Thursday, April 22, 2010

Burn her!

Last week I wrote about Ender's Game and got a very interesting reply.  Snidely commented about how Ender's Game is written by one Orson Scott Card who is in his words a "gigantic raging asshole".  I took a little look around at some of the things Card has said and ended up not liking Card very much afterwards.  The main thing that really stuck out was the desperate attempts he makes to paint homosexuality as some kind of disease brought on by heinous acts.

"Card described homosexuality as an acquired characteristic linked to abuse or molestation in childhood"

Back when I was young and felt like Ender's Game was one of the best things in the world I really liked Card.  That of course was based on absolutely nothing aside from the fact that he wrote Ender's Game but nonetheless I was a big fan.  Now I have to face the fact that an author I thought I really liked holds views I find abhorrent.  It is a difficult thing when someone who you know has a real, deep understanding of the way you think also holds views you cannot condone.  It makes you think, "What is it that causes that?  Could I think that way if things were slightly different?  Could I have been that person?"

Of course Card and many other people encounter this situation regularly.  They see otherwise perfectly nice, normal people wanting to have relationships with someone of the same gender as themselves.  They have to deal with the fact that that *anyone* could be gay, and that they themselves are only a random switch of a gene away from homosexuality.  The way they respond to this in many cases is to demonize the person involved.  Rather than admit that homosexuals are just people who are slightly different they imagine twisted situations that could have turned someone 'normal' into something they find so repulsive.

This isn't limited to homosexuality by any means.  It is an extremely common response to a person who is similar yet different.  Instead of acknowledging that people simply have differences we have a strong tendency to demonize others, portraying them as twisted, evil, and wholly wrong.  For many of us it is far easier to swallow that other people are abominations than that they were raised differently, have .01% different genes or watched different advertising.

You can see this behaviour most clearly when religions exhort their members to destroy people of other religions, when people act like bigots towards other genders, races or sexual orientations (among other things) or even in the witch trials of earlier ages.  It is simpler and easier to denounce someone as fully evil and twisted and stop thinking than it is to accept differences and work out mutually satisfactory compromises because it does not involve saying,

"I might be wrong"

That right there is the key.  When you refuse to admit any possibility of error then anyone in opposition must be some kind of twisted deviant.  When you consider the possibility that you may be in error you are free to be open to all the degrees of grey that exist in the world; the older I get the more I see that few things indeed are black and white and shades of grey are everywhere.


  1. And on that note, just in case you need any more incentive not to read the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyers' publishing & merchandising contract allocates 10% of GROSS earnings (not just her cut) to the "Quorum of the Twelve Apostles", the "action" arm of the Church of LDS. (When you finish with the bible, I dare you to read the Book of Mormon.)

    Still, this gets me thinking, there are plenty of batshit-crazy authors out there who write good books (not Twilight, but Ender's Game counts). There are insane actors/producers who make good movies (*cough* Scientology *cough*)... is it really fair to boycott otherwise enjoyable art for the sake of principle?

    I propose the creation of "Hate offsets". Just like carbon offsets, they'll allow you to indulge in the latest Mission Impossible movie without worrying about the portion of your ticket going to causes you dislike. Simply enter the product you'd like on a website, and we'll sell you an offsetting amount of donations to organizations which are opposed to those causes.

    Don't like OSC but want to buy Ender's Game? Buying the book puts ~4$ in his pockets, he donated 30% of his income last year to evil, so you can buy 1.20$ of hate offsets which will be donated to (or 2.40$, double-down.) Feel a masochistic need to torture the English language with Twilight? Off goes 3$ to

    Seriously, it could be a thing. I'll take a 5% handling fee as an endorsement of free-market capitalism. You can offset that too. :)

  2. Clever Snidely, very clever. In all seriousness, I wouldn't boycott goods such as books and other art forms just because I disagree with the author's position on a situation: but if the proceeds from a sale of that artwork in question go to support something I am against then I would not purchase it. I may borrow it from a friend down the road or something similar, but I won't spend money on it. That smacks of hypocrisy: if I am against a cause in question, why is it okay to support it, even indirectly?

  3. It's the old child pornography/De Beers argument. By consuming even second-hand or free sources of morally reprehensible content, you're indirectly contributing to demand.

    The only solution is offsets, and I'm actually nearly tempted to put such a site online. If only to act as a political statement.

    Seriously, what do Sky's readers think? :)

  4. I like the idea of offsets for guilty pleasures. Paying the full cost of detrimental activities is a great way to raise awareness and discourage people from doing things that hurt others just a little. However, establishing those costs and moving the money around is not simple, quick or cost free.

    If you want to make a site where people can make hate offsets I certainly support it!

  5. It's easier than it seems, all you'd need would be some way of judging how much to allocate. Charities (at least eligible charities) tend to have "donate online!" services you can plug into directly.

    I'm really considering this now, I've been looking for ways to get more socially active recently and this might be a good way to raise awareness in a press-positive way... excel, here I come!

  6. You could also spin this on it's head, if you were a person so inclined. Too opposed to letting the MPIA or the RIAA get money because it further supports their oppression of culture by using technical methods to block your legal right to (for instance) enjoy music on your mp3 player? Feel a need to support the artist directly? Use a similar website as a "piracy" offset to reward the artist!

  7. Ah, but that's been done. It was called, and I think it died out with the advent of drm-free music stores. :P

    But it's also morally ambiguous ground, I'm mostly thinking this would be a way to shine the light on how regular purchases can often directly fund morally nefarious deeds.

  8. I love hate offsets. Of course if people actually went to the site then it would serve as a place for people to find out what kinds of awful things their favourtie authors/stars/movie producers have been doing. If you ever get the gumption to put this together, I would recommend paying to a charity that helps sexually abused children every time you watch a Roman Polanski movie.