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On Pacifism and Nazis August 16, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.
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(Adapted from this thread. See here for recent positive mainstream coverage of antifascism.)

I’m not quite a pacifist, but my ideal is nonviolence, the complete absence of coercion. That’s a key reason for my opposition to the state and to all oppression, domination, and hierarchy.

The problem with strict pacifism is that you just get killed or imprisoned by those willing to employ force.

In the abstract, I’d prefer to persuade Nazis of the harm they’re doing rather than to punch them. Using pain and terror to condition thought and behavior stands out as antithetical to my values. In theory, I don’t even like shaming people for expressing Nazis or other beliefs. I want everyone to be able to independently investigate what’s true and what’s good rather than being compelled or pressured. Coercion based on ideas potentially impedes our understanding of material reality.

In a perfect world, I’d want to physically intervene in any hurtful material polices fascists and sundry tried to implement but otherwise debate them based on the conventions of rational exchange. (This includes passionately telling them how harmful their ideas are.) Interventions would be forceful without trying to cause pain or injury. Examples include crowding around folks to shut down harassment, swarming a prison or detention facility, and unarresting people without throwing punches. The principle is to take the action that involves the minimum suffering of feeling beings. Improving technology should provide increasingly effective ways to do this.

Of course, in practice the stakes are very high: fascism and other nightmarish ideologies cause vast suffering. I accept that wielding the weapons of shaming, harassment, and preemptive violence against fascists can do more good than harm under current circumstances. I wonder where it ends, but that’s not the most pressing concern. Violence may well be the last refuge of the incompetent; we’re pretty incompetent right now. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I hope (and suspect) we can get better.

Personally, I can’t literally bash the fash out of fear I’d enjoy it too much and spiral out of control. I respect those who manage that balancing act.

Lonely Robots: Transhumanist Responses to Unfuckability July 4, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Feminism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Soon after I mentioned being genderqueer during a conversation at the Extreme Futurist Festival 2011, the person I was talking to responded, “Wow, it must be hard for you to find sexual partners!”

“Gee, thanks,” I thought. As tactless as that remark may have been, it wasn’t wrong. This piece by Meredith Talusan explores some of the dynamics involved. Unfortunately, complaining about not getting laid immediately calls to mind masculine sexual entitlement to women’s bodies. I’m not sure it can escape that established trope.

The question of who’s considered attractive and who receives affection matters, but it’s unclear what to do. Most successful folks on the left and elsewhere enjoy their social power and/or romantic/sexual attractiveness. Critiques of the status quo as making it difficult for some to realize their desires potentially unsettle the existing elite, so they’ve no interest in pushing such critiques.

It’s telling Talusan’s article centers the achievement of Jacob Tobia and Alok Vaid-Menon, taking for granted the notion that prominent folks should get dates. What about all the humans who conform to neither ideals of attractiveness nor of success?

Well, nobody cares about those losers!

Imagenes Tristes 84

Anybody who values the overall good should care, though, and some do, or at least pretend to. Transhumanism offers various theoretical easy fixes to the problems of loneliness and unfuckability, albeit with severe implementation issues and philosophical implications.

Morphological Freedom

Wait, some people are poor, ugly, crazy, and/or sick? Let’s use technology to get them up to standard. We can all be sexy immortal billionaires!

A lot of transhumanists think this way.

As simplistic as this perspective is seems, the difficulty if not impossibility of conforming to existing norms indeed accounts for much of their oppressive power. Currently, the genetic lottery, money, and time determine who’s beautiful, hot, sexy, stunning, etc. If anybody could make their body match ideals of physical beauty, the advantage the genetic elite have in this regard would evaporate.

On the other hand, the normatively gorgeous don’t necessarily have the kind of sexual and romantic relationships they want, so opening access to beauty hardly seems sufficient. Additionally, what about folks who chose unpopular aesthetics? They might still find themselves undesirable despite full morphological freedom. Additionally, deprived of the genetic hierarchy, attractiveness norms could shift to become akin to fashion: “Girl, that body is so last month!”

The prospect of modifying minds quickly leads to questioning the basis of individual identity. For example, assuming I could make myself think and behave as popular and successful people do, would I want to? What about rewiring my mind to disregard social status and affection entirely? Would I still be me if I did either of those? I don’t know. Many of us stubbornly wish to remain who we imagine ourselves to be.

Matching Algorithms

Given the wide array of different desires folks have, morphological freedom by itself seems inadequate for solving the problem of loneliness and unfuckability. And of course full morphological freedom would require technological innovation and economic transformation; it’s a long way off.

