Oct 192017
 

[cw: culture war crap]

Straight White Male was the default Awful Group for most of my adult life. It was the typical term of derision to describe the thoughtless bro-type we all can’t stand, and before I woke up I used it a lot too. Over the past year (maybe two?) I’ve seen it morph to Cis White Male.

I hypothesize there are three reasons for this.

I.

The first is that being Gay no longer is enough to firmly place one on the “oppressed” side of the Oppressor/Oppressed scale. It’s no longer the 50s. Everyone knows someone who’s gay. Dick Cheney supports gay rights, Donald Trump has held up the rainbow flag. The Log Cabin Republicans have been around for a long time. But, most dramatically, Milo Yiannopoulos exists.

Don’t get me wrong, Yiannopoulos is a complete douchebag. He picks on vulnerable people for audiences that love to cheer on a bully. More importantly though, he’s totally gay. He is the archetypal Straight White Male that all other Straight White Males are stereotypes of, and dammit, he isn’t straight. This decoupling of “Social Justice Virtue” from “Gay” has been building for a long time, but Yiannopoulus was the nail gun that sealed that coffin up tight.

II.

It turned out as more and more people came out that there’s a lot of ways to be gay. So many ways, in fact, that you can’t reliably tell if someone is gay or not just by observing them. Sure, there’s some stereotypical looks and behaviors. But you can’t really ever be SURE that someone is gay unless you ask them. It got to be that you couldn’t call ANYONE a Straight White Male if you didn’t know them personally (and fairly well), because that all-American quarter back or that manly oil rig worker could be completely gay. The darn genderqueer and non-binary people didn’t make things any easier–they might have high heels and nail polish and be totally straight! If you can’t quickly determine if someone is a Straight White Male or not, the term loses a lot of it’s attack power.

III.

Finally, homosexuality is no longer a good signal. A good signal is hard to fake, normally by being costly.

Homosexuality is super easy to fake. You don’t have to have sex with anyone, because it ain’t no one’s damn business who you sleep with. All those gay kids who are still in the closet and have never had sex with, or even kissed someone of the same gender–are you saying they aren’t gay? Very unwoke of you. All that one has to do to BE gay is to IDENTIFY as gay.

And identifying as gay is sooooo easy. Almost no one is on the extreme ends of the Kinsey scale. Have you (as a guy, since all Straight White Males must be Male) ever fantasized about a guy? Thought “man… I would totally sleep with Johnny Depp if given the opportunity” (or insert pretty celebrity of your choice, I’m obviously dating myself with the Depp reference)? That’s good enough to be slightly gay. Have you kissed a guy, just to try it, and didn’t retch in disgust? That’s enough to claim freedom from the yoke of “Straight White Male.” You are at least a little bit gay.

Heck, the person you’re attracted to doesn’t even have to be a male-presenting guy. There’s tons of really hot feminine guys. My first guy-crush was on Kenshin, I didn’t realize he was a guy until 5 episodes in (missed the first one where it was spelled out), and then realized I didn’t really care, cuz he’s feminine and it’s femininity I’m attracted to. So if you’re a guy, attracted to feminine people, but aren’t freaked the hell out by your feminine partner having a penis, well shit, you can claim the label of “gay” or “gayish” if you want to, and those who say otherwise are the real bigots.

People didn’t used to do this, because being openly gay was costly. It’s not anymore. Gayness is no longer a good signal because it’s broad enough of a term to encompass almost anyone who wants to claim it, and there’s no penalty for claiming it.

III.

So a replacement was needed for the “Straight” in “Straight White Male.” Fortunately, trans-visibility has become really big nowadays.

Which, first of all, thank goodness. I say this in complete seriousness. Trans rights are important, and they’ve been neglected for a long time.

But in terms of signaling and tribalism, replacing Straight with Cis was also the logical step. Being trans is much more definitive than being gay, and is pretty costly. It’s also hard to be “slightly” trans so that one can claim non-Cis status. Even being genderqueer or non-binary is fairly costly in many situations.

Also, Cis is easy to say and follows the asthetically-pleasing sound scheme of “Straight White Male.” “Cis White Male” has a similar mouth feel, possibly a better one, and can be said derogatorily very easily.

So, success. The group that is most deserving of hate is once again easily singled out, and any individual you meet can quickly and easily be placed into it (or out), with very little chance of escaping. I may not be a Straight White Male, but I’m definitely a Cis White Male, and good luck getting out of that pigeonhole. I guess it was nice to think I was out of Most Hated status for a while, even if it was illusory.

 

Yeah, yeah, I know. Change my circle of peers. I have, for the most part, but it’s still frustrating how many otherwise-good people I like that I have to keep at the margins because of this. /sigh

Oct 102017
 

[cw: death, suffering, mention of torture]

There’s an argument made by wild-animal welfare EAs that bothers me. It points to the fact that nearly all deaths in nature are horrible. Torn apart by predators, or eaten from inside by parasites, or starving to death. This near-100%-level of torturous death is supposed to be a reason to be against allowing wildlife to continue in its current (“natural”) state.

