Why You Should Be Supporting a Universal Living Wage

I currently work as a freelance editor and writer, making almost all my income from these efforts. It’s the remote worker dream, one that I would be reluctant to give up, even for higher pay. I like setting my own schedule so that I can, for instance, write a random blog post when an idea hits me. This morning, at around 6:45 a.m., an idea hit me.

One of my most recent gigs is as a translator of textbooks, translating Spanish to English. Now, to be clear, despite the fact that I have lived in Madrid for nearly 4.5 years, my Spanish is quite mediocre. As in, my reading level might, might, be B1, and my speaking level is even worse. I survive in Spain in large part due to having a partner whose Spanish is much better than mine and the fact that most of my day-to-day interactions can be done in English or remedial Spanish.

I write all of that to say there is no one more surprised than me that I am a Spanish-to-English translator. What qualifications do I have? Well, for my clients, the main one is that I am a native English speaker/writer with an above-average writing and editing ability (I type this fully aware that there will probably be three typos in this thing after I post it). And that, it turns out, is just as valuable for this particular gig as someone with fluency in both languages.

I am able to do my job because of the existence of DeepL and, to a lesser degree, Google Translate. Years ago, it was common to joke about how these translation services mangled language. There was a common ritual that involved the translation of an English phrase through multiple languages and then back to English to see what kind of word salad you ended up with. These days, such a meme is a relic of a bygone era.

That’s not to say these translators are now perfect (far from it, which is why I have a job), but they certainly are vastly better than they used to be even just a few years ago. As an experiment, I tried translating the English phrase “I love you to death” with DeepL, running it through Spanish, then Dutch, and then Japanese. When I translated it back to English, it returned “I love you to death.” That’s just an anecdote, but the point is, these translation tools have gotten far more sophisticated in a short span of time.

That’s largely due to AI. Artificial Intelligence is being used in basically every business and science field imaginable, mostly in ways far less sexy or menacing than decades of science fiction have led us to believe it would be. AI is the future, but also, it’s the present. While the kind of AI we’re used to seeing in films like I, Robot is quite possibly a century or more out, its use on a smaller, more workmanlike scale is already universal.

Now, as you can tell by the title of this post, I’m not here to write about AI (the little I do discuss AI owes a great deal to the excellent book by Hannah Fry, Hello World; pick it up). I only bring it up because it’s intricately linked to the work I do now. Without its existence and its improvement to translating technology, I would be ineligible for my current gig. Someone who was actually bilingual and a good writer/editor would be required for the job, and they would be able to ask for a far higher wage for their efforts. Aye, there’s the rub.

For the last year or so, I have been asking people, “Could your job be done by a machine?” Some people reply, unequivocally, yes, while others say probably. And still others state that parts of their job can be done by a machine, but it would lack the “human” element. Few if any people have ever said absolutely not.

As a writer, I like to think that I bring something to the table that AI (or Robby the Robot) couldn’t. Creativity, life experience, emotion, faulty logic – the “human” element. But the reality is that AI is already being used to write books and if that technology improves at even a fraction of the rate translation has improved, we’re going to see a completely AI-written novel top the New York Times Bestseller list within the decade.

(If you’re dubious, read about David Hofstadter’s experiment in AI-generated classical music, which took place all the way back in 1997.)

I, too, would like to think my “humanness” (my specific talent and imagination) brings something to my work that is valuable. Also, I like to get paid for my work. But I know the inevitable reality is that, at some point down the line, my value – and your value – as a worker will be next to nil. That process has already begun.

I have value as a writer and editor because I am pretty good at both skill sets and, frankly, way better than the average person. And for now, that means that I can make a living doing this thing that I love doing. But I have no delusion that I couldn’t be replaced by an algorithm at some point down the line. I can’t help but think about my nephews and nieces and wonder what types of job opportunities will exist for them in the future. (When I accidentally transposed the ‘i’ and ‘e’ in nieces just now, my Word processor automatically corrected it. Thanks technology!)

There’s currently much discussion of self-driving cars and how those will put truck drivers out of work. I think that fear is a little premature because fully self-driving cars are probably a lot further off in the future than people like Elon Musk would lead you to believe (a topic covered thoroughly in Hello World). In my novel, Yahweh’s Children, I make a throwaway joke about a character 40 years in the future still waiting for flying cars. The point being that sometimes the promises of “visionaries” don’t pan out when matched with the pragmatic roadblocks of reality. But I digress.

