Archive for July, 2010

Sexual Etymology: Weibliche Scham

by Jason Stotts

Weibliche Scham (De) – vulva.

Interestingly, although in German “weibliche Scham” means vulva, it is more literally translated as “feminine shame.”  Just one more example of sex-negativity hiding out in language.

Objectivism, Masculinity, Femininity, and Homosexuality: Initial Thoughts

by Jason Stotts

“For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity
is hero-worship—the desire to look up to man”
~ Ayn Rand

In this essay I am going to present two views of masculinity and femininity: those of Ayn Rand and then my own. I will also present my reasons for my views and the differences between Rand’s so that you can understand the importance of the differences.

For Objectivism, we do not need to look too deeply to understand masculinity and femininity. Indeed, we need to look no farther than Atlas Shrugged to find Ayn Rand’s best presentation of these in the characters of John Galt and Dagny Taggart. John Galt is the Objectivist ideal: the man of uncompromised integrity, of absolute rationality, and dashing good looks. He embodies all of the virtues and is living his life to his potential: he is the great-souled man incarnate and the hero that Ayn Rand had always wanted to bring into existence. Dagny Taggart, on the other hand, is the Objectivist ideal woman (at least by the end of Atlas Shrugged, once she has resolved her inner conflicts). She is in every way John Galt’s equal: her character is virtuous, she is productive and excels in her field, and she in passionate about her values. Yet, it is more than moral perfection that attracts Dagny to John and John to Dagny. Indeed, one can have a deep respect for another person’s character and moral development without having sexual feelings (we call these people friends).

So what is it in John that Dagny is attracted to? Let’s have Ayn Rand explain in her own words:

For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship—the desire to look up to man. “To look up” does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only be a person of strong character and independent value judgments. A “clinging vine” type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero-worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.

This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero-worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors. Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men. This does not mean that there is a romantic or sexual intention in her attitude toward all men; quite the contrary: the higher her view of masculinity, the more severely demanding her standards. It means that she never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs.

Thus, it is not only his moral character that is attractive to Dagny. Indeed we might say this serves as a necessary, but not sufficient condition for Dagny’s attraction to John, but it is John’s specifically male aspects that attract Dagny: his masculinity. What is John’s masculinity? It is his specifically male traits. What is Dagny’s femininity? It is her desire to worship John’s masculinity. It is clear, that if we are to understand the Objectivist position, we need to dig deeper.

Why is it that the feminine woman never loses sight of her femininity or a man’s masculinity and how are these things connected? They are connected because a woman’s femininity is a response to a man’s masculinity. It is through one’s awareness of the contrast of the opposite sexual essence that one is able to fully understand one’s own: that is, it is the contrasting sexual essence that makes one sexually visible. In the “sex speech” from Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand says that it is a woman’s surrender that allows a man to experience his full masculinity and we have already seen that the essence of femininity is to worship, and surrender, to a hero. Thus, the essence of masculinity is domination of the feminine. Now, Ayn Rand thought that this was a natural extension of the physical differences between men and women in a sexual context: that is, in a sexual context a man penetrates a woman’s vagina with his penis. The male is the (metaphysically) active partner in sex and the woman is the (metaphysically) passive partner, since the man penetrates, or dominates the woman, and woman allows herself to be penetrated by the man, or surrenders herself to him.

This, then, is Ayn Rand’s view of masculinity and femininity as best as I understand it.

For those of you worried about the implications of the Objectivist position towards homosexuality, you should be. Ayn Rand thought that one could not naturally be attracted to a person of the same sex, since masculinity could only be oriented to femininity and femininity could only be oriented to masculinity (much like magnetic North can naturally only attract magnetic South). “To classify the unique emotion of romantic love as a form of friendship is to obliterate it: the two emotional categories are mutually exclusive. The feeling of friendship is asexual; it can be experienced toward a member of one’s own sex.” The obvious implication of this is that romantic love cannot be experienced towards a member or one’s own sex.

At the Ford Hall Forum in 1971, after presenting her essay “The Moratorium on Brains,” Ayn Rand was explicitly asked about her position on homosexuality during the Q&A section. The question was this:

This questioner says she read somewhere that you consider all forms of homosexuality immoral. If this is so, why?

