Purpose at 42

Humanity must survive. Human civilization must survive. Our primary goal as a species should be to survive. Preferably in such a way that each individual human gets to live a long life which is happy or fulfilling or both. But if we can’t have that, we should at least avoid extinction.

Yesterday I turned 42. I should let this coming year of my life be a year which is about life, the universe and everything.

Today I read “The Uninhabitable Earth” a text about how global warming may destroy the permafrost, the rainforests and the seas, plunging the biosphere into a bad circle which may eventually extinguish all life. Nothing new. I knew this already. But what can we do about it?

Faith and belief cannot save us: While our prayers and rituals of penance and other magic may help us feel better for the moment, they do not truly change the course of the climate.

Biology cannot save us. This is about technology. (Including, of course, biotech.)

Technology alone cannot save us. This is about not only how we develop technology, but also about how we use it.

Choices made and actions taken at the individual level cannot save us. Neither can choices made and actions taken at the group level, community level, or national level. This is a global issue for all of humanity to solve together.

We cannot be saved by “strong leaders”, as any leader is unavoidably stuck in endless power struggles. Democracy gives us a far better chance, and it requires us all to be reasonably sensible. We must all bear the responsibilities together.

Every single human being is a part of humanity and of the human civilization. Each of us is part of this biosphere, and also a part of what I like to call the culosphere. Just like every biological lifeform on this planet is part of the biosphere, so to is every sentient mind part of the culosphere. Just like all biotopes are part of the same biosphere, so too are all cultures and subcultures part of the same culosphere.

Every single human being is a part of humanity, a part of the biosphere, a part of the culosphere. Each of us has a responsibility and a duty to humanity. Each of us has a responsibility and a duty to the biosphere. Each of us has a responsibility and a duty to the culosphere. This may sound heavy, which may in turn mislead us to navelgazing and magical thinking. Beware of identities and narratives which offer a sense of salvation. Beware of meaningless acts of penance which make us feel that we are doing our part. The duty which we the humans have is to actually fix the problems we are causing. Not to uphold any set of beliefs, identities or rituals.

The article “The Uninhabitable Earth” has been “criticized for being overly pessimistic and for scaring people. We should do well to remember that it is neither pure speculation nor pure fact: It is speculation based on facts, and should be taken as a warning about real dangers rather than as any kind of sealing of doom. The battle for the climate is not yet lost, and will not yet be lost for as long humanity still survives.
My expertise is not within natural science, my contributions are not about developing new technologies. A big part in saving this world is STEM people improving our current technologies and developing new ones. Most of us will not be part of this particular struggle, and we don’t have to. Our civilization need to have a lot of STEM people, but to certainly doesn’t need everyone to be into STEM.

The one truth I wish to fight for is that humanity’s core problem is our own ignorance and conceit, not any category of people. I have dedicated my life to trying improve my own understanding, and to help others improve theirs. This is the field in which I hope to make my main contributions, as a thinker and as a teacher.

A few weeks ago, huge forest fires swept through the nordic countries. This happened because the summer was so hot, and the fact that the last few summers have been so very hot is of course connected to climate change. As these forest fires raged, I happened to be living in Jakarta with my girlfriend who happens to be a Muslim. On facebook I could read about supporters of the political party “Sverigedemokraterna” (a party known for not taking climate change seriously, as well as for having strong racist and fascist tendencies) spreading the idea that the forest fires would somehow be caused by “the Muslims”. While the targets shift, this basic mentality is an error that humans has been doing throughout history, and just keeps doing: Divide the world into us versus them, and lull yourself into believing that you are somehow solving the problems by identifying “the enemy”. This doesn’t really solve any problems, not for real.

I think it is right to be scared about climate change, but only as long as we handle the fear in a meaningful manner. We don’t need apathy or angst. Apathy and angst are useless. We don’t need ritualism and finger-pointing. Those are also useless. What we need is to struggle together to overcome our ignorance and conceits. We need to try our best to understand, and we need to try our best to help each other understand. To understand ourselves, to understand each other, and to understand our world. We must reduce the time, energy and resources we waste on counterproductive nonsense such as hating each other. There is only one humanity, and it is us.

To have a good biosphere, we must have a good culosphere. We all build our global society together, each of us can contribute to steering it in good directions.

Advertisements

Last night’s gathering against abuse in the BDSM subculture

Here in Sweden, the #MeToo general hashtag against sexual harassment and abuse has multiplied into many specialized hashtags against sexual harassment and abuse in different sectors of society. In the BDSM subculture, this specialized hashtag is named #ViSägerRÖTT , which translates to #WeSayRED .

(A quick note on terminology: The terms BDSM, fetishism, kink/kinky, “rött”/“red”, sadomasochist and queer are defined at the end of this text. Scroll down if you are unsure about how any of these words are being used.)

Last night, one of the biggest Kinky clubs in Gothenburg lended it’s premises to a gathering for the #ViSägerRÖTT hashtag. The meeting turned out great, with several hours of very serious and nuanced discussions about sexual harassment and abuse as well as about what we can do about it.

Most of the people present were cis women, but there were also a lot of cis men and people who are trans or non-binary. It should be noted that the hashtag “ViSägerRÖTT” is explicitly open for all victims of sexual harassment and abuse, regardless of gender. (This is in sharp contrast to some other hashtags projects, which has been defined to be only for women – thus explicitly excluding those victims of sexual harassment or abuse who happens to be cis men, while also implicitly making it easy to exclude all trans* people as well as AMAB (Assigned Male At Birth) non-binary people.)

Lots of experiences were shared, all of them told in a spirit of mutual respect and in ways which did not include any identifying information or otherwise directly or indirectly would be outing anyone. The core spirit of the meeting was that all human beings have the right to dignity and integrity. Sadomasochists, just like everybody else, have the right to be free from sexual harassment and abuse. Thus we need to fight against sexual harassment and abuse itself, as well as against various kinds of acceptance for sexual harassment and abuse. To do this in a BDSM context requires us to do this struggle as well as the struggle to raise general awareness regarding safety and consent. These struggles must be done both inside the subculture and in the mainstream society, not just one or the other.

