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Sunday, May 15, 2016

"I'm Praying for you." Please, don't.

If an atheist says "Fuck God" or "God is a douche" then the Christian becomes offended and annoyed by these words.

I know many Christians who accuse atheists of being angry. And maybe some are. 

But what I find funny, not to mention rather telling, is that Christians think it's perfectly alright to say "I'll be praying for you..." in condescending fashion when they find out one of their friends or family members is an atheist not realizing it's about as annoying as a rude atheist saying "Fuck God, that asshole."

Sure, a Christian might say, but hey, I'm genuinely concerned for you. For your soul. And that this comes from a good place, rather than just being a rude person calling someone's sacred idol or preferred deity names.

And although their heart is in the right place, it's no less rude or condescending to assume someone is in some way not good enough to reach whatever made up standard you're holding them to, religious or otherwise. 

Whereas calling a non-existent entity a nasty name really doesn't harm that entity any -- because it doesn't exist.

The moral of the story is... it's not about you. It's about how you treat others.

Me calling Superman a "Big pussy" doesn't hurt you any. You judging me as less than and thinking I need fixing makes it about me and in a way that's designed to make me feel less of a person... so yeah, you're praying for me? Don't.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Vick Fam Japan Earthquake Relief

Please help my family piece our lives back together after the back-to-back devastating Japan quakes and chip in if you can. Any amount helps.

You can click HERE to go to the GoFundMe campaign page if you want to donate.

You can also share this link:

gofundme.com/helpvickfam

Every little act of kindness helps.

Thank you.

Monday, April 18, 2016

So Hard Not to Make Penis Joke! Sooo Hard!



So, a few years ago I tried to switch my Advocatus Atheist blog over to Word Press. At the time, however, they were messing around with their interface and didn't have easy to use templates they do now. And I didn't want to fiddle around making a full website, I just wanted to blog. So I moved back to blogger. 

I did however leave my Advocatus Atheist blog up and running though. And although it never gets updated, I still receive the odd comment now and again. 

This one though... this one made me smile. For obvious reasons. But I felt the commentor was being sincere, so I gave a genuine answer.

***



Here's the transcript of question (I know, I know... try not to laugh).

The entire universe "works" like something that has been PROJECTED. Only a thinking mind could make the world the way it is. Once I read in a comment on the internet that we should look at the bodies of men and women, at the way they perfectly match together to understand that a thinking mind created them. I totally agree with this. We just need to keep our eyes open and see... Einstein said that a bit of science brings you away from God, but a lot of science brings you to God.

***
And here's my response:


Physical laws may appear to be eternally present because we don't understand all the causes for the laws themselves. But the picture is getting filled in by science, not by believing in supernatural things that don't seem to explain anything least of all an actual physical law -- like gravity. That was explained by Isaac Newton. 

As per the rest of your comment, I just have to ask, do you actually believe in Intelligent Design because God made man and woman and because they "perfectly match together"? I assume you mean their anatomy, not their individuality (since personalities rarely ever match perfectly), correct? 

So am I to believe your argument for God and his intelligent design because a penis fits perfectly into a vagina? Really?

Believe what you like. But beliefs are not substitutes for facts. 

Everyone has beliefs. I do too. But would you simply be willing to believe them because I believed in them too?

What if I said to you... I have a belief. I believe that every turtle I see, and or ever have seen, or will see is the exact SAME turtle! Always. No matter what. 

You would say, that's not a sound belief. And you would ask me to prove it! And I'd say, well, all turtles look the same to me, so I believe every turtle is the same turtle.

You might think I'm crazy. But, hey, it's my belief.

I would say to you, obvious it's turtles all the way down, how could it be any other way? And I'd say it's one giant turtle that the world rides on. You can't disprove it, so it must be true.

And since we have evidence of turtles, which all look the same mind you, we can know it's true. 

I think it was Abraham Lincoln said a bit of turtle appreciation was all you needed to know it's turtles, all turtles, and nothing but turtles. We just need to keep our eyes open and see... after all.

Of course, I wouldn't expect you to take my word for it.

So why do you think I should take your word for it?

The short answer is, I don't have to. Because what you believe doesn't matter all that much to me in the same way my beliefs don't matter all that much to you.

