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Xiphias Gladius

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STAR WARS, chattel slavery, and SJWs. [Apr. 15th, 2016|11:27 am]
Xiphias Gladius
Just to go over the background here: "social justice warrior" is an intended-to-be-insulting term to refer to someone who cares about social justice, and actually pays attention to cultural bigotry and generally attempts to fight against injustice and unfairness. I really don't know WHY the people who came up with the term "SJW" think it's supposed to be insulting, but, as far as I can tell, they appear to be pro-unfairness or something like that. Whatever. The point is that we SJWs are perfectly willing to call ourselves SJWs, because we think it is a pretty darned cool way to phrase what we want to be doing.

In STAR WARS, less in the current series than in the original trilogy and in the prequels, slavery is widespread, and only occasionally looked down-upon by the heroes. We don't see many human slaves in the original trilogy, although we see them in the prequels, but we see lots of alien slaves, including trafficking in sex slaves, and every single droid is a slave. And that last, in particular, is just plain accepted as how things are. You buy and sell droids, you can wipe their memories or break them down for parts, or whatever. They have no more rights than any other machine, and nobody, even the good guys, even the droids themselves, sees anything wrong with that.

Because of that, I've seen people try to claim that that whole thing somehow ISN'T slavery. Droids aren't REALLY sentient, let alone sapient or sophont. (Definitions: "sentient" -- able to sense to a degree which allows pleasure or suffering. "Sapient" -- able to use reasoning and logic; might include some sort of "theory of mind" or even a concept of self. "Sophont" -- has a degree of cognition comparable to, or even surpassing, a human being -- that last one is basically used in science fiction.)

According to these folks, droids aren't sentient any more than ELIZA is, or a chatbot, or the Jeopardy-playing computer Watson, or any of those. They just LOOK as if they have intelligence, opinions, and an internal life, but they're actually completely mindless automatons.

Now, I've done no exhaustive searches on this. I've done absolutely no studies or put measurements or numbers on it. But anecdotally, it seems to me that I've never seen someone who I would consider an SJW espouse the "droids are not sentient" view. Mainly, SJWs I know say, "Yep. Droids are sophonts who are enslaved and the good guys don't even see what's wrong with that. Pass the popcorn; there's a great lightsaber battle coming up."

I think that part of being an SJW is that we have to become aware that there is a lot of troublesome stuff in fiction, and that we can either completely retreat from enjoying problematic stuff, or we can just agree that there IS problematic stuff in our fiction, and we need to accept that, put a pin in that troublesome stuff and keep it in mind as reference for things to talk about and wrestle with later, and then go on with enjoying it. I think, because we ARE aware of how much unfair stuff is in our entertainment, we have to learn early to just deal with it, without pretending it doesn't exist.

I think that anti-SJW-ness seems to correlate with denying the existence of the problem in the first place.

You've got two mental models: "The good guys did it, therefore it must not be wrong; what do we have to assume about the world to make it okay that they did it?"
"It was wrong, and the good guys did it; what do we have to assume about the good guys to understand why they thought it was okay that they did it?"

We SJWs are much more willing to accept that our heroes are flawed in fundamental ways. Because we have no CHOICE but to accept that. It's too bloody obvious. Anti-SJWs are unwilling to accept that, and are disturbed by that notion, and react with fear and hostility when it's pointed out.

[User Picture]From: ron_newman
2016-04-15 04:10 pm (UTC)
Did a recent book by Jo Walton lead you to this line of thinking (about the droids) ?

Edited at 2016-04-15 04:10 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2016-04-15 04:15 pm (UTC)
No; I've thought it before she wrote any of that series, but that is definitely a work which grapples with ALL of those issues, too.
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[User Picture]From: erik_j_meyer
2016-04-15 04:42 pm (UTC)
Ok, I am going to nitpick this a little. I could be misremembering a tad, but yeah, in the SW universe droids are generally treated as slaves. they are mobile functional computers to most. The good guys, prior to realizing that they are the good guys, even treat them like that. The spiritually enlightened good guys (jedi, a certain princess) treat them as creatures with free will and worthy of trust. Maybe the 'hero's journey' of Luke shows the change in attitude of taking random droids and putting restraining bolts on them to having them as people he parties with at the end of the original trilogy. Just throwing that out there.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2016-04-16 11:54 am (UTC)
Even that, though, is the change between being a callous taskmaster and being one of those "kind Massa"s who treats his darkies well. There isn't any desire to look at the thing itself as problematic.
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[User Picture]From: the_siobhan
2016-04-15 05:01 pm (UTC)
There was a study I read waaaay back in my early Usenet days that suggested that people who tilt conservative tend to be less comfortable with ambiguity.

I wish I could find it again, because I think it explains a lot about the need to not acknowledge things as a problem.
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[User Picture]From: polydad
2016-04-15 05:25 pm (UTC)

Problems with the *product*, or with the *writers*?

