Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is widely recognized as one of the best in Atlus’s Shin Megami Tensei series. It is known for its harsh, unforgiving, and mature atmosphere. The game itself delves into numerous philosophical concepts and demonstrates the desperation of the human mind in dire conditions where survival is crucial. This is an M-rated and mature game so if you have squeamish noisy parents, I don’t recommend purchasing this game. Part of the issue is that this game blatantly expresses religion in an unfavorable manner and among the six different endings; you can decide to go toward two distinct demonic paths.

Plot: Perhaps one of the most enchanting and intriguing plots in any role-playing game, ever. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is a landmark game that reaches into new innovative story elements to create a wondrous experience.

You are a human who has survived the apocalyptic end of the world and you’ve been forced into becoming a half-demon. Your goal? Reshape the world as you see fit by joining a particular philosophical belief system or abandon that to destroy the chance for the world’s rebirth for a different goal.

As you progress through the wasteland of the fallen remains of human civilization, you encounter other survivors who will eventually give you their philosophical doctrines (they’re called “Reasons” in the game) on what they believe to be the ideal utopian vision of what the new world should become. If you agree with their assessments, then new story options are open to you later in the game and you can change which side you choose to defend during different climaxes within the story.

The story itself takes a fairly linear route but you will, in the end, decide on what course of action you will take and whom you wish to side with. The game examines your choices and your ending in the final dungeon will be based on your choices and responses throughout the game. Overall, one of the best experiences that I’ve had.

Gameplay: One of the best turn-based gameplay mechanics ever created.

You, the main character, choose from different “Magatama” which change your stats, strengths and weaknesses, and what skills you can inherit. Story-wise, Magatamas’ are essentially demon cores that you ingest for different skillsets and powers. The game has twenty-five Magatamas in all.

Through the personal selection of skills and stats, that you can choose and boost at your whim, you can create any type of Hero that you like. A magic user, a physical user, or anything in between. It’s wholly up to you. However, once you delete a skill then it is gone forever. The game challenges the player to think carefully about their decisions in choosing stats and skills to maximize the main character’s performance in battle.

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is the first SMT game to introduce press-turns. These are an innovative gameplay mechanic that gives you an extra turn if you land a critical hit or strike at the weakness of the opposing demon. Conversely, if you strike at one of their strengths then you lose a turn in battle. This holds true for your opponent too. If they strike at one of your strengths then they lose a turn but if they strike at a weakness or gain a critical blow then it can mean game over for you.

Don’t be afraid of receiving game overs. Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne has no kiddy-gloves. It is a harsh and thrilling challenge to persevere through. The game pulls no punches and has a steep learning curve but not a horrendous one. You may not think the game is harsh at first if you’re playing on normal difficulty but you’ll realize early on that you need to be prepared once you face a certain surprise boss.

You can customize your party via the recruitment of over a hundred demons and fusing your demons to gain even stronger demons. During your first playthrough, you cannot have a demon stronger than your main character (unless they are one of the special demons that can evolve into another demon). Their skills are randomized so it’s a challenge to get the skills that you will want so that you can obtain the optimal efficiency in battle.

There are moon phases like all Shin Megami Tensei games. During a full moon phase, the game allows you to do special sacrifice fusions which are riskier but yield better rewards and cause demons in random battle to be slightly more punishing in their attacks. Most demons cannot be recruited during the full moon phase.

Remember, the game teaches you to learn and remember the weaknesses of opposing demons. It can be the difference between surviving and getting a game over message in many instances. But honestly, don’t feel overwhelmed by this. Speaking to NPCs and reading the game manual will be enough to get you through most of the challenges as you learn the inner tips and tricks of the game itself.

My overall experience is this gameplay is nothing short of spectacular.

Music: I personally felt that this was one of Shoji Meguro’s best works ever. My favorites consist of the normal battle music and two certain tracks near the end of the game. However, most of the musical scores are just phenomenal regardless. If you’re into Meguro, or into grim-dark guitar and drum battle music, then you’re sure to enjoy this game’s musical composition.

Characters: I honestly and truly believe that they are outstanding characters. They get a lot of hate for either their hypocrisies or extreme views later on as the game progresses but I personally felt that made them seem all the more humane. After all, can you honestly name a human being who hasn’t ever been a hypocrite in their lives? Can you name many who wouldn’t slowly lose their sense of self or their sanity after living through the end of the world and being forced to survive in a world filled with violent demons?

I think that many players became too myopic in their focus of how much of an advantage the Demi-fiend has in being able to fight back against powerful foes compared to two of the other human characters who had to survive whilst living under the constant threat of being killed on a whim by demons they had no chance of fighting back against. You see this in the early portion of the game and closer toward the end too.

It’s a story of tragedy, loss, self-destruction, excessive selfishness, and a proverbial fall from grace. That is why I cherish this game. These characters, their feelings, and their hypocrisies feel realistic.

Side notes:

– Any plotholes that players pick-up on are thoroughly elaborated and explained in the Labyrinth of Amala sidequest which leads to the hardest ending of the game.

– The overall length of the game is around 60-70 hours on your first playthrough. Subsequent playthroughs will probably take 30 hours or less unless you’re choosing to go through the Labyrinth of Amala for the most difficult ending. This is because that particular ending requires you to go through five extra dungeons which are harsh but rewarding experiences.

– Whilst some may find some endings disappointing, I felt that many plainly ignore the philosophical aspects and the story changes that you can choose to undertake if you pick a particular “Reason”.

– Dante from Devil May Cry is in this game and can be recruited very late in the game if you choose to go through the five extra dungeons.

Final Score: 10 out of 10. 10/10.

Dragon Quest V DS

Dragon Quest V is part of the “Dragon Quest” series. It was created by Yuji Horii with character and monster designs from the creator of Dragonball and Dragonball Z, Akira Toriyama.

It’s the fifth installment in the Dragon Quest series and the DS remake marks the second remake made for Dragon Quest V specifically.

This enhanced remake features a new option on whom to pick as a wife for old players of the game. The game is, on average, from 30-40 hours long and features much dialogue and a little bit of added plot from the original.

The game itself features a “generations” in which you grow up in the story and monster recruitment which, obviously, allows you to recruit monsters.

Story: 10/10

Now, admittedly, it doesn’t get right into the story when on the first dungeon but the first dungeon itself has an important story element to it. However, just when you think this game isn’t going to be that engaging, it throws fireball at you with a very engaging cut scene that really gets you into the story immediately. From there on, you feel varying degrees of personal emotion from story-based cut scenes and your own actions throughout the game.

It’s important to note that as a silent protagonist, the main character is YOU. You feel emotions in reaction to the events that befall the silent protagonist in the game because he IS you. That’s the sole purpose of a silent protagonist, it’s to BE the player.

The reason why this silent protagonist wasn’t given the option to be female in this game like Dragon Quest IV had to do with a very important plot element later on. I’d rather not spoil it for you if you don’t already know.

Music: 10/10

As with most Dragon Quest games, Koichi Sugiyama delivers great classical soundtracks with some video game synthesis to make it sound more action-oriented. They probably aren’t for everyone but I loved them especially the final boss’s theme.

Gameplay: 10/10

Something I should specify before I go and ramble on and fanboy about this game. I LOVE most turn-based RPGs. To me, they’re fun. That’s really all I care about in a game, if the gameplay is fun and this one’s implementation of turn-based gaming was definitely one of the best in my eyes.

