A Blackboard and a Coffin

I just read something funny in this great novel by Benjamin Prado that I want to use for my new article:

Sometimes, the only difference between a blackboard and a coffin is that, in the case of the blackboard, the dead man is located outside.

That’s how I felt yesterday during the first lectures of the semester. Students find it very hard to return to class after Christmas celebrations. I don’t blame them. January 7 is way too early to end the winter festivities.

Stupid Arguments

I don’t know why people waste so much time making idiotic arguments. Consider this one:

Consider healthcare. We all of us—libertarians, conservatives and liberals—want a growing economy. And we all agree that a growing economy requires entrepreneurial dynamism.

So ask yourself this: In a country in which health insurance isn’t guaranteed, how many millions of Americans with great ideas find it impossible to become entrepreneurs because they’re terrified to leave their job, because then they would lose their health insurance and ruin their lives if they get sick?

Of course, one can waste a lifetime asking silly questions. Or one could just see for oneself. For whatever mysterious reason, the variety of goods and services in the US – where healthcare is not guaranteed – is much MUCH greater than in Canada where it is. Mind you, I’m not claiming that there is any sort of a causal link here. Post hoc doesn’t translate into propter hoc, as we all know. But there is a simple, easily verifiable reality that the author of the linked piece chooses to disregard.

You cannot expect to be taken seriously if you make these childish arguments that only make your political movement sound like it’s overrun by a bunch of idiots. I passionately support universal free healthcare but this is not a way to defend it.

P.S. The article also is very sexist in that it claims that Liberals “gave women the vote.” This just goes to show that there are sexist fools both among Liberals and Conservatives.

Definition of Religious Fanatics

I feel very misunderstood whenever I talk about religious fanatics. Religious fanatics are not the same as religious people. They are the opposite of religious people.

A fanatic’s only allegiance is to her or his own interests. A fanatic’s only God is his or her own self. There would be nothing bad about it if only fanatics admitted that honestly and didn’t try to pass of their self-interest for something that is supposed to benefit all humanity. Why do you think the Soviet Communism soon acquired extremely religious overtones? That was because the Soviet Communism shared with religious fanaticism the crucial quality of complete self-righteousness that knew no moral barriers and experienced no qualms.

A religious fanatic is a sociopath who finds blabbering about God very convenient to dupe the simple-minded into putting up with the fanatic’s exploitation and nastiness.

Religious people worship God. Religious fanatics believe they are God.

A New Kind of Addiction?

If I gave a student two Fs for using Google Translate, what would possess them to send me an email asking for a letter of recommendation translated with Google Translate?

I mean, I think he is asking for a recommendation. The email is so grabled that I have trouble figuring it out.

Is this a new kind of addiction? Are people getting addicted to Google Translate because it promises them an easy fix for the necessity to learn languages? Is the lure of an easy ride so powerful that it blinds them to the painfully obvious realization that this doesn’t work?

Seriously, it’s like some people can’t help themselves.

The Hypocrisy of Religious Fanatics

What makes religious fanatics particularly scary is their delusional belief in their own infallibility. See this billboard that was put up in Maryland:



Imagine how lacking in self-awareness one has to be to put words into Jesus’s mouth. I believe that religious fanaticism (irrespective of the religion fanatics claim to uphold) is a refuge for sociopaths. It allows them to do all kinds of horrible things and excuse their actions by claiming that they do the will of God.

The first time I met such a person (or such a person in the making) was at school. We didn’t have many religious people back in the Soviet Union and the ones who existed were considered freaky. In 6th grade, I met the only kid from a religious family a had ever met. Her name was Dasha. I believe that Dasha’s parents were extremely irresponsible in raising her in an ultra-religious environment in a country where that would most certainly make her an outcast. Adults can bear the burden of their choices but imposing that hardship on children is unfair. My deeply anti-Soviet father, for example, made sure I never had any doubts about the veracity of the propaganda I was fed at school. As a result, I was a much happier child than I would have been had he shared his anti-Communist resentments with me on a regular basis.

I will let you figure out the ideology behind these ugly pinafores on your own. The white pinafore was only worn on festive occasions. On an everyday basis, we wore a black one. That surely looked phenomenal against the background of a dark brown dress.

Dasha, however, soon learned to use religion to her advantage. She realized that fake pseudo-Christian contrition was a great way to manipulate people. Dasha’s “Christian” parents were extremely poor (even by Soviet standards) because they were opposed to contraception and chose to have as many kids as God would give them even when there was nothing to feed the kids. As a result, Dasha was mortally jealous of kids whose families were better off (which would be everybody.)

Once, Dasha’s best friend Anya came to class wearing ear-rings. Those were tiny little ear-rings that were really nothing special. But you know how much it means to 12-year-old girls to be able to look like adult women. Anya was super proud of her ear-rings.

Her happiness lasted for a very short time, though, because Dasha went to the principal and ratted Anya out. The principal marched down to our classroom, lifted Anya’s heavy curls, and discovered the offending pieces of jewelry. Then she dragged Anya away to yell at her for being a “whore in the making.”

After a while, Anya came back to class, shaking and looking terrified. She tried to put a brave face on it and sat quietly down at her desk. We all gathered around, trying to comfort her.

Dasha realized that her scheme was misfiring. Anya was now getting even more attention than before.

“Oh God, oh God,” Dasha suddenly started to vociferate. “What have I done? I am a horrible sinner and there will be no forgiveness for me!”

Of course, everybody abandoned the quiet Anya and rushed to Dasha who was yelping hysterically.

“Why are you crying?” we asked her.

“I betrayed my friend,” Dasha kept wailing. “I have sinned and now I am lost forever!” For the next half-hour, we all comforted Dasha and tried to convince her she was not a horrible sinner, whatever that was.

This was, of course, only one of many stories protagonized by little Dasha who learned to use her fake Christian contrition to manipulate others to perfection. I remember her as the most judgmental, nasty, and self-involved kid I ever met. The scariest kind of evil is the one that is deeply convinced of its divine nature.