Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Star Trek Analogy

Ask pretty much anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am a geek.  I'm all about Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels, comics, Dungeons & Dragons and of course, Star Trek. 

Ever since I was a little kid, I've loved Star Trek, Next Generation especially, though I was only ever managed to watch it once in a while when I could catch it on TV, and never in any particular order.  What I can remember of my childhood impression of the show is this: Data was my hero, Jordie and Warf were also pretty cool, and I really did not like that doctor-who-wasn't-Beverly-Crusher.  Until I began to watch all the episodes in order, I couldn't say why, only that there was something about her that rubbed me the wrong way.

As I reached Season 2 of my viewing campaign, I came to realize that my dislike of Dr. Pulaski had less to do with her not being Dr. Crusher, and more to do with her attitude towards Data.  While the rest of the crew at least made a consistant effort to treat Data like a person, she just couldn't seem to get past the fact that he was an android, and continued to see him as a machine, no more worthy of regard than any piece of equipment.  That diregard rankled, not only because Data was my favourite, but because the attitude of people like her can be a real threat to people like me.  I might not have been conscious of this as a kid, but part of me understood.  Part of me was afraid, and so I hated her.

What it comes down to is this: Data, the android who would be human, is analogous to any minority group who has had to fight to be seen as even human.  In my case, Data's experience parallels my own as a trans man.  I see my own struggle for personhood in his character.  In Dr. Pulaski, I saw all those who would disregard my experience as real, all those who would continue to judge from a position of priviledge.

Still... watching now, I can't completely condemn her character.  She has made sacrifices worthy of respect, and though stubborn she seems willing to at least try to learn.  Whatever the case, I'll keep an eye on her as I watch, secure in the knowledge that for better or worse, we do get Beverly back eventually.

Friday, 19 February 2010

A Question of Charity

Something interesting happened today.  A boy came to my door, essentially selling newspapers as part of a programme that would help him pay for university.  After a little thought I agreed that for ten dollars, this was something I could feel good about supporting.

It got me to wondering.  Why this cause?  Why should I be more willing to help one kid go to school while I find the idea of disaster and poverty relief charities questionable?  I tried once to work as a canvaser for a public outreach service, but quickly left because I could not bring myself to promote an organization that I did not support 110%.  Opting to promote the branch I found least objectionable didn't help.  It simply went against my values.

When I think about it, I believe my attitude comes down to my ideas about the role of more developed countries when dealing with less developed ones.  It may be cynical of me, but I see a trend wherein anytime a more 'advaced' society gets involved with a more 'primitive' one, regardless of the intentions someone, usually the conquered/colonized/aided population ends up worse off than when they started.  Although I've seen methods that seem more sound to me, for example providing the building blocks for sustainable resources rather than handing over finished products, I'm still not totally convinced that it will pan out.

There is also the question of whether it's right for one people to impose their values on other peoples.  Who gets to decide who's morality is better?  Every society has abhorent as well as redeeming qualities in different proportions, and what is abhorent to you may be natural to me, and vice versa.  Is help even wanted?  Most of the time with large, overseas causes, I don't know if they want our help, or if 'help' is being imposed upon them. 

This brings me back to the boy at my door.  He was out doing this work on his own behalf.  The programme was there to help him help himself, and from the looks of things he was willing to make the most of the opportunity.  As a college student myself, I recognize that you get out of it what you put into it.  If this kid is willing to work to get there, then it seems to me that he'll put the same kind of effort into the post secondary experience.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

In The Beginning...

Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.
              ~Faber, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
     When I decided that I wanted to write a blog, I knew that I wanted it to be a place where I could examine
my views and ideas, a place where I could define and refine them.  I spent a while mulling this over, and the above quote kept coming back to me.  It absolutely describes what it is I intend to do here.  Right now, I am a young man.  I have thus far been doing myself a disservice by keeping myself on the sidelines of discussion, and never showing my ignorance.  How am I to learn if I don't know what it is that I don't know?  Also, by the magic of the internet, I can promote discussions to expand the minds of others in the same way. 
    In particular, I want to take an uncommon stand on today's issues, particularly those which impact myself and my community.  I want to examine the concept of privilege, rights and community activism. I want to understand what people are doing in these areas, why they are doing it, and if in the end it's doing any good. I also want to understand and solidify my own views on these issues, how it effects both myself and my interactions, as well as what I need to work on in order to become a better person, and what will lead to actual positive effects. I want to see where sensitivity to a cause becomes over-sensitivity and reactionary behaviour.
    I want to try to take an outside perspective on a community that I am a part of.  This means equally the queer community, the trans community, and to a certain extent the art community, because art is one of the many ways we influence opinion.  I also want to look at community efforts on a larger scale and look at the fine line between a need for better protection and the sense of entitlement rampant in contemporary society.
    This is an open invitation to participate!  Learn, discuss, tell me where I'm wrong and why.  Hopefully, we will both learn from this experience.