In this game, you can recruit monsters. Okay, so you’re probably thinking: “Pokemon?” But WAIT! I’d argue that, assuming you like monster catching or monster grinding, it’s superior to any Pokemon game in terms of actual gameplay because you can choose to use from more than 4 moves in a battle and have more than 2 monsters in a battle at any given time.

Your Protagonist fights with the monsters and if the Protagonist dies then you can still continue fighting the enemy.

Recruitment of monsters is based on whom you kill last (only the last monster you defeat in battle will be able to be recruited) and it’s based on how rare or strong the monster is (obviously you have to work more to get more broken monsters unlike in Pokemon where you can trade strong Pokemon from other versions with Masterballs or save in front of a Legendary). The downside is that not all monsters in the game can be recruited but you have plenty to choose from of those that can be recruited.

Personally, I’m glad the list of monsters isn’t too ridiculous like the 500 something in Pokemon. I mean, I use to like Pokemon as a kid but they should have stopped before it had become too ridiculous and now they just milk the series so I’m glad Dragon Quest V has a shorter, more concise, list of monsters. You can recruit more than 80 in total (they’re left with a monster tamer for you to switch, drop off, pick up, or delete monsters from whenever you visit him).

One important thing I would like to make note of: You eventually do get human party members later in the game. The first time you have to pick among three choices for plot reasons (three save files means you can play through all three choices but, admittedly, there is little difference as far as the scope of the story but much difference in character development).

These party members, once obtained later in the game, will comment on virtually anything from almost every comment a random NPC makes in any town to their thoughts on the towns, dungeons, and world itself. The immersion and development of such this dialogue along with a hefty amount of translations needed from the Japanese version make this one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever played and really puts you into the game as the silent protagonist himself.

Overall, I recommend this title. I believe it’s very much worth the time of anyone who likes a solid turn-based RPG experience and I think it has one of the best stories ever made in a video game. It also proves, just like Chrono Trigger and many Shin Megami Tensei games, that you CAN have a silent protagonist that has character development. Not through what they say though, but through their actions and the cruel experiences they’re forced into.

Dragon Quest V is one of my top five favorites of all-time.

Final Score: 10 out of 10. 10/10

Persuasive Writing: The 80/20 Solution

I cannot fathom why anyone would spend their own money to market this book for $2.99. Seriously? The author has no understanding of marketing and competition. You can finish this book in five minutes of reading and all this author does is make utterly worthless suggestions on how to frame each paragraph to connect them. For example, creating the main purpose of an article, then writing a personal story in the second paragraph, then using scientific facts to support it in the third paragraph while mentioning parts of the second paragraph, then more information in the fourth paragraph while mentioning parts of the third paragraph, and rinse and repeat for five paragraphs. These suggestions are utterly worthless and would permit confirmation bias.

My suggestion: Don’t buy it. It is a total waste of money. At best, and I am being very generous of even this, it is worth 0.99 cents and not a penny more than that.

Adam’s Rib: A Story of Good Sleep

“Few people know it, but one must have all the virtues in order to sleep well.

…And even if one have all the virtues, there is still one thing needful: to send the virtues themselves to sleep at the right time. That they may not quarrel with one another, the good females! And about thee, thou unhappy one! Peace with God and thy neighbour: so desireth good sleep. And peace also with thy neighbour’s devil! Otherwise it will haunt thee in the night. Honour to the government, and obedience, and also to the crooked government! So desireth good sleep. How can I help it, if power like to walk on crooked legs? He who leadeth his sheep to the greenest pasture, shall always be for me the best shepherd: so doth it accord with good sleep. Many honours I want not, nor great treasures: they excite the spleen. But it is bad sleeping without a good name and a little treasure. A small company is more welcome to me than a bad one: but they must come and go at the right time. So doth it accord with good sleep. Well, also, do the poor in spirit please me: they promote sleep. Blessed are they, especially if one always give in to them. Thus passeth the day unto the virtuous. When night cometh, then take I good care not to summon sleep. It disliketh to be summoned—sleep, the lord of the virtues!” – Thus Spake; Zarathustra. Pages 36 – 37.

Adam’s Rib is an aptly named title for a comedy film that had contradictions within itself to appeal to the everyday person. Such contradictions range from making jokes about a woman’s driving ability to arguing that women can be as competent as men. This contradiction exists to the extent that the contentions of the defense lawyer/wife that the husband/prosecuting attorney is shown to have subtly shifted to him being angry about letting the woman go for shooting people. The very framework of the case and the arguments about unwritten law show that the case has no validity in an actual trial proceeding; worse than that, the plaintiff and defendant – a husband and wife who have openly spoken of physically assaulting each other – are the ones openly smiling for the camera with their children in a photo shoot. As if it was likely that a domestic abuser and a woman who has been psychologically harassed by that very abuser would suddenly be smiling and hugging for the camera. Arguments in the trial seem to slowly become worse as outright disgust for women having rights by one officer to making people feel that women succeeding doesn’t fit some state of normalcy show the shallowness of the arguments. Essentially, there is no nuance; the arguments become obvious and more akin to a good versus evil dynamic. It is quite galling to notice that the lawyers are affected more than a man who has been shot and a woman who has been abused. Ironically, this film is actually progressive in some respects since it passes the Bechdel test.

Modern Hollywood films – meant for the uneducated and lazy of society; the veritable lowest common denominator of humanity – who prefer three blockbuster movies of Michael Bay explosions, seven movies of speeding without consequences, and a deluge of superhero movies that mostly have the same boring plot with idiotic high school drama. These films chief purpose is to instill feelings of dominance, happiness, and success for a brief amount of time so that the modest earners return to their day jobs with some good cheer for a brief period. This is why such lazy and stupid writing is allowed, as only the provincial dweller would consume such utter waste. The only variation is that in war movies, every other country – especially those with people that have a high melanin count –  is depicted as full of uncivilized barbarians to keep the provincial dwellers happy with the idea that their lives aren’t pitiful by the standards of the intellectually sophisticated. Perhaps, someday, there will be more sophisticated films.

The film, in typical Hollywood fashion, has the woman being prompted to return to a subservient status so as not to harm her Christian marriage. After all, being a proper Christian woman took precedent over being an individual with free choice in a Republic that champions democratic values. No surprise since modern Hollywood still won’t allow two women to have any type of normal conversation together unless a man is part of the topic.

A work-in-progress chapter of my pro-atheist book

Note: This is an edited earlier draft that may not reflect the finalized book.

Chapter 1: Conventional Religion

Anecdotes            

A focal problem with anecdotes is that they can be argued in favor of any position; no matter how contradictory, racist, homophobic, or even positive. Anecdotes are a logical fallacy because they don’t account for the actual statistical figures of a given subject and instead argue in favor of a position through personal events or isolated incidents. Some of these anecdotes can be inferred from viewing events on television. An example to understand this would be the statistics on wars. Despite what is displayed on the news, wars have been on the decline since the 1960s. After World War 2, there has been a huge drop in the ratio of violent conflicts throughout the world, but this sounds ridiculous in the face of war stories that occur on the news virtually every week. Evidently, the only reason that the majority of people perceive that humanity has become more violent is the easy coverage of violent conflicts as they are happening. During the era of newspapers, this was not possible. The modern media has allowed people across the world to gain insight on conflicts far removed from their location and NGOs have allowed people to give aid to suffering refugees to a greater extent than in the past. A greater awareness of these violent events has actually allowed better responses for the people who are suffering. Yet, the erroneous perception that humanity is becoming more violent still remains because of people’s repeated exposure to news about different wars across the world. The 19th century accounts for the most violent of times throughout human history in terms of wars and mass genocides.

