of self-delusion and circular reasoning to justify mass murder. Consider this: if sinfulness is true, then humanity is simply expecting failures and catastrophes to be the norm throughout the world because of an unalterable and intrinsic defect within human nature. If all forms of good actions eventually lead to failure, then why should any wealthy person donate to charity? If they sincerely believe everything will eventually fall apart, then why bother doing anything to help other people? They would be predisposed to believe that their charity will fail, they would be inclined to believe that their own success would eventually turn to ruin, and that everything in life is just waiting to fall into ruination because of an intrinsic and unalterable aspect of their humanity. In terms of nation-states, we should just expect a nuclear catastrophe to occur and to wipe out the human race because sinfulness means that we’re predisposed to evil actions and that we will falter in keeping to the tenants of the faith because of our intrinsic defectiveness. For all the so-called goodness of the Abrahamic traditions, each of them believe that the world will end and that the world ending is the expected outcome of human actions; such a belief justifies nuclear catastrophe as the conclusion of our species. Islam and Christianity convert non-believers for the explicit purpose of awaiting the end of the world. Pointing the theological basis for conversion usually causes embarrassment, denial, and attempts to avert the inquiry but it remains the theological underpinnings of the Abrahamic traditions. They can be verified in the holy books and the reason it’s embarrassing to discuss in public is because of how untenable the belief is and how delusional people appear when voicing their beliefs.

Sin is Misanthropy
Sin is sanctified hatred for the human race. Two of western culture’s most noteworthy philosophers, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche, pointed out that if you believe there is an innate defectiveness with humanity that causes evil actions then you are more predisposed to committing evil actions because you may feel it is the unavoidable norm of your humanity. If evil is ingrained within you, if it is an unalterable part of human habit and you perceive your failures with humility, you might be justifying your wrongful acts by using sin as a coping mechanism instead of accepting responsibility. Moreover, you may emphasize events when people hurt your feelings or disappoint you because you expect negative actions to be a natural consequence of your daily interactions with other human beings. You may perceive your own love for your friends and family as a constant struggle because you have implicitly overemphasized the idea that evil actions are natural occurrences within humanity as a result of sinfulness. As such, you may have a biased focus on their negative actions and less focus on their positive qualities. Humans already have a negativity bias ingrained within our psychology to defend from life-threatening danger and the belief in sinfulness may increase the emphasis on negative events in our lives.

 
Is sinfulness healthy to believe in? Please consider the following: if you have a child, do you truly consider your own child to be born sinful? Do you truly believe that, in some deep level of our humanity, that your child will go murdering, raping, and torturing other people? Do you believe that, within you, there is a sinful part that will cause you to murder, rape, and torture your own family, friends, and strangers? As stated before, having thoughts of such actions doesn’t mean that you want to do them; thoughts just come and go in your mind and that is normal. It should be considered an utterly absurd belief about our loved ones but the ubiquitous concept of sinfulness in all forms of human interaction may cause such negative beliefs about our behavior and the behavior of our loved ones. As a result, you may be predisposed to despise or see evil in your own children’s actions when they act out and may find it easier to discipline them with force. You may see forgiveness and passiveness as a constant struggle while harboring the expectation that everyone else in the world and you yourself will always partake in evil actions during moments of weakness. This is a pernicious view of other human beings; sin has the constant expectation of disappointment, failure, and evil as the only truism of life itself. How can such a belief be either healthy or rational for your mental health?

 
Sinfulness, in combination with the binary ideology of good and evil, makes it easier to convince us to hate others. The belief that all humans are sinful would fundamentally promote the dehumanization, otherness, and disgust for people perceived as out-groups. When the news media gives you anecdotal examples of violence from the out-group, you’ll more likely to feel disgust, anger, and superiority toward the out-group because you would be inclined to believe that your society has proudly kept their sinful impulses in check compared to the out-group. The repeated exposure to negative events from the specific out-group would make people more inclined to judge the out-group more strictly and harshly than usual through pattern recognition and grouping people by race, religion, social class, or country as the same. From anecdotal events quickly mentioned in the news media, people’s minds would be framing a coherent and negative view of the out-group. This type of thinking is self-centered and delusional because it frames a binary worldview in which we compare doing our menial tasks everyday as a success and proof of our superiority over the perceived out-group. Sinfulness helps ignore the actual conditions that caused horrible events: famine, oppressive governments, mass poverty, certain first world countries selling weapons to governments that sell to terrorist groups (terrorist groups throughout Africa, the Middle East, and South America get weapons manufactured from Western countries), unsafe working conditions, and the political reality that first world countries need third world countries to stay in poverty to keep manufacturing cheap commodities. Crimes such as rape and murder are misconstrued to be the values that foreign cultures or that peoples perceived as out-groups somehow ubiquitously enjoy without thinking deeply about the other societies diverse peoples, crime-ridden areas, and other social conditions.

 
An example would be the rape crimes in the US, while it’s true that Native American women living within reservations had no legal right to sue their rapists until 2012 thanks to federal laws that circumvented their rights and that violent rapes upon Native American women were so terrible that mothers had to teach their children what to expect when an American citizen raped them because they had no legal rights to send the child rapists to jail, it is untrue that these conditions are normal for the average US citizen. Although there are cases in poor counties of South Carolina in which the police don’t arrest men who beat and rape their wives, because of the counties strong Christian convictions that men are in charge of the household, and that very little legal action has been undertaken even in situations where men chased after and murdered their ex-spouses or ex-girlfriends; it is untrue that these situations are a reflection of US culture and US citizens. The same should be noted for rape crimes in India, despite being more common, the United Nations has found that in terms of per capita crime rates, the rape crimes in India are actually far lower than what would normally be expected for one of the largest population sizes in the world. Mass poverty, lack of adequate police protection (police exist only to protect the wealthy in India), lack of police training in forensics, communalism, lack of judicial institutions to handle legal proceedings, lack of education, discrimination against women, and extremely sluggish court system create conditions of enmity, despair, hatred, and violence. Wealthy and middle class Indians would probably perceive the violence as happening in poverty zones and would desire to keep such violence out of their communities. It is a widespread issue but it isn’t socially different from views of crime-ridden areas such as Camden, New Jersey in the United States or the apathy towards Native American rape victims in US courts. Awful people, opportunists, and deplorable social conditions create these situations and the mass protest movements that follow to create legal changes show that they are not tolerated in any culture or democratic nation-state. Yet, sinfulness and the availability heuristic give us an automatic and negative generalization of US culture and India’s culture without learning more deeply about each country’s social issues and the contexts in which these crimes occur.

 
The belief in sinfulness is intrinsically dangerous to us and others. If we accept that sinfulness is ubiquitous part of life, if we accept that we can pick and choose the teachings of the Abrahamic holy books, and that we should view our failure with humility because we’re only human; we create mental conditioning that allows us to kill others who are different from us. That may seem ridiculous, but the belief in sinfulness itself presupposes that we’re capable of murder, rape, and torture deep within ourselves. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that those three beliefs, combined and inculcated for warfare, could create social conditioning that sent people to kill others who are different from them. The belief that they’re more prone to acting evil, our suspicion toward their behavior, and patronizing superiority towards people deemed different from us makes it easier to dehumanize them. The dehumanization campaign of perceiving foreigners within the connotations of evildoers would make it easier for those with simplistic moral sensibilities to kill foreigners. The overlap of sinfulness and good versus evil makes violence easier to conduct for people who believe in these concepts. Sinfulness along with good and evil explicitly ignores and obfuscates attempts at understanding different people. Perhaps more dangerously, it explicitly obstructs us from viewing their opinions and lives as meaningful like we do for people within our in-group of friends, family, and community. Wars occur, not just because of racist and other types of discriminatory caricatures of opposing sides, but also because people ignore and demonize other people’s culture, lives, and human rights. We view their lives as less important than the emotional issues of ourselves and our in-group. Absolute good and absolute evil are concepts that would create a catalyst for egregious human rights crimes. For the foreigners, reciprocity and the desire for justice for the fallen victims soon create conditions of enmity and more warfare because people will seek justice for any civilians wrongfully killed through our bombings or war campaigns. Religious extremism and justice for innocent civilians killed blend together to create prolonged warfare against us because we don’t recognize their lives as meaningful or having equal value to our in-group. Religious extremism and sometimes increased terrorist activity occur as a consequence of war-torn people seeking meaning for the horrible deaths of their loved ones.

 
Yet, when we observe violence in their communities (usually because of increased religious extremism as a way to cope with the loss of their loved ones and the West’s attempts at creating violence between two groups to distract from the West’s own interests in taking natural resources as per the realist theory of international relations), it makes it easier to have patronizing attitudes in support of our own society under the veneer of humility. We celebrate ourselves as having calmed our sinfulness and view outsiders as being ignorant, crazed, or believe in a radical version of a false faith. We ignore the fact that Western governments sell weapons to many of the terrorist groups including African war lords, al Qaeda, and ISIS. We ignore the fact Western governments place extreme political leaders in power who close off hospitals, schools, political participation, and jobs from a specific subset of their own community in their countries; political realities that the Western nation-states believes to be for their own self-interest only to deal with worsening problems in the future that jeopardize the safety of Western civilians and national interests.

Sin and the World
Sin can overlap with fatalism, jingoism, racism, xenophobia, Otherness, and any other form of human belief and human interaction. It’s probably why rationality is predicated upon the concept of doing evil upon others because that is what original sin makes people believe about themselves, about other human beings, and about morality itself. Sin preaches physical and mental fatigue against our own humanity as a form of eternal goodness, teaches that every great human creation is utterly meaningless, and that the most important part of life is awaiting the coming of a Messiah, or the coming of Jesus, or the coming of Jesus and Mohammed together to bring about mass world genocide and global annihilation so the true believers move on to the perfect world. Sin has had an enormous impact and history upon politics, philosophy, psychology, human biology, and people’s conceptions of human interaction. It has utterly poisoned and caused misapplications on all of these subject matters such as the denunciation of sex taught throughout the world by Christian missionaries. When combined with different forms of in-group/out-group dynamics, sin promotes the worst human atrocities. Sin is an extremist concept because it makes people believe that they’re only capable of abject evil from their own human desires. Thus, sin is the most egregious form of mental self-torture.

 
Among the specific contentions to particular religions, I’ve added accounts and numerical figures of the true scope of the genocidal results of the belief in sin intermixed with politics. The belief in sin, above all, seems to be the true cause for economic destruction, political folly, and human genocide. It overlays every human act with the idea that we inevitably have an impulse to do evil upon others. Expunging the belief in sin and the theories of political realism in international relations would mean less human violence, a less dangerous world, and less mental self-torture for humanity.
The arguments about how freedom from the idea of sin will only lead to massive violence, mass rapes, and death seems to be a form of self-delusion. The veneration of sin is often patronizing because Abrahamic believers truly think that some sacred warning from God would be destroyed and that acts of savagery would happen without them. An important issue to highlight: it was the belief in original sin itself that taught them to believe that humans are rampantly destructive; historically, the other parts of the world were peaceful under Buddha, Mahavira, Confucius, Lao Tzu, and these teachings didn’t require the stubborn notion that God needed to ordain them. Were there problems within the ancient East? Of course, but such acts weren’t full of savagery, mass death, and tribal wars that the West was thoroughly engaged with itself for a large part of its ancient history and particularly during the Crusades. Original sin teaches deep cynicism towards human desires and that maintaining such resentment, cynicism, and suspicion is morally good. It’s a mischaracterization to state the West became more peaceful during the 1800s, because they brought brutal acts of colonial oppression upon the rest of the world and then subjected themselves to World War twice. Would all of that have occurred without the deep theological belief in original sin being the driving force of mass conversions and human actions? Would radical Islam be able to justify violence against the West today without the belief in original sin?

Sin, Psychology, and International Relations
The belief in sinfulness creates a destructive system of reciprocity that is justified as rational and intelligent in politics. In Political Science, the Realist Theory of International Relations, the prevailing theory of Western politics since ancient Greece, operates under the assumption that strong nation-states must weaken other nation-states for its own self-interest. It assumes self-interest to mean harming other nation-states with the underlying assumption that harming other human civilizations is rational. Bombing campaigns, counterfeit money operations, embargos, sanctions, and human genocide are presumed to be rational and the Realist theory is the only international relations theory that is “neutral” to events such as the Holocaust. This assumption that harming others is rational is unfounded and discredited in modern psychology through the reciprocity principle. The Realist theory of international relations conceptualization that harming other civilizations and human genocide were rational actions came from the Melian dialogue of Thucydides in which he argued the genocide of Melos by Athens was due to human nature. Political scientists and philosophers since then have only expounded upon the Realist theory of international relations because of the belief in original sin and the belief that rational actions are synonymous with evil. Strong nation-states usually harm other nation-states, national leaders lie to their public about the supposedly humane actions – especially in foreign wars – for the sake of keeping a positive image of their country so that the citizens serve as apologists by ignoring the atrocities, and the citizens only care to celebrate the positives of their country. Many citizens choose to ignore the negative actions conducted upon foreigners in another country who have been dehumanized by their news media. This creates circular reasoning that international events will always lead to tragedy and it is all uncontrollable when in truth, it is because politicians genuinely believe that harming foreign nation-states is an intelligent course of action for maximizing their nation’s power.

 
The reciprocity principle has shown that individuals and groups will react positively to positive actions and negatively towards negative actions; this is because of the belief in equality. We want to repay kind actions for people who do nice things for us, out of our desire for equality. We feel it’s fair to do destructive actions upon people who commit a crime or harm us because of our desire for equality. As a result, the psychological and scientifically verified belief in reciprocity creates a state of perpetual warfare in which entire countries who believe in sinfulness go into endless warfare by minimizing the violent atrocities conducted upon the out-group in our press and venerating the goodness of the in-group to fight the generalized cartoon caricature of evil depicted as the out-group. By ignoring the atrocities that we commit, they ignore the atrocities that they commit upon us, and each group feels that it is justified in creating future harm. Worse than that, prolonged violence makes people and entire countries more extreme, thus sinfulness is used to justify our violence upon others by generalizing the entire out-group as the same instead of understanding different political groups, their racial diversity, socioeconomic differences, and the general plurality of their civilization. War itself creates psychological issues that result in heavy stress, a plethora of mental trauma, and outbursts of violence related to trauma for soldiers and civilians. It is a perpetual state of negative reciprocity and it is morally reprehensible when we’re told that committing to wars that have massive bombing campaigns is somehow “humanitarian” intervention. Wars of humanitarian intervention are very few and often cause deaths of civilians regardless of good intentions.

 
When the United States was hit by the attacks on the twin towers on September 11th, 2001, one of the most critical arguments was that there was something deeply nefarious about Muslim people and Islamic culture to conduct such violence. Suspicion and psychological pattern recognition between Muslim extremists and Muslim Americans began to be seen by a significant portion of the US public. The paranoia that Muslim Americans were prone to harming US society or potentially hiding terrorists became a popular fear for the US public. The US government never issued the real reasons why terrorism happens and stoked the paranoia by insisting that terrorists hated US freedoms. Various States of the US began to impose anti-Sharia laws under the mistaken belief that Islam was trying to force Westerners into conversion through violence. Violence upon Muslim minorities and Sikhs increased and was ignored by the US media. Incidentally, the US drone strikes upon seven Middle Eastern countries that resulted in thousands of civilian deaths created a surge of Islamic extremism, an increase in terrorist recruitment against the US, and the persecution and mass killings of Christians within their countries under the critical belief that Christians had some deeply nefarious aspect of their culture because the supposed greatest Christian country in the world was relentlessly bombing them and were utterly indifferent to civilian deaths – including children. Bomb droppings upon homes, hospitals, schools, and other areas are even more difficult to discern for uneducated people in third world countries and thus pattern recognition of a Christian nation and the Christian peoples within their own communities occurred. The fanciful ideas that removing the externalized “evil” people will somehow remove the foreign bombing campaigns are simply more violent methods than the West’s laws imposed upon minority groups. It’s just as important to understand that the West conducted the same type of violence within its history upon Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and racial minorities (such as Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and the Irish) under the belief that they were somehow evil and that the good people needed to defend their culture from an evil incursion. The difference in responses seems to be based upon the difference in education level; college education generally helps people understand that there is more so-called “out-groups” than generalizing them through rash codifications but violence against minorities always happen to “cleanse” the in-group community of “evil” from the out-group.

 
The persecution is an inevitable part of perceiving our in-group in danger of annihilation, seeing every member of a perceived out-group as suspicious and potential perpetrators, and championing the innate goodness to do away with the corrupting evil influence can lead to draconian laws; the belief in sin is used as a coping mechanism whenever draconian laws lead to the deaths of innocents. During wars, when civic institutions functioning as social support mechanisms deteriorate then religious extremism becomes rampant, people begin to have rash judgments, and form scapegoats for why horrible events are happening. Persecutions inevitably follow because of the belief in good and evil in conjunction with sinfulness. A desire for self-preservation of the in-group supersedes rational discourse because the threat seems so imposing and there is no explanation for why it is happening so they find fanciful causes during times of desperation.

 
In regards to violence in third world countries that the wealthier nations see on the news: it is easy to believe an entire country is responsible for mass violence and gang rapes while more difficult to believe the credible facts of the lack of police power, lack of hospitals, lack of jobs, and overall mass poverty leading people to desperation and extremism as being the true cause. Another deeply important, but ignored, facet is that the majority of jobs in third world countries have no safety regulations such as in first world countries. People of the third world can die of poisoning from inhaling noxious gases, be forced to work well over twelve hours a day for something as miniscule as twenty cents an hour, and can be in danger of factory explosions that kill thousands of workers whenever they occur; such fear and paranoia would obviously frighten people about working and cause chronic stress when on the job. It isn’t simply a matter of laziness and being unwilling to modernize when there are honest questions people in third world countries have to ask themselves about their own welfare before taking a job. Safety at a job is a privilege that first world countries take for granted. Sadly, even if reform is made, corporations just shut down plants to move to other third world countries to rinse and repeat this process; thus mass poverty increases when trying to institute honest reforms and another third world country is savagely abused through corporate indifference for their wellbeing for the sake of keeping product prices low. Religious extremism always follows as a crutch when institutions fail people because religion becomes all that people in poverty can rely upon. Yet, the belief in sinfulness and oversimplified understandings of entire countries make people believe that everyone in the world will always have “evil” because everyone is inherently sinful. It disconnects the real issues with pernicious perceptions that all people in other countries are more evil because they lack a specific religious faith and then we first-world denizens content ourselves with the belief that sinfulness will happen regardless of our help; to ignore the billions who suffer under extreme poverty, who are scorned for being uneducated, and who never had a choice in the matter because they had no social support mechanism like the first world countries. Yet, we always want cheap products and ignore all of the factory explosions in third world countries which occur as a consequence of low product prices. If that statement has struck a negative chord, it shouldn’t. Perhaps it is past the time that we concern ourselves with hurt feelings when our purchasing power determines the lives of human beings who were born less fortunate than us.

Currently writing my newest book

I’m currently in the process of writing my next book, which is an examination of religion and it’s faults. It’s a project I’ve spent about 3-4 years on already. I only just finished Part 1 of 3. I’m hoping to get it out sometime this year. Part of the issue was my own lack of confidence, my analysis paralysis of not knowing what portions to keep and what to stop researching, and overwhelmingly, the question of whether or not any of my efforts would mean anything or make any headway in the religion versus science debate. Ultimately, it’s best to actually have confidence in one’s abilities and my research into what people believe gave me credence that my views would be useful for people either wanting to criticize religion effectively, or for religious people who might be interested in new tools to understand atheism and how to properly counteract arguments for it. Currently writing criticisms of Christianity; here’s a portion I felt was written poorly, repeating prior points, and so I took it out. However, it should serve as useful insight as an example of what to expect:

If Jesus Christ’s truth claims are true, then it’s problematic due to the innate immorality of his teachings. In many ways, the belief in Jesus Christ as lord and savior lacks any logical sense. As mentioned prior on the contentions with sin, you must harbor misanthropy for the human race, the nihilistic fatalism called sinfulness, and see the worship of Jesus Christ as the only solution to the issue. You must seek his forgiveness for the shame of being born human and thus being born a sinner, for the thought crime of natural sexual feelings for the opposite gender, and for having sexual relations to procreate or for pleasure. You must harbor constant distrust and loathing for the physical world for the illusion of everything containing sin; almost everything in the physical world is a delusion meant to test you so that you can die appropriately and be sent to heaven. It’s contended in the Bible that people must seek Jesus Christ’s forgiveness for their sins because the Abrahamic God sacrificed Jesus Christ, who is apparently his only son, for this purpose. This very idea is convoluted because the Abrahamic God, presumably an omnipotent being capable of anything, couldn’t simply forgive humanity of sin without killing his own child as a supposed act of love for humanity. This was all done for the explicit purpose of forcing humanity to atone for its sin of being born human and engaging in human activities such as sexual desires, sexual love, premarital sex, worship of other Gods and Goddesses, and for any appreciation for the carnal world.

You cannot hold any love for this world because it’s a test to delude you away from worshiping Jesus Christ as your lord and savior and any love for this world is enmity towards Jesus Christ*. You’re led to feel guilty for having any pleasure in this world due to Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and so you must seek forgiveness for being steeped in sinfulness, including sinful thoughts. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross would be a crime that occurred before you were even born and that the Romans are solely responsible for, but you must atone despite not having anything to do with the crime since you’re a born sinner despite the fact it was before your birth. Despite the geographic fact of the matter that his apparent death happened in the Middle East, all people from Native Americans to South Asians must learn to feel ashamed of themselves and recognize they’re disgusting, wretched, and selfish human beings steeped in sin and prone to horrible atrocities for the crime of not accepting Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. Everything about their unique cultural heritages are delusions of Satan and must be destroyed to force them to embrace the love of Jesus Christ so that they stop sinning to go to heaven.

Despite the fact the Romans committed the crime, centuries of Christians held the anti-semitic belief that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus Christ and referred to as “Christ-killers” despite the Bible verses explicitly stating the Abrahamic God’s apparent goal was to have Jesus Christ sacrificed and therefore it was part of the Abrahamic God’s plan. Also, if any Christian commits murder or rape upon a Native American, or African, or South Asian that isn’t Christian then it’s because humans will be humans and even Jesus Christ’s teachings of supposed peace cannot prevent Christians from committing acts of physical or sexual violence. Or, as with persistently utilizing the No True Scotsman fallacy, any atrocious act by a Christian cannot be criticized except as being non-Christian or false Christian. Meanwhile, any atrocious act by a non-Christian is proof of a depraved culture that needs Jesus Christ’s teachings of peace, despite the fact humans will be humans and they aren’t effective in preventing human violence. They’re all deluded by Satan for not accepting the truth claims of a self-stylized peaceful God who proclaims that you’ll go to hell for not believing in him and that any love for your cultural heritage is deluded idolatry and the selfishness of the carnal world.

What future does Neoliberalism bring?

Not sure what value this brings and apologies if this sounds like a nonsensical doomsday spiel, but looking through the causes and consequences, I don’t think neoliberalism does anything positive in the long-term for the health, growth, and wellbeing of a nation-state. This is obvious at this point even just looking purely at the US’s contemporary trajectory . . . but taking the past 20 years altogether gives us a far dire picture of what that means when considering the rejection of neoliberalism across the world, particularly South America.

Neoliberalism, applied with such a fundamentalist style upon education, healthcare, and the erosion of social services with a overemphasis on the free market fixing all issues seems to lay the groundwork for both anti-intellectualism as we’ve seen from ignorant masses who look for quick explanations to blame their troubles on people they see instead of policy decisions by the US government and for monopolistic markets to exploit the larger masses with lies about trickle-down and reasons behind war campaigns.

Crucially, and it’s a surprise nobody rebuffs neoliberalism for this, capitalist markets are far too myopic to focus on ongoing environmental and social issues that are needed to safeguard from cataclysmic environmental disasters. Free markets have to compete and their views, time, resources, and energy are motivated both by monetary gain and by effective measurements to surpass the competition and that’s often in a time-sensitive manner. The use of shock events like environmental disaster to spread neoliberalism implies massive disasters are useful and profitable for these myopic markets. That is blatantly dangerous for a plethora of environmental and human rights reasons. Yet, the myopic views of corporate organizations would be too blind to them.

Republican and Democrat tacit or openly willful support of policies that deregulate, shrink, or destabilize the safety net. Policies that leave large vacancies, and remove government assistance for not just the most at risk, but all individuals representing 90% of the public represents not just short-term narcissism by legislatures or myopia towards campaign contributions but a fundamental disregard for what government means for the people and what it does for the people. We see it clearly with gerrymandering and the criticism of the two-party system by the founders having become incredibly apparent . . . but also the lack of foresight in their thinking that legislatures should have a separateness from majority opinion. Such ideas have positives and negatives but we now see the negatives worsening. The Republican party’s deregulation and policies of economic drift is continuing to be motivated by fundamentalist Christians who feel pleasure and truth from assisting in the deregulatory efforts.

The leadership has similarly thoroughly eroded in solutions and options to complex issues. As we saw when the crop of neoliberal contenders for the Republican base failed to stop the sweeping tide of Trump’s blatantly racist rhetoric and liberals rejected Clinton in favor of Bernie due to policy preferences. The reason Trump won was primarily due to this empty belief in hope – immersed with nationalistic fervor and a yearning for a mythic view of yesteryears – and neoliberalist economic enthusiasts capitalized on it to further push a neoliberal agenda of deregulation mixed with a capricious modus operandi on everything else. Trump is not some masterful threat, that notion is laughable and I can’t regard it with any degree of seriousness, but what his presidency does mean is that anyone with somewhat more intelligence and guile could cause a situation not too far removed from Japanese encampment or even something more murderous and violent like the Holocaust. The fact Trump was successful and has no real policy objectives shows us this and shows that voters can easily be duped into thinking a clown is intelligent. We don’t, as a democratic nation-state, have the will, knowledge, or safeguards to prevent future horrific events. Many would even embrace tyranny… and destroy everything we purportedly stand for.

I feel now that, based on the ongoing wars that continue due to incompetence and the complete failures to formulate an effective foreign policy agenda or long-term plan for places we should have won years back, the dismantling of safety nets for common sense legislation like clean air, and the lack of foresight on what should be considered a principal national interest in environmental policies; what we’re experiencing, and have witnessed with the 20 years of self-damage from the debt, reckless Wall Street greed that came as a consequence of deregulation, and the fracturing of the middle class with the wider society now working 2 jobs just to survive; in conjunction with a decreasing faith in the US government and mainstream media . . . is demonstrable evidence that the end result of neoliberal fundamentalism is the enthusiastic self-annihilation of a nation-state. If a government doesn’t do anything for a people then, notwithstanding threats of violence, there leaves little that will be followed or inspired or even maintained in the long-term. Will the future of the US even be recognizable when compared to its past, if we keep seeing neoliberalist fundamentalism pushing everything in one bleak direction? I doubt it now and the track record is evidence that any turn around may be a small pebble in a vast ocean of bad policy design. The wage gaps, the economic divide between the wealthy and the poor, the rising tide of racial aggression, the massive debt, and the endless wars – all and everything, at it’s core, is due to the belief in the economic policy of neoliberalism.

Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse II

Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse II

For Part 1: The Broad Themes

Part 2 of 2: Specific Themes

This will contain Major Spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei II, Shin Megami Tensei IV, Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse, Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs King Abaddon, and Digital Devil Saga 2. Major Spoilers for the films 21 Space Odyssey and Akira.


Table of Contents

Please use Ctrl + F to cut to the section you would like to read the most:

Rejecting The New Testament God and the Hobbesian World
Stephen
What The Divine Powers Represent
The subtle foreshadowing of Apocalypse’s Anarchy Choice in IV
The Foreshadowing of the Anarchy Path
The Tragedy of Flynn and Asahi
Two Interpretations of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch Philosophy
Homage References to the Anarchy Ending
Shin Megami Tensei IV’s Foreshadowing of the Anarchy Ending through Allegory
The Fool’s Journey Allegory


 

Rejecting The New Testament God and the Hobbesian World:

Two questions generally arise from Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse’s depiction of Yahweh;

  1. Why did the Bonds Group not vilify YHVH for genocide?
  2. Why was he different from the SMTII version?

Surprisingly, there are some very solid answers for both;

  1. First and foremost, YHVH was not the only demon to try this. The Divine Powers, Dagda, and even side bosses like Izanami and Cleopatra can be accused of the very same issue. YHVH succeeding is a surprisingly moot point for one crucial reason: Literally none of them had any stake in losing the old world before the mass destruction and were at best a year old or weren’t even born during that time. Even the one year mark is stretching it, since Nozomi is most likely born after the calamity like everyone else. The Eastern Kingdom of Mikado might be peaceful and serene, but it completely lacks in the modernity of Tokyo and the social customs are far more authoritarian and theocratic. It’s also mostly a life of hardworking farmers since the luxurors are a small minority of elite.

For the Bonds group, the mass death toll of the entire world in the past is just a part of ancient history that’s already happened. Is that bizarre? It shouldn’t be. World Wars 1 and 2 were very real and traumatic for those who experienced them, but for people afterwards, they’re just words in a book or stories shared in groups. Yes, they were meaningful; yes, it had an impact. But there is a clear and obvious emotional disconnect because none of them can even form a comparison like we can. Did anyone feel a personal connection to Nikkari’s narrative about the events twenty five years ago? Did even Asahi feel connected to it? No. Because it’s just history to them. The destruction was such a lengthy, wide-ranging change that few of the people have any concept of humans living in cities and not underground in subway stations.

For all intents and purposes, none of them ever realized they lived in a dystopia because none of them knew anything but the dystopia.

As proof, Satan actually makes this point clear:

Satan: You hail from a world shackled by slavery. But in this one blow the winds of freedom. If the soul is at peace, even in the depths of Hell shall one find comfort. As proof, you–slave of God–did not recognize that you were being shackled… Yet you now wish to dethrone the Creator. Then show me the strength of your determination… Your will. Hold nothing back. Failing this test would mean eternal death.

None of them had any comparisons but other forms of dystopia that made their own world look far more positive by comparison. Infernal and Blasted Tokyo are in far worse shape than Neutral Tokyo ever could or would be. Twisted Tokyo is far more abysmal as a comparison.

  1. Because Shin Megami Tensei IV-IV Apocalypse is a critique of the New Testament God and SMTI-II was a critique of the Old Testament God.

I’m scratching my head as to how so few realized the unambiguously obvious. In Anarchy, YHVH quotes the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ as his teachings.

Lucifer being created by God to rebel is consistent with Christian theology and the Christian understanding of the world. Human suffering being part of some plan is also consistent with the worldview espoused by modern Christians.

This belief is influenced by and still defended in real life by the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. The various worlds of IV and IV Apocalypse are the Hobbesian world. Bonds flatly rejects the Hobbesian worldview and Anarchy explicitly tries to show both its failings and it’s logical consequences through Nanashi’s actions.

What IV Apocalypse rejects in Bonds and surpasses in Anarchy is the Hobbesian interpretation of the New Testament God. The entire game is about its utter lack of consistency and the logical consequences of believing in the unsubstantiated Hobbesian worldview.

Nanashi’s journey is about rejecting or surpassing the Hobbesian Worldview of Christianity:

Hobbesian Law of Nature:

To this war of every man against every man this also is consequent, that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses and passions. They are qualities that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition that there be no propriety, no dominion, no ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ distinct, but only that to be every man’s that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it. And thus much for the ill condition which man by mere nature is actually placed in, though with a possibility to come out of it, consisting partly in the passions, partly in his reason.

            The passions that incline men to peace are fear of death, desire of such things as are necessary to commodious living, and a hope by their industry to obtain them. And reason suggesteth convenient articles of peace, upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These articles are they which otherwise are called the Laws of Nature, whereof I shall speak more particularly in the two following chapters.

Manabu and Nikkari’s deaths are depictions of the Hobbesian worldview. As further evidence, Adramalech explicitly quotes Hobbes and reinforces the Hobbesian worldview as his justification for slaughtering them:

Krishna explicitly rejects YHVH’s world and humanity because it’s Hobbesian. Krishna explicitly quotes Hobbes in his rejection of YHVH and says that even death is a freedom compared to the horrific world that YHVH has made. It’s made clear later on that Krishna believes YHVH is evil and that humanity is suffering from a massive delusion. For comparison’s sake, it would be similar to a democratic country analyzing the system of a murderous dictator.

To IV Apocalypse’s version of Krishna, humanity is hopelessly stuck in that violent dictator’s hands as his plaything and so he decides a cosmic revolution and mercy killing is the only way to truly free them from the tyrannical ruler.

Krishna points out the failings of the Hobbesian world:

Bewitching voice: Humans will never know peace in this universe. The life of man is solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.

You suddenly find Krishna waiting next to the crucified Flynn.

Odin and Maitreya stand beside him.

Krishna: Humans are trapped in a cycle of their own misery. They need salvation.

Asahi: Krishna!

Krishna: You made it this far. What did you intend to do here?

Gaston: I am honor-bound to destroy you and the Divine Powers!

Krishna: You bite the hand that feeds. Who else will provide you with salvation?

Nozomi: Yeah, we know what your so-called “salvation” really is. Destroying this universe and everything in it . . . You think we can let you get away with that?

Krishna: So long as your souls are trapped in this universe, you have no hope of true salvation. Your body and all the pain it endures are merely cages for your soul. I offer you freedom so that you may grow and find salvation.

Asahi: I think we have two very different definitions of “freedom” . . .

Krishna: “I believe we have two different definitions of “death”. You think death is the end of your body. And by that definition, yes, all beings in the Creator’s universe should die. But after the death of the body, I shall lead the soul to a new universe. Come the next full moon, a new universe will hatch from the Cosmic Egg.

Hallelujah: Cosmic Egg?

Krishna: In the new universe, you will no longer be the puppets of the Creator. Shesha will break the ties that bind you here and lead you to a new universe. Now, won’t you let yourselves be devoured by Shesha?

The Hobbesian condition of humanity is explicitly the Tokyo way of life and Krishna’s analysis is almost a direct quote of Hobbes most famous line of the Leviathan.

Excerpt from Thomas Hobbes Chapter 13 of Leviathan:

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time or war where every man is enemy to every man, the same is consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

In essence, only the fear of God Almighty can engender people to form agreements – Hobbes explicitly frames it as covenants – with each other. Covenants under fear of God will allow them to renounce the desire for violence and agree with each other to form communities and only take small portions to be part of a greater system. In his third of three parts on the Natural Law philosophy that he proposed. Hobbes mentions a fool who rejects the natural order of things and lacks the fear of God, the fool questions the existence of God and wonders why fear of God should be the arbitrary defining point of forming a society and why people cannot simply follow the laws of nature circumscribed to brutalize the world and reject God to form a new order. Thus, the fool finds no inconsistency in using the violent world itself to reject both God and God’s covenant and destroy it for their own benefit.

Hobbes makes his point clear by quoting Pslam 4:4 as he explains what the Fool is:

The Biblical quote:     https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+14%3A1&version=KJV

Hobbes explanation of the Fool who rejects the natural order made by the Abrahamic God:

The fool hath said in his heart there is no such thing as justice, and sometimes also with his tongue, seriously alleging that every man’s conservation and contentment, being committed to his own care, there could be no reason why every man might not to do what he thought conduced thereunto; and therefore also to make or not make, keep or not keep, covenants was not against reason when it conduced to one’s benefit. He does not therein deny that there be covenants, and that they are sometimes broken, sometimes kept, and that such breach of them may be called injustice, and the observance of them justice; but he questioneth whether injustice, taking away the fear of God, for the same fool hath said in his heart there is no God, may not sometimes stand with that reason which dictateth to every man his own good; and particularly then when it conduceth to such a benefit as shall put a man in a condition to neglect not only the dispraise and revilings, but also the power, of other men. The kingdom of God is gotten by violence; but what if it could be gotten by unjust violence? Were it against reason so to get it, when it is impossible to receive hurt by it? And, if it be not against reason, it is not against justice, or else justice is not to be approved for good. From such reasoning as this, successful wickedness hath obtained the name of virtue, and some that in all other things have disallowed the violation of faith, yet have allowed it when it is for the getting of a kingdom. 

YHVH created a violent, Hobbesian world and then demands that you worship him as the perfect creator. God tells you to feel ashamed of your sinful, flesh body and recognize that you’re nothing compared to the perfect Creator who loves you despite your constant tendency to sinfulness. The covenant is predicated upon YHVH having given humanity life.

YHVH trapped humans in the illusion of the physical world and then told them to reject carnal, sinful desires and to love and worship God as the perfect creator of the universe to be part of heaven. Humans are expected to receive whatever miniscule blessings, while living in the constant understanding that any wrongdoing is the fault of the sinfulness of humanity and that God allowed them to have freewill to be as they are out of his unceasing love. Also, God created the devil to deceive humans, but it’s still all humanity’s fault for being deceived and God can never be at fault because God can only ever be good while human sinfulness leads people astray and into mass violence. Carnal, sinful desires that humans are trapped are at fault; not God for putting humans in the carnal, sinful world or for bestowing humanity with Original Sin, or for punishing humans that reject Yahweh with hell. Humans shouldn’t feel nihilistic because they only have themselves to blame for their own misery.

Krishna firmly rejects this point by reversing the argument itself. Krishna explicitly points out the contradiction of Lucifer being formed to deceive humans and alludes to the fact that humans are made to be scapegoats. Essentially, all the wrongdoing of the world and of human misery is justified by misanthropy for the human race. Sinfulness itself, and the Hobbesian Worldview in its totality, is just misanthropy for the human race because it tries to argue everything would be worse under the presumption that humans are violent murderers and rapists without a God and that good morals come only from God being the foundation of belief. Anything that doesn’t align with God’s will is evil, that’s why open interpretation became popularized; this is lampshaded by Abbot Hugo in the Kill Mikado DLC quest.

Krishna’s rejection is that humans are simply taught under Abrahamic theology to hate themselves as justification for the wrongdoings of the world so that they don’t fall into nihilism with life itself. Such a framework is proof that Yahweh is explicitly evil in Krishna’s view:

Atlus presents further counterpoints in Anarchy and Bonds with Nietzschean overtones:

In Bonds, the argument of pity is rejected and Bonds itself represents the reversal of the Biblical conceptualization of how the world functions.

The Bonds group become the Natural Enemies of God warned about in the Bible. They live for the pleasures of the flesh and the carnal world above the spiritual pleasures of the soul:

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Asahi states that God judges humans based solely on how much they obey him while he leaves them to suffer. This is in contradiction to being all-loving:

Asahi: You judge people’s worth on how much they believe in you, obey you . . . But is that all we are, to you? Are we really worthless if we don’t have value to you? I mean, just because I’m weak and I have to rely on others doesn’t mean I’m worthless. My friends helped me realize that I alone decide the value of my life.

You cannot allow your own life to be forfeit to others circumstances or a God’s discretion. It’s also a callback to the Ancient of Days DLC story arc of Kiyoharu:

(Please excuse the moronic vlogger who did everything to act stupid and ruin the poignant moment.)

Hallelujah  makes it clear that there is literally no reason whatsoever to believe in this God at all because a God who espouses freewill and a violent world makes faith in God irrelevant. God helps no one; Yahweh is a Do-Nothing God:

Hallelujah: All you ever say is to believe in you, but why should they believe when you do nothing? If I see a kid crying, I help them. But all you do is watch, there’s no reason to believe in you. You demand so much without giving anything in return. How is that right?

Navarre’s is the most brutal argument, quite possibly against the entirety of Abrahamic theology itself. If only believers are blessed and God only helps those who believe in him, then it cannot be called love. It’s just an empty and vacuous sentiment. If you really loved someone, you would do all in your power to help them.

Navarre: You claim that whoever has faith in you shall be blessed? That you offer your hand to those who believe in you? That’s not love. It’s empty pity. If you really loved them, you’d motivate them, give them a good swift kick in the rear.

As Nozomi points out: Belief in a One True God that needs to be feared is against freedom of religion.

Nozomi: You refuse to acknowledge other gods, making this world stagnant. Your existence prevents the emergence of new gods. That means humanity can’t progress on their own accord. With you around, reigning over our fate, we’re left with no means to find our own path.

Gaston’s rejection is the most Nietzschean of them. Pity is seen as elitist, selfish, and part of a decadent culture. Purity and impurity, Good and evil, and pity can only ever create inequality based off self-righteous norms:

Gaston: Not long ago, I had complete faith in you. Now that I’ve seen the world, however . . . that’s changed. I see now that you spin lies to fool the weak-minded into believing they’re your “chosen” people. Elitism leads to decadence. Nothing good comes out of pitying each other. Your very existence debases humanity! You’re the Unclean One!

Toki’s is more thought-provoking than people give credit for. Open interpretation can, and often is, used as an excuse to justify never changing and subservience to God used as an excuse to never better oneself or change.

Toki: You must be very understanding if you are so quick to forgive. But your forgiveness is empty. The only thing is accomplishes is to hide your believers’ weaknesses. I learned that one’s weakness should be changed, not hidden. Whoever believes in your weakness only becomes weaker. Who’d want that? Keep your compassion to yourself. Don’t toy with us humans.

In sum, Atlus’s point is that the New Testament God, and the self-righteous justification of the Hobbesian world to create a sense of consistency with that belief, is entirely untenable and forms far too many contradictions and problems. As far as the theological implications; God can never be held accountable for what he does, so people simply learn to hate humanity and blame ourselves for precisely what God forced upon humanity in the first place. Any attempt to point this out is ridiculed as arrogance, because the entire basis of the doctrine of Original Sin is misanthropy for the human race. Hatred for the physical world, disgust with our flesh bodies, and loathing for our community when it doesn’t live in fear of God. This is grounded in explicit New Testament teachings about how to worship the New Testament God and Jesus Christ:

Romans 8: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

The New Testament God interpretation of Yahweh having consistency with the Hobbesian World makes YHVH a complete failure by design. He does nothing and even if he were real, there’s no point in believing in him. If it’s all just a test for heaven, then YHVH is a monster that’s barely distinguishable from the devil and he created the devil in the first place. If the carnal world must be interpreted as violent then it is simply death worship as Nietzsche warned and nothing else.

This is why, of all the gods demonized and bastardized by the Christian faith, they’re all still beneath the demonization and bastardization of the human soul in YHVH’s true form. If the carnal world is meant to be denigrated for spiritual pleasures, then YHVH is simply torturing humanity in a cage and blaming it upon them while arguing any questioning of the system is misplaced arrogance and enmity against him.

The Axiom has been ludicrously touted to be the New Testament God. This interpretation lacks any consistent basis. Since when did the New Testament God bestow humans with karma and have a cycle of reincarnation?

It’s made fairly clear that the Axiom is closer to Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse’s interpretation of Brahman. The Goddess of Tokyo and Stephen refer to it as the binding force of the universe. It’s the ultimate reality. The binding force of the universe, which allows reincarnation based upon one’s karma, can be attributable to the All-Pervading reality of existence that is Brahman. As theosophy plays a key role in a lot of Shin Megami Tensei IV and IV Apocalypse’s interpretations of deities, it’s likely the Theosophic interpretation of Para Brahman.

Incidentally, Brahman already exists and has interacted and utilized mainline characters in a certain other MegaTen game:

Stephen:

The more we know, the less we really knew him.

Stephen’s mysterious nature and intentions are finally unveiled in Apocalypse. He desired to test humanity and – to my shock – he tried to brainwash Nanashi into picking Neutral Bonds for the sake of making his world of infinite human potential.

If you speak with Fujiwara and Skins after the Shesha-Flynn revelation, you’ll realize that he brainwashed Fujiwara and Skins just like Lucifer disguised as Hikari did in IV. It’s made clear when they’ve never heard of Dr. Matsuda and the guard who is by the Shesha Radar door doesn’t remember why he was guarding it. He attempted to brainwash Nanashi and it succeeds in Bonds by making Nanashi wrongfully believe that Fate was behind joining his friends to overthrow YHVH, when it was really Stephen manipulating the situation by force feeding him Akira’s memories. He attempts to kill Nanashi when Nanashi picks Anarchy.

The most tragic aspect of all is how thoroughly manipulative he is. He’s technically giving Tokyo a fighting chance by telling them about you choosing godhood in Anarchy, but he only seeks to observe human potential. It’s an assassination attempt on Nanashi, giving humans one final fighting chance and ray of hope, sending Tokyo’s last resistance to their horrific doom, and observing human potential in one of many worlds as one would study a scientific experiment through a clear lens of objectivity. All of these are valid interpretations of Stephen’s behavior,

Stephen then mocks their deaths by handwaving what he’s done as unimportant. Yes, it doesn’t really matter if Nanashi’s objective is changing the entire universe anyway, but those deaths were completely unnecessary and Stephen further mocks you on that front by asking if there was a problem. It has nothing to do with your goals, so it isn’t. Stephen knew it and took advantage of both parties just to “prove himself right” about human potential before being forced to give-up on it.

Stephen is shown to be extremely selfish in Apocalypse. He brainwashes Fujiwara and Skins with no remorse, he makes several attempts at brainwashing you and equivocates on it by saying that he was only helping you, and then in his DLC, he admits that his reasoning centers around nothing more than wanting to be completely correct about human potential. He’s no different than any of the gods and demons that he lists off at the end of Anarchy, the only difference is that he wants humans to constantly be on the neutral path so he can keep observing how far the infinite potential can go.

He only wanted Nanashi to pick Neutral:

Foreshadowing that he’s been brainwashing Nanashi since before the game started:

Mocking Nanashi by equivocating about the brainwashing:

 

The most glaring proof of Stephen’s manipulative nature, he stops Nanashi and Asahi from warning Flynn in time before the Divine Powers kidnap him:

Please keep in mind that he late-game he convinces Fujiwara and Skins to try to kill you if you pick Anarchy and that the Hunters forget who Dr.Matsuda is when you speak with them after the Shesha-Flynn twist. If you go down to the Shesha radar room to speak with the guard of the room, he will also question why he’s guarding the room and doesn’t remember Matsuda or the Shesha Radar.

Stephen’s callous disregard for human life once they don’t fit his model of thought of infinite potential:

What The Divine Powers Represent:

Each of the Divine Powers are further representations of Theosophy, similar to the White. They’re not – strictly speaking – representations of their religious source material, although there is some overlap. They’re the theosophic interpretations of the specific gods.

This lengthy passage is quite revealing in just how grounded IV Apocalypse is in Theosophy for both the Axiom and the Divine Powers:

“The original teachings of Theosophy do not very often use the term “God.” They generally speak instead of “Deity” or “The Divine Principle,” sometimes referring to IT under Hindu terms such as Parabrahm or Brahman; sometimes under the Kabbalistic term Ain-Soph – “the endless, boundless No-Thing which is everything”; sometimes as Adi-Buddhi, a term from esoteric Buddhism.

In fact, we find such statements as the following:

“The high Initiates and Adepts … believe in “gods” and know no “God,” but one Universal unrelated and unconditioned Deity.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 295)

“Deity is not God.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 350)

“Parabrahm is not “God.”” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 6)

“It is to avoid such anthropomorphic conceptions that the Initiates never use the epithet “God” to designate the One and Secondless Principle in the Universe.” (HPB, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 555)

“The idea of God and Devil would make any chela of six months smile in pity. Theosophists do not believe either in the one or in the other. They believe in the Great ALL, in Sati.e., absolute and infinite existence, unique and with nothing like unto it, which is neither a Being nor an anthropomorphic creature, which is, and can never not be.” (HPB, “Misconceptions”)

“Neither our philosophy nor ourselves believe in a God, least of all in one whose pronoun necessitates a capital H. … Our doctrine knows no compromises. It either affirms or denies, for it never teaches but that which it knows to be the truth. Therefore, we deny God both as philosophers and as Buddhists. … we know there is in our system no such thing as God, either personal or impersonal. Parabrahm is not a God, but absolute immutable law … we are in a position to maintain there is no God … The idea of God is not an innate but an acquired notion, and we have but one thing in common with theologies – we reveal the infinite.” (Mahatma K.H.)

