Sunday, September 21, 2014

Millions in Mexico

Just another story about who gets the stolen money and makes it to Mexico alive. Judy turned out to be working for the Feds all along, ever since the big plans for the heist began. We never really needed her to distract that one guard anyway, but after she blew Harold, she was just such a viper, working her way among the team and pitting the guys against each other. That slut! Damien was a little better, but he annoyed me the whole time, always whining about his "troubled past" and his "rocky relationship" with his dad. Serious issues there. All the flashbacks to that dirty pond behind the trailer park, though, helped us understand that deep down his dad only ignored him so much because he loved him and wanted the best for him, and the scene where Damien finds the fishhooks in his old gym bag at the end was really a tear-jerker.

You could tell that Damien was the one Judy really wanted, the way they bantered the whole time, always tearing each other down in such clever ways, and Judy flipping that little sundress when she was jumpstarting the battery on that one moving van they stole from the storage place. You know, the flippy little number, white with black polka dots, that almost but not quite showed her panties half the time? The teenagers in front of me really hooted over that, but it was artfully done, artfully done, never going too far. Anyway, there was genuine hurt in Damien's eyes in that one scene where he finally realized she was turning them over to the cops in a little town north of the border. He never forgot the way his mother was killed. You can tell from the picture in his wallet, the one in black and white even though we're now at a point where his parents shouldn't've had their picture taken in black and white. But hey, imagery is imagery. Who is going to get the cash to Mexico?

Don't knock Judy too hard for betraying them. It turns out she had a hard childhood too. She developed the seductive persona to survive in the rough and tumble world that abused her after her abusive, abusing father finally shut her mother's head in the washing machine, driving her mother crazy and leading to the sexual abuse. Considering that, you can't blame her for leading Tyrone along even after Harold got left behind on that old drug rap, because Tyrone was experienced himself, and looked so dapper in that tousled black tuxedo that he'd certainly be able to get another woman anytime he wanted to. Amazingly, it was that strength of character that got Judy through the shootout with the cartel, and that gave her the gumption to finally stand up to the racist cop at the end and help what remained of the gang get away. Is she going to be the one who gets the suitcase of cash to Mexico? She and Damien, maybe, solving their personal issues and retiring on the beach with an endless supply of money? God, I can't wait to find out!

You can't really discount Marvin, though. The black sheep among black sheep, the one no one really likes until the end, whose quirky sayings make no sense until that amazingly clever epiphany you have when you realize that the Cubans have a guy with the same facial tics, clearly derived from those old Vietnam experiments, just like Marvin. After all he's done for his country, can you really blame him for wanting to get the briefcase of cash to Mexico, his criminal partners be damned? Marvin isn't like Damien, though; he doesn't wear suits, he's never driven a red convertible, and he never decisively ends fistfights with casino personnel. Certainly he never had the quickie with the cocktail waitress in the first two minutes of the movie like Damien did, that stud.

What those raunchy teenagers didn't understand about Judy was that the perky little sundress, the one that always showed a careful inch of the bottoms of her cheeks when she was jumpstarting various rugged four-wheel-drive vehicles, was that the black-polka-dot pattern wasn't about sex and sexuality, no, not about mere lust, it was in fact dignified symbolism about the stains of her childhood which she still carries with her. Anyone who was paying attention during the laundry room flashback scenes to her childhood home would realize that, whenever her mother was too busy for her, it was because her mother was washing the tablecloth from the picnic table out back, under the willow tree where her grandpa was buried, the tablecloth with the black polka dot pattern on white, just like her dress. And the scene with the potato salad and the uncomfortable silence that lasted for almost three seconds of screen time, high tension, people, it just, it just conveyed the way that Judy's sundress-sexuality was evocative of the portrayal of repression and emblematic of the visual imagery of her inner struggles with her incredible body but her unfortunate cigarette and cock habit. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all, and the only way to do that is to get through this rugged world the best you can until you're the one inwardly noble enough to get the suitcase of cash to Mexico, millions to Mexico, you can always survive easily on the beach with millions in Mexico. Some people claim that if you freeze the stills of her lower cheeks, you can see where they airbrushed the cellulite out, but that's only if you accept the gossip-rag version of the Judy-actress photos that show her looking like a land whale on the beach in Malibu, and frankly, I'm sure it was the cheap magazine staff that added those wrinkles, rather than the other way around.

But enough about Judy, what really matters is Damien's body. I hear he did a special four-minute workout, three times every single day, on set, to get him pumped for those fight scenes. This boyfriend of mine is trying the workout, it really works, he says, it's basically the same stuff he's always been doing, but you can see how well it works when Damien is sort of growling, sneering, snarling, whatever, at that one scarred Mexican right before he smashes his face into the brass railing. Those are muscles, man, genuine muscles, it's some kind of secret about the four-minute workout. I read the interview where he talked about it, he said it was really hard and stuff.

And you know the fight scene I'm talking about, right? Of course you do, the one where he beats up seventeen corrupt Mexican drunks inside of two minutes, swinging big and breaking a bottle on the counter, but only for effect, because of course his fists do all his talking for him, never some dos equis glass. "Alfonso, man, you better put that pool cue down." I mean, chills! Right? I think that was definitely a scene to make other directors jealous. Especially because it's so clear that, in his fine black suit, Damien is so much more dignified of a bank robber than that low class Mexican scum, doing nothing all day but drinking tequila and harassing honest white bank robbers who are doing nothing more than asking if anyone has a spare car battery they can use to jumpstart their moving van. And you know the damn Mexicans are all over his girl Judy, at least, they would be if they saw her, and after Damien beats them all up we discover the torture room in the back, where it turns out the entire bar and all its customers were just a front for a white slavery operation. So really, the point is, it's not bank robbers who are the problem, not humble white people with their one black friend just trying to make a score in this rough and tumble world, oh no, not them, it's the Mexicans and their white slavery operations, the perverts, tying girls to old iron bedframes without mattresses, and shipping them to Thailand for use in the sex trade, yeah, that makes sense. And if Damien and Marcus hadn't gone into that bar in search of that battery, and hadn't robbed that bank, then they never would've broken up the slave ring, so if you look at the whole thing overall, without any prejudices, you realize who the true heroes really are.

