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 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:
- 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
- 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?
- 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.)
- See that last bullet point above: Apparently I need to write about objective reality for transphobes. Will probably be an addendum to the #2 series of posts. Related: Also a lot of transphobes with a hard-on for Plato?
- DEAR GOD I HATE PLATO LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I HATE PLATO. SO MUCH HATRED. SO MUCH. (May be two-part series, since I’m going to have to read him more closely next semester so getting down the basic “FUCK THIS GUY IN THE EAR” and then coming back to it when I’ve had to cover it for a class could be interesting)
- Anyway, let me put my formal writing hat back on: what my ethical system actually looks like/how the system of consciousness I jailbroke my brain with in high school actually works (and how–and why–I got here). Here’s a tweet thread summary.
- That one photo of a guy holding an “I Regret My Abortion” sign, and what SJ twitter’s reaction says about trans/* inclusion in the pro-choice movement. (Tweet thread on the subject)
Related: I still owe a person on twitter a post about demonstrable harm caused by excluding trans/* people in the rhetoric of the reproductive rights movement, since they asked for personal testimony from a transgender person before they’d decide to believe it
- Other things I owe people on twitter: misogyny, toxic masculinity, and why my gender is inexorably tied up in fear (tentative title: EachEveryWoman, and me; tweet thread about it)
- On identities: the names and concepts I choose to associate myself with and why I’d describe them as “hard-won”
- “I am forever literature in translation”: How language and abstract concepts work in my head
- “Do they really hurt you or are they just uncomfortable?” Where do you draw the line? What about “I don’t get offended easily because I don’t see the point“? Let’s see if an analogy involving pain tolerance is useful at all here.
- How I figured out I’m transgender, because honestly it’s just a funny story, there’s Homestuck godtier designs and academic conferences and Beatles song cosplay in
- A reflection on two semesters being disabled at Oberlin College (translation of and expansion on Usando Las Escaleras)
- “I don’t see why we need a label for that” Then there’s a good chance it describes you. (Or, a double-edged sword for cis people and how I figured out my sexual and romantic orientations.)
- Capitalism and the colors of foundation CVS stores in Ohio stock as a way of talking about how even systems that are excellent at optimization optimize on hidden variables (related to series #2)
- What do the current and planned tobacco policies at Oberlin say about the college’s view of students’ bodily autonomy? (Partially based on an op-ed I wrote for the Review.) What would an Oberlin College tobacco policy that genuinely respected bodily autonomy look like?
- Inferiority complex in Mexican culture (“That’s because we live in a third-world country, dear”, the parable of the bucket of American crabs, the only time someone said “We’re not a poor country. On the contrary, we’re astonishingly rich; we’ve weathered centuries of being robbed and still come out okay”)
- Your enemies are human. No, no buts. Your enemies are human. Why ableist rhetoric and “they demand that I teach them to be human” and other things along those lines mean I can never trust you from here on out, “progressive” or not, and what we can do about that.
Related: I cannot trust your assessment of your opponents as “sociopaths”, and here’s why.
- Satanry in The Book of Job: the Musical, “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton”, and my social circle
- I cannot watch your “Oppressed Majority” video, I cannot, will not, Sam I Am (this post may require watching the Oppressed Majority video to explain why every time it’s linked somewhere I’m reading I get this repetitive stab of dread, oops)
- On another episode of “everyone likes and agrees with this person, so why do I feel so sick, what’s wrong with me?”: Stop conflating consequences of depression and/or PTSD with abusive behaviors (for example, the checklists used in Jenny Trout’s 50 Shades of Grey recaps)
- A framework for X 101 For X People
- Only progressive as far as you can throw them: Oberlin, “I don’t want to sound like an ‘Obie’, but”, and why the myth of the Oberlin radical majority isn’t harmless
Related: What you’re saying when you say “political correctness” / “You and your friends have been discussing how it seems rebellious to vote conservative now” (video link)
- I don’t want to ‘pass’, and why I kind of want to teach high school.
- “You have to find your vocation”; “You don’t have to major in everything, you know”;
- The adventure with the capitalist and communist chemists (other things that have literally happened in my life): “Capitalism is the system that gives me, personally, the most value”, “Capitalism is an excellent system for wealth creation”; who told you that’s what you should want? (May be subsumed into the endless capitalism thesis project, see other permutation below.)
- The capitalists will be with you always: I want a spherical frictionless full communism, but here’s what I can actually fight for. (May be subsumed into the endless capitalism thesis project.)
- No but let me tell you about Les Amis and failure. Shhh shhhhh let me tell you about failure
- “Isn’t that everyone?” Here is why I talk about mental illness and disability. And everything else.
- Why the idea that axes of privilege and marginalization can cancel each other out is not only wrong but harmful
Related: That One Time Cis WOC Were White Men, from memory because it went by too fast for me to get receipts, other than that my existence goes in quotes now (screenshot)
- Quick bite-sized versions of my thesis-sized projects, which would be academically inappropriate because I don’t have the background for them yet but this way I can talk about them:
– Colonialism, caloric density, and corn
– How late capitalist democracies are exceptionally strong systems that undermine their own values / Marx was wrong: why revolutions in advanced capitalist democracies are unheard of
– I always forget the other ones when I try to list them, they’re over here somewhere
– Capitalism is an excellent optimization system, but it’s not showing you what it’s optimizing for (related to the bias and language discussions, I’ve come full circle!)
…See what I mean? [Intense expression of amazement and vague exasperation relying on Catholic blasphemy].