Thursday, 23 May 2013

Mark of a Traitor

Something terrible happened in our country yesterday. I seriously don't want to live in the UK any more. And on top of that, I get to feel guilty for not agreeing with my fellow countrymen.

Two British Muslims beheaded a British soldier.

It was a fucking vicious, completely insane attack. 

What has bothered me is the reactions.

"This is a Christian country." 

If that's true, then I don't belong here. 

I'm against religion. I'm against war. I'm against nationalism. I'm against racism. I embrace peace and love and understanding. And I've never felt so different than I do right now. 

If I were to point out the atrocities committed by Christians throughout history against Muslims, Jews and even atheists such as myself, it would be considered both blasphemous and traitorous. I'd be accused of not being a 'real Brit', a literal example of 'no true Scotswoman'. Well guess what? I don't want to be British, or any other nationality. I want to be human.

A century or so ago, I'd have been hung for speaking out. Obviously that wouldn't happen in a literal sense these days, but right now I feel like it would happen figuratively, and that's why I'm not even exploring details in this blog post. 

I was close to tears when I explained my feelings to my partner. I feel so out of place. I want to love humanity so much, but you make it difficult for me. I want to love my country, but I struggle to see things to be proud of. I don't fit in.

I started a Facebook page last weekend called How To Be A Good Human Being, with the intent of countering claims that humanity is evil by posting stories of the good humans do. Right now, I feel like it's pointless.

"This is a Christian country."

Anybody got directions to a country where religion doesn't matter?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Forever Rachel

Guilt is not a nice feeling, but for some reason, I feel it constantly. I seem to blame myself for pretty much every single bad thing that happens around me. I'm like the thin, female version of Hurley from Lost.

Guilt feels like a knot in your stomach that eats away at your insides. I feel it all the time, tugging away, reminding me how terrible I can be.

My actions aren't bad, but my inaction can be. I don't put enough effort in to anything.

There are a few incidents from my younger days that I am to blame for.

The first isn't even really an 'incident'. 

My mum was 36 when she had me, which is late in a woman's life. She started showing signs of MS after that. She told me that doctors said the symptoms were brought on by childbirth. Of course, she'd had the disease for many years before I was conceived, but it was my fault it showed up and destroyed her so quickly.

I guess I made up for it for a time, being an intelligent, thoughtful kid and all, but I guess me having some intelligence backfired for her a bit, as I eventually turned my back on her religion that she loved so much. When I went to see her after that, she would question my beliefs and ask why I wasn't with 'the truth'.

How could I possibly answer that? She was a fragile woman whose body (and eventually mind) was failing her. My moral code (which, ironically, she taught me) told me I couldn't lie to her, but also that I couldn't 'fight' her either. I had no choice but to offer lame answers that meant nothing. Honestly, I was still just learning myself.

I think if she thought about me in her last days, she wouldn't have felt pride, but that's okay for me, because her religion gave her a warped sense of reality. That, and I hadn't done much to make her proud then. Oh, if only she could see my daughter now! She is my confirmation that my life hasn't been a complete waste. My pride in my girl makes me want to cry with joy :') But I turned my back on religion, and I honestly wasn't a very good daughter anyway. 

I hope she was at least proud of my sister, she basically gave up her whole life for mum. I think my brother and I were written off as soon as we gave up 'the truth'. My sister deserves praise for her caring nature. I'm not sure if our mother saw it though. She really wasn't all together upstairs, and didn't show her emotions very often.

Another thing that I feel guilty about relates to my dad. I'm not going to go into details about this one, because the people are still living, and obviously close to me. But dad, if you ever read this -

When I was 15, you asked me to go live somewhere with you. I constantly regret saying no. Hell, you probably don't even remember, but I do. I should have left with you.

My early 'parenthood' is something else I feel guilty about. These days, about once a week my girl tells me that her friends all think I'm cool and that she is lucky I'm her mum. I love that, but it's taken me a very long time to become the person I am now. I messed up a lot in my earlier days of motherhood.

I probably feel much more guilty than I should. I blame myself for things out of my control, even now. My colleagues at work had an argument, and I thought it was my fault. When I don't hear from friends, I assume it's because I've blown them off in the past. I think about issues day and night until they are resolved. I apologise constantly, because I always feel like I've done something wrong. I don't want to upset or hurt anybody. I really do try to be a nice person these days.

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Blog Title

At first, I wasn't sure what to call this blog. I couldn't think of any Final Fantasy song titles that mentioned guilt, so I thought about plot. Who suffers the same feelings I want to describe?


