Old content returns from beyond the grave
I stuck the Rapa Nui 24-hour Comic back up.
This is in response to Mom's comments on my last post. If you usually have comments turned off, you might want to turn them on and go read that.
Please do not flame my mom. She means well, and although I will probably never agree with her politically, I refuse to let that drive a wedge between us personally.
Mom, you jumped to a lot of incorrect conclusions in your comment. I'm not mad, but a lot of people would be. In the future, I suggest you take a minute to find out the facts about people's relationships before assuming the worst.
Now, about that article, entitled It's the Demography, Stupid. I read it this morning at work. The article is basically a typical right-wing rant against the evils of liberalism, with one interesting and possibly valid point buried deep inside. The interesting point that the more enlightened industrial Western societies have rapidly falling birthrates, while Muslims breed rapidly. So in a few decades, Muslims may be the majority in Europe, at which point they can vote to impose harsh Islamic law on everyone else, which is a bad thing for anyone who loves freedom.
These are topics I've been thinking a lot about lately anyway, so sure, let's talk about it.
First though, I wanna make clear: I am neither "left" nor "right". More than that: I do not think that they are coherent political philosophies. I don't think left and right are the only choices, I don't think they're opposite ends of a scale, in fact I don't think they really mean anything. They're just two self-reinforcing bundles of hypocrasy which spend all their time attacking each other and no time proposing constructive solutions. But lots of otherwise smart people get sucked into this way of thinking. It's in every politician's interest to maintain the illusion that Left and Right are the only two ways to view any issue, because this way all anger against Left gets channeled into votes for Right, and vice versa. Easier to get people to vote for you by making them hate and fear your opponents than by fixing problems or proposing sensible policies or anything. And easier to pick whichever side you hate less, and then listen to everything your side says, than to think for yourself.
I've got a whole political treatise I'm working on, which I'm going to post up here when it's finished, where I go into detail about the essential bogusness of the whole left-right idea. I've got facts and figures and everything. Look forward to it.
So, I try to read rants like this article from a neutral perspective. I'm not the conservative choir they're preaching to and I'm not the liberal enemy they're trying to get a rise out of with all the references to abortion and progressive thought and multiculturalism the "gay agenda" and "cultural elites" and assorted other polticially-charged buzzwords that really have nothing to do with the issue.
So, back to the article's thesis that Islam might take over the world by outbreeding the competition. What does the article say we should do about this? Should we start a world war and kill all the Muslims? No, and I don't think anyone would suggest that. Should we pass mandatory-minimum-childbearing laws? No way! (Any true conservative would be against such government meddling in private affairs). So what does the article suggest we do?
Well, it doesn't really suggest anything.
Because, like most right-wing and left-wing rants, this article is not interested in proposing anything constructive. It's just interested in passing out blame. Left-wing rants are about how the world is going to hell and it's all the right's fault. Right-wing rants are about how the world is going to hell and it's all the left's fault. The article sort of vaguely implies, without evidence to back this up, that the evil liberal agenda of abortion and welfare and socialized medicine is somehow causing the West's birthrate to fall.
If anything, doesn't the evil liberal welfare state make people have more children? After all, the amount of welfare benefits you can recieve is based on your number of dependents; more children means more free money from the government, right? Without that, having kids would be even more un-economical.
And that's what it is, economics. Kids are too expensive. Simple as that. People's everyday decision making is mainly economic when you come down to it. Just like they're not going to switch to electric cars as long as gas is cheap, they're not going to have extra babies as long as babies are expensive. And that's not a bad thing.
So, since the article is not very helpful, let me suggest a couple of things.
First: It doesn't matter whose descendants inherit the earth. Doesn't matter one bit. It matters whose ideas inherit the earth. Down towards the bottom, the article admits this. I agree. If the future world is populated entirely by descendants of Muslims who practice peace, freedom, science, and democracy, then I don't care if white people are extinct.
The most important battle going on in the world today is the battle between the moderate Muslims and the psycho ones. The Muslims who can deal with the modern world and live together with other religions, and the Muslims who just can't deal. What we want to happen is that the good Muslims take their religion back from the sick murderous freaks who bomb subways and send out death threats over Danish cartoons.
