sfp 6 119 for web

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  • bta

    “It wasn’t rational.”

    And there it is.

    • Sergi Díaz

      Most human decisions aren’t rational. We’re not robots. We lie to us when we think we’re mostly rational.

      • Ghostforge

        Cue “Alison.The.Super.Lesborg” or whatever their name is today…

  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    Oh my God, SFP pulled a long one on us and this is genius.
    What was the starting point of Alison and Max’s discontent? The shady working conditions of Max’ edge trimmers, which he painstainkingly made clear he did not care for.
    Edward Cleaverhands, on the other blade? What artistic venue will he find redemption in? He cannot hold you close, but give him a bush and he will make God jealous of his lousy job on day three.

    Let us bask in the brilliance of that thematic closure.

    • Weatherheight

      It’s all about the knives, baby.
      Let’s face it, Max wasn’t just… (Dare I say it? Dare, Dare!)… edgy enough for Alison.

      • SmilingCorpse

        I cringed so hard, I gave myself whiplash.

      • Markus

        She was cut to the heart. And he’s to blame. He gave loving… a bad name.

        • Markus


          • Shweta Narayan

            wuh-oh wuh-oh wuh-uh-uh-oh wuh-oh uh-oh-uh

        • Markus

          Actually not sorry.

        • Weatherheight

          I’ll play my part, you play your game. 😀

  • AshlaBoga

    Cleaver had to live with being considered ugly (I make no aesthetic judgments) by the majority of people. Max was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Cleaver is starting to question his actions – thanks to Alison. Max ignored his gardeners and insulted Feral – after being Alison’s first date (that we know of). So, her beef with Max has a personal flavour to it. And Max doesn’t have motives that she finds sympathetic, whereas she finds Cleaver’s motives sympathetic. While her actions might not have been entirely rational, they are understandable.

    • Timothy McLean

      I’m not sure the discrimination against Cleaver was just for aesthetic reasons. There’s also the giant blades he has instead of hands.

      • masterofbones

        And the murder. Dont forget the murder.

        • Timothy McLean

          Well, okay, but I think the discrimination and the murder kind of fed each other. It’s a vicious cycle.

    • Elaine Lee

      Cleaver is in constant pain and his mutation is a sort of cancer. He’s dying. And it’s beyond being ugly. Cleaver would cause true revulsion in most humans. Even if a another human being could see past it, he can’t touch anyone without cutting them to ribbons. No hugs for Cleaver. So yeah, he has more of an excuse than a cute rich boy who never gives a thought to his fellow human beings. Rage at being dealt a terrible hand is easier to understand than complete lack of empathy for no reason at all.

    • butting

      I’m not sure it’s Cleaver’s motives she finds sympathetic, so much as the process of getting him to face up to them.

      Max is someone who refuses to face up to the effects his motives have on others.

    • crazy j

      So did Joseph Carey Merrick, but he never ran down the streets of London covered in the blood of his victims.

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    This other person.. is just a spoiled a**ehole brat. For now, anyway.

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      He also didn’t kill hundreds of people.
      This is when the utilitarians prove they actually mean what they say and insist that this fact matters arguably much more. I’m tapping my foot.

      • Eagle0600

        Utilitarianism does tell us that cleaver’s actions are much worse, yes. It says nothing about befriending him after those actions are taken, however.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          Uh, no doctrine would mean much if it was just about telling us which actions are worse and not concieving a system of justice that punishes them?

          • AshlaBoga

            Utilitarianism wouldn’t focus on the punishment, it would focus on the consequences of a punishment. If you could resocialize Cleaver into being a productive member of society but he suffered less than if you imprisoned him, then that would be the utilitarian option. Utilitarianism is completely results focused, it only considers the past when determining how to affect the future. Justice is only relevant if it has positive effects.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            (I figure utilitarianism would more likely weigh the utility of the hedge trimming paradise Daniel could bring forth as insignificant compared to the risk of recidivism and have him terminated, but that’s another thing.)
            Punishment is not merely just about retribution and rehabilitation, it’s also about deterrence. I think your theory focuses too much on the individual and pushes aside the consequences of only rehabilitating convicts instead of punishing them some. Which is more humane, sure, but utilitarianism’s point is to ditch the humane part.

          • AshlaBoga

            “Justice is only relevant if it has positive effects,” was my attempt to encapsulate deterrence and other factors in consequence based decision making. A utilitarian must consider letting a guilty man go free and punishing an innocent man. Closing a case quickly to avoid wasting police resources by picking a random thug and framing him would be a utilitarian decision, if the chances of exposure and letting the real criminal go free were outweighed by the benefits.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Yes, and deterrence is the most beneficial consequence on the collective, hence my point being that any specific conversation about the value of punishing someone is outweighed by the value of imposing general rules and following them consistently, even to a slight loss of utility in individual cases. Hence my other point that in utilitarianism, Max deserved more leeway than Cleaver.

          • IE

            Getting away from the Max/Cleaver thing, it’s been repeatedly shown that punishment is not a very good deterrent. Certainly it seems like it would be – ‘If I do X, then I’ll be punished with Y, best not do X.’ Simple logic, right? But people aren’t usually in a logical mood when they are committing crimes. If punishment worked, you would think that societies with more severe punishments would see reduced rates of crime, but nearly everywhere you look that isn’t the case.

            A better deterrent is to get the person away from wanting to do X in the first place, perhaps by teaching them to think a different way or changing the circumstances of their lives that make X look like an attractive option. From a utilitarian’s point of view, re-socialization is a much better deterrence to crime than excessive punishment.

          • AshlaBoga

            Regarding severity of punishment, studies show that people don’t really care about the severity of the punishment, they care only about the PERCEIVED chances of getting caught, or certainty. And the issue is that people frequently misjudge the likelyhood of getting caught. Humans have a tendency to overestimating themselves and underestimating others.

            But now I’ve gone on a tangent as that wasn’t philosophy, it was criminology.

          • Nathanaël François

            “they care only about the PERCEIVED chances of getting caught”

            Well, getting caught means different things to different people. If the punishment is too light (for example, a ridiculously low fine for massive financial fraud), the perpetrators wouldn’t even count it as “getting caught”.

          • Freemage

            Yes, but doubling the odds of conviction has consistently had a much greater impact than doubling the length of sentences, for instance. In a purely analytical model, a 5% chance of being sentenced to 10 years, or a 10% chance of being sentenced to 5 years, are statistically the same–but emotively, people in a society where the latter rule is at play will be much more likely to stay within the lines, because certitude matters more than severity.

            Part of this may not be as unreasonable as it seems–the ancilliaries that come from being arrested and convicted (things like public shame and humiliation, interruption to one’s career and family life) tend to be much more even between the two examples, which could arguably be perceived as a weight given to the certitude side of the scale.

          • cphoenix

            When dealing with humans, any philosophy that doesn’t consider criminology is pretty worthless – actually worse than worthless, because it will mislead.

            Edward O. Wilson, an entomologist specializing in ants, had this to say about Communism: “Great theory. Wrong species.”

            We have to consider the species we’re theorizing about.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            I absolutely agree, but this is more about the effectiveness of emprisonment as deterrence than the value of deterrence itself.

          • Jon

            Harsher prison sentences, even execution for minor crimes have nowhere near the deterrence effect that people think they do.

            Most of the most harshly punished crimes are in a majority of cases committed either:

            a) out of perceived or actual necessity;
            b) emotionally without forethought;
            c) as a result of the stigma of previous convictions, leading to a)

            In all of those cases, the consequences don’t matter. A person who is addicted to heroin and robs someone at knifepoint for cash for their next fix can’t properly perceive or consider punishment before doing so – their whole being is focused on that next high. A person who kills in a jealous rage, or over being insuted isn’t considering the consequences of the action. And a person with no other options simply doesn’t care.

            Ironically, the least punished crimes, the white-collar crimes usually performed out of pure greed on a utilitarian calculation of risk-benefit, usually have the lowest sentences. The harsh punishments are on the crimes committed more by traditionally low-status people. Of course, part of that is that those crimes are much more likely to include violence, and so public perception is behind punishing them more harshly.

            @AshlaBoga:disqus is exactly correct – true deterrence works through certainty of punishment. If every criminal is caught (or percieved to be caught), that is one thing with an actual positive deterrence effect.

          • Weatherheight

            Deterrence being far less effective against the majority of crime was a point I was going to bring up but this i far more elegant than how I would have phrased it. Nicely done.

            This is not to say that I don’t support internment of criminals; I do. But that punishment isn’t as effective as a deterrent prior to the crime or after it as we as a society like to think.

            One thing I’d like to see more of in Criminal Science is detailed documentation of individual offenders, but that opens up a huge privacy / cruel punishment can of worms. I don’t have answers but I do have a lot questions.

          • Stephanie

            Well, Cleaver does absolutely remain imprisoned, regardless of whether Alison is nice to him. Alison’s socializing with Cleaver costs nothing but her (admittedly extraordinarily valuable) time. So he’s still “deterred” from doing awful shit by the fact that he physically can’t, and Alison’s kindness might make him less inclined to do awful shit if the opportunity arises.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Deterrence isn’t for him but for other people yearning to crime up the streets.

          • Stephanie

            I can see that logic for human criminals, but Cleaver’s kind of a unique case. I don’t think your standard mugger is going to identify themselves with the walking WMD, like “boy I better not do crimes or I’ll be punished like Cleaver was.” Almost no one is even close to being in Cleaver’s league; his crimes and his punishment don’t really have anything to do with them.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            On the contrary. “Oh, even one of the strongest criminal there is can be stopped and put to jail. I, meekly normal with no power, should not even consider to crime it up.”

          • Stephanie

            Or “Pfft, the authorities have bigger fish to fry, they’re not going to come after me for my petty crimes.”

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Deterrence (the effective kind, if not the admittedly flawed justice system then social stigma associated with being a criminal) works. It’s that much more real in our minds than the abstract concepts of morality that are harder to grasp.

          • cphoenix

            In some subcultures in the U.S. and elsewhere, over-prosecution and over-punishment has resulted in lack of respect for the law that makes being a criminal a social benefit.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            I’m putting “effective” in bold.

          • Stephanie

            I’m not arguing whether deterrence works. That’s a whole different conversation. I’m questioning whether the way the authorities treat Cleaver has any relevance to deterring ordinary human criminals. I don’t think it necessarily does. He is on an entirely separate tier and really doesn’t have anything to do with ordinary criminals.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Never one specific case, but the consistency of justice. The way the pattern emerges from hundreds, thousands of specific cases. Cleaver’s treatment is more about maintaining that consistency and thus the effectiveness of deterrence via justice.

          • Stephanie

            I don’t think Cleaver’s case can possibly fit into the pattern. He’s nowhere near the pattern.

          • Arkone Axon

            I actually live with someone who has done a lot of research into serial killers, and was once introduced to someone she admires, a psychologist who works with serial killers and does profiling and was at a convention where I met her. One of her patients is Edward Kemper.

            Apparently whenever she has Kemper for a session, they take certain precautions. One: she keeps all identifying objects off her desk (no coffee cups, no pictures of the family, etc). Two: he’s marched in and chained down to a chair that’s bolted to the floor. Three: armed guards are present at all times, their weapons in hand and ready to shoot the moment he tries something.

            I’m not seeing much of a difference between how they handle Cleaver versus how they handle Kemper. It’s possible that they unchain him when he’s not having visitors. It’s also possible that they’re looking for effective methods of ensuring compliance before they allow him into the prison’s general population.

          • AshlaBoga

            Cleaver in the general prison population? Honestly, I’d feel better if that NEVER happened.

          • Freemage

            The point others are making is that the deterrence comes from certitude, not severity.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Yeah, which is something I’m not arguing, by the way…

          • Cleaver isn’t really that dangerous a threat, He’s a tank, not a WMD. Yes, he can probably slice through about any kind of armour and he’s personally strong and tough and hard on the built environment, but he needs to be in arm’s reach of someone to hurt them and unless they line up for him he can only hurt one person at a time. He’s ultimately just a big guy with a knife. Dangerous if he runs amok, but not a threat to life as we know it.

            OTOH, Patrick. Patrick gives me the willies.

          • Tylikcat

            I would tend to think that the value of the exchange is in Alison’s favor.

          • Stephanie

            How so?

          • Tylikcat

            Well, it’s great that Daniel has a friend and peer counselor, and all that.

            But I think it’s easy to think of this as… charity work that Alison is doing, I guess. Daniel is already locked up, and is, I think, dying (his prognosis isn’t entirely clear.) I see Alison as having a chance to be equally transformed from their interactions while her life is still, probably, near its beginning. Maybe even more transformed – Daniel has walked some very dark places. The kind of thing that’s much better to learn second hand, if you can.

          • Weatherheight

            English major quibble – prevented is a better word choice than deterred. Deterrence requires outside influence but the decision to act in the face of that influence remains that of the one being deterred. Prevented also requires outside influence but assumes a lack of choice on the part of the one being prevented.

            Which I suppose is the reason for the quotes. Nice point (my anal-retentive quibbling notwithstanding)

          • Markus

            To be clear here, you’ve just asserted that one of the most controversial divides in utilitarian thought has an obviously correct choice because you’ve decided that consistency is worth more than accuracy.

            Also, you’ve asserted that the most fascist criminal justice system is the most effective for society, and therefore the most utilitarian, because you think they’re more successful, despite a very substantive body of evidence suggesting you’re extremely wrong about that system’s efficacy.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Absolutely none of that, but thank you, I’m saying that even an utilitarian system needs prisons to work, despite locking up people being pretty much worthless (and even counterproductive) to themselves.
            And since you haven’t read the bottom of the page yet, here “prisons” stands for anything you won’t find “substantive body of evidence suggesting I’m extremely wrong about” that works as a deterrent even though its influence on individuals is not top-notch utility-wise.

          • Freemage

            I would argue that Max DID get more leeway than Cleaver, though.

            Max was briefly terrified, and assaulted physically. However, his life afterward is mostly not subject to constant interference. Cleaver’s life, on the other hand, has been curtailed to the penultimate degree (the ultimate degree, of course, would be if he were to be executed).

            It would be fair to ask if Alison scored the proportions correctly, but disingenuous to suggest that no such scoring existed at all.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            From the beginning I was speaking in terms of Alison’s final judgement. Cleaver got forgiven, Max did not. The former was worth knowing and the latter not.

          • Giacomo Bandini

            Not at all. A true utilitarian will weight the astronomical cost of keeping him imprisonated and the risk of him evading against the cahnce of him being rehabilitated. Should we really spend several millons taxpayers’s dollars to keep a super-serial killer imprisonated?

          • Yurei

            Not necessarily. It could be argued that the good of the collective system of governing rules and morale-building we call “Society” benefits from the thought that even those who stray from the path can, eventually, be redeemed. It may not be ‘proper’ utilitarianism, but the intangible Good is still Good.

            Plus I don’t know if Cleaver even CAN be killed before his own body does him in. What would be worse – spending millions in taxpayer dollars to incarcerate a super-serial killer, or spending those same millions torturing the hell out of him and looking for a way to kill him? Even if you saved a bunch of money, what would the public think of their government having to brutally murder someone, even a brutal murderer? How would that damage the collective, societal Good? How many nascent supers with ‘ugly’ powers would remember that Cleaver was brutally murdered by his own government and figure they had nowhere to turn to for help?

            Is killing Cleaver out of hand really worth potentially losing all those future supers for whom this would be a chilling precedent? Is saving the thousands of lives Feral’s Max’d powers can save worth driving arguably the most powerful individual in the story so far into seclusion?

            We don’t know. All we can do is make our best guess and hope.

          • IE

            If you do not consider yourself a utilitarian, Giacomo, perhaps you would consider not speaking for one?

            It’s also heavily implied that killing Cleaver isn’t an option anyway. He went toe-to-toe with Allison, he’s Tier-1 invincible, and his anomaly is only getting stronger. Alli did manage to beat him into submission and choke him with a chain, but that’s no guarantee she’s actually capable of killing him even if she were inclined to do it. Debates over the death penalty aside, containment may be their only option.

          • Tylikcat

            It occurs to me that there’s a good chance that Max-imizing Daniel would be fatal.

            … that makes me sad.

          • IE

            I hadn’t thought of that, but you are probably right. It’s been stated that his condition will probably be what kills him, if anything does. Given a choice, Daniel might actually prefer a quicker, Max-imized death to a slow painful calcification over many years during which he is mostly alone and not allowed to move (and may even get to the point where he physically can’t.)

            I would probably go the assisted suicide route if I were in his shoes, to be honest.

          • Tylikcat

            Do we know how much pain he’s in? (The conditions of his captivity can’t help.)

            I suspect that’s where my personal line is, but I’ve only gone far enough down that road to know that I haven’t hit it yet.* (And this was some time ago, and these days I’m doing great, this was in prior seasons of “You have to accept that you aren’t getting better and will never live an active life again,” etc. etc. ad nauseum, quite literally, in this case.) Pain taking a lot of mental acuity from me taught me some useful things about what I think of as myself. I really like being smart, but I don’t need that for life to be worth living. But… some future self gets to decide that this particular quality of life sucks balls and fini. (That I suspect my own point is around the point I lose my ability to make that decision really complicates things.)

            * As a somewhat bitter aside, when assisted suicide is an option, doctors sometimes get more serious about pain management. Though I haven’t looked into the most current numbers on this, which might be revealing.

          • Yurei

            Utilitarianism is “Common sense: the Philosophy”. You’re trying to demonize it as being inhumane, but in the end utilitarianism boils down to “here’s the situation at hand. How do we wrest the greatest possible amount of good from this situation?” It is in some ways the most humanistic of ethical methodologies because it adheres to no real set rules and discards the idea of fixed maxims in favor of simply “do the greatest good possible in the given moment”. Carry it to radical extremes and it can be inhuman, yes – but so can literally any other system of morals, ethics, or judgment/justice.

            That said, I’m loving this arc so much. It’s like reading a good philosophy paper, except with illustrations! Gurwara is so fisking right it hurts, but it hurts in such a beautiful way. Bravo, SFP team. Bravo.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            I call inhumane any philosophy that doesn’t put the dignity and equality of individuals at the top. Maybe that’s just me.

          • Yurei

            That’s an easy stance to take when it doesn’t interfere with itself.

            Was Cleaver’s dignity and equality more important than the people he slaughtered? Does that make it right and proper to step on his dignity and equality now? Can someone voluntarily surrender their dignity the way Feral tried to, or via unrighteous actions such as Cleaver’s, or is it inalienable and irrevocable? Do two people’s dignity outweigh one person’s dignity, if such a decision cannot be avoided? What does a person’s ‘dignity’ even mean? How do you justify glorifying the dignity of the individual at the expense of the society those individuals work to create and live in, and conversely how can society justify its own existence if it must come at the expense of a portion of the dignity of the individuals who must by necessity make up its component cells?

            If ethical reasoning as as open-and-shut a case as you’re suggesting it is, how have we not solved it thousands of years ago and created a perfect world based on our flawless understanding of ethical behavior?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            How have I ever said ethical reasoning was an open-and-shut case? How is me saying equality is the priority somehow waving off all the other questions you’ve asked?
            And how is any of this a defense of the immorality I judge of utilitarianism? All you’re doing is a glorified “NO U”

          • Yurei

            What I’m pointing out is that something like “Dignity and equality comes first!” is aesthetically pleasing (which Gurwara has done an excellent job of addressing) but does nothing to solve difficult issues with no clearly, intuitively apparent solution. It’s a great sentiment but hardly a useful maxim. It can be a goal to strive for – seek to respect the dignity of the individual whenever and wherever possible – but any decent person, regardless of personal moral or ethical stance, attempts to do this anyways. A utilitarian individual is simply willing to admit that sometimes there aren’t any “beautiful” answers, and that the least ugly answer should in these cases be the one considered.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Ah, the indomitable allure of fascism.

          • Yurei

            Are we back to “maxim of a tyrant” so soon? Heh, I believe Gurwara’s handled that one just fine. I refer you to his treatment of the subject over the last several pages, it makes for excellent reading.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            You mean when he stated that Might Might As Well Make Right Because Who Cares I’m Old?

          • I call inhumane any philosophy that allows its leading advocate to call for the killing of people like me.

          • Arkone Axon

            Not just you. I’d pat your hand, but… I don’t want to be creepy. :p

          • “You’re trying to demonize it as being inhumane, but in the end
            utilitarianism boils down to “here’s the situation at hand. How do we
            wrest the greatest possible amount of good from this situation?”

            Singer, disabled babies, the prosecution rests,

          • cphoenix

            Is punishment equated with justice, in your mind? That… would be kind of horrifying.

      • Shjade

        Not sure why your urge to dance is relevant to expecting a comparison argument of how to deal with possibly preventing future deaths vs socializing with someone who is already currently serving punishment for his crimes, but hey, when you’ve gotta dance, you’ve gotta dance, I guess.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙


          • Shjade

            Gosh, you’re right, italicizing a word is super convincing.

            Say no more.


          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Wait wait look:


          • Weatherheight

            ::snickers like Muttley, Dick Dastardly’s corpulent canine sidekick::

      • Markus

        Two things:

        * Cleaver exists in context. A serially abused child with access to the ability to become one of the most successful spree killers in the history of humanity is, on the mean, going to have bad outcomes. Assuming Cleaver has some control over outcomes outside of what his environment and genetics set him up for (which is a big ask, admittedly), we need to ask by how much a given potential Cleaver beats the mean shittiness of any Cleaver outcome. If Cleaver’s life would drive most people to kill more than Cleaver himself did, should we say that Cleaver is a good person?

        * You aren’t computing opportunity cost here. Cleaver generates way more visible murder than Max, but Max’s existence has a huge number of opportunity cost murders. Even just considering the ostentatious lifestyle Max has, and the awful treatment of his families workers, Max decisions probably contribute to at least a handful of decades of healthy human life lost per year. Maybe a 1/5 of a death per year on Max’s hands. If you start to compute the synergy between Max and Feral’s power, it comes out to at least 22 deaths per day in the US that die from not using that power interaction. Even assuming that Feral is half responsible because she didn’t go out and try to find a power-maximizer to help her regeneration power be useful, that’s still 11 deaths per day. At 21 years old, with 14 as his age of power acquisition, that’s still over 28,000 deaths per year Max is responsible for. Even assuming those people were ill enough that the organs would only buy them a decade more life, that’s still over 4,000 healthy human lifetimes he’s consumed.

        In other words, even only considering one aspect of his power, only considering active organ donors in the United States, and assigning as much blame to Feral as possible in the failure to maximize this power interaction before now, he’s still done damage that, assuming every healthy year of a human lifetime is equally worthwhile, is roughly equivalent to murdering the entire Freshman 2016 Class of the University of Colorado. No idea what Cleaver’s body count is, but quadruple digits would be pretty impressive.

