Friday, July 27, 2007

On the Ethics of Moshing

Sonshine 2007, the highlight of my entire year, ended recently. A new year now begins and with it arise fresh questions in my mind regarding the ethical dimension of moshing. Like the crazed bodies colliding in the chaotic mosh pit, I have uneasy thoughts bouncing back and forth inside my mind. Before this year’s festival, I had never seriously entered the pit for more than a few seconds. Normally at concerts, I stand at a safe distance from the mosh pit and nod my head gently with the beat of the songs, happily enjoying the live performance. However, this time I jumped into the mosh pit repeatedly to smash the people around me. “Oh heavens!” one might think, “Why would our nice little Ben want to get mixed up in all that angriness?” To be honest, I never felt angry at all. It was merely a social experiment. I hoped to learn about the experience of moshing and why people enjoy such behavior. Using your body as a hammer to beat other human beings seems contrary to the fifth commandment, at least indirectly. My experiences in the pit have led to the conclusion that moshing can be at least partially unethical, particularly when it involves women. Further, those who mosh necessarily face serious handicaps in their ability to appreciate the performance.
Before a typical show, concertgoers start to clump up near the stage as the sound check commenced with shockwaves of double bass drumming that shook our chest cavities like the blasts of a belt-fed .50 caliber machine gun. Sound engineers tweaked the PA system while the screeches of vibrating guitar strings and vocal cords trailed off into the distance, attracting passersby. I could feel the tension mounting as people gathered. Sure, that sounds like a generic description, but it fits because I could tell that people waited eagerly for the first breakdown the way starving lions crouch in long grass, anticipating the passing of a zebra. Sure enough, at the first whiff of a breakdown, people started smashing into one another. It was not long before the blood began to flow and EMTs hauled bodies off to the hospital. A lady told me this year that over the many decades of this festival, nobody has ever died at Sonshine and I suppose I have to believe her because I have never seen someone get killed in the pit, but after observing the stupidity of some people at the shows, I would not be terribly surprised to learn of a fatality. For some reason, people at Sonshine seemed to be uncommonly vicious this year.
When I started going to hard music concerts, it was all the rage to crowd surf. However, crowds at rock concerts now mosh much more often, at least at the shows I have attended. On the other hand, “hardcore dancing” currently is probably even more widespread. “Dancing,” for short, does not harm anybody in most instances. It involves pusillanimous emo kids performing absurd dance moves with lots of aimless spinning, kicking, and punching through space. The dancing strikes me as incredibly stupid and random, but dancers actually have pre-choreographed moves and even routines involving multiple people. Emo kids and dancers frequently wear ridiculously tight girl jeans and often have long swooshy hair styles. Girls and guys look nearly indistinguishable in this crowd of people. Their whole scene disgusts me, so when I went into the mosh pit and had to start smashing people, I would usually look for the emo kids. They were my least favorite demographic (note: emo kids are not synonymous with dancers, but there is a lot of overlap between the two groups).
Moshing is a whole different matter and it does entail people getting hurt. There are ways, though, of hurting people that are less immoral than others. For example, during one concert at the Sonshine Mainstage, where the bass is strong enough to jiggle your pectorals, I saw a guy in the pit with blood leaking out of both nostrils and dribbling down his lips. Someone had likely smashed him in the face with an elbow or some other swinging appendage. Had the person who struck him been immoral? It is possible, but the bloodied guy with a smashed face had invited this abuse when he stepped into the mosh pit. In fact, after having his face smashed, he gritted his teeth and charged back for more after being shoved out of the pit several times. In other words, he asked for it. The pushing, hitting, throwing, and other random violence of the mosh pit can be condemned easily in other settings where such conduct is unquestionably unethical. On the other hand, in the pit, when people smack into one another during one breakdown and then grin, waiting for the next opportunity to resume the collisions, can we really cry foul?
This is different than the scenario where a large stage diver lands on unsuspecting small people and breaks their necks. I have never seen broken necks at Sonshine, but I do know it happens elsewhere. In the past, I have had fat people surprise me by landing on my head and snapping my neck until it cracks (thank God it did no lasting damage). In a different instance, a stage diver unexpectedly hit me so hard that I thought my eyeball had been popped by his heel. In cases like these, people act unethically by hurting those who do not volunteer for bodily harm.
