True strength and true freedom, not toxic aggression for its own sake

This week in one of my university lectures we somehow got into a conversation about a guy named Phil Fish and everything that was wrong about him. You may know him as the guy who made a successful indie game named Fez, and then cancelled its sequel, called all of his fans morons and attacked the dignity of his critics, and through all that quit the games industry in 2014. Later that day I came across a Kotaku article that actually defended him for his supposed passion (it claimed he wore his heart on his sleeve – which just sounds like bull); at that point I just thought really? That guy should be proved on matters of holding fast to personal convictions?

He might have been may have been likable or sympathizable before the debacle surrounding Fez and Fez II between 2012 and 2014, and may have been OK if a little melodramatic in his appearance in Indie Game: The Movie, but he ultimately proved to be nothing more than an oversensitive who just can’t handle criticism without mouthing off, and considering this is the same dude who released a game that, for all its success, had a lot of bugs that weren’t fixed before release. He at one point denounced all gamers as “the worst fucking people”. When he said on Twitter that gamers “don’t deserve” Fez II, one person pointed out that it was because people bought the game and loved it that he even became successful, and Fish simply dismissed him as an “entitled gamer”. When he and fellow indie game designer Jonathan Blow (the creator of Braid) were criticized in a rant by Gametrailers journalist Marcus Beer for declining to comment on the news of Microsoft allowing indie self-publishing on the Xbox One, Fish responded with a venomous series of tweets to him, including an invitation to commit suicide. And I dare you look at his Twitter feed from August 2014: it’s a mess. At one point he was also arrogant enough to claim that he was the “genius voice of a generation”: a kind of phrase you may already associate with rapper Kanye West, and that’s exactly what it sounds like.  After the feud with Marcus Beer, he announced that Fez II would be cancelled and that he would be quitting the games industry. Even after that though, he went on 4chan pretending to be a Fez fan, just because some anonymous guy called him a loser. At some point in 2014 he attempted to reform his company, Polytron, as an indie publisher, but the company got hacked (possibly after he got involved in the Gamergate controversy, siding with Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian), leading him to quit the games industry again, and he made a big whine about gamers being terrorists and how video games are dead and people should mourn video games. Yikes.

That in mind, this guy should be praised for “wearing his heart on his sleave”? This guy, this toxic internet personality who buckles under pressure, is unable to handle criticism without biting a guy’s head off, and for all his past conviction about video games being the ultimate artform and his big talk about being very successful and not going away, he caved in and left the games industry, never to return? This man is being treated as though he is a noble, courageous personality? As though the alternative is being a slave to PR?

Why?

Just because you’re oversensitive and can’t handle criticism doesn’t mean you can (or should) be lionized as someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, and it doesn’t mean you actually have any great or noble convictions to be worn on your sleeve. There should be a noticeable different between those things. I’ve come to see that I hate this assumption that if you’re not constantly angry and pernicious all the damn time, especially on the Internet, you’re weak, a slave to everyone’s opinions, a conformist. Surely you can be a passionate, bold, strong-minded person proud to wear his/her convictions on your sleeves (as I often feel I do), and without needing to lash out at everyone for no good reason or being very oversensitive. Better still, surely you can deal with people in a sane and reasonable manner, even deal with a professional environment and its hardships, without needing to sacrifice one bit of the fire of your conviction and your selfhood!  True strength can mean more than just the tendency or will to bite people’s heads off over your beliefs – or, for that matter, your insecurities. Being a bold, passionate, strong-willed character, perhaps, need not mean constantly having angry outlook or feed, or always making a big to-do about it, or at least that’s what I’m starting think.

And you know what, I tend to see stuff like this outside of the games industry, and particularly in politics. Why is it that toxic individuals are the ones who are usually viewed by their supporters as being brave and bold and hyped for the press who make a big deal out of their malignant personality and their commitment to it? You hear about people like Kim Davis, a bigoted woman who was hyped as a politically incorrect figurehead and hailed by her supporters as fighting government oppression of traditional values, but all she did was refuse to issue a marriage license to gay couples – thereby refusing to the job she signed up to do – because it contradicted her religious views on gay marriage. You have Phil Robertson, the star of Duck Dynasty who made several statements exhibiting a hatred of homosexuals, and similar statements where he tries to dress it up as love, but people actually defend him for his statements, to the point that you have people like Ted Cruz claiming he represents what Americans are all about. You have Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner and easily the most poisonous Republican candidate of them all, who insults and lies his way to the top and encourages outright violence against protesters, and people believe he’s a tough guy who tells it like it us, even though he lies. He’s even called a fighter, even when he’s hardly had to fight for anything in his life. Toxic personalities are hailed as brave, even when they’re just assholes. What about those who who strive day-to-day to fulfill their convictions instead of spending time spreading venom? Will they be recognized for their heroism?