The point emphasised most importantly in original Theosophy is that the Causeless Cause and Rootless Root is the ONE Absolute, Infinite, Omnipresent, Impersonal, Eternal Divine PRINCIPLE and that there can be nothing finite, conditioned, relative, anthropomorphic, personal, or human-like about the Infinite. It is spoken of with reverence as “IT” and “THAT” rather than “He” or “Him.” It is not a Being but “Be-ness” itself.

It is not only the Sourceless Source of all but also the true Self, the essential nature, the innermost reality, of every living being and of all life. It is both Absolute Divine Spirit and Absolute Divine Substance. It is really Pure Consciousness Itself. We do not and cannot pray to the Absolute and Infinite, for we are That. Instead of praying, we determine to act, work, and live for and as the Self of all creatures.

Cyclic Law, including the cyclic appearance and disappearance of the Universe, is one of the fundamental aspects of the original teachings. The Universe comes into being as a result of the Logos being radiated forth from the Absolute. The Logos – meaning “Word,” “Speech,” or “Voice” in Greek – is the objective expression of the subjective and abstract Absolute.  The Logos is not a personal being or a God but is the one all-ensouling light and life of the Universe, a universal spiritual Principle of existence, manifestation, and evolution. It manifests in three distinct stages, sometimes described as the Three Logoi, but it is maintained that in actuality there is only the One Logos.”

The Axiom is indicative of the Theosophic interpretation of Brahman. The Divine Principle seems to be categorically similar to the Divine Powers, it seems to be what primarily influenced Atlus’s interpretation of the Axiom and the Divine Powers or “Polytheistic Alliance” of IV Apocalypse.

The slaughter of flesh-like bodies because they need salvation of the soul is portrayed as insane and crazy, but the majority of religions argue for salvation of the eternal soul over the delusions of the physical world. IV Apocalypse shows an allegory of this concept by reversing theosophy into the Nietzschean view of salvations, eternal life, and heaven simply being euphemisms for death worship in a world where salvation, eternal life, and heaven are real as a result of human conceptions and not simply imaginary concepts.

The reason the Divine Powers are so invested in doing so and aggressive in their actions is because Shin Megami Tense IV-IVApocalypse’s humanity is the Fifth Humanity. YHVH has committed mass genocide 4 times before and the result was the nihilistic ascended spiritual figures of the White. That is why the White called Flynn by the name “Our Fifth Son” as it was both a representation of passover and a reference to the fifth race of humans in IV and IV Apocalypse. As a concept, the Fifth Humans is consistent with theosophic beliefs about awaiting Maitreya for a new world with the sixth humanity.

The most explicit reference to the Fifth Humanity:

Shesha-Flynn speaks of this precise issue of destroying and remaking humanity by endlessly repeating Genesis and Revelations for the sake of creating a completely obedient humanity:

Odin:

Odin is an interesting case of how warrior ideals don’t translate to fairness. Odin was freed thanks to Flynn in IV and then has no qualms with assaulting Flynn to force him to submit to the Divine Powers objectives. Flynn’s positive actions only benefited someone who Flynn clearly didn’t understand and didn’t appreciate the position thereof. Odin orchestrates the three-way war by tricking Nanashi and Asahi into freeing Krishna and then has no qualms with using Asahi as bait to get Flynn to drop his weapon.

Did this act seem like a poor choice? It shouldn’t. Odin was meticulous and Flynn’s renown was known throughout Tokyo and Mikado. One aspect of Flynn that people seem to forget is that he will always defend children, no matter what. I recalled how senseless and pointless the narrative of saving the young child in the Kiccigorgi forest felt when playing IV on my fourth playthrough, wondering when such an element would matter. Of course Flynn, despite his choices, would save a kid. Flynn goes a step further and even tries to save Parvati’s child under the belief that Kartikeya was in danger in infernal Tokyo.

While it seems haphazard and ridiculous, this was something Odin knew would be in his favor. All he had to do was observe Flynn’s heroics when it came to children and Neutral Flynn, who spreads and symbolizes hope, would be affected most of all. What Odin shows us is the real life efficiency of warfare in the early game. What matters is the objectives, not the morals. That is war in and of itself.

Maitreya:

The IV Apocalypse Maitreya is the theosophic interpretation of Maitreya. The theosophic interpretation of Maitreya has some sects of Theosophy that teach Mithra, the Zoroastrian God of Contracts, is an incarnation of Maitreya, the Future Buddha.

What I find most intriguing about this interpretation are that his teachings has a more individualistic, ascetic buddhist slant and within the context of the IV-IV Apocalypse world, his teachings are largely the most useful and active instrument against YHVH.

What Maitreya seeks is to bestow enlightenment upon Nanashi and the rest of humanity. When interacting with him, he is always teaching Nanashi about Atman, detachment from suffering, and to reflect on his beliefs and choices.

What is the most thought-provoking is acknowledging where his teachings will lead: Enlightenment; the same type of enlightenment that Mido, St. Germain, and Stephen have gained. Even more so, the end result would be the Digital Devil Saga 2 ending of accepting one’s place in the universe and freeing oneself from desires to go to other realities and help be guides to humans whose souls are lost, deprived, or trapped in abysmal life circumstances. What Maitreya wanted was for more enlightened individuals who follow the Axiom’s objective and help humanity grow its potential and achieve their answers.

It’s presented in negative connotations because under the Nietzschean ideal, it’s just another form of death worship that renounces life and doesn’t celebrate life. As depicted by those who followed Maitreya willingly being devoured by Shesha to become part of a new world that would foster such growth.

Inanna:

Inanna may quite honestly be a total failing on the part of the story, for no other reason than because we have no context or feeling for her part of the conflict. At best, her character reflects a time period that none of the party have any context for and due to seeing no value in complying with Inanna’s demands, they vanquish her. However, what I did find interesting was that Toki’s in-battle dialogue in the Cosmic Egg hints at the Anarchy path’s theme of never looking back.

Inanna (Toki): . . . Master

            Gaston: Toki?

            Inanna (Toki): I’m sorry. I was jealous. You were always with Asahi… I really wanted to trade places with her… But I knew it couldn’t be helped. She’s been with you for so long… Of course Asahi would know so much more about you. Spending time with you, always by your side… Laughing, crying… over things I don’t understand… Seeing things different from me… It was only natural. But… Asahi died… There’s room by your side for me now… Right? Then why am I not by your side? Why do you still wait for that girl!? No… I don’t get it… It’s not fair…! Let me be with you! I can make you happy! Don’t look back… The past can’t keep you warm… What’s done is done; leave it behind. We can move on… together.

            I love you.

            I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you so much… I promise I’ll save you. So please… Save me too.

            Don’t worry, it’s easy. All you have to do is be by my side. Master… Let me free you from your body, so our souls can be together… forever.

            > Inanna attacks you.

            No…! No, I-I didn’t mean to– No! No no no! NOOOOOOOO!

Also, perhaps entirely accidental, but Inanna’s story is a precursor of the Jesus story. For all intents and purposes, it’s basically been proven without a doubt that the Jesus story was just a copy of Inanna’s story of descending to hell, being crucified by a fish hook, being dead for three days, and ascending back to the Heavenly plane. Oddly enough, this death and restoration/resurrection story fits what happens to Toki in the Cosmic Egg and later Flynn in the Anarchy path. But in this instance, it’s sadly doubtful that it was on purpose.

Krishna:

Sin being negative karma and having no value in positive works. Worship for YHVH takes precedent over doing good. YHVH is narcissistic and explicitly evil as a result. Kalki as destroyer of sin and to become part of the all-pervading reality.

This theosophic version of Krishna overlaps with the Vishnu Puranas — the specific texts that theosophy used to justify their view of Krishna. In the Vishnu Puranas, Krishna is stated to be an avatar of Vishnu and is Vishnu himself in a more human form. What I found particularly fascinating was the subtle way of Atlus shifting the nuances of the Vishnu Puranas and the Holy Bible to create an uncompromising religious difference.

Apocalypse Krishna perceives YHVH as unforgivably evil and the justification for YHVH’s actions as primarily narcissistic. Krishna perceives his salvation, which requires killing all humans in the Creator’s world, as a mercy to save the eternal souls of humanity and thus perceives his own actions as a mercy killing. To Krishna, the Hobbesian world itself is the worst possible misery and Krishna objects to any notion that a loving God would subdue and force humanity to undergo the illusion of the physical world with the only reward being feeling grateful to a God that demands their unwavering obedience because God gave them life.

In contrast to the New Testament interpretation of YHVH, which is a redeemer of Sin; Apocalypse Krishna follows the Vishnu Purana slant of being the Destroyer of Sin and aims to free humanity from sin completely. To further emphasize this point, Krishna’s higher form is the Kalki form of Vishnu, which is meant to further signify the destruction of sin and the creation of a new era that is free of it.

The primary reason why Krishna perceives YHVH as evil is that the chief aim of reincarnation and karma is to help assist the human souls to go beyond the limitations of the physical world, to go beyond the system of reincarnation, to go beyond even the gods of divine planes, and to have human souls become part of the all-pervading reality of existence or, in some interpretations, to go beyond the all-pervading reality of existence. The interpretations of what the all-pervading reality means is left vague and a bit open to interpretation on whether it means beyond Brahman or Brahman itself. However, due to using Theosophy, and judging from Krishna’s own words on a “great singularity” while speaking of surpassing the cycle of reincarnation, what Apocalypse Krishna wanted was for humanity to learn, grow, and go beyond mere godhood to surpass even the enlightened beings of Seraph, Stephen, St.Germaine, and Mido. In short, Apocalypse Krishna wants humanity to surpass all forms of spiritual growth, gain moksha (self-liberation), and have their eternal soul become one with or surpass the all-pervading reality.

The growth and self-betterment that Krishna wishes to bestow a new humanity is in complete antithesis to YHVH, who desires humanity to blindly obey his will and worship him as the perfect creator of the universe that they also must fear, while loathing themselves as solely at fault for their problems. Fundamentally, this is an ideological battle between the belief in Karma and the belief in Original Sin. The reason Krishna views YHVH as unambiguously evil for his design of humanity is because original sin is little more than trapping humanity in negative karma, inculcating self-hate as justification for the negative karma, and seeing inner peace as little more than a fleeting experience that is associated with human arrogance. The peace that YHVH proposes is solely predicated upon believing YHVH is the perfect creator of the universe and that humans are selfish, arrogant, prone to evil, full of hatred, and acting upon violence as part of human nature. All good deeds do not bestow blessings, but rather exist only as a trial to make you worship YHVH and reinforcing the belief in misanthropy for the human race. Helping each other is indeed taught, but only under the veneer of understanding that people are sinners who must constantly praise God for even these are tiny merciful blessings while expecting violence, hate, and egregious forms of selfishness throughout most of humanity.

Instead of believing in the karmic ideal that by doing good, good things will happen to you because you’ve attained good Karma and by doing bad, bad things will happen to you because you’ve obtained bad Karma; Original Sin posits that humanity is extremely selfish, arrogant, violent, and vile and can only be saved by accepting the sin of their existence and acknowledging the one true God as Yahweh. These are irreconcilable differences in IV Apocalypse because the gods and demons are real figures in the story. Thus, no matter what, humans will be stuck in negative Karma regardless of how many good actions they take, how much hope they spread, and how much mercy they show. So long as they don’t believe in YHVH, they will be punished. Yet, even if they do believe in YHVH, they should be expected to fail because they’re imperfect, selfish, arrogant, and prone to violence because that is how YHVH has made “human nature” under Original Sin. That is why Krishna seeks to bring salvation. Apocalypse Krishna wishes to destroy the chains of sin and free humanity to actually follow a coherent ethical code that is based solely upon their own actions of helping others bestowing good karma and harming others cursing them with bad karma. Karma is a system based on one’s own actions judging the eternal soul and thus antithetical to Original Sin’s view of the eternal soul.

The subtle foreshadowing of Apocalypse’s Anarchy Choice in IV:

IV’s foreshadowing of sticking with the present universe or forming a new one. The most important person repeatedly being inferred to be all life in the universe itself:

IV Apocalypse’s choice parallels:

The Foreshadowing of the Anarchy Path:

To be clear, both Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse only ever foreshadow one specific route with lengthy references.

Bonds, at best, has one throw-away line by Danu about how Dagda is insane and how she may have to stop him.

However, the vast majority of both Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse have philosophical, thematic, and homage references to explicitly foreshadow Nanashi’s rise to Godhood and the Anarchy Path.

The Tragedy of Flynn and Asahi :

Asahi was always meant to die:

In both Blasted and Infernal Tokyo, Akira is mentioned to have had a sister who died under horrific circumstances. Infernal Tokyo’s version of his sister was killed in the ark along with the many other children. Kenji stopped the archangels by killing them off, but they couldn’t break the cocoon in time and the children died within it. This motivated Demonoid Akira to form a world of equality instead of the savage, gang-torn world they had.

Akira lost his sister when she was taken by the angels in both Blasted and Home Tokyo. In both worlds, he never sees her again. She dies above the ceiling in the normal Tokyo as hundreds of years passed before the digging team breached the upper world that the archangels had made. We’re left to wonder what changes the new humanity has when YHVH sends the sixth humanity down in Blasted Tokyo’s DLC, but the implications are that they’re entirely different from humans with less freewill.

As the Flynn of IV, the player is left wondering why Akira wasn’t reincarnated like Kenji, Kiyoharu, and what indeed happened to his sister. In all worlds, Asahi’s past self was irrevocably taken away from Nanashi’s past self.

Flynn was always foreshadowed to die:

In the only story-required Side mission, David specifically says that Death will come to Flynn again in some form.

In Law world, a certain side mission — presented emphatically in the story — has Ixtab, the Native American Goddess of peaceful death, inform Flynn that he will regret his struggle of living in the land of suffering under God’s shackles and regret rejecting salvation:

Sadly enough, The White themselves explicitly tell Flynn repeatedly that he will suffer despair that is beyond redemption for his choices. He has doomed himself for struggling for life in an endless struggle in YHVH’s created world:

Explaining why Flynn’s struggle causes his own suffering, and a subtle hint at Nanashi’s existence:

The quagmire of Order and Chaos under God’s rule that is causing suffering:

The final portion explaining Flynn’s doom is if you choose “People”, which is what Flynn stands for in Bonds, as White Issachar’s choice, then this dialogue happens:

White Issachar:

“It is our fate to endlessly repeat the same mistakes… Given this, what other salvation can there be than returning everything to naught…?”

“Your choice is wrong… we will prove that to you…”

“Look at my form… it is the image of your friend, Issachar, who was torn asunder in the rift between your people. By your own hand.”

“The most proper course of action regarding this world that killed him… I will demonstrate it to you using this form.”

“Tell me this. What possibilities does this world hold that you feel secure walking the path of neutrality? As the one who embodies those possibilities, what comes to mind?”

> People

“Freedom and order, destruction and sustenance. Man is a pitiful creature who cannot escape that cycle.”

“If you see possibility in such people, then you are truly blind…”

At the end of the Neutral route itself, Flynn is told by the Neutral deity representative, Masakados, that Law and Chaos will continue and that the future is doomed to repeat itself:

Flynn dies in both Law and the nihilist ending of Shin Megami Tensei IV, Isabeau’s speech heavily implies that Flynn’s Chaos kingdom is doomed to die in the Chaos route and that Flynn himself will me murdered eventually when she mentions her favorite manga’s ending.

In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, the reference to Flynn’s death is finalized by both his transformation into the Kalki, the tenth Avatar of Vishnu, signifying the death of the old world and the death of everything Flynn tried to protect, and then his actual death by the hands of Nanashi and Dagda in the ensuing fight:


As a Messiah, Flynn was always a pawn meant to feel like a Chosen One. He is a deconstruction of Raidou’s archetype, Hope, and the Messiah/Chosen One narrative prevalent in video games:

This specific portion will only feel relevant for those who’ve played both IV and gotten the Neutral Route and played IVA for the Anarchy route; comparing them to Raidou 2’s motif of Hope.

In Raidou 2, Shinado/King Abaddon tells you that so long as you hold the title of Raidou, you can be a hope to the people and that you must understand that people will rely on your actions; your actions are hope itself for the desperate and the weak who need protection.

Flynn embodies the same lesson; through good works and perseverance, he becomes the hope of the people as the neutral Messiah. He can be empowered by the spirit of spite, goodwill, or hope to empower himself to go beyond human limits as a Messiah. His “higher” self.

However, if you replay IV and then replay IVA Anarchy route, you realize something incredibly disturbing:

Flynn was always Nanashi/Akira’s tool.

It may not seem like it at first, but if you consider their roles in both games and those other worlds, it makes a disturbing amount of sense. Too much sense, in fact.

The universes of IV/IVA is cyclical. Flynn’s past self, a Neutral Hero, chooses Neutral and his present self also chooses Neutral to keep the world in balance. Sounds simple enough, until you look at what happens when the past self chooses Chaos or Law in the other universes.

Flynn’s prior incarnation chooses a world in Blasted/Infernal Tokyo… and your Flynn, following Akira’s goals, always reverses that decision and makes the reverse of the prior incarnation’s decisions. If you paid attention to the NPCs, they always make note of two things: Akira’s sister is an innocent dead girl and Previous Flynn died a horrible death after making his choice (in both Blasted/Infernal, an NPC says he died from poison after his decision).

Your Flynn sees a damaged world and agrees to help some young leader named Akira both times to save it, ostensibly to get some remote to go back to your home world. Evidently, fighting death and danger to get a remote to go back to your own world of death and danger is shown to be important and you eventually decide the future of your world . . . or so you’re led to believe. Following the IVA route, it would mean that Stephen wanted you as Flynn to get kidnapped so that he could then brainwash Nanashi.

Before you return to your universe, you end-up doing Akira’s missions, you resolve the issue presented, and you get the remote after a nice hooray and congrats from Akira’s pals — you get a nice thanks from Akira as well . . . and Akira ends up ruling those worlds as their King.

Then, The White tell you they’re trapped in YHVH’s control and nothing you did had any value or meaning because they’ll always fall to ruin anyway. Congrats, Hero. Being the Messiah means nothing.

The White prove their point later on;

Human Akira of the Law World uses Flynn to reverse course into a Chaos world. Repudiating Law for a Chaotic world of passion and a powerful human kingdom… only to nearly be wiped out by YHVH’s enforcer, Ancient of Days, and then be forced into a refugee status as the new humanity descends.

Demon Akira of the Chaos world turns it into a world of Equality under a new Law world not designed by God. Gods and Demons attack and you’re shown how tenuous the world’s gov’t will be because Flynn won’t be there to keep it safe.

Demon Akira is likely to get killed by the very next threat.

In both worlds, Akira is using Flynn to eke out an existence for a doomed race and in both, the White state Akira and those worlds are doomed to extinction under God’s rule.

Your own world in IV is doomed too. The happy ending is a falsehood and Masakados outright says it . . . which brings us to IV Apocalypse.

Nanashi, living as the discriminated class with no ability to decide the outcome or curry favor unless others find him useful, sees just how sick it all is. As Flynn, we saw ourselves as making important choices; as Nanashi, we only see the consequences and have no choice due to being “impure” in our blood. Due to racism, we must live as the marginalized class.

To Nanashi, neither the angels or demons show anything but craziness. Nanashi learns exactly why YHVH is such a threat from his interactions with Dagda and the Divine Powers.

“Hope” is good, but without a plan, it can be manipulated. The Divine Powers proved it. Hell, Merkabah proved it by tricking those idiotic Tokyo citizens who were desperate despite knowing about God’s plan 25 years prior.

Nanashi sees firsthand how stupid Hope can be sometimes when it’s blind and clinging to others when Shesha takes their souls and very nearly kills you in a moment of shock.

We just didn’t see it as “Flynn”, but as Nanashi, it’s all made very clear how senseless and uncontrollable the situation is. In one path, Nanashi accepts his humble humanity and decides to forgo a better world for the sake of friendship.

In another, he decides it’s worth the self-contradictions and lamentations of the current universe to build another one . . . . and he uses our Flynn to reverse course and repudiate neutrality with a new neutrality, a new universe without YHVH.

In just the same style that Akira of Law world reversed course using Flynn to become the leader of a Chaos Eastern Kingdom of Mikado and Demon Akira reversed course from the Prior Flynn’s decision to turn a discriminated Demonoid vs Human slave society into a world of true equality; Nanashi has a resurrected Flynn — a born-again Flynn, a Flynn with a second life — reverse course on the Previous Flynn’s decision of neutrality into a world that opposes remaining shackled to flesh bodies and to empower all of humanity with godhood.

Flynn’s enemy was the nihilism of humanity in the three main endings of SMTIV.

Nanashi’s enemy was always YHVH; his past self was an adherent who turned traitor and was unable to live freely, his two other past selves in alternate choices still suffer under YHVH’s rule, Nanashi himself suffers the discrimination of YHVH’s world of endless Law vs Chaos, and Nanashi can choose to take a step into wresting control.

Flynn of the Law world joined the angels and committed mass genocide and then succumbed to death via poison, Flynn of the Chaos world desired strength and succumbed to being killed by poison, Neutral Past!Flynn committed suicide to save Tokyo.

Human Akira in a Chaos world, Demon Akira in a Law world, and God Nanashi in a new Neutral world; in all three, they were part of a dying peoples and used Flynn to reverse previous Flynn’s course to become King of the World — or in Nanashi’s case, God of the Universe.

Flynn always showing up to bring “hope” through the power of Action and being Akira’s useful tool because that was always what Flynn was…. He gets empowered by his faith in Nanashi in the final battle against YHVH — it’s even juxtaposed in the Bonds ending where he says he’ll show YHVH the power of action. Hope and faith manipulated for the actions of another is shown in Anarchy. In Anarchy, Flynn still reaches a “higher” state due to obedience and dedication to Nanashi’s will.

They planned Anarchy out so well, the hints were all there…. Nanashi, the reincarnation of your world’s Akira, destroys YHVH using Flynn as his tool.

Nanashi/Akira was the main character of the IV-IVA duology; Flynn was always the tool, blinded by hope, by his own power as a Messiah, and his faith in humanity because he had no concrete steps for a permanent solution. Flynn is meant to enforce and change the course of the future, Nanashi is meant to rule that future.

Unlike Raidou, who tries to oppose Demifiend; Flynn became the most tragic mainline main character. Eternally opposing his own goals and being Akira’s pawn because hope, while powerful and admirable, is also just a tool that is meant to be used as a means to a goal.

Two Interpretations of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch Philosophy:

Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse Provides Two Interpretations of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch Philosophy from his magnum opus, Thus Spake;Zarathustra, through allegory:

Bonds represents the Nietzschean ideal of keeping one’s meaning to the Earth and to ignore or denigrate all forms of worship that preach of a higher world that is eternal. Thus, God’s natural enemies. There is no better way to showcase this being the primary narrative of Bonds then deciding to cut ties with your allies at the last moment and join YHVH:

YHVH: You sinners intend to persist in this foolishness? Because I am always with you, I know what has led you to me. Tempted by demons, stirred by your allies — it is only natural that you would inevitably come before me. I offer you one last chance: Sever ties and become my servant, or burn in the depths of hell. The choice is yours.

> Will you become YHVH’s servant or remain against him?

Toki: This is no time for joking! (her voice actress says “Now’s not the time for jokes!”)

> Toki is shocked by your decision.

Dagda: Tch. . . Can’t believe you’d mess things up at this stage. You’re hopeless, kid.

YHVH: Yes, my son. Repent for your sins. Now you may live on as my servant. Close your eyes. Rest. When you next wake, this shall all be over.

> You lose control of your body, and your vision starts to dim.

(Nanashi gets killed)

YHVH: As for the rest of you, my cursed children, my lightning shall send you screaming to hell.

Dagda: (frustrated growl)  Damn! Can’t believe you did this… Quick–give me your hand, kid! There’s still time to fix this. Give me your hand!

> Will you heed Dagda’s words?

Give him your hand/Ignore him

> With a struggle, you manage to start breathing again.

> But YHVH freezes you and your friends in place with a glare.

> You and your demons fall Mute. All your stats decrease!

YHVH: You cling to life, trampling on the meaningful death I have offered you? I cannot fathom a greater blasphemy…

Dagda: No such thing as a “meaningful” death. Death is just death. Don’t give up your life so easily. Stick with your ideals, kid. Even a pitiful life is better than death.

Quite possibly the most poignant depiction against Abrahamic death culture.

Anarchy follows a different interpretation of the Nietzschean ideal. The Ubermensch will work satisfied with themselves in fighting nihilism through love for their humanness; through forms of self-expression in art, music, rebuilding new civilizations, and creating a world where one rejects the belief in an eternal paradise for the sake of the pleasures of the earth. The life-eternal is merely death worship. They eventually bring forth a higher form of human civilization and higher culture where the Higher Peoples will become the norm; denigrating and disavowing nihilism and the life-eternal as products of death worship. The Ubermensch are a bridge to a higher humanity, the higher people.

Generally speaking, Nietzsche wanted a bit of open interpretation here and Atlus took this ideal to show precisely both how wrong and how beautiful it can be. Bonds is a metaphor for Nietzsche’s Ubermenschen and Anarchy is an allegory for the Higher Man.

Dagda:

Dagda: Now do you see, kid? Friendship is a joke. Abandoned at the first sign of trouble. Making friends is a pointless exercise, an inevitable disappointment. It’s sickening. Influence is a poison. We should strive to be true individuals, to think freely for ourselves.

Dagda is an interesting presentation and perhaps the most fascinating next to Krishna. The above quote seems to be Dagda advocating for the literal configuration of society into the Social Contract Theory of Rousseau.

Taken together with everything else he’s espoused about his new universe; he doesn’t want institutions imposed upon people who don’t agree with them and to facilitate this, he wishes to cast away humanity’s imperfections to create Ubermenschen with god-like powers and full knowledge of the universe’s secrets. Humans will have god-like powers, they will ascertain all truths, and they won’t be able to physically impose upon others with violence or rule of law so long as the other person doesn’t agree to follow the guidelines of whatever small communities they form. His primary motivation is to cast away the gods who impose their indoctrination on humans and use humans as tools to only further themselves. Dagda wishes to do himself away, gift humanity with transcending powers to remove their imperfections, and make his Godslayer the ruler of the universe with his ideals passed on so that gods and demons will no longer ever be able to prey upon human souls. Any violence will come from outside messiahs that have gods or demons attached with them and thus limit any upheaval because the transhumanists will be better equipped to defend themselves.

It’s Nietzschean ideals, Roussauean in government framework, and transhumanist all in one. It’s arguably a much more nomadic, nature oriented civilizations, but with god-like power and accurate, fact-based beliefs. Perhaps I’m looking too deeply into it on this point, as it could just as well be that Nanashi decides to create whatever society he likes and gives them god-like powers and more intuitive closeness to the universe itself. Dagda himself doesn’t believe himself capable and thinks it would be corruptive should he try to make himself the Creator. He has faith in Nanashi to be able to do it.

The Philosophical Underpinnings of SMTIV Apocalypse’s Dagda:

Dagda represents the Lion of Nietzsche’s story of forming new ethical norms throughout the story and then continues to be so in the Anarchy route. It’s why he has his design with the hair behind the skull mask. He is an allegory to Nietzsche’s lion. Embracing freedom and desiring new values in the wilderness, but needing to have a child who can know and understand the values outside of the norms already implicit in the social context.

I’ll quote the full portion of the Three Metamorphoses and then further clarify, but for those who prefer not reading philosophical novels, then please just read the Bold portion:

“THREE METAMORPHOSES OF the spirit do I designate to you:
how the spirit becometh a camel, the camel a lion, and
the lion at last a child.

Many heavy things are there for the spirit, the strong
load-bearing spirit in which reverence dwelleth: for the heavy and the heaviest longeth its strength.

What is heavy? so asketh the load-bearing spirit; then
kneeleth it down like the camel, and wanteth to be well
laden.

What is the heaviest thing, ye heroes? asketh the loadbearing spirit, that I may take it upon me and rejoice in my strength.

Is it not this: To humiliate oneself in order to mortify
one’s pride? To exhibit one’s folly in order to mock at
one’s wisdom?

Or is it this: To desert our cause when it celebrateth its
triumph? To ascend high mountains to tempt the tempter?

Or is it this: To feed on the acorns and grass of knowledge,
and for the sake of truth to suffer hunger of soul?

Or is it this: To be sick and dismiss comforters, and
make friends of the deaf, who never hear thy requests?

Or is it this: To go into foul water when it is the water
of truth, and not disclaim cold frogs and hot toads?

Or is it this: To love those who despise us, and give one’s
hand to the phantom when it is going to frighten us?

All these heaviest things the load-bearing spirit taketh upon itself: and like the camel, which, when laden, hasteneth into the wilderness, so hasteneth the spirit into its wilderness. But in the loneliest wilderness happeneth the second metamorphosis: here the spirit becometh a lion; freedom will it capture, and lordship in its own wilderness.

Its last Lord it here seeketh: hostile will it be to him, and to its last God; for victory will it struggle with the great dragon. What is the great dragon which the spirit is no longer inclined to call Lord and God?

“Thou-shalt,” is the great dragon called. But the spirit of the lion saith, “I will.”

“Thou-shalt,” lieth in its path, sparkling with gold—a scale-covered beast; and on every scale glittereth golden, “Thou shalt!”

The values of a thousand years glitter on those scales, and thus speaketh the mightiest of all dragons: “All the values of things—glitter on me. All values have already been created, and all created values—do I represent. Verily, there shall be no ‘I will’ any more. Thus speaketh the dragon

My brethren, wherefore is there need of the lion in the spirit? Why sufficeth not the beast of burden, which renounceth and is reverent?

To create new values—that, even the lion cannot yet accomplish: but to create itself freedom for new creating—that can the might of the lion do.

To create itself freedom, and give a holy Nay even unto duty: for that, my brethren, there is need of the lion. To assume the right to new values—that is the most formidable assumption for a load-bearing and reverent spirit. Verily, unto such a spirit it is preying, and the work of a beast of prey.

As its holiest, it once loved “Thou-shalt”: now is it forced to find illusion and arbitrariness even in the holiest things, that it may capture freedom from its love: the lion is needed for this capture. But tell me, my brethren, what the child can do, which even the lion could not do? Why hath the preying lion still to become a child?

Innocence is the child, and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self-rolling wheel, a first movement, a holy Yea.

Aye, for the game of creating, my brethren, there is needed a holy Yea unto life: its own will, willeth now the spirit; his own world winneth the world’s outcast. Three metamorphoses of the spirit have I designated to you: how the spirit became a camel, the camel a lion,
and the lion at last a child.”—Thus spake Zarathustra, Commons Version, Pgs 33-35.

This philosophical metamorphosis is what Dagda was trying to do with Nanashi. When Nanashi is constantly vilified, abandoned, faced with death all around him, and forced to be the hero — it’s exhausting and annoying. Even being the leader of his group is utterly annoying for many players. Most people don’t believe me when I say this, even when I show them the developer interview that states the same thing, but the choice was deliberate.

The Bonds group is burdening, annoying, and full of bluster when the game shows that Nanashi is the only real deciding factor. In fact, to make their point, should Nanashi pick to join YHVH at the very end of Bonds, the entire rest of the team and even Flynn’s group is murdered and cast to hell forever.

Nanashi’s journey can be about embracing that burden and carry it like an Ubermensch, or casting it away to fix the glaring problems of the Universe in order to make it so that the Sixth humanity won’t have to suffer it. The suffering Nanashi endures from Tokyo to then being labeled a savior when it’s convenient for them, from his friends until they make up for it, and from seeing the massive violence was all indicative of the Metamorphosis for true freedom.

The purpose of Dagda as the Lion in the narrative is to inundate Nanashi about the pathologies of gods fighting for human worship and saving human souls. His proposal is a radical shift of the norm, in which toxic ideals that cause mass human violence should be eradicated. The sacrifices that he proposes are necessary due to still being bound to YHVH’s norms and standards.

YHVH was the metaphorical Golden glittering dragon who claimed to represent all values in the philosophical novel. The opening lines in the fight are a metaphor for Thus Spake; Zarathustra:

YHVH states “I cannot allow this. You must atone for your sins.”

Dagda responds with: “No, we don’t. From now on, the individual will carry their own weight. I will not settle for less, playing by your rules.”

An individual carrying their own weight is the complete antithesis of original sin. Dagda’s point, which seems to have been totally missed by many who loathe him and outright admit they do, is that you as a human being should only be held accountable for what you have actually done and that original sin is a total anathema to being held responsible for your own actions. If you’re bound to sin, then you aren’t being judged for your actions, you’re being vilified for something beyond your control. That’s why YHVH explicitly goes into accusing them of sinning.

Krishna is even more harsh with his point, and he doesn’t hold back on his loathing especially before the Vishnu-Flynn fight. The main contention is, if a God has you bound to original sin, gives you the Hobbesian world (which, speaking from my major, many political scientists who study international relations do believe is the truth of the world), and demands blind worship while giving nothing in return, then such a God is not worth believing in and should be removed from belief because it has nothing of value to offer humanity.

The Seven Devils of Zarathustra:

The 7 friends of Nanashi are actually thematically the seven devils of the inner psyche that hold people back in Nietzsche’s philosophical novel, Thus Spake; Zarathustra. Each of the serve as an allegory that overcomes their own devil to become an Ubermensch and are then sacrificed to create the Higher Man for the purpose of a New God and a New World.

“Thou lonesome one, thou goest the way to thyself! And past thyself and thy seven devils leadeth thy way!

A heretic wilt thou be to thyself, and a wizard and a sooth-sayer, and a fool, and a doubter, and a reprobate, and a villain. Ready must thou be to burn thyself in thine own flame; how couldst thou become new if thou have not first become ashes!

Thou lonesome one, thou goest the way of the creating one: a God wilt thou create for thyself out of thy seven devils!” – Page 67 of the Commons Version of Thus Spake;Zarathustra.

If you pick Bonds, you’re all Ubermensch. If you pick Anarchy, you become the Higher Man who ascends to a new Higher Humanity. However, in a strange Atlus quirk, should you choose either Toki or Asahi as your goddess, then their journey is essentially redeemed by your choice.

Asahi is Doubt:

This is glaringly self-explanatory throughout the her journey in the game. She is Nanashi’s doubts. She can be his lover, his sister, or a complete nuisance depending upon how the player interprets the relationship between the two adopted siblings. She very clearly loves Nanashi romantically, but she’s also a nuisance that Nanashi has to constantly work with.

She becomes the last ties to Nanashi’s humanity because she’s the only personal stake that Nanashi has after their father’s brutal death. He is freer to walk his own path after his last ties to humanity is eaten and is a metaphor for Nanashi’s own humanity.

If Asahi hadn’t been murdered by Shesha-Flynn, would she have still stood with Nanashi against the Bonds group when Nanashi chose Anarchy?

Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much to uncover that the answer is no. She would have fought against Nanashi along with the others. She leaves Nanashi’s side in both the Law and Chaos path.

Her death wasn’t meant to mean that she wouldn’t disagree with him since we’re shown two specific cases where that doesn’t happen. What she herself represented was his humanity, this is most glaringly depicted in the tragic scene where Asahi discovers that you’re no longer human; she’s horrified, not because of you but rather for you, as one of the people that she deeply loves and cares for has turned into some puppet for a God with dubious intentions. She bursts into tears because she can’t imagine the horror that you’ve been going through while she’s been blissfully unaware and acting like a brat. Asahi completely loses her composure and breaks down into tears because she’d rather herself suffer and die than go through such pain. She proves it much later by knocking you away so that Shesha ends-up killing her, as a way of apologizing to you for being such a burden and – in her mind – causing you to become a Godslayer in the first place. Once Nanashi picks Bonds, Asahi returns because he’s restored his faith the humanity of the people themselves, his friends, and his own humanity.

If he chooses her in Anarchy, then he’s redeemed her suffering in life. She and Toki were the only ones who felt satisfied with their deaths and happy to have made their choices in life to help you. Like the parallel with Izanami and Izanagi, as a goddess would become Nanashi’s Sister-Wife.

Navarre is the Fool:

This is in complete contrast to the Fool Arcana which is about a journey to surpass death and take the universe. This Fool is the Zarathustrian Fool. This Fool wallows in suffering under the judgment of society. The Zarathustrian Fool failed society’s expectations and instead of trying to surpass their failings to form a meaningful existence, they simply wallow in self-pity and do nothing to change themselves. Instead, they just make excuses for themselves.

Hallelujah is the Reprobate

Reprobate is interchangeable with Unholy One in this context. This is almost completely self-explanatory like Asahi. Azreal explicitly calls Hallelujah’s existence heresy and Hallelujah himself questions the meaning of his existence since he doesn’t fit in either world.

Nozomi is the Witch

In the ancient context used, witch or wizard use to use mean wise one who comforts people to help them find their own path away from God, which she does for Asahi and you throughout the game itself. She explicitly tells YHVH that new gods need to emerge so they can find their own path away from him.

Nozomi: You refuse to acknowledge other gods, making this world stagnant. Your existence prevents the emergence of new gods. That means humanity can’t progress on their own accord. With you around, reigning over our fate, we’re left with no means to find our own path.

Isabeau is the Soothsayer

The soothsayer in this context is one who is always looking to the future. Isabeau fits this in surprising ways. She’s always speaking about the future of humanity and how Flynn needs to be saved to protect that future. At the end of Bonds, she and Flynn both speak of humanity’s future potentialities.

Gaston is the Heretic:

Gaston is a Heretic for choosing a different path from Merkabah’s and for the same reasons as Jonathan — for the sake of the people.

Toki is the villain 

Her boss fights. Her style of master/servant love also engenders disgust for some players, which is how Nietzsche viewed love itself. Toki’s love is an allegory for the Zarathustrian view of love. It’ll constantly betray you, always making promises before morphing into a monster and constantly putting you in increasingly precarious and compromising situations. Love is but a fickle danger and nothing else and that is what the villain represents.

Toki’s oni mask is further evidence of this. It is a Hannya mask, commonly known in Japanese folklore to represent a jealous woman who transformed into a demon as a result of a Buddhist monk refusing her love. The jealous woman’s soul becomes peaceful after detaching from her love and giving her feelings up.

However, much like Asahi is satisfied with dying for Nanashi, Toki explicitly says that she’s satisfied if Nanashi is the one to kill her for her disobedience and states – even after being cleansed of Inanna’s influence and restoring herself to her human form – that she still loves him and texts you to tell you that she’ll still refer to you as Master in private.

She feels at peace before you slay her:

> Toki collapses to the ground, head hung.

Toki: Master… Is this really what you want? I wanted to be with you… Even if I was just a replacement for Asahi… I wanted to be by your side… I guess it’s too late… But if I am to die here… I might as well die by your hands.

> Do nothing.

Toki: Master… You’re so kind. Let me say one thing before I go… I love you.

> Toki closes her eyes. She is at peace with herself.

> You gently stroke Toki as if to console her, then finish her off.

The fact each symbolizes the demons perfectly leads me to believe it’s done purposefully. It’s strong evidence in support of it.

A “God” in the Nietzschean context is creating one’s own ethical norms; which… is the literal objective of the Anarchy route and the basis to ascend to Godhood. You use the souls of your friends to create the new universe.

I find choosing either Toki or Asahi to be the most moral of choices. Both Toki and Asahi state they wanted to be with Nanashi, Toki explicitly says that she regrets not choosing him. To resurrect any of the others — especially Isabeau, Nozomi, or Gaston — would be to make a mockery of their ideals, disrespect any meaningful relationship that you had with them, and it would further insult their deaths. The only two who explicitly say that they wish to be by your side are Toki and Asahi. They’re the least morally dubious choices because they made it clear that was what they wanted and it would be respecting either of their ideals whether you choose them or you don’t choose them. They’re both at peace with your decision. You choose whose love you will redeem by picking either of them.

Flynn was resurrected and turned into your godslayer for security purposes, but the goddess is a choice.

Before I begin with the Homages, I’d like to point out one of the clearest form of references to the Anarchy Route being foreshadowed that was in the beginning of the game itself:

Nanashi -no name

YHVH – unnamed

Nanashi’s name is a parallel to that the Creator God’s name is unutterable. Nanashi’s name meaning is No Name, YHVH’s name remains unutterable. YHVH is Nanashi’s true enemy.

Homage References to the Anarchy Ending:

The Black Monolith is a reference to 21 Space Odyssey, in which a literal God Child is made.

The Black Monolith:

The forming of the God Child:

It’s noteworthy to point out that 21 Space Odyssey’s most famous music piece is a reference to Thus Spake; Zarathustra and the soundtrack of Catherine references the book’s title.

Akira:

Akira, the name of Nanashi’s past self, is a reference to God Child Akira from the film/manga Akira. In which Tetsuo and Akira, in the film version, is heavily implied to go on to create their own universe and become a God. Although, the film itself ends with Tetsuo purportedly becoming the new God and Akira simply vanishing after saving as many lives as he could from Tetsuo losing control of his godly powers.

Then there’s the explicit foreshadowing in IV itself…

Shin Megami Tensei IV’s Foreshadowing of the Anarchy Ending through Allegory:

Blasted Tokyo/Law World’s Human Akira creates a Chaos version of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado and rules as King, but the White tell you that because it will go inexorably down a path of self-destruction.

Infernal Tokyo/Chaos World’s Demonoid Akira wants to create a Law society so that there is equality for all, the White tell you that because his world of equality doesn’t align with God’s will, it will be cast into destruction too.

We’re then presented with Apocalypse in which the parallel and foreshadowing comes to fruition…

God Nanashi sacrifices his aging, broken world to create a new humanity with God-like powers. He goes on to kill YHVH in his universe for good and sets forth to create a transhumanist future where humans will literally hold all the powers of gods and govern themselves without interference. Any Messiah that comes attacking will be dealt with by Flynn, the very man that killed The Archangels, Sanat, Ancient of Days, and Shadow Masakados on his own.

The Fool’s Journey Allegory

Nanashi: The Pathless Fool

The narrative is about Nanashi making the choice for a possible future. The protagonist of the Fool’s Journey who surpasses death to conquer the world. The world is interchangeable with the universe in the Arcana.

In the 22 Arcana story, the Fool Arcana goes on a journey to overcome death and take the world. Nanashi’s version is a very “grim” version of this tale. Nanashi does this three times. He took Dagda’s offer which was breaking YHVH’s hold for his intended purpose, He defeated Azazel who remarks that it’s inconceivable that sons of man would surpass death itself, and it’s split for Bonds and Anarchy; in Bonds he survives Dagda’s attempt on his life for breaking contract. In Anarchy, he defeats Vishnu-Flynn on his own instead of trying to get Flynn to awaken from within. He kills Abbot Hugo and all of Mikado to stop YHVH from retaking his hold on the universe. He goes on to experience the utter meaninglessness of death itself, by observing the Fiends having no purpose after bringing death upon a ravaged world that had no messiah to save it. To top it all off, the final boss says it in Anarchy:

PATHLESS FOOL I cannot forgive you. I asked only that you take the life I granted you and obediently follow my word. The weight of your blasphemy is too great for Death. Eternal suffering is the only suitable punishment.”

And unlike in Persona, which uses it metaphorically, Apocalypse’s depiction is allegorical: Nanashi literally takes the world as his own and rules the universe.

Nanashi surpasses Death where Flynn succumbs to it. Nanashi creates a new world whereas Flynn acts as guardian, champion, and eventually savior of the old world.

Flynn: the Hanged Man

The Hanged Man gives himself up to the World. Allowing himself to be a sacrifice and giving up even conscious thought to surrender all he thinks, knows, and cares about in the pursuit of spiritual pleasures. It’s the feeling of having sacrificed everything and having lost; learning to deal with the pain by giving up and letting go of it.

Flynn becomes Nanashi’s Godslayer by becoming brainwashed and letting go of his past life. The Fishhook, like Akira’s Gauntlet for Nanashi, symbolizing his past and discarding it for the sake of a new world and new future path.

Dagda is the Magician:

Dagda seems to represent both the upright and reverse of the Magician Arcana.

The potential of several futures created by willpower and desire. Dagda outright says it in Anarchy about the difference between Nanashi and Krishna’s Godslayer. A new possibility created by Nanashi’s willpower.

Conversely, he can be deceptive and allude to things without giving you the full context of godhood, or the fact Odin was still alive after the second battle at Tsukiji Konganji.

Overall, the Magician is known for individuality, creative power, and creating a new world or new world ethics.

 

(Early Draft Artwork of Nozomi in the Shin Megami Tensei IV Final Artbook)

Nozomi is the High Priestess

The opposition to the Magician. High Priestess is veiled, intuitive, and seeks to acknowledge unrealized potential. To face inward, and think over reality itself. Being calm and receptive to the guidance of others. Helping to instruct and guide so people can find their own answers and their own path.

Nozomi shows this each and every time she speaks of people finding their own path, but it’s more gracefully reflected when she consoles Asahi throughout the story:

Danu is the Empress

She insists on the wondrous abundance of the earth as an argument in favor of keeping the universe as it is and that its existence is inherently meaningful because life itself is sacred.

(Early Draft Concept of Gaston in the SMTIVF Artbook)

Gaston is the Emperor

He follows structure and authority; by the end of the Bonds Route, he works to rebuild and form a new structure for the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado without God as it’s leader.

Isabeau is the Justice Arcana. She is always looking to avoid extremes and pursue equality to keep a balanced perspective. She speaks of the hardship of wanting to satisfy everyone’s pursuit of a favorable outcome when speaking to her during the choice between Walter or Jonathan’s decisions in Shin Megami Tensei IV and she tried her best to give fair treatment to all people throughout Shin Megami Tensei IV.

Hallelujah is the Hierophant

While tradition and culture may not seem to fit Hallelujah, part of the Hierophant is gaining acceptance from their group and gaining initiation from performing rites. Hallelujah is the odd case where his usage of demonic strength works as a rite of passage so that he can become the new leader of the Ashura-kai and he did it after gaining acceptance from the Bonds group.

(Toki’s earliest concept design from the SMTIVF Artbook)

Toki is The Lovers

Her love is sudden; recognition of you as her Master is how she justifies and latches onto her choice similar to The Fool’s Journey’s instantaneous love. She wants to be by your side and feels that you’re her destined partner. It’s noteworthy to point out that, similar to Isabeau with Flynn in IV’s Law/Chaos routes, Toki is the only one who will trade items with Nanashi and she will still assert Nanashi as her Master.

(Asahi’s Early Concept Design)

Asahi is the Moon

The Moon Arcana represents deep fears and anxieties; Asahi’s entire journey is dealing with her doubts and utter failures as she compares her poor performance to the rest of the Bonds group. The Moon can also be about finding one’s own path after falling into illusion. In the context of SMTIV Apocalypse, the physical world is the illusion and abandoning it for one’s own truth and one’s path means abandoning Asahi and the material, illusory world to become the new God of the Universe.

The Moon Phases of SMTIV Apocalypse hint at the impending choice . . . and Asahi’s brutal death.

Navarre is the Hermit

He represents reflection of the past and is depicted as someone with the most pathetic life of them all. He illuminates on past events and tries to assuage Asahi of her doubts in Bonds. He does the same for Nanashi, such as with the last text message, consoling Nanashi about both the fact that Nanashi is Dagda’s puppet, and his speech at the end of Bonds.

Merkabah and Lucifer are both the Chariot and The Devil respectively. There probably needs no further clarification here. In each of their endings, the Arcana is represented.

Merkabah represents the Chariot Arcana by promising to cleanse all his enemies and forming a isolationist Eastern Kingdom of Mikado separate from Tokyo.