Thank God for Marvin, though. Those treacherous extra Mexicans in the back room, with the guns, wanted the briefcase for themselves, and they would've gotten Damien into a tight spot, if Marvin hadn't been perfecting his accelerator ray in the truck's backseat, you know, the one he'd been bothering everyone with for the past few days, and then he finally test fires it and blows the whole bar up! He's the real hero here, folks, although what I think it's really trying to say is that the unorthodox combination of personalities and their commitment to each other through trouble is what allowed them to get the briefcase across the border in the first place. It's sad that Tyrone was shot by those corrupt Federales, but let's be honest, folks, he was never going to get to jump Judy's bones, even though she had that moment the night before he died where she stroked the side of his head and said she thought he was the one of them who didn't belong in this world. No, he and Marvin had zero chance, and Marvin will be happier working in that strange observatory they found outside Oaxaca, before Damien and Judy finally found this perfect place to settle down on the beach with their briefcase full of millions. By that point, everyone had betrayed everyone else so many times, and worked through it, that they realized how it was meant to be all along, and friendship is important and everyone has a place in this world, but let's be honest, Marvin and Tyrone never had a shot at that punani to begin with, and Damien goes to the bar every afternoon, mas tequila, por favor! And Judy keeps a little picnic table down near the cliff overlooking the waves, and the clever viewer, the one from a literary background, will realize that the tablespread in her arms in the final scene is white with black polka dots. It's funny how she ended up being just like her mother after everything that happened, it puts a tear in your eyes that the right people made it to Mexico with the millions, you can almost forget about the incredible car explosions and the tense scene with those produce trucks at the border and the fireballs showing on the TVs in Omaha where Damien's old buddies were drinking, completely unaware of the incredible character development their friend was having as he got away with millions in Mexico.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rhino Love: MTR Transspecies Operations and Cyclical Social Rebellions


Heather: I am unique. I am special.

Tom: I know! You go, girl!

Heather: I want to share the wonderful experience of life with someone I am uniquely equipped to help. I think I will have a baby!

Tom: Great! You go, girl!

Heather, larger: I am pregnant!

Tom: Congratulations!

Heather with Autumn: Here is my baby! She is perfect! I can't wait to teach her about life!

Tom: I could do it just as well as you.

Heather with Autumn: I'd love it if you'd help us.

Tom: Just give her to me. I can be her mother. Or don't. I'm just saying, I could do it as well as you.

Heather with Autumn: No, you couldn't. I'm just saying, when she was born, my body released a unique mixture of oxytocin designed just for Autumn's birth, and I held her against my chest while my brain was programmed to love her in a way like no one else can.

Tomsitioning: I could love her just that much. Your love is nothing special or different. Are you saying I'm not as good of a person as you?

Heather with Autumn: No, not that--just that there are some things you can never do that I can do.

Tomsitioning: I really think you're missing the point. I will soon be a woman.

Heather with Autumn: I can nurse Autumn.

Tomsitioning: I can, too.

Heather with Autumn: I mean with my breasts. I can produce milk custom-designed for our respective sets of DNA. It is perfectly nutritionally balanced for Autumn. It is free and warm and on-demand. My breasts respond when Autumn cries or looks at me a certain way.

Tomsitioning: I can buy a mix that is just as good as yours. There is nothing special about you or your baby. Any drug company can make something that will give my little Autumn the same nutrients as you can give her. Or, if I decide to parent naturally, I can go on craigslist and buy human milk that a lower income woman has had pumped out.

Heather with Autumn: But I feel that there is a special connection between me and Autumn that no one else can duplicate.

Tomsitioning: You are wrong. Anyone can duplicate it. Someday, robots will.

Heather with Autumn: Does your milk offer hormonal cues for someone of Autumn's DNA structure, and a lifetime's worth of antibodies, many of which I obtained from my mother?

Tomsitioning: If we choose the natural route, my little Autumn may get some of that from someone else. And eventually robots will produce it. Face it--you aren't that special.

Heather with Autumn: Even so, you can't 'nurse' in the traditional way. You could hold her close and give her a bottle that you'd warmed exactly right, but there wouldn't be that connection between your skin.

Tammy: Do you mean breasts, honey? Because I have them--better than yours.

Heather with Autumn: Um, yes. But you can't lactate out of them.

Tammy: Actually, there are new kits. I got the deluxe models. I can nurse just like you, and no one can tell the difference. Least of all Autumn.

Heather with Autumn: What are you putting in there? Does it make it so you can generate your own...milk?

Tammy: There's a thing on the side--no, not there!--thing on the side, where you can pump in whatever. Similac, craigslist...but yes, Miss Snippy; in a couple years, they're going to release this program where it's actually made from me.

Heather: Run along and play, dear. No, not you, Tammy.

Tammy: By, sweetie! Wave to your Auntie! (waves)

Heather: Well, anyway, about this...this upgraded formula.

Tammy: Milk. It's called milk.

Heather: Well, all right, but not human milk.

Tammy: Excuse me, what am I?

Heather: A human.

Tammy: It's human milk. It's designed with my DNA profile in mind!

Heather: Do you think that's really true? How big are the machines it comes out of?

Tammy: Oh, gosh--ten times a Keurig? Who the heck knows? There's some factory in Luxembourg...well, actually, I'm going to get mine from the Walmart pharmacy once it's out of patent, but it'll be just the same as the foreign stuff.

Heather: How will you know if it's really from you? Think about the implications of this: if something comes out of a factory, even if you get a private chemist to test the first few batches, how do you know that everything you're getting is always 'you-derived' And does it change over time as you and your baby change?

Tammy: Come on, sister! Why would they lie? It'll be just as good as yours.

Heather: Fine. Fine, then. Well, what if Autumn wants to know where she came from? Know about her family history; her roots.

Tammy: I'll tell her about my parents, of course!

Heather: Well, they're not her grandparents.

Tammy: All that stuff is imaginary. Who cares if they're 'traditionally' hers, or not?

Heather: She might care. It's her ethnic identity. Her sense of self. Her ability to locate herself and understand how she came to be.

Tammy: She can embrace all cultures and backgrounds. We'll watch video summaries about the traditions of all known peoples. She can decide which one she wants to identify with. Or ones! Or ones!

Heather: What about all the people who worked to survive and reproduce so that she could exist?

Tammy: Honey, she doesn't owe them anything.

Heather, crying: Does that include me?

Tammy: Honey, the decision has been made.

Heather, crying: What about you? If you took her, would you want to be treated that way?

Tammy: Treated what way? I'm going to raise her to be a strong, independent woman. Like me.

Heather: Okay. Okay. Assume you did all that. What if...what if, when she gets her first period...? What are you going to tell her?

Tammy: Jeez, sweetie, don't look so upset. That stuff's on Wikipedia. And of course, of course she'll go to the doctor. A urolo--, excuse me, a gynecologist knows way more about her body than you ever will.

Heather: A doctor's great, but...you can't be at the doctor all day and night. There are thousands, no, millions of little things about being in a woman's body that I needed constant feedback on to grow. The way the urinary tract is shaped inside; the way to clean up after the bathroom; the way your body reacts to things. How the skin in our family sunburns a little more easily than on some other people, and the kinds of sunscreens that don't hurt it; what to do if you do get burned, and the way every seventh or eighth period gave me this brown spotting that, after hyperventilating the first time, didn't really turn out to be anything to be worried about, because my mom could tell me stories about her, and her mom, and her mom's mom...I mean, what if she goes to the ER sometime and they ask about her family medical history? About the women in her family?