Immediately I think of the deliberate torture-deaths humans have inflicted on each other in history. And as disgusting and stomach-churning as they are, I always think “at least the victims will never remember or feel that pain, after the minutes/hours of horror are over.” It is a small mercy, but really… once someone is dead, the pain doesn’t matter to them anymore.

In fact, once any pain is passed, the pain itself doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve gone through two surgeries with very painful recovery periods. I distinctly remember thinking “This is horrific. I can’t take this pain. Please, someone make it stop.” But just a few days after it was over, the memory was fading. Today I literally can’t remember the pain at all. I only remember having hated it.

The real disutility of pain comes from the after-effects. The loss of physical ability, in the case of crippling injury. The humiliation and fear of additional pain, in case of attacks by others. The psychological trauma, that continues to haunt for years afterwards. But in cases where these don’t apply, the pain is basically valueless once it has passed. Ask someone who’s had a corrective surgery with good consequences. Ask someone who’s given birth.

The kind of pain that matters is the pain that lingers. The depression that hurts you every single day of your life and won’t get better. The lasting injury that causes you pain every time you put weight on your left ankle.

The pain that you feel at death is pain that cannot linger, because there is no one left to feel it. It’s still horrific while it’s happening, but once it’s over it doesn’t have any lasting effects.

And since the pain of death is the least lasting, and thus least important sort of pain, I find it to be basically valueless to determining if a life was worth living. I discount claims that deaths in nature are painful and horrific, so we should intervene. I would base any opinion on the necessity of intervention on how the pain/pleasure balance comes out through out an animal’s life *leading up to* the death itself. If the majority of a life is basically non-torturous, with food-finding games, and feasting when finding a major score, and the comfort of familiar animals/settings, punctuated with exciting flights from danger and occasional bouts of sickness or hunger… well, that’s not necessarily a bad life.

(Of note, none of these arguments apply to factory farming, which gives animals a life of torture in awful conditions.)

Maybe non-domesticated animals do, in general, have awful lives. But it probably varies by species and even by location, and would require actual metrics and research. Simply pointing out that their deaths are painful doesn’t sway me at all.

Sep 292017
 

This meme confused me greatly when I first saw it, but now that Russian involvement is confirmed, it finally makes sense! Allow me to explain.
I had a VERY hard time figuring out which side of the debate this meme is endorsing.

1. Captain America in the current MCU is definitely a liberal. At first I got the impression that it was pro-SJ, because Cap is awesome (and liberal) and everyone wants to be like him. Also, the top picture doesn’t really make any sense. Everyone sits while watching football. So I basically ignored it and read “You are supportive of football players sitting” from the bottom picture, as that’s a very reasonable parsing of that sentence, especially with a celebratory, awesome Cap America pic just above it!

2. But the top pic is obviously supposed to be important in some way. Upon further thought I got the impression that it was a sarcastic anti-SJ thing, saying “You think you’re Cap America, but really you’re just a social media wanker posting SJW stuff and not doing anything of substance. Sitting on your ass like every other slacktavist, instead of doing something.”

3. But THEN I had the “read as sarcasm” filter on, and the bottom pic came into different focus. Now I think it means “Oh, so it’s a sarcastic anti-Trumper thing, saying THEY think they’re an alt-universe Right Wing Cap America, even tho they don’t even stand up for the pledge at home?”

In terms of clarity, this meme is garbage (as per above). In terms of accuracy, it’s also garbage. It assumes people are supposed to stand for the anthem playing in a stadium when they’re watching from their living rooms? And that Captain America is Right Wing? And that the athletes are “sitting” rather than “kneeling”? None of that makes a bit of sense. UNLESS! You are a professional Russian Troll without any real-world access to American Culture, and who gets all your impressions of Americans via stereotypes, 3rd-hand news, and pirated movies.

It’s entirely possible that a Russian Troll might assume Americans stand for the pledge in their living room, based on the crazy shit they’ve seen in the news over the past week. They don’t know enough about the subtleties of the American political climate to realize that Cap America, as portrayed by Hollywood and Marvel, is Left Wing. They just think of him as an UberPatriot draped in The Flag, which pattern-matches very nicely to Right Wing in shallow political discourse. And they could easily swap sitting for kneeling if they weren’t paying attention and didn’t realize the emotional distinction.

Also, it is targeted at “You.” When I first saw it thought “Screw you buddy, I don’t even WATCH football.” But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it? The Russians don’t care about accuracy, they don’t care about targeting their criticism at the people who actually deserve it. They want to enrage as many people as possible, so “you” works perfectly. And bringing in a symbol like Cap America that both sides like works to anger more people. And the sarcasm works to infuriate as many people as possible.

This is a pretty good meme if your only purpose is to anger the maximum amout of people as indiscriminately as possible. It is designed to be divisive. To splinter social groups, to drive wedges between friends, and to make everyone miserable and worse off. Don’t fall into Putin’s lap. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

(to summarize: I hope everyone starts seriously considering that all anti-X memes may be the work of hostile outside interests hoping to maximize internal strife, and thus thinking twice or thrice before sharing or responding.)