 

The misbehavers and the predators
The destructive behaviors we discussed can roughly be rounded up into three main categories, which we can call “honest mistakes”, “wilful ignorance” and “calculated predation”.

Education about consent and psychology as well as sexuality in general and kinky sexuality in particular helps against all three sources of destructive behavior, although such education helps in very different ways against the different sources.

 

Honest mistakes
Man, woman or non-binary, everybody makes mistakes. Straight, gay or otherwise, everybody makes mistakes. Vanilla, sadomasochist/kinky or otherwise, everybody makes mistakes. We all have a duty to control the problem of mistakes by maintaining a decent level of safety and continuous learning so that the mistakes we make…

* Are as few as possible,
* Causes as little harm as possible,
* Gets repaired as well as possible, and
* Gets learned from as well as possible

Generally speaking, the tolerance for taking a risk should be much smaller when it involves people who hasn’t agreed to take that particular risk.

The effect of education: By learning we can in many cases help each other so we don’t have to make mistakes in the first place, and we can also learn from each other’s mistakes.

 

Wilful ignorance
Some people harm other people because they chose to keep themselves uninformed or misinformed. When they cross other people’s sexual boundaries, they do it neither out of a honest mistake nor out of calculated predation: They simply choose to believe that the boundary wasn’t there, thus letting themselves say with a straight face that they “didn’t intend to cross any boundary”. People who systematically abuse through wilful ignorance hide disingenuously behind the fact that innocent people do make honest mistakes sometimes. Their behavior is disingenuous because they are not really trying to learn. They enjoy making their “mistakes”, and want to continue to do them. They prefer to not see how they are harming their sexual partners

To misuse sadomasochism/BDSM/kink as a cover for abuse is often very useful for the wilfully ignorant, as there are a lot of people who honestly don’t know the difference between BDSM and abuse.

The effect of education: The more widespread knowledge is, the less room there is for ignorance – wilful or otherwise. Please note, however, that wilful ignorance is not only about keeping oneself uninformed – but also about keeping oneself misinformed. A person who is wilfully ignorant can pretend to themselves and others that “consent” means that it’s ok to bully people into “consenting”, or pretend that “safe words” mean that the submissive’s health would be only the submissive’s own responsibility. Thus, we need not only to get the basic information out there – but also to keep spreading more and more nuanced knowledge.

 

Calculating predators
Some people harm other people simply because they actually prefer to harm them. These predators are aware of what they are doing, they are not hiding from themselves behind a mask of wilful ignorance. Some of them also understand how wrong their actions are, yet choose to do them anyway, while others justify their abuse through bigotry: By hating a category of people such as women, men, or sadomasochists, these predators fool themselves into believing that their victims somehow “deserve” to be abused. Calculating abusers who do not believe in such bigotry themselves may still try to make others believe it, as a way of getting away with their horrible behavior.

There are two different ways in which calculating predators can misuse sadomasochism/BDSM/kink as a cover for their abusive behavior. One way is to simply incite hatred against sadomasochists, implying that the victim is a sadomasochist and thus “deserved” to be abused. The other way is to try to hide behind the subculture: They claim to be sadomasochists and claim that what they do is what sadomasochists do: Thus they try to trick people into making a choice between either accepting abuse or dragging all sadomasochists down along with the abuser. This is especially efficient when the predator has managed to sink their claws into a victim who is a sadomasochist. Thus the two kinds of misuse merges with each other.

When neither the predator nor the victim has any connection whatsoever to sadomasochism or the BDSM subculture, the predator can still pretend that “he thought the victim was a masochist”. Note that it is often very hard to distinguish between calculating predators and the wilfully ignorant, since the former may often manipulate others by pretending to be ignorant.

A predator who has no connection whatsoever to the BDSM subculture may still prowl the outskirts, trying to prey on vulnerable people within the subculture. For more dangerous to the people in the subculture, however, is the predator who inserts himself in the subculture and builds a facade of good reputation while prowling for new victims.

Note the difference between people who do single predatory acts and people who are systematic predators. Some rapists and other abusers do their foul acts only once in their lives, or at least extremely rarely. Others are predators at heart, and just keeps prowling for new victims. Some of them prefer to destroy innocent people’s lives, others just don’t care.

The discussion last night pointed towards the two very different patterns of single case abusers versus systematic predators. The single case abusers are quite numerous, while the systematic predators are merely a handful of individuals. Yet, the single case abusers seem to stand for a very small part of the total cases. The math is simple: One man who has personally raped one hundred women over the years has on the whole committed one more rape than ninety nine different men and women who each raped one person. There seem to be a handful of bad apples who stands for the majority of the abuse in the whole BDSM subculture. Sadly, each young person who is new to the subculture is very likely to get contacted by at least one of these few individuals, as they tend to be among the most eager to find new people to “play” with. Society’s stigmatization against sadomasochists make it so much easier for these few dangerous individuals to hide within the subculture and keep prowling for new victims.

The stories shared about single case abuse were very diverse. Abusers of all ages and genders, as well as victims of all ages and genders. Dominants abusing submissives as well as submissives abusing dominants. As for the very few known systematic predators, however: They were all male, all positioning themselves as “dominants”, and all targeting women? Of course, this doesn’t mean that all systematic predators are male and/or heterosexual: It simply means that since most abusers are men and most people are heterosexuals, a very small sample size is unlikely to contain any deviations from this pattern. It may also be a sign of the fact that systemic predators will hunt through any means which work for them, and that there may be social differences in what patterns are efficient for a male or female predator. For starters, it is likely that male predators are more likely to prowl for victims while female predators are more likely to passively lure their victims into traps.

The effect of education: An educated prey is harder to victimize, and an educated bystander is harder to manipulate into accepting the abuse.