To which Ayn Rand responded:

Because it involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises, but there is a psychological immorality at the root of homosexuality. Therefore I regard it as immoral. But I do not believe that the government has the right to prohibit it. It is the privilege of any individual to use his sex life in whichever way he wants it. That’s his legal right, provided he is not forcing it on anyone. And therefore the idea that it’s proper among consenting adults is the proper formulation legally. Morally it is immoral, and more than that, if you want my really sincere opinion, it is disgusting.

I think Ayn Rand’s position on the subject is clear: homosexuality is immoral and, although she did not give her reasons explicitly, I think it’s clear that it is because it involves an unnatural orientation of the masculine for the masculine and the feminine for the feminine (just as magnetic north attracting magnetic north would be unnatural). Since the masculine necessarily involves the drive to dominate the feminine, for a man to be a bottom in a homosexual relationship is necessarily emasculating as he is assuming the role of the woman. (This was the same objection to men who were exclusively receptive homosexuals in ancient Greece: that they destroyed their masculinity by being passive like a woman.)

Now that we have seen Ayn Rand’s position on homosexuality, let me state formally that I completely disagree with her on this point. In order to understand why I think she is wrong, we need to reconsider the natures of masculinity and femininity, as it is here that her critical error lies.

What reasons do we have for assuming that masculinity is simply the desire to dominate the feminine? It is certainly a ubiquitous idea in our culture and we can certainly weave a story from the obvious physical differences between men and women. But is this enough or is it even accurate? When we look more critically at the idea, we shall see that it is not.

The problem is that we are assuming that the masculine element in a man can only be actualized, or brought out, in response to the feminine element in a woman. It can’t, for Ayn Rand, be the case that it could be activated any other way or else this opens the door for homosexual interactions, which she thought were unnatural. However, what if a man is capable of feeling masculine in a non-sexual context? For example, what if, as a man, I am capable of feeling masculine while I am exercising with weights and feeling my muscles straining to achieve the goals I have set for myself. Or what if watching my progressing muscular development in the mirror and comparing my form to an ideal male, such as the legendary Adonis, makes me feel masculine? While Ayn Rand could try to link this to femininity by saying that it increases my ability to dominate a woman, what if I truly am only thinking of my increase in strength and the shape of my own body? Then we have a clear instance of masculinity being actualized without the contrast of femininity.

I think the important aspect of the actualization of the sexual essence involves our experiencing our distinctly sexual aspects and feeling ourselves as an embodied man or woman. Through this, we become sexually visible to our partners and to ourselves. For example, I am not usually aware of my penis in my day to day life, but when I am nude around a woman I am very aware of my penis and the contrasting differences our bodies: the differences between my muscular chest and her soft breasts, the differences between having my penis be external and open to sight, while her vagina is internal and hidden. There is no doubt that this situation of contrast with the feminine makes me feel distinctly masculine. However, it is also the case that when I exercise and my body starts to assume the ideal male shape, and I contemplate this in the mirror, I clearly feel like an embodied man and am aware of my distinctly male characteristics (in this case by comparison to an ideal man). Although this ideal man is more similar to me than different, especially when compared to a woman, he is still capable of actualizing my masculinity. Thus, there must be another means of actualizing a sexual essence than besides contrasting it with its opposite.

I would like to term this second kind of sexual essence actualization mirroring as it operates primarily on similarity. In some ways it is like a Narcissistic form of attraction for ourselves: I can see my own sexual essence reflected in the body of a person of the same sex. Furthermore, in a homosexual encounter, I enjoy a privileged position that I cannot have in a heterosexual encounter: I can truly understand how someone of the same sex feels in a sexual situation, how their body reacts, how things feel to them, and I can do this directly through my own experience, instead of anecdotally. Similarity, as well as difference, can make me feel masculine.

If this is true that there is a second avenue for the actualization of sexual essences, then this is a serious problem for Ayn Rand’s position as it removes the charge of homosexual arousal as being “unnatural.” However, we are far from done as the existence of a second avenue for the actualization of the sexual essences forces us to reconsider the essences themselves and their identity. If masculinity can be actualized, at least in some cases, by another masculine essence, then what does this mean for the nature of masculinity? Since we initially defined masculinity as the drive to dominate and to force the feminine to submit to his will, we shall have to redefine this definition if it is to include homosexual arousal as well. Although I don’t propose here to offer a complete answer to the problem, let me sketch an outline of the questions that need to be asked and some possible answers.

