Jul 012022
 

The School For Good Mothers, by Jessamine Chan

Synopsis: Women who aren’t “good enough” mothers — as determined by a completely arbitrary and ultimately random process — are sent to a re-education camp to be psychologically tortured.

Book Review: Boy, this is such a mixed bag. Let’s go over some highlights/lowlights and see where it gets us.

Highlight: This is extremely good outrage porn. The injustice of the situation, the sheer fist-clenching fury it creates, is absolutely exquisite. This sort of shit should not happen to anyone. Yes, the protag did a bad thing. Yes, she’s highly neurotic and unlikable. But no one deserves to be put through the torture she is subjected to. If anything, the neurosis makes her more pitiable. The fact that it sounds like she’s never had an enjoyable sexual experience in her lifetime is tragic.

A system that randomly tortures people for minor negligence to this extent is corrupt and deserves to be burned to the ground. In this way, Good Mothers also really highlights the vileness of woke cancel culture, without ever being literally “about” that. One of the strengths of SF/F!

Lowlight: It’s written by an MFA. MFA programs cripple writers in a myriad of ways, but here’s the two major ones that apply to Good Mothers:

  1. They teach people how to craft beautiful sentences while neglecting the skill of telling a compelling story. The result is beautiful prose that is scattered and unfocused. Chan manages to overcome this through the sheer power of the raw outrage she pulls from us. But replacing craft with emotional brute force only goes so far.
  2. They smother an author’s voice in favor of imitating a fashionable high-brow flair. The previous generation of LitFic authors had a unique sound that set them apart, and now if you don’t sound enough like that then you aren’t serious fiction. It saps the life from a novel when it’s forced to walk in shoes that don’t fit it, and Good Mothers felt like it was chaffing at the seams often.

Highlight: It gets progressively better as it goes on. The first 20% of it is pure LitFic, to the point that I was about ready to quit, when at last we get to the School. The deeper into the novel we go, the more it embraces satire and absurdism. The Mothers are forced to chant debasements as shows of loyalty. They are taught that A Good Mother Is Never Lonely. A Good Mother Never Fails. A Good Mother can literally lift a car if she needs to. Affection is taught as a series of physical techniques similar to police submission-holds, which mothers must master and deploy on command. By the end of the novel… well, that’s a spoiler. The descent into madness is great.

Lowlight: It is set in the present day. “Handmaid’s Tale” is in the future, where we can believe something horrible happened to create such a vile society. “Brazil” is set in an alternative-world present-day, where we can believe something bizarre happened to remake the world into this mess. “The Metamorphosis” starts out with the protag turning into a cockroach, so we know we’re not in real reality.

“Good Mothers” is just the real world, today. The android children are a plot device introduced a fair distance into the story, and they explicitly had no effect upon greater society (since they were secret). This makes “Good Mothers” incredibly hard to swallow. So hard, in fact, that this was a major complaint of every single member of our book club. Not a single one of us could get over the fact that this is supposed to be close to the world we actually inhabit. The strain on suspension of disbelief is too great. Yes, we all know that some states have bad agencies, and there really are a few social workers this callous, some judges this ignorant, some moralist-scolds this evil.

But what we’re reading isn’t an insane fluke of everything lining up just right to screw one innocent person. This is a deliberate choice by a lot of people in power. There is constant contact with the outside world, and many people with the means and motivation to contact the media. There is no way that this could happen in the US in the present day. The professional outrage would be overwhelming. The public outrage would be overwhelming. There would be major political and social repercussions. I mean hell, the outrage is the whole point of the novel! Human-level AI without rights in nearly perfectly-human android bodies I can buy. But torture camps for parents that let their children walk home from the library? And there’s no media circuses and major legal crusades? Come on now.

If the absurdist satire elements had been present from the beginning, this would have been far more believable and enjoyable.

Highlight: It’s a good reminder that everyone should own at least one gun.

Highlight: I was being literal when I said it’s outrage porn. Like sex-porn, it relies entirely on supernormal stimulation of basic biological urges. Controversially, I like porn. I like the blast of stimulus when it’s tuned just right to really grab a drive and push it past the redline. As long as the viewer/reader remembers that this is not how human biology actually works, this is not how humans actually behave, that none of this is remotely real, it’s great fun!

Highlight: The ending is fucking awesome, and super satisfying.

Lowlight: Whenever something interesting was about to happen, the novel would always cut away and then pick up after the action, so the characters could process their feelings about what just happened. The thing we didn’t see, and are simply told the resolution of in 1-2 sentences. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. It completely removed the “Scene” part of the Scene And Sequel structure. I don’t know if this is another MFA-created issue, but boy was it irritating. The only exception is the very very end, which may be why the ending was so satisfying. After being edged for 300 pages, we finally get to see some actual action.

Honestly, I think much of the problem with this book is the marketing, combined with a weak start that clings too tightly to LitFic sensibilities. If you’re down for some good outrage porn, totally Recommended. :)

Book Club Review: Our book club fell into two groups – those who are turned off by outrage porn, and those who aren’t. The first group bounced quickly, and didn’t particularly like it. The second group was compelled by the power of porn to read it all the way through, despite complaints. The conversation was pretty darn fun, which is what I would expect from this sort of thing. If most of your book club is down for some good ol’ outrage, Recommended.

