Posts Tagged ‘Symbol’

Hanlon and Occam

December 16, 2019

I have been thinking lately of two famous sayings, both are remembered for good reason as their wisdom has filtered down through the years. The first is Occam’s Razor which says literally “Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.” However, in modern days we have translated it more clearly as “The simplest solution is most likely the right one.” The other phrase I have been thinking of is Hanlon’s Razor which states “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. There is a lot going on in public discourse on politics and it is driving me a bit crazy (as it is with most people).

The first is the ridiculous OK symbol controversy. Apparently, if people want to casually and surreptitiously signal their allegiance to white supremacy, they just have to make an upside OK symbol with their hand. Recently, at the annual Army-Navy game, a couple of midshipmen were seen to flash the symbol behind a broadcaster. Everybody was aghast and outraged. Now, far be it from me to defend the military-industrial complex but I think these were just dumb kids. I mean, I would not be surprised if the military was not filled to the brim with white supremacists. I think there are plenty in the Army, Navy, and Air Force and, obviously, the Police.

However, I have read that these incidents are more likely the Circle game, a game where you flash that same symbol. If you get people to look, you get to punch them. It may have evolved to just be something you get your friends to laugh at. I honestly never played the game but I know it has been around since the mid-nineties. I don’t know if they are playing a game or flashing white supremacist symbols. Little actual journalism seems to occur after the fact, the perpetrators are not questioned publicly. They are usually reprimanded or punished and ordered not to talk about it publicly. Here, the cadets and midshipmen will probably get a good talking to and told to never do it again.

My issue here is both Occam’s and Hanlon’s razors yet again. Having this complex little game where people turn an innocuous gesture into a symbol of white supremacy seems like a stretch. I mean, they could be doing that but just this year an entire West Virginia Corrections Academy class did the Nazi salute in a photo and got away with a slap on the wrist. Yet, a costumed performer was fired at Universal Studios after making the symbol in a picture with a bunch of kids. No public statement from the performer. I really wish we knew for sure whether it was malice or stupidity. I don’t want to let white supremacists off the hook but I also think people have a hair-trigger these days. I wish people would stop screaming at stupid things when there are bigger evils in the world.

* * *

I think the same can be said for the cries of “Russia!” Everything evil that happens now seems to be attributed to Russia when the simpler cause is capitalism and stupidity. Capitalism breeds people like Trump and, to a lesser extent, centrists like Hillary and Biden. Their lives are filled with few consequences and therefore they know they can get away with just about anything. In a world where George W. Bush did not see any consequences from committing war crimes, how can we expect anybody in office to behave properly? The rich will always look out for each other and few, if any, will ever choose us over them. The simpler explanation is that most of our leaders don’t really care about us and are only out to enrich themselves and maintain a status quo with them on top.

The instinct to attribute the evils of the world to Russia (without much evidence) seems to come from a fear to confront that our problems started right here at home. We were too permissive with our leaders. We expected the government to punish George W. Bush and his cronies for their crimes and we were disappointed when it did not happen. How were we surprised when Nixon and Reagan went free? Obama, as good as he was, got away with some nasty stuff with drones and a vast program spying on our own people. Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have been punished instead of the people they exposed. It is hard to have much hope that the current crooks will be punished if we have such a poor record of keeping our politicians accountable.

So that is why I roll my eyes every time I see “Russia” on twitter or on some pundit’s headline. While there is evidence that Russia attempted to meddle with our election, there is more evidence of the corruptive influence of capitalism. Besides, the US has meddled in countless elections and more effectively than infiltrating Facebook or hacking a few voting machines. Should we prevent Russia from doing it again? Yes. However, we should also look at ourselves. We need to stop trusting the smiling faces of the rich and powerful when they say they want to look out for us. It is a lie coming from Trump the same as it is a lie coming from Joe Biden.

* * *

To sum up: I think we need to engage in more critical thinking and less jumping on the bandwagon. The more complicated answer is sometimes simpler emotionally but it does not make it the right answer. I feel like people are chasing ghosts and their own tails instead of confronting the real issues. I have little faith that this will change but maybe.

The Symbol

August 26, 2017

Victoria had lived with the symbol all of her life. It was hanging over the front door both inside and out of her childhood home. It was carved into the center of the family dinner table. It was carefully tiled into one of the shower walls. It had been imprinted on the fence posts bordering her ancestral home. At age four it was meticulously tattooed onto her shoulder. It was a very traditional symbol that had been in her family for a long time. Some now confused it for a family crest but it was far more than that. It was a demon ward. It was designed to ward against a very particular demon.