Which is why I think it's more important to talk about what we can know and how we can know it.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Conversation with my daughter about homosexuality


My daughter constantly surprises me with her open mindedness, compassion, and ability to empathize with others simply by logically deducing things.

She remembers something her pre-school teacher told her over two years ago. In class, they discussed whether it was polite to laugh at a person who had a deformity or didn't have legs. The example was an amputee who was missing their legs.

The teacher said, you don't know why they lost their legs. Maybe they were born without them. Maybe they fought in a war and lost them. But how do you think they'd feel if you started laughing at them?

The children unanimously agreed that they person with no legs would feel bad. Maybe they'd cry. And they all realized it would be really mean to laugh at that person. After all, if they got hurt, and lost their legs, they would feel bad if people laughed at them too.

Flash forward to today (which is actually yesterday). And we're flipping randomly through the television channels and suddenly we stop on one and -- bam! -- two lesbian women are kissing.

My daughter looks at me and I look at her. I had no idea such a scene was going to be on. But she turns to me and says, "Daddy, why are those women kissing each other?"

I said, "Because they love each other."

"Are they gay?" she asked me.

"Yes," I replied.

"That's good!" she chirped.

I raised my eyebrow. Curious as to how she reached that conclusion so quickly, I probed a bit. "Why do you think so?"

"Well, everyone's different!" she exclaims. "Some boys like girls. And some girls like boys. And sometimes girls like girls. And boys like boys."

"That's true," I say.

"Are there lots of gay people?" she asks me.

"Yeah," I inform her. "I suppose there are."

"If there's lots, how come we don't see many?" she asked me in all sincerity.

"Well, because some people are mean to them... and they think being gay is somehow wrong... so they make fun of them or say something to hurt their feelings. So gay people sometimes try to keep their personal lives private."

"That's not right!" she gasps. Growing serious, she informs me, "There's nothing wrong with being gay, Daddy. They're just different! And my teacher said not to laugh at people who are different than us or be mean, because it will hurt their feelings."

She then told me the story about her teacher giving the example of the amputee and not laughing at those with physical deformities.

Needless to say, she is one hundred percent correct. And I am amazed at how well she empathizes with others and how loving she is innately. And I have to think -- if a kid can come to this conclusion on their own, and logically deduce that mistreating others or being unfair to them, being mean, is the same across the board -- then to think otherwise means you had to have been taught it.

Here's the thing. If you think being gay is gross, or wrong, or morally reprehensible, odds are your parents FAILED to teach you how to properly empathize with those who are different than yourself.

If you teach your children that gayness is something to be shameful about, or that it's gross, or wrong, or morally reprehensible then all you have done is teach them how to hate.

And YOU have FAILED to teach them compassion and empathy and how to be loving towards others.

My six year old figured it out on her own. If a six year old can do that, then there's no excuse why a grown adult should ever have a problem with homosexuals and homosexuality. The same goes for the trans community.

If you have any sort of problem with these fine groups of people -- the problem is YOU.

You're the problem.

And it's your problem you need to fix.

Think about that for a moment. Think about how my six year old girl just schooled homophobes and transphobes and anyone whose ever been an asshole towards those different than themselves. If a six year old can best you in ethics and morality, then you should feel ashamed and embarrassed for yourself.

As for those who don't feel ashamed for treating others poorly, well, then you're no better than those assholes who make fun of amputees for simply being amputees. And, personally, I wouldn't want my daughter hanging out with you or your brainwashed-to-hate kids.




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

In Response to Joyce

The Imperfect and Immoral Teachings of Jesus Christ was an article I wrote in what, admittedly, was a rather crude attempt to consider some of the character flaws and moral failings of Jesus Chris. Needless to say, the religious scholar Hector Avalos did a much better, and far more thorough, critical analysis of Jesus Christ's moral flaws and failings in his book Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics.

At any rate, having re-read my original article I still stand by my criticism, although I now see that I could have worded it much better -- yet perhaps not any less scathingly. That said, it remains one of my most read and consecutively commented upon articles on Advocatus Atheist and as a new comment popped up in my feed today, I re-read some of the other comments and found one by Joyce Clemmons which I was never able to properly respond to because of the privacy setting wouldn't allow me to write a direct reply.