Aug 182017
 

In Durham, crowds stood in line to turn themselves in for the crime of tearing down a Confederate statue.

This is fantastic. This is an entire community coming out to show they are united and willing to accept whatever punishment the law has to hand down for an act they viewed as necessary. I admire the living hell out of everyone who did this. THIS is how to protest!

This is the kind of arrest warrant you proudly hang on your wall for your entire life. Maybe even put on your resume.

 

I haven’t posted much about this week before today, because I was at a loss of things to say. Neo-nazis and white supremacists follow a vile ideology. Anyone committing acts of terror is horrific and disgusting, and every person injured and every person killed is an inexcusable atrocity. There were no words.

But I was told not too long ago that its important to sometimes publicly denounce the evil, even when it is blindingly obvious as evil. People who only know me from my online presence may not know my actual political beliefs, and so if they only see posts defending freedom of speech they may think I’m a secret alt-righter or something. So, I endorse and throw my heart behind the words of Argumate, who succinctly said:

exactly how much of a dickhead would you have to be to decide that the best way to boost white ethnic pride in the public sphere is to tie it to Nazis, the one group that every non-dickhead agrees were total fuckups.

can there be anything more antithetical to the supposed virtues of western civilization than this ignorant mishmash of the worst traditionalist buffoonery combined with the stupidest excesses of modernity into a giant shit sandwich of tedious fuckery that shoots its own dick off every time as a warning to others?

the punishment for this vile mediocrity should involve being tied to a chair in front of a simulated Samuel L. Jackson screaming “you dense motherfucker!” on loop for 19 hours until you internalise it and rethink your life.

to be a Nazi in 2k17 is to be so far up your own arse that your internal topology begins to resemble a klein bottle.

it is to be a failure in every possible way: morally, intellectually, strategically, tactically, aesthetically, historically.

if life was a video game then you fucked up on the first level, the tutorial that no one ever fucks up on, because no one else is dumb enough to be a Nazi; you’re the speedrun of failures.

the shitheads and the fucksticks of the world can look at your stupid face and say hey at least I’m not a fuckin’ Nazi, like this stupid wanker, and they’ll be right.

This goes for traitors and slavers as well. Tear down every monument to Confederate generals, rename every street, rededicated every building. No worship of inhumanity.
(no vigilantism though. Seriously, use due process, its far more powerful)

 

A Southern friend said:

The civil war isn’t my heritage. The traitor flag isn’t a banner that represents me, nor should it.

It’s a mark of shame. We shouldn’t tear the monuments down, we should move them to a museum to remind us of our collective shame as a nation.

The south has many more amazing traditions than slavery.

The south has much more to offer than monuments to war criminals.

And this friend later pointed out that most of these monuments were not erected after the US Civil War. They were put up significantly later, often funded by the KKK and other white supremacist groups, in order to protest anti-segregation laws and the civil rights movement.

Argumate later says:

despite all the punching discourse, my preferred way to deal with Nazi rallies in public spaces is still to outnumber them ten to one by peaceful locals who keep chanting “Nazis go home” until the Nazis do indeed go home.

this forms a highly visible demonstration to everyone involved that they have no base of support, and are just a bunch of whackjobs who can’t claim to represent the interests of the broader community.

good policing keeps the Nazis separated from the much larger crowd, which prevents any violent clashes between hotheads and reinforces the impression of them as a coddled bunch of morons incapable of defending themselves either physically or rhetorically.

this is actually a really withering experience to go through! once surrounded by crowd and cops they have ceded the initiative and are essentially at the mercy of the community which despises them, a community made up of people of all ages and all walks of life, secure in their safety of numbers.

it plays beautifully live and on TV, it respects the rule of law while still conveying a very clear message, and it makes it impossible for any politicians to waffle about “both sides” of the dispute.

the absolute worst approach is to have two similarly sized groups of hotheads engaged in shoving matches that allows people to “condemn the violence” and visually suggests that 90% of the community doesn’t have a stake in the fight.

 

And by god, it’s working! Confederate Monuments Are Coming Down Across the US. Trump, after refusing to denounce the racists, has lost two of his business advisory committees, his arts & humanities committee, and a number of businesses are removing themselves from his hotels and properties. Basically every Republican lawmaker is distancing themselves from him, and even Steve Bannon has quit. It’s a backlash like I haven’t seen in decades.

Of course, someone had to die to accomplish this. I hate that. I hate that we never seem to get anything done unless there’s an altar of bodies laying the foundation. It’s a bug that really needs to be removed from our code. But it does demonstrate what I’ve been trying to say to the antifa and other violent extremists — The way to get the bulk of the US populace behind you is to act peacefully and then have your opponents violently attack you. By driving his car into a group of peaceful protesters, that evil, disgusting excuse for a human managed to set off a political firestorm that’s reducing what was seen as a pro-Trump surge after the election to ashes.

