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Justin Benner

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    Justin Benner
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  1. Ah, I forgot everyone isn't as nerdy as I am. It means Too Long; Didn't Read. Grab their attention quickly, make your points as succinctly as possible, and close with a bang.
  2. Haha, wow, I'm not sure why I put in selfishness. Pretty big typo, and the second time I've done that tonight. Sorry dude! I should probably cut down on the greenery.
  3. I think it is a fine letter, although I should warn you that, if read by a member of the general public (or Reddit), you are going to get this as a response: TL;DR.
  4. I can't speak for someone else, but I'll take a stab at explaining it. When your average person speaks of someone being "selfish," they don't mean the definition you've listed above. To them, the word also implies a sense of harm. So they aren't talking about you wanting more than you need, they are talking about you wanting that at the expense of someone else. It's the difference between the friend who wants it all, and the friend who gets it through nefarious means. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with selfishness, at least as far as it is a good description for "ego." Without the drive for more, we'd still be living in huts, and people would still be dumping their crap onto the streets, instead of into the oceans, like civilized people. But like all emotions, the key to a fulfilling life is moderation. When your selfishness becomes harmful, that is when a moral person draws the line.
  5. I don't mean this personally, but I feel like that was a loaded question, and I am about to walk into an ambush. Perhaps you could start by defining greed, so that I can be sure we are talking about the same thing?
  6. Hey! Just so you know, I loosely define ideology as a set of principles by which we judge prospective actions. The problem with them is that I'm no longer sure that any one ideology is suitable for all circumstances, or even for most of them. In order for a particular ideology to make sense, it has to be applied to the appropriate people, at the appropriate time. The logical conclusion is that the only possible way to effectively govern, and to maximize human rights, is to do what works, and that will depend entirely on local context. If you don't mind, I'd like to hear your thoughts on that. I am aware that this argument exists on a slippery slope... and yet when I realize there are 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world, I think, what doesn't?
  7. Here is an article I wrote when that whole school bus monitor thing was in the news. I think I wrote this in June. Thought I'd share to get some critical feedback. Any feedback is great. I wrote this piece for a hippy rag. --- When most people watch the Bullied Bus Monitor video, their immediate reaction is outrage. Outrage over the wanton cruelty on display, and the casually sadistic manner in which they reduce a Grandmother to tears. Outrage over the audacity of the bullies, one of whom asks another, “Are you gonna put this on Facebook?” Outrage over the kind of world that can produce such self-entitled monsters. Outrage, outrage, outrage. When I watch this video, I see something much worse than terrible kids: I see myself. I made fun of people for wearing secondhand clothing. I made fun of people for being fat, at one point driving a girl to lay a smackdown on my undeveloped, skinny-alien-body in the hallway. I made fun of people because it was amusing at the time, and truth be told, I liked it. The worst part of this video, for me, isn't how “outraged” I am, but how vividly it brought back what it was like to be a kid, stupid, reckless, awful. The question is, can a person change, or are they doomed to being an asshole forever? Are all bullies condemned to a life of yelling at secretaries, beating up protestors or stomping a person who cheers for the wrong soccer team? For my sake, and for the sake of those kids, I hope not. I think about all the mean and cruel things I did in my turbulent years, and I thank Flying Spaghetti Monster everyday that cellphones didn't exist to capture them. I guess it isn't enough for these kids to be humiliated on a local level. Our society is so highly-evolved that we need to flog them in front of a couple hundred million people, and feel good about it. Our self-righteousness, expressed in money, is commendable. Already the bus monitor is $600,000 richer. It's nice to see somebody finally making some cash these days, and honestly she deserves it. But when they interview her, you can tell she is flabbergasted at the attention – and the money – she is receiving. And for good reason. The whole situation is a classic misdirect, a way to release pressure without actually fixing the problem. A couple hundred years ago, we would have just burned some Jews or some lesbians. Nowadays, we roast ten year old kids with cell phone signals and electronic bank transfers. The debate about why kids are growing up so cruel is ongoing, and that's because it is comforting to avoid the simplest and truest explanation: the most successful form of bully is reborn as a “CEO” or “Prime Minister.” In terms of lofty ideals, the best we've managed in five thousand years is when we call six people bullying four “democracy,” and deem it an inalienable right. We are all bullies, and all bullies are cowards. It is hard to stand up for awful kids who probably deserve a swift backhand, but I wonder if the compassion we all felt seeing this video ought to be followed by forgiveness, and not by outrage. I can't excuse the bad things I've done, but I am thankful everyday for those who excused them for me.
