Social Media Discussion Questions

As I’m still (mostly) on hiatus from Twitter and Fecebook, I fantasize about having a real-life discussion group to talk about social media. Since I don’t have one, I’ll do what I always do: ask online, which is why I developed a social media dependence to begin with. Please answer as many or as few questions as you like.

  1. Have you ever changed someone else’s mind on social media? How?
  2. Have you ever gotten angry at someone on social media? Why?
  3. Do you have online friendships or relationships with people you’ve never met in real life?
  4. Has a conflict on social media affected you offline, in “real life”? How?
  5. Have you lost friendships over things said and done on social media?
  6. Have you ever been publicly shamed on social media? If so, please describe. If not, why not?
  7. Have you ever joined in a public shaming of someone else?
  8. Have you ever witnessed a social media public shaming? Did you say anything? Why or why not?
  9. Have you ever reported a tweet or post? Why? What happened?
  10. Have you ever been reported?
  11. Do you say things on social media you’re afraid to say in real life?
  12. Do you say things in real life you’re afraid to say on social media?
  13. Have you ever lied on social media? Why?
  14. Do you “like” things you don’t actually like, and refrain from “liking” things you do like? Why?
  15. Do you use social media for political activism? How?
  16. How would you stay in touch with your friends without social media?
  17. If your friends all jumped off a cliff on social media, would you do it too? (Answer: yes.)

Update: my answers are in the fifth comment below.

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Essay: Religion is Like a Fungus

Some of the most maladaptive social behaviors I see seem to indicate deep human longings for religion and/or magic. Here’s something I wrote about religion in December. It’s weird. You don’t have to agree.

mycellium_800-600x347

Religion is like a fungus: seemingly toxic, but an essential part of an ecosystem we don’t understand.

Culture is alive. Just as physical living organisms are interconnected in complex ways, so are cultural organisms.

Our usual approach to Life is to think of organisms as discrete individuals. The plant is one thing, the soil is another, the insects another, and the fungus is some pathogen or pest. The animal is an individual, whose life processes are carried out by its individual organs. A human is one thing, culture is another; an intestine is one thing, gut flora are another.

Only recently have we acknowledged that animal digestion relies on bacteria. Without internal bacteria, animals cannot live. That bacteria is communicated through a complex living environment we remain mostly stupid about.

Religion is like a fungus. Consider Penicillium: a mold that spoils bread. No one wants moldy bread. If our bread is moldy, we curse the mold, and perhaps dream of a world in which mold is eliminated.

Suppose we succeed in wiping out the nasty bread mold. Do we end up with clean, pure bread? No, we open the door to far more toxic organisms.

I am highly critical of established religions. Terrible things are done in their names. They do seem toxic.

But a human mind without religion does not become some pure, rational ideal. The human mind never was and never will be pure or discrete. The human mind exists in a cultural ecosystem we do not fully (or even begin to) understand.

Because cultural ecosystems are barely acknowledged, let alone studied, there aren’t well-developed ways to talk about them. I use the metaphor of soil: human minds are the soil in which culture lives. Culture itself may be “airborne,” like spores. A human mind with permeable ears and eyes will be colonized by music, images, language, gestures, sounds, patterns, and much more we can’t even name. Trying to stop culture from entering a mind by enclosing it just makes the system unhealthy – like wrapping food in plastic. It works for a short time, but eventually traps colonies of microbes, and not the ones you want.

Better to keep the mind nicely aired out, with an open flow of culture around it, so it can stay healthy.

Established religions may protect minds against even more toxic cultural organisms, just as Penicillium makes bread inhospitable for pathological bacteria. For all its faults, Abrahamism may protect minds from even worse ideologies.

Atheism has become very popular in the West over the last few decades. I’m all for it. Except…it has coincided with the rise of some pretty toxic new religions. Foremost is genderism, the belief in an unprovable, indefinable gendered essence (soul) that can be born in the wrong body. Genderism is remarkably popular among professed atheists.  Danielle Muscato is a prime example.

This is anecdotal, and I am only one data point, BUT: I’ve noticed that the most toxic, extreme genderists tend to identify as atheists, while many of the most benign and rational genderists I’ve encountered practice a traditional religion (Christianity). They may not even be genderists per se, but they are transsexuals. I speculate their established religion protects them from the worst cultural toxins – misogny, dishonesty, entitlement, violence – attendant to gender extremism.

For all my criticism of religion, I conclude that humans may need it. Killing off religion may be like killing off “pests”: seemingly beneficial in the short term, but having complex effects on the larger ecosystem that can be catastrophic. Healthy soil needs – largely is – fungi and bacteria. Healthy minds – the soil of culture – may require similarly unsympathetic cultural organisms. Like physical Life on Earth, most mental life is “below ground,” and staggeringly complex. The writhing colonies of organisms that live in dark places may disgust us, but our life and health depend on them.

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The Banality of Stupid

Peace Stick2_med

Dear Future,

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.
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Ye Olde Bouncygif

I am blessed with a terrible memory, which allows me to get fresh enjoyment from my own work after enough time passes. So it was especially fun to come across a Facebook post in an unfamiliar language with a gif of my animation from 2004:

walkbounce-facebook

By some miracle, the original .fla files were on one of my main disk drives, so I reformatted one for today’s preferred 16:9 aspect ratio, and voila:

walkbounce7.3

Maybe I’ll find some way to use it in a new project, and render it as 4K video. It was originally part of a short I was going to do about depression, because in 2004 I was very depressed. Instead I made Sita Sings the Blues, which was probably  more therapeutic. But I sure like this walk cycle.

The original 640 x 480 gif is here, uploaded by some anonymous archivist.

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Hathor the Golden Calf

HathorWalk36

I took some liberties in this design. “Why all the boobies?” you may ask. Once upon a time, boobies were an object of respect, not shame and ridicule. My goddesses have big, bare breasts to represent that mindset. Not that I think boobies should be worshipped; I’m not into biological fertility, and I’m not a “breast (wo)man”. Having breasts myself, I can say they’re kind of a pain in the ass (nor am I an “ass (wo)man”). But there’s so much shame around female breasts these days, I make ’em big and plentiful on deities to remind myself, and hopefully you, that the shame, discomfort, and anger they provoke is about patriarchy, not women’s bodies.

Here’s Hathor as a golden idol:

HathorGold36

My favorite interpretation of Exodus 32 posits the Golden Calf was Hathor, a very popular Egyptian cow goddess. I’m running with that in my film. Fun!

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How to Feel Good About Garbage

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.
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
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
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.

 

Based on numerous conversations with Theodore Gray.

 

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:

  1. Cheaper alternatives for fuel, so wind power, hydrogen from solar, etc, etc.
  2. 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.

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