The truth is that self-driving cars will be a nightmare for truck drivers, but not because it will eliminate all truck driving jobs. What it’s going to eliminate is the need for skilled truck drivers, the type of people who have highly specialized training and can thus demand a higher wage (usually with the help of a union, but, again, I digress). A self-driving truck will still need a human driver (for the foreseeable future), but not one who needs to operate the truck with anything more than the most rudimentary knowledge. So, what happens then? It’s basic economics: far more people will be able to do that job, which means their labor will be worth less, which means they’ll be paid less. But somebody will still take that job; a job’s a job, as they say.

Truck driving is perhaps the most high-profile example of a job potentially being overtaken by technology, but it’s hardly the only profession that is at risk (just read up on how restaurants are looking at tech to replace workers). It’s also not just AI that is making jobs obsolete. The former US President won over some voters by promising to bring back coal mining jobs. It was one of his most transparent lies (as time proved), but also maybe one of the most telling. Coal mining is dying, and though advances in technology are playing a part in accelerating the decline in jobs, the reality is that an industry built on digging up a finite resource was always going to have an expiration date. But a chunk of the world wants to deny reality by putting their heads in the ground, and they will happily support someone who sells them a shovel.

Whatever your job is, whatever amount of humanity you bring to it, just know that at some point – in a few years, in a generation, in four generations – AI and related technology will take much of the skill and individuality out of it. Your position, as it exists now, will be replaced by a machine, possibly with a human to keep things running, but a human who is far less trained and experienced than you. A human who will get paid less than you get paid now, which is already probably lower (in real world dollars) than what someone a generation ago got paid to do your job.

Let me be clear: I’m not an anti-tech prophet of doom. I think technology is great, and even if I didn’t, I’d still know its progress is inevitable. The question isn’t if, it’s when, and all that.

What’s not inevitable (at least, yet) is how society adapts to technology. Anyone who tells you this current economic model of hourly wages and salaries is sustainable either has their head in a hole or is selling shovels. In not too many generations, we will either have a society that provides for its population (its entire population), or we’ll have one where wealth inequality is so astronomical, the concept of a “first-world country” will be meaningless. In both scenarios, let me assure you, the rich will be absolutely fine.

In many ways, the fight over increasing the minimum wage in the US (which I wholeheartedly support) is a sideshow, because at some point it won’t be about finding jobs that pay well, it’ll be about finding any jobs at all. If we acknowledge that technology can do some jobs completely and other jobs partially, we have to accept the math that there will be less jobs available (certainly less jobs that require skill). Considering that the global population is going to still be growing for the next four decades, at least, the decline in jobs that pay a true living wage is a problem that is only going to worsen.

And that’s why you should support a universal living wage*. You, the teacher; you, the doctor; you, the truck driver; you, the computer programmer; you, the writer. It’s not about Communism or Socialism (or any other poorly understood ‘-ism’). If anything, it’s probably the most capitalist idea possible: if you ensure the entire population has enough money to buy food and shelter and clothes and iPhones and Netflix subscriptions, business will thrive. Billionaires will still be billionaires and the Jeffrey Bezos and Elon Musks can continue to shoot their penises rockets into the moon.

Even if you adamantly believe that your job could never be fully replaced by a machine because of that intangible human factor, you have to at least acknowledge that parts of your job could be automated. Which means that at some point, the Capitalist Overlords or Job Creators (whichever term you prefer) will realize they can pay less money. And anybody who thinks that increasing the minimum wage is enough to staunch the wound is as much a victim of head-in-the-ground thinking as those coal miners.


Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. Now I have to get back to my day job. I’ve only got a few more years before Wall-E replaces me.

* I’m using the term “living wage”, but I understand it might be better termed a universal basic income. But the UBI that has recently been proposed in the US by people like Andrew Yang has always fallen short of what I’m talking about. I mean a true living wage, i.e., not just a bare minimum, but something that allows for people to do whatever they like (say, for instance, a decade-long travel project). Your “wage” is what you “earn” simply by being alive and producing whatever you produce.

You’re to blame for Fake News


I’m sick of the term “Fake News”.

It’s one of those intentionally simplistic terms – like “The Big Bang Theory” – that exists because the general public can’t deal with complex concepts without them being stripped to their basest form. Still, it’s the term du jour, so for the purposes of this article, I’ll use it.

As it relates to the US presidential election, “Fake News” is more accurately known as propaganda: distorted news stories and statistics used to push lies about immigrants, urban crime, Muslims, and other boogeyman designed to scare you. This form of propaganda isn’t unique to the US, of course; Brexit was fueled by it, and fear of the “other” has been the politicking weapon of choice since the first politician gave a speech.

But in the broader context of our lives, “Fake News” has always existed, and it has never been a liberal or conservative issue, just a matter of laziness and opportunistic cynicism.

A Long and Tortured History of Fake News

I’ve been calling out my friends’ tendency to spread fake news for years – and lost some for doing it – only to see the same people lambaste Trumpers for spreading fake news. The irony physically hurts.