Religious anecdotes are just as problematic. If, for example, a child is suffering from cancer but is cured either through medical treatment or the cancer disappears because their immune system successfully fought it off then religious believers often say that God has cured the child of cancer. If, however, the child regrettably dies of cancer then religious believers are most likely to – after giving honest condolences – say the child is with God in the afterlife. Thus, what changes aren’t the horrible circumstances of the events but rather the interpretation of the events to make the observers of the event feel better. It is the same for children in third world countries; the majority of people in first world countries ignore the issue of starving and dying children in third world countries under the basis that it has nothing to do with their personal lives. People often tout that the dead children are in heaven and no longer suffering. However, what changes aren’t the horrific circumstances of innocent children dying from the world at large having failed them, what changes is a religious believer’s perception of the event and only to the comfort of the religious believer so that they don’t have to think or feel horrible from knowing there are children dying from starvation in third world countries. Sadly, this creates another problem, predatory missionary groups use anecdotes to their advantage on unsuspecting and uneducated people to argue in favor of their religion by holding people hostage such as pretending a transport vehicle is broken down until impoverished people living in a third world country pray to the religion of the missionary group to get the bus “working” again. Worse still, some missionaries are known to refuse health services until impoverished people pray to their God. The level of apathy for the plight of the third world has prompted wealthy families to create public works projects like the Gates Foundation to combat these continued issues.

Anecdotes and Symbolism

Anecdotes often require symbolism in order to maintain the state of normalcy. Religious symbols are often displayed to instill feelings of hope; especially during harrowing times. Religious symbolism is often utilized in books, films, and sometimes in court proceedings to create a veneer of God defending the rights of the people for the sake of equality and to further symbolize moral goodness. Flag symbols in the background of a superhero character, religious symbols such as the cross, and of course the statement “In God We Trust” behind the court judge serve as common examples of these symbols. Symbols help facilitate the pattern recognition bias within humans; that is, perceiving a correlation between two different events where there is none. Instances of justice failing or unfair laws are often ignored and people gain a fallacious understanding of what the law is really meant to be. Laws are dependent upon interpretation; juries are to determine if a particular incident broke a set of rules. Yet, when instances such as the failure of the law are displayed then it is argued that humans are imperfect. So what good is the symbolism in the first place? It is a deception and one that is used against individuals who harbor such perceptions.

An example of this nefarious deception, the faultiness of symbolism, can be shown by the following: most US citizens believe that US police officers have a lawful duty to protect them from any harm. This is legally false; a Supreme Court decision in 2005, Gonzales V. Castle Rock, determined that police protection was not a protected entitlement under the 14th amendment and that the protection of private citizens was not part of the public duty doctrine. In the context of the case itself, Gonzales noticed her children missing from her front yard and called the police to inform them that her estranged husband had probably taken them. He wasn’t allowed to take them during that day because of the custody rules in place for when he was could spend time with the children. The police didn’t take the claim seriously; Gonzales then tried calling the police at several times during the hours and even went to the police station to show the legal document whilst desperately asking for help. The police refused to do anything, the police officer at the desk took a lunch break after hearing her pleas, and the next day her ex-husband committed suicide by cop and the officer found the dead bodies of Gonzales’s three young children in the trunk of the ex-husband’s car. The trial went to the Supreme Court and the case was dismissed on the basis that Gonzales’s children and by proxy all Americans had no legal right to police protection within the United States. According to the ruling, the police don’t have to help you, even in instances when you are being robbed, assaulted, raped, or murdered. The Castle Rock police department was quick to reframe the event in order to blame the grieving mother and politicians hailed the decision by focusing strictly on how police had to make tough decisions when on the field of duty. What wasn’t mentioned was how the US government, from the local to federal level, no longer had to pay any damages to victims who suffered from the police failing to uphold their supposed duty in protecting the citizens from harm. The Supreme Court of the United States had determined that the lives of children were less important than the government losing sums of money.

If you are a US citizen, you may have feelings of disbelief upon reading the aforementioned paragraph. After all, you’ve likely grown up with an entire culture of police dramas like Law and Order, NCIS, and other American TV shows with a plethora of episodes depicting valiant police officers doing their utmost to aid rape victims, children, and the wrongfully accused. These depictions usually consist of a main character having a strong personal connection with the victims to help them cope with the horrible events. The reality of the law seems ridiculous in comparison to what you might believe about the justice system; what you may not have realized is that you are using aspects of fiction to fill the gaps in your understanding of reality. You have used fiction as a substitute to fill in what you didn’t know because we humans feel safe when we have a coherent understanding of the world. These stereotypes have been formed by shortcuts that you have developed regarding the world around you and your ignorance of the real law could be utilized against you. You may have formed a coherent story and expectations based on what you knew about the law but the fact remains that you probably didn’t know about the actual laws governing you. Psychological studies have found that, due to our increasingly complex societies, people use shortcuts to quickly determine what different subject matter represent and mean. This is natural because as human beings, we cannot make deep insights about every single subject matter that we are confronted with even in a single day. As a consequence, stereotypes about certain jobs, organizations, and different types of people abound and will probably always exist. These psychological shortcuts are only worsened by our human bias to see pattern recognition but more on that in later chapters.

We humans need to use shortcuts in our increasingly complex societies and so we use them without even realizing it. Whatever you thought might be credible laws depicted on television shouldn’t be trusted. A repeated marathon of episodes in which fictional police only act positively towards the general public would cause an obvious bias with an implicit understanding that police are legally required to protect the public; it follows along the lines of the motto “protect and serve”, it is what young children are led to believe when meeting friendly police officers during their time in school, it follows the norms of what we expect when we see TV shows like COPS that selectively show favorable police chases, and the fact remains that it isn’t legally accurate. US citizens don’t have the right to police protection. What people have done is let the belief in symbols, the repeated exposure to favorable police shows, and the popular opinion of the public give them a misrepresentation of the actual law. Neither the fact that the majority of the 300 million people living in the US believe that police are legally suppose to protect citizens nor the fact that 300 million people are bombarded with imagery, symbols, and stories of police heroics make the law any less valid or impactful upon people’s daily lives. If you believe that this is a lie then I encourage you to independently verify the lawful impact of “Gonzales V. Castle Rock” for yourself. The fact is that we humans have a tendency to go by the information and repeated exposure to what is most available to us. It is known as the availability bias within psychology and it is a psychological factor that governments, police organizations, the national media, and psychologists are well aware of.