Having re-read her comments, I wanted to address some of them here, as I think some of her comments -- although well intended -- largely miss the point I was trying to make.

Here's Joyce's comment in full (screencap):


I agree with Joyce's comment that Jesus was basically re-interpreting the 10 commandments. What I disagree with is that he stressed, or heightened the moral responsibility to abide by them.

Although Jesus did say "love your neighbor" and although she is right in saying this is also the reason people, including good Christians, decried slavery saying if you would not want it done unto yourself then don't ask for it as a right -- would put Jesus as implicitly against slavery -- my point was that this assumption is merely a logical progression stemming from our own moral understanding of slavery being bad. 

Someone who didn't think slavery was innately bad, i.e. morally wrong, wouldn't necessarily think to include slavery as something they wouldn't want done to themselves. Case in point, if they believed they were destined to be a slave, they may have felt that it was their God given duty to fulfill their lot in life as a dutiful slave. In other words, slavery to them may have seemed a brute fact of life. The the wealthy and elite classes, it would have been a necessary part of life.

So there is no direct link from the Goldon Axiom to the admonishment of slavery, since there are ample reasons one who subscribed to Jesus's own moral outlook could still defend slavery.

The fact remains: Jesus not admonishing slavery or making a point to decry the practice appears to be part of the context of his views being largely couched in the historical context of his day. Which is why he appeals to Old Testament law when asked about slavery in Luke, making the implicit statement that he actively supports the practice by NOT decrying it when he had every reason, moral or otherwise, to do so.

And that was the gist of my point. Jesus, if we are to assume him a moral philosopher of any caliber whatsoever, would have to make an explicit statement on the subject decrying it's practice as immoral for us to say -- hey, this guy was a good moral teacher. But this we do not find. Rather, the scriptures give us fine examples of Jesus going along with the practice and even using it in his moral parables without so much as a mention of its immoral and unethical implications.

When Joyce mentions I am against world-wide violence against women. This is true.

The reason Joyce knows this is because I have spoken out against the mistreatment and inequality of women numerous times. I support causes that seek to empower and give women access to education in developing nations. But I think her example backfires. Because whereas I can do little about it without actively leaving my home and going out into the field and fighting the good fight, (ignoring all my other responsibilities as a father of two and as a teacher -- but never mind this triviality), I have made it expressly clear that I detest the abusive treatment and violence against women wherever it is found. 

And I just did it again, here. 

But nowhere does Jesus Christ make it expressly clear that he detests the abusive treatment and violence against slaves or the practice of slavery.

Rather, he admonishes people not to beat their slaves so severely that they lose their teeth or eyes, but again, this is just a reiteration of OT laws which most abiding Jews would already be practicing.

Think about that for a moment.

If somebody asked me what do I think about the abuse of women in any given context, and I merely say, well just follow the law of the land -- wherein that law of the land allows for (or maybe even calls for) the abuse of women, then it cannot be said that I expressly am against the mistreatment and abuse of women. Rather, I'd be for it -- because I support those laws.

Which is why we can deduce that Jesus implicitly supported slavery. 

All this trouble could have simply been cleared up with a single mention that slavery is morally reprehensible, in the same way I have said violence against women is morally reprehensible. Something any wise, and just, moral philosopher would have done should he have realized that slavery was morally wrong.




Sunday, February 21, 2016

A deconstruction of the phrase:"Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

A longish rant about the phrase "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." 

I'll just leave this here: 

"Guns don't kill people. People kill people." 

This is a phrase that I've always hated. First of all, it's completely illogical. 

Why is it illogical? Because it's talking about design, function, and functionality then making a cross comparison of functionality wherein the initial purpose of it's design has been altered to get a different purpose implying the object's original purpose was not what it was designed for. This makes the statement blatantly illogical.

Design serves function, function serves purpose, and functionality can be manipulated to, as a consequence, alter an object's original purpose. 