Lucifer clearly represents The Devil by cajoling Nanashi with a new life that turns Nanashi into a demon, causing Nanashi to no longer have the power of Observation, no longer be a Messiah, and forces him to live shackled in the physical world for a selfish – albeit understandable – wish.

The Death Arcana occurs almost cyclically in SMTIV Apocalypse. From becoming Dagda’s Puppet, to killing Azreal, and so forth. However, Death is represented as major events and not specifically personified by a person. However, it’s very glaringly depicted as the Anarchy decision of SMTIV Apocalypse more than anything else. The reason for that is the Death Arcana itself is about abandoning one’s old world according to the Fool’s Journey.

Before him he sees, rising with the sun, a skeleton in black armor mounted on a white horse. He recognizes it as Death. As it stops before him, he humbly asks, “Have I died?” And the Skeleton answers, “Yes, in a way. You sacrificed your old world, your old self. Both are gone, dead.”

The Fool cannot keep from weeping. “Forgive me,” he says, embarrassed by his tears.

“There is nothing to forgive,” Death replies. “Mourning is natural and you must deal with your loss before you can accept anything new. Keep in mind, however, that old leaves must wither and fly away from a tree’s branches, leaving them bare, before new green leaves can appear.”

Surpassing Death means surpassing the Old World in favor of a New World. Moreover, this is conflated with Nanashi being the Hobbesian Fool and is lampshaded by the homage to John Lennon’s song Imagine, which is quoted on Nanashi’s first attire. Further meaning is derived from the main plot to the Anarchy narrative with Nanashi letting go of the past, moving forward by deciding to never look back, and to not feel guilty for his choices.

Upon choosing Anarchy, Nozomi asks why he would choose such a course of action when he’s the reincarnation of Akira, and if Asahi would want him to choose that path. Dagda crushes Akia’s gauntlet under his heel to further symbolize Nanashi letting go of the past that has controlled his life circumstances. If Nanashi has the fishing hook and gives it to the newly born-again Flynn, Flynn doesn’t recognize it and Nanashi decides to throw it away to show that the new Flynn has moved on past Issachar because he no longer holds any meaning to Flynn’s life, and – in the most explicit case – the text message from Navarre in Anarchy states that whatever path you chose, to not hold any regrets so that you don’t wallow in it like Navarre did. This is all in support of the Arcana narrative of the journey through life and making one’s own world.

Maitreya is the Strength Arcana. He teaches to look inward and grow oneself for the sake of true strength. It is a very Buddhist stance that surprisingly offers some wonderful insights. Maitreya teaches both Toki and Nanashi about the importance of detachment and choice. Although, he seems primarily focused on Nanashi, but Toki listens as well.

Krishna is Temperance. He denigrates the extremes of Law and Chaos by pointing out that it’s entirely YHVH who is at fault for the extremes. He states Order and Chaos in and of themselves are not volatile, violent, or destructive. But YHVH’s Order and Chaos are specifically the issue causing the extremes. The form of Vishnu-Flynn serves to further emphasize the balancing by having dark and light as interchangeable phases.

(Toki’s Second Draft Concept)

The Star Arcana represents rejuvenation for your choice and looking toward the future possibilities of the decision that you’ve made. It’s about following your star, a metaphor for following your choice to its end and finding solace in the decision.

The Star Arcana is reflected in choosing your Goddess and making Flynn into your Godslayer.

This one is probably the most difficult to recognize, but the Sun Arcana is about clarity from illusion. Recognizing one’s greatness after introspection and doubts set in from the Moon and recognizing one’s own greatness and one’s own truth by casting away the illusions. Destroying ignorance in favor of Higher Energies. The Sun is also about crossing over to a new plane of existence and reality. The illusion of SMTIV Apocalypse is the physical world and the higher energies is the battle for the universe and understanding the relationship between gods and demons. Crossing over is going through the Black Monolith under the Sunlight.

Slaughtering the people of Tokyo and Mikado is the Sun Arcana.

Satan is Judgment and provides Nanashi with one final reckoning on his worthiness to proceed to YHVH. Satan determines whether Nanashi is truly able to make the necessary decisions for the future.

As a whole, this was my favorite depiction of Satan yet. He doesn’t simply judge human souls, he arbitrates equally and his analysis of YHVH is based on the analysis of what God promises and what God does for the world in a New Testament context, thus proving that Yahweh is no different than any other god because humanity can leave his faith of vacuousness and self-hate.

The World is interchangeable in the tarot with The Universe

The final part of the Anarchy route is indicative of the ending of the Fool’s Journey. Nanashi once again finds solace under the stars with his companions, Flynn and his Goddess, and recognizes that leading the new universe will be an arduous but satisfying and worthy goal.

“For the first time, he faces them. They are, he sees, nothing to fear. They were him once-upon-a-time, but not now. Even as he realizes this, he finds himself forgiving those past selves for the wrongs they did that left him feeling bad. He senses, in turn, that they forgive him for ignoring the lessons they had to teach him. As he reaches an understanding with them, they start to rise up and float away, vanishing into the sky. Though they remain as experiences and memories, they no longer have any power over him. He is free of ill-feelings, reborn, and living in the present.”

I wanted to give my final thoughts on the game as a whole.

Foremost, I loved the references to two of the most brilliant and famous films known, one an anime film and the other being the most well regarded sci-fi film. Akira was a reference to the anime manga/film “Akira”, in which  “2001: A Space Odyssey” was referenced via the black Monolith that goes into YHVH’s world and  The final boss dungeon was magnificent in conveying infinity, emptiness, and sense of loss and curiosity. The reference to the Hubble Space Telescope’s pictures of space via different forms of infrared lighting was so beautiful. The doorway to YHVH’s throne just clinched it. It gave both a sense of grandeur and heresy for what you were about to do.

The plot was the most brilliant of the series. For the first time, nobody went into exaggerated stupid extremes that led to a main party betrayal. There was no need for the bland Law, Neutral, Chaos paths that basically feel like the same ending in each game after awhile. The characters all had realistic goals within the scope of their universe, the lead antagonist was a strange mix of magnificent bastard and savior, we finally witnessed the rest of the gods work to gain revenge for being deposed, this was the best main cast of characters in the entire MegaTen franchise, and both endings were incredibly satisfying. A choice between eternal damnation for a morally right action to protect the universe for a short length of time or ascend to Godhood for a morally reprehensible action that would permanently fix your universe. I loved the Meta-ness of this plot. We finally had a Meta-plot that discussed the problems with the universe and provided a permanent solution.

The themes were so subtle and so wonderful. The game subtly pushed players, without their awareness for the most part, to reject the very premise of all religious theology. Protecting the eternal soul doesn’t matter to you and your friends. The caged bodies that endure suffering are more important than the soul and obeying divine beings who are trying to save your soul via salvation. You are arguing for atheism without realizing it in a world where the eternal soul exists but is inconsequential compared to being alive and healthy as a human being. Even more astonishing is realizing the Gods see cruel sacrifices as a mercy killing to save the eternal soul, but such a cosmic point of view is psychotic to people who want to live. You’re choosing the sinful body over saving your eternal soul; whether it be the Divine Powers or YHVH.

The cast of characters displayed how, despite coming from different backgrounds, they all walked the neutral path and were similar in their hesitancies and needing social support. What I enjoyed most of all was that, by the end of the game, every single one of them fulfilled some aspect of the Ubermensch philosophy by Friedrich Nietzsche. Each finding what made their life meaningful and taking on burdens for their own self-overcoming. This was, by far, my favorite cast of characters in all of MegaTen. Asahi, Toki, and Gaston were the most phenomenal in character development. I loved how they used each of the cliches right in this game. Asahi isn’t some magical girl with superpowers like every other generic rpg game with a childhood friend character. Gaston has a fairly standard but relatable and believable growth period in the game to become a heroic tsundere character. Toki is a cold, emotionless dark action girl who breaks away and seeks to change herself to become a better person due to despising herself for living as a mindless puppet beforehand, but it leads to awkward social situations that she needs to adapt quickly to. I ended-up loving all the other cast members just as much, even Navarre after finishing the Bonds route. All of them casually talking about killing God was one of the best moments of the game. Every single one of them had more than enough reason because they had been living in such a hellish world for all of their lives.

The final boss fight was the best of all games. I never thought they would take it that far, but they did and it was glorious. SMT2 was criticism of the inconsistencies of the Old Testament God. This game provides criticism on the inconsistencies of the New Testament version of YHVH, criticism of religious rituals of the ancient world, and on savior figures and their supposed benefit to society. I loved the contradistinctions of the final boss fight for the Bonds and Anarchy route. Do the right thing and become eternally damned while accomplishing only a small reprieve or become a God and permanently fix the issue.

I honestly don’t understand why people are complaining about the Bonds Route. They will all be eternally damned for their actions. The ending scene was just a lengthier and superior presentation of humanity rebuilding, it’s exactly similar to SMT2’s conclusion but just better in presentation. The Anarchy Route, and thus fighting and killing your friends to create a new universe, is the only permanent solution to fix the universe from the endless cycle of Law and Chaos.

I am completely satisfied with this series. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the final main series game. If it is, it was a great finale. I highly recommend it to everyone who likes JRPGs. Despite the rushed bad endings, left over JPN text with Izanami, and weird silence when music should play in certain sections but thankfully nothing game breaking to report. It has become one of my favorites. It’s strengths are definitely greater than its weaknesses.

Loved it.


Works Cited:

http://www.mildlyeccentric.com. The Fool’s Journey, http://www.learntarot.com/journey.htm.

Eirikr. Stealing Knowledge, Aug. 2016, eirikrjs.blogspot.com/2016/08/apocalypse-artbook.html.

Hobbes, Thomas. Chapter XV. Of Other Laws of Nature. Hobbes, Thomas. 1909-14. Of Man, Being the First Part of Leviathan. The Harvard Classics, http://www.bartleby.com/34/5/15.html.

Hobbes, Thomas. Chapter XIII. Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning Their Felicity and Misery. Hobbes, Thomas. 1909-14. Of Man, Being the First Part of Leviathan. The Harvard Classics, http://www.bartleby.com/34/5/13.html.

Johnson, Dominique. “The Truth about the Future Maitreya Buddha in Theosophical Writings.” The Academician Theosophical, 24 May 2017, theacademiciantheosophical.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-truth-about-the-future-maitreya-buddha-in-theosophical-writings/.

“Maitreya.” IPS-Eye-White, http://www.inplainsite.org/html/maitreya.html#BCM2.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus spake Zarathustra: a book for all and none. Common, 1906.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Ian Johnston. On the genealogy of morals: a polemical tract. Richer Resources Publications, 2014.

“Original Theosophy and Later Versions.” Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK, 24 Aug. 2017, blavatskytheosophy.com/original-theosophy-and-later-versions/.

“Para Brahman.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Oct. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Para_Brahman.

Tarico, Valerie. “Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 Apr. 2009, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-tarico/ancient-mythic-origins-of_b_185455.html.

“Tarot Card Meanings.” Tarot Card Meanings at Aeclectic Tarot, http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/learn/meanings/.

“The Fool’s Journey | 78 Nights of Tarot Blog.” 78 Nights of Tarot, 20 Jan. 2017, 78nightsoftarot.com/blog/the-fools-journey-aeclectic-tarot/.

“The Wild Symbolism Behind Japanese Hannya Masks.” Tattoodo, 12 Mar. 2017, http://www.tattoodo.com/a/2017/03/the-wild-symbolism-behind-japanese-hannya-masks/.

Peter C. Rogers (Goodreads, et al. “Universal Truth.” By Peter C. Rogers, Google Books.

Why you should ignore the Alt-Right/Redpill Hysteria about US Minority Crime

I’ve noticed that many ignoramuses in this festering and obnoxious hate group love to dehumanize racial minorities by constantly espousing the violent crimes of Hispanics and Blacks. Here’s why you should ignore them.

There were approximately 8.4 million arrests in the US last year, 9374 were charged with murder.

The percentage of total arrests which were for Murder adds up to:

9374/8,421,484 = 0.00113105 -> Round it up -> 0.0012 -> 0.12 percent.

Of these 9374 arrested for murder in a population of 316 Million people, 4192 of them were “White” and 4935 of them were “Black”

The total murders were 16,459 in total, including offenses were the culprit wasn’t found.

So… right off the bat, not only has the murder rate since the 1960s decreased to the lowest levels ever in the US since it’s inception, but we’re literally dramatizing a statistical non-event through an arbitrary cultural distinction.

Black Americans only make-up 12 percent of the total US population (Between 39-40 Million) whilst White Americans make-up 73 percent of the population (232-233 Million).

Now, just think about this for a moment, the population of the US is approximately 316 million according to a 2015 statistical survey… and the crimes are around 8.4 million and the total amount of murders is 16459 in 2016.

Of the massive 39-40 million Black folks, only 4935 were charged with murder of other people. Of the 232-233 Million White folks, only 4192 were charged with murder of other people.

Those arrested for a crime in 2016 amounted to 8.4 million. 5.8 Million were White and 2.2 Million were Black . . . in a population of 316 million people in the US with 232-233 million Whites and 39-40 million Blacks.

In Math terms:

Whites: 5,858,330/232,943,055 = .0251491937 -> Round it up -> .03 -> 3 Percent

Blacks: 2,263,112/39,908,095 = .0567080939 -> Round it up -> .06 -> 6 Percent

Neither of which reach even 10 percent of either demographic’s population size. We are literally in the safest age all because Millennials don’t commit as much crimes as their parents generation did, no matter the ethnic background. Yeah, when looking at numbers in the millions, it seem bad and hopeless; yet, they’re far lower than anything our parents and grandparents generation did here in the US.

Let’s see what this means in terms of the full population size compared to the total US crime rate of last year:

8,421,484/316,515,021 = .0266069015 -> Round it up -> .03 = 3 Percent.

Three percent of the population is responsible for the total crime rate in the US.

Sources:

Arrests based upon Ethnic Backgrounds

US Population size by ethnic backgrounds

Violent Crime Statistics of 2015-2016

This is all that the Alt-Right/Redpill and the Mainstream media have been whining about. This small, statistically inconsequential nonsense.

And as mentioned previously: You’re more likely to be robbed, raped, and murdered by someone with the same ethnicity as you, you’re much safer around people with a different ethnic background — the only exception to this general statistical fact is Native Americans. They’re more likely to be robbed, raped, and murdered by Non-Natives because those living in Native Reservations had no rights to sue their rapists until the re-amended 2011 Violence against Women’s act.

With all that being said, of course rape and murder crimes are horrific and the victims undeserving, of course all rational and reasonable human beings want a world where they don’t exist, and we shouldn’t diminish the suffering of victims; but the crime rate in the US is simply exaggerated for all ethnic backgrounds.

Please, don’t let them trick you into giving into hysteria and hate-filled nonsense. These people will lie to spread fear and hate for no other reason than to stroke their own ego. If you’re confused about something or unsure, research the facts based on credible sources of data. Don’t let this fake news culture skewer your views.

Why I wrote Ku Cuck Klan: The Family Values

I originally toyed with the idea of writing it as a satire primarily towards the Neo-Nazi movement and Neo-Nazi ideology. That’s mainly what it is suppose to be as it’s clearly not indicative of how the vast majority of Christians in the US behave or believe in. It’s primarily meant as an insult to race-based grouping and racial supremacist ideology.

Some people seem to believe racial supremacists are actually proud of their racial lineage and that’s what inspires their racial supremacist views. However, that is a severe mistake and a naive outlook to me. At their core, Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other racial supremacist groups are merely jealous of the people they marginalize. They secretly hold hate for themselves and lash out at scapegoats by vilifying Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, Sikhs, Feminists, Transpeople, and homosexuals as the problem for why they’re such complete failures at life. It’s not their irrational beliefs, it’s not their bigoted views, and it’s not their antipathy towards changing realities.

Evidently, people who value social justice, equality, and human rights are to blame for their total and willful failure to change and improve their lives. We’re to blame for their sorry state of pathetic. They wish to believe they’re poor because of bizarre conspiracies about Jews, because they like vilifying Black Americans as violent animals, because Muslims are all terrorists to their minds and they can’t distinguish between a Muslim and a Sikh, because so-called feminazis are whining too much, and because transpeople and homosexuals don’t belong in what they believe to be the natural order of their limited, narrow world of hate.

I had thought writing this satire would simply be creating more controversy. . . but to be honest, I don’t feel that excuse holds much weight anymore. The Left shouldn’t follow the lead of antifa, which allows their emotional hate to cloud their rationality and become just as violent as the neo-nazis. We should “fight back” as “SJW Cucks” with the same satirical disavowal that they’ve given us. Because, quite frankly, racial supremacist hate groups deserve nothing else. I can’t speak for others, but I knew better at age frickin’ eleven that racism was wrong and unjustifiable because it’s judging people based on a factor that they have no control over and were born with. Lumping together people of different ethnicities to cast a wide net as collective punishment is asinine.

What finally inspired me to write and publish it was my anger towards a former friend who began to empathize and later joined the neo-nazi movement. Evidently, neo-nazis have been recruiting on discord video game servers, and he fell in with them. I have never been so disgusted and disappointed in my life with someone. It worsened even further since many people of the video game community I had been a part of had displayed total apathy towards people holding legitimate neo-nazi views, calling racial minorities inbreds, and making Nazi insults towards Jews. The argument was that my beliefs in social justice were “old” and “boring” and “needed to be thrown away” with mockery at even arguing for equality of races.

I had the idea for the ebook as a humorous take on racist beliefs before, based on a prank video of a Ku Klux Klan community manager explaining they refused the application from a black applicant (who was really an anon troll using voice overs from several movies) because – and this is true – they honestly believe that Black people are part of the cursed sons of Ham in the Bible.

So, with that inspiration, I wrote an ebook where various White Supremacist groups and Evangelicals form a utopian society in the US and close themselves off from the world for the sake of blood purity and their faith in Jesus Christ. It honestly is meant to be satire to poke fun at White supremacist groups and to poke fun at their version of Christianity. I plan to write another ebook where I criticize Christianity and Islam via fictional explorations of their faith sometime in the future.

What finally pushed me forward though was the encouragement of two of my closest friends to mock the Neo-Nazi movement because they were feeling utterly tired of it too and thought it’d be humorous. I can empathize with those who hate having themselves and fellow White Americans generalized and lumped with what is clearly stupidity beyond reproach. The majority of White America, very clearly, does not and would not support tolerating Nazism.

Final thoughts on this contemporary issue of Neo-Nazi/KKK hate groups:

Don’t let the Alt-Right and Redpill hate groups deceive you. Nazism is a belief and a choice that you, I, and everyone else can criticize and repudiate. Free speech means they can hold those views, but they’re sadly under the delusion that their beliefs shouldn’t have any consequences — even as they advocate the genocide of Jews in their crowd chants; violently murder Sikhs, transpeople, Muslims; and vilify Black America and feminists with stereotypes.

Never forget: Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other racial supremacist groups cling to “racial pride” and advocate death towards others because they’re jealous of them.

As proof? Racial supremacist claim to have ownership over the achievements of other people in history based on the tenuous connection that they were born with the same skin pigmentation as those who achieved great things. The root of that belief is jealousy towards others, because they have no achievements of their own to celebrate. That’s precisely why they find tenuous connections to claim superiority over marginalized groups.

Long story short: They’re pathetic. They’re hatred is unjustified and I don’t find it compelling that we need to appeal to their humanness when it means putting the lives of marginalized groups in danger. Sorry, but no. Their hurt feelings don’t justify advocating for massacring others.

I’m letting my dissent be known through mockery and satire. They’re not worthy of respect.

I know I’ve said some vicious, arguably hateful things about religion, but I want to make it clear that this ebook is about mocking neo-Nazis and bad beliefs in general.

Be that as it may, I obviously would never advocate, wish for, or desire the deaths of people of another religion or racial group, ever. When I criticize theology, I will admit that I despise those theologies for what I perceive to be justifications for human rights violations, but I’d never advocate for the deaths of innocent people or their marginalization. I can’t promise that I won’t make vicious criticisms of religious violence or religious theology itself, but I’d obviously never advocate for mass murder or that people shouldn’t have a right to their religious beliefs. I do think that I have a right to criticize, even harshly criticize, when I see human rights abuses justified by theology, especially in the real world context. But I would never advocate mass death and I’m sure that neither would the majority of the US. The statistics of that are on our side.

If you, like me, wish to mock the Neo-Nazi movement, then please consider reading my ebook.

Ku Cuck Klan: The Family Values

Introducing my latest, finalized project and first ever published ebook novel. I’m still working on another one that I’ve already spent 3 or so years on. This one is more of a parody of concepts regarding contemporary culture and the current vitriolic rise of hate groups than anything else. So… I wrote an ebook exploring how Christian hate groups and Christian religious extremists would act in their idealized Utopian society. Hope you all enjoy!

Summary:

Due to inspiration from the alternative facts movement; Flat Earthers, the Ku Klux Klan, the majority of Neo-Nazi groups, and White Evangelicals joined together to form a utopian society to separate itself from the sinfulness of the carnal world so that they could live according to the Holy Bible. They established their utopian society known as “The Family Values” to rejoice in the purity of their faith in the Lord and in the purity of their blood.

They follow strict conservative social values for their namesake of protecting Christian family values. As such, they forbid the cursed children of Ham from entering due to lacking their pure skin tone, people follow gender roles with strict obedience as per the Bible’s instructions on what roles men and women must maintain, brothers and sisters in Christ must often marry or be kept servile to continue the divine right of blood purity, and they live modest, quasi-ascetic lives with strict adherence to the Bible as the inerrant Word of the Lord without question or doubt.

Witness as people of faith and blood purity come together to rejoice in worship for the Lord.

The Abrahamic Faiths are vacuous and lead to justifying violence

This is not going to be a very kind post. It is not intended to dehumanize, but it may offend. I don’t mean for this to be a personal attack against anyone specific and I am not advocating or justifying violence of any kind. I’m just tired of seeing the same shit.

I am thoroughly exhausted and sick of trying to find rational reasons to understand and empathize with the causes behind why human violence continues to persist. I have tried so hard and so long with trying to find the empathetic element to all the violence and death that pervades the world due to the spread of hate, but to be perfectly frank, I can no longer find it in me to avoid putting the blame on religion as a clear, consistent, and continuous self-justification for violence and hate. And, most particularly, the Abrahamic faiths are usually the ones continuously inciting, justifying, and turning a blind eye to equivocate on violence.

The Abrahamic Faiths, the religion of Yahweh, are constantly justifying their own violence by saying the “other side” is more violent. The US public justifies bombings by pointing to Islamic beheadings and vice-versa, Muslims in the Middle East justify beheadings by pointing at US bombings. It’s a never ending cycle of stupidity and death.

At this point, I can’t find any way to reasonably justify and argue that all religions are somehow equally to blame when it’s just a way of lacking any meaningful answer and just espousing the circular logic that humans are humans. It’s just a non-answer and it creates the expectation that you can never change or, at the very least, that we as a society or a world can never decrease incidents of murder, assault, and rape. It’s just a way of being complicit with human violence and shielding any criticism of religion.

How many Christian groups remain silent when the US launches a War and Right-wing groups talk about protecting the Holy land such as when they did to support the Iraq invasion? How many even bother to condemn US bombings like MLK did?

Why do so many different Christian groups have the issue of systematic child rapes being hidden by Church officials?

How many Rabbis write arguments to justify Israel’s torture of Palestinian children and the ongoing genocide of Palestine every year?

How many times do we have to hear about Islamic extremist violence growing across the world with extremism becoming more unified thanks to the Internet and social media? How many times do we see justification for heads being lobbed off and the rape of women and young girls?

Pro-tip: If you’re constantly giving a pass to violence in your religion, every single year and have a history of violence towards people who believe in the same God that you do, then maybe, just maybe, your religion’s value system being interpreted wrongly isn’t the problem. The problem is your religion is violent, stupid shit.

The Abrahamic religions are constantly blaming each other to justify their own violence and the majority equivocate to the egregious human rights violations of wars. Arguing the religion being interpreted wrongly is asinine. If it happens throughout your religion’s history, then perhaps you should start seeing the religion itself and Yahweh as the central problem.

How can anyone reasonably argue that the religion of Yahweh isn’t to blame when Christians, Muslims, and Jews — including pastors, clergymen, imams, and Rabbis write editorials and op-eds to equivocate on their religion’s violence and justify it by blaming the other religion of Yahweh?

Lastly, how can open interpretation be anything else but moral relativism under the approval of a God? That argument seems asinine to me. In my view, Open interpretation is just moral relativism under the idea that a God agrees with your opinion over the entirety of the religion’s history. It’s fundamentally self-contradictory.

But please, feel free to prove me wrong. I would love to be proven wrong about this. But to be frank, it just seems to be a way to equivocate, rationalize, be complicit, and ignore human violence committed by all three subsets of the Abrahamic faiths.

I no longer believe the religion of Yahweh is tolerant or it’s continued existence worthy of respect or justification. The religion of Yahweh is such that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism don’t even identify as believing in the same God because of the history of violence against each other.

That’s not proof that you’re a different religion, it’s proof your religious theology isn’t peaceful.

Christianity since the inception of the US has justified and still justifies massive rape crimes of Native Americans that is still ongoing and still hiding it’s already disgustingly lengthy history along with a sterilization campaign, “successful” Christian nation-states commit mass bombing campaigns of other religions of Yahweh, and literally acts like every other culture was more violent than it to argue it’s peaceful when that has no historic basis. It’s just a false-consensus effect based on ignorance of other religions and the utter destruction and violence committed by European and US Christians upon the rest of the world under Imperialism.

Staunch Judaism tries to enforce a narrative about a history regarding Moses that has no credibility whatsoever. There’s no point anymore. There is nothing at all of value in a so-called holy land where Palestinian children are being tortured because the IDF is allowed to do what it wants to them with impunity. The fact you don’t even know this is an ongoing issue for decades should tell you something about the level of violence in a religion.

Islam… you hear it every day. I’d rather not promote further hate.

I’m just tired of trying; stupidity and hate just keep chugging along and I hear the same stupid trite excuses. I’m done. The Abrahamic faiths are a cancer upon intellectualism and empathy. Apart from a few trite anecdotes, there’s nothing good about their moral values at all. Prove me wrong or don’t bother.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

This book, by Psychologist Angela Duckworth, was very illuminating. I had heard of this book before thanks to having read Carol Dweck and Heidi Grant Halvorson’s books, but I wish I had read this one before them because I feel that it provides the foundational basis for those other two authors delve into with mindsets. Halvorson and Duckworth’s books together seem to give a more concise and efficient view on how to pursue goals. Dweck details the self-conceptions and lists anecdotal examples.

The most striking matter I’ve found about this book doesn’t really relate to the book per se. I’ve discovered that a lot of the more “official” reviews, such as the New Yorker, are being utterly pretentious and vilifying this book based on arguments that Angela Duckworth never made or even implied. I was shocked to see the radical difference between the contents of the book and the disparaging reviews that were being dishonest in their representation of both her research and her as a person. I was in disbelief until I read her perspective on her TEDTalk in her own book where she mentions, in much nicer words than I’m describing, how the CEO of TED basically asked her to dumb down her information to the public about her findings. The TEDTalk and the arguments against her feel and sound like they’re calling her bluff about nonsense the public has heard before, specifically because she was requested to tone down the information. So, it’s unfair. It’s unfair of us to judge her based on her TEDTalk and those shockingly disingenuous reviews. I wouldn’t honestly be saying this had I not done the same prior to reading her book on a whim.

Long story short: this book isn’t about education policy and never claimed to be. This book is for individuals and parents who want to learn what encourages people to find a passion, how to learn to work at that passion for a long term, and how we internalize a greater purpose for ourselves and others by following through with commitments that we feel strongly about. Grit was never about making kids better with grades. Nevertheless, this can only apply to grades, if kids care about the classes they take, but this book is more oriented towards extracurricular activities and encouraging them in kids early, it was never about trying to force kids to be passionate or persevere in grades on subjects they don’t care about. Duckworth even explains the problems trying to force people to be passionate about subject matter that they don’t care about.

In Duckworth’s book, her interviews and general research have found that people who are very successful in their careers didn’t simply find their passion from one incident. They discovered tidbits or gained encouragement from loved ones multiple time. As Duckworth puts it: Again, and again, and again. People might be happy to know that there isn’t a specific parenting style, you just shouldn’t devalue or tell your child the interest is bad, if you want to encourage their growth. Moreover, even if a child follows with an activity the parent has misgivings about like joining a music band, evidence shows that sticking to it for more than a year (generally 2 years) is likely to encourage them to stick to future goals when they discover a new passion. In the long term, the “grit” mindset of following through with your intrinsic passion can have long-term benefits. Also, much of the passion and perseverance doesn’t come from pushing through adversity, but rather being encouraged to follow your intrinsic motivation. Children need encouraging parents and teachers, we need encouraging friends, and – most of all – we need a sense that what we’re doing is meaningful for both ourselves and a greater society. I began realizing that a lot of the passion in the passion and perseverance rubric could apply to the immediate feedback loop that video games give people. Generally, we can immediately ascertain gains and losses and the techniques for how to improve are either instructed in the game itself or can be found from tips online. Having a community of friends to talk to about games like Dragon Quest or Dragon Age is self-reinforcing.

I’m somewhat hesitant to jot down a list of the crucial parts of her research, because I’m often afraid that I’m simply not giving this book and it’s author due credit by paraphrasing and potentially taking her out of context. I’m particularly hesitant because of how thoroughly people have insulted caricatures of her work instead of the work itself. When people begin counting terminology and the number of times a word was used, I begin to question whether they had ever even read her book at all. I was really disappointed with so many reviews that conflate Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth’s research with their personality characteristics. This isn’t even isolated to women or even people who exist in the present-day. I just keep spotting this same pattern and when I read someone’s work, it’s largely incredibly different from what accusers espouse that their work  contains. I don’t want to contribute to that form of misinformation, even if subconsciously, and I don’t like taking someone’s words out of context as I see so often done.

I’ll just jot down certain specific quotes that I felt were key points in the book and align them with the overarching information that the book was explaining in bold text so people can judge for themselves.

The major overarching theme is underlined and specifics are placed underneath those umbrella concepts:

Developing a Passionate Interest

How Does Passion Start?

When it comes to lining up our occupations with what we enjoy, how come so many of us miss the mark? And does my dad’s success offer a counterexample to the passion argument? What should we make of the fact that, by the time I came along, my father’s work really was his passion? Should we stop telling people to follow your passion and, instead, tell them to follow our orders? I don’t think so. In fact, I see Will Shortz and Jeff Bezos as terrific inspirations for what work can be. While it’s naive to think that any of us could love every minute of what we do, I believe the thousands of data points in those meta-analyses, which confirm the commonsense intuition that interest matters.

Nobody is interested in everything, and everyone is interested in something. So
matching your job to what captures your attention and imagination is a good idea. It may not guarantee happiness and success, but it sure helps the odds. That said, I don’t think most young people need encouragement to follow their passion. Most would do exactly that—in a heartbeat—if only they had a passion in the first place. If I’m ever invited to give a commencement speech, I’ll begin with the advice to foster a passion. And then I’ll spend the rest of my time trying to change young minds about how that actually happens. -Page 98.

Passion takes time, so give it time:

A few months ago, I read a post on Reddit titled “Fleeting Interest in Everything, No Career Direction”: I’m in my early thirties and have no idea what to do with myself, career-wise. All my life I’ve been one of those people who has been told how smart I am/how much potential I have. I’m interested in so much stuff that I’m paralyzed to try anything. It seems like every job requires a specialized certificate or designation that requires long-term time and financial investment—before you can even try the job, which is a bit of a drag. I have a lot of sympathy for the thirty-something who wrote this post. As a college professor, I also have a lot of sympathy for the twentysomethings who come to me for career advice.

My colleague Barry Schwartz has been dispensing counsel to anxious young adults for much longer than I have. He’s been teaching psychology at Swarthmore College for forty-five years. Barry thinks that what prevents a lot of young people from developing a serious career interest is unrealistic expectations. “It’s really the same problem a lot of young people have finding a romantic partner,” he said. “They want somebody who’s really attractive and smart and kind and empathetic and thoughtful and funny. Try telling a twenty-one-year-old that you can’t find a person who is absolutely the best in every way. They don’t listen. They’re holding out for perfection.” “What about your wonderful wife, Myrna?” I asked. “Oh, she is wonderful. More wonderful than I am, certainly. But is she perfect? Is she the only person I could have made a happy life with? Am I the only man in the world with whom she could have made a wonderful marriage? I don’t think so.” A related problem, Barry says, is the mythology that falling in love with a career should be sudden and swift: “There are a lot of things where the subtleties and exhilarations come with sticking with it for a while, getting elbow-deep into something. A lot of things seem uninteresting and superficial until you start doing them and, after a while, you realize that there are so many facets you didn’t know at the start, and you never can fully solve the problem, or fully understand it, or what have you. Well, that requires that you stick with it.” After a pause, Barry said, “Actually, finding a mate is the perfect analogy. Meeting a potential match—not the one-and-only perfect match, but a promising one—is only the very beginning.”

Interest, Discovery, Successive Rediscovery, and Positive Feedback from Loved Ones:

To the thirty-something on Reddit with a “fleeting interest in everything” and “no career direction,” here’s what science has to say: passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening. Let me explain. First of all, childhood is generally far too early to know what we want to be when we grow up. Longitudinal studies following thousands of people across time have shown that most people only begin to gravitate toward certain vocational interests, and away from others, around middle school.

This is certainly the pattern I’ve seen in my interview research, and it’s also what journalist Hester Lacey has found in her interviews with the “mega successful.” Keep in mind, however, that a seventh grader—even a future paragon of grit—is unlikely to have a fully articulated passion at that age. A seventh grader is just beginning to figure out her general likes and dislikes.

Second, interests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can’t really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won’t. You can’t simply will yourself to like things, either. As Jeff Bezos has observed, “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves.” Without experimenting, you can’t figure out which interests will stick, and which won’t. Paradoxically, the initial discovery of an interest often goes unnoticed by the discoverer. In other words, when you just start to get interested in something, you may not even realize that’s what’s happening. The emotion of boredom is always self-conscious—you know it when you feel it—but when your attention is attracted to a new activity or experience, you may have very little reflective appreciation of what’s happening to you. This means that, at the start of a new endeavor, asking yourself nervously every few days whether you’ve found your passion is premature.

Third, what follows the initial discovery of an interest is a much lengthier and increasingly proactive period of interest development. Crucially, the initial triggering of a new interest must be followed by subsequent encounters that retrigger your attention—again and again and again.

For instance, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins told me that it was watching space shuttle launches on television in high school that initially inspired his lifelong interest in space travel. But it wasn’t just one launch that hooked him. It was several shown in succession over a period of years. Soon enough, he started digging for more information on NASA, and “one piece of information led to another and another.”

For master potter Warren MacKenzie, ceramics class in college—which he only took, initially, because all the painting classes were full—was followed by the discovery of A Potter’s Book by the great Bernard Leach, and then a year-long internship with Leach himself.

Finally, interests thrive when there is a crew of encouraging supporters, including parents, teachers, coaches, and peers. Why are other people so important? For one thing, they provide the ongoing stimulation and information that is essential to actually liking something more and more. Also—more obviously—positive feedback makes us feel happy, competent, and secure. Take Marc Vetri as an example. There are few things I enjoy reading more than his cookbooks and essays about food, but he was a solid-C student throughout school. “I never worked hard at academics,” he told me. “I was always just like, ‘This is kind of boring.’ ” In contrast, Marc spent delightful
Sunday afternoons at his Sicilian grandmother’s house in South Philly. “She’d make meatballs and lasagna and all that stuff, and I always liked to head down early to help her out. By the time I was eleven or so, I started wanting to make that stuff at home, too.” As a teenager, Marc had a part-time job washing dishes in a local restaurant. “And I loved that. I worked hard.” Why? Making money was one motivation, but another was the camaraderie of the kitchen. “Around that time I was sort of a social outcast. I was kind of awkward. I had a stutter. Everyone at school thought I was weird. I was like, ‘Oh, here I can wash dishes, and I can watch the guys on the line [cooking] while I’m washing, and I can eat. Everyone is nice, and they like me.’ ”

If you read Marc’s cookbooks, you’ll be struck by how many friends and mentors he’s made in the world of food. Page through and look for pictures of Marc alone, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find many. And read the acknowledgments of Il Viaggio Di Vetri. It runs to two pages with the names of people who made his journey possible, including this note: “Mom and Dad, you’ve always let me find my own way and helped guide me through it. You’ll never know how much I appreciate it. I’ll always need you.” Is it “a drag” that passions don’t come to us all at once, as epiphanies, without the need to actively develop them? Maybe. But the reality is that our early interests are fragile, vaguely defined, and in need of energetic, years-long cultivation and refinement. – Page 103.

Don’t Rush a Passion:

For now, what I hope to convey is that experts and beginners have different motivational needs. At the start of an endeavor, we need encouragement and freedom to figure out what we enjoy. We need small wins. We need applause. Yes, we can handle a tincture of criticism and corrective feedback. Yes, we need to practice. But not too much and not too soon. Rush a beginner and you’ll bludgeon their budding interest. It’s very, very hard to get that back once you do. – Page 108.

Helpful tips to develop a Passion for Young Adults and Adults:

If you’d like to follow your passion but haven’t yet fostered one, you must begin at the beginning: discovery. Ask yourself a few simple questions: What do I like to think about? Where does my mind wander? What do I really care about? What matters most to me? How do I enjoy spending my time? And, in contrast, what do I find absolutely unbearable? If you find it hard to answer these questions, try recalling your teen years, the stage of life at which vocational interests commonly sprout. As soon as you have even a general direction in mind, you must trigger your nascent interests. Do this by going out into the world and doing something. To young graduates wringing their hands over what to do, I say, Experiment! Try! You’ll certainly learn more than if you don’t!

At this early stage of exploration, here are a few relevant rules of thumb taken from Will Shortz’s essay “How to Solve the New York Times Crossword Puzzle”: Begin with the answers you’re surest of and build from there. However ill-defined your interests, there are some things you know you’d hate doing for a living, and some things that seem more promising than others. That’s a start. Don’t be afraid to guess. Like it or not, there’s a certain amount of trial and error inherent in the process of interest discovery. Unlike the answers to crossword puzzles, there isn’t just one thing you can do that might develop into a passion. There are many. You don’t have to find the “right” one, or even the “best” one—just a direction that feels good. It can also be difficult to know if something will be a good fit until you try it for a while. Don’t be afraid to erase an answer that isn’t working out.

At some point, you may choose to write your top-level goal in indelible ink, but until you know for sure, work in pencil. If, on the other hand, you already have a good sense of what you enjoy spending your time doing, it’s time to develop your interest. After discovery comes development. Remember that interests must be triggered again and again and again. Find ways to make that happen. And have patience. The development of interests takes time. Keep asking questions, and let the answers to those questions lead you to more questions. Continue to dig. Seek out other people who share your interests. Sidle up to an encouraging mentor. Whatever your age, over time your role as a learner will become a more active and informed one. Over a period of years, your knowledge and expertise will grow, and along with it your confidence and curiosity to know more. Finally, if you’ve been doing something you like for a few years and still wouldn’t quite call it a passion, see if you can deepen your interests. Since novelty is what your brain craves, you’ll be tempted to move on to something new, and that could be what makes the most sense. However, if you want to stay engaged for more than a few years in any endeavor, you’ll need to find a way to enjoy the nuances that only a true aficionado can appreciate. “The old in the new is what claims the attention,” said William James. “The old with a slightly new turn.” In sum, the directive to follow your passion is not bad advice. But what may be even more useful is to understand how passions are fostered in the first place. – Page 114.

Gritty Journalist Anecdote; Passion as a Compass:

‘Screw it, this is what I’m going to do.’ I set out a very deliberate path that was possible, because the journalism industry was very hierarchical, and it was clear how to get from A to B to C to D, et cetera.” Step A was writing for Oxford’s student newspaper, Cherwell. Step B was a summer internship at a small paper in Wisconsin. Step C was the St. Petersburg Times in Florida on the Metro beat. Step D was the Los Angeles Times. Step E was the New York Times as a national correspondent in Atlanta. Step F was being sent overseas to cover war stories, and in 2006—just over a decade since he’d set himself the goal—he finally reached step G: becoming the New York Times’ East Africa bureau chief. “It was a really winding road that took me to all kinds of places. And it was difficult, and discouraging, and demoralizing, and scary, and all the rest. But eventually, I got here. I got exactly where I wanted to be.” As for so many other grit paragons, the common metaphor of passion as fireworks doesn’t make sense when you think of what passion means to Jeff Gettleman. Fireworks erupt in a blaze of glory but quickly fizzle, leaving just wisps of smoke and a memory of what was once spectacular. What Jeff’s journey suggests instead is passion as a compass—that thing that takes you some time to build, tinker with, and finally get right, and that then guides you on your long and winding road to where, ultimately, you want to be. Page 60.

Passion as a Compass forming a Life Philosophy:

Pete realized he didn’t have one and needed to: “If I was ever going to get the chance to run an organization again, I would have to be prepared with a philosophy that would drive all my actions.” Pete did a lot of thinking and reflecting: “My life in the next weeks and months was filled with writing notes and filling binders.” At the same time, he was devouring the books of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who won a record-setting ten national championships. Like a lot of coaches, Pete had already read Wooden. But this time, he was reading Wooden and understanding, at a much deeper level, what the coaching icon had to say. And the most important thing Wooden said was that, though a team has to do a million things well, figuring out the overarching vision is of utmost importance. Pete realized in that moment that particular goals—winning a particular game, or even a seasonal championship, or figuring out this element of the offensive lineup, or the way to talk to players—needed coordination, needed purpose: “A clear, well-defined philosophy gives you the guidelines and boundaries that keep you on track,” he said. Page 61.

Having a Life Philosophy

Goal-Oriented Passion:

At the bottom of this hierarchy are our most concrete and specific goals—the tasks we have on our short-term todo list: I want to get out the door today by eight a.m. I want to call my business partner back. I want to finish writing the email I started yesterday. These low-level goals exist merely as means to ends. We want to accomplish them only because they get us something else we want. In contrast, the higher the goal in this hierarchy, the more abstract, general, and important it is. The higher the goal, the more it’s an end in itself, and the less it’s merely a means to an end. In the diagram I’ve sketched out here, there are just three levels. That’s an oversimplification. Between the lowest and the highest level might be several layers of mid-level goals. For instance, getting out the door by eight a.m. is a low-level goal. It only matters because of a mid-level goal: arriving at work on time. Why do you care about that? Because you want to be punctual. Why do you care about that? Because being punctual shows respect for the people with whom you work. Why is that important? Because you strive to be a good leader. If in the course of asking yourself these “Why?” questions your answer is simply “Just because!” then you know you’ve gotten to the top of a goal hierarchy.

The top-level goal is not a means to any other end. It is, instead, an end in itself. Some psychologists like to call this an “ultimate concern.” Myself, I think of this top-level goal as a compass that gives direction and meaning to all the goals below it. – Pg. 62.

Prioritize Your Goals:

What I mean by passion is not just that you have something you care about. What I mean is that you care about that same ultimate goal in an abiding, loyal, steady way. You are not capricious. Each day, you wake up thinking of the questions you fell asleep thinking about. You are, in a sense, pointing in the same direction, ever eager to take even the smallest step forward than to take a step to the side, toward some other destination. At the extreme, one might call your focus obsessive. Most of your actions derive their significance from their allegiance to your ultimate concern, your life philosophy. You have your priorities in order. -Page 64.

Forming Your Goal Hierarchy:

Grit is about holding the same top-level goal for a very long time. Furthermore, this “life philosophy,” as Pete Carroll might put it, is so interesting and important that it organizes a great deal of your waking activity. In very gritty people, most mid-level and low-level goals are, in some way or another, related to that ultimate goal. In contrast, a lack of grit can come from having less coherent goal structures. Here are a few ways a lack of grit can show itself. I’ve met many young people who can articulate a dream—for example, to be a doctor or to play basketball in the NBA—and can vividly imagine how wonderful that would be, but they can’t point to the midlevel and lower-level goals that will get them there. Their goal hierarchy has a top-level goal but no supporting
mid-level or low-level goals: This is what my good friend and fellow psychologist Gabriele Oettingen calls “positive fantasizing.” Gabriele’s research suggests that indulging in visions of a positive future without figuring out how to get there, chiefly by considering what obstacles stand in the way, has short-term payoffs but long-term costs. In the short-term, you feel pretty great about your aspiration to be a doctor. In the long-term, you live with the disappointment of not having achieved your goal. Even more common, I think, is having a bunch of mid-level goals that don’t correspond to any unifying, top-level goal: Or having a few competing goal hierarchies that aren’t in any way connected with each other: To some extent, goal conflict is a necessary feature
of human existence. For instance, I have one goal hierarchy as a professional and another as a mother. Even Tom Seaver admits that the travel and practice schedule of a professional baseball player made it hard to spend as much time with his wife and children as he would have liked. So, though pitching was his professional passion, there were other goal hierarchies that obviously mattered to him. Like Seaver, I have one goal hierarchy for work: Use psychological science to help kids thrive. But I have a separate goal hierarchy that involves being the best mother I can be to my two daughters. As any working parent knows, having two “ultimate concerns” isn’t easy. There seems never to be enough time, energy, or attention to go around. I’ve decided to live with that tension. As a young woman, I considered alternatives—not having my career or not raising a family—and decided that, morally, there was no “right decision,” only a decision that was right for me. So, the idea that every waking moment in our lives should be guided by one top-level goal is an idealized extreme that may not be
desirable even for the grittiest of us. Still, I would argue that it’s possible to pare down long lists of mid-level and low-level work goals according to how they serve a goal of supreme importance. And I think one top-level professional goal, rather than any other number, is ideal. In sum, the more unified, aligned, and coordinated our goal hierarchies, the better.

Assessing Goals:

Indeed, giving up on lower-level goals is not only forgivable, it’s sometimes absolutely necessary. You should give up when one lower-level goal can be swapped for another that is more feasible. It also makes sense to switch your path when a different lower-level goal—a different means to the same end—is just more efficient, or more fun, or for whatever reason makes more sense than your original plan. On any long journey, detours are to be expected. However, the higher-level the goal, the more it makes sense to be stubborn. Personally, I try not to get too hung up on a particular rejected grant application, academic paper, or failed experiment. The pain of those failures is real, but I don’t dwell on them for long before moving on. In contrast, I don’t give up as easily on mid-level goals, and frankly, I can’t imagine anything that would change my ultimate aim, my life philosophy, as Pete might say. My compass, once I found all the parts and put it together, keeps pointing me in the same direction, week after month after year.