        • masterofbones

          You forgot to account for how the moment Max’s powerset became public he would be targeted for assassination. He wouldn’t make it to the end of the week unless some organization grabbed him and hid him somewhere.

          • Markus

            I think making the assumption that Max’s powerset has to be made public, or even substantially risk being made public, in order to exploit the easiest and most obvious power synergies available to him is a bit of a serious misassumption.

          • Arkone Axon

            Technically it did become public… semi-public. And the first biodynamic to show up at his door after learning about his powers did exactly that. “You are now my property. When I want to use you, I will.”

          • masterofbones

            Okay, even assuming nobody with collection-gathering powers is interested in this, every single government in the world is going to be looking for any sort of game-breaking power. If people suddenly start jumping into that realm(like Feral has done), they are going to start connecting the dots, FAST. Visit feral, ask what happened, find out about a “special treatment”, learn that it was caused by Alison, find out where Alison visited the last couple of days, find out about Max.

            Nothing in there is impossible or even particularly difficult for a decent intelligence agency(If you think that there aren’t a hundred satellites devoted to watching Alison, you are sorely mistaken.)

        • Micah Matheson

          Are you honestly calling Max a murderer?

          • Markus

            Definitely. If I patent a life saving medication and squat on the rights while people suffer and die, I’m a murderer. That’s essentially what Max is doing here.

          • Micah Matheson

            Max’s powers were an involuntary gift, and not something he invented and then sequestered. By that logic, every athlete is guilty of murder because they didn’t use their inborn physical prowess to be a police officer or firefighter.

          • Markus

            If an athlete is the only available person with the inborn physical prowess to save a person being dragged out by a riptide, and they sit on the beach and watch them drown, aren’t they a killer?

            Here’s another one: If a pro athlete is 20% better at being a firefighter than the average firefighter, then is he responsible for 20% of the average number of lives saved by the hypothetical firefighter he would replace. Assuming that he replaces a similarly effective football player, how much joy would he have to bring into the lives of other people for it to be worth a human life? How much charitable donation would he have to make? The problem with your question is that the sports player is a.) still making use of his talent and b.) Performing actions which might have an equitable exchange rate with years of healthy human life.

            Max is in the relatively unique position of being the only person with his skillset, and also of outright refusing to do anything with his skills. Because there’s nobody else to do it, and he really isn’t doing much of anything, he’s fully responsible for the deaths caused by his inaction, and he has no mitigating factors that can justify it.

            Put another way, let’s say you were a singularly talented economist in Weimar Germany. You have the chance to take a government job combatting hyperinflation, but instead choose to do some witty short selling of the deutschmark to make a quick buck. Because of your inaction, the Weimar Republic fails, Hitler rises to power, and at least 51 million people die. Are you really saying that in that setting you aren’t, at least on some level, somewhat responsible? Even if you’re only responsible for, say, 0.01% of all the deaths of WWII and the Holocaust, aren’t you still one of the more disgusting mass murderers on earth?

          • Micah Matheson

            Murder connotes an intention and an action. Being passive in an event doesn’t make you a murderer.

            As for the athlete example, I feel it’s difficult to equate the lives they save as performers versus public servants. My original question remains – by not engaging in an activity that maximizes their life-saving potential, are they guilty of murder in your eyes?

            As for the economist in pre-Nazi Germany, that is so far beyond the pale as to be laughable. Even if such an individual could be singled out, they would have no way of knowing the ramifications of their actions. Their actions may have been a cause, but that does not equate to them being personally responsible for the deaths of millions so far removed from their own hands by both time and intention.

            Are you just trying to be absurd for argument’s sake?

      • cphoenix

        He was in the process of letting thousands die to satisfy his personal spite toward one person. To a pure utilitarian, this is probably worse than actively killing hundreds.

        Note I’m not advocating pure utilitarianism. In fact, I’d advocate against pure anything. There are a number of good moral systems and philosophies in the world, and they often give very different answers, especially as conditions approach the extreme. If your favorite system is at an extreme, and another system is not, it’s likely worth considering switching systems for that case.

        For example, you like wrongdoing to be punished. Perhaps you think all speeders should pay speeding tickets for every infraction. After all, speeding does measurably increase the risk of harm to other people. Perhaps you would argue that even in cases where someone is speeding to save a life, they should be stopped and ticketed in accordance with the law, even if that lets someone die, because they are breaking a law and should be punished. And the policeman who ambled back to the patrol car to write the ticket even after hearing the explanation wasn’t actively killing anyone.

        It’s easy to extend a system into a strawman of itself. In real life, people do this without realizing it.

        If that hypothetical policeman writing the speeding ticket at the cost of a life was doing the right thing and doing nothing wrong in your actual worldview, then your worldview is way scary and I believe the rest of us should ignore your statements about how the world should be.

        If that hypothetical policeman was doing something wrong, then maybe Max was doing something wrong too. And then maybe he should be punished? What punishment should he suffer?

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          I have no clue what do you think your idea is but coming back to your first thing: I didn’t say under utilitarian doctrine Max ought to be scot free, and he wasn’t. He got tableslammed into a chokehold. I’m saying that if Alison deemed it not worth knowing then same should go for Cleaver.

          • Freemage

            But that ignores a couple of things:

            1: Alison DID know Max. Not in depth, but to the depth needed to judge his actions in the moment. She tried appealing to him with reason and asking for compassion, and he rejected it. That says something about him, which Alison used in her judgement.

            2: The parallel would not be to how Alison decided to get to know Cleaver after bringing him down; it was in how she brought him down in the first place. He needed to be stopped; he was actively threatening innocent lives. It’s only in the aftermath that she decided to learn more about him–an option that Max himself has ruled out in his case.

    • Timothy McLean

      Cleaver is just a callous mass murderer. But he has his reasons, and Alison decided that the mass murderer’s reasons were more important than the spoiled brat’s. More interestingly, she decided that the spoiled brat wasn’t worth even trying to change, trying to talk to, trying anything. He’s some spoiled a-hole brat? Eh, no need to worry about him.

      • ampg

        She did try to talk to him first, though. To convince him to help her of his own volition. You could argue that she didn’t try hard enough, and/or her persuasion tactics (which included a healthy dose of condescension) were poorly thought-out, but she did make at least a nominal effort.

        • Arkone Axon

          Actually, we’d argue that she made a token effort so she could say she tried. She literally couldn’t go two pages without insulting him. She showed up prepared to do violence because she had, as she admits here, decided he wasn’t worth treating as a person, but rather as a thing.

        • Timothy McLean

          It didn’t seem like she was trying to convince him at all. And I’m also thinking of how she just flew away just because he spoke positively about using and underpaying illegal immigrant workers.
          She put immeasurably more effort into understanding the motives of a mass murderer than she did for a typical rich jerk. He wasn’t even an unusually assholish rich jerk.

          • Arkone Axon

            He didn’t even talk about them being underpaid. He assumed that they were being adequately compensated for the job. He isn’t employing them, someone else is. Someone who works for someone he trusts. And that someone is his parent, and you try to keep your kids safe, even when they’re legally adults… making sure the people who come to the place where your child sleeps is not going to rob, kidnap, or otherwise harm your offspring is a fairly basic thing to do. And one of the oldest and most effective assurances: paying them enough that they’re not tempted to do anything.

  • cphoenix

    Max was motivated by fear, not rage. Alison had a happy childhood with kind and loving parents, and has no experience being an adult woman without superpowers. She probably has never felt the level of fear that Max grew up with. So she can’t empathize.

    If the criterion is that a person is worth knowing – then the question is, would Alison want to know another person like her, who made the choice she made? Cleaver’s present self probably wouldn’t be comfortable meeting another person with his history. Max probably wouldn’t enjoy meeting another Max. Would Alison respect another Alison?

    • Ganurath

      She might be able to empathize if she makes a mental connection between “person with power to help others living in fear of an uncertain danger” with “people with powers that help people being killed by uncertain source.”

    • Giacomo Bandini

      Max was not motivated by fear. His motivation was his deep insecurity and self hatred.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        Where do you think these come from

        • Giacomo Bandini

          From his parents, of course.

      • Dave Noonan

        Same thing. Insecurity is fear that you’ll be outed as unworthy. That people will find out you’re not as macho or smart or whatever as project.

      • masterofbones

        If he wasn’t afraid, he should have been. His powerset is likely to get him killed within days of it becoming public knowledge.

        • Giacomo Bandini

          Actually it’s the opposite. By keeping his power a secret, Max finds himself with no support structure, no one to turn who could have protected him from being used by the criminal mastermind Patrick as a pawn, or exploited by the well- intentioned extremist superhero Alison.

          • masterofbones

            I have yet to see a superhero who would be capable of stopping a competent *non-super* sniper. The one who comes closest is Patrick, and Patrick is in no way trustworthy.

            Until a literal mind-reader came snooping around, Patrick was safe from hordes of murderers gunning for him. If he went public(which boosting Feral is tantamount to doing), he suddenly lacks that protection in a world where people can teleport, shrink, or flat-out turn invisible.

            If he isn’t dead within the year I will be disappointed.

          • Tylikcat

            I’d be surprised if Patrick can work effectively at much of a distance. Certainly not if there are a lot of people around – he’s an involuntary telepath, right? He has one brain. Surrounded by a lot of brains, how does he filter? I’d expect either natural range limitation (probably some kind of power law thing) or an effective one based on mind density.

            (Was this covered somewhere? The other possibility is that it’s just a matter of concentration, but people who are closer are always more apparent – kind of the way most people can work in a noisy room… Huh. There might be some parallels with LLI.)

          • Maybe everything cancels out into a sort of generic white noise. He mght find being around a handful of people more disruptive than being in a crowd.

          • Two of the other superhero comics I follow have both deployed snipers as useful team members, Peggy in Grrl Power and Kumiho in the White Heron prequel run to Spinnerette. And coincidentally both also amputees, so not only not superheroes, but disabled to boot.

            Peggy did run into someone mostly immune to being shot, but he still didn’t like taking a .50 slug to the eye, even if it bounced (IIRC).

      • Philip Bourque

        What about his mother? Fear for him, fear of him, fear of them. That would have translated into how she treated him and kids do pick up and react to that. “If only I were better, if only I were a good son, if only I had good super powers, she would love me.”

        • Giacomo Bandini

          Personally i belive she is exactly the source of his sense of inferiority. Growing up with a parent so strong, so powerful. With every privilege, comes the sad realization that none of his merits will ever come to measure with that of his mother, that he’ll never be nothing more than “the stupid son of Senator Prescott”. If only he got a cool superpower, the situation would be reversed: she would be the mother of SuperMax, the invincible hero. Ironically, his set of powers made him even more under the thumbs of his parents.

          • Tylikcat

            Blaming mothers, especially strong mothers, is so fashionable.

          • Giacomo Bandini

            Talk to the principals, they created the senator mother charachter who choosed the course of his life.

      • Incendax

        I actually thought insecurity and self-hatred were just his rationalizations for being, ultimately, lazy. He doesn’t even want to bother putting in the effort unless using his power brings him enjoyment.

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      Point to: Mary.

      • Markus

        Any time a sentiment maximized leaves Mary the winner I think we can all agree that that sentiment is garbo.

        • Tylikcat

          Considering the discussion boards at the time, it is demonstrably unlikely that we can all agree about anything involving Mary.

          • Markus

            I think we can agree that you’ve created a top-tier setup for a “There’s Something About Mary” pun that I’ve utterly squandered.

          • Weatherheight

            Her power is kinda cool. 😀

        • cphoenix

          Almost any sentiment, carried to a sufficient extreme, is garbo. Even if the sentiment is positive in itself, if someone dedicates themselves to promoting it above all, that will produce garbo results.

          • Marc Forrester

            That ties into the great danger posed by Paladin. Her AI project is pretty much guaranteed to create a creature dedicated to promoting a single positive sentiment above all else.

          • From what we’ve seen so far, that sentiment will be “You’ll die laughing”.

      • Lostman

        The end result of a service to government that only told them, and valued them for their special abilities that could smash a giant robot. This has defined how people with powers think.

      • Stephanie

        Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but do you mean to imply “Mary is another Alison?” Alison openly rejected Mary’s methods, so I disagree.

        Maybe you’re thinking, “That was just lip service, in the end Alison proved she’s just like Mary.” But Alison and Mary are doing very different things. Alison essentially used Max as a tool, forcing him to cooperate in service of her “everyone works together” axiom. Mary isn’t interested in using rapists to accomplish anything; she doesn’t care about their cooperation. She’s punishing them to fulfill her sense of justice. They’re not tools to her, they’re targets of her vengeance.

        You might believe that Alison’s and Mary’s actions are equally unsympathetic, but I think their respective motives and methods are clearly different. Alison wanted control, Mary wanted (her conception of) justice.

        • Lostman

          I ask why do they want to save the world, clearly the answer would be utilitarianism but I think something else is going on here.The problem I think is that they were in the spotlight for so long, that the idea of just quietly didn’t didn’t seem desirable. Why else did Alison reveal her secret identity on tv.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          The question was; how would Alison react to someone doing the same thing she did? Mary argued the justice side of things when she was all confidence and bravado but when the mask came off at the end of their conflict, she admitted being also motivated by extreme vigilantism to show potential rapists they should be rightfully scared, thusly preventing rape.

          And yeah, Alison told her this was not the way. Which is telling.

          • Stephanie

            Tyranny and vigilantism are different things. Broadly speaking, Alison and Mary are both trying to make the world a better place. But Alison’s inclination is to force unhelpful people into action, whereas Mary’s is to remove harmful people from the equation entirely. I don’t think they’re equivalent approaches; either character could reasonably take issue (and have taken issue) with the other’s methods.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            This is the same thing. Killing people is an altogether definitive way to remove their agency the way Alison did. In both case it’s violence for “the greater good”.

          • Stephanie

            There are parallels, but it’s not the same thing. A tomato and an orange are both fruit, but they’re not the same fruit and you don’t use them in the same dishes.

            Like I said, you’re free to consider their approaches to be equally unsympathetic/morally wrong. But their missions are different enough that I don’t think Alison would consider Mary to be “an Alison,” or that Mary would consider Alison to be “a Mary.”

          • I think “Alison’s inclination is to make people do what she wants” might be fairer to Mary. Max was being unhelpful, but we saw in the classroom Allison’s assumption that everyone would/should follow her lead,

          • Stephanie

            Hmm, I’m not sure I see a meaningful distinction? I think “make people do what she wants” is implied by “force unhelpful people into action.” My phrasing was a little tortured, but that was because I wanted to emphasize how Alison’s and Mary’s methods fall on opposite sides of the coin. But maybe I’m not understanding your argument.

          • The distinction from my PoV is that your “unhelpful people” partially justifies Alison’s actions, whereas I think she’d be just as willing to force people who were perfectly willing to help, but just not in the way Allison wants them to.

          • Stephanie

            That’s fair. I meant to imply “people who don’t help in ways Alison wants them to.”

    • Stephanie

      Honestly I really didn’t get the sense that Max is motivated by fear. He briefly alluded to the risk to himself, but it wasn’t his immediate concern and it wasn’t the final reason he gave for refusing to help. It seemed like he only even brought it up because she wasn’t convinced by his initial reasoning of “I don’t want to help because wah, my power isn’t cool enough.” From what I’ve seen of Max, he’s motivated by self-interest and a desire to be exceptional.

      • Arkone Axon

        I’ve seen a lot of people on this comic’s comment sections trying to point it out to you. Even Alison herself is realizing she did the worst possible thing. Which is also the thing you’re doing. The thing that Granny Weatherwax said to never ever do (and as I pointed out on a previous page’s comments, “headology” has nothing to do with it).

        She made it impersonal. Literally, she made him into a nonperson. A person made into a thing. A caricature, undeserving of understanding or compassion. The Trump supporter who deserves to be violently attacked because he’s a deplorable. The transgender who needs to be locked up for being a degenerate because he’ll touch boys in the mens room. The who therefore deserves only disdain, because they’re different and either have something we want or might want something we have.

        She not only denied him the right of being seen as a person, she did so to someone who has done literally less wrong than any of her other adversaries. Cleaver slaughtered people (he’s terrified of the concept of treating other people as people, the concept Gurwara is imparting here, because of the guilt of accepting his crimes as such). Menace built the giant robots that Alison caused collateral damage while fighting because the robots were doing even more harm than that before being stopped. Moonshadow drugged people into confessions that would be thrown out of any court to justify killing them with knives. Max’s first big crime in her eyes: assuming that the gardeners his parents hired were being paid a decent wage. His capital offense: refusing to do something for someone who refused to see him as a person.

        Yes, I know, you’re still going to say that he’s a selfish jerk and therefore he deserves 1000% of what he gets (as in, ten times more because “fuck Max”). That’s the point here. Gurwara, the first person to truly have what Alison has been searching for all this time (the wisdom to use her powers to truly do GOOD), is all but breaking the fourth wall to say, “This? This rush to assume that someone should be treated this way because of a snap decision that you then cling to no matter what? Don’t do this, Alison.”

        • AshlaBoga

          Re: Moonshadow

          I wonder if our kill happy illusionist has actually read up on sodium pentothal: “…someone under the influence
          of any of the ‘truth drugs’ will most likely tell you what you want to
          hear. The drugs make people a little more obliging, but mostly they
          suppress the parts of the brain that have to kick into gear if a person
          is to assess what’s wrong with a question, articulate it, and assert
          themselves to their questioner. It’s easier just to let their
          imagination go with the flow and tell the questioner exactly what they
          want to hear.”

          Yeah… “truth serum” has been responsible for an incredibly amount of FALSE confessions over the years. That’s why intelligence agencies cut back on it’s usage. Congrats Mary Kim, you almost certainly killed an innocent person!

          • Lostman

            Last she said; she didn’t care if she made mistake, just long she got the point across.

        • Stephanie

          You’re making a lot of unfounded assumptions here about my position. Would you rather discuss this with me, or with the version of me you made up?

          First of all, I have no idea why you’re going on this long tangent about treating Max as a “non-person.” I did not say that Max is not a person or that he should not be treated as a person. I said that he’s motivated by self-interest and a desire to be exceptional, which are motivations that people can have. I believe this interpretation of Max’s motivations is supported by his behavior and statements in canon. If you want to debate me on the subject of whether Max is primarily motivated by fear, then debate me on that subject. Don’t expect me to defend this “Max isn’t a person” position that you’ve apparently arbitrarily assigned to me.

          Second, you know how I know you’re responding to a straw person and not to what I’ve actually written? This part right here: “Yes, I know, you’re still going to say that he’s a selfish jerk and therefore he deserves 1000% of what he gets (as in, ten times more because “fuck Max”).”

          Evidently you don’t know what I’m going to say, so stop claiming that you do. I have explained dozens of times over the past few months that the question of what Max “deserves” is irrelevant to me, and that I support Alison’s choice because of the lives it saved, not because “fuck Max.” Don’t accuse me of holding a position I explicitly do not hold–that I’ve said numerous times I do not hold–and then expect me to debate it with you. Especially when the post you’re replying to is not even about whether what Alison did was right–it’s about what motivates Max as a character.

          • Arkone Axon

            You know how I’m responding to you and not a strawman? Because of the numerous posts you’ve made where you specifically state two words in the following order. “Fuck Max.”

            You’ve repeatedly failed to acknowledge that yes, he is in fact motivated by fear. He’s openly stated his concerns. Instead you keep talking about when he told Alison to get out, because as long as you focus on his refusal to help the person who showed up to tell him “I’m giving you a perfunctory apology that I clearly don’t mean because I want something from you, but I really do you’re a piece of crap and I refuse to extend any sympathy or empathy towards you for your situation,” you don’t have to acknowledge that he IS deserving of empathy.

            So yes, I DO know what you’re going to say. The only way you could surprise me is if you came to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, Max deserves the same consideration as these others:

            Mayhem: the guy who wanted to overthrow the existing social order with all its countless injustices and inequalities (i.e. the guy who, had he won, would have made the whole “Trump versus Clinton” dilemna irrelevant because we wouldn’t have had to put up with either of them).
            Cleaver: the victim of horrific abuse who is lonely, miserable, and so desperately wants someone who understands him and will be his friend in spite of what he’s done.
            Moonshadow: the former hero whose insufficient power levels led her to go to violent and horrible extremes because of the anger, fear, and jealousy inside of her.
            Professor Cohen: seething inside with rage and grief because Alison’s heroics cost him the man he loved, to the point that every time he showed up to teach his class all he could see was his beloved’s murderer sitting there utterly oblivious to how she’d ripped his heart out with the toss of a robot and cheered as if she’d scored the winning point in a championship game.

            Each of these individuals has been an adversary of Alison over the course of this comic. All of them have turned out to be more complex and complicated than the standard “I’m a bad guy and everything I do is driven by negative motives such as selfishness, greed, and narcissism.” Do you REALLY think that this one character, this one specific character, is going to be so two-dimensional and shallow in comparison to all the others?

            (Also: who WAS that female first introduced with Cleaver? The one who showed him the recording of Alison’s unmasking and encouraged him to go after her? I noticed her when I went back through the archives to remind myself of Cohen’s name. Does anyone know?)

          • Stephanie

            Are you confusing me with someone else? Because I’m positive that I have not repeatedly said “fuck Max,” as you claim. I’m not going to say I’ve never said it, because it’s possible that I’ve used that combination of words at some point in my life, but I certainly haven’t emphasized it or said it repeatedly. Those words do not represent my clearly stated position that I do not care what Max “deserves,” have no particular interest in seeing him punished, consider the sacrifice of his autonomy to be a genuine harm, and only support Alison’s coercing him because it saved so many lives.

            So no, you don’t know what I’m going to say. Again, stop claiming that you do. Engage with what I actually say to you, or don’t engage at all. If you only want to argue with the version of me who lives in your head, the real me will gladly leave you to it.

            Anyway. I’m not sure why you’re equating “motivated by self-interest and a desire to be extraordinary” with “two-dimensional and shallow.” There are real, complex, 3-dimensional people with those motives. Would it make you feel better if, instead of “desire to be extraordinary,” I called it “insecurity?” Would those motives be complex enough? And do I need to start citing page numbers for you?

          • Arkone Axon

            Actually, you’re right. I’ve confused you with the people who not only dismiss Max’s rights as a person, but also go on to claim “He’s rich, white, and biologically male, therefore he deserves nothing but scorn.” (Not their exact words, either… their EXACT words were “Fuck Max”)

            You were the one who kept dismissing him as a person without adding the blatant racism/sexism/classism as an addendum. Before I go further, I need to apologize for that. I am sorry.

            That being said… right now a Native American tribe and their supporters are preparing to go up against police officers who are planning to violence the hell out of them, at the behest of an oil company that wants to lay down a pipe that will contaminate the nearby drinking water that multiple States rely on. This is being done after legal roadblocks (aside from the fact that it was already illegal even before the moment the construction began) have been cleared away by the current POTUS. Said POTUS having been notorious in the private sector for relying on something called… Eminent Domain.