In simple terms, design is the method by which the objection accomplishes a a specific function. The function is the action the object performs to accomplish a specific goal or purpose. This purpose is part of the object's functionality, but if you find a new use for the object, or use the object in a way it wasn't designed for but accomplishes some new goal or purpose, then you've manipulated it's functionality. Functionality is simply the range of operations an object has -- or in this case how well it serves a particular purpose vs. some other.

The reason the phrase is illogical is because it implies that gun's aren't designed to have the purpose they do by saying it's *only the person that kills, not the gun. This is clearly false. 

The gun is a lethal weapon designed to kill. It's function is to shoot out a projectile at a lethal velocity. The goal, in the case of this being a lethal device, is to kill a person. That is the purpose of a gun! So, yes, the gun does actually kill people.

The second point to be made her is that the saying excuses the original purpose of the weapon by saying the gun can also serve another, different purpose, and that the idea of a gun can being used responsibly by a responsible gun owner implies that this other purpose can be invoked, rather than the lethal one the weapon was designed for, and assumes that a responsible gun owner would determine whether or not the gun's lethal purpose should be utilized or not. 

This is fine. After all, many tools have a full range of operations they can perform. But rarely is it ever the case that the primary operation, its function, it completely ignored and replaced with some lower order functionality.

You see, saying a gun isn't necessarily a device meant for killing is merely stating that there is another functionality to the weapon, finding it can serve a range of operations that it wasn't actually designed to serve in the first place. A gun collector might say it is a work of art. A single mother with children might say it is simply a means of self defense. A hunter might say it is merely a tool to catch his dinner with. 

Again, finding a greater range of functionality for an object is fine, but because the phrase "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," tries to have its cake and eat it to, it gets this part wrong. Just because a gun can be used defensively doesn't mean that a gun's design, function, or purpose is to be a defensive tool. It's not. It's designed to be one thing and one thing only, a lethal weapon.

"More people die by hammers every year than by being shot to death," may be a true statistic, but it has nothing to do with the original design, function, or purpose of a hammer. People have merely found a new operation a hammer can perform, in this case, bashing in a skull. But that doesn't mean that the original purpose of a hammer is to bash in skulls. It's not. But where a gun is concerned, the fact of the matter is, a gun is meant to kill.

A third reason I dislike the saying is that it shifts all the blame for killing onto the user of the object, saying that it is merely irresponsible gun owners that would kill without good reasons, although, as I've suggested, this ignores the fact that the primary purpose of the weapon is to kill. It suggests that it is only the will of the object's user that is to blame rather than the object itself, but this is clearly wrong when the purpose of the object lines up directly with the purpose of the object's user -- in this case, to kill.

There would be no reason to own a gun if you weren't ever going to kill someone with it. Why would you want to, when a hammer would do? Statistically, a hammer works just as well, if not better. Thus the intent behind owning a lethal weapon is revealed, people want a gun precisely because it is a lethal weapon, and precisely because they might have to kill someone with it. And they know this. They know that this is why owning a gun sends a clearer message of "back off" and "don't mess with me" to a bad guy than a hammer does. It is this implicit understanding of the real purpose of a gun that makes the saying doubly confused, because it implies the person doing the killing with the gun didn't actually realize that the gun was designed for killing. After all it's not the gun's fault it killed someone, it's the gun's user -- according to the logic of the saying. But as I have detailed -- that logic is wrong. It is BOTH the gun and the user's fault, because the gun's design, function, and purpose is to be a lethal killing device, which is why the owner of this weapon acquired it in the first place. You can't divorce this fact from the reason for the gun's existence without becoming illogical.

Another way to consider how illogical the saying really is, is to consider an equivalent analogy. 

"Cars don't take you places. People take you places."

Well, this isn't entirely true, is it? A car does, in point of fact, take you places. That is the design, function, and purpose of a car! This becomes even more self evident when you factor into the equation modern automated self-driving cars. There is really no other purpose than this.

Now, we could argue for example that a car can be used incorrectly. That a person might find a range of operations a car can perform, and might use it in a way that it is not intended. This is fine. Although, it would be changing the object's initial function by assigning it a new, additional, functionality.

What would be illogical, however, is to say that cars don't take you places. It's a lot like saying guns don't kill people. 