Inculcating Grit Habits to Form Grit Culture

Positive Self-Talk:

Carol also explains that the brain is remarkably adaptive. Like a muscle that gets stronger with use, the brain changes itself when you struggle to master a new challenge. In fact, there’s never a time in life when the brain is completely “fixed.” Instead, all our lives, our neurons retain the potential to grow new connections with one another and to strengthen the ones we already have. What’s more, throughout adulthood, we maintain the ability to grow myelin, a sort of insulating sheath that protects neurons and speeds signals traveling between them. My next suggestion is to practice optimistic self-talk. The link between cognitive behavioral therapy and learned helplessness led to the development of “resilience training.” In essence, this interactive curriculum is a preventative dose of cognitive behavioral therapy. In one study, children who completed this training showed lower levels of pessimism and developed fewer symptoms of depression over the next two years. In a similar study, pessimistic college students demonstrated less anxiety over the subsequent two years and less depression over three years. If, reading this chapter, you recognize yourself as an extreme pessimist, my advice is to find a cognitive behavioral therapist. I know how unsatisfying this recommendation might sound. Many years ago, as a teenager, I wrote to Dear Abby about a problem I was having. “Go see a therapist,” she wrote back. I recall tearing up her letter, angry she didn’t propose a neater, faster, more straightforward solution. Nevertheless, suggesting that reading twenty pages about the science of hope is enough to remove an ingrained pessimistic bias would be naive. There’s much more to say about cognitive behavioral therapy and resilience training than I can summarize here. The point is that you can, in fact, modify your self-talk, and you can learn to not let it interfere with you moving toward your goals. With practice and guidance, you can change the way you think, feel, and, most important, act when the going gets rough. As a transition to the final section of this book, “Growing Grit from the Outside In,” let me offer one final suggestion for teaching yourself hope: Ask for a helping hand. A few years ago, I met a retired mathematician named Rhonda Hughes. Nobody in Rhonda’s family had gone to college, but as a girl, she liked math a whole lot more than stenography. Rhonda eventually earned a PhD in mathematics and, after seventy-nine of her eighty applications for a faculty position were rejected, she took a job at the single university that made her an offer. One reason Rhonda got in touch was to tell me that she had an issue with an item on the Grit Scale. “I don’t like that item that says, ‘Setbacks don’t discourage me.’ That makes no sense. I mean, who doesn’t get discouraged by setbacks? I certainly do. I think it should say, ‘Setbacks don’t discourage me for long. I get back on my feet.’  ” Of course, Rhonda was right, and in so many words, I changed the item accordingly. But the most important thing about Rhonda’s story is that she almost never got back up all by herself. Instead, she figured out that asking for help was a good way to hold on to hope.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 192-194). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Learned Industriousness:

So, it appears that sometimes what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and sometimes it does the opposite. The urgent question becomes: When? When does struggle lead to hope, and when does struggle lead to hopelessness? A few years ago, Steve Maier and his students designed an experiment nearly identical to the one he and Marty Seligman had conducted forty years earlier: One group of rats received electric shocks, but if they turned a small wheel with their front paws, they could turn off the shock until the next trial. A second group received the exact same dose of electric shocks as the first but had no control over their duration. One crucial difference was that, in the new experiment, the rats were only five weeks old— that’s adolescence in the rat life cycle. A second difference was that the effects of this experience were assessed five weeks later, when the rats were fully mature adults. At that point, both groups of rats were subjected to uncontrollable electric shocks and, the next day, observed in a social exploration test. Here’s what Steve learned. Adolescent rats who experienced stress they could not control grew up to be adult rats who, after being subjected to uncontrollable shocks a second time, behaved timidly. This was not unusual— they learned to be helpless in the same way that any other rat would. In contrast, adolescent rats who experienced stress they could control grew up to be more adventurous and, most astounding, appeared to be inoculated against learned helplessness in adulthood. That’s right— when these “resilient rats” grew up, the usual uncontrollable shock procedures no longer made them helpless. In other words, what didn’t kill the young rats, when by their own efforts they could control what was happening, made them stronger for life.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 187-188). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Because his wife was a teacher, Bob had the opportunity to try short-term versions of the same experiments with children. For instance, in one study, he gave pennies to second and third graders for counting objects, memorizing pictures, and matching shapes. For some children, Bob rapidly increased the difficulty of these tasks as the children improved. Other children were repeatedly given easy versions of the same tasks. All the children got pennies and praise. Afterward, the children in both conditions were asked to do a tedious job that was entirely different from the previous tasks: copying a list of words onto a sheet of paper. Bob’s findings were exactly the same as what he’d found with rats: children who’d trained on difficult (rather than easy) tasks worked harder on the copying task. Bob’s conclusion? With practice, industriousness can be learned. In homage to the earlier work of Seligman and Maier on learned helplessness, where the inability to escape punishment led animals to give up on a second challenging task, Bob dubbed this phenomenon learned industriousness. His major conclusion was simply that the association between working hard and reward can be learned. Bob will go further and say that without directly experiencing the connection between effort and reward, animals, whether they’re rats or people, default to laziness. Calorie-burning effort is, after all, something evolution has shaped us to avoid whenever possible.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 239-240). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Deliberate Practice and The Hard Thing Rule:

In our family, we live by the Hard Thing Rule. It has three parts. The first is that everyone— including Mom and Dad— has to do a hard thing. A hard thing is something that requires daily deliberate practice. I’ve told my kids that psychological research is my hard thing, but I also practice yoga. Dad tries to get better and better at being a real estate developer; he does the same with running. My oldest daughter, Amanda, has chosen playing the piano as her hard thing. She did ballet for years, but later quit. So did Lucy. This brings me to the second part of the Hard Thing Rule: You can quit. But you can’t quit until the season is over, the tuition payment is up, or some other “natural” stopping point has arrived. You must, at least for the interval to which you’ve committed yourself, finish whatever you begin. In other words, you can’t quit on a day when your teacher yells at you, or you lose a race, or you have to miss a sleepover because of a recital the next morning. You can’t quit on a bad day. And, finally, the Hard Thing Rule states that you get to pick your hard thing. Nobody picks it for you because, after all, it would make no sense to do a hard thing you’re not even vaguely interested in. Even the decision to try ballet came after a discussion of various other classes my daughters could have chosen instead. Lucy, in fact, cycled through a half-dozen hard things. She started each with enthusiasm but eventually discovered that she didn’t want to keep going with ballet, gymnastics, track, handicrafts, or piano. In the end, she landed on viola. She’s been at it for three years, during which time her interest has waxed rather than waned. Last year, she joined the school and all-city orchestras, and when I asked her recently if she wanted to switch her hard thing to something else, she looked at me like I was crazy. Next year, Amanda will be in high school. Her sister will follow the year after. At that point, the Hard Thing Rule will change. A fourth requirement will be added: each girl must commit to at least one activity, either something new or the piano and viola they’ve already started, for at least two years. Tyrannical? I don’t believe it is. And if Lucy’s and Amanda’s recent comments on the topic aren’t disguised apple-polishing, neither do my daughters. They’d like to grow grittier as they get older, and, like any skill, they know grit takes practice. They know they’re fortunate to have the opportunity to do so. For parents who would like to encourage grit without obliterating their children’s capacity to choose their own path, I recommend the Hard Thing Rule.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 241-242). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Grit Culture:

How do you know you’re part of a culture that, in a very real sense, has become part of you? When you adopt a culture, you make a categorical allegiance to that in-group. You’re not “sort of” a Seahawk, or “sort of” a West Pointer. You either are or you aren’t. You’re in the group, or out of it. You can use a noun, not just an adjective or a verb, to describe your commitment. So much depends, as it turns out, on which in-group you commit to. The bottom line on culture and grit is: If you want to be grittier, find a gritty culture and join it. If you’re a leader, and you want the people in your organization to be grittier, create a gritty culture.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (p. 245). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Internalized Grit Culture:

Short-term conformity effects are not what excite me about the power of culture to influence grit. Not exactly. What excites me most is the idea that, in the long run, culture has the power to shape our identity. Over time and under the right circumstances, the norms and values of the group to which we belong become our own. We internalize them. We carry them with us. The way we do things around here and why eventually becomes The way I do things and why. Identity influences every aspect of our character, but it has special relevance to grit. Often, the critical gritty-or-not decisions we make— to get up one more time; to stick it out through this miserable, exhausting summer; to run five miles with our teammates when on our own we might only run three— are a matter of identity more than anything else. Often, our passion and perseverance do not spring from a cold, calculating analysis of the costs and benefits of alternatives. Rather, the source of our strength is the person we know ourselves to be.

James March, an expert on decision making at Stanford University, explains the difference this way: Sometimes, we revert to cost-benefit analyses to make choices. Of course, March doesn’t mean that, in deciding what to order for lunch or when to go to bed, we take out a pad of paper and a calculator. What he means is that, sometimes when making choices, we take into consideration how we might benefit, and what we’ll have to pay, and how likely it is that these benefits and costs will be what we think they’ll be. We can do all of this in our heads, and indeed, when I’m deciding what to order for lunch or when to go to bed, I often think through the pros and the cons before making a decision. It’s very logical. But other times, March says, we don’t think through the consequences of our actions at all. We don’t ask ourselves: What are the benefits? What are the costs? What are the risks? Instead, we ask ourselves: Who am I? What is this situation? What does someone like me do in a situation like this?

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 247-248). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

How to Begin Grit Oriented Behavior:

First, thinking of yourself as someone who is able to overcome tremendous adversity often leads to behavior that confirms that self-conception. If you’re a Finn with that “sisu spirit,” you get up again no matter what. Likewise, if you’re a Seattle Seahawk, you’re a competitor. You have what it takes to succeed. You don’t let setbacks hold you back. Grit is who you are. Second, even if the idea of an actual inner energy source is preposterous, the metaphor couldn’t be more apt. It sometimes feels like we have nothing left to give, and yet, in those dark and desperate moments, we find that if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, there is a way to accomplish what all reason seems to argue against.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (p. 252). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Grit Culture Anecdotes:

“You have to learn to get over bumps in the road and mistakes and setbacks,” he told me when I called to talk about the culture he’s built at JPMorgan Chase. “Failures are going to happen, and how you deal with them may be the most important thing in whether you succeed. You need fierce resolve. You need to take responsibility. You call it grit. I call it fortitude.” Fortitude is to Jamie Dimon what sisu is to Finland. Jamie recalls that getting fired from Citibank at age forty-two, and then taking a full year to ponder what lessons to take from the episode, made him a better leader. And he believes in fortitude enough to make it a core value for the entire JPMorgan Chase bank. “The ultimate thing is that we need to grow over time.”

Is it really possible, I asked, for a leader to influence the culture of such an enormous corporation? True, the culture of JPMorgan Chase has, with some affection, been described as “the cult of Jamie.” But there are literally thousands and thousands of JPMorgan Chase employees Jamie has never met in person. “Absolutely,” Jamie says. “It takes relentless— absolutely relentless— communication. It’s what you say and how you say it.” It may also be how often you say it. By all accounts, Jamie is a tireless evangelist, crossing the country to appear at what he calls town hall meetings with his employees. At one meeting he was asked, “What do you look for in your leadership team?” His answer? “Capability, character, and how they treat people.” Later, he told me that he asks himself two questions about senior management. First: “Would I let them run the business without me?” Second: “Would I let my kids work for them?”

Jamie has a favorite Teddy Roosevelt quote he likes to repeat: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. And here is how Jamie translates the poetry of Roosevelt into the prose of a JPMorgan Chase manual, titled How We Do Business: “Have a fierce resolve in everything you do.” “Demonstrate determination, resiliency, and tenacity.” “Do not let temporary setbacks become permanent excuses.” And, finally, “Use mistakes and problems as opportunities to get better— not reasons to quit.”

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 253-254). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Final Thoughts on Grit

This book has been my way of taking you out for a coffee and telling you what I know. I’m almost done. Let me close with a few final thoughts. The first is that you can grow your grit. I see two ways to do so. On your own, you can grow your grit “from the inside out”: You can cultivate your interests. You can develop a habit of daily challenge-exceeding-skill practice. You can connect your work to a purpose beyond yourself. And you can learn to hope when all seems lost. You can also grow your grit “from the outside in.” Parents, coaches, teachers, bosses, mentors, friends— developing your personal grit depends critically on other people.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (p. 269). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Limitations of Grit:

As a psychologist, I can confirm that grit is far from the only— or even the most important— aspect of a person’s character. In fact, in studies of how people size up others, morality trumps all other aspects of character in importance. Sure, we take notice if our neighbors seem lazy, but we’re especially offended if they seem to lack qualities like honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. So, grit isn’t everything. There are many other things a person needs in order to grow and flourish. Character is plural. One way to think about grit is to understand how it relates to other aspects of character. In assessing grit along with other virtues, I find three reliable clusters. I refer to them as the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual dimensions of character. You could also call them strengths of will, heart, and mind. Intrapersonal character includes grit. This cluster of virtues also includes self-control, particularly as it relates to resisting temptations like texting and video games. What this means is that gritty people tend to be self-controlled and vice versa. Collectively, virtues that make possible the accomplishment of personally valued goals have also been called “performance character” or “self-management skills.” Social commentator and journalist David Brooks calls these “resume virtues” because they’re the sorts of things that get us hired and keep us employed. Interpersonal character includes gratitude, social intelligence, and self-control over emotions like anger. These virtues help you get along with— and provide assistance to— other people. Sometimes, these virtues are referred to as “moral character.” David Brooks prefers the term “eulogy virtues” because, in the end, they may be more important to how people remember us than anything else. When we speak admiringly of someone being a “deeply good” person, I think it’s this cluster of virtues we’re thinking about. And, finally, intellectual character includes virtues like curiosity and zest. These encourage active and open engagement with the world of ideas. My longitudinal studies show these three virtue clusters predict different outcomes. For academic achievement, including stellar report card grades, the cluster containing grit is the most predictive. But for positive social functioning, including how many friends you have, interpersonal character is more important. And for a positive, independent posture toward learning, intellectual virtue trumps the others. In the end, the plurality of character operates against any one virtue being uniquely important.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (pp. 273-274). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Effort Counts Twice:

If you define genius as being able to accomplish great things in life without effort, then he was right: I’m no genius, and neither is he. But if, instead, you define genius as working toward excellence, ceaselessly, with every element of your being— then, in fact, my dad is a genius, and so am I, and so is Coates, and, if you’re willing, so are you.

Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (p. 278). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Overall, I enjoyed her book thoroughly, but I couldn’t personally identify with the parenting chapter and the chapter after it seemed like it was simply filling space with anecdotes. Angela Duckworth seems to write in a journalistic fashion just like Carol Dweck, they both utilize anecdotes to give people a more impressionable affect and it probably helps the average reader to remember more. I prefer Heidi Grant Halvorson’s more personalized writing style where she presents the reader with questionable assumptions about life and then presents the evidence to explain the reasoning behind why the research is valuable and how it can improve lives.

With all that said and shown, I give Angela Duckworth’s book:

9.7/10

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

10/10

This book is definitely worthy of its praise. Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert provides some of the most incredible insights on how we misjudge our own behavior in the future and even go as far as to misinterpret the past. There’s more depth in so many of these psychology books that I read that one simple review honestly doesn’t do them much justice, I highly recommend reading them yourselves. I sometimes wonder if even these concise explanations do them justice, since the books by the actual experts are better able to detail and explain the details far more clearly and effectively than I ever could. I’ve decided to take several critical portions to provide evidence of why this book is such a goldmine of information and should be purchased by any avid reader of human psychology.

This book comes in six parts and for the purposes of this review, I’ll also add my own personal feelings regarding each of the parts.

Gilbert begins the book in Part 1 about the lack of control and misunderstandings that we have on human behavior by explaining details about how we remember surprising events or beholding man-made wonders and how our brain recalls specific instances of a moment but not details between those moments. He goes on to detail the life of Phineas Gage. I had heard the tale before in other psychology books, but Gilbert goes into much greater detail and explains why this was fascinating to doctors and psychologists during it’s time. Phineas Gage was a foreman who had a pipe blow across his skull and through his brain. He survived the incident, but after being hospitalized and treated, he was never the same. His compassionate and cordial personality suddenly changed to fits of irritation, rudeness, and anger. After the accident, he would yell at people and generally treat everyone who knew him poorly. The case is often cited by psychologists because it’s demonstrable proof that we – as human beings – simply aren’t as knowledgeable about our behavior or as independently in control of our own behaviors as we’d like to believe ourselves to be. As a point of comparison, I recall New Atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris, in a debate about Heaven and a rewarding spiritual life, pointing out that people like the idea of seeing their grandma in Heaven for all eternity, but don’t seem to understand or even consider the fact that injuries to the brain can hurt your motor functions and even change your personality, yet people think they’ll be on some spiritual plane where their family is able to have full motor functions, consciousness, and hold the same set of personality traits when their brain is buried along with their physical bodies and has stopped functioning long ago. In the same sense, Phineas Gage’s life, and those like him, is irrevocable proof of the opposite. If your personality can so drastically change from physical damage to the brain – due to an accident of either chance or foul intent, it’s plainly unrealistic to believe you do have as much independence as you believe that you do or that your subconscious processes don’t influence your behavior. On the part of Phineas Gage, the parts of his brain that were damaged did influence calmness and compassion. It genuinely wasn’t his fault that he became what laypeople would chalk up as being an “asshole” to others.

Admittedly, I felt the book was going through several different parts without any coherent reason and felt it was sloppy. I took several months off reading it, because I had heard of Phineas Gage’s story before and I wasn’t sure if I was going to learn much of anything beyond what I had already read. The book did go into details of other studies covered, but upon closer examination after having finished reading, I realized I was being incredibly unfair. One such research material in another book, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, was – from what I recall – done by the researcher himself. Using it as reference isn’t a valid reason to put a book down, I had just felt bored by the prospect without just cause. I was happily proven wrong about my presumptions as I read further on and it did provide amazing insights on the subject matter. Looking back, Gilbert’s starting structure makes complete sense because of how the research material and explanations covers psychology, neuroscience, economics, and memory recall. Therefore, while the Part 1 seems a bit ridiculous, it’s actually not sloppy writing, but something that Gilbert had to place in Part 1 so that readers get a more complete understanding of the complex research and can learn from it. It simply wasn’t fair of me to judge the book on Part 1 alone and he had very good reasons for explaining and writing Part 1 in the manner that he did.

Part 2: Subjectivity begins explaining the various forms of happiness and how people routinely try to deceive themselves about what constitutes happiness by trying to find ways to ground the feeling by definition. It’s largely seen as an intuitive gut reaction; a “you-know-what-I-mean” feeling and definitions are problematic. Even if, for instance, people are dieting and we can reasonably refer to such people as unhappy while they’re dieting, it’s largely to increase future yields because people who diet are trying to make their lives more pleasant. Moreover, the worst conceit is virtue happiness which was first promoted by the Greeks and later the twist that Christian theologians had added of happiness not being a product, but a reward to be expected after death – i.e. death worship. Later theologians then asserted that the virtuous and pious life was itself fulfilling and happy, with the premise being that those who don’t walk the path of God were unhappy.

The intermixing usage of virtuous happiness and Christian theologians later defense that living for God made one happy led to some bizarre arguments that were simply indefensible. Philosophers and theologians alike, by muddling cause and consequences as Gilbert states, would argue that a pious believer being eaten alive by cannibals is happy while a Nazi war criminal basking in an Argentinean beach is not really happy. That’s because happiness is a word that is generally used to cite an experience, but not the actions that give rise to happiness. Gilbert goes on to further point out that we should admit when even astonishingly awful events make people happy. He asks the reader if it makes sense to say: “After a day spent killing his parents, Frank was happy”? Absolutely! We hope no such person exists, and we understand this Frank person is a horrible person, but if he says he’s happy and looks happy, is there any reason to doubt him?

Gilbert goes on to write: “Happiness refers to feelings, virtue refers to actions, and those actions can cause those feelings. But not necessarily and not exclusively.” – it’s important to remember the nuance when we form an understanding of what happiness is and isn’t.

Can we distinguish the degree of happiness between people as a basis? Gilbert says we can’t tell and it’s because, even with side-by-side comparisons, we’re not having the same experiences at the same time. He points to research where two groups of people looked at a specific color of yellow paint with one group describing the yellow paint and the other being the “non-describer” group. They were then taken to a swathe of six different colored yellow paint and asked to pick the one they had just seen 30 seconds ago. The first interesting finding was that only 73 percent of those who hadn’t described the color could accurately select the color they had seen. The second, and shocking, finding was that only 33 percent of those who spent time to describe the color paint they had seen just 30 seconds ago were able to accurately identify the same color paint from the six different colors of yellow. Evidently, the describers verbal descriptions “overwrote” their memories. They didn’t remember the event that they had just experienced; they remembered what they said about what they experienced and their explanation wasn’t clear or precise enough to help them identify the same color painting 30 seconds later.

Gilbert points out that people simply don’t notice visual discontinuities due to their eyes jiggling every few seconds. In a study similar to the previous one, volunteers looked at text that LoOked LIKe tHis which alternated every few seconds to one that lOoked likE thIs every time their eyes jiggled away and the volunteers never noticed as they read the passages on the screen. In essence, and I’m paraphrasing now, our memories simply take snapshots of the most emotional parts of our experience with an event (such as going to a new diner), where we’ll remember the bad taste of the wine or the good taste of the food but not the before and after of how we arrived and left when nothing that affected us happened. We take these “snapshots” and reweave our memories of events. We’re not actually recalling; we’re fabricating memories based on the emotional snapshots of the experience that we’ve made. It’s why it’s hard to sometimes remember what year or what we did after a particular special memory like snapping photos at the Grand Canyon with our spouse/parents/children.

Moreover, we don’t seem to be aware when our gut reaction is simply giving us a false-positive. In a study where one set of volunteers were shown quiz-show questions, one group (quiz questions only) felt the questions were quite difficult. The other group (questions-and-answers) believed the questions were quite easy and believed they could have answered them had they never known the answers beforehand. Once the volunteers knew the answers, the questions felt simple (“Of course it was x – everyone knows that!”) and the volunteers (questions-and-answers) were no longer able to judge how difficult the questions actually were for those who didn’t share the knowledge of the answers. Gilbert mentions: “Studies such as these show that once we have an experience, we cannot simply set it aside and see the world as we would have seen it had the experience never happened.” and further says “Our experiences instantly become part of the lens through which we view our entire past, present, and future, and like any lens, they shape and distort what we see. This lens is not like a pair of spectacles that we can set on the nightstand when we find it convenient to do so but like a pair of contacts that are forever affixed to our eyeballs with superglue. Once we learn to read, we can never again see letters as mere inky squiggles. Once we learn about free jazz, we can never again hear Ornette Coleman’s saxophone as a source of noise. Once we learn that van Gogh was a mental patient, or that Ezra Pound was an anti-Semite, we can never again view their art in the same way.” (Stumbling on Happiness, pg. 49).

Gilbert points out that, as a result, we can be happy without knowing or having awareness of an experience that we’re missing in life. That conclusion genuinely shocked me. I had thought and believed the opposite for so long. Gilbert uses the examples of conjoined twins who have claimed to be happy and don’t wish to separate. We as a society may believe that they’re not truly happy because of the lack of independence, but how we gauge relative happiness and how they do is on different standards. They don’t know what it feels like to not have someone else always connected to them in life (even on personal matters like the bathroom), but that’s the point. Even if they were to agree to a separation and say they weren’t really happy before, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that they were right. They genuinely could have been happy as conjoined twins and their new experience simply gave them the opposite feeling when looking back on their lives. They may have genuinely been happier before the separation for reasons explained further on.

Chapter 3: Outside Looking In has Gilbert explaining why, despite the issues, the best indicator of a person’s emotional state is accepting their view. At the end of the day, only they can give us a measure of their personal happiness. Most deficits regarding this method can be cleaned-up by the Law of Large Numbers. Because using them as a basis for analysis is only a problem when we fail to recognize a glaring issue in the research study. Despite individuals having different subjective scales, the least flawed method to find the most accurate information is to understand the average of an experience.

Gilbert summarizes this point on page 70:

“The bottom line is this: The attentive person’s honest, real-time report is an imperfect approximation of her subjective experience, but it is the only game in town. When a fruit salad, a lover, or a jazz trio is just too imperfect for our tastes, we stop eating, kissing, and listening. But the law of large numbers suggests that when a measurement is too imperfect for our tastes, we should not stop measuring. Quite the opposite – we should measure again and again until niggling imperfections yield to the onslaught of data. Those subatomic particles that like to be everywhere at once seem to cancel one another’s behavior so that the large conglomerate of particles that we call cows, cars, and French Canadians stay exactly where we put them. By the same logic, the careful collection of a large number of experiential reports allows the imperfections of one to cancel out the imperfections of another. No individual’s report may be taken as an unimpeachable and perfectly calibrated index of his experience-not yours, not mine-but we can be confident that if we ask enough people the same question, the average answer will be a roughly accurate index of the average experience. The science of happiness requires that we play the odds, and thus the information it provides us is always at some risk of being wrong.” He essentially adds that if we wish to bet against it, then we need more of the same question to be answered by more respondents to prove otherwise. It’s the most credible way to measure happiness. We must know, after all, what religion, art, music, etc are good for. If not our personal happiness, then what would mattering to us even mean?

In the next chapter, In the Blind Spot of the Mind’s Eye, Daniel Gilbert elaborates on how we store and use memory. This is explained in pages 78 – 79: “How do we cram the vast universe of our experience into the relatively small storage compartment between our ears? We do what Harpo did: We cheat. As you learned in the previous chapters, the elaborate tapestry of our experience is not stored in memory-at least not in its entirety. Rather, it is compressed for storage by first being reduced to a few critical threads, such as a summary phrase (“Dinner was disappointing”) or a small set of key features (tough steak, corked wine, snotty waiter). Later, when we want to remember our experience, our brains quickly reweave the tapestry by fabricating-not by actually retrieving-the bulk of the information that we experience as memory. This fabrication happens so quickly and effortlessly that we have the illusion (as a good magician’s audience always does) that the entire thing was in our heads the entire time.” Later on, Daniel writes in pages 79 – 80: “This general finding-that information acquired after an event alters memory of the event-has been replicated so many times in so many different laboratory and field settings that it has left most scientists convinced of two things. First, the act of remembering involved “filling in” details that were not actually stored; and second, we generally cannot tell when we are doing this because filling in happens quickly and unconsciously. Indeed, this phenomenon is so powerful that it happens even when we know someone is trying to trick us.” In essence, the meaning we give our feelings after an experience will be our interpretation of the event.

Later in the chapter, Gilbert details the issue of Realism within the human psyche. In this specific context, he means that we confuse our interpretation of the world for objective reality and that such a bias is instantaneous. In pages 88-89, in his own words, Gilbert elaborates: “According to this line of reasoning, we automatically assume that our subjective experience of a thing is a faithful representation of the thing’s properties. Only later-if we have the time, energy, and ability-do we rapidly repudiate that assumption and consider the possibility that the real world may not actually be as it appears to us. Piaget described realism as “a spontaneous and immediate tendency to confuse the sign and the thing signified,” and research shows that this tendency to equate our subjective sense of things with the objective properties of those things remains spontaneous and immediate throughout our lives. It does not go away forever, and it does not go away on occasion. Rather, it is brief, unarticulated, and rapidly unraveled, but it is always the first step in our perception of the world. We believe what we see, and then unbelieve it when we have to.
All of this suggests that the psychologist George Miller was right when he wrote, “The crowning intellectual accomplishment of the brain is the real world.” The three-and-a-half-pound meat loaf between our ears is not a simple recording device but a remarkably smart computer that gathers information, makes shrewd judgments and even shrewder guesses, and offers us its best interpretation of the way things are. Because those interpretations are usually so good, because they usually bear such a striking resemblance to the world as it is actually constituted, we do not realize that we are seeing an interpretation. Instead, we feel as though we are sitting comfortably inside our heads, looking out through the clear glass windshield of our eyes, watching the world as it truly is. We tend to forget that our brains are talented forgers, weaving a tapestry of memory and perception whose detail is so compelling that its inauthenticity is rarely detected. In a sense, each of us is as counterfeiter who prints phony dollar bills and then happily accepts them for payment, unaware that he is both the perpetrator and victim of a well-orchestrated fraud.”

In a further chapter, The Hound of Silence, Gilbert specifies how we distort our own perceptions of future events by temporal distance. We confuse the vagueness of our thoughts on how an event will play out as realistic representations of that day. In pages 105 – 106, Gilbert explains:

“Seeing in time is like seeing in space. But there is one important difference between spatial and temporal horizons. When we perceive a distant buffalo, our brains are aware of the fact that the buffalo looks smooth, vague, and lacking in detail because it is far away, and they do not mistakenly conclude that the buffalo itself is smooth and vague. But when we remember or imagine a temporally distant event, our brains seem to overlook the fact that details vanish with temporal distance, and they conclude instead that the distant events actually are as smooth and vague as we are imagining and remembering them. For example, have you ever wondered why you often make commitments that you deeply regret when the moment to fulfill them arrives? We all do this, of course. We agree to babysit the nephews and nieces next month, and we look forward to that obligation even as we jot it in our diary. Then, when it actually comes time to buy the Happy Meals, set up the Barbie playset, hide the bong, and ignore the fact that the NBA playoffs are on at one o’clock, we wonder what we were thinking when we said yes. Well, here’s what we were thinking: When we said yes we were thinking about babysitting in terms of why instead of how, in terms of causes and consequences instead of execution, and we failed to consider the fact that the detail-free babysitting we were imagining would not be the detail-laden babysitting we would ultimately experience. Babysitting next month is “an act of love,” whereas babysitting right now is “an act of lunch,” and expressing affection is spiritually rewarding in a way that buying French fries simply isn’t.”

Gilbert explains later on that one simple trick can effectively manage this bias: think of the future event as if it was happening tomorrow instead of in the future. Doing so should aid you in figuring out all the mini-steps and requirements needed to act effectively for the event and provide more consideration for what you’ll be doing.

In further chapters, Gilbert goes onto explain prefeeling. Due to our bias for the present, we have a ubiquitous tendency to confuse our present emotions for how we’ll feel in the future. Prefeeling has some positives, Gilbert details a study in which people who used prefeeling to choose a poster instead of thinking over it for long were more satisfied with their choices than those who cogitated over the cost-benefits of how a particular poster would look with their apartment or house wall’s coloring. However, prefeeling has us “fill-in” the details of future events with our current emotional states and subconsciously bias us into believing that our present feelings of depression, happiness, or even boredom will continue in the future and even during future events that friends recommend to us – such as going to a party or concert or going to a new restaurant. We believe our current emotional state will remain the same regardless of the experience.

In the chapter Time Bombs, pages 145 – 146, Gilbert explains how our frame of reference – such as being a buyer and seller of a car – impact our feelings. He details the full effects of confusing the present moment for how we’ll feel in the future. He explains on page 147 in the Onward: “Because predictions about the future are made in the present, they are inevitably influenced by the present. The way we feel right now (“I’m so hungry”) and the way we think right now (“The big speakers sound better than the little ones”) exert an unusually strong influence on the way we think we’ll feel later. Because time is such a slippery concept, we tend to imagine the future as the present with a twist, thus our imagined tomorrows inevitably look like slightly twisted versions of today. The reality of the moment is so palpable and powerful that it holds imagination in a tight orbit from which it never fully escapes. Presentism occurs because we fail to recognize that our future selves won’t see the world the way we see it now.”

In the following chapter, Paradise Glossed, Gilbert explains how we ascribe meaning to ambiguous experiences  and how our minds generally form a preference on what the ambiguous stimuli means to us. We infer these meanings from context, frequency, and recency and often prefer that the ambiguous stimuli mean one thing rather than another due to our desires, wishes, and needs. As such, our brain tends to exploit the ambiguity of a stimuli for such preferable interpretations of the world.

Analogous to our physical immune system, our brains provide a psychological immune system that interpret incredibly negative events in a positive way. Generally speaking, this psychological immune system interprets events in ways that feel preferable to us after an incredibly negative experience so that we may derive meaning from it. This is why incidents of people who have been wrongfully jailed for decades, extramarital affairs, and debilitating injuries like the permanent loss of motor functions is interpreted positively with people feeling happier with their lives – these events reach a critical threshold where our psychological immune systems try to rationalize our experiences in a positive way. That is not to say that these are delusions or that it’s wrongful behavior, Gilbert is simply explaining the psychological process that is going on. Sure, losing an appendage is objectively worse than having avoided such a loss, but that doesn’t make our rationalizations and self-interpretations of those events any less meaningful or valuable. Gilbert mentions we need both a mix of reality and illusion to keep us going everyday and our psychological immune system interprets ambiguous events in a positive way to protect our emotions. Gilbert mentions that we have a general preference to give more thorough examinations and critiques to evidence that we dislike than to evidence that we find favorable. Gilbert mentions that this is essentially subconsciously cooking the facts for our own favored conclusions. However, just as important as that, we must feel as if the evidence is a discovery and not merely a self-delusion. When the information feels like a genuine discovery, we feel that we’re being honest with ourselves. It doesn’t work when we are dishonestly accepting a lie when the evidence that we value overwhelmingly disproves us. We like believing that we’re being honest with ourselves in these new discoveries and not dishonestly lying to ourselves and we do that be interpreting facts for our benefit.

Gilbert further explains the foibles of our psychological immune systems in pages 178 – 180 of the chapter Immune to Reality:

“Ignorance of our psychological immune systems causes us to mispredict the circumstances under which we will blame ourselves. Who can forget the scene at the end of the 1942 film Casablanca in which Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are standing on the tarmac as she tries to decide whether to stay in Casablanca with the man she loves or board the plane and leave with her husband? Bogey turns to Bergman and says: “Inside we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon and for the rest of your life.”
This thin slice of melodrama is among the most memorable scenes in the history of cinema-not because it is particularly well acted or particularly well written but because most of us have stood on that same runway from time to time. Our most consequential choices-whether to marry, have children, buy a house, enter a profession, move abroad-are often shaped by how we imagine our future regrets (“Oh no, I forgot to have a baby!”). Regret is an emotion we feel when we blame ourselves for unfortunate outcomes that might have been prevented had we only behaved differently in the past, and because that emotion is decidedly unpleasant, our behavior in the present is often designed to preclude it. Indeed, most of us have elaborate theories about when and why people feel regret, and these theories allow us to avoid the experience. For instance, we expect to feel more regret when we learn about alternatives to our choices than when we don’t, when we accept bad advice than when we reject good advice, when our bad choices are unusual rather than conventional, and when we fail by a narrow margin rather than by a wide margin.
But sometimes these theories are wrong. Consider this scenario. You own shares of Company A. During the past year you considered switching to stock in Company B but decided against it. You now find that you would have been better off by $1,200 if you had switched to the stock of Company B. You also owned shares in Company C. During the past year you switched to stock in Company D. You now find out that you’d have been better off by $1,200 if you kept your stock in Company C. Which error causes you more regret? Studies show that about nine out of ten people expect to feel more regret when they foolishly switch stocks than when they foolishly fail to switch stocks, because most people think they will regret foolish actions more than foolish inactions. But studies also show that nine out of ten people are wrong. Indeed, in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did, which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends.
But why do people regret inactions more than actions? One reason is that the psychological immune system has a more difficult time manufacturing positive and credible views of inactions than of actions. When our action causes us to accept a marriage proposal from someone who later becomes an axe murderer, we can console ourselves by thinking of all the things we learned from the experience (“Collecting hatchets is not a healthy hobby”). But when our inaction causes us to reject a marriage proposal from someone who later becomes a movie star, we can’t console ourselves by thinking of all the things we learned from the experience because . . . well, there wasn’t one. The irony is all too clear: Because we do not realize that our psychological immune system can rationalize an excess of courage more easily than an excess of cowardice, we hedge our bets when we should blunder forward. As students of the silver screen recall, Bogart’s admonition about future regret led Bergman to board the plane and fly away with her husband. Had she stayed with Bogey in Casablanca, she would probably have felt just fine. Not right away, perhaps, but soon, and for the rest of her life.”

Further on, he explains the Inescapability Trigger on page 183:

“Intense suffering is one factor that can trigger our defenses and thus influence our experiences in ways we don’t anticipate. But there are others. For example, why do we forgive our siblings for behavior we would never tolerate in a friend? Why aren’t we disturbed when the president does something that would have kept us from voting for him had he done it before the election? Why do we overlook an employee’s chronic tardiness but refuse to hire a job seeker who is two minutes late for the interview? One possibility is that blood is thicker than water, flags were made to be rallied around, and first impressions matter most. But another possibility is that we are more likely to look for and find a positive view of the things we’re stuck with than of the things we’re not. Friends come and go, and changing candidates is as easy as changing socks. But siblings and presidents are ours, for better or for worse, and there’s not much we can do about it once they’ve been born or elected.  When the experience we are having is not the experience we want to be having, our first reaction is to go out and have a different one, which is why we return unsatisfactory rental cars, check out of bad hotels, and stop hanging around with people who pick their noses in public. It is only when we cannot change the experience that we look for ways to change our view of the experience, which is why we love the clunker in the driveway, the shabby cabin that’s been in the family for years, and Uncle Sheldon despite his predilection for nasal spelunking. We find silver linings only when we must, which is why people experience an increase in happiness when genetic tests reveal that they don’t have a dangerous genetic defect, but not when the tests are inconclusive. We just can’t make the best of fate until it is inescapably, inevitably, and irrevocably ours.”

In essence: We’re more likely to do something and enjoy doing it when we limit our options and have no option than we would when given choices.

Gilbert goes on to further detail how unexplained events strike us as unusual and cause us to think about them more, thus a pleasant unusual experience is something we feel more joy in than an event we can explain away since we can stop thinking of them. Even in situations when an “explanation” doesn’t actually explain anything, this effect will happen since the event only needs to seem as though it was explained. By contrast, uncertainty can preserve and prolong happiness. When we don’t know why a person feels happy or angry at us – we question it more and why they felt that way and it’s a much more lasting impression.

Gilbert details in the chapter Once Bitten, about how our brains use facts and theories to make guesses on past events and the feelings we had of those past events. On page 206 – 208, in his own words:

“Our brains use facts and theories to make guesses about past events, and so too do they use facts and theories to make guesses about past feelings. Because feelings do not leave behind the same kinds of facts that presidential elections and ancient civilizations do, our brains must rely even more heavily on theories to construct memories of how we once felt. When those theories are wrong, we end up misremembering our own emotions. Consider, for instance, how your theories about something-oh, say, how about gender?-might influence your recollection of past feelings. Most of us believe that men are less emotional than women (“She cried, he didn’t”), that men and women have different emotional reactions to similar events (“He was angry, she was sad”), and that women are particularly prone to negative emotions at particular points in their menstrual cycles (“She’s a bit irritable today, if you know what I mean”). As it turns out, there is little evidence for any of these beliefs-but that’s not the point. The point is that these beliefs are theories that can influence how we remember our own emotions. Consider:

  • In one study, volunteers were asked to remember how they had felt a few months earlier, and the male and female volunteers remembered feeling equally intense emotions. Another group of volunteers was asked to remember how they had felt a month earlier, but before doing so, they were asked to think a bit about gender. When volunteers were prompted to think about gender, female volunteers remembered feeling more intense emotion and male volunteers remembered feeling less intense emotion.
  • In one study, male and female volunteers became members of teams and played a game against an opposing team. Some volunteers immediately reported the emotions they had felt while playing the game, and others recalled their emotions a week later. Male and female volunteers did not differ in the kinds of emotions they reported. But a week later female volunteers recalled feeling more stereotypically feminine emotions (e.g., sympathy and guilt) and male volunteers recalled feeling more stereotypically masculine emotions (e.g., anger and pride).
  • In one study, female volunteers kept diaries and made daily ratings for their feelings for four to six weeks. These ratings revealed that women’s emotions did not vary with the phase of their menstrual cycles. However, when the women were later asked to reread the diary entry for a particular day and remember how they had been feeling, they remembered feeling more negative emotion on the days on which they were menstruating.

It seems that our theories about how people of our gender usually feel can influence our memory of how we actually felt. Gender is but one of many theories that have this power to alter our memories.”

In the following chapter, Reporting Live from Tomorrow, on pages 216 – 217, Gilbert details why certain beliefs gain popularity over others in a society.

“If a particular belief has some property that facilitates its own transmission, then that belief tends to be held by an increasing number of minds. As it turns out, there are several such properties that increase a belief’s transmissional success, the most obvious of which is accuracy. When someone tells us where to find a parking space downtown or how to bake a cake at high altitude, we adopt that belief and pass it along because it helps us and our friends do the things we want to do, such as parking and baking. As one philosopher noted, “The faculty of communication would not gain ground in evolution unless it was by and large the faculty of transmitting true beliefs.” Accurate beliefs give us power, which makes it easy to understand why they are so readily transmitted from one mind to another.
It is a bit more difficult to understand why inaccurate beliefs are so readily transmitted from one mind to another-but they are. False beliefs, like bad genes, can and do become super-replicators, and a thought experiment illustrates how this can happen. Imagine a game that is played by two teams, each of which has a thousand players, each of whom is linked to teammates by a telephone. The object of the game is to get one’s team to share as many accurate beliefs as possible. When players receive a message that they believe to be accurate, they call a teammate and pass it along. When they receive a message that they believe to be inaccurate, they don’t. At the end of the game, the referee blows a whistle and awards each team a point for every accurate belief that the entire team shares and subtracts one point for every inaccurate belief the entire team shares. Now, consider a contest played one sunny day between called the Perfects (whose members always transmit accurate beliefs) and a team called the Imperfects (whose members occasionally transmit an inaccurate belief). We should expect the Perfects to win, right?
Not necessarily. In fact, there are some special circumstances under which the Imperfects will beat their pants off. For example, imagine what would happen if one of the Imperfect players sent the false message “Talking on the phone all day and night will ultimately make you very happy,” and imagine that other Imperfect players were gullible enough to believe it and pass it on. This message is inaccurate and thus will cost the Imperfects a point in the end. But it may have the compensatory effect of keeping more of the Imperfects on the telephone for more of the time, thus increasing the total number of accurate messages they transmit. Under the right circumstances, the costs of this inaccurate belief would be outweighed by its benefits, namely, that it led players to behave in ways that increased the odds that they would share other accurate beliefs. The lesson to be learned from this game is that inaccurate beliefs can prevail in the belief-transmission game if they somehow facilitate their own “means of transmission.” In the case, the means of transmission is not sex but communication, and thus any belief-even a false belief-that increases communication has a good chance of being transmitted over and over again. False beliefs that happen to promote stable societies tend to propagate because people who hold these beliefs tend to live in stable societies, which provide the means by which false propagate.
Some of our cultural wisdom about happiness looks suspiciously like a super-replicating false belief.”

Gilbert explains how we can use surrogates to understand our own emotional futures and why most people prefer to use imagination instead of the more useful tool of using other’s experiences as surrogates to know how we’ll feel in the future. Gilbert details why we have an aversion to this and the falsehoods we tell ourselves about uniqueness and the foibles of simply using imagination to think of a future experience that we have yet to experience:

On pages 224 – 225, 226-227, and 227-228, respectively. Gilbert details the shortcomings of our imagination:

“The idea sounds all too simple, and I suspect you have an objection to it that goes something like this: Yes, other people are probably right now experiencing the very things I am merely contemplating, but I can’t use other people’s experiences as proxies for my own because those other people are not me. Every human being is as unique as his or her fingerprints, so it won’t help me much to learn about how others feel in the situations that I’m facing. Unless these other people are my clones and have had all the same experiences I’ve had, their reactions and my reactions are bound to differ. I am a walking, talking idiosyncrasy, and thus I am better off basing my predictions on my somewhat fickle imagination than on the reports of people whose preferences, tastes, and emotional proclivities are so radically different from my own. If that’s your objection, then it is a good one-so good that it will take two steps to dismantle it. First let me prove to you that the experience of a single randomly selected individual can sometimes provide a better basis for predicting your future experience than your own imagination can. And then let me show you why you-and I-find this so difficult to believe.”

“No one can imagine every feature and consequence of a future event, hence we must consider some and fail to consider others. The problem is that the features and consequences we fail to consider are often quite important. You may recall the study in which college students were asked to imagine how they would feel a few days after their school’s football team played a game against its archrival. The results showed that students overestimated the duration of the game’s emotional impact because when they tried to imagine their future experience, they imagined their team winning (“The clock will hit zero, we’ll storm the field, everyone will cheer . . .”) but failed to imagine what they would be doing afterward (“And then I’ll go home and study for my final exams”). Because the students were focused on the game, they failed to imagine how events that happened after the game would influence their happiness. So what should they have done instead?
They should have abandoned imagination altogether.”

“Imagination’s second shortcoming is its tendency to project the present onto the future (which we explored in the section on presentism). When imagination paints a picture of the future, many of the details are necessarily missing, and imagination solves this problem by filling in the gaps with details that it borrows from the present. Anyone who has ever shopped on an empty stomach, vowed to quit smoking after stubbing out a cigarette, or proposed marriage while on shore leave knows that how we feel now can erroneously influence how we think we’ll feel later. As it turns out, surrogation can remedy this shortcoming too.”

“Imagination’s third shortcoming is its failure to recognize that things will look different once they happen-in particular, that bad things will look a whole lot better (which we explored in the section rationalization). When we imagine losing a job, for instance, we imagine the painful experience (“The boss will march into my office, shut the door behind him  . . .”) without also imagining how our psychological immune systems will transform its meaning (“I’ll come to realize that this was an opportunity to quit retail sales and follow my true calling as a sculptor”).

On pages 229-232, Gilbert explains the issue with our incessant belief in uniqueness:

“Because if you are like most people, then like most people, you don’t know you’re like most people. Science has given us a lot of facts about the average person, and one of the most reliable of these facts is that the average person doesn’t see herself as average. Most students see themselves as more intelligent than the average student, most business managers see themselves as more competent than the average business manager, and most football players see themselves as having better “football sense” than their teammates. Ninety percent of motorists consider themselves to be safer-than-average drivers, and 94 percent of college professors consider themselves to be better-than-average teachers. Ironically, this bias towards ourselves as better than average causes us to see ourselves as less biased than average too. As one research team concluded, “Most of us appear to believe that we are more athletic, intelligent, organized, ethical, logical, interesting, fair-minded, and healthy-not to mention more attractive-than the average person.”
This tendency to think of ourselves as better than others is not necessarily a manifestation of our unfettered narcissism but may instead be an instance of a more general tendency to think of ourselves as different from others-often for better but sometimes for worse. When people are asked about generosity, they claim to perform a greater number of generous acts than others do; but when they are asked about selfishness, they claim to perform a greater number of selfish acts than others do. When people are asked about their ability to perform an easy task, such as driving a car or riding a bike, they rate themselves as better than others; but when they are asked about their ability to perform a different task, such as juggling or playing chess, they rate themselves as worse than others. We don’t always see ourselves as superior, but we almost always see ourselves as unique. Even when we do precisely what others do, we tend to think that we’re doing it for unique reasons. For instance, we tend to attribute other people’s choices to features of the chooser (“Phil picked this class because he’s one of those literary types”), but we tend to attribute our own choices to features of the options (“But I picked it because it was easier than economics”). We recognize that our decisions are influenced by social norms (“I was too embarrassed to raise my hand in class even though I was terribly confused”), but fail to recognize that others’ decisions were similarly influenced (“No one else raised a hand because no one else was as confused as I was”). We know that our choices sometimes reflect our aversions (“I voted for Kerry because I couldn’t stand Bush”), but we assume that other people’s choices reflect their appetites (“If Rebecca voted for Kerry, then she must have liked him”). The list of differences is long but the conclusion to be drawn from it is short: The self considers itself to be a very special person.
What makes us think we’re so darned special? Three things, at least. First, even if we aren’t special, the way we know ourselves is. We are the only people in the world whom we can know from the inside. We experience our own thoughts and feelings but must infer that other people are experiencing theirs. We all trust that behind those eyes and inside those skulls, our friends and neighbors are having subjective experiences very much like our own, but that trust is an article of faith and not the palpable, self-evident truth that our own subjective experiences constitute. There is a difference between making love and reading about it, and it is the same difference that distinguishes our knowledge of our own mental lives from our knowledge of everyone else’s. Because we know ourselves and others by such different means, we gather very different kinds and amounts of information. In every waking moment we monitor the steady stream of thoughts and feelings that run through our heads, but we only monitor other people’s words and deeds, and only when they are in our company. One reason why we seem so special, then, is that we learn about ourselves in such a special way.
The second reason is that we enjoy thinking of ourselves as special. Most of us want to fit in well with our peers, but we don’t want to fit in too well. We prize our unique identities, and research shows that when people are made to feel too similar to others, their moods quickly sour and they try to distance and distinguish themselves in a variety of ways. If you’ve ever shown up at a party and found someone else wearing exactly the same dress or necktie that you were wearing, then you know how unsettling it is to share the room with an unwanted twin whose presence temporarily diminishes your sense of individuality. Because we value our uniqueness, it isn’t surprising that we tend to overestimate it.
The third reason why we tend to overestimate our uniqueness is that we tend to overestimate everyone’s uniqueness-that is, we tend to think of people as more different from one another than they actually are. Let’s face it: All people are similar in some ways and different in others. The psychologists, biologists, economists, and sociologists who are searching for universal laws of human behavior naturally care about the similarities, but the rest of us care mainly about the differences. Social life involves selecting particular individuals to be our sexual partners, business partners, bowling partners, and more. That task requires that we focus on the things that distinguish one person from another and not on the things that all people share, which is why personal ads are much more likely to mention the advertiser’s love of ballet than his love of oxygen. A penchant for respiration explains a great deal about human behavior-for example, why people live on land, become ill at high altitudes, have lungs, resist suffocation, love trees, and so on. It surely explains more than does a person’s penchant for ballet. But it does nothing to distinguish one person from another, and thus for ordinary folks who are in the ordinary business of selecting others for commerce, conversation, or copulation, the penchant for air is stunningly irrelevant. Individual similarities are vast, but we don’t care much about them because they don’t help us do what we are here on earth to do, namely, distinguish Jack from Jill and Jill from Jennifer. As such, these individual similarities are an inconspicuous backdrop against which a small number of relatively minor individual differences stand out in bold relief.
Because we spend so much time searching for, attending to, thinking about, and remembering these differences, we tend to overestimate their magnitude and frequency, and thus end up thinking of people as more varied than they actually are”

“Our mythical belief in the variability and uniqueness of individuals is the main reason why we refuse to use others as surrogates. After all, surrogation is only useful when we can count on a surrogate to react to an event roughly as we would, and if we believe that people’s emotional reactions are more varied than they actually are, then surrogation will seem less useful to us than it actually is. The irony, of course, is that surrogation is a cheap and effective way to predict one’s future emotions, but because we don’t realize just how similar we all are, we reject this reliable method and rely instead on our imaginations, as flawed and fallible as they may be.”