The uncomfortable truth about the current form of fake news – the Facebook-viral, Russian bot-pushed, grammatically-indifferent breed – is that it didn’t just appear out of nowhere with perfected tactics for reaching the most susceptible (gullible) targets. These tactics have been deployed and honed for years by all kinds of sources pushing their dubious claims, most of them not inherently political. Some you probably trust.

I didn’t call them “fake news” back then, I called them bullshit.

To help explain this, I’m focusing on one website (though there are many) and how it fits into both the current political moment and the road that got us here: Naturalnews.com

Natural Bullshit

Natural News is one of the most unapologetic sources of bullshit I’ve ever seen. There was a time a few years back when it would pop up in my Facebook feed almost every day.

Natural News

In its heyday, NaturalNews.com existed as a poorly-designed, green-hued nightmare of circular reasoning and supplement peddling. It ostensibly existed to provide information about “alternatives” to Western Medicine (a.k.a. “medicine”). There have always been snake oil salesman, and there always will be. Natural News just did it digitally.

Natural News became a phenomenon largely because it pushed the roundly debunked and thoroughly bullshit idea that vaccines cause autism. Even now, as I type this, the top link on the site declares “Highest AUTISM rates found in countries with highest VACCINE compliance” (playing the hits). It also went all-in on the “evils” of GMOs, another bullshit scare tactic that you – yes, I know you’re reading this – probably still believe is a big concern.

What made this site so effective and so useful for people spreading its lies is that when you clicked on an article, it appeared to be a legitimate news article, with quotes from relevant experts and links to supporting articles. For a reader ready to buy what Natural News was selling, that’s all it took to be convinced that the article was properly researched and well-sourced. Click, share.

But those articles were garbage.

The quotes were almost never actually quotes. They often referenced “a person there” or “an expert”, but never gave a name, as if they had to maintain the person’s anonymity lest Big Brother snuffed them out.

Worse, if you clicked on a link embedded in the article, it inevitably took you to a different article on naturalnews.com, generally written by the same guy (or avatar, at least). Keep clicking and you’d go further and further down the rabbit hole of that website, perhaps even coming right back around to the original article. It was an ouroboros of bullshit, and goddamn was it effective. The creators of the site knew, if you’re predisposed to believe them, you wouldn’t check their work.

The site’s most dedicated readers were usually those who called themselves skeptics, those people who never trust the “official story” and pat themselves on the back because they voted for a third party candidate once. Self-proclaimed skeptics are always the easiest to fool.

If you go to naturalnews.com now (I wouldn’t recommend it; except to check my claims, so I guess you should do it), the website has transformed, unsurprisingly, into a pro-Trump, “Deep State” conspiracy-pushing, manure factory. Still poorly designed, but at least it’s keeping up with the latest bullshit. 

I say “unsurprisingly” because, as someone who has been tracking bullshit for my entire adult life, as soon as I saw the political “fake news” websites during the election popping up in my feed, I recognized all the same tactics being used, both in terms of self-referential links and the way they preyed on “skeptics” and “free thinkers.” 

Nowadays, Natural News has gotten a little more sophisticated: Its links go to other websites, sites with names like “Deep State News.” Regardless, it’s the same tactic as always, linking back to different like-minded (almost certainly interconnected) sources to give the sheen of authenticity to its claims. The snake is still eating its tail, one source of bullshit feeding another. (Who would have thought that “The Human Centipede” would turn out to be the most culturally astute film of our times?)

It’s possible that Natural News’ turn to Trumpism is just a natural development of its anti-establishment roots. If you don’t trust doctors and the medical establishment, it stands to reason you probably look askew at the political establishment, too. 

On the other hand, if you’re a bit more cynical –  as I am – you might note that Natural News always had a political slant at its core. I don’t mean Republican or Democrat, or even conservative or liberal. Rather, its politics were about persuading its readers that all “official” sources were lying, so you could only trust them. (And while we’ve got you here, why don’t you buy some vitamin supplements?)

“Everyone else is lying but me.” Sound familiar? When Trump praises Fox News and calls all other news sources “fake” he’s relying on the same tactic that Natural News used to secure a loyal and defensive audience. As soon as you’ve earned someone’s trust and, more importantly, built their distrust of others, they’re yours for life.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying Natural News was a Russian-backed front for spreading fake news (unless it turns out it really was, in which case, I’m also not not saying that).

What I am saying, though, is that all “fake news” sources use this same tactic to create loyalty. It’s not a new tactic. It originated with the original – and still best – purveyor of lies the world ever knew: Religion.

In the beginning…

Once you’ve convinced your followers that only your book, your prophets, your preachers, your celebrity spokesperson have access to the truth, it becomes impossible to dispute your claims.

