Sunday, December 30, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be

     I know it's the most wonderful time of the year, and everyone is full of good cheer, and I'm sorry for being a Grinch or a Scrooge, but I wanna talk about suicide.
     I think it's really closely related to the recent portrayal of violence in the media, among other things, and so warranted. (Let me take a moment to express all of the QBA authors' deepest condolences for the victims of not just the Sandy Hook tragedy but all of the atrociously violent events of the past few weeks. Feels like society's falling apart sometimes.) Also, it is a main theme of THE greatest Christmas movie and the most inspiring movie ever, It's a Wonderful Life, so, really, no topic could be more fitting. (Many people don't know that Hamlet's famous soliloquy, probably the most famous passage in any literature ever, which lent its first line to this essay's title, is actually a debate over suicide.) So, let's talk about when suicide is a bad idea and when it maybe isn't. I will try not to be facile and say suicide is always wrong, because it's an issue I've given some thought myself.
     Right off the bat, if you believe in a religion that dictates that you will suffer eternal damnation if you commit suicide, or that you will be reborn as something worse if you commit suicide, or you wanna follow Pascal's Wager and hedge your bets, don't commit suicide. Yes, no matter what. Cost-benefit analysis says the costs are larger than the benefits in those cases. Stick it out no matter what, because you can always have hope that there is something better to come.
     What a wonderful segue point. Next, if whatever is making you consider committing suicide feels like it will pass and things will get better, don't commit suicide, because, like above, you can always hope for better things to come. It would behoove you to wait it out, because after it has passed you will not have to deal with it again. Even if there is an equal chance of things getting better or not getting better after your situation changes, you should wait it out. It would be dumb to miss out on a life that is blissfully happy on average because of a temporary patch of desperate misery.
     Now, what is left? People who are considering suicide who have not yet been dealt with believe that their committing suicide will not affect their position in whatever comes after life (whether they believe they will achieve salvation regardless or they believe in nothingness) and believe that this situation will never pass. If you are one of these people, the next step is to seek out people who have been in your position before and see if it is possible to go on to lead a happy life, or at least neutral and functional life. Many situations seem like they will never pass, but given some perspective you realize that it wasn't nearly as bad as you thought. (For example, in It's A Wonderful Life George Bailey almost kills himself over $8,000, but all is perfect in the end. For another example, in the genius movie The Apartment, C.C. Baxter recounts a story of how he attempted suicide over a girl but accidentally shoots himself in the knee instead. As he says, "Took me a year before I could bend my knee - but I got over the girl in three weeks.") If you haven't sought out perspective, you shouldn't take your own life; you'll just miss out on the girl you'll move on to in three weeks after you get over this one.
     If you seek out perspective, but can't find any examples of people who have made it to the other side, you should try to exhaust every other recourse of action first. My friends, jokingly, say that no one's allowed to commit suicide until they've had sex, because they've never really lived. I wouldn't know about that, and I imagine that's not the most constructive action, but the idea is sound; you should try to find happiness and meaning in all other avenues first. As Grant so poignantly pointed out, it's up to you to figure out what the meaning of your life will be. If you kill yourself over something that was never really important as far as what makes you happy, the direction you want your life to go in, and the meaning you want your life to have, then you'll certainly miss out.
     Also, you must consider the people who will be miserable if you commit suicide. Keep in mind that a decision to commit suicide says that you cared more about the release of your own unhappiness than you did about those people's happiness. Like I always say, there's nothing inherently wrong with being selfish, but if you are going to commit suicide, you need to come to terms with that truth.
     I have one last suggestion: give it time. This one I'll leave as a suggestion, because to say it is necessary would obviate the need for this discussion of suicide; if you give it enough time, you'll die anyway, of course. (Although, really, that's a pretty good argument against suicide. Just wait till you die, you know.) However, I do find that time, change, and perspective heal most wounds, albeit not all. Maybe you should consider taking the gamble that your wounds are of that kind.
     So, in conclusion, unless you: believe that your decision to commit suicide will not negatively affect your fate after death, believe that your situation will not pass and things won't get better, can't find anyone with greater perspective who has been in your situation and come out okay on the other side, have exhausted every other recourse of action to find happiness and meaning, care more about your own happiness than your loved ones', and have possibly given it some time to no avail, you should not commit suicide. Life is usually worth living, guys, and it's pretty short anyway. Don't throw it away.