 

I’m sad someone died. I would never trade a life for statues. But I’m glad to see how the country has responded. I feel enlivened and rejuvenated by this outpouring of human decency. I’m glad the monuments to terror and atrocity are finally being torn down. Good riddance. Let the white supremacists skitter back to their hateful little holes and websites as the world moves on without them.

Aug 102017
 

One of the things I really like about the Rationalist community is that it doesn’t care about forcing anyone into any sort of roles. I’ve gotten so used to it, that I was recently shocked to encounter enforced binaries out in the wide world again. (I haven’t been forced to interact with anyone I don’t want to since my lay off).

In the midst of the Google Memo kerfuffle I participated in some interesting conversation that changed my mind about the memo itself. Which is what conversation is for, in my community.

However in some places it appears that much of conversation is to signal loyalty rather than refine knowledge. I guess in the wider world there are only two positions one can have on the memo: it is either a sexist screed, or a brave thesis. This breaks the world into the two political camps – Left and Right.

The interesting part is that one is not allowed to hold to the tenants of the Left – that gender equality is a good thing, that society still has some issues there, and that equal rights are a great thing to fight for – while simultaneously holding that the memo isn’t a clarion call for raging sexism. Even giving the writer the benefit of the doubt, and pointing out that some things being claimed in the media didn’t seem to have a basis in the text of the memo, immediately marks the person saying so as a Rightist by those who believe in the political binary.

The really shitty part of this is that those who believe in the political binary also believe that those on the Other Side are morally reprehensible, and therefore any signs that someone isn’t on Our Side are interpreted as proof of moral decrepitude. Which, nowadays, is license for hatred, blacklisting, and violence. Because apparently the wider world is too damn stupid to think that maybe one can hold that there are some differences between groups while also believing that all people are equally deserving of respect, all rights are universal and inalienable, and someone’s physical characteristics or emotional disposition or intellect has no bearing on their worth as a human.

Well you know what? Screw anyone trying to force me into a political binary like that. If someone’s position is that people deserve equality and respect only because they are indistinguishable in aptitude, they have a horrible fucking philosophy. If someone’s position can be reduced to “sexism is OK if the sexes are different,” than no wonder they have to silence any research into sex differences. It’s like the church tying their position of “Murder is bad” to “The sun revolves around the earth.” It’s only in their deranged minds that someone interested in heliocentricism will cause the collapse of social order and rampant murder in the populace. Any decent person is able to say “Maybe the sun circles the earth, or maybe it’s the other way around, but that is an empirical question and has NOTHING to do with whether it’s OK to murder people, WTF is wrong with you??”

I am politically non-binary. I can question whether the minimum wage is harmful on a empirical level without that implying that I think “the poors” deserve to starve and wealth is a sign of strength of character. They are unrelated. I can state that street violence without due process is a bad idea without believing that minorities should be ejected. They are unrelated. And I can believe God is a figment of the collective imagination without believing that murder and rape are fine if you can get away with them. Those are unrelated.

Stop trying to force me into your political binary.

Jul 252017
 

Stolen from a friend: “Since conservatives are an underrepresented minority in academia, and having more conservatives in academic disciplines would raise the cognitive diversity among researchers in most fields, I think we should probably use affirmative action-ish policies to make universities cheaper and easier to get into for conservatives.”

This is a surprisingly good point.

Of course, AA is primarily meant to help those who have been traditionally disadvantaged by systemic relics of oppression. It’s not actually intended simply to increase diversity for its own sake. But to the extent that diversity is a goal worth achieving, this idea has some merit. I do think diversity is a good thing, something that we want more of, and this looks to help advance that goal.

There’s also the stealth-attack aspect… Higher education tends to make conservatives more liberal, so this would get more conservatives into the ideological killing fields. So to speak.

A different friend objected that this would only be acceptable if and when conservatives start supporting AA for disadvantaged groups. I don’t think this is legitimate though. Should disadvantaged minorities only get AA benefits if they endorse AA policies? And if the principle at play here is “affirmative action programs should not apply to folks who would not apply them to other folks” does this mean we should disallow affirmative action for minority folks if they don’t support it for conservatives?

Of course then someone had to ruin all the fun by requesting actual data. We turn to the great google, and we find:

Since 1980
% of Far Right students remained even at 20%
% of Far Left students increased, from 20% to 35%
% of Middle/Moderate students decreased from 60% 45%

So conservatives haven’t actually decreased in representation… the far left has swelled greatly instead, at the cost of moderates. The rise in radicalism and polarization isn’t due to lack of conservatives at all, but rather an increase in one fringe.

Suddenly I’m of the opinion that perhaps increasing the amount of people on the opposite side isn’t actually a great idea. That may very well simply lead to more radicalization on the right. Which could feed back into increased radicalization on the left, and so forth. If there’s too much weight on one side of a scale, adding more weight to the other side may break the scale entirely, rather than returning it to balance.

