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Why I’m Boycotting Steven Seagal

Steven_SeagalI’ve been a martial artist for more than three decades. Singing the praises of the benefits of the martial arts is second-nature to me: self-respect, self-confidence, self-defense. Just to name a few. And, I’ve enjoyed watching talented martial artists in movies over the years, even if the acting wasn’t always the best. The athleticism of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s jump spin crescent kick still makes me smile; Steven Seagal’s brand of aikido has always impressed me. Seagal’s fluidity of motion and speedy reaction-time prove his years of practice and dedication to his art.

More than not, I try to separate any celebrity’s personal life from his or her professional life. A good actor is a good actor, whether or not I agree with his political beliefs or how he handled his last divorce. However, I seem to have a threshold here. At some point, the celebrity’s personal life or beliefs become so abhorrent that it necessarily interferes with my view of his or her professional life. This is the case with Steven Seagal.

Putin_(cropped)According to this Reuter’s article, Steven Seagal openly attended and supported an event in Russia with Vladimir Putin. The event was for Putin’s announcement that he intended to implement a nationalized fitness program that mimics Stalin’s Communist-era fitness requirements. The program will even hold “students’ performance under the system should be taken into account when universities consider applications.”

As a firm believer in individual rights as innate to all (reference US Bill of Rights), I reject Communism outright. Though, this situation is much more than a disagreement on political views. Stalin was arguably one of the most violent, evil leaders in the history of the world. The Russian gulags killed anywhere between 15 and 30 million people (1) — just stop and think for a second about that. The entire country of Greece doesn’t even have 15 million people. (2)

CroppedStalin1943Putin’s nationalized fitness program is a piece of the Communist pie that Stalin served his unfortunate citizens more than a half-century ago. And when one piece of pie is in place, it won’t be long before the other pieces follow. In other words, as history has proven over and over again, once a country begins to treat citizens as a collective rather than as individuals, individuals eventually lose their liberties and even their lives.

And yet, Steven Seagal stood in support of Putin and his Communistic plan. I simply cannot in good conscience support someone who supports such vicious liberty-killing policies–whatever country it is in. While Steven Seagal has the right to support whatever political vision he wishes, I have the right to disagree. For this reason, I will no longer spend my hard-earned money buying Steven Seagal movies. I will no longer waste my valuable time viewing his movies that happen to be on television. I am boycotting Steven Seagal.

Reference:

(1) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/249117/Gulag

(2) https://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:GRC&dl=en&hl=en&q=greece%20population

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The “Nature” of Gun Control

LibertyBell, 1905 The Constitution of the United States secures every law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms without infringement. Yet today, 224 years after the Constitution was fully implemented as the supreme law of the land, there have been a number of laws passed and bills proposed to curtail law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms.

Why are we curtailing the rights of law-abiding citizens? What has changed in the last two centuries? I think one of the most fundamental changes is our view of human nature. It had taken the whole of man’s history to culminate in the founding of this country, where individual liberties were hailed as innate and good and, therefore, essential to a thriving society. There was a beneficent view of human nature, so much so that each man was deemed worthy of the same inalienable rights as kings (presidents).

Constitution_signatures-smallFor the Founding Fathers, not only should law-abiding citizens be able to protect themselves and their families when needed, but they could be trusted to act responsibly with their rights. This beneficent view of human nature was the foundation upon which they constructed the Constitution, securing every law-abiding citizen’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–and the right to bear arms in order to defend these rights (e.g., self-defense against an armed intruder in your home).

Contrary to the words and deeds of the Founding Fathers, today the rights of law-abiding citizens are being curtailed. Even if a person has never owned a gun, he is now only allowed to purchase certain kinds of guns and a certain amount of ammunition in many places. The implication from this is that if law-abiding citizens have a certain kind of weapon or own too much ammunition, then they will misuse them. From this perspective, the individual is corruptible; he will be driven to horrendous crimes such as armed robbery and murder if he possesses a gun that fires too quickly or if he has 50 more rounds than he is legally permitted.Thus, the recent legislation curtailing the right to bear arms has a much darker view of human nature than the view held by the Founding Fathers. The modern, pessimistic view of man’s nature says that law-abiding citizens cannot be trusted with their fundamental right to bear arms.

Browning_with_his_BAR - smallOne problem with this pessimistic theory of man’s nature is that certain groups of individuals are exempt, such as the police and the military who are still afforded full rights to keep and bear arms. I call this a “problem” because what are policemen and military personnel other than citizens like the rest of us? If you and I are susceptible to corruption by certain weapons and amounts of ammunition, then aren’t they just as susceptible? If so, shouldn’t their rights be curtailed equally? If not, it is imperative that we discover how these men and women retained their strong, honorable natures while the rest of us have come to possess weak, corruptible natures.