            Eminent Domain basically means “You have to give up what you own for the Greater Good.” I.e. your house has to be demolished to make way for a highway to be built (y’know, like with Arthur Dent at the start of the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy). With Trump it ended up being “you need to give up your house so this guy can build a big building that will bring in increased tax revenue.” At least, that was the claim… the actual result was politicians getting richer, and Trump making some money (recooping some of his losses, in other words), and nobody else benefiting.

            Same thing with this pipeline. And the one down in Texas is even worse – nobody in the State is benefiting other than the politicians. The natural gas will be funneled to Mexico for refinement, then sold in southeast asia. None of that will come back to Texas in any sort of benefit. It’s being rammed down people’s throats and the claim is that it’s for “the Greater Good.” When in fact it’s being done for selfish, selfish reasons.

            (I should hasten to add: Clinton would have been doing the EXACT SAME THING had she won. There’s a reason why more people were hoping for a meteor to hit than for either of them to win)

            Right now Gurwara is guiding Alison into understanding that this sort of “Greater Good” crap is exactly that. Crap. When you start devaluing people who have what you want, justifying that it’s okay to take things from them “for the Greater Good,” then you start creating a society where people have no value. People have offered up the example of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” but I’d offer a better example: “the Lottery.” Where everyone draws a ticket and the “winner” gets stoned to death to ensure a bountiful harvest. Not only is it obvious that this offers no actual benefit, but the people most interested in keeping the lottery going are the ones who have consistently beaten the odds, who are convinced it will never be THEIR turn to hold the winning ticket.

            Last time it was Max. Who would it be next time? What if Alison determines that in order to learn about the origins of her powers she has to go into space, and Paladin won’t build her a spaceship… until Alison starts ripping off her prosthetic limbs and holding them ransom until Paladin does this one simple thing? What if Alison needs hull plating more effective than what can currently be made – and Cleaver’s hide is the only viable substance currently known? And if it’s a long voyage, she’ll need a ready supply of oxygen… there’s a green skinned young woman who has never, ever been a hero, but she seems capable of photosynthesis…

            The thing that impresses me most about Gurwara: he’s so CALM about this. The super strong, nigh invulnerable, emotionally unstable young person with a history as a child soldier just confessed to having tortured someone into doing something against his will, violating his freedom of choice, his stated ideological system, and his own physical body. And offered as her excuse “well, I don’t like him. I decided he’s not worth knowing as a person.” And this is after telling Gurwara “Fuck you” in the middle of class. “Hi there person I’ve previously established I don’t like. I just tortured someone I don’t like, can we talk about that?”

          • Stephanie

            Apology accepted for confusing me with the “fuck Max” people.

            I have not dismissed Max as a person. I fully acknowledge that he is a person. I also acknowledge all of the thousands of transplant recipients as people. I think many commenters have not acknowledged them as people, and instead treat them like an undifferentiated mass with no value. This is a mistake. Each of those people, whom Max was prepared to condemn to die, is an individual whose life is every bit as important as Max’s.

            I do not think the Dakota Access Pipeline situation is comparable to the Max situation. It’s clearly a much more complex issue that will cause an immense amount of collateral harm to an immense number of people. The Max situation, in contrast, is pretty cut and dry: one twisted arm to save thousands of lives every year for as long as Feral remains capable of donating organs. I will not debate the pipeline with you as a proxy for debating the Max situation. The existence of other scenarios where people’s rights are wrongly violated has no bearing on whether it was right to coerce this specific guy, in this specific scenario.

            ‘The Lottery’ is not a good comparison at all. As you said, in ‘The Lottery’ there is no actual benefit to killing the person. In the Max situation, there is the clear, tangible benefit of saving an enormous number of people who would otherwise have died terrible deaths. And the sacrifice in ‘The Lottery’ is someone chosen at random to be killed, whereas in the Max situation the specific person who was withholding the means to save thousands of lives was forced to help (note, not killed). ‘The Lottery’ really has nothing at all to do with this. I don’t think ‘Omelas’ is a perfect comparison either but it’s definitely better than ‘The Lottery.’

            If the opportunity ever arises for Alison to make a Cleaver spaceship or any of these other unpleasant scenarios you’ve come up with, she will need to evaluate those decisions on an individual basis. The hypothetical of a Cleaver spaceship has zero bearing on whether it was right to coerce Max in this situation.

          • Arkone Axon

            “The Lottery” is indeed an excellent comparison. As I said, in “the Lottery” there is no actual benefit – but the people who support it BELIEVE that there is. They genuinely believe that the village will be wiped out by some horrible calamity if they give up the lottery. “Other towns don’t even do a lottery anymore. There’ll be trouble, mark my words!”

            Alison thinks that she’s done the right thing. But in addition to the fact that we STILL don’t know that the effects are going to be permanent and that there won’t be any side effects, the fact remains that she told him, “I have decided this is the right thing to do. You will do what I think is right or I will force you to do so with violence because I am right and that makes it okay.” (It’s shown in “the Lottery” that nobody really gets a choice in the matter. And when they finally select a “winner” in the end, her own children are given stones to throw at their mother)

            Your short story would have to have a few more plot twists to be more apt. First of all, Alice would have to have been a very unpleasant and hostile person towards Bob, to the point that she couldn’t even be polite or decent to Bob while demanding that he push the button to help everyone except himself. Second, Bob would have had to have pointed out that pushing the button and lowering the shield would also expose him to potentially lethal doses of radiation from the plutonium being hidden by that shield. And third, Bob’s response would have to have been, “I just tried to point out how you’re asking me to endanger myself and those I care about, and you not only refused to acknowledge that, you twisted my words into an insult against you. And then insulted me. I don’t want to have anything to do with you now.” The execution chamber door opened again and another person was horribly killed, but Alice blamed Bob for that rather than accept that she might have sabotaged her own efforts by being unable to not be a jerk for five minutes.

            (again, I’m sorry about the mixup regarding your position)

          • Stephanie

            ‘The Lottery’ will not be anywhere near a good comparison unless it actually turns out that somehow nobody is saved (in which case it would still be a pretty bad comparison, but slightly better). For now, it seems like those people will be saved, making this situation nothing at all like ‘The Lottery.’ Furthermore, Alison had strong reason to expect coercing Max to save many lives–there was a clear cause and effect here, not “we kill a guy and somehow that makes the crops grow.”

            In short, Alison didn’t superstitiously kill some rando for spurious reasons. She found the guy with the button–the only guy with that button–and she made sure he pressed it. If you’re going to make the comparison as loose as “people are forced to do things in the story,” you could call almost any work of fiction in human history an “excellent comparison” to the Max Incident.

            Anyway, I’ll continue my story to incorporate your suggestions:

            “Suddenly, Alison appeared on a screen in the room. ‘Bob, you asshole, I can’t believe you’re not pressing that button while people are dying,’ she said. ‘Also just so you know, there’s no potentially lethal radiation at all, there’s just like a really tiny risk that someone will figure out you were the button guy. Anyway, you suck and I don’t like you. Press the button.’

            ‘Wow that was really mean,’ said Bob. ‘Now I’m really not going to press the button because you were a jerk about me wanting to let thousands of people die one after another.’ The execution chamber door opened again and another person was horribly killed because Bob’s feelings were hurt and he thought that was an acceptable reason for everyone to die. It was at this point that Alison broke through the wall of Bob’s room, grabbed his hand, and slapped it onto the button. Everyone who wasn’t dead yet was freed from their shackles and didn’t die.”

          • Arkone Axon

            The reason it can be compared to “the Lottery” is that the people involved BELIEVED that it would save lives. Just like Alison believed it. And rather than try to reason with him or reach him, she insulted him, asked him rudely, and then went straight to the violence.

            Alison didn’t just find the guy with the button and make sure he pressed it. She found the guy and told him, “you are now a slave. You will push that button whenever I want, to do whatever I want. You will expect no recompense, not even a thank you. Be grateful I don’t spit in your face after using you.”

            So… let’s modify your story to be more precise:

            “Suddenly, Alison appeared on a screen in the room. ‘Bob, you asshole, I can’t believe you’re not pressing that button while people are dying,’ she said. ‘Also just so you know, there’s no potentially lethal radiation at all, there’s just like a really tiny risk that someone will figure out you were the button guy.” This was a blatant lie and she truly did not care; she cared about those people being killed, but Bob was someone she had never liked ever since they’d broken up.

            “…Lady, I can see the geiger counter screaming,” Bob pointed out. “I’ve been in here all my life, I KNOW there’s radioactive material there. I was shown it when I was sealed in here as a consequence of my physical condition. That’s why I’m here with that button. You see, because of what my parents have done…”

            The execution chamber door opened again and another person was horribly killed, and Alison grew truly incensed. “I don’t CARE about your issues!” she snapped, cutting him off in the middle of revealing secrets about a conspiracy she’d been investigating. “You’re a selfish person and their lives matter more! Frankly, you even talking about medical issues is offense and insulting to me, because I have a genetic predisposition to natural athleticism that makes people jealous of me!” She took a deep, shuddering breath, and tears began to flow because her emotional displays always made her arguments more weighty than mere logic or facts ever could. “…Now please… one of the people I care about is hooked up to this machine, it’s hurting her as long as it’s running. So HELP HER!”

            “…You know what?” Bob said. “You claim to care about other people, but I just tried to tell you about my own problems, about why someone would be sealed in a room with a button like this in the first place, and you can’t be bothered to listen. You pretend to be selfless, but you’re actually a horribly selfish person. You don’t REALLY care about these other people. You care about your friend. You’d have rescued your friend and damned all these others if you could…”

            It was at this point that Alison broke through the wall of Bob’s room, punched him in the face, then slammed his head onto the button. Everyone who wasn’t dead yet was freed from their shackles. “Shut up! Shut up!” Alison screamed, her voice strident with self righteous tones. “I did the right thing here! i saved all these people! That’s the reason!”

            “…You… you did this… for her…” Bob sputtered, and was shoved away by a defiant Alison, who screamed a long, loud, emotional wail to drown out his logic. She knew in her heart she must avoid listening to him, lest he cast doubt on the righteousness of her mission.

            As Bob cowered on the floor of his room, hoping desperately not to die from the radiation shooting at the now open windows by taking cover under the console, Alison strode out to rescue her friend and take her to get some hamburgers. She felt a little guilty… but that was okay, because she did it for the greater good. And she would just keep telling herself that, and that would make everything okay.

          • Stephanie

            Okay, what exactly is the radiation supposed to represent here? Because I am absolutely certain there was no magical deadly backlash when Max used his powers. That is not something that happened, not even remotely. The only safety concern for Max is the miniscule risk that someone will find out about his power–which, legally, is supposed to be public knowledge anyway if his mother hadn’t pulled strings. So where are you getting this “radiation” analogy, where Max apparently starts getting cancer the instant he uses his power even though there’s zero indication of this happening in the comic?

            Also, your version of the story certainly casts Alison in an unsympathetic light, but it continues to gloss over the important point that Bob thinks it’s cool to let thousands of people die. Even if I were to accept every single one of your interpretations of Alison, the result would just be this:

            “…and then another person was horribly killed, because Alison was self-righteous and Bob thought that was an acceptable reason for everyone to die.”

            “…and then another person was horribly killed, because Alison really only cared about Feral and Bob thought that was an acceptable reason for everyone to die.”

            “…and then another person was horribly killed, because Alison was emotional and Bob thought that was an acceptable reason for everyone to die.”

            Do you see the common thread here? Let’s try changing the perspective of the story now.

            “Once upon a time there was a woman named Lily. She was chained up in a human slaughterhouse, moving inexorably toward her death. Lily had never said anything mean to Bob at all, not once in her entire life. In fact, Lily had done absolutely nothing to Bob. Bob had absolutely no reason to bear any animosity toward Lily; he had no reason to believe that she was selfish, hypocritical, or irrational. But Lily went through the door into the execution chamber, to be painfully killed by a meat grinder, because Bob didn’t like some other person named Alison.”

          • Arkone Axon

            First of all: The radiation is a an analogy for the very very real and serious risk of exposure as having a power that makes him an irresistibly tempting target for any biodynamic. We know that to be the case because we’ve seen it – the first biodynamic who showed up at his door with knowledge of his abilities proceeded to enslave him for her purposes. The fact that you support her ends does not change that. He lives in fear of being a target, and his fears have been proven 100% justified. The analogy of the radioactive material exists, it’s real, it’s just blasted him in the face.

            Second: if you want to focus on the fact that Bob/Max wants to let thousands of people die, then you cannot absolve Alice/Alison for wanting to do THE EXACT SAME THING. She begged Feral not to get on that table. She was prepared to use force to stop Feral from getting on that table, until Feral made it clear it was her choice and Alison could not stop her. Did she understand that Feral was doing something good? Yes – but she was opposed to it from the start. She wasn’t looking to save lives, she was looking to save Feral.

            Third: you’re right that Alison is sickened by her own actions. It reminds me of a woman who, some years back, told the judge how very, very sorry she was. And the jury. And everyone else. She even told the homeless guy. Specifically, the homeless guy she hit with her car, before driving home and parking in the garage with the guy still embedded in her windshield. She kept coming into the garage to apologize again and again, because she felt so awful… meanwhile he spent the weekend slowly dying and begging her to call help.

            The fact that Alison is feeling guilty about it now, second-guessing the rash, stupid, and immoral actions made when she was riding a wave of adrenaline, excitement, and self-righteousness, means that she herself would be the first to disagree with you here. It’s a telling point that Gurwara didn’t ask her if she would condemn thousands to die to undo what she did to Max; he asked her if she would return Feral to the operating table to undo what she did to Max.

            Fourth: I am not strawmanning Alison. I’m disagreeing with your disdain for Max and his own rights. The thousands of innocent lives (who, I repeat, Alison regarded as a SECONDARY concern; they were only important to her because saving them was key to saving Feral) do not give anyone the right to deny his rights. Even Alison has made it clear in these weeks of comics that she acknowledges that Max had rights and she violated them. Her conversation with Gurwara is about her attempting to come to terms with what she acknowledges was a horrible thing to do, even if you do not.

            I don’t know about you, but I live in a westernized nation. And… I harm people just by existing. It’s not that I want to, or that I choose to. The corporations that provide the food in my home do so by violating the rights of others as much as they possibly can. I take steps to minimize the impact (buying fair market coffee, etc), but the fact remains that the only way to truly help all the people I am involuntarily aiding to oppress would be to conscript me into service as an anti-corporate guerilla for the few short weeks I have before I starve to death rather than consume food. Heck, even if I go to homesteading and raise my own food, I’m still subsisting on other living things.

            You cannot use the concept of “preemptive heroism” to justify actions that harm others. You can’t justifiably arrest someone, let alone throw them in prison, for a crime they haven’t committed but might commit someday. You can’t justifiably hit someone because you thought they were going to hit you so you hit them back first. And you can’t violently assault someone and enslave them for forced labor in order to save people you don’t even know, just because that will help your friend.

          • Stephanie

            One: Radiation is immediately dangerous to the human body and continually causes unavoidable damage to the body for as long as you remain exposed to it. It is absurd to compare “the risk of someone finding out about his power” to “the certainty of being immediately bathed in lethal amounts of radiation,” and I will not entertain such a ridiculous comparison.

            Two: Whether Alison committed the same sin as Max by initially opposing Feral’s sacrifice is immaterial. This conversation isn’t about whether I can absolve her for that. My position is “Max was wrong to try to let those people die and Alison was right to coerce him into saving them,” not “Alison is a perfect angel who never does anything wrong.” Your appeal to hypocrisy is only relevant to the latter position, which I do not hold and am not arguing for.

            Three: if you’re aware that Alison canonically feels guilty about her actions, why exactly did you characterize her as a screaming lunatic angrily drowning out any hint of moral ambiguity with cries of “I’M RIGHTEOUS, I WAS IN THE RIGHT, I DID NOTHING WRONG AAAUGH”? You can’t do that and then tell me you’re not strawmanning her. At least own up to that much.

            Four: I’m going to explain for probably the hundredth time that I don’t care whether Alison cared more about Feral or more about the thousands of strangers. I care about the thousands of strangers. If Alison’s entire motive had been “I want to make Max save all those people because I hate this one particular guy who has heart failure and I want the honor of killing him myself,” I would support her actions exactly as much as I do now, even if I would not think especially highly of her character.

            You don’t have to keep telling me that you think Alison only cared about Feral, because it’s irrelevant to my position on this matter. Again: My position is “Max was wrong to try to let those people die and Alison was right to coerce him into saving them,” not “Alison is a perfect angel who never does anything wrong.”

            Five: Yes, we all harm people by existing. That has very little to do with this. The position “If someone can easily save thousands of lives and refuses, they should be forced to do it anyway” is not equivalent to the position “You should starve yourself to death rather than risk causing indirect harm to anyone ever.” (Also, it’s ridiculous to say that the only way to help the people your lifestyle harms is to conscript you as an anti-corporate guerilla and starve you to death–like that’s just utterly ridiculous, there are so many much more effective and less transparently awful ways to help the world’s extremely poor.)

            Six: This wasn’t “preemptive heroism.” Preemptive heroism would be “I think Max is going to go kill a few thousand people, so I’ll lock him up before he has the chance.” There was nothing “preemptive” about what Alison did. The people with organ failure were dying, one after another, at that very moment and every moment thereafter until something was finally done to save them. Alison acted to save lives that were currently, objectively endangered. You keep drawing these false comparisons that badly represent what actually happened in the comic.

          • Arkone Axon

            One: “Risk of someone finding out about his power” translates as “someone immediately resorting to violent coercion to force him to use his powers without his free consent. Not only have we seen that in comic books (the USAgent, a substitute Captain America whose identity was revealed and his parents were dead less than a week later; Spider-Man and that horrible “One More Day” storyline; Storm being kidnapped by alien barbarians to power the device they use in lieu of a sun), but also in other media (that Transformers show where they were fighting over the minicons – who had fled to get the hell away from both sides), and in RL (kidnappings for ransom, or just to force a relative to use their skills). So yeah, people finding out about his powers is a genuine threat to his life and those of anyone close to him – as Alison proved. To refuse to entertain the “ridiculous” comparison is to dismiss and ignore what’s ALREADY HAPPENED in the comic. “I’m the first biodynamic to find out about your powers. I’m also one of the least amoral biodynamics you’re likely to encounter. YOU WILL USE YOUR POWERS FOR MY BENEFIT.” The only reason it wasn’t worse is that Alison is not capable of cold blooded sadism like some of the other biodynamics out there.

            Two/Four: That’s not even a discussion of Alison’s motivations or actions. That’s YOUR motivations, YOUR beliefs. You are not Alison. She did something you agree with, but that does not mean it was ever her intention, and the comic continues to show that she would disagree with you herself, or with a character introduced to tell her, “no, you did the right thing!”

            Three: That more precisely applies to TWO individuals. The first is Alison in the heat of the moment itself. Rationalizing and justifying her actions so she can go through with it. Using anger and other emotions as a shield against logic or her own conscience. You cannot tell me that you have never done something in a fit of anger that you later regretted once you’d calmed down.

            The second is… you yourself. You keep going back to “this one act saved hundreds of thousands of lives, and that makes it totally justified.” Even though it was not primarily intended to save thousands of lives. Even though there are going to be horrific consequences. You keep bringing up the “thousands of lived saves, and that trumps all else” and then dismissing the positions of others, and also dismissing… her victim. Who is a victim, and you keep refusing to acknowledge that. You keep going back to “he was selfish, he did it to spite her, he didn’t want to lift a finger, he’s crying because she twisted his arm a little when he refused to get off his ass with no risk to himself.” Who’s doing the strawmanning here?

            Five: Yes, you’re right. There are MANY more effective and less transparently awful ways to help the poor. Just as there were MANY more effective and less transparently awful ways to convince Max to help, and every single one of them began with treating him as a person and not the obstacle to the use of these wonderful powers inconveniently attached to someone not worth knowing. You keep dismissing the fact that Max is at just as great a risk from exposure as homosexuals like Alan Turing were in the 1950s, even though – as I’ve already pointed out – the comic and Alison herself have proven that he’s at risk even from the most seemingly benevolent biodynamic.

            Six: Alison did not act to save lives that were currently, objectively endangered. Alison acted to save Feral. Her heroism was roughly on a par with a D&D adventurer who kills a monster for pay. She was not selfless here, she was horribly selfish. The only reason she saved those lives is because that was a precondition set by Feral – and Feral is the truly selfless one here.

            Yes, the motivation does matter. Especially when it influences the actions and the results. Max has been traumatized – because it wasn’t “arm twisted by a heroic girl,” it was “threatened with torture/murder by the world’s most powerful flying brick.” His rich, sociopathic parents are going to get involved when they find out their child has been assaulted by a superpowered stalker. The moment those doctors find out they were deceived into performing a procedure involving an unwilling participant they will be outraged (and horrified and in fear of losing their medical licenses). And Feral herself is likely to be annoyed with what Alison did. Again, it’s not that she saved lives. It’s that she did so in the stupidest fashion possible, when there were so many better ways to convince him. (And yes, those methods might have involved precious minutes in which people were dying… but again: Alison didn’t care about that)

          • Stephanie

            OK, I’m sorry, but your arguments have been incoherent. You can’t seem to resist the temptation to draw emotionally charged but inappropriate parallels, you keep misrepresenting my position and/or attacking positions I don’t hold as if they were mine, and fully half of your post here is harping on a point that I’ve already told you is irrelevant to my stance on this issue. I’ve lost interest in this discussion.

          • Arkone Axon

            Like I said, that’s been my point. You dismiss the point as irrelevant even though it’s relevant to everyone else – including the characters. It’s the point being discussed in the comics right now, in fact. But yes, go ahead and do this:


          • Stephanie

            If you think mocking me is productive, you go right ahead.

          • Weatherheight

            Excellent points. 😀

            Ionizing radiation is a fact of life, and most life on earth does a decent job of coping with it provided it remains below a given threshold relative to and dependent on the type of radiation.

            I used to work with radioactive sources daily when I worked construction inspections, did the annual training, and our company also had twice annual reviews of updated safety procedures and individual radiation accumulation data. When I had a HUGE radiation spike noted on my radiation badge from one quater, I had to have a re-training session and feedback session, as well as a questionnaire to fill out. That rad-badge was reassessed after the next quarter’s badge was turned in and assessed (revealing my usual *very* low radiation excess above background), and the first spike didn’t fit their diagnostic patterns, so again with the questionnaires, this time two or three more pages.

