Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Hilarious Christian Zealot

March 4, 2009

Over at Odd Innuendo, in a garden variety post about Hitler not being an atheist (and some stuff on why Stalin’s atheism has nothing to do with him being an insane dictator) – the comments boomed.

One of the comments was by a one “alan” who,it seems, is some sort of Christian zealot, who believes that the only version of good in this world is the True Christian variety (yes, he actually pulled the “No True Scotsman” spiel on me).

At first, I was having enough fun seeing alan squirm with the indefensible position that Hitler was, for some reason, an atheist (he used the words “I am a devout catholic” in 1941. Maybe he wasn’t much of a catholic, but catholic he was, and people like Fred Phelps are still considered to be bathshit insane Christian).

But sooner than later, the argument turned into a debate on biblical morality (with occasional puns about atheists being assholes every now and then, sigh.)

The hilarious part was when I noted some examples from Deuteronomy and Leviticus which, putting it mildly, color God and the bible in negative hues. Stuff like stoning homosexuals, stoning witches, stoning adulterers, stoning unruly children, et cetera.

This is the hilarious bit.

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Disproportionate Response, Right-Wingness And Intuitive Martial Arts

February 20, 2009

Some headline, eh? The reason I wrote “several headlines” instead of one is, obviously, because I want to equate the three and explain why they are interchangeable.

Lately, due to personal events in my life, I found out that as an individual, I can’t help but internally react in “biblical moral terms”, namely: when someone infringes on my trust, rights, reputation, honor, etc. – I intuitively wish to avenge sevenfold.

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Freedom Of Speech? Yes. Freedom Of Idiocy? No!

January 2, 2009

The Israeli new left (or perhaps ultra-left, depends on who’s asking) wrote a blog-post about the upcoming Saturday night demonstrations against the war in Gaza.

While I have a lot to say about whether or not we should or should not continue this war, I can briefly state that demonstrations against the war are OK by me, even though I’m not sure I’d participate in (another) one.

However, what I am againt is malign-stupidity or maligh-stupidity-provoking-stupidity.***

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More War and a Change of Mind

December 29, 2008

Two days ago, I wrote a post about the ensuing war in Gaza and our response to the rockets being launched at our southern cities. As some of my friends have noted (and some people who aren’t exactly my friends noted as well) – my stance was a touch on the dove-ish side.

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Who’s The Culprit?

December 3, 2008

It is often said (mainly by apologetics, and in a way, that’s how they’re defined) that religion is not to blame for religious bigotry or for religiously-motivated violence. The garden variety argument is that even though evil people can be religious, it is not religion itself that is responsible for their crimes and evil deeds.

An interesting discussion has sprouted at Sisyphus Fragment, and most interestingly so, the line of defense was held not by religious apologetics, but simply by everyday rational, coherent, intelligent people. The crux of their argument is that religious people would be ignorant to simply use religion (or brainwashed, and the difference is tricky) as a means to do evil, and that religion is not the only thing that’s being used to promote evil causes. This is very much true, and since no one said that religion is the only cause for evil, quite irrelevant in the defense of religion as a culprit.

An interesting argument defending religion arose when someone said that religion itself is not evil, but can be manipulated by evil men, and those attacking religion is not only pointless, but can be counter-productive. I’m not going to say anything about it being counter-productive not because I can’t imagine it being productive, but because I much rather base such a claim on credible sources and not just scatter historical examples and thought experiments.

What I will say, however, is that it is an interesting reduction of human evil to say that no doctrine of its own is culprable, including religious doctrine, but that only human beings are. In that respect, Nazis aren’t culprable by their adherence to the party, but only by the fact that they gassed prisoners to death (well, it’s more complicated than that, but the example is clear enough).

Anyway, I can’t completely disagree with that, and in many respects, I sometimes get the feeling that religious people get too much heat merely by entitling themselves religious. Religious people, like everyone else, pick and choose what they think is right or wrong (and many of them will agree, even elusively, that their morals are not dictated by the bible. No surprise there). So, this definitely flies in the face of every graffitti that goes “Christians are shit”, and even though a lot of well-intending atheists might sympathize (especially former Christians) with that sentence, I don’t.

