The Chamber of Sounds
I stand here, in my small closet, locked away from all other life.
For as long as I can remember I have been here, nutrient tubes running to my veins keeping me alive and filtering my wastes. I imagine there must be a ventilation shaft as well, to keep me supplied with air. I don’t know if there is – the multitude of sounds always drowns it out.
I believe I am in a space ship, for far away I can hear the thunder of the engines. Maybe this is a maintenance space of some kind, for surely it isn’t normal to hear so many sounds: the bubbling of water in pipes, the whirling wheels of maintenance robots, the constant clicking of communications relays. All this I hear but cannot see, the darkness of my closet enveloping me at all times.
And then there are the voices, the automated electronical voices spitting out status reports in binary. I cannot make out what they are saying, cannot grasp the inhuman tongue of the machines. There are many of them, and they all sound the same, their bizarre sound giving me a sense of peace, of order.
I believe it is a chasm I’m next to, from the way the sounds and voices echo. A deep, huge tunnel full of wires, full of pipes and full of voices. Surely it must go on near forever, lasting miles and miles and perhaps never end. Maybe it is lined with closets like mine, filled with people kept inside for eternities.
Who I am or why I am here, I do not know. At times I ponder these things, but those ponderings never lead me to any end – after all, this is the only world I’ve ever known of. The one of sounds and the one of machines, the one of peace but not of quiet.
As the stars burn and the ship’s engines burn I stay locked here, locked here for eternities as I always have. It is just me and the machines, and all is as it should be.
This work by Kaj Sotala is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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A lone robot, hitchhiking its way through Canada. :3
> I am hitchBOT — a robot from Port Credit, Ontario.
> This summer I will be traveling across Canada, from coast-to-coast. I am hoping to make new friends, have interesting conversations, and see new places along the way. As you may have guessed robots cannot get driver’s licences yet, so I’ll be hitchhiking my entire way. I have been planning my trip with the help of my big family of researchers in Toronto. I will be making my way from the east coast to the west coast starting in July.
> As I love meeting people and hearing stories, I invite you to follow my journey and share your hitchhiking stories with me as well. If you see me by the side of the road, pick me up and help me make my way across the country!
hitchBOT | Making my way across Canada, one ride at a time.
> Now when I engage with feminists I am read as being a woman, and my words are received very differently now than before. The lack of alienation is liberating, but at the same time I feel disattached from my history of involvement with feminism. Now, if I argue for the inclusion of men in the discourse on rape culture, I am seen as making this argument from a female positionality; as such, women are far more likely to listen to me, but it feels as though (on this topic in particular) they are less likely to hear what I am saying. As a woman, when I assert that men are often victims of sexual violence and that rape culture has a doubly silencing effect on men since —due to masculine-centrism and homophobia— this violence attacks their gender and sexual identities in addition to the personal, physical, and psychic violation, my words are not received with the same authority as when I uttered those self-same words fifteen years ago. These days it's taken as a position statement, as philosophy, as theory, not as the gritty dirt of reality.
> Moreover, these days I do not feel like I can legitimately invoke my personal history in order to receive that authority. The idea of doing so reeks of entitlement and disingenuity. While I do not feel like I would be co-opting the experiences of male survivors, claiming to have any access to male experience now feels deeply inauthentic. All of this despite having experienced the very same things as many men do. My abuser was a woman, and like men who were abused by women, people tried to gaslight me into calling it "getting lucky" instead of calling it rape. Despite having no interest in adopting a male persona, if my history became known it would incur (additional) emasculating, homophobic, and transphobic abuse. The only way to avoid that abuse was to actively position myself as a straight masculine man full of machismo and bravado. Thus, I could either deny myself by masking over my history or I could deny myself by masking over my identity; a devil's choice if ever there was one. Being a queer feminine woman, this devil's choice becomes a twisted form of psychological torture, as the masking identity is the antithesis of who I am, and is moreover an identity I find repugnant; to actively adopt this grotesquery requires I must dehumanize myself, dissociating from everything that gives me nourishment and willfully engaging in degrading acts. While most male survivors of sexual violence are not queer feminine women, those men I have talked to still experienced the devil's choice as psychological torture and for very similar reasons of being forced to actively deny their own identities in order to project an identity they find repulsive. Despite sharing these experiences with cis men and not having had the experiences typical of cis women who've endured sexual violence, I no longer feel like I can authentically access these experiences to speak to the trauma that men endure. At the same time, while it does now feel authentic to frame my history as the sexual abuse of a girl by another girl (for we were both underage), I know that this authenticity does not afford any legitimacy outside of discussing my own experiences. Before, I was silenced by having my experiences excluded from the discourse on rape culture; now, even when listened to, I am silenced by not having a discourse to which my experiences can contribute.
> Once again I point out that none of the major details of my identity nor of my history have changed. Who I was at the time of my abuse is no different today than it was a year and a half ago before I transitioned. No new details have come to light. I have not altered my interpretation of that past. In short, nothing has changed. And yet, it seems, everything has changed. As I tweeted yesterday, "even having had clarity for so long, doesn't really seem to help. Clinging to old narratives can become disingenuous." And now I wrestle with that disingenuity, seeking to construct a new narrative to make coherent the detritus of my life. Learning how to position myself as I walk the same paths through the same queer communities I've inhabited all my life. Learning how to vocalize a troubled history I've openly discussed for decades. Learning, somehow, to become the person I have always been, because suddenly nothing has changed.
winterkoninkje. Transitioning is a mindfuck.
