Archive | July, 2011

Harry Potter and the Godless Morality

14 Jul

Today the last Harry Potter movie is being released across the United States. I’m not as excited as I perhaps could be as a Potter fan, but that’s because, as far as I’m concerned, Harry Potter ‘ended’ when the last book was released back in 07.  But the movies have steadily improved as the years have gone by, so I’ll certainly go and see it, though I did not attend the midnight showing due to poverty and a strong need for sleep.

Also a promise to go see it with my Mum, who would not go to a movie theater at midnight downtown even if you paid her. So that’ll have to happen sometime in the next week.

I do love Harry Potter though. I grew up in England, so the books are rather close to my heart as I essentially grew up with Harry over the years. The books not only entertained me, but due to the long gaps between installments (seriously, 3 YEARS between a few of them) I found myself perusing the shelves of my local library and discovering other fantasy authors such as Pullman, Tolkien and Pratchett. Harry Potter helped shape me into the nerd I am today, and I will always love them for that along with the memorable characters, creative world-building and clever wordplay.

Potter isn’t loved by all of course. I admit, it’s not ‘quality literature’ akin to the likes of Austen or Hemingway but I tend to think that such ideas and standards are silly bullshit that get in the way of caring about a good story and good characters. The strongest outcry is of course from extreme religious groups, most of them Christian in America at least. Their reasoning involves the fact that Harry Potter is about witchcraft and evil and other such things, and that it will corrupt the youth of the nation to turn to Satan.

This tells me that these people have never so much as looked up a synopsis of a Harry Potter book, much less read one.

Harry Potter is about a lot of things, and sure, there are witches and wizards involved. But I have another theory about why the religious right is so scared of harry potter, and it’s a theory I’ve had for a long time now, and it’s this:

The world of Harry Potter is a world without God. 

No seriously. Think about it if you’ve read them. Harry Potter and his friends, the ‘good guys’, fight and defeat the forces of darkness, they have adventures, they grow up and change and learn and figure things out with some guidance from wise figures and lessons, but, and this is the big but…

No God. None. Nowhere. Seriously, go hunting, I challenge you to dig up anything in Potter that refers to God except for the occasional character exclaiming “my god” or similar.

As far as we’ve seen, the world of Harry Potter, at least the wizarding world, is almost entirely secular. Perhaps this is due to a more black and white morality at first glance, but when you dig into the meat of these books, that’s not at all the case. Take some of the ‘grey area’ characters who either fluctuate between good and bad or simply sit in uncomfortable places. Like the ‘New Ministry’ of the seventh book. Oh, spoilers, for those of you who are afeared of them. Umbridge is not a good person. She’s power hungry, vindictive and cruel, and creates what is effectively a police state akin to early Nazi Germany. She’s not full-blown Voldemort evil either, not killing babies or puppies or similar, but she’s decidedly not running around saving folk either. Then there’s characters like Snape who might as well have installed a revolving door on his predicted Alignment. Is he good? Is he bad? Can he ever be good because he was once bad? It certainly confused the heck out of me my first readthrough.

My point in this, is that the morality in the Potterverse isn’t subject to a big higher power in the sky, or in the ground, or anywhere. It’s a real universe with real people who are good, evil and everything human in-between (and by human I mean imperfect beings who sometimes act like twits even when their intentions are good). The people are capable of selfishness and ignorance and kindness and bravery, all of it.

And God has nothing to do with it.

Harry Potter and his friends are good because it improves the world, makes it a better place, keeps it safe from evil bastards like Voldemort and his homeys and all the evil dudes who came before him. They save the world because they have the power to do so, not because it’ll get them a better seat in the afterlife, or favor with some divine boogedy boogedy. The evil dudes aren’t being evil because they’re possessed by the devil, it’s because of their own motivations, their lust for power or revenge. People are motivated internally, by themselves, and though they of course try to shift responsibilities to others, it’s nothing like ‘the devil made me do it’ or ‘I”m following God’s divine law’. The wicked are brought to justice by the good, not by religion or deities or divine intervention.

Harry Potter is morality without religion. It encourages personal responsibility for one’s actions and improving the world for the world’s sake, not for some carrot-and-stick morality of ‘this will get you to the good place when you die and if you don’t do it, it’s off to the bad place for you’.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m so against extremist Christianity, which encourages a lack of rational thought, blind devotion and a lack of questioning. It employs a ‘do this or be punished’ method of morality, sort of a ‘good because if I’m not I’m going to be screwed’ idea. And this is propagated in the youth of America because Christianity is ingrained in our culture.