The first question that needs to be asked is this: in a male homosexual encounter, do both the top (the penetrator) and the bottom (the penetrated) feel masculine or does only the top feel this way? This question is very important as if it is only the top that feels masculine, and never the bottom, then perhaps we can change our definition only slightly to that of masculinity being just the drive to dominate. However, if the bottom also feels masculine during a sexual situation, even though he is passive, then this will cause problems for defining masculinity this way. Indeed, if such is the case, perhaps we have made an error in identifying masculinity and femininity as being tied to certain sexes and not, instead, to patterns of action. Indeed, if we free masculinity and femininity from biological sex, then we could assert that the bottom in a gay male relationship could feel the onset of a sexual essence, although it would be the feminine sexual essence and not the masculine.

Although controversial, the removal of the biological sex restriction allows us to make the kinds of judgments that are culturally present: such as calling a male homosexual who is exclusively a bottom “feminine,” “emasculated,” and “woman-like.” Remember that this was the epitaph that the Greeks called this kind of man and the reason he was derided: the Greeks thought that he had destroyed his masculinity through passivity.

The obvious problem, though, is that if we remove the biological foundations of masculinity and femininity, then what makes dominance masculine and submission feminine? It would seem that it would be definitionally true, but there would not be much basis beyond that. Worse, though, is that if masculinity is only to be dominant, and there is no foundation in biological sex, then any act of dominance could be considered to be an instance of masculinity: whether it was by a woman, a person in a non-sexual situation, or even by a pre-pubescent child. This seems to completely fly in the face of any understanding of masculinity. Clearly, there must be some bounds to this concept if it is to retain any meaning and relevance to reality.

So, how can we bind masculinity to being biologically male without making homosexuality into something unnatural and immoral? It seems that we can either redefine masculinity to include more than dominance or allow that one can feel masculine without actively dominating another, but merely by recognizing one’s ability to do so, whether or not one chooses to actualize this possibility or not. On the other hand, perhaps masculinity is no more than the recognition of one’s maleness and the experience of masculinity is the experience of being an embodied man. Perhaps we have been trying to pack too much into the concept of masculinity, more than it could have reasonably been expected to hold. Indeed, this seems perhaps to be correct as it removes some contradictions from that result from our former conceptions of masculinity and femininity, such as how to understand a “normal” heterosexual relationship between a man and a woman where the woman is the sexually aggressive and active partner and the man is sexually submissive and passive partner.

Now that we have disconnected masculinity from dominance and redefined it simply as being the experience of one’s embodied maleness, we need to look a little further to arrive at a better concept of masculinity. Let us return to one of the first things we said on the subject: that in a (heterosexual) sexual situation, the man desires to penetrate the woman with his penis and the woman desires to receive the man’s penis into her vagina. Metaphysically, the penis is an instrument of penetration, not dominance; while the vagina is an instrument of reception, not submission. This recognition of the metaphysical role of the sex organs, combined with the idea of the experience of sexual embodiment, is the key to understanding the sexual essences. Through it, we can understand masculinity to be the experience of embodied maleness combined with the desire for penetration. Likewise, we can understand femininity to be the experience of embodied femaleness combined with the desire for reception. These definitions have distinct advantages over our former conceptions as they don’t require any sort of additional metaphysical baggage to be added into the concepts and they do not result in any sort of contradictions.

In addition to this simpler conception of masculinity and femininity, we can utilize the concepts of masculine traits and feminine traits to talk about the usual expressions of these sexual essences in a specific culture or time period. For example, we can say that dominance and strength are masculine traits in our culture, but this would not imply that their absence would be the same as the absence of masculinity itself. Through reconceptualizing the natures of masculinity and femininity, we can maintain almost all of the Objectivist conception of sexuality and open up Objectivism for homosexuality.

New Gel Reduces HIV and Herpes Infections

by Jason Stotts

Bussinessweek is reporting on a new study for a drug called Viread that is having some very promising trials:

A vaginal gel containing Gilead Sciences Inc.’s AIDS drug Viread cut HIV infections by as much as 54 percent in a trial in South Africa…

“It’s a game-changing trial,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of the New York-based AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, a nonprofit group, in an interview. “At last, here is now proof of concept that we can use a microbicide against HIV. It’s a transformative moment in prevention science.”

Women who used the gel had the added benefit of being protected from genital herpes, or HSV-2, a disease that increases a person’s susceptibility to HIV infection. Women who used the gel had a 51 percent reduction in new herpes infections.

