Sunday, June 28, 2015
From a technological standpoint we have certainly fulfilled Orwell's predictions. The obvious example is the NSA's monitoring, but we are also surrounded by cameras. With security cameras, traffic cams, computers, smartphones, and tablets, we are potentially on video all the time. Cameras are so prevalent that people are being trained for their jobs to act as if they are being recorded. But the presence of this technology in-and-of itself isn't really scary. At least we aren't using this technology like the government in 1984, right?
Well, sort of. Unfortunately we seem to be fast approaching the mindset that will lead to such close surveillance. You don't need to go far to find the beginnings of this either. All you need to do is log on to your Facebook account and look at how people attack each other over their differing opinions. There is a rising culture that makes it okay to attack another person over their opinions, especially if they are "intolerant." We are slowly creating our own version of the Thought Police. So far, this Thought Police is we have created isn't yet united by a single mindset, but with more and more government intervention in matters of conscience, we may be approaching that point.
We are even seeing modern examples of the restriction of people who have unpopular opinions. Russia's anti-gay propaganda law is a prime example of this. However, such laws are not really unexpected out of Russia, a country with good deal of corruption and President who was once in the KGB. Again, however, we don't have to go far to find an example of this violation of freedom. Yes, we only have to cross the border, to a country as reasonable and forward-thinking as Canada. That's right, Canada has a law on the books called the Hate Speech law, and yes it is enforced. The actually wording of the law defines Hate Propaganda as "any writing, sign, or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide or the communication of which by any person would constitute an offence." The law also allows a books or other written material to be confiscated that fit this rather open-ended description. To be fair, as far as I have researched, this law has not been used very frequently, however when it has been used it is often highly controversial. But nonetheless, this law has the potential to be used in a very Orwellian way, and as people become more and more overly sensitive that possibility becomes increasing more likely. Again, this law is on the books in Canada.
While each of these things when viewed separately are concerning, when you view them together it is down right scary. Or it should be, yet nobody seems to be talking about it. Maybe people, just like 14 year old me, don't want to accept that Orwell was more right than we originally thought. We like to discuss 1984 and then say, "Well, it's a good thing that he was wrong," when in reality, it may be us who are wrong.
Monday, June 8, 2015
There has been a lot of talk recently about high school dress codes, particularly when they are applied to girls. Many girls have protested being asked to change clothes when wearing clothes that expose the shoulder, midriff, or too much leg. They say that schools have no right to tell them how to dress, and even that dress codes contribute to demeaning and sexualizing young women. Many have claimed that these dress codes are enforced unequally, and thus they should be allowed to get away with the same things that they have seen others get away with.
First let's take a look at the line of reasoning that claims: "because I saw someone else dress like this, I should be able to as well without getting in trouble." To really be able to analyze this argument we need to remove the specifics of the situation and replace them with generalities, so here is the basic structure of this argument: Person A says that doing action B is wrong. Person C did action B and Person A didn't punish them for it. Therefore, I (Person D) can do action B and not be punished by Person A. Now let's substitute a few scenarios in this argument. The School says that wearing a sleeveless shirt is wrong. Susan wore a sleeveless shirt and the School didn't punish her. Therefore, I can wear a sleeveless shirt and not be punished by the School. Now let's contrast this with a different scenario. The police say that speeding is wrong. Joe was speeding and the police did not punish him. Therefore, I should be able to speed without being punished by the police. Do you see how that argument doesn't really make sense? Just because someone else got away with something doesn't mean you get a free pass as well. If you still don't buy it, how would you like a more extreme example? The government says that murder is wrong. O.J. Simpson murdered someone and the government didn't punish him. Therefore, I should be able to murder someone and not be punished by the government.
Next let us look at the argument that dress codes demean and sexualize young women. This argument at first seems to hold some water. However, if you review several dress codes you will find that the same restrictions apply to both genders. Generally, both young men and women are required to wear sleeves, not expose their midriff, and wear shorts that are at least mid thigh length. There is no inequality, so if there is sexualizing going on it is being done equally. Many, however, point to the reason that administrators give when asking a girl to change into something more appropriate as an indication that there is something wrong. This reason is often that the girl's attire is distracting, to which they respond that if young men are so distracted by their dress that they are failing classes, then the young men are the ones with the problem. However, both sides have a point in this issue. Young men have raging hormones that naturally make them attracted to, and often distracted by, a pretty girl. However, young men need to be able to control these hormones. However, inappropriate dress doesn't only distract the men in the class room.
Inappropriate attire can distract from the environment that school and it's administrators are trying to create. These people have gone through the trouble of providing you with some of the best resources available, at little or no cost to you, so that you can have the best education possible. All they ask in return is that you help maintain the atmosphere of learning they have created by showing a little respect, and dressing in the barest minimum standards of professionalism. School is not there for your personal fashion show, nor is it a day at the beach, and so you are expected to not dress like it is. Again, all they ask is the barest minimum standards of professional dress. At their core, dress codes are not about sexuality, they are about professionalism.
Finally to those who say that schools have no right to tell you how to dress, well, actually they do. Remember when you were registering to begin school and some counselor or teacher handed you a stack of papers you needed to sign? I guarantee you that on one of these pieces of paperwork it said something like this: "I have read and agree to the school's dress code." Who knows? You may have even signed such a paper at the beginning of each year, but I guarantee you that you signed it. So you may not ever remember such an action, chances are that you never even read the dress code, but because you signed that paper they can hold you to it. If you wanted to protest something you felt was unfair in the dress code, you should have done it before you signed, not after. But for know all the school has to do is produce that piece of paper with your signature on it, and they can hold you to every little thing in that dress code.