 

Direct and indirect abuse
One of the things we talked about was emotional abuse versus physical and sexual abuse. This led us into talking about direct abuse versus indirect abuse.

Direct emotional abuse is when they shout obscenities at you, calling you worthless to your face, demanding that you isolate yourself socially, and so on. Indirect emotional abuse is when they systematically undermine you, manipulating you so that you “figure out” that you “are worthless” and/or that you “ought to” isolate yourself socially.

Direct physical abuse is when they hit you in a way or context which you didn’t consent to. Likewise, direct sexual abuse is when they sexually touch you in a way or context which you didn’t consent to. So, what is indirect physical abuse or indirect sexual abuse? It is when they manipulate others people or in some cases the environment to disregard your boundaries or set a trap so that you will “get yourself into” an “accident”.

As we talked about emotional abuse, I saw the difference between the direct and indirect emotional abuse. At first, I thought this was a difference between physical and emotional abuse, assuming that physical abuse is always direct. Then I realized that I had witnessed a situation which was a mistake at best and indirect sexual abuse at worst. This happened to one of my friends, but it happened the first time we met. Thus we didn’t know each other yet. She had agreed to do a shibari session with me (she consented to me tying her up and touching her), but then her boyfriend informed her and me that I was also allowed do have intercourse with her. She got furious with him, he definitely didn’t have her permission to offer her to strangers like that. Thus the shibari session got canceled, they spent the rest of the evening arguing instead. After I told this story, one of the women at the meeting explained that the same thing had happened to her. In this woman’s case, it was definitely no mistake: Her abuser knew perfectly well that she did NOT consent to have any sexual activity with others, but he scared her into staying quiet as he offered her to another man. Thus she got raped, but the guy who did the physical act was innocent – he had reason to believe that they were having consensual sex, he didn’t know that the other guy had forced her to play along.

A final note on activism
We live in a society which is still very prejudiced and bigoted against sadomasochists and fetishists: A very kinkophobic society, if you will. One of the main reasons why we need to stand up against kinkophobia is to protect people in the kinky subculture from acceptance of abuse and to help them protect themselves from abusers. For any of this to be possible, we need to overcome the myth that BDSM itself would be abuse. Sadomasochists who have been abused deserve to get respect and help without getting their sexuality disqualified and further stigmatized. During the meeting, I gave some brief advice to people who want to become activists. I now plan to write a longer text about that later.

***

Terminology
The hashtag name refers to “rött”/“red” being the most widely accepted safeword to use when one has to stop a BDSM session which has gone bad or is about to go bad. The

BDSM: The practices of the sexial minority also known as sadomasochists. BDSM is a smorgasbord of different practices, divided into three main categories. These are Bondage and Discipline (which stands for physical control of the body) Dominance and Submission (which stands for social and emotional power exchange) and Sadism and Masochism (which stands for giving and receiving intense stimulation which can be interpreted as pain). For an act to count as BDSM, the act has to be consensual.

Consensual: Acts that everyone involved in them agrees to be doing. Forcing someone to pretend to be okay with the act should not be considered consent.

Fetishism: Sexual interest in certain objects or materials.

Kink/kinky: The other way of being “not straight”, besides being gay, being kinky refers to being a sadomasochist, other BDSM practitioner, or fetishist.

“Rött”/“red”: The name of this color is the most widely accepted safeword to use when one has to stop a BDSM session which has gone bad or is about to go bad.

Sadomasochist: A person who is into BDSM, whether they actually practice it or not.

Safe word: A word or other term used as an emergency break for a BDSM session. Note that while the top/dominant/sadist must respect the safe word and stop the session if the bottom/submissive/masochist uses it, they must also keep sure that everything is okay rather than relying on the safe word.

Shibari: An advanced and often artistic form of tying people up with rope.

Queer: Anything that deviates from traditional norms for what gender and sexuality is. Thus, queer is simply another word for GSRM – “Gender, Sexual & Sensual, Romantic & Relational Minorities & Multidiversity. Sexual abusers and molesters should not be explained as being “queer” or “GSRM”, for the same reason as for why they should not be explained as being “heterosexual”: The problem with abuse is that it violates the rights of the victim, not whether or not it deviates from one traditional idea of normality or another.

Intersectionality and Midclusion


Many people claim, often jokingly, that there are only two kinds of people in the world. Which these two kinds of people would be varies between different discussions as well as between different jokes. The truth is that each human being belong to many different categories, in many different categorizations.

Imagine this guy named Bob. He has an office job and has playing chess as one of his greatest hobbies. Sexually, he’s mostly into BDSM and mostly attracted to women, although he does have some sexual interest in vanilla sex and men as well. Physically, he happens to need a wheelchair because of a problem with his legs. He also happens to be white.

Many categories there, easily labeled by names such as office worker, chess player, bisexual, sadomasochist, heterosexual, and disabled.

A person does not have a skin-color, a gender or a sexual orientation. Instead, each person has a skin-color, a gender and a sexual orientation. As well as many other traits.

When a person or society does categorism… treats you in a certain way, based on their ideas about categories… when they discriminate you or display prejudice or bigotry… it is typically based on several of these categorizations rather than just one. Interaction between categorizations is known as Intersectionality.

The concept of intersectionality (not the word itself, but the modern concept associated with the word) comes from Kimberlé Crenshaw, who in an essay (published 1989) argued that feminism and anti-racism both tend to exclude black women: Feminism by focusing on women (who are assumed to be white), anti-racism by focusing on people of color (who are assumed to be male). In other words, white people and men are what I call the zero-category: The category which is perceived as so normal that people are simply assumed to belong to it.

It is easy to make up a dichotomy between two categories, where one is constructed as privileged and the other is constructed as underprivileged or oppressed. To make such a distinction can often be a useful analytical tool to help identifying when people are getting mistreated in society. It is a privilege to be the social norm, the zero-category.  As a person in a privileged category, your life may still be hard… but at least you are considered normal, as long as you conform to the right stereotypes about your assigned category.