Monday, January 11, 2016

When Does Humor Cross the Line? Can it? (In Defense of Ricky Gervais)


I follow the fascinating and beautiful transgender woman Kat Blaque, a YouTube personality who is sharper than Occam's razor and who fights for trans-people's rights. I watch her videos and read her Facebook posts, but tend to lurk in the shadows. Until recently. Recently I felt I needed to comment on something she had posted, although I'm entirely aware that my comments may be unpopular if not controversial. Allow me to explain.

Kat recently posted outrage over the comedian Ricky Gervais's offensive seven minute opening monologue to the 2016 Golden Globe award show (video below). But she wasn't the only one.

The Huffington Post, in an op-ed, also cited that Ricky Gervais offended with transphobic jokes about Caitlyn Jenner at the Golden Globes.

Now, I'm not denying the jokes were offensive. They certainly were. But it seems to me that half the people outraged are outraged because they got the joke, while the other half -- the half that didn't get the joke -- are simply outraged because others are outraged. Which I find amusing. 

The Huff piece is a perfect example of a person not getting the punchline of the joke.

I don't know. It seems many might not be clear as to the fact that the joke is about the thing the person did, not about the person (FYI, Caitlyn Jenner accidentally killed someone in a fatal car accident). Ricky Gervais, the comedian hosting the Golden Globes, made a joke that Caitlyn Jenner, as a trans woman, does women everywhere no favors. That's the context of the joke.

In the Huff piece, they go through lengths to quote mine Gervais's past comments, mostly from joke related Tweets, to make him sound like a transphobic, anti-feminist, chauvinistic prick. The comment backlash seems to confirm that many feel the same way about Gervais, especially after his Golden Globe jokes about Caitlyn Jenner. But doth they protest too much?

Personally, I thought that was a bit of an overreaction to an otherwise well crafted joke.

In an online discussion on Kat's Facebook page I mentioned that

The joke was actually aimed at something Caitlyn Jenner did, playing on the old sexist stereotype about CIS women being bad drivers. Yes. It's offensive sure. It's also a pretty smart joke. He was able to make it both offensive to trans and cis women at the same time. Such is the nature of epater humor. Something most Americans don't quite get and blurt outrage and indignation at without fully understanding why the joke works -- even as it is still completely offensive. But feel free to be offended. That's your right, just as it is his to offend.

It was mentioned  to me that Ricky Gervais wasn't merely offensive for making a sexist joke, but that the greater offense lay in the fact that he had "dead named" a trans woman in the set up of the joke. 

Now, what "dead naming" means is that he used Caitlyn Jenner's birth name. In the trans community this is a huge taboo. It's viewed as disrespectful because you're challenging their very identity by not accepting how they feel on the inside -- by not accepting them for who they are after they've been brave enough to come out to the world. This dismissal of their personal identity, in effect completely ignoring their transition while only adhering to the antiquated notion that there are only two genders or sexes, and calling them by their former name and not the new name they select for themselves -- is highly disrespectful. It can also be a dangerous form of outing if nobody knew they were trans until they were deadnamed. This, I was told, was the real offense. 

I understand why it was offensive. Some might even say inappropriate. I'm not defending the joke to say it wasn't offensive -- I'm saying it was offensive. But that's why it works. Allow me to clarify what I mean an offense working for the sake of the joke.

In terms of the jokes target, the joke is no less offensive to trans women than it is cis women. It might even be more offensive. It's certainly not progressive. And it is, regrettably, hardbitten. The joke relies on a style of epater les bourgeois -- a type of humor which, by design, is intended to be offensive. It's the humor of the celebrity roast. It's demeaning, disheartening, and always controversial. Again, I'm not saying it's right. I'm saying it gets a laugh. There's a difference.

Additionally, we have to keep in mind that Caitlyn Jenner is only famous because of who she was in the past. There's simply NO OTHER reason for her fame. So to ignore her past persona is to miss the point that this person cannot be dead-named in quite the same manner because they were ALREADY famous, and then famously made a public transformation, and was famously open about it. If Caitlyn Jenner was anybody else prior to her transformation, then yes, dead-naming her would be a terrible thing to do. But everyone knows who she was already. The only thing dead-naming her could to is be offensive to Caitlyn Jenner. 

