Thursday, 26 April 2012

DawahFilms: The End of Civilization

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

I want to address Ali's (DawahFilms') latest YT video, "YT Atheist Circus Vs. Reality". In it, he talks about charity events, video behaviour and other events relating to the YT atheist community and puts them in the perspective of the global financial crisis and what he perceives to be the ultimate collapse of our economic systems.

The first point I want to make is that, although the video might come across as being addressed to all YT atheists, this should not be taken that way. I know for a fact that Ali knows better than that. The alternative is impossible in light of the drama he has gone through with thunderf00t.

He accuses the organisers of charity events of showboating. I've seen a few videos recently by popular YT atheists advertising a blogTV show to raise money for and awareness of HIV/AIDS and research into cures. We engage in many such events in our community. While there is always a component of selfishness to organising charity events, as true altruism is impossible, this should never upstage the actual charity unless it has negative implications for the result of the charity (e.g. a religious charity excluding minority groups they disagree with). The desire to come across as a selfless and caring individual has no such negative implications and so is irrelevant. For Ali to undermine such charity work to focus on a motive that is pretty much intrinsic to charity work and doesn't itself do anything to undermine such work is utterly disgusting.

He also talks about false flagging and DMCAs, and our response to them. The only YouTuber I'm subscribed to that has had trouble with such things recently is Vogter. He has been dealing with supporters of the philosophy of True Forced Loneliness, who claim that their loneliness is the result of impractically high societal expectations of them. I may address this topic in a future post or video. Anyway, Vogter predicted successfully that his channel would be flagged down if he engaged certain individuals who share this philosophy. Before the channel was flagged down, it would be perfectly reasonable to criticise Vogter for being too dramatic, although he never complained and simply asked people to subscribe to a backup channel just in case. As the prediction came true, there is little to criticise any more.

Another point was the Reason Rally. This was an atheist gathering in Washington D.C. that happened last month. 20,000 people attended and a lot of footage of the event was uploaded to YouTube. I can't help but to slightly cringe, not so much at the event itself, but the idea that it needed to happen, that a significant minority of people in America are so demonised for not believing in a god that they need to hold a rally.

All of the above problems are compared by Ali to what he perceives to be an impending global crisis. I will outline my opinions of this crisis later, but first, I want to address how we treat problems of differing significance. There is a parallel here to the idea of "first world problems". The idea common to both scenarios is that it is in bad taste to complain about your problems when there are greater problems to address: African poverty, environmental damage, unsafe water in many countries etc. I have always been critical of this concept as it ignores the reality of the situation. One TED talk that I watched presented data that paraplegics and lottery winners were equally happy 6 months after the respective events, winning the lottery or losing the use of their legs, took place. What this tells me is that we become accustomed to our environment. We grow to accept things we can't change, and the novelty of great fortune wears off. As such, our suffering is not the result of generally poor conditions but of inferior conditions relative to our average, or a perceived average experience. The suffering experienced by a spoiled teen who gets a different coloured expensive car to the one they wanted is just as real as the suffering of a cancer patient in agony, the only difference is the degree and length of the suffering. It's still suffering in the sense that they experience real negative emotions in response to the stimuli which causes the suffering. We can criticise the teen in the car scenario for outwardly expressing such suffering, but the actual suffering is no more within their control than their sexual orientation or skin colour. If anyone is at fault, it is the parents for creating an environment where they always get what they want.

The appropriate response to ANY suffering is to minimise it, not to grade it then ignore the less significant manifestations. HIV, while increasingly treatable, is still a terrible disease which affects and kills millions, and so could not be said in any context other than an Armageddon scenario to be insignificant, but should be addressed either way.

OK, time to address the big one, the global crisis. Ali predicts that economies will collapse and that everything we fight against on YouTube is insignificant in the face of this new threat. Ali never outlines the threat in detail, but I've heard it before, so I'll do my best here.

I've heard it twice: once in a Horizon documentary by David Attenborough called "How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?"  and in ThereminTrees' recent video "death - part two". Both videos describe the scale of the investment needed in alternative energy or the degree to which we need to change our consumption rates in order to prevent a global resource shortage. We use half of our available freshwater for energy or agricultural means, we need thousands more nuclear plants, wind turbines, dams or equivalent sources of renewable energy to replace the vacuum that will be created when fossil fuels are exhausted, developed nations use 4 or 5 times the sustainable resource capacity per person, which is counterbalanced by the developing nations, meaning that our lifestyles would be unsustainable if everyone on the planet lived like we currently do. Given these scenarios, it is understandable to imagine that resource wars could break out very soon, and that we would experience a sudden sharp decrease in our standard of living if we don't do something soon. Ali is right to criticise us for not paying more attention to these problems, as I completely agree that their significance supersedes that of any other problem, but, once again, it does not mean we shouldn't address other problems as well. I believe, in fact, that it is essential to both. Once we solve our personal problems, we tend to care more about more macroscopic problems.

To conclude, Ali has been unfair and unsympathetic to us, but his main point of contention is perfectly legitimate and I will second it here: we must discuss our resource use and the idea of an impending global crisis relating to it far more often than we're currently doing. As atheists, we have taken pride in not shying away from uncomfortable topics to discuss, and this is the most uncomfortable of them all. To be in denial or to ignore these problems at this stage is truly retarded.


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