The School For Good Mothers on Amazon (sponsor link)


I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

Jun 222022
 

Why are so many intelligent, driven young people abandoning the personal-liberty-maximizing bohemian lifestyles and adopting Traditional Values as they enter their thirties?

I think it’s a way of solving a coordination problem.

Lets consider two key roles of a modern startup: Founder and Venture Capitalist.

The Founder is the person who does the work of creating the organization that makes The Product. Founders are famous for dedicating nearly all of their waking hours to working on this, for years at a time. It occupies their every attentional resource. The Product exists only if the Founder is successful.

The Venture Capitalist (VC) funds this project. The Venture Capitalist is not nearly as involved in the creation of The Product or the managment of the organization that will be creating it. Their primary role is to provide The Founder with the money that is needed to achieve success, which can be a staggering amount.

Building a family is a lot of work. It is also very expensive. In the TradFam model, the role of Founder is the Mother, the role of VC is the Father, and The Product is a genetic lineage.

Ways in which this analogy is handy:

It brings a fair bit of prestige to the Mother role. The term “homemaker” feels like some combination of nanny, maid, and cook. Direct analogy to a startup founder illuminates how much work and dedication is involved, and the scope of the work. It highlights the fact that successful Mother-ing requires a great deal of entrepenurial spirit and is a rare and valuable skill.

It gives clear responsibilities and acheivable goals to the VC. The VC/Father brings in the funding needed to continue the project. That’s his primary role, and everything else is secondary. Any question can be sufficiently answered with “because this is what I need to do in order keeping the necessary funding going.”

It explains the need for strong enforcement mechanisms. Liberty-maximizing bohemian lifestyles are wonderful and freeing and joyful. But you can’t start a massive investment on a long-term joint venture with someone who is finding themselves. Binding contracts are required, contracts that don’t give clauses for “as long as it’s a joyful expression of my true self.” A secular marriage straps people together with long-term financial obligations, but nothing more than that.

People who want actual assurance of defaults being strongly punished have to embed themselves into a community that has a proven record of strongly punishing defaulters of the Founder/VC contract. They must also choose a Founder/VC partner in a similar community. When both parties have deeply rooted their lives into a system which will believably destruct around them if they default, they are much better able to offer the assurance of commitment that a project like this requires.

This credible signal is what a Traditional Religious Community (TRC) provides. Importantly, it may also provide some measure of portability. If the Religion is both wide-spread enough and retains its structure, the enforcement mechanism will remain robust as long the startup/family relocates to areas that have a strong matching-TRC presence.

As an additional benefit TRCs provide networks of exeprienced Founders & VCs that can give advice on best practices, or support during rocky transitions.

Right now, pretty much every TRC comes with a lot of bullshit baggage. Often they require professing belief in a god and following absurd religious practices. The generally have no structure to support poly families, or mono-reproductive but sexually-open families. They tend to hate gays, have no room for healthy use of mind-altering substances that aren’t alcohol, and have varying maladaptations that don’t work with the modern day.

And yet, no other organizations have yet risen up to offer a competing model that allows members to credibly signal commitment to a family startup at severe personal cost.

I think someone should do something about that. It’s a massive untapped opportunity.


I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

Jun 202022
 

I was asked what went into my decision to get a vasectomy, especially considering I’m hoping to live at least thousands of years and people change.

When I project out my future over the next 10 years, I can’t see wanting kids at any point in that time period.

Plus there’s not much of a possibility for it even if I did want it.

The threat of maybe accidentally making a kid was super stressful. Vasectomy removed all that fear/stress, with very little near-term downside.

In the far term – after more than 10 years out, I don’t think I would be realistically able to have children anyway. Either I’d be too old for it to be practical, or whoever my mate would be at that time would be too old to bear children, or both!

If we reach the transhuman future and I live a very long time and slowly change in a way that leaves me desiring children, then having a vasectomy won’t matter anyway, because that should be super easy for incredibly advanced tech to reverse or work around.

Finally, just to be safe and really put myself at ease, I got some sperm frozen before I got the vasectomy. It was several hundred dollars, which isn’t nothing. But imagining the worst-case scenario of future-Eneasz wanting kids, I’d rather pay that than screw future-Eneasz very badly cuz I was too cheap to part with a few hundred dollars.


I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

Jun 092022
 

A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark 

Synopsis: A paranormal murder mystery set in steampunk Egypt, 1912, after Djinn and other magical creatures have been reintroduced into the world a few decades back.

Book Review: This is a great romp, and really fun! The plot keeps moving at a good clip, there’s a lot of interconnectivity between the players and set pieces, and it’s very well written. The two biggest strengths of Master of Djinn are worldbuilding and colorful characters.

The worldbuilding is absolutely top-notch. Every bit of this feels like it has a rich history, and deep connections, crafted with love and enthusiasm. It feels lived in. It calls for you to come back and inhabit it.

The characters are distinctive, and they pop. Each has a unique and interesting voice. And everyone one of them is really damn cool, in their own way. You want to spend time with these people.

In addition to all that, it stars a strong female protagonist. I kinda feel embarrassed saying this, because it’s such a cliché, but dammit, I really love strong female characters. I always have, and I’m not gonna stop just cuz it’s a meme now.

In addition, the action is fun, frequent, and very cinematic. All things considered, as I was reading this I felt like I was watching a good Marvel movie. Something in the top quintile of Marvel.

That being said… reading this was a lot like watching a Marvel movie. It was a lot of awesome style without much substance. No deeper themes, no exploration of the human condition, no revelatory character arc.