However, there’s potential to make things dramatically better in the nearer term. Matching algorithms, such as featured on dating sites like OkCupid, can facilitate connections and enable romantic/sexual relationships. This ain’t necessarily that great at the moment, but the principle of aligning people’s desires, interests, etc. has promise. As big the world is, there’s probably at least a few folks somewhere whose desires match up with any given person’s at any given time.

For instance, let’s say I want to get tied up right now. I don’t know anyone who I think would be interested, but there’s a decent chance one or more of the planet’s seven and half billion humans is, especially if they had an idea of who I am and a basic level of trust. There might even be somebody my city or neighborhood.

Increasingly sophisticated digital networks can theoretically hook people up for both romantic/sexual relationships and other interactions, decreasing loneliness and improving quality of life. We already try to do this with our social media, though it’s a rather blunt instrument at present.

Sexbots

Certain transhumanists and others look optimistically to sexbots, predicting physical and mental health benefits. Yet, in addition to raising questions about objectification, sexbots are unlikely be able to convey the social status associated with romantic/sexual desirability. While some may eventually function as romantic partners, this wouldn’t be equivalent to human partnership unless they had human-level or above artificial intelligence and autonomy like a human. Sexbots might well alleviate the pain of unfuckability by human standards, but it’s unlikely they would completely resolve the problem. As Sherry Turkle and company argue, the prospect of sex and love with robots has the potential pitfalls. I find those concerns mostly misguided but relevant here.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality offers a number of benefits for sexual/romantic relations, whether between humans or between humans and AIs. VR makes change ones appearance trivial, eliminating that aspect of the genetic lottery. By transcending geographic limitations, VR in conjunction with matching algorithms could dramatically increase the odds of meaningful connections.

VR sexbots have the same issues as physical ones, albeit with perhaps less stigma. With or without sexual/romantic elements, VR worlds could simulate social status, as games do today. Losing oneself in VR entails similar philosophical challenges to transforming one’s psyche as described above.

Conclusion

None of the above technologies can replace the political and social project of creating a more accessible and fulfilling society, but they can assist in that project and make life more livable in any case.

When Anarcho-Transhumanists Attack: Cyborgs vs. Tanks July 2, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Transhumanism.
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Bizarrely enough, my presence at a protest of the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) here in Albuquerque has sparked rumors that “anarcho-transhumanists” connected to the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) “fucked up” a PSL office.

For the record, I only showed up to the protest. I didn’t organize it. I’m not connected to C4SS beyond knowing William Gillis and liking some C4SS content.

It’s challenging to succinctly describe what went down because lots of us continue to debate it locally. I attempt an overview here.

For context, the PSL has been operating in ABQ for some years now. Various radical and progressive groups and individuals have had issues working with them. Earlier this year, the Red Nation broke with the PSL and published a statement accusing the party of anti-Indianism and sexism.

The protest on June 23 was called by various community members. They billed it as “Shut Down PSL” on Facebook. The PSL event in question was a Juneteenth event, which the protest organizers described as part of the PSL’s pattern of exploiting marginalized communities. There were no black speakers physically present at the event and few or no black folks in attendance.

I was with the protesters as they walked up to the PSL office. It quickly turned into a verbal confrontation. Eventually the PSL folks withdrew into their office and locked the doors. The police showed but didn’t do much beyond hanging around and talking with some people. Certain protesters did offer water to police and invoke them against the PSL (“they said you’re wack too!”). The PSL has tried to use this police interaction to discredit protesters.

Later on, after police left, a white neighbor came out holding a pistol and threatened protesters. This neighbor had apparently called the cops because eir nine-year-old son was scared Black Lives Matter was holding people hostage across the street. The neighbor shouted anti-BLM right-wing talking points. Medics ducked behind a car and prepared for the worst, which thankfully didn’t happen. Protesters managed to deescalate the situation.

Thursday, June 29, the PSL published a statement denouncing the protesters and saying somebody broke the windows to their office the night after the protest.

Debates on social media have been raging since then. It’s all a mess; for better or worse that’s how community is. I don’t agree with a fair amount of what the anti-PSL protesters did or said but I tend to believe the allegations of abuse from the Red Nation and others. I support calling out and confronting oppressive behavior.

Of course, as an anarchist, I additionally have a ideological axe to grind against the PSL and all other Leninists.

Over the course of debating this protest on social media, a PSL fan has threatened to contact my employer in order to silence criticism of the PSL.

Threats to give an employer public information are curious, but I assume I should be quaking in my rocket boots.