            Finally, the company that does the assessment of the badges asked if, at any time, I had left my badge in direct sunlight through a focusing lens, like a windshield. Thinking back, I said that was possible – I seemed to recall having left it on the dash on a day I wasn’t carrying my nuclear gauge. When they processed it again, apparently the relevant rad levels were well within the requirements. They sent notification on what their analysis revealed (essentially, I was a dumb-ass who didn’t think about what I was doing) and issued updated protocols. They also modified the badges slightly (or so we were told). Never had a problem ever again.

            Even following the safety protocols, it’s really easy to screw up the safety protocols, even when dealing with very low-yield sources. Mind you, this isn’t at all the levels you’re referencing, but even the low yield sources can be quite dangerous over time if not treated with respect (Cesium and Americium can kill people over time if unshielded).

            And don’t get me started on the mess caused when a tech from another company let his gauge get run over by an earth-mover and the containment structures shattered. He got *very* lucky that the sources themselves remained intact.

            Good times…

          • Lostman

            Wow, this talk got me to realize something; isn’t there a sex offender in charge of the United States right now? There makes wonder what year is this comic taking place in because… one wonder how the super-humans of this world would react to current political events; especially Moon-shadow most of all.

          • Tylikcat

            Oh, dear. *covers mouth, tries to avoid giggling*

          • Lostman

            As you can see… I have why to much time on my hands, and twisted immigration.

          • Arkone Axon

            No, there is not a sex offender in charge of the U.S. One: the POTUS is not “in charge,” he’s restrained by assorted checks and balances (which is why he’s recently been tweeting about how the judges are traitors to the country for… not letting him do things). And two: he was accused of rape during the campaign by an opponent increasingly desperate for mud to sling at him, and the investigation was closed within a week because it was just a made up charge.

            (not saying he hasn’t done LOTS of other crap. But he didn’t rape anyone. Bill Clinton, on the other hand…)

          • Tylikcat

            This is somewhat dated, being from last October, but there are quite a few other allegations of sexual assault.


          • By Trump’s own admission he’s a sex offender. What was the line: “Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.” That’s sexual assault under the law of most first world nations.

          • Arkone Axon

            He also claimed it was just locker room banter (i.e. flat-out lies intended to impress other men) when it was brought up during the campaign. Which… I’m inclined to go with, simply because he’s so consistently full of crap. Claimed to be a great businessman, claimed to be hugely popular, claimed to have plans about ISIS… so claiming to be able to get away with groping a woman in public seems like more of the same. He’s all bluff and bluster, a loud trash talking fibber who makes grandiose claims to sound more impressive than he is.

            By contrast, look up the name Juanita Broaddrick. Rather a significant difference there with what happened to her.

          • Even if we go with your interpretation, he’s talking sexual assault as something he aspires to, as something he considers ‘manly’ (gag!). And I’m nowhere near so convinced it was just talk.

          • Arkone Axon

            I never said he wasn’t an odious piece of crap. I’m just saying I don’t see him as having the guts to actually do anything like that. He’s the guy who, during his campaign, had his security guards strip coats from a couple of protesters and throw them out in the cold. His guards, not he himself – he’s the sort of person who’s tough when someone else is doing the violence for him. He’s just too… pathetic, to actually try something that could get him punched in the face.

            (Again: we had an actual sex offender in the White House for eight years. Now we have… a big balloon of stinky gas)

          • “I have not dismissed Max as a person.”

            No, you’ve just dismissed his civil rights for convenience. There’s a philosophical debate as to whether that is justified, but you seem reluctant to accept that there are two justified sides to that debate, cf suggesting people who disagree with you aren’t valuing the transplant patients.

            I’ll reword something you said: “The Max situation, in contrast, is pretty cut and dry: one abuse of civil rights, one precedent set, to save thousands.”

            That doesn’t really change the equation, small harm for a greater good, but it does illustrate that we’re not simply dealing with some insignificant fistfight in the playground, but with a true moral dilemma, where people can expect to have different views.

          • Stephanie

            Oh, thank god–a solid counterargument that doesn’t misrepresent my position. I sincerely appreciate your comment, as well as the reminder that just because I’ve found most of the “anti-coercing Max” arguments unconvincing doesn’t mean there are no convincing arguments for that side.

            You’re absolutely right that setting a precedent of violating autonomy is dangerous. This is a concern for me as well, and is the main reason I don’t support using coercion to save small numbers of lives. I believe that in this case, it was warranted, since the human cost of leaving Max to his own devices would have been astronomical.

            It is a true moral dilemma, yes. I can definitely respect the position that compromising on autonomy should never be allowed, since it dilutes the “sanctity” (can’t think of a better word) of that right and could lead to less justified violations in the future. But I think that adhering inflexibly to any principle can result in preventable tragedies in edge cases like the Max incident. When situations like that arise, we should be willing to consider whether the immediate human cost of preserving the principle outweighs the hypothetical future harm of compromising it once.

            “…you seem reluctant to accept that there are two justified sides to that debate, cf suggesting people who disagree with you aren’t valuing the transplant patients.”

            It’s not quite that. I do think that many of the people who disagree with me on this have been dismissive of the transplant patients in their arguments, and I’ve been responding to that by emphasizing the immense value of those lives. I don’t think that it’s necessary to dismiss those people in order to disagree with me on this, just that I’ve mostly been talking to folks who do dismiss them. I appreciate that your argument doesn’t rely on representing the transplant patients as an irrelevant abstraction.

          • Good response.

            I do think there are cases where it may be necessary to violate individual rights, but I don’t think ‘necessary’ and ‘right’ are necessarily the same thing in those cases. ‘necessary evil’ is probably closer. And I’m not convinced the Max situation is one of those. It’s edging too close to aspects of modern slavery and squicks me out.

            And it would be really easy for it to become precedent setting in Max’s case. ‘Hey, it would be really easy to track these fugitives if Bloodhound Gal was just a bit better at it. Someone go grab Max and twist his arm.’

          • Stephanie

            Do you think there are steps Alison can take to mitigate the risk of it being precedent-setting? I think that’s something she at least wants to avoid–we’ve already seen her tell that one doctor that the “procedure” was a one-time-only deal, and she’s keeping Max’s secret so that others can’t exploit him as a resource. Maybe there are pre-commitments she can make now to avoid making this a regular “thing” in the future.

            I’m on board with calling it a necessary evil. I think that it was a right choice in this scenario, which to me isn’t the same as it being a “right action,” if that makes sense (I think that’s roughly the same distinction you were drawing). Coercion is inherently harmful, but I think choosing to walk away and let all of those people die to preserve Max’s autonomy would have been more evil.

            Out of curiosity, what kind of scenario do you think would warrant violating individual rights?

          • I think Max may be screwed. Alison a) ran a hypothetical past her biodynamics doctor, if she wasn’t already in the know about Max, she’s likely to figure it out when she hears about Feral. b) is moping around, clearly badly upset about something, and people are going to ask why. And c) Feral, you have to love Tara for who she is, but she’s not exactly discrete and low-profile. She doesn’t know about Max’s role, yet, but she may start to thinking about it, and if she doesn’t, others will.

            WRT your second point; yes, I’m drawing a distinction between necessary and morally justifiable. I don’t believe they’re necessarily the same thing. As to when things may be necessary, I can envision situations in which it may be necessary to expose civilians to harm in order to ensure the safety of many more. However that comes with the caveat of there being no alternative, and a need for immediate action, neither of which apply with Max (there may be an urgent need, WRT some potential transplant recipients, but the infrastructure to handle Tara’s increased rate of production isn’t there yet).

          • Stephanie

            I guess I don’t really see a meaningful distinction between “necessary” and “morally justifiable.” The necessity is what makes it justifiable, in my mind.

            After all, what does it mean for an action to be necessary? If we say “It’s necessary to do this in order to save many lives”…well, why is it necessary? There’s no physical law that mandates that course of action; there’s no deity demanding it; the only thing that makes it necessary is that we consider it so morally important to save those lives that we can’t justify the alternative. You could even call it a moral necessity.

            Regarding Max’s safety, I think you’re right that the people she’s spoken to are likely to work out that a “booster” exists and is responsible for Feral’s increased output. But I’m not sure how they would connect that to Max, assuming they don’t have access to the same information channels Patrick used. Given how easily Alison can get around, the mystery booster doesn’t even necessarily need to be someone in the same city.

          • WRT “morally justifiable” and “necessary”, I think there is a distinction. This is the best example I can think of: “Tell me where the bomb is, or I torture* your child”.

            *Torture sucks as a general intelligence gathering technique, no matter what the Idiot in Chief may claim, you start sticking things into me and I’ll start making up answers to make you stop. But there are a limited set of circumstances in which it might give an immediately verifiable answer. But it’s still unforgiveable, particularly if you target it on an innocent.

          • Stephanie

            But if the alternative is something even worse than a child being tortured–which I’m assuming is the case if the premise here is that torturing the child is “necessary”–then how can we say it’s not forgivable or justifiable? Wouldn’t that essentially make a person’s moral standing a matter of luck? As in, if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself between Scylla and Charybdis, you’re a bad person no matter what you do?

          • I don’t think you can ever justify torturing an innocent. At the same time I can envisage circumstances in which someone would feel compelled to do it. I don’t believe they should be able to walk away from the moral consequences of what they did (and if they can, they shouldn’t have been allowed to be in that position). If someone is in a position where they’re navigating themselves between Scylla and Charybdis, then they’ve probably put themselves there as a matter of perceived duty, rather than finding themselves there by chance.

          • Stephanie

            Then is the only way to preserve your moral standing to refuse any position of authority that might require you to make that kind of decision? But ultimately someone has to make the decision. Is it really fair to automatically condemn anyone who takes on that responsibility?

            I don’t think there can ever be a situation where no possible course of action is justified. If you’re compelled to do something awful out of necessity, presumably you can’t justify the alternative.

          • You’re looking at morality and virtue as a single status, I think it’s far more complex than that. There’s virtue in putting yourself between the herd and the predators. That doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where protecting the many might require you to do something unthinkable. But if that choice arises, then taking it is a part of your duty. It’s possible for a course to be both honourable and dishonourable at the same time. I find myself thinking of the 47 Samurai. though it isn’t a perfect analogy as their ‘unthinkable’ was simply to go on living until they could avenge their lord.

          • Stephanie

            I mean, I think that–for example–twisting someone’s arm is a bad thing in itself, but that it can be the morally right choice depending on the context. Is that the distinction you’re drawing?

          • The use of appropriate force to defend other people from immediate threat is something I don’t have a problem with.

            But torture isn’t appropriate force. It’s outlawed under international law, it’s applied by definition to someone who is constrained, and in the scenario I sketched it’s applied to an innocent. There are scenarios where we might invoke it, but it’s still anathema.

            It’s not something we should forgive ourselves for.

          • Tsapki

            Menace, not Mayhem.

            And the woman you are asking about was referred to as Graveyard, though we have heard little else about her.

        • Eric Schissel

          Much as I want to give Pratchett whole credit (well, … that’s the wrong attitude, I know-hrm. )…

          Not treating people as only things/objects/tools, btw, as a principle of philosophy, goes _way_ back. Fairly sure it’s in Kant? and probably earlier. (Re Weatherwax in Pratchett, was that in Maskerade, Lords and Ladies or a different novel/story? Thanks…)

      • It doesn’t really matter whether you believe him or not. He made a viable case as to why exposure would be bad for him. Whether you believe he’s scared or not, if you’re playing for the good guys you have to take that chance you’re doing him harm nto account. And if you choose to ignore it you’re morally compelled to feel guilt for it.

        • Stephanie

          That’s fair. Regardless of Max’s real motives, the risk to him (however small) has to be factored into the equation. I don’t think it outweighs the thousands of lives, but it should be acknowledged and I will acknowledge it. I’m just not a fan of the Max interpretation I’ve been seeing here and there where he’s apparently lived in crippling fear of his power being exploited for his entire life, because I don’t think that interpretation is supported by the canon.

      • Olivier Faure

        I don’t think the desire to be exceptional really factored him. I’d say his main motivation was spite (you’re trying to force me to do something, so I’m not going to do it), followed by self-interest.

        • Stephanie

          I agree that he was mainly motivated by spite when he refused to boost Feral. I do think that his desire to be exceptional is part of what motivates him in general, especially with respect to how he resents not having a flashier power.

    • E S M

      We don’t really know his motivation. Allison didn’t care enough to find out.

      Max is a rich white dude libertarian. He’s someone Allison (and the audience) is predisposed not to like. I think that’s what Guwara is getting at with his “aesthetics” comment. Ethically, the fact that Max is a dick to his gardeners shouldn’t matter at all to whether or not Allison’s actions are right. But in actual fact, it’s a huge part of why Allison felt justified in doing it and why a chunk of the audience is rooting for her.

      Had Max been Maxine, a homeless 12-year-old refugee, then Allison’s actions would “feel” more wrong even if nothing actually changed.

      • Olivier Faure

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s shocking to say that most people have a “I don’t like this person, therefore it’s okay if bad things happen to them” switch. When you don’t like someone, you want to start accumulating reasons not to like them, things they do wrong or that look bad on them, so you’re “allowed” to hate them and stop respecting them as people.

        It’s a self-reinforcing bad habit.

        • Lucy

          I’ve heard this thought process called, “bitch eating crackers,” although I’m not sure if that’s popular terminology.

          • Olivier Faure

            Horrifying. I know I would be terrified of a cracker that eats bitches.

      • Cyrano111

        Which is a point a lot of people who did not support Allison in this have made – that it could only have been ok to have done it to Max if it was ok to have done it to anyone.

  • Kid Chaos

    “…he’s just kind of a dick.” 😈

    • Markus

      I actually think it’s worse than that:

      “I can’t even imagine what being him would be like. Because… because I honestly don’t believe he’s ever even thought about other people in any context other than how they relate to him. Thinking about other people is so basic for me, so fundamental… I don’t think I can lobotomize myself enough to think like him without it being permanent.”

      • masterofbones

        “Or to be more honest – this guy had something that I wanted. Deeply, desperately wanted. And I had the power to take it from him. He didn’t even have the intelligence to bow to my superiority. He was foolish enough to consider himself my equal while hurting my feelings, and keeping me from what I wanted. That is unforgivable.”

        • Merle

          Life would be so much easier if we could see our own motivations with eyes unclouded.

          • Stephanie Gertsch


          • Merle

            It’s been too long since I watched Princess Mononoke, that’s for sure.

        • 3-I

          So do you say this kind of stuff about Superman comics too?

          • Balthazar

            All the time. And people defend him too. “How could you say that about superman, he only turned evil in 2475 parallel universes give him a break.”

            Honestly it’s probably because we compare Alison to superman (the comic this one inverts and analyzes to some extent) that we even talk about Alison becoming evil (which is one reason why it likely won’t happen. This comic is way to good for a cliche like that.)

          • Eric Meyer

            Ah, but this is the interesting thing about Superman. Sure, he turned evil in those alternate universes. But do we read comics based on those versions? Are those the versions we are most interested in? NO!

            We do not look to Superman to give us examples of what we [i]would[/i] do with unlimited power, but we look to him, read about him, imagine about him and his ilk, for examples of WHERE TO DRAW THE LINE. What tenets can, and cannot be crossed before a Hero becomes a Despot.

            It is telling, I think, that those Villain Supermen are always portrayed as a force to be overcome, is it not?

          • GaryFarber

            “But do we read comics based on those versions?”

            Of course! They’re extremely popular!



            If you’d like a list of wildly popular comics about villains, we could be here all day. Have you ever heard of the SUICIDE SQUAD?

          • Eric Meyer

            Ah, but are we rooting for Superman in Injustice? Or are we rooting for the people arrayed against him?

            I’m not sure about Gods and Monsters, though- never read that one.

            And Suicide Squad is sort of the opposite- Villains doing “Heroic” deeds.

            I knew someone was going to bring up Injustice, though. It’s such a clear counterpoint to what I was saying.

          • Eric Schissel

            Just parallel universes? I’d say that (in an earlier continuity, but who can keep _track_ these days? I’ve given up on DC) Superman’s killing- executing- those three Phantom Zone inmates, back then, from what I’ve heard about it, however it may have haunted him afterwards, was a should-not-have-gone-there moment to begin with…

          • Eric Schissel

            (and heroes in general could be, tangentially, a bit more careful using the language of responsibility(this, *that) in regards people they’ve given multiple brain traumas to (by hitting them against the wall repeatedly as Standard Operating Procedure, damaging the frontal lobe and _increasing_ aggressive tendencies at the expense of reasoning) but that’s another matter…)

          • masterofbones

            I don’t read superman. I find his character off-putting.

            So I guess so?

        • bryan rasmussen

          are we talking about the t-shirt again?

      • AshlaBoga

        When you put it like that Max is more anti-social than a massive pincer wielding mass murderer.

        I guess art reflects life. Plenty of rich white folk that have less empathy than a convicted killer.

  • Weatherheight

    “But for the Grace of God, go I.”

    The state of understanding leads to compassion more often than not.
    The state of misunderstanding or disengagement, more often than not, leads to demonization.

    Connection matters (and full marks for Stephanie pointing this out many many pages ago.)

    “I don’t know…”
    “That’s not true.”

    Again, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve been on either side of that exchange…

    • AshlaBoga

      You truly are the wisest donkey in the world.

      • Weatherheight

        Heh. Not even in the top thousand.

        No, it’s true, we have a ranking board, terms of the competition, point system. If only it weren’t for the Carrot and Apple Moderation in Consumption scale, I’d be doing much better.

        ::pauses mid crunch on a carrot, shrugs, and begins crunching again::

        • Shweta Narayan

          but rankings based on moderation are biased and assume a very specific set of parameters for wisdom. How do the donkeythorities know that eating all the apples *isn’t* the path to enlightenment?

          • Weatherheight

            I acknowledge that there may be some bias in the system, as the standard is set by those with the best scores.

            On the other hand, I freely admit I have a sweet tooth and a problem with portion and impulse control.

          • Shweta Narayan

            define problem, i say, eyeing the chocolate cake

    • Zac Caslar

      Or is also said, “but for the grace of god goes someone else. Who wasn’t graced. Because god.”

      • Weatherheight

        If the use of the phrase “the grace of God” offends you, you can replace it with “the whim of the universe” or “the winds of fortune.” I’m okay with that, too. 😀

        • Zac Caslar

          No, I’m… TRIGGGERED!!!!11!!!!111!!!!
          @[email protected]:disqus

          Anyway, nah. Thought I’d just remind everyone how this phrase which appears compassionate is actually meaningless as if you really believe that God is why Them and not You then you have to end up understanding that it wasn’t Mercy that spared you.

          The same god that made you made them and decided it was their turn to suffer for some greater divine benefit. You’re just another cog who’s turn hasn’t come this time.

          But you get that. I’m just bringing it up for everyone else.

    • telk

      “The only difference between saints and sinners is that every saint has a past while every sinner has a future.”

      -Oscar Wilde

    • Evan Kahn

      I think “understanding” and “misunderstanding” are symptoms, not actual causes. The wind does not blow because the trees bend (though most of the time trees do bend when the wind blows). Understanding only leads to compassion when the fear beneath is ameliorated by the understanding. Misunderstanding does not lead to demonization if there’s no fear beneath it (it just leads to confusion). It’s the fear. Fear leads to anger and lashing out; fear leads to abuse and bullying; fear leads to treating others as objects and aliens and animals (as a way of perceived self-defense brought on by the fear). And it’s not even single generational. Fear is a learned behavior. A previous generation may have had fear, and that fear is handed down as actions against what was feared (even if that fear is no longer relevant to the current generation). It’s great to understand. But the choice of what to do when ignorant is usually dominated by learned behavior and fear. One does eliminate one’s fear, or one does not. That’s where your “understanding” comes in, but you can’t force someone to learn — and then understand — unless you can address what’s stopping them from learning. The other driving force of Man is greed (and I think sex is at the core of greed in a lot of ways, particularly at its most primitive, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). Greed and fear are at the core of our ills: “I want what he has.” “I’m afraid of him.” “Let’s kill him and take his stuff; kill two birds with one stone.” So, address the fear, or people who are afraid can’t understand or learn. And that’s a long, hard road, because ignorance has been made to be a strength these days, clung to and fought over like gold. And there’s that tricky greed again.

      So here, she obviously has no reason to fear Cleaver — he can’t truly hurt her, and she understands how he might feel on some level. But what’s blocking her from understanding Max? I’d say fear, fear of something. Fear of empathizing with him, maybe, and what that might signify for her.

      • Shweta Narayan

        Sounds to me like fear of becoming too much like him by understanding him enough to empathize?

        But I’d say there’s another thing that gets in the way of understanding: actual danger. For example. There are people who think that people as sick as me are inherently worthless and should die rather than taking up resources that they see as scarce (even if the scarcity is artificially imposed). Now, it is dangerous for me to spend too many of my limited cognitive resources trying to understand and empathize with them, because it actively makes me sicker if I exhaust/upset myself, but also because it’s actually super easy to think their way. I’ve been taught to all my life.

        So yeah, there’s fear there, sure, but it’s like fear of fire or fast-moving traffic; it’s functional.

  • Manuel Simone

    On short, Cleaver is a VICTIM who never know any other kind of life (not that I agree with him killing so many innocent people, but at least we know that he could’ve been a different person if he’d lived in a different environment (from the last dialogue with Alison, he proved that he didn’t lost his humanity completely, despite everything he still has a shine of goodness in him) while Max is a rich asshole who only cares about himself (maybe his family too) and nobody else so I really don’t what happened/ will happen to him further and Alison should not care what she did to him too

    • J4n1

      And Max is not a victim?

      Everyone is, to an extent, a victim of circumstance, different life, different parents, different powers, reading Tolkien instead of Rand, no telling what Max could have been.

      Max is agraid for his life, and for a good reason (as Alison helpfully demonstrated within the same day she learned of his powers).

      • Stephanie

        I think Max made it clear that his refusal to help was motivated primarily by spite, rather than fear. The risk to himself was neither the first reason he gave (his initial instinct), nor the last (his moment of candor). His immediate reaction was just to say “no, I don’t feel like it”, and at the end he admitted that he would refuse even if he wanted to do it, just to spite Alison. The risk to himself was an afterthought–Max refused to help more because “fuck you, Alison” than anything else.

        Having said that, I agree with you that Max was molded by his circumstances just as much as Cleaver was.

        • J4n1

          “I think Max made it clear that his refusal to help was motivated primarily by spite”
          Well, i did not come to the same conclusion.

      • Manuel Simone

        Max can be a victim only if his parents were abusive or ignored him completely. Otherwise, as long as he was raised with everything he ever wanted and having people trying to please him all the time, I find it impossible to call him a victim. If authors want to make us feel sorry for Max, then they have to show us or tell us something from his childhood so we can understand his reasons for being an asshole better, as they did with Cleaver.

