Democracy > Theocracy

This needs to be said.

In regards to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage, there’s something I feel people have forgotten about the role equality plays in a democracy.

This is the same story we’ve read about in the history books regarding the Fourteenth Amendment. It’s a rehash: same stuff, different day. The Fourteenth Amendment, despite later setbacks with the Jim Crow laws, attempted to place all Americans, black and white, on equal footing before the law. The Supreme Court’s ruling is very much in the same flavor.

The government has to treat everyone equally before the law. Gay, straight, atheist, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, black, white, it makes no difference. Democracy thrives on equality, on leveling the playing field as much as possible.

Allowing one segment of the populace to engage in the civil institution of marriage while denying that right to another demographic flies in the face of democracy. Inequality before the law. Religious misgivings aside, it baffles me people want inequality before the law. A nation-state ruled by religious doctrine and not secular laws, where no one religion or non-religion, holds sway is a theocracy, not a democracy. On this basis alone, I cannot believe some of you advocate for Christian policies that will restrict and rule all U.S. citizens, regardless of religious orientation. That’s the complete opposite of allowing humanity to act as free, autonomous individuals. It’s contrary to democracy.

This entire argument, if framed in terms of democracy, should be distinct from religion. Under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, you are free to practice whatever, wherever, and whenever you choose. But it would be undemocratic to force others to adhere to Judeo-Christian rules, just as it would be undemocratic to force Christians to adhere to, say, Hindu regulations about certain traditions or Islamic law. The Establishment Clause protects religion just as it protects the secular state. You are entitled to believe America is going to fail as a nation and as a society due to this ruling. You are entitled to believe homosexuality is an affront unto God. You are entitled to practice heterosexuality and only heterosexuality yourself.

But the Constitution does not entitle you to put forward and pass legislation that renders some individuals unequal before the law. If the day ever comes when the homosexual community desires legislation that deprives, for example, people with blond hair from engaging in marriage, you can point to this post as rationale for why their legislation is unconstitutional. And you would be right. But there’s an infinitesimal chance any of us will ever see that day.

I’m curious to see an argument put forward solely in legal or Constitutional terms arguing against this ruling but religious rationale does not hold up under scrutiny, at least not in this case. Something more is required.

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Humanizing Capitalism

We human beings have an insatiable desire to stand out, to excel, and even sometimes to evolve into something “superior” to our fellow men and women. Some of us channel this urge into productive and philanthropic pursuits. These people actually have accomplished something quite challenging: they’ve rewritten their moral DNA. Instead of seeking superiority, they’ve scrambled their moral DNA around, morphing the desire for superiority into a desire to change the world. They constantly seek to better the world.

But I’m not writing about those people. Because they don’t exist.

No one is purely selfless. Some of us are just more selfless than others. We need more of those people on this floating rock in space. We all must strive to become those people. Yet that particular journey has no end. None of us will ever wake up one day and find we’ve achieved perfection. That’s an impossibility.

You’re asking: if this post isn’t about selfless folks, what is it about?

It’s about everyone else: the entirety of the human race.

Let me backtrack a bit to give you some of the surrounding context behind this post. I’ve spent the past week nestled comfortably on the breathtaking Caribbean island of Caye Caulker, off the coast of the tiny Central American country of Belize. Here, in an economy where the GDP per capita is 4,893.93 USD (2013 data), capitalism’s effects are obvious. They’re found in every nook, cranny, and corner of the caye.

Street vendors hawk their food, wooden carvings, and other, more “recreational” wares day in. Day out. Some are entrepreneurs,  innovating remarkable ways to market their goods or services. Some are PR experts, like the Cake Man (real name: Andrew), who sells meat pies during the day to swimmers, sunbathers, and alcoholics at the Lazy Lizard. At night he strolls the windswept streets, peddling desserts. Some vendors are aggressive, swearing at tourists who refuse to eat at their restaurant or buy their goods.

All are fighting to make just one more USD. All struggle in their pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.

This is one of capitalism’s countless effects. Is capitalism a bad thing? Some say it intrinsically has to be, others shrug it off as The Reality We Live In.

But we’ll leave that debate right where we found it. I have a deeper philosophical rabbit hole for you to leap into.

Capitalism is a manifestation of our innate, human ambition to be superior. With capitalism and its built-in status system, we have artificially constructed a way to determine inferiority and superiority. Although many of us may protest, “Hey, we don’t ascribe more or less value to someone based on their wealth,” the truth is this bias creeps into every aspect of society. For better or for worse, we all too often do ascribe value to other human beings based on their socioeconomic status. Fortunately and happily, we tend to do this less and less as society progresses. Yet the bias remains. It’s a symptom of capitalism. In our vain search to feel superior to others, we find that sense of superiority as our yearly income increases or as our stock investments pay dividends.

