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51ZJd6PimvL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_The Curious Enlightenment of Professor Caritat is a sort of… Gulliver’s Travels of ideology and philosophy. The main character, Professor Caritat, lives in a repressive military state and is arrested because – as a Professor teaching the history of the Enlightenment – he is seen as a security risk.

Broken out of captivity by the resistance, with whom his children are associated, he escapes into the wider world with a mission – if people were to flee his nation (Militaria) – where could they go for a better life? Which world is the best of all possible worlds? Which philosophy, which ideology, produces the best society?

Caritat travels through many lands on his journey and the benefits and drawbacks of each are explored.

He travels through:

  • Militaria – Which embodies safety and security.
  • Utilitaria – Which conducts itself on the principle of value, utility and cost.
  • Communitaria – Which considers identity and culture to be at the pinnacle of importance.
  • A dream vision of a Communist utopia.
  • Libertaria – An anarcho-capitalist country of total ‘freedom to’.
  • Egalitaria – A mythical land he never quite reaches.

It is well written and for any ardent rationalist or admirer of The Enlightenment it is an amusing romp which highlights many of the issues one might see in the current philosophies and ideologies one sees thrown about.

Coming in for particular skewering is identity politics, which is addressed in one of the professor’s letters home:

Communitarians live lives (which they call ‘identities’) that are shaped externally and collectively, not individually and separately; and if they were to try to step outside them they would have no place to stand…

…Nor does it seem possible to pass from one identity to another, or to live several together, or to reject one without having to acquire another…

…At least the Utilitarians believe that every question has an answer that can in principle be calculated. For Communitarians every question-and-answer comes with a point of view and no point of view can be judged superior to any other, since there is no further point of view from which this can be done (though, oddly, they seem to have a point of view from which this, in turn, can be known to be true).

The conclusion is never in too much question, which is – of course – a reassertion of the values of The Enlightenment.

Whenever we pursue one ideal it is disastrous to lose sight of all the others. Doing that is fanaticism. All the countries I have so far visited are run by fanatics with tunnel vision, fanatics obsessed with a single, overriding, all-consuming conception of what gives value to life.

I’ve long suggested that we need a muscular reassertion of Enlightenment values of reason, freedom (both ‘to’ and ‘from’), tolerance and the constant attempt to improve. Identity politics and it’s twin, postmodernism, seem to me to be a huge threat to many of these values and that seems to be being shown true more and more every day.

It’s a good – but imperfect – book. The Professor spends too much time in Utilitaria and too little time in the other nations and other ideologies and philosophies are not examined, still it’s a fine book and a good read.

Style: 4
Substance: 4
Overall: 4/5

Ol’ Mr Gaiman

CJlHrWGUAAAig8hThe white leather ball looked like a perfect shot, for all of two seconds. If there had been a crossbar it was even odds whether it would have hit it or sailed perfectly in through the corner. The problem was that with jumpers for goalposts there wasn’t actually a post, or a crossbar, so the ball continued to shoot through the air and vanished through a hedge in a shower of leaves, dislodging a particularly peeved pigeon.

“Bollocks,” said John, who – at the ripe old age of eight, had mastered the dark art of swearing. “I’ll go get it.”

“No!” cried Rob, at the head of a triangle of other, suddenly bashful and ashen-faced kids.

John turned, mid step and nearly fell over. That ‘no’ had been particularly forceful.

“Why the bollocks not?” that was the trouble with swearwords, when you mastered one you felt the need to use it all the time.

“Ol’ Mr Gaiman lives there!”

“So?” John was genuinely confused. Maybe they’d come up with this silliness while his mum had him at her house for the first half of the summer.

“He’s a monster!”

“No such thing as monsters.” His dad had told him so and his dad worked in a pub, so he knew things.

“He is one! He’s a witch with crazy grey hair, and he talks funny, and he has a human-skin jacket and he’s married to a banshee!”

“A what?”

“It’s an Irish ghost, only this one’s American. Anyone who hears her singing, dies!”

“Bollocks,” said John, again, though it was more heartfelt this time.

“No, it’s true! Toby’s nan kept complaining about her singing all the time, calling her a banshee, and then she died.”

“Of an anti-rhythm in her brain!” offered Toby, helpfully from behind Rob’s legs. He was only four. “Though dad said it’s just because she was angry all the time…” he trailed off, less helpfully.

“And the first week of summer break,” Rob continued. “Luke lost his toy plane over there and went looking for it and nobody saw him again.”

“Didn’t the police come?” John hesitated by the gate to the Gaiman house, hand on the handle, feeling a little unsure.