Locke from Final Fantasy VI lost Rachel for reasons outwith his control, but tortured himself every day, wondering what he could have done differently. And he's right - if he had acted differently, it might not have turned out so bad. He did nothing malicious or heartless. He just felt he couldn't live up to other's expectations.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Lifestream

I promised some positivity, so here goes. 

I seem to constantly harp on about how I think humanity is awesome, and you're all idiots for thinking otherwise (that's not an oxymoron, by the way - I can think humans are stupid and still love them). I think it's about time I stopped focusing on the bad, and try to demonstrate why I love humanity so much. 

I spend a lot of my time reading and thinking about really depressing stuff (if you couldn't tell from my previous posts). My daughter has recently taken up watching scary films and Youtube videos, so we had a discussion about horror just this week. She's only 12, and seems to enjoy jump scares. That's cool, lots of people do, that's why a lot of horror movies exist, right?

I've never really liked the 'horror' genre. I honestly put it down to my Jehovah's Witness upbringing. There were no 18 rated films in our house, even a 15 was pushing it. I was impressionable, and my mum told me 'horror' stories of her own - she would tell me about times my (much older) siblings had freaked out on drugs, but even more profound was the fact that I was terrified by stories told in the bible, and the pictures that accompanied the children's edition. I was a really jumpy kid. I once accidentally saw a TV advert for IT and couldn't sleep for a month. I'm not that bad now! I like survival horror games, and while I still don't care for real horror films, I enjoy creepy, psychological stories. Recently, I've been reading about real life violence, and that scares me in the same way (I go through this phase of being obsessed with real life crime from time to time).

So, I tried to explain to my daughter that sure, jump scares are scary, but it's the 'adult fears' - the things that really could happen - that are infinitely more scary for me (she understood when I cited Heavy Rain as an example). As I mentioned before, I am very intrigued by the psychology behind killers. I sort-of retract my last rant about killers having fans - we know so much about the Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, that I can almost understand and sympathise with their point of view, in a twisted way. But there's obviously people I sympathise with much more - the victims. I sympathise with pretty much everybody, actually.

This is where the positivity comes in, honest :P

There are just as many cases of humans making a sacrifice for someone else as there are cases of murder and other crimes. People will throw themselves in front of bullets to protect children, their partner, the elderly. There are millions of doctors all over the world that give up their weekend with their children just to aid random strangers. Most areas of science focus on information, cures, or other ways to improve our lives. 'Science' isn't an entity, it's millions of incredibly intelligent and highly devoted people working their asses off every day for your (yes, you, the person they've never met) benefit. The police aren't assholes, as so many people seem to believe - it's the same as any other group, some are just an embarrassment that taint the good name, or powers that be control their options. Police officers and firefighters put themselves in danger so you don't have to. I am very much against military operations and war, but every single soldier puts themselves at risk to protect their entire country.

But it's even more than that. The roles I just mentioned require extreme intelligence and/or bravery, but so-called 'normal' humans display this courage and integrity every day. For example, I read an unofficial source that said 3 of the guys killed in the Colorado Batman shooting died shielding their girlfriends. Timothy Treadwell, the guy that loved bears and ultimately died an ironic death, lost his life similarly. The many teachers that have died in school massacres have done so out of duty and love for their wards. The concept of charity exists, and millions donate every day.

But that's still heroics. Humanity's beauty goes even deeper than that. Who are you? Oooh, that question came out of left field, huh? But seriously, do you think you are a bad person? Of course not. You have your own set of morals and boundaries, just like me. Sure, it makes you 'edgy' and 'different' to push those boundaries, and sure, I probably don't agree with a lot of you, but you're mostly all good people.

I associate with people from all walks of life, and the vast majority are good, honest, hardworking, caring, thoughtful people. They care about how life affects their loved ones. For some, it's their god or their pet, for others it's their family and friends, their community, their country. Humans care for fellow humans.

There's no denying that some humans are sick and twisted. I'm sure even you, sane, intelligent reader, have had plenty of disturbing thoughts in your time. We all have. I'm not saying everybody is good, just that we're all predisposed to good.

I guess 'good' and 'evil' are man-made constructs. For example, I think killing is wrong (as do most people), however, there are numerous situations where there is no black and white. Accidents or (real) self-defence are obvious examples, but what about the death penalty? Is that used as a way to protect society, or as a punishment? And as I said earlier, it's possible to show empathy for mass murderers (serial killers, not so much, unless they are fictional). And there's a reason the concept of 'war crimes' exist.

