Gotta Free ‘Em All?


PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is an animal rights group, or at least claims to be. This is a picture from their most recent campaign. They are targeting the video game series, Pokemon. Their campaign is accusing the game of promoting the “unethical” treatment of Pokemon by forcing them to compete in Pokemon battles and housing them in Pokeballs. It would seem that they believe this is sending a violent message to the individuals who play the Pokemon games. For those of you who would like to see for yourself, here is the website.

That website features a spin-off Pokemon game. I’m not proud to admit it, but I did play through the whole game (it was about 15 minutes long) as I’m not one to give my opinion on something unless I know what I’m giving my opinion about. But anyway, you start off playing as Pikachu who just recently claimed its independence for a Pokemon trainer named Cheren. Once you beat Cheren, Pikachu talks about how Pokemon are not theirs to abuse, they exist for their own reasons. You then go on to fight different trainers and recruit different Pokemon along the way. You also gain these “treasure chests” a few times. These treasure chests contain typical PETA style videos of animal slaughter houses and animals being treated inhumanly.

When I first saw the image above, I thought it was a joke. I honestly didn’t believe it was real, until I went to PETA’s website. Now, I can’t say I’m surprised, since I’ve only ever heard negative things about PETA (like throwing fake blood on people’s fur coats). But that got me thinking, “Why are the only things I’ve ever heard about PETA, an organization founded on a really great idea, all negative?” It’s unfortunate, really.

I see a few problems with this Ad Campaign, some blatantly wrong and others a little more subtle. First and foremost, it’s borderline copyright infringement and it downright slanders the name of Pokemon. This is wrong in and of itself. Now, in the grand scheme of things, it probably won’t hurt Nintendo a whole lot. At this point, a lot of Pokemon fans (like myself) have been playing for a decade or longer and the rest of the fans are typically going to be children and young teens, so this ad campaign likely won’t reach them or mean much to them if they do see it. Now, you might get some angry parents here and there who will see this campaign and won’t let their kids play it because of it, but for the most part, those who were going to play this game or want to are still going to. That’s not the point, though. The point is that PETA is sending a lot of negativity out into the universe for seemingly no reason at all.

Ash and Pikachu

On top of slandering the name of Pokemon, they do it with false information. They skew what Pokemon is and spin it in a way that makes Pokemon sound like it’s sending a bad message to children (to those who know nothing about the game, that is). They’re stating that Pokemon are treated unfairly, forced to fight against their will and caged in tiny Pokeballs. Well, when you put it that way, coupled with zero knowledge of the game, you could easily make an argument for this campaign. That’s all wrong though. These “issues” have all been brought up in the game. It’s a well known fact in the Pokemon universe that Pokeballs don’t harm the Pokemon, that the Pokemon are not miserable when they battle alongside their trainers. They enjoy it, actually (assuming their relationship with their trainer is good). The truth is,  the relationship between a Pokemon and the trainer who caught that Pokemon can be compared to a relationship between a man and his dog. It’s a companionship. The Pokemon Anime continuously, in every single episode, portrays the incredibly strong bond between Pokemon and humans.

Another problem with PETA skewing facts to make them sound wrong (to those who don’t know the game) is the fact that PETA does know the game. They know it pretty well, actually. They had to have played through a decent amount of the game to fairly accurately mimic the game, it’s mechanics and the story (not to imply that they’ve made some great game, but they copied it pretty well). And, despite knowing the story, they also openly and proudly support Team Plasma, the antagonist of Pokemon Black and White (and their sequels). PETA knows that what they’re saying is false and slanderous, yet they still lie about the game to make it look like it’s supporting the unethical treatment of animals. This shows a lot about PETA’s true character. It shows that they are intentionally creating this negativity.

It might sound like I’m angry about this, but I’m not. Honestly. I don’t believe this will hurt Nintendo or the Pokemon name at all, because they’ve done nothing wrong and quite frankly, the Pokemon series is incredible. It wouldn’t have survived the last 20 years if it wasn’t. The reason I wrote this is because this ad campaign demonstrates a universal and fundamental problem with the world. The fact is, PETA is a really well known organization. They have the power to make change. They have the power to influence people to do good things, to spread profound levels of positivity throughout the world. They don’t, though. They created a problem that didn’t need to be there and are now focusing their attention and resources on that self-created problem. They aren’t the only ones, though. We as humans tend to create problems for ourselves. We create negativity, then try to combat that negativity with more negativity. Contrary to the popular saying, however, fighting fire with fire only creates more fire.

