Author Archives: thinkbannedthoughts

About thinkbannedthoughts

Sexual health educator and advocate. Political and social Ranty Pants. Word nerd and book slut.

A Let’s Make it Better App

So, there is a person that I follow on twitter. She’s been having a rough go of things lately. She’s not whining about it, or asking for favors because of it.

She is documenting it because her experiences are part of a larger social justice struggle. The things she experiences daily are things that I simply don’t have to deal with, things that I would guess the majority of my readers don’t have to deal with. But they are her daily lived reality. And they are the daily lived reality of many other people like her.

I was scrolling her feed the other day and trying to find ways to support her. There’s the easy and obvious, reply to her with words of encouragement. I did that, but I am a small voice in a sea of hate on her bad days. And – I’m a stranger. I follow her, but she does not follow me. We are not friends. We are simply fellow travelers, and I am eavesdropping on her conversation at the bar. I am an intruder in her space and my voice simply does not travel as far inside as that of a friend.

Now, at a regular bar if this happened, I could have my server, or the bartender, send over a drink or some food. Some small token from one human to another, “I see you, I hear you, I feel you. This too shall pass.”

But, on twitter… There is no way to do something that tangible.

I did send her a message and offered the usual – a shipment of chocolate or cookies, or even homemade jam. (Remarkably, yes, sometimes strangers do accept shipments of jam from me.) She didn’t reply. Again, I’m a stranger, and for me to send her anything she would have to trust me enough to give me her address – and she has no reason to do that.

And then I thought about other times that I have reached out to people on the internets to send them emergency chocolate, a box of cookies, coffee and tea gift baskets, a handwritten letter, and yes – jam.

And I thought about all the people I follow and interact with, people I have never met, probably never will meet, people who have absolutely no reason to give me their address (Have you seen the ranty shit I write!?! Would you trust me with your address?!?) and I had an ah-ha! moment.

I am not normally an app kinda gal, but… There should be an app for this.

There should be an app that allows someone like me to send a cookie gram, or chocolate gram, or flowergram or emergency teddy bear to someone on twitter or facebook or next-hip-social media space – even if their handle is the only thing I know about them.

Now – the first follow-up thought I had to this epiphany was – “Oh wait, the trolls!” Because many of the people who need this service most need it because they are receiving so much hate on the daily, fucking rivers of hate, tsunamis of hate, that the last thing they need is for trolls to be able to send them hateful messages wrapped up with flowers. Can you even imagine surviving *another* horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day only to come home to a doorstep filled with sugar-coated hate!?!

So – this app would need to work with known retailers, retailers who refuse to print hate filled messages on anything. Personally, in my magic app world – you would get to choose from a number of positive messages, no personalization options, and send only nice things. (No lumps of coal.)

Once someone like me signed up/signed in with my social handle, I could input the handle of the person I wanted to send something to and the social network that handle was associated with. The app would ping that person and let them know they had a gift pending. The person would have the option to accept or deny the gift. If they accepted they would sign in (if they were a member it could be a simple one click YES! or NOPE!) and put in their address, so the kindly stalker would never see it, and the worthy person would receive their gift. If they rejected their gift, or simply ignored the gift notice for more than 3 days, the giver wouldn’t be charged and no gift would be sent.

The app company could skim off the top of the charges, taking anywhere from 1-3% for their trouble (or charge the gift giver a standard service fee ala Fandango) and get the goodies delivered.

I am telling all of you about this idea in the hopes that one of you (or lots of you) are app developers or know app developers because that is not my skill set, but this is an app that I would pay for and use and would like to see in the world. So, if someone could make that happen and get back to me, that would be great.

There are a whole lot of people out there who could use some cookies and I’m just the lady to send them.

 

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Filed under Naive idealism, Things that work

Expanding Humanity

I recently finished Marissa Meyer’s book Cress. It’s the third installment in her Lunar Chronicles series.

cress

Where does humanity stop and alien begin?