At Sonshine this year, one girl had to be carried out of the concert by the EMTs and hooked up to oxygen after being squished by a big stage diver. On the ground, outside the concert, she sucked air in and blew it out so violently it appeared that she was convulsing from the shock delivered by the heavy body. After this happened, one of the concert organizers ordered everybody to stop stage diving because of its potential to cause serious injury. I became upset when people began stage diving even more frequently during the next few concerts. It angered me that some individuals could have such a reckless disregard for the safety of the other fans. Clearly, this is wrong, but what about normal moshing?
As beings created in the image of God, we have a responsibility to treat one another in ways that recognize our human dignity. One of the big questions that I continue to wrestle with is whether or not a person acts contrary to this identity when he moshes. Consider two young brothers who enjoy wrestling with one another just for the fun of it. It can be a wonderful and natural recreational activity for boys who need to burn off energy. While wrestling, they squeeze, twist, and tackle one another, exerting their strength in ways that could be considered “violent” by some. Does this conflict with their human dignity? No. Then why would simple moshing deviate from the respect due to the sons of God?
Obviously, people break their noses and have serious accidents while playing sports like rugby. Though people may complain that it is a rough sport, they do not look on in horror as they do when viewing violent moshing. I am guessing that the loud music and disorganized appearance of moshing intimidates people worse than rough sports played on an open field. Believe it or not, there are rules of proper conduct in the mosh pit. For example, if someone suffers a blow so hard that it knocks him to the ground, it is customary for everybody nearby to stop immediately and heave the crumpled body to a standing position before the person gets trampled by others. This is in the interest of preventing serious injuries and maintaining a spirit of fun instead of outright bloodlust. The goal is not to kill people. Rather, a sense of camaraderie and concern for fellow moshers represents the most common mentality. In this aspect, moshing respects the individual more than many sports do since it is rare for a whole sports team to drop everything in the middle of play to assist a single fallen man.
However, the moral landscape of the mosh pit changes dramatically with the introduction of women. My crushing of a guy is not morally equivalent to my crushing of a girl. Let me state here that I firmly believe in the equal value and dignity of men and women. This does not mean, though, that I think it is right for a man to treat women the same way he treats other men. Women deserve special honor and consideration. Men are obligated to cherish women in ways that go beyond any kind of esteem shown to other men. As one simple manifestation of this, women should expect men to show them a higher level of courtesy. Sadly, in the pit, it is impossible for men to be very courteous at all toward the female moshers. In fact, it is almost necessary to smash into the girls. When I first threw bodies spiraling across the pit and crashed them into other people, I actually did pitch a few women. This lasted only a short while before I felt the moral weight of my actions tugging at my soul. The guilt of treating women in this way seriously disturbed me. At all costs, I avoided bumping into girls while in the mosh pit for the remainder of the festival following that initial experience.
In addition, I did not allow my sister, who attended the concerts with me, to enter any of the mosh pits, mostly because it threatened her safety. I, however, did mosh a bit. To avoid getting injured seriously, I had to make sure nobody hit me from the rear, since unanticipated strikes are the most threatening. I defended against blows from behind by circling around the perimeter of the pit, always facing the center. This way, I only had to guard against frontal assaults and did not have to worry about being hit from behind. The most dangerous thing to do is to jump into the middle of the writhing bodies because it is there that one most easily gets knocked to the ground by blows from the rear and then trampled (sometimes you get stomped on before people can pick you up). There in the middle, the most feral people, the ones who end up bleeding and injured, shove and hit each other from all directions, making defense impossible. Consequently, I only ventured into this dangerous area a few times and when I did, it was for brief periods. Strategically, it made more sense to circle around those in the middle, keeping the action in front of me. While circling, I picked up stray bodies (ideally, emo kids) and hurled them at others near the middle. A few times, I even launched people past the center and all the way to the opposite side of the pit. It reminded me of the way some children will shoot Matchbox cars across the kitchen floor, sending them into head on collisions with the wall or with other cars.