That particular demon would be Solantria and she was a wicked one. Victoria’s ancestor, Leonidas Heathrow, had made a deal with the demon in order to gain the power to save the local town from a dragon. Her many-times-great grandfather had been between a rock and a hard place but he made the sacrifice for the right reasons. When it came time for Solantria to collect, Leo was not available. He had perished after the deed was done but his spirit, his bright and shiny soul had been taken away by the Great Dragon. Feeling cheated, Solantria decided that the family would have to settle their ancestor’s debt. Until the symbol, too many of the family had fallen to the wicked demon.

However, with the advent of the symbol, the demon was kept at bay and the family had flourished. What had started with but one Heathrow had spread to many different kingdoms. Many of them were not even Heathrows anymore but Victoria was. She was proud to be part of the original line. They had taken Leonidas’ sacrifice as a symbol and they worked to gather mystical knowledge to keep the world safe. Some strayed from that specific path but, for the most part, the family loved to be of some service. They left the world better than they had found it. All done while keeping a watchful eye for the demon’s inevitable attempt to return.

For her part, Victoria had become an expert in mystical artifacts. She had collected quite a few after she had grown up and left the family estate. She was currently in residence in Callia, a lovely little apartment scattered with magical items. Some of them Victoria had not yet figured out but that was the fun of it. She tended to crack every puzzle put in front of her eventually and she loved that daily challenge. She was partnered with several magic schools and universities who either sent items to her or summoned her to exam problems. Most every librarian in the world knew her name or would soon learn it. She was happy with that.

She had been examining a ring sent from several towns over when a note had been slid under her door. She walked over and unfolded it, adjusting her spectacles. Her friends wanted to go out for a drink. Victoria looked out of her big window and was surprised that the sun had gone down and the moon was traveling through the sky. Where had the time gone? She could always figure things out the next day. Friends were important. They were just another extension of family which was the most important thing besides your health. Victoria grabbed her coat and slipped it on. Her favorite weapons were almost always tucked inside.

She made her way down the street which was dimly lit by oil lanterns but she felt safe enough in this part of town. Besides, the tavern was not far. The ogre of a bouncer opened the door for her and she thanked him with a smile. She walked into the bar but did not see a single one of her friends. In fact, the place was fairly empty. Victoria frowned and wondered just how late it had gotten. Her stomach grumbled. She moved to sit at the bar and the hawk-nosed bartender smiled at her. She smiled back at him.

“What do you have for dinner tonight, Abram?” She asked.

“Dinner, Ms. Heathrow?” Abram asked with a playful smile and a toss of his blond locks. “It is a little late for dinner. Did you just now come back from the clouds?”

Victoria laughed softly. “Yes. I’m afraid so,” She said. “I really should get better at eating at regular times.”

“Why do what regular folk do when you can be interesting?” Abram asked.

“Interesting is fine but eating is healthy,” Victoria said.

“I can cook up some sausage with some onions and tomato sauce?” Abram asked.

“It sounds great, Abram. I’ll eat whatever you put in front of me,” She said.

“We’ll see,” Abram said with another laugh. He headed just out of sight to fire up the sausages. Victoria could hear as the pan bang against the brick of the stove.

It paid to be a regular. People were happy to give you more than they would give a stranger. Victoria did not have a lot of friends due to her bookish life but she cherished the connections she had made. She smiled to herself as she waited for Abram to get done. Maybe he would chat with her over her dinner and she would tip him generously despite his protests. She liked that whole song and dance.

Victoria barely even noticed the hooded woman sitting next to her, at least not at first. She only noticed her when the woman reached over the bar for a bottle and two glasses. She had grabbed some really good stuff. It was an aged scotch/whiskey blend from the kingdom of Shahl. Very expensive stuff and this woman was just helping herself.

“Hey!” Victoria said. “You can’t just help yourself.”

The hooded woman said nothing but poured two glasses of the classy booze and pushed one of the glasses toward Victoria. Victoria just looked at the glass.

“I think you’re going to need that,” The woman said. “Drink up.”

“Who do you think you are?” Victoria asked indignantly. She wished Abram would come out and chase this rude woman out.

“I think you know exactly who I am, Victoria,” The woman said. She drew back her hood. The woman’s skin was light purple, her hair raven black, her eyes blood red. There was a horn protruding from the left part of her forehead and a broken off nub protruding from the right part. All of this was proper evidence but the woman’s smile was what really spoke volumes. The look in her eyes told Victoria everything she needed to know.

“You!” Victoria yelled.

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