How does this apply to religion? It shows that millions of people can wholeheartedly have an understanding about the norms of their society, harbor an overwhelmingly positive outlook on an organization and what it is perceived to do based on implicit understandings, and be completely wrong. The fact that millions upon millions of people believe that police officers are legally required to protect them and this belief is what they consider to be a normal aspect of their everyday lives doesn’t make the belief true. If you were in a similar position to Gonzales and lost a loved one through police failure in doing their duty, your ignorance about this ruling would serve as a detriment to you; the police wouldn’t need to pay any damages for failing you or your loved one. At best, they would simply be forced into retirement. Your ignorance, created by an obfuscation of the real facts through positive cultural imagery, will be used against you. It is also important to consider how many of us come to these beliefs. We often observe and consider what other people think or do and copy that behavior in order to remain in a favorable view to the majority of people; that is social proof. Therefore, the majority of people being confronted with this law would probably be skeptical and may view such a legal fact to be a conspiracy theory. After all, it doesn’t follow any coherent understanding about their beliefs regarding American society and it doesn’t fit a coherent expectation about the law itself. Yet it is a real law, but accepting that would require a drastic change of perception regarding what most Americans have come to expect regarding their own safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Christians make up the largest population in the world. In almost every country, there is at least a minority Christian population. For all the speeches about how India and China have a majority Hindu or majority atheist population, it remains true that Christianity – as a whole – has the largest population size. Yet, this is not a valid argument favoring Christianity. This is what is known as the appeal to population fallacy. Consider this hypothetical argument: what if Judaism turned out to be the one true religion? If that were so, then it wouldn’t matter how many people across the world believed in Christianity, it wouldn’t even matter if every country in the world outside of Israel believed in Christianity or even if every person in the world believed in Christianity while Judaism was no longer believed in. It would be meaningless in the face of Jewish people being the chosen people of God. You can substitute this proposition with another religion or reverse it; if Christianity is true then Jewish people have suffered throughout history for a meaningless cause or – worse still – they have endured suffering to be killed en masse for some apocalyptic prophecy. Now consider this: according to most polling data, Islam will be the world’s largest religion by 2050. If that prediction becomes true, then what value can there be in Christians making up the majority of the world population currently? It has no value and on closer inspection, it is less meaningful than most Christians might realize. Christianity has long been divided into Protestants, Catholics, and East Orthodoxy; in other regions of the world Christianity has blended with local religions in the regions that it has spread. For example, Christians of India follow a Caste system just like the Hindus. In the Philippines, books of local religious witchcraft have been blended together with Christian teachings. There is no, and there probably will never be, a uniform Christianity; but this is not a unique problem to Christianity. It is the natural occurrence of any belief spreading; it is why India has had a tradition of Hindu heterodoxy, why Islam has differences in Sunni and Shia, and intrinsic differences in several Buddhist schools of thought. In the context of the United States, liberals and conservatives have diametrically opposed views of Jesus Christ’s teachings and expectations. What use is the term Christianity, or indeed any religious identity, when it has belief systems that conflict with each other on fundamental levels?

In the following chapters, I will extrapolate on the faultiness of open interpretation and how each of the major religions suffers from being unable to grapple with modernity.

Convenience

Religion has often been used to suit our conveniences. In the previous section, I mentioned how people living in first world countries ignore the circumstances of children in third world countries as having nothing to do with them and how religion helps ameliorate the immorality of such a position by the presumption of a positive afterlife for the children who have died. This is a regrettable truth that we should confront because it takes away the easiness and simplicity of religious answers. Religion, for the longest period of time, has helped facilitate apathy to problems of child mortality in third world countries but the apathy and convenience of religion doesn’t end there.

The majority of people in any first world country don’t give much thought to the problems of countries outside of theirs. Beyond selective media portrayals that create negative stereotypes, there is very little about foreign countries that residents of any given country understand and why should they? After all, it has little impact on their lives. As a result, due to our increasingly complex world and the shortcuts we use in understanding foreigners, we create negative stereotypes about other regions of the world and their people. Religion implicitly creates differences of in-group and out-group conditions and according to psychological research; the grouping of people into these different codifications is instantaneous. We humans are “groupist” by instinct. Race, religion, age, gender, political affiliation, citizenship, and other aspects of our personal identity have consequences for how we are all viewed by society. People codify us into groups, we codify them, and stereotypes are soon formed because of these rash generalizations from our “shortcuts” about other people. This societal reality has a pernicious and demoralizing effect upon entire groups of people.

In my discussions with fellow millennials on facebook, in college clubs, and among friends; I would ask whether they noticed an implicitly racist codification conducted by the generations before us. Almost unanimously, the millennials that I spoke with – among different social classes, having different racial backgrounds, and coming from different political affiliations – agreed with the strange behavior of the generations before us. What we all agreed on was thus: the older generation would assess the quality of an entire racial group by comparing the good and bad people of that racial group that they personally met. For my group of friends and I, this seemed both fundamentally absurd and stupid. By defining people by their racial group, you are erroneously attributing negative qualities to people who have nothing to do with each other beyond being born with the same skin pigmentation. This is fundamentally unfair and racist. To the keen observer, the argument from followers of this belief attributing these distinctions from the “good” or “bad” qualities of the racial “community” does little to obfuscate the underlying racism. A disturbing implication from this viewpoint is the ignorant idea that skin pigmentation is linked to bloodline. In online forums, people will speak of how racist family members of theirs will demand that certain other racial groups be kept out of their family line. However, if people believe that “race” has to do with one’s familial blood then what these racists are advocating is incest. If they truly believe that skin pigmentation determines similarities in blood then this is an advocacy for certain degrees of incest. Fortunately, ignorant racists are entirely wrong; skin pigmentation was determined by people adapting to their specific climates in their environments and skin pigmentation is a phenotype and not a genotype. In concise terms, skin color has nothing to do with how genetically close you are to someone else. For example, if you’re white, you may be closer in genetic relations to your fellow black members of society than your fellow white members. This is primarily because skin pigmentation is just one small part of our genetic make-up; these racial boundaries are a cognitive illusion fostered by misapplied cultural history and historic racism. Examples of this fact can be seen across the world: Northern Indians of India are genetically closer to British people than Central and Southern Indians in genetic make-up, most Europeans can trace their roots to the Near-East, Iraqis are classified as Caucasian and in fact have a significant percentage of people who typical Westerners would generally classify as being “white”, and Mexico has more diversity among different racial backgrounds than at first glance. These distinctions are worthless anyway because the generalizations of each group are based on either racism or ignorant cultural discrimination. Generally speaking, racists have a difficult time classifying anything that isn’t their expected similarity. The predominance of incestuous beliefs seems to be the root of most racism; this provincialism seems to be true of each country that practices it. I’d make the argument that US citizens are criticized for it because it is inconsistent with the championed diversity of the US and shows a failure of the education system of the US; furthermore, government codifications via racial background may be a double-edged sword because it promotes these implicit divisions by the evaluation of society through skin pigmentation.