Tammy: Honey, I am a woman.

Heather, rubbing her eyes: Tammy...

Tammy: Don't look at me like that. I'm completely post-op. I was a work in progress, and now I'm progressed. I am a woman, and the state medical board and my driver's license says so. I've got more estrogen left than you do, honey.

Heather: I just think there might be things you're not able to do for her that only her 'real' family--I'm sorry; I just don't know of a better word--that only I could do for her.

Tammy: Nobody's perfect. Are you perfect? Because if you make one mistake, just one mistake over the course of parenting her, then you completely validate my point, thank you.

Heather: Tammy...

Tammy: Thank you. I'll pick her up tomorrow after the paint's finished drying in the new nursery. There'll be some papers for you to sign.

Heather: No...no, you can take her now.

Tammy: No, it's latex paint--it's bad for people, you know, to inhale.

Heather: Not your little Autumn. She identifies as a non-latex-sensitive.

* * *

The Continuing Story of Rhino Love

If a female human can legitimately be a male human, then a male rhinoceros can legitimately be a female rhinoceros. Can, then, a male human legitimately be a female rhinoceros? Do we celebrate our inclusiveness and diversity by allowing intra-species sex transitions, while remaining close-minded and bigoted toward those who know that, inside, they really are rhinoceroses? It's not a rhetorical question, given furries, many of whom would actually like to be some kind of hybrid sex-kitten, sic, and/or hybrid sex-rhinoceros (less popular).

What's the dividing line? If a woman demands to be recognized as a rare species of shark, can she sue Sea World for not hiring her to appear in a tank? It's clearly discrimination, since last year, they spent over $600,000 on an expedition that attempted to garner just such a shark for their new exhibit--and yet, they are denying her employment application despite the fact that the exhibit is now sitting empty?

We tend to react to those kinds of examples as, "You hurtful jerk; it's nothing like that. That's obviously ridiculous." But why is it so ridiculous? If a man can be a woman, why can't a woman be a shark? Where is the DNA similarity cutoff? Could a rhino be an elephant, but not a human be a rhino, because there is too much difference between human/rhino, but not so much between rhino/elephant? Is 99% enough? And why does it have to be 99%? If a human man who is 6'6" and weighs 250 lbs. of muscle can decide to be a woman, why can't he also decide to be a smaller variety of ungulate? Would you dare impose a set of physical standards on those who are permitted or not-permitted to transition, depending on their size and appearance? Does a woman have to be of a certain height and breadth of shoulder to transition to male, or vice versa? Of course not.

So, can a chimpanzee be a man? Can King Louie sue the State of New York for not being allowed on the subway, if he is able to use ASL to communicate that he wants to be hyoo-hoo-hoo--man, too-ooh-ooh? We can disregard chromosomes, hormones, and bodily structure--there are surgeons now who, in grand western tradition, spend their careers developing procedures designed to shave down the vocal chords to allow a man to sound more like a woman without the strain of falsetto, a surgical trend made more ghastly in light of its costs comparative to the numbers of children starving to death, whose needs could be met for twenty-five cents a day. We can add and subtract breasts, ovaries, vaginas, testes and penises; we can file down Adam's apples and implant ankhs solely for artistic appearances, and we can alter DNA patterns with powerful injections. Before long, it won't be that cheap to be a rhinoceros, and be able to pass a rudimentary DNA test proving the same. These things are no more speculative now than it would have been, in 1890, to wonder whether the London prostitute you just swived had a "real" vagina, or a "fake" one. Namely, it seems an utterly outlandish thought experiment until, all of a sudden, it's an everyday thing, so long as you've got a letter from a shrink and less money than it would take to buy a new Prius.

Big Cocks and Teleporters

Most of us have little things we'd like to change about our appearance or others' perceptions of us: slimmer; straighter teeth; six pack; DDs; permanent eyeliner; thirteen-inch cock. There isn't much generalized objection to any of these, particularly in a western world where the right to buy thirteen-inch subdermal plastic cock-plating is valued more highly than the right to not be evaporated by a drone. Following on the trend of women whose wealth has allowed them to be artificially beautiful--by virtue of twelve new frocks per season, fine whalebone corsets, an hour of daily maid attention, and the finest continental face paints--it's only fair for some lonely men to wish they could be important by prettying up and becoming the submissive roleplayers that are in such western dearth these days. What crosses the line into rhino love silliness, though, is the full claiming of identity in tandem with costuming, because that steals the existence of those who really were the original thing in the first place.

Tom can make everything about Heather deemed irrelevant--her body and her humanity--if everything about her can be duplicated by surgery. Even identical twins aren't identical, but if we allow people to become each other through medical intervention, we socially devalue the individual far more than any other act. If Surgical Tom can replace Non-Surgical Heather, the implications for Heather's life and future--for a billion Heathers' lives and futures--are profound. Heather has just been told that her identity is not about her, but about her features. E.g., to be a woman is to be a walking, talking doll with a certain set of physical features and social expectations, all of which can be matched by any actor/surgeon team. Heather's inner essence is declared null and void, her personality a commodity that anyone can buy.

The critical transsexual argues, "I'm not trying to invalidate your identity; that's just what I feel I am. I genuinely feel I am a man. And that's how I want to self-identify." How, then, do men who were naturally born as men self-identify, once their definition has been extended to include "born as a woman but transitioned to a man"? Or, "born white but transitioned to black"? The group "people who were born as women" should be able to self identify as such, and to share their experiences and identity among similar people, without always being invaded by "people who became women after being born as men." Such "born as a female human" people crafted a term that members of their community could use to define themselves--"women"--a long time ago. None of this should mean that people can't transition or have new identities, but to allow them to fit their new selves into the definitions used by previous (and very different) self-identifiers is to allow them to destroy that identity, just as if white men were able to transition to black men, or vice versa. (If we're not going to have any terms, then fine, argue for no terms--but that's not the argument anyone is making.)

Should born-men be called "Born Men," and transsexuals "Changed Males"? Or, "Natural Male" versus "Surgical Male"? Or, should we insist that there are no differences, and prevent anyone from discussing their birth or their ancestry? Tricky business, that, because in that case, there are no transsexuals. Everyone is just what they are now. So there is no problem. If there is a problem, though, and if people should be allowed to self-identify, then the choice is between terms with elaborate prefixes and suffixes--Birthed Males v. Surgery Males--or something else. And "something else" is always going to be nicer.