However, one implication of intersectionality is that there is no such thing as a normal person:

1.) Each person can be categorized in many different ways.

2.) While a person is likely to belong to the zero-category of most such categorization, they will still belong to the outsider category of some categorizations.

3.) If there would actually be a person who is ”normal” in EVERY categorization, then this in itself is actually extreme rather than normal.

Now consider another fact: Categorizations are social constructs that we human beings do. The categorizations do not have any existence of its own. While a categorization may be invalid, bad, okay, good or better at describing whatever thing we are talking about, it can never be ultimately accurate in itself.

We draw a line somewhere, because our minds need lines to be drawn. The line itself does not exist, except in our minds. Reality is full of sliding scales, not dichotomies.

When people are divided into two groups, there will always always be people who do not fit into such black and white thinking. People are too complex to be reduced to simple dichotomies.

When people get stuck between categories, they suffer from midclusion. This is to be between inclusion and exclusion, but not necessarily a stable point between them: A person who suffer from midclusion may be fully accepted in both groups at one particular time, and fully excluded from both groups at another.

Because of intersectionality and midclusion, the idea that each person is either privileged or oppressed would be wrong even if it were true that a category is some sort of monolithic universal structure. Which it isn’t.

While trying to make people understand that there is a difference between individuals and social structures, it is too easy to talk about ”individual level” and ”structural level” as if they were on the same scale. However, they are actually different kinds of levels.

Instead, we need to treat individuals, groups and systemic patterns in society as one sliding scale  from micro level to macro level. Different kinds of social structures – discursive, normative, social inertia and so on – is a separate system which intersects the first. Sample levels versus structural levels. Actual laws and similar formal rules should probably count as a third separate set in its own right.

Anyway. Lets return to Bob, our hypothetical example of a person suffering from midclusion.

So. Bob is sexually attracted to both men and women. This is simply a fact of life for him, not any identity. The fact that he have had boyfriends in the past is enough to make homophobes hate him, threaten him and discriminate against him.

Yet, the fact that he is mostly attracted to women makes it easy to dismiss him as not sufficently gay to count. Some people argue that he should be labeled as straight, and that straight people should be banned from Pride.

This particular form of midclusion is far from unique. It happens to many people who are attracted to both men and women. Especially if they are more attracted to one gender than the other and doesn’t overcompensate by going out of their way to publicly build an identity as bisexual or pansexual – and even if they do, people may still accuse them of being ”fake”. Because after all, ”there are only two kinds of people in the world”. In this case, meaning that everyone is either heterosexual or homosexual whether they like it or not.

This version of heteronormativity also includes these two absurd assumptions:
1. That identity and practice has to be the same thing. Bob is required to identify as bisexual because he have had sex with men, AND is required to have a sufficient (yet unspecified) amount of sexual encounters with men to ”qualify” for “not being straight”.
2. That certain practices are always identity while other certain practices are never identity. Bob’s bisexuality must be identity, while his sadomasochism must not be identity.

Meanwhile, people at the office and in the disability community may harass and belittle Bob for his sadomasochism, while claiming that their behavior is okay because being into BDSM ”isn’t a real identity” anyway. When people defend Bob, they might accept this premise while trying to claim that he should be protected because he’s bisexual. At the same time, Bob may not be able to attend events for LGBT or BDSM because these events are held in buildings which are not accessible with a wheelchair.

All these problems can be dismissed by dancing around with the categorizations, always refusing to see the intersectionality and the midclusion. As they thus keep excusing prejudice, bigotry and discrimination against Bob, they can always top it off by affirming that Bob is a white man and therefore by definition privileged and therefore by definition a person who cannot be oppressed or whatever.

There are many people like Bob out there, in all kinds of categorizations. Midclusion is common.

In conclusion, the struggle for human dignity and human rights need to be universal rather than based on categories of people. When we base it on categories, there will always be people who falls between the cracks. Eventually, anyone & everyone might fall between the cracks. Every person is excluded from the social norm in some way and to some extent. While we need to highlight categories which are especially targeted for categorism, this must be a part of the universal struggle rather than being the main thing in itself.

Rawls morality applied to sexuality

The philosopher John Rawls has a very interesting theory of justice. The basic concept is that when deciding to what extent a society is just, we should imagine ourselves to be what he calls POP – “people in the original position”. Which means that we would be hypothetical persons in a hypothetical society. We do not know who we will be. We do not know whether our parents will be rich or poor, or whether they’ll be caring or abusive towards us. We do not know to what extent we’ll have good or bad genes and traits. How intelligent we’ll become, how easily we’ll have to learn. How healthy or unhealthy we will be. And so on.

Rawls argue that these POP would want a welfare state where everyone has a decent life. They would accept inequality only when it is on the whole beneficial, or at least harmless, to those who are least fortunate.

Try it yourself… Imagine that you will be reincarnated into a future civilization… and that you have no idea whether you’ll be rich or poor, strong or weak, healthy or disabled, and so on. Would you want a social security system that helps you if you need it, but costs you some tax money if you don’t need it? Or would you prefer to suffer horribly if you happen to be born into an unfortunate situation, just so you can be even richer in case you happen to get born as a healthy kid in a rich family?

Today, I heard someone trying to refute Rawls philosophy by applying it to sexuality. But before I get into his argument, lets have a look at the idea itself.

Would it be a good idea to apply the idea of POP to sexuality?
Oh, it definitely would!

Lets say that you are honestly trying to use Rawls’ idea of POP (“People in the Original Position”) to figure out how sexual morality should be organized. What should be accepted and what should be taboo? What should be legal and what should be illegal?

As a POP, you don’t know any relevant facts about yourself as a person. You don’t know how what body type you’ll have, you don’t now how much stamina and libido and so on you’ll have. Also, you don’t know whether you’ll be male or female… or intersexual/nonbinary/genderqueer/whatever. You don’t now whether you’ll be gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, kinky, vanilla, asexual, and/or something else.