And that’s why I love Harry Potter, and think it’s one of the best books you can give to a young person in the 21st century. It teaches that morality comes from within, not religion or some institution of punishment and reward. Harry Potter teaches free thought, friendship, loyalty, responsibility, love, kindness and justice. Other children’s books do too, but so many of them (Narnia anyone?) have such thick religious implications that they, intentionally or not, encourage a narrowed view of how to be a good, worthwhile person in society.

Religion, faith, spirituality, they work for some people. I love the Narnia books, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t me hating directly on religion. It’s not my cup of tea, and it’s certainly not for everyone, and we learn our morals, our responsibilities to the world around us, through stories, both biblical, fictional and from reality. Harry Potter has given us a story, a world, with an unreligious, godless morality system. It doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s far from antireligious propaganda or the like. I have no idea about Rowling’s religious affiliation or if she had intention in this moral view.

It just presents an option. An opportunity. A view that demonstrates the possibility of an areligious morality. And seeing as many views as possible can lead us all, young and old, to make better, more informed decisions about our views, religious or otherwise, instead of following one option because it’s the only one we’ve ever seen.

So that’s why the evangelicals get all hot and bothered about Harry Potter and his friends. Because they have no God, and they’re doing amazing, wonderful things for each other and the world. A view that presents an alternative to the deity-centric view of morality that’s so common in the modern world. And whether or not that works for everyone, it’s a different view that could make all the difference in someone’s decisions about their morals, values and motivations.

Happy Harry Potter day everyone. Whatever you love about this book, I hope it’s brought you as much joy – and provocation of thought – as it has to me.

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Developments

13 Jul

So, THINGS have happened. Big things, big messy lifechanging things, and even though I’ve presented the TL:DR version on various social networking whatsits, I figure I should fill all you folk in, especially since some of you don’t know me in meatspace or talk to me on the IM’s.

So yeah.

I got a promotion. At the workplace. I’m basically being bumped up to full time, plus shiny benefits and a pay increase that is both more than I’ve ever made in my life and near double what I was getting paid as a part-time data entry drone. Apparently I DO catch on quickly and learn fast and they need more of that in the survey building area of where I work.

This is good, excellent, brilliant news, and I’m excited, and nervous, for that ball to start rolling this coming monday.

Only downside? The work hours are 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. Which means waking up at around 6:30 every morning.

This will be… interesting… and a bit icky. Hopefully I’ll manage to adjust without going completely insane.

Jeff and I move in 19 days. Our new apartment is closer to downtown than the current one, and we’ll be free of roommates, so it’s a big exciting thing. Hopefully packing won’t be too much of a pain in the ass.

My sister got back from her study abroad in London. She’s jet lagged and homesick but she’s back with our parents and her kitty cat, so it could be worse.

I’m still drawing comics, though JulNo didn’t go very well. Guess I’ll just chalk it up to an impossibility and accept that I can throw myself into NaNo in a couple months.

I got Google +. Feel free to track me down on it, I don’t have much up there but a few random photos and thoughts.

And I’m catching up on season 5 of doctor who. It’s better than I expected, though Matt Smith’s head still looks like a bloody potato.

That’s your update from me. More adventures to report later, when life’s gotten even more exciting. Because it always does.

 

 

 

Why I’m a Feminist

7 Jul

Feminism gets a lot of crap these days. The word has become less positive and more of an epithet. Feminists are seen as dangerous, irrational extremists who despise men and want to make mountains out of molehills for the sake of being the Better Gender. That or their work is considered useless, as women still get paid less than men, still face harrassment, rape and a bombardment of negative images from media and culture.

What is feminism though? Semantically now, I’m talking about the textbook definition.

fem·i·nism
–noun

1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. ( sometimes initial capital letter ) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

so sayeth dictionary.com

I’m not here to give you an history lesson, and it’d take a lot of research to lay out the exact history of feminism. But now that we’ve got a basic definition, I can give you readers a list of reasons why I am a feminist, and what feminism has done for me:

Feminism has given me the right to vote in US elections.

Feminism has allowed me to go to college.

Feminism has made it possible for me to dress how I want to dress, be it in short, pants, a skirt, my sweats, dressed up and pretty or casual.

Feminism has given me the choice to have a career AND/OR be a housewife.

Feminism has given me legal rights in social, economic, and family situations.

Feminism has allowed me to be valued for my brains as well as my domestic abilities.