“He paid them off with his book money to leave him alone! Please, don’t go in there!”

“Nah, it’s bollocks.” John stuck out his chin – you had duties being the big kid – and in he went.

***

“And that,” said Ol’ Man Gaiman, picking young, delicious meat from his teeth with shards of the broken dreams of lesser writers. “Is where I get my ideas.”

blues-scale-piano1

Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together for Tallywhacker Johnson and Penelope Cooze!

*Applause, which slowly dies down as they begin to play The Blues*

Can’t buy me a rubber. Not one that’ll fit.
Maybe if I’m lucky I can finish on her tits.
Oh yeah. I got them big nob blues. Whoa-oh.
Ain’t talkin’ ’bout my balls, oh no.
Talkin big nob blues.

I love my man. I love him of course.
But to take all of those inches I would have to be a horse. 
Oh yeah. I got me them tight cooch blues.
Ain’t havin’ none of that, oh no.
Talkin’ tight cooch blues.

Ya think this is funny, laughin’ at my size.
You wouldn’t find it funny if your helmet bruised your thighs.
Oh yeah. I got them big nob blues. Whoa-oh.
Ain’t talkin’ ’bout my balls, oh no (though, Lord they ache).
Talkin’ big nob blues.

I dropped me some kids, I birthed them with ease.
But don’t come near me with that, oh lord Jesus hear my pleas!
Oh yeah, I got me them tight cooch blues.
Ain’t stickin’ that in me, oh no.
Talkin’ tight cooch blues.

In my desperation, I tried out for a porn.
To get me out took a caesarian and now the poor girl’s torn.
Oh year. I got them big nob blues. Oh Lord.
Cut me down to size please doc.
Talkin’ big nob blues.

My mouth it aches. My hands are fried.
Don’t mention anal because that ain’t ever bein’ tried.
Oh yeah, I got me them tight cooch blues.
Done never bothered with a kegel, oh no.
Talkin’ tight cooch blues.

Every night it’s the same, I have a wet dream.
I’d fold my sheets but they’d shatter before they’re clean.
Oh yeah, I got them big nob blues – no satisfaction!
Ain’t talkin’ ’bout my balls – though they’re blue.
Talkin’ big nob blues.

*Together*
Ain’t talkin’ bout his balls, oh no.
We got them big/tight nob/cooch blues.

*Jangly guitars*

*Applause*

dr81There’s often some core, fundamental beliefs to people that usually stem from some deeply scripted familial programming, experience or self-established values. I think we all have some of these. Mine take me off the chart on the Political Compass in terms of left/libertarian (small ‘l’) values, yet weirdly I more and more often get accused of somehow being racist, sexist or (increasingly) conservative. None of this is accurate and all these accusations go against my core left/lib values.

I’ve come to see – largely via involvement in Gamergate – that this divide isn’t a left/right one, much as it is characterised as such, but rather a libertarian/authoritarian conflict that is being characterised as a left/right one. ‘Conservative’ has become an insult, and as an old-school lefty living under a Conservative government, it’s easy to see why, but it is being misapplied in much the same way ‘socialist’ or ‘Marxist’ gets abused as an insult by the US right wing. It shuts down discussion, reduces things to tribalism, much like empty accusations of sexism or racism do.

If I had to write down my core values they would probably look something like this:

  • Logic, reason and evidence having the greatest worth in problem solving.
  • The value of individualism.
  • The value of maximum possible liberty, individually AND collectively.
  • Challenging authority.
  • Skepticism.
  • Science as the most efficacious method of addressing problems.
  • Tolerance – ‘Do what thou wilt, so long as it harms none’.
  • Equality.
  • Fairness.

Pretty much the values of The Enlightenment, all told and while some people do, indeed, object to these ideas by wanting equity over equality and disregarding objective science as somehow being white imperialism, most rational people surely couldn’t particularly object to any of these on principle, could they?

So where’s the problem and why, knowing my own mind as I do, and knowing that I’m not sexist, racist or any of these other accusations do they bother me so? Why do they both me sufficiently that I sit down and work through my thoughts on the issue in a blog post? Let’s have a look at a few of the areas of contention and work through these thoughts – I think better in writing so this blog is really more for me than anyone else, though I’m interested in your comments.

Feminism

If I describe myself as being anti-feminist, what’s the message received by that statement?

If you look to the dictionary it will tell you that feminism is about equality (at least on a cursory reading) and most people would take feminism to mean things like women having the vote, legal equality and so on. People also tend to equate feminism (the ideology) with women (people) which is a bit disingenuous, like equating Putinesque nationalism (ideology) with Russians (people). The one doesn’t necessarily follow from the other.