Any rational POP would favor acceptance for sexuality, including sexual minority practices that can be indulged in a consensual way. They don’t know what sexuality they will have, so of course they will want acceptance for everyone. They wouldn’t want any minority stigmatized, just in case they’d turn out to belong to that minority. At the same time, they would want strict laws and social norms against rape and other sexual abuse, as they would not want to risk becoming the victims.

Thus, they would accept heterosexuality, homosexuality, sadomasochism, fetishism, or any other sexuality that can be expressed alone or in mutual consensual relationships. They would not want society to accept pedophilia, as they would not want to risk becoming the victims of pedophiles during their vulnerable childhood years. At the same time, they would want to make a clear distinction between pedophilia and pedophiles: They would want society to be compassionate to any pedophile who abstains from having contact with children, just in case any of them happens to grow up to have such an unfortunate sense of sexual attraction towards people who don’t have an adult sexuality and are too vulnerable to give valid consent.  As a POP, the risk of becoming lonely and sexually frustrated will most likely seem insignificant compared to the risk of becoming sexually abused.

Of course, most people who are lonely and sexually frustrated are simply unattractive in one way or another. After all, a lot of people have times in their lives when they are lonely and this becomes a bad spiral. How would the POP feel about the risk of simply being unwanted?

Surely, the POP who would think “if I turn out poor or sick, I want a government to provide healthcare” may also think “if I turn out unattractive, I want a system where I could get laid anyway”. The difference is that while they would think “if I’d turn out rich, I wouldn’t mind paying taxes”, they WOULDN’T think “if I’d turn out pretty, I wouldn’t mind getting raped”.

So, what WOULD they do to safeguard themselves just in case they turn out to be unattractive? Well, I think there are two things they would do.

First of all, they would want to establish norms where sex is not seen as a competition or issue of status. It should never be considered shameful or whatever for someone who’s considered attractive to have sex with someone considered less attractive.

Second, they would want to establish norms where its okay to have sex for many different reasons. Including the reason of getting paid. While they would be against all kinds of trafficking and sexual exploitation (as they would not want to risk becoming the victims), they would also be in favor of sex workers being accepted and protected in society. After all, some of them may end up in a situation where becoming a sex worker or a client seems like a good option.

All in all, Rawls theory of justice isn’t hard to apply to issues of sexuality. So, what about that guy who tried to use that as a method of refuting the theory of justice?

Well, he correctly made the assumption that the POP shouldn’t know how attractive or unattractive they will be. At the same time, however, he made the HUGE error of assuming that they ought to know that they will all be male and heterosexual. That’s where the example turns into utter garbage. Instead, the POP ought to know that they’ll have an even chance to be male or female. As well as a fair chance to be bisexual, gay, sadomasochist or whatever.

Such POP would NOT want a “redistribution of women to fuck”, as this would put them at risk of becoming the women to be “redistributed” for men to rape. Of course they would prefer the risk of having to limit themselves to masturbation if they turn out to be unattractive, over the risk of being forced to have sex with men they wouldn’t be attracted to.

When someone makes an argument based on the implicit assumption that “money is people” or that “women are not people”, then any logic built on that assumption becomes nothing more than GIGO: “Garbage In = Garbage Out”.

The four basic ideas of rights

There are many different ideas of what is or isn’t worth fighting for. As far as I’m concerned, they tend to fall into four basic camps.

1. Human Rights, by which I mean the idea of equal rights and responsibilities for human persons.
2. Living Rights, by which I mean the idea of rights without responsibilities for all living things.
3. Group Rights, by which I mean the idea that we need to fight for specific groups of people.
4. Supremacism, by which I mean the idea that one group or another has a special right to be above everyone else.

Of course there are overlaps. When people fight for a specific group of people, this may be a matter of fighting for human rights which are often denied people in the group. It may also be a matter of fighting for supremacy of the group. Or it may be a bit of both, on a sliding scale.

Likewise, some ideas of human rights may be included in an idea of living rights and vice versa, while others may not. Two very important differences are the right to life and the rights to democracy. These are very important human rights, but cannot be extended to all living things.

All animals eat other living things. Either they eat each other, or they eat plants. Either way, this would violate the right to life if all life did have a right to life. Humans have the right and responsibility to elect the leaders of the world. Animals as a group or as individuals could never have such a responsibility. And thus they could never have such a right, either.

Children as a group could never have this right and responsibility either, but each individual child will get there as they grow up. Human children are human persons, only that some of the things this entails needs to be put on hold until they have matured.

Personally, I have dedicated myself to fight for Universal Human Rights. I reject all forms of supremacism between adult human beings. I consider struggle for oppressed groups to be good as it is based on universal human rights for all. And I consider it necessary for as long as people are denied their rights based on their gender or skin-color or whatever.

While I do want animals to be protected from needless cruelty, I don’t think animal rights are at all comparable to human rights. If they were, it would be our duty to outlaw nature itself, reshaping our world into a perfectly controlled park where we can protect all animals from each other. Some animal rights activists like to compare animals to children. While they certainly do have a point, they should also consider this: We would never let our human children live unsupervised and free to kill each other. Right?

Human rights, living rights, group rights or supremacism. Which of these four would you say is the core of YOUR political struggle, whatever this struggle might be? Why is this one the core? And how do you relate to the other three? Think about it for a bit.

What we should mean by Empathy: A communication, not a trait

The concept of empathy is often praised but rarely discussed. What should we mean by empathy?

A dictionary definition has it that empathy is “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings”. However, I find this definition very problematic. It doesn’t really make any distinction between ACTUAL understanding and deluding yourself into believing that you understand.

It treats empathy as an inherent trait, something that you either have or doesn’t have. I don’t think it works that way. You don’t understand everyone equally. Instead, you understand different people differently well, and a big factor here is how much you work on it. Actual empathy is a relationship. Something that exists between people rather than within them.