The hell of it is, moderates aren’t sexy. “Boring” is the last thing passionate young people want to be. Can we go about creating and popularizing a form of Radical Moderate movement? People who are vocal and passionate about being reasonable and considering consequences and viewing others as incorrect rather than evil mutants? It seems this was what much of the Rationalist movement was about, but I’m too far removed from university life to know if anything is growing there (god I’m old). Has anyone begun a Rationalist and/or Moderate version of campus activist groups?

Jun 292017
 

From Arkansas News Online http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/jun/28/ten-commandments-monument-arkansas-capitol-toppled/

Yesterday a man destroyed the Ten Commandments monument that had been installed on the Arkansas Capitol grounds, less than 24 hours after they’d been put up. He appears to be a fervent Christian who believes strongly in the separation of church and state.

I have a complicated set of feelings with destruction of property for political purposes. And my instinct emotion is to cheer this man. Most of this post is scattered thoughts about my intellectual vs emotional reactions to this.

For a long time I didn’t understand why people would riot in their own neighborhoods. Why destroy the infrastructure you rely on? The businesses you patronize, and/or work at? It didn’t make sense. It was wasteful and self-harming. I heard that Riots Are The Language Of The Unheard, but why aren’t they rioting where it would make sense to riot?

Lou Keep provided my answer. That infrastructure is not an economic asset to those subjected to it. It is the tool of the oppressor. The society was functional for its residents, until an outside force came in and imposed order to make the neighborhoods legible to government. While this certainly improves the economic metrics that the government is interested in, it ignores the social destruction that these “improvements” bring. The riots aren’t just empty rage. They are an attempt to purge the controls and “gifts” brought by a power trying to make the area legible to the state apparatus. To revert the area to local control.

Finally, nearly 30 years after the fact, I understood why I loved a key scene of Do The Right Thing. In the middle of a brewing riot, a Korean shop owner screams “I’m black!” at the mob. And they leave him alone. (clip here) It’s a beautiful scene, and still gives me shivers of frissons when I think about it. I was never entirely sure why, until now. It is an affirmation that society can tell the difference between invasion by the state apparatus, and its own members. It will burn out the infection that poisons it, while leaving unharmed those who are a part of it. It is not random violence, it is an entity that protects itself. That is the power of art – to give us that feeling on an emotional level, to impart that knowledge to us beneath the skin without giving us an explicit lecture.

(yes, I know it’s an idealized version of riots, and things don’t always happen this way. It’s still beautiful.)

But…

I.

Property is blood and sweat

Creating anything takes effort and time. Energy that could be used in pursuit of artistic expression, or enjoying social bonds, or myriad other pursuits. Destroying someone’s property is destroying a small part of their life. It may also be destroying a part of their future, if that property is used to enable someone to make a living or continue living (by destroying the car they use to get to work, or torching their house or workplace). I recently had a large amount of money taken from me, money that I could have used to support myself for well over a year, or embark on adventurous new projects with. It sucks.

And I’m very much on the record as being strongly against extra-judicial violence. This post by The Friendly Atheist states in strong words that people should not take the law into their own hands, and we must stick to the civil solutions of court challenges and public speech. Isn’t destruction of property also violence, used to intimidate rather than convince?

II.

Choice of Targets

I get annoyed when attacks on military targets (army bases, warships, etc) are referred to as “Acts of Terrorism.” A military target is a legitimate target in a war. Such attacks are not terrorism, they’re acts of guerrilla warfare. There’s a huge difference. Many of the weapons and tactics that are banned by international agreements (such as chemical weapons and landmines) are banned because they are indiscriminate in their killing. Their use cannot be confined to military targets, and so they are not deemed acceptable tools of war.

Thus, choice of targets matters. It can add a bit more legitimacy to a tactic if its focus is narrow and its target is chosen for strong reasons. In this case, the target was an object that was placed in direct defiance of the constitution. The very document that functions as the foundation of civil life in the United States. It underlays all our laws, at least in theory. An assault on it can be viewed as an assault on all of us, and by attacking an object that undermines it, this man could be said to be working in the interests of protecting civility. His target was specific and well-chosen. And importantly, it was a piece of art that is not vital to anyone’s life, and paid for out of excess funds. This doesn’t excuse that destruction, but it does make it less morally reprehensible. It is a mitigating factor.

III.

Vigilante Justice is the Worst Sort of Justice

That being said, he still went outside the bounds of the law. The law has the power to protect itself, and was in the process of doing so via court challenges brought by the ACLU and others. For random people on the street to decide they have the power to interpret and implement the law themselves, without going through a court, is a recipe for the chaos of all-against-all. Vandalism can’t be excused just because the vandal feels they have a darn good reason for it, this time. There will always be a darn good reason to destroy the stuff of people you disagree with, just this one time.

IV.

Principled Opposition

Yet there is something to be said for principled opposition to laws that are unjust. Martin Luther King Jr and his supporters intentionally and publicly violated laws that they thought unjust. They accepted arrest and legal consequences, so that all could see how the law is being used to destroy the lives of good people without justification. They were holding a mirror to society saying “Look at what you have wrought!”