What follows here is less a review and more a discussion of something I realized when I finished this particular book, but which has been there all along, gently teasing at the edges of my mind and tugging at the corners of my heart…

There might be mild spoilers, but I don’t think so. All the same, if you’re worried, go out, buy Cinder, Scarlet and Cress (and pre-order Fairest) and get reading and then come back and join the conversation.

Okay, disclaimers over – diving in.

I fell in love with Cinder the moment I saw the cover. It’s brilliant, and it describes the book perfectly.

Then I read it and I loved it even harder. The writing is brilliant, the characters are true, the story is mind-blowing. I became an instant “Lunartic.”

Scarlet upped the ante again, adding whole new layers of depth and intrigue to the story, enriching the world Marissa Meyer has created. It provided another 36 hour reading marathon and a book hangover so heavy it appears I forgot to review it.

And now Cress. This is by far and away the best book in the series to date.

I read it strictly for pleasure, no sticky notes in hand, no intention to review or discuss it. But this one – stuck with me. In a way that the others didn’t. (The others stuck, but just as fun books I can’t wait to foist on every person I know who is over the age of 12, and a few who are younger…)

Perhaps it is just the timing of this one, but I realized as I read Cress that it was challenging some important notions, pushing some important boundaries, encouraging some important discourse. I’ve read a few reviews to see if anyone else is talking about this, I couldn’t find anything. And I don’t know if this was intentional on the part of the author, or just me imposing my political views on these books – but… There is a deep brilliance in these books.

As I read Cress it hit me.

Marissa Meyer is challenging us to re-examine our definition of “human” of “citizen” of “us.”

I suppose in a way this is a common theme in sci-fi, where there are all sorts of sentient beings co-existing and we are challenged to find the “human” within the alien. Honestly, that has always been one of the strongest draws for me to sci-fi and speculative fiction – this expansion of what counts as humanoid.

But there is something deeper and more direct going on in the Lunar Chronicles. The Lunar Chronicles directly challenge our narrow definition of “human” in ways that many other stories do not. In much sci-fi, the aliens are still aliens. Sure we may parlay with them, work with them, coexist with them – they are humanoid, but they are not human. We may grant them the same rights, responsibilities and privileges as humans, but there is a subtle undercurrent that says we can revoke that decision at any time.

We have leveled the playing field, but we reserve the right to pull the aliens out of the game if we perceive them as a threat to us winning. Like the USA did to Japanese Americans during World War II.

And this is how things begin in the Lunar Chronicles. There are various us/them groups and splits and divisions. There are the Earthens – humans. But within that group there are also cyborgs (Hello Cinder!) who while still technically human, are legally “less than” to compensate for being mentally & physically “more than.” Not to mention the androids, who are just AI machines, or is Iko more than that?

And then there are the Lunars – and within the Lunars there are subgroups such as “shells” – Lunars with no powers, Lunars who may as well be Earthen – but who are actually more powerful than Earthens because they are immune to the power of other Lunars. Then there are the queen’s wolves, genetically enhanced killers programmed to do the Lunar queen’s bidding. And the Thaumaturges – the powerful leaders of the queen’s army.

In Cinder and Scarlet as all of these groups were introduced, we were encouraged to see the differences, we were encouraged to understand the strife keeping them all apart. But in Cress, as the “tower” (a satellite) falls, so too does the illusion of separateness begin to crumble.

We begin to see, and understand, and feel the innate humanness of all of these groups. We are challenged to break down the mental barriers that have been built up and see past the prejudices to the deeper truth.

Lunars began as humans. Despite a despotic ruler, Lunars are human still. Just as Japanese Americans were still Americans, whether we could bring ourselves to see it or not.

We see Cinder’s existence challenge Prince Kai’s notion of humanity – can she still be fully human as a cyborg? As a Lunar? Can he still love her?

We see Wolf challenge everyone’s notion of humanity, including his own – he’s not only a Lunar, he’s also genetically altered and enhanced to be a killer. Can his core human override his animal programming? (An analogy to The Hulk would not be out-of-place here.)