I said above that I have been tracking bullshit my entire adult life. What I meant was that, as soon as I de-converted from Christianity at the age of 20, I began to look for all the ways that religion convinced its followers – convinced me – to stay in its grasp, even when so little of it made sense.

As a young, firebrand atheist, I was obsessed with debunking Christian myths and disproving its claims. I followed a pretty standard trajectory for an atheist, from excitable (and mean) reactionary to stately but acerbic provocateur, to where I am now: an old man tired of the fight. I mostly don’t write about it anymore, because the debate has gotten tiring, and the results non-existent.

But I bring up my young atheism because that’s where I first noticed the tactics of modern “fake news”: utilize self-referential sources, engender distrust, muddy the waters around what can be known (i.e. facts).

In one specific topic, I saw those tactics being used to prolong a debate that had long been settled: Evolution vs. Creationism (Intelligent Design).

Creationists like Ken Ham have no chance of winning the debate on the merits of facts or reason, so they turn to other methods for winning adherents to their political views: repeating assertions ad nauseam, no matter how baseless (repetition creates the illusion of veracity); arguing that one can’t trust what is seen with one’s own eyes; and proclaiming that biologists (all scientists, really) are part of a conspiracy to trick the world.

Sound familiar?

These same tactics are used by Climate Change deniers, Natural News quacks, and Donald Trump, among others.

When writing article after article about religion in my early 20s, I felt a bit like Chicken Little screaming that the sky was falling. Some people humored me, some even agreed. Turns out, the sky really was falling, and everyone thought they were safe under their particular awnings.

The future is bleak

Things are going to keep getting worse because of technology. Don’t get me wrong, technology is amazing, but its most amazing feature is also its greatest danger: it makes what isn’t real look like it is. Whether it’s getting us emotionally invested in the arc of a talking raccoon in a space epic or creating a video in which Obama appears to be calling Trump a dipshit, our world is increasingly virtual; in other words, fake. Eventually, our tech will overwhelm our ability to tell the difference.

For those looking forward to 2018 or 2020 in hopes of the truth winning out and Trumpism being eradicated, well, don’t hold your breath.

It’s not enough to know that “fake news” exists; we need to be humble enough to acknowledge that we are susceptible to it, and to blame for it.

You are to blame. I am, too. 

I’ll admit, I reposted that fake Trump quote about Republicans. I’m at least partially responsible for that “quote” having more legs than it deserved.

False Trump Quote
He never said this.

This is the simplest form of fake news, and it’s one that was pretty easy to debunk because it gives the supposed source. Trump never said those words, and obviously he wouldn’t have. The fact that I reposted it speaks to my own willingness to put aside common sense when something feels true enough.

(There is a similar damning “quote” going around, with George Soros supposedly admitting to using Black Lives Matter to stir up violence in America. It’s just as bullshit as the Trump quote and proof that tactics know no political allegiance.)

When I read that the quote was fake, I double checked and was dismayed to find I’d been suckered. I deleted my post and now tell other people when they post it. People often smugly respond, “Well, even if he didn’t say it, the quote is true,” not getting the irony that they’re making fun of other people for believing lies. We have to be better than this.

Calling out these blatant lies is a small thing, but it’s some effort towards stopping the deluge. Sadly, I fear it’s a bit like cleaning up an oil spill with a teaspoon.

You’re to blame for Fake News.

You have spread fake news. I don’t care who you voted for, I don’t care how much of a “skeptic” or a “free thinker” you are. You have helped spread false information. Maybe you found out and corrected yourself, maybe you quietly buried the evidence, or maybe you are still convinced of its veracity. Whatever the case, you’re guilty.

And to prove it, I will list some lies that you believe or did believe. I won’t provide my sources, but I assure you, these are all facts. If you doubt me – good, that’s the first step – I encourage you to do the research yourself and learn why these lies became so massive that most of society accepts them as truth.

Here are lies you have undoubtedly believed at some point in your life:

  1. Carrots improve your night vision
  2. Diamonds are rare
  3. It’s dangerous/too difficult for women to get pregnant after 35
  4. Vitamin C will cure a cold
  5. Milk strengthens your bones
  6. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute
  7. You need to drink 8 glasses of water a day
  8. A woman frivolously sued McDonald’s for spilling hot coffee on herself and that’s why we live in a nanny state

We not only live with our lies, we love them. We define our world by them. Like it or not, there is a good chance your idea of the world has largely been shaped by at least one of those lies above (I used to drink a big glass of OJ every time I felt a tickle in my throat).

The spreading of lies isn’t going to stop. Liars aren’t going to stop. The only way to make a better world is to be better consumers of information. 

It’s not enough to just be a “skeptic.” We need to be curious. We need to be invested in the truth. We need to be interested in the wider world.