The circle pit is a bit of a different story. Participating in a circle pit is probably the safest alternative to traditional moshing. For those who do not know, a circle pit involves people running, skipping, skanking, or dancing in some other fashion around a circle in the counterclockwise direction. When a band calls for a circle pit or when the audience decides to form one, those in the middle of the crowd will shove people back, clearing a circle on the floor that can be big enough to accommodate anywhere from a few people to the entire audience. Larger crowds and faster music usually lead to bigger circle pits that more closely resemble an organized stampede. Those around the perimeter bounce people back in, like bumpers, if they stumble out of the cyclone of flesh. When a person falls, the same rules apply as in the mosh pit where those nearby must assist the fallen to their feet in the interest of preventing serious injuries.
Still, circle pits can be frightening. At the pleading of my sister one time, I jumped into a circle pit with her and circumnavigated it a couple of times. While doing so, she slipped on the concrete floor, fell, and almost got trampled, but while running, I scooped her up with one arm and kept her moving ahead of the people behind us. To my surprise, we got out safely. There are of course, variations on the simple circle pit, such as “The Meat Grinder,” where three simultaneous circle pits rotating in different directions “grind” into one another. One can imagine the potential for injury in this sort of pit, as seen at Flatfoot 56 shows.
Ultimately, I see no serious ethical problems with circle pits. Though they lack the grace of contra dancing and the like, circle pits are merely large-scale organized dances, in their purest form. Guys and girls, big and small can all enjoy circle pits because they are not based on violent activity. This contrasts with moshing and other crowd participation activities of the more dangerous variety. Head Walking is one practice that seems particularly wrong because it is almost guaranteed to harm others, at least to some extent. As I have seen it done, people will leap off stage and try to walk/run on the heads and shoulders of the fans standing below. With their weight distributed over a very small area, “head walkers” can easily hurt even the toughest front row fans. “The Braveheart,” a.k.a. “The Wall of Death,” is hard to condemn in the same way. If people get hurt while performing The Braveheart, they probably deserve it. This one requires fans to split down the middle of the venue so that both sides face each other across a divide of twenty yards or more. Then each person picks out someone on the opposite side and at the correct moment of the song, they all charge toward their targets like infantry trying to break an enemy’s front line. When the bodies of both sides smash together, it becomes clear how this maneuver received its titles.
While all of this can be amusing in a way, it distracts from the show. Admittedly, bands like to stir up the crowd and get people moving, but when moshing, one’s attention gets taken away from the musical performance. When I go to a concert, I intend to enjoy the musicianship of the artists on stage. That’s what I pay for when I buy a ticket. The last thing I need is for my kneecap to break off in the middle of a show (that happened to a cousin of our friends this year). Such medical emergencies take one’s attention away from the band and completely spoil the evening. Obviously, when somebody gets knocked unconscious by a moronic stage diver, he cannot enjoy the show from the stretcher that carries him off to the emergency room. Even if one’s activity in the pit does not result in a trip to the hospital, its distracting nature prevents the best possible enjoyment of the performance. For instance, the hardcore dancers certainly cannot witness the handiwork of a talented guitar player when they are preoccupied with their hairdos or with the next “cool” move they plan to show off. For these practical reasons, all the nonsense that goes on in or around the mosh pit can be very detrimental to the concert experience. This alone should be enough of an incentive to avoid the mosh pit area, even without considering the inherent ethical problems.
So we are left with the question, “Are concertgoers obligated to avoid the mosh pit?” No, not necessarily. It is acceptable for a guy to participate in normal moshing, as long as he accepts the risks involved and does not put himself in extraordinary danger. If this rule is followed, moshing poses little more risk than regular roughhousing with friends. Also, if a guy wants to mosh, he must avoid manhandling women. If this becomes impossible, he should exit the pit. In addition, he must make every effort to prevent women around him from being smashed by other guys. Smaller girls are especially at risk of sustaining injuries from larger males. Stupid decisions made by women in the pit can lead to their injury more readily than idiotic choices made by men. Guys have a special obligation to look out for the ladies and treat them with the utmost respect, even when those of the fairer sex make imprudent judgments while moshing. Though the broadly accepted code of ethics allow for women in the pit, I believe it is generally distasteful for them to join in the most violent sorts of moshing. Also, during moshing and its derivative activities, women put themselves at great risk for being groped. Sadly, not all men treat women with due reverence. Thus, women would be wise to keep their guard up.
