Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

C-Realm Podcast #42 - Coming Soon

Episode 42: Tragedy of the Bathroom

You can find the text of the Sciforums posts that I read on this week's show here:


Enough with the freakin' bathroom metaphor Already!

by Sharon Astyk

What the bathroom metaphor actually does is equate "freedom" with "no limits" - it says that freedom and dignity are constructs of privilege and lack of constraint. That is, you have the perfect freedom of the bathroom when you never have to wait, or accomodate anyone else, adapt to or respect anyone else's needs. But that is *not* what freedom is - and I think this is an important point, because our consumer culture tells us over and over again that freedom is the ability to have whatever you want, whenever you want it. Freedom is "freedom of choice" and that is the equivalent of 63 choices of soda on the grocery store aisle, rather than the freedom from want, or freedom from repression - freedoms that only work when other people are aware of and attentive to others. Freedom, according to Dick Cheney, is the American way of life being "non-negotiable" rather than an egalitarian, shared and just life that extends beyond the borders of America. The bathroom example perpetuates the "freedom is choice" notion - that being free means never having to say, "excuse me."

I think that's truly and deeply wrong, and if we think this way about the population issue, we are perpetuating our most foolish habits of thought. Freedom is the right to assert your wants and needs in a world where others exist, and the right to have them respected, but it is not the right to never have to accomodate anyone else or share, and I think that's a really important point.

If we believe that freedom is the right to always have what you want, when you want it, we will persist in equating freedom with wealth and privilege. And some versions of the overpopulation argument seem to basically go like this "there are too many people - they are impinging on my right to have the stuff I want - if there were less of them, I'd have to make fewer accomodations to other people, and that would be better." That's not freedom, but greed. We all have it, we're all greedy folk, but we need not give our our own selfishness and greed a pretty cloak to wear and call it science.

For an extremely relevant discussion of human germ-line genetic modifications that would greatly help with the problem of population pressure, check out this post from Charles Stross:


The Solitary Reaper
. Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

-William Wordsworth

Read and Post Comments on Livejournal


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
It doesn't matter if some one dies, the more people, there are the less one individual matters
this and many other statements by Dr. Bartlett are certainly not true at all. But this is a perfect example for another bashing. If we hink of Bush jr., then it's exactly the reverse, the more people there are the more one individual matters.

With 2 bathrooms and 1000 people dignity is not simply something you evolve by yourself, but something that other people can help you to develop. Once some bathroom-occupant stays there too long to piss-off enough number of people, the dignity will come to him in a form of punches and maybe kicks. He will not be the same ever since.

And finally, overpopulation is no really a problem, since it's self-regulatory. Yes people will suffer, die and maybe will kill each other in great numbers, but so what? How is that different from antibodies killing viruses, for example?

p.s. waiting for the podcast :)

Jun. 20th, 2007 07:13 pm (UTC)
so what?
...but so what? How is that different from antibodies killing viruses, for example?

Well, the utilitarian in me would say that humans are capable of more acute suffering than are viruses.

Nature makes no allowances for suffering. Principles of humane action dictate that we not emulate nature in this regard.
Jun. 20th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
Re: so what?
Great podcast, btw., it makes me want to express myself and I don't know if it's good or not.

Yes, suffering is the problem, but not the death, which is a natural process (even when it is massive). I do believe we can destroy life on this planet with the population we have now, or even with just 1/1000th of it. It's not about number of people but technology we possess and maintain. Having greater population will not affect our ability. Now, somebody can say "what about climate change", but agreeing completely that we do have ecological impact on the planet I do not think that we are the root cause of the global warming. Anyway it's a sidestep, back to the suffering. Yes we "supposedly" capable of more suffering. But also until recently animals were mindless robots that did not dream, and existed without cognition. Now we say that they invent tools, have social learning, and apes can even learn human sign language. All of this without a slightest idea what the mind is. Still a mystery to this day, is it not? But what if brain is a fingerprint and not a finger, then we can't say that not having one means absence of a limb. So, this still remains to be seen.

I agree with you that Nature does not punish, if this is what you are saying. But whatever happens is a consequence. We, humans, tend to make a big deal out of events before we understand them or their implication, maybe simply to draw attention of others in order to be helped in gaining a personal understanding. Emotional attachment plays a great role here, and thus idea of suffering is being born. But does it describe an event in any way, or a state of mind? Can I say that you are suffering, or can I only say that about myself? More interesting, if I act thinking that somebody is suffering, will I increase the suffering or increase it? Id est (theoreticaly), if I see a person with a cut-off or severely cut leg laying on a street all in pain, trashing around, what would be my first reaction (let's say it's a 3rd world town, no 911 service and no people around)? I think my instinct is to give a person comforting, calming (restraining) hug, but this will actually decrease the amount of blood available for the brain and chances for a survival. So, act of compassion can be as deadly as harmful one.

Some other thoughts about the podcast:
I think you missed a whole line of arguments, voice of those who are being aided. Here is a good start http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,363663,00.html
Also, I am not sure how accurate this is, but from what I've heard Chinese "one child" policy does not really apply to a rural area, just looked at wikipedia and it says the same.
Oh, and there is a glitch at 33:46, don't know if you noticed.

I have many more thoughts but I think I should stop :)
Jun. 22nd, 2007 05:57 pm (UTC)
Re: so what?
Thanks for the glitch report. It will go unfixed for now, but I'm glad you let me know about it.

I'll check out that link you provided and follow up on the China one-child policy thread.

Stay well.
Jun. 22nd, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)
Re: so what?
I just saw this story about infanticide in Amazon and I think it fits in the theme of the podcast

Jun. 20th, 2007 08:08 pm (UTC)
fractal broccoli!!!

That vegetable has long been one of my favorite visual images. Well chosen!!
Jun. 22nd, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
Re: fractal broccoli!!!
Yeah, I dig it too. Here's the naked image:
Jun. 27th, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
Thank you KMO - lots to think about!
Very interesting article pasted above - the Spiegel Interview with African Economics expert Shikwati....the sending of food and aid solves immediate problems but does little for the infrastructure, processes and methodologies behind it that will allow the continent to generate it's own food and supplies in the future.

On the note of animals, I don't for one moment believe that an animal has no soul or 'mind'. Animals, like us, are sentient beings and we are fortunate to share this beautiful planet with them.

A very interesting installment of the C-Realm Podcast - yesterday I sent KMO a looong email with my thoughts on some other issues raised in this show.
Jun. 27th, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you KMO - lots to think about!
A very interesting installment of the C-Realm Podcast - yesterday I sent KMO a looong email with my thoughts on some other issues raised in this show.

Which I'll be reading here in the next few minutes when I get down to the business of recording today's show. Thanks, BB.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

August 2017


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Ideacodes