American Literature Week 14 Unconditional Love

Prompt:  “If you wanted to make money by writing a self-improvement book for Americans, what topic would you choose??”

If I were to write a self improvement book I would choose the topic of unconditional love. Unconditional love and understanding for all living beings, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or anything else we label as other. The fear of the “other” has clouded the minds of cultures across the world for centuries, and it’s done nothing but isolate, shame and destroy. I believe we are moving into a time not of fear, but of love. If I were to write a book I’d want it to be about that.

My personal experience, and what I feel comfortable discussing is being Queer. Queer is a broad spectrum that includes many different gender identities and sexualities. For far too long LGBTQ people have been demonized and oppressed, for no reason other than us not fitting into the box of what we “should” be. A man loving another man was labeled an abomination. Genders were put into boxes so strict there was no room for personal interpretation or exploration. Anyone who strayed from these rules of cisgender heteronormativity was ostracized, arrested, and even killed. These were primarily heavily religious societies doing this oppression, ironically doing the opposite of what Christ preached: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Alan Turing was a brilliant mathematician and scientist during the early 20th century. Often considered the father of modern computer science, he created the first modern computers and the Turing Test which would form the basis for AI. He was also responsible for cracking the enigma machine. This was a machine used by Nazi Germany in WW2 to transmit coded messages. Turing personally cracked the Enigma used by U-boats preying on North America Merchant convoys. By 1943 he had created machines that were cracking as many as 84,000 codes a month, two messages every minute! His efforts were crucial in helping the Allies gain the upper hand against the Axis. I bring him up because I never learned about him in school, and this is because many of his accomplishments have been more or less swept under the rug.

This is because he was gay. He was arrested for homosexuality in 1952 and put on estrogen which he opted for over prison. Estrogen does not stop homosexuality, but it does make people grow breasts and overall feminize. So in practice estrogen used as a punishment simply made gay men incredibly uncomfortable in their own bodies. His accomplishments were swept under the rug, because a gay man couldn’t be seen as a war hero. This is just one example of queer people being needlessly punished and demonized, even when we do amazing things.

Not every culture punished queer people, some worked to understand us. Native American culture is a wonderful example of such. In the Wabanaki creation story the hero Gluskabe fired an arrow into a brown ash tree, splitting it in half. When the tree got split in half, so did its spirit. He asked this one spirit that was now two if they wanted to become people, and they agreed. Gluskabe breathed upon the tree, and from each side stepped the first Wabanaki woman and the first Wabanaki man. After that there was a little bit of each essence left over, so Gluskabe recombined them and the first two spirit person stepped out of the tree. In this tradition people like me who are gender non conforming haven’t spiritually separated from themselves.

Two spirited people are the ones who learn all of the gender norms and walk all the paths, we’re then the ones who become the teachers. While the hunters are hunting and the gatherers are gathering, the two spirit people are the ones teaching the youths how to do all of it. I think this a beautiful way to view gender non conforming people, and gives much more room and possibility for a individuals growth into themselves.

But sadly fear of the other often comes in many ways. When Europeans colonizers came over and saw these traditions Natives were labeled “sexually ambiguous” and demonized. This built up political fear of the other that we still see today, in systemic racism, sexism and discrimination against LGBTQ people. Power is often held through control. Controlling the narrative of what men and women are, who we’re allowed to love and what our lives “should” look like has historically helped groups hold power. Be it patriarchy, church, or government, dividing people with different labels makes it harder for us to realize our true unity as people.

Today most people don’t know any transgender people in their lives. This makes it so their only experience with trans people comes from outlets like news, which more often than not talks ABOUT queer people instead of WITH queer people. I’ve seen many news stories where a cisgender person (a person who identifies with the sex they were born into) is criticizing transgender people without even talking to us. This leads assumptions and falsehoods to dominate the narrative. An example of this is the bathroom issue. Trans people have been once again demonized, accused of being dangerous or sexually demented. The lie is well known that if we let trans people into bathrooms they’ll assault people. Ironically the opposite is true, trans people are MUCH more likely to be assaulted themselves!

I personally feel very uncomfortable using public bathrooms because its dangerous for me to use them. Sexual assault happens very often to trans people. It’s as if people feel entitled to us, as if because we’re different than them they have the right to ask us sexually degrading questions, touch us without our permission and even attack us. Just trying to pee can be a horror show, just because people haven’t taken the time to understand us.