But, before all that, we need to admit, we’re part of the problem.

The Age of Balance

kurt staring at the sky

We live in an age of wonders.

We live in an age of turmoil.

We live in an age of transformation.

We live in an age of destruction.

Each one of those sentences is true, 4 strands that co-exist in the DNA of our reality. It’s easy to handpick a number of examples to validate each assertion. Space travel and the curative power of modern medicine are certainly wonders. Turmoil rages in the Middle East as well as in the corridors of Washington, D.C. The internet and new technology is transforming the world into something never before seen in human history. And technology, like bombs, or the results of our technology, such as pollution, are capable of greater levels of destruction than any other historical era could have even imagined.

Optimists and pessimists can cherry pick a bushel’s worth of evidence to support their personal predisposition, and sometimes the same piece of evidence can be used by both to support their respective arguments (the internet is both the greatest achievement of humanity, and our likely undoing, depending on the messenger). Everything is going to kill us. Everything is going to save us. Just you wait and see.

Not Optimists Vs. Pessimists. Optimists and Pessimists

[Note: Portions in red discuss current political happenings. If you are such a person who finds such topics unbearable, feel free to skip.]

Place me firmly in the optimist camp. I’ve lived through enough faux-apocalypses and read about enough historical ones to cast a weary glance at anyone whose predictions are death, destruction and doom. Like cockroaches, we survive.

I’m also a pragmatist, though, so I understand that oftentimes it’s people freaking out about a potential catastrophe that helps us avert it. In recent memory, the ‘Y2K‘ problem is probably one of the most famous cataclysmic events that never happened, now nothing more than a punchline. What gets lost in the discussion of Y2K’s uneventful arrival is that people had been working on addressing the potential problems for months and years before January 1st, 2000. Was all the doomsaying for naught? Perhaps, but we can never know what would have happened if some people hadn’t taken the threat seriously and sought solutions.

Society needs optimists and pessimists. Just like society needs liberals and conservatives. As an optimistic liberal, pessimistic conservatives annoy the living hell out of me quite frequently, but that doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t exist. I’m predisposed to role my eyes when someone predicts destruction ahead, but I think it’s good that people take such prophecies seriously enough to address them and hopefully find solutions. A pessimist with solutions is mighty handy to have around.

Pessimists without solutions, on the other hand, are dangerous.

This is why the government Shutdown/Obamacare kerfuffle is so fingers-on-a-chalkboard aggravating to me. Ted Cruz and his compatriots claim that the Affordable Care Act is hurting people, not helping. This may or may not be true (the evidence suggests that there are some negative effects being felt now, but time will hopefully rectify those issues), but defunding the program doesn’t solve any problems for 2 reasons: Obamacare still exists, defunded or not, and even if you eradicate it, no Republicans are offering any alternative that will help fix the increasingly unsustainable healthcare crisis in this country.

Ted Cruz and John Boehner are pessimists without a solution.

The Balance

American history is the story of finding balance, swinging too far one way and swinging back, always in search of the sweet spot. We are constantly attempting to maintain a balance between liberty and control that doesn’t collapse into anarchy or succumb to tyranny. We enjoy the progress of liberalism, but conservatism attempts to uphold a recognizable society. We embrace technology but maintain a constant vigil against its more dangerous and excessive applications.

Every election cycle in this country brings about op-eds about how our 2-Party system is bad for democracy, keeping out the smaller voices. The assumption, presumably, is that if only the Green Party or the Libertarians were given the same platform as the Republicans and Democrats, they would help change the conversation. This belief is, to be blunt, stupid. The Green Party is just the Democratic Party as your crotchety, conservative father would describe it. And Libertarianism is the worst idea since unsliced bread. Neither one of these parties is ever going to capture a substantial minority in the House or the Senate, and certainly not a majority nor the White House.

Democrats and Republicans represent generic versions of the most common political stances. If you want a representative 3rd party, you don’t go to an extreme, you go to the middle.

We actually have a 3-Party system now, and it’s a disaster. The Tea Party is called a wing of the Republican party, but the divisions within the GOP reveals how erroneous that description is. The Tea Party and the Republicans might agree on a great deal of policies (number 1: destroy Obama), but they are about as unified a party as oil and water. That’s not to suggest that gridlock hasn’t always existed in our government, but this is probably the first time in our nation’s history where such an impasse can only be broken by a majority of 1 party siding with the opposition party against their supposed allies.

Our political system is unbalanced right now and it’s a disaster.

Proving a Point 2

The Pendulum

While I believe it is important to maintain balance, I don’t think it’s something that requires concentrated effort to accomplish. We swing left and right, back and forth, and an equilibrium results, albeit one that never quite settles into stasis (which, I would argue, is vital for the continued growth of our society and species). History’s pendulum is a perpetual motion machine, the engine for all of our advancements.