"Surgery" doesn't need to be a scary word in this realm. Everyone changes themselves, through bodybuilding or plucking eyebrow hairs, and effectively, having an organically-certified vagina transplant is no different than doing a few biceps curls, as far as goes self-modification. What crosses the line, and impinges on other's and others' rights, is to walk out of the OR, point at someone born with a vagina, and say, "I am now that."

Or moreso, science-fictionally, on a grander scale. How comfortable are you with this example: at midnight tomorrow, an alien supercomputer will vaporize every single human being living on, or in the vicinity of, Earth. The supercomputer will then generate duplicate bodies to replace everyone who was killed, fill them with 100% perfect memory programs, and release them into the wild to go about their lives exactly as though they had never been killed in the first place. Are you comfortable with that? If the alien supercomputer killed you and your loved ones, and replaced them with biological automatons that acted exactly the same way, would anything have been lost in the process? It's a variation on the old saw, "Does the Star Trek teleporter kill you and then make a duplicate?" though on a larger scale.

Really, is there anything missing? Okay, variation: if the alien supercomputer kills only you, and replaces only you with a duplicate, are you at all unsettled? As the duplicate sleeps with your lover(s) and pets your dog(s) and gets commended for your jobs well done, and no one else ever knows it isn't you, is there anything missing from the universe? If not, is that all you are before the supercomputer arrives: a robot who does things because of the cells you have? There's not the tiniest feeling of unease in your enteric brain at the thought that "you" are irrelevant, even if you stretch the example so that it fills in all the private details that would press your buttons the most? (Cool, fine, then you're a robot, and none of this matters, including whether or not other robots decide to put trannies in camps, because it's just robots going through the motions. Alternatively, let's stay out of the camps, because there's a fundamental value to each person, and allowing surgery to invalidate identity is an extermination, albeit of a different kind than in said hypothetical camps.)

The ability to assume identity--to "be" a rhinoceros, a nurse shark, a five-year-old, or an African-American--needs to be seen as the assault it is. If someone can genuinely decide to be those things, then those who always were those things have been told, "The sum of your existence is duplicable by anyone or anything else. Your identity is nonexistent. Rather, it is a state of mind you have pretended to, which others can pretend to whenever they wish. So long as they really, reaaaaally mean it."

Voting for Chromosomes

Transsexuals, contra transspecies, still do face a lot of unfair bullshit, like bathroom privileges and prison housing. The line we're walking here is an embarrassing one for some people, because they want to disallow transracial shifts ("In my heart of hearts, I'm a Native American person, and as such, I have no problems with voting restrictions on reservation populations, because we all secretly know we're not real Americans, and we wish to keep a separate cultural identity that does not involve voting in the White Man's elections.") and transspecies shifts ("In my heart of hearts, I'm a dog, and having spoken with my fellow canines, I can pass on the message that we do not mind being used for food by your people."). And yet, they want to allow just one kind of transition, switching between sexes/genders, and being treated accordingly.

Here's where our cultures, writ large, fail to provide anything of much use. Not only do our old paradigms of man/woman show themselves to be clumsy, outdated, and inappropriate, our new paradigms of self-identified gender show themselves to be ludicrous, unworkable, and ultimately far more parochial and destructive toward individual identity than your local Baptist church. The Baptists may shun the transsexual for being false, making him a mere "confused woman," while the postmodern progressives will allow a guy with a bottle of pills to assume the personhood of a woman. Suddenly, the former man is an equivalent victim to a local woman who's spent twenty years being slapped on the ass and told to, "Get us some more coffee, toots, why dontcha?" Tammy really can replace Heather in our minds, if we allow her to, and once we've done that, Heather is a fungible, irrelevant, her life outsourced to a call center in India.

But what if we all agree? Then it's not a problem, right? Eventually, everyone will all be together holding hands, and cast an affirmative and irrevocable vote that men can be women, in fact, already are women, or at least, they were previously once they inform us that they were, in which case they are, will be, and always were, despite our earlier neglect of them. It will all be accepted, and since everyone agrees and is happy about it, there's no problem.

True--if there is nothing inherently valuable and distinctive in being a woman in the first place. The real conflict here is with ourselves: when we try to argue that sexes can be changed, we're trying to impose our will upon the outer world. I command my finger to move, and it moves. I command the apple to be an orange, and it doesn't. Clearly, our neurons extend only so far for the time being; some alternative entelechy has control over the apples and the oranges. Some of us learn, humblingly, that our control over our own bodies while we're here is far from complete.

We do have control over our thoughts and language, though, which is where we make our strongest argument: nothing is anything, except for our consensus-based decisions as to the language we use, therefore our collective decision that men are women is true, and it is rude to deviate from it. We can't make apples oranges, or Xs Ys, but we can decide to call something a "woman" based on observable social criteria. And we could talk for a thousand years about what it is to be a woman, and how you tell who is a woman or not, and whether that's appropriate, and whether it's appropriate for the criteria to change, and at what point we decide we can't handle the criteria, but deal with it, because everyone I agree with knows what the rules are, and that's what they are except when they're not. It's up to each person to decide, except in realms in which they're not allowed to decide, because those realms aren't considered serious by those of us who are allowed to decide by consensus, and individuals who decide about themselves against consensus are clearly being ridiculous. Yes, the trans arguments are all self-contradictory, in that they rely on traditional definitions to define rebellion against traditional definitions, then become instantly conservative vis-à-vis changing future interpretations of definitions.

Sissified

The problem we're facing is our lack of linguistic inclusion of objective v. subjective reality. Most languages in developing civilizations (>3C) have some form of this: a way of costuming nouns and verbs so that you can both identify someone's choices, values, and personality, and their background and genetic makeup. Our languages here have gendered or genderless terms, but that's not nearly adequate at this point. In Barizan, for example, one had available two versions of "man"--the version that was understood to be a genetic male, and the version that, on Earth, would be more closely translated as "dominant" or "seme." There was a sexualized tone in the latter case; you didn't call your math teacher "seme" unless you were doing her, but a chacile would never call her anything except the objective form of "woman" during a formal council proceeding. All of the social stigma about being a dominant/submissive person was attached to the interperceptive ("subjective") terms, and none of it to the objective ones. A female couldn't get people to call her "Genetic Man"--that would've been ridiculous--but she was easily able to use appearance and behavioral cues to get called (the equivalent of) "Dominant" by theater ushers who'd never seen her before nor would again. (Some places went too far, or at least so it seemed to me. This one did a whole life somewhere once, where I never figured out half of them; in retrospect, this one wishes she had.) You can kind of be aloof or imply an insult by continually referring to someone in the objective form, but it's completely different than misgendering a trans person on Earth. It also leaves open lots of wild doors for furries, should they so desire, yet forestalls the potential anthropomorphical arguments of the future.

