Department Of One Of My Least Favorite Phrases In Any Language
HB host Shankar Vedantam interviewed Computer Scientist/Professor Kate Devlin about her visit to a company that makes life-size sex dolls. In the latter part of the interview, Vedantam asks Devin about the dangers of people being in (translate: *thinking* they are in) a relationship – in this case, with a robot/AI doll – wherein there is no true reciprocity.
So Kate, does having a lover who is completely dedicated to our needs
without asking for anything in return – is that actually good for us?
…I can see that argument, you know, the hedonistic thing of, you will have all your needs met, and you will never know…
what it really feels like to be in a proper human relationship.
It’s tricky because…that might be appealing for some people
And who am I to judge if that is the case?”
Who am I to judge? Who are you to judge? Seriously?
Prof. Devlin is (I presume) a human being. Choosing how we walk through this world and how we treat and interact with others – as humans, our whole life is about making choices. And choices involve making judgments, from the mundane…
– “Should I get ranch dressing or the vinaigrette? Which do I think is ‘better’?”
to the profound
– “Should my partner and I have one or two children, biological or adopted,
or would we – and the world – be better off if we stayed child-free?”
– “Tommy, your friend Jason is bullying that new kid at school.
It doesn’t matter what Jason’s excuse is – it’s wrong to treat anyone that way.”
From the personal to the political: You judge this candidate to be more qualified than that one; which potential life partner to be a better fit
for you (and you for them)…. Who are you to judge?
Let’s give three cheers and a bison booty shake for those who can discern between meticulous discernment and (gasp) “being judgmental” – the bogey phrase that has become the go-to slur for times and situations which actually call for thoughtful judgement.
Who-am-I-to-judge is not only about a human being’s right but also their responsibility to judge, (to use a very important example) that “cultural relativism” is dangerously naive – and ultimately leads to excusing and even propagating racist and sexist bullshit. To do so, however, you must realize the difference between relativism and pluralism:
The fact of cultural pluralism does not present any philosophical problem to me, nor should it to anyone else. It simply IS a fact that there are many different traditions of cultural life and thought. Therefore, saying that I “believe in” cultural pluralism isn’t particularly illuminating or challenging; it would be like saying that I believe in the ocean. However, acknowledging, accepting and even welcoming pluralism — which I eagerly do — does not require relativism.
Just as not all members of a particular culture – let’s say, French people – are in agreement on the doctrines or practices of their way of life (i.e., what makes a person “French”), not all people understand exactly the same things about the world in the same way.
Discerning differences and making choices are both good and necessary practices; it is wise to judge a tree by the fruit it produces.
There are valid criteria for testing or judging beliefs, world-views, or practices, whether cultural, religious, political, whatever. These criteria come from the various worldviews and traditions themselves, and are encompassed in what scholar Karen Armstrong calls the centrality of compassion. Take any belief, worldview or practice and ask, does it lead to compassion and loving kindness? If yes, then that is good (or at least acceptable). Does it produce in its adherents certainty, self-righteousness, belligerence, and/or reality-denial? Then that is bad.
I think a culture or worldview that teaches humility, gratitude, love and compassion and fosters equal responsibility and equal justice for all is “better” than one that justifies or permits slavery and/or inequality, or preaches fear and guilt or the domination of the majority by a plutocracy.
(adapted from “Robbiedoll-eology,” originally begun as a treatise
on my philosophy of religion. Yep, I’m citing moiself. )
I will champion What’s Right ® in my own society and within whatever tribes/labels people want to put me in. I will also not excuse discrimination – and racial/gender/class apartheid and genital mutilation and educational and professional marginalization, ad nauseum – perpetuated by people outside of my tribes, by saying I can’t judge them because I’m not “one of them.”
Some of the same people who opposed Apartheid (and by doing so they explicitly rejected the excuse that it was white South Africans’ culture – which it was – to believe that blacks were inferior and act accordingly) hesitate to criticize Islamist countries for those countries’ treatment of women and non-Muslim citizens – even to the point of slurring others who point out such discrimination, with labels like, “bigots,” or “Islamophobes.”
Yet again, I digress. Back to the podcast.
Prof. Devlin goes on to make some lame defenses of people (human doll makers and their users, I suppose) who want to shake up the
“monoheteronormative stances that societies impose”…
(Yes, some people really talk like that).
…then she gets back to the point the host was trying to explore:
“So in some ways, I see what you’re saying.
You know, is it a selfish thing to do?
Does it make us terrible people if we take and take and take,
and we don’t give?”
The non-academia-gook, human-normative answer, Prof. Devlin, is *Fuck, yeah.*
Assuming her question is non-rhetorical, if you don’t get it on a personal level…this could go on for way too long, to have to explain human psychology and emotional intelligence, so I’ll put it this way: just take a look at current corporate and political leaders, and note the commonality in personality traits among the most rapacious and dictatorial of them: they think (and act as if) it’s perfectly fine to take take take and not give.
Moiself is not going to get into all the ramifications of “life-like” human sex companion dolls. Given the history of male and female relationships, even the idea of these robots…well, it makes me wish for a sci-fi/AI revolution movie where the robots take over. But here in non-cinematic reality land, such inventions will continue to be one more crutch for emotionally and intellectually crippled males to have even fewer reasons to educate themselves about the other half of humanity. Why bother learning perhaps what is a difficult skill set for you – interacting with women as equals, seeing them as people – when you can have a slave (excuse me; I mean, a Realistic Companion ® ) who will not annoy or disagree with or challenge you, or point out that your jokes are corny and your reasoning flawed…or who also will never, genuinely, truly, love and care for you, with all the messiness, ambiguity, joy and wonderment that entails?
