Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Censorship, once condemned by all ethical people, has now become almost universally popular.  –  “The Convergence of Censors

The last week of September is “Banned Books Week“; over the 11 years I’ve been writing this blog, my columns on the topic have changed as threats to intellectual freedom have dramatically increased worldwide.  As I said last year,

When I was a librarian, [this] Week was little more than an academic exercise; censorship was an intermittent and generally impotent threat proceeding from small numbers of narrow-minded busybodies, which was easily defeated by librarians and other guardians of our shared cultural heritage.  But that was a generation ago, and would-be censors have become numerous, aggressive, well-organized and (most concerningly) popular.  Few of those under 30 even understand what free speech is or why it’s important, and the majority or those over that age imagine all sorts of exceptions that they believe should be reasons to violently suppress speech…the censor-morons…are…multiplying like bacteria and have already infested all the centers of power…

The links are all there for your perusal, but just in case you’ve been asleep for the past three or four years, here are a few stories from the past six months so you can see for yourself that I’m not exaggerating.  There’s still plenty of old-fashioned, bluenosed, school-based censorship conducted in the name of THE CHIIIIIIIIILDREEEEEEN!!!™, but now they’ve learned to pretend ideas they don’t like constitute a “crime” so as to threaten their enemies with police violence.  Furthermore, institutions writers could once count on to defend them, including libraries and publishers, now race to see who can kowtow most obsequiously to the censor-morons, sometimes even volunteering to act as censors themselves, and institutions which need free speech the most are lobotomizing themselves by peddling pro-censorship sophistry and even conducting literal book burnings.  Governments are increasingly claiming the “right” to declare which facts are “correct” and to suppress ideas they declare “disinformation” or “fake news”, and in our increasingly-connected world governments are increasingly able to cause trouble for people who say things they dislike far beyond their own borders (China is the worst offender, but is far from alone).  Soon, ideas the mob, the government, or other violent simian gangs dislike may become impossible to acquire outside of caches of virtual samizdat, at which point the censor-morons will pivot to criminalizing avenues of access to such caches while “intellectuals” cheer and pen screeds about how obedience and conformity are far better for “society” than imagination and critical thinking.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

A lot gets said these days about “representation” in popular media, by which people mean that it’s a good thing for children or adolescents to see people like themselves among their heroes in TV or movies.  Usually, this is used to mean obvious characteristics like gender, skin color, or disability, and sometimes less-obvious traits like queerness.  But for me, none of those traits meant anything if the characters displaying them were law-obeying, apartment-dwelling, boring-job-having authoritarian squares of the type television has always been infested with, and whose lives mine was never, ever going to resemble even if the character could’ve been my doppelganger in every superficial “representative” way.  By 1980 I couldn’t find a single network TV program which interested me in any way, and even before that the characters who interested me most were always outsiders, weirdos, and outlaws such as vigilantes, monster-hunters, and fugitives, or else characters who had figured out how to fit in while still doing things in their own idiosyncratic fashion.  Anyone more perceptive than I was at the time could probably have figured out that I was going to end up living outside of the law and at odds with the Establishment, so it’s no surprise that one of my favorite shows since my mid-teens has followed the adventures of an eccentric, anti-authoritarian outlaw who stole a spacetime ship from his people and proceeded to wander about the universe, following his conscience rather than some set of arbitrary rules, and teaming up with a long succession of other misfits to ruin the schemes of tyrants, bureaucrats, psychopaths and other violent busybodies while freely associating with weirdos and freethinkers who rarely get along with their local “authorities”.  Yes, representation is important, and never more so than when the type being represented is those who refuse to allow themselves to be sorted into herds and driven to build up power for those who would rule others.

Read Full Post »

Americans have collectively become some of the most submissive, spineless peasants upon the face of the Earth.  –  “Dependence Day

In practically every essay for this occasion, and every one for November 1st and 5th, and in innumerable other essays, tweets and statements, I have reminded my readers that every single thing in the Cosmos is mortal, and will pass away in its time.  Empires rise, thrive, decline, and fall, to be replaced by younger ones which then decline and fall in their time.  The history books are littered with their names, and even before Man learned to write there were other, elder realms (albeit of smaller size), stretching back into the mists of prehistory; there may have even been civilizations before the present Age of Apes which rose, fell, and eventually faded even from the hazy glass of mythology, leaving not a rack behind.  Likewise, the future will be riddled with empires, in the short-term developing from countries whose names are familiar to us, then, further into tomorrow, from nations on worlds yet unsettled circling nameless stars in constellations invisible from the Earth.  Each will rise and fall in its turn, crumbling into dust and passing first into memory, then legend, and eventually beyond the horizon of sentient knowledge.  The wheel turns inexorably, and all there is to say about it has already been said countless times; there is, I think, little point in saying it again, so this year I’ll instead content myself with reminding y’all of everything I’ve previously said on previous anniversaries of the birth of this particular collapsing empire.