I hate the notion that being a passionate and firmly convicted human being correlates to being an asshole, an oversensitive individual, a troll, a bigot, or compensating for something. I believe that living an authentic life, where you remain by the side of what you believe in with a firm conviction and have a passion for your life and convictions need not mean you being a horrible person all the time. It’s hard to do, and I want to see how it can be done myself, but as someone who wants to cultivate true strength and power, I am willing to embrace that. And I think it takes a kind of balance that’s difficult to achieve, at least for most people, but if that’s what true strength and true freedom will mean, that balance may be worth exploring.

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You have to truly believe in something

People these days may act like having beliefs and values is just a game, pretending to believe in something but refusing to act on it. But we need to realize that belief and personal morality is more than just a game, it should actually mean something and not just be a badge you present to somebody. And it can’t be based on what society tells you either. It should be based on your essential self, what makes you tick, what you honestly believe deep down without any societal persuasion at all. You gotta think about it honestly and genuinely. You won’t get to only think about it only either, you will always have to think about what you believe in on some level and at some rate.

If you say believed that money is evil (which I personally do not), then if you truly believed that money is evil, then you have to reject the power of money in all forms, even if that means living in poverty and possibly dying there (though that’s not to say there isn’t room for at least some allowances). I would not recommend this to anyone, let alone myself, but if you really believed money is evil, it wouldn’t matter if you were poor for you now wouldn’t it? If say you were a Christian, then it should be because you understand the philosophy and the rules and feel an affinity towards the faith in some way, and you should really believe in it, rather than just associated with it because you’re mindlessly going with the flow. If you believed in freedom for the individual, then you should be brave, even a little, and be prepared to face ridicule. If you believe in independence but you’re not prepared to live alone, then you should at the very least face that you aren’t ready and try to deal with it, even learn skills for independence, rather than pretend you’re ready to be a lone wolf and blow off anyone who could be willing to help you.

If you believe in something, you can’t hesitate about it, you can’t dilly-dally or be half-hearted about it. You have to truly believe in something, eliminate the middle men in your mind for the sake of your path. It takes some discipline to actually follow someone, or have real faith in what you believe in. When you honestly believe in something, you have to commit to it, and whatever you do, you base on what you feel is right.

Arguing with someone does not mean coercing them

Only a two days ago I had an argument with a friend who happened to be Christian. The argument was primarily about the will of “God” regarding war and death. Then it raged on about the wider intentions of God for mankind and debating the place of free will in the Bible (I argued that the Bible doesn’t grant you any free will or the right to make decisions of your own because the Bible deems you as sinful from the beginning and incapable of making moral decisions with the presence of some God, Jesus, or Holy Spirit). As the argument wore on things only got more unpleasant, to put it generously, and the person was self-led into the believe that I did not believe in the freedom of Christians to make their own decisions, as if they needed me to decide what they actually believe. Eventually we did cool down enough that we’re still friends, but out of all this there’s something you should know when you’re arguing with someone of different beliefs to your own.

Whenever you argue with someone, you’re trying to get across a viewpoint in a rather disagreeing tone, but it’s not the same as coercing the other person to believe you. You’re only trying to convince the person, or at least that’s how it should be, but often in arguments if people don’t know this for set that limit then all they do is try to bully the other person into agreement. You do not have any power to make someone else believe as you do, at all, but the other person may not think that so you ought to remind him/her so in a rational manner. When you coerce someone, you are doing a lot more to force someone to believe the same way as you and act as you desire him/her to than you would in an argument. When you argue with someone, you’re only trying to convince someone of your point, albeit in a more loud and fervent manner. But when you coerce, persuade someone unwilling to do something by use of threats, force, abuse, or violence, and most arguments do not actually amount to that.

Remember the difference between argument and coercion and you should be fine. Just express your disagreement and opposition without it taking the form of coercion.

Some conclusions regarding Hinduism and my own beliefs

I’ve been reading a book about Hinduism, specifically the difference between Judeo-Christian thought and “dharmic” thought, and I am reminded of a few things.

