Some musings, then politics, then a topic.
- Fall has always been a season-of-many-migraines for me; I'm still slogging through it, and still losing a few days here and there. Today and yesterday have been the other side of that; a physical high combined with greater-than-normal sharpness of thought. I probably should figure out some way to make better use of these really good days.
- I posted some pictures of IndyHall on my Google+ space, and I've been thinking it'd be great to see CoWorking spaces set up in more cities. IndyHall does have a bit of a vibe I don't really like, in that it's more business-entrepreneur-tech rather than geeky-academic-science-tech, but it's close enough to what I want to be likable and well-worth-subscribing-to. I thought this article on how IndyHall was started/funded was pretty interesting.
- Making trip to Greater Cambridge soon for MIT job interview. Also talking to a few other potential employers in various places.
- I've also been rocking out to dummeh, AKA Blake Robinson, who does really great covers of classic videogame music.
- There's a chance I'll be making a short trip to DC to visit my cousin and do a bit of database/CGI volunteer work for her immigration-rights-related employer.
- Semi-recently went to an atheist meetup downtown. I didn't like it that much; ended up seated across from a Russian Objectivist who kept wasting my time trying to simply articulate how much she disliked socialism (basically stumbling over the same spit words rather than having any kind of productive discussion). The group did have an okay conversation on morality alongside that though. It might've been better if more of the people there wern't trying to out-atheist each other. I'm comfortable in my atheism, and it's a waste of my time to hear people gleefully find ways to spit on religion, particularly when I feel I have to correct them when they say other stupid things along the way (like the idea what eliminating religion will result in easy world peace). I think some of this is because so many people go to these groups for the first time while living a life where they have to hide their atheist identity, and not feeling that pressure gives them license to "stretch out" and say cathartic things. Still irritating, even if understandable!
- I recently came across this BBC article on voluntary cash-gifts to the US government. I think this is generally a good thing, although I resent Grover Norquist's suggestion that this is a reasonable alternative to raising taxes on the wealthy. Our government needs stable sources of funding, and ideally it should do much more than it does today. The distinction between luxury-wealth and survival-funds makes heavily-gradated taxes fundamentally just (see also wealth as revokable privilege to goods/services); our tax policy should reflect that.
- As you may have heard, recently Saudi women gained the privilege to vote and to stand in elections for the advisory body. Saudi Arabia does not have much of a formal political system (although informally, it has a vibrant and interesting one); now women have equal meagre privilege in what little formal system exists. The right to drive without male accompaniment is still being fought over in the informal system, and the wrangling in the legal system reflects that.
- I am still aghast at the stupid things coming out of would-be Republican Presidents' mouths. Huntsman and Roemer might be okay, and Gingrich would be meh, but the others seem to be a mix of despicable and crazy. I'd like to see a more inspiring Democrat run against Obama, but that probably would not go anywhere.
- If I end up in Cambridge, I might volunteer for Elizabeth Warren's Senate campaign; despite her being considerably to the right of me, I believe she'd be likely to push very hard on issues of campaign finance reform and consumer welfare. Likewise, if Buddy Roemer were somehow to secure the Republican nomination as a presidential candidate, I might vote for him over Obama, over the same issues.
- I generally like Vladimir Putin as a Russian national leader, and don't object to his continued leadership. However, I don't think it's very classy that his finance minister was fired for objecting to some of his policies. I believe we should judge national leaders by the effectiveness and decency of their leadership, democratic or not, but it should be generally understood that dissent (even open dissent) is okay even among their team provided it does not prevent implementation of their policy. To carry this over into analysis of Syria, and to contrast it to Soviet-era managing of the revolution, any crushing of dissent must only be entered into as a last resort and weighed carefully against the human and political costs. Governments should not be about the glory of their leaders. Crushing the Kronstadt rebellion was unacceptable because the demands stated in the Petropavlovsk resolution were reasonable and in accordance with what should've been the goals of the revolution. Likewise, Assad's heavy-handed response to the rebellions in Syria are unacceptable because the reasons for the rebellion (objections to his family's continued stewardship of the nation, objections to stifling dissent, and similar) are reasonable. By contrast, the initial forms of the Soviet Revolution, including the execution of the Romanovs and the military struggle against the White Army, were reasonable in that they sought and gained substantial positive political gains for the Russian people and permanently buried the possibility of the continued leadership of the Tsars.