Imagining how the other person feels should not count as actual empathy. It is merely the middle step between listening to their experience and then re-checking that you got it right. Empathy in any meaningful sense of the word requires a lot of communication. Mutual communication.

Just like power is a dynamic between people rather than something that a person inherently have or lack, empathy is a dynamic between people. Beware of self-proclaimed empaths who feel entitled to tell you or others what YOUR true feelings are.

Each person have their own internal realities. We are connected to each other by the physical and social realities between us. At best, empathy is about communication. At worst, “empathy” is about imposing your own fantasies on other people. Either way, empathy is about building a representation of another person’s internal reality within your own internal reality. Are you building this representation TOGETHER with the actual other person, making a mutual effort to explore their actual feelings? Or are you simply doing your own thing, pretending to yourself an others that this private fantasy of yours is actually true for the other person as well?

Don’t do that. Don’t try to impose your fantasies about other people’s feelings and needs on them, pretending that it is theirs. Listen to them instead. Try to understand each other. Together.

Respect and sex!

Having good sex can be based on many different things. It might be a matter of mutual attraction, interest, affection, love, or some combination thereof. Either way, it needs to be based on mutual respect. To respect each other, and respect yourselves. Having sex, unlike masturbation, is something that you share with another person. So you’d better make certain that it is something positive that you do together, not something negative that one of you inflict upon the other.

If you don’t respect a certain person, why would you lower yourself to having sex with that person? Why would you lower yourself to having sex with someone you don’t respect?

* One answer could be that you are getting paid, in cash or similar.
* Another answer could be that you are desperate for attention and validation. That you consider sex to be a key to attention or validation or both.
* A third answer could be that you have totally divorced your sexuality from your emotional life, a gulf inside you that make you regard other people as pieces of meat rather than as actual human beings.

So much for having sex with someone you don’t respect. But what about having sex with someone who don’t respect you? Again, I can think of three different reasons.

* First of all, you might have the kind of bad self-esteem where you realize that the disrespect is bad but mistake yourself for not deserving any better.
* Second, you might have the kind of bad self-esteem where you mistake disrespect for intimacy. Finding someone who seem to dislike you as much as you dislike yourself.
* The third reason is that respect is a two way street. When other people disrespect you, it sort of gives you a bit of a free license do disrespect them right back. And that’s where the previous three reasons not only comes back, but comes back with a vengeance.

If you want to use someone for money or other resources, a mutually beneficial business deal is usually preferable. But if you want to exploit the hell out of someone, it is much easier for you to feel good about it if you see that they believe themselves to be the ones using you. The same goes for if you want to use someone for attention or for validation. As well as if you want to use their bodies without connecting to them as persons.

So far, I have been talking in gender neutral terms. Since I have talked about problems that are often used as negative stereotypes about women, you might have assumed that I was really referring to women rather than people in general. However, that’s not the case. I do mean everyone, regardless of gender. And since a lot of people don’t realize that it is true for men too, we do need to talk especially about men. My next video will be about why the concept of “alpha” is worthless bullshit.

Facebook is participating in harassment of people who have unusual names

MustUseMyREALName

People sometimes punish other people simply for being different. I’m not taking about merely being suspicious and having a slightly hostile attitude. No, I’m talking outright punishment. Active, punitive action.

Facebook has a system for harming anyone who happens to be from any ethnic minority or subculture where names are different from mainstream society. As well as harming individuals who for any other reason happens to have unusual names. This system of systematically harming innocent individuals and groups is designed so that everybody who participate can blame each other, thus avoiding any personal responsibility for their actions. It has been made easy for users to accuse, and for Facebook itself to ban people based on accusation alone. The accuser can put the responsibility on Facebook, and Facebook can silently deflect the responsibility on whatever anonymous person who might have done the accusation. With no-one taking real responsibility, the blame is instead shifted onto the victim. The system constructs the situation as if the problem was the name itself, rather than the system’s own discriminatory policies.

Banning people for no good reason
If Facebook merely demanded that people use their real names, it would merely be somewhat problematic. If Facebook simply demanded that people prove their name by sending in ID, it would simply be somewhat more problematic. There is much to be said both for and against such a policy. Sadly, Facebook’s handling of names go much further than that. When somebody accuses somebody else of using a “fake name”, Facebook will in many cases not check ID. Instead, Facebook will simply ban the victim. Which in many cases means banning an innocent person, simply for having an unusual name. Thus automatically validate whoever made the accusation, while causing a lot of trouble for whoever got targeted.

Lets say that you are a reasonable person, debating against some white supremacist male chauvinist who calls himself “Lord Awesome”. So, you report his name. This gets him banned. Facebook has validated you, good for you. But what if he calls himself “Adam White” instead? Facebook will not ban him or ask him for ID. It might not be his real name at all, but there’s nothing you can do about that.

Now, lets say that you are this hypothetical white supremacist male chauvinist who call himself Adam White on Facebook in spite of having a very different name in real life. You start reporting trans people, subculture people, feminists, LGBTQ activists, immigrants, women, people from ethnic minorities, and so on. Anyone who might annoy you in one way or another. Facebook will assist you in your crusade for white supremacy and (cis-)male supremacy, by banning non-mainstream people you point your finger at. Facebook has validated you, good for you. Never mind that these people are using their real names, while you are not. Upholding an superficial appearance of normality is what seems to matter here, not actual truth.

This system have hurt a lot of people. Especially trans people, ethnic minorities and activists in undemocratic countries.

Validating racism, transphobia or any other focus of categorism is bad on many levels. For starters, people who indulge in categorism do not want to see themselves as racists or any other form of categorist. They want to see themselves as normal and get validated in their belief that “the other” is not normal. To validate their bigotry is to reinforce and encourage it.

Two ways of making it even worse
As if the frivolous bannings wasn’t bad enough, Facebook makes it worse in two ways. Lets call them the block appearance problem and the catch 22 problem.

