Greetings from 2017, when we’re having Peak Trans. In 5-8 years this will be over. A generation of children currently being treated with hormones and surgery for being “born in the wrong body” will be suing their doctors and parents. People will no longer say that a penis is female if the penis-haver “identifies as a woman”. The current trend of allowing male athletes to compete “as women” as long as they’re taking estrogen will be history (to refresh: male-to-trans runners, weightlifters, volleyball players, etc. are currently thrashing female opponents because women’s sports organizations are unwilling to appear “bigoted.”)
My (former?) friends are sharing memes (will they still call them “memes” 5-8 years in the future?) that compare males’ demands to access female bathrooms to the Civil Rights Movement, and women who say no to them as white racists. Liberals are insisting that sex – biology – is a social construct, that humans aren’t sexually dimorphic because of the existence of intersex people and clownfish. They pass along sciency-sounding science-denial articles that use the same rhetoric as “creation science.” They denounce “creation science” because it is a tool of the Right, and they fear the Right. Their science denial is of the Left, and they deny it’s science denial. Science denial denial.
My (former?) friends support changing the legal definition of sex from biology to “identity.” If a man says they “feel like a woman,” and someone like me asks, “what does that mean? How do you ‘feel like a woman’? Is ‘woman’ a feeling?” they rush to support the male and condemn me.
I have recently come out as one of those witches who refuses to say males are female; who believes females need sex-segregated spaces like women’s shelters and prisons; who believes women are entitled to say “no” to males for any reason. I have been banned from Facebook* twice and my reddit* account has been suspended permanently. Friends have sent me messages saying they can’t associate with me any longer because I’m so “hurtful” and “ignorant.” I just lost a $2,000 speaking gig with no explanation; since women like me are regularly “no-platformed” as “TERF”s, I assume it’s because of my recently exposed politics.
So right now we’re in the midst of a kind of Liberal mass hysteria. There have been crazes like this in the past: actual witch hunts, McCarthyism, the lobotomy fad of the mid-20th century, the “false memories” of the 1980’s. It could be worse; maybe it will still get worse. But like other trendy hysterias, this will pass.
And when it does, what will you, my (former?) friends, be saying about it?
“Oh that, that time was so weird!” you’ll say, perhaps with an eyeroll or giggle.
Or, “I always knew it was wrong.” You’ll think you were the one who stood up for sanity back then. You’ll forget that you were in fact declaring you were on “the right side of history,” virtue-signaling with your civil-rights-appropriating memes, while shunning and condemning women like me. You will forget.
You will forget that you said “sex is a spectrum, we don’t understand biology.” You’ll forget you vehemently argued that “female brains” can be trapped in male bodies, “it’s SCIENCE!!!” You’ll forget you said “assigned male at birth” as if sex is assigned by transphobic doctors and not observed by anyone with eyes and a brain. You’ll forget that every time someone pointed this out you said “intersex and clownfish!!!” as though they disproved reality, because of some creationist-style sciency-science-denial that supported your politics.
You won’t be that dumb in the future. But right now, you are.
You didn’t know, you weren’t paying attention, it wasn’t your thing, you have to pick your battles. While women like me were screaming about the transing of children and the male pattern violence of males, you “didn’t know.” It was convenient not to know. Meanwhile you got head-pats and excitement in the “movement” (what movement? Against Trump? Why does opposing Trump mean you can’t think critically?) for repeating thought-terminating, loaded language like “trans women are women” and “assigned male at birth” and “cis”.
What will you blame, future? You will probably minimize the problem. It was just women, after all, they’re a minority, right? And so many women are white and middle-to-upper class, they did fine, it didn’t hurt them. OK, some kids got transed and regretted it, we went too far there, we meant well, why are you making such a big deal? It wasn’t that many, they were almost all homosexual anyway. It’s history, it’s over, we know better now.
Oh, Future, we’ll be lucky if you can read this. We’ll be lucky if you’re even there to ignore me.
*Facebook and reddit are social media sites. Will there be social media in the future? Will there even be electricity in the future? Since we’re on the brink of ecological and social collapse, I realize you might not even be able to read this. But if society and the planet are still holding together enough that you can: PAY ATTENTION.
The Creation Museum in Kentucky is really a marvelous testament to what money can buy. A temple of Mammon, if you will. Designers and craftspeople work for money, not ideology, and the money here paid for some good ones. It reminded me a lot of Las Vegas that way.