But is Christianity, itself, a culprit? Obviously, Judaism will share the same cell should Christianity gets thrown to the tanty, but is it guilty of the crimes people commit in its name?

My answer to that is “not exactly”. Evil people will find some other way of grinding their axes at other people’s expense even if the Abarahamic religions never existed. The flip-side of that is that good men or women, or good-intending ones, might wrong their fellow mortals simply because the bible tells them so. They might even feel a horrible pain while doing so, and will even hate themselves for not being committed enough. They will feel a two-layered guilt: sympathy to the oppressed and servile guilt to their Master, the one who decreed that they should do things they really don’t want to, and really think they shouldn’t.

So addressing religion as “guilty” is meaningful only in the respect of specific laws and decrees that plainly, in a non-open-to-interpretation-way (see Deuteronomy), state that evil should be done. This is not an indictment of all religious people and not even of all religious laws or canonized books. This is an indictment of very specific laws that were barbaric when they were written (by whoever) and they’re still barbaric today, and religious people and athiests who aren’t, well, insane, will agree on that.

Jeff, a charming soul who also happens to be a Christian, would probably never even dream of committing any crimes in the name of Christianity or Jesus Christ, and he would agree that killing homosexuals is an evil decree (he won’t agree that that’s what the bible says, but if he did, he would agree it’s an evil religious decree).

So the real culprit is between the lines, not on the cover of the bible. Religion does not go to prison, only the written text in its holy books that sends good men to do the work for evil ones.

The Power of Sign Language

November 24, 2008

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This past few weeks have been tumultuous for me. I’m constantly reshaping my view on sign language and interpreting for the Deaf. When I started studying ISL, I was determined to acquire the skills and credentials of an ISL interpreter because of a combination of my love to Mother and my life-long infatuation with the Deaf, mainly as a result of reflecting the love I have for Mom and Dad on the entire Deaf community.

At the onset, Cocoon stated firmly that “wanting to help the Deaf” is a dangerous agenda for an interpreter. The Interpreters’ code states clearly that objectivity must be had in relation to both Hearing and Deaf. In every interpretation event, the Hearing are my clients too, and as a professional sign language interpreter, I must avoid any biases against the hearing just as much (and equivalently so) as I should avoid biases in favor of the Deaf.

So how do I do it?

At first, I thought that it is impossible for me to uphold the Code without turning against my own ideals as well, but I’ve come to reshape this thought in the past week:

The best thing I can do for the Deaf is to be as professional an interpreter as possible.

This is not to say that there aren’t any ethical issues to be had, but as a basic principle, it does absolve me of the self-torturous occupation with my agenda as an interpreter.

This week’s article was all about interpretation ethics. Besides from recapping the code as we’ve discussed it in class, it brings some real-world examples of collision between the Code and a person’s own ideals and moral principles.

I will use one such example to clarify the remaining dilemma I have with the ethical code:

An interpreter was sent to interpret for a deaf patient who was visiting a gynecologist about having her uterus removed. The interpreter notices that clearly, the doctor is not giving this patient all the care (he believes) she deserves, and it is easy to see that the deaf patient hasn’t a clue that she’s being mistreated.

What would I do?

Well, if it was Mom and Dad, I’d probably turn the table and use loud-volume complaints and admonition, as my agenda is clear: I’m here for Mom and Dad, and I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about the doctor’s interests so long as he takes care of them.

As soon as I do that, I’m no longer a sign language interpreter, end of story. I’m a “signer representing my deaf parents”. Cocoon firmly stated that anyone who’s ever signed to his family (or even his friends!) has never “interpreted”. Knowing how to sign does not perforce mean “being an interpreter”.

The article offers one interesting possibility of upholding the code without hurting the interpreter’s conscience: resigning the instant there’s a clash between ethical and personal principles.