This man did not try to hide his actions. He posted publicly about what he was doing, and why he was doing it. He accepted arrest, and is now awaiting trial. He might not have been right in his actions, but he has the courage of his convictions. I admire this. I also consider this to be mitigating circumstances in his favor.

(Yes, I would have admired the Richard-Spencer-Puncher somewhat if he’d stayed at the scene of his assault and accepted arrest and trial for his actions. And no, this doesn’t excuse violence. I still think people shouldn’t be punched. Assassinations are still repugnant, even when done in broad daylight and without attempt to flee. Suicide bombers certainly face the consequences of their actions rather than trying to dodge them. But it does say something if someone is willing to stand by their act of vandalism, and defend it, and take the punishment for what they’ve done.)

V.

Corruption in the System

I believe much of the debate comes down to “What Can Be Done When The System Is Corrupt?” Extra-judicial action is what people fall back on when they have no faith that the system will fairly enforce the laws, or that the laws themselves are unjust. As far as I can see, the system is still strongly against any sort of ethnic cleansing. On the other hand, the system has demonstrated that is has some severe weakness in defending itself from encroachment by the majority religion. After all, the Ten Commandments monument was placed with the local state’s approval, and it is outside parties that are in the process of defending the US Constitution that the state claims to support.

VI.

Alexander’s Principle

Alexander’s Principle states that one should never destroy the tools that society uses to correct errors. Doing so locks you into the errors of the past, without the ability to change them as our ethical systems or knowledge improves. Freedom of speech is a very strong tool used to correct errors. You cannot change what you cannot criticize. So using violence to silence others violates Alexander’s Principle. Destroying the Ten Commandments monument, while certainly uncivil, doesn’t attack the tools we use to correct systemic errors. As far as I can see.

VII.

Conclusion?

While not in support of vandalism or rioting generally, I can understand how they are at times useful as tactics. I don’t think this man’s destruction of the Ten Commandments will achieve his goals. It’s more likely to anger the majority that doesn’t care about that part of the constitution. However, he’s attempting to fight for important principles, against a system that is unwilling to support those principles. He did so in a narrowly targeted manner, openly and in acceptance of the consequences, via a symbolic attack that I believe doesn’t violate Alexander’s Principle. He didn’t harm anyone’s person or personal property, and the target of his destruction isn’t vital for anyone’s way of life.

All in all, I find myself admiring this crazy bastard, even if I think he would have been much better off donating his car to the ACLU rather than wrecking it against a stone monument. I hope this sort of thing doesn’t repeat itself, though. And I’m not firmly set on these opinions, and very open to having my mind changed. :)

Jun 282017
 

Should include sub-checkbox “Have You Been Harmed By This? Yes/No”

A friend recently came across a tick-box in a scholarship application asking if he was gender nonconforming.

An interesting question for him. Because in many ways he is gender-conforming, and in many ways he isn’t. I won’t get into the details, but it was definitely up in the air, which is why he asked for help as to whether he should tick the box or not. It was pointed out that he is literally gender nonconforming, in the sense that he does what he likes and doesn’t conform to gender expectations. It was also pointed out that the doesn’t actively identify as “A Gender Nonconforming Person”, which is what the question really wanted to know.

Except the question wasn’t really even asking that. The hidden question, what the scholarship reviewers really want to know, is “Do you suffer the societal penalties that nonbinary people do, and should we help offset that with this money?”

The question “Do you suffer the societal penalties that nonbinary people do” is subjective. I wish these sorts of surveys would just ASK THAT QUESTION. Because whether you suffer social penalties depends hugely on your society. There are places where being extremely non-conforming doesn’t get you any penalties at all, and there’s other places where simply not being manly enough will get you massive penalties. Yeah, you gotta trust the person to answer honestly, but at least then we’re all clear on what the purpose of the question is. This way we’re just asking people to be honest, as opposed to asking them to guess at the hidden intentions of the question.

I hate the way these questions are currently phrased, as they discriminate against people who only use words as descriptors. A friend said: “I think the correct thing would have been to check the box so as not to participate in the disprivileging of people like yourself who want to use words to refer to underlying features of reality.”

I mean, we literally had to form a committee to figure out what the question was asking and how to answer it. I don’t feel like this is one of those situations where plausible deniability of misunderstanding needs to be preserved for face-saving. The True Question should be made explicit.

I am white, well-assimilated, and raised in the US. I was born in Poland, and my parents escaped when I was an infant, with a suitcase of clothing and aprox 2 months wages in currency. When I am asked on these sorts of forms if I am an immigrant, I check yes. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at me. Now I have to wonder “Do they literally mean Are You An Immigrant? Or do they mean Have You Been Harmed By Not Being A Native Citizen?”

And how do I even answer? I don’t think it’s harmed me in my adult life. I had a funny accent as a kid, and got picked on for that. I had no extended family as a support network. My parents struggled with English as their second language — did these things deprive me of opportunities I would have otherwise had? Why am I second-guessing a question with a factual, easily-verifiable Yes/No answer?

