Sinister Marginalia

Notes around the edges, with a lefty spin

An Introduction And A Statement of Purpose

July 10, 2017 1 Comment

In Which A Multitude of Things Are Identified

Who I am – sort of

Greetings, guests!

You may call me, for now, Kaminsod.

Yes, I’m using a pen name – in the grand and honorable tradition of writers going back centuries. I do not protect my identity out of shame, but a sense of caution – the current environment in the United States isn’t terribly friendly for Progressives, and that’s unabashedly what I am. I also have a real name highly susceptible to Googling, and I’ve been exposed to enough problematic bias in my life – I’m not looking for more.

I’m a queer, Progressive, nonmonogamous, recovering Catholic male living in the U.S. I’m overeducated, underemployed, and hyperliterate. My interests range from science fiction and fantasy to politics to technology to games and gaming to psychology to culture to podcasts to religion(as a subject) to other stuff I’ll doubtless talk about later.

My nom de plume comes from an epic fantasy series called the Malazan Book of the Fallen, which I rank as the best and most personally transformative work I’ve ever read. I’m a literature major and a voracious reader, so it has a lot of good company in terms of what I’ve read, but this series is somethin’ else. I’ll be devoting more posts in the future to the series, why it’s so significant for me, and why I think they’re so great, but for now I’ll say just a few things.

Kaminsod is a central character in the Malazan books, although it takes a loooong time to learn that name for him. He spends a lot of the series as a villain – an actively malevolent presence. And then, through the magic of Steven Erikson’s writing, you start to come to understand him. While his actions have been repulsive and, from our point of view, wrong, but he was acting out of ignorance and pain. Pain on a level that most of us could barely imagine. His pain is eased, and he is healed, and he does what he can to atone for the wrong he has done.

To say I can relate to that is a pretty significant understatement.

While not felonies on the scale of arson or homicide, I have done great wrong, and I have caused much pain. I have done my best to atone for the wrongs I have done, and to improve myself so that I do not commit the same wrongs again. I’ve also developed a personal philosophy deeply rooted in caring and empathy, which is one of the reasons I’ve started this blog.

Which brings us to…

Why I started this blog

One of the benefits to my Catholic education is an enduring interest in social justice – not just the theory, but also the practice of how to make the world a better and more fair place.

One of the downsides of my Catholic education, and my childhood in general, is that it left me with a lot of psychological scars I had to learn to live with. My personal journey wasn’t neatly mapped out, and it took me a very long time compared to some other people to figure out who I am and what I wanted to be. Along the way, I’ve developed a lot of passions, including politics and the Skeptic movement. I’ve also watched the general political tone of our country change with a great deal of alarm.

I’ve picked up a lot of quotes along the way, and the two that most drive my purpose are “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice1*Popularized, but not originally stated, by MLK Jr..”

I want to advocate for the positions I’ve come to after hard thought and much personal struggle, and I want to bend the curve on that arc – to steepen it, and try to get us towards justice just a little bit faster.

What I believe

My general outlook on life can be summarized as:

The natural condition of humanity is a profoundly mixed bag, with a lot of terrible things in it. It cannot, and will not, get better unless we work to make it so. We’re all in this together, and while struggle and competition have their place, the largest challenges facing humanity as a species, and its highest aspirations, must be tackled collectively. We owe an incredible debt to those that came before, and one of the few ways to really address that is to take care of each other. Science fiction and fantasy are incredibly useful because they allow us to imagine ourselves as better than we are, as well as the roads towards those improved realities.

There’s also a few general guiding principles, some of which I can identify from specific sources –

  • Rationality (alone) will not save us – The Fog of War. This is an incredible documentary, and a fantastic view into a man who has fundamentally reckoned with the weight of his sins, and been crushed by the results. It’s also useful. One of the eleven lessons McNamara tries to impart is the idea that rationality, alone, will not, cannot be, our salvation. Rationality alone will take you to some absolutely horrible conclusions if not tempered by compassion, empathy, and other “soft” values.
  • Justice, not equality – Mostly, honestly, from an image I’ve seen floating around FB or Imgur –  . It’s not perfect, but it nicely encapsulates the idea that resources should be spent to provide a level amount of opportunity for everyone, which is one of the cores of my Progressive/Socialist tendencies.
  • A rich society should be judged on its treatment of its poorest members – and on this scale, the US is shockingly, appallingly inadequate.
  • We’ve made a lot of progress, but we still have a very long way to go – There’s a really troubling tendency on the lefty wing of politics to want to consider racism and sexism as problems that have been fundamentally solved in the US. You’ll often see this phrased as “Can’t we all just move past race?”, or “I don’t see race”. The problem is that while we’ve eliminated a lot of legal racism or sexism, larger cultural barriers are still a thing.

Thank you for joining me. We’ll see how the journey goes!

Clever Asides   [ + ]

1. Popularized, but not originally stated, by MLK Jr.
  • Published On : 2 years ago on July 10, 2017
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  • Last Updated : July 24, 2017 @ 6:54 pm
  • In The Categories Of : Meta

1 Comment

  1. […] As stated, I try to live by compassion and empathy. But human nature is hard to change, I was raised with a rather cruel sense of humor, and sometimes it’s fun to watch bad things happen to people. One of the greatest sources of schadenfreude for me over the past couple of years has been watching crypto-currency Libertarian zealots discover why each and every part of the regulatory apparatus they so loathe exists. […]

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