Now before you jump down my throat and say I'm defending the act of dead-naming, again, that's not what I'm doing. If you think I am, then you'll have to answer a very straight forward question for me. Who is Caitlyn Jenner and why should I care? And you cannot refer to her past persona or the fact she's trans. Now tell me again who she is and why I should care?

That's what I thought. Crickets.


So the set up is necessary. And since Gervais was going after Jenner, and only Jenner, and he was getting paid to roast her to the full extent of his British wit, that's exactly what he did.

Well, wait. Maybe he's set a bad example? Possibly. But I doubt it. The context is a celebrity roast. You can only say he's setting a bad example by taking what he did out of context. I was told that other people who admire Ricky might think it's okay to dead-name trans people because he did so on national television. But if that's what you think then my point above was probably not clear enough. He didn't dead-name other trans people -- he did it to Caitlyn Jenner. He's not after the trans community as so many have said in their irrationally driven emotional knee jerk to his offensiveness. He's after Caitlyn Jenner, period. And everyone else gets to be equally offended, because Gervais is an equal opportunity offender. If you don't get that. I'm sorry.

So why is this not a defense for his dead-naming her you might ask? After several paragraphs of explaining why it made sense, how can I still say with a straight face that I'm not defending what he did or saying it is acceptable? Because I'm not making a moral argument for what he did. Period. I'm saying what Gervais did carries a different weight and a different meaning because it was in a different context with different rules. And this needs to be taken into consideration, otherwise all you have are appeals to emotion and thus no case -- because as I said, you have every right to be offended. 

But, admittedly, I laughed for mainly a different reason, because although my own shock at having heard it was enough to illicit a nervous chuckle, one of those  'that's not funny bad humor' chortles, the thing that actually amused me was when everyone in the room, all of those glamorous, rich, and famous elite of society seized up in fearful tension because they had just been accosted by a joke that shocked people out of their conventional attitudes of what is socially acceptable and their complacent views about what is politically correct decorum at an awards show.

And that's why the joke works! We are glad to watch other people suffer the indignities of it. In displeasure of the thing, there is pleasure. This is something Voltaire pointed out in his famous satirical work Candide (no less controversial, mind you) over two centuries ago. And it's just as true today as it was then.

A proponent for transgender rights, Kat Blaque mentioned on her site that

"There are so many Caitlyn Jenner jokes you can make without dead naming her or attacking her because she's trans."

Well, yes and no.

Gervais could have made a hundred different Caitlyn Jenner jokes, sure. And while I cannot defend him dead naming her on moral grounds, nor would I want to, I can see why he used her masculine birth name so that American audiences unfamiliar with who she is and with the terms transgender or transwoman would be quicker to get to the crux of the joke -- and then be offended by it. Or not. As I said, humor is entirely subjective. Most people do not even know what dead naming is, or that it's even a thing, so most probably don't think anything of it. That's not Gervais's fault. 

The question is: does Gervais's humor actively disparage the transgender community and, if it does, was it done intentionally to hurt trans people or was it done unintentionally -- one might say accidentally? Is there a difference? I think Caitlyn Jenner might say there is. After all, there has to be a difference between accidental manslaughter via fatal reckless driving and accidental death by vehicular accident, otherwise she'd be in jail for killing someone. So trust me when I say, there's a difference.

Then again, maybe Gervais is equally ignorant. That doesn't make what he did any less offensive, but it certainly helps put everything into context. Yet as I have tried to emphasize, distinguishing where the comedian's personality ends and the comedy begins is not always so clear cut as to say -- that guy is transphobic because he made a transphobic joke. I'm afraid it's never as easy as that whenever the varieties of humor and comedy are concerned. You see, humor is a complicated thing.

And this Golden Globes debacle is complicated precisely because Gervais is a comedian. If he was anything else, if he was a xenophobic, racist, hate spewing politician like Donald Trump, for example, then it would be easier to pinpoint his personal ideologies and say -- here is a despicable human being. But comedians are less transparent precisely because they use risque and controversial material all of the time, to subvert, challenge, provoke, offend, and challenge us. They make into punchlines that which would come off as extraordinarily unacceptable in any other context. 

Except we know the context in this case -- it's a comedian lambasting the rich and famous. Some might say, the more offensive the joke the better. We can laugh at their pain as their egos get deflated because it makes them human and brings them down to our level. Sure, it's a little bit mean. But if you don't like a good roast -- avoid watching it. Nobody is forcing you to have to enjoy the anguish of the embarrassed elite and relish it like a fine pastry. 

But maybe Ricky Gervais simply has no right to dead name any transgender person -- even at the sake of telling a more economic joke. Maybe it will prove to be the case that only trans people can dead name other trans people in the same way that it seems that only black people can call another black person a "nigger" and get away with it. As if it doesn't matter. As if there was no double standard at play. Like I said, it's complicated. Humor ties itself up with public opinion and plays societal stereotypes against one another. It upturns cultural norms and knocks the legs out from under politically correct opinions. Good comedians can make it work. Bad ones will fail miserably. And sometimes even good comedians fuck up a joke. Maybe that's what happened here. Maybe not. But whose to decide what limits comedy should have?

And, well, if you were offended by Gervais's joke, that's fine. I'm in no position to tell anyone how to feel about an offensive joke. But what I don't agree with are those saying that Ricky Gervais shouldn't have a right to use offensive material or, likewise, the right to offend others. You see, that's not how freedom of speech works.

By all means, feel free to be offended. That's your right, just as Ricky has the right to offend (you, you, and, yes, even you). If you don't like Ricky Gervais or his style of humor, don't watch his comedy. It really is quite that simple.

After all is said and done, we need to come to terms with the fact that the content of a joke and the nature of the comedian are not always directly relatable. 

Case in point, one of my favorite comedians, Louis C.K., once made a joke about letting people rape his dead corpse. I'm sure some were offended by the very notion of it. Others were probably disgusted. They'd have every right to be. But it didn't prevent people from laughing. Of course, this controversial joke doesn't imply that Louis C.K. is into necrophilia or that he supports rape in any form. He's a comedian. It's a joke. Everyone laughed. 

Likewise, Gervais told a transphobic joke. But let's not pretend that Gervais is a transphobe simply because he told a transphobic joke that one time when he was dishing it out to a trans who has actually killed someone, anymore than we'd think Louis C.K. is a sexual deviant with disgusting fetishes because he made a joke about it once.

The debate about what material comedians should be limited too is a useless and counter productive one. It seeks to limit the freedom of speech to only things which do not offend. It's politically correct, puritan, bullshit to suggest comedy, an entire genre of expression and speech, should be restricted to things that aren't offensive. Keep your Newspeak to yourself, thank you.

I suppose humor, and comedy, being subjective as they are have always been tied up with controversy. Consider the comedic genre of satire. 

Satire, mind you, is also offensive, for many of the same reasons. Satire can also play to the same vulgar or shocking content that epater les bourgeouis humor does and, assuredly, it's no less controversial. And unless you are prepared to censor all satire, then there really is no way you can censor epater les bourgeouis humor, or any other form of offensive humor, from the low brow to the high. 

The reason is, nobody has the right to dictate what you can or cannot say in a society that protects and regards, as an inalienable right, the freedom of speech.

When Voltaire wrote his satirical work Candide, he was exiled upon the threat of death. He had offended all the great politicians of his day, the king, as well as the Pope. Even Voltaire's language was considered vulgar, especially when he wrote things such as:

“I should like to know which is worse: to be ravished a hundred times by pirates, and have a buttock cut off, and run the gauntlet of the Bulgarians, and be flogged and hanged in an auto-da-fe, and be dissected, and have to row in a galley -- in short, to undergo all the miseries we have each of us suffered -- or simply to sit here and do nothing?'
That is a hard question,' said Candide.” 

Even by today's standards his language is pretty graphic and risque. Some may even find it offensive. And that's fine. But it doesn't make the joke any less funny. Or consider this line;

"A lady of honor may be raped once, but it strengthens her virtue." (Voltaire, Candide, Chapter 7)


Yes. Even rape jokes were not off limits to Voltaire. And those may be the hardest to pull off. 

Some might say, well, that joke crossed a line. Or that comedian crossed a line in saying what he or she did. But in the realm of comedy, I do not believe such boundaries exist.