Capitalism’s symptoms run rampant in the developing world. Even that title, the “developing world,” is part of the artificial value-system of capitalism.

Why is the developing world developing? What is the developing world developing? Lives? GDP?

It’s all tied into capitalism, to GDP, GDP/pc, GDP/pc (PPP), GNI, HDI, to all the acronyms we throw around so casually. Acronyms that often describe people, not merely concepts.

So what should we do with the capitalist value-system? I’d be remiss if I presented you with a problem and then bailed out of the airplane, leaving you alone with a problem and no solution.

Here’s some semblance of one.

Separate “value-system” from “capitalism.” Capitalism isn’t perfect, far from it, but neither is socialism. Communism failed utterly. History told us that much. Capitalism isn’t necessarily the Big Bad Wolf some claim it is. But when we combine a value-system, when we ascribe value to living, breathing human beings based solely on their wealth, we dehumanize them. Separate “value-system” from “capitalism.” Throw the former into the gutter. Focus on fixing the flaws in the latter.

A separation is possible. There are a few who choose to not toe the line, who walk away from the status quo.  This tiny demographic grows its own food, doesn’t invest in the stock market, may not even hold what the general public terms a “regular job.” They recognized the artificiality of the capitalist value-system and wanted nothing to do with it. It was a conscious choice on their part. They don’t ascribe value to others based on their socioeconomic status. That’s not the lifestyle I believe we should follow but those people are deviations from the norm. They’re showing us we don’t have to combine a value-system with capitalism. We can have one without the other.

By all means, the street vendors on Caye Caulker can (and maybe should) embark on the endless search for the Almighty Dollar. They just shouldn’t ever feel inferior for making less money than their neighbors down the windswept street.

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Why You Should Not (Seriously) Date in College

Disclaimer: I did undergrad in 3.5 years. Two majors (poli sci and philosophy). Extra-curricular involvement: executive board of the Student Government Association, student newspaper, tutoring, and a social fraternity (Alpha Kappa Lambda). So if you’re having trouble agreeing with this post, go ahead and chalk it up to my absurdly busy schedule in college or the fact I’m not a terribly sentimental person. Trust me, I probably won’t take it personally.

Why You Should Not (seriously) Date In College… 

by a (very) recent college graduate

A host of reasons support the previous statement. College is a tumultuous time in people’s lives, whether you step onto your chosen campus as a fresh-faced 18 year old or as a non-traditional student. It is a time of transitions, stress, sleep deprivation, more stress, deadlines, and a great deal of uncertainty. Into the maelstrom let us introduce this most terrible of things: dating. Combine the already stressful environment of college with dating/relationships/FWBs/whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it and the result often tends to be late-night rant sessions, screaming matches in the dorm hallway, or drunken fights. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against any sort of romantic relationship in college, I’m just questioning whether or not college students should seriously date in college.

Let me define this word “seriously” in this particular context. 

Serious dating means dating with an eye towards a future together (i.e. marriage).

Serious dating means dating as if you’re both 45 year olds without spouses who want someone long-term.

Serious dating means long-term commitment, the potential for getting engaged, and all the other riff-raff that tags along when two people begin to consider what a life together will entail.

I’m arguing here, right now, no one should seriously date in college. No one.  Non-trads are a different breed as many of them are already engaged or married so let’s leave them out of this sample population.

Don’t seriously date in college. There’s time enough for that later. Casually date. Find a FWB or don’t. Whatever floats your particular boat. Don’t bring up marriage. Don’t (for the love of God) bring up children. You have more important things to worry about: namely graduating on time, student loans, finding a job, finding a place to live after graduation, graduate school, et cetera. You don’t need the added stress of seriously dating. I’m not even convinced my peers or I are even in any appropriate mental or emotional state to seriously date.

If you per chance happen upon someone and instant, fantastic chemistry crops up between you two, then by all means pursue that person. See if it lasts. See if it survives graduation and potential career opportunities out in Indiana or Phoenix, Arizona. Don’t give up your career goals, life goals, bucket list goals, any goals for someone you may not even like two years down the road.

My generation, the Millennial Generation that is, grew up in a world teetering on the edge of a massive technological revolution. This revolution has since come and gone. We grew up in the shadow of dial-up internet, those days when mom yelled up the stairs for you to get off the computer so she could call her sister in Alabama. We grew up in the shadow of the original Xbox, the PS2, the N64, and in a decade and a half technology has rocketed far beyond what we once knew. And the Millennial Generation has responded to the fast-paced technological revolution. We’re stressed out caffeine addicts. Our parents might argue we’re phone junkies. We’ve adapted to the fast-paced world by becoming fast-paced ourselves and this is self-evident in the way we treat relationships.