During a news panel on Fox News in 2014, Megyn Kelly received a wide amount of criticism for openly saying to any possible children watching that Jesus Christ and Santa Claus were white. After the public’s derision of Kelly’s statement, politicians ignored the part about Jesus Christ and shifted the focus to Santa Claus being a diverse cultural icon for children of all skin pigmentations. Virtually no politician or social media critic confronted the quirk about Jesus Christ being a white man and the backlash quickly died down. The educated members of the general public pointed out historical inaccuracies in social media regarding Jesus’s skin pigmentation, groups of Christians stated that the skin color of Jesus Christ obviously didn’t matter because his love for humanity is universal, and discussions about a black Jesus were largely met with an equal possibility to a white Jesus. This type of controversy over the racial background of a religious figure isn’t unique to Jesus Christ or to religious discourse itself. Ancient stories about Cinderella, Ali Baba, and the 16 labors have changed a multitude of times to the renaming of the characters, the changes to the skin color of the characters, and the sanitization of the more morally dubious aspects of the stories that don’t fit with the moral guideposts of the cultures that adopt the stories. In the context of religion, the Buddha has faced similar issues of cultural appropriation; his racial background has changed from Indian to the race of the majority population of each country that adapted Buddhism. In Korea, his appearance is reshaped to that of a Korean and in Taiwan, he looks Taiwanese; this is a blatant historical inaccuracy but these types of iconography persist throughout history and persist within each country where the majority population is of a different racial background from the revered figure. For the most part, within each country that Jesus and the Buddha are revered, their racial background changes to the majority population of that country. So, if the racial background of Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha don’t matter then why does this form of cultural appropriation overwhelmingly persist throughout the world? A pernicious and unpopular answer could be our psychological biases; psychologists have found that human beings prefer to associate with others who are similar to them. Psychologists have coined the term “relatedness” but from my studies in political psychology, I would argue that this terminology skims over the true impact of the meaning. A more appropriate term might be “narcissistic impulse” and each racial group’s desire to praise their revered figure only under conditions in which the figure is depicted to have the same racial background as them – while wholly ignoring the historical inaccuracies – reveals each individual’s narcissistic desire for their racial background to be the most important in the world. I suspect that it is an explicit and irrational form of religious convenience that isn’t challenged because it would engender a plethora of racism and hate speech from any group that faced such a challenge to their religious worldview because the iconography is more important to satisfying their narcissism than historical facts. While the socially progressive religious adherents are willing to acquiesce to the legitimate history of their religion, it would be more challenging to convince the more ignorant groups in any given country to do the same. This religious convenience reveals a depth of difference and fracturing beyond the multitude of religious denominations that just isn’t discussed. People remain silent about this global racist phenomenon throughout their religious practices precisely because challenging the issue would harm the convenience of the majority of religious people.

Convenience and Coherence

In his best-selling book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Psychologist Daniel Kahneman unveiled the multitude of biases and cognitive shortcuts within the human psyche. The human mind has a bias to frame events in the manner of storytelling. We create stories and form a coherent understanding of the world through this biased framework. As a result of this, we create a coherent framework of the world through our own biased assessments and formulate our own causal relationships for why events happen. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gods or God itself is a concept of convenience for humankind as a result of looking for the causes of events. These examples can be seen in every religion. In polytheism, different Gods serve different aspects of human convenience from concepts such as a fountain goddess of luck in Rome, to a goddess of love in Hinduism, to a God of trickery in the Norse religion, to goddesses of death in Celtic religions, and to a God of either love or torment who helps people in mysterious ways in the Abrahamic faiths including the dualistic concept of God and the Devil. They are depictions of the human mind, the justifications for our actions, and the human biases that we have.

We use this framework of coherence in our understanding of history and the attachment we place upon historical figures that are similar to us; they help serve our desires for inspirational storytelling and our narcissistic impulse with how we draw similarities to them. An example of this is the stories of the Crusades. Depending on whether you are Christian or Muslim, you may attach yourselves to some of these heroic depictions in films, books, or television shows about the Crusades and liken yourself to one of the so-called heroes. But, were you aware that both the ancient Christian and Muslim warring factions practiced cannibalism and ate the people that they killed – including children? This wasn’t simply one side; it was both religious groups and the censoring of this significant historical fact displays a chief problem with religion. Similar to the apathy of first world peoples to the plight of the third world, religious people ignore the horrific acts in the name of religion for the sake of their own convenience. They ignore the barbarity for the sake of their own coherence to defend the view of religion being morally good for people. The negative history of their religion on the world is argued to be causes other than their religious teachings: the evil nature of humanity, the evil of politics, the instigation of the enemy, the mysterious will of God, and a multifarious amount of other causes. Typically, the popular justification is that false interpretations of the faith occur and cause violence; it is an appeal to purity, that is, an attempt at defending some perceived special and unique goodness of the religious faith. Apologists are willing to downplay, disingenuously misinterpret, and vilify attempts at highlighting horrific acts in the name of religion; to the extent that they ignore ongoing human rights crimes, ignore the victims of the past because they harm the positive coherence of religion, and may even come-up with a convenient notion that the victims are in a better place in the afterlife regardless. The lives and deaths of others become an abstract concept instead of a real event that has hurt real life people. The notion of victims finding peace in the afterlife only serves the convenience and narcissism of the religious believer.

Criticisms of the religion itself can be obfuscated and ignored through the cognitive dissonance and convenience of certain religious principles. The argument from ignorance that God’s plan is unknowable serves the convenience of the religious adherent to ignore human rights abuses. Some religious believers try to dispense with their previous religious identity from their religious faith; often by arguing that their faith isn’t truly a religion and that they’re simply spiritual without identifying with the religious identity because of the negative connotations associated with it. This is consistent with the psychological act of substitution, in which people find alternative reasons to justify their beliefs or actions because of unwillingness to change and an apathetic disposition for the victims because victims are part of the out-group. To that end, people are self-centered because they are far more willing to ignore the victims for the sake of arguing for the purity of the religious faith. People simply don’t care because they’re unwilling to inconvenience themselves by examining their own beliefs.

The obfuscation and self-centeredness doesn’t exist strictly for religion; it can exist in lesser known cultural forms but it is most damaging in the context of religion because of how easily people ignore human rights abuses because it doesn’t fit into the positive image that they have about their own religious beliefs or those of their loved ones.

The Convenience of Good and Evil

The dualistic concept of Good and Evil creates a limiting and damaging worldview that ultimately harms people who believe it to be the truth; even the idea that there are small gray areas in a mostly good and evil framework is harmful because it is also an oversimplification. The concept of good and evil – above all other concepts – leads to extremism, xenophobia, bigotry, hatred, and mass murder. This is primarily because the dualistic concept of “Good versus Evil” is a framework and promotion of extremist ideology; this concept isn’t a safe and carefree ideology for children as is often touted via mass media and popular parenting ideas. It is a concept that compels people to hate and murder under a veneer of justice. The reason for these issues is due to our groupist mentality intermingling with the extremist ideology of absolute good and absolute evil. The idea of mostly good or mostly evil is self-damaging because people have anchored their viewpoints on an absolutist concept and given small concessions to what is still largely an absolutist disposition. When we apply these dual extremist ideologies to our fellow human beings that are different from us then we will always be generalizing them with a simplistic worldview. There are different degrees of how pernicious this concept is but the problem is the concept itself being flawed and instigating hatred toward others.

Apologists of the dualistic concept of Good and Evil are quick to point out truly horrific crimes as proof that the concept itself has merit: the Holocaust, an anecdotal account such as the gruesome death of a child at the hands of a pedophile, or terrorism. Yet, upon a deeper look, these show a shallow understanding of the consequences of believing in good and evil. The Nazis committed a mass genocide after a voluminous amount of religious and political propaganda condemning the Jews for being evil people throughout the history of Christian Europe; they used the economic crisis, the belief that the Jews were responsible for murdering Jesus Christ, and anecdotal stories to argue that Jewish people were a villainous and hateful group that ruined their country. The narrative of doing what must be done to protect the innate goodness of the German people were used to instill the idea, for German soldiers, that they were heroically going through hell and committing these atrocities to protect the goodness of the German public. A violent pedophile who made a child suffer probably emphasizes their other actions, perhaps such as giving to charity, to ameliorate themselves from their horrific sexual tendencies; they vindicate themselves of responsibility by telling themselves that they are a mostly good person. How can we know this? Because that is exactly what the national media does to protect their image and many pedophiles wearing religious garb had defenders who blamed the victims or found examples of a priest being a “good person” to vindicate their rape of children. Psychologists have found that terrorists, by and large, aren’t insane extremists but rather people who turned to violence after seeing their efforts through more peaceful means being ignored or violently crushed – such as peaceful protests or the judicial system being purposefully ineffectual. A terrorist would argue the innate goodness of their actions or possibly highlight how the foreign country that they’re trying to destroy committed more egregious acts of violence upon their people to justify their behavior. In fact, that has been done in the case of Iraqi insurgents; they justified the beheadings by blaming President Obama for beginning an initial bombing campaign that Wall Street and the US’s Gulf allies demanded of him to protect global economic interests.

For the most part, Good and Evil thinking seems to lead people to believe in a “Good Person Syndrome” to self-exalt themselves and other people that they believe to be their in-group. Unsurprisingly, they ascribe villainous characteristics to a perceived hostile out-group. People living under the belief system of good and evil typically perceive themselves to be a good person; they thoughtlessly purchase cheap consumer commodities such as clothing made from Chinese sweatshops, jewelry that was found from child labor in India, the latest electronic gadgets that were made from factories that have long hours while paying their workers pennies a day, oil from dictatorships in OPEC, and when confronted with any of these realities then they argue that they’re a good person because of the positive relationships that they have in their personal lives. They argue that they’re a good mother, a good father, a good spouse, a good friend, and give to a few charities and that evil is just part of how the world exists. They don’t try to inconvenience themselves or admit to profiting off the suffering of the third world because it enriches their lives. Attempts at pointing this out lead to a backlash of calling out hypocrisy from those pointing out these issues, or blaming the out-group by arguing their governments and therefore they themselves are responsible despite the fact that some of these groups live under authoritarian rule or have no means of defending themselves. Once blaming the victim is accomplished, the Good Person Syndrome, makes itself content by arguing perspectives of self-worship via arguments such as how they treat their in-groups civilly, how their in-group is more civilized and open than the out-group through anecdotal evidence presented in the national news media to promote jingoism and confirmation bias used from the media to continue self-celebrating jingoism, and ignore or distance themselves from these realities by arguing that they are a humble folk who have nothing to do with the complexities of the world. Evidently, once there are moral questions that cannot be answered, a believer of good and evil will always argue that they are less than the complexity of the world and that these issues are “greater than themselves”; they ignore the fact that these questions would require them to rid themselves of their convenient, enriched lifestyle and they attribute negative qualities to vilify the people who point out these challenging questions. This isn’t because they are secretly horrible people or because of some evil nature in humanity; it is because they wish for their lives to have a coherent and largely positive narrative. To effectively have a positive worldview when believing in the extremist ideology of good and evil, they need to ignore or find “causes” for what their belief system teaches them is evil in the world. We humans have a negativity bias and negative information is more difficult to get rid of than positive information. Yet, it remains true that this dualistic and extremist teaching serves to create impotence towards complex problems in human affairs and leaves young people unable to deal with the real world.

The psychological effects known as the contrast principle and the consistency principle play a significant role. Psychologists have noted, and national news media has taken advantage of, the fact that people put more emphasis on contrasting characteristics than what is necessarily there when we observe two different subject matters; this can apply to people, expensive items, political ideologies, and many other things. Psychologists have also noted that most people don’t have the time or they’re disinclined to take the effort in assessing each event respectively and instead choose to automatically respond with their prior behavior to the particular issue. An example of the news taking advantage of these two psychological principles would be Piers Morgan, a US news reporter, interviewing Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist, when his viewership was low on CNN. Morgan’s arguments would obviously look more favorable compared to that of a conspiracy theorist and comparing Morgan to a loudmouth who wasn’t making much intelligible sense would further emphasize Morgan’s positive qualities by a comparison of the two. Unless the viewership is predisposed to Alex’s views, they would overwhelmingly see the positive aspects of Piers Morgan because of the contrast to someone perceived to be a worse person. Incidentally, the contrast principle is probably why Godwin’s law, reductio ad Hitler, is used in so much in Western social media to defend poor arguments or to emphasize the bad qualities of an opponent’s arguments; virtually any action or argument looks better in contrast to a mass genocide by a genocidal and racist maniac.

It is imperative to understand that good and evil itself is an extremist concept to the core of its very definition because it creates a grotesque oversimplification and anchors good and evil caricatures from cartoons onto real human beings. Instead of assessing events, peoples, places, or opposing arguments as their own individualistic concept; good and evil creates an anchoring effect, framing individual concepts with a favorable or antagonistic predisposition, which typically describes out-groups as mostly good or mostly evil compared to the in-group that is making the assessment. Good and evil leads to generalizations of entire peoples and these generalizations serve to create fanciful narratives similar to children’s fantasy books about the real world. We, as a culture, give ourselves narratives of self-exaltation of good and championing the good of the world, while presuming villainous or evil intent from all others different from us. We would be predisposed to assume evil intent on the part of other countries and peoples; this is especially true when the rational reasons for events are absent. When we have no rational basis for our understanding of why events happened – such as war, police taking down protests, or terrorist attacks – then we presume that the other side has an evil intent because that is the coherent framework of good and evil. Worse than that, good and evil is a concept that is averse to listening to rational discourse; the basic premise of the concept is that we must stand for the good and that means celebrating our peoples and cultures as morally or economically superior to the evil Other. The need for coherence in our minds would presume evil intent on the part of others for their actions and the externalizing of evil then compels us to frame racist, bigoted, and hateful narratives. The lack of a rational basis for events makes it easier for people to hate others under the framework of good and evil. The inculcated framing of entire groups of people as “the other” through nationa news media then compels us to conduct war or mass violence. It isn’t just bigoted framing, but distancing to create a gap between the “good” people and the “evil” people, terms such as “foreign nationals”, “Hajis”, “Dykes”, “illegals”, “aliens”, and other such terms create this distance to form dehumanization campaigns. An important part of this, one that politicians, journalists, and psychologists understand about the general public, is that when you aren’t given rational reasons for why an event happens then you will find your own “causes” to form a coherent narrative because every human being needs a coherent understanding of the world around them to both maintain a sense of control and to reduce personal anxiety over dangerous events.

The 2015 Baltimore riots serve as an important example; many detractors blamed the “thug culture” of young black Americans as the basis for the riots. This is an erroneous claim for most open-minded peoples; rap music isn’t going to compel people to act differently than what they already were inclined to do. The true cause of the riots were Baltimore police’s brutality of the civilian populations; there were mass settlements amounting to 5 million per year to settle cases of police brutally assaulting civilians – in one case, the police assaulted a pregnant woman. Baltimore citizens were appealing to their government and demanding legitimate change for over five years but absolutely nothing was done. Upon agreeing to the settlements for family members who were hospitalized from police brutality, the civilians were legally obstructed from bringing these instances of police violence to the national news media. As a result, the national news media was able to frame a very one-sided narrative. While it is true that crime is a problem in Baltimore, the local government and the national news media have simply obstructed and ignored the suffering of the residents. But do you see how shallow framing this issue in terms of good and evil is? The national news media isn’t entirely wrong about gang violence and the crime rates of Baltimore but they ignored the average citizen being brutally attacked by police officers to give a slanted view of what was the true cause of those riots. The burning down of shops, more often than not, is because of opportunistic anarchists from outside of the area coming in to destroy property; this was true for both Ferguson and Baltimore but the belief in “thug culture” created a racist predisposition that made people believe that black Americans just wanted to burn down their own cities to riot.

