I live!

So… I managed to accidentally spark a huge discussion, freak out, and drop off the face of this blog for a whole semester. That was kind of suboptimal. If anyone is still checking: I’m here, I’m… still here, I’m looking for something topical to rhyme with ‘here’ and it’s just not happening.

I’m aware that some people suspected I might be a troll since I popped onto the map, wrote criticism of a popular author, and then disappeared. I’m actually just really bad at writing consistently and terrified of strangers. One of the projects I’ve set for myself this summer is to try to fix that, which includes coming back here and being productive about it.

I wholeheartedly stand by my original post, and I’m glad it was of value to so many people–that’s an awesome feeling. I also now have a year of academic writing at the college level behind me, and I’d at least like to think I’m better at that kind of thing now. So I’d like to take advantage of that to revisit my original post, rewrite and expand upon it, and hopefully clear up some of the more common misconceptions I’ve seen repeated in responses to it.

While planning out what to say I’ve realized there’s a lot of things I’d rather address first and separately than have to break in the middle of the post to explain–which I think is one of the big weaknesses of how I usually write, it makes my writing too dense and tangential. So this is already a big project, and it’s quickly expanding. (I’m not kidding when I say this is way too common for me. I’ve accidentally expanded a margin note from one of my politics classes into a project that would be a thesis if I were a senior.)

Since I’m here already, I can clear up at least one unknown: I appreciate everyone who went with genderneutral pronouns in order to not make assumptions! To introduce myself properly, my name is Cyrus Alexander (which hasn’t been in my bio because it wasn’t my name yet) and my pronouns are he/him/his (which was). I’m not sure what it is with people in and around the Rationalist community (I’m counting myself as “around”) and the name Alexander. If there’s additional information about me you feel this blog would benefit from having in my about, let me know.

And now, because what may or may not have been a generic spam comment asked for more images in my posts, have real-life examples of how quickly my outlines spiral out of control:

Image Image


[Image descriptions: a series of photos of a notebook with two columns of dense cursive per page, in various color combinations.]

At the moment, what it looks like I’m doing is as follows:

  1. Trigger warnings in the classroom and beyond
    a) “That’s just what real life is”, part one. You know what else is real life? Traumatic events. Dehumanizing students for your convenience isn’t just condescending, it’s actively harmful.
    b) “That’s just what real life is”, part two. Yes. You have identified the problem. Let’s talk about where to go from here.
    c) Why the argument from students with PTSD is seen as necessary/demands that people flash their scars for external evaluation
    d) The impracticalities of not providing content warnings, from dining hall ingredients lists to keeping your audience at a poetry reading
  2. Bias, emotional involvement, and “objectivity” (tentative title, because I have too much fun with titles: This is not bias, nor are we out of it)
    a) People appeal to the idea of bias in science and empirical analysis a lot. What does bias in science actually look like?
    b) What are you saying when you claim to be unbiased? What does this have to do with emotional involvement or lack thereof?
    c) What do you think “bias” and “a lack of bias” look like? Who benefits from these impressions?
    d) What does an environment that claims to prioritize unbiased analysis produce?
    e) Are there situations where claiming or demanding lack of bias becomes dishonest or unethical?
  3. Let’s talk about Rationalism, inclusivity, and language, redux
    a) A rewrite of the original post, with a greater focus on stuff that I caught through the comments
    b) A dedicated reply to Scott Alexander’s reply
    c) A response to other replies around the internet

The problem with dealing with the Rationalist Masterlist post’s fallout is that if I spend too much time looking at it I have panic attacks, still, tunnel vision and all. Which is also why I’m being so slow on moderating comments. But hopefully throwing myself repeatedly into this brick wall in my brain will work out. To some degree, this also means that 3a has to happen before the detailed reading of people’s replies is a possibility for me–I think it’ll help to have the revised post to point to.

In the meantime, I’m a lot more active on my public twitter account, @chrysopoetics, so if you feel a burning need to get my tangents in real time, I’ll be there.

As long as I’ve got you here, have an assortment of links I ran into again while compiling the below list:

  • Valerie Bunce gives me life (images)
  • A Letter to “Activist” Dan Savage, Who Continues to Bully My Trans Sibling. Transphobia and public humiliation cw. Quote relevant to a lot of the things I listed that I wanted to write above:

    People like to say words are harmless. People like to say that words are just words, get over it! But let’s really talk about words for a second. Words create reality. They construct our societal norms, our legislation, our media. Language is, inarguably, a very powerful weapon. And words, especially words that have been systematically used in the past to dehumanise and hurt a marginalised group, whether you like to admit it or not, those words hold power, and harm. No one is “giving” those words power. No one is “letting” those words hurt them because of some supposed “thin skin.” Those words are harmful.

  • No Trans Regrets, in case anyone has ever told you that “most people regret transitioning”–some cool data.
  • I don’t think “objective reality” means what you think it means–casual transphobia cw, and then some random blatant violent transphobia and transmisogyny if you scroll down long enough–I guess I need to write about “objectivity” for transphobes, too. (Tweet thread.)

And now, for future reference if nothing else, stuff I want to write that’s not directly related to the Rationalist-reply-and-tangents series includes… (Note: if one or more of these interests you, please let me know; it helps me convince myself that writing is worth it if people have told me they’re invested in the results.) Continue reading “I live!”