A truly fascinating read. I cannot recommend it enough. Amazing work by an amazing writer and psychologist.

The SJW Left and the Alt-Right

People argue that these opposing sides should come together and find common ground, but you can’t debate with people who dismiss everything you say and don’t want to hear it. This is conceit; pure and simple. There is no chance that debates with people who don’t even agree on what a fact is can yield anything worthwhile. I’ve tried, this is a short essay explaining why I’ve given up.

You can’t talk about context, important global issues, or facts with people who dismiss you out of hand based on the idea that no matter what, you’re just touting pure garbage from “Fake news” sites. The Alt-Right has made it clear that they don’t understand national objectives and don’t distinguish when it’s important for nation desiring to go to war vs issues of gender equality They like shouting “cuck” and “sjw” to feel good about their miserable lives every 5 minutes instead of honestly examining beliefs. When I explain anything to them, they erroneously and pretentiously argue on one point – usually associated with their own feelings – than the issue itself and when pressed on issues, they revert back to “oh you’re blaming white people for everything!” as if anybody ever even made that claim when arguing about climate change, global wars that burn alive civilians with drone bombings – including children being victims of such bombings, or a massive 20 trillion dollar debt that nobody is doing anything about. Meanwhile, shouting “sand nigger” is fine when explaining their dislike of Muslims.

We have all these pressing issues and the world is only going to get worse from the US pulling out of the Paris Climate change agreement . . . but instead we’re talking about what random meme Trump is tweeting. The saddest part is, the mainstream media went from mocking him to… taking him seriously as of now. As if we should expect seriousness of any kind because a joke is in office. Somehow giving more self-importance to him is going to help fix the country and lead it? The Alt-right doesn’t even understand context and constantly disparages everything until it’s reduced to their special feelings about being a white male Christian. I honestly tried understanding what the issue was to see if there is any steps to be taken to ameliorate whatever is going on. But I was being arrogant and foolish in doing so.

Here’s all I found for my troubles:

#Identity politics are bad and lead to losing elections – except when talking about White Male Christians feeling oppressed. Whenever identity politics is talked about for minorities, the context is forcefully changed to exclamations of white men being blamed for everything.

#SJW Cucks should stop being “special snowflakes” and deal with insults when given to them – but insulting Trump or “white people” (whatever that means since they’re generalizing a broad range of people based on skin pigmentation) is wrong and you should apologize to show respect. Oh, but also, you should be allowed to say whatever you want without being told to stop.

#paygap women shouldn’t get paid equally to men because they lack testosterone. Women are evidently always passive and don’t ask for a raise as much as men.

They’ve done no research on this since the data has shown women asking for raises generally face reprimand while men who do the same don’t face such reprimand. They don’t even seem to understand that this would reduce the jobs of men in the long run, because any intelligent hiring manager would recognize that choosing between an equally competent man and woman for a position would mean that they would obviously go for the one they’d be paying 30 cents less. They’re too dumb to even understand that.

#Feminism issues: Insulting women for their appearance like their hair, breast size, weight, and so forth should be a free speech right; but women calling you a shithead for it is wrong and they’re horrible people for responding like that. Oh, and everyone should have the right to say what they want but third-wave feminism is bad and evil for teaching young adult women and men about responsible sex.

#Terrorism: we should make Trump memes when video footage of bombings happen to feel smug about bombing another country instead of horrified for allowing things like “the mother of all bombs” being dropped and killing a mass amount of people. Also, we should believe Trump when he says there’s no civilian casualties, because we can trust him with that when he’s flip-flopped and argued the opposite of his original argument on every other issue.

There’s no debating people who don’t even understand objective, scientific analysis and don’t put value in it or in anything that you have to say. We’re at the most pressing juncture of reducing climate change and the US is literally going to lead to a permanent environmental disaster with the clown in charge and will have absolutely nothing of value to offer the next 4 years to either wind-down the wars or reduce debt. If serious leaders like Obama and Bush couldn’t do it, then there’s no way a clown who can’t be bothered to do anything besides tweet stupid shit is ever going to do anything of value in reducing the debt, reducing greenhouse gases, or ending the two wars. North Korea is shooting nuclear bombs into Japanese waters and Trump gets into a twitter war as a response. There are people who are waiting for greenhouse gases to have a planned and concerted fix to prevent climate disaster so they can feel secure in having children and the response has been more pipelines and bigger bombs for oil wars.

Democracy, in all its forms, has utterly failed. It’s the result of a middle-ground fallacy with objective scientific research on environmental impacts versus the special feelings of people who don’t value fact-checking at all. They like reducing issues to simplistic monolithic entities that they can scream at with their keyboards. They don’t care and have no inkling or even desire to understand what the global issues are or how they’re progeny are now imitating them to feel good about themselves. Facts are reduced and re-contextualized to trying to appease their emotional sensibilities towards factual evidence. The very issue becomes asinine and absolutely nothing is achieved.

Dies Irae Review

THIS REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS

Dies Irae is a very interesting case of a visual novel that I just don’t know whether to give a positive or negative review.

Mercurius: “Wallow in Filth. Purity is but an illusion – discard it, and all doors shalt be open to thee. No matter the era, a singular choice may shift the cosmos, shaking the world to its very foundations. You will learn and achieve nothing while bound by the chains of seclusion.”

Overall, despite having completed it, I still don’t know what to think of it. I think my main contention is that Fuji Ren is one of the absolute worst characters I’ve ever seen. His motivations are inconsistent, incoherent with his inner monologues, and it becomes downright annoying when he just has “generic anime protagonist quote” as a response while never expressing any point within his inner monologues. As an example, he brings up Theresia’s background and how the concept of self-sacrifice in Christianity could be used to brainwash her into accepting memento mori in a very fatalistic way. This is an interesting observation, but all Ren actually says is essentially “Don’t give-up senpai!” in a very generic anime dialogue. It just doesn’t feel like there was any connection between his inner thoughts and his speech. A fellow visual novel player informed me that the entirety of the character’s point was to show the negative qualities of the standard hero archetype. As of yet, I can’t find any fault with that claim, but I still feel like the visual novel made a bad decision because the narrative would have been more interesting with Fuji Ren having more fleshed out dialogue with the rest of the cast. It feels like the generic anime dialogue is meant to be presented as subtext for something deeper, but I feel the message falls flat and often becomes an incoherent ramble because Fuji Ren’s thoughts and actions don’t always correlate well.

By contrast, this is actually never an issue for any of the side events and side character fights. I enjoyed the Marie route the most because it had one of the most phenomenal fight scenes between Kei and Samiel. I loved how the narrative showed us a total contrast between where Kei ended-up in her own route (a fairly generic storyline to be honest) and showcase one of the most brutal and devastating story arcs that I’ve ever seen a character go through in Marie’s route. She lost any chance to save her brother, realized too late that Beatrice was always there trying to protect her (unlike in her own route, where Beatrice saves her in the nick of time and is conveniently freed by Fuji Ren from the trapped collection of souls within Tubal Cain), has her sword shattered and is forced to use her family’s curse to survive, and is at the precipice of losing her life and becoming a mindless abomination as the next Tubal Cain and she still chose to fight despite the overwhelming power of the enemy forces.. She’s lost all her hopes and dreams, everything she wished to get back is forever gone, and her own freedom is now barred from her – yet she still chooses to fight. Kei’s story progression in Marie’s Route is so much more heartbreaking and interesting than in her own route. She became my favorite character ironically because of Marie’s route. Samiel’s words about war show just how cruel it really is, while Kei’s response is absolutely amazing. I loved that part. Shirou and Ellie vs Schrieber was also amazing but less philosophical in it’s underpinnings.

Part of my criticism has to do with Ren’s final fight in the Marie Route feeling just right in how over the top it is, it felt like there were set boundaries of what was and wasn’t achievable in a god-like state. But, the Rea route… it just became incoherent. The fight wasn’t even really a fight, it was people roaring final attacks or some strange phenomena happening when Ren also joined the fight, and I felt like it lost all coherence. I was trying to keep-up with the random deus ex machina at the end. My chief argument for this portion of the story is that it’s as if the battle could have had anything occur when you start shooting cosmic stars and summoning anti-matter.

I enjoyed the Kei route chapter 13, Marie Route chapter 13, and Rea Route Chapters 1-11. The “true” ending felt like it made the entire journey pointless though and I know they’re trying to say even the supposed bad guys in a war are human too… but when you have people saying how hot the Gestapo leader is while only mentioning the Holocaust in passing, I have to say I just couldn’t bring myself to care. I guess the Truth ending is more complete, but I couldn’t help but feel genuine disgust. Yeah, okay, Nazis were human beings too – they still supported policies that resulted in the mass genocide of their own people and others outside the country. I’m not going to pass that off as some background noise and I genuinely don’t know how to feel about the message of this game, or possibly it’s unintended message. I’m not going to sympathize with people who want other people dead for being a certain ethnicity. I found the part with them hanging out at the pub and speaking of how good looking the Gestapo leader was to be really unsettling. I liked the Marie and Kei endings, the Kasumi route is hilarious in how much she ruins everyone’s lives due to her ignorance. The Rea route endings I just flat out didn’t like because of the ridiculous Nazi humanizing and the fact that the ending means nothing really mattered. I really don’t like “time warp” endings like that and it’s always for the sake of celebrating middle class lifestyles as “normal”, which I find ridiculous. Moreover, Marie could rewrite the timeline… and still let the Holocaust happen? Like what? I don’t even get what they were trying to achieve or what the message was in the true ending of the Rea route.

That’s my take on it. I don’t even know what to give it as a score. Partly due to the fact that I don’t know whether to call Mercurius brilliant writing or a convenient deus ex machina to explain away potential plot holes.

G-Senjou no Maou: A Captivating Narrative turned into an Incoherent Mess

This Review Contains Massive Spoilers

This might sound like some angry, stupid rant and I totally apologize. I just want to let it be known that I enjoyed this visual novel so much that I didn’t sleep for a whole day just to complete chapter 3-4. I played it non-stop because I was totally loving it. Completely captivating plot, wonderfully written characters, and amazing music… and then that stupid plot twist at the end of chapter 4 happened. And, I feel as if the game took a giant hammer and smashed my heart into little bite-sized pieces. Playing this game was like enjoying the first 7 Harry Potter books, only for the ending to turn into 50 Shades of Grey – essentially a fanfic parody of a terrible novel series. Most people say that the other paths make plot holes, but looking through it objectively, I’d say the true route is the plot hole ridden route and I will explain why below.

This story has completely disappointed me. I don’t know who the heck thought it was a good idea to introduce the generic evil brother twist, but it completely ruined the entire game.

Some points in it’s favor before I begin bashing the hell out of it, in the hopes of showing that I’m not trying to just be offensive or anything like that. I’ll give this game props for having a narrative that subtly points out the propensity of using children for acts of despicable human violence. It seems to be an underappreciated and obscure theme. When Maou talks about the use of car bombs from Northern Ireland and ten year-olds using guns in the Middle East, the author seems to be bashing the use of children in violence for terrorist purposes, and pointing out to the realistic nature of using children for the purposes of human violence.

That being said, this plot completely fails because of the evil brother twist. The saddest part? The plot was perfectly fine before then.

First problem: It’s beyond suspension of disbelief to believe that Kyouhei could fake his own death in a terrorist subway bombing in Great Britain, one that evidently made world news, just because they couldn’t find the body only to be hiding in Northern Ireland becoming a terrorist and then skip to the Middle East to learn more terrorist activities. From bombmaking in Northern Ireland to handling weapons in the Middle East, to gun smuggling in Russia. How was he not on the CIA’s hit list? Everything he did had to have left a trail. We live in an age where US Spy blimps can record the exact phrase people in Afghanistan make when they’re writing down on a piece of paper using pencils. It’s beyond disbelief to think he’d even be able to get back into Japan, or that he wasn’t noted to be the only young Japanese guy part of Northern Ireland and the ME’s terrorist cells, or that there was no eye witness or DNA evidence when he was learning and testing his skills. It’s beyond ridiculous to believe that he was “very careful” to avoid everything. Furthermore, how the hell could Haru be chasing after him? So apparently, this guy evaded the secret service agencies of Great Britain, the US, and whatever alliances the US has with various ME countries, but Haru was tailing him? This is incoherent.

Maou’s goal is to free his father; this goal becomes completely incoherent. Kyousuke and Kyouhei’s father is dead. The Psychologist mentions him having been executed in one of his talks with Kyousuke when admonishing Kyousuke for defending his father’s actions.

Now, a friend of mine who loves the game argued that “freeing” may have been freeing his father’s name from shame and that his goal was simply revenge. That’s consistent with killing Gonzou, but why didn’t he also just wire transfer money to Kyousuke and their sick mother, when Kyouhei is evidently so extremely OP that he can evade investigation and leaving any trails from the US, Britain, and Russia? He can keep everything off his tracks and play mindgames with Haru, but he can’t steal money to pay off his family debt – despite avoiding being on the radar of US spy drones, the CIA, the equivalent of Britain’s security forces, and agencies throughout the Middle East and Russia? Yet again, incoherent. If he could accomplish this with simply being careful, why not force Gonzou and the others into a massive debt or trick those organizations into thinking the Japanese Yakuza were a higher threat and needed to be taken down?

Back to the father, Kyousuke supposedly only met him once when seeing him in jail, but if he suicided after killing four people, then how did Kyousuke meet him once when his father was in jail? And also, why would Kyouhei’s goal be to free him, if he committed suicide? Yet again, incoherence.

Gonzou’s actions become incoherent too. Why let a sniper shoot him after evading a car bombing in the previous chapter? Why even say Kyousuke had psycho-amnesia? Perhaps, it could be argued, to put a red-herring on the twist, but that part comes off as pointless and nonsensical because of the generic evil brother twist.

Worsening this is that the distinction between the organizations fall into incoherence after Gonzou’s death. Gonzou is the boss of Azai and leading the Souwa Alliance, an amalgamation of different Yakuza groups working together out of necessity because police have largely put a stop to Yakuza crime over the past several years. However, after Gonzou’s death, the writing claims that Gonzou is the leader of Sannou, which loses all sense of narrative coherence.

Sannou is the corporation that they’re making backdoor deals with to maintain economic hegemony in Kyousuke’s city. In fact, the narrative made this clear since Sannou was trying to push for Makiko in the chapter 3 arc of the Skating tournaments, but the Azai group was heavily backing Azai Kanon – their interests didn’t align on that. Saying Gonzou – a city mob boss – is a CEO of Sannou loses all narrative coherence because he could have just asked Makiko to step down and that would be that.

Kyousuke’s character loses coherence too. The previous night, when heartbroken over his mother’s tragic death, and thinking over how shitty his life has been; Haru reveals her deep love and Kyousuke shouts at her and seriously threatens to rape her, if he sees her again because she’s the daughter of the man who ruined his father, mother, and his life and chose that time to apologize to his dead sister.

Now, if he felt this way, and was repressing his mind from thinking about Usami Haru being the daughter of Usami Yoshinatri – the man who ruined his family, then why did he suddenly decide on the next day – as the Yakuza are chasing after him to kill him – that she’s his woman and that he’ll protect her, no matter what?

I… What was that? He’s on high-stress, threatening to kill people, and going mad with the idea of being Maou – presumably losing all his sanity. But then, after Gonzou dies and the Azai group think it’s Kyousuke, suddenly Kyousuke decides that he actually loves Haru and will protect her… the day after threatening to rape her, if he ever saw her again?

The plot hole isn’t any of the other routes. The plot hole is the true route. Maou not being Kyousuke makes no narrative sense. Maou’s petty actions have more consistency, if he’s Kyousuke and bound to the Souwa alliance and trying to make a name for himself in Sannou.

Keep in mind, Kyousuke killing Gonzou would have made far more sense since he’d been mentally tortured by that man and living as a puppet under him for several years. Moreover, his madness driving him to hate and kill Haru… seemed to be exactly where the narrative was leading with the flashbacks. The twin brother twist just ruins that even further. Especially since Kyousuke’s disappearance spells stop making any sense altogether throughout the story.

The most bizarre thing about all this, is that the story feels perfectly consistent, complete, and *coherent* before the twin brother revelation. Which leads me to believe that – considering the off-line of raping Haru – the game was definitely suppose to end at the choking scene.

Purely a guess, but it seems like Haru probably had 3 distinctive “bad”, “normal”, and “good” paths for that scene before the awful twin brother twist. Bad ending was probably Kyousuke giving into his madness as Maou and either raping or killing Haru after choking her to unconsciousness. Good ending may have been some bittersweet chance at reconciliation before the Yakuza stormed the place and killed them both, and the ‘true’ was probably them both making amends, getting the hell out of there, and the happy ending of the epilogue with their 8 year old daughter. The reason I say that is, despite all the hardships each of the previous 4 story arcs go through, the theme of the game is about love conquering all. Tsubaki hugs her brother and apologizes because he has no concept of her sudden spite towards him, Kanon loves Kyousuke deeply but can never grow to understand him because they have to keep out of each other’s affairs and that prevents any true intimate relationship from forming but Kyousuke’s doing it out of a sense of family love just as much as his obligation to Gonzou but Kanon will never understand, Mizuha breaks down in tears because she always feels powerless to help the sister that has suffered so much and truly does love her – causing Tokita to have her own emotional breakdown because she loves her sister just as much but society keeps pulling them apart, and finally, Kyousuke loses the only remaining hope he had left of having a happy life with the mother who has suffered mental torture and has been taking it out on Haru through mindgames as a way of getting back at the world. Finally, he just snaps and his Maou personality takes over – the promise of being with each other as kids can either be seen as childish sentiment, meaningless, or something they decide to stake their hope on despite the bad blood and they elope together. Their love conquering the bad blood between them and the societal circumstances around them creating grudges beyond their control.

Side note: Haru’s submissive nature to Kyousuke – despite how guarded she was – was hinted at with Yuki Tokita. Tokita declares herself a sadist, Haru says she learned to follow her orders as friends, Tokita would play with her sexually, Haru calls Tokita her only real friend, and Tokita insists she’s the only one who can please Haru sexually. Haru and Tokita were into S&M, I don’t even mean that as a joke. They really were. Haru taking her clothes off to please Kyousuke… oddly enough fits the narrative because she’s heavily into being sexually submissive but embarrassed about others knowing. When it’s just her and Kyousuke on New Years, she does nothing but giggle and laugh at Kyousuke insulting her because she’s being sexually aroused by his insults. …Yeah.

That’s just my thoughts on it. The plot literally loses all coherence thanks to that terrible plot twist and I’m honestly disappointed. I don’t know what else to say. I really loved this visual novel up until that twist literally ruined every single thing about the game. It’s really a shame because I loved the mindgames between Maou and Haru and really felt this was the perfect Maou versus Hero rivalry and romantic love affair before that horribly atrocious plot twist ruined the coherence of the entire plot. The side characters were also absolutely wonderful. The emotional turmoil between the circumstances related to Tokita and Mizuha even made me cry a little by the end of their character arc. The realism of Tsubaki’s situation with her brother and Kyousuke assessing his own apathy towards life were genuinely great moments. Haru is also surprisingly one of the best female leads in a story. Her sense of justice, her fearlessness, and her rational outlook to assess and defeat Maou’s logic games make a very compelling narrative. Her emotional turmoil towards Kyousuke possibly being Maou made for a compelling narrative since it was already established that she didn’t have a good assessment of her emotions and tried to bury her feelings by focusing solely on her goal of revenge against her mother’s murderer. I would have given this visual novel a 10 out of 10 but regrettably, I can only give it a 5/10 and I feel like that’s stretching it. One horribly stupid plot twist really can ruin an otherwise great story.

5/10 Visual Novel.

A good visual novel, but unfortunately one egregious twist ruined it from being a truly amazing story.

 

Thematic Analysis of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse

Part 1 of 2; The Broader Themes

This will contain major spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse.

For Part 2: The Specific Themes

What can be said about SMTIV: Apocalypse? I’m not sure if my meager words can ever provide this game the sufficient praise that it deserves for being quite possibly the greatest game of 2016 and perhaps the all-time best game ever created in all of humankind’s history. Indeed, it is as if all of human evolution, all forms of human invention, and all of humanity’s lengthy history of entertainment was a prerequisite for greatest video game to ever be created. In the future, I’m sure people will look back and gape in stunned awe at the sheer magnificence of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. The all-time best sequel game and best duology to ever exist thus far in video game history. I kid you not, it is by far the greatest plotlines to ever exist, but requires actual knowledge of its philosophical and religious underpinnings to fully appreciate.

This duology – and indeed, it is a duology with SMTIV – is quite amazing in its usage of it’s in-game plot and the subtle philosophical themes combined to make one of the greatest and most unappreciated masterpieces of gaming. It has become my favorite duology game with one of the most brilliant uses of writing and plot progression ever written in gaming. The best use of the alternate universe concept – in effect, Atlus has made a duology that is the multiverse written in the best way imaginable. This game outstrips and outdoes the multiverses of Chrono Trigger-Cross by a wide margin.

Without further gushing, let us begin examining the greatest duology in all of gaming history. I doubt I’ll be able to give this duology the full breadth of praise that it deserves, however, but I’ll do my best.

           

The Juxtaposition of Flynn and Nanashi

Central to the duology are the experiences and views of the two main characters on the same conflicts that effect their lives. We have two games that present what is largely the same major conflict but with two contrasting views on the same information.

The philosophical underpinnings of Perspectivism espoused by Friedrich Nietzsche is clear between Flynn and Nanashi. That is, each main character views their reality from their own interpretations of the same information to form their own “truth” of what that information means. In this case, while a stronger degree of facts give a better understanding of reality, people decide which facts hold more significance to them and whether they will be antagonistic or positive to those facts. In essence, there is no objective truth from a purely personalized view of what reality means to a person. Someone might view the same set of facts in entirely different views. For instance, the decision between Jonathan and Walter in IV was a decision between whether the status quo was beneficial despite the use of a small segment of children as sacrifices to keep the people of Tokyo safe and a question of whether Flynn had any right to change the future of Tokyo, or a decision to do what was necessary and overturn a system that allowed such pernicious brutality against the small segment of children even if it meant putting Tokyo itself in immediate danger.

Flynn’s view:

Flynn is constantly recognized as a Messiah. From the start of his story, when meeting those mysterious voices and talking to the dream versions of Walter and Jonathan. He is constantly asked for his views; both his close friends and the societies around him ask for his personal opinion. There’s a deep, underlying message about Flynn being such an important and impactful figure on the scope of the world because of his triumphs and tribulations. His accomplishments create reverence and acknowledgement. This is an explicit, active part of the Neutral Path’s latter-half where he raises the hopes of the people through his positive, humanistic deeds.

Lucifer and Merkabah are presented as almost heroic and relatable due to the human element of being close friends with Walter and Jonathan before their respective ascensions, and the player – as Flynn – has to do a cost-benefit of what is of more importance for the future of the world.

Each choice feels meaningful and you identify with each because of the personal relationship that Flynn has with both characters throughout the journey. You feel a sense of loss when you’re forced to fight former friends and hearing their voices in the monstrous forms gives you a sense of loss. But in the end, you’re choosing a path that feels like the correct decision, even if it costs hundreds of thousands of nameless, faceless people their lives. The sacrifice is worthy, necessary, and possibly even honorable for the greater purpose designed for their personal sacrifice.

Whether it be the people of Tokyo or Mikado in the Law and Chaos paths; whether it’s to allow God to reassert absolute control over humanity with you giving yourself to the greater goal or whether it is to allow humans to live in freedom with you as King. Even in Neutral, their positions seem understandable for the most part, because they’re struggling against the cosmic horror of the endless war of Law and Chaos explained by the White, but still have decided on a profound choice despite the endless cycle. This creates a very privileged position, typical of a the standard JRPG “chosen one” narrative, that feels normal in a video game.

The foreign language on the scaffold of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado is presented as the “mystic script” and as Flynn, you’re left to wonder about the mystery because it’s never explained what the language is. You’re simply made aware of this strange, mystical language that Mikado is in wonder of. After that, as you go down what you believe to be the depths of hell itself, you see below the medieval kingdom of a typical JRPG lays the vast city of Tokyo and most players felt surprised by this revelation when playing the game without spoilers as Flynn. You meet denizens of Tokyo with noticeable thick accents and a bizarre fear of God and angels.

The Four Routes: When playing as Flynn and making decisions, you feel a significant sense of freedom and that your choices are meaningful. Within the framework of the game itself, it feels that way. However, story-wise, you’re forced to accept the fact that none of your decisions have any sense of permanence for the greater purpose of the story itself and you must acknowledge that despite your decisions, humans are tools to be manipulated. The White offer the only resolution and that is mass oblivion to end human suffering.

The theme of Hope is central to the Neutral route of the game. It’s made explicit and even before Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse confirmed the allusions, Flynn’s actions bringing meaning is what created the hope despite knowing that it would all come to ruin as part of the endless cycle of Law and Chaos. As mentioned in a previous segment, the Chalice of Hope and the Great Spirit of Hope, in conjunction with Masakados character unambiguously espoused this theme, The theme is an answer to humanity’s nihilistic feelings regarding the meaninglessness of life itself. It expresses this point fabulously through minimalism with the White. The theme of Hope borders on nationalistic pride in certain parts of the game and gives this idealism for a hopeful future despite the pernicious understanding that it’ll all fall to ruin regardless of Flynn’s actions because it is a constant, cyclical change bound to the extremes of Law and Chaos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanashi’s view:

Nanashi is constantly vilified as a demon’s pawn throughout his journey. His allies become ambivalent in their trust towards him during the first mission to rescue Flynn in Tsukiji Konganji. While this encapsulates a small portion, it is part of a larger narrative of the game that is divergent from Flynn’s in IV. Nanashi is constantly told by Dagda that he’s just a puppet and the only ones who seem to empathize at a certain point are Hallelujah, Asahi, and Navarre.

The people of Tokyo come close to murdering him in cold blood because they view him as a constant threat to their continued existence. Neither Asahi’s emotional pleas or Fujiwara’s rational approach work to quell their hatred and desire for revenge for the loss of Flynn and the rise of the Divine Powers. Nanashi’s age is simply a non-factor as he’s constantly told to take responsibility for his actions because they have such overarching consequences. Consequences that he was too ignorant to understand at the time, but in the end, it doesn’t matter what his reasoning or limitations were once Shesha had murdered hundreds of thousands of people. Any attempt to point out naivety or ignorance is seen as running away from responsibility.

The only reason that the mob in Fujiwara’s Cafe Florida don’t outright murder Nanashi is because the Divine Powers act on their plans to seal away demon summoning to temper down the resistance to their plan of saving the universe from YHVH’s control. Nanashi becomes a convenient tool for them to utilize for their continued survival because he’s the only one that can summon demons thanks to Dagda.

After Nanashi is forced to prove himself, the people of Tokyo begin celebrating him as a Champion of Tokyo just like Flynn in the previous game. Unlike Flynn’s narrative of bringing meaning into people’s lives through good works, the narrative of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse has a double-edged sword. The player can view it in the same viewpoint as the previous game of bringing meaning into people’s lives, however, we’re presented with the knowledge that these denizens of Tokyo will cling to anyone convenient and powerful enough to act as their savior. It doesn’t have to be Flynn, it can be anyone who does the work for them. And if you, as Nanashi, fail and cause mistakes? You have to accept the knowledge that you’ll be vilified as a demon’s puppet like before. The way they view Nanashi – whether as champion or Messiah – is dependent upon what benefit Nanashi brings to them. It is a subversion of the message of Hope. You’re a tool of the people for the sake of their own convenience. It is an admittedly dangerous situation, but they place pressure with no regard for Nanashi’s personal wellbeing at any point in time.

The language of the mystic script that the people and Samurai of Mikado speak of in the early parts of Shin Megami Tensei IV are revealed to be the plain, mundane language of English. It is a rather amusing development that Mikado reveres the English language as sacred.

As Nanashi travels up the scaffold, he views each of the dungeons in reverse numerical order from how Flynn viewed them because of their vantage points. Flynn grew-up in Mikado and the shock of seeing a city “below ground” through Naraku is juxtaposed with a youthful generation finally being able to bask in the sun and skies for the first time in their lives. The only prior experience being knowledge that such landscapes existed and seeing it through a small hole made by Shesha when it tore through space-time. The thick language of Tokyo in IV is not present in Nanashi’s understanding of the language, everyone sounds normal to Nanashi. By contrast, from Nanashi’s view, the random Samurai that Nanashi meets sounds very off and strange in his pronunciation of words compared to the people of Tokyo.


Lucifer and Merkabah are presented as antagonistic and morbid monsters who seek to hurt Tokyo for their own insane ideological positions. We learn that the young men who they use to be, Jonathan and Walter, are now dead as a personal sacrifice for the sake of these ideologies that the majority of the people of Tokyo neither want nor desire. Denizens of Tokyo wonder whether everyone in the firmament is insane because of what they’re being told about what Jonathan and Walter did to themselves. They’re seen as foreigners and almost alien in nature.

Nanashi has no personal relationship with either of them. He only knows them through images on a television screen or a brief summary on their phone and he only understands them within the insulated environment of the Hunter faction. Neither Lucifer nor Merkabah vie for his favor in the beginning of the story until he seems to be useful for their goals in the latter-half of the game. Some players speculate that the game purposefully made them out to be antagonistically evil and that the deep, meaningful personalities were removed. However, this ignores what Atlus has brilliantly done to further juxtapose Nanashi’s personal life with Flynn’s personal life. If Atlus had meant to express them as unambiguously evil, then they wouldn’t have bothered showing their human forms or having them reunite for one last battle as brethren samurai in Bonds or even had the characters interact with Anarchy Flynn at all in the Anarchy route. We see a relationship between Flynn, Walter, Jonathan, and – in Bonds – Isabeau that we’re simply not privy to from Nanashi’s personal perspective.

Most important to note is that there was no change in either Merkabah or Lucifer’s personalities. Lucifer wanted war for the sake of survival of the fittest due to the doctrine that Power is Everything, Merkabah outright kills Tokyo and Law Flynn in Shin Megami Tensei IV because they were spattered with unclean blood. Neither the angels nor demons changed their behaviors from either game. Nothing about the conflict beyond the addition of the Divine Powers changed. So what was changed? Why is there such a dynamic shift in presentation of the conflict? It was not, as people may assume, to make a good versus evil representation or to unambiguously say that people who choose either Law or Chaos are wrong. The presentation wasn’t meant to be objective and it wasn’t presented as such.

You changed. Your vantage point of the conflict is all that changed in the story of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. You aren’t Flynn, the messiah who has been curried in favor of by both sides from the personal relationships that he has with Walter and Jonathan. You’re Nanashi, a kid whose name translated to “no name” and who has no say on the grand scheme of these decisions. You have no personal relationship with either Walter or Jonathan and they don’t know you. You’re seen as one of the nameless, faceless people of Tokyo just like the rest of the NPCs in the beginning of the game.

Flynn has the privileged position of feeling like a Chosen One, who can freely choose to either support or reject Law and Chaos, and who is one of the prominent figures that decide the fate of the world. Nanashi is just a random denizen of Tokyo. He is a product of the conflict. He is doubly hated for being seen as a demon’s puppet and as one of the unclean ones, the discriminated group who were never given a choice. While Walter and Jonathan had very good ideological reasons for their choices, the people of Tokyo never learned of those reasons and can only learn of the conflict through biased filters. Moreover, neither the decision of Law to commit genocide upon Tokyo or the decision of Chaos to commit to warfare to reshape the world were ever favorable to the vast majority of Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei IV. The only difference now is that you’re no longer a foreigner from Mikado with the privilege to choose sides, you’re a resident who identifies Tokyo as home and lives with the consequences.

The beginning of the game shows these consequences from the three that Tokyo views as leaders. Flynn’s neutral choice presents us with vastly improved hunter technology, running electricity throughout the active areas (this was, in fact, one of the sidequests in IV), a more hopeful people, and the prospects of the emerging three-way conflict. Walter’s choice of becoming part of Lucifer and raising a demon army is what leads to Adramelech attacking and killing Nanashi, Nikkari, and Manabu. Jonathon’s choice of merging with Merkabah results in the sealing of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado with guards violently preventing Hunters from utilizing the terminal in the scaffold to better control their movements for the mass extinction plan.

The theme of Dependency. Clinging from one object of hope to another, to the extent that despite all of Flynn’s heroics during the Neutral path for a vast majority of Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei IV, nobody really knew him as a person. Neither Fujiwara nor Skins picked-up or mention any changes in Flynn’s behavior, Isabeau mentions that Flynn seems different, but she still believes that it is Flynn. The only two people who had clear understanding of the dire situation and pointed out that Flynn was a fake were Merkabah and Lucifer. Not surprisingly, the only two people Flynn had any meaningful personal relationship with in the previous game. By contrast, when speaking to the people of Tokyo, you see how easily they cling from one hope to another. First, by vilifying you as a demon spawn one day to celebrating you as a “champion” the very next day – Nanashi is given the same title as Flynn in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Then, by showing us the Shesha-Flynn plot twist.

As Nanashi, we witness how easily hope can be manipulated for the purposes of someone who pretends to embody them. How did the Divine Powers go about masquerading the fake Flynn? They had Shesha tell the people what they wanted to hear, they acted as the part of a cartoon villain in the second Tsukiji Konganji scene to continue misleading the player and the cast of what was going on, and Shesha never acted “out of character” for our own expectations of how Flynn should act as a Neutral-aligned protagonist. It was, shockingly, perfectly in line with what we should expect from a Neutral Hero and it’s a slap in the face when the plot reveals it isn’t simply Flynn having some curse placed upon him or programmed via brainwashing to conduct certain actions against his will. The person that we thought was Flynn, and who followed the expected patterns of behavior for a Neutral protagonist, wasn’t Flynn at all. Nanashi sees firsthand how hope can be used to manipulate and use people for purposes counterproductive to their self-interests.

The most crucial aspect of the theme of dependency is the large cast of characters that are part of Nanashi’s journey. You’re presented with a cast that you can act as compassionate or mean towards. While Dagda acts as an overt and controlling force that demands that you obey him, it is under the expectations that you were going to follow his commands because he brought you back to life from the horrendous death that the player suffered. Some fans, particularly those who hadn’t played Shin Megami Tensei IV, seemed to assume that this was an expected anime-like set-up where you’re suppose to choose the expected “morally right” decisions regarding the power of friendship. But this idea of needing to choose the morally right path for the sake of it is, in actuality, meant to make you feel as if these friends are too dependent upon you and dragging you down. In essence, the feeling that you need to choose the supposed morally righteous decisions because it’s expected in a archetypical anime set-up is used against the player to make you feel that these characters are dragging you down and forcing you to be what they want you to be. They are dependent on you insofar as what you mean to their own personal expectations of you and you feel bound to a duty to them. Asahi being the most significant example of this and serving as an anchor of anger and guilt in the latter-half with her death. Her relationship to you interpretable as either a sister, lover, or a nuisance regardless of how you see her. Nevertheless, all of this can either be interpreted as the standard expectations of any typical JRPG with you meeting and helping allies as a good and typical JRPG protagonist or you can view them as hindrances. You can feel that they are sapping you of choice. After all that you go through together, you can choose the bonds of friendship as being well worth the struggles or see it as blind sentimentality compared to the overarching problem that will surely doom the future of the cosmos, if you don’t choose the morally reprehensive but objectively rational path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Flynn and Nanashi perceive Akira:

As Nanashi, when journeying into the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado, you meet and have fun speaking with ignorant medieval folks who don’t understand how a simple thing like a fan works and who have become more fundamentalist in their beliefs despite the social concessions for equality. Unlike Flynn, who viewed the statue of Aquila standing proudly with full appreciation of who that man was, Nanashi only sees it as defiled and broken. A statement of how little they view the founder of the country despite how hard he worked. Unlike Flynn, who had the chance to read the Obelisk fully to learn of and feel a part of Mikado’s history, Nanashi finds the history of his previous incarnation defaced and the people supporting extremist measures of genocide of his home of Tokyo under Merkabah.

As Flynn, we experience the social dynamics of Mikado with the two-tier caste system, the social issues between Samurai and the Monastery having in-fighting over Aquila’s law, and we gain a sense of wonder and mystery over this amazing human being known as Aquila. We meet two versions of him from the other worlds, Demonoid Akira and Human Akira. We know that this man, Akira, is someone of great importance who can reshape world events but will live a tragic life faced with total doom of all his achievements because of the endless cycle of Law and Chaos under YHVH. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Akira is seen as an honorable and heroic figure who does his best just like Flynn.

As Nanashi, we see the past memories of the Third Akira directly. We become aware that the angels were set on an isolationist and stone age society under the angel Gabriel and the other Archangels. We see that the angel Merkabah has successfully taken power and rules over Mikado with a plan to commit genocide against Tokyo. Isabeau’s brief explanation of the caste system sounds stupid and obviously antiquated. Meanwhile, everything related to Akira is defaced or ignored. To Nanashi, Akira comes off as looking like a complete failure despite his earnestness.

As Nanashi, we’re forced into viewing the life of a man that we understand is our previous life but we don’t know why we’re seeing these images. We see Akira trying to form the middle path and believing in humanity, but Nanashi is well aware of the results. He was vilified in Tokyo as a traitor and his hard work in Mikado led to the rise of an extremist, isolationist, and hateful society out to destroy the only home that Nanashi has ever known and most of the friends that he’s expected to cherish. Unlike Flynn, who sees Tokyo as a distant country filled with adventure; Nanashi sees it as home as exemplified by their distinct differences in the Tokyo world map music of each game.

In an interesting twist, while Flynn is only vaguely aware of his past life and sees the ramifications of what other versions of himself did. Nanashi witnesses the suicide of past Flynn firsthand and from the narrative, Asahi herself is disturbed by what Nanashi tells her. We see how a man had to give-up his own life just to preserve Tokyo and how broken Tokyo still is. Nanashi is actually more informed than Flynn about Flynn’s past life; by contrast, Flynn is more aware of who Nanashi’s previous life was and helped seal the archangels after they murdered Akira when sent to the past via Mastema’s power.

Why Both Games are necessary to understand the full story:

This duology presents one of the most intriguing cases of shocking the player regarding the full scope of what is necessary versus what is comforting. People who have only played Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse without having played Shin Megami Tensei IV feel it is a black and white choice of good versus evil that is being presented, in which players should be expected to pick Bonds instead of the supposed “Bad” ending. The narrative would lead someone who hasn’t played the previous game, and who isn’t paying attention to Dagda or Krishna’s explanations or perhaps not taking them seriously since they do go into great lengths about these problems, to believe that you’re making a good choice.

The White, in Shin Megami Tensei IV, go into copious lengths of elaborating that humans are just tools to be manipulated by God, that humanity cannot escape it’s pitiful cycle of endless Law and Chaos forced upon them by God. If the Law and Chaos world doesn’t align with God’s will then it is cast into destruction.

And, as previously mentioned, the philosophical underpinnings of the ascetic ideal are being expressed as the general theme of the White.

The first meeting alludes to how often they meet in this setting throughout the multiverse. The White ask what you believe the meaning of life is:

The Second meeting, they explain that humans are tools to be manipulated by their social conditioning. The context goes broader than religious worship later on to mean human weakness in needing a hope to cling to and being unable to suppress their desires during the battle against them. In this instance, however, the White’s nihilism over the truth of what human beings are within their own socialized context and under the rule of a God who decrees them chosen people is made apparent.

The third and final meeting, in which they explain humans are prisoners of God’s expectations and how anything not aligned to God’s will – even if it’s Lawful – will be cast into destruction. If humans choose freedom, then freedom will also be cast into destruction. Humans are constantly repeating their mistakes. God wants humans to view their life as a “test” and loath themselves so that he can keep himself in power. Thus, humans are prisoners of his expectations. Humans must constantly loath themselves for the crime of being born human and appropriately worship God as the perfect creator of the universe. The allusions to sinfulness are clear.

The Divine Powers, Danu, and Dagda clarify additionally that the Creator, YHVH, bound humans into cages of flesh and essentially that the physical world is – from the point of view of all the deities – an illusion that humanity is shackled upon. The natural living within human flesh is seen as the worst possible misery for the souls of human beings and must be obliterated to save their eternal souls for true prosperity in the afterlife from the perspective of the Divine Powers. There are allusions to the Divine Powers loathing sinfulness as an anathema to existence itself.

Krishna and the Divine Powers view what YHVH has done to humanity as inexplicably evil and wishes to give all of humanity salvation by destroying the sinful world and recreating humanity to be free of sin.

Krishna speaks of humanity being bound to cages of flesh and makes his intentions clear:

Danu admits that Krishna is right. Her only defense is that it’s still life:

Lucifer adds further clarification explaining that so long as humanity (within this context, the humanity created by God) exists then neither herself, the White, or YHVH himself will disappear.

The humanity of Flynn’s is the Fifth humanity. The previous four were slaughtered by the Archangels and the White came into being from the ancient races and are the Will of Humanity. It seems to be implied that when humans repress their nihilism towards life itself, it gives the White strength.

Stephen is the one who tells us about the White being aggregate sentient of humans thoughts:

Gabriel explains much of the same as Stephen:

The SMTIV Artbook further clarified:

the embodiment of the ancient races destroyed by the angels. They’ve appeared to humans four times now, sharing their memories and knowledge of the past. They claim that whether humans submit to angels or unite with demons against God, history is doomed to repeat itself and the future will never change. Therefore, they aim to obliterate all existence and return the cosmos to nothingness. They show the protagonist visions of two alternate futures – “Blasted Tokyo” and “Infernal Tokyo” – while taking on the appearance of Isabeau and Hugo in order to deceive the protagonist.- Shin Megami Tensei IV Artbook

Once you play both games and understand the full scope of the plot, you realize that not only have you made the objectively wrong choice in Bonds, but you’ve doomed all of your allies to an eternity in hell under Yahweh’s rule. Playing the Bonds route would simply have you believe that the ceiling not being broken apart and the characters all living happy lives is the only difference between it and IV’s neutral ending should you search it online, but the actual narrative tells us a dire tale. The happy ending of IV Neutral was, like all Neutral endings in the mainline series, a ruse that would only lead to total failure in the long-term of the story. In this case, not only was fighting Yahweh pointless because the extremes will always exist, but Nanashi and the player have wasted their only opportunity to free the universe from utter ruin. Bonds is about fighting hard for what they have and holding steadfast to keep their lives intact, but eventually all of them will die of natural human causes. Dagda and Nanashi are implied to never meet again. Everyone in Bonds will be cursed forever similar to Aleph and Demi-fiend. This pernicious and subtle theme isn’t make-believe, it’s presented clearly within the game as a recurring theme that’s only noticeable to people who take the time to chat with NPCs and who pay attention to the narrative involving the NPCs in the main story.

The Bonds ending is worse than at first glance; not only will Law and Chaos return with an extreme vengeance because humans created by Yahweh will always repeat their mistakes, but the White present a ticking time bomb of any and all future incarnations of Jonathan, Walter, Flynn, and Nanashi accepting their goal and destroying the Yamato Perpetual Reactor. Even worse, should none of those four be reincarnated then the White known only to Nanashi as the Pale Man explains that Twisted Tokyo is a world in which no Messiah came to save the human race from extinction. That explanation thoroughly repudiates the entire point of Bonds. If no Messiah comes to save people, the Bonds that people themselves forge don’t matter at all. Atlus goes further to express this point: if Nanashi agrees with Yahweh’s proposal and ignores Dagda’s pleas to give Dagda his hand, then the game ends and Yahweh is implied to have cast the rest of the party into hell for all eternity. If there Bonds really mattered and the power of the people can overcome everything, then why is this presented to us? Is it a glaring plot hole? No, considering the length they went in their revelation of the White in the previous game and the fact that we have the White explaining how a world simply dies off without a Messiah, it’s clear that they were making implications and subtly hinting that the happy friendship ending of Bonds will never last. The party even remark, it is all up to them. What we’re left with is a brutal war of attrition until the Fifth humanity dies out so that Yahweh makes good on his threat to replace humanity with more obedient servants like the previous four times.

So then, is Bonds just a horrible ending secretly made out to be positive, just like all previous Mainline games? Well . . . not necessarily. Bonds is about living and dying for one’s convictions of what is right, even if it means suffering eternally for making the most meaningful choice for one’s loved ones and home.

The party of Nanashi and Flynn know that they’ll suffer eternally, Yahweh doesn’t mince words. Unlike previous main characters, it doesn’t come as a horrifying surprise, they’ve accepted eternal suffering as meaningful for the sake of preserving their world and believe in the infinite possibility that positive changes will be ongoing with the dire struggles. To believe in the pure, blind chance of humanity. To be cursed eternally in hell for one’s convictions, one’s intrinsic beliefs, is a horrifically tragic, but ultimately loving and admirable message. It is not a deviation from previous mainline games, it’s just the most satisfying and expressive pro-humanistic message.

Most insidiously, from Shin Megami Tensei IV to Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, only one ending was foreshadowed in the duology. But more on that in the next part regarding specific characters and character-driven themes.

Review of Winner-Take-All Politics by Hacker and Pierson

Link to Amazon website for the book:
Winner-Take-All Politics

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Review of Winner-Take-All Politics by Hacker and Pierson

Must Read: for those who care about economic inequality and feel disillusioned or depressed by the inaction in Washington.

This is one of the most eye-opening books about modern political policy, political history of how the Super-rich took so much of the control from Washington DC, and why it is difficult to make meaningful change.

Due to the fact it covers the history of the rise of the top 1% through political maneuvering from Presidents Reagan to Obama, it would be too much to unpack in just this simple blog post. If you truly care about the economic inequality that has shattered the middle and lower class of the US, this book is an absolute must-read that will give you the full breadth of information and clarify much of the purposeful misinformation that the Mainstream news media posits as reasons for the economic inequality and the chronic inaction of Washington.