> Someone asked recently whether it's bad to seek "signs" of being trans from the past, and why or why not. This question is one which deserves to be more widely circulated. Within trans circles a fair number of people have an understanding of the situation and it's complexity, but it's something I think non-trans circles should also be aware of— especially given the recent publicity surrounding trans lives.
> The problems are twofold:
> A lot of people look for signs because they're seeking some sort of validation. The problem here is that you end up misinterpreting and overanalyzing your own life in search of that validation. It's not that the past cannot provide validation for your present, it's just missing the point. What we want (more often than not) is acceptance of who we are now and recognition for our current experience. There's more to current identities, pains, and experiences than the past that gave rise to them, so validation can come from sources other than the past. Moreover, it's all too easy for people to "validate" your past while simultaneously invalidating your present, so validation from the past is not stable. Altogether, none of this is trans-specific: it's a general problem with seeking retrospective validation; and it also applies to people who've suffered abuse, experience mental illness, have changed careers, etc.
> The second problem is that, in overanalyzing our pasts in search of validation, we all too often end up reinscribing "standard" trans narratives. If our pasts do not fit the "standard" narrative then we will not find the validation we seek, thus we will call our current understanding even further into question, and this sense of invalidation will only make us feel worse. If our pasts only partially fit the "standard" narrative then, in search of validation, we will highlight those memories and background the others; thus denying ourselves the full actualization of our personal history, and invalidating at least in part who we are. And if our pasts (somehow) completely fit the "standard" narrative then, in holding that history up as "proof" of our legitimacy, we end up marginalizing and invalidating everyone with different narratives. Again, this isn't a trans-specific problem (cf., "standard" narratives of gay lives or depression prior to, say, the 1970s.); though it's especially problematic for trans people because of the dearth of public awareness that our narrative tapestries are as rich and varied as cis narrative tapestries.
> There's nothing wrong with seeking support for your current self from your past memories. Doing so is, imo, crucial in coming to understand, respect, and take pride in our selves. The problems of retrospection are all in the mindset with which it is pursued. We shouldn't rely on "born this way" narratives in order to justify the fact that, however we were born, we are here now and in virtue of our presence alone are worthy of respect and validation.
winterkoninkje. "Is it bad to look for signs from the past?"
This is probably the biggest reason why I ultimately decided to get out of politics: the fact that I enjoy and embrace discussing hypothetical taboos. If I'd be too much in the public eye, I'd no doubt soon get countless of angry bloggers on my back, taking everything that I happened to say in some online conversation and twisting it out of all proportion. And not only would I need to censor myself for the sake of myself, I would also need to consider the impact that anything I said would have on my party mates. No thanks. I'll rather stick to discussing these issues somewhere where, although I might still become the target of an online witch hunt, at least nobody has a political incentive to whip one up.
> Two miners are trapped underground by an explosion. They could be saved, but it would cost a million dollars. That million could be spent on saving the lives of thousands of starving people. Could it ever be morally right to abandon the miners to their fate and spend the money on saving the thousands? Most of us would say no. Would you? Or do you think it is wrong even to raise such questions?
> These dilemmas are uncomfortable. It is the business of moral philosophers to face up to the discomfort and teach their students to do the same. A friend, a professor of moral philosophy, told me he received hate-mail when he raised the hypothetical case of the miners. He also told me there are certain thought experiments that divide his students down the middle. Some students are capable of temporarily accepting a noxious hypothetical, to explore where it might lead. Others are so blinded by emotion that they cannot even contemplate the hypothetical. They simply stop up their ears and refuse to join the discussion.
> “We all agree it isn’t true that some human races are genetically superior to others in intelligence. But let’s for a moment suspend disbelief and consider the consequences if it were true. Would it ever be right to discriminate in job hiring? Etcetera.” My friend sometimes poses this very question, and he tells me that about half the students are willing to entertain the hypothetical counterfactual and rationally discuss the consequences. The other half respond emotionally to the hypothetical, are too revolted to proceed and simply opt out of the conversation. [...]
> There are those whose love of reason allows them to enter such disagreeable hypothetical worlds and see where the discussion might lead. And there are those whose emotions prevent them from going anywhere near the conversation. Some of these will vilify and hurl vicious insults at anybody who is prepared to discuss such matters. Some will pursue active witch-hunts against moral philosophers for daring to consider obnoxious hypothetical thought experiments.
Are there emotional no-go areas where logic dare not show its face?
> A world without predators certainly sounds extreme, and it is. But British philosopher David Pearce can't imagine a future in which animals continue to be trapped in the never-ending cycle of blind Darwinian processes. It's up to us, he argues, to put our brains, our technologies, and our sense of compassion to good use, and do something about it. It's part of his overarching Hedonistic Imperative, a far-sighted "abolitionist project" set with the goal of achieving nothing less than the elimination of all suffering on the planet. And by all suffering, he means all suffering.
> No doubt, when I think about the state of our species and our planet tens of thousands of years from now, it's hard for me to accept the notion that nature and all that's within it remains the same while we venture out into the next state of our existence. Ignoring the plight of other animals seems both selfish and irresponsible, particularly if we have the means to do something about it; the suggestion that we should consciously and compassionately reboot the Earth's biosphere is as futuristic a proposition as it gets — but one we should contemplate very seriously.
The Radical Plan To Eliminate Earth's Predatory Species