The issue, however, remains for me unsettled. In my case, I would resign and then immediately become very, very subjective and particular about what happened. I would admonish the doctor for his malpractice, I would feverishly explain to and negotiate with the deaf patient, even to the point of arguing with her that going through this or that length of research and so on would be the best thing for her.

I would be making a stand, I would be appointing myself as an advocate and guardian without receiving this appointment from my deaf client.

My instinct would probably be to self-appoint myself as a guardian for the deaf without their consent, merely because it’s a life-long habit. I’ve yet to find a deaf person who didn’t happily accept that, by the way. I’m sure that a lot of deaf people would refuse to be belittled (although I don’t actually belittle, not consciously, anyhow), and I will immediately cease playing “Signman” at their expense if they ask me to, but still, this is what I would do by default, unless requested otherwise. I highly respect and revere the Deaf, and I only feel obliged to appoint myself as their “savior” because I’m horribly empathetic to them, not because I think they’re weak or incompetent.

So, in conclusion, I would still be breaking the code, or be improper by exploiting the information I received (the doctor being an ass) to promote my personal (and the deaf patient’s) agenda.

As of right now, I have no idea what I would do that aligns itself both with the Code and with my moral principles. And that, frankly, keeps me awake at night.

In class, Cocoon suggested that it is proper (and okay with the Code) to not so much as intervene in anyone’s favor in the interpretation-scene, but to simply supply the patient with some healthy advice that doesn’t assume any actual responsibility or, heavens forbid, requires contamination of spoken content with agenda-ridden signs.

She suggested, for example, to cordially ask the patient if she’s sure of what she’s going to do and humbly recommend her to consider her actions (such as signing the form that authorizes her surgery) well before anything potentially harmful happens.

This is a prudent and somewhat cunning alternative to breaking the code or letting a deaf person rot in the course of upholding it, but I still think it’s problematic. In a way, I AM breaking the code, or at least jabbing it hard enough to leave a crack. Personally? I’d do just what Cocoon suggested because I haven’t thought of a better idea. Perhaps I’d be a bit more adamant with my “cordial suggestions”, but I admit that I wouldn’t replace Mom and Dad with the deaf patient, I have to remain professional, for everyone’s sake.

Getting more intimate with sign language and the deaf is like a dream coming true for me, but I’m appalled as I wrestle with the horrible acknowledgment of the fact that sign language interpreters and the Deaf can never be friends and “work together” at the same time. The power to mediate between the hearing and the Deaf creates a chasm between Hearing and Deaf. The all-encompassing notion that one side is impaired and depended on the other makes the politics of this situation too cumbersome. I believe that although not impossible, being a professional sign language interpreter to a Deaf friend is highly unlikely.

I find this notion to be the most tragic conclusion from this course imaginable.

Why We Sign

November 13, 2008

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The basis for the post’s title is the title of the 9th episode for the epic WWII drama by Stephen Spielberg: “Band of Brothers”. As it so happens, the episode answers the question one particular soldier asked himself throughout the war: why did he fight and why did his friends have to die for it. He got a heart-shattering answer when he and his company discovered and liberated a concentration camp. It was probably also one of the most shocking and intense parts of the mini-series.

ISL school is fascinating enough when we deal with the origin and structure of this fascinating language, and with the tenets of translating and interpreting. Not surprisingly, it’s turning out to be more complicated than I thought. For starters, being a signer, apparently, does not make you a sign-language interpreter. Also, being an interpreter does not make you a translator. What’s going on?

To begin with, everyone in the program knows how to sign. It’s about 70% CODAs, so us CODAs obviously know Sign. There’s teachers and social workers and the occasional Interested Individual (probably my best friend in the program to date). On the whole, the sign-language part comes in-built in every one of the students.

So why do we need a program? Why 2 years?

Even though the rationale for interpreting has been clear to me all these years, I’ve never put it under the microscope. To me, signing was never designed to “act as professional proxy”. To me, signing always meant: “Do as your parents tell you”. I developed a relationship with Mom and Dad and I signed so I could help them.

Apparently, sign language interpreting does not focus, at least professionally, on helping the deaf.

