Unpopular Opinions

This is not an April Fools Day Joke.

I’ve struggled recently with feeling intimidated by the opinions of the world. It has seemed to me like I don’t have the strength to live my own beliefs, largely because I don’t have the strength to live with the intense discomfort that comes from always disagreeing with someone, no matter the issue.

So today I’m going to test that out. I’m going to take a high dive into uncharted waters by listing my opinions about many difficult things.

 

My hero

 

– I am strongly against polyamory. There are exceptions, sure, but I think they’re a small fraction of the people practicing. Polyamory, as a community, is against a perceived selfishness. This is good. But I see a staggering amount of unacknowledged selfishness in polyamory.

– I am strongly, strongly in favor of gay marriage and full gay rights. In fact, I’m in favor of state support for any voluntary union of people (so I would support state recognition of polyamory).

– I am completely agnostic about most religious questions. I don’t think we can know, I don’t value faith for faith’s sake, and I do not think it’s cowardly to “refuse to take a position”. I think brave and modest to admit that I don’t know.

– But I really, really don’t believe in the Christian sky god. If you pray for safe travel on an airplane, you’re doing it wrong. There’s just no such god who will glide your plane to a safe landing because you’re inside it.

– I am severely opposed to public shareholder corporations. All of them. Even the good ones. This is because I think this model devolves responsibility and encourages group sociopathy in pursuit of the profit motive.

– In cases of public good, like healthcare and the environment, I don’t just believe in public regulation or a public system. I believe in nationalizing the industries that operate in these spaces. That puts me far beyond socialist.

– But I also believe, generally speaking, that political ideology applied across the board is incredibly foolish. Libertarian, authoritarian, conservative, liberal, hands on business, hands off business: decide these things on a case by case basis, pragmatically. Otherwise you’ll make big mistakes.

– I don’t believe in an afterlife. But I hope for one, only so that I can see my grandfather. I really hope I can see him again. I don’t care if this is rational.

– I personally want to get married and stay married forever, and when a marriage ends in divorce, I consider it a failure, even if it had to happen, even if it happened for understandable reasons. I say this even though I got married and, in under a year, divorced. It was a failure. I hope to learn from it.

– I favor birth control to the max. I favor less people. I want the earth to slowly return to having the number of people it can reasonably sustain.

– I’m truly ambivalent about whether we (humans) should be here (in existence). An awesome professor of mine once said “the question that keeps me up at night is: will we survive as a species or will we allow ourselves to die somehow?” My response was: “the one that keeps me up at night is: do we deserve to survive? Your question is the answer to my question. If we manage to live as a species, I feel like we deserve it. If we die, I also feel like we deserve it.”

– You’re not qualified to vote at the national level, reader. Neither am I. Claim all you want that you pay attention to the details and that you’re well informed, but deep down we both know it’s become too complex for a human being to understand.

– I am sex positive. Sex is a good thing. A healthy thing.

– I am also in favor of masturbation. Masturbation is to sex as reading is to living life. Come on, people. We don’t disrespect other people for reading.

– I support the free expression and exploration of gender. That guy’s wearing a tutu: awesome.

– I am against abortion. I really am. But I don’t view it in terms of human life; it’s not murder to me at all. I view it along the same lines as putting a pet to sleep. I would really rather it not happen. On the other hand, I don’t grieve for the loss of human life. Life is only as valuable as it is lived, and unwanted children forced on unwanting parents probably don’t live good lives. I don’t believe in Choice. But I think the Pro Life movement is crazed and horrible, and I think less abortion comes from more birth control, not from legislation.

– The US Constitution is mostly outdated nonsense.

– Reading is a beautiful thing. I want a library. I imagine a lot of you want libraries. In fact, I want to join with my friends in my older middle age and pool our book collections to open a library.

– The jezebel.com version of modern feminism sure does love to go on witch hunts, especially against people who halfway agree with it. It’s aggravating, or often downright terrifying. But despite that I still say, down with the patriarchy!

– It turns out LA is actually really nice and underrated by my standard social groups.

– I love biking. I think biking more and driving less (if not giving up cars entirely except for trips between cities) is the future. In fact, I honestly want cities like Houston, which are organized around long commutes in traffic, to slowly fall apart into ghost towns. How do I square this with liking LA? LA has money and the people are susceptible to appearance pressure. When car commuting is as unpopular as smoking cigarettes, the people of LA will use their money to fix public transport in their city. This will never happen in Houston.

– Both sides of the US political process are corrupt and problematic, but in recent years, only one side (the conservative side) has actively lost touch with reality, and only one side (the conservative side) is setting all the good things on fire.