Transgender people, especially those of color, are one of the most vulnerable minorities for things like rape, assault and murder. So why is it we are the ones being accused of doing these monstrosities, when in reality these acts of violence have continuously been happening to us? It’s because of the fear of the other. The fear of someone different. The fear that has been systematically worked into our culture for hundreds of years.

The cure for this fear, in fact the cure for most fear, is love. Unconditional love, and the willingness to understand and get to know us as individuals instead of as news stories. Queer culture aims to embrace love, for yourself and for others. It aims for people to feel comfortable within their own bodies, whatever they may look like. It aims for consenting adults of any identity to not only be able to love each other, but for that love to be celebrated. It aims for justice for the innocent. It aims for self expression to be allowed to grow and bloom. It aims for a world where people are safe to exist as they are, not to be trapped in a stifling box of what has been the norm. It aims for unconditional love. Unconditional love is the cure for fear.

American Literature Week 13 Loyalist Perspective

Prompt: “Write a critique of Paine’s pamphlets from the point of view of a loyalist in 1778.”

It has come to my attention that we have a disastrous storm brewing on the shores of our colonies. Talk of revolution has been infecting the ears of our British colonies as the plague once affected those back home. Similarly these treasonous notions are already bringing chaos and bloodshed wherever they go. Thomas Paine (author of the hypocritically titled pamphlet Common Sense) has been slandering His Majesties good name and demanding independence. This is as if an arm were to demand independence from its body, ripping itself away like some sort of demented experiment. Well as we all know that arm can grasp at straws, but we British have the legs and we’ll quickly catch up with it.

Hypocrisy knows no bounds it seems, as while these ingrates preach freedom they have been burning down the homes of those loyal to our homeland. They have been tarring, feathering, even hanging those with enough “common sense” to remember who we are. We’re British, and His Majesty has been and always will be our holy sovereign. No ragtag group of extremists will get away with questioning this divine truth, and if they think they will they’re going to answer to our bayonets. Surely they wont be foolish enough to seriously trifle with us.

Economics Week 35 Art and Computers

Prompt: “My Career Plan to Avoid Being Replaced by a Computer.”

My career will probably be a number of things: animation, writing, theater, art, song writing and agriculture to name a few. A beautiful thing about art and storytelling is the human perspective that wields it. Living through a human life, with all the bumps, bruises and beauties that go along with it create unique perspectives and ideas. Emotions and experience fuel the fire of art, and although art is subjective the soul that goes into it is as individual as our fingerprints. Computers can calculate visually pleasing designs, they can even match together melodies and make beautiful pieces of music. Lets even consider future AI, hypothetically programmed to understand human emotion. But the AI, unless it mimics a human life from birth to death, doesn’t and cannot understand how it feels to live.

A computer has never watched the sun setting into the sea, sparkling pieces of light dancing on the waves as a scarlet glow engulfs the horizon. Salty air caressing ones cheek, seagulls singing and sand filtering up between toes. A computer has never experienced the feeling of rain falling onto ones face, thunder startling you from a daze of warm memories. Its dark, blue, and wet outside, but gold spills out from an open window and invites you into your home. A computer has never watched their child take their first steps, and felt a beautiful bittersweet swell of joy and pride as they realize their baby is starting to grow up. A computer has never known pain, a computer has never known love. A computer has never had to live with the reality of death, knowing that their life is finite and learning to be okay with that. A computer has never dreamed.

In my mind those examples, and many many more moments of sensation, emotion, and adoration for existence are what separate us from computers. Our brains are technically very similar to computers, but instead of being sculpted by man they’ve been sculpted by nature. By evolution. By humans living and dying for thousands of years, and experiencing everything that comes with life over and over again. Even in one lifetime we live and die countless times over, only in a less physical way. The child I was ten years ago has passed on, passed on into the adult I am today. The adult I am now will also pass on, in ten years this current moment will be nothing but a memory. Even day to day, I am not the same person I was yesterday. For sleep is the death of the day, and awakening is the rebirth of tomorrow. But a computer has never died, for when we turn a computer off and turn it back on its the same as it was. Unless its reprogrammed, it never grows. A computer never has to figure out their own identity, because a human already programmed the computer with everything it is. A computer never has to think about who they are.