The block appearance problem is that when a person is banned, everyone else are led to believe that they have been blocked by the banned person. Facebook users who seek the banned person on Facebook will not get any clear message that the account has been suspended while investigating the name. Instead, they will be unable to reach the person or see the person’s messages. Looks as if they had been banned by this person. Thus, Facebook doesn’t stop at banning people for no good reason. It also indirectly send a false message to the friends and allies of the victim – telling them that the victim isn’t in trouble but simply has chosen to turn their back on them.

The Catch 22 problem is that while Facebook demands to see ID to restore the name, it is very bad at providing ways to actually show them ID. You can’t log in to Facebook without showing ID first, and you can’t show ID without logging into Facebook first.

Could you get around the Catch 22 problem by simply changing your name on Facebook to something that isn’t your real name? Probably. Except that Facebook is very clear that this violates their rules. This creates another Catch 22: Requiring people to lie about their names to prove that they are telling the truth about their names – while reminding them that they may be stuck with this new fake name for 60 days or even be banned permanently for using it. Keep in mind that if you change your name and then upload ID to prove that the previous name was correct, you also provide evidence that your new name was fake and against their rules.

My own story
Towards the end of Mars 2015, I stumbled upon a heated debate about trans people and social services. There was a certain child who was born with female body, but didn’t want to wear pink or dresses or be called a girl. The parents and the daycare center agreed to simply let it be and see how it develops over time. But when the child moved to another daycare, someone in the staff there demanded that the parents must force the child to dress and behave in a feminine manner. When the parents refused, social services stepped in to investigate them. Sadly, this is not all that uncommon: People who demand that everyone must be entirely cis-gender often lash out at the families of children who show any sign of being trans or non-binary. Baseless accusations to social services are not uncommon, and can go quite far if it gets a social worker who shares the bias.

In the debate over this issue, two women who claimed to work for social services insisted that Social Services never do anything wrong and that the mother must be a deeply disturbed person. These two women got quite hostile when I and another guy disagreed with them. One of them looked up an organization the other guy was active in, and publicly made a complaint to the president of this organization. The other started asking hostile questions about my professional life, questions that seemed designed to mine for something to twist and use against me in real life. And suddenly, bam, I happened to be banned from Facebook. Somebody had accused me of having using a fake name. On this anonymous accusation alone, I got banned for five days.

I got banned on Saturday the 28:th Mars 2015. It lasted until Wednesday the 1:st April.
At this point, Xzenu had been my legal name as well as my Facebook name for roughly a decade. Before that, my legal name as well as Facebook name was one letter shorter. I added the “z” to avoid getting mixed up with fictional characters such as Xena the warrior princess or Xemu the space emperor.

On Saturday the 28:th Mars 2015, I suddenly got a message that my session had expired and that I had to log in again. When I tried to log in, it said that I had to use my real name. When I re-entered my real name, it said that no, I had to enter my REAL name. Also reminding me that if I use a fake name I will be stuck with it for 60 days and maybe also lose my account forever. The site provided information that I should send them a copy of my passport or similar, but did NOT provide any actual email address or upload button for actually sending them this information. They leave me no way whatsoever of contacting them. While one page has a link labeled “let us know”, it simply leads to a message saying “you must log in to continue”. Unsurprisingly, using this page to try to log in simply returns me to the “Enter your authentic name” page. Another page simply said that they don’t verify identities in my region.

Since it looked to everyone as if I had blocked them personally, I had to contact a lot of people on my contact list to inform them that the problem wasn’t with them. Some of them said that they would try to use their contacts in the Facebook company to get my unbanned. Another asked if she may forward my contact information to her contact at a major newspaper.

On Monday the 30:th Mars, I get a call from this newspaper. The next day, 20 minutes before midnight (so it can’t be mistaken for an April’s Fool Joke), they publish an article about the incident. On Wednesday afternoon, it starts going viral. On Wednesday evening, my account works again. Good for me. But the bad system itself still remains.

Conclusion
Facebook need to change their policies. It is not okay to validate bigotry and unwittingly participate in harassment campaigns against minorities and activists. It is not okay to ban innocent people, or to force people who use their real names to adopt fake names instead. The later is not only insulting and a form of public shaming, but it also make them vulnerable to further accusations. Finally, it is not okay to lock people out without giving them an easily accessible way of contacting actual support about it. Thus:

If Facebook should use the “real ID” requirement at all, it shouldn’t ban people without at least giving them some time to show ID first. If a ban does happen, it should still be easy to upload ID and possible to contact Facebook staff about the banning.

Was Plato actually truly great?

Having been dreadfully obsolete for several hundred years, it is a tragedy that Plato’s theory of ideas is still being taught as if it were fact. Plato’s influence might have been good in the past, but today it is destructive.

While all education is based on concepts, students rarely get to study the nature of concepts as such. They need to understand the distinction between terms, concepts and phenomena. We humans use terms (especially in the form of single words) to refer to concepts, and we use concepts (especially in the form of categories defined by being distinguished against each other) to comprehend phenomena. Terms and concepts are created, developed and reproduced in human brains and cultures. They are subjected to neurological quirks of human brains, as well as to all kinds of quirks of social dynamics. They are socially constructed: Terms and concepts is something that humans DO, they are active discursive actions.

We need to distinguish between physical reality outside us, internal realities inside us and social realities between us. While many phenomena exist in the physical world, the concepts we use to understand these phenomena (as well as the terms we use to refer to these concepts) exists only in our multitude of internal and social realities. The places where terms and concepts exist are the places inside us and between us.

Yet, Plato’s theory of ideas teaches us something completely different. It teaches that concepts comes from outside and above, not from within and between. It is an authoritarian theory, and Plato uses it to argue in favor of imposing a harsh dictatorship upon mankind: A theocracy of philosophy, where philosophers take the role of priest-kings. Philosophers set to interpret the true concepts, just like priests and oracles were set to interpret the true will of the Gods. Plato was an enemy of democracy, an enemy of intellectual freedom. Based on his theory, it is all but impossible to reach any other position.