There's the wrong I can do something about, and there's the Huge Pervasive Problem I Can't Fix. It's wrong, it's a problem, and I have to save my strength for working on the change I *can* make.

I don't think the films *show* that, but I think we're dealing with a different problem here. I grew up with Silver-Age SF, which was unconsciously racist and sexist because those issues were just-now being raised, and no one in the audience had heard of them as issues or had figured out how to respond to them. Slavery was *last* century's issue, after all. (1962 Los Angeles speaking here. Yes, we'd been lied to -- but we hadn't discovered that yet.)

Similarly, I don't think Lucas & Co. had been thinking broadly enough to include issues in their franchise not directly related to their Hero's Journey. A new retelling of the story could include more-rebellious slaves and heros who sympathize with that rebellion. I think we have to fix copyright law, first. By the original law, Episode IV should have been in public domain since 1994.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2016-04-16 12:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Problems with the *product*, or with the *writers*?

I don't blame Lucas for writing it the way that he wrote it; I don't blame people who never noticed it for never noticing it. And I don't blame people who see the problem but choose not to engage with it.

My only observation here is that, once the problem is pointed out, you've got three options that I can see. You can find yourself unable to enjoy the thing any more; you can acknowledge that the problem exists, but go on enjoying the thing in spite of it; you can deny that the problem even exists in the first place.

My observation is that we SJWs have a lot more practice with option 2, because we recognize that there is a lot of stuff with a lot of problems out there. And, as much as possible, we want to keep enjoying stuff as much as we can. Sometimes you can't -- sometimes you realize that things are actually SO disturbing when you think about them that it just creeps you out and you stop being able to look past it. But, mostly, you work on accepting that the problems are there, and enjoying the rest of it.

But if you're not used to that process, you don't have that option -- it is an actual skill. So you're stuck with either giving up something you love, or pretending the problem doesn't exist at all.
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[User Picture]From: aelf
2016-04-16 03:24 pm (UTC)

Re: Problems with the *product*, or with the *writers*?

There's a fourth option, and one often taken by the sorts of people that might have others dismissively refer to them as SJW's.

"Reject the thing and mercilessly hound anyone else who appears to enjoy the thing because it is UNACCEPTABLE!!! to enjoy something so horrible and only horrible *ist people would enjoy it."

This isn't a matter of "I'm a bit conflicted about Wagner." or "I don't feel like I can put money in the pockets of Orson Scott Card so I buy his books from the used bookstores." It's "Lovecraft was a racist so we're going to pretend his contributions to our beloved genre never happened and anyone who says they like or appreciate Lovecraft is a RACIST!!! and we will harass them out of our space." It's "How DARE you say something good about Orson Scott Card's books! HE'S EVIL! YOU'RE EVIL!" It's "You own some Wagner? Nazi!"
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[User Picture]From: alexx_kay
2016-04-15 06:02 pm (UTC)
Sort of tangential, but have you seen Siderea's recent post on The Two Moral Modes? It seems potentially relevant to understanding why Social Justice Warrior is perceived by some as an insult.
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From: undauntra
2016-04-15 06:27 pm (UTC)
I believe that the people who originally came up with "SJW" were proudly self-identifying SJWs; the people who treat it as an insult picked up the term because from them.

People who use "social justice warrior" as an insult don't generally mean it as "someone who cares about social justice, and actually pays attention to cultural bigotry and generally attempts to fight against injustice and unfairness." They usually mean it as "someone who uses the language of social justice (possibly sincerely) to bully others." Someone using "SJW" as an insult is not accusing you of bravely standing up for the downtrodden; they are accusing you of being a (usually internet) bully.

Basically, they are lumping you in with Requires Hate and her ilk.

The pattern that I see here is stereotyping and collective accountability of outgroup identities. "Some people who identify as SJWs are bullies" becomes "SJWs are bullies." You see the same thing happening with attitudes towards Muslims.
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[User Picture]From: beaq
2016-04-19 03:23 am (UTC)

I would try to rehabilitate some other term, because SJW is the same thing as PC - which is not to say people who care about justice (socially or politically), but people who make studded footwear out of the jargon of progressive ideology to walk across the faces of the nearest convenient targets in order to position themselves as the holiest of the holy, the martyrest of the martyrs, the most correct of the correct, possessing unassailable credentials to demean and damage the "enemy" - anyone within or outside of progressive thought circles who can conveniently be used as kindling to warm their righteous buttocks.

These terms were both developed within progressive circles to describe real and troubling phenomena. I'm not sure they can be effectively reclaimed by the left in response to their misuse by the right, without essentially justifying bullies and dismissing their critics.
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[User Picture]From: beaq
2016-04-19 03:26 am (UTC)
Mm. I should not have said "this", really. Because it isn't the same thing as conflating Muslims with Muslim-identified terrorist organizations.
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2016-04-19 12:21 pm (UTC)
Well, if I CARED what people who use "SJW" pejoratively felt, I might worry about whether to rehabilitate the term or not. As it is, I just think it is a really cool term, so I'm going to use it.
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[User Picture]From: nancylebov
2016-04-15 06:46 pm (UTC)
To my mind Social Justice is an elaborate self-protective memeplex of emotional abuse which nonetheless frequently points at real problems.