Art is the expression of who we are, what we are feeling, a moment of life encapsulated in a painting or song. Storytelling is the ancient art of creating a moment of life in words, painting a journey we can only see within our minds. Unless its animated, then we can see it with our eyes. But the thoughts and emotions animation can give us linger long after the silver screen goes blank. Even in a future where AI understands emotions, its only because it mimics humans. Its a shadow of humanity, a cartoon painted by a person. If these shadows are programmed with the beautiful, existential understanding of what it is to live and have the desire to express themselves through art that could be something wonderfully unique. But it wont cancel out the expression of humans. Art is not a competition.

Economics is a competition though, and art is sold. But even so, the journey we take as humans equips us with not only unique perspectives, but empathy and understanding of other human perspectives. I’d be fascinated to hear a computers storytelling, but I’d be able to relate to a humans storytelling. I’d be able to feel the emotion of a persons journey on a much more personal level. I believe the commercial value of art will mirror this. But I also believe in art for arts sake. Trying to make art while sitting in the box of “how much will this sell for” is very limiting and can cancel out a creative process all together.

In conclusion humans are extremely emotionally developed when compared to computers, and have immense nuance and individuality when compared to machines. This allows our art and storytelling to be as unique and personal as our imaginations. We can also relate to each others emotions and journeys, we want to feel and understand each other. So because humans are the main consumers of art I believe humans will continue being the main creators of art. Until computers are filling the theaters longing to cry while watching Titanic, feeling proud of a fictional boy as they watch Finn mature over the course of Adventure Time, or feeling a rush of confidence and self respect as they jam out to Lizzo, art will continue primarily being made by humans, for humans.

Economics Week 34 Protectionism

Prompt: “Is it logical for someone to affirm faith in the free market and also protectionism?”

Protectionism is the policy of restricting imports from other countries though tariffs, taxes, and other government regulations. Free trade is as it sounds, trade without restrictions. Just stating what these two economic policies are shows how different they are, and how one cannot truly exist at the same time as the other. Protectionism is usually put in place to protect domestic business’s from the competition created by foreign production. Domestic producers make more money through scarcity, but at the end of the day consumers suffer. As I stated in some of my previous essays trade with other countries makes both countries wealthier, and reduces scarcity which makes goods less expensive. Consumers are able to afford more than they would have been able to if their only choices were domestic producers.

In conclusion it is illogical for someone to advocate for both free trade and protectionism, because the two policies go directly against each other. Faith in the free market means faith in no governmental trade restrictions, while faith in protectionism means faith in restrictions.

Economics Week 33 Trade with all Nations

Prompt: “If Americans ‘buy Asian,’ what can Asian exporters do with the dollars?”

Trade between two countries benefits both countries, trade with Asia is a good example of this. If Americans buy Asian goods for dollars, Asians can use these dollars to buy American goods. Both countries grow wealthier. This also creates healthy competition within the countries. If Americans only had access to American goods there would be scarcity, and this would allow the American producers to charge more for their limited goods. But with access to goods from around the world American producers either have to make better quality goods, or sell them for less. Competition saves the consumer money, lessens scarcity, and creates better quality goods.

Economics Week 32 County Borders vs National Borders

Prompt: “Is free trade across a county border economically different from free trade across a national border?”

Technically no. Whether you’re trading with your physical neighbor or trading with someone on the other side of the globe the trade at its core is identical. Its humans producing, wanting to buy the produce, and trading something deemed as equal in value to acquire the produce. The difference comes from the concepts of nationality and cultural difference. People of every nation are raised with a sense of national pride. This pride also subconsciously separates us from people of other nations.

This is why trading across counties or states (but within the same nation) seems harmless and natural, while trading with someone across a national border seems like a bigger deal. If you’re trading across counties it still seems like you’re trading to benefit your home, your nation. The flow of money stays within your nation, and the thought that it will ultimately benefit you and your family stays constant. If you’re trading across national borders it seems less controllable, and you can’t be completely sure the flow of money will come back to benefit your nation.

The truth is both nations will benefit from international trade. The seller will become richer in money and the buyer richer in goods. But because of national borders we subconsciously look at the people of the nation we’re trading with as “other”, and have a harder time trading across national borders than we do across county borders. This (along with in country producers looking out for their own business) is another reason import quotas get created. Its seen as safer to keep the flow of money within our own nations economy instead of taking the risk of trading it out into another nations economy.