Then again, the circle pit is a different story. As stated previously, women should feel free to take part in the circle pit. However, both women and men must wear adequate shoes that prevent slipping and tripping. One slip could result in not only the trampling of one person, but the pileup of many people who trip consecutively over the first body. Deviations from the traditional circle pit, such as The Meat Grinder, can fall into the violent moshing category and thus may be subject to the corresponding set of rules. These cases must be judged on the spot by a well-formed conscience.
The Braveheart, and similar voluntary orchestrations of pain are morally unacceptable if a participant uses them as opportunity to hurt other people. This kind of thing is unobjectionable only if it is done with the intention of having innocently rowdy fun. Malice and other unstable emotions should never factor into one’s motivation. Suffering personal injuries in this type of scenario is morally equivalent to blowing off your own hand with a firecracker. The blame for all injuries falls squarely on the injured person who willingly engaged in the dangerous activity. As one should avoid lighting firecrackers with short fuses, one should also stay out of excessively dangerous pits. Failure to do so is self-destructive and immoral.
Lastly, Head Walking and other practices that intentionally hurt other people are totally unethical and morally condemnable. No one should engage in these because they conflict with human dignity and the overall spirit of a good rock show. The best way to enjoy a concert is to engage in pit activity for only short periods, if at all, so that one has sufficient opportunity to appreciate the musical performance.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dogs, Rabbits, Tom Daymont, Rats, Deer,...

Ok, so Tom is a fan of my blog. Yeah! In his honor, here is a little thing I wrote today, nothing much, just a few random thoughts.

After watching Disney’s rendition of Bambi and seeing all the happy, talkative animals, one’s perception of the distinction between the animal kingdom and the human race might blur. As children, many of us had pets, played with Care Bears, and watched cartoons featuring anthropomorphic animal characters that had seemingly normal relationships with other animals and even with humans. The common, fluffy image of self-aware animals found in much of pop culture (influenced by groups like PETA) leaves many people with a view of animals that comes from an emotionally satisfying land of make-believe (like Disneyland). As Descartes reminds us, "there is no prejudice to which we are all more accustomed from our earliest years than the belief that dumb animals think."
Sadly, it seems that many people in our modern culture identify with Peter Pan in their desire to never grow up. They refuse to leave Disneyland. Of course, this has implications that reach much farther than how we view animals, but the popular perspective on "non-human animals" is an interesting indication of a larger problem. The sense of human dignity within our society continues to dwindle while simultaneously, we have to put up with nonsense from animal rights activists who claim that animals are people too. Though it may be fun to pretend, we ought to recognize that, in reality, humanity possesses a unique dignity that places it in a position that supercedes all animal life.
The reason we see happy fluffy animals in children’s cartoons is that they help create an escape from reality that provides some measure of pleasure and satisfaction. It should be plain to all that a talking bunny that laughs, cries, and has relationships with other animals is much more fun to watch than a fat old rabbit that spends its life mindlessly hopping along the exact same path everyday until being eaten by a hawk. The latter is reality. Similarly, it gives some people pleasure to "fight" for animal rights as if they were in the midst of a noble struggle to free the slaves during the Civil War, or other such conflict. I have seen the propaganda spread by PETA, which very effectively uses imagery and language to perpetuate the idea that they work toward some kind of liberation of cute little fluffy animals in their crusade for freedom and equality, or something to that effect.
This is where the problem comes in. Too often, like a girl in class the other day, people personify animals by attributing to them human qualities such as emotion. This seems to justify, at least in the thinking of some, the elevation of animals to the dignity of humanity. The elevation to human status naturally demands that we refrain from eating meat, using leather, etc out of respect for animal life. The next point people occasionally make in their reasoning involves correlating an "oppression" of animals with sexism or racism within the human race. In doing so, they have equated the black man to a dog, a very dehumanizing maneuver in their argument.
This mindset soon transitions into the assumption that humans are animals just like Bambi. The previously mentioned girl from class actually made this transition in her reasoning within a matter of two or three sentences. She wound up claiming that humans were merely animals. Again, looking to popular culture, we can see many more manifestations of this attitude, which bring greater decay to our society. For example, consider the song by Bloodhound Gang called "The Bad Touch," which was famous a few years ago. Its catchy chorus includes the lines "You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals/So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel/Gettin' horny now." In many ways, our culture excuses beastly behavior, extolling a degrading image of humanity that reduces us to creatures no better than dogs driven purely by the urge to satisfy immediate desires. Surely, this song is not proof of anything, but if you look at other music, network TV shows, movies, beer commercials, the rates at which young people have sex outside of marriage, broken families, deadbeat fathers who flee responsibility, and the greater picture of how our culture operates, one can easily see a move away from human dignity and toward a prevalence of bestial behavior.