That's the answer for Earth, too: allow people to adopt "gender" or "perspective" versions of themselves as much as they want, but do not permit them to supplant the objective roles of others. MTF transpersons can be gorgeous "sissies" or "ukes," or any other non-sexualized-yet-characteristic-identifying term they approve of, with an established social place and identity, but if they get in a car wreck and are rushed into the OR for trauma surgery, they can, without any offense implied or taken, be instantly identified as not having a womb in the area from where all the broken windshield glass needs to be extracted. (As a pleasant byproduct, no "born as" women will be offended, nor feel that their identity is being threatened.)

For trans people, there is a very real, very serious problem in preventing them from switching away from the identity they feel doesn't suit them. A small but noticeable biological minority actually doesn't fit into standard sex divisions (e.g., futa by the grace of God), yet genderless pronouns are more of a confusing insult than a helpful distinction, by denying a sexual or genderized agency to the veritable walking couch. You can't spell "gender neutral" without "neutral," ergo the hapless hermaphrodite never has a stable home in the dictionary. Some kind of antaphological place, or primary thought-space, needs to be available for these individuals (just as "man" and "woman" need to be available for others) or else we're at the level of twentieth century doctors, adding and subtracting with cold scalpels, then encouraging the living of deadly lies down one of two permissible paths.

Yet the presumed dislocation of any individual from one of the two permissible paths should not empower them to dislocate others. The answer is not to fight over two bedrooms in a small house, but to build an addition. It's so very fitting, once again, that America is become home to the recurrent idea that, because the Puritans were religiously persecuted by the King of England, they should have the right to supplant the identity of a different group of people. Cotton Mather becomes an American because he feels in his heart of hearts that he is, while Tecumseh lies rotting beneath last autumn's corn. Allowing Tammy to become everything that Heather is disregards some very real biological issues that will never go away, and that can never be replaced by machines, while forcing Tom to be The Traditional Conception Of Tom is equally stupid and wrong. Ironically, the more dislocated Tom feels, the less likely he should be to want to take Heather's mantle for himself, but this is America, where the middle class shops heavily on the day after Christmas--so why not?



If the picture is going to be a rainbow, notice that the rainbow includes more than two colors. Respecting diversity would include allowing Tom to change from yellow to mauve, but does not include permitting Tom to join Heather in defining what it means to be blue. There's plenty of space out there for Tammy to be Tammy, whereas it's not in any way appropriate for Tammy to decide that she is also Heather.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Rusty's Insurance

So, we were all at Grandma's funeral, and Rusty deliberately left cards for his new life insurance agency everywhere. Buffet table, memento book near the front door...even on the little stand next to the coffin, leaning against that old black and white picture of Grandma and Grandpa at their wedding. Everyone was mad at Rusty, of course; maybe even rightly so. But look at it from Rusty's perspective: he spent so much money for two years getting his license, and the whole time he did it, he was hearing these horror stories. Stories about the single dad, buried in debt after his wife the trauma nurse passed away just after getting her certification, swamped by stress, finally shoots himself in the head and the kid goes into foster care, never to know either parent. Stories about the aging widow--a woman not that different from Grandma, really--who couldn't survive on her own when her husband's pension ran out. And she had it really tough. She couldn't pay her bills; she died lonely and alone and fearful, not able to keep the heat at a decent level in the cold of winter. No one decent would want that to happen to someone they love.

And Rusty's earnest. He's the real deal. He actually thinks--being young and just starting out, and being not very good at it--that he's offering a helpful, necessary service. In his heart of hearts, in the deepest recesses of his subconscious mind, he believes he's being an altruist by helping people avoid the tragedy of leaving their loved ones bereft of life insurance. And Rusty knows, dammit, he knows that he can push and nudge all his contacts in order to get his family and close friends a good deal; a deal better than, even, the deal he can get for his ordinary customers. He knows cost, he knows margins, and he is willing to go the extra mile to help people out. So why is everyone so offended when they see him trying to give business cards to those who are weeping quietly by Grandma's coffin?

Miss Manners, being the blood-money-bloated husk of an old elite line, holds the stock narrative of politeness: Rusty was an unmannerly bastard because he mixed business with the somber occasion of mourning. Manners, of course, from which the deacon is exempted, as he spends the entire service reminding everyone that they should buy his own product, because Grandma loved it so much; manners that don't stop the deacon from reminding everyone that Grandma is in a better place--a place they won't be, unless they come back on Sundays, instead of flying home to Minneapolis and saying, "Thank God that's over."

What about the caterer, too? Or the guy hovering near the back, waiting only for the reading of Grandma's Will? The coffin manufacturer has brochures near the coffin, but they're designed to look like part of the mourning process, and it's not a mistake that they match the light lavender coloration and pattern that the deacon's manager chose for the wallpaper in the viewing room. Rusty didn't even get an honorarium for showing up. He had to drive, in fact, all the way from Tallahassee.

Bastards all, surely. No less Miss Manners, who, if she hadn't been left $4 million by Father, and been married off to an Ambassadorial husband worth far more, would be furiously scheming to attach herself to an unattached someone of similar success, funeral or no funeral. Just as Mr. Manners, were he risen from the trailer parks, be slipping his own life insurance agency cards into unwatched purses, hoping that the occasion of death would drive in some business, come Monday morn.

And yet, Rusty really is a believer. Even if you explained this all to him, he wouldn't get it. He actually thinks he's being helpful. That's the beauty of education: it turns people into salesmen who don't know that they're salesmen. Sure, some of them figure it out, just like some people figure out that there is a deep government, but most people don't; most people actually think that they're serving some kind of useful function.

Doctors are probably the worst, little memorization drones who can't figure out why all this "business" gets in the way of what really matters--patient care. And patient care is about uncritically ordering up as many scans as you can possibly order, because scans create conditions and identify conditions, and create business. It's hilarious, really; like little Rustys, they actually think that they're helping people out by giving them an "evaluation." Once you're in the shop, and the guy is kneeling over your brake pads, showing you his ass crack and talking about wear, 95% of the job is done. Have you ever broken wind, had a strange dream, or noticed an unexplained twitch in your knee? Then by all means, climb into the computerized tomography machine--if you didn't have cancer before, you'll be sure to have some in a decade or two after a ride through there. It's the responsible thing to do.

And like Rusty, they fail to see that selling the $19.95 promotional book, or even sending it for free, is just about getting you on the mailing list, after which you have such a large statistical chance of eventually giving in to attending the $800 seminar in a place that looks like, but isn't quite, Aspen, Colorado, where the orange juice and the continental muffins are free in the lobby and everyone has a haunted look like they just found out something was growing inside their pancreas. Selling 1,000 guns to the freedom fighters guarantees a future need to send 10,000 guns to the reformed democratic government, ensuring the later need to develop an F-35 to bomb the despotic government so that the stateless terrorists can be intervened upon in order to establish a reformed democratic government.