It’s also somewhat simplistic. A couple times characters are a little too slow on the uptake. The mystery is too obvious for the reader’s side (although that’s not the protagonists fault, she doesn’t know she’s in a novel, so she doesn’t know to steer clear of the basic tropes). It’s designed so that a distracted teen or a dad two beers in can follow along and have a great time.

This is fine, because fun is good. :) But in a few months I probably won’t remember anything about this novel. If you’re just looking for a great, fun adventure, then I would recommend this! But if (like me) you never have enough time to read everything and try to focus on the exceptional stuff, Not Recommended.

Book Club Review: For book clubs, this is a better than average book. Because of how fun it is, there’s a lot of fun things to talk about, and some fun things to gripe about, and no one was upset they wasted their time on it or anything. It makes for good light conversation on a nice summer day. It doesn’t lend itself to deeper discussions, due to the reasons mentioned above. On the other hand, this was a significantly better book than several we’ve read recently, and it’s always fun watching a Marvel movie with friends. Take all this into consideration for your particular book club, of course, but overall for book clubs – Recommended.


I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

Jun 082022
 

Multiple people have been tripped up by my claims in a recent post that “demanding that people call you by incorrect pronouns counts as bullying and harassment.” This is in answer to that.

I went through a lot of titles for this one before settling on “How They/Them Hurts.” The all started with “How They/Them Hurts” but they had different endings.
“How They/Them Hurts Good People With Bad Brains”
“How They/Them Hurts The Neurodivergent”
“How They/Them Hurts The Marginalized”
“How They/Them Hurts The Hurting”

There is a trend here, besides the names getting shorted until the shortest won. This is the story of a non-typical brain architecture. Sometimes it’s called a pathology or a disorder, but I much prefer just “bad brain” because I don’t want my brain medicalized. Making it a medical thing may encourage people to drug it into becoming more typical, and I prefer to just have it be bad in this way. I have a bad laptop too, but it works well enough for me and I don’t want to change it.1

Janky AF, and it’s all mine

1. Moral Scrupulosity

I think of this Brain Thing as caring strongly about not lying. But apparently it’s one of the variants of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, according to some fancy lab-coat-wearing MFers. “Moral Scrupulosity OCD” (Ten thousand EA’s just sneezed). Symptoms include “pathological guilt, obsession associated with moral or religious issues, over-responsibility for others, fear of offending others, etc”

Let’s play You Might Be Scrupulous If

You Might Be Scrupulous If:

2. Compulsive Honesty

The big one for the purposes of this post is Compulsive Honesty.

Scrupulous people really hate the feeling of lying. Hate it! We do it, of course, sometimes. You can’t avoid it. But even white lies feel really bad.

In fact, white lies often feel extra bad, because you are stuck either telling a lie (bad!) or hurting someone you care about (also bad!). Which one is worse? It’s very hard to tell! Generally we err on the side of white lies, because those are socially approved of.

There are, however, some lies that are too big to swallow. Lies like “God exists and loves us.” Those lies must be expelled even at great personal cost.

There are lies that are smaller than the God lie, but that are still a source of significant pain. To quote myself:

When I was young and my brain was being molded, the language parts of my brain were hooked up to the sex-recognition parts of my brain via methods that have been refined through cultural evolution to hook those two parts together very strongly. And it took.

When one insists others use pronouns that contradict with the one’s sexual presentation, I am required to overrule my own lying eyes and instead use arbitrary terms picked by that person. It feels like I am being told there are five lights every single time. Last time it was my church and parents who were telling me there were five lights. Now it’s my friends. :( I am being forced to lie every time I speak of them, and I despise it.

 

I’m not unique in this. I’ve spoken with others that have the same problem. It’s a maddening jabbing in your heart. It’s having a brain sitting on your shoulder screaming ‘THAT’S A WOMAN’ or ‘THAT’S A MAN’ into your ear. It’s the feeling you get when you realize you have to make a car payment of $200 and you need to refill your drug prescriptions for $150, and you only have $220 in the bank, and it’s 13 days until payday. Every. Single. Fucking. Time. that you have to refer to the person.2

3. Comparative Pain Studies

Here’s the thing. This pain is bearable. We bear it often. In addition to this, we understand that trans people also feel pain. They live with the pain of being in the wrong bodies every day. They deal with the pain of hormone injections, surgeries, and slowly reshaping their bodies in a long awkward process. And if there’s one thing scrupulous people are good at, it’s bearing pain for the greater good.

Therefore, most scrupulous people who feel pain at mis-matching pronouns will nevertheless use them in almost all cases. We want to not cause pain to others, and to alleviate pain when we can. It’s Moral Scrupulosity OCD’s whole thing. Especially when the people whose pain we’re preventing are our friends and family.

And indeed, not all scrupulous-honesty pain is the same! The less something feels like lying, the less painful it is! The absolute easiest case scenario is someone who is literally just a man-ish woman or effeminate man, who was mis-classified at first observation. They just say “I’m actually X.” There is a great deal of embarrassment and apologizing. But the mental model is updated very rapidly, and the switch to using correct pronouns can be painless nearly instantly.

A little harder can be people with hormonal or genetic disorders. My unconscious categorization software will often continue throwing errors for some time, and it can take a period of sustained effort over a long time to correct for it. Like when you meet someone with a facial deformity, and you have to try very hard not to look at it for the first dozen-ish hours that you spend around them. Eventually it fades to the background, and the brain accepts the correction, but it takes effort and a long period of discomfort. Again, absolutely worth it to make someone’s life easier. Especially because it’s not something they can control, they got fucked by life.