"After all, tomorrow is another day." - Scarlett O' Hara

- Adarsh Nednur

You'll wanna live another day after you like QBA on Facebook or follow it on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Crime Might be a Crime

            I mentioned in iPhone 6: for Toddlers that I was writing from outside the office of one of my professors. While I was sitting there pondering what to do with my time, I found a stack of journals that were free to a good home. Being the nerd I am, I offered them a good home. This essay was inspired by The Rich get Richer and the Poor get Prison:Ideology, Class, and Criminal Justice (TRRPP), but does not have any connection with the journal and does not endorse all findings presented in it.
            Crime is a wonderfully ambiguous term. It is a crime to drink alcohol if one is below the age of 21 if he or she is in America unless the individual is married. Alcohol in general was completely illegal in America for a time. It is a crime to profess certain religions in some countries. It is a crime to smoke marijuana in Utah but not Colorado. It is a crime to do something somewhere even when it is not a crime to do the same thing elsewhere… probably.
            The above paragraph leads to several possible conclusions: there is no right definition of what crime is and what it is not (this approaches Adarsh’s view in Hitlerwas a Good Guy.); there is a society or culture out there that has the right definition of crime, and everyone else is wrong; there is a proper definition of crime, and no one has reached it yet (my view in Save $ by Not Killing People). There are other essays on QBA that state what the authors here think is the truth, but this essay is focusing on why we are at this point of legal ambiguity, regardless of if it is right or wrong.
            One of my favorite movies is O Brother, Where Art Thou?. In it, a bunch of relatively cheesy stuff and awesome songs happen, and then the line, “The law is a human institution,” spoken by the sunglasses wearing uber-sheriff, pops up, followed by even more cheesy events. What does this have to do with TRRPP and this essay? Almost everything. Stating that laws, the means through which actions are made criminal, are a creation by Man as opposed to a discovery explains why it varies so much from culture to culture.
            While two squared will always equal four no matter what symbols are used to represent the quantities and operators, the same is not true with the law. The law is the creation of precedent piled on compromise piled on making what was legal in an old country illegal in this one as a form of rebellion. They drive on the wrong side of the road in Europe, for those of you who didn’t know. However, those alterations to the law were in areas that dictated morally neutral actions. It is just as illegal to murder in America as it is across the pond.
            So what does this mean? Good question, but we generally don’t get answers here.

-Jason Rossiter

It's no crime to like QBA on Facebook or follow it on Twitter.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Get Your Feet Off the Table

          I’ve often heard the importance of etiquette brought into question. Why must we put on a show of our good manners at the dinner table? Must the conversations we have with new people always revolve around the weather? Personally, I too find the silverware arrangements on the tables of fancy restaurants a bit ridiculous, yet I do believe that certain social practices are extremely moot and useful in life, and that adhering to certain manners, similar to dressing well, can make life that much easier.
From a definition standpoint, I describe manners as a compilation of rules and etiquette norms. Some are more obviously useful than others. Most table-centered manners can be traced back to simple hygienic roots. For example, putting your feet on the table will sprinkle the dirt and grime from the street floors onto the chicken pot pie. And others, like never wearing brown shoes with a blue suit, are more based on taste.
In a way, observing certain manners is all a show, a way to uphold an image, yet I wouldn’t put it on the level of peacocking or “Korean pretty boys” as Jason commented about my ‘importance of dressing nicely’ essay. To me, manners are a behavioral rather than visual aspect of upholding an image. Having manners differs from having an outward fashion sense in that the main principle of manners is not to show yourself off, but rather to add to the comfort of those around you. You open doors and pull out chairs for your date. You don’t bring up uncomfortable subjects at the dinner table. You avoid laughing at a funeral and don’t talk in a movie theater.
I personally get giddy when a guy opens the door for me. It’s not like I wouldn’t be able to do it myself, (knowing me, I’d probably run straight into it before I did) but in the most subtle way, the act shows that he’s attentive to you and is looking after your comfort. That, I believe, is the basic description of the effect of most manners. The lack of them is not necessarily detrimental, but following them makes the receiver feel appreciated and can also score major points for the doer. So boys, take note. With every door you open and every chair you pull out for her, your chances of getting laid increase by that much.
               My main example comes from a dating perspective, but we can see the benefit of the application of manners in many aspects of life, such as school, work, and among friends. You don’t talk over your professor in the middle of lecture, you say 'Excuse me' when you bump into someone in the hall, you’re on time to scheduled meetings, and you cover your friend’s movie ticket if he or she forgot cash at home. And, as an extreme example, you’re generally courteous with your girlfriend’s parents. Why? Because you want them to like you and to accept you and be comfortable around you.
If you want people to view you a certain way, being courteous to them is a way of showing them that you’re worth the effort and that you care what they think of you. It’s a very direct and personal way of shaping your image in other people’s eyes; much more powerful than the clothing you wear or the car you drive.
But in that case, if you aren’t courteous, does that make you a disrespectful person? Not necessarily. However, someone who follows the rules of etiquette will end up reaping the potential benefits of following the basics and end up with an advantage in his or her social circles simply because he or she will be seen in a different light by those around him or her.


