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“Let It Go” is a villain song

If you have a daughter, you’ve seen Frozen by now. Pop quiz: what is the message of the song “Let It Go”? It is treated like a positive development in Elsa’s life, and millions of little girls sing along to it with joy. And yet, what is actually happening on-screen is that Elsa is cursing her entire kingdom with eternal winter. This seems inconsistent.

It all makes a lot more sense once you learn how the script developed. Elsa was originally intended to be a villain. “Let It Go” was written as her villain song, but when the writers listened to it, all they heard was “self-empowerment.” Surely that couldn’t be a bad thing, so they rewrote the whole movie, and left the song as-is.

I think the song-writers knew exactly what they were doing. Good guys don’t say things like “no right, no wrong, no rules for me,” that’s straight up Nietzschean uber-mensch talk, the kind engaged in shortly before embarking on a genocide. And indeed, Elsa did launch an attack on all the muggles while she sang this song. A little while later, she shoots her sister in the heart, and instead of trying to help her, she dumps her out in the snow and creates a monster who attempts to finish the job.

But she’s empowered, so it’s all good.

Anyway, that’s why Frozen is not a good movie; it is narratively incoherent. There’s no clear moral, the central song contradicts what is shown on-screen, and even the love song is undermined by the fact that the male half is secretly plotting to kill the female half. Also the whole “the secret was love all along” ending was trite, and absurd; Elsa had love from the movie’s start, and it didn’t help her then.

Just nobody tell my daughter.

Message: I want what happened to the Indians to happen to you

A Syrian Parable

The following is a true story, and a parable. My life has many layers.

For a little while now, I’ve been working to organize a group of about a dozen people to welcome and assist refugees (Syrian and otherwise) who are being settled in our area. Over the course of several months I’ve been trying to navigate around everyone’s conflicting schedules and slow responses to emails (my fault as much as anybody else’s) to little avail, so finally I just picked a date. Last night was that night. Everybody who could would gather at the church and we would be briefed by my contact at the refugee agency. It was all coming together.

About an hour before the meeting that I was supposed to head, I got the following text from my wife:

They’re sending me to the hospital

What was the proper course of action? Should I attend to my own family first, or give priority to the refugees?

I chose my family. Didn’t even hesitate.

At this point, you are yelling at your screen, calling me a racist. How do I know that? Because that’s what you’ve been doing on Facebook for the past several days.

“Brothers and sisters, slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them is truly righteous.” –Epistle of James the Socially Just 4:11 The most common article shared on social media is not “Recent event proves my politics were right all along.” That is merely the camouflage people wear for their real message: “I am a good person, and I’ll prove it by showing that I hate these bad people.” This what motivates a person to proudly declare that they have cut off former friends/relatives who promote badthink (consider if they instead phrased it as “I’m building myself an echo chamber!”). This is why you’ve seen people rush to tell you that, *sigh*, so many of their old friends and relatives are total xenophobes isn’t it terrible? And you get the sense that while they say this horrifies them, there’s a part of them that delights in it and couldn’t wait to tell everybody they know. Because by telling you how much they don’t like those people, they get to tell you how virtuous they are. Nothing feels quite so good as moral indignation; humans love to signal virtue. And it’s always easier to tear someone else down than to build yourself up.

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will never be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Racist,’ will be immediately swept up into Heaven.” –Social Gospel of Matthew 5:22 So I’m sure it felt good. But what did you accomplish? Have you ever in your life, found that “you are a dirty sinner and I am not” made you more inclined to listen to somebody else’s arguments? If they peppered it with insults, did that incline you further toward them, or further against them? Then why have you embarked on this same strategy now?

Here’s what you would have done if you cared about the Syrians for their sakes rather than your own. You would have taken a moment to understand and address the concerns of those you are lecturing. People have very real reasons to be worried about the importing of large Muslim communities, and pretending those don’t exist or refusing to even mention the issue does not strengthen your credibility. Instead, it reiterates to them how little you care about them, and hints that you may well be willing to sacrifice them for the sake of political correctness.

And even if they weren’t worried about the Muslim issue (the Gulf states have refused to take in Syrian refugees. We can safely eliminate “don’t want Muslims in their country” as a motivation), many people would still have good reason to oppose them. The refugees will not be placed in the neighborhoods of well-off, privileged people like you and I. They will be stuck in low-income housing among the poor. There, they will probably compete for low-skill jobs, and very likely raise the crime rate in their area. Those poor people you’re looking down on have the same obligation to look after their own families that I did. They are not bad people for doing so, any more than you are a good person for dismissing as irrelevant the costs that will fall on them rather than you. Acknowledging that would have given you a chance to win them over.