The non-passing trans person that is still going through transition is harder. The error flags never fully stop until the transition is succesful. But… part of a successful transition is encouraging your friends. When someone is of ambiguous sex, one of the cues that helps strangers with categorization is how people nearby refer to the ambiguous subject. Eventually it won’t be a lie to use what is currently the “wrong” pronoun, so it’s less bad to start using it early.

These are the things you tell your brain. They make it easier to push through the feeling of lying. It’s for the greater good.

And heck, some of those people are kind enough to allow (or prefer!) the use of Ambiguous They. This helps greatly with alleviating the pain of feeling like I am lying, because I’ve already internalized it as a truthful way to refer to ambiguity! (see previous post)

But then there’s the friggin trolls.

4. Friggin Trolls

I am getting better about my brain issues. Over the last decade, I’ve been able to shed some of the guilt and attendant pathologies. I’ll never be fully neurotypical, but I don’t want to be, that seems really lame. I just want to be more functional, and I’m getting there.

But I don’t want to shed my loathing of, and reflexive pain to, the act of lying. It’s served me well. I think it’s net-good, and I wish more people had it. It will cause me pain sometimes, but I’m willing to take that pain.

Most of the time.

This post is long, but you’re almost at the end! Read the last several bits, including the crux of the argument, at my substack. Free, of course.

Jun 052022
 

Multiple people have been tripped up by my claims in the previous post that “they/them pronouns are never correct pronouns for a person whose sex isn’t ambiguous” and “demanding that people call you by incorrect pronouns counts as bullying and harassment.” This post addresses the first of these two.

First, I posit that there are infinite genders, and there are only four sexes. If you already agree with either of these statements, feel free to skip to the punchline.

1. There Are Infinite Genders

 

Image taken from Clearer Thinking’s Gender Continuum Test. See below.

Gender itself is a new-ish concept. Before the previous century, that word related primarily to linguistic rules about words. A thing that fussy grammar nazis tutted about. “Sex” described animals, “gender” described words. One of the biggest catalysts for the change in meaning of “gender” was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When arguing sex discrimination cases before the US Supreme Court in the 1970s, she switch from “sex discrimination” to “gender discrimination,” because apparently people couldn’t stay serious in a long conversation that included the word “sex” over and over.

Let’s pause to think about that. We often ridicule British Victorians for being so uptight about sex that they wouldn’t say the word “leg” and would put little pants on the legs of their pianos so they wouldn’t be exposed (Not true, but a commonly repeated story nonetheless). And yet, in the highest court of the land, the most serious judges and lawyers of their generation couldn’t stay focused if the word “sex” was dropped repeatedly. So much so that it endangered legislation effecting half the population, and this was patched by RBG tabooing the word entirely and swapping in a grammatical construct! (sure, this was a trend already, but RBG popularized it)

Anyway.

Fake Prince George approves

At first gender was just a substitute word for sex, so it came in two flavors. But over the decades, it’s come to mean the way someone identifies in personality, and presents in public. The neat thing about that is that everyone has a different personality!

Clearer Thinking has a Gender Continuum Test you can take. The test is short and fun. The real gold is in the analysis afterwards. The whole thing is really great, and I cannot recommend it enough. Go, play with it, you’ll be glad you did. :)

I’m about to lift a whole bunch of stuff directly from the post-test analysis, I hope they don’t mind.

We examined over 600 different personality questions looking for differences.

We were not able to find even a single personality trait where there was a large difference in the average score of men and women

The biggest correlation we found between gender and any one personality trait was r=0.42. [… if] you tried to guess that person’s gender using just that score, you’d mispredict that person’s gender 31% of the time! Women are actually closer to the male average in this trait 37% of the time (i.e. they are more typically male than typically female in this trait). So that means that if there is a room of 100 women, about 37 of them will be closer to the average male score than they are to the average female score! 

And remember, that was the personality trait that we found to be most predictive of gender. All the other traits that had an association with gender had a substantially weaker relationship.

Across all these personality traits, women were closer to the female average than the male average only 61% of the time, and men were closer to the male average than the female average only 57% of the time. In other words, it’s extremely common for men to have quite a number of these “more female” traits, and for women to have quite a number of these “more male” traits. [emphasis added]

Only about 1% of males and 1% of females had almost entirely “more male” or almost entirely “more female” personality traits!

Take a look at the last two lines again. Nearly 40% of women and over 40% of men are closer to the average of the opposite sex than their own sex. And only 1% of each matched their sex’s average on almost all traits.

Gender is a spectrum (or continuum, if you prefer). There’s almost limitless manifestations of it. In fact, it can change over one’s lifetime, or even over a day, as one’s mood changes. I took this test today, and also several months ago, and my answers were largely similar, but didn’t quite line up. One was pretty significantly different. Personality is affected by many things, including shit that happened to you recently. Everyone is genderfluid, to some extent.

This is one reason I don’t particularly care to know anyone’s gender. It’s superfluous information, and honestly, sometimes people lie about it in order to present what they think is more socially desirable. Everyone is subject to Social Desirability Bias to some degree, and I don’t feel any compelling reason to amplify this.

Also it’s more fun to find out the old fashioned way.