Likewise, I am part of one of the most hated religious minorities in America. Up until 2016 I was the most-hated religious minority in my country. It’s only in the last year that Muslims have surpassed Atheists in unpopularity.  And the advantages of belonging to a religion are well known, and I’m deprived of those. Yet I live in a liberal metropolitan area where people normally don’t talk about their religion, and try very hard not to discriminate. I don’t think that’s ever been used against me when renting or seeking a job. I suspect there are people out there who would object to my identifying as a religious minority.

From now on I’ll try to get clarification when answering these sorts of questions. But when that’s not possible, I will generally default to “answer the question factually.” I hate being forced to answer a question with a falsehood because someone can’t be bothered to actually ask what they want to know.

(In the end, the friend did not tick the “gender nonconforming” box)

Jun 202017
 

I’m somewhat outspoken about preserving a civil society, because I prefer order over chaos. It is important that people not resort to random vigilante justice against targets of opportunity. Determining guilt via the evidence and meting out punishment via an orderly justice system is what separates us from the barbarians. Is what I WOULD say, except for the fact that even barbarians had systems of trials or tribunals to keep personal violence in check.

But for this to work, the system has to actually do the job of punishing the guilty and defending the innocent, at least most of the time. If there is a group that is systematically denied protection by society, there is no reason for them to conform to the restrictions that society requires. A society that denies protection to any group is not a civil society, it is a system of violent subjugation.

We have a huge problem in America. Philando Castile was murdered on camera. Unarmed, seatbelted in his car, his girlfriend and child with him. The prosecution called expert witnesses and other police to testify that a reasonable person should not feel threatened in that situation, and should not resort to deadly force. And yet his murderer walked away without a conviction, because he’s a cop.

How are we supposed to have a civil society if our police are never held liable for murder?? In the past week I’ve reiterated that violence is not an acceptable response to speech. You know what violence IS an acceptable response to? Getting murdered. This is the sort of thing that justifies riots. This is the sort of thing that could justify civil war. Why would anyone respect the law if the law is only used to hurt them, and never to protect them? I do not want to be hurt, I do not want my property or my work place to be burned down. Yet I understand entirely why someone would lash out against a society that is there to subjugate them and protect their killers.

I don’t know how to fix this. If it was just one case I could be convinced this was a single aberration, or I’m not aware of all the facts that came out in the courtroom and maybe the cop really should walk free. But this happens constantly. I hate to say this, but I’m starting to lose faith in the jury system.

Jun 162017
 

I.

As a teenager in the 90s, I spent a lot of time arguing with religious folk. Mainly about atheism and gay rights, as both were very near to my heart. I noticed an astounding trend. Many Christians considered themselves deeply persecuted.

Christians make up a large majority of the population (of the USA). They control every branch of government. At the time there were no openly atheist elected federal officials. To this day all candidates for president still have to swear fealty to some form of christian god. Christians have added “under god” to the loyalty pledge all children are forced to recite in school, and added it to our currency. There are myriad special exceptions written into laws, giving special protection and privileges to christian sensibilities and christian organizations. The claim that they were a persecuted minority was (and is) laughable. The persecuted mindset and psychology that I saw on so many occasions was crazy-making! How is this level of blindness to the real world even possible? They would use “we’re being oppressed” as reasons to defend oppression of other religions!

My own church was one of these. Regularly (on a weekly basis) sermons in church would highlight how oppressed we were. Nazi persecution–from 50 years ago, in a country on the other side of the word–was regularly mentioned. The fact that courts would often force minors to accept life-saving blood transfusions against the wishes of their parents was also frequently brought up. And, of course, there was the constant micro-aggression of being subjected to a state that requested loyalty pledges and military service of a sect that believed both are immoral. If a Jehovah’s Witness missionary was every harmed in a foreign country, every Witness across the world would know about it in a matter of weeks, as further evidence of Satan working against us.

And it turns out, this is a very important part of many Christian sects. The 1st/2nd century christians did endure a fair bit of political persecution (depending on time and area). They developed strong survival memes that directly tied persecution to righteousness. The more persecuted you are, the more it means you are doing good, and God loves you. Satan rules this world, and the more the world is against you, the more Satan must feel threatened by you. Persecution was a direct indicator of moral goodness, and that helped the religion survive under adversity.

Of course that creates a problem when your religion becomes the official religion of the empire and establishes regional hegemony. The Catholics dealt with that pretty handily over time. But the American Protestants rejected all Catholic adaptations and reverted to a mythologized “Original Christianity.” Many of those included persecution myths. So feeling persecuted was very important. If the only way you can tell that you are on the Side of Good is to be persecuted, it becomes very important to see persecution everywhere, and exaggerate it.

(note: I believe that this persecution complex has a number of very important benefits. Primarily – it causes much of American society to strongly identify with and work to defend persecuted and oppressed groups. As far as I know, all non-violent civil rights struggles have taken advantage of this aspect of American culture. Apparently, the most effective thing a social movement can do is hold nonviolent protests that then are violently attacked by their opponents (video). So being persecuted, in addition to being morally satisfying, is also politically useful.)

