Monthly Archives: October 2014

Morning News

This morning’s news brief was just full of delightful bits. My head is whirling.

We have the story about the Russian government performing cyberespionage. This will probably surprise someone; not anyone who has been checking their spam folder over the past 20 years, but yeah, the Russians have lots of programmers who write malware.

And then there’s the bit where someone pointed out that we’re not really ready for humans to go live on Mars: Study: Mars One human colony plan ‘unsafe’ and ‘unsustainable’. My reaction of, “Well, duh, I said that when I first heard about the plan,” is tempered by my respect for the scientific process. One might intuit a great many things, but until one tests the hypothesis and collects data and analyzes the data, it’s just supposition. So, cool to see that someone has done the work.

The best bit, though, is the one where the end caps on those guard rails that are part of every freeway everywhere in the U.S. don’t so much collapse and divert cars, as they’re supposed to, but impale them. Good for Virginia, I say, for getting on the job and removing those things.

Restricted Knowledge

I’m not really sure how to tell this story. I’ll start with the event that got me writing this post, but there’s a lot of backstory that explains why I even started writing, and then there are my observations of my changed thoughts and feelings about the phenomenon. It’s untidy in my mind; it doesn’t make a clean narrative.

Today’s observation: for the second time in as many days I saw a phrase on Facebook: “Ladies (and non-binary folks)”. It struck me that “non-binary” somehow has a meaning of which I’m unaware, and context suggests that whatever it means, I don’t belong in whatever category of humans it describes.

Backstory: when I was in my early twenties, I had this idea that all knowledge and all fields of endeavor should be open to all humans. I was offended by the idea of “women’s work” and “men’s knowledge,” considering such categories as oppressive as “whites only” facilities. I briefly dated a woman who, among other things, was big into herbal medicine. She had some herbal abortifacient that she was preparing for someone and I asked her about it and she told me it was none of my business, that it was women’s knowledge, and there was no good reason that I should know it. At the time, I was outraged.

More backstory: I’m a white man. I grew up in a secure economic environment. I had no trouble getting an education, nor really any long-term trouble getting a job. So, I’m a member of the privileged class, and I always have been. I have this ideal of equality that means I encounter people telling their own stories about coming from a place of less privilege and I am sympathetic, but I know that I don’t have equivalent experience and that I can’t really say anything useful about their stories.

And now, my evolved position: there are some discussions in which it is not helpful for me to contribute. While I still feel like it’s wrong to categorically exclude all men, all women, all people of <fill in the color> from any profession or access to a particular book, I also feel like it’s best to consider first whether agitating for access is even something I want. Do I have anything useful to say on the topic of black women’s experience in academia? Not really. Nor do I feel like I have any enlightenment to offer in many other situations. There are terms that I encounter that are utterly mysterious to me — “intersectional feminism”, “non-binary people” — and now instead of feeling offended at being cut off from the conversation, I feel relieved. These terms are code and they are reliable markers of stories and discussions to which I have nothing useful to contribute. Check it out! There’s a conversation where I don’t have to worry about untangling what’s going on and then trying to come up with something insightful to say! It’s not about me. That, right there, is a gift.