(Oh, it also would have helped if you haven’t spent the past several years being silent about ISIS and their butchering of Christians, or even our treatment of refugees when they’re Christian. People do notice if you only speak up at the moment it is advantageous to your party, and they draw the appropriate conclusions. But let’s put that aside for now.)

“For I was hungry and you told someone else to give me something to eat, I was thirsty and you told someone else to give me something to drink, I was a stranger and you told someone else to invite me in… Truly I tell you, whatever you told someone else to do, you did for me.” –Social Gospel of Matthew 25:35,40 Actually, put all three previous paragraphs aside. Here’s what you really would have done if you cared about the Syrians: you would have gotten involved with your local refugee program or donated to them or made some sort of sacrifice to help them. Because of fortuitous timing, I was able to run an experiment. Whenever I saw somebody local post something in the style of “I am a good person because I care and you are not,” I invited them to our meeting, where they could learn how to physically help refugees. Not one showed up.

Telling people you hate them and are better than them does not win them to your side. Your strategy is already bearing the predictable fruit. The White House has been pursuing much the same line, and in doing so, they turned the support for that anti-Syrian refugee bill from a majority into a veto-proof majority. So congratulations to all of you. I know it felt good patting yourselves on the back. I hope it was worth it.

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Epistle of James 2:15-17

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 2:25

The better your message makes you feel about yourself, the less likely it is that you are convincing anyone else. –McMegan’s Law

My Little Pony

Augustine on My Little Pony

My Little Pony teaches us that friendship is magic. But is it? Is it really? Let us turn to Augustine to find out. (Spoilers: No)

I was miserable, and miserable too is everyone whose mind is chained by friendship with mortal things, and is torn apart by their loss, and then becomes aware of the misery that it was in even before it lost them. …… Look upon my heart, O my God, look deep within it. See, O my hope, who cleanse me from the uncleanness of such affections, who draw my eyes to yourself and pull my feet free from the snare, see that this is indeed what I remember. I was amazed that other mortals went on living when he was dead whom I had loved as though he would never die, and still more amazed that I could go on living myself when he was dead – I, who had been like another self to him. It was well said that a friend is half one’s own soul. I felt that my soul and his had been but one soul in two bodies, and I shrank from life with loathing because I could not bear to be only half alive; and perhaps I was so afraid of death because I did not want the whole of him to die, whom I had love so dearly.

Friendship is not magic! It chains us to things that will not last, and leaves us torn when they inevitably pass away. Make sure to tell your daughter this constantly when she’s watching her cartoons.

The one true sexual choice

Reblog!

The left is quite willing to criticize people’s sexual choices. A fairly large segment of the left criticize people who chose to engage in prostitution, particularly if they are the clients, and perversely I think more critical of unofficial prostitution (e.g. sex in exchange for fancy dinner) than straight-up cash exchanges. Sex in an environment of power inequality is clearly objectionable to the left, as is any expressed or perceived obligation to sex even if voluntarily entered into. Much of the left will criticize anyone who abstains from sex for religious reasons. Sex to cement an exclusive marriage that will endure even when one partner would prefer to end it, traditionally the only acceptable purpose for sex in most cultures, is clearly criticized across the left.

I think it more accurate to say that, rather than being unwilling to criticize people’s sexual choices, the left now criticizes every sexual choice but one: Sex for immediate, mutual, short-term pleasure. Sex within a long-term relationship is acceptable, but only if immediately pleasurable to both parties and only if the relationship would exist without the sex. And anybody who doesn’t have sex for immediate mutual short-term pleasure, is criticized either as a prude or as a neckbearded loser so undesirable that nobody would be pleased to have sex with them.

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Parochialism

I recently had occasion to attend a service at a Mennonite church. Now, Mennonites can range from practically Amish to standard evangelical. These were by most appearances practically Amish; the congregation was dressed in home-made Amish-style clothing and there were no instruments during worship (although the words to the song were projected from a Macbook). Clearly, an insular group, unfamiliar with other ways of life.

The first part of the service was about efforts to rehabilitate ISIS sex slaves. The second part was a talk by Brother Yun, a major figure in the Chinese house church movement.

Virtues and Values

Reblog!

I’m gonna get a little Sapir-Worfy here.
I think something went terribly wrong when we as a society stopped talking about virtues and started talking about values.
Just… think about the words themselves. Value. what does it mean to value something? to passively regard it as a good thing.
I value good screenwriting. I value good wine. I value my time.
But virtue is different. virtue is a character trait. Virtue is a guideline for actions.
With Value, it’s enough to believe something.
With Virtue, you have to do something.