– War is a racket. I do not support the troops. I say this as the child and grandchild of proud US military veterans. I grew up on military bases and deeply love the culture and ethos of those places, and I personally love most of the military and ex military people I have known. But I think the idea that patriotism requires I support them in killing is crazy. I do not. I wish they never did those things.

– I would vote for almost any politician who openly planned to cut military or police state spending. I won’t vote for any politician who has no intention of doing these things. So I’ve never yet voted at the national level. Not for a senator, or a congressional representative, or a president. And I’m actually proud of that.

– I like Barack Obama as a person, and I’m really really glad he won both of his terms, and I support almost all of his domestic agenda, and I prefer his foreign policy to that of any recent republican, but I’m proud that I didn’t vote for him, because he openly never had any intention of reducing the military industrial complex or the police state.

– Patriotism really is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Best to wipe it from the heart. We live on a ball in dead empty space. I keep hoping you can see that we’re more or less all on the same team; us against death and emptiness.

– I can only think of three international disputes where I have an emotional stake in one side. I support the whole world against North Korea (obvious), Scotland breaking off of Great Britain (less obvious), and Palestine’s right to a state with decent borders and no interference from Israel (not at all obvious if you’re an American). (If Scotland votes for independence in the Fall referendum, I’ll paint Scottish flags on my face, my car, and my clothing. Despite what I just said about patriotism.)

– Silicon Valley makes me unbearably sad. It breaks my heart. All this talent, all this power and wealth and revolutionary spirit… used to make twitter apps. And photo sharing sites. And to push for ever higher and higher salaries. With a few exceptions (Elon Musk, really), it is a staggering waste of gifts.

– TED has produced some amazing talks, which have given me great food for thought, but on balance, I agree with the recent commentator who called TED “middlebrow megachurch infotainment”.

– Swearing is no indication of poor communication skills. It’s goddamned valuable spice for the language. I words mouth say better than most of you, and I swear incessantly. I directly put the lie to that old bullshit.

– You’re not bad at math. I don’t care who you are. You’re not bad at math. You just had bad teachers. Most math teachers in the US are bad teachers. It’s such a shame.

– I think most Christians aren’t real Christians. Not as the religion is intended. If you help the poor; if you believe it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven; if you consider your own sexual “sins” instead of castigating gay people; if you found it in your heart to love Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, or at least tried to do all these things, then in my book you are a real Christian. And you know what? Real Christian, I love you. You are actually an amazing, underrated force for good in the world.

– I love the big, dirty, architecturally magnificent, dense, vibrant large cities, and most of the people who live in them. I love the vast, empty, green and blue and granite grey wilderness, and most of the people who make tiny towns in it. I am not such a big fan of the stuff in between these two extremes.

– Charlemagne is reputed to have said, “To know another language is to have a second soul”. It is a tragedy that I have never maintained a second language.

– Travel is the antidote to parochialism. Every person possessing the means should, at least once, leave town, leave state, leave country. Live, if possible, somewhere else. If you have not done this, there are aspects of your local area that you think are universal truths. You are wrong; they are not.

– In particular, against all conventional wisdom, I think it is extremely healthy for children to make at least one major move in childhood, so that they develop some ability to see what is universal and what is merely the product of local culture.

– Cynicism withers the human spirit. I’m more guilty of it than most of you. Depending on your viewpoint, there’s even a lot of cynicism in this blog post. I know that. But I believe in optimism, and I try to practice it. I hope I will keep getting better at it.

– What I want most in my lifetime: for the human spirit to flourish in all people. What does that mean? It means I want all of you to follow the paths that lead to really good versions of you.

– If you can spend all of tomorrow watching TV, or gardening with your friends, and you know gardening with your friends will make you happier and healthier, and give you better memories, then I want you to spend tomorrow gardening with your friends, not watching TV. That’s what I mean.

– Compromise is the bedrock of all relationships. I understand that if i could not compromise on the things on this list, I would be totally alone. So these are not the things I require of you, reader. They’re just the things in my own heart.

This post is, of course, a sort of performance art. It’s likely to stir up controversy, which will be difficult for me, but I pay the cost for the following reason. The performance I want to make is this: if you get angry, please remember that each of your friends would make you angry if you got to read that friend’s full list of controversial opinions, and that, if you wrote out a full list of your controversial opinions, each of your friends would be angry at something on the list.

For myself, I want to make it harder to hide inside a bubble of niceness and pretense. For most people reading this: We are friends. Now it’s right out there in the open that we disagree about something. But I still want to be friends.

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