        • cphoenix

          Being raised with everything you ever want and people trying to please you all the time is VERY VERY bad parenting. It’s appropriate for infants, but not after the age of maybe 1 or 2. It’s a level of bad that could easily account for all sorts of twisted behavior.

          • Moonbeam_Song

            Still, though, at a certain point a young adult begins the transition to taking responsibility for their own actions and choices, or just goes through life constantly blaming their parents, genetics, or circumstances without assuming any real agency for their own life.

            Alison, it seems to me, is trying to take responsibility for who she is and what actions she takes.

            I just don’t see that same kind of effort on Max’s part. He’s perfectly happy to *just not care* because he’s been sheltered from most of the negative consequences in life due to his varying privileges. What Alison did to him may be the first significant consequence he’s had to deal with in a very long time, perhaps ever. He may hate her now, but a few years from now? This may be the shock to his system he needs to re-evaluate himself and his choices, breaking him out of the very safe, very privileged bubble he’s been encased in.

            Cleaver, also, in a slower way, in a stumbling way, seems to be making an effort. And he’s always had a lot less privilege, and a lot more stumbling blocks, than Max has had. I think a certain amount of credit has to be given there, credit that I just don’t think Max has earned.

          • Arkone Axon

            …Why do I have this vision of a horribly abusive parent telling their crying child, “you’ll thank me for this someday?”

          • Moonbeam_Song

            Yikes! That certainly is a more extreme extrapolation. I suppose I’m thinking of these superhero interactions more metaphorically, though, rather than thinking real people have these actual superpowers, which of course would be frightening beyond belief. And this is really a peer interaction in the comic, rather than parent-child. But your point is a good one to keep in mind.

            The roommates who call you on your BS and kick you out of the apartment during a party that includes lots of mutual friends — they may really hurt your feelings, and sever some friendships — but the events may set you on a path of thinking about things in a way you normally wouldn’t have. It’s often the dramatic shock to our system that jolts us out of complacency and habitual thinking, however that drama happens.

            So where I’m coming from is, it’s often the most intense drama we go through, especially when in our teens and 20s, that seems *the worst thing ever* caused by *the worst people ever* when we are right there in the moment of the occurrence… but those interactions can spin us in a direction that months or years later we can look back and think “actually, what I ended up learning from that, what I ended up changing from that, was worth it”.

            It’s getting pushed “outside of your comfort zone” where much of the more important personal growth happens. And that’s more along the lines of what I was thinking, especially since Alison and Max don’t have a parent/child relationship but rather a peer-peer one.

          • Arkone Axon

            The problem there is that Alison didn’t do this for Max’ own good. She did it to save lives… specifically, one life. Because it was all about Feral; she had already made it clear she would have stopped Feral if she could have. Saving all those others was just the icing on the cake.

            But yes, this could be a transformative experience… remember that guy Rat that Alison trapped in a dumpster just to be mean? Imagine him coming back as one of Max’ new friends, with the power to exude toxic gas that drop Alison cold. This could be the moment Max looks back upon as “the moment I decided to stop living in fear of my powers being used by others, and using them for myself.”

          • Moonbeam_Song

            It doesn’t have to be done for your benefit in order to make you think about your actions, your personality, your behavior, though.

            And sure, it could push Max the other way — but that would still be on him, not her. He’s already been living an extremely selfish, callous life, despite all of his advantages.

            Ultimately, the only thing we can control in life is our own responses to whatever happens around us. Max has consistently made negative, selfish choices and displayed a negative, selfish attitude. Whatever his upbringing, he’s an adult now, and what he does with his power, with his life, is ultimately on him.

    • Tylikcat

      I have to agree that calling one a victim and the other not seems pretty arbitrary to me. On another board, recently, I was somewhat wryly pointing out that according to whole genres of fiction, my career choices ought to have been drug addict and/or prostitute… or serial killer! (Sometimes I wish we could issue citations for and suspensions from writing about traumatic childhoods. And possibly bar people from reading pop psychology at the same time. *shudder*)* …then again, alas, my poor slugs.

      I am not convinced that being raised in a hot house is not more detrimental to one’s ability to get on in any useful way, and I mean this fairly broadly.

      * Yes, actually am a pretty strong supporter of civil liberties, so not really. Still, “This is notice that you fucked up and are being mocked,” would, uh, amuse me.

      • Weatherheight

        And in a few cases, that *is* the kick in the pants needed for someone to straighten up and fly right.
        Sadly, only in a very few cases. Most of the time criticism (as opposed to criticalness) is greeted with defensiveness – it’s a natural thing.

        • Tylikcat

          I’m mostly trying to be somewhat noisy in social media spaces, as opposed to singling about particular authors. (Though I get snappish at posters sometimes.)

          I’ve noticed that gradual propagation of ideas via that sort of method actually can work pretty well – you just have to make a case that people understand.

          • Weatherheight

            Internal consistency, consistency in presentation, and a degree of eloquence is also helpful. Skill in tailoring the message to the audience without being condescending…

            Yeesh, this could go on and on, couldn’t it?

      • AshlaBoga

        I don’t get the “my poor slugs” is there context I’m missing?

        • Tylikcat

          My research as a neurobiologist currently involves sea slugs. So if I am a serial killer in any context, it would be that. I’ve also done – and will soon be trying to publish – a lot of work in creating ecologically diverse habits so they can live longer, healthier lives in captivity, and so that there time in captivity doesn’t change their neural activity. Still, my hands are soaked with hemolymph…

    • Olivier Faure

      Why does the “victim” thing even matter?

      When you consider people and how their past influenced their harmful actions, you should do it as a productive exercise to try to understand why they’re hurting people and how to get them to, well, be better.

      Saying “he’s a rich asshole, so he has it coming” is not productive; you say that about someone when you want to justify to yourself that hurting this person is okay, to categorize them as the “other”, as someone not worth respecting.

      It’s the same logic that has anti-muslims say “Well they hate jews and their religion is sexist and violent, so they have it coming” or leftists say “Well they advocate hatred, so we must shame them into stopping”.

  • Giacomo Bandini

    Look.. it’s a beautiful page, that’s true. But is completly wrong, for several reasons.

    In first place, while Alison is intersted in the human side of Cleaver, she has taken no chance in the pratical plane of actions. She defeated him and helped imprisoning him. She is not letting him free just because they are becoming friends: as she said, she has forgiven the horrible things he didi to her, not the things he did to the world.

    And secondly, let’s remeber that SHE DID NOT TRY TO KNOW HIM AT ALL. It was Patrick that explained his reasons to her, that let her see the suffering boy in the monster. Without his intervention, there would be no Patrick, only Cleaver.

    So.. no. In the heat of the moment, with innocent lives on the balance, she has reacted to Daniel and Max in a different way. She fighted…. “the only thing is she good at”, as she says.

    • Timothy McLean

      It’s not that Alison is risking Cleaver’s security, or even that she made the first step towards understanding him, but that she keeps walking that path. She keeps trying to understand him. But Max? She didn’t even bother. She saw that he was a dick and didn’t really care why.

      • Micah Matheson

        And when he opened up to her, she not only belittled him for his disappointment, she did exactly the thing he was terrified of happening to him because of his powers. He stated he’d hidden his powers because he’d be used for them, and a few pages later she’s forcing him to use his powers. If Max doesn’t have serious PTSD after this I’ll be… well, I’d normally be shocked, but this is SFP we’re talking about.

        • Tylikcat

          …or, y’know, you could read the literature about resiliency, and find out about the differential rates of people actually getting PTSD after various kind of trauma. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Max seems like a goober, but generalizing like this is awful.

          (See my comments about my putative career as a serial killer… or drug addicted prostitute, for that matter.)

          • Micah Matheson

            I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand what you’re trying to say. What am I generalizing? And why is it awful?

          • Tylikcat

            Trauma and PTSD as exists in reality isn’t quite the same as Trauma and PTSD as portrayed in fiction. I have personal experience with both (though, my ptsd was, ah, less melodramatic than what you might expect from popular fiction, and there was an awful lot less of it, as well, considering the amount and duration of trauma.) I know I am not the only person on the board who has.

            These things make excellent plot devices, so they get used a lot. And mis-used even more. I, at least, get really tired of a lot of the fictional tropes. I also read at least a little of the clinical literature (psychology isn’t that close to neurobiology, but we’re still in vaguely related fields, and it’s a matter of personal interest.)

            a) A lot of people come through trauma without any major effects. Two people will have pretty much identical experiences, one will be flattened, the other will bounce back and go on. The key word if you want to search the clinical literature is resilience. There’s a ton of research. It’s pretty interesting.

            b) “Serious PTSD”. Okay part of me is all “From just that? Seriously?” But we know I’m a bitch. But unless Max has other risk factors, it seems unlikely? Seriously PTSD showing up as a serious and recurring thing (I’m probably not using the terminology right, I’m drawing from a conversation with a psychiatrist from when we were seatmates in the middle of the night recently) is far more likely not to be from a single event but to occur in people who already had a history of abuse or trauma.

            c) And while we’re at it, just because I feel like ranting (because I’m at home working on papers, and need to blow off steam)… maybe just think about assumptions of weakness and strength. There’s a cultural model wherein the only way to be strong is to avoid serious trauma. Once you’re been traumatized, well, now you’re broken. And you have PTSD, and are scarred for life. Or whatever. Have you ever thought about that? I mean, it’s the kind of model that doesn’t hold up to even cursory inspection.

            I think life is complicated. Sometimes stress and trauma hurts us, and sometimes we put ourselves back together and end up stronger. Sometimes we discovered we were stronger than we ever knew – and sometimes we shatter. There’s no single answer, and there’s no end short of death.

          • Weatherheight

            PTSD, as I understand it, is a chronic condition with acute episodes. It is usually remarkably resistant to desensitization techniques that work well with other forms of anxiety-based disorders. As far as I know, history of abuse or trauma isn’t a predisposing factor in and of itself but may be linked to the extremity of the acute episodes (caveat: I’m about 15 years out of date – this may have changed since we’ve so many more patients to study due to many significant regional conflicts).

            Every one of your points is spot on – what astonishes me is how often most people have to go through things that reasonably should be shattering and don’t. Much of the definition comes from the exceptions, rather than the norms (a significant problem of psychology – it focuses on defining dysfunction far more than than understanding why dysfunction isn’t more common).

            Coping mechanisms are also a big part of this discussion – the vast majority of people learn coping mechanisms that work reliably, if sometimes imperfectly. I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that catastrophic personality or cognitive failure is a result of encountering a situation to which our coping mechanisms cannot react/respond or a situation whereby the sum total of coping strategies required exceeds available mechanisms.

            And given I’ve known around 10 people whose schizophrenia was adult-onset and rendered them qualified to be 100% disabled, I wonder if sometimes PTSD is diagnosed when another diagnosis might have been more accurate.

            Life is rough, and it keeps on coming at you.

          • Tylikcat

            There is some really cool new research coming out, both in the psychology literature proper – which I follow extremely casually – but also increasingly crossing over into the neuroscience literature as such, which is more likely to wander in front of my face. A lot of it has to do with the impermanent and rewritable nature of memory, and ways in which trauma can be toned down during the therapy process. Some of it I’ve actually read, some of it I’ve only heard about.

            My experience also was that time substantially cut into the intensity. But… I’m also always a little careful not to state my experience as being typical. I process data unusually (this is not a complaint, I like my funny brain just fine), and combine that with having had a meditative practice since I was five (seriously, I despair at the weird kid I was…) and I kind of think I might have in effect taught myself something like some of the therapeutic techniques that are being used these days.

            …which worked great for everything, except sleeping! Sleeping took me for ever. I have no natural talent for sleep, but assiduous practice and attention to sleep hygiene and I … don’t suck too bad at it. I can share hotel rooms with lab mates. I can sometimes even sleep in airports (though woe unto anyone who tries to, like touch me or anything. I mean, usually a non issue because I’ll be awake before they get that close. Ew. Gods, just the thought gives me the willies.)

          • Weatherheight

            Yeah, I have a twitchy martial arts friend who sounds similar – he once threw a mutual friend down a flight of stairs because that mutual friend decided to be funny and “cat-jumped” him.

            The martial-arts friend was good enough that he quickly realized his response was excessive and adjusted the throw to try to redirect the landing (for the most part, successfully – just a bruise or two to the idiot).

            Another one was grabbed from behind and similarly started a throw meant to harm and turned it into a relatively soft landing. I saw that one and I learned that lesson the easy way – horseplay is fine, but, seriously, let the martial artist know it’s coming.

          • Tylikcat

            See, I’m super mellow unless someone really startles the holy hell out of me… or I’m asleep. And if I’m asleep, and you wake me up that way, I’m going to be super cranky and on a ton of adrenaline, so… yeah, just don’t do that. (I do wake thoroughly and quickly, so if I don’t hurt you in the first second or so, I’ll just be super cranky and decide you’re a horrible person and I never want to sleep without a door that locks between us again. More to the point, I won’t be able to. Sleeping is hard. People are awful.)

            Occasionally I wish I were more twitchy, so when someone pulled shit I accidentally hurt them as opposed to giving them a measured and appropriate response, because damn, some people are really assholes. If you come up behind a martial artist at a social event and try to wrap your arm around their neck as a “joke”? Unfriendly throws, pointy bits into soft bits, eye rakes, stomps, assault charges – they’re all on the table.

          • “If you come up behind a martial artist at a social event and try to wrap
            your arm around their neck as a “joke”? Unfriendly throws, pointy bits
            into soft bits, eye rakes, stomps, assault charges – they’re all on the

            And not just the martial artists! BTDT, and crutches make a passable polearm 😉

        • Olivier Faure

          Yeah, I think that’s overlooked way too often.

          I’m pegging Max as a character who loves his independence, and has a strong visceral reaction against people trying to control him. “How about this: you don’t tell me what to do. Ever.” He’s told that to Allison, who proceeded to completely and repeatedly ignore the boundaries he was trying to set, hence why he refused to help her. “For once, you [aren’t] going to get your fucking way”. Personally, I can strongly empathize with that, because boundary setting and personal respect are very important to me.

          But I think that, for Allison and SFP’s audience, Max being hurt by Allison’s pushiness is way less photogenic as a “tragic backstory” than Cleaver “no one loves me because I look like a monster”.

          • Tylikcat

            Just two points here:

            1) Have you noticed how many times someone has brought up the possibility that Max might have PTSD? It’s been a bunch. Even though I am not the only person who has pointed out that the pretty white getting a disproportionate amount of this kind of response is kind of fucked up. (In fact, that hasn’t generally been my argument, but others have brought those up.) It has come up over and over again.

            I’m trying to remember if it’s been brought up as such with Daniel at all. (That he’s had a traumatic background, certainly. It’s the PTSD connection that isn’t pinging right off, from memory, but also, only a cursory search.) So, um, I really do wonder about photogenics. I think there’s an assumption that Daniel, having come from a tough background, is tough. This shows up a lot – there is an assumption that upper class white kids will get PTSD, and poor kids of color will not, because they’re used to crap. It is not supported by evidence. Max may be a fragile little flower – but that doesn’t mean Daniel is any less so.

            (oops, early post, still editing)


          • Lostman

            What I find more interesting is we’re willing to let mass murderers a pass,but a commutators hate Max with a passion.

          • Tylikcat

            Is anyone saying “Hey, we should let Daniel out!” or “Hey, let’s lock Max up!” Likability and culpability are different axes.

            There has been some discussion about actions against Alison, I suppose…

          • Lostman

            Let me rephrase that: we empathize more with Daniel then we do Max.

          • Weatherheight

            Heh. I can say without qualification that Daniel’s rage and desire to lash out is far more understandable from my point of view than is Max’s cowardice and self-centeredness.

            I’m not sure that’s better, but there it is…

          • Olivier Faure

            > If Max is someone who values his independence… you sure wouldn’t know it from his lifestyle, now, would you?

            Well, he was (probably) living alone in an apartment before it burned down, even though his family owns a giant fucking palace; I’d say he’s pretty consistent.

            As for the PTSD thing, no, I don’t think Max has it. Given he’s basically never been exposed to violence in his life, he’s extremely unlikely to have PTSD. My point was we’ve seen that Max has knee-jerk reactions when someone tries to control him, that probably lead him to irrational behavior.

            And it’s like… tons of people have emotional reactions to particular subjects, that lead them to suboptimal decisions. I blew off at a colleague a few days ago because I felt he wasn’t respecting me, even though my reaction was counter-productive. It’s nothing like PTSD or anxiety crises, and it’s not superhero-level tragic. But because it’s not tragic in a way that can be leveraged and put in people’s face, they tend to ignore it. When Max is absolutely furious because Allison is denying his agency as a human being, people see it as him be entitled and spoiled, because him being furious cannot be linked to an easy-to-sympathize-with childhood trauma.

          • Tylikcat

            The apartment that burnt wasn’t his, it was a friend’s. (per Max.)

            I feel like the narrative set up, as presented, was great – we didn’t know why Alison was asking Max to do a thing, we just saw the end of her ask, Max refuse, Alison lose her shit… and a beautifully scary scene of Max’s coercion. I mostly note this on artistic and storytelling merits – the set up was pretty close to flawless, to show every downside to Alison’s actions, considering that Max was already not the most sympathetic character.

            (I’m not sure that Max’s bit is knee jerk reactions whenever anyone tries to control him, or if it is specific to the relationship he wants from Alison, but that hardly seems to matter – we don’t have enough information.)

            I can’t say I’ve seen much that I’d call likable about Max. I think he had a right to refuse Alison’s request,* though I would think poorly of him for doing so (even as I understood it a bit more coming from Alison). Honestly, that part doesn’t interest me nearly as much – the first interesting thing Max did was get coerced by Alison. Up until that point, he was kind of unlikable, but boringly so. Like, there are a bazillion equally vaguely but not interestingly unlikable people out there. So… this still ends up being more about Alison doing something interesting than Max. (The point was that Max refused, for whatever reason, and Alison didn’t respect that.)

            * Mm. FWIW, in a similar position, I would consider myself to have a personal obligation to assist, but not a personal obligation for other people to require me to assist. Which is splitting a fine hair… but, heh, independence is one of my values, and I have lived by it.

          • Zac Caslar

            I get that distinction. I live by it.

            I’ll help you when I can for my reasons, but if you decide to command me you’d better have a strong damn case to make. If I’m in your command structure, you have your reasons. If I’m your employee, you have a lot of authority.

            But here we end up retreading the issues of scope again. If I’m being an ass about holding a door open that’s one thing. If it’s the lives of THOUSANDS that’s something else entirely.

          • Tylikcat

            Oh, yeah – and I’ll demonstrably do stupid things that put my own life and/or future in danger because I think someone is trying to manipulate me in a way I don’t like.* If it’s someone else’s life, health or future, I mostly shut up and deal, and then possible have serious words (or whatever) later on. Or, I suppose, get mouthy and insulting beforehands. And stop talking to people later. (Why yes, my family again.)

            * Really well documented history. I don’t pretend it isn’t sometimes stupid, and I’ve mellowed out a lot (yeah, that would be part of the other side of my colorful teen years.) I… try not to be too knee jerk about it.

          • Very good point. I do think what happened is likely to be fairly damaging to Max, but there’s a big difference between that and PTSD. And what happened to Daniel is pretty horrifying, but it’s muted by our having to work our way past having first known him as Cleaver, the thug who managed to hurt Allison.

      • Giacomo Bandini

        as you said, “she keeps walking that path”. The path that someone else pointed to her. First it was her doctor, who told her that Cleaver is dying of cancer, then came Patrick who explained to her his tragic past in details. If Patrick had done the same for Max, i’m sure she would have empatized with him.

  • Pol Subanajouy

    As ever I give SFP credit for lingering on points that would be mere niceties to more careless writers. Cleavers story might not have been a bog standard redemption arc, but if they decided to enact that narrative I can see them doing so haltingly and perhaps willing to fail with it. To acknowledge constantly that it wouldn’t work that way. Because that’s how a super villain would work in real life.

    And on Al’s end to acknowledge that she also had the rage to hypothetically go to a kkk rally with an i beam (I think that’s what she said) makes her a disobedient superhero, and not just disobedience to the patriarchy. To the concept of superhero. Because that’s how a superhero would work in real life.

    • Timothy McLean

      Well, some would. Some would uphold the standard, some would try and fail, some would take some aspects to heart while ignoring others, some would act the superhero for their own reasons…
      I can’t help but think of Shadow Stalker, Miss Militia, Glory Girl, Clockblocker, Armsmaster, and so on when considering these possibilities.

      • Pol Subanajouy

        That’s absolutely fair. I shudder at the thought of myself in the role of superhero. I’d mess it many times worse than Peter Parker, but with none of the charm I’d imagine.

        P.S. I admit I’m not familiar with many of the heroes you named and the Worm-verse. Will have to give it a read.

        • Timothy McLean

          Oh, you’re reading Worm? Glad to hear it. It’s a long read, but a good one. (It starts up a bit slow, but once the action gets going it’s hard to put down.)

          Bwa-ha-ha. My ulterior motive has been revealed, and my secret plan has succeeded.

    • Weatherheight

      I have this sneaking feeling Daniel has already started towards personal redemption, but I also have a sneaking feeling that public redemption won’t happen before he dies.

      More pathos and tragic that way. 😀

      • Pol Subanajouy

        Honestly, were I in the SFP universe, I don’t know if I’d be among the public who would accept Daniels supposed, hypothetical reform. Nothing about him biodynamic, but isn’t his criminal past particularly brutal, bloody and lengthy? I’d try to believe in his reform, but man, a serial killer’s reputation like that isn’t exactly weightless. It’d certainly be a challenge for me, at least.

        • Weatherheight

          I’m with you there – the scope of his offenses would be difficult for me to scale out on the other side by forgiveness. I might, maybe, possibly, be willing to forgive him personally, but even if his redemption were unimpeachable, he still has a debt to society at large and (IMHO) a debt of justice to the loved ones of his victims to balance.

          The risk he represents is just so large on so many levels. Which, given my personal philosophy about second chances, really sucks and makes me feel small when I run into this kind of situation.

          • Pol Subanajouy

            Yeah. To be fair, there’s a certain membrane of practicality you could rest behind. Past performance isn’t a true predictor of future outcomes, but saaaaaaay if Charles Manson were released and he said he’s sorry for everything he’s done and wanted to become a pre-school teacher, I’m sorry but I couldn’t be on board with that.

            And you might say, that’s a hyperbolic example, that’s the thing about super villains and heroes. It’s all hyperbolic. And in fact, that’s the central experiment of this entire web comic narrative: all the hyperbolic trappings of the capes/tight genre enclosing some very vulnerable, real people.