Is it better to speak your mind or conform? Either choice you make in any given situation fuels the hatred on the opposing side. You're either a sheep or rocking the boat.

You can't 'win'; there isn't a 'right answer'.

The best you can do is look out for the people you love. And while you might offend a lot of people along the way, you know (and so do I) that you're doing it for the right reasons. You're doing it for your own perception of good.

And that's enough to convince me that humanity isn't 'evil'.

You may think it's evil that I keep writing such long, nonsensical posts though :P

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I only added a few paragraphs in this post tonight, most of it was written a few nights ago. This is already long, so I might take my next bitching session on to another post. I bet you can't wait ;)

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Blog Title

'Lifestream' is a track from Final Fantasy VII. It plays during the group's visit to Bugenhagen's observatory in Cosmo Canyon on disc 1. I'm posting the cutscene rather than just the track this time -




The idea is that when people die, their lifeforce and knowledge return to the planet, and is recycled for new life. I don't believe that, of course, but you know what? I think the concept of recycling souls is much more encouraging in moral issues than religion ever could be. I'd much rather be a good person to benefit others than to benefit myself. It's how I look at motherhood - my ultimate job is to pass on who I am so it affects the next generation, not because I'm promised something good afterwards (heaven or whatever). Being nice makes people happy, and for me, there's no greater reward than putting a smile on someone's face, no matter how brief.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Man with the Machine Gun

This is the last time I'm going to talk about violence for a while, it's getting depressing.

Guns scare the fuck out of me. I can't stress this enough - I am absolutely terrified at the thought of them. Luckily for me, guns are very tightly controlled here in Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

First, my own experience with guns - I swear I have only seen one gun in Scotland ever. I've been to 'royal' tourist hotspots in London and the surrounding area, so I've seen the various armed guards and parades. The only time I've seen a gun in Scotland was an armed police officer at Edinburgh airport. That's it, that's my 'experience'.

The UK isn't like America, we don't have this 'gun culture' thing. We don't have a constitution, and I'm about to say something that Americans may find offensive - fuck the constitution. Okay, that's a bit harsh. To be honest, I really admire a lot about the American way of life (their pride and integrity, for one, which reminds me a lot of the Scottish people). I say 'fuck the constitution', but I don't really know much about it. There are two parts I do know - freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. Well, I have something to say about both (what a surprise).

The phrase 'freedom of speech' gets bandied about a LOT on the internet. I've seen personal friends use the phrase. But there's no law that says 'you can say whatever the hell you like, no consequence' here. A group like the Westboro Bapist Church wouldn't last 5 minutes here, trust me. I do agree that people should be able to say what they want, but for me, there's a clause to that - as long as you're not a fucking vicious asshole. I've touched briefly on the concept of social contract before, and to me, that is far more important than freedom of speech. It's about having respect for your fellow human, so we can aim to live in harmony.

Now the really sticky part - the right to bear arms. Obviously people in favour of gun control laws will point out that the constitution's wording actually refers to an American's right to bear arms in a state of civil war/militia-type stuff. I would like that to be true, but I'm not going to pretend I know anything about the USA's laws. 

When I was almost 13, something awful happened here in Scotland. A school shooting. That type of thing seems to happen fairly often in America these days, but first of all, it's never heard of here, and second, not one has occurred since. In 1996, a creepy middle-aged man went tits up and shot and killed innocent 5-6 year olds, in the Scottish town of Dunblane. I remember it very well, but I won't go into details of why right now. But it resulted in the very strict laws we have now. And as I said, not one school shooting has happened since. In fact, I think there's only been 1 or 2 mass shootings (not even in schools) in the UK since 1996.

However, what works for one country may not work for the next. I was honestly gutted when I read that Obama's gun control laws were rejected. I don't really understand what's wrong with restricting semi-automatics and requiring a background search. I heard a lot of the votes against it were due to pro-gun lobbying. America just seems like a different world to me, so I'm not really qualified to suggest any sort of solution.

They say 'if they take away our guns, then only criminals will be armed'. I suppose the same is true here. Yet somehow, we manage to have one of the lowest worldwide rates for gun killings. The fact of the matter is that guns are so ingrained into American culture that they'd be impossible to move. It's like Christianity in that way, but that subject is best left for another post.