What about Cress? She is Lunar, yes, but she is a shell – her own people were supposed to have killed her as an infant. She is feared by them for her ability to resist their control, and feared by Earthens because of her birth place. But inside, is she really so different? Is she any less worthy of human dignity, human respect, human rights?

When I look at the world Marissa Meyer is building, I see the parallels on our own world – the divisions of “us” and “them”, the ideas that the strong must be limited to protect the weak, but in a weird contradiction – that the weak are also somehow simultaneously less worthy of the full set of rights, responsibilities and privileges that come with full citizenship. I see the same lines being drawn around different groups, trying to define them, designate them, shield them from others and others from them.

But, in Cress, I see the beginning of hope – the beginning of a better way, the start of understanding and compassion.

And it begins on a personal level. It begins with people willing (or forced through sheer dumb luck and rabid desperation) to engage “the enemy,” to extend the smallest amount of wary, guarded trust… And I see it build out from there.

This is something that I see here in our world too. Yes, there are many people who have created bubble-wrapped echo chambers, online, in social media, in personal interactions, in the news they watch and read – selecting only those sources that reinforce their world view and tell them they are right and the others are Others – strange, incomprehensible & scary.

But more and more, I am seeing a brave few break down their own walls and start following, reading, engaging “Others” only to discover that they are more alike than anyone ever told them.

I remember the last time I got arrested in China. (For those who don’t know, I was arrested in China 3 times in a 3 month period with my parents. Long story.) We had finally made it to Beijing, we had just gotten our hotel room for the night. We thought we were in the clear. And then the police knocked on our door. To be fair, it was the nicest interrogation we had on our journey. The captain took us out to a restaurant and asked us about our trip, where we went, who we talked to, what our purpose was in going places we weren’t allowed to be, whether we took any pictures, etc. The interrogation took long enough that his officers had plenty of time to ransack our room, make copies of our journals, run background checks using our passports, etc. and determine that we were probably not spies.

At the end of the interrogation, I remember the police captain offered his hand to my father and then pulled him in for a hug. There were genuine tears in his eyes when they pulled apart. “I have been told my whole life that you are the enemy. That America is evil and corrupt. That you are poisoning the world. But now I have met you, and I see that we are not so different at all. We both want our children to be healthy and get good educations. We both want good food for our families, and to be able to provide shelter and clothing for them. We want to live our lives in peace. I think maybe that all over the world, this is true. I think maybe people are all the same, we all want the same things. I think maybe my government, and your government are wrong. I think maybe they should have dinner together and talk and maybe they will see this too.”

And then he walked us back to our hotel room, talking and laughing and crying some more with us.

When I travel, that is why I travel – yes to see the different ways that people express their humanity, but also to remind myself that at the end of the day, we are all far more alike than we are different. We are all striving for the same goals. We all want the same basic things – to take care of ourselves and the people we love. While we might live under different governments and different faiths – at the end of the day we’re all citizens of this planet, and we are all equally deserving of the same basic human rights and the same compassion. When we allow ourselves to drop our shields and engage “the enemy” with an open mind, we often discover that we’re standing on the same common ground, striving to reach the same common goal – we’re just taking a different path to get there.

Cress pushes this idea of expanded humanity, expanded citizenship even wider – challenging us to take off our “us” and “them” lenses and see past our divisions and our prejudices to look for and hold dear the common humanity that we all share and begin to build a better world based on that.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Books, Naive idealism, Things that work

Still me, but with less swearing

I am hoping to make it back to TBT today to either post part 2 of the Guns in America conversation, or perhaps another detour about ethics, morality & money.

In the meantime, and in case I don’t make it back – My first article for Everyday Feminism just went live, so you can read about parenting in a post-feminist world over there -

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/07/make-room-for-bigger-truths

The article is a positive action based piece on helping kids break open their gender boxes a little bit to make room for more of their truth to shine.

Feel free to drop a comment. I’ll be bouncing over periodically to join the conversation.

Cheers.

3 Comments

Filed under Kids, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Things that work