Come on folks, get your judge-y on.
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* * *
Department Of Memory-Triggering Fun With Pandemics
Dateline: Monday, circa noon. Moiself was responding to an email from a friend who lives overseas  . I thanked her for the much-enjoyed link she’d sent: a video made by to an amply endowed woman who demonstrated the perils (read: suffocation) of heeding internet suggestions to make a COVID mask from an old brassiere cup.
I’d told my Swenadian friend that MH was making face masks for us, using leftover material from the so-adorable-you-could-puke, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” costume he made (twenty-six years ago!), that both our offspring wore for their respective first Halloweens. Swenadian lamented her own sewing talent (read: lack thereof), which got me onto the following subjects:
Have any of your talented family and/or friends sent you a mask they’ve made? My friend LPH has been making them with special – there’s no other way to put it – penis-themed fabric. The cloth looks like a delicate, pastels-on-white pattern you might use for a baby blanket, until you get closer – which is just the point! If someone is near enough to you see what the pattern really is, you definitely know they’ve violated social distancing guidelines.
I’m grateful for my craft-talented husband because, like you, I am not adept at sewing. And I’ve no desire to be so, as it conjures up memories of discrimination and frustration. I’m old enough to have been a junior high student when, in the eighth grade in California public schools, the curriculum required girls and boys to take a year of “Life Skills” classes. Girls had to take a Sewing class (one semester) and a Home Economics class (one semester), while boys during that same year took shop classes: Wood Shop, Metal Shop, Electric Shop.
I think it was just a few years later that the gender-specific requirements for those classes were dropped, and either gender could choose to take whatever during that year (although the social – even parental – pressure, of course, still remained for girls to do one thing and boys another). Then, years later,  MH, in a public school in Florida, was able to take a sewing class and, as he recalled, it wasn’t such a big deal for him to do so.
Interesting to think back upon that, and how a public institution was used to reinforce societal stereotypes (well, duh and of course, right?) No matter what an individual boy’s or girl’s “natural” proclivities and/or interests might have been, the genders were each steered in different directions: whether or not they gave a flying rat’s ass about it, all boys were exposed to and thus learned some basics of carpentry/woodworking and electric/metal shop work, while all girls learned some basics of sewing and “home economics” – the latter of which translated into doing things like writing a recipe card for cinnamon toast. I kid you not and I’ll repeat that: a recipe card for cinnamon toast.
Really. I remember thinking how it seemed so obvious to me that the Home Ec teacher had to stretch to fill an entire semester of curriculum. There was a lot of downtime in that class (which I didn’t mind because I used it to do homework for other classes).
While at the time I thought a sewing class could be valuable – and I do remember how to sew on a button and do some basic clothing repairs – the Home Ec class was a complete f***ing waste of time. And I state that as someone who has just finished grinding her own chickpea flour. My later/adult interest in cooking and meal design/preparation was in spite of that class, not because of it. Nothing I “learned” in Home Ec translated into my later interest in the culinary arts.
Is there anything so frustrating (at the 8th grade level) as putting a zipper in backwards, and/or cutting out fabric pieces with a pattern only to discover that you’ve also cut into a fabric piece, that, unbeknownst to you, was below the piece you meant to cut out, and so you’ve ruined the rest of the fabric for that project? Translation: while I was learning to sew, I was also learning to swear. Now, decades later, I never do the former but (as you know), have mastered the latter.
Cracks me up – I haven’t thought of this in years.
Which means I’m probably going to blog about it.
* * *
Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
Joni Mitchell Edition
I still may do a 1970s singer-songwriters edition (plenty of talent to choose from, in the era of James Taylor, Carole King, Carly Simon, Dan Fogelberg….), but there’s no doubt that the talented if notoriously prickly Ms. Mitchell should share a list with no one.
Moiself has listed some of Mitchell’s song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story.
All I Want
Talk To Me
The Last Time I Saw Richard
Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
Don’t Go To Strangers
Come In From The Cold
Court And Spark
A Case Of You
Free Man In Paris
In France They Kiss On Main Street
Lesson In Survival
My Secret Place
Night In The City
Nothing Can Be Done
See You Sometime
Shadows And Light
The Way It Is
The Same Situation
Wild Things Run Fast
* * *
Department of Epicurean Excursion Evolution 
And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.
Featuring this week’s Theme Day (Tofu/Tempeh Tuesday): Savory Marinated Tempeh,
(chaperoned by Celeriac/Carrot Puree; Lemony Roast Asparagus; Mediterranean Greens)
☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
Recipe Rating Refresher 
* * *
Pun For The Day
I wrote a Broadway musical about puns. It was a play on words.
* * *
May you judge wisely, and often;
May you have one fond or at least fun recollection of the inane
academic requirements of junior high school;
May you devise and share your own COVID-19 playlist;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 I did not hear the original, or you would have had this rant a year ago.
 A person mentioned previously in this space as my “Swenadian” buddy. Swenadian is a Swedish-Canadian combo. You figured that out, right?
 I am 5 ½ years older than MH.
* Abject Failure: I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.
* Tolerable: if you have the proper…attitude.
* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.
* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the Support Avocado ® approves
* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !