May 27, 2019
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Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace

Built In Sexism

Some people know they are prejudiced, but the numbers are probably much larger who have no clue, whose prejudices are so inherently built in to the structures of their lives and societies, their moment-to-moment assumptions that they inhale them as fish do water. A case study from my own life is the moment, at age twelve or so, when I flunked the famous feminist riddle about the surgeon who cries out, "That is my son!" when a young man is brought in by ambulance from a car crash that also killed his father. From that same period of the 1960's, I recently found a book on Emily Dickinson in the series "American Men of Letters".

There is no imaginable reason why the names and voices of all digital assistants, Siri and Alexa et al, should be female. None. You could allow the user to set their gender. Or, even better, they could have gender neutral voices. Those exist in the world: people who, receiving a phone call from them for the first time, and not yet knowing name or context, you do not know if they are female or male. If you talk to such people long enough, you may also realize it really doesn't matter .

Dishonest truth

Quoting from memory, and without identifying the individual involved so as to respect her privacy: a young woman made a terrible ethical error which ended her career and made her a household name for a while. Decades later, someone who had briefly dated her tracked her down and had a phone conversation in which she said "I am waiting to die." He then wrote an article in an online newspaper in which he infringed her privacy by repeating those words.

In my writing here in the Spectacle, and in my now 7,000 page Mad Manuscript on the idea of free speech, I spend a lot of time analyzing parrhesia, truth telling, and lying, Sophistry, and their impacts on our society, our lives, our future. It is easy to lose sight of a discreet subset of truths, those dishonestly and hurtfully told--parrhesia exercised Sophistically. In my writing, I dubbed a whole zone of human endeavor the "Mixed Model", in which we speak to each other truthfully, for example, about how to lie (Madison Avenue agency meetings, or Nazi conferences on spinning the Final Solution). Telling the truth for the wrong reasons fits into this zone.

Not voting

I have never missed a Presidential election, though I did vote for Ralph Nader in two. I feel bitterness towards those progressives, liberals, registered Democrats who chose not to vote in 2016, and gave us the gift of Donald Trump. There is plenty of anger to go around: it includes the party, and system, which gave us no choice better than Hillary Clinton.

Worse is better?

One reason some people may not have voted in 2016, or even voted hypocritically for Donald Trump, is the thesis that "worse is better", promulgated by German leftists who voted for the Nazi party in 1932, thinking that the revolution would come faster. No, you morons, just a lot of suffering and blooodshed; in most cases, you were probably voting for your own murder.


Mentioned almost without comment: How is it possible that almost seventy years after Brown v. Board of Education, "out of 895 slots in the freshman class, only seven were offered to black students"?

Rape hermeneutics

One of the dialogs inspired by Game of Thrones has been about the trope (also picked up in a SyFy show called The Magicians), that for a powerful woman, rape is a rite of passage, a learning experience. These scenes and their Tropes are creations of men. A few lines north of here, I told the story of a journalist who infringed the privacy of a suffering friend to sell an article. A theme which joins that note to this: there are stories we should refrain from telling. This is not censorship, but compassion. Men probably should not tell rape stories in general--unless they are describing their own experience as victims.