2. There Are Only Four Sexes

If you are alive, you had two genetic parents. One of them was born as one of the traditional sexes (Male or Female), and the other was born as the other.

Image taken from Reality’s Last Stand. See below.

Until recently, basically all humans could be catagorized as one of the two traditional sexes. There isn’t any other option. Colin Wright is an evolution biologist who writes at Reality’s Last Stand (again, some direct lifts, hope he doesn’t mind)

males are the sex that produce small gametes (sperm) and females produce large gametes (ova). There are no intermediate gametes, which is why there is no spectrum of sex. Biological sex in humans is a binary system.

It is crucial to note, however, that the sex of individuals within a species isn’t based on whether an individual can actually produce certain gametes at any given moment. Pre-pubertal males don’t produce sperm, and some infertile adults of both sexes never produce gametes due to various infertility issues. Yet it would be incorrect to say that these individuals do not have a discernible sex, as an individual’s biological sex corresponds to one of two distinct types of evolved reproductive anatomy (i.e. ovaries or testes) that develop for the production of sperm or ova, regardless of their past, present, or future functionality.

A human’s biology is organized on a deep level around whether it developed to produce ova or sperm. Deviations from this are extremely rare, and the deviations aren’t a different sex, they are almost exclusively disorders of one of the two sexes. (But still very valuable persons!)

Or at least, that used to be the case.

With the power of modern technology, we have some measure of morphological freedom! Through years of hormone replacement, multiple surgeries, and a lot of physical training, we can mostly switch someone’s sex to the opposite sex. It’s not quie perfect… due to the limits of current technology, we can’t reforge every developmental path traveserd since early gestation. Certain physical difference are still unalterable, or can only be partially corrected. Continued medical intervention remains necessary. So the person can’t be fully catagorized as identical to their new sex. Nonetheless, the level of change is so drastic that they clearly are not the old sex anymore either.

We have created two new sexes, in the image of the old sexes. Trans Male and Trans Female, we created them.

 

3. Pronous Refer To Sex — Not Gender — By Necessity

In English, the third-person singular pronouns for humans match observed sex. It didn’t have to be this way, the fact that they match observed sex are an ancient linguist artifact. But that is how it works in English, and this is literally why trans people want to be addressed with the pronouns of their new sex.

I recently came upon fascinating speculation regarding the possible origin of this. “Pronoun Collision” is the problem of a pronoun being ambiguous and thus useless (or even actively confusing.)

If you wanted more pronoun-classes to reduce the probability of collisions … you could devise some other system that doesn’t bake sex into the language while driving the collision rate even lower than that of the sex-based system—like using initials to form pronouns (Katherine put ker book on its shelf?), or an oral or written analogue of spatial referencing in American Sign Language (where a signer associates a name or description with a direction in space, and points in that direction for subsequent references).

The speculation is that sex-based pronouns are a natural Schelling point of ways to reduce pronoun collision, since sex is binary and easy to observe.

one might speculate that “more classes to reduce collisions” could be part of the historical explanation for grammatical gender, in conjunction with the fact that sex is binary and easy to observe. None of the other most salient features of a human can quite accomplish the same job: age is continuous rather than categorical; race is also largely continuous (clinal) and historically didn’t typically vary within a tribal/community context.

Indeed, sex is binary, making for a great Schelling point to avoid such collision. Even the two new sexes are mirrors of the two natal sexes.

Gender is not binary. Gender is the opposite of binary. It isas vast and diverse as the entire human population. Each gender is unique and deserves a unique label. Fortunately we already have labels that match up to the infinite genders of everyone, and those labels are people’s names. In fact, names have an advantage as high-resolution identifiers, because names are fairly stable. A gender can change from day to day or hour to hour.

Pronouns are a simplification. That is their whole point. They are low-resolution by design. Some languages have pronouns so low-resolution that they only have a single set of third-person singular pronouns, with no sex identification. There are languages of even lower resolution that don’t have a separate set for singular vs plural pronouns!

In the other direction, there are languages with additional pronoun sets for higher levels of resolution. Some have sets for formal vs informal relationships (English used to have this in the “thou/you” distinction). Some languages have inclusive vs exclusive “we” pronouns (“we (and you)” vs “we (but not you)”). Some languages have different pronoun sets to differentiate animate vs inanimate objects. There’s even languages that have pronouns that differentiate the owner of an object!

 

4. What Does This Have To Do With They/Them Pronouns?

This post is long! To read the rest of it, go to my substack. I’m slowly transitioning over to there, and this is one nudge to switch over. The whole thing is up for free, as is everything I’ve ever blogged about.

Jun 042022
 

Is my defensive reaction to wokeism mind-killing me? Well yes, obviously to some extent. How bad of a mental massacre is it, though? Let’s do a post-mortem on a recent failure (or semi-failure?) to find out.

First and foremost, I wish to thank Walter & James, of Rationality: From AI to Zombies podcast fame, for making this possible. One or both of them did a fair bit of research work on a previous statement of mine, and this would not be possible with that work. I am grateful to them, and I mean this sincerely!

 

1. The Tweet

May 18th I heard on a daily humorous/weird news podcast about three 13-year-old boys being investigated for sexual assault because they wouldn’t use they/them pronouns for a classmate. I thought it was more disturbing than funny TBH, so I googled up a link and shared it on Twitter. I pasted relevant text from the article, with the comment “wtf.”