In brief, I’ll cover some of the broad range of topics that this book covers and fully clarifies. I can only go into a minutiae and highly recommend personally buying and reading every single chapter in chronological order so you understand the full scope of the contemporary events that are creating problems in the US.

A brief warning though, this is mostly going to seem incredibly one-sided and although I don’t doubt bias, much of this makes far too much sense and is consistent with much of the political issues that are making the Middle and lower class of the United States suffer. It’s a hard pill to swallow and it completely destroys the failure of bipartisanship on both sides narrative.

Most interestingly, Hacker and Pierson do not pull any punches on the ignorance of the majority of US citizens on policy issues, agenda setting, the inner workings of Washington, and the average US American knowledge of how many of which party voted on a highly publicized policy such as Obamacare. They take it even further, and elaborate on how each party use the ignorance of the broad public to purposefully create the sense of disillusionment, apathy, and despair that the majority of US Americans feel with Washington. Moreover, how it’s used to stoke anger, backlash, and constant resentment so that tax cutting initiatives for the super-rich go unimpeded.

One key aspect before you begin to read:

Who are the Super-rich? Broadly speaking: The heads of Financial institutions such as CEOs in banking, investment banks, brokerage firms, corporate CEOs, Realtors, and private equity firms. Essentially, Wall Street executives.

They typically hide how much in millions they’re making from their tax returns via stock options and deferential payments to avoid showing up on their tax returns. For that matter, their expenditures for donations to both major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, are four times as much as energy companies and other organizations. The financial industry donates the highest in campaign contributions to both parties of Congress and the White House.

Without further ado, here are just a few topics covered in this book and the explanations below are only the tip of the iceberg. If you wish to fully understand the key issues, purchase and read the full book yourselves. You will gain a clear insight and possibly pick-up on specifics that I possibly missed.

To reiterate and emphasize, this political book is highly recommended:

  1. The Mainstream News Media is purposefully misleading voters/viewers on what the problems are:

The coined term “objective journalism” isn’t really objective at all. It’s really the Middle-ground fallacy, that is trying to find fault with both parties in equal measures, when the data shows that one side is disproportionately the problem. The Mainstream media continues this fallacious narrative in trying to make a “our side” and “their side” narrative with Pundits going on ego-stroking explanations on how a disaster would have been avoided if the current administration (whether Democrat or Republican) had just followed an idea that the pundit had after some financial or political disaster has happened.

The mainstream news media also continues to play up or give credence to this distorted narrative of “big government” being in the way of economic entrepreneurs who wish to freely express their individual freedom for economic growth and job creation. This is a completely fictitious narrative, not the least of which is because corporations and the top 1 percent and, even more so, the top .001 percent have received constant tax cuts for the past thirty years. Even more importantly, the income bracket has not been updated to reflect the whooping increase in wages for the top .001 percent to raise their taxes for infrastructure and to update economic regulation on unchecked corporate power. As a result, wages for the bottom 80 percent have effectively stagnated while inflation has risen, and upper middle to lower class Americans are paying more and more while the wealthy are getting tax cuts.

The idea that technological changes created this inequality, while true in some slight respects, is pure garbage in regards to the broad economy. Other countries do not have such a vast difference in wealth disparity apart from countries like Great Britain which modeled themselves after US economic policies and harbor a vicious classist culture of their own. But countries like France, Germany, and Japan do not hold this problem, because their labor unions didn’t fall apart like US labor did during the Carter years and onward. More on that in #3.


  1. The Mainstream Media is using Swing Voters as a scapegoat.

Contrary to what mainstream outlets have the majority of US Americans believe to be true about swing voters, poll after poll shows that they’re the least informed and most ignorant about political events and the differences between both major parties. This means that they can be utilized as convenient scapegoats with this narrative of racism or ruthlessness on the part of voters against racial minorities, White Americans, or those of the lower-income bracket. The idea that the average US American hates it’s poor or hates a specific racial group gets personified. While there may be some truth to these claims, especially from outlandish types online and violent types that make headlines, the majority of US Americans don’t actually secretly hate each other as this narrative implies.

The most crucial and dangerous aspect of this issue is the attempt, engendered by the super-rich, to differentiate social equality with economic equality. To put bluntly, it’s trying to make people believe the impossible. While yes, to a significant degree, economic inequality helps perpetuate racial divisions, the fact of the matter is that true social equality simply cannot exist when everyone is struggling to make a living. It creates apathy for social issues at best and places blame on racial minorities at worst. But, when the slice of the metaphorical pie is being taken more and more by the super-rich, there’s simply no quality of life for the rest of the country because the public simply cannot function when there is no livable wages for anyone. The Mainstream media is completely apathetic to this basic fact and does everything to essentially brainwash US Americans into believing that the two can be separate.

It’s actually a strong show of the US’s strength of character that discrimination continues to be highlighted, criticized, and robustly vilified by the majority of US Americans even as everybody is losing out to the Super-rich thanks to the two-party system.


  1. Organized Labor’s fall caused an information vacuum and Economic Drift.

In brief, during the Carter years, there was a massive shift in business organizations linking together to fund special interest groups. By the 1980s, American Labor couldn’t compete with the massive and concerted organized funding of lobbying groups representing business interests. Previously, they weren’t making any concerted organization and felt threatened by American Labor’s powerful lobbying firms. So, corporations took action and joined together to form powerful interest groups. They spent, for their time, unprecedented amounts of donations for fundraising for politicians. Within short order, politicians of both parties had to fundraise hefty amounts of money for televised advertisements and flyers to keep their seats in office. It was, during Carter’s time, a massive shockwave that changed the contours of US politics.

Over the years, there was an expansion of the number of lobbying firms, expenditures for business lobbying firms rose exponentially, and the lobbying firms eventually – and still do – functioned as “floating heads” without any organized grassroots efforts. Their expenditures were initially three times higher than what American Labor groups could do, this unprecedented and sharp rise in lobbying from business crippled American Labor within a short time. It only got worse by the 1980s, the expenditures rose from three times what American Labor could do for fundraising and donations to then becoming ten to thirteen times higher. American Labor broke down and the massive protests did little to stop the policy shift of economic drift.

Economic Drift, in Hacker and Pierson’s terms, are not derailing policies, but rather failing to upgrade existing regulatory policies to reflect the modern political landscape, economic shifts of wages, inflation, and providing regulations for emerging technologies. Instead, organized efforts of interest groups made loopholes for tax breaks, put stops to critical social protections for the American workforce, deregulated the financial industry, and worked to make sure that politicians didn’t upgrade emerging financial trends to prevent economic catastrophes like the Great Recession of 2007-2008. Then, after the catastrophes, made sure to keep tax cuts for the super-wealthy while forcing the bottom 80 percent of the American workforce to foot the bill for their disregard and lack of regulatory oversight to protect consumers, stockholders, and the American workforce.

This, in and of itself, is a very brief synopsis since Hacker and Pierson meticulously go through the history and details of exactly how all of this happened from the Carter years onward. They make a definitive point to note two key changes that truly harmed the American workforce and helped the deregulation that prompted the careless disregard by the super wealthy:

First, due to the rapid decline of American Labor – which was partly shielded by the rise in labor unions in the public sector while the private sector unions all but evaporated – the American workforce became less tuned to Washington policy changes. Despite the funny hats and social customs, American labor was key in getting the majority of Americans to understand policies that effected their living standards. No more. Thanks to their fall and the rise of special interest groups working exclusively for corporate power.

Second, during the supremacy of television, televised advertisements for politicians by lobbying firms helped to spread misinformation and focused on anger inducing techniques to inspire voting for policies which were harmful for the majority of US Americans. Sometimes they utilized outright lies to fool people into voting for a politician who supported policies harmful to the majority of the US public but helpful to corporate interests.

Even worse, US Americans don’t understand the true importance of elections because the mainstream media utilizes Us versus Them sports analogies. This is ultimately a corrosive and disingenuous view of the politics of capitol hill. What matters most is that the supermajority in power determines the policy agenda that the Congress will discuss for their years in power and what the majority of Americans should pay attention to is what policies that politicians actually pass and permit to become law. Often, they’ll try to bluff by espousing rhetoric about how economic policies favorable to the majority of the US public couldn’t pass because of the specific bill in place, but the politician will insist they support the public good while passing laws that diminish and harm the majority of the US public. The main focus needs to be on policies and laws actually being passed to learn what politicians in general – and your specific politician – really support on a consistent basis.


  1. Partisan Politics is useful for the agenda of the Super-rich.

Have you ever heard the phrase, flaunted as a soundbite by the wealthy when donating to the two major parties, “Give to the Republicans to get what you want, but give to the Democrats for insurance.”?

It’s interesting and gives a superficial understanding of what has happened, it is ultimately wrong. It does not unveil the true extent of the problem. The two-party system hatred is absolutely valuable for the agenda of the Super-rich, if anything it is highly crucial to keep their stronghold on Washington. That is because retired government officials or those who’ve moved to private sector jobs usually find work with the very powerful interest groups that lobby in Washington. People understand this, for the most part, but they don’t understand how deep it goes.

As time has gone on, since the beginning of this trend during President Carter’s administration, significant increases in millions of dollars of expenditures for lobbying groups have been pumped into lobbying to increase the proficiency of organized groups. These organized special interests work diligently to make into law the interests of the Super-rich. Typically, they work hard on tax cut loopholes for the Super-rich.

Special interest groups representing the Super-rich have keyed in and have gone from developing strategies in which they hire former congressional staffers, who have knowledge of or a close personal relationship with each congressman in Washington. Typically, it is congressmen who are on specific congressional boards and whose policy formations represent their business interests. Over the past thirty years, the Super-rich and their lobbying firms have “modernized” this strategy. The problem was that, when there was political overhaul with a new supermajority party in power, the special interests typically cajoled the previously hired staffer of a political party, that was no longer the majority in Congress, to retire early. This was so that they could hire someone new from the other political party to take the helm and pursue their political interests utilizing the close personal ties to that specific party.

No more; this strategy proved inefficient and obviously led to distrust. Now, with the increasing expenditures of special interest groups to create a more efficient organized capacity for lobbying, it has created a massively successful framework. The special interest groups representing the Super-rich have created two sets of organizations – one for Democrats and one for Republicans – so that regardless of whichever party is in power, the Super-rich will simply switch up the teams to use the most relevant political party that has ties to the elected congressman. Thus, the two-party system, and the public’s idea that one political party is “their team” and that their corruption is “less worse” or “necessary” to fight the other team, helps the Super-rich continue to demand tax cuts while both political parties write up new tax laws that raise the taxes of the lower-income Americans, the Middle Class, and the Upper-Middle class while slashing taxes vigorously for the Super-rich.

The Super-rich and both political parties have helped obfuscate the heinous degree in which they’ve ruthlessly continued this policy for the party thirty years. They have the Mainstream News media depict reduced taxes for the lower-income, middle, and upper-middle class and seem to increase taxes for the Super-rich; what isn’t shown however is the chronological effect of such tax policies. While most of them will have reduced taxes for the bottom 80% for the first year or even the first two years, and have that part publicly shown on mainstream news outlets, within short time (for a tax policy), the 5 or 10 year tax policy will have aggressive cuts for the Super-rich and significant – often massive – increases in taxes for the lower-income, Middle, and Upper-Middle class of the US public. Obviously, it’s proportional to what they have but there are significant increases all around, and the burden is solely on the bottom 80 percent.

So what happens? Lower-income voters feel detached and like they don’t matter so they don’t vote. Middle-class voters become more permissive or apathetic to discriminatory rhetoric for racial minorities (those who lose jobs either blame identity politics or the racial minorities who they feel are stealing their jobs), and the Upper Middle-class has this biased idea that they’re becoming poorer despite working harder than lower-income Americans. They may blame their lessened wealth on the idea of lazy poor people because they met one or two lazy people or know of a family they think of as lazy or with certain problems. Reactionary politics ensues, the “other party” Democrat or Republican, takes the supermajority hold in Congress and promise reform while then helping distribute more tax cuts for the Super-rich without any meaningful debate on what it’s doing to the rest of US society. The Super-rich use their other team of their special interest group that have close ties to the other political party and then the Super-rich walk home with the grand prize of less taxes while the bottom 80% begin to blame their morals or technology or lack of religion or racial minorities or Millenials or whatever.

This is also why Gerrymandering is important, and often given the narrative of us vs them between Republican and Democrat political parties to further obfuscate how much the bottom 80% is losing out to the Super-Rich. Gerrymandering assures that the two-party system stays in power and is vitally important for the Super-rich to keep their own power over the bottom 80 percent.


  1. Evangelical Christians faithfully served the Super-rich and destroyed the Middle-Class.

This is probably the most contentious aspect of their book, but they have the historic facts to back it up and the tale is unfortunately very one-sided under legitimate objective scrutiny.

In brief, starting from the Carter years over rising anger over the possibility of churches being taxed, the anger simmered since Evangelicals were already reluctantly conceding to racial integration, the approximately 50 million US Americans (a number Evangelicals are happily to self-tout in their propaganda) staunchly and happily acted as the grassroots force of the Republican party. And with the majority of the US public inattentive and ill-informed, the Evangelicals highly organized and motivated grassroots organization proved effective in keeping Republicans under majority control from the Carter years to the Clinton years in the US Congress. The political advocacy for conservative social values only increased for the Presidency of George W. Bush and especially during the 2004 campaign against John Kerry.

Republicans organization forces, and during the 1980s, their mail-in donation orders, helped to eclipse the organizational capacity of the Democrats. The dedication and tireless work of Evangelical Christians for the Republican party helped to cement their supermajority foothold. Evangelicals were quick to campaign door to door, to phonebank for candidates, and to help fellow Evangelicals to drive to the polling locations. And for all their hard work? They happily sat back as Republicans aggressively promoted Conservative social values such as the anti-LGBT scare of 2004 and the anti-abortion bills in local, State, and Federal government, sometimes even in the cases of infringing upon the rights of rape victims. Recall, if you will, the 2008 election in which Sarah Palin deflected questions on raped women’s rights to abortion, and consider the fact that none of the mainstream media covered the lack of laws protecting Native American children from being raped by opportunistic, racist US citizens.

And what was the economic cost? Republicans kept pushing an economic fundamentalist agenda. Economic fundamentalism in the sense that they made a concerted and deliberate effort to aggressively slash taxes for the Super-rich while massively increasing taxes for the poor, Middle-class, and Upper Middle-class while doing little to adjust wages for inflation. Essentially, Evangelical political action groups stole the American Dream from the rest of their fellow Americans while the US public was largely blind or ignorant of their activities.

Evangelicals were happy to concede to the economic interests of the Super-rich, if it meant their conservative social values were defended. While the broader US public largely thought of them with a patronizing outlook, the general idea of Evangelicals being ignorant and perhaps kooky but ultimately harmless, because they were mostly noticed by the general public when loudly protesting against LGBT peoples and women’s reproductive rights, helped to shield the impact of what they actually did. Evangelicals have concerted with corporate interests into systematically robbing the rest of the US public of their wealth and handing it on a silver platter to the Super-rich. The economic redistribution to the Super-rich was thirty years in the making and is most certainly permanent. Evangelicals robbed the American people of their wealth, they robbed you of your wealth, and the degree of their impact means that they have most certainly robbed your children and grandchildren of a better life. You could argue that perhaps in another thirty years, after you’ve worked hard being part of massive protests that barely move Washington DC into acting upon the public good, that you’ll eventually be able to redistribute wealth . . . maybe. But the dismantling of Occupy Wall Street and, more recently, the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline should give you pause to consider whether or not this will be the permanent state of affairs. Regardless of where you stand on either protest, it is indicative of the fact that if the Super-rich feel their interests aren’t being met then your first amendment rights don’t matter anymore. All because Evangelicals worked hard for thirty years to make this state of affairs permanent. And then, when economic woes get tough, racial minorities are blamed and often killed by socially conservative, usually Evangelical sympathizing vigilantes.

On a personal note, I now have to live in fear of being shot to death on my front lawn thanks to the ongoing hatred of Sikhs and the recent killings of Indian origin US citizens, all because Evangelicals decided to unilaterally destroy the livable wages of the US public in service to the Super-rich. Evangelicals themselves blame racial minorities for the economic downturn that they helped create. One might question how they could be this stubborn and shallow, all I can say is, this is what happens when you give a permissive cultural norm to ignorant people who don’t believe in facts, but strongly believe in a moral high-ground irrespective of real life conditions and how their actions hurt others. To the Evangelical mind, they most likely believe that the US is suffering economic downturn for their support for progressive social values like women’s reproductive rights and treating the LGBT community like human beings worthy of respect and equal rights. To the Evangelical mind, it would just be a punishment from God and the permanent loss of your wealth because of their actions is just “arrogance” on the part of people who disagree with their authoritarian mindset in favor of freedom of expression. They would simply believe that you’re being punished for being a sinner and celebrate the permanent loss of your livable wages as Jesus Christ’s judgment upon you. They likely believe your suffering is justified because they don’t agree that you have the right to your own personal beliefs on faith.


  1. Republicans became “tax cut fundamentalists” for the Super-rich and continue to raise the taxes for everybody else.

This part is going to seem overly biased and one-sided, but true objective analysis means taking a hard look at what activities each party is pursuing and what bills they’re supporting to bring into law. It is not, as the mainstream media continues to espouse, finding faults with both parties to create an “equal” form of journalism that gives a disingenuous view of events. However, since this information tells a very bizarre and altogether one-sided story, people may come to expect it’s pure ignorance or one-sided propaganda. Previously, I pointed out to their modern assessment of what is going on, but the history of how we got to this point gives us an insane picture that is hard to believe and even more difficult to stomach. It’s anger-inducing and I don’t believe that most will take this part of their analysis seriously because the broader US public is so use to this idea that both parties have failed the public.

Regrettably, the actual picture shows that Republicans were aggressively moving hard-right on Economic issues to support tax cuts for the Super-rich while increasing taxes for everybody else. The days of fiscal conservatism had a painful death as a result of politicians becoming bought and paid for by lobbying groups exclusively working for the Super-rich.

In brief, the increase in lobbying groups and imperative for politicians to seek fundraising in the millions has caused massive inattentiveness and inaction for the majority of politicians. Compounded with this is the Hard-right Republican culture of Newt Gringrich during the Clinton years. Thanks to Gingrich and those who followed the “tax cut fundamentalism” approach of the 90s Republican party, the fiscal conservatives became shunned and then eventually replaced. The Gingrich Republican party filibustered and sidelined any attempt to regulate or update the existing financial structure and blithely demanded tax cuts for the Super-rich as the most prominent and important agenda aspect of the Congress. Due to the sixty vote majority necessary to end filibusters, the Gingrich Republicans continued to advocate for tax cuts. When discontent with Republicans rose over this new and extreme platform, the States that usually shift from each party during an election, ended-up removing the few remaining fiscal conservatives out of office in favor of Democrats. As a result, the Gingrich tax cut fundamentalists became even more extreme in tax cuts for the Super-rich to show they were more useful to the Super-rich. Republicans could still prevent a raise in taxes thanks to vetoes requiring sixty votes.

What about the Democrats? Many did support the Republican party’s entrenched and concerted partisan position. By the Clinton years, needing fundraising from the Super-rich to get elected became a necessity to keep your seat in Congress, and the Democrats under Chuck Schumer positioned themselves with aggressive fundraising tactics, but the majority of Democrats generally try to balance the interests of the Super-rich with the needs of the public and their constituents varying requirements.

Hard-Right Economic Republicans under Gingrich, however, do not concern themselves with matters of inflation or with the need for livable wages for the poor, the middle class, and the Upper-middle-class. In fact, the Gingrich Republicans flaunted the very idea of economic regulation to help the majority of a country. They don’t view it as their duty to help the public good and feel the government should stay out of issues of social or economic inequality. They don’t need to. The authoritarian mindset of Conservative culture and the unshakeable faith of Evangelicals working as grassroots organizers assured that they would remain with enough congressional seats to filibuster and promote tax cut fundamentalism in favor of the Super-rich.

The rise of the tea party made the situation increasingly more partisan and even more extreme since they didn’t accept any rise in taxes for the Super-rich while emphasizing no rise in taxes, even for a few short years, for the Super-rich. From the Gingrich veto-happy Republicans onward, Republicans have stopped concerning themselves with the needs of lower-income, Middle class, and Upper-Middle class society. They’ve used the biased assumption that Republicans lower taxes to slash taxes for the Super-rich while raising taxes for the lower-income, middle-class, and upper-middle class via long-term tax policies that initially seem favorable to the majority of US Americans before changing overtime to favor the Super-rich and burden the rest of society. Since the Gingrich years, the Republican party no longer thinks of the broader US public as their “base”, but rather the Super-rich as their exclusive base that they need to appeal and show favor towards. Even in situations where a rational set of regulatory policies could have prevented the economic collapse known as the Great Recession, Republicans have remained unfazed in their tax cut fundamentalist policy positions since Wall Street doubled-down and spent more lobbying money to assure that nothing too extensive changed. As a result, Democrats had conduct a painful, costly bailout that burdened the rest of the US public because Republicans resolutely refused to even consider raising taxes on the Super-rich and by 2008, Democrats had to compete with balancing what was the sensible solution for the US public with gaining favor from the Super-rich to continue being an elected official for the next term in office.

The unvarnished truth isn’t simply both parties being utterly corrupt. It’s Republicans refusing to consider anything but slashes for the Super-rich and Democrats having to balance the requirements of fundraising from the Super-rich with the public good. It’s Democrats constantly reacting to competing interests and Republicans remaining firmly set on hard-right economics. Republicans don’t consider it their job to balance the budget or to concern themselves with the needs of the broader public; not for the minimum wage, not for medicare, not for the reality of climate change, or the future prosperity of the country. Their concern is only appeasing the Super-rich and any catastrophe that happens, they will let the Democrats deal with and the US public pay the costs of.

Their strategy has proved efficient and Democrats have fallen out of favor. Republicans know, and consistently utilize, the political reality that when a supermajority of Democrats fail to live up to their promises to the US public then the positive election buzz eventually loses steam and the broader public becomes discontent with them. They question why compromise and often unfavorable compromises are necessary, but because of the veto and delay tactics of Republican members of Congress in conjunction with extensive fundraising activities that take more and more precedent over the many years, the US Congress has effectively become paralyzed with perpetual inaction. When promised changes fail to materialize and voters become angry, there is an obvious tendency to blame the majority because they’re perceived to hold the most power in the US Congress. The reality that both parties need compromise to fully function as a result of aggressive lobbying escapes notice.

Republicans, especially with the Tea Party branch of Republicans, seize the anger every time the positive feelings lose steam. They aggressively and staunchly oppose bipartisanship so that the public feels fear, anger, and stress over the fact their lives never get better. The Republicans openly flaunt and brag about this strategy, they don’t want to be seen as having a bipartisanship resolution because it makes people feel relieved and feel as if the politicians will resolve matters. The Republicans have boasted that they tap into the anger and frustration to motivate people into believing they’ll get tax cuts, if they vote Republican, and once Republicans retake supermajority role, they don’t concern themselves with even weak regulatory legislations that Democrats pass to protect the US public and instead create loopholes and continue to aggressively cut taxes for the Super-rich while raising taxes for the lower-income, middle, and Upper-middle class of US society.

If problems should arise? They let the Democrats deal with the fallout and have – since the Gingrich years – stopped concerning themselves with the majority of US Americans as being relevant to their agenda. The ignorance of the broad US public, the angry sentiments that arise from failed promises, and most importantly, the organized and concerted grassroots efforts have firmly kept Republicans in power. Republicans know how reactionary the US public is and how ignorant they are of what actual policies the Republicans support. They continue to pass policies of tax cuts for the Super-rich as proof of this continued assault on the US public and destroy whatever meager regulatory protections there are with loopholes or fear campaigns of socialism or deviate the argument away from tax cuts by highlighting conservative social values to engender Evangelicals continued compliance.

Hacker and Pierson even highlight this with Obamacare. They point out the Democrats were already conceding to the Super-rich to even push Obamacare forward and even then, it had almost failed. They show the horrifying ignorance of the US public over the issue. A poll about Obamacare showed that most of the US public believed approximately 20 to 30 Republicans voted in favor of Obamacare when asked how many they believe voted in favor of it. That would be a reasonable and possibly compelling idea, if we assume the Republican party cared about the US public’s healthcare and ability to continue living after conceding to the interests of the Super-rich. It’s also wrong. The correct answer was none. Not a single one of the Republicans voted in favor of Obamacare. And with Republicans unilaterally opposed to any tax increases for the Super-rich, the Democrats had to follow the Republican agenda and agree to increase taxes for everyone else to make sure that healthcare averted an economic fallout similar to the Great Recession but at the US public’s expense and not at the expense of the Super-rich.

Finally, it’s unlikely even this small article will change voting practices, I’m not naive enough to believe people will even want to listen because this seems so irrational. But we’re 20 trillion in debt, by comparison our GNP/GDP is 4 trillion a year, and the bottom 80 percent is continuing to foot the bill for the recklessness of Wall Street and other financial firms because the Republicans have successfully held a firm hold using the ignorance of the US public and reactionary sentiments whenever the Democrat majority fails to deliver on promises. The fear and anxiety is useful for reactionary shifts so that Republicans, who gain significantly more in donations from the Super-rich, continue to have organized grassroots activities from conservatives more in favor of the authoritarian mindset and from the general ignorance of the US public who don’t pay attention to what policies and laws that Republicans largely sponsor. It sounds one-sided, ridiculous, and insane that Republicans simply don’t concern themselves with the debt, the reckless financial activities of the Super-rich, and that they would burden Democrats to fix whatever they broke, but the policy preferences and fundraising disparity paint a clear picture.

The modern Republican party of our time doesn’t believe that economic equality is important, doesn’t concern itself with the struggles of the lower income or the middle-class or even the upper middle-class, and continue the tax cut fundamentalism to keep themselves in power and to keep Democrats in a perpetually reactionary state of affairs. This party is devoted to destroying the country; the failed economic policies of Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr. make it apparent that Democrats are actually better for the economy, but the effect has weakened since both parties need to keep in mind that they need to appease the Super-rich to stay relevant. Democrats try to play a balancing act, but Republicans tap into reactionary sentiments and see the broader public as little more than rabid dogs while offering tax cuts to the only base that they have concern for; the Super-rich.

Personally, after reading this book, and acknowledging the fact that the overt racism of Donald Trump’s campaign didn’t stop people from voting for him, and thus people with racially discriminatory views have increased hate crimes – including shooting people of Indian origin dead in their front lawn. I’ve since concluded that I’ve been incredibly naive. I don’t believe things will get better, I don’t believe the very scant few people who read this will believe this is what’s happening, and it’s doubtful people will pick-up Hacker and Pierson’s book to better understand the objective policy agendas that both parties follow without the partisan nonsense seen on television to make both sides seem equal. The one-sided nature of this seems altogether ridiculous and it’s a vexing truth to swallow. But nothing will ever change. The Super-rich have won and the Evangelicals helped them do irreparable damage to the United States economy.

If you do wish to learn more about what is going on, this book is highly recommended. Please read it, at least you won’t be as confused about why nothing positive seems to be happening with the US Congress regarding economic inequality. If you still have hope for change, unlike me, then please read this book.

When life gives you uncertainty…

So, I’ve had quite the challenging couple of months.

I managed to get a new, well-paying job, then upon finishing job training and exiting out of work after the first week, I was struck by an oncoming, speeding vehicle. The crash could have killed me since he hit the driver side door and my car careened all the way into a parking lot where it crashed into a parked car. Since then, I’ve been undergoing physical therapy and had to deal with severe pain in my neck, back, knee, and my left elbow.

I felt like I could recover, then my insurance company basically told me that the accident was my fault since there was no proof the driver was speeding (cases like this need outside witness testimony and nobody was there to witness the other driver crash into me). The police didn’t even do their paperwork right. Despite giving my name, telling them the car was in my father’s name, and giving them my license, they never bothered to listen to my side of the story. I’ve spent the past few months having at least four crying fits, in which I locked my door and shut myself up in my room just crying and been dealing with chronic pain and flashes of pain up until a few weeks ago. I will now be living with neck pain and potentially need to go surgery in the future depending on if it gets worse according to my doctor since they still don’t know yet.

My emotions have basically ranged from dejection, numbness, self-deprecation, and anger over the situation. What I say didn’t matter, my side of the story meant nothing, and the possibility of me almost dying meant nothing to either insurance company, the police, and the laws of society. I don’t even know what else to say, blogging about it feels just as worthless and meaningless. Nobody cares, that’s life. That’s been my life since grade school. That’s the only consistent answer society ever gives. Apathy and complicity to human suffering. A part of me wonders if I should feel ashamed about this, another part of me realizes someone somewhere is going to take this out of context and mock me for it.

Before the accident, I had thought I was weak-willed and would hypocritically think of a higher power if put in a position where my life was on the line. When I was struck by the oncoming car, I only thought of three immediate things: Regretting not being able to finish the other route in a game I was playing, not being able to write a fanfic I had been toying with the idea of, and how I viewed myself as a member of the atheistic branch of Hinduism and believed in certain parts of the Ubermensch philosophy espoused by Nietzsche. After that, I basically thought about how I wouldn’t be able to finish the book criticizing religion, if I died then. Although, a part of me is tired of trying to improve my life and only seeing failures and punishment. I’ve just been passing the time by playing the route of the video game I had yet to totally finish and decided on another playthrough despite there only being two meaningful endings in that game.

I’m not sure how bizarre that sounds . . . at this point, I really feel uncertain about everything and I’m not sure if I’m running away or just trying to figure things out. I don’t know how to feel and I don’t know how to move forward yet.

Internal Affairs (1990)

0/10.

Completely awful film.

I pretty much disengaged from the film when it became evident that Raymond, the main character, was more likely to believe some known crooked officer who makes goading remarks than his actual wife. Evidently, the film finds Raymond assaulting his wife and throwing a childish temper tantrum to be forgivable manly behavior.

The film marketed itself as two intellectuals doing battle, and I have seen recommendations where it’s compared to the Departed. This is utter nonsense. The Departed is hundreds of leagues superior to this craptastic shit excuse of a film. It went from an interesting investigation into a crooked cop into a whiny manchild screaming and hitting his wife because of a bunch of insults. The fact his wife was having dinner with the man, and the fact the man somehow had his wife’s panties (or so it is believed, most likely the man took one from his four wives and pretended it was the main character’s wife, Catelyn). The wife evidently is sorry and obediently has sex with her husband when prompted to after her husband accused her of cheating on him, made a mess of her business dinner in front of all her colleagues, and assaulted her right in front of them.

The ending is a predictable “main villain threatens main character’s wife” nonsense. Nothing about this movie was interesting. I absolutely hate it. It was obvious the crooked cop was making things up due to his behavior around women in general. Overall, the main character was a total idiot who believed some stranger over his wife and got rewarded for it. The fact another wife beater’s wife was cheating meant nothing, because it had nothing to do with the relationship of Raymond and Catelyn.

I absolutely hate these types of films. Women are treated as objects to be owned, required to forgive any abuse placed upon them, and somehow they’re suppose to be a “good wife” of upstanding moral character by forgiving their wife beater husbands. As far as I’m concerned, if a husband beats his wife, then she’s free to leave him. Human trash don’t deserve to act like victims while treating other people like crap and ignoring the pain they bring them. Raymond is human trash galore, an icon of all the stupid men of society who don’t deserve to be in any relationship because they’re petty, jealous, insecure, and utterly disgusting pieces of trash. If you don’t trust any women, you don’t deserve to be in a relationship with one.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso / Your Lie in April

Mild Spoilers Below

This 22 episode + 1 OVA anime series is an exceptionally well made standard romance-drama storyline.

Thinking over it, it has a fairly standard manic pixie dream girl teaches guy life lessons and then leaves plotline but there are key differences that make this anime outshine the standard template of what people typically expect from this series.

1.) The characters are incredibly realistic. Every single character in this anime has a realistic personality, passions, and goals in life. In contrast to the standard story formula, these aren’t cliche. Arima Kousei, the main character, has monologues that aren’t cliche or stupid; they show the introspection and emotional pain of a damaged prodigy whose whole world shattered after his mother’s death and his regretful last words despite her child abuse.

2.) Most importantly of all; there is no forced melodrama to force the story to continue, there is no character stupidity,  and just about everything the characters struggle through is either real life issues that many people can relate to or ambivalence about feelings for long time friends that is just as relatable.

As a result, this anime shines far above the typical cliches and provides some incredible character development and story transition. Despite the seeming haphazardness of the story progression as it immerses us with scenes from past and present in seamless transition to show us the characters thoughts, motives, and struggles; it conducts the immersion brilliantly with a deft hand at picking out scenes that make the classical music scores resonate with the tumultuous emotions given to the audience.

The classical musical scores make the show shine as we’re treated to the inner struggles of artists who play songs to reach their loved ones and to reach audiences beyond language, religion, nationality, age, gender, and all the other social statuses that sever human connectedness. Music is generally portrayed as otherworldly but this anime makes it a point to say that music is just as flawed and human as the people playing the musical scores. Most interestingly, the artist is stated to follow the Dark Path as that is what it is to be a musician despite one’s nervousness at a live performance.

It is explicitly stated, by Kaori, the main heroine, that music is freedom. She explores and showcases the freedom of music by playing musical scores in her own beat and rhythm with her violin.

Kaori’s characterization seems fairly realistic in terms of being selfish and forcefully proactive because of her limited time in life, but unfortunately it’s still the standard cliche of a manic pixie dream girl. But I did really like her character, and the emotional turmoil she went through as her condition (which some viewers have stated resemble ALS) deteriorated and she underwent the operation. The last scene with her was a nice touch for the anime.

Despite Kaori being a manic pixie dream girl, since even in her last words at the end of the anime, it predictably stated that her whole life was about getting to know the boy whose music she admired as a kid; the childhood friend of the main character, Tsubaki, provides better character development overall. Tsubaki’s ambivalence and emotional turmoil is a more realistic portrayal of a female character  facing struggles with her own feelings.

Watari, Arima Kousei’s other close friend, and his rivals Emi and Takeshi, along with Takeshi’s sister Aiza Nagi, and Kousei’s teacher Hiroko, and other side characters have incredible characterization.

I would say that it is a must-watch anime. However, I’m not sure what to score it. An 8 out of 10 or a 9 out of 10 or a 10 out of 10 . . . I’m just not sure. You be the judge after watching it. It’s certainly masterfully written and produced; a great use of standard cliches to make a riveting story and the music composition alone makes the anime standout and shine. Definitely worth your time.

Also, on a more personal note, I really enjoyed how every single one of the characters can be considered ubermensch in the defined term that Nietzsche meant. Following their own self-satisfaction, giving their lives for their art/sport, living as embodiments of art for art’s sake, and struggling and feeling happy with struggling whether it be emotional or physical impairments. Kaori, Arima Kousei, Tsubaki, Emi, Takeshi, Nagi, Hiroko, and all of the other characters all embody the ubermensch philosophy of Nietzsche. Kaori was especially the personficiation; I loved how, despite the tragic circumstances, she gained enjoyment and happiness from finding a purpose in struggling against her condition thanks to Kousei’s words about playing music with her again.It was beautiful and I think it personifies the ubermensch and the theme of the anime beautifully.

Bungaku Shoujo / Literature Girl Film

A surprisingly good film.

Once viewers can move past the abnormal psychological desire of the literature girl, Amano Tooko, eating pages from books to cement her love of them, it delves into a rather intriguing romance story.

Inoue Konoha is a highschooler whose past we slowly uncover and learn about his quasi-friend, quasi-girlfriend Asakura Miu, a girl who attempted suicide in middle school due to the confluence of problems with her home life and the horrifying aspect that Konoha will no longer be in her life in the future. Throughout the film, we discover just how much Miu hates herself and how she deceives and hurts Konoha because she both despises herself and despises the fact that Konoha could leave her. Her ambivalent attitude of love and hate for her only real friend is portrayed incredibly realistically. What I particularly liked was the ambivalence of her character.

Konoha himself seems to hold shame and guilt for winning a book contest which he initially believes stole Miu’s dream and made her commit suicide. In reality, it was because Konoha wouldn’t continue to be her “dog” and stay loyal to her. Konoha’s two other friends, Nanase Kotobuki and Akutagawa Kazushi, are absolutely disgusted with Miu’s manipulative and selfish behavior that continues to cause Konoha severe mental anguish. Konoha is in such emotional turmoil that he shows signs of PTSD and severe anxiety on multiple occasions when thinking over Miu’s attempted suicide. Amano Tooko’s adventuring and chats about her future prospects with college serve to help him stay adjusted and distracted from the tumultuous thoughts about Miu and his deep sense of shame and guilt over what he feels was his fault.

Unfortunately, Tooko herself seems like a cookie cutter version of the manic pixie dream girl. She shows a strong sense of empathy and understanding for Miu’s mental breakdowns and Konoha’s deep regret, but we can only really use that to judge her character apart from her frequent chats about her future prospects and exams. The conversation is usually focused upon Miu or Konoha’s lives and there is much less emphasis on Tooko to really know much about her. Even side characters like Kazushi and Kotobuki seem to show more depth. However, I do feel that the caring and strong demeanor that Tooko portrayed was realistic within the situational contexts of the film; I just wish there was more depth given to her character.

8/10

 

Akagami no Shirayukihime / Snow White with the Red Hair Anime

This is probably one of the best 12 episode anime stories to be made. It makes an engaging and compelling story without any need for grimdark undertones. It just takes a minuscule bit from a fable, Snow White, to tell an original story. There is no prince kissing Snow White; instead it features a pro-active likable female protagonist leaving her country of origin to avoid being the concubine of a misogynistic prince and eventually entangling herself into the life of a prince from another kingdom whom she develops a friendship with. The main character, Shirayuki, eventually works hard to make her own place as a top-notch herbalist in the neighboring kingdom.

Zen, second prince to the neighboring kingdom, is just as likable as Shirayuki and works hard to make his kingdom a safer place. What’s interesting about their character dynamics is that, unlike most anime where characters continuously try to have idiotic slapstick comedy filled with cliches of the female calling the male an idiot and voyeuristic bath scenes, this anime portrays a completely normal, healthy relationship between two characters and it is entirely realistic. Part of the realism is that it’s a normal relationship that naturally progresses to romance and doesn’t have any cliches like “He saved me so I’ll devote my life to him”, or “The power of friendship”, or “It’s a man’s job to protect a woman”, or any other typical, nonsensical anime/pop culture cliche. What binds them together is their capacity for hard work. Shirayuki wants to prove that she isn’t just some lucky girl who is trying to use her friendship with Zen to either marry him or harm him for personal gain. Certain guards and the first Prince have strong misgivings about Shirayuki’s intentions due to assassination and kidnapping attempts in the past. Shirayuki wants to prove them wrong, she wants to feel equal to Zen, and most importantly of all, she wants to work hard and prove to herself that she can be a respected herbalist because that’s her dream goal.

Throughout the anime, we see her strive towards passing her exams and becoming a full-fledged member of the Royal Herbalists in the Castle. Her desire to be of use bears fruit with the fact that she heals a platoon of soldiers on guard at one of the Kingdom’s borders. Zen requires her skills and asks her to come along; her work helps to cure the sickness, find the cause through process of elimination, and she helps give the recovering soldiers medicine for the duration of their eight hour shifts; nearly causing herself to collapse from lack of sleep because she took so much time working on the medicine and holding herself to a timely schedule. This is among many other achievements throughout the anime.

Zen works hard as the second prince to prove that he’s a competent ruler to his brother. He feels some shame for being born into nobility because of a friend in his past remarking jealously about how Zen will never have to fight and kill to survive. He can always expect guards to protect him, a loving home, and food on his plate every day. His friendship and eventual love for Shirayuki is equally compelling to Shirayuki’s own. Just as Shirayuki doesn’t feel equal to Zen, Zen feels that Shirayuki flies far above him in terms of personal strength, commitment, and endurance. While he was born into the life of the castle, she worked hard to achieve her place among the castle’s people, she can always be relied upon to help others in any given situation, and her herbalist skills become increasingly needed to provide valuable medicines for the kingdom. Zen thinks of Shirayuki as a strong, competent, and tireless individual who he’s regrettably entangling into the drama of royal politics. Shirayuki gets placed into physical danger on more than one occasion because of it.

Beyond that though, they both seem to really, really like each other and the chemistry isn’t forced, has no cliches, and just seems so shockingly natural that it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this anime the best romance anime of all-time. Shirayuki does get kidnapped but she fights back and occasionally breaks out of her prisons through her wit alone before Zen and others can come to take down the villain. The stress takes a toll on Shirayuki but thankfully she never becomes bitter because she can rely on Zen as much as Zen relies upon her.

Overall, this anime series gets a 10/10 in my book.

Why Christianity Will Always Fail You

Over the course of a few weeks, I seem to have attracted the scorn of Reddit. In this one particular subreddit, r/badeasternphilosophy, someone took interest to my blog and made a topic about how extreme my criticism of Western philosophy was. While there were people who mocked me under the presumption that I only read Nietzsche, some of the more thoughtful topic posters pointed out that many Western philosophical schools don’t really delve into Eastern philosophy at all.

The chief reason why I find Western philosophy to be largely beneath me is because most Western philosophers tried reconciling their limited knowledge of the world with Christian values. Specifically, the doctrine of original sin, this is to the point that they would make up other causes for why humans were intrinsically evil. After joining a Christian club in college, I got more curious about Jesus’s teachings and decided to read the King James version of the Sermon on the Mount. I expected peaceful teachings because I was led to believe it was the pivotal teaching of peace by Christians and a significant cornerstone for championing peace under Western schools of thought. Needless to say, I was dismayed by what I read, which I’ll explain further on.

I’ll number the criticisms I have so that I may better address each of the specific contentions that I have with Christian theology.


#1: Open interpretation isn’t a solution.

Most modern Christians try to find a middle ground between the reality of the modern day with the teachings in the Bible. A convenient way to ignore biblical teachings that explicitly condone treating women as the property of men and all of the violence within the Bible itself is to use open interpretation. Stories of violence upon other tribes in the Old Testament or violence condoned in the New Testament is ignored because it is inconvenient to acknowledge the wrongful actions within a supposed holy book.

Open interpretation is largely an attempt to feel consistent with identifying oneself as a Christian because of the implicit assumption that you must be a “Christian” to live by positive morals. It allows modern Christians of the West to feel consistent with Christian values by ignoring whatever they dislike and disagree with. Yet, they don’t see the inherent self-contradiction in trying to feel consistent with being a Christian through ignoring teachings that make them feel uncomfortable. Arguably, the less significance modern Christians place on the Bible, the more Christian they can feel through the parameters of what open interpretation can allow. It is an attempt to maintain the supposed bliss of being a Christian while ignoring how modern conveniences and modern moral sensibilities would shun, feel outraged, penalize, and criminalize actions conducted within the Bible should they occur in modern times. Beheadings, the murder of children, the mass death of civilians, depictions of torture/”enhanced” interrogation, and so forth.

Open interpretation is an empty argument. Christians who believe in open interpretation either don’t realize or willfully ignore this severe issue. When violence is committed by Christians in the name of Christianity, whether in the West or in non-Western countries when the perpetrators of violence are Christians, then many Christians argue that violence is not a true interpretation of the faith. But they don’t seem to acknowledge the contradiction.

How can there be a true interpretation of the faith, if the faith is openly interpretative?

Open interpretation is the ultimate convenience for moral problems and self-contradictions in the Bible. In Western “feel-good” culture, everyone is right and open interpretation allows us to continue the feel-good culture by ignoring moral problems with the Bible by arguing anyone’s interpretation of the Bible is correct. Arguably, all that would be required is acknowledging Jesus Christ as your lord and savior and that would be the only requirement. After that, you can be right as many times as you want, because you don’t have to do anything but interpret the Bible in any way you please. Christian priests are also doing this by ignoring the explicit texts and trying to re-contextualize misogynistic and violent passages commanded by God as being above human knowledge or arguing that we don’t really know the significance. Essentially, doing everything possible to ignore the sadistic aspects of the teachings while being careful to give reverence to the supposed holy book.

However, there is a clear danger to believing in open interpretation as a valid middle ground for maintaining one’s faith in Christianity. Some modern Christians acknowledge the contradiction in believing open interpretation is a valid choice and then arguing that violence isn’t the true interpretation of the religious faith. After all, if faith is openly interpretative then the violent extremists are just as morally right as you. Thus, in order to stay consistent with their Christian identity, some moderate Christians concede to the idea that the violent extremists are just as morally right as they are and that they cannot know whether their moderate beliefs are truly better than the violent extremists because open interpretation does mean that everyone is right about how they interpret the Bible.

Due partly to the fact they cannot conceive of morality beyond the Christian God and see no ethical significance to the world beyond such a framework; the aforementioned moderate Christians are willing to concede that violent extremists killing innocent people is just as morally valid as their moderate Christian beliefs. These moderate Christians detach themselves from what extremists do, they don’t observe it as their problem, and seem to feel no shame in justifying extremist violence that allows for the murder and rape of innocents to feel secure in their own Christian identity. In other words, to feel secure in their ethical significance of God and Christian identity, they concede to violence being an option so long as they’re not the ones participating in it. They give up on core moral principles to maintain their so-called moral system.


#2: Jesus Christ’s teachings were insane. Not even self-described Biblical literalists will follow them.

You’ve probably heard that Jesus Christ is constantly being misunderstood by people of different political affiliations than you. If you’ve grown up in the US or possibly other predominately Christian countries, then you’ve probably heard “Jesus said” followed by some vague agreement with your moral beliefs so many times online and especially when some vaguely Christian topic comes up in the news media. Perhaps you’ve even heard that Jesus never really wrote anything down except with a stick on the sand once, only to allow the waves to wash them away. Jesus is portrayed as “misunderstood” because modern Christians, including Evangelical Christians, will not follow the explicit texts because they’re insane.

The explicit truth of the matter is that only someone completely crazy would follow his teachings in our modern times. That is why Christians always attempt to emphasize that the Bible is meant to be read in “parables” and not explicitly. Atheists who come from Christian backgrounds are freely willing to insult the Catholic Church, Protestant beliefs, and Jesus’s divinity but many shy away from criticizing Jesus’s teachings, they still hold respect for them and, just like Christian preachers, insist that Jesus was speaking in parables.

What do I mean when I argue that they’re insane? Take a look at these passages of the King James version of the Sermon on the Mount, the so-called cornerstone of peaceful teachings within the Bible:

Matthew 5:29-30 KJV

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Christians will insist that he’s speaking in parables, but you can read the Sermon on your own. It is clear that he meant these two teachings to be taken literally. It was within the instructions of how to act towards divorced women and Jesus is teaching his disciples of how to avoid sinful thoughts and deeds. He explicitly calls for people to cut off their right hand and pluck out their right eye.

These are the teachings of peace? This is the cornerstone of Christianity’s peaceful doctrines? Even self-described Biblical literalists will vehemently argue that Jesus was speaking in parables here because he asks people to commit two acts of self-mutilation and identifies it as good moral behavior. This is nothing but the ramblings of a deeply insane individual. Is that blasphemous to say? Is that shocking? Am I being too extreme? If we can vilify Mohammed for being a pedophile, why is it wrong or uncomfortable to vilify Jesus Christ as an insane man for instructing Christians to cut off their right hand and right eye? If we agree that he’s speaking parables, then should Muslims believe that whatever historical misdeeds Mohammed committed should be regarded as parables too? Should every religion with violent parables, Christianity among them, just ignore when they’re acted upon by true believers? If you are a Christian, then should you continue to act on “faith” whenever it is convenient for you and in only ways that make you feel comfortable while ignoring the passages in the texts that other people could interpret more violently than you?

When you argue that Jesus was speaking in parables, all you’re really admitting is that you don’t want to follow his explicit teachings because you don’t agree with them. You live by a moral system outside of Christian values.