We will never achieve a perfect middle ground, nor should that be our goal. Instead, we should continue to seek a society and world that allows room for opposition. I’m never going to be anything but a card-carrying Liberal, but that doesn’t mean I want Conservatives to be silenced. Quite the contrary, a nation built on nothing but unbridled liberalism sounds just as terrible as one built solely around conservatism. The promise of America has always been that it’s a land where the pendulum swings freely.

As long as that remains the case, consider me an optimist.

What Your Ethnicity Says About You

One of the great benefits of living in cities is that the worlds I inhabit are diverse and filled with people from all backgrounds and lifestyles. Specifically, I meet people of varied nationalities and ethnicities every day, either at work or at the bar or on the street. It’s the hallmark of a great city that the shining beacon of metropolitan living calls out to people from all corners of the world.

Yet, for all this diversity, people aren’t really all that different. We share a lot of traits and characteristics. The wide range of people I’ve met over the years has made this crystal clear. We all want to be unique snowflakes, but patterns of personality and motivations are reliable present everywhere you look.

What might surprise most people is that, for whatever reason – cultural, genetic, religious – people of the same ethnic background often share many of the same defining traits and internal drives. Some people might be skeptical, but I’ve met thousands of people of all ethnicities and I assure you, these patterns are as apparent as the stars in the sky.

Read on and then look around you. You’ll be amazed how accurately these describe your coworkers, friends and, yes, even yourself.


∞ Chinese Arien

A Chinese person is hungry for success. They generally want to succeed in studies, careers and almost everything they get involved in, though there might be the odd case of a Chinese deliberately messing up their grades, just cause they hate the pressure. In their professional life, they will do anything to get to the top. For many, this might mean their personal life suffers, but not for the Chinese. They are really attached to their family. They are extremely passionate and dedicated, but they also have certain selfish tendencies which can wreck relationships.

    ∞ Indian Taurus

Indians dislike indecision and chaos. They work hard at bringing security – social and economical, in the lives of everyone they love. They  find it very hard to risk it for something uncertain, no matter how great it might be. These are really patient types that never throw in the towel and keep fighting for what they value and believe in. They are very passionate, even though they can be a bit slow to action. They are beautiful, sensual people who have great taste for the beautiful things in life.

          ∞ Russian Geminian

Nothing annoys a Russian more than boredom. Multitasking is innate to them, so much so that it bleeds into their personal life. Though that can be a problem for relationships, Russians have a great ability to talk their way out of awkward situations. They are generally restless and energetic to the extreme – that’s what gives them the resources to multitask. But this must take a toll on them, because Russians can never completely let go of things and relax.

             ∞ Mexican Cancerian

Mexicans are very protective of themselves, their friends and family. They are not intimidated and can sometimes take an aggressive stand in order to protect themselves from others. Anyone who jeopardizes their or their close ones’ dignity or self-respect will be pushed back or even pinned down. Family is very important for them, and comes at the top in the list of priorities. To their loved ones, Mexicans present their most soft and mellow self. They can overreact to incidents be moody at times, but they are very sensual and make great companions.

  ∞ Iranian Leo

An Iranian innately want to be a leader, but they’ll be servants for those they adore and revere. They can be quite organized when it comes to everyone’s lives but their own. Despite this love of order, the Iranians are very creative and generally possess talents that hardly anyone around them is good at. They don’t handle criticism well, though, and have a great need to be encouraged. In relationships, they are very generous and caring, but can get a little carried away and shower their affections on the wrong person. With the right person, they’re very passionate and faithful.

            ∞ Spanish Virgoan

A Spanish person generally displays excellent judgment and critical thinking. They can size up a situation, form an opinion, and express it in a very constructive way. But they do this with humility, and they are never more critical and judgmental then they are of themselves. This can be a toll on friendships and relationships, though they lack not for devotion and love. This seems to feed their innate nervous tendencies. For all their tenderness and talents, they tend to be their own worst enemies in relationships.

         ∞ Jewish Libran

Jews get a reputation for being lazy, but they just know how to relax and let things go. Even when they hustle, they find time to look well-manicured and stop for coffee. They crave long-lasting commitment, but hate having to work to preserve their relationships. When they aren’t involved, they feel like something is missing. They can rush into relationships, usually when they’re too young to even understand what a relationship requires. But when they find the right one, it’s loyalty for life.

              ∞ Australian Scorpio

The most obvious thing about an Aussie is their forcefulness. This high-energy state is as much emotional as physical. They can be overly aggressive, in friendships, relationships (especially sexual) and business. It’s a trait that’s as much asset as liability. When things go wrong, an Aussie stops taking active interest in things and withdrawals. Their intensity is replaced with introversion and brooding. When they’re like this, they won’t open up to anyone, not even friends and lovers. One has to tiptoe around them until a new interest re-energizes them.

                      ∞ Japanese Sagittarian

The Japanese are simultaneously very frank and exceedingly practical. They are driven by their tendency to have a broad outlook, and can grasp almost any kind of problem. This big picture mindset means they do miss minor details. They can be hard on themselves and can switch one moment to the next from being completely content with themselves to being filled with self-doubt. Especially as children, they can be wild and require taming, but they are very brilliant and studious.

                      ∞ Egyptian Capricorn

An Egyptian has a tenacity that translates into a never-give-up need to fight, move, advance. Yet they also have the seemingly contradictory trait of being steadfast in their work, which translates to frequent complaining and grumbling in the face of roadblocks. There is a drive for success in them that makes it hard for them to maintain people who they see as not as successful. They can feel quite lonely. Outwardly they’ll appear quite formal and out of place at a fun gathering, but when you get to their dark sense of humor they can be the life of any party. They’re not the most romantic people, but they are extremely loyal.

                      ∞ Polish Aquarian

Poles are very individualistic and strong-willed. Because of that, they can make enemies easily, but they also make good leaders. Yet, while they can be inventive pioneers, once they’ve made up their minds there’s pretty much no changing it. This mix of traits makes them emotionally cool, sometimes impenetrable. But that outside wall hides a very generous and caring core. They can be terribly romantic at heart but find it hard to express themselves in a way that resonates with the object of their affection.

                      ∞ Mongol Piscean

More than anyone else, Mongols are characterized by an emotional depth that manifests as great passion. Creatively, romantically, professionally, they are a vast reservoir of energy that seems bottomless. Still, their innate modesty often leads them to underestimate their abilities. Surprisingly, for all this emotional volatility, they are a people of habits and crave control. If they lose that order, they can act like a person drowning in quicksand. They might resist it, but they often need outside help. While this is a problem in most aspects of their lives, it seems to only benefit them in romance where they tend to reward a loved one with passionate monogamy.

Map of the World

If any of these characterizations strike you as racist and ridiculous, you are correct. Such simplistic categorizations are idiotic and reprehensible. Similarly, it’s just as incomprehensible to make assumptions about a person based on their date of birth, yet I modeled all of these descriptions on Zodiac descriptions that I found here. The next time you find yourself saying, “Oh, he’s that way because he’s a Taurus,” just replace the word ‘Taurus’ with ‘Indian’ and see if you still feel the same.

Nothing upon another’s word

Nullius in Verba
~ The Royal Society

Nothing upon another's word

Yet another tattoo.

Count it as either 13 or 14, it’s my 2nd in New Orleans. Generally with the tattoos I get each year, they are meant to sum up something about the previous year leading up to the inking, but because I’ve already gotten 1 tattoo here in the city, I decided to get a phrase that was less about marking a moment in time and more just part of my personal philosophy.

“Nothing Upon Another’s Word” (in the original latin) is the motto of the Royal Society of London, one of the oldest (if not the oldest) organizations dedicated to science. It has existed since 1660. There are religions that are younger than that.

This motto is the essential heart of science, and the hallmark of a skeptical mind (note: skeptical, not cynical). Every atheist has the spirit of this phrase running through their veins, even if they’ve never read it. Of course, you don’t have to be an atheist to respect this basic tenet of the scientific pursuit (there are, after all, scientists who are religious), but to live it in your day to day life is to refute the very notions of ‘blind faith’ and ‘authority.’

There are those who will claim ‘science’ is just another ‘faith,’ revealing that they don’t understand either word. The phrase “Nothing upon another’s word” is what sets science apart from religion. Being an atheist or admiring science doesn’t mean one lacks the ability to believe, it only means that we don’t believe based on someone’s word or assurances. If a scientist makes a claim, s/he has to provide evidence to support that claim. Once that has been done, a portion of faith (used in the sense of “good faith” not “blind faith”) is allotted to that person, so long as each additional claim is supported with additional evidence.

Science builds on what has been established. The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection didn’t just appear in Darwin’s head, he built it on observations and well-established facts. These observations and facts were so well established that Darwin wasn’t even the only person to come up with the theory. He was just the first to get it published and widely disseminated.

Religion doesn’t work that way. It makes a huge claim (an omnipotent God, a Holy Prophet who speaks for Him, Heaven and Hell) and works backwards, demanding that the believers accept the most outlandish claims first (with no evidence) and then everything else they say is pretty easy to swallow in comparison.