Socrates

Too cool for school

On another occasion when Euthydemus was present, Socrates noticed that he was withdrawing from the group and taking care not to seem impressed by Socrates’ wisdom. “Gentlemen,” he said, “it is easy to see from the way in which our friend Euthydemus spends his time that, when he is old enough, he won’t refrain from advising the State on any political issue that comes up. And it seems to me that by carefully avoiding the appearance of learning anything from anybody, he has provided himself with a splendid preface to his public speeches. Evidently, when he begins to speak, he will introduce what he has to say like this: ‘Gentlemen of Athens, I have never learned anything from anybody, nor have I sought the company of any person whose abilities in speech and action I have heard of. Nor have I troubled to acquire a teacher from among those who understand these matters. On the contrary, I have consistently avoided not only learning anything from anybody, but even giving the impression of doing so. However, I shall offer you whatever advice occurs to me of its own accord.”

Such an introduction would be appropriate for candidates applying for a public medical post. They could suitably begin their speech in this way: ‘Gentlemen of Athens, I have never learned medicine from anyone, nor have I tried to secure any doctor as a teacher. I have consistently avoided not only learning anything from medical men, but even giving the impression of having learned this art. However, I ask you to give me this medical post. I shall try to learn by experimenting on you.'”

-Xenophon’s Memorabilia

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What religion is not

If I could hammer one thing into Rationalist’s heads it would be this: religions are not primarily concerned with explaining natural phenomena. It’s rarely even a secondary concern. Christianity isn’t, Islam isn’t, Buddhism isn’t, Hinduism isn’t, Judaism isn’t, and most of the rest that I’ve looked at aren’t either.

You may have a distorted view because Creation/Evolution debates have been elevated to The Most Important Thing in your particular bubbles, but even that revolves around a small handful of Bible chapters. You won’t find discussions of natural phenomenon in any of the Pauline epistles, or the Gospels for that matter. Psalms and Proverbs aren’t concerned with the interactions/existence of atoms. Religions want to answer, “what is wrong with the world, and what are we to do about it?” (Everyone agrees that all is not right in the world.)

Yes, overlap does occur, because no sphere of knowledge is fully distinct from all the others. That is why you get the evolution/creationism debate, and that is also why the physicists of the day needed Lemaitre to school them about the origin of the universe. Similarly, when Rationalists wonder whether we live in a simulation, they are simultaneously reinventing the Buddhist idea that this is all an illusion, and reasserting faith in a Creator God.

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This is for all the lonely people

Ripped from the comments:

Hundreds of fellow species of insects, birds, even a handful of primates. But at our level, only us. We want a companion species, something or some entity to be our equal, our make. If the Neanderthals or the Denisovans had survived as separate human species, and there were two or three of us humans on the planet, I think matters would be different.

As it stands, I think we want intellectual children and AI is that hope: like us, but different, so we’re no longer alone in a world full of non-human animals. It’s the same impulse that makes people treat their pets as children, as blood members of their family, and unironically refer to themselves as “mommy and daddy” to a dog or a cat that is their “baby”.

I think we’re even worse off than that. We’re definitely lonely, but it’s because we’re in denial about the potential companions that already exist.

What if the Neanderthals had survived to the present? Since they’re able to interbreed with humans, aren’t they really just another race? What difference would it make to have Neanderthals in addition to whites, blacks, Asians, etc? We already don’t know how to deal with having all these races which are visibly different (and here I’m only speaking to the skin-level, nevermind any deeper differences). How much worse would we be if Elves showed up who were our superiors in every measurable way?

The truly alien minds are in our own homes: men and women. We are quite different, sometimes in large and sometimes subtle ways, and we cannot do without the other. Currently, we respond to this with denial, to the point where it took me years of living with a woman to unlearn the idea that we were just different skins slapped on the same basic mind template.

So yeah, we’re lonely, in the same way that Burke and Wills were starving; we’re misusing the resources that are there to fit the need. The trouble is that our current conception of “equal” does not allow room for “different,” so we just deny difference entirely. After all, in any reductionist materialistic view, a different thing is not equal. The Pauline view of equality as “valuable, yet different, parts of one body” is much more workable.

A babied toy dog is a clear case of parental instinct gone haywire because it has no baby to lavish its attention on. Encourage everybody to delay marriage and treat women as men-with-boobs, and it is any surprise that the craving for interaction with someone truly other manifests in more unusual ways?