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Why you shouldn’t worry

People worry a lot. We all know we shouldn’t, we all know the adverse effects stress can have on our well being. We still worry, though. We worry about what grade we’re going to get on the final exam, we worry about work, we worry about what that certain someone will say if we ask them out. We worry about everything all the time. I do too, quite a bit sometimes. But I want to break down exactly why worrying serves absolutely no purpose. It seems like common sense, but I believe it’s easier to stop ourselves from worrying when we take the time to analyze exactly why we do it and what it accomplishes.

Alright, so, you just got into a car accident. You and the other driver are both fine but your car is wrecked. You have insurance but you’ll have to pay the $500 deductible in order to repair your car. On top of that, the accident was your fault so your insurance rate will probably go up. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time seeing as how you just payed $200 for that speeding ticket you got a few weeks ago. Your car will probably be in the shop for a few days so now you’ll have to find a ride to and from work. Naturally, you start to worry about how you’re going to make it through this.

That would be pretty rough for a lot of people. Let’s talk about the definitive stress/worry causers in this situation:

  • Your car is wrecked. If you’re like me, you love and need your car. You depend on it to get from point A to point B. I drive 60 miles a day to get to and from work. Having to find a ride for how ever many days my car would be in the shop would be a nightmare.
  • You’re now $500 in the whole (on top of that $200 you spent on the speeding ticket). That’s a lot of money (for most people, at least) and it’s going to hurt a lot. You may not even be able to pay it off depending on how much money you have/ make.
  • Your insurance rate is going to go up. In this economy, some of us just can’t afford more expensive insurance. Oh, and it’ll be even worse if you aren’t 25 yet (like myself).

We’ve now identified what exactly caused us to be worried in the scenario. Now what exactly does worrying actually accomplish in this scenario? What exactly does it do for us? The answer is that it actually makes the situation worse. Not only do you have the three negative outcomes of the scenario, you’re completely stressed out about what’s going to happen and how you’re going to make it through. This stress will inevitably make you unhappier. It causes your mind to become generally unfocused because it’s too busy worrying about the car accident. This lack of focus can effect other aspects of your life. When we worry about something, we actually end up creating more problems for ourselves. These self-created problems can sometimes be even worse then what we were worrying about in the first place.

You might be thinking, “This is obvious. We all know worrying is bad. What do we do about it? How do we make it positive?” Well, I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. The fact of the matter is, you got into a car accident, you are $500 in the hole, you have to find a way to get to work and your insurance rate is going up. All of that has already happened or is going to happen. There is nothing you can do to stop it from happening. That’s the scariest part about it. The fact that we can’t change it makes us feel powerless. We feel like we don’t have control. It makes us scared. It’s completely natural to worry and stress about it because we feel like that is all we can do.

That’s not all we can do, though. We aren’t completely without control. You see, by simply not worrying, we’ve actually made the situation better and more positive and therefore easier to overcome. With worry and stress out of the picture, we retain our ability to be happy, to be positive. We may not have control over what has already happened to us, but we most certainly have control over how we react to the situation when it happens. That’s the key.

A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who the father was. At first, she was resistant to confess, but the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter’s accusation, he simply replied “Is that so?”

When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who was now viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. “Is that so?” Hakuin said as he handed them the child.

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Those who know me surely know my biggest and most favorite hobby is playing video games. I could go on for a good while explaining when my passion for them started, how my video game interests have evolved over time and why they’ve been so important to me (and at some point, I probably will write about it) but I want to talk about one in particular. It is by far one of the most important video games to me of all time.

Mass Effect is a science fictional, story driven third person shooter / role-playing game. You play as Commander Shepard. Early on in the story, you are warned of a race of sentient machines, the Reapers, hellbent on wiping out all advanced organic life. You are responsible for saving the galaxy and putting an end to the Reaper threat once and for all.

Now, that’s a very crude summary of the story but I only wanted to very basically outline it and I also didn’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s interested in playing.

When I started playing the Mass Effect series (it’s a trilogy) I actually started with the third installment. I had always heard great things about the series and it had just come out so I decided to just go with it. Needless to say, I was blown away. As soon as I finished the game I immediately went and bought the first one and played that. I beat it, excited to get the second. So, I did and I beat that too. Then, I went on to beat the third one for a second time.