But then, if Rusty actually believes, maybe so does Slick Willy. After all that time at Oxford and Yale, maybe he's really just another useful Humana dunce in the ER, using blasts of radiation to discover the true evils behind a lumpy knee or a lumpy Milošević, and feeling so proud when he goes home every evening. There's too much work, there's always too much work, oh, oh, how is there always so much business, every day I personally have to diagnose two new cancer patients--that's not a mean or a median; it's the fricking lower end of the range! Golly gee shucks, how is it they just keep popping up like that? Who looks twice at a guaranteed stream of future clients? Certainly not anyone successful around here. Some of you may've heard this story, but I know a guy who knows a guy who invented the 100 mpg engine in 1930, and men from the oil company came out to his father's farm and took him away and left some money with his father. Ridiculous urban legends; hard to stamp those stupid things out. It's not like there are actually people around here working together to make a profit at the expense of others.

It may be true that Karl Brandt knew, but it may be true that he didn't. After all, the iatrogenic nature of individual post-life insurance policies, graphed to the macro, is no different than the empowerment of the same middlemen who administer the peddling of individual intra-life insurance policies, which is to say that the middleman ceases being the middleman and becomes the end-man, the only man whom the whole process really benefits. As for you, little peon, you buy life insurance not to protect people, but to ensure that others' others are screwed worse than your others. To do otherwise is to be the one wildebeest stupid enough to linger at the rear of the pack, trying to help a lame calf cross the river--and with the gators on the way, who really wants to get dunked and spun along with the limp? So most likely, Karl Brandt was merely a decent man screwed by the system, a hapless helping hand who started out cupping Adolf's testicles through a testing cough, and ended up at the end of a rope.

Did anyone ever know? Someone had to design all these un-think-um curricula, right? Because we all know Rusty, and just like he was stupid enough to actually put his business cards by Grandma's coffin, there is no way he was bright enough to indoctrinate himself like that. Maybe he wanted to be indoctrinated; wanted something to believe in. But no, that's a fool's way out, as we all want something to believe in, and how could the gravity of his life insurance agent certification quizzes, no matter how austere and formal the printed packet, exonerate him from propping the cards up in a spot appurtenant to such obvious emotional frailty?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Incentives and the Preferred Breeder Status Program

Try this: it's 2208, 3/4 of the world's population is openly gay, and birth rates are way down. It becomes more and more expensive for society to sustain itself, as skilled technicians are so hard to find for the stem cell plants necessary for both medical treatment for the living and reproduction. As the years pass, food development technicians, medical robotics maintenance professionals, and even security guards at that one plant that makes the little plastic cup-thingies that can help either sex intubate a desired offspring in either an artificial or natural womb--huge labor shortages everywhere, and it's really bugging people. You can get a permit to have a child, but it's so incredibly expensive, now, to get the intubation done, to get the drugs and cells you need to bring a child through to term, and then even if it manages to make it out, it costs way too much to feed it, because it's this useless, helpless little thing for so many years, and food is already too expensive for working adults due to high demand.

So the United Earth Government comes up with a controversial new plan: to save society, UEG proposes enacting the "Preferred Breeder Status Program," whereby a couple composed of a woman who possesses a genetic womb (whose parents didn't elect to have it removed upon birth) and who wishes to acquire sperm naturally, and a man who possesses functional genetic testicles, will be given a large governmental subsidy. To encourage more couples to sign up for the program, program recipients will be known as "Preferred Breeders," and will be eligible for all sorts of future government benefits. The hope is, for the UEG agency that initially developed the program, that enough people might naturally breed in such a comparatively "costless" way, that more skilled workers could be grown cheaply enough that, after twenty years or so, all the old factories would begin running again.

There's a catch, though: in order to ensure that the "natural" child develops the necessary independence, confidence, video-viewing comprehension, and critical thinking skills to be able to debug programming code at food and hydrolization plants, or to run intubation machines or repair and update medical robotics systems, and to prevent the already overstressed UEG planetwide "Children Are Our Future" raising and educational warehouses, Preferred Breeders will be required to guarantee to the government that at least one of the natural parents will manually tend to the child's needs prior to pubescence. PB couples will be prevented from rendering their "natural" offspring to these raising warehouses along with normal children. Preferred Breeders will not, therefore, both be able to pursue successful and fulfilling careers--only one of them. As a result, the Preferred Breeder who elects to work outside the home will be ineligible to avoid supporting the other Preferred Breeder, who has forsaken career opportunities to fulfill the law's requirement that at least one natural parent will stay, cheaply and efficiently, with the kid until pubescence.

The PBSP's critics say that the program places an unfair tax burden on those who are only trying to enjoy their own lives. "I don't have to pay for my neighbor's reproduction bill when he goes to the hospital to drop another one," says one aging woman in San Andreas, "so why should I have to pay for some complete stranger to, to hump some woman just so he can have this little version of himself?"

The PBSP's proponents say that it is the only way to save society. However distasteful natural breeding is, they say, they cite statistics showing that the economics of natural reproduction are over 600% more efficient than the current standard, and demonstrating that all reproduction factories will have to shut down by the year 2224, if changes are not made now.

So, it's 2208. Are you for or against the PBSP? Why or why not?

Free Will

We like to think of our free will, but what if we're under threat? I.e., "They'll detonate the bomb if you don't bring the umbrella to Vito's on 23rd by 8:00PM." Okay, so we bring the umbrella, but that's not really our free will, because we were forced.

All right, then, torture. We don't want to confess--probably because didn't do it--but if we're tortured, we give in to the pain and confess that we did do it. Free will or no free will? Easy: not your free will. Not really "your" act, in some sense of grand moral fairness, because we were forced.

Then you're hungry, through no fault of the person to whom you lie. You crawl through the Sahara Desert, come to an oasis, and meet a guy who's eating a Subway six-inch with a small drink. You're weakened from extended malnutrition and dehydration, so you can't beat him up and take his sandwich, and in desperation, you promise him a million dollars and the lifelong use of your body if he'll give you that one sandwich and small soda. And you eat the sandwich, drink the soda, and you're forever in his debt.

Free will? Sure, yeah, but extenuating circumstances.