Pride’s Queer Future June 27, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Feminism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Transhumanism.
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The year is 2020.

Pride events across the United States have banned cops, corporations, Zionism, & U.S. nationalism.

Talking heads rail about intersectionality as masked queers loot banks and big-box stores.

Cishet white men approach with caution, assuming the SJW mob will rip them apart. Instead they find themselves caught up in the revolutionary fervor.

Semi-autonomous remote-controlled drones assault police cars and stations massive numbers.

Law and order breaks down. It’s chaos in the streets.

New worlds are forming.

Remembering the Pulse Massacre in 2017 June 12, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Queer politics.
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I’m sharing this 2016 post from Ali A. Rizvi to highlight how ex-Muslim voices matter and how all Abrahamic scriptures are antiqueer. Various prominent ex-Muslims offer of a compelling critique of the Islamophobia discourse that appears dominant on the Western left at present. We anarchists in particular need to do better in this regard. It’s a difficult issue to navigate and ex-Muslims like Rizvi and Sarah Haider have meh politics overall, but fundamentally our sympathies should lie with apostates, blasphemers, and so on.

Pride 2017 June 10, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Queer politics.
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I took this during Pride events in Albuquerque today. Let’s simultaneously oppose antiqueer violence, borders, and xenophobia.

In Washington, DC, radicals disrupted the Pride celebration with banners calling attention to various forms of oppression: the police, colonial oil pipelines on Native land, and deportations.

I’d love to see more actions like this. I wish there’d been one here. There was an alternative Pride event calling out the main Pride event for being corporate. A few radicals marched in the main one, myself included, but it wasn’t like what went down in DC. We didn’t disrupt. It’s usually correct to disrupt.

Unlike last year, I refrained from disruption. I put up anarchist stickers and mostly kept my mouth shut. Despite all the hype around Donald Trump’s election and what you’d hope would be an era of intensified resistance, life goes on. Everyday concerns remain dominant for most of us.

Here’s to ever-increasing queerness in all the senses of the word. Expect the future to be even weirder than the present. If you think we’re freaks now, just wait!

On the Merits of Refusing Saints and Sacredness: The Vegan Trolling of Chelsea Manning May 20, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.
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Chelsea Manning Go vegan

Twitter user (((mikayla))) has made rounds in radical circles for telling Chelsea Manning to “Go vegan” in response a pizza post Manning made after eir release from prison.

Obligatory virtue-signalling: Of course Manning deserves the status of radical saint if anyone does. Ey’s an inspiration to revolutionaries across the United States and the world. Hell, even Richard Spencer gives props.

I initially reacted to the “Go vegan” comment with the expected scorn, interpreting it as disrespectful to Manning and woefully out of place. Upon further reflection, I don’t know that comment was wrong. It violated social norms, definitely. It wasn’t cool/hip/proper/tactful/etc. But I’m all about smashing norms.

I sympathize with the act of making a legitimate ethical claims at an inopportune times, of ignoring the implicit sacredness of Chelsea Manning right after release. It’s kind of like calling out Louise Rosealma for their dreadlocks after seeing them get punched by Nathan Damigo. Assuming you agree with cultural-appropriation arguments about the racism of dreadlocks on white people, it’s a fair critique to make even if bringing it up is arguably a jerk move in context.

Personally, while I eat vegan and more or less hold vegan ethical principles, I don’t talk or write much about it. I tell myself I do this because I care about humans more than other animals and because focusing on veganism doesn’t accomplish anything under most circumstances. In terms of self-interest, nonhuman animal suffering doesn’t directly affect me as a human and veganism isn’t super popular in my local radical scene, so it’s convenient to put it on the back burner.

My point here is about the dynamic of disregarding sacredness. I perceive potential in that model. In all (most?) human social systems I’m familiar with, certain folks have an inviolable aura. You’re not supposed to mess with these people, which typically forbids anything that could be interpreted as critical. Sometimes it’s your grandparents. Sometimes it’s your boss, a distinguished scholar, or a pillar of the movement. As with all social power, this lends itself to abuse, inefficiency, and other bad outcomes.

Anarchism, science, and critical theory alike reject such sacredness and encourage asking questions. If taken too seriously, this principle threatens the foundations of society. What’d be the point doing anything if any random jackass with a decent argument could still criticize you without your fans/family/friends/colleagues slapping them down? Isn’t it fundamentally human to both give and desire to receive deference? Incessant rational critique stands out as downright alien and monstrous.