This is very promising news and combined with the trials in the antibody research means that for the first time, real steps are being taken to rid the world of AIDS.

Argentina Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

by Jason Stotts

Yesterday, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage:

[The new law] gives same-sex couples equal marriage rights, including the ability to adopt children.

The law was backed by the center-left government of President Cristina Kirchner, who has said she will sign it. [CNN]

Congrats to all of the Argentinian gays and bi’s who now have the legal right to love whoever they want and express that love in a formal union.

Recent Important News Stories

by Jason Stotts

With crashing OCON, work, and a long essay I’m working on now, I’ve been rather remiss in blogging.  Unfortunately, this means that I missed the chance to discuss several really important news stories, so I’m going to remedy that here and condense them all into one post.

1. DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Boston, Massachusetts, has ruled that the federal ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, because it interferes with an individual state’s right to define marriage.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that “as irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest,” the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the protection under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

This is definitely the right decision and it’s nice to see that the judge has the right idea about the things about which the government should and should not legislate about.

2. VA hospital may have infected 1,800 veterans with HIV

A Missouri VA hospital is under fire because it may have exposed more than 1,800 veterans to life-threatening diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis has recently mailed letters to 1,812 veterans telling them they could contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after visiting the medical center for dental work, said Rep. Russ Carnahan.

Welcome to life under socialized medicine.  This is by far not the worst story we’re going to see happen as the government takes more of a role in healthcare.

3. Advance in Quest for HIV Vaccine

In the latest development, U.S. government scientists say they have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered. They are now deploying the technique used to find those antibodies to identify antibodies to influenza viruses.

This could be the beginning of the end of AIDS and a fresh start for many people who are already afflicted with it.

4. Court Tosses Out FCC Rules to Curb Indecent Speech

A federal appeals court threw out the FCC’s rules on indecent speech Tuesday, in a big win for broadcasters that could lead to a new Supreme Court test of the government’s power to control what is said on television and radio.

The judges found that the agency’s decision to sanction broadcasters’ airing of one-time or “fleeting” expletives is unconstitutional, and suggested the FCC’s broader indecency enforcement efforts are unconstitutional as well.

It’s nice to see separation of powers at work. Maybe the zeitgeist is a-changing and freedom is on the horizon.  Let’s hope so and continue to work for it.

5. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Goes to Court

President Obama’s remarks that the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy weakens national security shows it should be declared unconstitutional, a lawyer for the nation’s largest Republican gay rights group told a federal judge Tuesday.

The case has put the federal government in the awkward position of defending the policy that Obama has said should be repealed.

Let’s hope that’s the end of that law.

Holidays: Altruism’s Corruption of the Holy

by Jason Stotts

Some time ago, I met a young woman by the name the name of Julia.  After getting to know her, I was surprised to find that the Fourth of July was her favorite holiday, since I had never heard anyone identify the Fourth as their favorite holiday.  It’s not that I’m surprised by the choice of days, the Fourth is a most deserving day for celebration.  Indeed, what could be better than a secular celebration of freedom, rationality, and the greatest country in the world?  No, it’s not that I thought her choice unworthy; rather, I was surprised that a religious person would identify this secular holiday as her favorite.

The surprise came for me because I knew that Julia is a committed mormon.  I would have thought that she would pick a favorite holiday that was more consistent with her religious (altruistic) convictions, like Christmas, Easter, or Good Friday.  Realistically the only kind of people that I would have expected to declare the Fourth of July as their favorite holiday would be Objectivists: people who understand the value of our country and what it represents in the course of human development.

Prompted by my confusion about her choice, I decided to employ what is probably my favorite word in the English language: “why.”  I questioned her about her choice and was relieved, and gratified, that when I asked her why she liked the Fourth of July so much, she actually paused and gave the question serious consideration.  I say gratified because it sickens me when people treat serious and important questions quickly and without thought: as though I should be satisfied by their regurgitated answer that they formed in haste and never questioned.  Julia’s pause, however, was more than I expected.  While considering the question, I could see in her face that it was causing quite an internal conflict: her face was both enlightened and troubled by her thoughts.  Her first response was a rather disappointed “I don’t know,” which is perhaps the worst answer possible to any question.  If you don’t know the answer, then your response should be “I don’t know and I’m going to find out.” Thankfully Julia was not satisfied with her answer either and began to reflect again.  This time she did discover the answer, although she still does not realize its magnitude.