As a final note in this brief piece, I will mention that our unique human dignity and value is the reason we ought to treat ourselves and one another with greater respect. Human life is worth far more than that of an animal. This is the reason nobody will keep a comatose rabbit alive in a hospital for years, but people will readily take such measures in the care of a human family member. If this degradation of humanity continues much longer, life support will be replaced by the more convenient practice of putting undesired people to sleep in the same way we kill stray cats.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Late Night Assignment

The flesh under my fingernails starts to turn purple as a chilled January breeze wafts in through my open window and across my shadowed figure, which sits hunched over a pile of books and a well-worn keyboard. Light from a tall, cold stainless steel lamp casts golden light across my right side, while my left remains obscured by the darkness of this frigid room. Half of my body is natural, the flesh appearing warm and alive while the other half, as seen from the frosty window, appears to be little more than an empty silhouette. Graffiti on my ceiling calls out obscenities from on high while a clock dangling from the dirty wall deceptively displays daylight savings time, an hour ahead of winter’s reality, encouraging the futile hope for longer, warmer days. Old gray shreds of duct tape cling partially to the wall so that when the frozen air whistles across my windowsill, they dance at first, then flap lifelessly as the icy wind stiffens them, like rigor mortis overcoming the pale flesh of a new corpse. Unnaturally long and bony shadows of my fingers stretch out across the desk and flitter along the scattered refuse as I type anxiously with an occasional shivering gyration. The force of an involuntary convulsive shiver knocks my Nalgene bottle and a mostly eaten bag of potato chips to the matted and gritty carpet below. Lacking the will power to prevent this worsening mess, I ignore the spilling water and scattered potato chip crumbs covering my garbage-coated floor. In this oppressive dimness, the usually light blue carpet covering vomit-colored tile on which I sit appears darker than muddy lake water under a moonless night sky. Barely discernable in one corner of this cold sea of blackness is a stained old mattress that sits suspended over my futon by four wobbly wooden legs of a creaking loft. The futon’s ratty cushion sags and oozes from every side, a result of my abuse over many years. Opposite of the futon is my bed hiding under rumpled covers and a displaced sheet. From what can be seen of it, one might think the bed is merely an overflow of the random plastic bags, candy wrappers, papers, math assignments, junk food containers, text books, and other garbage piled high on my desk and surrounding areas. As my eyelids force themselves shut against my weakening will, I hear the pile of filth in which I sleep calling to me. I abandon this writing and turn toward the numbing shadow, my back to the lamp. Now I surrender my will to the darkness in return for the incapacitating void of sleep. It’s 3:00am. My being collapses. The night consumes me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Diversity is Destructive?

OK, first off, I don't post much. I feel very bad about that, but as a math and physics guy with a life on the side, I don't have time for blogging. It is quite regrettable. Anyway, here is the unedited, and in some ways, unpolished version of an article I wrote a while ago for The Counterweight, a conservative newspaper on campus. My criticism of my school's policies extend to many schools beyond St. Olaf. Anyway, have a look.

Is Diversity Destructive?

Sometimes I get the feeling that diversity is a word that describes everything except that which is white, male, straight, Christian, American, English, patriotic, or conservative. Whether consciously or unconsciously, St. Olaf seems to promote this definition of the "d-word" through a never-ending celebration of certain differences between students. Interestingly, these celebrations of diversity usually focus categories of people rather than people themselves. Ultimately, the guise of multiculturalism conceals the segregation of students and their self worth into these separate categories, creating division, not unity. Unfortunately, the buzzword, "diversity," that people hyperventilate about on our campus gets abused most of the time and rarely do people apply it in the most constructive way.