There was just one last thing I waned to say about guns. I am a GEEEEEEEEEEEEK. I play games a lot. Today a school kid customer asked me which is the more popular sport, cricket or football, and my answer was 'neither, Blitzball'. They didn't get it :( Anyway, obviously games come up a lot when discussing horrific violent acts. Okay, it's mostly due to Jack Thompson, an attorney that even the courts now refuse to listen to, but so many people believe the myth.

I don't play first person shooters. My boyfriend does, but I'm a much more avid gamer than he is these days. My favourite franchise is Final Fantasy (in case you couldn't tell by the titles of all my blog posts), and I can only remember playing 3 games in that series  in which you actually control someone with a gun in. FFVII had Vincent and Barret (he was a black dude with a gun grafted onto his arm... less said about the implications, the better, but he was a great character), FFVIII had the gunblades wielded by Squall and Seifer (which are again used in FFXIII), as well as Laguna (more about that shortly). But attacks in standard JRPGs are almost clinical. There's no skill to it. If anything, the only 'skill' you need is the ability to make decisions. Would a regular attack be most suitable for this situation, or a magic attack, healing etc.? That's all there is to RPGs (apart from awesome stories and characters).

I have played a few games where guns are the main weapon, mostly survival horror stuff. I really couldn't imagine beating the final bosses of Silent Hill 2 with a plank of wood, for example. And to be honest, I suck at FPSs. I also have such a geeky hard-on for non-projectile weapons that I plan on getting a Buster Sword tattoo ^_^ Yet, I am still a pacifist.

It really pissed me off that my hobby has such a stigma attached to it. 

Reading back on talk pages on Wikipedia about massacres, it's pretty obvious that people just look for a scapegoat. People have issues and agendas in mind, and everything that happens fits around that. I don't think one mass murder has gone by without Mr Thomson saying it was because of games, even when it was shown the perpetrator didn't play. Same goes for violent movies or any other media. That stuff doesn't make people crazy.

Next time I post, I'm really going to make the effort to cover something that's not quite so depressing. I'd like to write about the Boston Marathon bombings, but I'll leave that alone for now. Maybe I'll cover something about unicorns and rainbows, because the internet is fickle.

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Blog Title

'The Man with the Machine Gun' is a track from Final Fantasy VIII. I didn't like the game all that much, but seriously, what other Final Fantasy track even mentions guns? Without spoiling too much, the game shifts to Laguna's point of view a few times, and this is the battle music that plays during those sections. It's really good!

Anyway, the cool thing about this track is that it was played at the Distant Worlds: Final Fantasy concert in Scotland last year, which I attended, and this sounded fucking awesome. Yes, swearing is necessary in this case. Final Fantasy orchestra ♥

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Soulless Village

I removed my last blog post. I think I made some good points, but I missed a lot out that I wanted to say, got sidetracked by my preachiness (hush, spellchecker, that is totally a word) and I wasn't happy with how it was written.

I was mostly talking about death and injury, as well as domestic terrorism. Or more specifically, spree killers and school shootings. I've still been reading and thinking about these subjects. I've noticed something interesting - something about myself, actually. 

I've read almost every page about spree killers on Wikipedia. I believe Wikipedia is a good site to use to get a basic idea of a subject, but I also check the sources and don't take everything at face value, as well as read the talk pages (basically, I'm not a wiki hater). Anyway, what I've noticed is that I'm not entirely interested in spree killings where the motive is unknown. My heart breaks for any and all victims of such crimes, but what really interests me is why. Why would a person do something like this?

Quite a lot of spree shootings, obviously mostly the ones that take place in schools, are committed by young, troubled men, although older men have also done such things. When it comes to the older killers, such as Thomas Hamilton (who opened fire in a school in my home country, Scotland, when I was 12, and resulted in a gun ban. I'll discuss that more in another post), I find that I have to believe it's a result of mental illness. Wait, that's actually what I have to believe no matter what the age - I can't get my head around what would cause someone to have such disregard for human life. Clearly they must have some sort of condition. There are a lot of developmental conditions and personality disorders that are associated with lack of empathy.

Did you know that narcissism gets its name from a character in Greek mythology? Narcissus was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection for being too proud to return the affections of anybody else. I love it when concepts relate to mythology ^_^

Anyway, my search for why has turned up some disturbing results.

Take Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre in 1999. Coincidentally, a previously unseen video of the pair has just been released today, which I saw on my Facebook news feed posted by my friend and fellow blogger Jen (awesome blog mostly focusing on horror by the way, please check it out!).