Obviously, signing helps the deaf tremendously. They’re practically helpless, sometimes, without it (at least the old deaf population, which is far from being techno-savvy and isn’t going anywhere for the coming decades. Also, I’ve personally interpreted for techno-savvy deaf students. They’re not independent and aren’t going to be anytime soon).

But, and this is important, Cocoon (this is how I’m going to call the program administrator, a CODA whose husband is deaf) heavily admonished me for saying that I’m in this business to help the deaf. Cocoon says that such an attitude towards interpreting is not professional. A professional translator has to be 100% objective, with no bias towards the deaf nor the hearing. How do I reconcile that? In short, I don’t.

One of most pivotal issues in the program is Translation Ethics. An issue I’ve never dealt with and, says Cocoon, is of enormous import and is probably one of the main reasons for the establishment of a professional ISL-interpreters’ program.

It seems that I’ve violated the ISL ethical code when I stayed after class and helped my student with her homework, it appears that I’ve violated the code when I got involved, personally, with my clients and became their friend, helped them better understand the material, answered their questions before tests, etc. At one time, (and this, I admit, was wrong on every level), I even signed an answer to a question in a test when my deaf student looked at me with puppy eyes and begged me to help her with the test.

Well, I don’t know if I’ll have the minerals to say “no” to a deaf student in distress, but apparently, this is part of my professional responsibility. I might even lose my license if I do that when I go pro.

And here comes to the main point of the post, which is not why “We” (the interpreters) sign, but why “I” sign. I sign to help the deaf. It’s the reason I got into the program and without that reason, I have no place there. I come to impart my childhood habit of helping my deaf parents upon non-parenting deaf individuals. I come to reflect the love I had for my parents, deaf or not, upon all deaf individuals. It’s practically barbaric, in a way, but without it, I simply don’t know how to be so fatally enamoured with the deaf community as much as I am.

So this is a secret I probably should keep hidden from Cocoon, and it’s also reason enough for me to risk my license. I come to the deaf community in order to help them.

This does not mean that I’m going to be biased for the deaf as far as the contents of the signs is concerned. I am going to sign to them EXACTLY what the hearing person said, and I’m going to voice exactly what the client signs. I am, however, going to get personal with my deaf clients, and give them advice as far as I can. Not during the interpreting session, but as a friend. The certificate is only a bridgehead into the deaf community.

I will follow the ethics and rules to the letter, but I will not remove myself from the Deaf community itself. I will come to sign for them as a professional, hopefully model translator: Impartial to either Deaf and Hearing – but after the session is complete, I will address them as a friend of the Deaf, their hearing child as I’ve always been, and the de facto parent I always felt I was to the Deaf community.

I sign because I want to help.

I sign because I need to help.

Freedom of Speech

October 22, 2008

Another pharyngulated blog, 2000 years of deception (hark at that), has brought to my attention a particularly obnoxious type of homeschooling, bigoted, hate-mongering, ignorant and odious individual. The bottom line is that miss God Hates Fags here says that homosexuality should be punishable by death and that with any luck some radical will blow up a “gay-friendly high-school”. She also said she doesn’t actually endorse this. Oh yeah, no sir!

Anyhow, since this is just another run-of-the-mill idiot with nothing to do but to spread tinfoil hat mouth-foaming belliigerence (and, tragically, inculcating it in her homeschooled children) – on itself it’s not big news and not particularly interesting. The only sympathizers clods like that have are other twerps with the same single-digit IQ.

However, being the comments prowler that I am, I sniffed the comments in 2000YOD (well, I’d obviously not look into the godbot’s blog for a balanced view, that despicable hag quickly deleted every comment from non-sycophants) and I ran into this jewel:

Anonymous said…
Flaging her blog is juvenile and close minded.

Hate Speech is still free speech. No matter how vulgar the message.