It's considered good etiquette to Like the groups you enjoy on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"(500) Days of Summer": Love Yourself, Maybe

  So, it's been a long while since I've written about a movie, and I rewatched "(500) Days of Summer" today, one of my top 5 favorite movies ever probably, and was struck (as I always am) by its emotional and philosophical depth. I thought it was worth talking about. Also, if you have not seen the movie, GO WATCH IT NOW. The remainder of this essay's gonna assume you've seen it, so SPOILERS ABOUND. (This is my own interpretation. If you disagree, that's cool, let me know what YOU think.)
  Right off the bat, we learn Tom's problem: "The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met 'the one.'" And this, in essence, is the conflict of the film: the existence and nature of love. This movie provides no easy answers, either; it has one of the most ambiguous endings of any film I've ever seen.
  We are taken through the disintegration of Tom and Summer's relationship, and we are shown Tom's misery. We get a very distinct and simple dichotomy of emotions: happy Tom = things are good with Summer, sad Tom = things are bad with Summer. The lesson we get is that Tom's problems all come from the fact that he has decided to define himself by his relationship with this girl, and that's why we see such a lack of consistency in his emotions. In fact, it really extends far before he ever met her; he's always defined himself by whether or not he has found love, and his old happiness was dependent completely on his hopeless romanticism. The fact is that Tom Hansen is a man of my own kind; he's in love with love itself.
  The first time we see Tom feeling not just happy, but also optimistic and independent, is when he finally quits his job at the greeting card company and slowly puts his life back together. He goes back to architecture and goes to look for jobs. In other words, HE FINDS HIMSELF. The lesson to be found is that defining yourself by external factors, people, relationships, anything, can only lead to misery, or at least inconsistency; what will really give you happiness is when you find yourself, when you are a strong and independent person, and everything else comes second to that. (Say it with me: "I'm a strong independent black woman, and I don't need no man!")
  But then we see Summer, and she's happier than she's been at any other point in the movie, all because she finally gave up her precious "independence" to settle down with someone else. "You didn't wanna be anyone's girlfriend, and now you're someone's wife," Tom says. And in the end, Tom goes after this other girl, Autumn, too. But we don't see if he ends up happy or not, just that he tried again.
  So what lesson are we supposed to take away?
  I think the lesson is that you have to know who you are and love yourself before you can let go of your inhibitions and really love someone else, but, after you get to the point where you truly love yourself, it's okay to take that risk, that leap of faith, and love someone else too. Of course, the lesson could also be that people who are happy in love have just immersed themselves in their own ignorant bliss and will never really find a consistent source of happiness, and, as Summer says, love doesn't exist, it's just fantasy. Or that love exists, and it's every bit as good as all the pop music and movies and hopeless romantics make it out to be, and those people that don't believe it will eventually discover it themselves. Or it could just be that one should never lose hope, because things always work out in the end, and fate really exists and time heals everything, or something cliched like that.
  I would suggest that you watch the movie and decide for yourself, but that you and your happiness should always be independent of other people. It's okay to love someone else, but your happiness shouldn't depend on that person loving you back. I'm worse than most at this, but I'm trying too. Be your own person first.
What a wonderful film.
- Adarsh Nednur

If you like and follow QBA, we promise we WILL love you back.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Go to College

