Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Importance of Fresh Perspectives and A Confession

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

I've only subscribed to 3 people this year on YouTube and 2 of them I unsubscribed from again. YouTube just wasn't the thriving community that it once was. It's not the diverging from religious issues as many of us had done that years ago. It's the lack of new ideas and the obsession with such uninteresting and dead-end issues, the incredibly fragile egos that have to explode at the slightest criticism over the pettiest things, and the herd mentality which encourages those egos. Not being able to make videos doesn't even factor into it.

My 3rd, my most recent subscription was to SamiZaatari, a Muslim. I have seen 1 video from him since subscribing a week ago and after the 16 minutes and 34 seconds of the video, I already feel better about YouTube. I feel more interested in the discussions taking place than I have all year, and I have not only more ideas myself for blogs or videos, but a new source of such ideas. How has this happened?

The video was called "Free Speech and Muslim Protests". In it, Sami acknowledged the situation in various Middle Eastern countries regarding the protests over "The Innocence of Muslims" but noting that our comments, videos and statements in general regarding free speech are very selective. When it's Muslims, he says, we jump on the issues wholeheartedly, but when it's, say, France banning counter-protests or Europe in general criminalising Holocaust denial, we are silent. There are issues that can be taken with the video: while the statement was aimed at the community in general, certain individuals have been addressing these issues, and his example of the Westboro Baptist Church funeral protests received quite a lot of attention from us. However, Muslim-specific issues do get a lot more of our attention, and this demands an explanation, which I believe is fairly obvious: what is, was or never was (depending on your point of view) the Atheist Community's most popular figures generally do not express a nuanced and approving view of Islam. Look at thunderf00t and Pat Condell. Both of them have projected extremist Muslim actions onto all Muslims, and their subscribers have not shown the skepticism they claim to possess in assessing these figures' claims. Most do not watch the other person's video or read the blog which these figures' link, in order that their subscribers can have both sides of the story, but they feel qualified to comment anyway. The ongoing criticism of Islam is one of the most significant events in the community's history, perhaps second only to the Blasphemy challenge that encouraged so many people to start channels, and so we are more likely to be aware of Muslim-related free speech issues like the one described above.

It is unlikely that the free speech issues that Sami described will be talked about not because he is a Muslim, or that they are not as important (some are more important), but because if the big names don't talk about it, it won't go viral in the community and be 1 of those issues we all feel compelled to talk about. It would be easy to deride the herd mentality that I'm describing here but I would be a hypocrite for doing so:

When I started this blog, I had the idea that it might temporarily replace my YT videos as I couldn't make them. HubPages randomly demonetised or outright deleted articles, deciding years after I'd written them that they were suddenly in violation of some bullshit rule which was never the case, so I moved here. However, there were so many blog ideas that I had that I didn't follow through on, many because it involved looking a lot of stuff up, or because it just didn't look right written down even though it sounded fine in my head. Part of it is definitely laziness, but I don't tend to do stuff I haven't been asked to do that involves a lot of work if I'm unlikely to get anything back for it. Many of my posts haven't been seen by anyone, so this greatly discourages me from writing ones that involve a lot of preparation. The Assange post that I talked about in my last video that I still haven't written is clear proof of this. I have written posts since that video, but about comparatively meaningless shit like Atheism +. The bottom line is I am no different to the rest of the community. While I've genuinely wanted to follow through, I have focused on irrelevant crap that the majority of YTers had already been talking about to the exclusion of more important issues probably because I knew that people would read/watch/care about them, and for that I am sorry. In many ways, I'm even worse than the community that I am talking about because I, hypocritically, have chastised them before. The psychology behind our tendency to focus on these dead-end, irrelevant issues is strong and not to be taken lightly, but it should be pointed out.

This all being the case, I could tell you now that I'm going to address the issues that Sami has shed light on, and seek out new ones myself. I could, but history and psychology both suggest these would be more empty promises. Having this conscious understanding of our failings in these endeavours will, I hope, help me to try harder. I know that I want to write about this stuff, I just need, somehow, to actually do it.


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