That's all really easy, but those things are really old and trite. Let's go farther. Much farther. In all of the examples above, we're assuming that we have some level of mental control, but are forced--maybe literally at gunpoint, or upon threat of death--to do something. "Butter my toast," warns Obama, "or I press the red button and everyone on Earth is consumed in thousands of simultaneous thermonuclear explosions." It's your free will to butter Obama's toast, but it's not quite the same variety of free will as if you genuinely liked him and wanted to save him the effort of buttering his own toast (for dramatic effect, assume he was busy signing kill-orders, and so you saved his fingers the additional labor of buttering his toast). It's still "free will," but we all know what it means to do something under threat of coercion, from small to noble. "Butter my toast, or I will knock your toast on the floor." Or, "Butter my toast, or I keep threatening Putin until WW3 begins." In either case, we butter the toast. We hate doing it, we preserve our mental independence, we make an educated choice, and we act upon it. We all know the difference, later on, in reviewing the act of toast-buttering; we all understand what it means that we were forced to butter the toast, rather than did it because we enjoyed it. Obligation sex v. lust sex. Obligation sex v. rape. Lust sex v. drunken sex. Drunken sex v. unconscious sex. All sorts of little variables in there.

The future holds penultimate variations on these things, naturally. Once the nanobots are implanted, they make us butter the toast. Trapped inside our bodies, we know that, at any moment, executive training programs will take over, and we will see our hands move. Our body will rise, we will get in our car, we will drive to the White House, we will pass through security, and then we will butter Obama's toast. Not because we wanted to (by now, our own breakfast is rotting and covered in maggots, several States away, and we're quite hungry), but because the nanobots take actions necessary for national security. These are easy variations to address; being motivated by the chip, the program, the projective stem-cell thought module network: all these things are no different, philosophically speaking, than if a larger person simply manipulates your body into completing the act. So if Schwarzaneggar's steely hand closes over yours, and he forces you to butter his toast, it's not your fault.

It's such a relief, considering such easy examples of free will. The mind, throughout the unwanted act, realizes that the act is unwanted. Later on, whatever you did is known to you to not have been your will--you know that you didn't want to butter the toast or suck the cock or press the button, but that you were forced to do it. Your mental integrity is retained, even in the face of the government's new projective thought network.

Or, go a step further--the said psialtic network completely replaces your mind. Now, your body is a drone operating under remote control. Easy solution for free will: it wasn't you. You weren't even there anymore. You were sleepwalking; you were dead; your soul was a million miles away while the body that bears your Earthly name committed Acts X, Y, and even Z. Not your responsibility.

Easy, easy, easy. So easy. The real challenge to ourselves comes in the form--today, at least--of drugs. Of the inducement in the subject to make a decision with his or her free will. Let's say, for example, that the CIA uses their fear drugs on you. They inject you with raw, unfiltered, 100% pure fear. Then they walk out of the room. The room is empty. The room is safe, comfortable, air-conditioned, and your lawyer is standing by to be sure that you don't do anything under duress.

There's a paper on the floor, which you can sign to indicate that you were, indeed, responsible for whatever they want you to be responsible for. You're fully awake and cognizant of your actions. But that fear they injected you with--it's like nothing you've ever known. You are filled with absolute terror. All the chemicals in your brain that have evolved over millions of years to communicate fear are active, assaulting you every second. You can't breathe, you can't see, you can't think, except that you actually can do all these things, but the fear is so intense it feels like you can't. Earth 2014 doesn't have this as a hypothetical, but as a reality. Simple chemistry. Just a little injection of hell. So you sign the paper, and as promised, you're given an antidote, and able to calm down after half an hour or so.

Now, do we liken that to torture? The mental pain is equivalent to being kicked in the head until you signed the paper? But you really did sign the paper. And there were no blows exchanged. No blows threatened, even. In fact, if you'd been able to last out the hour, you would've been released and gotten a million dollars. It sounds like a joke if you don't know what condensed fear tastes like; if you don't know that there are relatively cheap ways to make you feel like that. The government chemists are out there, right now, spending billions of dollars to develop little spray bottles that can send you into a crying, shuddering shape on the floor, nonetheless completely conscious and able to access detailed short- and long-term memories and respond to questions. Your stress about an unpaid bill times a million-million-million; your worst youthful bad dream distilled of all its details and then pumped full of steroids, leaving behind nothing but that bodiless fear of fear of fear, attached to nothing tangible so that no alteration in setting can make it go away.

Take away the signed confession. Assume the fear was slipped into your coffee, and the only way to make it go away is to betray or kill the loved one the government wants you to take out. We're in Room 101 with Winston, and the rat is clawing toward his face, and it's time to betray Julia or else the rat gets you. But no rat, no O'Brien--just an imaginary, drug-induced specter of nothingness.

Go farther with it, and assume that you are completely aware of the drug and its effects. You're an organic chemistry researcher, you've had the drug forty-odd times, and you take it again as part of a new test. And as you renew your relationship with the fear, you realize that, if it came to it, you would sign the confession, or destroy your loved one, even though you knew that the drug had zero side effects and that the feeling would vanish in an hour.

It's all a joke or a scifi if you don't know what that kind of fear is like. Even "just" the natural stuff prepared in your brain, mixed around in the right proportions, making you so terrified that you would press the red button to make it go away. While simultaneously possessed of every once of "you." All the free will is there, and yet you make that decision. Is it still the same, when there's no pain? Still the same when it's merely a living nightmare, the circumstances of which you recognize, that prompts you to act? We hear stuff about "truth serums," occasionally, but we don't get much exposure to the real things; the things that can, by adjusting hormonal levels, cause free will to behave a certain way--cause individuals to themselves, freely, make the desired decision.

Sure, fear drugs count as "duress," but none of those old emotional safeguards are there. After having burning bamboo shoots shoved up your fingernails, you give away the location of the planned escape tunnel. Later, you tell yourself, "There was too much pain." Easy out; no doubt. But, scenario two: after that pill they gave you at breakfast, you give away the location of the planned escape tunnel.

Later, can you tell yourself the same thing you did after the bamboo shoots? Are the injected chemical invaders the equivalent of goons, beating the confession out of you inside your head?

Good cop, bad cop

So this cop I knew became political, and it was sad to see. This was the good kind of guy who would get out of his cruiser more often, walk around the people, find someone possessing personal-use amounts, give them a little badgering, confiscate it, and tell them to knock it off, and then go on his way. He'd sometimes take heat from command for being light on people, but he generally got through it all right. He was brave and old school in the sense that, if he had to deal with someone scary, he'd throw them down and grapple rather than immediately using the taser or the gun; he never once shot someone, and only rarely drew. And he was so, you'd call it, "down to Earth," and you could talk with him about his job, and it was really something. He actually wanted to improve the community, a process which he'd describe in broken English, "You know, those kids, they're gonna, gonna be themselves, you can't just, y'know, wreck up their lives over some unimportant shit," and other hackneyed stuff. In this amazingly tender way, he could go on for an hour about small things, helping people get around the law. He lacked the verbal refinement to say precisely, but communicated essentially: "I'm able to use the discretion of my position to protect people from administrative exploitation. I am empowered to ignore the law, or to apply it selectively, when it conflicts with my own sense of justice for my community and my people." It was this almost hillbilly, gee-golly-shucks sweetness that sounds stupid if you haven't experienced it helping you.