Apathy and Silence towards Warfare

One of the greatest challenges, and least discussed topics, against religious faith is how shallow these so-called moral convictions truly are when jingoism sets in to begin war against a foreign entity. The sad fact of life is that war propaganda is successful at instilling hatred, racism, bigotry, and a desire for warfare against foreign countries. If morality truly was an important component of our existence then why does it become drowned away when a government prepares itself to launch a war campaign? This is essentially true for every country in the world; at some point, your country went to war and morality went to sleep. Notice that religious organizations of countries launching wars will always become silent about the morality of killing during times of war; they will almost unanimously grow silent in any moral objections. Worse still, average citizens will ignore the war crimes, bombings of foreign civilian homes, and largely create a fictitious understanding of warfare to praise their soldiers as humane when they conduct night raids, bomb houses, kill civilians, and – in some cases – rape civilians. The narrative of good and evil takes a strong hold to make the other side similar to the boogeyman to justify war – i.e. to justify organized mass murder. Foreign civilians are always caught in the crossfire; through two sides shooting at each other or through bombing campaigns. A nation-state always ignores or drowns out the civilian killings committed by their soldiers. The afterlife, the idea of a Higher Power’s plan, and other abstract concepts become excuses to ignore such barbarity.

How can we explain this nigh-universal cognitive dissonance in morality? Why do citizens of all countries have apathy towards their country committing war crimes? Where is the moral condemnation when it truly matters? It is simple: it suits our convenience as an in-group; when people aren’t being forced into conscription and aren’t personally affected by something then they simply won’t concern themselves with the issue. For the most part, people pay attention to their immediate surroundings and daily routine – soldiers committing war atrocities upon innocent civilians in another country is equivalent on the news to changing weather forecasts. People simply don’t care; religious beliefs – when they are truly needed – are met with intense social apathy and usually ignorance of the political events in question. That is the reality of how most people practice their religious faith; jingoism wins. Usually religion blends with racial or cultural jingoism to defend wars and ignore war atrocities; what use is morality in these repeated scenarios?

Consequently, we differentiate killings during war versus murders within our countries. This isn’t simply true of soldiers battling combatants, this is also true in the case of soldiers slaughtering an entire village of civilians – such as in the Haditha killings. Why? A possible utilitarian reason is this: the nation-state differentiates killing in the name of obtaining a political or economic objective (which maximizes State power) versus killing people within the country. Killing people within the country is an act that weakens State power because the murdered individual is useful human capital and further weakens the strength of a nation-state should such acts go ignored because people of similar ethnocentric, gender, sexual orientation, or political background will want equal treatment for their group and demand punishment for the murder committed. Incidentally, in the case of Haditha – and almost all other instances in which soldiers have massacred foreign civilians – the Good Person Syndrome takes full effect; the murdering of children, the handicapped, and other foreign civilians are wholly ignored whilst news media runs stories about how the soldier, usually a man, is a family man with children and a wife. The paradigm of good and evil sets in and the most inconsequential displays of the abstract “goodness” of the soldier are trumpeted while the heinous deed is ignored. Thus, the soldier faces no jail time. Usually the story is never editorialized again because it hurts the coherence of their country being a force of good that the majority of people believe about their country.

This is not meant to be snarky and I didn’t single out an example from the United States to insult it; I’m simply pointing out a modern example of a realistic fact about all nation-states. The late 19th and earliest 20th century was the worst periods of war, genocide, and human rights crimes in terms of scope and scale. This example is simply meant to convey an evident fact: good and evil doesn’t work and results in ignoring morality over providing positive moral answers to the most important questions. It is limiting, shallow, and makes people confused and disoriented in understanding real life events. In Part 2, I will elaborate my contentions on specific religions and why they cause pro-war narratives that result in mass death. However, before that, there are still other mostly universal issues of religious faith that need to be covered.

A Civil Action: More Truthful Than Erin Brockovich

This is probably one of the best law films ever made. Travolta does a stunning job in his performance and the plot is spectacular.

However, I think many of the arguments made in the beginning by the character come from fallacies and terrible value judgments. For example, the idea that you can’t feel bad for your client is sometimes impossible and seems to be sparked from the Appeal to Emotion fallacy. Appealing to peoples emotions – in any non-lawful context – is fine; it’s only a fallacy when it has nothing to do with the argument. In this case, it was about the dead children. Being angry about the dead children is perfectly rational and emotionally healthy. Why wouldn’t you be? The film made me cogitate on how too often people misunderstand rationality to mean cold and calculated ruthlessness. That is wrong; emotions are perfectly rational and healthy. Laws simply exist to decide what is correct and incorrect behavior. In the instance of them losing and then having to later go to the EPA after their case dissolved; it shouldn’t be considered irrational behavior to have cared about their clients.

And, unfortunately, stories like this are far less likely because small town communities usually side with the corporations because of job opportunities:

http://www.thenation.com/article/182099/brain-cancer-rate-girls-town-shot-550-defense-contractor-blame

There was another film, Erin Brockovich, featuring Sandra Bullock, about an attorney’s assistant who worked hard to fight the poisonous water that caused cancer among many people in a small town. Well, sad truth of that story, is that the cancer survivors agreed to use a private company to distribute the settlement amount under the direction of their defense attorney (including the woman that Bullock played in the film) and they gave far less than the actual amount that was due and kept the majority of the money for themselves.

It is best to be rational and truthful. Most Hollywood films just give us a distorted misrepresentation. I’m glad this film isn’t one of those.

12 Angry Men

“I don’t know.” – words more profound than anything in the average Hollywood script.

The film, 12 Angry Men, captures pertinent issues with the legal system – issues that you never observe in any modern Hollywood film. Issues of bias, challenging the assumptions of the court, of the credibility of testimony, of the credibility of prosecuting attorneys and police, and issues of social stature were displayed in a rather entertaining and well-developed exchange. It was not without its inaccuracies regarding how jurors are allowed to interpret evidence – such as the invented scenario regarding the testimony of the old man who could only drag his foot or how the elderly juror presumed to know the handicapped old man’s character. There was a bias on the part of all jurors who believed in guilt and innocence. Moreover, one has to question what good suppositions about knife fighting would be without a juror who had experience growing up in the slums.

This film, more than the other films – except perhaps Breaker Morant, captures the issue of legality at its core. It is interpretation meant to define what is permissible and impermissible – but it is largely interpretation; both prosecution and defense lawyers will use human bias to gain favor to win a trial. It is never about “justice” and ironically some philosophers have argued that “justice” is just a softer word for revenge. Put it this way, if a man murders another man and is then put in prison for life then that is “justice” but why is it justice? To punish the man and create a sense of fairness – to gain vengeance for the cruel deed inflicted upon the prosecuting party. It is easier to understand why war is caused when we understand that many of these crazed vigilantes sought “justice” through legal means but were given an unequal system that punished them collectively. Thus, they began war campaigns.

