Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why feminists should support Basic Income

This City Eliminated Poverty, And Nearly Everyone Forgot About It:
One woman called to say she remembered the Mincome project. In the early 1970s, she was a single mother raising two girls on welfare – then called Mothers’ Allowance. She said she had always been treated respectfully, but there was one thing case workers said that bothered her.
“She said she wanted to get some job training. They told her to go home and take care of her kids and they would take care of her,” explained Forget.
When the opportunity to transfer from Mothers’ Allowance to Mincome came along, the woman took it. With no restrictions on how she could spend the money she was given, she signed up for training and got a part-time job at the local library which eventually became a full-time career.

Monday, December 29, 2014

James Gunn understands what George Lucas did not

James Gunn Clarifies Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Crossover Remarks - ComingSoon.net: "And, regarding the bigger picture, we all agreed on one thing, and that was to keep huge chunks of the Guardians separate from the Marvel heroes of earth, because they have a whole galaxy to explore. We wanted to use them as a way to make the MCU bigger, not smaller. "

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Universalist individualism versus identitarian collectivism

@iamcuriousblue got me thinking about universalism, identitarianism, individualism, and collectivism by tweeting this in response to Identitarians versus Universalists:
I replied: "I think the individual/collectivist division cuts across the identitarian/universalist divide." But when @iamcuriousblue responded, "Interesting - please elaborate," I had to reply, "Damn. You would ask about something I haven't thought through. :)"

I'm not claiming to have thought this through yet, but after more twittering with @iamcuriousblue and a night's sleep, I'm ready to try.

Until yesterday, I gave little thought to individualism versus collectivism because fundamentally, humans are collectivists. Armies, sports teams, and businesses fail when their members aren't willing to "take one for the team". Every great human accomplishment has been collectivist: explorers and settlers go in teams, artists and scientists learn in communities. As Donne noted, no man is an island.

So, if we're going to talk sensibly about the role of the individual in society, we should acknowledge that collectivism versus individualism, without adjectives, is a meaningless divide. It's when the adjectives come in that it gets interesting. Maoists and McCarthyites had radically different politics, but they shared a belief that individuals must conform for the good of the community.

In theory, Maoists and McCarthyites were universalists, because, in their purest forms, communism and capitalism are universalist beliefs. The pure communist believes everyone should share the wealth. The pure capitalist believes everyone who is in the position to control capital should be free to use that capital without restrictions. In theory, none of the world's social identities matter to communists or capitalists. And, to be fair to both theories, you can point to examples of people who practiced what they preached. Socialists have a rich history of opposing racism, sexism, and colonialism—feminism got its name from Charles Fourier, a socialist, and Marx observed,"Labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as labor in the black skin is branded." In the US, the right for gay people to serve openly in the military was won by the Log Cabin Republicans, and Herman Cain was the Republican frontrunner for the presidency until he stumbled over the same thing that has brought down many white politicians, a sex scandal.

So I would happily say the first socialists, like the first Christians, were universalist collectivists, and many contemporary capitalists are universalist individualists.

But identitarianism can creep in anywhere. This isn't the place for a nuanced discussion of whether Nazis were socialists; for now, I'll just say that if they were socialists, they were history's most identitarian socialists, and their full name, National Socialism, should have been reversed, because they were far more nationalist than socialist. Capitalists don't like to do things that limit their profit, yet identitarian capitalists demand the right to turn away people whose social identities they dislike.

Identitarian collectivists believe in limited collectivism: their collectivism does not apply to the people they identify as "other". Identitarians on the right and left believe that punishing their enemies is the proper follow-up to defeating them, and rewarding themselves is a manifestation of their righteousness. At Obama: WTF? A Facebook Roundtable of the Left, Adolph Reed said of Obama, "I’d refrained from saying that he, as well as his various running dogs, haunt me as illustrations of the modal type of Ivy League POC students I’ve been teaching for the last 30 years. That same mastery of performance of a cultivated, yet at the same time empty and pro forma, intellectuality, conviction that one’s career advancement literally embodies the victory of the civil rights movement, and that awe that Bromwich notes of the rich and powerful." (Italics mine.) Identitarian collectivism ends with the social identity that matters most to them.