  8. Well... maybe. Possession isn't usually a threat. But how far are you willing to take that argument? Is possession of a nuclear weapon a threatening gesture? That is "any object." I would say that if somebody is obviously insane, possessing a nuclear weapon presents an inherent threat. And then you can go on down the list - how about possession of enough artillery guns to basically mimic a nuclear weapon? How about a chemical weapon? A tank? Consider this a thought experiment.
  9. To me, the entire film was human history in a nut-shell: it is only through never-ending struggle do we gain value. Sacrifice, pain, strapping on the broken liquor bottles to face a fight we can't win... doing it anyway... this is what it means to be a human being. Suffering doesn't build character, perserverance does. It was beautiful.
  10. I have always felt there was a fine line between embracing anarchy and embracing objectivism or libertarianism. In one sense, I think that anarchy as a lack of government makes no sense at all. We need some form of government, and that is unlikely to change, at least until we all wake up perfectly rational (i.e. never). In another sense, I think that anarchy is a perfect description for human life. We are gangs of people killing other gangs of people in order to protect what is ours. People within that gang can have drastically divergent reasons for being part of it, but ultimately, the gang comes first. When a person doesn't put it first, they are called criminals, terrorists, traitors. When they do, they are called patriots. Libertarianism is the means of injecting moral backbone into the gang, so as to be the change we want to see in an anarchistic world.
  11. Absolutely not. Striving for personal success is how you live a fulfilling life. I think alot of people confuse ambition and drive with ammorality and greed; I am not one of those people. I want to be a personal success so I can help other people do the same. At the same time, I want to help other people so that I can be considered a personal success. That, to me, is one of the highest moral callings out there.
  12. This is a tricky topic, especially since most are incapable of maintaining rationality while speaking about it. In that sense, it reminds me of the abortion debate. Generally speaking, gun control is totally ineffective. There is some evidence that it helps to reduce violent crime, but when you actually take a look at those studies, it is apparent that they haven't accounted for the other crime-conductive factors, such as poverty, mental health factors, education level, and even factors as banal as the temperature outside or population density (statistics demonstrate that violence increases the hotter, and more crowded, it gets). There is also a pretty compelling moral case to be made against gun control: (1) as a human being, I have the right to defend myself against aggression, and that aggression frequently comes in the form of a gun; (2) applying punitive measures against people not convicted of a crime is immoral, and infringes greatly upon the vast majority of law-abiding citizens; (3) agents of state authority are allowed to carry guns, and yet state authority is the record holder for human rights abuses by far. However, I have heard one compelling argument for gun control, and it is, interestingly enough, pretty utilitarian. Selective gun control in areas that have high gang activity works, not because it reduces the likelihood of violence, not because it decreases tensions, because it provides a pretext for removing particular elements from the street. In other words, certain boroughs of Chicago or New York or wherever would be declared "gun free zones," and police would focus on known or suspected gang members. This sort of policing has actually proven to reduce violent crime (I can source this by the way, although I haven't found an online source yet, so take it or leave it)... and yet I can't help but wonder how many innocent people have been targeted as a result, and how many of them are unable to improve their lives due to a criminal record. The moral implications of this policy are huge, and frankly, I am unwiling to trust the State with such authority outside a very narrow set of circumstances, and I'm not even sure what those circumstances are.
  13. No problem dude. I can assure you that I will say many things you disagree with, but I am here in good faith, not to troll. I agree that expressions of empathy need to be conditional upon context... However, that doesn't stop me from feeling the initial pang. In my own life, this is the feeling I would describe as the most powerful... and one that is, in my opinion, amongst the highest emotional states I feel. Love and anger being contenders, but even then I feel like I control those more.
  14. So charity and a desire to help others isn't a high moral calling, but personal success and ambition is? I suppose what I'm saying is that, in my own life, I have noticed that the thing I feel most passionate about is injustice. I want to help those that can't help themselves. When somebody is hurt, or needs help, I feel compelled to help them. Some of that motivation is pure self-interest; I like the idea of being a hero, and of getting recognition. But some of it is selfless - I feel genuinely passionate about doing what I can to help others, and that motivates me to succeed to the point where I am able to do so, financially, physically, etc.
  15. Empathy isn't an emotional state? When I see another person suffering, even a person I don't know, and I am compelled to help them, even when it goes against my own well-being - that isn't a high moral calling? Interesting perspective.
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