The era of US hegemony is over; it looks, may the gods help us, as though the dominant world political power of the twenties is going to be an empire even more outrageously evil and single-mindedly authoritarian than the US ever was.  –  “Post-Imperial

Modern rulers claim “legitimacy” by a long series of Byzantine pretenses and procedures no more moral, just or rational than “Divine Right of Kings” was, then claim that their subjects somehow agreed to obey due to something called a “social contract” by virtue of being born within a particular set of imaginary lines the rulers drew on a map.  –  “Western Illiberalism

The moribund American Empire will produce no more good in the world except by its collapse and replacement, and though I grieve the innocent blood which will be spilled, it isn’t like US policies aren’t spilling rivers of innocent blood right now.  –  “It Can’t Come Soon Enough

I’ve come to view the present as an historical tableau, a set of events that has already happened, which I observe unfolding as though I were a time traveler from a future age.  –  “Divided We Stand

The idea that vast social resources should be devoted to warring upon the country’s own citizenry in order to stop them from consensual activities that the rulers disapprove of is a distinctly American form of collective madness, and the powerful influence American culture has exerted on the world for the past century…is the only reason it has become at all prevalent in the rest of the world.  –  “Successor

Police state[s employ]…a bloated police force whose powers are limited only by the imaginations of officials and whose members are able to inflict violence upon anyone they choose without any consequences whatsoever or recourse of any kind for the victims.  –  “My Police State, ‘Tis of Thee

It is insulting to the Founders’ memory to associate any patriotic feelings you have for the memory of the nation they created with the repressive fascist police state that now occupies its territory.  – “The Spirit of ’76

Though “freedom” is still a “worship word” in this country, observing the ovine obsequiousness with which Americans submit to looting, brutality, sexual molestation and demands of literal obeisance to petty officials leads me to the unavoidable conclusion that they have…little understanding of its meaning.  –  “The Fourth of July

The police have become…a vast, decentralized, undisciplined army which is not subject to any law, nor are individual cops held responsible for any crimes they commit.  –  “Independence Day

Read Full Post »

Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free.  But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.  –  Frank Herbert, Dune

On Saturday, my Twitter account was locked for twelve hours because a mindless censorship algorithm could not tell the difference between mocking an idea and professing that idea; said algorithm was given power to judge human thought for “acceptability” because Twitter (at the insistence of legions of nitwits) has decided that it’s a good idea to silence wrongthink in the first place.  I’ve already pointed out the deep foolishness and simian stupidity of censorship in many other essays, and I’ll be doing so again this year on the last Monday in September, as usual; today I’d like you to think about just how incredibly dumb it is to give machines that kind of power without human supervision or functional appeals process.  Now, I’m not a Luddite; I certainly recognize that there are certain circumstances in which computers can be trusted with limited power (such as controlling an aircraft in flight) provided there is a human around to supervise.  Computers are, as Isaac Asimov once expressed it, high-speed morons; they do whatever they’re told to do, exactly as they’re told to do it and for as long as they’re told to do it, very very quickly.  The problem, of course, is that they are completely incapable of anything even approximating actual thought, which means that they will follow the most mind-bogglingly stupid (or even self-destructive) orders with the same degree of speed and efficiency as they would obey more sensible directives.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to have their computer infected with a virus should know this, yet people keep happily entrusting more and more of their lives to hopped-up pocket calculators they insist on pretending are “smart”; many of them even think it’s a good idea to let these overcomplicated abaci drive their cars at highway speed or tell them how to write.  Computers are useful tools and (usually) dependable servants, but apparently generations of science-fiction writers have failed to pound into the heads of the intellectually lazy what a colossally bad idea it is to accept them in positions of authority.