- Pornography generally objectivises those portrayed in it, contributing to a tendency to treat women as sex toys rather than actual people. In doing so, it continues mail dominance in relationships as males who have pornography as a regular part of their have unrealistic sexual expectations of women. As men gain sexual gratification without putting effort into a balanced relationship, they discount the comprimise necessary for that, leading to bad relational habits.
- While most pornography treats women as disposable sex toys, devoid of depth beyond a sex drive, and leads men to demand those characteristics of women, it is possible to create acceptable porn (see "feminist porn") that is not objectifying in problematic ways. By criticising porn that does objectify women, we can open the door to nonobjectionable porn that treats women as real entities who are seeking to have their own interests/needs met rather than have them act as recipients of male desire
- Anything goes in porn, because porn is not reality and we trust that people's sexual interests will either be met with a willing/enthusiastic partner or that porn will act as a release for some of those interests that don't need to be carried out in their actual sexual relations.
Beyond this, I believe that porn is generally a positive thing, and should be societally accepted but enjoyed mostly behind closed doors because of how personal interests are and how people often don't-want-to-know about the sexual specifics of those around them.
On a related topic, on sex-workers, I believe sex-work as a profession should be rejected and illegal, not on specifically-feminist grounds but on grounds more rooted in that of socialism. I recognise the concept of wage-slavery and generally accept it but don't find it more than moderately problematic; I believe that people should be guaranteed a livable-life without labour but productive labour should be required for further privilege, and culturally expected. This is not something I am actively fighting for right now. However, I believe that sexuality is psychologically special, and that we should guard against the possibility that people may effectively be forced into sexual work because of economic necessity (or use of private power often used by pimps), because the harm of being effectively forced into sexual labour is much greater than the harm of being forced into menial labour. This justifies, in my framework, a condemnation and prohibition of paid sex work.
On the topics of free-love, marriage, and polyamory:
- I accept free-love as permissible, but do not hold it as preferable. I reject the notion of all marriage as a heteronormative institution; women and men in modern western marriages (should) have equal claim over each other, and it is reasonable that people might want to find a life-partner. Beyond being reasonable, I believe (as a personal belief that I am not prepared to justify at this moment) that monogamous relationships between two partners merit a more paved-path than other kinds of relationships. This is roughly where I stand with polyamory as well; it should be permitted but not prized. Some of my stake in this is personal; I am not very interested in a polyamorous relationship (might be persuadable to try, but I think it is very likely it would not be workable for me). I do not want monogamous relationships to lose enough of their normative status that it will deeply further limit my options (and those of people like me) in terms of what I can get in relationships. This is admittedly selfish and insufficient to justify my distaste (there is a part of me that is curious and would like to try one, but it is a minority opinion) for polyamory/open-relationships.
- I advocate for a societal norm of relationships with even power-balances, with acceptance of relationship-dominance or relationship-submission of people of whatever sex as being acceptable alternatives provided this is a personal choice on behalf of both of those involved
- I reject any subculture that would excessively-nudge or require people of either sex or social class into a particularly dominant or submissive role, in relationships or otherwise. This is sufficiently undesirable that censorship and/or other use of state power is desirable to prevent its continuation.
There is one perspective on sex-in-general that I have heard but not (yet) come to understand. As an undergraduate, I have met some people who had, as part of their type of feminism, the idea that all heterosexual sex is inherently unjust and has sufficient unavoidable power-dynamics that it amounts to rape. I have not been exposed to enough of the arguments of this way-of-thinking to adequately understand it (and am hesitant to try to extend what I state here further in ways that seem reasonable to me, for fear of misunderstanding their position).