ignorance

Spaced out – a blog rant because it’s been a while and I’m a bit rusty

(Disclaimer: This is my first blog in a few months, I have dropped/sprinkled some f-bombs but I’m hoping they fit the ranty style)

I love all things to do with space; fact, fiction and everything that has yet to be classified. So I was there watching the live stream of SpaceX fist true payload test flight yesterday. Let’s just say it was more exciting than the cyro test for the James Webb telescope.

In years to come it will be interesting to see what people recall of Elon Musks – SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, more significantly the ‘dummy payload’. I used to be a bit meh about Musks plans of getting to Mars, I felt there were things we should tend to here first (like a lot of people I suspect). However I think once humanity gets to Mars and realises what a shit hole it is (sorry Mars, you lost your magnetic field, had your atmosphere stripped, your oceans boiled away and more than likely the only life is bacterial) it will hopefully be the wake-up call needed to stop shitting where we eat.

But back to that payload – the cherry red Tesla Roadster with Starman at the wheel, blasting out David Bowie I have to say ‘classy dude…nice choice’. For everyone wringing hands about ‘space junk’ (here comes the rant) CHECK THE FUCKING TRAJECTORY! It is metaphorically the same as me going to a river picking up a stick and chucking it in a stream to see where it might end up out at sea, then people screaming about polluting the river. It is (was!) headed for Mars, not orbiting earth, but overshot (too much power Elon – I feel myself channelling Scotty from Star Trek ‘I’ve given it all I’ve got captain’) and is going to make it to the asteroid belt – yes a massive collection of debris. They had to put a payload on the end to test it. Picking a car as others have said is a better representation of actual payloads – not the usual block of concrete or steel. Why not test and have a bit of fun? The Starman suit is also a genuine suit soon to be used so – yeah – it also serves a purpose…and it’s FUN! It should not have to be an ‘either/or’ choice when it comes to science and technology pushing ideas or the environment. Tesla has invested research into alternative energy – again – how about checking with other big companies about their commitment to sustainability.

Speaking of sustainable, the rockets – reusable. So to all those complaining about pollution, space-junk etc, how’s your recycling going? Sure Tesla might get some marketing out of it – and why the fuck not! He took a huge gamble.

No – of course the car is fucking next to useless in space, orbiting Mars – wherever – so is a massive piece of steel and concrete. Oh and let’s not forget there are meteors bigger than The Roadster hurtling toward daily, so please (to those concerned hand wringers) STFU about shit from space – space is full of stuff, all sorts of stuff and who knows some of that stuff might have come from previous Mars civilisation wondering if it could send someone to Earth….ponder that.

Next stop – the Flat Earthers…not sure when I will get ‘round’ to that. I sphere I may go round in circles.

 

Advertisements

Un-rant Pulse lowered

I’m still angry – it is my body protesting

My Pulse still races with a frustration and despair I cannot name or that words fail to capture

It’s interesting how the world suddenly sees diversity and attempts to explain it away, so many lenses refracting light, colours strong and bright, rainbows lost in the white, no longer in-sight

Not one family member or straight friend checking in – asking – wondering about my well-being, invisible in front of them

Who I am, outwardly concealing a truth that dare not speak its own name, let me remind those who do not get it:

It is a crime to be me in parts of the world, I can be legally put to death, I can be arrested, tortured or sent to a conversion camp. In the past I could have been institutionalised, had shock therapy, deemed mentally unwell

I can be me at a price – always a price – always – but I like me and I refuse to be afraid, but I am wary, cautious, alert, my heightened sensitivity a gift one I would never give up

This event was not bullying, harassment or some bad taste joke to get a few laughs or mock – it is not a misunderstanding. It was an act of genocide

It is what it is – it should not be denied and yet the media continue to side step into the shadows that ignorance casts

But light is always moving, and so is my grief and the patterns of my thinking shift to supporting my community – everywhere.

Hard conversations start in silence

I sat with a young person today as they processed what was probably one of the hardest stories I have heard about sexual assault. The young person had the courage to speak up but they are doubtful the offender will plead guilty and they will have to testify in court, reliving the trauma and distress… justice? And after a week of watching the media salivate over the Stanford University – Brock Turner rape case I can’t help wondering if the very systems constructed in deliver ‘justice’ disable rather than enable change, both on a personal, societal and cultural level.

On a more pragmatic level, how is that alcohol is still getting off scot free? Here is a substance that has enabled so much harm to occur and yet it remains somehow immune to suspicion as a mind altering chemical. I’d like to put alcohol on trial. There is so much evidence against it but it must have a pretty good defence team.