II.

As we know, Identity Is What It Means To Be Human. So once someone has adopted an identity that includes “Is Persecuted,” it’s important to keep that feeling. In the case of Christians, this can be accomplished by going to church and/or watching Fox News. More marginalized groups have a problem – they have not yet developed a system that assures them they are persecuted. This generally isn’t much of a problem, because there are plenty of places in our society where belonging to one of these marginalized groups still results in negative consequences and hardship.

But the wonderful thing about or society is, we have actually made progress over the last century! All the work and tears of the past decades have not been in vain. :) There are some places in our country where groups that were oppressed, sometimes violently, even fifteen years ago, are now welcoming, safe areas. Places were one would have to intentionally go forth and seek out oppression if one wanted to feel it. This is further exacerbated by how easy it is nowadays to create social bubbles, excluding all the toxic awful people from you life, and surrounding yourself only with those who are supportive and caring. This is, generally, a fantastic thing! We have advanced, and many lives are less miserable because of it. :)

But the need for persecution doesn’t go away. Being Persecuted gives one a direction in life, a goal. It gives one adversity to overcome, and an intense form of bonding with others who are similarly persecuted. It gives you a family, and mortal certitude. Reaching your goal is nice, but it is no replacement for those extremely psychologically-important things. What does one do when one finds oneself without an oppressor, while having a deeply instilled “Is Persecuted” aspect to one’s very identity?

I suppose one could shift one’s goals to now help those in areas that are less advanced. To reach out into the dens of violence and iniquity, and give aid to one’s brothers and sisters still undergoing pain and hatred. But this is hard. I don’t mean that as an insult – the freedom to spend a lot of time and money on going to a foreign place (even if it’s just into the rural areas of one’s own country) is something only a privileged few have. It requires a career that is flexible and doesn’t require you to be on-site 40 hours a week. It requires energy reserves after the daily work of job and children and family commitments is complete. It’s often out of reach for those who aren’t independently wealthy.

(plus it risks being called-out for acting like a “white savior” or “colonizer” or something. Trying to help oppressed people in another culture is explicitly judging that culture as needing improvement in ways you deem important, which is “problematic”)

There is another “solution.” Deliberate assholery.

Text reads: The A in LGBTQA does not stand for allies; and the IA in LGBTQIA does not stand for including allies; not everything gets to be about you, cishet people. 

Instructions from meme poster say: Fun exercise: Be an enormous asshole to every self-proclaimed “ally” you meet to find out who’s actually an ally and who’s just here so you’ll go shopping with them.

I share this meme in particular, because it was shared by a friend who I otherwise greatly respect. This is literally a troll meme. The instructions give it away. Because, seeing as there’s no official body that decides what the letters “officially” stand for, the part about the letters doesn’t matter all that much. The real point is to spark reactions. When I see a meme instructing people to “be an enormous asshole”, it tells me a lot about the person who made the meme and the state of their peer-group. Far more than any sort of spat over what a letter stands for.

They want to be persecuted. They are not sufficiently persecuted. So they are intentionally alienating those around them in an effort to regain that original sense of persecution.

This, to me, explains a lot of why the far left is eating it’s own. Why college campuses, the most left-leaning, pro-diversity, and safe places in our society, are also the scenes of fringe-left meltdowns that scream about persecution and the intolerance of the faculty. Why white-male and cis-het are now slurs, despite the prevalence of both both within the wider liberal community, and as supporters of the community. Too much acceptance is intolerable. If too many people find us acceptable, by golly, we’ll drive them away.

III.

It’s claimed that someone who is only an ally when people are nice to them was never an ally at all. In a very real sense, this is true. Just yesterday I bemoaned the people who are only for freedom of speech when it’s their own speech, and are happy to censor those they don’t like. They obviously never cared for the principle of free speech.

On the other hand, I think it’s just plain disgusting to deliberately attack and insult people to test their ideological purity. No one has to prove their “geek cred” to self-appointed guardians of geek culture, or their “trans cred” to someone claiming they aren’t trans enough. And often the same people who say “I don’t care about principles, I care about consequences” when it comes to violently suppressing hate speech, are those who say “Allies should support us on principle, regardless of how they’re treated.” I detest people who hide behind principle when it suits them, and abandon it when it doesn’t. I get the feeling I’m not the only one. While I’ll never withdraw support for LGBT+ rights, I think spreading this sort of troll meme is a stupid idea.

There are couples in Texas being denied adoptions right now. There a children being subject to “gay-converston” therapy. – HB 3859 was just signed into law.

“HB 3859, which will allow child welfare organizations — including adoption and foster care agencies — to turn away qualified Texans seeking to care for a child in need, including LGBTQ couples, interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.
It also can be used to harm children in care; HB 3859 will forbid the state from canceling a state contract with an agency that subjected children in their care to dangerous practices such as so-called “conversion therapy.””

Gay couples and gay kids in Texas could use aid. They don’t particularly care that some edgelord isn’t feeling persecuted enough.