I’m sorry, all ye unfaithful – this anonymous chap is right. Freedom of speech logically entails freedom of dumb, hateful, poisonous speech. Freedom of speech enables Hitlers and Mussolinis, not just FDR’s and Churchills. If one accepts the right to free speech, one must also allow it for anyone with a dissenting and even disgusting view, and I fully endorse this woman’s right to display her revolting worldview to the world. At least that way more people can be made aware of this vile, sickening individual.

I’m using more expletives than usual precisely because I wish to make an example of my own free speech. See, I don’t think suppressing people’s view is a good long-term strategy for any purpose. It doesn’t even stand to reason even when we ignore the warm, fuzzy feelings liberal concepts like FOS give to us ( I’m not kidding, it’s given me warm fuzzy feelings ever since I heard of it in junior high. )

The thing is – if people have dissenting views, hushing them up won’t make them go away, and in any case, if there’s a personality or an upbringing that makes people susceptible to certain viewpoints, then shutting them up won’t make them change their minds, or change the fact that such viewpoints will survive. People always find a way, and writing about crap like said hag is just one of many methods of propagating disgusting ideas.

So my take on this is that freedom of speech does in fact and should cut both ways: it’s the right of useful, intelligent, modern human beings to express their views and to spread useful and egalitarian ideas and it’s also the right for bible-thumping yokels to dribble about how wonderful a world without people who are different than they are is going to be.

I also think that it’s solely the responsibility of sensible liberals to use that same right to vocalize their contempt, scorn, disdain, disapproval, disavowal and absolute flaming dejection at such putrid ideas.

In the end, it’s the winning ideas that win, not the most vocal ideas, though being overly vocal helps to propogate bullshit. But the end result is that people want power, and the way to power is in reason and in reason alone. If you convince enough people to use their heads and not the opinions of authoritative bigots, they will, in turn, use their heads to produce results better than they could before.

Then the tide will turn.

Speak out hard enough, and the truth will win: not because it’s warm and cuddly, but because it’s concordant with humanity’s biological reality: the truth is the best way to get to results, and only those who get to results get a say in anything.

Eventually, if enough people use their heads, the warm and fuzzy feelings (the truly important part of this whole “life” thing) will follow.

Cruelty to Animal Rights’ Activists

October 18, 2008

The only way to view my attitude towards non-humans non-hypocritically is by admitting that I am morally okay with killing non-humans and/or eating them/researching with them (as long as its not unnecessarily cruel). When I say “unnecessarily cruel”, I mean that any pain induced to a “higher species” is not induced haphazardly. I’m okay with AIDS viruses injected to mice if it’s meant to help find a cure or vaccine to the virus, I’m completely repulsed, however, at the idea of kicking a mouse and killing it for the sake of sadistic satisfaction.  I find this admission to be rather casual, but I suspect that most, or at least many, people would find it repugnant.

Animal rights activism is quite widespeard in Israel, and I can’t help but cringe when I see bumper-stickers that say “eating meat is murder”. To that, I say: nope, eating meat is lunch, a nourishing, tasty lunch. It’s a valuable source of protein and micro-nutrients and, if well-dieted, an important part of daily nutrition. Of course, you could replace it with other foods, but once you eliminate the moral issue, there’s no reason to.

Of course, I sympathise with the idea that unecessary cruelty to animals is mean, while mostly I admit that I’m rather impervious to said cruelty being acted upon animals. It’s not an admission of endorsing such cruelty, just of enough apathy towards it that allows for non-action, and for any hypocrite who scoffs at such indifference to violence, I’d say: “when’s the last time you adopted an orphan? Oh, you DID adopt an orphan? What about all the other orphans you left to starve because you picked the cute one?”.
At the same time, I find it personally okay to eat meat and I really, really don’t care what the animals have to say or what they feel about it. Most carnivores would devour me alive if they had the choice. Not that that “makes it okay” in any way, but it goes well to show that eating is not a moral issue unless you find the species you eat to be cuddly. I’m sure PETA protests very little against eating snakes, insects and molluscs, even though snakes and arthropods are just as “alive” (and in the case of some arthropods, quite clever) as amiable cows and ducks are. The whole premise of “animal rights” is pathetically childish and hypocritical: save the “animals” (meaning Metazoan species only), and at that, only the ones I like.