A personal issue that I couldn’t really overlook was the fact that this film had largely intelligent and three-dimensional characters; most films today have boring static characters and there seems to be an awful dumbing down of the quality of Hollywood films. It seems mass produced quantity with largely the same terrible “hero’s journey” script has overshadowed intelligent filmmaking in today’s culture. I shudder to think just how stupid the average movie audience has to be nowadays to enjoy garbage like Transformers and Avengers. It seems explosions and a few chuckles have overtaken intelligent and emotional characters, interesting plots, and the ability to think.

Perhaps someday, we scholars will gain a more cultured and intelligent film industry suited to our intellectual stimulation instead of the morass suited for the ignorant masses. Consider this metaphor: Films are like toilets; Hollywood is a public toilet for everybody and thus is filled with the most foul refuse and excretion that is never properly sanitized. Thus, we need private bathrooms for ourselves, that is well maintained: similar to college bathrooms versus bathrooms in retail stores. Nobody likes public bathrooms, right?

I Hero: The Beginning by Jason Zandri

The main character is a Gary Stu. After a fairly interesting prologue, the story devolves into ridiculously obvious cliches, the author portrays a “Middle Eastern” side character with some weird mix of Israeli and Pakistani name origins. Assuming the author was trying to portray a typical person from the Middle East then he failed to do his research on names. The main character goes into boring monologue after boring monologue to explain the “plot” of the story; talking about his favorite superhero to then speaking of a comet aligning with all the planets… so that he can go blind staring at the sun because the comet will be located the sun. Then some random old lady, who he befriended for whatever reason, is dying but grasps his arm tightly and says some magic spell before she dies. After that, he wakes up in the hospital and starts to go into a boring monologue about himself, how the old lady just happened to be accused of being a witch, and yadda yadda. I stopped after that point because I found the story to be boring.

Pretentious, boring, and it seems like this author is just writing for the sake of his own personal wish fulfillment. Even the title itself seems to imply wish fulfillment.

Techniques of Self-Empowerment

Learning Rationality techniques to improve your communication and logical thinking

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow:

http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman-ebook/dp/B00555X8OA/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

My Review: https://byjarinjove.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman/

Heidi Grant Halvorson, No One Understands You And What To Do About It

http://www.amazon.com/One-Understands-You-What-About-ebook/dp/B00O92Q6D0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid

Why you shouldn’t concern yourself too deeply with what other people think and why they probably won’t have a realistic understanding of who you are because of their own preconceived biases.

Robert Cialdini, Influence: Science and Practice

http://www.amazon.com/Influence-Science-Practice-ePub-5th-ebook/dp/B001CDZYVE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1436562295&sr=1-1&keywords=influence+science+and+practice+cialdini

If you want to learn how to effectively manipulate people in real life then here’s your guidebook. Many marketing books build on the premises of this book.

Alexa Ispas, Psychology and politics: A social identity perspective

http://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Politics-Perspective-Monographs-Behavioural-ebook/dp/B00AYILP9I/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid

A short book understanding how psychological in-group and out-groups form and how we can change ourselves to form better bonds with each other.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4363

The most devastating argument against speaking for the “truth” of what you believe. Nietzsche argues the opposite and states that arguing for truth will gain you nothing; instead he suggests concealment from others so that you aren’t condemned for speaking the truth. The reasoning behind this is interesting; people don’t want the truth, they want self-affirmation and making the crowd the highest of your virtues will only lead to nihilism and misanthropy.

Anatomy of a Murderer: Why Feminism makes us superior!

“Injustice and filth cast they at the lonesome one: but, my brother, if thou wouldst be a star, thou must shine for them none the less on that account! And be on thy guard against the good and just! They would fain crucify those who devise their own virtue—they hate the lonesome ones.” Thus Spake Zarathustra; page 67 of the Thomas Commons Version.

What can there be said about such a film? The open-ending allows for each of us to form our own perspective and allows us to form our own biases about each of the characters.

To certain people, the wife must’ve lied about being raped by the bartender because she spends her time trying to be happy in the horrible situation that she’s in. She tries to be uplifting and because it is inferred by some that she isn’t acting like a rape victim is suppose to act that she must then be lying about the entire event.

She isn’t being a “good wife” either because apparently going to parties on her own and wearing what she wants instead of conservative attire means that it’s her fault that the rape happened or she’s somehow cheating on her husband. Somehow, nobody questions just how idiotic it is that men are implied to just rape women after viewing them in skimpy clothing because of some implied uncontrollable sexual urge.

Fortunately, modernity has rendered such myths untenable. If it were indeed true, then men simply can’t be trusted, ever; We would need legal restrictions imposed upon all men to protect women – both young and old – from this supposed uncontrollable urge. Furthermore, the very notion is just unbelievably disgusting to begin with. Obviously, the majority of men are capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong. Lastly, this notion only reinforces the concept of women being sex objects that need to cover up because of the men viewing them as property.

Personally, I think the Abrahamic faiths and certain other ancient religious norms are wholly to blame for this pitiful belief system. The fact the Catholic Church continues to hide child rape cases and India’s rape sprees may have began after Christian education institutions taught “gender differences” only reinforces this bias. I see that modern journalists still don’t delve deeply into the utterly disgusting amounts of crimes against women in South Carolina – in which certain poverty stricken towns allow the most despicable treatment of women within the household under the belief that men are heads of households as prescribed by the Bible. This isn’t in a third world country; it’s here in the U.S.A.; Oh, but this is all “politics” because apparently religion is more important than the lives of innocent women being brought up in the most depraved situations. I apologize if this paragraph sounds more crass than usual but it is imperative that we stop giving religion a smokescreen to guard itself from violence. I suspect the current focus on scientology is to downplay the violence in other older religions.

Moving on, we observe the emphasis in this film on religion when the rape victim is directly asked about her faith and how good she keeps to it. Because being a “good woman” means holding to a mystical set of rules that are disproportionately discriminatory towards women for the sake of some afterlife in happy land. Even when the crime is rape, apparently the victim wearing skimpy outfits is a factor and she must appear in court conservatively or she’s somehow a “slut” for not adhering to unspoken laws of how she’s suppose to behave. The reality that she has to live with is requiring to be quiet, depressed about her husband, wearing conservative attire, and she’s suppose to act in the manner that people require her to be so that they believe her testimony about being a rape victim – otherwise she mustbe lying because she’s not acting how she’s suppose to act.

This is only further worsened by the utter stupidity of the younger conservatively dressed girl automatically believing the defense lawyer about her own father and automatically doing the “right” thing because she’s suppose to behave that way. Apparently, all the defense lawyer has to do is ask the young girl for honesty and suddenly she’s at his beck and call despite the fact that he’s accusing her father of having raped someone. Kind, innocent, sweet, and oh so stereotypical of the archetype of her time period.

Lastly, the accused soldier. None too bright, oh but he apparently gets a pass at hitting his wife, treating her like property he owns (similar to a dog), and his violent outbursts towards other men who look at his wife are just normal because . . . oh yes, they’re prescribed as good moral character because of certain antiquated moral teachings from a book that has done nothing but make people hate human progress. How shocking.

Source:

http://www.postandcourier.com/assets/till-death/partone.html