And what scares me is that neither the "left" nor the "right" seems to have any clue about how to do this. It's not something the United States can do just by knocking over a petty dictator here and there. And it's not like the Democrats have any better plans. Our foreign policy over the past several decades -- towards most of the world, but especially towards the middle east -- could best be described as random. We change our foreign policy according to the fickle whim of domestic politics and whatever the current president's personal ideology is. I'm going to write a long article about this, too, with facts and figures and everything. Look forward to it. Anyway, I wish America would pick its principles and enforce them consistently. And I wish there was more serious discussion of what our strategy should be in the long term across the middle east and the world. Instead of just "We must invade Iraq right now cuz they have WMD oh wait they don't." vs "No blood for oil! No blood for oil!". Not very helpful.
How do we help moderate Islam become dominant over the evil kind? Liberals will get on my case for using the word "evil" but it's quite apt. There's no other way to describe a culture where honor requires a man to kill his own female relatives if anyone questions their chastity. But the moderate Muslims don't follow that, or similarly barbaric practices, so we need to look at why two Muslims can read the same Koran and come to such different conclusions.
It's helpful to look at the two kinds of Christians -- I don't mean Catholics and Protestants, I mean scary fundie Christians vs. good sensible Christians like my friends Stephen and Andrew and Yasu. We've got some scary fundie Christians in this country, and if we let them have their way they would institute the same sort of draconian laws as the scary fundie Muslims want -- stone the adulterers, stone the gays, cover up the women, burn the science books. The difference is that the scary fundie Christians are generally content to pursue their agenda through voting and making obnoxious TV shows, rather than blowing stuff up. And the good sensible Christians are in charge, for the most part.
But back in the middle ages the Christians did some plenty barbaric stuff -- inquisitions, crusades, witch hunts, and so on. Something changed between then and now. Christianity had a Reformation, and then an Enlightenment, and today most Christians realize: "Hey, we have to share a planet with people who don't neccessarily believe the same way we do. We're right, of course, but no sense starting fights. Maybe we should live and let live and trust to God to deal with the sinners.".
Islam is 700-odd years younger than Christianity. Islam hasn't had a Reformation and an Enlightenment yet. They really need to get started on that.
I was having an interesting conversation on this topic today with Jeremy. One of the things he said was (paraphrasing): "Do we have the right to force our belief system on the Muslims?". And I said, "Absolutely".
Tolerance is such a big part of the core of Western civilization that it's easy to get carried away with it and take tolerance to the extreme where you refuse to make any sort of value judgements at all. It would be intolerant to say that Western civilization is superior to Islam, wouldn't it?
But dude, sometimes you have to make value judgements. I believe there is such a thing as an absolute right and wrong. I think culture is relative, but morality is universal. (That's part of how I define morality, in fact -- the stuff that's universal). You ought to be able to practice whatever culture you want, but if we are all going to live on this planet together without killing each other we need to come to some kind of basic agreement on morality. Muslim women want to wear veils? That's culture, that's fine, wear all the veils you want. Muslim men want to tell Muslim women they should wear veils? That's culture, fine, tell them. Muslim men want to execute women who don't wear veils? Now we're in the realm of morality, and performing such an execution is universally, absolutely wrong.
What I hate about the Right in America is that it so often thinks that its own particular culture ought to count as universal morality. And what I hate about the Left in America is that it so often thinks that there is no such thing as right and wrong at all.
So, you can argue where to draw the line between culture and morality, between personal freedom and social responsibility. My line is that you should basically be able to do whatever you want that does not harm another person, damage that person's property, or reduce that person's freedoms.
This just so happens to be very similar to what the U.S. Constitution says: You have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the government can't pass any laws that would take that away from you. It's not perfect, and there are lots of grey areas to argue over, but it's a heck of a lot better than any other system that humanity has come up with so far. Those founding fathers were either really smart, or they made a really good guess, because our system has been incredibly successful.
So yeah, I belive that a civilization based on ideas similar to the U.S. Constitution is inherently superior to one based on any kind of holy book. Take that, moral relativism. It's inherently an asymmetrical comparison: Muslims can live in the constitutional system and still keep their Prophet and their praying towards Mecca, because we guarantee religious freedom. The same can not be said for someone trying to live in an Islamic society and trying to practice their own beliefs. Like, if I was in Saudi Arabia when I kissed my boyfriend I would probably be facing the death penalty.
It's more than just democracy that they need. People in a democracy can still vote in a totalitarian government -- look at Palestine, electing terrorist group Hamas to be their leaders. The majority in a democracy can get together and decide to take the rights away from the minority. That's no good. You need democracy combined with a constitution that says: the following rights are inalieable; no matter how much of a majority you have, you cannot pass a law that takes these rights away from anyone. It's a brilliant solution, especially to be invented in the 1700s.
