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June 16th, 2023

Racial Hierarchies Are Real And Well Of Course We’re The Top One

A casual stroll through the internet tubes this afternoon, brings me to a decades old argument between Steven Pinker and Stephen J. Gould. First, from Pharyngula

One accidental occurrence is meaningless and forgivable, but when you keep hanging out with the same group of racists for over 20 years, and when you are repeatedly informed that these are bad guys, the correlation becomes rather more substantial. 

Then, following the links, comes this from Box of Rocks

Even though Gould passed away in 2003, Pinker still fights his ghost on the regular, probably because burns like that leave you scarred for life. He urges the members of his field to write compellingly so that they can hold their own in the realm of public opinion, citing a need to rebut Gould’s clear, well reasoned arguments against their endless and transparent attempts at reviving race science.

It is working. Sociobiology and eugenics is once again being repackaged for the public as part of the TESCREAL ideologies, pressed into service to rationalize why those with power and resources are morally justified in doing everything they can to retain it. This rebrand is made possible by those like Pinker, Wilson, Dawkins, and Dennett, who have carried the gospel of biological determinism out of the NYRB and into the public sphere for the last 30 years…

You can find the argument here and yes it is totally engaging. Gould was amazing…

If we define poetic justice as defeat by one’s own favored devices—Robespierre before the guillotine or Midas in golden starvation—then we might be intrigued to find Steven Pinker, a linguist by training, upended by his own use of words.

Ages ago I read Pinker’s The Blank Slate with interest. I was a young man barely out of my teens when I’d come to accept the notion, by way of Robert Audrey’s African Genesis (Yeah, I know…), that to understand ourselves we needed to understand those ancient animal horizons from which we, as he wrote, made our quick little march. Pinker’s book seemed to be a useful exploration of that idea. But I am also a post WWII baby boomer child, and I also had a pretty good understanding of how the fascists prior to world war two had employed a deeply false understanding of Darwinism as justification for totalitarianism, their wars of conquest, and the Holocaust. Pinker lost me part way through the book with an approving mention of Thomas Sowell, but I gamely plugged on. 

There are books on science, politics, and ideas that I will return to and read passages from over and over again, some that I profoundly disagree with but which I think are important to engage with anyway. The Blank Slate isn’t one of them. When I closed that book I never opened it again, probably because the ideas in it that I felt drawn to were expressed much better elsewhere, and there seemed a lot of posing and fluff everywhere else. I never read any of his stuff again, initially and simply because he just didn’t strike me as all that interesting a thinker. I also suspected he was more right wing than he let on (Sowell? Really??). It was much later that I saw the drift toward Charles Murray land.

What Gould was saying there in those arguments about traits evolving from things that might not always benefit the organism strikes logical man of science me as obvious, and emotional intuitive artist me as beautiful. Think of the evolutionary process as occasionally being Bob Ross seeing a small mistake on the canvas and saying “we’ll just make that a happy little tree.” What the artist knows is that the work is an exploration, and that beauty can present suddenly and unexpectedly from the most commonplace of things…things that you would never have noticed until that one small detail that changed, ever so slightly, changed everything. You put down some lines…maybe you make a mistake…maybe you draw it a little differently than you intended. You go to erase it but you look at it again and suddenly you see a direction you can take that is better than what you were thinking before.

This is the face of Stephan Borgrajewicz, who like me was born in Poland. In plate 175 it is seen by the Polish artist, Feliks Topolski. We are aware that these pictures do not fix the face as explore it; that the artist is tracing the detail almost as if by touch; and that each line that is added strengthens the picture but never makes it final. We accept that as the method of the artist.

-Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man – Chapter 11, Knowledge or Certainty.

Art, like science, is a personal exploration of nature. Every line we put down is tentative. Does it add to the work or subtract from it? And the work is never finished, never final. You take it as far as you can and then you stop. This is the likeness between science and art that Bronowski illuminated for me. And as it turns out, you can see it everywhere in nature too. Evolution explores, it deals in possibilities, it is chaotic but not random; there the laws of physics behind what it does. Sometimes it is a gift to the organism, sometimes it is a dead end, and sometimes it is a dead end that, should the environment around the organism change, suddenly becomes a gift. Probably the evolutionary scientist would say that nature does whatever it damn well pleases. And the thing is, there is no plan. Only the physics of it.

