Thursday, September 17, 2009

Turing, Science Fiction, Science Fascism

As my students and my poor suffering mr. delagar and the kid will tell you, I feel strongly about many, many things.  I remember a professor in my second year of graduate school patting my hand at a party: "It's not that important, delagar."  Except, you know, it was!

This is.

Alan Turing was born in 1912: it’s possible he could be alive today, aged 97. In 1953 he was writing what biographer Alan Hodges describes as a “sudden explosion of ideas about the fundamental physics of quantum mechanics and relativity”. But he’d lost so much: he’d lost what Orson Scott Card proposed a man like Alan Turing should lose – the right to be regarded as an acceptable, equal citizen. His friends at Cambridge spoke for him in court and stood by him until death: but he lost his job, he was subjected to routine harassment by the police, and – a known side-effect of the hormones used to castrate him – he had grown breasts. On 7th June 1954, he ate a cyanide-laced apple, and he died.

When I was a kid, like every other kid in fifth grade, we threw the "Don't be queer!" and "That's so gay!" at each other, too.  (It was Louisiana, and it was lower-middle-class Louisiana.)  Then I got older, and I read books, and I looked around and started thinking.

Orson Scott Card calls himself a liberal.  He claims he is a moral human being, who wants a good world.  He needs to rethink his position on his fellow human beings who are gay.

Why does it matter what he does, what he thinks, given that he's just one man?  Well, he's not just one man, as he well knows.  He's the fella who wrote Ender's Game, which makes him someone of influence in the SF world.  What he says gets listened to.  His current position is doing damage.

We win -- nearly always win -- we progressives, we people who speak for equal rights, for the ideas of freedom and justice, we nearly always gain our ground; each year we get a little further ahead, nearly always; except when we give way to the wheedling that gets used by rhetorics and demagogues: but it's not fair, but you're not tolerating my intolerance!  See, those who want us to return gays and PoC and women to the ghetto are telling us they have the right to discriminate, because their religion and their way of life requires that sort of belief; and if we don't tolerate that belief system, why, then we're the hateful ones, clearly.

Sorry.  No belief system which is built on oppression is acceptable, and that includes religious belief systems.  I don't know, maybe that especially includes religious belief systems.  If people want to have religions, I have no objection, but they should practice them in private, and wash their hands afterwards.

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