Therefore, we have the right, the duty even, to spread these ideas to other people, because they're the best tool we have to let people with different cultures share the planet. We want to survive, we want the Muslims to survive, we want the Muslims to have better lives within their own countries: we need to show them why constitutional democracy is a better way to live, and we need to show them that they can embrace it without giving up their religion or their cultural identity.
(They are going to have to learn to live with derogatory cartoons, though. They need to learn that somebody drawing a cartoon of Mohammed that they don't like does not diminish their religion in any real way; it's just some guy expressing his opinion, and they don't have the right to stifle it. When they understand that, we can all get along.)
So, how are we going to convince them that there is a better way to live? Here's where we get back to genetics and memetics. Monotheistic religions are clusters of memes (or self-replicating ideas) which spread in a couple of different ways: they can spread by war (forced conversions), or by voluntary conversions (memetic selection), or by reproduction, as people indoctrinate their children (memes piggybacking on genetic selection). There isn't a whole lot of forced conversion or voluntary conversion going on in the world today. Forced conversion is rightly frowned upon, and voluntary conversion happens to individuals, but not on any sort of huge scale. The most reliable way for someone to become a member of a given religion is to be born into it. This is why the original article talked so much about birth rates: that is the Islam meme's main propogation strategy at present.
Constitutional democracy spreads mainly by memetics, though. People all over the world look at America, they see that life is better under our system, and they either move here, or they convert their own country to our system. That's globalization. Purely voluntary. We don't have to drop a single bomb. The Berlin Wall fell because people in Eastern Europe knew our system was better than the communist system, not because of birthrates or American military intervention or any of that stuff. One Asian country after another has chosen to follow more-or-less our model, and anyone who looks at the standard of living in North Korea vs. South Korea can see why one choice is better than the other.
The bait, in a lot of cases, is our material wealth, our pop culture, all that shallow stuff; people in other countries hate our "cultural imperialism" for exporting all that stuff, but they're still lining up outside the McDonalds when it opens in their country. Countries start going Western because they want to be rich, but that leads them to try out freedom and democracy and all that. (That's the theory, anyway; it remains to be seen how this will play out in China, which seems to be dead-set on copying our wealth by implementing capitalism while keeping a totalitarian government. We'll see.)
So, there's no need to breed faster if our cultural exports are successful. To grossly oversimplify: People see America on TV, they see a better way of living, they want it, they change their government. If all goes well they become free and rich and start having a falling birthrate of their own. We should be studying this system and figuring out how to make it work better. Figuring out non-obvious ways to give support to the resistance movements in places like Iran, help them change their countries from within.
The scary old clerics in charge of fanatical Islam know this. That is why they fear our cultural exports above all else. That, I think, is the real reason why they freak out and ban our music and our movies and our books. Because they know that memes spread orders of magnitude faster than genes, and that it only takes a single generation of exposure to Western culture in the right form for their children to be "infected" with Western ideas. The current Islamic terrorist movement is mainly, I think, a backlash against globalization. I'm fairly optimistic that it will fail.
It's going to be an interesting century.
Well, there's no sense in trying to hide it anymore: I've got a boyfriend now. His name is Eric and he's an undergrad and he's really sweet and cute. He was apparently crushing on me for a long time. He wrote me a love letter after I broke up with Cat.
P.S. Kissing a man feels just like kissing a woman. Unless he has facial hair.
Tomorrow is the big day, Uchicon, the University of Chicago anime club's third annual mini-convention. My undergrad friends who have free time to spend on this stuff have been putting huge amounts of work into making it happen. It's got a sort of academic focus (no! really!). We invite people from "Asian Studies" and "Film Studies" departments at other universities who have written papers about Japanese pop culture to come and give talks. Pretty nerdy, eh? This way we can get funding from the student government. It also gives us a unique identity, which is what you need when you're trying to get a new convention started.
Last year I ran the "Old School Room" where I showed only pre-1985 anime. It ruled. But I wished I had gotten to hang out more with the webcomics artists downstairs. So I'm happy that this year Sushu has given me the job of hosting the webcomics panel! Huzzah!