My favorite people across the political spectrum are universalists. As for a point on the individualist-collectivist spectrum, I'll stay with the people who believe the purpose of a society is to allow individuals to become all they may be. Many capitalists will claim that's where they excel, saying they prefer equality of opportunity to equality of outcome, but only socialists realize that there's no equality of opportunity where there's no equality of means.

"In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic." —Karl Marx

"With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols of things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." —Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Identitarians versus Universalists

Most attempts to divide humanity into two groups come from an assumption that there's an eternal war of us versus them, and the only way to end the war is for us to defeat them by any means necessary. The common grounds for "us" are social identity groups based on race, gender, religion, and, in all its forms, tribe.

I reject identitarianism. I'm with Thomas Paine: "My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." I think there's one race, the human race. I think there's either no gender or an infinite number of genders. I am a universalist. I agree with St. Paul: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one."

There is an easy way to tell universalists from identitarians: because universalists think we are all one, universalists believe in treating everyone with love and respect. Because identitarians divide the world in two, they feel free to hate and mock.

There's a strong instinct in humans to be identitarians. It gives us a simple way to understand where we fit in the universe. Responding to identitarianism with counter-identitarianism may be equally common. But the world's greatest thinkers have always rejected it.

"Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." —Eugene V. Debs

"The wise man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world." —Democritus

"I am not an Athenian, nor a Greek, but a citizen of the world." —Socrates

"The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us: 'That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God's creatures. Belief in God is to love one's fellow men.'" —Abdul Ghaffar Khan

"We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now." — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Question of the day: Why aren't women's bicycle saddles the default for bicycles?

I've ridden on women's saddles because Emma and I share bikes sometime, and I've never thought a woman's saddle was less comfortable.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I fear I have a bit of environmentalist in me

Warp! has a bit of dialogue that I've loved for decades. If I remember it correctly, it goes something like this:
Character A: He wants to destroy the universe!
Character B: But where will he live?
I don't think of myself as an environmentalist, but I probably am. I hate science fiction stories where people assume the right or inevitable thing to do is to exhaust the Earth and move on. I really like this planet. I'm happy to be a city guy, but I've hiked and camped and canoed, and I suppose that's part of me.

I'm writing this post for two reasons.

Someone I like retweeted something really sweet: "Please remember that the world has always been this bad, and often much much worse. What has changed is your access to information." —Dan Curtis Johnson ‏@dcurtisj

I think that's a very important message. Yet I replied: "Well, except for the environment."

This morning, there was this:

Might Greenpeace have been more respectful of a historical site? Sure, but draping cloth and leaving a few footprints will do far less damage than capitalism is currently doing. And yet, in fine middle-class fashion, Alex Hern is upset because the protest was insufficiently genteel.

So I guess I'm an environmentalist. I can live with that.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The recursiveness of "believe the victim"

If you thought it was possible an accuser might be mistaken or lying, you would say, "Trust the accuser." But because you have presumed guilt, you know the accuser is the victim and express yourself accordingly.

ETA: Tweaked this in the hope of clarity.

Monday, December 8, 2014

How "believe the victim" caused Rolling Stone's rape article debacle, or How "believe the victim" = "presume guilt"

When Rolling Stone published A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA by Sabrina Rudin Erdely, people who were familiar with traditional journalism noticed something odd: the other side of the story was entirely absent. When they began investigating, they discovered something else: the most basic fact-checking had been ignored.

The reason comes from the ethics of the internet's social justice warriors (not to be confused with actual social justice workers):

1. You must "believe the victim" if the accusers are female or consider themselves female.

2. You must not link to or allow comments from anyone who has been accused of harming women or who criticizes intersectional feminism.

The second point follows from the first: once you presume guilt, the guilty do not deserve a chance to defend themselves.

Their binary worldview warps SJW logic. For example, Zerlina Maxwell's No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims, begins with an impossible notion: You cannot "generally believe" something happened. Either you believe it or you do not. 
If Maxwell was trying to avoid bias, her title would be something like "No matter what Jackie said, we should support people who say they were raped".

Maxwell's subhead carries her bias further: "Incredulity hurts victims more than it hurts wrongly-accused perps." Because she thinks credulity and incredulity are the only options, she speaks of "wrongly-accused perps". But there's no such thing as a "wrongly-accused perp"; a perpetrator is the person who did something. Good people presume innocence until the perpetrator has been identified beyond reasonable doubt.

