Tag Archives: ethics

Internet: Rudiments of Courtesy and Respect

I have been on the internet since it was DOS, a big black screen with glowing green text. The early chat rooms and newsgroups were full of pedantic people trying to prove themselves in one way or another, from the spelling nazis to the socially insecure showing their scintillating intelligence and argumentative nature. In the new newsgroups, there are often rules against correcting someone’s typos but you can still get the know-it-alls. You also get the people who have to air their grievances against another for one and all to suffer through.

We live in a modern age of computers and instant messages. Before those came along there were phones and letters. Before that era, there were letters and pigeons. Before that, and during, there were riders on horses. Communications could always fall into the wrong hands, or not get through, or your courier be killed…if it was really important and political.

Some of our view of courtesy comes from the Victorian era but even before that, through much of the middle ages there were such things as courtly behaviour. Nobles and the higher echelon, even the peasantry, showed respect. Sure, rumours existed but they were and have always been perpetuated by people talking about the subject behind the subject’s back and never addressing the issue directly. Should one noble to the other have something particularly vicious to say, probably couched in witty ways, it was usually done face to face, because the fewer witnesses the better to deny it ever happened.

To call one out, especially one of any noble lineage was tantamount to a duel or a war, or maybe an assassination. Words had power, have always had power. Words can slander, can give respect, can color one’s view. But even as much as words reflect on the subject, they also reflect on the speaker.

No matter how wronged a person is, or how justified they may be in speaking of the scurrilous things people have done to them, when even the injured get on the soapbox it most often is not pretty. Be careful who you paint with that brush for the paint can spatter on you. I have seen this over and over, and used it as a good lesson. When the wronged one starts pointing a finger back
and getting to name calling, that person too loses credence. Sometimes turning the other cheek is the best policy.

To air one’s laundry, whether yours or the pilfered goods of the “other”, it is still airing your laundry in public. It is a tactic that holds the public hostage to a viewing whether they want it or not. It is a tactic that one does to shame the other. It is a tactic that shows the one who airs as callous, mean, little and low class. It is a tactic meant to anger and to justify one’s own behavior. And it is always lowly done and not of the noblest of intentions.

Here are a few rules by which I judge if there is courtesy and respect. I try to use these. Discussing is one thing but belittling or berating others is not acceptable.

1. If you have nothing nice to say, shut up.
2. If you hate someone, tell them personally. We don’t want to know.
3. If you want to be Machiavellian and stir the pot, well then you really think
you’re so witty that no one is catching on as you sit back and lick your paws.
You’ll believe yourself superior, but it’s not very noble either.
4. If you have to show off your intelligence and superior knowledge in a
pedantic manner, then you’re not very secure and it shows.
5. If you have to whine about how much you did and that no one ever notices or
wants you, then no matter your position you’re not doing this for noble means and
maybe there’s another reason no one wants you.
6. If you make yourself a martyr and make sure everyone knows, then expect to
be used that way and not to get sainthood at the end.
7. If you’re getting so out of hand in your vitriol that someone has to smack
your hand, well then maybe it’s time to go to mommy until you grow up.
8. If you can’t be constructive, or don’t know the facts, shut up.

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Sixty-Year-Old Woman has Babies

Everyone is talking about the 60-year-old woman who had in vitro fertilization to have babies. There were three embryos but one was removed because of health reasons, whether to the woman or the embryo wasn’t clear but I believe it was the embryo that wouldn’t survive. She gave birth prematurely to twins in Alberta.

But now every news show seems to have jumped on the ethics bandwagon. Is it right, is it ethical? Should parents so old have babies? Etc. ad nauseum. Let’s break this down into the two questions? Should old people (you define the age) have babies and should physically fit people have babies?

Looking at that last question first, should people who are physically debilitated have children? Years ago Ablerta performed mandatory sterilization on people from 1928 to 1972. The Sexual Sterilization Act was to keep undesirable traits from showing in offspring. Of course there would be no offspring with sterilization. Some of the people who were reviewed for sterilization were alcoholics, paupers, epileptics, prostitutes, mentally retarded, psychotics, had Huntington’s disease, or in some cases were just abused children themselves: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_Sterilization_Act_of_Alberta

Very draconian and far reaching. There are recent cases of quadriplegicshaving children. Crippled people who may spend their lives in wheelchairs or walking on one leg have successfully raised children, even as have people with low IQs, which did not pass on to their children. Although alcoholics should probably be held responsible for children born with fetal alcohol syndrome, they’re usually not barred from having children and they may be less fit than a 40, 50 or 60-year-old in good shape.

So, should “old” people have children? Maybe they’re less likely to run off with someone else, making the other spouse a single parent. People who come from those large families of twelve kids or so may find that if they’re the youngest their parent is indeed old by the time they’re born. Sometimes one parent is much older than the other. Under various reasons of health, emotional or financial instability people have given up their children for adoption or to be raised by grandparents. Sometimes the parents die. As someone pointed out, Obama was raised by his grandparents. He seems a normal human. Old people don’t grow horns and become another species. They’re capable of raising young humans and there’s no guarantee that one 60-year-old is as fit or unfit as another.

What I find interesting is that people of older years have had children before but this time someone, maybe the Alberta health authorities, decided to alert the media and the media leapt for the bone. Even mainstream media seems to be going more tabloid these days with the sensationalist nosiness. When will we start taking responsibility for our own lives and what we do and stop sticking our noses into everyone else’s business?

These parents may turn out to be rotten or the best parents ever. Pretty much it’s the luck of the draw that all of us get at birth, and at least they’re not living in poverty, nor in 1928 when the Alberta government would have seen fit to sterilize them.