            One thing that always rubbed me the wrong way in high school was my district’s take on college education. Somehow, the folks that decide what kind of tests and talks are given equated a degree with success; that’s a narrow worldview I don’t understand. We will now dive into possible reasons for why that view is held and attempt to form a logical rebuttal.
            College graduates make more money. As this publication from the U.S. Census Bureau shows, those with a bachelor’s degree earned, on average, 1.7 times the amount that was earned by those who were only high school graduates in 1999, and advanced degree holders earned 2.6 times the amount. Also, college students are supposed to know and understand more. At least, that’s what the shiny piece of paper they’re given symbolizes.
            That’s the argument for. Let’s poke holes in it.
            The secret to the first pro-college point is the little phrase “on average.” This is, of course, taking into account every major from Ancient Egyptian Wigs to Petroleum Engineering. There are majors that pay less than “uneducated,” or blue-collar, jobs. And the second richest man in the world according to Forbes is a college dropout. In fact, here's a list of rich and influential college dropouts. Someone with a passion, talent, or work ethic that makes the cost of college more of a burden than a benefit shouldn’t waste his or her time with it.
            In response to the second point, I have met many intelligent individuals who don’t have a degree to their name and know of many close-minded individuals who flaunt expensive PhDs, i.e. politicians. While college can help one think more critically, it is not the only instrument that does so.
            Everything eventually boils down to a simple question: Is college worth it? The answer is a resounding “maybe.”
            For some, like me, college is a must. I’m not a good enough musician, writer, chef, thief, or creative mind to challenge myself and live comfortably without a degree. I crave the knowledge that higher education can provide. I love that almost anyone I talk to on my campus has a favorite author and can tell me why. My college and career path will constantly challenge me, and I’m a junkie for the climb.
            For others, college is absolutely pointless, and there’s no shame in that, which is the exact opposite of what my school district preached. Not everyone is wired the same way. I’d feel unfulfilled if I weren’t on the path I’m on now, and others wouldn’t trade spots with me for anything.
            There are absolutely valid arguments that can be made saying more people would be able to go to college if they were given the correct motivation, but, in response, there are plenty of people in college who shouldn’t be there because they’re just wasting time, money, and space that could be occupied by a student eager to learn. A plethora of movies have been made that focus on the exploits of college students that participate in activities that are anything but academic.
            High schools shouldn’t implant guilt in their students if they don’t have the characteristics necessary for college. Humans are too unique for a one-size-fits-all life plan, so how they're treated in school can't be universal either.

[Original artwork credit Carol Fairbanks]

-Jason Rossiter

Whether you're edumacated or not, like and follow QBA.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jews for Palestine

I've avoided revealing my religion, and I'm still going to do just that. However I am of Jewish heritage. You might think because of that, regardless of what I believe in terms of superior being(s) that I support Israel, and you would be right! However I am of what I believe to be a small group of Jews (for all intents and purposes we're going to think of me as Jewish for this essay) who believe Palestine should be an independent sovereign state.

Ultimately it boils down to a very simple concept, any group of people who want to have a government should have a government. Miconationalism aside, a people or a nation with a legitimate claim to statehood should be given that right. A nation is different than a nation state. A nation is a group of people who have a common history, culture and language. A state is a political entity. Austria, while an independent state could be considered part of the German nation  because they share a similar history, language, culture with Germany and most bits of Switzerland. While on the other end of the spectrum the Cherokee Nation has an independent culture but is not recognized by the international community as sovereign (more on sovereignty later). Palestine is a nation, without a doubt. Now that they have been given observer status at the United Nations they can be seen as a state as well. 

What baffles me about the anti-Palestinian Statehood sentiment that Israel has is that Palestinian statehood is only a positive thing for Israel, yet they oppose it. It seems as though Israel is worried about a nation state run by terrorists and they have reason to fear terrorism, yet if Palestine is welcomed into the international community then it will also be accountable to international law. Thus while a terrorist organization may still exist within Palestine the Israeli government can work in conjunction with Palestine's government to bring an end to the terrorism and violence. It is in Israel's favor to have a Palestinian state. Of course what is a draw back for Israel is that it would have to stop its people from illegally settling in the Gaza Strip of West Bank. Yet even still, what's better? An end to terrorism and violence or two small extra bits of land?