Instead of emphasizing that all men are created equal, the prevalent message on campus preaches that all cultures are equal. I beg to differ. As human beings, we all share the same dignity and thus deserve the same respect. However, some cultures are superior to others. For example, when comparing two societies that are the same except that one promotes or permits the abuse of women while the other values women as dignified human beings, one must acknowledge that the society which values women is superior. A woman fleeing the abusive society to settle in the United States possesses the same dignity of a woman born in America, but it would be silly at best and offensive at worst to "celebrate" her inferior culture as equal to or better than that of America.
Too often, the worship of cultural equality destroys people’s standards, even moral standards. Staying with the abuse of women theme, let me highlight a bit of the moral devastation wrought by multiculturalism and the disdain for America. Some people actually argue against me that the "imperialist" U.S. should not intervene with western standards to help change African countries that support a culture abusive of women. Many of the same people who (rightfully) cry out against oppressive African societies that mistreat women through culturally accepted practices as evil as rape will suddenly clap their hands over their mouths when it comes to really planning for change. I am told by these types that rather than work toward an understanding of female dignity and equality, we ought to take measures to diminish or remove consequences for raping women. In their minds, it would be more "appropriate" to send billions of dollars worth of condoms to Africa so that men can rape without the bother of STDs or unwanted children. Oh, isn’t that considerate of those culturally sensitive Americans? In all truth, this only makes it easier and more appealing for men to abuse women in such a way. According to some, it would be incorrect to impose a dignified view of women on such societies because this would be infringing on their culture with "western" standards. In this case, the value of cultural diversity trumps that of women. Beware of letting diversity conceal moral laxity. Different is not always equal.
Our human dignity does not flow from the minority group to which we belong. If that were the case, people of different races, ethnicities, and cultures would all have different values as human beings. One man would be honored because he is black, another because he is Asian, another because he is Mexican, etc. Suddenly, all men are not created equal! Those who celebrate diversity, usually claiming to support equality, end up pushing people into corners and labeling them as different. Being black, Asian, Mexican, or whatever does not make you better as a person. A black man is not worthy of respect and is not equal just because he is black. Blackness is a characteristic, not an identity. Equality cannot come from differences; it comes from a universal and inherent human dignity. I see little reason to base your self worth in being gay, for example, since your identity as a human being does not depend on this characteristic.
Unfortunately, St. Olaf has shown itself to be concerned with superficial differences in people, those distinctions which divide us unnecessarily. For example, in February, black history month "celebrates" people of only a certain color and discriminates against the rest. Similarly, women’s history month separates women and men. Gay pride week divides us into straight and everything else. Since it would be politically incorrect, we will never see a month-long celebration of white men (even though white men are a minority on campus, making up a mere 1/3 of the general population). However, as a white man myself, I do not want to be celebrated because I am a white male. Praise for our skin color, gender, sexuality, or even ethnicity is not meaningful because it does not recognize the individual; it recognizes a category. The categorical boxes which people use to divide us, such as our skin color, ethnicity, and gender, are not what make us who we are; they mean nothing to our personhood. What really make us distinguished individuals are our thoughts, ideas, convictions, faith, talents, intelligence, and personality. This is where real diversity comes from. I have friends of many different races and cultures, but I do not value them as friends because of their racial or cultural differences. Rather, I appreciate who they are as people. I identify with them as fellow human beings and I enjoy the uniqueness of their personality, their real diversity, not the minority victim box into which some people stuff them.
When speaking of real diversity, that of ideas, moral convictions, and faith, what kind of diversity to we see at St. Olaf? Walk through the parking lot of professors’ cars and see row after row of European-made vehicles proudly bearing bumper stickers showing allegiance to John Kerry, pro-choice advocacy groups, environmentalism, or one my favorites, Paul Wellstone as a parallel to Jesus Christ. Then walk into a classroom and you will likely learn that your Christian faith is just an oppressive superstition, Marx is our savior, humanity is a plague to mother earth, and white, straight, Christian, patriotic, conservative, American, English-speaking men are a tyrannical force oppressing all others . Finally, walk down a dormitory hall to see the same bumper stickers found on professors’ cars plastered all over one door after another as you pass down the long dim corridor, like walking by a line of soldiers standing at attention, bound up in the intellectual uniform given to them by their instructors. This is not diversity.