It has managed to maintain its innocence while enabling other substances to be demonised, to the point where any conversation that aligns it with non-legal chemicals is ridiculed. Our culture demands the right to intoxication by alcohol. Nearly every event, celebration, social occasion uses it. With its harmless qualities being promoted, accepted and endorsed and sex being such an awkward encounter – thanks to our collective embarrassment, shame and insistence on outdated gendered notions of entitlement around desire, we’ve got the perfect conditions for what occurred. To be clear though, I don’t think alcohol is the reason for what happened, I’m trying to understand the process of normalisation that seems to occur around its use/abuse. I wonder if we treated alcohol in the same way as any other drug – not separating it out for a start, we might be able to ask different kinds of questions about its effects.

And while it might be in another country I don’t think New Zealand should be doing any ‘tut tutting’, Roast Busters anyone? Here is a random thought – what if we had as many drink-sex adds on TV as drink drive ones? Why not? And why not throw condom use in there while we are going with the ‘hard’ topics. The other really difficult conversation is navigating transitional experiences for young people (anyone up to the age of at least 25 I reckon). Teaching sex-sexuality without a context of mediating desire, vulnerability and other expectations or constraints including heteronormative ones will simply drive the same old assumptions along, rehash them and enable justifications based on gendered entitlements to continue.

I’m not holding my breath for change, because we simply refuse to put ourselves on trial, our own attitudes, beliefs and values. Hard conversations with ourselves.

Hit with the truth

A long term study determines that ‘smacking’/hitting children isn’t such a good idea for their long term well-being and functioning. Wow – really? I’m shocked. So let’s put the research aside for a second, because there will be plenty of people not willing to accept the evidence.

Regardless of your beliefs, whatever values have been instilled in you from whatever sources perhaps an approach to this delicate topic of parental ‘rights’ and who gets to police that always evokes a challenge to the moral order.

But how about trying to look at this purely from a neurobiological perspective, particularly the fundamentals of the limbic system, namely the amygdala and the associated structures that mediate and process environmental info and emotional responses then how this is mediated by the frontal cortex or the ‘reasoning’ part of the brain. Abuse and trauma in early life (infancy-childhood) directly effects the amygdala producing structural and functional changes. Emotional responses and anxiety are heightened in response to stressful situations or stimuli. This early life trauma has been shown in studies to stay relatively permanent. The amygdala does not work alone, it is part of a network and this is also effected, including the relationship to the frontal cortex.

The brain has some level of neuroplasticity which is great and why children and young people need access to good support and resources to mediate the affective development and not be exposed to more abuse. There are some important places other than homes where children and young people can be exposed to stress and abuse, sometimes in the name of love and support. Schools in particular can be such sites.

While corporal punishment has been outlawed in New Zealand since 1990 the use of shame, humiliation and other threatening tactics are still employed and punishment is still seen as the preferred option. In light of this research I hope that approaches come under the microscope and we can look beyond blaming parents and take a collective responsibility for abuse – all forms including institutional. The growing movement of restorative approaches gives me some hope, neuroscientists such as Daniel Reisel back this process for healing and developing empathy.

So back to the truth – all forms of abuse have an effect, regardless of the intent. The courage our society faces is to start putting the effects ahead of peoples intentions and support the taking up of responsibility for harm.

Staying grounded on Earth Day

How do you celebrate Earth Day? My Facebook feed is a mix of dire warnings, and warm fuzzy hug a tree type messages. I guess what it comes down to is Earth Day is an attempt to pause and think. But what to think about? The catch for me is the meaning of The Earth how it is understood in terms of our relationship to everything else. Humans have a habit of seeing everything as serving our needs to survive. This anthropocentrism is most entrenched in our current global economic and political structures. So for me I am wondering about the constraints on our thinking and relating to the diversity of life. I’m curious about the other cultural and ancient views of harmony with life that have been forgotten or suppressed and who’s interests this has served.

Science is keenly invested in finding answers with climate change being a bit of a well-worn path of common concern. But as Cary Wolfe and Karen Barad note:

‘Notwithstanding the diversity of possible reasons, the stakes in managing and accounting for these conceptual configurations are significant, for how the fault line of discrimination between the human and the nonhuman/animal/environment is drawn also motivates the reasoning behind claims for which life forms deserve more equitable kinds of moral treatment.’

So my call is for the brave step into something ‘epistemic vulnerability’ (Jennifer Logue) when some forms of knowledge are seen as dangerous or threatening there can be a shutting down, she notes that:

‘By examining ignorance as a defense, the activity of its process becomes clear. We can see non-knowledge is consciously constructed, used to leverage authority, close down community, and exonerate the culpable in a range of different legal and cultural arenas. This ignorance is a series of carefully constructed forms of not knowing that are used to protect power.’

So I am putting my certainty aside about how to ‘save the planet’ to question my own assumptions and beliefs about what it needs saving from. I’ll also compost more just to be on the practical side.

