Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Family Values failed the Turing Test in 1952


Via CoffeeGhost: Alan Turing: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Poster

February 9th, 2010
Poster I made about British genius and World War II hero, Alan Turing. View poster.
The original source Photoshop file is available for download.
I’m releasing this poster and the source file under a Creative Commons “Attribution-Share Alike” 3.0 license, meaning you can copy it as much as you want, or make changes. (IANA graphic designer, and I spent more time on the wording and font choice than the visual look.)

Allan Turing is a perfect example of "people like that." Turing was brilliant, a mathematical genius, something of a troubled soul - oh, and gay. Which was the part that made it possible to dismiss every more significant fact about him to reduce him to a "that." And you see, it doesn't matter what happens to people like that... since they are going to hell in any case, the argument goes, it hardly matters what good or bad occurs to them in this life - and of course any benefit that might come from them is merely a snare and a delusion their demonic infestation spins to deter Good People from putting "people like that" in the boxes they belong in -
ideally, long, narrow and six feet deep.

You see, the fear is not that such a "pervert" would corrupt the impressionable into their evil ways - the real fear is that anyone encountering such a person would realize that the true perverts were those that dehumanized them as being incapable of moral and ethical behaviour.

I was blessed at an early age to have a discussion with my pinheaded father. As I recall, it was during the fuss over the establishment of Martin Luther King day, and this of course was replete with news footage of the "I Have A Dream" speech. It is, by the way, one of the single best speeches given by a public figure in the 20th century - perhaps the best recorded speech of any US public figure - and there is no lack of competition.

I was studying public speaking at the time, so I had a fairly good appreciation of the craft as well as the art.

My father - a racist of the small and ordinary sort, one without the courage to actually do much about it, and unfavoured by the sort of integrity and personal reliability that made him unwelcome in the company of other racists, blandly stated as a matter of fact that while it was definitely a "tub thumper," no "nigger" was equal to any "Christian white man."

He said this in blissful ignorance of the fact that it was an insult to all Christians and the barely ethical of two races directly - and any human being by implication.

And all of this to avoid the internal realization that his racism served as his excuse to be no better than he was.

Indeed, the only reason he wasn't worse was due to his lack of ambition and lamentable social skills. You see, truly effective racists and xenophobes - people who really want to get down to the "good work" of ridding the world of "people like that" - never state their bigotries so baldly. And those who's livelihood depends on exploiting the overly trusting - as his did - never say anything that might queer the deal before it closes.

My father desperately wanted me to follow in his footsteps, and surpass him, but was completely incapable of understanding - along with all such people - that one can do one or the other, but not both. 

ANY moral or civil plan that depends for it's success on ridding society of  "those people" - well, aside from being unethical, immoral, against all reasonable and rational agreements regarding human rights and international law, aside from being wrong in principle - those plans will fail. Utterly. Every time. Always have. But those who peddle such plans profit not from any hint of success, but on the certainty of prolonged and expensive failure. Haliburton is very profitable. So are private prisons. Of course without the various wars, they would not be.

What are the odds that any war such people are involved in will end, with some sort of conclusion and a return to peace and peacetime values? No, I need not cite Christ or Chomsky to substantiate the obvious - look around - or if you want, hark back to the warnings of  President Dwight D. Eisenhower or Major General Smedley D. Butler. Clearly, those who have "seen the elephant" would not vote for the party OF the elephant. 


Goodness knows, there are quite a lot of people who have gone, and seen, and done, and have every right to ask pointed questions of those who sent them to go and see and do. When they are treated with the tender concern General Pershing showed the Bonus Army - well. That will put them in their place, no doubt.

So let us be blunt - those who use the term "diversity" like a bad word, those who speak hatefully and with contempt of the values and supposed habits and natures of others, those who speak of  "Christian Family Values" while beating their children insensible for reading "Harry Potter," those who cheer-lead the efforts of various ethnic profiling initiatives, those who blame poverty on the poor and lay the blame for the breakdown of the family at the doorsteps of battered women - we know you by the price of accommodating you.

And look what we lose in doing so. The natural right to live in a civilized society where we can feel free to express ourselves and live as we choose within the bounds of courtesy and decent consideration for the reasonable feelings of others.

I call upon everyone who might be seen as one of  "those people" by anyone who thinks that DADT is defensible for the morale of the US armed forces to simply step back and consider if the US Defence establishment is actually established in a way that defends anything you value. Indeed, I ask you to consider whether or not it exists at a cost to those values.

There's no sense in supporting, much less defending a nation which is founded on the ideals of Civil Liberties when in practice those civil liberties are very clearly tied to being a white, heterosexual male, conservative voter. Nor is this anything new - it's the erosion of that privileged that has fuelled the puerile whining that shaped what we laughingly refer to as "political discourse" in the English Speaking Democracies.

I won't bother to argue the merits of "foreign adventures" - I merely point out that "Defence" of the "Homeland" is best accomplished with the aid of good neighbours and a world that considers your home a nice place to visit on weekends, when the welcome mat is out. Safety and security in this world, on every scale of measure, involves having more friends than enemies. That is accomplished by doing more good than harm. In that equation, there are no human beings that do not count.

If you don't understand why that's a moral truth, understand this: you can play "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" with anyone in the entire world. Which means that if you screw over enough of "those people;" "useless mouths" who "don't matter," - it rapidly becomes a statistical certainty that you will affect the interests of someone who does matter to you in a way you cannot avoid, creating immense, unpredictable and inescapable consequences.

Allan Touring was persecuted and died in order to preserve Dick Cheney's family values. Ted Haggard's Family Values. The Popes.. family values.

These are not "values." They are not morals - and they are certainly not ethical. And any attempt to "fit in" to contexts defined by such people simply means you - or your children - will be expected to abandon your own values, your own essential human dignity.

You see, you may not be gay. But you have every right to be. Whether or not you are gay, you have the right to be able to express toleration and a decent regard for you fellow human beings without concern that people might suspect you are gay, harbour "socialist ideals" or "sympathize with drug criminals."

For all too long, western society has lived in the grip of subtle terrorism. Allan Touring was made an example, quite deliberately. Many others have been made examples of. You probably know someone, directly or indirectly who's been affected by such example-making. And we have all learned by it.

I've learned, for myself, who "those people" really are. I also learned what to do about them, which is quite different from what they would do. Walk away. Don't support them with your money, don't work for them, don't argue with them, don't go to their churches, don't bother even showing up to protest their initiatives.
Don't set yourself up as someone they can "make an example of." 

Deny them any hint that you have seen them for what they are and are taking steps to adjust your affairs accordingly.

 But do, consistently, pay attention to what they want you to do and what they try to scare you into supporting, and then to the best of your ability, support the complete opposite.

You may not always end up making the right choice - but most of the time, you will avoid being completely wrong.

2 comments:

Jo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo said...

Hi, I love the poster you made, it's really great!
I found your blog by accident actually, I've been searching for people who might be interested in Alan Turing (among others) and so thought I'd drop you a note about a campaign that's currently running.

It's called Information Pioneers and is being run by the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. There are 5 films on the website about 5 pioneers, one of which is Turing, and they're having an online vote too. Check it out and please let me know what you think :o)

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