As far as I can tell, Harris and Klebold were just like any other teenage guys. That might sound crazy to some people, and I'm sure they both really did have a screw loose (or Harris did, and Klebold was easily led - that's a possibility), but really, their journals and other writings just sounded like the shit I read on the internet every day, apart from the whole 'seriously planning a massacre' thing.

No, what really disturbed me was the fans. Can you believe people that commit such atrocities have fans? I won't post links or name names, but there are people that see Harris and Klebold as heroes. Now, I find them incredibly interesting and a wealth of knowledge into the problems of younger people, but every single person that views Harris (and/or Klebold, and any other killer) as a hero is clearly basing their 'beliefs' (ugh, I hate that word so much) on misinformation and *shudder* conspiracy theories.

I've got to say, most of the people that love the Columbine murderers think they did it because they were bullied. Bulling is a terrible thing that can lead to numerous problems, but hell, I don't even need to point out they gave as good as they got. In what world is it okay for anybody to take a weapon designed for killing into a school and straight up kill people, children? No. That's insane.

One person that was 'in love' with Harris claimed to be my age - that is, almost 30. Oh, he was 'so hot'? I just... okay, I'm hoping everybody that ever reads this understands my disgust, because I don't even have words...

I'm going to leave that subject alone for now.

Sort of.

Have I ever admitted to my awful habit of picking scabs?

*ahem*

There is something else I want to discuss that tangentially relates to spree killers. Conspiracy theories. I mean, what the actual fuck?

I straight up can't see much of a difference at all between conspiracy theorists and religious wackos. Both cherry pick facts from their subject of choice to fit their personal beliefs, and both think that they personally are somehow better people than everybody else because they are 'in' on the 'truth', and the rest of us are just misguided sheep.

I actually encourage people to be suspicious of what they hear. Skepticism is an incredibly useful tool which is spoken about a lot by atheists and anarchists (two groups I can identify with), but often misinterpreted. It doesn't mean you have to disbelieve everything you hear. Not everything is a lie.

Don't get confused between the concept of a conspiracy and a conspiracy theory. Conspiracies do happen all the time. But conspiracy theories question the truth of hugely publicised events, things that can be and have been verified by professionals over and over. Without even looking at the individual flaws of each 'theory' (I feel kind of dirty using that word in this context, but hey), their one major drawback is that they rely on  people keeping quiet about it for an indefinite amount of time.

The internet is a breeding ground for such insanity. It's hard to tell the difference between a good photoshop and an honest image. It's very easy to take an image and slap your own context onto it. I corrected at least 3 separate posts relating to the Boston Marathon bombings this week. There were images of children that supposedly died and tragic stories of love and loss, spreading round Facebook and Twitter like a disease many hours before the names of the victims were even released.

Snopes, of course, saved the day - I needn't mention that it's my other favourite website (mostly because of this, and the follow up article that accompanies those pages).

Our search for truth is hampered by our own egos. It's why religious people, conspiracy theorists, alternative medicine advocates, psychics etc. seem so self-righteous. Hell, it's why I get a kick out of lecturing people. It feels good to think you know more than everyone else. There is no personal truth. There's what is, and what isn't. Belief does nothing more than define who you are. Tinkerbell won't die if you don't clap your hands. Question everything, but don't be scared of finding out there isn't always a straight answer.

The post I deleted ended on the note that humanity is good at its core, that haters of humanity hate the exception, not the rule, and that hating humanity is exactly what pushes people to commit crimes like those I've discussed. So you can probably tell I'm one of humanity's top supporters. However, there's a big difference between thinking people are good and thinking they are smart

I've witnessed so much stupidity this week, it would be enough to make a normal person quit the internet forever. Unfortunately for you, I'm not a normal person, oh no. I like - hell, I love complaining. And I've been ill this week too, so I'm like a spiky ball of shut the fuck up before I slap you.

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Blog Title

Oh yeah, I decided to start doing this in my last post, but it's gone, so I guess this is the first. It's just a little section at the end explaining where the blog title comes from and why I chose it.

The full song title is Bran Bal, the Soulless Village from Final Fantasy IX. I really can't describe the plot point this plays at without explaining the entire story and spoiling it, but I really like this track (FFIX is Uematsu's masterpiece). 


I'm going to leave the question of why I chose this song up to you, just like the spree killers I discussed. Who do I consider 'soulless'? The killers? The fans of the killers? The conspiracy theorists? Everybody?

Meh, it's a moot question anyway, because what does 'soulless' even mean?