#3: The Sermon on the Mount’s self-contradictions make them worthless teachings.

A short excerpt from the book I’m still writing:

           

                      You must always strive for “perfection” to enter the Kingdom of God but you’ll always be contradicting the steps towards being a good Christian (Matthew 5:48). As a result, you must always seek Jesus’s forgiveness because you’re committing thought crimes when you have normal and healthy sexual desires (Matthew 5:28), you’re speaking wrongly when you make any attempt at asserting self worth.

Should you speak only in “yea, yea” and “nay, nay” (Matthew 5:33 – 5:37) or are you one of the so-called “hypocrites” when speaking in “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7 – 6:13),

Should you should turn the other cheek when wronged (Matthew 5:39) and love your enemies (Matthew 5:44) or return any behavior that wronged you with a response of your own (Matthew 7:12)

Should you rejoice in persecution (Matthew 5:10 – 5:12) or avoid being tried and persecuted for your beliefs at all costs? (Matthew 5:25)

Moreover, even evangelicals and other Bible literalists would never take Matthew 5:29 – 5:30 literally and therefore the most extreme Bible worshippers require a degree of open interpretation because of how disastrous those verses ultimately would be, if taken literally.

No matter what, you’ll never be a good Christian under the guidelines of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus contradicts himself too often for that to ever be possible. Christians may perceive the self-contradictions as beyond human understanding or proof of human folly, but the former is just an argument from ignorance and the latter is further evidence of my next contention.


#4: Original Sin is misanthropy revered as humbleness

For all the arguments about the lack of morality without a God, original sin seems to invalidate the significance of Christian morality. This notion of humanity’s intrinsic folly is subsumed into Western culture to give a detached justification for all forms of human violence. Worst of all, when these misanthropic beliefs are applied to humanity, they become increasingly revered as “deep”, “profound”, and “humbling” because people go on ridiculous diatribes about humanity being inherently violent, evil, stupid, and other semantics. All this celebration for acknowledging the apparent sinfulness of human existence. Western people seem to act as if this misanthropy is always new and cool. Any violence anywhere in the world is used as “proof” of humanity’s intrinsic folly.

This folly is seen as being “only human” and admitting to being flawed, worthless, and similar to a speck of dirt compared to a perfect creator. The more you show loathing and disgust for being a human, the more “profound” and “humble” you are. It can, and often does, go so far as to belittle and denigrate any human accomplishment as arrogant, evil, and wicked. Any desire for more in life, especially physical objects, is spurred as self centered, arrogant, and disgusting and often viewed as explicitly evil. To not carry the belief in original sin, i.e. to not feel misanthropy for the human race, makes people perceive you as shallow and arrogant. To argue against the extreme belief that all humans are born evil causes people to perceive you as naive and stupid. The belief that humans are born sinful is a powerful and pernicious belief within Western cultural norms. Yet, the pernicious nature of this belief seems to make people ignore the consequences or be blissfully unaware of what types of behavior is being implicitly condoned.

Original sin posits that humans will always fail to uphold morally good actions because of their intrinsic sinfulness. Therefore, the belief in original sin destroys the ethical significance of morality. Original sin makes morality become pointless because humans are expected to constantly fail in following moral principles. Wrongful deeds are met with staunch indifference because it is expected that a human being would commit horrible acts of cruelty. This is particularly true in regards to strangers who are depicted in the news after undergoing a tragedy. A woman being raped, a child being murdered, a Christian priest raping a child, a war in a foreign country, or a mass shooting. Unless such events are happening to a loved one, you probably wouldn’t care. Now, would Christianity ceasing to exist stop such events? Of course not. However, because of the belief that humans are intrinsically prone to folly is so pervasive, original sin strongly influences people to be complacent with such horrible events. Instead of being motivated to change systems of violence or to stop the propensity of violence, Christianity motivates people to be detached and complacent. Often associated with the detached complacency is the belief that the physical world isn’t real and that the afterlife is the true world with all the answers. Original sin permits people to shut themselves off and shy away from life’s consequences by insisting that all horrific acts should be expected. This is true of fellow Christians too and not just people deemed as outside groups.

The concept of original sin creates a self-defeating moral system. This self-defeating system is honored as a form of humility while ignoring the cruel impact of the belief system.

The credit for this argument partly goes to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Genealogy of the Morals. I had always wondered about why religion emphasized human negatives but could never really put it into words until reading genealogy. What Nietzsche identifies as the will to nothingness, I’m willing to explicitly point out the misanthropic aspects of this will to nothingness.


#5: Jesus Christ’s doctrine of forgiveness removes all responsibility.

The doctrine of forgiveness is just as extreme as original sin. It doesn’t have any parameters on what heinous actions should be punished. At best, the belief the people committing atrocities may serve time in hell despite accepting Jesus Christ as their lord and savior is a possibility. But this creates apathy and complacency with allowing human violence to occur throughout the world. Due to the fact the hardships of the physical world are seen as a test for the afterlife, people wouldn’t be motivated to improve their own lives or that of others. Instead, people would simply be apathetically awaiting Jesus’s return.

Perpetrators of all heinous offenses, including rape and murder, need only come to Jesus to be forgiven of all their sins. A person could participate in genocide and still be forgiven by Jesus Christ for their heinous atrocities. Rape and murder become expected norms, the murderer or rapist would only need to seek Jesus’s forgiveness, and Christian culture would associate it with good behavior and humbling oneself for God. Meanwhile, should the victim be a non-Christian, or a Christian who doesn’t accept the forgiveness after being raped or nearly beaten to death or is a relative of a murdered victim, then they would be seem as being too extreme in their hate and would be insisted to forgive the criminal. The presumption being that the perpetrator acknowledges that humanity is intrinsically sinful, acknowledges they committed sin, and sought Jesus’s forgiveness. Meanwhile the victim or relative of the victim is admonished for allowing “evil” in their heart for not forgiving the perpetrator and disrespecting the sacred doctrine of forgiveness. The victims and relatives of the victim’s feelings don’t matter in this worldview. Only the perpetrator coming to Jesus for salvation matters. Their heinous acts are par for the course of humanity under the doctrine of original sin and therefore forgivable.

Functionally speaking, the perpetrator forgives themselves by accepting Jesus into their heart and doesn’t have to concern themselves with how the victims and loved ones of the victim feel. You could commit wrongdoing, including murder and rape, and forgive yourself of any horrible deeds by accepting Jesus Christ into your heart.

No perpetrator can ever be held accountable for their actions after seeking forgiveness. Christians believe that accepting Jesus is atonement. However, all the perpetrator is doing is accepting that they’re a sinful human being and recognizing Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. They don’t have to acknowledge the victims or seek to atone themselves by apologizing to the victims. All they have to do is accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. After that, you’re no longer responsible for your actions.

Is that an extreme interpretation? Well, unfortunately that is a legitimate interpretation. Open interpretation allows for such an interpretation.

Furthermore, consider this thought experiment I made:

If a criminal, who is a serial child rapist and killer, comes to Jesus, sincerely accepts Jesus into his heart, before death row then he’s going to heaven. The pastor who has convinced him to come to Jesus, who has studied his theology for the majority of his life and believes in Jesus’s forgiveness just as any other Christian, sincerely believes that the criminal has been forgiven by accepting Jesus into his heart under the doctrine of forgiveness. Therefore, the criminal, who is a serial child rapist and killer, should be going to heaven. If either of them is wrong, then Jesus’s doctrine of forgiveness doesn’t save everyone.

If the criminal was targeting Jewish or Muslim children then those children are going to hell for not accepting Jesus into their heart. If they die believing in their respective religions, or called to their respective Jewish or Islamic deity, then they’ve deceived themselves and they’re going to hell. If they’re allowed in heaven, then accepting Jesus into one’s heart, and Jesus’s doctrine of forgiveness, isn’t necessary to go to heaven. Thereby, making Jesus Christ’s doctrine irrelevant.  If they’re in purgatory and have to seek forgiveness for being sinful, then Christianity doesn’t save innocent children who have been raped and murdered.

The only response I received from genuine Christians who were asked this thought experiment was that the children need to acknowledge their sinfulness and accept Jesus Christ. Evidently, raped and murdered children have some “sinfulness” in them because they don’t acknowledge Christ as their savior. But that shouldn’t be surprising, as stated prior, original sin is just misanthropy and the misanthropy is being extended to include innocent children.

If you believe this is extreme, you should recall exactly how St.Augustine interpreted Christian values in regards to the violence when Christians wage wars:

Difference between Augustinian “just war” and “crusade”:

The standard for a Christian “just war” as developed by Augustine (c. A.D. 400) is: “rightful intention on the part of the participants, which should always be expressed through love of God and neighbour; a just cause; and legitimate proclamation by a qualified authority.” (Quoted from J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Yale University, 1987.)  The doctrine of holy war/crusade added two further assumptions: 1) Violence and its consequences–death and injury–are morally neutral rather than intrinsically evil, and whether violence is good or bad is a matter of intention. (The analogy is to a surgeon, who cuts into the body, thus injuring it, in order to make it better/healthier.)  2) Christ is concerned with the political order of man, and intends for his agents on earth, kings, popes, bishops, to establish on earth a Christian Republic that was a “single, universal, transcendental state’ ruled by Christ through the lay and clerical magistrates he endowed with authority.

It follows from this that the defense of the Christian Republic against God’s enemies, whether foreign infidel (e.g. Turks) or domestic heretics and Jews was a moral imperative for those qualified to fight. A Crusade was a holy war fought against external or internal enemies for the recovery of Christian property or defense of the Church or the Christian people. It could be wages against Turks in Palestine, Muslims in Spain, pagan Slavs in the Baltic, or heretics in southern France, all of whom were enemies or rebels against God.

 

 

What does this mean? It isn’t morally wrong for Christians to launch a war, violence of any kind committed by Christians isn’t morally wrong, and Christians should detach themselves from any negative moral consequences and shouldn’t feel responsible for their violence according to Saint Augustine. The doctrine of Just War helps to ignore the physical realities of child deaths, rape, and mass civilian casualties of war and that has been consistent with Christian doctrine since 400 AD.

Therefore, a pertinent cornerstone of Christian theology should be made clear:

Jesus Christ’s doctrine of forgiveness and Christian theology itself is fundamentally about having no responsibility for one’s wrongful actions so long as you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You can be forgiven for rape, murder, and mass civilian deaths by accepting Jesus Christ into your heart and worshiping him as your Lord and Savior.

It’s no wonder that predominately Christian nation-states can call predominately Muslim nation-states savages for beheadings while ignoring all of the multitude of bombing campaigns all over the world paid for by Western taxpayer monies and the consequences of which are never significantly questioned in the West.


#6: Jesus Christ was a narcissist with a God complex

If you’re a Christian, or grew up with a Christian background, then please try considering Jesus Christ from an outsider perspective.

You’re expected to believe that he was meek and mild while he proclaimed himself God, the Son of God, and said anyone who didn’t believe in him was going to hell. Whether or not hell is hellfire and brimstone or the absence of God as modern Christian apologists argue is irrelevant. The point is: you’re expected to believe a man who proclaimed himself God and Son of God was being meek and mild. You’re expected to feel guilty for a torture and murder that happened before you were even born. Why not accept responsibility for slavery, all the genocides that happened in the world, and all horrible events in the world as well?

You’re expected to believe that his death on the Cross was worse than the Holocaust and every other human genocide. Worse than that, you’re expected to believe it’s all a part of God’s plan.

You’re expected to love Jesus more than your parents, your friends, your spouse, and your own children.

Do you not see the problem here? You’re expected to believe a man who supposedly died more than 2000 years ago loved you more than all of your family, friends, and spouse. You must always expect to have a second-handed love by your loved ones compared to their love for Jesus Christ. Their love for you and your love for them must always be eclipsed by the love for Jesus.

If this were any other context, it would be recognized as being mentally abused by a narcissist.

But Jesus is “divine” i.e. He told people that he had special qualities like narcissists are prone to do and was able to dupe villages of uneducated bronze age people from over 2000 years ago.

All he really gave people from his Sermon was meaningless mental torture for the crime of having natural sexual feelings and thoughts for women and he denigrated divorced women as the property of men, who should constantly have to live with the crime of being adulterous under the view of all men.

Matthew 5:27-32 KJV:

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.


Final Thoughts:

To be clear, I have no animosity whatsoever to modern Christians. I just think that it’s negatives get far too much of a pass because of the reverence for Christianity in Western culture. Having read the Sermon on the Mount, I’ve come to the conclusion that Christianity was never anything special. Some would argue that its popularity and perseverance make it so, but I would argue that it simply lucked out at being the chief religion during the time of the West’s technological revolution. Furthermore, none of the contemporary religions of our time are anything like their centuries old version. Do any Christians burn witches at the stake? Would Western Christians feel okay with Christian soldiers eating civilians like what happened during the first Crusade? Would you be committing to war over squabbles about Jesus Christ being a bodily figure versus a pure spirit like during Constantine’s time in ancient Rome?

In all honesty, I feel a bit of pity for the Christian worldview, because you’re expected to live by such self-contradictory guidelines in the hopes that you will “get all your answers” after your death. The whole point of any religious tradition, but especially Christian religious tradition, is to die appropriately so that you obtain some reward that is apparently beyond your own understanding. If that’s how you wish to live your life, I hope it makes you happy, but I cannot condone forcing such views in the political realm and trying to coerce others to obey the doctrines of a religion that they never agreed with. If it’s attempted to influence public policy, then it deserves criticism and being taken out of any rule of law. Anything less would be a theocracy. I hope that you seriously consider all that I’ve written.

Please send your opinions on this topic in the comment section or email me at jovejarin@hotmail.com. Thank you for reading.

Captain America: Civil War

MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW

Avengers 3: Civil War is a brilliantly written film that . . . oh, I’m sorry, Captain America: Civil War. I apologize for the oversight, you see, I just couldn’t tell the difference between this Captain America film and an Avengers film . . . because far more than just Captain America gets character development. In fact, the main character of this film seems to be Ironman.

The addition of Black Panther is something I really enjoyed about the film. His fight against Ironman and Bucky was amazing. However, what I truly enjoyed was the main villain’s motivation. This is, by far and with all sincerity, the best Marvel film that I’ve ever seen.

The divide is an argument for accountability to the whole world versus personal freedom for the Avengers. Both aspects are done incredibly well. Scarlet Witch’s lack of freedom is expressed well by being kept under house arrest by Tony Stark. The reason being the beginning of the film where one of the enemy’s were strapped with a bomb. There was only a split second decision that could be made and Scarlet Witch pushed the bomber into a building . . . that was an apartment complex filled with innocent people and accidentally ended-up killing more people as a result of that snap decision-making in a very stressful environment with superheroes and villains having war on a crowded civilian street in Africa.

The old black woman that Tony meets after his presentation at MIT is a very damning point for the Avengers. Captain America constantly seems to argue about wanting to be right when the world deems them wrong and standing up for what they believe in, but this visceral example of the dangers is probably the most damning point against the Avengers. For those who didn’t understand what happened, in Avengers 2, when the Hulk went on a berserk rampage in a different African city, Tony Stark had to use an extra-powered Ironman suit to effectively stop him. During the ensuing fight, Hulk destroyed a massive building that killed many civilians within it. That old black woman, a State government employee and implied to be a single mother, had a son who had been working in that country during his summer as part of a volunteer program, to help the poor in that country on behalf of the US government and presumably in conjunction with his military service for the US government in that country, he was doing this as a summer job while working on his Bachelors for an IT degree in college. The Hulk’s rampage and destruction of that building killed that young man and many other civilians.

Some of the photos by the US government in explaining the ramifications of the Avengers actions included children killed from the building Scarlet Witch inadvertently destroyed. 170 nations worked together, after the incident in the beginning of the film, to bring peace through regulating the Avengers.

I love Captain America’s portrayal because it shows how the typical hero archetype in Hollywood films, while well meaning, is ultimately self-centered and destructive to both their allies and a threat to the world. The twist with Bucky killing Ironman’s parents was fabulous. While Bucky “wasn’t at fault” the fact remains that anyone who hypnotizes him could use him to kill more innocent people. Is it really worth it to protect him and find a cure, possibly allowing more innocent people like Ironman’s parents or the staff at the UN being murdered mercilessly by a rampaging monster who has all of Captain America’s abilities? More people will die, it’s not so different from the Hulk. Can everyone who allows such monstrous power to go unchecked always argue that they’re vindicated from the potential danger of keeping such people alive?

Despite Scarlet Witch being forced into a suit that could kill her at any moment, it ultimately was her own responsibility. She chose to take down Vision and join Captain America’s group. The power can’t go unchecked and she was allowed greater freedom before she joined and explicitly went against US and UN laws by acting as a rogue agent/terrorist sympathizer.

The main villain’s motive, the diversity of even the foreign cast, and the believable characters and sympathetic emotional understanding of the foreigners, a dynamic female character like Scarlet Witch, and three different Black men who all had independent and dynamic motives really show just how great diversity and characterization has come in depicting women and minority characters. I’m honestly shocked at just how good this film was in portraying them without any of the drawbacks of stereotypes. Spiderman, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, and even War Machine to an extent all gain amazingly deep characterization on the level of Ironman and Captain America. It really made watching this film a wonderful experience. Avengers 2 had everyone in character archetypes and boring shoehorned stereotypes. This film, by a shocking contrast, had a deep philosophical undertone of the damaging effects of superhuman powers on an international level (WITH REALISTIC POLITICS! HOLY SHIT!), a deep level of characterization for all the characters, amazing fight scenes among MULTIPLE characters that flow shockingly well, and basically everything that I felt Hollywood could be, if it tried. And it did try, and it was AMAZING!

The main villain’s final words, in response to a discussion about justice is just perfect. Black Panther tries to convince him to seek justice and the main villain rebuffs him telling him to tell that to the dead right before trying to kill himself. The man lost his family during the end of Avengers 2, being crushed to death by the ensuing earthquake and debris from tragically living too close to the floating land. Another damning point, Ultron’s creation was the result of the Avengers experimentation, and all they did after the damage was go back home while the main villain had to deal with putting his family into their graves after a funeral. The twist with his character, instead of seeking the other Winter Soldiers as was expected by the audience; he decides to kill them in their sleep, and his motivations were phenomenal and perfect for the film. He sought to destroy the Avengers empire internally instead of externally, because as he so rightly pointed out, empires will simply persevere from the hardship and come back stronger to fight the external enemy. His point about destroying empires internally by revealing the video tape and Captain America admitting to having kept the truth from Ironman was a great ending twist.

There is so much more I could say but I’ll stop here.

This is the best Marvel film I’ve watched so far. It kicks the teeth of the crap known as Avengers 2 and is a true Avengers sequel. Definitely a Must-watch film. It’s as good as the Dark Knight, I kid you not! I would really love to see if Marvel can top how amazing this film was.

9.8/10

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Major Spoilers Below

One of the best sequels I’ve ever seen. The plot twists, apart from the one at the end, take a surprising turn. The Ice Queen displays more cunning, thoughtfulness, and endearment to her child slave army than Ravenna did with . . . anything. However, the film is more a romance/adventure more than anything else and it definitely passes the Bechdel Test.

One of the most interesting aspects of this film, it leads you into believing that the film will be a typical revenge film and then destroys that belief with a rather interesting plot twist that spectacularly shows off both the Snow Queen Freya’s cunning, which far surpasses Ravenna’s, and her cruelty, which is more psychological and physical. The film’s ending twist, although predictable, does an amazing and believable retcon in explaining why Ravenna didn’t just kill Snow White immediately and instead let her grow up. Ravenna’s guilt over what is revealed was palpable. It explains why the Huntsman, Eric, is such a great warrior.

Also, in all honesty, this film is better without Snow White making an appearance in the film. It’s an improvement because this film is about Eric and his wife, Sara. Who, shockingly, we found out wasn’t killed by the black guy, but instead was imprisoned for seven years and brainwashed by the Snow Queen into believing that Eric ran without her while Eric believed that Sara had been brutally killed. The film is really about them getting reacquainted and back together. It helps reinforce why Eric remained true to his one love. Both of the characters have fairly dynamic, believable, and relatable motives and personalities.

The foreshadowing for each twist is done subtly and fairly well. The young black youth’s demeanor before they chucked Eric into the river, the brief mind control and riff that Eric endures. What I particularly love is the time skip aspect of the film. I thought it would be a fairly predictable revenge film prequel before the events of Snow White but instead the film goes into Ravenna and Freya’s sisterly relationship before a timeskip after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman.

Certain drawbacks of the film, however, are that the final fight between Ravenna and Freya is a huge letdown, some of the lighting decisions were just stupid as we cannot see Freya clearly when she’s making announcements to her child slave army, Freya and Ravenna’s brother is never brought up, Freya and Ravenna’s bloodline powers aren’t given greater detail and seem to contradict Snow White’s assertion of Ravenna’s mother bestowing magical witch powers on Ravenna, and I feel as if certain scenes should have hung for a few seconds longer to make more of an emotional impact on an otherwise good plot.

Overall, however, I think it’s a good film. I really don’t get the negative reviews for this film series but perhaps Europe just has a finer taste in films than American audiences and their rampant Michael Bay explosions.

For me, this film is definitely worthy of an 8/10.

And here is a re-post of the rap battle, because it is so awesome:

Struggling Against Personal Apathy

Sometimes, it’s a struggle to fight apathy. Particularly when confronting bleak aspects of the world.

I am in the perfect position to be working on subjects of great import to me, but I find myself struggling with apathy again. I had hoped that I would no longer suffer this stupid problem but here I am, facing it again, and with no rational sense of why. Sometimes, I really don’t understand myself. I despise this self-defeating procrastination.

Perhaps it is atelophobia, that is, the fear of lacking perfection. I definitely had this problem and never properly recognized it until very recently. Maybe it’s the lack of ever following deadlines, maybe it’s this terrible nihilistic concept of how – within the grand scheme of cosmic life – it just doesn’t matter what I do, and maybe it’s the fact I always hate myself for being lazy. I had assumed punishing oneself for laziness was a positive reinforcement, yet according to Kelly McGonigal’s book “The Willpower Instinct”, this is not so. In fact, it’s utterly detrimental and it’s actually better to forgive oneself.

Unlike what most people boast, I have read through a good amount of positive psychology books on getting work done, but I always seem to fail to follow through. I’m always lacking in the step that requires self-monitoring and then the apathy sets in. Oftentimes, I just don’t feel enough to care. The apathy first began with a moral quandary, then acknowledgement over a reality that I didn’t quite like, and then wondering whether life had any significance in the grand scheme of the universe’s life cycle and the heat death of the universe.

I had been struggling with depression throughout my grade school life from fifth grade onto my early college years. The best way to describe the feeling was a detached sense of reality and lack of seeing value in what I felt were trivial and boring aspects of life. Classes, in particular, were of no value to me until I began college and could choose what I wanted. Choice, therefore, was empowering and I hadn’t been able to handle that freedom at first since it felt like every aspect of my life was decided for me. Particularly because my parents kept hounding me about how I could end-up going to juvenile prison if I didn’t strictly listen to them. A ridiculous argument born out of fear and paranoia from the national news and my father’s job, I had never once committed a crime or even attempted anything of the sort. I was always an attentive student and the only real problems were lack of self-respect and inability to deal with failure. My parents are great for financial support, but they’re damn stupid with dealing with anything related to either difficulty or empathizing with people outside of their own paranoid worldview. Admittedly, I probably have aspects of their personality, or perhaps the whole personality, and just don’t recognize it. But, to be perfectly frank, I really despise this part of my life and these tendencies of both my parents. The high school wasn’t all that different either. The high school was either extremely strict or extremely lax in administering regulations and there was never a sensible middle ground. Fights would break out practically every week during my Junior year in high school, the graduation ended in a massive fight with eight police cars coming in to stop the mass violence (at least, by my count before I left), and I was never able to express myself without scorn or derision or paranoia by the faculty when trying to convince them that I wasn’t going to harm people in the school.

I had written an essay related to a scholarship I had hoped to win. Participating in the essay ended-up being one of the worst decisions of my life. After 3 months with no answer, I suddenly got a response 3 days after the Virginia Tech massacre. It came as a shock to the faculty during an emergency conference about an essay that I wrote in which they learned that someone of my skin pigmentation wasn’t a Muslim. This only helped bolster the racism of my classmates who were quick to perceive me as crazy as the essay I had written for a scholarship somehow became public knowledge within the school the very next day after the emergency meeting. As for the reason this fiasco began regarding the material in the essay? I said I was justified in hating members of the faculty for being incompetent. Now, during my high school years, I had been taught and led to believe that rules were the cornerstone of decision-making in a very advanced social process. However, these schisms and general stupidity in rule implementation throughout high school made me believe, at the time, that people in power were the only determinants of the rule-making. And for a so-called democracy, the school system of the US school I went to felt fairly authoritarian in both its theoretical reasoning and practice. Amazingly enough, in college, it was basically confirmed by a few professors that college is for those who are meant to think in a society while grade school is only meant to teach the history of a country and nothing else.

This was one of the influences for a moral quandary that I had realized. I’ve since realized the problem as a result of operant behavior within animals in general and thus a flaw, if one can even call it that, within humans. We humans have a tendency to ignore and to not perceive the tragedies within foreign countries as real. This has been somewhat lessened in influence as a result of social media, but the problem persists because, for the most part, people just pay attention to the general town that they live in and nothing else. They hold psychological biases for their in-group, in this case their country, and don’t perceive the lives of people in foreign countries as having equal value to those among their own populace. The in-group/out-group issue can serve dehumanization campaigns even of people that we do meet day-to-day, such as the current stigma against Muslims and people of Hispanic descent within the US. As I studied more political psychology, I learned the reasons why this was and I realized I couldn’t put my expectations on the general populace to simply “know better” or be knowledgeable as I am in consideration of these pertinent moral and ethical questions. That may sound patronizing but I say that simply because they honestly have no interest in such questions. Admittedly, my reasoning could be little more than pop philosophy but I try to include my readings of psychology in my examination of this geographic fact of life regarding human apathy for those who live outside one’s borders.

The most pertinent reason for my apathy, especially for all of 2013 where I could hardly bring myself to do much of anything, was the issue of drone strikes. I had happened to come upon a video of bombings thanks to Youtube’s recommendations list as a result of watching Chomsky and Chris Hedges videos. I had clicked it not fully knowing what it was and saw a collection of real life bombings caught on camera. For the following months, I woke-up with horrible migraines, chest pain, sometimes I felt like it was hard to breathe, and I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had been misled into believing that those bombings were drone strike videos but that wasn’t the case. It was just videos of . . .  typical bombings in different parts of the Middle East. The first time seeing them brought on a sense of overwhelming anger, hate, loathing, and revulsion. The chief emotion that kept wracking me was guilt. I realized whenever someone pays taxes, they pay into that horrific act of destruction and mass death of civilians. I tried discussing this on various forums, not knowing how else to handle it and not wanting to burden my family with it, and I mostly got shut out of various forums. In retrospect, I should have realized that would be the case. However, discussion without any videos on forums which I had never linked such content was also shut out as “trolling” because the lives of people overseas just didn’t matter to the typical US citizen. A harsh truth, but one I continued to observe whenever trying to form a serious discussion over such issues. Whenever serious discussion was met, people would either jeer at me for having compassion for people overseas or they would say that it had nothing to do with them; this is despite the fact that we recognize we’re living in an elected government by the people. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of people don’t care about foreign policy or just what the US actually does overseas to other countries. It doesn’t register into their radar or even their worldview. I didn’t fully comprehend just why until reading “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. However, it should’ve been clear to me when thinking back on my high school years, although even then I would often think about the human power structures of the world itself.

Fortunately, I was slowly able to move on from this crippling depression and guilt, by recognizing that the decision obviously wasn’t mine, that if I could change it then I would, and that recognizing I wasn’t to blame wasn’t an attempt to say to myself that I didn’t care about the impacts of what drone strikes did when they burned alive innocent men, women, and children who had nothing to do with terrorism. Even to this day, it amazes me how we US citizens can argue that Islam is the problem, meanwhile we pay taxes for a drone program that is now bombing and flaying alive innocent people in seven different countries; a fact that we conveniently ignore while touting ourselves as morally superior and ignore how our complacency with such a program continues to create massive terrorist insurgencies throughout the Middle East. Moreover, what are people who see news of their own country and neighboring countries with wreckages from drone bombings suppose to think of us? They would constantly be bombarded with images of people with the same ethnic background as themselves and the same faith as themselves suffering from horrific injuries or seeing the general destruction of such bombings; what are they suppose to think of us? This has had real world consequences, like the revolution in Yemen to oust their country’s leaders.

The last, and probably most normal, of issues related to procrastination and depression, was wondering what significance my life has when I consider the heat death of the universe. Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence helps sometimes but not always. I eventually pulled through and pushed past this one by recognizing the reality that, even if heat death is certain, this is still my life and I should try to maximize my life satisfaction because it is still my experiences. It isn’t wrong to live for personal self-fulfillment but I always struggle with the first step of just pushing forward, it’s always been a struggle for me to do work when I don’t feel like it. I’m not sure how to adequately handle that aspect of beginning a project. I can’t “push through”, I can’t “trick myself”, and I can’t “just do it” as none of those work. The latter, in particular, is shown not to work in psychological studies. I try breaking it up into steps but then procrastinate by reading or watching TV. I think the issue is Atelophobia. I’ll try to remind myself of the Growth mindset as I seem to forget at the most important of moments, but I’m just not sure anymore . .  .

If anyone has any advice, feel free to give me tips on this issue.

Bakemono no Ko

An anime film that is worth the watch. I felt as if some of the storyline was generic but the method in which the story occurs makes it unique enough to be interesting.

Some parts, like the relationship the main character has with the love interest, is rather melodramatic. But this film portrays a Master-Student/Quasi-Step Father – Stepson relationship really well.

The characterization of the bear, Kumatetsu, is well portrayed and believable. Kyuuta’s character development, albeit somewhat generic, is engaging enough for the film.

The story’s overall themes of bonding and moving forward by oneself is probably the best aspect of the film. It carries this theme extremely well with all of the characters. It seems to be in favor of Kumatetsu’s honest, straightforward, and blunt parenting compared to his rival’s hesitant and well-meaning parenting that didn’t seem to help one of his children grow into becoming self-reliant and having a strong sense of identity.

Despite Kyuuta’s identity crisis, he’s shown to be able to overcome it, partly thanks to his love interest, and mostly from his positive and blunt style of upbringing. Despite the hiccups along the rode, Kyuuta is better able to handle the real world because of his sense of identity.

Without spoiling it, the conclusion of Kyuuta and Kumatetsu’s relationship is allegorical to moving on after a parent has left and seems to be meant to parallel Kyuuta’s younger self in the beginning of the film when his mother died and he began to hate everyone in his life.

However, one major drawback of the film, for those who don’t understand Japanese cultural themes, is that much of the allegory and cultural significance of the film is lost on outside audiences who may simply conclude “it’s magic” when viewing the film. But there seems to be strong cultural symbolism to Japanese folklore within the film, that the film itself presumes the viewer may already be knowledgeable about. But this isn’t necessarily a damning point because the intended audience is obviously Japanese people and those with the cultural understanding of Japan.

Overall, I would rate this film a 7.7/10. Definitely worth the watch.

Fun, Frustrations, and Managing People

So, this month, I finished up a class I had previously failed in and got a letter grade of B this time; I volunteered all of my time at a field office closest to me for the Bernie Sanders campaign for the New York primary, and my relatives sold off an ancestral homeland that was supposed to be my inheritance from the family. They sold it for basically the equivalent of pennies when the full value was far above it. So, I can no longer pursue my parents dream of building a hospital to help people suffering in third world country poverty.

I’m not even age 30 yet and one dream seems far out of my grasp than before. My parents have feelings of finality towards it. I’ve mostly been dealing with my parents inability to handle stress on any significant or healthy level up until today when my mother finally calmed down.

Meeting people and helping the field organizer manage volunteers was a fairly eye-opening experience. I didn’t realize how effective the psychology books made me in managing people but I vastly underestimated myself. I’m no expert, by any means, but I am capable of managing volunteers, even difficult ones, by instructing them on what to do for phonebanking, explaining the reasons why we don’t make multiple facebook pages to sway young voters as this one difficult volunteer insisted upon, and asking if they have any questions to make sure I’ve fully explained everything and effectively got them to start their duties. It was an amazing experience. I met a lot of very kind and intelligent people but I suppose that’s par for the course among volunteers. A selection bias of only quality people emerges from volunteer work, it seems.

Although, take that with a grain of salt, as I can only speak of my own anecdotal experience and I cannot help but wonder what could conceivably happen if someone wanted to do something nefarious when assigned with a fellow volunteer. Of course, I would hope such a terrible outcome will never happen but people should try to keep safe. But, in this instance, it was nothing but meeting amazing, proactive, and encouraging people. One man in particular, a senior citizen by the name of Joe, told me that he had nothing but respect for the young generation and that we should fight against apathy because we do create real changes. He and several others of his age group and those in their 50s, pretty much admitted that the youngest generation today is the smartest, hardest working, and that they have nothing but respect for our dedication because they’re fighting apathy too. Moreover, they feel their generation just wasn’t as prepared or as intelligent enough to properly handle the ongoing problems of terrorism, climate change, and so forth like the young generation are. So, according to them, we shouldn’t feel useless, or apathetic, or like we can’t change our futures because of complexity. I can honestly say that I firmly agree with those sentiments.

In general, it’s actually been a pretty good month for me. I got a good grade on a course I wanted to prove myself in, I volunteered and made professional contacts from people I genuinely like, and I’m realizing I need to begin planning out my future immediately and that I’ve been too malaise while overthinking difficulties. The first step toward change is stepping forward.

Kamasutra: A Tale of Love (1996) / कामसूत्र अ टेल ऑफ़ लव

Warning: Film Spoilers!

This film, by far, is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Definitely the best Indian film that I’ve ever seen.

Admittedly, the transition is a bit hard to follow, and the love triangle may not be what people like to see in a film that was meant to be porn but was changed because Indian authorities watched over it. Instead, we have one of the best feminist films ever made in all of human history.

Maya, the main heroine, is a deeply complex, conflicted, and believable character who goes through changes in opinions as she grows up. Banished by her village due to having sex with the King before he was to wed the princess right before the wedding vows, she meets and falls in love with an artisan who rebukes her because she inhibits his professional career. Despite making love, Jai Kumar feels that she can only be a hindrance and make him lose focus.

Maya disavows love, after being burned twice, first by realizing the King was a philanderer who acquires servant women to have sex with, and then by being rebuked by Jai despite both of them being mutually in love. Maya decides, since she already lives with the stigma of being a whore and cannot find work by any other means, to become a professional courtesan. She learns, from her sex instructor, to exude her femininity, to not shy away from sexualization, and to take control of her life by controlling men’s hearts. What’s most interesting is the dichotomy between fate as a result of her stigma and her choice to improve her own living standards by making the best of a bad scenario. In the beginning, Maya shows independence by rebuking an ugly Prince’s sexual advances and even when banished, she stays firm in her belief that she can create her own destiny. It expresses one of the subtle characteristics of Hinduism and of Indra’s affirmation about life; if fate exists, if all is predisposed, then even in this setting, we exert influence and create our own destiny.

How can this paradox make sense? By making the best of our bad situations. Maya’s name has negative connotations of being a wicked goddess of illusion, however, in this scenario it expresses the fact that Maya seems to pierce through the illusions of finality in life itself.

By the end of the film, Maya saves the life of her friend Tara from committing suicide, but cannot prevent Jai’s death by orders of the King. Despite the supposed fatalism, everything in the film subtly points to “fate” being the result of our prior actions and inactions in life. Maya chose the life of a courtesan as a result of one youthful mistake, Jai chose to put his life in jeopardy to get back Maya after rebuking her love and making her believe that she would never have a genuine relationship; thus pushing her to decide to improve her own life without him, Tara chose to hide and ignore her problems up until the end when she finally confronts the King and points out that she doesn’t hate him because that would require a form of love, and the King despite having the best of everything, ultimately loses everything as a result of his lack of care for his own empire and subjects.

The final scene, with Maya leaving after Jai’s execution, shows her accepting the role that she’s made for herself and continuing on with her life despite regrets. It is the perfect ending to a great film.

10/10!

Definitely a must-watch film. It doesn’t have any of that terrible CGI nonsense in modern Indian films. Quite possibly, the greatest Indian film ever made.

Punch Drunk Love

Okay, so I get that this is suppose to be a “fallen superman” message within the film but Barry Egrem is a complete idiot. I can’t find this film enjoyable because of how terrible of a character he is. This was arguably Sandler’s best acting and . . . the character itself is the problem. It goes beyond awkward; some of the questions that he poses are utterly stupid. A lot of the actions that he takes – giving his social security number – is incredibly stupid. I know that there are desperate people like this, I met real life people similar to Barry when I heard cases as a juror, but I just can’t identify with such a character because it goes beyond awkwardness into utter stupidity. I truly find his character too pathetic to care about.

But honestly, I often wonder if it’s just this Christian mentality about life being an utter and constant tragedy that I find truly boring and disgusting. If you really believe that’s all life will bring you, then why do you not just end your pain and kill yourself? Such a life is perpetual self-hate, mental torture, and constant self-depreciation into becoming content with being an utter failure. It’s pathetic and I can’t force myself to feel sympathy for such a life style anymore.

I don’t think Barry is a good character, I don’t think any derivative from the Comic book Superman is ever truly a good character, and this stealth Protestant obsession with being a complete failure at life and accepting it as inevitable doesn’t make any aspect of a story endearing to me. You’re a pathetic person, that’s it, and that’s the ending of the tale.

Striving for one’s goals is way more interesting. Learning to improve yourself is way more interesting. Self-surpassing is far more endearing to me.

Amazingly enough, Barry does do this with his brash actions, demanding one of his sister’s shuts up or he’ll kill her and then essentially fixes all of his problems through force, violence, and threats but it doesn’t really redeem the beginning and middle being so utterly boring.

The film is a chore to watch. I don’t even know what else to say about it. Don’t bother wasting your time on it.

Snow White and the Huntsman Film (2012)

I am pleasantly surprised by this movie. It was fantastic from beginning to end. The main characters all have well-rounded depth, the use of the Grimm tale doesn’t feel forced, and the curse feels more real when it actually occurs.

I really liked the adventurism of the tale, the depiction of meaningful interactions between the Huntsman and Snow White, and a brief glimpse upon Ravenna’s horrific past and her comments on what led her to become crazy.

The interaction with magical forests was actually… extremely well done in this film. I was actually surprised. The blend of originality and cliche just gave a greater emphasis on the story’s depth. The actress for Snow White, Kristan Stewart, finally could show off her acting talents when playing a character that wasn’t simply a terrible concept strewn with idiotic cliches.

The deaths, interplay between the Duke’s son and the princess and lead up to the twist involving the apple, and the ending were actually very well done. I can’t say anymore without delving into spoilers, but needless to say the apple curse is actually smoothly transitioned in the film. There is, as typical of most action-adventure fantasy films, a war scene at the end. Of course, in any realistic war, running straight into a fortified castle would never work but I can look past the nonsensical part of the fantasy film.

What I disliked and couldn’t look past, however, was the end response by the princess to a specific death in the film. It felt so flat . . . virtually anything else, even silence with the last quote being a play by play of responding to the fairest of them all, would have sufficed over the stupid and out of place response.

Overall, the film is an 8.5/10. I can’t wait for the sequel. And, in fact, I was inspired to watch this film after watching this amazing rap battle:

Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda film

The beginning and set-up of this film is great. The theme of needing to tell the truth, even painful truths, is a great lesson to learn in people’s personal lives. The characters are well developed but the plot is a fairly generic “high-school musical set-up” kind of shtick.

I would say it’s worth watching. What surprised me about this film was that it was actually excessively generic in the middle parts but it still managed to keep me interested. I was surprised that I found such a generic plot so likable. What really sells it are the characters; they’re all believable, likable, and show relatable problems. Nagusa’s “plot” for the play is incredibly hilarious and I especially love the first story’s ending because it just seems so perfect as a realistic portrayal for what a high school girl would come-up with instead of generic, boring crap shown in most of films for this genre. Nagusa’s various expressions, both how they’re drawn and the execution, make for great comedy, an endearing character, and a very relatable depiction to someone who’s family has gone through divorce – at least from what I understand of it. The beginning of the film is great, the ending “twist” is actually nice and gives a far more realistic portrayal of what dating and human interaction is like in high school. That is why I give it such high marks.

If you like music, or an anime high school musical, or if you’re like me and like believable characters then this film is worth the watch. The beginning of the plot doesn’t really begin until the musical is being made; before that it’s just the rather interesting and realistic set-up for high school life. However, this is definitely not for everyone. If any of these factors are something that you can’t look past then you should probably skip this film.

But for me, I think it’s one of the finest anime films released so far this year.

8.9/10

Second Episode of the SJW Podcast

The US Gov’t and US Traditional News Media’s Complicity and Silence on crimes of unarmed Native American shootings and massive rape epidemic inflicted upon Native Americans by non-Native peoples.

Soundcloud: https://t.co/JqHcV9PisE

Youtube:

The SJW Podcast: The Establishment’s Silence and Complicity in Violence upon Native Americans:

Personal Ponderings

Sometimes, I really do wonder why I bother doing anything, I had contented myself about the idea that much, if not all, of my writings would be ignored by most people because they don’t read but it’s become clear that this is less true than I thought. What led me to this wrongful conclusion was the observance that most people in online forums and even within the comments section of news articles never bother to read the article itself. Most people just regurgitate their own nonsensical beliefs and commenters typically place doubt on the authenticity of real events or don’t want to go beyond blabbering their own opinion without becoming more informed. They don’t wish to learn, they wish to constantly go on articles they disagree with and repetitively go on rants about how wrong the journalist writing the article is.

I had thought this was because journalists were adept at re-categorizing facts to suit their agenda but the problem is on both ends. Some elements of the public just don’t care about authentic information, they want their own biased opinion to be the truth. I recall looking up various comments in the article about the recent lawsuit by the US department of Justice on the police department of Ferguson for constantly violating the constitutional rights of the people of Ferguson. I read various right-wing commenters arguing that what the police did isn’t wrong. I try to make an honest effort in believing that these are just the outliers but the Donald Trump campaign has made me seriously doubt all of this. Not simply because of Donald Trump’s rhetoric, but because the rest of the Republican candidates went along with the idea of “No Muslims allowed” before suddenly realizing Donald Trump was, in fact, serious about what he was saying and a week later the Republican elites backed away from what they had said by affirming that Donald Trump wasn’t representing their values. However, the damage was already done. Supposedly less divisive candidates like Chris Christie was the one saying that he wouldn’t even allow 5-year old children into the country for protection from war. The rest weren’t any better, arguing for religious tests to enter the country and bringing up ideas of celebrating the Abrahamic traditions of the country.

First of all, in what way was any negative statement about five-year old children suffering from war suppose to help the Republican side of the debate over immigration from the Middle East? In what conceivable way could such a statement be positive for the Republican party? He wasn’t admonished for this statement by his fellow Republicans, what does that tell you? Many of my Republican friends became frustrated by the racist rhetoric because it ignored what they felt were security concerns. How could the Republican elites have screwed it up so much by insisting five year olds shouldn’t be allowed into the country? Had they just focused their narrative on protection and security, then this wouldn’t have been an issue. That was all they needed to do. The majority of US citizens were supportive of keeping immigrants out, but then the discriminatory rhetoric began to be uttered and it wasn’t by Trump, it was by the Republican elites. Trump just ran with it for longer than they did and then was branded a racist.

Second, it’s become increasingly clear that we’ve overestimated the intelligence of the wealthy elite of the country. Indeed, not all of them are as intelligent as Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffett or Angelina Jolie. While the Gates foundation is decreasing infant mortality across the world and giving reasons for South Africa to praise the US as a bastion of kind-hearted people, Warren Buffett is helping them with his donation and making it less likely for people to equate Wall Street as full of greedy people, and Angelina Jolie is campaigning for activism in the human rights of people across the world which helps give a positive image of the US. Democrats and Republicans continue insisting that more bomb droppings and war will make the scary terrorists disappear while spreading fear, paranoia, and hate for the US abroad throughout the Middle East.

Regardless, it’s become apparent to myself that I probably don’t have what it takes to deal with closet xenophobes or any sort of traction. I’d lose too much of my patience and I’d get ulcers as a result of headaches. Even more than the summer job I took as a cashier and meeting all sorts of idiots, I realize that what I take pleasure in, chiefly reading books on psychology and articles on politics, wouldn’t really interest others and most would view what I say as a conspiracy theory while spending approximately $11,000+ a year on lottery tickets and believing they’ll “win big” off of their investment – all the while being assured that nothing they do could ever help them save enough for retirement. Multiply this by meeting people throughout the country and I just don’t want to bother. More likely than not, I could conceivably become just like Sam Harris, believing himself right despite any contrary evidence and always re-contextualizing my detractors in negative terms. How would I, as I’d obviously be biased by that point, adequately assess whether their criticisms were valid or if I was simply too biased in my own views to accept their detracting remarks as legitimate?

Moreover, a deep problem I’ve observed in the US is that nobody, and I’m probably included in this too but in ways I don’t fully realize due to my own bias, values the truth. They want their worldview to be appreciated but they confuse their worldview – their subjective experience – as the objective truth even despite contrary evidence. Consider this biased sentence: Just how stupid can the right-wing media be to condemn the Justice department for suing the Ferguson police department for violations of constitutional rights when the Ferguson police was utilizing military weapons, gas, and military vehicles upon US civilians? Does the violations of constitutional rights mean so little to the right-wing media when it’s black citizens having rights infringed upon? Now, I’m pretty sure you can come up with your own legal or philosophical reasons for why I’m wrong to feel in this obviously biased manner. But, I’d probably be too staunch in my beliefs to really consider anything less than an apology to the US public arguing that what happened in Ferguson wasn’t a violation in constitutional rights. Why? Because if it’s permitted there, it can be permitted everywhere in the US.

Most people will never even consider that proposition because they only pay attention to their subjective, visceral experiences. And that’s the crux of the issue, isn’t it? How do you communicate effectively with people who only consider their own personal lives as relevant and ignore everything else? You can’t. It’s like talking to a wall. Moreover, they or people with agendas will take you out of context to fit their own biases. For example, the book I’m writing in my criticism of religion could easily be exploited with Christian extremists using my criticism of Islam to justify violent military actions and vice versa. It’ll become impossible to effectively communicate and you’re likely to be lambasted for something that you never said or was taken entirely out of context. On the flip side, people could be accurately criticizing you and you just take it the wrong way like Sam Harris. I wouldn’t really have time, and perhaps not even the willingness, to adequately address any criticisms respectively.

Another important component of all this, is that I really don’t want to bother offending anyone because it would – more likely than not – possibly get me fired some point in the future should I find a good career. Moreover, I just don’t like being rude to people. You hear stories about tortured artists or lambasted philosophers all the time, I’d prefer to never be associated with that. It’s better to conceal who you are and your true opinions. Besides which, what has simply highlighting human rights abuses like the Native Americans suffering or the inequality that Black Americans suffer from actually done? I can’t fix those issues, despite any deep desire on my part, as you need money, resources, and a lengthy amount of time. Native children suffer rape in this country everyday and the general public is completely apathetic, probably more willing to espouse some anonymous and fictitious defect because they’re not Christian than actually helping these people even while continuing to use their lands and ignore the rape crimes they suffer as a result of US laws and apathy. Even when the topic is about helping raped children.

In the end, what difference does it make when solutions can always regress?

Moreover, I have slowly grown to harbor the utmost loathing for the US national news media. They’re protectors of child rapists, war crimes, misogynistic rapists, gunmen, and they must truly gain intense satisfaction in mentally torturing the US public with their constant stream of negative news.