Read Full Post »

The filibuster is a parliamentary procedure, going back at least to the Roman Senate, which allows one or a small group of politicians to obstruct some action desired by the majority in order to force a compromise or even complete abandonment of the action.  As such, it tends to be popular among members of minority parties and unpopular among members of majority parties, who resent any need to consider the views of anyone not belonging to their political tribe; naturally, what this means in the US duopoly is that the poisonous hypocrites infesting one “wing” of the ruling class rightfully recognize the filibuster as a guardrail against tyranny when they’re in the minority, but vocally attack it as “anti-democratic” when they’re in the majority.  Since the Democratic wing of the US Fascist party is now in the majority, we’re once again forced to endure pompous polemics from po-faced pundits on why obstructing the freight train of government is a “threat to democracy”; the only reason we don’t generally see the same when the Republican wing is in the majority is that most US journalistic outlets tend to favor Democrat-flavored authoritarianism over the GOP-flavored variety.  But the sentiment is always lurking out there regardless of whether it’s currently espoused by popular pseudo-intellectuals with pulpits, because banning the filbuster tends to be supported by the kind of nitwit who believes their favored party will always be in the majority and will never need to stop a drive toward some law they consider odious.  And such nitwits are the backbone of both of the most popular violent authoritarian cabals in the US.

Sorry, but “democracy” isn’t supposed to be a synonym for “mob rule”; any “democracy” or “republic” must recognize the inalienable rights of minority groups no matter what the majority wants or how badly it wants it, or else it’s no better than any other authoritarian tyranny (and far less efficient in the bargain).  When faced with a mob who wants to trample me, I don’t much care whether the leader of that mob was chosen by popularity contest or drawing lots, advanced bureaucratically, inherited the position from his dad or mom, or claims to have been appointed by the gods.  I don’t care whether the members of that mob stomp first with their left boots or their right, or whether they employ ushers to ensure I’m trampled “equally”.  I don’t care whether the majority of mob members are male, female, androgynous or sexless, nor do I give a damn about the relative darkness of their skins, what language they speak, or whose body parts they prefer to fondle or have jammed into their faces.  Neither do I care about their supposed “reasons” for trampling me, nor whether they claim my trampling was “proper” or “fair” or “according to procedure”, nor whether some person they define as being like me in some way (important to them but not to me) was part of the mob.  I just want the fucking mob to leave me the fuck alone.  And while the chances of anyone who cares any more about me than about any given specimen of roadkill actually standing up to filibuster against some legal abomination is so close to zero that the difference couldn’t be detected with an electron microscope, any grit that is available for anyone to throw into the gears of governmental oppression is a positive good which should be expanded, not eradicated.

Read Full Post »

I disagree that legal minors “cannot” consent to sex. Our society doesn’t allow them to consent due to the possible consequences.  It does, however, allow them to consent to some other things due to the potential consequences being (correctly or incorrectly) perceived as acceptable.  When we pretend that legal minors are incapable of consent, we infantilize them and open the door to bad-faith arguments like this one.  There is no magical moment of “Shazam!” at which teens are mystically imbued with the ability to consent, but there are various arbitrary legal lines at which society recognizes their consent to various things as valid.  Some may have been making valid choices for YEARS by the time the State recognizes those choices as valid; some may not ever be capable of making valid choices, even though legally allowed.  That is, unfortunately, the only way large societies have yet figured out to recognize rights without somehow testing ever single person for decision-making ability every year from 13 to 30 (a process which would itself be ripe for abuse and political manipulation).  The only real solution to all the conflicting ages of responsibility is to stop letting the State micromanage so many different areas of our lives, and to stop letting it criminalize so very many decisions people of any age make over their own lives and bodies.

Read Full Post »

Today is International Whores’ Day.  It is not “Sex Worker Day”; that is March 3rd.  Today is a day to shamelessly celebrate our shameless history, not a day to cater to the precious fee-fees of amateurs by neutering our terminology so as not to offend their delicate sensibilities with a raw, unsanitized word like “whore”.  But for the past several years, I’ve seen a number of sex worker organizations and social media accounts doing just that, and in doing so participating in the same process of sexual sanitization which inspires modern picket-fence gays to absurdly claim that huge fascist corporations and gangs of uniformed thugs employed by the state to inflict violence on sexual minorities are more welcome at an event commemorating an anti-cop riot than kinky queers are.  While the neo-Victorians who dominate 21st-century public discourse

…reject the belief that sex is innately bad, they also believe against all reason and evidence that it’s something like a radioactive material which must be handled with special and elaborate precautions or else it becomes the single most destructive force on Earth.  They imagine that engaging in sex for the “wrong” reasons, or without the benediction of elaborate rituals of consent, or with people separated from one another by more than a very few years of age, is terribly harmful…the desire to describe…sex…as “good” or “bad” is a very strong one, and for the neo-Victorian mind to accept sex into the “good” category it must be ritually purified by amputating all of its darker aspects, branding even the discussion of them as “violence”, and even pretending that they aren’t even sex at all.  This belief flies in the face of reality; sex, fear, dominance and violence are inextricably bound together, and only by living in a state of complete denial can someone pretend that the only valid, “healthy” and legal sex is that which is so sanitized and neutered that it resembles the real thing about as closely as a hamburger does a heifer…

Today is not a day for sanitized words or concepts; it is, in fact, exactly the opposite: a day to fight society’s attempts (via law and police violence) to sanitize the wilder, unrulier, more chthonic aspects of sex.  This is a day for sexual outlaws, not well-behaved “workers”; it is a day to celebrate the triumphs of criminalized human beings against a society that would rather we didn’t exist.  It is a day to oppose censorship, not to engage in self-censorship; a day to honor a means of survival that predates laws and governments by eons; and a day to celebrate a power which will always defeat even the most pernicious attempts to domesticate it.