          • danima

            I think that there’s an aspect of collective accountability here that makes Cleaver’s case more complicated than, “troubled youth turned sociopath with unforgivable debts.” The world of SFP reacted to the emergence of biodynamics by inflicting violence on itself: the massacre of the world-savers, conscripting teenagers to be human weapons, turning those young soldiers back against their own societies, and so on. This is a whole system of damage that isn’t going to be repaid or deterred by ruthlessly smashing the people who ended up being its end tools.

            The SFP world needs a restorative justice program. No, Daniel doesn’t deserve to walk away from his past, but if he were to tell his truth and ask for forgiveness as part of a greater movement towards reconciliation, well, his crimes are small potatoes relative to the histories ordinary humans have brought with them into restorative justice in our own world.

          • Weatherheight

            One of the things I really admire about South Africa (along with several other nations, but South Africa is the one that rings most true for me) is their response to the horrors of their history – “Let’s get it out in the open and give anyone who wants to speak their story a chance to do so. Both sides. ”

            The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, even taking into account some of its abuses and missteps, still managed to do something I would have thought impossible – they have managed, somehow, to influence South Africans away from the massive bloodshed that I, in my cynicism, would have expected.

          • Tylikcat

            Looking at him as a child soldier rings really true. He bears the added weight of both his cancer and his lethality… in so many ways he is kind of the shadow version of Alison.

            (It’s all too easy to believe that one could write another version of things where Patrick and his crew were… oh, kind of the X-Men – the heroes that were all too often considered villains by society.)

    • Arkone Axon

      Technically, having the rage to hypothetically go to a KKK rally with an I-beam makes her HUMAN. She has the same anger against injustice as the vast majority of people. She chooses not to break the law or take it into her own hands. Technically nothing is stopping any of us from turning into a serial killer who preys on criminals (yes, I’m familiar with that show. Yes, I think it’s a stupid concept – Dexter should have been caught within a few seasons at most. He killed one guy at an ACTIVE CRIME SCENE. Cops are one of those groups always portrayed as idiots on TV…).

      We all have the anger at injustice. We all choose how we deal with that anger, how we use it. You can sit there and let it fester inside of you. You can go out and find acceptable targets to lash out violently at. Or you can find positive outlets, helping others. It’s why Superman stories tend to be about him getting into fights that have to be fitted around his preferred schedule of saving people from natural disasters or airlifting emergency supplies or talking to suicidaly depressed people. It’s also why the cheap imitations of him that have come and gone over the years (especially in the 90s… oi…) never had the same enduring appeal. It’s not that he’s the first Flying Brick (he was just one of many created back in the 30s and 40s… a lot of them ended up being owned by DC), it’s that he’s the first one to do more than just punch people.

      • Weatherheight

        And let’s face it, a comic about rescues where the rescuer really isn’t at risk in most situations and furthermore has a ridiculously good batting average at accomplishing said rescues would most likely be a real snoozer of a book. 😀

  • Kenneth Mayer

    My stepson and I were talking about how much we love SFP, and how it’s getting deeper and better, but we missed the tiny bit of humor/snark in the mouse-over title tags from back in the early days. The reader comments kinda give that too sometimes, but you have to hunt for it.

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      I do too! When they stopped is approximately when I started commenting with my own dumb snarky comments, which just might be a coincidence, or the authors realizing they could never best meh.

    • spriteless

      Those mousovers always go away when things get serious, and come back when they get lighter.

  • RDW0409

    Too relatable.

  • Tylikcat

    I wonder how much of this comes down to not entering into that discussion… I’m not sure this is the right terminology, but, in good faith?

    I’ve been thinking a bit about my earlier assertion about the points at which I will resort to violence or threats of violence. And I’m not sure how valid they are for this case. I mean, I may have faults (many, and arrogance is right up there!) but if I go into a discussion trying to convince someone of something… I commit. Part of committing is to to try understand where they’re coming from. (And part of it is being smart and what I will delicately call reasonably well versed at rhetoric. I try to use this sparingly and for good. Certainly, this has been one of the areas I have been a horrible person.)

    But resorting to violence is, well, the tableflip, right? I can not make a reasonable argument, so I will throw a temper tantrum instead, wah! Sure, Alison was in a position to throw a very effective* tantrum, but she absolutely did not convince Max, did she?** Max is not her ally. She does not have a useful and productive relationship with Max going forward.

    Was her end game about convincing Max, or just getting Max to do what she wanted by whatever means? These are pretty different things. If it was convincing Max, she was really not prepped for it. I mean, not just sleep, but maybe getting someone involved who didn’t just break up with him? Something?

    …of course, these are all things that haven’t really been part of Alison’s education. (Whereas arguing with people until they cry was totally part of my upbringing. *wince*)

    * For some values of effective. This is why I study both violence and non-violence.
    ** …I am thinking of my ex-husband, and how I kind of knew that eventually his habit of losing arguments by shouting and stomping off would turn into him hitting me. Which was remarkably stupid, but… look, it was still my husband hitting me and so many kinds of not okay. Of course, I stayed that long.

    • IE

      Those are some pretty good points, that she did kind of approach him from the least best angle for convincing him to help her.

      But, I also think she was coming off an assumption that I’ve had to root out of myself recently with a garden fork – the idea that people are basically good.

      It was the election that put that dent in my faith in humanity, and may well have killed it. Not to get too much into politics, but a common refrain after the results came in was that the ‘liberal elites’ had ‘alienated the rural communities’ by any number of slights, from mocking them to ignoring them to misunderstanding them.

      Y’know what mocking, ignoring, and misunderstanding people does? It hurts their feelings. Maybe at worst, costs them their job.

      Y’know what taking away people’s health care, putting clinics out of business, repealing gun control legislation, and refusing vetted refugees entry into a safe country does?

      It gets people killed.

      And all these people crowing about how they should have gotten more attention, about how they can’t be ignored any more – I just look at them and think about how damned petty they are. How they knowingly chose to condemn other people to death because they didn’t get enough attention, and then they want to call *me* a special snowflake.

      Before the election, I was pretty convinced that most people were big enough to look at the larger picture and make a choice that would be best for the most people. Instead, a quarter of the population chose to put a bull in the china shop, a quarter showed up to support the cat (she’ll break some things yeah but at least they will be fixable!) and fifty percent literally couldn’t be arsed.

      To roll this back around to the comic, Allison pretty much made the same mistake I did. She started with the basic assumption that everyone would try to do the right thing even if the right thing came from a source they weren’t personally fond of. The real lesson is that some people are alright, some people are completely apathetic, and some people are petty, spiteful, ignorant a**holes who don’t give a damn about anyone except themselves and once they’re convinced that you’ve ‘wronged’ them somehow, no reasonable argument in the world is going to convince them to be decent. Flip a coin, roll the dice, you never know what you’re going to get.

      • Tylikcat

        I guess the problem I see here is that when you trust that people are going to do the right thing, there’s usually an implicit assumption that you guys share enough of a worldview that there’s some kind of shared obvious “right” between you. If you want to convince someone of something, you need to figure out where they’re coming from, so you can start from that. I mean, that’s pretty basic, but it’s also incredibly easy to miss if what you believe is right is so self evident to you.

        • Marc Forrester

          It is shocking when you first learn just how different other people’s self-evident moral goods can be. It’s not even that we have a different order of priorities, we often disagree on whether concepts are positive or negative. I see sanctity as antithetical to human dignity, others see it as vital to the same. Even when we manage peaceful co-existence, there’s deep horror on both sides that those *others* are raising innocent children to be like them.

          • Tylikcat

            *bitter, bitter laughter*

            I edited my above comment. But a side effect of my upbringing was that I grew up… thinking I was only sort of human? Which is great if you want to always remember to approach things as an anthropologist. (I grew into a much more nuanced understanding, even before I was old enough to vote. Still, useful skills.) I have totally the wrong sort of emotional makeup to be a sociopath, something I am profoundly grateful for. Still, we share certain skillsets, something I have deeply mixed feelings about. Oh, my family.

            …wrt sanctity, I should put some thought on what to do with the next batch of JW’s. I mostly have been up for talking to them if I had time, on the grounds that if they were coming to a zendo, wanting to talk about religion then they clearly really wanted to hear what I had to say. But I have less time at the moment, and the last couple of groups have kind of lost their shit and gotten much more verbally aggressive. And while part of me giggles, and considers it pretty much a “I have lost this argument” tableflip on their part… it’s also not okay. Especially since coming to the zendo at all is more than a little dubious, really.

          • Marc Forrester

            Ha. Well, naturally they don’t care what you have to say except insofar as it might reveal psychological cracks into which guilt and fear might be hammered. AFAIK they can only be rescued while young and isolated from the pack, by a careful introduction to classic science fiction.

          • Tylikcat

            Well, this last be, they’ve been coming here, and asking if I was interesting in knowing about an end of suffering. Let me restate that. They came to a Buddhist meditation hall (where I happen to live) and asked about an end to suffering. How could I possibly resist?

            …but no one comes to my home and gets to be a bully. (Nor do they come here to start an unsolicited discussion of religion and ever get to have control of that discussion back, but that’s, ah, let’s call it a natural law.) Shouting taunts over their shoulders as their beat a retreat is just poor sportsmanship.

          • palmvos

            “They came to a Buddhist meditation hall (where I happen to live) and asked about an end to suffering.”…
            I once tried to debate the necessity of understanding other religions with an old preacher who just wanted to do low grade evangelism…. I wish i’d have had that example… would have flown over his head completely but still would have been fun.

          • Ouch, overmatched and pwned and showing it!

            And part of the problem may be starting with such arrogant confidence in their position they’re willing to walk into someone else’s church (or close equivalent) and tell them they’re wrong. It’s almost infantilizing the value of anyone outgroup’s belief.

            And that brings us back to Max, and other people not counting…

        • Shweta Narayan

          I also suspect that what Max would consider a compelling argument, Allison would consider cruelty or emotional abuse.

          Like she’d have to make his vulnerability, and the extent to which he was dependent on her keeping his secret, incredibly front and center, because *that* is the one thing she could have offered him, I think. Her silence.

          And if he’s consistent in his world view (granted, he’s not), she’d be 100% justified in selling him to the highest bidder, if she so ~chose~, and her silence would be a valid bargaining chip.

          But that position is just *so* antithetical to her way of thinking that I think, to her, thinking like him would lead to actions that were worse than physically forcing him. So she balked while semi-conscious of it.

          • Tylikcat

            Mm, I’m kind of working on the model that we both lack information and missed the rapport building step with Max. So we tend to think of hard hitting answers, because we don’t know what other answers might exist. I mean, I totally understand why Alison flipped out and told Max he was a spoiled brat – but damn, that is not how you convince anyone to do anything. That’s where her own preconceptions (and annoyance, and lack of sleep) tripped her up.

            So… I don’t have an answer, but I’m increasingly convinced that’s in fairly large part because the conversation that could have generated that answer never happened. Considering how willing Max was to talk about his life, though… well, it seems like a missed opportunity. It may or may not have changed the perception of him as an asshole – but it might have changed the outcome, which is really good enough for me.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Turning this over in my mind. My knee-jerk response is to disagree (or to say, maybe in this comic but often not in real life) but that may well just be defensiveness?

            I do agree we lack crucial information; without knowing *why* he hit on Al in the first place knowing that she had the powers he wanted, and what he wanted from her, we don’t know him at all. All we know is what a 20 year old *thinks* / has decided his motivations are, and, heh. I’ve been one of those. & dated more than one of those.

            But. My feeling atm is that people like Max feel so entitled to getting
            everything for nothing that there is no possibility of rapport building
            without ceding that. & then dealing w absolutely ludicrous demands
            in order to get any help at all; you wouldn’t gain an ally, you’d gain an extortionist. I’d find it hard to believe in Max as a character who doesn’t have that as a fundamental part of his worldview, since it’s been shown pretty much every moment he’s been on screen.

          • Tylikcat

            Hey, based on what we’ve seen from Max, I am pretty dubious, I’ll admit

            But I don’t have to make a decision based on that. And (were I in Al’s shoes) I wouldn’t be trying to actually be his friend, but to understand what was going on with him well enough to figure out how to negotiate this effectively. His pity party was annoying as fuck… but he was, for whatever reason, opening up, and willingly handing over information. Alison did herself no favors by table flipping on him if negotiation was something she valued at all.

            (BTW, just to be clear, when I talk about negotiation, I am not necessarily talking about being nice. When I was a woman in tech, I usually found it to my advantage if people were just a little bit afraid of me, so that when I was nice – which, honestly, I generally preferred – everyone appreciated it and was grateful rather than seeing it as a sign of weakness they could take advantage of. Being nice is just another tool, and you have to know when it’s useful and when to pick up a different one. But… negotiation still isn’t table flipping.)

            Kind of at a tangent to this, having been thinking about the ways in which Daniel is kind of a shadow of Alison, I wonder if it’s worth thinking about the ways in which Max is, but on a different set of axes. It strikes me as kind of interesting that Max is refusing her in part just so she won’t get everything her own way all the time… (and I think about Alison as she was on her soccer team. And the Alison who pretty much ignored and steamrolled over Mary.)

          • Shweta Narayan

            Yeah, and focusing back on Al, she seems to only have two tools in her kit at this point: earnest explanation based on what she sees as good faith (which means, on her terms) and table flipping.

            This is a serious limitation, but it’s not an ethical limitation so much as a cognitive/skillset limitation that leads to ethical issues.

            To get past that she needs to be able to assume that a person can have a totally different perspective, without assuming this means they’re impossible to negotiate with or understand or deal with without violence. So I’m very much with Gurwara on this.

            But I think even if she’d had the tools, and used the opening he gave her, and came to some sort of rapport, she would *still* have to make it clear she had the power to destroy him and was *choosing* not to use it, to rein him in; because he would go right back to trying to call all the shots otherwise. Given what we’ve seen of how he’s interacted with her so far.

          • Tylikcat

            Yeah, this gets back to one of the discussions from some pages back – there was a third way (or several) that wasn’t tried. That totally doesn’t guaranteed that it would work – but a lack of guarantee of success doesn’t excuse premature tableflipping.

            And I agree that Alison did not have the skill set. I wouldn’t generally expect it of someone of her age, even considering her unusual background (not “especially considering her unusual background” – I’ve spent not a small amount of time helping twenty year olds try to construct persuasive arguments. I’m going with her background being a help more than a hindrance.)*

            * Ouch. Losing continuity with my research group is going to hurt. The last couple of years, they have helped teach each other about what is “blather” and how while it might have been great in high school, it will not fly in scientific writing. 😭 That peer environment has been wonderful.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Totally agree, insofar as I have the knowledge! I’ve taught 20 year olds too, and at least of them (at a top tier university), it’s hard from their writing level to even tell if they understand material. *Not* counting the non-native speakers.

            IDK why Al’s background would help, though? Since it’s involved a lot more punching problems than arguing with them; but I really lack the context to know either way wrt

            But wow I wish blather didn’t fly in (social) scientific writing 😀 I’ve haven’t published many papers (washed out of grad school when my adrenal glands stopped working whee) but one of the few I did was a response that went basically “maybe you should have checked w someone who actually knew this framework before concluding in writing that it can’t handle X, because it can and does and all you’ve shown is that you have no idea what you’re makin claims about” and this is not unusual…

          • Tylikcat

            One of the thing I’ve run into with a lot of students* is that they run into this deer in the headlights thing when dealing with new problems. I’ve gotten pretty good and getting my research students through it – but then, that’s a competitive position, and I only take the best. (Honestly, teaching students to work creatively in a lab setting is pretty much the most fun I have. Most of them, once I make it clear that no, really, that’s what I want from them, take to it pretty quickly. And then I have more mouthy proteges giving me shit all the time 🙂 )

            I would expect that Al’s experiences have left her less likely to freeze, and more likely to be assured that she can take useful action. Sure, her palette of habituated actions isn’t that great, but she’s doing something.

            …I might be over interpreting from my own experiences. I think I am assuming here that learning is easy, but the willingness to act, and take chances, is fairly rare. The latter is, from my experience, sadly true. (Or, at least, there are categories of chances that the people who would be most able to take advantage of them seldom take. And often, it seems, instead whine to me about.) The former… If it’s not a population I’ve taught, I guess I wouldn’t trust myself to model learning in people. (I tend to like immersive seat of the pants learning.)

            * And there is a bit of a generational difference here – kids in the eighties tended to be on our own a lot more earlier, which taught a lot more independence.

          • Shweta Narayan

            I agree Al’s much less likely to freeze, but when negotiating with someone a moment of freezing is a better response than saying the exact wrong thing. It’s more recoverable. On the other hand, she didn’t just freeze up *after* what she did, entirely, she’s working on it. So maybe 🙂

            But I’d say in this kinda matter, unlearning is much harder than learning, and she’s going to have to unlearn some of the supersoldier’s arrogance to make any progress on this. And I think from what we’ve seen so far, she’s failed to learn understanding of other people’s perspectives *despite* her parents’ efforts. Though maybe once she undeyrstands that it’s a thing she needs to learn, everything her parents have said will make a different kinda sense, IDK

            …tl;dr, I agree but I also disagree because why pick one side of a discussion when you could have both.

          • Tylikcat

            …I just wrote a long reply, and Disqus crashed. It’s late. I’m going to bed.


          • Shweta Narayan

            auuugh why does it always do the thing at bedtime >_<

            sleep well!

          • Shweta Narayan

            hope yr doin better :/ I managed to figure! out! that my way out of control chronic pain is due to sleep issues & the only currently-possible fix will cause other issues, whee

          • Tylikcat

            I don’t disagree. My lost response mostly came down to me questioning a lot of my assumptions. There are some oddf things about how I process information, that are innate or close enough to it. There’s also a bunch of experiential stuff I have about how to handle new situations, parts of which at least date back to when I was fairly young. (This is a really involved digression, and probably more than I want to put on a public forum.) Mostly I have a good enough handle out how most folks work that model other people’s behavior pretty decently, but here…

            My though was that Alison would be used to be being in new situations, and having to deal with them, and would have the self confidence to know that she could deal with them, well enough, at least most of the time, so going out and doing new things and learning new things wouldn’t be that much of a stretch. In my head – this is what comes of doing a lot of interesting stuff, more or less successfully, when young. I don’t think it’s *utter* bunk. (I see a version of this with my research students. The broader experience they have, the more they can handle without freaking out.)

            Which is totally different than “She had a script, which worked for her, and that script was punching things.” …which I really can’t argue with. I mean, a lot of people revert to script under stress. This is totally a thing.

            I suppose part of it is that Alison’s experience was only sort of broad – I mean, she was a superhero, but it sounds like she lived a very sheltered life in a lot of ways, too.

            (Odd weekend – ended up being more involved in getting a funding proposal out for a research student who is in theory transitioning to a new mentor… but that mentor is a lot junior, so while I thought my role was just going to be in experiment design, and J would handle most of the coaching with writing… yeah, not so much. OMG, guys, you can not say a slugmouth is a model system for a human tongue! No! Hopefully it was educational for everyone – I really should have realized that J wasn’t going to be ready for what I wanted him to do. It passed our PI* without revisions, though, so that’s okay. Then again, pretty much no one else pulls that off, so maybe the issue was my expectations.

            Oh, and there was a migraine in there, making me just that much more scattered.

            * a former Yale English major. He and I kind of play this game back and forth…)

          • Shweta Narayan

            Yeah and I ended up arguing both sides too because the whole range of options is plausible, I think. Cause Al is definitely better than a lot of people at handling new experiences, but, not all new experiences. Which is what makes her so interesting that we write thousands of words of meta…

            lol @the slugmouth! So many people doooo though, they just shouldn’t 🙂

            I think it may be that your expectations are reasonable but the state of academic writing is appalling. When I wasn’t a washout, one diss committee member was just so delighted at how clear my writing was and I was like… this is… a first draft? It’s BAD is the bar that low?

            & Grant writing is such a specific skill set, you’d think grad school would teach it. But nope, at least not in my department. Possibly because most tenured faculty are kinda flailing in a hopeful manner over grants too? I’ve only known one who understood a) grant writing *and* b) what he was actually doing with it, well enough to pass on the knowledge. (What kinda grant involves both experimental bio and English btw? Or did the PI change fields?)

          • Tylikcat

            Well, he really is that junior. This will be his first experience mentoring, and while he’s known me for a while he hasn’t been around me running my group a whole lot (though he’d known a few of my research students socially in the past). He’s a good writer and a superb mathematician, but… I have *standards.*

            Our lab is kind of special. Our PI changed fields. (He hated undergraduate science, so he skipped much of it.) He’s known for being an an exemplary writer (and is frequently sought out by others for feedback.) I have an, ahem, unusual background, with my undergrad work in Chinese, poli-econ, and NE lang and civ – a lot of which was very writing heavy. And then software, and program management. Oh, and three years in there in which I was a staff writer for a local journal for fun (food and related topics, mostly, parly overlapping with my MS years). Our PI is known for being an absolute stickler for writing, and getting drafts through him is difficult, and revising with him can be, ah, uncomfortable. (A former colleague called it going to the torture chamber.) So I try to get things through him without revision, just for fun, and I try to prepare my students well enough that they get through him without revision for their own sanity. I’m tough, but everyone has seen him at work, and every single student has been very clear in their gratitude. (Even though they know that this is partly a game I play because I’m weird that way. I’m pretty transparent.)

            There’s also a huge amount of education in both science writing and experiment design that gets wrapped into this work. Students who stay with me for a couple of years, and do their senior thesis with me – I’d expect them to be able to hit their qualifying exams in grad school and be like, “Oh, yeah, I totally have this, this is a slightly more fleshed out version of proposals I’ve done before.” (Depending on the style of the quals – many are proposal based, but the format varies a lot.) One of my joys is watching students learn to make their writing more clear and concise. Especially when they’re working together and helping each other. The design of experiments, and apparatus, and everything that goes into that, is even more fun. (The things we’ve made by soldering paperclips together. Or out of modeling clay and legos…)

            This is the last summer funding proposal a student of mine will be submitting in this lab. None of my students have not been funded. (The funding rate is slight less than 50%) So, fingers crossed. It’s a good proposal.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Your group sounds great 🙂 and also… sadly unusual.

          • Shweta Narayan

            also right now i think Gurwara is the biggest hero on the planet 😀

            Because Al’s pity party is not actually any easier to deal with than Max’s, and she’s already a) evoked racialized violence in his direction in class, in a way men of color are well aware of, and b) admitted she’s totally capable of physical coercion if a person makes her angry.

            And he’s still, patiently, there.

          • Tylikcat

            And I suspect that dealing with petulant undergraduate superbeing might indeed be a nice little retirement gig for Gurwara. He’s so BTDT, I’ll just open some crisps here…

          • Shweta Narayan


          • Tylikcat

            Been there, done that.

          • Shweta Narayan

            ohhh thx

            sometimes the acronyms just stubbornly stay acronymed to my brain and don’t expand.