You won’t learn much about the Bible here, since creationists really pick and choose. From an Old Testament perspective the whole place is outrageously idolatrous, violating the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth…” —Exodus 20:4-6 (KJV)
Finally, the Creation Museum is a magnificent monument to the limits of human psychology. Here it’s especially easy to see the extraordinary lengths humans go to to make some kind of PALATABLE sense of the world. I vastly prefer science to biblical authority, but even the best method of inquiry gets mashed through our squishy, emotional, fallible, fragile human minds. It’s easy to make fun of creationists, but we all have similar longings to understand the world, and there’s only so much cognitive discomfort we can handle before we just project on reality as we see fit.
Big ol’ bible dinosaur at the entrance
The Bible is authoritative, without error, and inspired by God. UNLIKE YOUR SILLY “SCIENCE” NONSENSE!
Figure 1: carbon in the earth, oxygen in the atmosphere
Primitive species turned carbon from Earth’s earlier, carbon-rich atmosphere into more of themselves:
early primitive life (procaryote cells) modified our planet by converting CO2 and H2O to organic matter and releasing oxygen to the environment. As a consequence these organisms moved carbon from the atmosphere to the rocks (Figure 11) and broke down water molecules releasing oxygen to the ocean and eventually to the atmosphere. Life therefore is a powerful force controlling the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere which in turn exerts a powerful control on our planet’s climate. http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/climate/lectures/earth.html
Now we’re taking that carbon out of the earth and spewing it back into the atmosphere…
Figure 2: digging up carbon and burning it into the atmosphere
…creating a climate suitable for bacteria and prokaryotes, but not for the complex life forms we cherish today (such as ourselves).
Figure 3: carbon in the atmosphere good for some bacteria, bad for us.
To restore climate balance, we must put carbon back into the earth.
We should throw carbon into large holes, cover them up with layers of rock and soil, and allow them to compress for millions of years, over which time they will again form a viscous underground carbon sludge safely distant from our preferred oxygen-rich air.
Figure 4: trees fix atmospheric carbon
In other words, we should be putting our carbon waste (paper and plastic) in landfills. Not recycling them.
Figure 5: put the carbon back in the earth
Paper comes from tree farms, which are carbon sinks. In an ideal climate-restoration system, farmed trees would fix atmospheric carbon, become paper, and get buried back into the ground, with earthbound carbon accumulating every year as atmospheric carbon diminishes. By this logic, the junk mail industry is helping the environment, as it converts atmospheric carbon to bury-able waste, paid for entirely by advertisers.
Plastic is made of carbon humans dug up from deep within the Earth as petroleum. If it’s buried it can become petroleum-like again in several million years. If petroleum is burned as fuel, more carbon goes into the atmosphere. Petroleum is more valuable as a plastic source than as a fuel; solar energy can power vehicles but it can’t become plastic (without the intervention of billions of years of photosynthesis and compression).
So bury your paper and plastic (carbon) waste. Bury it in a good landfill.
But recycle metal. It’s much more efficient than mining anew. Metals aren’t carbon. And recycle glass. It’s silicon, not carbon.
Note: none of this is going to fix the world. We’re all doomed for many reasons. It does however take some air out of the sails of “recycling paper and plastic helps the Earth!!!” The ritual of recycling paper and plastic is mostly just that – a ritual which eases denial of environmental catastrophe in progress. I’m suggesting we can abandon that ritual now.
Update from Theo* (via email):
The thing everyone keeps missing is that none of that matters. The only thing you have to understand is that ALL carbon that can be dug out of the ground in any form, will be. The economic pressure to do so is simply overwhelming, and no one is going to be able to stop it. The ONLY question is whether it will be burned, or made into plastic and thrown away (which keeps it out of the atmosphere).
And the only thing that matters in answering that question is whether there is more money to be made in burning it, or in making it into plastic. What is the relative price of fuel vs. feedstocks for plastic, and what is the relative demand for fuel vs. for plastic. Right now it’s evenly enough matched that a lot goes into both, but if something tips the balance towards it’s being worth much more for plastic, there would be a massive worldwide switch away from burning it. No need for demonstrations, it would just happen.
Things that can tip the balance in that direction are:
Cheaper alternatives for fuel, so wind power, hydrogen from solar, etc, etc.
Things that increase demand for plastic.