This pattern actually went on for about two and a half months. I continuously beat each game over and over (I’ve beaten each game three times now [that’s nine total times between all three games]). I remember one time I was playing the first one and I played for 18 hours straight. I was absolutely hooked on this game, totally and completely enthralled by the story (I think I’m starting to make myself sound like a freak but I promise this is getting somewhere!)

I couldn’t help but ask myself “Why?” Why was this game so much different than any other game? What made this one so… appealing to me? Initially I chalked it up to incredibly great story telling, but it wouldn’t be until just recently that I would find the answer.

Liara T’Soni, an Asari, is one of the main characters of Mass Effect

Let’s talk about a science fiction story. Star Wars. You can go up to just about anyone in the world and ask them what the story of Star Wars is about and almost anyone will be able to tell you “It’s about the Sith Empire wiping out the Jedi and Luke Skywalker leading the rebels to bring the Empire down”. And it’s great. It’s one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time, in fact. There’s a very distinct difference between the two stories, however.

In most (not all, but most) science fiction stories, humanity is depicted as a common people in a vast, galactic community. They may even be a major super power. They are no less common then any other intelligent race. In Mass Effect, this is most certainly not the case. Humanity is a very young race. They’ve only been apart of the galactic community for a few decades while other races, like the Asari and the Salarians (the founders of the galactic community) have been around for thousands of years. Humanity actually has to prove itself to the other races that they are ready to be a part of the galactic community. Many don’t think they are. It isn’t until the very end of the series, after countless efforts and endless adversity that humanity is respected among the other races.

It’s also only set about 150 years into the future. This really added a level of realism to the game. It actually got me thinking. I found myself constantly pondering and wondering what’s out there. I realized just how many possibilities there are. What if there are other intelligent beings out there? Galactic communities being created all over the Milky Way, inter-species friendships and relationships being made. While we’re sitting here, stuck on our rock, fumbling over our petty differences.

It sparked a profound interest and passion in Astrophysics. It’s also what led to my “A better me, a better humanity” initiative. It showed me the importance of focusing on our future, of banding together as a single, unified and collective group to move our species forward towards prosperity and happiness, to learn, grow and improve ourselves as much as possible. It helped me truly realize that our future is in the stars and I want to do everything I can to contribute in getting us there.

All because of a single video game. That’s why it’s different for me. It presented an idea that I had never thought of before. It quite literally changed my life and the way I view humanity, and the future, for the better.


How a video game changed my life

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Humility at its finest

This man is José Mujica. He’s the president of Uruguay and has been since 2010. I just learned that he donates 87% of his salary to charity. He drives an old school Volkswagon Beetle, which is his only asset. His wife owns the farm they live on. Here’s what he said when asked about it: “I do fine with that amount; I have to do fine because there are many Uruguayans who live with much less”.

When I read that, it really resonated with me. I believe that kind of attitude is the kind of attitude a leader should have. He doesn’t put himself above those who follow him, instead he walks among them. How can you lead someone to happiness and prosperity if you do not truly understand them? And how can you understand someone who you place beneath yourself?

I believe the reasons for most of the world’s major issues are greed and corruption. You can’t drive down the street without seeing it. Gas prices continue to rise while oil companies are sitting on billions of dollars. Major corporations who do everything they can to nickel and dime their consumers. I believe all of this corruption and all of this greed is due in part by a severe lack of humility.

You see, when you lack humility, you start to place yourself above others. You develop a sense of superiority to those around you. This inevitably leads to a lack of compassion. When that happens you lose the ability to relate to others and you begin to focus only on yourself. This is when greed and corruption set in. When you don’t relate to other people, and can’t feel sympathy for their pain and suffering, it’s suddenly easier to hurt them for your own personal gain. You can’t possibly lead a group of people (or a country, for that matter) when you can’t feel what they feel, or rather, when you simply don’t care about what they feel.

And no, I don’t expect our world leaders to donate 90% of their salary so they can make as much as I do. But I do believe it’s important, especially for them, to be humble. They must be the most humble of us all, in fact. This is obviously not the case, but I can’t help but ask myself: “What if all our world leaders were as humble as José Mujica?”

I hope to one day see the answer to that question.