Economics Week 31 Import Quotas

Prompt:  “Do import quotas benefit most voters economically?”

Import quotas limit the amount of imported goods legally aloud to be shipped from one nation to the next. The main reason for these is international competition. If a nation outside ours is able to produce higher quality goods for cheaper they are in direct competition with the in nation producers. People will be more likely to buy the goods from outside their country, since they can buy better quality items for less money. But this takes business away from the producers within the country.

The producers in the country work with politicians to create import quotas, making it illegal for citizens to buy more than a certain amount of product from other nations. This is good for the in nation producers business, but limiting to the economy as a whole. Trade benefits the economy. The producer gets richer in money, and the consumer gets richer in goods. Import quotas limit this growth because of international competition, and overall do not benefit most voters economically.

Economics Week 30 Actors and Businessmen

Prompt: “Why do voters accept the riches of movie stars, but resent the riches of businessmen?

There’s different reasons for this, different people hold different opinions. But generally I’d say there’s one big reason. That is the emotion, and the sacred feeling of art and creation. Art in all forms, film included, is often a mirror of someones soul or thought process. It is the creation of something unique, something that can affect people emotionally. Film can inspire people, and often does. In a well made movie the actors behave as a conduit of this inspiration. They are the faces you link to the emotion of the character. If they act well they are the ones bringing the emotional impact into the film.

Business is often very different. Generally the person creating and manufacturing a product is not the face of the business. Even if they are there isn’t the emotional link to the product. It is a physical product or service they are selling, not an emotional one. When somebody buys a television they are not having the same emotional journey that they will have watching a passionate film on the television. The person making the TV may be passionate about making it, but we don’t get to watch their process the same way we watch a characters development in a film.

So it feels more cold, less personal. We have less opportunities to put ourselves in the shoes of the businessman. We have less emotional interaction, and thus there’s less relatability. If a business owner released a documentary about the years of work, the trial and error, the passion and the ambition they had to maintain in order to produce something we would be able to relate more. But when we think of businessmen hidden away in metal skyscrapers it feels much less emotionally deep. So we collectively have less resentment for rich movie stars because they make us feel, while business men make us things.

Economics Week 29 Price Level

Prompt: “If there is no ‘price level,’ how could anyone prove that monetary inflation raises prices?”

Price level is the price of goods and services, and it fluctuates depending on how much currency is in the system. The question makes it out to seem that price level is what causes inflation, but it’s actually the other way around. Inflation is caused by more and more money being printed into the economy. This seems good at first glance, since more people will have access to said money. But what this actually does is make money less rare, and therefore less valued.

For an example lets think of a pure barter economy that trades sea shells as currency. If the amount of sea shells in the economy is consistent then the price level will also be consistent. The sea shells are rare and hard to get, so generally they will have a maintained value. Now lets imagine that all of a sudden the sea pumps out thousands of sea shells out of thin air. Now that once rare and valued asset is flooding the market. Everyone has tons of sea shells, and they aren’t valued as much because everyone has so many.

This is inflation, and the same happens to our paper financial system if money continues to be printed. In a sea shell economy a shoe maker originally sold his shoes for five sea shells, but after the sea pumps out thousands suddenly he needs to sell his shoes for ten. That is how inflation affects prices, and ultimately sets the price level of everything we buy.

Economics Week 28 Tax-Funded Education

Prompt: “Is tax-funded education inherently bureaucratic?”

Public education is funded by taxes. Citizens pay taxes to the government, who put some percentage of those taxes into schools. In most organizations (public schools included), the one providing the funds is the one who ultimately chooses what goes on within the organization. I touched on this in my last essay, customers vote with their dollar for the business’s they prefer. But with schools there are no customers, there is no vote. There is only the government funding. Parents can vote for the school board, and they can donate to the school. But it’s the government who ultimately funds the schools, and it’s the bureaucrats who maintain them.

This is how common core arises. Its the form bureaucratic maintenance takes within public schools. Its the rule book, lesson plans, and educational requirements all teachers are given to work with. He who pays the piper calls the tune. It’s the state which pays the piper, and it’s the state which decides the song. So yes, by being tax-funded public schools are inherently bureaucratic.