Perhaps more importantly, I also talked about it and opined quite a bit more about the situation on The Mind Killer podcast.

 

2. The Rejoinder

Today (June 3rd) Walter & James posted a reply thread in Twitter, in the hopes of helping me to see how my prejudices are effecting my ability to model the world correctly. I really do appreciate this! I do think I made a few errors, some bigger than others. I also think that a couple places were W&J see errors, I believe I’m correct. So, let’s see what I can learn.

 

Intro

I hope @EneaszWrites will forgive me for the public call-in thread, but it’s an example as clear as fresh spring water of a point we have been trying to make.

Nothing here needs forgiveness, you’re putting forth an argument about something I posted publicly. Honestly, having someone engage me online with a thing I said online is what I’m here for in the first place. :) You are also super polite and reasonable about it, which is a heckin’ cool bonus!

I continue to hold no ill will against him and ultimately, his involvement is only incidental.

Cheers! Me too.

 

Source

Before we continue, I want to pull out a later tweet to address something up front — my source was The Lad Bible.

the journalistic titan that is LADbible (ಠ_ಠ)

This was basically the UK version of Maxim when it launched. It’s evolved a bit, so there’s no longer titties and butts, but it’s primary market is still the equivilant of a Frat Bro, and it retains that vibe. Why did I use this source?

Because I didn’t have any better one. I was made aware of this story by a funny-news podcast. When I searched for a link to share, mostly what I got was a bunch of right wing newsites which I am loathe to link to, because I detest most of their politics. Many of them were very aggro about the story, and very hostile to the school district. There was not a single left wing source that covered this story in any way. It is a sign of my continued naiviety that I was surprised by this. I should have figured that of course no left wing source would cover blatent injustice perpatrated in the name of wokeism. But still, it sucks that they left the field open to just the crazies that were foaming about it. :/

Lad Bible was the most non-hostile source I could find. I was working to avoid blood libel and vitriol. I believe I mostly succeeded. The article definitely shares the anti-woke perspective (more below), but it isn’t hostile or deliberately inflamatory like the other sources were. It did, however, get some key things wrong. Let’s continue.

 

Priors

a criminal charge of sexual harassment for a single wrong pronoun would be ridiculous (!).

Yes it would. The Woke do something this ridiculous every few months. My priors for “nothing this ridiculous could be true” have been ground down over the years, and it’s disheartening.

 

How Much Bullying?

This bullying is not limited to using the incorrect pronouns (!). The parent of the student in question reports that their child came home in tears “as they’ve been the target of homophobic slurs and harassment”.

I don’t want to sound insensitive, but I’m about to say two things that are kinda insensitive, so uh…. good luck to me.

First, this isn’t evidence of bullying. Every day there are thousands of incidents of culture warriors declaring they are “in tears,” “literally shaking,” “feeling nauseous,” and that’s just from watching a milquetoast award show. I’m pretty sure tears and shaking are the standard reactions of any failure of the world to live up to fully utopian ideals. It’s completely consistent with past evidence that a child would come home in tears because they couldn’t bully someone into using they/them pronouns. Actual evidence of actual acts that went beyond rejection of they/them pronoun requests is requested, ty.

Second, these are 13 year olds in middle school. This is the worst time in the life of any American adolescent, in an incredibly dysfunction enviroment. Middle school is actively damaging to the mental and emotional health of kids, it’s a fucking social warzone. No one should be subjected to it, and the fact that adults allow this institution to continue to exist is an indictment of our entire civilization. It’s not surprising when any child comes home in tears. I don’t want to make excuses for anyone involved in bullying. But also, maybe don’t send your children to hellish part-time prisons.

Third — (I don’t include this in the “things that are kinda insenstive” catagory) — W&J say that the bullying wasn’t limited to using the incorrect pronoun, by citing that the kid was “the target of homophobic slurs and harasment.” They say in the next tweet (below) that rejecting they/them pronoun requests counts as homophobic slurs and harasment. If using “he” or “she” rather than “they” is a homophobic slur, then I can’t trust any claim that there were actual homophobic slurs besides the incidents in question. I will need a source that differentiates the two before I am willing to believe this.

 

They/Them Pronoun Requests

That school has an evidently queer student, that asked their classmates to use they/them pronouns.

The student is not evidently queer. In fact, they seem to be straight and cis. I assume so because if they were gay or trans, it would be shouted from every leftist source. Instead all sources I can find are very tight-lipped about this. While I realize “queer” can now refer to straight cis people, it’s misleading to use that context here.

And I will absolutely defend the notion that deliberately calling people by the wrong name or the wrong pronouns counts as bullying and harassment.

Here I think we’ve identified a major crux. I agree that deliberately calling people by the wrong name or the wrong pronouns counts as harassment. But, importantly, they/them pronouns are never correct pronouns for a person whose sex isn’t ambiguous. An obviously cis person can request to be refered to by they/them pronouns. Others can humor them if they wish. It is not bullying to not refer to someone by the wrong pronouns.

A 13 year old weeb may request that everyone call him “Eneasz-sama.” It is cool of people to do so. It is not harassment if the people who don’t like Eneasz-sama don’t want to play along. If Eneasz-sama begins to verbally attack people, or even assault them, unless they refer to him as Eneasz-sama, then Eneasz is the bully.