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I came across this blog and found it to be super interesting. She makes a very good point. I can speak from experience that it’s really easy to fall into a pattern of avoidance, of doing what’s easy to predict to avoid negative outcomes. We can’t be afraid to move forward, to keep going. No matter how terrifying the future might seem sometimes, we have to take a risk and jump. We have to hope that we’ll be fine on the way down and land on our feet. And, if we don’t end up landing on our feet, we figure out how to get back up, learn from it and keep moving forward.

The Perpetual Vagabond

Last night I went to watch the swifts in Portland, who every September on their fall migration roost in the chimney of Chapman School in NW Portland. Watching the swifts is one of my favorite fall activities in this city, as hundreds of people come out with their families and friends and have picnic dinners on the steeply sloped hill, while watching thousands of birds swirl into the chimney at sunset. It’s a beautiful community event and I try to go see it at least a few times during the season.

But, last night turned out to be more than just a nice night of watching the beauty of nature and the strength of community. I learned something about myself that took me by surprise and has left me a bit unsure of where to go next. It came about during a conversation about past relationships, in which I said…

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Quitting… For good this time

If I were to say “I’m going to quit smoking” to some of my friends, I would probably get a “How many times is that now?” type of response. I’ll be honest, I don’t like hearing that. But, it makes sense. I’ve quit smoking and started back up more times than I can count. It isn’t surprising that some people have lost their faith in my determination to quit. Well, I think this time is going to be different.

It’s ironic, actually. The other night I was smoking a cigarette after reading about how second-hand smoke kills people. Now, I’ve always known that second-hand smoke was harmful to other people. It’s not something I’ve denied before it’s just something I never put a lot of thought into. I started really thinking about it, though, and it started to disturb me. I started thinking more about it and I came to realize a few different reasons for quitting that have really created motivation to quit for good.

  • By smoking, I pollute the atmosphere. By polluting the atmosphere, I negatively impact this planet which subsequently impacts humanity.
  • I contribute to second-hand smoke which has been a proven cause of death. I don’t need to explain how that is negatively impactful on humanity.
  • Smoking shortens my life span. It makes me unhealthy, which effects my capacity to be happy during the time I’m around. If I’m unhappy, or at least not as happy as I can be, I won’t be able to spread as much happiness as possible to those around me. And the shorter my lifespan, the shorter amount of time I actually have to spread happiness to others and positively contribute to our future. This is an indirect, but still a very real, impact on humanity.

Now, I’ll be honest, it’s really easy to say: “What does it matter? I’m only one person, I’m not contributing enough to actually harm humanity.” Well, technically, that is very true. I’m only one person in a world with seven billion others. The problem, however, is that a very large majority of people feel the exact same way. The collective decision of all those individuals to continue smoking is enough to significantly harm humanity. That is when I truly started to realize the potential of a single individual. I began to understand that, in order to move our species forward, to improve humanity and make it the very best it can, we must start at an individual level.

It was at that moment that I was inspired to start my “A better me, a better humanity” initiative. I’ve made it a personal goal of mine to contribute as much as humanly possible to the well being of our species and our planet.

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The significance of one

A lot of wise people will tell you that a single person can indeed make an impact. This is not some secret. But, coming from personal experience, I think that feeling that we as individuals can’t make a big impact by ourselves could be deeply seeded in a lot of people’s outlooks. Mine too. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. It may not seem like it, but for humanity to change for the better, efforts need to be made at an individual level. That is how humanity will move forward. Only once we each contribute to the betterment of humanity on an individual level will be able to make larger impacts on the direction of our species, of our advancement and overall prosperity.

Now, I don’t mean to discredit larger scale initiatives in any way. These are  incredibly vital in the betterment of humanity, I simply mean to imply that those larger scale initiatives wouldn’t be possible without multiple individuals cultivating their efforts into one. This is how pretty much every single organization is formed. It starts with a single idea, a single passion, a single person.

To start…

I was talking with a couple friends from work today about the future of humanity and they both suggested I start a blog to write about my ideas and thoughts and outlooks/philosophies on life. To be honest, I was hesitant at first. I didn’t think anything I had to say really needed to be written about. But, they convinced me to at least try it out so here I am.

I guess I just want this blog to help motivate people to do their part in moving humanity forward. I think we’re at a turning point in history and it’s time for all of us to step up and set ourselves up for a prosperous future. I imagine if I have these thoughts and outlooks then there must be at least one person out there who feels the same way and if this blog helps motivate that person to make one positive change on humanity as a whole, this will be worth it.