This SatChat saw us discussing some serious issues thanks to them being initiated by Rachel. I will summarize the main ideas behind these.
The first had to do with a CBS news presentation which apparently talked about someone murdering some people at a slaughterhouse and this was somehow linked with PETA. According to Rachel they said:
" It said PETA went to far. It happened several years ago. PETA isn't really saying anything but, "Meat's not treat for those you eat!"
So Kyron, Dyl and Michael searched the net for this story and were unable to find anything. Rachel suggested that perhaps someone was trying to frame PETA. This idea wouldn't surprise me at all, because some groups who oppose PETA's work do try to fabricate links that don't exist. There certainly wasn't the slightest evidence that PETA was connected in any way at all to the murders, but because PETA is an animal rights organization, there was apparently an attempt to implicate them in some way, however remote, however bizzare.
I recall a similar incident in November 2003, when I found out on an RHP thread that there was a news station that was saying PETA was distributing anti-fur pamplets to young children. I investigated these accusations both through PETA and independently and found that the news station was deliberately circulating false information: the pamplets distribution hadn't even started. The news station acquired information about the pamplets from the PETA website and had decided to 'create' this false story about what PETA was going to do with them.
PETA does engage in sensational campaigns drawing attention to the cruelty inflicted upon animals, but it seems that they are often far-outdone by those who utilize misinfomation, misrepresentations, as well as outright lies to defame the organization.
The second issue was a question of ethics: would you kill to defend yourself?" This, of course, is a standard question that has been discussed for centuries by philosophers. What was interesting in our little exchange was that while we all agreed that killing was a last resort after all other routes had been exhausted, the 'proximity' of the attacker with respect to ourselves may well affect our final decision. For instance, if the individual were our best friend, it was suggested that we may actually sacrifice ourself rather than take the other person's life. However, Dyl made the rather excellent observation that if the person was trying to kill you, then you may wish to reconsider that person's status as your best friend. It brings to mind the adage 'with friends like that, who needs enemies'!
Another problem with these scenarios that Ranjana pointed out is that they are untenably hypothetical and hence it is difficult to really say what you are going to do.
A favorite example of this sort of hypothetical situation was illustrated during an interview with singer and humanitarian Joan Baez. She was apparently asked what she would do if she was driving on a mountain road and as she turned a bend, a child and a dog were on the road - who would she choose to save. The conversation went something like this: "I would hit neither, but hit the brakes." "No, you are travelling too fast to stop so you have to hit one of them," came the demand. "Well, I'd swerve off the road on to the soft shoulder." "No, you can't do that either because there is no soft shoulder there is only a steep cliff." "Ok, in that case, I'd drive off the cliff." "No you can't do that either, you have to kill either the dog or the child." "You won't let me use the brakes, drive off the road and now you won't even let me kill myself! So if you are deciding everything for me, then why do you even bother asking me?"
This is the real difficulty with this sort of exercise. If you restrict the possibilities, then you close your mind to the solutions too.
The third issue dealt with how our language stereotypes people. It was an interesting discussion because what people don't often acknowledge is that by using terms in a derogatory way, even in jest, they are propagating the denigration of a person or a group. Dyl produced an typical example in which the word 'gay' (in the sexual sense) was being substituted for the word 'bad'. So people were saying "You're gay." or "I had a gay day."
Though this sort of thing may appear superficially harmless, even to some gays, it's underlying implications are very serious. What happens is that it becomes an accepted expression with all its derogatory nuances. It is intended as a putdown of the individual to whom it is directed and simultaneously it scars the group to which it refers. People who scoff at this sort of thing as being ridiculously 'politically correct', ought to consider how many expressions are routinely used to degrade women, blacks, minorities, animals and other 'non-mainstreamers'. This is certainly a component through which the tyranny of status quo is maintained.
Now, I will bring everyone uptodate on what was happening during the above discussions.
Sangeeta was in Reno, Nevada trying to get online, but was unable to do so in time because she had to visit Lake Tahoe. She actually made it into the chat for a few minutes, but had to leave because her computer malfunctioned. Apparently, she had a virus that had to be erased. Ray dropped by and started the usual Linux conversation with Kyron, but Rachel, while she was present, asked what Linux was and received a barrage of answers none of which were particularly helpful, from what I recall.
Ranjana started making errors in typing, so she typed corrections immediately afterwards adding to the confusion, because her corrections usually needed corrections.
Rachel asked Dyl for his age and was very surprised to learn that he was 21, because Kirksey had told her that Dyl talked like he was 50! I suggested that Dyl appeared to be 50 because what he says is usually so wise. This comment pleased that wise individual so much dylight that he immediately offered me some brownie points. Then he thought about the whole idea and wasn't so sure about being 50 and even reconsidered the brownie points.
We got to talking about Monty Python, but I managed to irritate both Dyl and Ranjana when I proclaimed that I didn't really like them much. Well, that was too much for Dyl and he was about to take the brownie points back, but I managed to appease him considerably by pointing out that we still keep a video of a clip from their "The Meaning of Life" in which these wonderful words run:
"And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space, cause there's bugger all down here on earth"
Throughout all this, Rachel was wondering what brownie points were, but Ray left early saying that he had errands to run, but I think it was because he was thinking about brownies.
We talked a bit about the chessboard Dyl was going to buy. He had found another beautiful one:
Dyl also told us, he had an Egyptian set with metal pieces which he will show us pictures of later.
I told Dyl the story about how I bought a chess computer in 1994 so I could practise up since the kids at the school chess club were all beating me and there wasn't anyone around to play against. Well! Who should complain about this but Ranjana, claiming that she was always around.
That forced me to tell the story about how Ranjana got mad at me for beating her playing blindfold back in the 80s. Well it's true! She thought I was just showing off, which I wasn't - I was just trying something new. She didn't take into account the fact that back then, she barely knew how to play the game.
Actually, Ranjana told Dyl the story, but I had to embellish it with the parts about how mad she got. For some reason, Dyl found my predicament not just amusing, but sufficiently so to be ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing, for those of you unfamiliar with internetese).
Then Michael pointed out how he drew with Ranjana because he was afraid of playing her too. Well, I suppose I added the afraid part, but it really doesn't matter does it?
So quickly and cleverly changing the subject, I related a story of a classic game that took place a decade ago between Ranjana and Sangeeta. Well, actually Ranjana told the story, but I had to embellish it properly so it had the necessary depth and comprehensivity it warranted. The two of them were in the very initial stages of learning the game back then:
" so as one of us took the other's piece, we immediately sacrificed one of our own in return....... it reached an apex when.. i took her queen and then offered my own..."
What Ranjana had forgotten was that none of this was intentional on either of their part. The game ended in a draw, because they both didn't feel like playing anymore and started yapping about other things, leaving me to put away the pieces!
Michael and Dyl thought this was very funny and when I meekly tried to generate a tiny morsel of sympathy on my behalf, by pointing out how I always had to clean up, I was mercilessly derided by Ranjana's deceptive compliment, "you're good at that". Well, she didn't fool me one bit!!
Michael and Dyl had overwhelmed themselves with amusement to the point where they felt they had to depart, leaving me all alone with Ranjana in the chatroom. I told her that I would run away and she threatened to come after me. I said I could type faster than she could because of my dvorak layout, but she said her "typing is more confusing so you have to warit until youcan make sense of it and that give me an advantage"
As you can plainly see, she is right. However, while she was gloating about her victory and enjoying my apparent entrapment, I made my escape!
Two hours later, I stealthily returned to the chatroom only to find that she had left indications of following through on her threat to come after me. I can tell you all this much, that as I write this, my safety is still secure - she hasn't caught me yet!