It’s in item number 2 that recycling comes into play. If you recycle paper, that lets people make more paper packaging instead of using plastic. If you recycle plastic, that keeps it out of the landfill (where it belongs and can do some good) and returns it to the market to compete with virgin plastic, thus reducing the demand for oil to make new plastic, thus diverting more carbon into the atmosphere.
Burying paper also has the side effect of removing even more carbon from the air because it’s made out of carbon from the air, but that’s only one reason for doing it. Helping increase the price of plastic is at least as important a reason.
No questions about how much fuel it takes to do any of these things is relevant. The fuel is going to get burned. Exponential growth has no mercy: The carbon IS going to be dug out of the ground, nothing can stop that, all we can do is try to re-bury as much of it as fast as we can.
*Please note Theo’s opinions are his own; I’m sharing them here because I think they’re interesting and worth discussing.
The “European Jew/Zionist” label has has drawn the most criticism in This Land Is Mine. Apparently to Israelis (correct me if I’m wrong – this is what I’m learning from the many comments on the movie, and emails) “Zionist” means “historical Zionist” – the mostly-secular, mostly-socialist, hardworking kibbutz-founding idealists who settled mostly-peacefully in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. According to one correspondent,
the founders of Israel in general were not religious Jews but on the contrary – secular and even anti-religious…The mainstream of ultra-orthodoxy sees Zionism as blasphemy… As for the image – in Israeli culture we have a caricature called “Srulik” (which is a nickname for the name “Israel”) that depicts the stereotypical 1940’s “new Israeli Jew” with the hat and the sandals…
Some viewers seem to think my illustration is a Chasid. It’s not; it’s supposed to be an Orthodox-ish Jew. Orthodox Jews apparently don’t have to join the Israeli army (WTH not?!) so this depiction further bothers some people. Orthodox Jews, they point out, are not Zionists.
Here I must clarify that “Zionist” means something slightly different to me, as an American Jew. Wikipedia sums it up:
Zionism (Hebrew: ציונות, Tsiyonut) is a form of nationalism of Jews and Jewish culture that supports a Jewish nation state in territory defined as the Land of Israel. Zionism supports Jews upholding their Jewish identity and opposes the assimilation of Jews into other societies and has advocated the return of Jews to Israel as a means for Jews to be liberated from anti-Semitic discrimination, exclusion, and persecution that has occurred in other societies. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish stateand address threats to its continued existence and security.
I labelled my Orthodox-ish Jew “Zionist” to distinguish him from Jews who aren’t Zionist – like me. When I was growing up, well-meaning relatives and acquaintances would keep asking me when I was going to Israel. “Why should I go to Israel?” I’d ask. Stricken, they would explain how important Israel should be to me. “Everyone needs a homeland!” they’d insist. But I already had a honemland – Urbana, IL. I felt no need for another one, and was troubled that I should create in myself such a need where one didn’t exist. I had enough insecurities already.
Many people use “Jew” and “Zionist” interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. I am a Jew because I’m descended from a long line of Jews, and because even as atheists my family retained some Jewish cultural quirks. But I am not a Zionist. I don’t need a “homeland” in Israel, and I don’t care if my “Jewish identity” is upheld and assimilation resisted; in fact assimilation is part of my “Jewish identity,” something I’m proud of (as much as I can be legitimately proud of anything other people did before I was born).
I realize as I write this that I represent the religious conservative’s worst nightmare. Like most religions, Judaism requires indoctrination at an early age; Orthodox and Chasids encourage breeding as many offspring as possible, to enlarge the tribe. Assimilation is anathema to religious Jews, because it leads to people like me. I’m supposed to be supporting the Tribe, and instead I’d rather make graven images and spout individualism. I’ve even refused to breed altogether, let alone indoctrinate any spawn.
I hope my Great-Zaydie Zalman wouldn't be too disappointed in me.
Anyway, my Orthodox-ish Jew character, if he’s in Israel, is what I’d call a Zionist, although most Israelis would not. That said, I could have left the confusing Zionist label off of him, because he obviously was in Israel in my cartoon.
The “European” part of the label refers to the pressure a vast influx of Jewish refugees from Europe put on Palestine. Yes, there were Zionists there already, living peacefully alongside Arabs and others in the region. And yes, the State of Israel welcomes (or is supposed to welcome) all Jews, not just European ones. But the post-war influx of European Jews really changed things in the region. Would the State of Israel have been established had that not occurred? Would the US have backed it otherwise?