Western Philosophy Sucks

After trying to read alternative philosophical perspectives apart from Friedrich Nietzsche, I have come to the sad conclusion that Nietzsche’s rather blunt and extreme opposition to Western schools of thought may have been entirely justified. Despite the unrepentant mockery and hatred that Nietzsche gets for highlighting existential crises, all he really did was point out the stupidity, repetitiveness, and deep misanthropy that permeates Western philosophy. I had wanted to do more book reviews regarding Western philosophy and the many psychology books that I’ve read but I keep noticing this ridiculousness and I wonder if the reviews would feel repetitive if I broached each individual book. So, I’ll tackle this issue here. Here we go.

Before Nietzsche’s time, this issue with Western philosophy was sadly apparent and thus why I’ve come to the conclusion that Western philosophy sucks. Schopenhauer’s conclusion on a good life was essentially closing oneself off from human society and pondering life. Never mind the lack of any realistic basis for such a stupid concept, as he clearly meant to live by entirely focusing on this and ignoring everything else in life beyond basic necessities, Schopenhauer’s justification was that Black Americans proved their intellectual inferiority to his ideal standard of how to live life, because Black American communities enjoyed community affairs of dancing. Keep in mind, this is before rap and hip-hop – yet, even in that context, his argument would be invalid – and he’s exclusively demonizing all Black Americans for choosing to have a strong community structure with a nightlife that is filled with romantic partners dancing to classical music. This is someone the West considers a profound thinker.

However, Schopenhauer has nothing on the stupidity and racism of Thomas Hobbes. The Hobbesian model of human nature, the idea that every man fights every man in a constant state of nature, is totally false since hunter-gatherer societies were egalitarian, men and women were equal, and the groups shared responsibility based upon who was the most capable in what field. The best hunter led the hunting party, the best preacher led the religious rites, the hunter-gatherers were monogamous (polygamy was a result of the creation of primitive countries where concepts of privilege became more pronounced as a result of changing social conditions and didn’t exist in hunter-gatherer societies), food was shared as a right among people, there were no slaves (they wouldn’t have been able to take care of slaves, much less subdue them in wandering hunter-gatherer tribes), they were very leisurely because lacking food one day meant hunting for it the next day, and they didn’t war. There are a few cases of murder, but those are large outliers and almost totally non-existent in hunter-gatherer societies.  Hobbes would have you believe that they were all killing each other indiscriminately because humans are similar to animals. Animals don’t kill indiscriminately, and even animals have submissive tendencies among their pack in the wild to maintain social cohesion among themselves, and thus his thesis was entirely make-believe. But his justification was his own racist and fictitious notions about Native Americans. As typical of Western culture, the more Hobbes celebrated the idea of humans being intrinsically violent, genocidal, and human existence largely being a nihilistic war of all against all, the more this man was celebrated as a deep thinker. Misanthropy sanctified in holistic terms and celebrated as awe-inspiring.

Rousseau, probably regarded as the most humanistic of his time, evidently concluded that European nation-states could never form a European Union because they would all try to mercilessly war with each other for control and that there was no preventing such a problem because of human nature. In other words, no different from the nihilism and misanthropy of his contemporaries. Violence in Western society was deemed inevitable. People after Nietzsche, such as Albert Camus, just found their own nihilistic drivel like the concept of Absurdism. I’d like to believe the essence of all this is the religious idea of “nothing new under the sun” as taught by the Bible but it’s clear that this has existed before that during the time of Socrates. If anything, Socrates himself celebrated this nihilistic drivel by espousing that he knew nothing. No surprise that he put himself in the exact situation where the government of Athens would feel it was legally justified to kill him and he avoided all attempts at getting himself out of his own execution. The intrinsic belief permeating throughout Western culture that humans are defective and thus fated for failure seems to gain universal applause as thought-provoking throughout Western history. No matter what, humans are fated for tragedy, failure, and must constantly observe their own intrinsic negative essence to be closer to God or to accept that they’re too arrogant to be happy. Even with all the successes and might over the entire world, the people of the West can never find happiness and are constantly “reassured” of their negative bias that happiness is a hopeless quest. Please, don’t mistake this for disgust or hate, this is just a constant recurring theme that I’m observing throughout reading, listening, and watching Western culture. A culture that I was born into and raised in. I’m just now waking up to the fact there’s a pathological obsession with self-hate.

This cultural self-hate exists in Western media: from music, to television shows, to documentaries, to film, and much more. Even modern philosophers like the seemingly happy-go-lucky Alain de Botton isn’t immune, he did an entire film on “status anxiety” and concluded that being closer to death was the solution. Sam Harris’s book, Waking Up, tries to teach people to calm down during stress and implicitly accepts that pleasures and happiness are an illusion. I’ve just about had it trying to research and read more in-depth about Western philosophy from past to present and finding this utter drivel. It’s everywhere in Western society. For that matter, the West is only satisfied in incorporating the most negative aspects of Buddhism to reassure itself that all religious faiths think desire and ego are evil and that every culture ubiquitously “understands” the “truth” of human nature’s “flaws” because it’s apparently unavoidable. I’m beginning to wonder if Western philosophy was just “progressed” by the most extreme self-hating idiots to secretly try to convince people to kill themselves because human existence is virtually perceived as either a disease or intrinsically and unavoidably worthless throughout much of these famed writings.

This self-loathing persists to the point where many psychology books written by experts with M.D,’s in psychology almost unanimously wrote about a chapter to reaffirm that seeking happiness is a hopeless endeavor and argue following only your desires is arrogant and evil. Evidently, to be regarded as “serious” in any way, shape, or form by Western audiences, you must either elaborate upon why humans are intrinsically violent/evil/narcissistic or you must maintain that your work is “serious” by insisting that seeking happiness is hopeless and naive. If you challenge this basic assumption, you’re automatically branded a naive idiot or from a primitive culture. Now, do humans suck? How about it depends upon the human being and we shouldn’t label everyone as capable of the actions of Hitler based upon examples like Hitler. To be perfectly frank, this intrinsic and often implicit assumption about the negativity of human nature has very real consequences. Consider the atomic bombings of Japan, Western culture has US citizens believe that atomic bomb droppings were merciful because US soldiers wouldn’t have to come in and continue a war campaign. Now, whether or not you agree with the military aspect of the action is an entirely different subject. The point is that US citizens are led to believe that atomic bombings were an act of mercy based on a choice between continuous war campaigns or two nuclear bombs slaughtering innocents. Neither choice is merciful and to call it merciful is so stupid and dangerous.

Please, before you judge that statement, just think about this thought experiment, okay? Consider a Middle Eastern country with a nuclear weapon bombing a Western country or your country (assuming you don’t live in the West). You see on the news every day as nuclear radiation leaks into your water system and the images of hundreds of men, women, and children suffering and dying from nuclear radiation. The Middle Eastern country’s justification is that they didn’t have conduct an extended war campaign and kill more of your people. They celebrate their actions as an act of mercy. How do you feel? Do you think anything about their justification makes any rational sense? What would you desire to do to that country? Is the violence and justification committed by this act any different from the Boston bombings or 9/11? Now, regardless of who started the war, what do you think the Japanese thought about the nuclear weapons and felt about them? Do you really believe racism didn’t play a factor considering the Japanese encampment during World War 2?

Most importantly, this obsession with human nature being synonymous with evil or negative personal traits seems to be a rash self-justification by people to feel more comfortable with human violence and especially in instances where their country is committing the human violence upon a foreign country. I’ll admit that the majority of Western philosophy seems adept at trying to convince people to kill themselves, but I don’t really see any value beyond that anymore after trying so hard to be objective when reading and watching various material by Western philosophers. It’s no wonder Nietzsche went crazy when trying to create a philosophy about life-affirmation for Europe.

Here’s the most recent example that I’ve come across from a psychology book that tries to delve into philosophy. This specific book. Flow, was so patronizing and redundant in its multiple expositions on hatred for human happiness that I just couldn’t bother to patiently read through most of it after trying to take it seriously. I see this so often in Western literature that it’s completely ridiculous but this specific anecdote is truly disgusting.

It’s a depressing account of what war did to a person from the book Flow. The author intended for some supposedly deep spiritual lesson in the human ability for high concentration referred to as “flow” in conscious experience, but this is exactly the nihilistic self-reverence that Western philosophy consistently tries to celebrate as meaningful when there is nothing meaningful to be gained. In other words: the greater the misanthropy, the more celebrated the so-called deep thinker.

Excerpt:

Reyad is a thirty-three-year-old Egyptian who currently sleeps in the parks of Milan, eats in charity kitchens, and occasionally washes dishes for restaurants whenever he needs some cash. When during the interview he was read a description of the flow experience, and was asked if this ever happened to him, he answered:

“Yes. It describes my entire life from 1967 up to now. After the War of 1967 I decided to leave Egypt and start hitchhiking toward Europe. Ever since I have been living with my mind concentrated within myself. It has not been just a trip, it has been a search for identity. Every man has something to discover within himself. The people in my town were sure I was crazy when I decided to start walking to Europe. But the best thing in life is to know oneself…. My idea from 1967 on has remained the same: to find myself. I had to struggle against many things. I passed through Lebanon and its war, through Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Yugoslavia, before getting here. I had to confront all sorts of natural disasters; I slept in ditches near the road in thunderstorms, I was involved in accidents, I have seen friends die next to me, but my concentration has never flagged…. It has been an adventure that so far has lasted twenty years, but it will keep going on for the rest of my life…. Through these experiences I have come to see that the world is not worth much. The only thing that counts for me now, first and last, is God. I am most concentrated when I pray with my prayer beads. Then I am able to put my feelings to sleep, to calm myself and avoid becoming crazy. I believe that destiny rules life, and it makes no sense to struggle too hard…. During my journey I have seen hunger, war, death, and poverty. Now through prayer I have begun to hear myself, I have returned toward my center, I have achieved concentration and I have understood that the world has no value. Man was born to be tested on this earth. Cars, television sets, clothes are secondary. The main thing is that we were born to praise the Lord.

Everyone has his own fate, and we should be like the lion in the proverb. The lion, when he runs after a pack of gazelles, can only catch them one at a time. I try to be like that, and not like Westerners who go crazy working even though they cannot eat more than their daily bread…. If I am to live twenty more years, I will try to live enjoying each moment, instead of killing myself to get more…. If I am to live like a free man who does not depend on anyone, I can afford to go slowly; if I don’t earn anything today, it does not matter. It means that this happens to be my fate. Next day I may earn 100 million— or get a terminal illness. Like Jesus Christ said, What does it benefit to man if he gains the entire world, but loses himself? I have tried first to conquer myself; I don’t care if I lose the world. I set out on this journey like a baby bird hatching from its egg; ever since I have been walking in freedom. Every man should get to know himself and experience life in all its forms. I could have gone on sleeping soundly in my bed, and found work in my town, because a job was ready for me, but I decided to sleep with the poor, because one must suffer to become a man. One does not get to be a man by getting married, by having sex: to be a man means to be responsible, to know when it is time to speak, to know what has to be said, to know when one must stay silent.”

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (2008-08-18). Flow (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) (p. 197). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

This is a man who is very clearly suffering the harrowing effects of war trauma but because he’s said life has no value and is totally meaningless, this Western college professor decided that – instead of actually trying to find this man some measure of treatment for his horrible condition – the professor decided to celebrate the man as “profound” and “deep” because . . . the man no longer sees any value in life itself. Does anyone but me see the problem here? Does anyone else see the pernicious nature of this fundamental hatred for life in Western philosophy? Also, consider this, if this man had kept living in Egypt, he would have been regarded with disdain by Westerners and seen as a result of a backwards culture. But because this man moved and made a very meager living in a European country, he’s viewed as a profound thinker instead of a man suffering from mental trauma from prolonged exposure to war. Alain de Botton did similar in his interview with lower-income and jobless Americans in the United States. I recall one particular instance of an old white woman begging on the streets for money to feed her family, the only people who gave her money were Hispanic and white women who felt empathy for her. Men, of all backgrounds, simply drove past her as if she was invisible. De Botton’s conclusion being that people should feel closer to death to avoid status anxiety.

With all of that being said, and as I now regard only Eastern philosophy with any degree of seriousness, here’s some Eastern philosophical writings for those interested. Here is why I liked reading and learning from them better than anything from Western philosophy outside of Nietzsche. That isn’t to say that Eastern philosophy doesn’t have problems; it’s just as broad as Western philosophy but more diverse based on my experience.

I’ll let the philosophical underpinnings speak for themselves:

“Guidance is creative, efficacy develops, people give shape, implements complete. That is why all people honor guidance and value efficacy. The nobility of guidance and the value of efficacy are not granted by anyone, but naturally so of themselves. Guidance creates, nurtures, develops, matures, brings to fruition, nourishes, sustains, and shelters. It is creative without possessiveness, constructive without conceit, develops without coercion; this is called unobtrusive efficacy.”

Tzu, Lao (2012-05-11). The Original Tao Te Ching (Kindle Locations 104-110). . Kindle Edition.

“The Self desires only what is real, thinks nothing but what is true. Here people do what they are told, becoming dependent on their country, or their piece of land, or the desires of another, so their desires are not fulfilled and their works come to nothing, both in this world and in the next. Those who depart from this world without knowing who they are or what they truly desire have no freedom here or hereafter.”

Easwaran, Eknath (2009-06-01). The Upanishads (Classic of Indian Spirituality) (p. 142). Nilgiri Press. Kindle Edition.

“165. By oneself the evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another.”

Buddha, Gautama (2013-04-22). The Dhammapada (pp. 26-27). Start Publishing LLC. Kindle Edition.

And here is one from Nietzsche, in case anyone is interested in him:

Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the good and just. Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the believers in the orthodox belief. Behold the good and just! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh up their tables of values, the breaker, the lawbreaker:–he, however, is the creator. Behold the believers of all beliefs! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh up their tables of values, the breaker, the law-breaker–he, however, is the creator. Companions, the creator seeketh, not corpses–and not herds or believers either. Fellow-creators the creator seeketh–those who grave new values on new tables. Companions, the creator seeketh, and fellow-reapers: for everything is ripe for the harvest with him. But he lacketh the hundred sickles: so he plucketh the ears of corn and is vexed. Companions, the creator seeketh, and such as know how to whet their sickles. Destroyers, will they be called, and despisers of good and evil. But they are the reapers and rejoicers. Fellow-creators, Zarathustra seeketh; fellow-reapers and fellow-rejoicers, Zarathustra seeketh: what hath he to do with herds and herdsmen and corpses! And thou, my first companion, rest in peace! Well have I buried thee in thy hollow tree; well have I hid thee from the wolves. But I part from thee; the time hath arrived. ‘Twixt rosy dawn and rosy dawn there came unto me a new truth. I am not to be a herdsman, I am not to be a grave-digger. Not any more will I discourse unto the people; for the last time have I spoken unto the dead. With the creators, the reapers, and the rejoicers will I associate: the rainbow will I show them, and all the stairs to the Superman. To the lone-dwellers will I sing my song, and to the twain-dwellers; and unto him who hath still ears for the unheard, will I make the heart heavy with my happiness. I make for my goal, I follow my course; over the loitering and tardy will I leap. Thus let my on-going be their down-going!

Nietzsche, Friedrich (2009-08-16). Works of Friedrich Nietzsche (8 books) (Illustrated) (Kindle Locations 10819-10841). . Kindle Edition.

 

The Best Presidential Race ever?

This presidential race is shaping up to be the greatest Presidential race in the history of America. Indeed, we’re living in the best of historical moments that’ll be remembered throughout the ages. What I feel especially fond of is not only were my negative assumptions and biases regarding both the establishment media proven correct but the dynamics have resulted in the current powerplay in this country. Corporate interests, albeit corrupt, versus genuine do-gooders of the public who are too ignorant to realize the ramifications of Trump’s policies. The establishment media’s lack of consistency has opened the floodgates to just how controlling their framing and priming narratives are; moreover, the Republican party is crumbling due to their own insulated behavior.

Why did they think Jeb Bush was electable? Were they really so isolated from the public perception of the Bush family despite the obvious polling numbers? Did they not realize the permanent damage wouldn’t be so easily forgotten?

As it stands, if Trump wins, then we all have Jeb Bush to thank. Most of the billionaires who have donated to their favorite candidate – i.e. Jeb – would be remiss to back out now and snub their family friend. Jeb isn’t quitting the election either, which means the establishment and the rich corporate interests cannot pick out a more viable candidate without permanently destroying relations with the Bush family. Jeb’s tactics are also a total failure – and if I have to be honest, I am laughing so much at how pathetic his campaign actually is – his solution to the hated image of his family is getting his brother and father to work on the campaign with him. Then he has his own mother making some nonsensical and calculated “heartfelt” video that does absolutely nothing. When he opened his mouth about Iraq and how he wouldn’t do anything differently from his brother, it was over. You can even look at the polling results to confirm this. He went from 17% to 0 after proving his ignorance of the genuine disgust and loathing that the public feels for George W. Bush. It would be easy for him to fix this… but he’s too protective of his family.

What the people on the Right want is Donald Trump. Why? It isn’t simply racism, it’s because he stood up for social security, speaks “honestly” which is something the public wants now, and his racism makes paranoid racists feel secure about their personal welfare and safety.

The Left isn’t any better. They want Bernie Sanders and to be perfectly blunt, Hillary Clinton is flip-flopping too much and the fact remains that she’s under a federal investigation that is also gaining coverage during her running. At this point, they’re desperately hoping Bloomberg will somehow save the day from the chasm and chaos of this election. Good luck with that, Establishment media. Occupy Wall Street will come-up and that was an undisputed violation of the First Amendment.

But Wow, is this the best election season or what? The country’s on the balance, wars keep raging, the debt keeps piling, and we’re reaching our zenith. This is the stuff of adventure novels!

The Rising Anti-Intellectualism of Atheism

If you’ve been following the trends in the Atheist subculture of the West, you’ll probably begin to notice just how far its fallen from the stated goals back during the early 2000s. A once strong movement has petered out after the death of Christopher Hitchens. Richard Dawkins has lost much of his positive public image as a man of science thanks to his patently discriminatory and unsavory comments on twitter. Worst of all, Sam Harris has shown himself to be a dogmatic and paranoid bigot towards both Muslims and anyone who disagrees with Harris on anything that he says. Whether it’s about freewill, his arguments against lying, his dogmatic hatred for Muslims, his advocacy of racial profiling, his arguments in favor of a nuclear first strike on Muslim majority countries, or anything that he strongly advocates; Sam Harris goes on ad hominem tirade after tirade about how everyone else is simply too dumb to understand his arguments and displays just how much of an intellectual charlatan that he truly is.

A movement once touting better social norms for minorities and women, a pro-science stance, and arguments for a world without war has fallen apart in the wake of massive sexual abuse crimes and rapes occurring at Atheist conventions, a pathological fixation on Islam and growing hatred for all Muslims, defense of thoroughgoing right-wing lies, defense of torture, and explicit racism. Atheist violence towards Muslims and Christians have reached more national scrutiny, as gunmen and self-described anti-theist Christopher Stephen Hicks murdered three Muslim college students in execution style. Followed soon after by Christopher Harper-Mercer’s mass murder of Christians in Umpque community college because of his own deluded fantasy about becoming famous by murdering innocent people. He was found to have an overwhelming amount of hatred for all forms of organized religion from his online diatribes. The shootings seemed to coincide with a tonal shift in atheist propaganda campaigns. The movement has gone from touting the social benefits of atheism to arguing that atheism isn’t really about social values and the chief goal is to convert people to atheism. Therefore, atheism has shifted from arguing progressive social values to functioning as a semi-nihilistic religious cult that provides no hope for people who miss their dead loved ones, provides no help for people suffering in poverty, argues for “equality” by insulting the faith of rescue workers and self-sacrificing soldiers who died in service to the US, creates mocking billboard signs meant to insult all religious faiths, and mocks feminist atheists while ignoring the rampant sexual assaults and rapes of feminists happening in their own organized events.

Beyond the pathological hatred for religious people for the crime of independent thought and community values, the most striking shift  is that a strong faith in critical thinking has given way to uncritical acceptance of everything New Atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris says about virtually anything. Any dissenter, on either political spectrum, who points out any flaw in Sam Harris’s arguments is automatically deemed by Sam Harris’s fans as deceitful, hiding the “truth” from the public, ridiculed as a “liar” because the dissenter doesn’t automatically agree with Sam Harris on everything that Sam Harris says, or the dissenter is seen as out to slander Sam Harris for some vague career bonus. Moreover, this behavior has been duly encouraged by Sam Harris himself, Harris has gone on record to say that if he could wave a magic wand to end either rape or religion then he would end religion. Evidently, anyone who honestly disagrees with Sam Harris must be one or all of those accusations because – in their own words – Sam Harris is “too smart” for the general public to understand and anytime someone points out a flaw or discrimination in Sam Harris’s language then they must not understand the “nuance” of Sam Harris’s arguments. Evidently, overt racism and self-contradictions are what accounts for “nuance” in the male atheist communities. The level of patronization and hate for religious people in these online forums is palpable. One need only browse the numerous atheist forums on reddit to see the increasing levels of malevolence towards honest, hardworking religious people.

However, one of the surprising aspects in all of this is just how much of a pathological liar Sam Harris actually is. For those who are familiar with his arguments, consider these contradictions:

Harris has stated more recently that Islam isn’t a race and that the accusations of racism against him are ignorant. Yet, in his own words, he has argued for racial profiling for people who look Muslim in his own words. Do you see the contradiction? How can he argue for racial profiling against people who look Muslim but then admit that Islam isn’t a race? Incidentally, Islam is actually one of the most racially diverse religious faiths both in the US and outside of it. Therefore, Harris never fact-checked before making his bigoted arguments.

He has argued that the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, an Islamic monarchy, is due to the religious conservatism of the country and used it as proof that Islam preaches misogyny. He has systematically ignored the fact that Saudi women protested this and went driving around the country as a peaceful protest. If you strictly read Harris’s accounts of what Muslims are like as people, you would expect the women to have been viciously beaten and raped. Surprisingly, or not for those who know that the Saudi people have protested for improved human rights for years, men who saw the women driving appeared surprised at first but then continued their usual activities. No harassment, no violence, and none of the nonsense that Harris espouses happened. Where were the uncultured savages bringing violence against women? Where were the irrational Islamic uprisings and misogyny? Where was the so-called “reality” of Islam? Keep in mind, this is from the most conservative and religious Islamic country in the world; also known for its close partnership with the United States.

If Harris’s arguments are truly as nuanced as he and his supporters claim, then why does he constantly need to argue that everyone who denounces his arguments – Chris Hedges, Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald, Cenk Uylger, Ben Affleck, and Ben Norton – are all taking him out of context? Furthermore, why does he obsessively claim that they’re liars , charlatans, or always frame the argument to imply that these people are somehow hiding the “reality” of Islam because they disagree with his premise that Islam is the central cause of the violence in the Middle East? Why doesn’t he make any effort to address their criticisms instead of going on spurious ad hominem rants about their character traits? Why assume the worst of his critics instead of simply accepting the very reasonable fact that his critics simply disagree with him?

There is also his flagrant deceitfulness in using the audio clip of the shooting in the Netherlands to continue spreading fear and paranoia during his podcast addressing the Chapel Hill shootings. While declaring Islam the prime culprit, police in the Netherlands found evidence that the shooter did it for the same reasons that Mercer committed his atrocities. Chiefly, the desire for world fame from committing atrocities. It had nothing to do with religious background. Harris used the clip to try to downplay the growing racism towards people of Arab lineage and the overall contempt for Muslim people in the atheist community. He went so far as to blame Glenn Greenwald and Reza Aslan by insisting they have “mad men” as viewers; this is on a podcast meant to address the fact that the shooter of 3 innocent Muslims was an atheist who was found to be a fan of the New Atheist movement from the material discovered on his facebook profile. The fact this podcast was praised by his viewers ultimately shows their level of abject racism, cognitive dissonance, and hatred for all Muslims.

Finally, Harris’s “debate” with Noam Chomsky shows the depth of his commitment to being a pathological liar. He admits in their email exchange that he never read anything Chomsky wrote before having criticized Chomsky in his books. Previously Harris argued for “honest debate” against people and shows rudeness towards religious people who agree to debate him, yet if someone is rude to him? Then they’re denigrated for being rude. Never mind the fact that Chomsky was simply complying with Harris’s wishes for honesty. After the debate, Harris changed tune on what he was wrong about regarding Chomsky’s focus on moral dilemmas in international relations. Harris stunningly decided that he wasn’t wrong about Chomsky after all; in fact, he was correct all along despite still never having read any of Chomsky’s writings and having been proven thoroughly wrong about Chomsky taking basic moral questions about international politics into account. In fact, despite Harris’s claims, it was clear that he never intended to have any sort of honest discourse with Noam Chomsky about any topic. He went into nonsensical thought experiment after nonsensical thought experiment when Chomsky proved him wrong using facts about the bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical building. The whole purpose of the exchange was so Harris could argue that Chomsky was being mean to him so he could self-aggrandize himself further, as he has done so with everyone else who criticized his arguments.

Sam Harris has thoroughly proved himself to be a pathological liar, narcissist, racist, and entirely devoted to the task of worshipping himself as infallible. Instead of simply accepting the fact that making views public subjects oneself to thorough criticism (because that’s simply how democracy works), he’s gone on rant after rant about the “regressive left” for the crime of disagreeing with his pathological obsession with Islam. It’s apparently “regressive” to argue for social justice, cultural inclusiveness, and to denounce discrimination based on religious faith and skin pigmentation.

If you’re interested, I have written a book available on amazon in more detail about the problems of the New Atheist movement.

The ongoing tragedy of the Native Americans; a history of institutional sex crimes, mass murder, and racism

National interests will always be a pivotal component in determining the significance of human rights. The United States of America has always projected itself as the defender of human rights and the American public have maintained a woefully uninformed bias that their country is the least worst in human rights abuses upon people within the country itself. Unfortunately, such biased cultural beliefs ignore the ongoing suffering of the Native Americans. The US media, a hateful and racist group of chauvinists, will constantly highlight human rights abuses in foreign countries such as the honor killings in the Middle East, the rape crimes in India, and worker abuse in China but an examination of the rampant sexual assault, rampant rapes, and high death rates of Native Americans by predominately non-Native people has never made it on US corporate news stations. This is not an accident; US news outlets simply don’t care about the suffering of the Native Americans and work to maintain the projection of the US being a country that is more benign than foreign nation-states. As such, the ongoing mass rapes, sexual assault, and high death rates of Native Americans throughout the country are ignored.

The rampant rape crimes upon Native American women has historical precedent. US scholars continue to be apologists for the rampant sexual assaults ongoing to this day including gang rapes, child rapes, and other forms of violent sexual assault. By sanitizing the history of the Native genocide by the United States of America, the US has sent a message that the history and abuses of Natives lack any significant worth and that their lives are less important than US interests in maintaining a benign projection. The selective removal of the mass rapes following the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk upon Native women, the glossing over of the cruel conditions of “Indian reservations” that continue to cause health problems for Native women, and the lack of focus by the media on the rampant sexual violence that is ongoing and which originated from the colonial period has served to devalue the lives of Native women and Native children suffering from rape crimes. This was not random; colonialists used rape as a tool of conquest and colonization throughout the history of the US and US history books have systematically sanitized, devalued the impacts, or ignored the history of sexual violence against Native women as a result of the racism of the past centuries. By devaluing the history of rampant sexual violence committed by predatory US citizens upon Native women and Native children, the current perpetrators of ongoing systematic rape crimes upon them have been allowed carte blanche access to continue sexual violence thanks to the utter apathy of their situation by the general US public, lack of scrutiny of the ongoing sexual violence, the slow change of US laws that abuse Native American peoples, and lack of financing for tribal lands. The US government wasn’t able to effectively respond with legal protection for Native Americans until amending the Violence against Women’s act in 2012 and the US media never bothered to make a public notification on corporate news stations about the rampant rape crimes occurring throughout the US since the colonial era. The lack of proper context and scrutiny over the systematic rape crimes throughout US history that have contributed to the widespread gang rapes and child rapes of Native Americans. The extent of the history displays the explicit apathy for their suffering and is a byproduct of racism against Native Americans by denying their history and human rights. If the history of sexual violence against Native Americans doesn’t matter, even despite the ongoing rape epidemic against them, then how can the US possibly be a defender of human rights? It is clear that by devaluing the history of sexual violence against Native women and ignoring the clear-cut history of genocide, the US government and US public have continued to create unsafe environments for Native American women.

There are usually attempts to blame Native Americans for their own suffering, this is the general response from the US public thanks to the history of racism and discriminatory laws passed against Native Americans living in tribal lands. In 86 percent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault, the perpetrators were non-Native men. Entire communities of Native American women have reported that they have never met another Native woman who wasn’t raped according to Amnesty International’s interviews of Native communities. This is the result of chronic underfunding of Tribal hospitals regarding rape kits, lack of State enforcement, ongoing racism, and discriminatory – almost predatory – laws passed that have effectively kept Native Americans in a state of helplessness. The state of helplessness to widespread sexual violence and especially systematic rapes throughout the United States; the Major Crimes Act (1885) granted federal authorities jurisdiction over certain serious crimes, including rape and murder, committed in Native American territories. While a scant number of tribal jurisdictions among the 550 federally recognized tribes retain concurrent powers, it can hardly be enforced due to the lack of funding. Certain States – California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Alaska – have extensive jurisdiction over criminal and civil proceedings within Native territories but don’t provide adequate funding to tribal authorities and don’t provide adequate protection for Native communities themselves. The lack of funding extends to healthcare facilities causing critical healthcare risks for pregnant Native women. Native communities live in a continued state of lawlessness in these areas because of the lack of funding and lack of State response to protecting Native civilians despite having jurisdiction. Certain other States – Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, North Dakota, and South Dakota can assume or relinquish rights over tribal lands – a right not given to Native Americans and therefore a further affront to their sovereignty. The States with optional jurisdiction have not received proper funding by the US Congress so many tribal lands are underfunded as a result. This has led to a state of perpetual lawlessness in many communities and increased difficulty between State and tribal officials in protecting the rights of the Native people from crimes of rape and murder. The Indian Civil Rights Act (1968) limits the penalty which can be imposed by tribal courts for any offense – including murder and rape – to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment and a fine of five thousand dollars; this has resulted in tribal courts being less likely to prosecute serious crimes pertaining to sexual violence. Moreover, the 1978 Supreme Court decision of Oliphant v. Suquamish ruled that tribal authorities cannot have any jurisdiction over non-Indian US citizens; this effectively denies rape victims due process and equal protection under the law. State and federal governments that have exclusive jurisdiction over tribal lands usually don’t follow-up in protecting the tribal lands through due process and don’t prosecute the perpetrators of rampant sexual violence. The lack of action from State and federal authorities, lack of funding for tribal governments and police, and laws explicitly preventing due process has allowed non-Native US citizens to enter these areas and commit rampant child rapes, gang rapes, and numerous forms of sexual violence upon Native women and especially Native children. In some cases, kidnapping of children through blindfold, raping them, and then washing their bodies before sending them back to tribal lands where they cannot say for sure whether the rapes happened on tribal land or not and therefore don’t have a right to due process. Even after the violence against Women act of 2012 was passed to stop the high accounts of sexual violence, very little funding has been conducted especially in areas of Alaska which lacks any meaningful law enforcement to protect Native women and lacks sufficient healthcare facilities for survivors of sexual violence. The fact these laws existed for so long and remained uncontested is a result of the history of racism against Native Americans and has resulted in the shaming of Native Americans as to be seen as less than human even when facing rampant sexual violence. The US government and the US media have effectively kept silent about these deplorable human rights abuses of Native Americans; including silence over incidents of child rape and gang rape to maintain the illusion of the US being “less worse” than foreign countries in their sexual abuse of women.

The United States rampant abuse of Native Americans doesn’t begin and end with the legacy of sexual violence against Native women and children. Scrutiny has been conducted upon the US police agencies for the high death rates of unarmed black men but little to no scrutiny occurs over the unarmed deaths of Native American men who suffer a higher kill ratio than even Black men. Native men have no media coverage over their wrongful deaths and have more institutional barriers – purposeful institutional barriers – preventing their families from ever receiving justice even after their deaths. Native children often go into foster care and drop out of schools by approximately tenth grade; this is largely due to the historic destruction of Native American family life. After World War 2, Native soldiers for the US army didn’t receive any medical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder unlike their white counterparts and this led to the breakdown of the Native family structure. Moreover, most of the sexual violence is being blamed upon Native Americans themselves despite the overwhelming amount of sexual violence occurring because of discriminatory laws and the perpetrators chiefly being non-Native men in 86% of the reported cases with very little legal actions taken to protect the Native Americans by State or Federal authorities after they assumed jurisdiction. The purpose of re-contextualizing sexual violence as a “native problem” is to remove blame from the failings of State and federal governments and to continue the longstanding dehumanization campaigns conducted throughout US history upon Native American peoples for the horrors conducted upon them. US history books and contemporary media continue to ignore cultural genocide of Native Americans throughout the 1870s – 1890s, in which nuns of Christian boarding schools would torture – through various cases of sexual abuse, malnourishment, forced heavy labor, and sometimes murder – Native children as young as five years of age to force them to forget their native heritage and culture. This was conducted upon Native American children by the tens of thousands and resulted in rampant sexual abuse and child deaths in Christian boarding schools throughout the United States. In the 1970s, due to the popularity of eugenics movements in certain US States that blamed social ills upon peoples ethnic backgrounds, there were massive sterilization campaigns of Native American women that were conducted without their consent and conducted concurrently with coerced abortions by the IHS. The result was over approximately 3,000 sterilizations and an unaccounted for number of coercive abortions of Native women by the IHS under the terms that they weren’t accountable to federal regulations when operating on Native American lands. California, in particular, has a record of forced sterilizations of over 20,000 peoples subsidized through federal funding of Native American women, Black women, and  Latina women. It effectively resulted in the sterilization of approximately 25 – 50 % of the Native American population.

Although politically incorrect, it is probable that Christianity played a prominent role in the horrific destruction of Native American lives and family structure. The boarding schools that tortured children were Christian boarding schools, the torturers were devout nuns, the mass deaths of Natives were celebrated as a curse from God upon the “heathen” Natives throughout US history, and the level of apathy towards their situation may come from Christian morality itself. How could so many IHS workers thoroughly discriminate against Native American women by coercing them into abortions or sterilizing them without their knowledge? How can this entire nation-state argue advocacy of human rights but thoroughly ignore child rapes, gang rapes, and murder rates of Native American peoples? The US consistently touts itself as a Christian nation, so why not then criticize Christian cultural norms when they fail? These horrors aren’t unique to the Native Americans, Europe committed similar mass deaths, cultural genocides, and sanitized their history books of their human rights crimes thus treating well over 60 million people as afterthoughts to the violence facilitated by their empire expansion. The intrinsic failure of Christianity could be thus: the belief that original sin exists creates circular reasoning because people intrinsically believe that they’re capable of committing horrific crimes due to some intrinsic evil nature within humanity which is labeled by Western culture as “human nature” as the chief term. The second, and most important component, is Jesus’s forgiveness of all crimes: this concept, more than anything, is a carte blanche to commit any human rights crime; it is not a peaceful doctrine because you don’t need to feel responsible for committing horrible crimes upon others. The only person that you have to answer to is Jesus Christ by accepting him into your heart, therefore, it effectively functions as a self-forgiveness system. After committing the horrible crimes, you’re forgiven by either the Church or – if you believe in open interpretation – through your own prayers and you can continue believing that humans are ubiquitously sinful and commit to “human nature” by committing atrocities. While that may seem shallow, it is important to note that serial murderers and serial child rapists have sought Jesus’s forgiveness, expect to be in heaven after death, and the pastor who has made it his life goal to serve and teach the faith has the same expectation. Along with that expectation is that any person, including children, who aren’t Christian will be going to hell for the crime having a different set of opinions and beliefs. Therefore, there can never be any culpability or any sort of morality from this intrinsically broken system of moral ethics. This concept of atoning only through Jesus Christ, more than anything else, contributes to human apathy towards genocide and especially the current conditions of sexual violence against Native American women because any human rights abuser can seek Jesus’s forgiveness to cleanse themselves of any wrongdoing with the expectation that it was unavoidable precisely because they’re human.

The lack of scrutiny and media coverage over the full extent of the destruction of the Native American family life, unarmed shootings of Native men by US police forces, cultural genocide, systematic rape campaigns in contemporary times, forced sterilization campaigns in the 1970s, child abuse at the hands of Christian boarding schools in the 1870s, historic genocides of the past, and dehumanization of the victims of the present is likely due to the unwillingness of Western culture to grapple with the utter failings of Christian morality. Despite the West’s persistent attempts to tacitly label the rest of the world to have been ignorant savages before the colonial period and the US’s attempts at depicting the same for the Native Americans by overemphasizing the Northeastern tribes and ignoring the plurality of the 550 Native cultures beyond that region, it remains the truth that Christianity is primarily responsible for these thoroughgoing genocide and hatred for all non-Western cultures. Attempts at building “objectivity” by trying to find common happenstances between colonialists and the natives usually means ignoring systematic rape crimes of the Native Americans, ignoring the actual numbers slaughtered in genocides throughout US history, and trying to dehumanize the Natives under the “noble savage” stereotype to justify Western aggression. It is the same for the West’s exploitative practices of the Middle East and Asia, evidently the West is content to demonize people in India for rape crimes and people in the Middle East for honor killings, but the murder rates and sexual violence of the Native Americans is thoroughly ignored by the US media, and Natives are repeatedly treated as an afterthought that continue to be ignored, contributing to their ongoing suffering as a result of neglect, to be viewed as lesser humans because they aren’t granted the same protections under US law. Yet, even when they are granted protections, it’s poorly enforced due to lack of funding and apathy towards their situation. Moreover, the US media attempting to portray the main perpetrators as distinctly Native men and lack of coverage of the overwhelming amount of non-Native men who take advantage of the lawlessness created by federal and State legislations shows an ongoing effort to continue an explicitly racist history. The reframing of this issue and lack of scrutiny of the US government shows the dishonesty of the US media and disingenuous nature of their reporting activities. The trackrecord of abuse, extending beyond a century in length, doesn’t give much hope that the human rights of Native American peoples will ever improve or that the US public will ever stop it’s tacit compliance with racism against Native Americans in order for meaningful change to be conducted to stop widespread gang rapes, child rapes, and higher death rates of Native American peoples.  The violence against Women’s act of 2012 was a very good path in the right direction, but the government needs to fund hospitals, tribal authorities, and create meaningful changes in the law to protect Native American women regardless of if it means a small loss of land for the US. The US Congress has, in fact, taken more land and that includes during this past year; at this point, the word “complexity” is being thrown forth to obscure the actual abuses upon Native Americans and to continue dehumanizing them. In pursuit of its national interests, the US government has effectively ignored the human rights crimes systematically committed upon Native Americans.


 

Works Cited

Bear, C. (2008, May 12). American Indian Boarding Schools Haunt Many. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16516865

Cheney-Rice, Z. (2015, February 5). The Police Are Killing One Group at a Staggering Rate, and Nobody Is Talking About It. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://mic.com/articles/109894/the-police-are-killing-one-group-at-a-staggering-rate-and-nobody-is-talking-about-it

Maze of Injustice. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/women-s-rights/violence-against-women/maze-of-injustice

Maze of Injustice full report. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/mazeofinjustice.pdf

McAuliff, M. (2014, December 3). Congress Raids Ancestral Native American Lands With Defense Bill. Retrieved November 2, 2015.

Rutecki, G. (2010, October 8). Forced Sterilization of Native Americans: Late Twentieth Century Physician Cooperation with National Eugenic Policies | The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from https://cbhd.org/content/forced-sterilization-native-americans-late-twentieth-century-physician-cooperation-national-#_ednref

Williams, T. (2012, May 22). For Native American Women, Scourge of Rape, Rare Justice. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/us/native-americans-struggle-with-high-rate-of-rape.html?_r=0

Two Shocking Human Rights Myths about the USA

Myth 1: Despite its flaws, the United States doesn’t have problems like widespread rape crimes and murders like in third world countries.

Fact: Native Americans have been, and continue to be, systematically raped, murdered, and tortured thanks to lawlessness as a direct result of US laws that prevented rape victims and families of murder victims from being able to sue the rapists and murderers. Rapists and murderers continue to commit acts of lawlessness: including gang rapes, child rapes, and wanton murder upon Native American tribal lands. In truth, in 86% of the cases, the perpetrators are non-Native men.

Chapter 4 of Amnesty International’s report underlies the chief causes regarding why this has continued to happen for so long. The Violence against Women’s Act’s amending in 2012 helped to identify Native Americans as having more rights, but thanks to the chronic underfunding of the majority of States throughout the US, nothing has really changed in a majority of these areas.

A Summary of Amnesty International’s Findings

Sexual violence against Indigenous women in the USA is widespread. According to US government statistics, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA. Some Indigenous women interviewed by Amnesty International said they didn’t know anyone in their community who had not experienced sexual violence. Though rape is always an act of violence, there is evidence that Indigenous women are more likely than other women to suffer additional violence at the hands of their attackers. According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of the reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men.

Sexual violence against Indigenous women is the result of a number of factors and continues a history of widespread human rights abuses against Indigenous peoples in the USA. Historically, Indigenous women were raped by settlers and soldiers, including during the Trail of Tears and the Long Walk. Such attacks were not random or individual; they were tools of conquest and colonization. The attitudes towards Indigenous peoples that underpin such human rights abuses continue to be present in in the USA today. They contribute to the present high rates of sexual violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and help to shield their attackers from justice. They also reflect a broader societal norm that devalues women and girls and creates power dynamics that enable sexual violence against women of all backgrounds.

And Chapter 4 of the Report:

The Major Crimes Act (1885) granted the federal authorities jurisdiction over certain serious crimes, including rape and murder, committed in Indian Country.51 There is a widespread misconception that under the Act only the federal authorities have the authority to prosecute major crimes.52 In fact, tribal authorities retain concurrent jurisdiction over Indigenous perpetrators. Nevertheless the impact of the Act in practice has been that fewer major crimes have been pursued through the tribal justice system.

Most state authorities do not exercise criminal jurisdiction over Native Americans in Indian Country. However, Public Law 280 (1953) transferred federal criminal jurisdiction over all offences involving Native Americans in Indian Country to state governments in some states.53 The US Congress gave these states – California, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin and Alaska upon statehood— extensive criminal and civil jurisdiction over Indian Country. Public Law 280 also permitted certain additional states — Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Washington — to acquire jurisdiction if they wished, and while a number of states originally opted to do so, currently only Florida has full Public Law 280 jurisdiction.54 Where Public Law 280 is applied, both tribal and state authorities have concurrent jurisdiction over crimes committed on tribal land by American Indians or Alaska Natives. Public Law 280 is seen by many Indigenous peoples as an affront to tribal sovereignty, not least because states have the option to assume and to relinquish jurisdiction, a power not extended to the Indigenous peoples affected. In addition, Congress failed to provide additional funds to Public Law 280 states to support the law enforcement activities they had assumed. The BIA, however, reduced funding to tribal authorities as a result of the shift in jurisdiction. This has led to a situation where tribal and state authorities have not received sufficient funds to assume their respective law enforcement responsibilities, resulting in a sense of “lawlessness” in some communities and difficult relations between tribal and state officials.55

The Indian Civil Rights Act (1968) limits the penalty which can be imposed by tribal courts for any offence – including murder or rape — to a maximum of one year’s imprisonment and a US$5,000 fine.57 The message sent by this law is that, in practice, tribal justice systems are only equipped to handle less serious crimes. As a result of this limitation on their custodial sentencing powers, some tribal courts are less likely to prosecute serious crimes, such as sexual violence.

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that tribal courts could not exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian US citizens.58 This ruling in the case of Oliphant v Suquamish effectively strips tribal authorities of the power to prosecute crimes committed by non-Indian perpetrators on tribal land. This decision raises issues of sovereignty which are beyond the scope of this report. It also denies victims of sexual violence due process and the equal protection of the law. Jurisdictional distinctions based on the race or ethnicity of the accused, such as the jurisdictional limitation here, have the effect in many cases of depriving victims of access to justice, in violation of international law and US constitutional guarantees. (Tribal courts are the most appropriate forums for adjudicating cases that arise on tribal land, and, as this report finds, state and federal authorities often do not prosecute those cases of sexual violence that arise on tribal land and fall within their exclusive jurisdiction.) This situation is of particular concern given the number of reported crimes of sexual violence against American Indian women involving non-Indian men. In such situations, either federal or state authorities have the authority to intervene. Reportedly, the apparent gap in jurisdiction or enforcement has encouraged non-Indian individuals to pursue criminal activities of various kinds in Indian Country. 59 Tribal police do have limited powers of arrest over non-Indian suspects in some states.60 They also retain the power to detain non-Indian suspects in Indian Country in order to transfer them to either federal or state authorities, but this is not generally understood by tribal, state or federal officials.

What survivors report to have experienced for decades throughout US history:

  • Support workers told Amnesty International about the rapes of two Native American women in 2005 in Oklahoma. In both cases the women were raped by three non-Native men. Other similarities between the crimes were reported: the alleged perpetrators, who wore condoms, blindfolded the victims and made them take a bath. Because the women were blindfolded, support workers were concerned that the women would be unable to say whether the rapes took place on federal, state or tribal land. There was concern that, because of the jurisdictional complexities in Oklahoma, uncertainty about exactly where these crimes took place might affect the ability of these women to obtain justice. Interviews with support workers (identity withheld), May 2005
  • The mother of a survivor of sexual violence from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation told Amnesty International how she returned home in September 2005 to find her 16-year-old daughter lying half naked and unconscious on the floor. She took her daughter to the hospital in Mobridge, South Dakota, where a sexual assault forensic examination was performed. She described how the suspected perpetrator fled to Rapid City, South Dakota, which is outside the jurisdiction of the Standing Rock Police Department (SRPD). He returned to the Reservation in early 2006 and was held by police for 10 days, although both mother and daughter only discovered this when they rang the SRPD to ask about the status of the case. They found out that the suspect was to go before a tribal court, but the mother told Amnesty International that to get this information, she had to go to Fort Yates and ask them in person. She told Amnesty International that she hoped that the case would be referred to the federal authorities because this would mean a lengthier sentence for the perpetrator. She said that, months after the attack, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officer and a BIA Special Investigator arrived unannounced. As the daughter was not home at the time, the mother told them where to find her. However, she never heard from them again. Federal prosecutors did eventually pick up the case and in December 2006 the perpetrator entered into a plea bargain and was awaiting sentencing at the time this report was written. Interview with mother of survivor (identity withheld)

Source: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/mazeofinjustice.pdf

US politicians know that this is happening and have shown total indifference toward fixing the situation. Taking more Native lands seems to be more important than helping rape survivors.


Myth 2: The police have a duty to protect US citizens from harm.

Fact: The Supreme Court decided in the case of Castle Rock V. Gonzales that the public duty doctrine doesn’t extend to private citizens and that the safety of Gonzales’s three children was not a protected entitlement under the fourteenth amendment. In effect, the police don’t have to help you when you’re being robbed, raped, or murdered.

Politicians attempted to redirect the argument to what the police have to go through every day on the job but that was an attempt to divert the main issue: the US government – Local, State, and Federal – didn’t want to be held liable to lawsuit whenever police failed in their duty across the country. Ergo, the decision was ultimately about protecting government monies above the rights of human lives; in this case the three innocent children that the police failed to protect by not enforcing the restraining order.

Sources:

A summary of the case: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/28/politics/justices-rule-police-do-not-have-a-constitutional-duty-to-protect-someone.html

The case file itself: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/04-278.ZS.html

Assessment of the legal implications:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525280/