Another problem with this condemnation of man’s nature is that if law-abiding citizens can’t be trusted with one of their natural rights, then why should they be trusted with the rest of their rights? If our natures are so susceptible to harmful behavior, then any one of us would be capable saying something cruel and abusive to another person. Thus, shouldn’t our rights to free speech be curtailed?

Sound like a slippery slope? Where human nature is condemned, it can’t be anything else.

I have to wonder if we have really lost the optimism of the Founding Fathers? Can it be true that we are so afraid of our own natures that we have begun to willingly hand our rights over to other individuals–strangers–who are no more and no less human than ourselves? For this country’s sake, for every citizen who lives here, I certainly hope not.

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Daylight Savings in the Modern World?

Schwarzwald_Uhr_Kupferstiche-ClockYes, I know. Set the clocks ahead one hour tonight. As a friend of mine wisely noted today, “All of these reminders to set my clock 1 hour forward. Too bad we didn’t have Facebook in the ’80s. My smartphone and computer automatically takes care of these things now.” Welcome to the modern world!.

But all of this begs the question. Why on earth do we, like clockwork, set the clocks forward and backward every year?

BenFranklinDuplessis

A brief history of daylight savings time:

1. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin encouraged changing the clocks in order to save on candles. (1)

Response: I’m not sure about you, but I have a few dozen candles I would like to be rid of. Thank you electricity.

2. It was used during WWII to conserve energy. (1)

Response: Again, we have this problem of historic necessity. Just in case it was in doubt: WWII is over.

The real question is: are there are any good reasons to continue daylight savings time in the modern world. The predominant reasons given for daylight savings are the same reasons given historically–to save money and energy. And who doesn’t want to save money and energy? But, the cheerleader “rah, rah save energy and money” theme needs more than words; it needs outcomes.

Does daylight savings time (in actuality) save us money or energy? The answer seems to be no for both. Most studies show little or no energy savings with daylight savings time. According to one study, “In Indiana, daylight saving time caused a 1 percent jump in electricity.” (2)

If we aren’t saving energy, we aren’t saving money. If we are saving neither time nor money, then the reasons for daylight savings time are moot.

Interesting tidbit: States are not required by federal law to participate in daylight savings time. Hawaii and Arizona are the lucky two states that have chosen not to participate.

References:

(1)  http://news.discovery.com/human/health/why-do-we-have-daylight-savings-time.htm

(2) http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2013/0308/Daylight-saving-time-Can-springing-ahead-save-energy-or-money

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Differentiating Selfishness and Self-Interest

In popular rhetoric, selfishness and self-interest are used almost interchangeably. If you say you did something out of self-interest, you will be vilified for a selfish ingrate. Yet, self-interest is written into the foundations of this country as an essential component to our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

So what is the difference?

The selfishness that our kindergarten teachers, parents, preachers, and government warns us about is, for simplicity’s sake, any self-fulfilling action a person takes that harms another person’s individual rights.

Example: Susie takes Johnny’s  toy truck. Susie might be happy that she now has the truck, but taking the truck would have been a selfish action because the truck belonged to Johnny and Susie took it without permission. Easy enough, right?

On the other hand, self-interested actions are those that bring us benefit while not harming another person’s individual rights.

Example: Maggie buys a new dress with money she earned from her job. Maggie is happy and no person’s rights were harmed in the process. Again, pretty simple.

So, why the difficulty? Why the confusion of these two words in popular rhetoric? I think there are a couple of overlapping reasons that can be summed up quickly: we’ve been conditioned to reject the self. Recriminations for being selfish start when we are very young and continue throughout our lives. And, while we hear condemnations for selfishness, self-sacrifice (either for God, for Society, or for the State) is heralded as virtuous. We get the double-whammy lesson every day of our lives. And, much like putting our hand on a lit stove–we may do it once, but thereafter we become instinctively wary of lit stoves.

It is important to differentiate these two words and to re-examine their true meaning because self-interest is a motivating force in each of us–motivating us to get up and work towards our own happiness. This is the secret that the Founding Fathers recognized as essential for society. For if each individual is allowed to pursue his own happiness as he sees fit (without harming the rights of another), he will likely be more motivated, more productive, and happier. And even though it is a secondary consideration, if each and every man acts in this way, society as a whole can only benefit.