Jews, largely Holocaust survivors, in search of a homeland, aboard the SS Exodus
Why did I draw my character Orthodox-ish at all, when most Zionists and Jews and Israelis don’t look like that? To show the religious side of a “Jewish nation-state” (remember it’s the Jewish nation-state idea that defines Zionists here in the U.S.) And to refer to what I consider the most problematic element in Israel and elsewhere: religious nuts. My character doesn’t look too different from these folks hanging out at the Wailing Wall:
With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.
I chose the more Orthodox garb because to me it more than anything said, “religion.” But critics do have a point when they say the Orthodox Jews in Israel get others to do their shooting for them.
There are Jews who are not Zionists. There are Zionists who are not Jews. Most Jews are not Israelis; most Israelis are Jews. Many Jews are not religious; many Israelis are not religious. There are deeply religious people who aren’t violent. There are violent people who aren’t deeply religious.
But when you combine religion, cultural identity, and statehood, you get a bigger mess than any of those things alone. My Orthox-ish dude is contemporary to his State counterpart:
(Thanks to another group of comments, I now know he’s holding the wrong kind of gun, and he’s holding it wrong. That I can live with.)
I envisioned This Land Is Mine as the last scene of my potential-possible-maybe- feature film, Seder-Masochism, but it’s the first (and so far only) scene I’ve animated. As the Bible says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Mamluk of Egypt
Wikipedia sez, “Over time, mamluks became a powerful military caste in various Muslim societies…In places such as Egypt from the Ayyubid dynasty to the time of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, mamluks were considered to be “true lords”, with social status above freeborn Muslims.” And apparently they controlled Palestine for a while.
Did I mention this is a cartoon? Probably no one went to battle looking like this. But big turbans, rich clothing and jewelry seemed to be in vogue among Ottoman Turkish elites, according to paintings I found on the Internet.
A gross generalization of a generic 19-century “Arab”.
The British formed alliances with Arabs, then occupied Palestine. This cartoon is an oversimplification, and uses this British caricature as a stand-in for Europeans in general.
The British occupied this guy’s land, only to leave it to a vast influx of….
Desperate and traumatized survivors of European pogroms and death camps, Jewish Zionist settlers were ready to fight to the death for a place to call home, but…
State of Israel Backed by “the West,” especially the US, they got lots of weapons and the only sanctioned nukes in the region.
Guerrilla/Freedom Fighter/Terrorist Sometimes people fight in military uniforms, sometimes they don’t. Creeping up alongside are illicit nukes possibly from Iran or elsewhere in the region. Who’s Next?
The Angel of Death
The real hero of the Old Testament, and right now too.
Note: If you want to support this project, please notice I have Paypal and Flattr buttons. TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donations accepted via the nonprofit QuestionCopyright.org.
Some people love Sita Sings the Blues enough to devote time and energy (and probably money!) to protesting it in public. My movie is now in the same league as the paintings of the late M. F. Hussein. I have arrived.
Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?
Free software is a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it means that the program’s users have the four essential freedoms:
The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
These are the Four Freedoms of Free Software. They are foundational principles, and they are exactly right. They have served and continue to serve the Free Software Movement very well. They place the user’s freedom ahead of all other concerns. Free Software is a principled movement, but Free Culture is not – at least not so far. Why?
1. The No Derivatives (-ND) Restriction
If you tinker with software, you can improve it. You can also break it or make it worse, but the Freedom to Tinker is one of the foundational 4 Freedoms of Free Software. Your software may also be used for purposes you don’t like, used by “bad people,” or even used against you; the Four Freedoms wisely counsel us to GET OVER IT.
Unfortunately, The Free Software Foundation does not extend “Freedom to Tinker” to Culture:
Cultural works released by the Free Software Foundation come with “No Derivatives” restrictions. They rationalize it here:
Works that express someone’s opinion—memoirs, editorials, and so on—serve a fundamentally different purpose than works for practical use like software and documentation. Because of this, we expect them to provide recipients with a different set of permissions (notice how users are now called “recipients,” and their Freedoms are now called “permissions” –NP): just the permission to copy and distribute the work verbatim. (link)
The problem with this is that it is dead wrong. You do not know what purposes your works might serve others. You do not know how works might be found “practical” by others. To claim to understand the limits of “utility” of cultural works betrays an irrational bias toward software and against all other creative work. It is anti-Art, valuing software above the rest of culture. It says coders alone are entitled to Freedom, but everyone else can suck it. Use of -ND restrictions is an unjustifiable infringement on the freedom of others.