I can’t help but thinking of Poison Ivy and her pathological deference for plants, and how she’d probably flay people alive for eating corn (and if she wouldn’t, a person who would is no different than a terrorist animal rights activist who bombs researchers’ homes for conducting experiments on animals)/

Animal rights actvists are peurile pick-and-choosers, hypocritically defending the animals they like while abandoning the species they don’t care about: they’re simply okay with killing different kinds of species, making them just as “murderous” to “plant right activists” as meat-eaters are to them. Anyone aware enough of the biological reality knows that any heterotrophic animal has to “murder” (read kill) a different organism to survive. This isn’t a question of “right or wrong”, it’s merely a question of natural imperative. What you eat or what you’re okay eating is completely arbitrary, and in that respect, I find it completely reasonable to eat anything that’s not human (while also being aware of cannibalisms and frankly all for sending canniabals people to prison for being murderers).

At that, I wish to say that I completely endorse animal right activists who promote non-violence against animals that are, say, used for slaughter. Personally, I’d prefer that all animals being slaughtered would not suffer at all before being slaughtered. If it was up to me, I’d make sure their death is completely painless.

Simple Killings

October 12, 2008

This is the third “serious crime” proceeding I had to scribe, and the second “murder case”. In the previous instances, when I encountered serious crimes in my “line of work”, I was left shocked, amazed and pensive. This time, I must say that I am not too impressed or moved at all. Blah, blah, blah, can’t speak of what actually happened, fast forward.

This was a case of murder. The people killed were simple people, the people doing the killing were simple people, and most importantly (hence the perfection of this post’s title): the motive for the killing was simple.

The truth of the matter is that a person was killed, a real young man was killed, because of words he said, expletives he uttered. A simple man produced grade-school level profanity and as a result, was simply killed by a simple person.

Newspapers in Israel enjoy making fabulous headlines at their “pointless murder” column. I’m sure they won’t call it that, but there’s not a day that goes by without some “redundant violence article” published in the paper. I’m pretty sure it’s not a local phenomenon, too.

I find myself not only unimpressed by such stories, but also completely unsurprised. People who have nothing but their pathetic and miserable street credibility wouldn’t think twice before killing a man who destroys it or even merely undermines it. Honor, as “simple killers” refer to it, is probably all they have, and reckless violence the only tool for them to keep it. Without that, they reckon, they’re as good as dead anyway.

People who have been forged in a lawless fire where there’s nothing but the width of your shoulders and the peak decibels of your voice to show your prowess in are going to be violent and probably murderously so. It is only a big astonishment to self-righteous and arrogant bourgeosies who obviously have many other alternatives to violence when confronted who find hopeless ignorants to be murderously violent.

Anyone who thinks this is a patronizing argument has obviously not spent a day in his life with poor ignorant people. When I say “ignorant”, I do not mean morally inferior or even stupid – I simply mean that a lot of people who are of very limited means are also ignorant of the fact that there’s more than one way to screw a light bulb other than shooting the technician in the foot, getting him to screw the bulb, and then shooting him in the head. Um, figuratively speaking, of course.

There’s nothing I can learn here of human evil and very little I can study about human behavior: idiots with guns (yeah, idiots with guns, if anyone’s thought of me as patronizing so far, he can credit to himself the fact that he disagreed with me referring to murderous idiots with guns who kill for the dumbest reasons and chose to disagree with me when I refer to them as ignorant) – those idiots with guns use the only means possible for them to protect their well-being and their future, the same people who might have chosen to do otherwise were they aware of plausible, working alternatives. It’d certainly efface their “idiot” title, to begin with.

The only significant thing to learn from this incident is that it’s important to remember, no matter how fat, hedonistic, in excess of knowledge and means and secured we might get, a lot of people, not too far away, are living lives that are not too different than the lives animals in the wild: meaning that like animals in the wild, they have only two rules: what they can do, and what they can’t do. (Yep, I totally stole that from Pirates of the Caribbean)