When religious people attack science by claiming that the Big Bang Theory or String Theory are just matters of faith, they’re displaying the very mindset that makes them susceptible to religious faith. They are used to thinking about the big and working small, whereas science takes the small and builds up to the big. Those religious people who dismiss scientific theories don’t understand that such theories are built on smaller observations and well-documented facts, because their personal “theories” (God) have no such foundations.

When I say I believe in the Big Bang Theory or the Theory of Natural Selection, I’m not saying I have faith in someone else’s word. I’m saying that there has been enough research, study and established facts to make each theory believable. The theory could be proven wrong, but if that’s the case the base facts won’t change any. On the other hand, if God is disproved (obviously this will never happen), every religion will suddenly be meaningless (I mean, more so).

When someone proclaims faith in a particular religion’s God, their belief is built upon accepting the unproven claims of another. When I state that the only thing I believe in is science, I’m plainly saying, “Nothing upon another’s word.”

Nothing upon another's word Context

“Everything You Know Is Wrong”

Move around enough, meet enough strangers, come face-to-face with enough gray-haired 30-year-olds, and you will inevitably be confronted with this confounding “truth”:

Everything You Know Is Wrong

Gravity is a lie. We never landed on the moon. Obama is from Pluto. Jesus wasn’t white (nor was he Jewish). Your broccoli isn’t organic.

There is a certain portion of the population whose entire raison d’être is convincing anyone who will listen that the reality they know is a lie. For them, the Matrix isn’t just an excuse for Keanu Reeves to have a career, it’s a philosophical treatise on par with anything Johns Locke or Calvin ever produced.

You can recognize these people with a simple test: If someone posits the idea that we all live in an alien’s virtual reality simulation, and they not only nod along but attempt to extrapolate moral philosophy based on this idea, they might be a dipshit.*

I’m sounding bitterly dismissive, so I should explain. I have no problem with questioning or doubting. The scientific process is built on challenging established understanding and launching ourselves into new realms. The greatest scientific accomplishments of human existence would never have occurred without people willing to take the ‘known’ and test it. A mind that says we know everything we can possibly know and there is no new information is, essentially, religious. I cannot support such thinking.

But, just because I respect the inquisitive mind, doesn’t mean I give credence to the cynical dismissal of all knowledge.

My problem with people who make the statement, “Everything you know is wrong,” is that they are inherently dishonest. They tell you to question everything, then check their iPhones for the latest updates on ConspiracyBullshit.com. We live in a society where scientific advancements completely shape every aspect of our lives. Someone can pretend like they ‘question everything,’ but test that resolve and they’ll prove to be empty-headed charlatans.

Medically, everything from flu shots and vaccines to heart transplants and brain surgery rely on a firm understanding of biology and human physiology, all brought to us by hundreds of years of research and study. A very select minority truly rejects all medical science, and they’re called Christian Scientists. And we don’t have to pay much attention to them because natural selection is pretty much killing them off.

How about technology? Unless you’re Amish, you’re probably reading this on your laptop, smartphone or virtual reality glasses. None of that technology would be available to you without decades of established and verified scientific research. Scientific knowledge is partially about challenging preconceived notions, but even more importantly it’s about building on the work of those who have come before.

The mantra of “Question Everything” is meant to suggest humility, by insisting that we humans are incapable of understanding the mysteries of the universe. But, in fact, the philosophy that claims “everything we know is wrong” is the most arrogant worldview available. It suggests that we, as individuals, can simply dismantle the work of millions of thinkers, scientists, doctors, researchers and philosophers who have come before us. And all because we took the blue pill. Or the red pill. I don’t actually remember which is which.

These Universal Cynics are liars and fakes. Like relativists and religious fundamentalists, if you actually put their philosophy to the test, one of two results will occur: Their hypocrisy will cause them to buckle, or they’ll die.

Everything you know is most emphatically not wrong. A lot of what you know is, in fact, completely, unquestionably true. Gravity is real. So is evolution, and the germ theory and Obama’s birth certificate. If you’re going to question someone, start with the people who use a website to tell you to doubt everything, a website powered by decades of established scientific research.

Yes, we must challenge, question and never grow complacent with our search for greater understanding.

But, no, we must not begin from the solipsistic view that if we don’t understand an answer, or don’t find it personally satisfying, it cannot be true.

Instead, we must begin with the realization that all human thought and inspiration stands on the shoulders of giants, and to dismiss those generations of advancements is like willfully climbing Mt. Everest from the base when we have a helicopter to carry us above the death zone.


*My issue isn’t with the idea that we might be a virtual simulation. While I don’t buy it, even if it were true, it’s meaningless to discuss. Our reality is still our reality. If there are rules that can be learned in our universe, we should be trying to learn them, not wasting our time looking for the theoretical exits.