And then, criminology classes. As the years pass, he's gotta get "educated" to pass various tests for promotion. There are a few minor local elections, and he develops himself, thinking that the more authority he gets, the better for everyone. But the process caught hold of him. It caught him, like engineering school hitting a 20 year old. And even he fell. Years go by, and now he's in a high, communally-known position--call it "chief"--and he's getting mentioned in the paper a couple times a month, and he's popular, and he goes to fundraisers with the local funders. And it's so fucking sad...now he's got the Mitt Romney haircut, ridiculously farcical gel job, and his old smile, his real smile, is completely gone. He looks like the principal of the local charter elementary school, or the mayor, wearing the same navy suits with challenging ties. When you look into those eyes, the humanity is gone, replaced by this sanitized version.

And the stuff he says now... All the honesty and decency is gone, and he's a vigorous enforcer of all the laws, or at least, a vigorous proponent of his officers enforcing all the laws. His speech is become the presentable, professional version of what we all do on Facebook whenever an airliner crashes. "Our hearts go out..." "Deepest condolences to those affected by this unimaginable..." When he's talking policy, all the old stuff has long vanished. "...to unite with this community in the condemnation of those who have decided to..." It's such a big difference in grammar that I wonder if he actually cracked open those old manuals of style that he'd never been able to figure out before, or if they just have templates at precinct headquarters that can be slightly adjusted with each new press release.

For some people, when they make that change--when they hit the C level, become department head, whatever--you know they're just saying things to sound important, and to make it work. What they really wanted was the promotion and the money, so they bullshit because they knew what they were getting into. But if that level of verbal intelligence wasn't there before, as in my cop buddy, you wonder...did they become smarter as they became more systematically evil and more polished? Did they become more polished instead of becoming smarter? Do they even know what they're talking about anymore?

What is it about bland speech that attracts people so? The ability to spout banalities at any time in response to any issue is certainly a valuable one in this culture, and for plenty of people, that's all they have inside, so they gravitate and revere as they must. Cliche is safe; it sells easy copies and tickets to people who are afraid of thinking. But how did it get this cop? I know, I know. But it was so depressing seeing that one bite the dust, completely repolarizing into a heartless component with a great smile and lots of civic respect.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Better than Kings of Old

Kings of old had gigantic palaces filled with priceless art. They had fortified keeps filled with men-at-arms ready to lay down their lives, provisions for months of siege or bad weather, and the decorative tombs of their forebears. They had country estates surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of private land for hiking, riding, hunting, camping, fishing, or reflection.

You have keypad entry to your two-bedroom apartment.

Kings of old had constant entertainment. At home, at health, at disease, or at war, they were accompanied by whichever singers, dancers, storytellers, or painters they wanted to have around. They could bring before themselves every type of entertainment they desired. They could repeat anything they liked whenever they wanted. They could order the creation of new forms of art and entertainment at the snaps of their fingers, and partake of, and take credit for, the end results whenever they desired. An endless parade of tumbling acrobats, impassioned oils, and deep fantasies marched before them when they gave the nod.

You have a television.

Kings of old slept whenever they felt like it. They lay on the finest handmade fabrics of their choice. They rested when they wished, ordered work done by others when they wished, withdrew from decisionmaking when they wished, and suddenly intervened in decisionmaking when they wished. They were constantly surrounded by terrified servants who leapt to make them more comfortable. They ordered ice brought from the northern lands to sit in their drinks, or be melted in their presence, to cool them. They were fanned, sponged, and admired when they felt warm. When they were cold, their rooms lit with fires and stoves, as their plump hides oozed a relaxing sweat into lush fox furs and warm, fawning concubines.

When you get home from work, you can enjoy central heating and air conditioning.

Kings of old fucked whoever and whatever they liked. They fucked wives and virgins, harlots and children. They mounted castrati and fondled prepubescent perineum. They lay back on bearskin rugs while the three prettiest underage lasses in the land payed hourly tribute to their pudgy genitals. If they wanted to marry, they could have anyone in the world except another king's daughter, and they could even have her if they were willing to pay enough. If their feet were a little bit sore, they could take a month off for hot oil massages. If the masseuse got tired, they could execute her and find another.

You have clubs and bars and match.com.

Kings of old traveled when they chose and where they chose. Wherever they went, they were greeted like royalty, and given their pick of the finest things the area had to offer, whether food, fuel, or people. They traveled atop layers of pillows in plush carriages, being fanned and coaxed and comforted and entertained along the way. When they arrived, it was the right time to arrive. When they were not there yet, everyone else was early.

You only have a few months' left of payments on your two hundred horsepower car that is now getting too old to keep considering that it has to get you to work every day.

Kings of old ate organic food prepared by hand an hour before they ate it. They ate whenever and wherever and whatever they liked. They ate as much as they liked, and threw to the dogs what they could not finish, and three hours later, feasted again. If a foreign cuisine pleased them, a master chef skilled in that art would be brought to their halls to delight their palates. They could wake up at any hour of the day or night and demand a favorite dessert from childhood, and it would be handmade from organic materials and brought to them. Sometimes, when the season was wrong, they had jarred handpicked organic preserves instead of fresh fruit.

You can buy genetically modified strawberries at any time of the year by driving to the grocery store. You can get a fast food hamburger inside of five minutes, with one of six different menu options. If you cannot pay for these things, you will starve. If you do not go to work when you have to, you will be fired. If you go, you may be fired anyway. If you cannot pay your heating bill, you will freeze inside your apartment. If you cannot pay your rent, you will freeze outside. Where you will not be watching anything on the television that isn't yours anymore.

Technology benefits everyone, as a rising tide lifts all boats. We have the sofa and the refrigerator and the colonoscopy, therefore, clearly, we have it better than kings of old.

* * *

A thousand years from now, they will tell you, "Things aren't perfect, but you have it better than technolords of old." Because, despite their billions of obscene dollars, technolords of old couldn't press a button and have their urine transported out of their bladder and to a local recycling plant. Oh, no--those poor, benighted lords of the past, like Larry Ellison and Bill Gates, had to actually walk to the bathroom and take a leak. So, as your sore-laced, cloned body is compressed into its labor cubicle upon discharge from its reproduction tube, and drugs keep you from sleeping so that you can spend the next 100 years of your planned lifespan at wakeful vigilance, constantly monitoring and repairing the potentially rebellious thoughts of the A.I. programs that run elites' virtual pleasure-lives, take pride in yourself. Take pride in your species. For you have it so much better than technolords of old. They actually had to walk to the bathroom.