That's what makes humor, and comedy, universal. These have no boundaries.

If you laugh at any of the jokes in Candide, it does not necessarily mean you agree with Voltaire's point of view about the world. It doesn't mean that you are putting others down by going along with the comedian and laughing at the bit. Sometimes our laughter is nervous laughter, sometimes it's an appreciation of the craft, and sometimes the joke is just genuinely funny while simultaneously being outrageous, offensive, or absurd.

Like right and wrong, humor and comedy are much more complex than just things that are or aren't funny. Humor is not black or white. Comedy utilizes well established formulas. There are genres of comedy. Comedy is scripted. It's a work of fiction, not so unlike a play, a movie, or a novel is. As a novelist, I write about murders. That doesn't mean I support murder. If a comic makes a transphobic or homophobic joke, it doesn't mean he supports transphobia or homophobia, necessarily speaking. That's an important distinction which it seems the entire Internet threw out the window along with the baby and the bath water after Ricky Gervais's controversial monologue at the Golden Globe awards.

Good comedians seem to be able to pull off even risque or controversial material well. Our taste in humor, our opinion of whether or not we found the joke particularly funny, is strictly a subjective exercise. In the end, we all have to make a judgement of whether or not the joke offends us. But if it does, so what? Who really cares other than the handful of people who just didn't get the joke? 

As the stand up comedian Louis C.K. says, if you didn't appreciate something he said during his act, what you can do is write down the reason why you didn't like it on a piece of paper, put the paper into your pocket, and then go home and kill yourself (yes, I always laugh at that bit). His point being, unless the joke is actually about you, it's not actually about you. The entire comedic routine is, as he says, a rhetorical exercise. 

So, think what you will about Ricky Gervais and his use of epater humor as he stood before the rich and famous and roasted a trans woman who was one of their own, but as a comedian I think he nailed it. I laughed, and I'm not transphobic, sexist, or anti-pay equality. In fact, I want universal acceptance and equal rights for the whole LGBT community as well as equal and fair treatment of women. I am a feminist writer and have written numerous articles defending women's rights and the feminist movement. To say I am against these things because I laughed at a joke that is in conflict with these things is simply to employ fallacious reasoning. 

What we should all try to do, I think, is try and be fair and realize that along with the complexity of humor there is a variety of tastes, tastes which are entirely subjective, and we may not necessarily be laughing at a joke for the same reasons. Our reasons are our own. And that's no reason to make a personal, moral judgement about anyone else other than ourselves. 

So you found Ricky Gervais offensive? Good for you. You didn't like his joke about Caitlyn Jenner. Fine.

Pushing back against the common place, conventional, and complacent views and attitudes of the general populace is a good thing. In my opinion, humor works best when it challenges us. And I find it can only do that when it pushes the boundaries of what society has set for itself as acceptable. It can push us to be better, or make us uncomfortable knowing we have utterly failed to be better, but either way -- such humor will always be necessary. It will always be a conversation starter.

The only people who don't get this, of course, are those without a sense of humor. In which case, I suppose the joke is on them.






**UPDATE**

Kat Blaque had me shamed off her FB page for making a rational argument of why there might be exceptions to "dead-naming" when it comes to high profile celebrities that were famous prior to their conversion to trans person.

I made the conscious decision to unfollow Kat Blaque. She's smart, but also angry. Perhaps too angry, since all she does is rant, and rant, and rant. And, I get it. She has a lot to be angry about. Life is unfair. And particularly, life is more unfair to a select group of minorities than others.

But one thing I cannot tolerate is rudeness. And Kat Blaque is rude. Condescending. And she would rather call you a transphobe then put an inkling of rational thought behind what you're saying. Don't get me wrong. She's smart and eloquent. But I think she gives herself too much credit.

Maybe we all do.

At any rate, I made the choice to unfollow her -- as I was tired of all the negativity and everyone who doesn't agree with her automatically falling into the camp of enemy -- which I have no time for.

That said, I was able to make 3 new trans friends from the exchanges I've had on there and who are all excellent, fun, and interesting people who I hope to get to know better in the coming days. So it wasn't all for not -- and that's a good thing.






Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist