Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Kids Today, Eh?

I like to think I have a fairly balanced view of my own intellect.  It can't ever be objective and is highly unlikely to be accurate, but I like to think that acknowledging that makes me a bit smarter than a lot of people.  Growing up I was regarded as "the smart one" in just about any group I found myself, but while I am no dunderhead, the idea that I was smarter than most of my peers never sat well with me.  To my mind, they were not any dumber than I was, they just had a habit of not paying attention.  Surely if I could understand a concept in physics or see an allusion in literature, there was no reason others in my class couldn't as well?  They just might need a nudge, because they've spent the entire lecture trying to fashion a shiv under the desk.  Unfortunately, to my mind, nobody tried to give them this nudge before test scores suggested there was such a gulf between the smart ones and the rest that most students might as well not bother.

Now that self-indulgent claptrap is out of the way, let's get on with a rant.  My peers might not be much dumber than I am, but I worry that the average intellect is truly slipping.  Before I start crying that the sky is falling, I'll just say this is obviously based purely on anecdotes and watching too much news, so is meaningless beyond showing one perception of the world through one lens.  My lens is fixed on the fact that reading ability seems to have gone from ubiquitous in my teenage years to some kind of optional extra.  Old people always complained that txting and the Internet would do this, and I poo-pooed this as nonsense.  You can't be old enough to figure out how to boot a computer or use a phone and still be too stupid to know that we dnt tlk lk dis frrlz!xoxo.

Ugh, it makes me shudder just to look at it.  But, apparently I was wrong.  It might have something to do with the fact that I know a two year old who can use an iPhone.  Perhaps Steve Jobs should have reflected on the fact that just because you can make a technology idiot-proof doesn't mean you should.  Still, if you're taking shortcuts from the beginning of your life, it's only reasonable that you don't ever learn the proper way to write.

What really concerns me, though, is that this seems to have affected people's ability to read as well.  I don't have any statistics to hand, though since everything everywhere is fucked, I imagine illiteracy rates are climbing.  From my own experience, I have seen countless flame wars erupt on the Internet that start off with and continue to feed on the simple fact that somebody, somewhere, didn't read another person's post at all correctly.  You've probably all seen something like that, right?

ObamaGurl1987: I'm glad Obama finally ended DADT, wish he'd done it sooner.
Palinator53: I'm with you, Obama sux!
ObamaGurl1987: That's not what I said, I just wish he'd been a bit quicker.
DemoDogMA: Fuck you, ObamaGurl, you traitor!  If you want to insult Obama, go suck on Mitt Romney's golden cock!
ObamaGurl1987: I see where you could think it's a criticism, but really I'm praising him, I'm glad and I think he made the right decision.  All I mean is I would have preferred it to be done earlier in his presidency, but we all know Romney never would have repealed it.
Palinator53: How dare you call Romney homophobic!  WTF is wrong wit u?  STFU bitch, or I'll shoot you from my helicopter.
ObamaGurl1987: WTF?  I didn't say anything about Romney being homophobic, I just said he never would have repealed DADT.  He said that himself!
DemoDogMA: Typical progressive, never fuckin happy!  Make up your mind, what do you want, bitch, Obama or Romney?
 ObamaGurl1987: I never said I wanted Romney, and it's not as if... wait, what the hell are we even talking about now?

What indeed.  Somebody misreads a comment, or takes it completely the wrong way, and it snowballs into an orgy of profanity, vulgarity and ignorance.  I see it time and time again, and I really feel like I've been seeing it a lot more lately.  It's like a lot of people online just lost the ability to put text together into a coherent whole, and only pick out keywords and phrases, then react based on those.  It's horrifying to behold and incredibly frustrating to deal with.  How does one get it into somebody's head that words mean what they mean and not what they've decided to interpret them as?  Maybe old people were more right than they realised.  Maybe we've turned a generation of minds into walking search engines.

Though, I suppose ignoring the meanings of words and derailing conversations isn't exactly new...

Rant over.  Next time, some writing stuff.  I might even have some news on that front!  Until then, here it is, your moment of zen:

Friday, 13 July 2012

Once More, With Bigotry

It's time for another reprise of the classic showbiz tune "We're Not Bigots" by the Roman Catholic Church.  This time, in Scotland, where a frightening proportion of young people identifying as LGBT are saying they have self-harmed or attempted suicide due to the intense bullying and hostile atmosphere of homophobia in Scotland's schools.  This is particularly acute in Catholic Schools, where these young people and their peers are still being told that their nature is, well, unnatural, and disordered.  That giving children and teenagers a reason to be divided and despise one another is never a good idea doesn't really seem to gel with the far more important duty Catholic schools apparently have - getting their way all the time.

Personal anecdote time - when I was a lad at a Catholic school, the brain trust in charge were so backward in their mentality that, despite it being the early 21st century, they still insisted that girls must wear skirts.  A girl wearing trousers was an abomination, so you can imagine how a camp kid was treated and what nonsense we were taught about the grave threat of the gays.

Anyway, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, having already spent £50,000, has pledged another £100,000 in church funds to do something charitable and worthwhile for the comm--ok, no, he's actually going to spend it on a hateful advertising and lobbying campaign to try to bully the Scottish government into not allowing gay people to marry.  He even threatened an "unprecedented backlash" from Catholics if the change to the law were to go ahead.  One can't help but wonder how a threat of an unprecedented backlash from a certain other patriarchal authoritarian, homophobic religion with a historical disdain for democracy (and Jews) would go down, but somehow it's ok when a Cardinal says it.

Though, to be fair, Islam isn't quite as homophobic as the Roman Catholic Church...

O'Brien said:

Marriage is under threat and politicians need to know the Catholic Church will bear any burden and meet any cost in its defence.
And, after calling civil partnerships for same-sex couples a mistake:
 These measures were not in the best interests of our society. The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, no compassionate society should ever enact legislation to facilitate or promote such relationships, we have failed those who struggle with same-sex attraction.
The Cardinal is just determined to prevent homosexuals living their lives, to the point that he'd use church resources not for any kind of social good in a time of stark austerity and significant public need, but to fight tooth and nail to prevent them marrying, based on completely made up 'empirical evidence' that trots out the same old tropes that being gay is somehow bad for you, ignoring that the only way it's bad for you is that homophobic bigots might make your life unbearable.  But remember, he's not a bigot!

Now here it is, your not remotely safe for work moment of zen: