Category Archives: Politics

Scalzi and the Game of Life

Like about 98% of the internet, I came across this post from John Scalzi where he attempts to explain privilege via a gaming analogy. It is a brilliant post, and I would encourage you to read the whole thing (he has started discussing topics like this a lot more regularly of late, and is doing a magnificent job).

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

Like any analogy, it breaks down or falls short in a few places, which I am worried will be seized upon by people with an agenda as a way of invalidating the whole thing. Of course, Scalzi is more than capable of defending himself!

He has expressed the concept far more eloquently than I ever could, but that’s not going to stop me from sharing my thoughts, after all that’s why we have our own blogs, isn’t it?

Firstly, I think it is important that he points out he is talking about being born in the Western world, because that in itself is a huge advantage from the start. I think we often forget how much we take that for granted. Working for an international not for profit I am constantly confronted with how much even the worst off person in Australia has compared to someone in the Third World. That’s not to say that there is no suffering here, there is, but it is of a different kind.

The one thing I think he doesn’t make quite clear enough is that you don’t choose the settings in the game. Race, orientation, gender, the class you are born into, the initial settings are all decided for you. You can’t do anything about this, all you can do is play with the stats that are rolled for you. I don’t believe that I need to feel guilty for being born with the advantages of being a straight, white male. That doesn’t make me good or bad in itself, it is simply what is. What is important, though, is what I do with those advantages.

There is a passive response, where I do my best not to use my advantages to make the game of life harder for other players who don’t have them. That means being aware of my privilege, not discriminating, not participating in behaviours that disadvantage others, not buying into whingeing of other SWMs about how hard done by they are. But, is that enough? I don’t think so, I think that being born with these advantages requires more of me.

I think that I have a responsibility to make an active response. That means trying to change the fact that there are advantages to the circumstances I was born into. It means actively trying to change the mindset of other SWMs around me, of speaking out against discrimination, of agitating for social change and trying to let my awareness of my privilege inform everything I do. I spoke about this briefly in an earlier post.

While I don’t feel guilty about being born a SWM, I do feel guilty about the times where I have been content to enjoy the privilege that comes with that, without thinking about those who aren’t so lucky. I feel guilty about my lack of self awareness. I feel guilty that for a long time this didn’t even register for me. Even now, my understanding of all this is limited, something I readily acknowledge. I am trying hard to educate myself, and hopefully every day I get better at seeing the ways in which my privilege exists, and better at doing something about it.

It’s not fair that certain people start off with these advantages. But, what is important is that they use these advantages to try and change the way the game works so that, however gradually, the default setting becomes fairer and fairer. I think it is wonderful that John Scalzi has taken the advantages he has been given as a SWM and is using them to try and raise awareness, to try and change the way things are. I hope more of us start to do the same so that one day we won’t have any advantages simply because of the way the game works.

Free trade: Your morals for their money

Isn’t wonderful that our former Prime Minister wanted to forge stronger ties with China? After all, trade is so important. So important that we can’t let little things like this get in the way.

A pregnant woman in south China was detained, beaten and forced to have an abortion just a month before her due date because the baby would have violated the country’s one child limit, her husband said on Thursday.

Construction worker Luo Yanquan said his wife was taken kicking and screaming from their home by more than a dozen people on October 10 and detained in a clinic for three days by family planning officials, then taken to a hospital and injected with a drug that killed her baby.

Family planning officials told the couple they weren’t allowed to have the child because they already have a nine-year-old daughter, Luo said.

The Chinese government are a bunch of human rights abusing, free speech suppressing and child murdering barbarians and we should be shunning them, not trying to become better friends with them.

The Big Issues

Sometimes I wonder whether we deserve democracy. After the “Great Debate” where we get to hear our prospective leaders articulate their stance on vital issues, what is the public’s focus? Julia Gillard’s earlobes.

I am not a fan of Julia Gillard at all, but for a start I think it is cruel and cowardly for random people to hide behind the distance and anonymity the internet provides and dissect her appearance. Secondly, this shouldn’t be about people’s looks but about whether they should be running the country.

People complain about politicians but I can’t help but think that we get exactly the government we deserve.

Grande Chile!

From Slashdot:

Chile has become the first country in the world to approve, by 100 votes in favor and one abstention, a law guaranteeing net neutrality (Google translation; Spanish original). The law states [submitter’s translation]: ‘No [ISP] can block, interfere with, discriminate, hinder, nor restrict the right of any Internet user of using, send, receive or offer any content, application, or legitimate service through the Internet, as well as any activity or legitimate use conducted through the Internet.’ The law also has articles that force ISP to provide parental control tools, clarify contracts, guarantee users’ privacy and safety when surfing, and forbids them to restrict any liberty whatsoever. This is a major advance in the legislation of the country regarding the Web, when until last year almost anything that was performed online was considered illegal.

This is the sort of law I would love to see in Australia. One that takes step to protect people from seeing things they don’t want to (or want their children to), but does not try and limit what information users can access. It’s getting close to the correct balance.

There are two massive threats to our online rights in coming years. One is that providers may seek to limit user access to competing products and information, the other that governments may try and decide what information they want their citizens to have access to. Chile is moving in one direction, and Australia in another. Sadly, I think we are moving in the wrong way.

It’s hard to sympathise with their complaints.

BEIJING — A Chinese government-backed think tank has accused the U.S. and other Western governments of using social networking sites like Facebook to spur political unrest and called for stepped-up scrutiny of the wildly popular sites.

Newsflash to the Chinese government: The reason why Facebook and sites like it foment unrest is because it allows people to express their views, and freedom of expression is to totalitarian governments like Kryptonite is to Superman. It’s why I oppose censorship even of viewpoints I find repugnant.

Hopefully the Australian government continues to backpedal on a similar issue. Governments should not control what information people can access, it’s as simple as that.


UPDATE: Rudd is out.

Exciting times. It looks like before the day is out we will have a new Prime Minister, and the first female one to boot.

I find it hard to comprehend that the man who dazzled Australia with his new age campaign that encompassed talk shows and Facebook has crashed from such dizzying heights without even seeing out a full term in the top job.

I had always had a fair bit of time for Kevin Rudd as the Shadow Foreign Minister. His appearances on morning television made him seem erudite and an intellectual, with a balanced outlook that went beyond partisan politics. I never took him serious as a Prime Ministerial contender though, I figured he was probably a bit too much of an intellectual, almost a geek, to appeal to the electorate. But, I was wrong, obviously. Continue reading

Jezebel off-Target

I am certainly no fan of fascism (like Orwell I loath any form of totalitarianism) but it seems to be a bit rich to be getting outraged about this when everywhere you go you see this.

Why does our society have such double standards about fascism and communism? Both are sheer evil, but one seems to get a lot more slack. For example, the extremes of McCarthyism were definitely wrong and completely indefensible, but a lot of Hollywood people were card carrying Communists in the 50s and 60s. Would they be considered such heroes today had they been Nazis? My local shopping complex has a bar called “KGB”. I doubt “Gestapo” would attract quite the same crowd.

I’m not saying Jezebel condones Communism, it’s just that I see a lot of articles like this and it frustrates me.