      • Olivier Faure

        You’re making a fundamental point: that people aren’t basically good. I’d say that your point is false, and it comes from a fundamental mistake (a very very very frequent one).


        I’d call that mistake “Assuming that other people have different values, but the same perspective as me”. SSC talked about an experiment where you showed a child (Alice) a bag of skittles, the showed them that the bag was full of pennies. You then show the bag (but not its contents) to another child (Bob), and asked him if he wanted to eat what was inside; Bob would say yes, and Alice would go on to think “Bob must love eating pennies!”. It’s a perspective trick: Alice understands that the bag is full of pennies, but she doesn’t understand that Bob still thinks the bag is full of skittles.

        I think it’s a very frequent mistake people do in politics, and why basically every single election anywhere ends up with each half the population thinking the other half is made of uncaring hateful mutants.

        (accidentally posted this; still editing it)

        • AshlaBoga

          I have to agree. People with the same values frequently take a different course of action, because they expect different outcomes. Just because someone wants the same thing doesn’t mean they’ll agree with how you’re trying to get there. So people who voted for Trump aren’t necessarily racist so much as they believe that Trump’s methods will work and Obama/Clinton’s methods don’t work.

          Obviously, there were racists and sexists who voted for Trump, but I’m sort of curious why people who aren’t bigoted voted for Trump. I like to try and see other perspectives. “Sometimes they think that healthcare is too expensive to be maintained, which means it destabilizes the economy, which will eventually put
          people on the street,” isn’t really a perspective I’d considered. I wonder why they believe that. I’m Canadian, so our healthcare is even more socialist than anything Obama tried, it makes me wonder why Americans would be so frightened about tax funded medical care when many other countries have it to a far greater extent than ObamaCare.

          • Olivier Faure

            Well, for the healthcare thing, I was just giving a general example of non-evil different opinion. I actually know nothing of American healthcare.

            For the racism/sexism question:



          • Marc Forrester

            When it comes to votes and political parties, the waters are deeply muddied by all the huge organisations pouring time and money into confusing everyone’s perceptions in the pursuit of power. People do also have differing values, often it’s just a matter of degree, sometimes it’s a fundamental disagreement about what ‘good’ actually means. http://www.moralfoundations.org

          • Zac Caslar

            Bears mentioning that the US is far more Religious than the rest of the western world and deep runs the belief that suffering can be a gift from god if you really have the the strength to embrace it.

            There are people who see healthcare as a deliberate attempt to cultivate exploitable human weakness and that better for a sick person to die than for them to become a willing slave of a truly biblical evil.

            And never underestimate spite. Never underestimate how much energy can be put into resistance and how the human tendency to assume that energy spent is energy invested when it’s backed up by cultivated acrimony.

            Reality can be hard to define, but it’s not relative. There are absolutely Americans who’d rather see you die miserably than live sinfully. They may not want you explicitly dead, but they’ll gladly put you in a position of danger to see if god intended you survive. You decide if their intentions are worth your life or mine.

          • AshlaBoga

            Some of the views you’ve described sound like Social Darwinism disguising itself as Christianity. I might be wrong, I’m not Christian, but I don’t think my Christian friends would agree with those views. Wasn’t that Christ chap a big believer in helping the poor?

            And don’t worry Zac, I never underestimate spite. My family is Jewish and all 8 of my great-grandparents died in concentration camps.

          • Zac Caslar

            Oh wow, wouldn’t have pegged “Boga” as being Jewish.
            Arrogant on my part, for sure.

            My grandparents emigrated after WW1 from Poland, so they missed the purges and mass murders. We’re originally Kessler, but due to some supposed mix-up we went Caslar instead. Technically I’m Reform Jewish, but really the label means more to me as a culture (bagles, literacy, kvetching) than a religion or a ethnicity.

            This is my actual name; I sign in using Facebook. Thought it would make for an interesting personal experiment if I had to measure my contributions by the possibility of being recognized IRL for them. As it happens a long time friend of mine also posts here intermittently and if he wished he could certainly attest that I’m not that much different in person than I am here. So, social filter fail.

            You should look into Christian Dominion(ism/ist) beliefs and Prosperity Theology. Christ was big on mercy, but he was also big on promising his followers loot for their faith as well as being the originator of Hell’s eternal torments for sinners.

            If you’re really feeling saucy you could actually read The New Testament and see for yourself. Most “serious Christians” never have and never will.

            See while I have Christian friends who passingly resemble your Christian friends the idea that mere Christianity itself is why they’re good people is hilariously wrong. They’re also not mega-churchers nor any of the real excitable hardcore denominations. They’re essentially sane morally normal people for whom Christianity is a reminder of the supposed supernatural rewards of their decency.

            They have lives to tend to, they don’t need the world to end to validate their misfortunes.

            They tolerate my skepticism, I keep my peace around them. It’s not hard to be reasonably -even for me. ;-]

            Also thanks again to the Burro of Wisdom for advice on using basic html in posting.

          • Dwight Williams

            And that is a truly frightening idea for people to believe: medicare as a vector for the Devil.

            The intentions of such people are not worth my life, nor that of anyone I can help.

          • Zac Caslar

            That ends up being the core my position as well.

            The problem is not that I am not compassionate or that I can’t understand, but the knowledge that I might live or die on the margin of someone else’s angst.

            I feel for you, Mr. Nazi Tattoos and Mrs. White Power billboards, and I can believe you’re basically normal people on a very scary path. I’ve met enough folks who’ve manage to pair decent human instincts for compassion with an unbelievably stupid (but often not actually ignorant moral) framing to understand what can happen.

            But if someone has to die for your sins, I hope it’s you.

            It’s like comparing the Maldives going underwater with the frustration of a crazed Black Friday shopper.

            Everybody’s got problems, but you have a lot more control over yours than I do over mine.

          • Mindsword

            My parents voted for Trump. They hated him, but they honestly believe that he was the better choice.

            To my father, he sees a lot of the liberal policies as unnecessary interference. He works as a manager and has been screwed over by Unions, government policies designed to promote lifestyles he disagrees with, and he hates corruption. He saw Hilary as a corrupt leader and couldn’t vote for that.

            For the lifestyle bit, my father is not racist, he’s just sick and tired of political correctness. He can’t use the words “Handicap” because thats not PC. He needs to call them “Disabled.” However, his job is to make certain the handicap parking spots are well positioned, that they have the necessary tools, etc and he sees the rise of “Special Snowflakes” as one of the largest idiocies he’s ever had to face.

            Is he wrong? In my opinion, yes he is. He’s imperfect in a lot of ways and this is just on the glaring ones.

          • Lostman

            Yeah, that reminds what my friend said about Trump…

            He maybe America last hope, that what makes it so sad.

          • Zac Caslar

            Thanks for sharing that.

            I get it, I really do. First time I encountered being called “cisgendered” my defenses went up and I don’t think there’s anything remarkable or aberrant in being a human who doesn’t like being labeled by other people.

            But I went and looked and made peace with it. I still don’t like it, but I get that it’s not really about me and that it’s not a slur by itself.

            So yeah, Special Snowflakes are stupid. Safe Spaces aren’t a truly worthless idea, but they sure make for easy point-scoring. PC culture turned out to be a really easy way to obscure or make taboo topics that deserve honest, ethical investigation.

            I agree with all that. I get it.

          • The problem with railing against ‘special snowflakes’ is that sometimes (often?) it’s done because people don’t want to listen to the points that are being made. I saw a fairly horrendous example last year with an autistic writer making some very good points about disability from the inside, and the comments section full of non-disabled people branding them a ‘special snowflake’ because the actual truth about disability makes them uncomfortable.

            Much the same goes for the railing about being politically correct. All that’s really being asked of people is that they have the common decency not to use terms other people, particularly minority group members, find insulting, demeaning or abusive. Apparently asking people to be polite is grossly offensive – who knew?! The one problem we do have is clueless ally syndrome, the out-group members who want to help, but don’t have a clue, and end up trying to promote terms like ‘differently-able’, which only make sense if you think there’s something wrong with being called disabled.

          • Why can’t I give this more up-votes?!

          • Oren Leifer

            I would definitely agree with this, especially the second part. There’s a great post by Neil Gaiman about political correctness, and how the phrase can generally be replaced by “Treating people with respect”.

            Also, as an out-group ally for LGBT people I’ve definitely had people call me out on being incorrectly sensitive, or insensitive, since I’m from a very liberal town in MA, so I take for granted things many LGBT people know are not so easily. In addition, as someone with ADD (as opposed to ADHD) and severe dysgraphia, I know that people who are trying to be supportive allies often end up making mistakes. I actually strongly push for the use of “learning disabled/disability” rather than “learning differences/learning challenged”, because the first terms shows very clearly that you have learning-related problems that actually are as severe as a physical disability.

          • Zac Caslar

            I get Clueless Ally Syndrome. I suspect I am amongst the carriers of that wretched disease.

            I heard this saying about Clinton’s defeat: the Democrats have gone from being the party that protected people to the party that protects feelings.

            To me that encapsulates a lot of the problem. It’s like Clueless Allies. They’re embarrassing, but embarrassing isn’t nearly the same magnitude of problem as the trans women murder rate. The difference ends up being that it’s far easier to …”impact” the clueless than the more visceral, awful widespread problems that also originate amongst one’s enemies.

            Or Safe Spaces.

            Safe Spaces as refuge from hostility and danger sounds crucial. But Safe Spaces as refuge from controversy or challenging information is equal parts pathetic and a disservice to the intended community.

            Same with PC culture. Expanding the definition of polite is no kind of radical, wrenching social change. But wanting too much too fast opens a cause up to being scapegoated.

            And what happened was the protection of vulnerable people from real threats got equated with needing to stigmatize the controversial.

            Because feelings = lives.

            Except that they don’t, and there isn’t infinite social capital for any cause to spend.

            I don’t know, not yet. I still don’t quite have the key to the 2016 election, to the White Backlash. But I’m still looking.

            And I’m still an ally, however clueless.

          • I’ve been far more damaged by non-physical attacks than by physical ones. And I do mean that literally.

            Example 1) Someone grabbed me in the street and tried to throw me to the ground, because, hey, that’s a funny thing to do to the guy on crutches. I saw him coming, let him make first contact, then belted him with a crutch, he backed off. But a decade and a half on, the fact that he singled me out for a physical assault because I was disabled, that still disturbs me.

            Example 2) Someone (anonymously) claimed I was engaged in disability benefit fraud. Even the notoriously trigger-happy Department of Work and Pensions agreed it was ludicruous, but it still triggered the worst flare-up I’ve ever had, months of not being able to sleep more than an hour at a time because of the level of pain I was in.

            And plenty more.

            There are days I won’t go out, if some channel has run another supposed expose of supposed disability benefit fraud, the risk of being attacked for walking or wheeling while disabled is just too high.

            It’s not as bad as facing being shot for walking while black, or trans, but attacking ‘feelings’ has very real consequences that can ruin lives. And it happens far more often. Been there, done that, live with the condequences.

          • Oren Leifer

            One thing to remember about “Safe Spaces” is that many people use that term wrong. What it is supposed to mean is people who have the specific “Safe Space” training and know how to be supportive and helpful. It’s gotten misused and misunderstood, but the original intent was to have a particular teacher or professor who was properly trained in being a supportive ally (specifically for LGBT youth), that has since been misunderstood to be physical spaces and certain college campuses in general, which is missing the point of having TRAINED allies / adult supporters.

          • Zorae42

            Because of the ridiculous propaganda machine of the Republicans. That’s why there are a ton of people who love the affordable care act, but hate Obamacare… Even though they’re the same thing. And are now confused about it possibly going away/regretting voting for Trump.

      • SmilingCorpse

        I guess every cynic really is a disappointed idealist.

      • Sam

        “Y’know what mocking, ignoring, and misunderstanding people does? It hurts their feelings. Maybe at worst, costs them their job.”

        Boy fuckin’ howdy, aren’t you a piece of work.

        • IE

          Maybe I am, but I still wouldn’t vote against other people’s civil rights just because they didn’t kiss up to me enough.

      • Marc Forrester

        > Maybe at worst, costs them their job.

        Mm. You know what losing your job can do in a late-stage capitalist society?
        It can get you killed. Slowly and painfully.

        • IE

          I *live* in small-town USA, I know things aren’t great here. Dealt with unemployment both for myself and with family members. Debt problems, shrinking job markets, high health care costs – it all sucks. I’m not saying people don’t have legit problems. I’m saying that when taking care of your not-life-threatening-problem directly leads to other people getting killed, then that’s a selfish, shitty thing to do.

          Trump actually came to my town. Had a rally here, had thousands cheering as he gleefully described violating the first amendment. I can hardly look people in the eyes any more when I walk down the street.

      • Jovial Contrarian

        Yyyyyes, that was the moral of this page. Surely it was not “maybe most people have their reasons for doing and thinking what they do, however misguided and poorly-thought-out their beliefs may be, if you actually get to know them instead of dismissing them as assholes”.

        different, adj. – That which must be destroyed.

      • “Y’know what taking away people’s health care, putting clinics out of
        business, repealing gun control legislation, and refusing vetted
        refugees entry into a safe country does?

        It gets people killed.”

        Absolutely, but you’re looking at too deep a level. Most people make up their minds based on headlines and don’t look deeper. They don’t know that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing, and that when they voted for Trump’s promise to repeal Obamacare they were slowly cutting the throat of their relative or their neighbour who never had decent healthcare before Obamacare. (There’s a really good article in the Huff Post about what it means for people with EDS, my disability, and for those with vascular EDS it really is a potential death sentence). Oh, sure, there’s the petty racist vote playing a part too, but so much of that is fueled by ignorance you have to pity them, and look askance at the society, and the leaders, that allows that ignorance to thrive.

        The ones who are worthy of contempt are those who look deeper, who do understand that taking away healthcare will kill, who know that climate change is happening, and are willing to set those all aside and swear black is white and up is down in pursuit of profit. There’s a special hell set aside for the racist idealogues, the ones who really do think the colour of your skin or the place you worship at makes a difference. But most of all, the people to despise are those who play to the worst prejudices of the crowd for their own advancement.

    • Weatherheight

      Again, I stand in awe of your candor.
      Your point here is tough to hear but most likely needs to be well taken. Environment may not justify behavior but it surely doe influence it. What we know influences what we can properly consider.

      • Tylikcat

        Don’t give me more credit than I deserve. One of the best things about being in my forties is getting to be Give No Fucks Tylikcat. Mostly, though, I find discussing a lot of this kind of ethical decision in purely abstract terms kind of boring past a certain point. I mean, you talk to any group of people, and the vast majority of them insist that they would be among the few that resisted the Nazis. Far more interesting to discuss ethical problems that people have actually encountered and how they actually went down, at least as a jumping off point.

        (It is possible, having lived a fairly colorful life, that I have more reference points. I never know how those comparisons actually work out. Mind you, belatedly being – oh, yeah! And I had a sister who died from want of a liver transplant! – was more than a little embarrassing. And most totally true things I could say in my defense also kind of make it worse.)

        • Zac Caslar

          Same with regard to the Ethical Abstraction.

          This is old fuckin’ ground for me. It’s good ground, but I’ve already died on this hill and I’m well past tired of watching good people dither and bicker over inches while organized evil takes galloping leaps forward with it’s agenda.

          I have something to say but I’ve already said it. Allison is going to end up having to face her choice to use Max from a perspective of “I did it because I could, no excuses” and when she finally does we’ll get to fresh ground.

          • Tylikcat

            Actually, I’m not quite sure if that’s the bit she’ll have to face?

          • Zac Caslar

            Oh? What instead?

          • Tylikcat

            That she gave up on him. That she didn’t give more than a pro forma attempt to win his agreement, because she didn’t like or respect him. As per the page above, but also from previous discussions.

          • Zac Caslar

            I disagree, but we’ll see.

            Allison can angst over that if she must, but doing so is kind of a “bigotry of low expectations” bit of stupidity in wanting to believe that Max can’t truly have made his choice for his reasons. That if she’d just said the right thing he would have capitulated.

            One can’t condemn her for being a tyrant while also arguing that Max had any less responsibility for what he chose.

            Allison’s crime is having coerced Max to act. She can’t be additionally guilty of having FAILED TO COERCE MAX TO ACT.

            (Sorry for the caps. Really need to figure out how to italicize in this format.)

          • Tylikcat

            html tags work.

            Resorting to force because the emotional cost of making a persuasive argument (which is at least getting to know Max) is too high? I mean, she might still have failed, but if she didn’t do that much, she didn’t try. If there’s a lot of sentiment that Max is a spoiled brat… it’s perhaps in some part because we have a paucity of information about Max? I mean, he did start explaining a bunch of stuff, which is kind of surprising, all things considered. And then Alison freaked out at him. Even if I see where she’s coming from that was pretty not useful, wasn’t it?

            But I’m partly extrapolating from the discussion. Also, though, from a lot of discussions about a sense that there was a third way that wasn’t explored. What happened sucked. Maybe Max would still have freely chosen not to have participated, but… that was just a lousy interaction. And there is a difference between a persuasive argument and some kind of non-physical manipulation. Among other things, Alison isn’t Patrick. Hell, Alison isn’t even me.

          • Zac Caslar


            I don’t have those feelings of “there must have been another way.” I think they’ve mostly been invented by the “Allison is PURE EVIL” crowd. I think they’re letting outrage masquerade as reason because that’s what folks like to do sometimes.

            IDK. we’re going in circles. I’m going to re-read that section and parse it again.

          • Tylikcat

            The interesting discussions I’ve had with people about another way (and it’s not so much “there was definitely another way that would have worked” as much as “what Alison tried was kind of lame…”) were pretty clearly not in the Alison is pure evil crowd. I’m there because I’ve been trying to understand if there was anything more basic to that than my own initial feeling of “Welp! That was poorly handled – what a problematic outcome (but what amazing art!)” (Seriously, that picture of Max using his power still just blows me away.)

            …and I think I’m starting to think there’s at least a possibility? I mean, the problem here is that we’re looking for answers, and what we should be doing is looking for questions.

          • Alison is 20 and just figuring out she’s gotten through life to this point based on being able to punch giant robots into LEO, rather than talking to people. I think at this point she may actually be terrified of having to negotiate, particularly with a friend’s well-being as the prize.

            If you don’t think you’re good enough to carry off the debate, and you don’t think the other party is willing to compromise, and you’re scared to try, then that makes it very easy to justify shortcutting to the face, meet table, part of the interaction.

          • Weatherheight

            “” at the beginning, and “” at the end.

            same thing for bold except the “i” in both sets of brackets becomes a “b”
            same thing for underline except the “i” becomes a “u”

          • And there’s also the older convention, for places that don’t process tags, that “_” around a section of text means read it as italicised.

          • She definitely gave up on him, but I’ve started wondering if she’s also given up on herself as anything other than a brute force. Ironically that sort of makes the Max situation Gurwara’s fault. Gurwara showed Alison that she was brute-forcing her way through life rather than working out the optimum solutions for the people around her, and the Max thing came up after Gurwara had broken her, but before he could put her back together again.

        • Weatherheight


          It’s my experience that persons who go through difficult experiences often downplay their strength, insisting, “I only did what I had to do.”

          The view from the outside, however, differs a bit.

          I have people tell me the same thing from time to time. My current occupation is taking care of my mother, who has dementia to the point that she requires 24 hour care (thankfully, she can still feed herself and is capable of most aspects of personal care, and her saving and wise investments left her financially set to allow us [my older sister and I] to do this). Fro where I sit, it’s no big deal – my background is in psychology and counseling, so I know what to look for and what to expect. Others tell me about the sacrifices I’m making and all I can think is, “Isn’t this the sort of thing we’re supposed to do for the ones we love?”

          We do what we must sometimes and bear those things we must bear. Eternal grant us strength to carry our load.

          • Tylikcat

            I kind of live in fear of eldercare. The family issues make this incredibly fraught – my father is pretty thoroughly not my problem (there are daughters from his first marriage) but even though neither my sister nor I are on close terms with our mother… we’re it. Trying to make sure things are handled appropriately without allowing our mother to be abusive and awful is going to be difficult (at least half of my involvement is going to be as an emotional buffer for my sister, I can almost guarantee.)

          • Weatherheight

            I’ve been thinking about this a lot (as you might imagine). Sometimes the established habits of interaction make a hard job into an excruciating one. Being in the midst of it, I’m very glad that my mother’s default setting is “sweety-pie” and that she is just enough aware to realize that being crabby makes our job (making sure she’s happy and healthy as she can be) harder.

            I’m not sure I could do this if I had to do it in what I understand to be your family’s dynamics – there are days in my situation that are just a bit unbearable (those moments when Mom is lucid enough to realize what’s happening and be bitter about it are just awful), and any extra burden might be the proverbial straw.

            Then again, I didn’t think my sister could handle this anywhere near as well as she has, so.. adult-ing, I guess. Sometimes we rise.

            And I hope, in the best possible way, that you need not face your fears, but if you must, I have a feeing you’ll be … well, not fine, exactly… sufficient to the task, which is enough, I think.

          • Tdoodle

            Siiiidebar anecdote specific RE: differences in how we grieve, view familial responsibilities.

            I saw very similar dynamics between my mom/aunt/uncle. Mom was the primary caretaker of her mother. Aunt would make the 2-hour drive to occasionally take her to appointments, Uncle was constantly on vacation in Florida and couldn’t be bothered. Grandmother had just refused further treatment for her cancer; was expected to demise during Aunt’s international trip. Aunt vehemently still planned on going, said not to email her with any news, meanwhile Uncle was protesting at his adult children being involved with any caretaking “Because my daughter cried the whole way home, it’s just too much for them.” Grandmother passed, and Mom was there holding her hand. In her mind, she didn’t have a choice. Uncle commended her and I for being “saints.” Ah, family.

          • Stephanie

            It was like this with my grandmother too. My mom has four older brothers, all of whom have multiple adult children. So who gets saddled with 90% of the responsibility of caring for grandma? Her only daughter, of course.

          • “Isn’t this the sort of thing we’re supposed to do for the ones we love?”

            Absolutely, but most of us are glad if the chance to show that love passes us by. (I’m sort of in your brother’s position here, and guilt is hard to avoid, even though I know I’m also physically limited in how much I could help).

          • Weatherheight

            The oldest brother lives 1500 miles away, as do all of his children and their families – he’s also got several others complications beyond that (job, SO, and so on). No resentment from any of us on his situation. The other older brother simply cannot assist due to his own health issues, and that’s really bothering him – and if he wasn’t trying to assuage his guilt by lashing out, that situation would be resentment-free as well (it causes unnecessary tension, which is counterproductive – but, there it is…)

            Pretty much everything has worked out as best as it possibly could have, given the foundational situation of the dementia. The two best people to take care of Mom were and are able to do so – my background in counseling and abnormal psych combines nicely with my sister’s ability to deal with all the daily care issues that Mom strongly prefers my only sister to handle.