Haltingly, and uncertainly, Julia began to explain that with holidays like Christmas, Easter, etc., you are obligated to get gifts for people you don’t really care about and you are forced to be around people you do not really want to be around.  In effect she was telling me that she did not like duty and sacrifice, that these things pained her, although she did not then make the full identification.  Suddenly her staccato answer stopped and her eyes lit up: she told me that the reason why she liked the Fourth so much was because you were not obligated to get gifts for people that you did not like and you only had to spend time with the people you love and want to be with.  In effect, she told me that self-interest was the proper modus operandi and that she was only happy when she was acting in her own rational self-interest, which was why she hated the other holidays.

Since I knew that a direct (blunt) mode of questioning might make her defensive, I instead took a tactful approach and tried to stimulate her mind to make the connections that I thought should be self-evident.  So, I said: “I agree that living your life for others is no way to live.  To be happy, you have to live for yourself”.  She agreed and it was evident from her face that my answer had struck a chord with her; an ephemeral flash of comprehension lit up her eyes.

Now, this is perhaps one of the most poignant cases of the dire necessity of philosophy in life and the consequences of its absence or perversion.  Through something as simple as holidays, Julia was starting to recognize the evil of Altruism and the goodness of Egoism.  Her religion, accepted at an age before she had gained control of her rational and cognitive faculties, had crippled her mind.  Yet, it could not prevent her body’s automated defense mechanism, her emotions, from acting to tell her that something was wrong.  Julia’s emotional response to the threat to her life, as a person if not even literally to her physical existence, caused her to begin to question.  Unfortunately, having accepted the premises of Altruism, she could not identify what was causing her to feel that way.  Emotions are not enough for us to live by and they are not always to be trusted; they can be corrupted, so we need something that is more reliable and, if used correctly, infallible.

Yet, unfortunately for Julia, her religious convictions had crippled her rationality by corrupting her most fundamental premises.  Left in this position, where one knows that something is not as it should be because he feels that something is wrong which he thinks should be right, is a deadly position for many.  Instead of questioning the premises causing the contradiction, many people would instead began to question themselves.  Since they “know” that it is wrong to act in their own self-interest, and yet they only feel happy when they do, they began to regard themselves as evil.  However, the trap is easy to break out of once you realize that the only things binding you are your own mistaken beliefs.  Instead of starting with the premise that acting self-sacrificially is right, ask yourself why it is right.  If you can’t answer the question of why it is right, then you’re certainly not justified in believing that it is right.  Floating abstractions are worse than ignorance, because ignorance is at least honest.

It is in the realm of Ethics that philosophy has most abdicated its role as the protector of humanity, so it is hard to condemn Julia for failing to question Altruism when philosophy itself has historically failed to question this most controversial of premises.  Through most of the history of philosophy, it was taken as a given that man had to act self-sacrificially: it was only the beneficiary that was contested.  The simple fact that man could live for himself seemed to escape the notice of these purveyors of sacrifice.

Holidays, however, are supposed to be celebrations and celebrations are supposed to be life-affirming: no one would celebrate the fact that he had a debilitating disease, whereas we do celebrate the good things in life like graduations, weddings, new jobs, etc.  How, then, can most of what we call holidays cause Julia, and many others, to feel a sense of bitterness and sadness?  It’s through the perversion of morality via Altruism and the destruction of legitimate concepts such as “holiday.”  By turning words that should be employed to praise the nobility of the human spirit into words that are reserved for otherworldly father figures, Altruism has taken reverence for life and tried to substitute its antithesis.  Why do we hate buying gifts for people whom we don’t really like and don’t want to be around?  Clearly this is against our self-interest.  If I do not like someone, I am not going to want to give him a gift because I either don’t value him or I value him less than the value of the gift, but our “duty to sacrifice” our self-interest under Altruism demands that we ignore this analysis and give the gift anyway.  Yet this only causes ill feelings all around as everyone senses that acting contrary to their self-interest is wrong, while at the same time they feel that they are trapped and have no choice but to act self-sacrificially anyway.