What SJWs fail to realize is that rape is a crime like any other crime. Erdely's original article includes this line which she and her editor should have paid more attention to: "studies indicate that false rape reports account for, at most, eight percent of reports." Whether there are more or fewer false reports of other crimes, I don't know, but I do know that only suicidal people would play Russian Roulette if one chance out of twelve was fatal.

The proper attitude toward people who claim to have been raped is not to believe them or disbelieve them; it's to support them while their charge is investigated. To people like Maxwell, investigation equals incredulity, but to those of us who understand statistics, it's only an essential part of establishing truth.


Magazine’s Account of Gang Rape on Virginia Campus Comes Under Scrutiny - NYTimes.com

The College Rape Overcorrection: Campus sexual assault is a serious problem. But the efforts to protect women are infringing on the civil rights of men.  - Slate.com

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dennis Moore socialism, "money-baiting", fighting for justice by making the ruling class more diverse, and always getting fooled again

Nick Mamatas jumped into my twitter feed yesterday, which is always entertaining, though usually for the wrong reasons, but I'm especially grateful this time, because he made me realize there are a great many Dennis Moore socialists.

Dennis Moore socialists take many forms—and I'm sure there are those who'd say I'm one—but the most obvious ones are identitarian socialists who help the rich in the name of feminism or anti-racism without realizing that making the 1% more diverse does nothing for the 99%. Two kinds of "progressives" believe in female and black superiority, so they want a more diverse ruling class. Some think the superiority's inherent, and some think the experiences of women and black folks make them better people than white men. I was in the second camp until Margaret Thatcher showed me she was Ronald Reagan's equal in every way. That made me realize that if people are just people, something other than social identity must explain why those who have more contentedly exploit those who have less.

Yesterday's twittering was a response to my post about Brianna Wu. Nick Mamatas accused me of "money-baiting" when I pointed to her smugness, which amused me—when last I looked, Nick considered himself a socialist, yet he's quick to defend bourgeois folks based on their social identity. I'll grant that in tweeting to Wu, by the standards of middle class moralists, I was being rude, but I continue to think Wu's sense of entitlement is a fine example of the old saying about people born on third base thinking they're achievers when they run home.

In the twittering, Kari Sperring said, "There's an argument that increased female access to capital is redress for centuries of exploitation"

I replied, "Sure. That's Sheryl Sandberg feminism. I think it's why neoliberals love identitarian feminism."

She said, "I'm thinking in class terms, though: as a class, women are widely exploited to service male capital"

I favorited that and said, "Full Agreement."

That discussion went no further, but if it had, I'd have pointed out that Engels made that point, and that making the exploited the new exploiters does nothing to end exploitation.

The Who's "Wont' Get Fooled Again" includes this:

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss
Identitarians want the new boss. I want none.

"I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X / El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, January, 1965

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What privilege looks like: Brianna Wu

I tweeted back:
I love the notion that accepting money from your parents is initiative.

The empty gesture of acknowledging privilege

At A Tale of Two Words | The Dream Café, L. Raymond asked,
How does it help you to deny society treats certain segments better than others? To acknowledge is not to endorse.
I answered,
You’re pointing at the problem without seeing it. To acknowledge is not to change. Identitarians and universalists both want a fair world and both recognize that sexism and racism and so many other isms exist. What identitarians fail to offer is a solution. Or rather, they think acknowledgement of a problem is an answer. But many Confederates acknowledged that slavery was unjust, and acknowledged their privilege as white men, and it still took a war to end slavery.
I was thinking of Robert E. Lee's letter to his wife in 1856 in which he said,
In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country.
In the same letter, he went on to rationalize his privilege, much like contemporary graduates of schools for the elite rationalize theirs. Checking privilege makes privilege-checkers feel righteous, but it does not help a single person who has less so the privilege-checkers may have more.

The part of me that loves the Rebel Jesus thinks privilege-checkers are contemporary Pharisees who make great shows of goodness. Jesus's harshest words were for them:

“...you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others." —Matthew 6:5 ESV

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness." —Matthew 23:27 ESV