Articles referred to:

Chiew, F. (2014). Posthuman Ethics with Cary Wolfe and Karen Barad: Animal Compassion as Trans-Species Entanglement. Theory, Culture & Society31(4), 51-69.

Logue, J. (2014). The Politics of Unknowing and the Virtues of Ignorance: Toward a Pedagogy of Epistemic Vulnerability. Philosophy of Education Archive, 53-62.

Shoe in

It’s an oft used analogy to indicate perspective taking or developing empathy ‘to walk in someone else’s shoes’. I’ve been thinking more and more about why slipping into someone’s experience would be as simple or whether the familiarity of the idea is both why it works and fails miserably. Because I would go even further to say that excludes a wide range of people and other beings who either do not walk or don’t wear shoes.

So perhaps this way of helping short cut understanding has set up a rather unhelpful set of assumptions. We are all conceptually limited although at times we’d rather pretend to ‘know’ than deal with the uncomfortable realisation that we might just not ‘get it’. To ask the question ‘how do we know what we don’t know’ or ‘why did this form of knowing become accepted’ invites an alternative, agnotological approach to the shoe idea.

What got me thinking about this again was my experience of starting bare foot running, not exactly, but the ‘shoes’ I wear are simply a piece of rubber and some rope (the silver toe nail polish is optional but I reckon it makes me run better). Peoples responses were intriguing, no-one believed they were running shoes. The model of the shoe did not fit, a preconceived idea had already defined how my feet should be covered for the purposes of training. My shoes were wrong according to the dominant knowledge available from the various scientifically based truths about human physiology and biomechanics. Therefore the idea of trying to run in my shoes was so against popular knowledge my decision seemed incomprehensible, illogical and irrational. Judging from some of the condescending comments and Spock like eyebrow raises, I was deemed a little bit cray cray, a sort of ‘these aren’t the shoes you’re looking for’ Jedi mind trick was even tried.

It’s taken my body a while to adjust to a different style of running, but I love it. All the concern about what harm I might do running in a more natural way seem a little cray cray to me. Some lives are like my new running ‘shoes’. They are incomprehensible because of the ideas used to construct them. When people imagine wearing them they have already decided how it might feel, how painful and uncomfortable and awkward they’d be. It might not cross their mind that they could feel light, free, sensitive and liberating. I suspect people who identify as transgender or are seen as ‘disabled’ have their lives miss-imagined or only framed in pejorative ways.

But I think if we can become open to the idea that we might be wrong, to be curious and prepared to recognise the ways our own vulnerability shapes our perception, that is, to understand our own shoes, why they feel comfortable, where they fit best, what terrain they give traction on and where they become unstuck could be more useful. But again, from the outside our ideas simply reflect our own fears, doubts and insecurities and not necessarily the lived experience of others.

And as for seeing through the eyes of another? Well that is no mean feet.

Got you by the gubernaculum

I’m fascinated by the complexity of everything and it baffles me that we want to keep simplifying, generalising and categorising life into the most basic compartments. I know most people believe that there are two sexes. There are definitely two, but there are more. My brush with embryology at uni many years ago was an eye opener and a mind opener. The amazing interplay of chromosomes and cell-division revealed the wide range of variations leading to more than just a possible boy or girl baby.

The curious thing is that all humans begin the same with their reproductive and sexual organs looking the same. Then differentiation happens leading to gene expression, much like any other aspect of biology. But we’ve filtered out these variations for so long they appear invisible, unrepresented in our consciousness of the spectrum of diversity. The polarity of sexual organs most visibly represented in text books is not the full story. We’ve been ripped off! At a certain point in our embryonic development the structures that will later go on to develop into sex organs are pulled downward by a chord like structure and as they do they continue to develop into specific roles, testes or ovaries. It’s kind of cool because it explains the ways we can end up with other combinations of sexual organs, that it is actually not uncommon or unexpected. More to the point is not ‘un-natural’.

So I think we need more conversations about gubernaculums, and other great reproductive scrabble words to baffle your mates with. We need to see more diagrams with a range of possible outward and inward arrangements of organs without the word normal anywhere. Education could do more looking at some of the queer ways nature has got around binary genders or even the senses as we know them – such as the amazing brittlestar, it senses light with no eyes and ingests and egests through the same orifice…yip kind of glad we got a different deal there (although it might explain why some people talk excrement). There is also the whiptail lizard who don’t seem to need males to reproduce. And there are those sea horse dudes who look great being pregnant.

If the distribution and arrangement of organs is like part a branching expanding unfolding phenomenon it makes sense that some will stop at various points and form in unique ways much like a fractal, repeating the same familiar patterns with slight variations. Beautiful and perfect as they are.

Actually, looking more closely at the most famous of fractals, the Mandelbrot set  it makes me wonder what Freud might see. Shouldn’t be too hard.