So if I say I’m anti-feminist, you – perhaps understandably – think that must mean that I hate women, regard them as inferior, don’t want them to have equality and so on and so forth.

However, that’s not the message being communicated.

When I describe myself as anti-feminist I am talking about the modern kind of censorious, authoritarian, overreaching feminism. The kind that labels all men rapists. The kind that wants to censor and control a great many forms of artistic expression. I’m talking about the kind of misandrist, pseudo-scientific, sex-negative feminism found in the likes of Anita Sarkeesian, Jessica Valenti, Gail Dines etc. The kind you find on Tumblr, swigging from ‘male tears’ mugs and tweeting unironically on #killallmen. The Bahar Mustaphas, the exploiters. The people that campaign to restrict artistic expression, to put trigger warnings on everything, lie about statistics and even want to strip men of the right to a fair trial in cases of alleged sex crimes.

This is the third-to-fourth wave feminism that dominates the current discourse and that is what I’m opposing, precisely because of my core beliefs of liberty, equality and fairness.

Are there still problems women face? Yes, largely in the third world and especially in Muslim communities and countries, but these need to be addressed – in my opinion – by egalitarianism, not feminism.

Men’s Human Rights

If I describe myself as a Men’s Human Rights Activist, which I didn’t until fairly recently, what reaction would you have?

This betrays a certain hypocrisy in people, because if you define feminism purely by its dictionary definition then why not men’s human rights? Who could possibly object to men having human rights after all? In this case, however, it’s not the meaning that counts is it? It’s the supposed actions and other factors.

I was describing myself merely as someone who was interested in men’s issues, but enough people spat ‘MRA’ at me as though it were an insult I decided I might as well adopt it and make it my own.

Are there issues with men’s rights activism? Yes. Absolutely. Just as there are with feminism but, on the whole, I’ve found MHRAs to be much more amenable to discussion, debate, dissent and to hold a much more rationalist viewpoint – which appeals for obvious reasons (core values). There’s a lot of bitter men in the MHRA movement, just as there’s a lot of bitter women in feminism – both with good reasons – but that doesn’t invalidate the problems men genuinely face, nor the problems that women genuinely face.

So when I say ‘MHRA’ you hear ‘woman hater’, ‘whiner’ and it goes against the peddled narrative that women are oppressed and downtrodden, even though – at least in the West – that can’t really still be said to hold true.

The message actually being transmitted is that ‘men are facing a huge amount of problems in our society and I want to address them and campaign to see men getting a more equitable and fair deal’.

Fairness, equality, core values again – plus I have a vested personal interest in men getting a fairer deal in terms of medical access, especially mental health.

Gamergate

If I say I’m part of Gamergate, and have been since its inception (going on ten months), what’s the message you get from that? If you know nothing but what the media tells you, Gamergate is – supposedly – an organised harassment campaign to push women and minorities out of games.

That’s absolute bullshit, but it has been the mass-media and games media message as well as being one hijacked and tacked on by existing ‘SJW’ activists within the industry.

Is that the message being transmitted though?

No.

When I say I’m part of Gamergate I’m saying I want ethical media around games (and given the hatchet jobs by lazy mainstream media, there too). I’m saying I want game creators to be free to make games according to their vision without being harassed, demonised and shamed by ‘SJWs’ and I’m saying I want to be informed about the games I might want to buy, not the political and social biases of the reviewer (at least not in a review).

Conclusion

When people accuse me of these things it does give me pause and cause me to take the time to examine myself – again.

When someone calls me sexist I stop and I think ‘Am I?’ and I’m forced to conclude that no, I am not. I think we should all be treated equally on the basis of gender and if thinking that means no special privileges for women (or men) is sexist, then so be it. It doesn’t meet the definition though.

It’s the same with racism and it’s the same with everything else.

Questioning bad ideas, challenging conclusions that don’t follow from the evidence, calling ‘bullshit’ on spurious claims of misogyny, racism or other prejudice does not confirm that prejudice or mean you have that prejudice. It means you’re skeptical, that you demand evidence, that ideas should survive the application of logic and reason before we accept them.

That’s being a responsible, rational human being.

Not a bigot.

IF you think I am being such, ever, you’re welcome to point it out – but do so reasonably and don’t just fling accusations. Nor would disagreeing with you confirm your accusations. There’s room for disagreement and we’re unlikely to agree on everything (or anything!) but discussion is always better.

B4iqEOOCQAAs_8uA couple of friends who work in the industry have been bemoaning the state of it lately. The problem is that people watch porn for free and don’t pay for it – at least people in the West don’t seem to. The main market seems to be abroad where people are willing to pay for it.

Piracy isn’t as straightforward a moral or ethical issue as people like to make it, but let’s not get tangled up in that right now.

Pornography is usually a tech-leader and innovator, but it seems to be failing to deal with the issues that music and film has been, to an extent, managing to deal with. Between iTunes (and its imitators), Spotify, Netflix and so on, the things that led people to pirates films, TV series and music have been addressed and these have shown that people are willing to pay a reasonable price for a product provided its convenient and available.

Porn, in contrast, is still following older models. Sites try to sell you subscriptions rather than letting you buy a film or scene individually. It’s not easy or immediate to get your hands on paid porn and you can’t use established and trusted payment services either. This combination is off-putting in and of itself, without even considering the unique social factors relating to porn. Not to mention that you can’t stream it via your games consoles etc in the same way you can with films.

  • People want to remain anonymous when buying sensitive material.
  • Pornography has a largely undeserved reputation as a risky prospect – making people wary of risking ID theft etc.
  • People don’t want such purchases showing up in their account records.
  • People feel less guilty about ripping off porn producers because it’s not seen as art/worthy or something to support.

I don’t honestly know what the porn industry can do about any of this. They get gouged as a ‘risky purchase’ by the payment services that do work with them and many don’t. Paypal is, effectively, the only game in town, when it comes to intermediary payments and they won’t work with porn and aren’t happy about working with erotica and other more acceptable adult services.

People like Cindy Gallop have mooted the idea of creating a less censorious payment service, but getting venture capital backing or anyone willing to work on that issue is hard (and she has her own prejudices, which don’t help). Banks are barely willing to work with adult services as things stand, online payment services are dead set against. Surcharges are levelled and all of this makes shifting the paradigm of payment and delivery exceedingly difficult.

I don’t see a way around these issues without a shift in the attitude of payment services and banks, at the very least. I also don’t see that happening in what seems to be an increasingly puritanical society in which corporate censorship is ever on the increase. Advertisers don’t want to be associated with porn, neither do payment services and all of this despite porn being a (roughly) hundred-billion dollar industry, even with all these woes and problems.

Why should this matter to the rest of us?

It’s often said that pornography is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to free speech. I think that’s as true for corporate censorship as it is for government censorship and these problems are likely to creep further and expand more broadly to affect written erotica and, probably, eventually, other areas like games.

Creators deserve to get paid for their work and to do that we need to make it easier to pay them. That affects everyone who makes things and sells them online.

Finding Grim-O

Originally posted on Postmortem Studios:

doc2QWawHere’s most (all?) of the places you can find me and my stuff online.

Paypal Donations – If you want to one-off support my work.
Patreon – If you want to support me more long term in making stories, videos and games.

Cafepress – Merchandising, mostly from my games.
Hardcopy board and card games.
Hardcopy books and RPGs
Download RPGs
Things I’ve done that are on Amazon
Fiction downloads.

Twitter
Facebook
Googleplus
Youtube

Postmortem Studios blog
Writing and personal blog
Lyssa’s Year (daily textual ‘webcomic’, currently a bit behind)
The Dude’s Abode – Men’s issue blogs
Athefist – Atheism/skepticism blog

View original

208B-002-040So if you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know your feed zooms along pretty fast.

You’ll also know that you end up seeing a hell of a lot of crap.

‘Inspirational’ tweets, ‘motivational’ image macros, nonsense.

Part of the reason I’m pretty active on social media is that it’s stimulating, the cut and thrust of witty commentary, the opportunity to make someone smile by adding a joke or a double entendre.

Sometimes that goes horribly wrong…

So what appears to be a Hallmark comment comes across my feed, something that appears to be the kind of trite homespun wisdom you see a hundred times a day. Something like…

‘Whoever said laughter is the best medicine hasn’t heard of cancer’.

To which I replied…

‘That’s just because you’ve got no sense of tumour’.

Which, come on, is a pretty goddamn funny line.

Unless the person you say it to has had their tweet retweeted out of context and is actually talking about their child, who has cancer. That’ll take you from wryly amused to your heart sinking through your boots in a moment.

Before you can type an apology someone’s retweeted it and their followers are on you like Nicholas Witchell’s tongue on a Royal boot, only the opposite of obsequious.

Fortunately, as bad as things could have gotten we sorted it out immediately with me apologising and the various tweets getting deleted, but it strikes me as a good example of how we need to be careful and how we need to develop a new set of social rules for interacting online.

The internet has the immediacy of conversation and the longevity of the written word and, at the moment, we treat it like whichever one of those is the worst.

That’s got to change.

‘No sense of tumour’ is still a good line though.

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