“Pinker has spent his life defending those who would rank humans from best to worst…” and it strikes me as something akin to the never ending search for the great watchmaker. Surely evolution must have a purpose, and surely that purpose must be the slow steady perfection of the rational brain. And just look at us…we are the men of the mind…the great intellects of our age…surely we are the purpose evolution was aspiring to! But there is no purpose. There is only what the physics allows, and what time could make of what it had to work with on our little blue marble. That’s beautiful. It is sublime. Yes, the rational brain works for us, and very well. But it could have appeared anywhere, or nowhere. As Penn Juliette once put it, we hit the cosmic jackpot. But those that would make of our little walk from the African plains a purpose, and from that a hierarchy of race, are no different from the feverish pulpit thumpers, babbling about the saved and the unsaved (I was taught to never, Never assume you were saved), and never really wanting to know what God, let alone nature, hath wrought.


by Bruce | Link | React!

February 10th, 2023

How Dare You Put Reality Above Our Dogmas!

Browsing my gay studies bookcase, I opened my copy of the Kinsey Report again because I wanted to see if I had snagged a first edition. But there is no printing information on the copyright page. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It’s an old original hardback edition though, that I found ages ago in a second hand bookstore in Havre De Grace, along with a copy of “Homosexualities” by Bell and Weinberg, another book routinely lied about by the culture warriors.

I open it up to look at the copyright page…then I read the first paragraph of the Preface…

Seen from the four points of the compass a great mountain may present aspects that are very different one from the other – so different that better disagreements can arise between those who have watched the mountain truly and well, through all the seasons, but each from a different quarter. Reality, too, has many facets – some too readily disputed or denied by those who rely only on their own experience. Nor can science itself rightly lay claim to finality, or the complete comprehension of reality, but only to honesty and accuracy of the additional facets, it may be permitted to discover and report. I say “may be permitted” since the human race is familiar with the suppression of truth in both small matters and great. The history of science is part of the history of the freedom to observe, to reflect, to experiment, to record, and to bear witness. It has been a perilous, and a passion of history, indeed, and not yet ended.

-Alan Gregg, Preface to Sexual Behavior In The Human Male by Alfred C. Kinsey, Wardell B. Pomeroy and Clyde E. Martin, 1948.

The struggle between science and dogma in one paragraph. It could be about anything, not simply the explosive topic of that study. It could be the opening lines to a study on evolution, or the geologic history of planet Earth. “The history of science is part of the history of the freedom to observe, to reflect, to experiment, to record, and to bear witness.” Whatever the specific thing is that MAGA want to suppress, at rock bottom it is always this freedom to observe, reflect, experiment, record and especially to bear witness. It is always basically about that.

by Bruce | Link | React!

December 7th, 2022

Two Different Drag Shows

Are drag shows entertainment? Of course they are. Is drag fun? Yes, if you’re into that sort of thing. Is drag appropriate for children? When has it not been. I can’t count the number of times I saw men dressing up as women on TV shows and goofing around when I was a kid. In the 1950s and 60s TV and Movies could get some cheap laughs out of reversing gender roles, so long as it was understood those roles weren’t being challenged, but simply reversed for laughs. Nobody thought anything about it until gay people and our ways of drag became more visible. And in that are the other reasons for drag besides entertainment.

There are so many line items in the checklist of gay culture I just don’t tick off that I’ve been asked outright how sure I am that I’m gay. One of these is drag. I see it, I logically get that it’s a thing for lots of people (gay and straight), but at some deep personal level I don’t get it. But I respect it as an art form, and even admire the performers who are good at creating the illusions involved. Otherwise it does not interest me much at all, unless sometimes to watch the sort of adult somewhat androgynous slender male I’m often attracted to who is usually pretty good at doing drag. But when I watch a performer like that, I’m usually trying to visualize what they look like out of drag. 

I’m sure it’s because I am so plainly at the far end of the Kinsey scale. I am not much attracted to uber masculinity but the female body does zero for me and so drag just isn’t an interest. I like guys. I like watching guys. Beautiful, sexy longhaired guys. Bluejeans and light shirts that let you know what the body under them is like.  I just can’t look away. Makeup and glamor are other things that really disinterest me. I’m a sixties kid…we rebelled against faking a look in favor of natural hairstyles and skin tones. I have this theory that our libidos key on whatever fashions were in style during the time we are coming of age, and that is what you will always react to as beautiful and sexy. So I’m probably stuck in that mindset and it makes it hard for me to appreciate drag other than as an art form. When I hear people saying drag has this sexual connotation to it, I have to consider that logically, because my libido just doesn’t see it.