Tinder. Need I say more? Technology changed the way we do relationships and that’s not necessarily bad, it’s just different. What is actually bad is when we turn our relationships up to high speed and pump the nitro in, propelling us inexorably toward some goal, usually marriage.

To my fellow college graduates and to those of you still embroiled in the muck of undergrad, let me say this: there is no rush. The divorce rate in America is atrocious. Many of the kids we went to high school and college with came from broken homes. Rushing into marriages and childbirth doesn’t just affect you, it will affect your future kids. There is no rush. Take your time, get a financial cushion, find the career you want, get established. There is no f*cking rush, people. 

I know life is faster than it ever has been before but don’t let that seep into your relationships. Nothing good can come from it. In this particular facet of your life, time is not of the essence.

So don’t (seriously) date in college. Casually date. Find out who you’re compatible with and who you’re not. Find out if you prefer blondes, brunettes, or just don’t really care. Do well in school, grab real world experiences when you can, take a gap year, or study abroad. Live a fast-paced life (I know I tend to) but restrain yourself from living a fast-paced romantic life. Don’t seriously date in college. Do anything but. Hey, I’m a strong social liberal, I really don’t care how you live your life…except you need to be smart about things. And rushing into marriage, rushing into an engagement, rushing into having kids, that’s not smart.

The Millennial Generation is often called the most narcissistic, selfish generation yet. I think that’s only partially true. I suspect some of you may read this post and slap the label of narcissism onto it. By doing that, I argue those readers are perverting my main argument, which is this: casually dating in college isn’t just about figuring out your future before you create futures for others (i.e. having kids), it’s also about giving your future children a better life. Even if that means waiting ten years instead of two, even if it means living with someone for three years instead of three months, it’ll positively benefit you, your future spouse, and your future children (if you have any of the little devils).

Go ahead, tell me I’m narcissistic, or not sentimental enough, or too career focused. That’s fine. Yet the Millennial Generation, my generation, came into our own at a unique, transitory period in modern history. Our choices and actions will set the stage for years, perhaps even decades, to come. Let’s not rush into building this stage, let’s stop and think about what we want the future to look like. I’m not saying don’t fall in love, don’t be romantic, or that you’re better off puttering around college as cynical, shuttered, heartless bastards. No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying don’t let our fast-paced existence rush you into things you may not quite be ready for. And that’s not meant to be patronizing, that’s meant to be real. I’ll freely admit right now I’m in no position to seriously date. If you feel you are, perhaps you’re right, but just for my sake, take a second and rethink your situation…and then act based on what you come up with.

I’m not the world’s greatest expert on relationships. I make absolutely no claims to that title. This is merely my perspective on the issue, based upon personal experiences and observations. Ignore this entire post or parts of it as you choose. All I ask is that you, at least for a moment, consider the points I’ve made herein.

Hell of a topic to launch into after a year’s hiatus from blogging isn’t it? 

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The Ten Commandments for Thy College Freshmen

1) Thou shalt never, ever skip class unless thou art literally too sick to physically get out of bed.

2) Thou shalt read the textbook, for the information stored within the holy scriptures shalt garnish you grades with which the Lord Thy God will be most pleased with.

3) Thou shalt keep thy voice and the voices of thy roommates down during finals week, lest thee invoke the wrath of the rageful Resident Assistants.

4) Thou shalt not attempt to study thine holy scriptures without first logging off thy Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook accounts, lest thou fall into temptation.

5) Thou shalt endeavor to always be prompt to class, lest thou anger thy holy professor and invoke his or her righteous indignation upon the peoples of Classroom 104B.

6) Thou shall find thyself, at times, tempted by succubi or incubi (depending upon thy preferences in this matter) and thou shalt always endeavor to use thy brain, which the Lord Thy God has sent unto you to make use of, in these matters, lest thy fall into unholy temptation and receive plagues upon thy lower regions.

7) Thou shalt not, ever, ever, ever steal thy roommates’ belongings, or risk the righteous anger of thy roommates in the form of physical assault or plagues.

8) Thou shalt use headphones when listening to thy holy and ordained music, unless thy roommate also partakes in your preferred form of musical entertainment, at which time the Lord Thy God will permit you to listen to thy music upon your subwoofers and surround sound speakers in Dolby TrueHD.

9) Thou shalt never cheat in class, lest thou fail the class and draw upon thy wicked and perverse shoulders the wrath of the Lord Thy God, otherwise known as thou philosophy professor.

10) Thou shalt submit thy divine writing on time to thy professor and endeavor to honor the Lord Thy God but checking first for misspellings and grammatical errors, which are most egregious of errors and quite angering to the Lord Thy God, and by doing thus, thou shalt avoid His holy wrath.

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