First, from what I have read, the sattvic or “selfless” state is still idealized above even the rajasic or tamasic states, considering that, if you aren’t selfless/sattvic, you are encouraged to live by codified rules set for you and seek the guidance of a spiritual master who is sattvic. Coupled with the Krishna stories, which emphasis the utilitarian ideal of the common good, the implication is that thinking on your own terms and not having to listen to a guru or God is discouraged unless you are “selfless”, not thinking on your own interests. To me, this is hypocritical for a religion that supposedly believes in mankind’s own divinity and spiritual potential. Even if each individual has one’s own unique path, that is not influenced by you in traditional dharmic ideas, it’s influenced by your “karma” or actions taken in a past life. But at least you get to choose what deity you want to worship, or even none at all, and often in Hinduism.

Second, I am reminded of the other ideas I do not believe in; reincarnation, the idea that we are burdened by the actions of some past live you might not even have ever heard, the idea that justice is distributed by the universe, and the idea of the falsehood of the self (which to me also spits on the idea of karma as a self-made destiny since how do you make your own choices if there is no individual self?). I also seem to question their concept of Atman, which should refer to inner self but actually refers not to any individual spiritual self or immortal soul, but posits that the “real” self is actually God rather than any individual self. There is another idea I learned was present in Hinduism. I have my doubts regarding another idea I learned was central to Hindu belief. Apparently, they believe that the cosmos is possessed of an integral unity, no separate essences, entities, or objects. I feel it may be more likely that there isn’t a unity of all things. Even if there is something that connects all things, that doesn’t still say there is unity between all things, just a common origin.

Third, in my continuous attempts to integrate Hindu (and even Buddhist) ideas and lore, I feel like I’m trying to move forward too fast instead of sitting down to enjoy my current spiritual perspective (the perspective of a spiritual core self that you yourself fight to preserve until the day, and of the inner world shaped by you and how the outer world affects and inspires you). I could incorporate anything I want that inspires me, so why not be comfortable with images, aesthetics, and entities that come from a system that I don’t necessarily subscribe to, or need to subscribe to, and they wouldn’t necessarily have to represent those systems anyway.

One last thing about the book I read: I feel that while it does offer an enlightening perspective towards Hindu or dharmic ideas, that same perspective actually leads me to only more disconnect to these ideas. The author also seems far too unfair with his perspective on the West, a little pompous on his perspective on the East too. Not all of Western ideas are based on Judeo-Christian ideas, in fact the West is capable of potent antidotes for Judeo-Christian ideas and hypocrisy, and not just atheism either. The author seems to think any unity created by the West is purely synthetic. Yes, we aren’t always united in the right way or for the right reasons, but even if it was, all unity, in both West and East, is not to last. All unity falls apart eventually, sometimes slowly sometimes fast. But why put so much emphasis on cohesion and harmony anyway? Does anyone ever stop to think that maybe putting cohesion as the highest ideal is actually a foolish idea?

My brother doesn’t get it

Yesterday we got into an argument about family and religion, specifically, how I feel I can’t disclose my personal religious/spiritual beliefs to the rest of my family. As you probably know from reading this blog, I am a Satanist, a Pagan, and an advocate for the ideas of the Left Hand Path. Most of my family is Catholic Christian, so they outnumber me. I know I don’t see a lot of my family on a regular basis, but I still worry about my family knowing about my beliefs for good reason.

Because they are mostly Christian (maybe not devout or fundamentalist Christians, but I am confident they do observe the customs and beliefs on a basic level), I cannot trust them to not make a big of me having beliefs so far outside their norm.I don’t want to have to try and explain myself to them (my whole beliefs would need more explanation than just “I’m a Satanist” or “I’m a pagan”) or deal with any crap they give me about my beliefs. It’s not that I don’t strongly believe in them, it’s just that I don’t feel they need to know most of it, you know, for protection. And it’s not like I’d be entirely lying to them either; if they ask, I could just say non-religious.

Now my brother doesn’t seem to understand my insecurity regarding my family, he thinks it’s not that big a deal, to the point that he accidentally implies that if you believe something you should tell everyone about it. He’s an atheist, warts and all, and what he doesn’t seem to realize is that atheists are lucky to have a position that is considered modern in this day and age and is still way more socially acceptable than my beliefs or interest in the occult ever could be. It’s not that I’m giving up, I’m just saying how my brother doesn’t seem to get it, and that he doesn’t seem to see how big a deal talking about beliefs is. He says in the modern age it shouldn’t matter, but “modern age” or no, beliefs are and always will be a big deal, and I don’t think he gets that.

