"Non-human" as derogatory

Steve Witham (sw@tiac.net)
Tue, 31 Dec 1996 03:36:28 -0500

>From: phoenix@ugcs.caltech.edu (Twirlip of Greymist)
>Date: Sun, 8 Dec 1996 14:12:17 -0800 (PST)
>Subject: Re: Trans- vs. Non-human

>"Extropy is the idea of actively pushing for a better future." You said
>it; presumably you wished to communicate something with it. By itself,
>it communicates very little, because 'better' means "higher up in some
>scale of value". [...]

...and that means very little? What I'm saying is that simply having a
scale of values--any values--is a *big* thing. This doesn't seem to mean
much to you because you don't see the opposite threat: the ways people
manage to cancel out, bypass, look down on, obfuscate and be unaware of
their own (and others') values. The ways people go along with what they
see as the trend rather than identifying what makes them individual.

Just look at how popular the meme of "selflessness" is. Or how people
worship opinion cloaked in "objectivity." Or the current political
incorrectness of "prejudice," "intolerance" and "discrimination."
There are ideas out there--and habits of thought and discussion--that work
*against* having values. And this discussion had one example that should
have been glaring to everyone: One person expressed distaste at people
trying to become "non-human," and another person treated this as an example
of intolerance!

And when I pointed out that this was overdoing tolerance--that one shouldn't
just "tolerate" everything because that's abdicating one's own values--
then I got a bunch of replies saying I should define my terms, etc.

This is a bad habit of discussion: to demand a defining of terms whenever
one is confused. It gets in the way of discussions of value. It makes it
*harder* to process values because it's an excursion into areas of abstract
logic and philosophy that are beside the point, a very simple point.

If you haven't seen examples of non-humanness, if you don't get a chilling
feeling of recognition when you hear that phrase "trying to become non-
human," then you and I are in such different mental territories that my
trying to explain would be a major job that I'm not ready for. No hard
feelings, just take my word for it that what I value about humanness is a
big subject, and I'm a bit of a nerd myself when it comes to explaining it.

If you do have a sense of what that phrase means, then we have a starting
point for discussions along these lines, and I don't have to define my
terms; you got the basic idea, and I'm not going to assume we agree in
details I didn't express.

>} So the original point was whether it's okay (and clear) to use "non-human"
>} as a derogatory term, without defining what one means exactly. I think
>} it is [...]
>*shrug* It is okay for you.

But clear? I guess for some people it isn't. I would have thought that
we all had enough of a shared base of values that "non-human" had a some
sort of negative connotation for everyone. But instead of
"Now just a minute! Are you calling me non-human!?"
we got
"Now just a minute! What's so bad about being non-human!?"
! Maybe we don't have that shared feeling, or maybe some people here are
actively confusing themselves out of realizing that they do feel that way.

> Some people will consider shedding some
>parts of humanity to _be_ an improvement.

*Some parts*, sure, but humanity itself? I have a hard time thinking of
that as a value. Would you call a compulsion to pull out one's hairs
a "value?" It's more a self-destructive tendency or malfunction.

> So by your own definition,
>those non-human aspirants are as extropian as you.

No. This is my point! They aren't extropian by my definition if they
are doing what they are doing because they have short-circuited their
own value systems, which is in fact what I think some people on this
list are doing. People who talk about getting rid of their emotions,
for instance, are expressing self-canceling value systems. Value systems
that don't have enough sense of self protection to be given sharp knives.
Ignorant self-immolation is not "extropian." That's too much of a stretch.
If we were talking about an informed theory of what emotions are and how
someone would like them to be different, that would be a different story.

> I guess I wouldn't
>have said what Y said above. ["Trans-human is necessarily non-human to
>some extent, and you're being intolerant."]

>I have nothing against values, or expressing values.
> [...] But expressing a difference in
>values doesn't have to be derogatory -- shouldn't be, unless you're
>actively trying to control someone else's values.

Doesn't derogation simply mean expressing a negative value, implying
that something is bad? If it is a very bad thing you're talking about,
why shouldn't you use a derogatory term? Why this pussyfooting around
such a clear issue? I suspect that you are expressing a habit of
softening your opinions and values--a habit that is just getting in the
way in this case. Who are we afraid of offending here?

There are no "non-humans" here. What I'm derogating is the (I think)
unintended outcome of non-humanness. It was banjo (who has left) who
brought up the term. Maybe he thought that some people here actually
want to be non-human. I don't believe that, but what I'm afraid of is
that there are people here who don't realize the non-human implications of
what they are saying, or who have forgotten the importance of humanness.


sw@tiac.net                                    http://www.tiac.net/users/sw
"It just keeps going and going and therefore you yourself have to keep
 going and going." --Energizer Bunny researcher