But there is a political aspect to it that I can see that pretty clearly; not just logically, but deep down at a gut level. You grow up hearing from every direction that you are some sort of sexual outlaw, a deviant, a pervert, a threat to the social order, for not conforming to your assigned gender role, for being something you cannot help being, and it makes you think about the why of it. You start thinking more carefully about things like gender and sexual roles. You think about them enough and you can’t help but see the wrongness in some of what you are being told has to be. The roles imposed on women. The roles imposed on men. What makes these the natural order? And then you feel a need to challenge it, if only to defend your inner self from being erased. The other thing about being a sixties kid is you almost always have this knee jerk reaction to any kind of imposed social conformity. Yes Mr. Establishment sir I am a young male and no I will not cut my hair. And I will wear my turquoise jewelry. And a ring in my ear if I want to. And so what if I’m gay and I love a man. What’s it to you.

And on top of all that, I am a geek child. Show me the science or STFU.

Why am I being asked to conform? What if I don’t?

What if I can’t?

Drag has not only been an art form in gay circles for generations, it is also a political statement about gender and sexual fluidity. At its most basic, it’s about each of us dealing with our own sexual nature on our own terms in our own ways. And it is that, without a doubt, that is the problem our recent crop of fascists have with it.

The current bellyaching about drag shows has nothing to do with protecting children any more than Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign in the late 1970s did. She went on a rampage against gay people after a law was passed protecting us from job discrimination and it wasn’t Save Our Workplaces it was Save Our Children. It was, and is, a visceral attack of the sort many other hated minorities have experienced throughout history. The blood libel against Jewish people for instance, is they murdered Christian children to use their blood in Jewish rituals. But this campaign against drag shows and gay people serves a more fundamental purpose, which is to reestablish and enforce social and gender roles.

Like this if necessary…

If you think I’m being hyperbolic here, just listen to them talk about gender roles and what they view as the threat liberal democracy poses to men and to masculinity and you’ll see pretty clearly what all this is in fact about. In a lot of instances you can see homophobia as second hand misogyny. Women must submit to men not have sexual power over them because men must always be powerful and in control, but absolutely Not in a sexy and fuckable way. These wannabe men so afraid of losing power, so terrified of the idea of giving themselves to a lover, sharing themselves body and soul with another, have been showing up at drag events in their own sort of drag show, carrying weapons of war wherever that is now being allowed because guns are power, never Never Never a cute butt.

Let me tell you something about drag shows. The following is an excerpt from a post at A Mighty Girl about Ruth Coker Burks, who in 1984 beheld a hospital room door with a big red bag over it, and when she entered, the dying young man inside. For the next ten years Burks helped care for over 1,000 people dying of AIDS and even dug the graves for 40 of them herself in her family’s cemetery, when their own families would have nothing to do with them…

During this time, as the AIDS epidemic was devastating the gay community across the country, she began to get referrals from rural hospitals from across the state. “They just started coming,” she explains. “Word got out that there was this kind of wacko woman in Hot Springs who wasn’t afraid… I was their hospice. Their gay friends were their hospice. Their companions were their hospice.” Time and time again, Burks reached out to their parents but, out of the 1,000 people she cared for, she says that only a handful didn’t reject their dying children. And, although she often saw the worst in people, she says she was also privileged to see people at their best as they cared for their friends and partners with dignity and grace: “I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die… Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion.” Burks also saw how the gay community supported one another and her efforts. “They would twirl up a drag show on Saturday night and here’d come the money. That’s how we’d buy medicine, that’s how we’d pay rent. If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Drag queens. Drag shows. “That’s how we’d buy medicine.” “That’s how we’d pay rent.” “If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.” Look at the armed fascist mobs, in full faux military garb, threatening drag shows and everyone inside, including children, while the local police stand by and watch. Remember and think about the people they’re waving their weapons at.

“I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die… Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion.”

In the bedrock of the need of fascism, and tyranny of any form, to set gender roles and women’s rights in stone, is the one thing it cannot abide. Love and devotion. There’s the ultimate enemy of every form of tyranny that ever was, the enemy everything they do is calculated to extinguish in mankind. So they can rule over us. Love.


by Bruce | Link | React!

September 8th, 2022

Free Tibet!

Hello Chinese censors and maintainers of the Great Firewall! I’ve been watching you crawl my blog for years and years. It makes me feel so special! Say…did any of those phish emails I got regularly at work come from you too? 

Anyway…I think it’s high time I welcomed you to my little corner of the Internet Tubes! 

The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it“. -John Gilmore. Internet activist, software programmer and contributor to the GNU project

Now fuck off. 


Keep Taiwan Free! 

Love, Bruce.

by Bruce | Link | React!

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