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Carleton Votes Against Cystic Fibrosis

Carleton University is getting more attention than they want right now. The Student Association voted against fundraising for cystic fibrosis, something they’ve been doing for more than 25 years. Although one council member argues that they wanted to rotate charities, the statement that cystic fibrosis was primarily a white man’s disease was a deciding factor.

Yoicks! Where have the brains of students gone? As it turns out, CF affects as many girls as boys (not men here, many young people). From what I remember from anthropology there are three distinct racial groups: Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid, where specific physical and genetic traits differentiate them. The Caucasoid or Caucasian group includes white people, some North American First Nations, Indians, people from the Middle East and Europe. Many of them have brown skin but they’re of the caucasoid group. Not to mention many people are of mixed race and therefore can be black and white.

So, the Carelton U council got their facts wrong. But let’s say their facts were right, that the disease they were fundraising to help eradicate only affected white men. What if they then had voted this in, as they thought they were? It seems some people can’t see the reverse racism here. Should a person suffer because they are of a certain color, or a certain gender, even if it is the one we joke about as the least popular: white male? Should a child suffer because he was born a white boy?

Sickle cell anemia predominantly affects black people. Other diseases affect particular ages, or races or genders. Should one disease be barred from research or its victims from the benefits of such research because of this. Carleton U Student Association, time you guys took a class on ethics.

I’m all for equality but that means not biasing one group over another, not favoring one and not ostracizing any. If Carleton had voted to rotate their charity, that would have been a different story. But they didn’t. It’s sad to think that people get so caught up in being politically correct that they don’t see how incorrect they have really become. And in case anyone doubts the words, here is their motion:

Whereas Orientation week strives to be inclusive as possible
Whereas all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their diverse communities
And whereas cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men
Be it further resolved that: The CUSA representatives on the incoming Orientation Supervisory Board work to select a new broad reaching charity for orientation week.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2008/11/25/ot-081125-shinerama.html

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Writing Catch Up

With all the running about and schmoozing at World Fantasy I haven’t had time to actually post anything or even send out many submissions.

However, the Best New Erotica 8 edited by Maxim Jakubowski will be out by Robinson (UK) in a month. It features a reprint of a story of mine “Stocking Stuffers.” I have also just sold “The Boy Who Bled Rubies” to Caro Soles for Don Juan: Tales of Lust and Seduction. I turned in an erotic fairy tale for a Harlequin anthology but have yet to hear the details on that. Other stories and poetry are out but with no firm dates of publication.

I did just receive my certificate and free chapbooks for “Don Quixote’s Quandary” which received a judges’ choice in the SFPA contest. It’s probably the least I’ve been paid (pay presumably in the mail with the chapbook of winning poems) for a poem in years. But what the heck, it was a contest, I have many poems and oh well. I plan to post a couple of published poems up on this site in the near future.

There was a poetry reading at World Fantasy on the Thursday night. Joe Haldeman, David Lunde, Rhea Rose, Eileen Kernaghan, Carolyn Clink and I think one other person read in round table style. Mostly we read to friends and spouses it seems. I wish poetry was more accessible to people. I want to have a poetry reading one day where the word poetry/poem are never mentioned. Lure them in and then gobsmack them with some poetry. I’ve done a lot of performance poetry in the past and maybe that’s what’s needed to bring in a few more people. Alas, poor poetry, dismissed and neglected by so many, including SFWA.

I have a rough draft of “Our Lady of Redemption” done but need to clean it up. I’m still waiting for some readers to look over “Awaking Pandora,” a novelette that took me 15 years to finish. I’m working on a monkey/elephant story and a cat story. Never thought I’d really do a cat story but it’s very nebulous right now as I work out the details of the mystery in it.

Editing wise, I’ve been fighting some pretty nasty viruses on my computer but will be working through some of the poems for Chizine soon. For Aberrant Dreams, we’re still in a holding pattern, though new content went up for October. “The Girl Who Swallowed the Sky” by Jacqueline Bowen is one of the stories I accepted.

Some people will be hearing from me in the near future on the Aberrant stories. Unfortunately being backlogged means rejecting more. Be prepared. I also have to write up a report for SF Canada. That was supposed to be done tonight but other backlogged paperwork caught up to me. I’ll be meeting a client tomorrow evening and then finishing that report.

I think I need to set a firm date for working on the novel. I’ve drifted a bit there and no one else is going to write it for me. Time to set aside part of at least one night a week. Perhaps Mondays after bellydance.

Speaking of novels, many years ago, a woman in our group, Lydia Langstaff, wrote a first draft. She died at 28 of congenital heart problems and never got to go further with her work. Her husband Jeff approached me after her death about doing an edit on her novel. Even though I was going to give him a deal, I still would have needed to charge for my time and the rewrite would have been extensive. He couldn’t afford to do anything at the time and asked me to hang on to it. And then time passed.

It’s been more than ten years and I can’t find Jeff Langstaff. I don’t want to throw out what might be the only copy of Lydia’s work. If I rewrote it, could I publish it with both our names? Would I want to? What’s moral and ethical in a situation like this? Take half the money and donate it to heart research? It’s not my labor of love but it was hers. Would I want to invest the time, not knowing if it would sell? I guess I could send out query letters on the story but I’m not sure that’s my right. If I could find Jeff or Lydia’s family I could ask. But for now her manuscript sits in limbo and I can’t throw it out.

I’ll try again to find a relative but it’s an odd conundrum.

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