From original article

[The accuser] “had been screaming at one of Braden’s friends to use proper pronouns, calling him profanity, and this friend is very soft-spoken, and kind of just sunk down into his chair,”

So my counter-claim is that demanding that people call you by incorrect pronouns counts as bullying and harassment.

Before I am accused of trolling, please be assured I mean this completely and literally. I am personally harmed (a very small amount) when others ask me to use wrong pronouns. For my friends, I absorb this cost, because I like them and I want them to be happy, even if that means a bit of suffering on my part. I am not willing to suffer for my enemies. Demands that I suffer for their comfort is an attempt at domination. It is a demand that I degrade myself, to appease my betters, and I won’t stand for it. It amplifies what was a small hurt into a major attack. Repeatedly doing so, while using threats of social, reputational, or physical attacks, is bullying and harassment.

 

Suicide Study

simply respecting a queer teen’s chosen name and pronouns correlates amazingly with lower incidence of depression and suicide rate. Pronouns are suicide prevention!

I defy the data. There is a similar lie that is propagated regularly at the highest levels of society. The statistics linked by W&J is a single 3-bar graph that purports to summerize an online survey of 34,759 respondents. No other data or details are available at the link unless I fork over $40. Based on prior experience and general incredulity, I don’t believe this stat.

 

Title IX

Next, the music teacher (!) notices the ongoing harassment and decides to file a Title IX complaint with the school district. Title IX forbids any harassment or discrimination ‘based on sex’. This probably only referred to biology for Nixon, but has included discrimination based on gender identity at least since Obama. Including deliberate misgendering is a fair interpretation.

Whether not complying with they/them pronoun demands is good reason to file a Title IX complaint is a question I’ll leave up to the reader. I will, however, draw the readers attention to the fact that the school district decided it was not, and dropped the action.

The school district now has a Title IX complaint in their hands. This sets legal machinery in motion, such as informing the students involved about the investigation and their presumption of innocence. The school district _by law_ has to open such an investigation, once a complaint is filed, if it wants to stay federally funded. It was not a political decision, it was a legal necessity.

This is the first place I feel I could have done better. I did not know that an investigation must be launched after every and any filed complaint out of legal necessity. I wish I had known this. I wish any of the sources I had gone through had mentioned this. I was unaware, and it seems that the sources either didn’t know or didn’t care. For me, this is moderately embarrasing. For the sources it should be either very embarrasing, or a sign that they are bad actors and wanted to funnel anger at the school. (I assume Lad Bible didn’t know the details of US discrimination law)

If I had known this, I wouldn’t have expressed anger/exasperation at the school district enforcing woke lunacy on The Mind-Killer podcast. I would have instead expressed anger/exasperation at a legal system that took a directive meant to protect trans people from bigotry and now could credibly threaten a school district if they didn’t investigating kids standing up to pronoun-agression bullies. To no one’s surprise, I blame Wokeism for this corruption of justice. (But I acknowledge it’s maybe been going on for much longer).

I would have likely also expresed anger/exasperation at a music teacher (!) being so wrapped up in woke extremism that he or she would file a freakin Title IX complaint against kids refusing a they/them pronoun request! This teacher should, morally, be fired. But legally, probably cannot be. Ideally, the families should be able to file a civil suit, but I doubt that’s possible.

So, yes, I was wrong in who I blamed. :(

 

The Courts Were Not Involved

This investigation by a school district, however, is not the same as the kids or anyone being “taken to court”. […] nothing like criminal charges against them existed. Only the T-IX complaint.

This is absolutely correct. Again, this was my failure. I did not know T-IX procedure. My sources were wrong, and I hadn’t done additional investigation. T-IX demands that the institution conduct an investigation, and then take appropriate action, which could just be “find the charges are BS and drop the whole matter.” No harm no foul.

 

No harm no foul?

nothing like criminal charges against them existed. Only the T-IX complaint.

A T-IX complaint isn’t a criminal case, this is true. There are some downsides to this. Schools use a lower standard of proof than criminal courts. Often they demand proof of innocence rather than proof of guilt. They are mostly biased against the accused. In the universities, this is because “a fair process might lead to a not-guilty finding — which, if leaked to the public, might bring bad publicity.” (A 2nd Circuit appeals court ruled this is no defence for the school, fortunately.) Being a target of a T-IX investigation is dangerous even if you’re ridiculously innocent.

In this case it doesn’t matter, because they boys are totally guilty of refusing a they/them request. Which is fine. It’s like being guilty of watching every Marvel movie. Everyone can get behind watching Spiderman: No Way Home, but did you REALLY need to watch Eternals?

Except in this case, watching Eternals can get you kicked out of school permanently, and you end up labeled a sex offender for the rest of your life. Would this happen? Hard to say. It’s happened before. Is getting kicked out of a public middle school that big of a deal? It’s not as bad as getting kicked out of a university, but it’ll definitely impose major costs on the families. Would the sex offender label be sealed behind minor-protection walls after they turn 18? Maybe not. And anyone who sees a Title-IX violation on a man’s record knows that such violations are in response to sexual assault.

 

This post is long! To read the rest of it, go to my substack. I’m slowly transitioning over to there, and this is one nudge to switch over. The whole thing is up for free, as is everything I’ve ever blogged about.

It includes lines like “Truth-seeking is done not as an individual alone, but as a network of people who have a wide spectrum of biases and priors” and “at this point, I expect the district will do the right thing.”