For example, here I have violated the Free Software Foundation’s No-Derivatives license:
The Four Freedoms of Free Culture:
1. The freedom to run, view, hear, read, play, perform, or otherwise attend to the Work;
2. The freedom to study, analyze, and dissect copies of the Work, and adapt it to your needs;
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor;
4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. (link)
Without permission, I’ve created a derivative work: the Four Freedoms of Free Culture. Although I violated FSF’s No-Derivatives license, they violated Freedoms # 2 and 4, so we’re even.
2. The Non-Commercial (-NC) Restriction
The Freedom to Distribute Free Software is essential to its success. It has given rise to many for-profit businesses that benefit the larger community.
Red Hat, Canonical – would the world be better if such companies were forbidden? Would Free Software benefit from a ban on those businesses?
Yet the Cultural ecosystem is stunted by the prevalence of Non-Commercial restrictions. These maintain commercial monopolies around works, and – especially for vocational artists like me – are functionally as restrictive as unmodified copyright. Yet they are widely mislabeled “Free Culture,” or even “Copyleft.”
Which of these things does not belong?
This is a still from the mostly excellent and popular documentary RIP:a Remix Manifesto. This film is many peoples’ introduction to the term “Free Culture” and “Copyleft.” But as you can see, the Non-Commercial restriction is lumped in with actual Free license terms.
This film is itself licensed under unFree Non-Commercial restrictions. As an artist and filmmaker, I have found confusion is rampant among my creative colleagues. Some filmmakers are beginning to think the term “Free Culture” is cool, but they still want to restrict others’ freedom and impose commercial monopolies on their works.
This doesn’t help either
The book Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig its itself not Free culure, but it is widely looked up to. It sets an unfortunate and confusing example with its Non-Commercial license. It illustrates the absence of guiding principles in the Free Culture movement.
I have spoken to many artists who insist there’s “no real difference” between Non-Commercial licenses and Free alternatives. Yet these differences are well known and unacceptable in Free Software, for good reason.
Calling Non-Commercial restrictions “Free Culture” neuters what could be an effective movement, if it only had principles.
So what do I want?
I want a PRINCIPLED Free Culture Movement.
I want Free Software people to take Culture seriously. I want a Free Culture movement guided by principles of Freedom, just as the Free Software movement is guided by principles of Freedom. I want a name I can use that means something – the phrase “Free Culture” is increasingly meaningless, as it is often applied to unFree practices, and is also the name of a famous book that is itself encumbered with Non-Commercial restrictions.
I want a Free Culture ecosystem that allows artists to make money. I want anyone to be able to accept money for their work of remixing and building on Culture – just as a trucker can accept money for driving on a road. I want money to be among the many incentives to participate in building culture. Without the freedoms to Tinker and Redistribute without restriction, there is little incentive to build on and improve cultural works. There is little reward to help your neighbor, when you are guaranteed to lose money doing so. “Free Culture” with non-Commercial restrictions will remain a hobby for those with a surplus of time and labor, and those who only accept money from monopolists.
I want commerce without monopolies. I want people to understand the difference.
I want a Free Culture ecosystem that includes equivalents of businesses like Red Hat and Canonical. I want cultural businesses that give back to their communities, that work with their customers instead of against them. Only if we refuse to place Non-Commercial and No-Derivatives restrictions on our works will a robust Free Culture ecosystem be able to emerge.
I want the Free Software community – those who currently best understand the Four Freedoms – to champion the rest of Culture, not just Software. I want Freedom for All.
I was neither prepared nor in a particularly good mood when I did this “webinar” for Agora I/O. It was eerie having a “conversation” in which I could neither see nor hear the other participants. It was just me and my own voice, with questions and comments occasionally popping up in text on another webpage. Because of that, I couldn’t read anyone’s body language and try to pre-emptively smooth things over and “people please”; I could only speak my mind. Which I did. Which, upon reviewing, was a pretty great thing. You may not like me, but I sure do!
The fun starts about 8 minutes in, and gets better as it goes along. If you know about my story and Sita Sings the Blues, you can skip what comes before that, which is a basic recap.