In the ways that really matter, St. Olaf fails at promoting diversity. Unfortunately, the "global perspective" fed to us by instructors all too often amounts to a narrow view of reality. The school camouflages this deficiency by tooting its horn about "multiculturalism." Whether or not St. Olaf is truly diverse, it should not exalt this multiculturalism as a morality itself. Some cultures are different from others in a bad way and recognizing this inferiority is only right. Morality is not relative to culture. The great homage St. Olaf pays to multiculturalism and its version of diversity leads it to perpetually point out the differences between us. Sadly, instead of creating unity among students, this tears us into minority groups and attaches our worth to superficial characteristics. If we continue to box each other into these categories, we will be unable to see one another as more than "one of them." This divisive use of the word "diversity" is prevalent at St. Olaf and because we are always reminded of our differences, we find it more difficult to view others as equal human beings. While the influence of other cultures is an important asset to the American society, we must recognize that it is a not an end in itself. The spice of other cultures in our melting pot is a means to strengthening the unified whole. Likewise, instead of obsessing over the divisions between students, St. Olaf would better serve the community by valuing the true distinction in an individual while emphasizing the common human dignity, which unites us all.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Concert footage!

I found a cool website called that features an interesting, but odd mix of videos from hardcore music concerts and of miscellaneous race cars. I'm not sure what the fascination is with looking at race cars, but the concert footage is very fun to watch. If you click here you can get to the part of the site where they show various songs from concerts by As Cities Burn, Still Remains, Haste the Day, and a few other fun groups. The list of downloadable videos is relatively short, but supposedly they change it up with new ones every week. If you've never seen videos of concerts before, beware of awful sound quality. The sound rarely comes out well on such footage. However, it's still a blast to watch the show and imagine yourself there headbanging to some wholesomely brutal music. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Lara Croft, where are you?

Does anybody remember the original Tomb Raider game? It came out on Playstation way back around 1996. It was one of the first games out there to really do a good job with 3-D gaming. I don't know about you, but the original Tomb Raider holds a special place in my heart. I was sad to see my favorite game disgraced by a succession of horrible sequels over the past 8 or 9 years. However, the joy of Tomb Raider once again filled my being at the announcement of the next installment because they handed development over to a new team, a group that seems to be much more competent than the losers who destroyed the Lara Croft dynasty. The new game, called Tomb Raider: Legend, was supposed to be released in December, but now they pushed back the release until June 15 of 2006! Oh, how devastating. I was hoping to take a vacation this winter with Lara to some exotic locations on the other side of the world, but I guess this won't happen any time soon [sniff, wipe teardrop]. OK, seriously now, this new game should actually be good because developers are going back to what made the original game so wonderful. Lara will be back underground raiding tombs, climbing ledges, diving into pools, jumping, swinging, and shooting in her quest to find some ancient artifact. Yeah! Just like the old days! As stated on after E3, the new game "looks like it will bring the series back to the same sort of gameplay found in the first games in the series, with a heavy focus on acrobatic environmental navigation and some occasional gunplay." Click here for some good info on Lara's new game and here for the official website with lots of juicy stuff.
Yes, this is a departure from the usually serious nature of my blog, but we need some fun once in a while.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Da Vinci Code

So, has anybody out there read The Da Vinci Code? The movie is coming out sometime in the near future, so I figured I’d read the book too. As a Catholic myself, I have heard a lot about its anti-Catholic messages. I was quite interested to learn about the way in which Dan Brown presents the Church and I found a few surprises. Brown does a fantastic job using misrepresentation and horrifically dishonest portrayals of history, but his criticism extends far beyond the Catholic Church. Brown works toward a debunking of Christianity as a whole, not just Catholicism. Rather than inherently evil, Catholics are portrayed as weak-minded, misguided individuals. However, in this book, any member of Christianity is a fool holding onto empty faith that merely helps him to feel better and live as a better citizen, almost like the drug called "soma" in Brave New World. Beyond that, Brown paints Christianity as the ultimate form of the oppression of women. What makes Brown so effective at his lies is that he weaves them so intricately and so tightly around one another. It is hard to imagine that someone who lies that well can be telling anything other than truth. Yes, these are a lot of generalities, but I will be more specific in a future post after I’ve had time to do some extra research into the details found in The Da Vinci Code. This is purely a work of fiction, but in our Hollywood society, many people have a difficulty keeping that in mind when a story is told this well. I would not call Dan Brown a literary master, but he has certainly crafted an interesting page turner.