In order to fix the seeming paradox of holidays we have to remind ourselves that if we want to be happy we must identify what this means and work to achieve it.  We must question our premises and challenge our most basic assumptions — “why” must become our credo.  We must reclaim the words that the altruists have stolen and perverted.  We have to overcome the privation left to us by the betrayal of our philosophic forefathers and seek guidance from ourselves.

Ethics should not be a set of negative commands: instead of telling you what not to do, ethics should help you live your life.  Ethics, properly, is a system of general principles that try to help you lead a good life.  It is the role of Ethics to identify the good life.  It is the role of Ethics to identify the actions and habits that will help you achieve a good life.  It is the role of Ethics to help us lead good human lives.

If living a good life is not your goal, if you instead stick to mystical decadence, then death shall be your reward.  If you truly believe that living a good human life is not good for humans, think about what this means for you: you desire not to be human, which is a desire for death.  It is by living a moral life that we become happy and it is by being virtuous that we live a moral life.  Without ethics, we are without guidance in the most important thing in the world: our very lives.

In order to live a moral life we must learn that egoism is the path to happiness: our lives are our responsibility and if we want to be happy we must concern ourselves with our own interests.  What right could I possibly have to the life of another person?  We must be self-reliant and never ask another to sacrifice for us and never sacrifice ourselves for another.

In order to live a moral life we must learn the true nature of happiness.  Is happiness merely feeling joyful?  If it were, then we could live our lives well by staying in a drug-induced delirium all day, yet clearly this would not be a good life.  So happiness must be more than merely feelings of joy.  Happiness comes from living a good human life: from pride in our accomplishments and from pride in living well.  Pride was once called the crown of the virtues and happiness requires us to pick up this shattered crown and restore it to its glory.

In order to live a moral life, we must throw off the chains of Altruism.  We must either act to further our life or act to diminish it: there are no other choices.  If we want to live and be happy, we must recognize Altruism as the virulent form of death-wish it is.  Self-sacrifice is clearly anti-life; it asks us to renounce our judgment and our life.  Duty demands that we purposefully act against our lives; it asks us to willing and jovially give up our lives.  Do you now see the monstrosity of Altruism, lauded as the supposed salvation of man?  Sure, it can save us: from life.

There are so many ways that we can take our lives back from the black pit of death: the most important is to merely recognize the nature of the struggle and what’s at stake.  After this, all we need to do is recognize changes we can make in our lives, such as with holidays.

Reclaiming holiday would require no more than for all of us to sever them from their religious basis and celebrate them for their value to our lives and there is, indeed, a great benefit in proper celebration.  Instead of sacrificing ourselves at the holidays, let us instead celebrate them with the people we love and really do want to see.  Instead of getting gifts for everyone, let us just get them for those closest to us who hold the most value for us.  Let us turn holidays back into celebrations of life.

As is universally true, even the hardest issue can be made easy by breaking it down into its fundamental components and analyzing these for what they really are, our minds are capable of coming to the truth of any issue with time and knowledge.  The issue of holidays has led us to understand the conflict of Altruism and Egoism; we have come to universal truth from a particular situation.  This is yet another example of the dire necessity of philosophy and its usefulness in life.  Let us hope that Julia, and everyone else like her, can figure out these complicated issues for themselves and they can start to be truly happy in life.  Reclaimed, holidays will no longer be a source of suffering.  Instead, they will be a source of joy and an affirmation of life: a celebration of ourselves.

Christians Lose Again

by Jason Stotts

In another Supreme Court ruling, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 08-1371, SCOTUS ruled that a christian group cannot bar gays from being members if it receives public funding.  The AP report (from SFGate) notes Justice Stevens:

…was even harsher, saying while the Constitution “may protect CLS’s discriminatory practices off campus, it does not require a public university to validate or support them.”

Stevens, who plans to retire this summer, added that “other groups may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks and women — or those who do not share their contempt for Jews, blacks and women. A free society must tolerate such groups. It need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur, or grant them equal access to law school facilities.”

I think that this is not a first amendment issue as the christians were claiming, but rather an issue of what ideas a state should subsidize.  While Stevens rightly argues it should not be christian ideas that involve hatred of gays, I would want to go much farther and argue that the state should subsidize no ideas.

By allowing the government to subsidize ideas, you force some people to pay for ideas abhorrent to them and deprive people of money that they might have used to support an opposite position.  The government should be in the business of guaranteeing individual rights through law and order, nothing else.

Let me end by saying that I completely agree with Thomas Jefferson when he said:

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”