I exist. I am not the only person who thinks the way I do, though I'll grant that it's probably a smallish minority. You don't hear a lot from conflict averse people because Social Justice is high conflict with anyone who doesn't completely agree with it. I know this sounds like "the lurkers support me in email", but there really are people you aren't hearing from, and it's because of your (collective) behavior.

I'm sure you personally mean well and so do a lot of other Social Justice people, but as was said in racefail, intention isn't magic.

To my mind, Social Justice has simultaneously revealed that the gender binary is false while hardening racial division between whites and poc. This is weird, but we live in a universe where lolcats came out of 4chan, so weird is pretty normal.

You guys managed to turn "white male" into a slur, and then you think that if white men aren't completely cooperative with you, it's because they're racist and misogynist.

I am not denying that racism and misogyny exist and are serious problems.

Edited at 2016-04-15 06:53 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2016-04-16 12:08 pm (UTC)
You're not the only person I know who feels that way, and it confuses me. Because, to me, social justice just looks like accurate observation. What I see is that it's simply the result of looking at how things work, and noticing when different things work differently for different groups of people, and acknowledging that.
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[User Picture]From: nancylebov
2016-04-16 12:51 pm (UTC)
It may be a matter of which Social Justice people you encounter first, combined with your temperament.

From my point of view, Social Justice means that I will be hated forever for being white. Even if there were no racism anymore, I'd still be hated for racism in the past.

People are entitled to hurt me emotionally for this, and hurt me more if I express any pain beyond "It stings a little, but you get used to it."

I think of people like you as having put together a good parts version of Social Justice.

I don't know whether you know about Requires Hate (I'll explain if needed), but I think of her as taking Social Justice to its logical conclusion-- and I did this before her identity was revealed. Her identity just adds irony.

If you knew that people like me exist, why did you leave us out of your theory?
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[User Picture]From: xiphias
2016-04-16 11:25 pm (UTC)
Now that you've asked the question, and I've had a chance to ponder it, I think it's because, in my mind, social justice is just about acknowledging observable reality. And so my assumption is that people who are smart and of good will and aren't actively working for social justice simply haven't had a chance to think about this stuff, and, if they did, they would be right there with me.

And so the idea that someone would come to a different conclusion is really kind of hard to process. In my mind, it all fits together so neatly, clearly, and with what mathematicians call "beauty" that I can't see what other ways there are to see it. And so it just wasn't something that really fit into my worldview.

Which, I suppose, is really, really related to your point, isn't it?

As to the Requires Hate thing... the existence of people who use a worldview as a cover to attack people because they want to attack people, well, that's a real phenomenon. But it's one that I, unfortunately, generally discount, when it happens from a group that I'm part of, and care about.

That said, from what I can see, it seems like most people disavowed Requires Hate. To me, it looks like there's been a real attempt to distance from her. And, to me, that seems relevant.

You see similar things with the term "feminism." I am a feminist, and I'm an SJW, and there are people who have negative reactions to those terms, even though there are relatively few people who are not in favor of the actual ideas behind those terms.

And I guess that's because of the people who have used the cover of feminism or the cover of SJW to attack people. Because they wanted to attack people, and those were the convenient groups available to hide in.
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[User Picture]From: ethelmay
2016-04-20 01:18 am (UTC)
From my point of view, Social Justice means that I will be hated forever for being white. Even if there were no racism anymore, I'd still be hated for racism in the past.

Do you consider this a falsifiable statement? I mean, is it legitimate in your view for someone else to think you're just factually wrong about what you say above, or would that be misunderstanding the kind of statement you're making here?
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[User Picture]From: nancylebov
2016-04-22 02:20 am (UTC)
It would be falsifiable if I saw Social Justice folks not using "white" as a slur. Social Justice would have to change a lot for that to happen.
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[User Picture]From: ethelmay
2016-04-22 03:10 am (UTC)
Well, that IS what I see, by and large. So I do think you're wrong.
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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2016-04-17 03:28 pm (UTC)
I agree fully with Nancy's comment at the top of this thread.
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[User Picture]From: tigerbright
2016-04-15 08:20 pm (UTC)

There is quite a bit in the Clone Wars TV series about this, including lamp-shading the fact that R2D2's memory has never been wiped - Anakin didn't let Obi-Wan do it, and Artoo is too canny to let on that this is true to anyone else.

There's a not-canon Lego Star Wars series called "Droid Tales," which I fondly imagine as C3PO's interpretation of the memories Artoo uploaded to him when it was safe for Threepio to have them.
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[User Picture]From: nancylebov
2016-04-15 10:04 pm (UTC)
There's a droid being tortured in one of the movies. (Hot metal applied to its feet.)

I'm not sure whether this proves at least someone thought droids were sentient-- there are people who torture sims.
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