Yet, this absurd theory is still taught as fact. Be it grade school, high school or university: If any theory of the nature of concept is taught at all, it is usually the pre-Kant theory of Plato that is being taught, rather than Kant’s far better theory regarding “the thing in itself” or any post-Kant theory.

As destructive as this may be, it is a modern problem. The pre-Kant world can’t be blamed for refusing to spread ideas that hadn’t been invented yet.

My question, then: What did Plato’s idea of “the world of ideas” truly contribute, in its own age?

Did it (A) discover the basic truth that phenomena and concepts need to be distinguished from each other?
Did it (B) strongly contribute to establishing philosophy as separate from religion?
Both (C)?
Neither (D)?
Something else (E)?

If A or B or even C, then Plato’s contribution to mankind is truly remarkable. Personally, I’m most inclined to believe in D.

Did Plato truly discover the concept of “concept”? Surely the basic realization that our concepts about things are separate from the things themselves must be much older than a mere 2.500 years? There were other philosophers in Greece, and no matter how much western culture loves to deny it there were also philosophers elsewhere during and before the same era. Yesterday I read a book which sort of attributed this breakthrough to Plato. At this point I remain unconvinced, but I can’t disregard the notion that it might actually be true. If it is, then he did indeed contribute one of the greatest breakthrough in the history of human civilization. Far greater than the discovery of the number “zero”.

Did Plato really lay the groundwork for secular philosophy? Well, this can be seen in two very different ways. One is what his idea in itself contributed, while the other is what social acceptance of his idea contributed. To me, the concept of a “world of ideas” being located above and outside of us humans seems like a way of neutering secular philosophy, bringing it back into the fold of theocratic thinking while merely replacing the concept of “Gods” with the concept of “Ideas”. Then again, this kind of neutering may very well be what was needed to get theocratic civilizations to accept philosophy. Giving philosophy an excuse to exist, and thus a chance to grow into something that could eventually liberate itself from dogmatism.

Regardless of this, Platonism must have done wonder for many intellectuals self-esteem if not for their actual thinking. Elevating them to the status of being the true oracles, the ones who has the power to reach the World of Ideas.

One book I once read claimed that Plato wasn’t actually regarded as a very good philosopher by his own peers. In his own age more famous for arguing that the books of rival philosophers should be burned than for his own contribution, having been elevated to the status of The Greatest Philosopher of All Times only after many centuries had passed.

Me, I don’t know. But I want to know more. As deeply embedded in western cultural identity as Plato is, historical fact is even harder to distinguish from propaganda in a case like his. Please tell me if you have any good sources to recommend.

Honest liars and selfish memes

A thought that got stuck in my head the other year is that lies are actually far less common that we would like to believe. With “lies”, I mean people trying to make other people believe things they don’t believe themselves.

By this definition, it is not a lie to tell other people what you believe to be true. Even if you happen to be incorrect. When people say things that we find incorrect our outright absurd, we like to think that they secretly agree with us. That they are being dishonest when they present things differently from what we consider to be true. That they simply choose to withhold the validation we feel that we know that we deserve. Thus, I think it is very easy to overestimate how much people lie. As well as to underestimate how much people are simply wrong about things. Note that “people” here refers not only to other people, but to ourselves as well.

What we believe to be true or untrue is not merely a matter of facts seen from various perspectives and viewpoints. It is also very much a matter of what seems to be socially appropriate. There are two basic ways of learning things. One is to try to understand and evaluate, the other to simply mimic and digest. With this second way of learning, which is probably far more common than the first, “the truth” is simply whatever people will like you to believe in.

This view was reinforced as I read Goffmans “Social life as Drama”. In this essasy, Goffman argued that people appreciate other people both for agreeing with them and for being honest. Thus, critical thinking is not a good thing if you want to be popular: If you openly disagree with people, you make yourself an outsider… and if you secretly have reservations about the things you are supposed to agree with, this makes you a bit of a dishonest hypocrite or liar. When you think for yourself, disagreeing with other people is a matter of “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. No, the socially appropriate mindset is to blindly swallow anything people tell you. That way, you will give people not only the outright agreement they appreciate but also the honesty they also appreciate.

Another perspective on lies is presented by Richard Dawkins in his most famous book, “The Selfish Gene”. Dawkins argues that animals can be seen as liars in a biological (but not moral) sense when evolution shapes the bodies of edible insects to save them from getting eaten by mimicing insects that are poisonous. Or shapes part of the bodies of fish to mimic edible insects, as a way of luring in prey. Or urge birds to make sounds that are false alarms to other birds, leaving the offending bird to eat all the food while the other birds flee as they would from a predator. The animals have no idea that they are doing this, but it still happens. Simple natural selection.

Similar processes are at play in social life. We are likely to adapt by adopting patterns of thought and behavior that tend to have good consequences. For example, making us popular. Or at least abstain from making us unpopular. Social reinforcement in school and play teaches all the kids that the truth is whatever happens to be popular. Just go with he flow. Internalize any bullshit you hear, and be honest about it. At least when it comes from someone who is popular, or who is in a position to hurt you in one way or another. Such as humiliating you, freeze you out socially, or lower your grades.

In school, we learn so many facts and stories about the world. Indirectly, we also learn that all this information is true… not because of evidence, but because we will personally be failures if we don’t agree with the books and teachers. Each time a new lesson in how to not think.

For Dawkins, these thoughts led him to a sense of revulsion against religion. For me, I’m sort of starting to feel a similar kind of revulsion towards all political ideologies. Including the ones I agree with. It is not the beliefs themselves that are the problem. It is the herd mentality, the basic foundations that certain things are true or untrue because you live in a subculture where it is socially appropriate to believe them or disbelieve them. Empty slogans, aggressive oversimplifications, and the constant dividing of people into the righteous in-group and the blasphemous outsiders who more or less deviate from the one true party line. The worst part of it all… is the honesty.