I am a feminist because feminism lets me go to work for six hours, then come home and bake bread. Feminism doesn’t make me choose my path, it allows me an option c.

Feminism, definitive feminism, the feminism defined above, does not tell us we can’t be traditional women. There’s nothing wrong with a woman who wants to raise her children as a homemaker, work as a cook, sew or teach or be a secretary. Just like there’s nothing wrong with women being doctors or lawyers or CEO’s.

The difference is, little girls would NOT have the ability to become doctors without feminism and the feminist movement of our ancestors. Now we as independent, modern women can be mothers, can be teachers, can be lawyers or cooks or anything else you can think of because we CHOOSE to, not because those are our only options.

Feminism gives me equality. Feminism permits me choice in all my walks of life, the choice to wear what I want, say what I want, BE what I want, and the freedom to express my identity.

Is feminism perfect? Hardly, and I know it. The bad rap comes from stereotyping, a lack of ‘visible’ progress and a misuse of the term.

I’m a feminist, and that doesn’t mean I hate all men. I like men. I also like women, but I’m currently in a relationship with a man and he and I are very happy together. Equally together. There’s no expectation I fill a traditional gender role of being a wife and mother, just the understanding that I can be that if I choose.

I’m a feminist, and that doesn’t mean I think it’s wrong for women to want to be mothers and homemakers. I want women to be happy. I know that my way of being happy (writing books and drawing cartoons and being a cat lady) isn’t going to be the same happy my female friends want.

Fifty years ago, I would not have had the option. I would have tried, but would have to fight tooth and nail for it. Women in the sixties were making progress, but it was still frowned upon for a woman to focus on something other than a husband.

One hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have even been able to try.

I think definitive feminism is taken for granted. Many of us take for granted our rights to vote and go to college and wear trousers and marry who we want or not marry at all.

Sometimes I do too. I forget that this is something new for the world, and in many areas of the world isn’t even common practice yet. Women don’t have rights everywhere. American women are lucky. We can choose.

A recommended movie for y’all: Mona Lisa Smile. It’s kinda girly, and Julia Roberts is in it, but it says a lot about the roles of women in America, today and fiftyish years ago.

I end with a favourite quote:

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.  ~Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler
Y’all can agree, disagree, point out flaws in my argument and reasons why I’m wrong and this post is silly and rambly, but I’m a proud feminist, and firm believer that women deserve rights EQUAL to those of men.

Freedom, Friendship, Chips and Dip, Worth It

5 Jul

It’s about 2 am. I have to get up for work at eleven, which isn’t awful but could be handled better. Jeff’s across the room reading comics on the internet, Morbo is asleep in his food bowl, the roommates are derping around with anime and I’m covered in bug bites.

Tomorrow I go back to work, which is a bummer that I’m dealing with. Things like seeing my sister next week and Ben Folds in concert on Friday are what are keeping me going. That and the new apartment, which feels so far away right now, a million years and countless hours of packing and work between now and then.

JulNoWriMo is going okay – I’m behind because today I decided to hang around with friends and cook instead of write. That’s okay. I’ll catch up.

Today I made a seven layer dip and a six layered cake. This amused me. It was pretty delicious stuff too – thank Nathan Fillion’s twitter recipe he posted a good six or seven months ago. Turns out you can be a brilliant actor and a genius cook too.

The comic continues, fairly well. I occasionally have spasms about the quality of my art and storytelling ability, but I figure I have what I have, I”m improving as time goes by, and I love doing it, so fuck the rest.

Sometimes I wish I could fast forward a few years and be able to live off my art and my writing. Somehow that feels like cheating though, so I suck it up and go to work for six hours and then come home and work another six hours drawing and beating my head against my novel. It’s all worth it. Fuck plan B.

Friends are friends. Still mostly a hermit, but had a great time tonight with folk, first with Jeff, Dan and Brandon watching movies and grilling and eating and conversing, then with Sam and Jess setting off fireworks while being chewed alive by mosquitoes, then going back to their apartment to play with their adorably spazzy kitty and watch The Emperor’s new groove.

I may be a hermit, but I love the friends I have. They remind me there’s something in the real world worth sticking around for.

Back to work tomorrow. I have a Carl Hiaasen book on audio to listen to, havarti cheese and cucumbers in the fridge to make sammiches with, enough money to survive frugally for the next two weeks even though I blew most of it on food and concert tickets.

Totally worth it.

Sometimes life just is.

Hope everyone else had a good 4th, even if you aren’t American and celebrating by blowing shit up. Hopefully today was freeing for all of us.