Jun 022022
 

Every single day since the Uvalda shooting, I’ve heard a news story about another mass shooting. And every single time it’s been a personal dispute where someone pulled a gun and murdered another person, not a mass shooting.

Literally just now I heard a story from CNN where the newscaster said “Another mass shooting at a hospital, just days after the high school shooting.” They then threw to audio of a police chief who said in English words:

“This wasn’t an indiscriminate shooting. The killer went to a specific room on the fourth floor of the hospital, sought out specific people, then killed them and himself.”

Back to the newscaster, who says something like ‘this rash of mass shootings is rocking the nation’

Like, dude… We just heard the audio saying the opposite. The media demand for mass shootings is obviously greatly outstripping supply, and they’re making do with whatever substitute goods they can find. And then they’re all “Why doesn’t anyone trust mainstream news outlets? :pikachu_shocked:

This is ghoulish and disgusting just on it’s face. But also:

1 – It may literally increase the amount of mass shootings. They may be inducing a greater supply of mass shootings, and how the hell do you sleep at night if that’s the case?

2 – It’s fucking bizarre. A common definition of mass shooting counts hundreds of normal crimes per year. The media used to simply cite that number and imply that it referred to the sorts of school-shooting-style indiscriminate mass shootings that are terrifying but extremely rare. The media counted on their audience trusting them, rather than thinking “wouldn’t I have heard of 236 Columbines in the last few months if they’d happened?” to give cover to their lies.

But now, they aren’t even doing that. They’re reporting on basic murders, giving direct evidence that these are basic murders, and in the same breath saying “This is an indiscriminate mass shooting!” It feels like I’m in some Kafka story. Maybe (at the risk of cliche) Orwell. Seriously, wtf?



I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

May 312022
 

In my previous post, I said the difference between Liberal and Woke philosophies is that Liberals believe immutable characteristics aren’t important and shouldn’t matter. Wokes believe they’re one of the most important things about anyone/everyone.

The most striking example of this from my real life occurred to me at the World Fantasy Convention of 2017. At a lunch gathering I found myself speaking with two younger ladies and an older gentleman. The man appeared to be in Dr Who (11th Doctor) cos play. At some point the conversation dipped into social/cultural topics. The older man commented (paraphrased, this is from memory) “Prejudice is such a dumb thing. It’s just a bit of melanin in the skin. That’s it. There’s no reason for it.”

The two young ladies fell silent and exchanged a look of utter disgust and revulsion. After a few moments of discomfort, the older man wandered away, clearly getting the hint.

I stayed silent during this exchange too. I felt very bad for the man, but I also felt like this was dangerous territory, and I didn’t want to risk myself to comfort an out-of-touch old who was clearly on the way out. I still feel bad about that. He was simply repeating what all good liberals had been taught since the 60s, up through at least the early 2000s. I was taught, and had often repeated, the same lessons in grade school, high school, and college. They struck me as the correct way to think about humans.

When I went back to my room later that day, I thought about this. Why had the old man been wrong? What was I missing? I convinced myself that, actually, it’s not just melanin. He had missed that people of darker skin colors in the US had a completely different life experience, one that consisted of being oppressed and degraded at every turn by those who were lighter-skinned, and by trying to say “we’re all the same, it’s just a bit of melanin” was completely glossing over that, which was why he was wrong. I still didn’t think he should have been treated as a disgusting thing to shun, especially because the end goal of all humans was to get to the point where we are all the same except for some melanin. He was out of touch, and he should be educated, of course. But the response he received was cruel and disproportionate. He was being a good, liberal, left-wing ally… he was just behind the times.

(Much later I would come to realize that this sort of cruelty was not just tolerated, it was actually pervasive and encouraged by the movement.)

This experience stuck with me, as evidenced by the fact that I still think of it five years later. It wasn’t just the casual cruelty, the willingness to turn on old allies. It was also because something about my justification felt very wrong. Eventually I came to realize that you also couldn’t judge a person’s life experience by their skin color. A rich, upper-class black person in America would suffer less oppression and degradation than a poor white-trash person. Any given dark-skinned person may not even be American, they could be foreign royalty. They could be insanely racist themselves. Any given white-skinned person could be a recently escaped refugee from a fundamentalist cult, and drastically oppressed. The liberal position of not making any assumptions based on appearance was still correct. (Even later I realized that the entire narrative of relentless oppression was a lie in the first place, so the woke position was doubly unsound.)

It was a long journey, from liberal to woke and back to liberal. This was one of my mileposts. Poor Matt Smith. :(


edit: The original post said that SFWA runs World Fantasy Con. This is wrong, they have a seperate con, and I’m embarrased I got them mixed up.


I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.

May 302022
 

A couple things about yesterday’s post.

Again, I know there were similar things happening before the cancellation of Roseanne. It was after this incident that cancelling became the default weapon that is wielded to punish political enemies, and the knowledge of how to weild it became widespread and culturally acceptable.

Cancel Culture and Wokeism are not the same thing. I realize they’re often conflated, but they’re seperate phenomena. Wokeism often uses Canceling as a weapon, but so do the assholes on the Right.

Also, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any consequences for tweeting something racist like that. Some type of censure was definitely needed. In the case of Roseanne, at the time this happened, I thought it was justified. But in retrospect, the rush to destroy her, and the fear that silenced anyone who would say anything in her defence, were definitely bad things. Due process was created to temper passions and prevent us from doing things we may regret after the initial fury has died down, and that seems like it was a wise thing to invent.