            All things considered, though, I really do wish the foundational situation wasn’t a reality – but, again, there it is, right before me, so it’s time to deal with it. Even so, I totally get your angle – in all the possible ways it can be read. 😀

            Alison’s situation vis-a-vis Tara isn’t so distant from my own at some level, and while I don’t think her solution was elegant, I don’t condemn her for it either. I do spend time thinking about the better ways and those costs, since there’s always a cost.

            “Why do you pilot the Eva, Shinji?”
            “Because others can’t.”

    • Karmik

      There comes a point for most people when you have more information than you were raised with and can begin making meaningful decisions about how you comport yourself in the world with that new information.

      Cleaver was raised by monsters who hurt him and cast him out, then became one when his mother responded to his appearance with a shotgun. He most likely had no interactions with people that weren’t violent on one or both parts or abject terror directed at him. He never had any life experiences outside of being a killer until he met Patrick and Patrick cultivated that violent streak. Alison at the end has treated him with kindness, honesty and forgiveness and he has responded in kind because now he has some perspective.

      Max has not lived in this bubble. Yes, his parents have probably screwed the pooch by just giving him everything he wants and sheltering him but he still has access to outside information. He goes to college, he lived on his own in his own apartment before it burned down, he has had to spend at least five minutes talking to someone that doesn’t share his worldview. He has chosen instead to assume everyone else is either a liar or a fool and his answers are correct forever. He has chosen not to grow as a person.

      • Tylikcat

        What makes for a bubble?

        My brother and I have had, ahem, significantly different outcomes. We came from the same family. In terms of our difference… well, let’s see, I was abused (which he was exempt from at least in that form because of his sex), then I moved out on my own when I was fifteen*, and then I was cast out and disinherited, and the all the lawsuits, and… mostly being on my own. Whereas my brother has maintained his position in the increasingly affluent family, was supported through his film degree at a private university, in the bosom of the family, etc. etc. Who has which bubble?

        (One of us is an alt-right troll living in a basement, making death threats against women, and posting hate videos on YouTube. One of us is a biomedical researcher and martial arts instructor.)

        I mean, I’m sorry to make this personal again but… these things aren’t simple. It’s quite nice, I’m sure to say, “this one is environment, that one is choice…” but I don’t think anyone can say that. (And that is, at least partly, my field.)

        * Okay, there was all that bit with the university earlier, but that’s so complicated.

        • Karmik

          So one person came out of unfortunate circumstances and became a decent person, and one had all the advantages and is still a jackass? How is that all that different from what has happened here? Aside from all the killing that is.

          In all seriousness you are right that people are not that simple, but they also aren’t nearly as complicated as we pretend they are.

          Off topic, assuming you aren’t the basement troll, what do you teach? I’m curious.

          • Tylikcat

            Academically, or the martial art?

            Anatomy and physiology on the academic side, with neurobiology and computational neuroscience thrown in when I can.

            My primary art, and the only one I’m really comfortable teaching is Chen Taijiquan (Chen Village lineage, via Chen Zhenglei). Sometimes Yang (because the only answer to some questions is “Yes, Shifu,”) sometimes an assortment of Shaolin styles, especially Long.

          • Karmik

            I meant the martial art, but I am far less familiar with the Chinese styles than the Japanese and Okinawan styles and even that is only passingly from years in my youth (I had a Sensei, not Shifu). If you can teach it, then I tip my hat you. One of my biggest regrets from a misspent youth is not sticking with it.

          • Tylikcat

            I studied Hayashi-Ha Shito-Ryu a bit in my teens… but I speak Chinese (even though I spoke some Japanese as a child, hey, I’m a rebel, or something) so when I finally could afford to study again, Chen kind of seemed like a plan?

            (I actually met my Shaolin master around the same time, kind of in passing, about two weeks before he stopped teaching for ten years or so. One of those weird might-have-beens we both laugh about now.)

          • Karmik

            I got to visit my Sensei’s Sensei’s dojo (grand sensei? is there a word for that?) in New Jersey when I was about maybe 13 or 14 I think. I learned two important things there:

            1) If the green belt I was paired with was striking me in exercises in the same place every go, it was because I was doing it to him. A heel just below the sternum a dozen times or so takes the wind out of you. It was a weird combination of pride in that I was doing it exactly right, and humble pie in that as the youngest person in the class by about 10 years I needed a walk around the block so I didn’t cry in front of the whole room.

            2) If sensei hits a pressure point, you tap. I don’t have a common pressure point behind my collarbone (or at least no one has ever managed to hit it) and he was about wrist deep in my chest cavity before my dumb self thought to just tap and give him the win.

          • Tylikcat

            Gods, kind of the inverse of the last –

            at the last order retreat I attended, the senior tiger stylist in the whole order announced to everyone, during a practice in actually finding and applying pressure points (so no courtesy taps) that “[Tylikcat] has no nerves!”

            …and yeah, my physiology is a little odd sometimes, and my pain threshold is really high (not like “I’ll tough it out” but like “Oh, I have a broken bone in my foot? Huh, I thought it was just bruised…” which is super maladaptive) but holy crap Master M, please don’t unlease everyone that way on me! Seriously, I just wanted to run.

          • I got to visit my Sensei’s Sensei’s dojo (grand sensei? is there a word for that?)

            Not that exact word, necessarily, but…

            I’ve trained directly under senseis (Teachers), dai-senseis (Master Teachers), and a Soke (Grandmaster)- there are words for nearly anything you can imagine.

            There is something to be said for just letting the lesson proceed- I have a number of anomalous responses to pressure points, and soke has found nearly all of them over the years… but insisting that he hit each of my individual points precisely as opposed to demonstrating how they work in general (and they do work in general- I have practical experience) is kind of a dickish move. And, of course, the fact that he is as practiced as he is means that, once he gets tired of my silly ass, he can just mop the floor with me, so there’s that, as well…

          • Karmik

            Oh ye gods no I wasn’t interfering with a lesson. They’d have brought me home in a lunch box. If memory serves I think I had just sort of mentioned it in a discussion they were having that I didn’t have that nerve and his response was a sort of “Oh yeah? Lets see about that” and then hes rooting around behind my ribs looking for change.

            I’m not totally sure what his traditional title would have been. He was at the time one of the seniors who had learned under Grandmaster Siringano (who I have since learned would be called Soke).

        • Guest

          …/what is your life/??

          You keep giving these random little bits and pieces whenever they become relevant. Just publish an autobiography so we can finally know all of these insane things you keep mentioning (you were in university as a young teen? You LIVE IN A BUDDHIST TEMPLE? You do neuroscience research? What? How? What?)

          • Tylikcat

            I’d say “It all makes sense in context,” but I’m not actually sure that’s true. I moved out here for research.

            Unrelatedly, I’m a member of a Chan order out on the west coast – it’s not my primary martial art, but they’re great folks, and they’re more into sparring and I like how they do Chan. So, after I’d been living in Ohio for a couple of years, and spending a couple of weeks on the west coast twice a year to study and train and meet up with my friends and family, I was really thinking about how I missed that part of my community. My roommate in Ohio mentioned that the local zendo had an event coming up, so we both headed out there (he’d met them before) and ended up sitting with them regularly. (It’s super different – they’re all about the sitting, and not about the beatings, but I can work with that.)

            One thing led to another, and when they bought a building a year later, they asked us to be the residents. (And then we later ended up buying part of it. He’s since moved on to do his residency.)

            …so now I’m the (only) resident in a zen meditation hall, and a neurobiologist, and I teach Chen there. It’s worked out really well. I still really miss my people on the west coast, but if I’m not going to be there, this is a great place to be.

          • Tylikcat

            Oh, and yeah – went to an early entrance program when I was thirteen, rage quit after a quarter, attended a private (rather neo-marxist) highschool for a year, then they very nicely told me they didn’t really have anything for me, and I returned to the U of WA as a regular student. It was special.

            One of the students the year before me (he’s a few years older, but I’d known his from a summer camp when I was twelve and he was… fourteen or fifteen?) wrote this about the program: http://www.bloodletters.com/2016/07/early-entrance-program-teen-age-genius-lab-rat/

            It’s only partially reflective of my experience? I was totally unaware of the program being competitive – as far as I know, it was like getting into Hogwartz. And some of our relationships with the individual instructors were different – I was the pet of the professor he angsted over the most (though since being the pet mostly meant he was harder on me and gave me extra work I didn’t really realize… I knew he liked me, but I didn’t realize this was unusual until we all compared notes more recently.) He also failed to mention the suicide attempts, but, well, perhaps he was motivated to.

          • Weatherheight

            I, for one, would buy this book.
            I smell Kickstarter! 😀

            ::flees before Tylikcat performs a well deserved martial arts demonstration on him::

          • Tylikcat


            …that would be so weird.

            I’ve written food memoir type stuff when I was writing about food? (And I’ve been blogging about some of the family stuff, under a filter, but that’s a really different sort of thing.) I really have trouble imagining my life as the subject for a book. And… OMG, multiple familial shitstorms. I could use a pseudonym! I could use a pseudonym I’ve written under before so it wouldn’t really be anonymous at all! (That would be awfully passive-aggressive of me.) I mean, I’m not sure I care, but…

            (I also have a *bunch* of writing projects that I’m not really doing much with, aside from academic writing. Though I think I’ve decided to submit some of my poetry to a serious professional market.*)

            * Oh, now, see, that I write poetry is something I usually do avoid mentioning in public. I mean all the other stuff, sure – who is served by shame? But poetry?

          • The Tylik is stranger than fiction 😉

          • Added to which, quite a lot of Real Life(TM) is stranger than you could justify putting into a book, but some of us seem to be positive attractors for that kind of thing.

          • Eric Schissel

            “(is stranger than fiction)… because fiction has to make sense.” – I am sufficiently literal-minded still, I think, that it took me awhile, despite knowing something of the difference between causality and “narrative causality” (thanks, Terry Pratchett or … whoever invented/popularized that term…) – to “get” the meaning of that clause.
            (Strongly considered majoring philosophy in college, and am being reminded here that one of several reasons why, was a good moral philosophy class I took during my first year there, with an excellent not-exactly-TA and at least ok professor in addition to very good (excerpted) readings.)

    • Flimflamberge

      Reason is not an infallible tool. Most people are resistant to it and many are outright immune, refusing to act contrary to their beliefs by anything short of plausible threats. Fascists, for example, which is why so many people were happy to see Richard Spencer getting punched. It made him afraid to be his hateful self in public spaces. People who’ve never known anything but privilege for another example.

      I’m not saying Allison was totally right to do what she did, but she had exhausted reason. Her arguments failing to convince Max was not a failure on her part to give the perfect reason but a failure of reason to be the tool that could move him.

      • Olivier Faure

        There are a lot of ways she could have convinced Max to help her without strong-arming him. Asking him to think the proposition over before refusing. Telling him she would owe him a favor. Even proposing to pay him out of her pocket would have sent the message “You are not obliged to do this, but this is a productive service everyone will benefit from.”, which might have done the trick.

        I think that saying “most people are resistant to reason” is a bad mindset; it’s a mindset where you believe only you and your peers can possibly be right, and people who disagree with you are always either misguided or corrupt.

        • Flimflamberge

          All of those approaches are “reasonable” and more laudable than threatening, but they aren’t using reason as a rhetorical device. I thought I made it clear I don’t endorse her actions; my point is only that we can’t accept reason – or even reasonable approaches – to be the only way to accomplish good when there is evil that easily defies it.

          Also, it’s a fact that most people are resistant to reason. It’s not just some attitude I’m slinging around to sound hardcore. That doesn’t mean reason is useless to even try, but it can be tricky to find the way a particular person can be made receptive to it. I include myself and every friend I have among those who are resistant to reason to some extent.

          • Olivier Faure

            I’d argue that Allison’s approach wasn’t using reason as a rhetorical device either (depending on how you define that). She was using social bullying: “You have to do this or you’re a bad person. There is no possible reason you could have to disagree with me. You’re an entitled asshole and your childhood story about hating your powers is stupid. Now I beg you, help me before I lose my patience and crash you head into this table.”

            I mean, sure, Max should probably have sucked it up and helped her anyway. But I wouldn’t qualify Allison’s approach as using reason. That would have been trying to understand his perspective, his values, and arguing that helping her would be aligned with his values.

    • Good faith is probably as good a term as any, and I’m not convinced Alison did go into the debate in good faith. But I think that’s because she lacks faith in herself, in her ability to win an argument without the tableflip of rage. (This is something I recognise. Often I’m so angry with an issue that it affects my ability to make a convincing argument).

      I don’t think Alison believed she had a chance of talking Max around, she was just going through the motions until she could justify the tableflip to herself. But she knows at least a couple of people – Lisa and Brad – who are much more people people than she is, and who wouldn’t have gone into the debate with the shared baggage she and Max brought to the table. There was a chance they might have talked him around. So the question is, did she head straight off without talking it over with anyone, because she’s sleep-deprived and not thinking particularly well, because she never thought of it (though she thought to ring her official doc and get a prediction of what using Max to amp Feral would do), or because she wanted an excuse to tableflip.

      I really wish I could convince myself the last one wasn’t the most likely.

  • Bobo Chimpan

    The direction this seems to be heading reminds me of two things…

    One is a meditation teacher of mine quoting one of his old gurus: ” if you don’t like someone, that means you don’t really know them.” Not as a universal truth, but as an attitude to try on– an axiom

    The other is Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication, one of the axioms of which states that it is impossible to be angry with someone without judging them. He recalled a time he was working as a teacher, and he realized that two of his students were acting in the same way. One of them, he knew had a hard time at home, so he forgave the behavior. The other he got angry at. He realized that he was judging the second student in a way that he didn’t judge the first, and wondered if his judgment was a fair one…

    I’m also noticing that the good professor has me thinking of everything in terms of axioms.

  • Lostman

    The problem is Daniel is someone Alison can understand at some fundamental level, she can’t do the same with. Mostly it’s mostly due their violent nature, and their careers one could say. Max never fought a super-villain, nor became one. Meaning their understanding are very different.

    • Karmik

      It occurred to me today that perhaps the problem is that she understands Max all too well.

      In Daniel she sees the violent killer she fights daily not to become. She gets his struggle on a fundamental level, as she has described here.

      I wonder if in Max she sees the life she could have had if she had chosen the selfish path. Keep her power to herself, stay out of the whole “super villain” nonsense and just live a normal life. Certainly she would still have certain benefits to being an indestructible super strong flying brick but she could have developed real friendships instead of the hangers-on she ended up with. She could have her research papers graded based on their content and not on how many buildings she knocked over in high school. I wonder if part of her yearns for that life, but she hates and rejects that part of her because it would be “the wrong thing to do”. But along comes Max living that life part of her always wanted and she hates him for it.

  • MrSing

    Gurwara is the kind of guy that would look at a mathematical equation and denounce it as a social construct.
    It’s true, in a sense, but also completely missing the point.

    • Olivier Faure

      Come on! When was the last time *you* saw a zero-dimensional point, uh?

  • You only have to be a teensy bit hard to relate to to reduce you to a tool. Possibly.

    • LitShips

      I’m a firm believer in something I’ll call “Ideological Harmonics”, that is that certain levels of ethical and ideological divide harmonize while others do not. I have had perfectly rational, reasonable conversations with people who are almost my ideological diametric opposite (I am moderate left liberal progressive), while having thrown down SCREAMING matches with people only slightly further to the left than I am.

      • It’s more annoying for someone to disagree with you slightly than disagree with you utterly – it’s the narcissism of small differences.

  • JohnTomato

    ” Now I’m not saying he should have killed her… but I understand.” – Chris Rock

  • JeffH

    I’m not sure what’s not “rational” about wanting to meet/speak to one of the very few people in her world with similar abilities — and killing capacity). He may have done terrible things Alison has decided not to, but he’s one of the few people who can understand the challenges Alison (who has admitted she liked being good at being a soldier) faces.

    • Arkone Axon

      That’s the point, actually. It’s not that Alison shouldn’t meet with Cleaver and offer him empathy, understanding, and friendship. It’s that she DIDN’T do the same for Max.

      • JeffH

        I just don’t see it that way. Alison did reach out to Max, who not only rejected her requests logically, but emphatically stated he would reject anything she proposed simply to spite her.

        I think she did offer Max understanding, literally begged him for his help, and he told her to f*ck off. The dialog is clear that he was never going to change his mind, and it frustrates me to hear people make arguments in these comments asserting “if only she’d wait/beg/talk/prostrate herself/etc” to support a metaphor that they want to be part of the storyline.

        • Arkone Axon

          You’re right, he did emphatically state that – after he started to explain the motivations of being afraid to risk exposure, and she proceeded to dismiss everything he said, show him no empathy whatsoever, and twist his words into an implied personal attack against her. That’s not something I think happened, that’s the actual dialogue. After that, he wanted nothing to do with her. It wasn’t “wait/beg/prostrate/plead for some glimmer of compassion from the selfish narcissistic sociopath,” it was “insult the guy, demand sympathy for others, show none in return, and then rush to resort to physical violence.” As she is admitting to Gurwara in THIS VERY PAGE.

        • Olivier Faure

          I think there is a lot of baggage in the story that goes beyond the words each character say. For instance, the fact that Allison “begs” Max for help ten seconds before slamming his head into a table suggest her “begging” was somewhat insincere.

          I think the fundamental problem was that Allison and Max had wildly different expectations and mindsets. Allison has a social justice perspective, where people’s worth is implicitly determined by how much they do to help, and people who don’t want to help must be able to justify it in some way; while Max has an individualist perspective, where freedom, autonomy and boundaries are extremely important, and telling someone else what to do is extremely offensive.

          What Allison needed to convince Max wasn’t to prostrate herself; it was to acknowledge his perspective.

          • J4n1

            I would not use the term “social justice” to define Allisons perspective, it was more about collectivism/authotarianism and individualism/libertarianism.

            Allison thinks everyone should do what they can to help, “we’re all in this together”, while Max is more of the “everyman is an island” school of thought.

            Biggest problem in Allisons “we’re all in this together” axiom is that while, yes, we might all be in the same boat, that does not mean we agree where the boat is, where the boat is headed, where the boat should be headed, who is the captain, or even what shape the boat is, or should be.

        • Micah Matheson

          Alison asked Max to share his story so she could try to understand him, true. But after learning about Max’s disappointment she offered insult, not empathy. It was at *that* point Max refused to help her out of spite.

  • Lark Lighter

    Are we all just ignoring that this guy is clearly Patrick from the future having traveled back in time to kill all those other infant heroes just so Alison could be the one to change the world and now, after all those years of biding his time, is her college professor and trying to mentally coerce her into a drastic mind frame necessary for her to achieve that goal?

    • Weatherheight

      I am. 😀

      That seems implausible to me, since pretty much everyone’s power-set seems reasonably derived from the “single sentence” rule and not a Marvel Comics RPG character (the random rolls on those tables – yeesh).

      This is not to say you’re wrong – people have brought out interesting evidence and I really can’t fault it except by gut feeling. That could just be an upset stomach, “a bit of undigested beef.”

    • Stephanie

      I don’t think he’s Patrick from the future, because Patrick is white and Gurwara is not.

      • Micah Matheson

        You really think in a world of superheroes, Future-Patrick wouldn’t have access to a good disguise?

        Not that I subscribe to the Gurwa/Future-Patrick theory, mind you.

  • Mitchell Lord

    This is good comic.

  • Seer of Trope

    Interesting. In previous comment sections, I’ve often seen (and do agree with) the idea that Alison could have tried to empathize with Max, but I haven’t seen a comment that compares the situation to her relationship with Cleaver, nor did I expect that coming.


  • It’s the same reason for why some people idolize serial killers or despots in real life; there’s something in them that we identify with. I’m willing to admit that I by far sympathize more with Cleaver than with Max, even though Cleaver is a mass murderer and Max is just a smug jerk. Cleaver has my own problems, magnified about a thousand times, and I’d probably do the same things he had done in his place. Max meanwhile just represents the people who have looked down on me my whole life ,and who I spend every day wishing a horrible death on.

  • Urthman

    I think if Max were locked up for the crime of being a self-centered asshole, Alison would be glad to stop by and talk with him about all the ways she’s tempted to be a self-centered asshole. And if Cleaver were out hurting people, she’d go punch him until he stopped rather than just talk about what they have in common.

    • Micah Matheson

      The difference is that we don’t lock people up for being self-centered assholes. And if Cleaver were actively harming people or causing property damage, then Alison’s pseudo-governmental authority to stop him in her capacity as a superpowered individual would be applicable.

      The problem is that Cleaver’s harm was a choice of action that had direct consequences, where Max’s “harm” (in as much as it can be classified as such – I do not believe it can be) was due to inactivity.

      If Max is guilty of a crime worthy of an authoritarian response and/or the application of government or pseudo-governmental violence (as arrest or Alison-powered arm twisting are) then literally everyone else in America is guilty of the same crime.

      • Stephanie

        Of course we don’t lock people up for being self-centered assholes–that wasn’t Urthman’s point.

  • Michael Overton

    It’s fascinating to me how much I feel the urge to argue with a fictional character. But, I find his characterization of those things as “tricks we play to make its shape more pleasing” at the very least, cynical and disingenuous.
    Humanity has direct (and far too often repeated) experience with the alternatives to those things. Like the Dark Ages. Or Somalia. Or the Khmer Rouge.
    Yes, those things are constructs, but they are social constructs designed not only to make our world more “pleasing”, but it just plain benefits even the powerful to have them. Millionaires are able to become Billionaires, etc. She shouldn’t be accepting his view of the world, much less his view of those concepts they’ve been debating.

    • Tylikcat

      How are things that “just plain benefit(s)” people not things that shape the world into a more pleasing form? You are seeing a contradiction there that I really don’t.

  • Evil Fairy

    I do feel like one definitive difference between Cleaver & the D-Bag (and that would be an excellent name for a band/sitcom/buddy cop movie) and one that’s worth pointing out is that Cleaver is locked up. When he was free, he was a monster, and it’s not as if there was a Looney Tunes-esque Wolf & Sheepdog moment where he and Alison just clocked out from their day jobs as hero and villain and were then all cordial. The connection that Alison and Cleaver have formed is only possible because Alison beat the crap out of him and put him in literal chains and then talked to him afterwards.

    I feel like it’s worth pointing out because it becomes much easier to overlook (not necessarily forgive) past wrongs if the wronger is in a position where they’re unlikely to ever be able to repeat their actions. Cleaver’s locked up and there’s a pretty good chance his power’s going to end up tearing him apart. If the other guy suddenly got terminal cancer and was completely confined to a hospital bed and Alison started visiting him, I’d say there was a much better chance that they’d forge some kind of new connection as well.