So yeah, I love webcomics. I mean, most of them are total crap, it's true. Even more so than most anime is total crap. But so what? The good ones can be very, very good, and even when they're not, there's a certain sense of limitless possibilities to the art form which I love. It's an extremely personal and democratic form of communication; anybody can draw one and stick one up on the web, and no editor can reject you or tell you to alter your work so it sells better. So it's like a window directly into somebody's imagination. What we learn is that most people's imaginations suck, but it's still fascinating.
Nevertheless, I have tremendous respect for anyone who sets an update schedule and actually sticks to it, despite (usually) the demands of having a real job on the side. I also have tremendous respect for anyone who draws real backgrounds in every panel, cuz man, that's a heck of a lot of work.
So, our guests include:
Dirk Tiede, who does Paradigm Shift at ModernTales. This is an amazingly well-drawn manga-style police story set in Chicago. I love things that are set in Chicago. And his backgrounds are so realistic that i often look at one and say: Yup, I know where that intersection is.
Spike, who does a whole bunch of stuff at GirlAMatic. Her newest one is called Templar, Arizona. Spike is just really groovy. I fell in love with her instantly last year. Her work is full of "fat sassy chicks", wiggly organic shapes, bold inkwork, and dialogue that sounds like the way people actually talk in real life. Ever notice how rare that is?
Two other guests, whose work I haven't read yet ( But I will read every single page before the con, so we can have an intelligent discussion! ) are Caroline Curtis, who does Ninth Elsewhere, and Gerry Swanson, who does Biozoic, a kind of "nature documentary on an alien planet".
Turns out that the security hole had nothing to do with my password being hacked. Apparently this patch will fix the problem. However, this patch also fixes the RSS bug, and since I already fixed that there might be a conflict.
Evilbrainjono.net should have better up-time now. i have replaced my old, flaky ethernet cable (which was missing the tab that holds the connector in place, therefore it yanked out of the router every time somebody stepped on it) with a brand-new one (it's blue) and duct-taped it to the edges of the wall and ceiling so nobdoy has to ever step on it. Huzzah!
I'm going to be working some 60 hour weeks now and in the near future. Humanized is kicking into full-blown startup-company panic mode. Huzzah!
Testing... Testing... Testing my new RSS feed generator.
Well gosh, I go away from my web page for a couple weeks and I when I come back, somebody has hacked it. Those last two posts were not from me. Congratulations, whover did it; I am vaguely honored that somebody thought evilbrainjono.net was worth hacking, and even more so that it was from an Utena fan. I will leave the posts there because they're interesting, but I have changed my password.
Stephen says my RSS feed isn't working with LiveJournal anymore because the file is too big. I'm gonna see what I can do about that.
I haven't had much to write about lately because I haven't been doing anything but work. This last weekend was cool, though! I went out with Cat and had a great time. I got to meet her snakes and cats and mice and fish and her blind roommate. I tried to fix up her home network, but ran into a faulty Ethernet card. We went to a party full of stoner hippies, which was not so cool, and another party full of yuppie Pagans (I was surprised that such a species exists, but not surprised that they live near North Belmont). Played TAIKO NO TATSUJIN (or Taiko Drum Master, as they're calling it in North America). One of the songs it has is Katamari On The Rocks, which is triple-A AAAwesome. She took me to Swap-O-Rama, which is just weird, and to the fabric store to get stuff for my eventual Ukyo costume. And the best part: I got de-virginized at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Cat dressed up as a "tranny". Man. Rocky Horror. I've never even seen the movie itself before, so this was the full de-virginization experience. It was just... man. Wow. I was frightened and confused and a little turned on. I think I can understand why these people do this; it's really no different from me dressing up as an anime character ( a female one, sometimes ) and singing along with Japanese theme songs. Pity the normal people who don't know what they're missing.
Somewhere in there, I worked up the nerve to give Cat the "let's just be friends" talk, and she took it pretty well. So, that's how that ended up. A big load off my chest! Thanks for everything, Cat! I still think you're sweet.
::jumps on hood of windshield::
You hear the sound, don't you? Unless your soul has already given up....
It looks like the Japan trip isn't going to happen. I was back at Mitsuwa today and asked about the promotion; seems the one I wrote about before has already expired. There's a new one which lets you go to Tokyo for $379, but it has to be reserved by February 3rd (that's this Friday!) and you have to fly in February. Which isn't going to work out for me because I need to work solidly on Humanized between now and April. If anybody reading this is thinking of going, call Mitsuwa ((847)956-6699) before Friday!