Politics isn’t what I’m interested in

Lately, I’ve been thinking about politics and current stories, and I’ve also thought about my perception of politics in general, and I’ve come to conclude that what I am interested n is not politics, even though it seems like it is politics.

What I’m actually interested in is ideals, values, ideologies, beliefs and belief systems, philosophies of these things, and the effect they have on society. See, actual politics to me consists of stuff like politicians, officials, MPs, debates, political processes, diplomacy, tax, shit-tastic speeches, policy, elections, bi-laws, legislation, regulation, voting, yada yada fucking yada. It’s all boring shit, boring and ugly people, inaction, and mounds and mounds of pure, uncut bullshit, not to mention the lies upon lies, which are only true because we believe so.

It has almost nothing to do with ideals, ambitions, what you value, and what you want for society. It’s not interesting whatsoever, and I’m willing to bet you agree with me (unless you actually enjoy this boredom and inaction, in which your brain is  probably seriously, seriously shot). The fact is, most if not all of politics is boring and completely meaningless, and all of it is naught but bullshit. I would actually go far enough to say that without politics, the world would be a much better place.

A Shin Megami Tensei Post: Philosophical Compatibility

This post is about the compatibility of philosophical alignments with other philosophical conclusions you may draw. Call me crazy for taking a video game as important to your philosophy, but it is, and I’ve been trying to bring the Chaos philosophy into real life. But it may be simpler, and more flexible, than I thought. I’m thinking the individual alignments are kind of simple.

  • Law: Promotes order, harmony, peace, and safety as the highest ideals, and seeks to create the Thousand Year Kingdom ruled by God. But it’s a world without freedom, individuality, or passion, and only those who believe in God get to live there while everyone else is destroyed by God (does that sound familiar to you?). Another ideal common in Law is that everyone should work together for the greater good.
  • Chaos: Promotes freedom, personal choice, and power as the highest ideals, and want defeat the forces that are aligned with God and then establish a world free from God’s tyranny, often alongside Lucifer and the demons, and in the form of a kind of anarchy (state without government or authority, not a generic word for disorder). But some believe it’ll be a dog-eat-dog world with that much freedom (I don’t believe that). You’ll probably have to fend for yourself, though. Another ideal common in Chaos is that people should take what they have by their own hands.
  • Neutral: Supports neither side and favours restoring the status quo, which is often disguised as “restoring the balance of order and chaos” (which Neutrality is usually not really about, although sometimes Neutral will display obsession with keeping a perfect balance which you know will eventually break). It is also claimed to be about individuality. But at it’s core, Neutral is about defeating both Law and Chaos to restore the status quo, which often leads to problems in sequels (I am of course referring to Shin Megami Tensei II), and losing most if not all your friends by having to kill them, so it seems like you have no answer and just kill everyone who opposes you or points out your shortcomings.

So picking the alignments is actually quite simple. Too bad I had to squabble with myself and flip flop over it for two or so years (between when I was 16 and when I was 18).  Did I really think it was that hard?

So here’s the thought process. I pick sides based primarily on moral/philosophical leanings and personal outlook, as well as demon preferences, rather than gameplay effects. I pick Chaos for the following reasons.

  1. I personally oppose Christianity, and Abrahamism in general.
  2. I value freedom
  3. The gods and demons associated with the Chaos alignment are interesting to me (read: they rock hard), and I’m interested in their mythologies
  4. The Chaos factions are the only thing fighting for lasting freedom, whereas Neutrality won’t do anything for it, given it’s prime interest is the status quo.
  5. My video game alter ego in this scenario fights and destroys tyrants, despots, and dictators as a rule. I wouldn’t stop in MegaTen even for the sake of social order.

Kali, an example of a Chaos-aligned entity in the series.

So thinking about balance or balancing things doesn’t interfere with being Chaos aligned, nor does believing in any kind of balance (such as a balance of light and darkness, or good and evil) hinder it, because alignments are really about who’s side your on or what you support, but your values tend to come into it. As long as any ideas I have don’t directly contradict the values which are in line with Chaos, or as long as I still value the fundamental Chaos values, then I’m fine.

Because this, I think I can now feel a sense of comfort knowing I don’t have to do much to stay Chaos-aligned. And hey, it’s a game, albeit a game that is very influential on me.