Read Full Post »

We are quicksilver, a fleeting shadow, a distant sound…our home has no boundaries beyond which we cannot pass. We live in music, in a flash of color…we live on the wind and in the sparkle of a star!
–  Endora (Agnes Moorehead)

A couple of years ago I rewatched Bewitched, a show I always enjoyed in my youth but hadn’t seen since the early ’80s.  I’ve always thought Elizabeth Montgomery was an excellent actress, but this time the magic of cannabis (which slows down my hyperactive nervous system so that I can really watch these shows in a way I’ve never been able to before) opened my eyes to just how talented she really was; she could convey so much with just her facial expressions and vocal manner, and her comedic timing was brilliant.  But beyond that, I saw aspects of the show itself that were previously opaque to me.  I’ve always recognized that many of the episodes are veiled commentaries on racism and other forms of bigotry; that was typical of the 1960s, when fantasy and science fiction shows could sneak controversial issues past uptight sponsors and network censors by disguising them as the stuff of alien worlds or magical happenings.  When Samantha angrily denounced ugly witch stereotypes or mortals’ fear of those who are different, the perceptive viewer understood what the show was really saying.  As I grew older, I realized that there was also a more-deeply-buried queer subtext which was too radical even for most contemporary viewers who thought of themselves as liberal:  beside the fact that several of the principals were played by gay men, Samantha had to hide her true nature in order to exist in the judgmental mortal world, and only in the company of other witches could she really be herself.  Furthermore, those mortals were willing to hunt, persecute and even burn those like her merely because they were different.  But queer people weren’t the only sexual minority violently persecuted and actively hunted by 20th-century puritans; while I’m sure it was unintentional, sex workers can also see ourselves reflected in this magic mirror.

When I last watched the show, in my late teens or very early twenties, I naturally identified most with Samantha.  But on this rewatch, I found myself identifying with her mother, Endora, due in part to her age, in part to her unique personal style, and in part to her attitude toward her daughter’s marriage.  I’m old enough to have a daughter in her twenties or early thirties, and I can certainly understand how I’d feel if she married a man I thought wasn’t good enough for her.  But it goes beyond that: the association between sex work and witchcraft is a very old one, and even today many sex workers metaphorically describe our work as “magic” (not to mention the many sex workers who actually do specifically practice witchcraft, though obviously not the fantasy TV variety).  Endora’s chief gripe with her son-in-law isn’t really that he’s mortal; it’s that he wants to rob her beloved daughter of her birthright by forcing her to eschew magic and submit to mortal drudgery.  And every time I heard her say this to Samantha (in quite a few episodes), I imagined how I would feel if my beautiful daughter gave up a successful career in sex work to marry a “dumbo” who demanded she renounce her heritage, shun her whore friends, and work a shitty square job when she could make far more with far less effort by doing what she’s good at instead of letting herself be limited to behavior that doesn’t make dreary, unimaginative authoritarians uncomfortable.

Read Full Post »

As anyone with half a brain could’ve predicted, Team MAGA and Team Unpronounceable String of Capitals are still fighting over COVID masking despite the fact that it will soon be a moot point.  This is especially sad because, like so very many societal issues, it has a very simple solution: “Mind your own damned business.”  A person has the right to cover their face in public if they want to, and their reason for doing so is none of your concern.  Maybe they’re paranoid; maybe they’re Muslim.  Maybe they were burned by acid.  Maybe they’re hopeless fantasy geeks cosplaying in public.  Maybe they’re overcautious about germs.  Maybe they’re severely immunosuppressed.  Maybe they are justifiably worried about facial recognition.  Maybe they were wrongly convicted and wish to avoid recapture.  Maybe they’re in mourning.  Maybe they just have a weird sense of style.  But no matter what the reason, nobody else has any more right to violate their boundaries, harass them about it, attempt to involve the state, etc, than they’d have to veto others’ tattoos or get Delta Dawn arrested for walking downtown with a suitcase in her hand.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »