Thursday, January 24, 2008

Atheism Isn't Easy

One of the criticisms I hear from time to time about atheists (with a small "a" - used to describe all manner of non-believers, not all of whom consider themselves Atheists) is that they have chosen the easy way out. Atheism means never having to answer to a supreme being, and getting to choose your own moral standards to live by.

I'm not going to deal with the absurdity of that claim on the whole, but rather the assumption that atheism is easy.

Becoming an atheist is (or was for me) an easy decision to make. Essentially I had changed my world-view to the point where the evidence I had seen for the existence of God was no longer good enough to satisfy me. I didn't even choose it, I just couldn't believe anymore.

But that's the end of the easy part. From there on it gets difficult.

The realisation that there is no afterlife was a difficult one. It still is. I still tend to default to the childish image in my mind of my late grandparents watching over me from Heaven. And every time I do, it hits me again that there is no Heaven, and that my grandparents really are dead. And I have to mourn them again, even if only for a moment. That doesn't seem to get easier.

And then there's the free will thing. Although I don't believe in free will as such, I must subscribe to the illusion of it, because that is how our society is structured. It means that I am always ultimately responsible for my choices and actions. Even though, under the circumstances, I couldn't have acted any differently, I must still be held accountable for what I do.

I no longer have the security of faith in a friendly omnipotent being looking over my shoulder and shielding me from life's harshest manifesations. Of course I never had that protection, but I was comforted by the belief that I did. It meant that no matter what I said or did, there was always a safety net to catch me if I went too far astray. God would always be there to help me, and that meant an awful lot.

I don't have that guiding hand anymore. I'm on my own now, and every choice or action I make can have lasting consequences for me and those close to me.

One one hand that's liberating: I'm not bound by any divine imperative. But on the other hand it scares the crap out of me. One questions haunts me: What if I don't get it right?

Technology Addiction

This is dumb.

It's pretty stupid to describe it as an addiction to "technology". It's like describing alcoholism as an addiction to "fluids".

We are all, by definition, addicted to technology in some form or another. To suggest that our technology is in any way separate from ourselves is a short sighted and ignorant statement.

These people are merely familiar with communications technology, recognise the benefits of it over face-to-face interaction. They may well be addicted to the stimulus of receiving messages via that technology (I've been there), but that is the addiction, not the technology itself.

This is perfect Oprah fodder. I predict that she will have a show soon on exactly this topic, and will bang on about how harmful "technology" is. And all her little minions will dutifully watch this on their televisions and then go and order the latest book from Oprah's Book Club on her official website.

Then they'll go around living their lives, using electricity, indoor plumbing, driving cars, wearing clothes and shoes, taking medicine and reading books honestly oblivious to the fact that they are just as "addicted" to technology as everyone else.

That even counts for the Amish and other crazy people: Where did you get that plow, Jebediah? That's some nifty woven cloth that your buttonless shirt is made from, Jacob!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Shed This!

In the interests of pursuing George Carlin's ongoing war against the dilution of descriptive language, I wish to implore my fellow South Africans to resist the despicable euphemism being thrust upon us by the Powers That Be around here.

"Load Shedding" is a term that cropped up a few months ago when Eskom (the South African power-supply company, partially owned by the government) were unable to meet the power usage needs of our flourishing civilisation, and were forced to switch off certain areas of the power grid from time to time.

Don't get me wrong, the term clearly has a specific technical meaning that is probably very relevant to the folks in the power-generation business. But it is of no concern to us, the consumers, who rely on that power not only for our comfort and convenience, but in some cases for our livelihoods and even for our very lives! To us, using a term like this is a blatant attempt to make a bad thing sound like a technical necessity, and something that we should be 'on-board' with... in the public interest.

I call bullshit.

I submit that we should resist allowing these pompous Public Relations BMIs (Brainfart Marketing Idiots) to twist our vocabulary to conceal their shortcomings. I suggest that we call these events what they really are: Power Failures.

That is, in essence, what they are. Loadshedding is a direct result of the utter failure of those in power to adequately predict, plan for and provide for our needs. It is a failure by those in power... a power failure.

Let us not mince words, and let me post this before the next scheduled Power Failure takes effect.