Maybe so. I feel the pull of social capitalism, of prestige, of increased status, and so on. I virtue signal to my ingroup(s) regularly. Regardless, I ultimately want to abolish or at least radically transform  current webs of social power. Refusing the sacredness of a radical saint like Chelsea Manning leads in that direction.

Against All Authority May 14, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Anarchism, Feminism, Queer politics.
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¡Sin excepciones! No exceptions. Regardless of sentimentality, freedom means unmaking parental authority along with all other social hierarchies. The nuclear family serves as a practical and conceptual basis for oppression. I remain drawn to Shulamith Firestone’s thought in part because of how ey identified this dynamic.

Happy Anarchy Day May 1, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.
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On Decolonizing the March for Science April 22, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Epistemology, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Today’s March for Science unsurprisingly prompted critiques of science from an antiracist and decolonial perspective. This one, from the Seattle group Women of Color Speak out, came across my social media. The post describes unsuccessful attempts to reach out to the local March for Science and make the event less “less racist/elitist/colonialist/sexist.”  Women of Color Speak Out’s first three points to the “Western White Cis Male Scientific Community” come much recommended:

1. We need a great deal of healing before the scientific community can be credible to the general public in terms of equity and “inclusivity” (inclusivity is a white supremacist term, implies that they are doing minorities a favor instead of simply doing the right thing).

2. In order for the scientific community to begin regaining trust of POC and marginalized people, they need to openly acknowledge how they have failed us for decades with their inaction on climate change. They must openly acknowledge that they have failed the Global South, POC, poor people, Indigenous peoples, and Womxn.

3. The scientific community must acknowledge that by staying silent for decades they have served the White Colonial Empire before the needs of humanity and nature.

Overall, the scientific establishment indeed served, and often continues to serve, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, ableism, heteropatriarchy, and other forms of oppression. Disentangling science a method, as a principle, from these pernicious systems of thought and action will take some doing. Women of Color Speak Out’s first points trace part of this long-term process.

Point four, by contrast, strikes me as misguided:

4. In their values they say ‘Science is the BEST method for understanding the world’. This will greatly offend Indigenous communities, POC, and faith communities. This divisive messaging should be muted to ‘Science is an EXCELLENT method to understand the world’.

While I can see the logic behind lumping Indigenous communities with faith communities here, the addition of POC as well make it curiouser and curiouser. Though not necessarily always accurate or helpful, the narrative of indigeneity as entailing a worldview or worldviews distinct from and presumably at odds with the “Western” scientific one stands firmly established. But why exactly are people of color as a whole prone to taking offense to privileging scientific epistemology? Unlike Indigenous communities and faith communities, there’s nothing definitional to the category “people of color” that implies some epistemology or epistemologies in tension with science.

The fact that science offends faith communities (and other communities) strikes me as one of its beneficial social effects rather than something to avoid or minimize. As argued by Meera Nanda and William Gillis, anything-goes epistemological pluralism and situated knowledges rarely lead toward freedom.

Nanda’s argument from “The Epistemic Charity of the Social Constructivist Critics of Science and Why the Third World Should Refuse the Offer” merits quoting at length:

It is my contention that the epistemic charity of the postmodern and the postcolonial science critics lies in the constitutive role they assign to social relations and cultural narratives in providing the norms of truth. Because they see nothing—not truth, not beauty, not goodness—that is not fully social, they see the free play and autonomy of local webs of meanings as the supreme priority, not to be constrained by any ‘transcendent’ goal. But such a view of knowledge is problematic on at least three counts: (1) It allows social relations and cultural meanings, as they exist today with all their inequities and oppressions, to set limits on what we can know about the world. (2) Simultaneously, it disables any critique of the existing relations and meanings based on knowledge not derived from these same social relations. (3) Last but not the least, it delegitimizes and denigrates intellectuals and movements that bring modern science and scientific temper to bear on local knowledges. As we see in the following scenarios, under the prevailing contexts in most of the Third World, such a logic ends up strengthening those upholding the status quo, be they traditional cultural elites or the modern state. The losers in all these cases are the internal critics—people’s science movements, human rights, and democracy movements—that attempt to challenge the existing cultural mores by using the ‘alien’ worldview of science.

Now, Nanda’s generalization of the Third World (with the valuable qualifier “most of”) obscures important complexities and may not apply to Indigenous peoples in North America and elsewhere. The core logic remains sound nonetheless. Knowledge about our shared material and social world matters. Insulating situated local knowledges from outside engagement, including challenges, facilities abuse.

I hope the growing movement to decolonize science can avoid falling into this trap. I hope transhumanists, especially without a background in antiracism and similar, take seriously critiques of science from Women of Color Speak Out and others.