sfp 6 122 for web

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  • Roman Snow

    With these recent pages, Gurwara has become the best character after Alison.

    • Roman Snow

      Also I wonder how many people will joke about Alison developing some kind of self-multiplication power based on panel 3.

      • 21stCenturyPeon

        I’m going with two.
        No, four.
        No, eight.

        • Weatherheight

          Three, sit.

    • Markus

      >After Alison.

      Pump the brakes, buddy. Gurwara is the best character bar none.

    • Mitchell Lord

      I second that. He’s a THREE DIMENSIONAL CHARACTER. He’s more then just a message. He’s a character you can’t predict.

  • Arkone Axon

    And now even Alison has fully admitted that, even if her goals were noble, her methods were shameful.

    “There was no other way!”

    “What other ways did you try?”

    • Lostman

      I feel that its self defeating; to put in the words of Yoda “Do or do not, there is no try.”

      • Sean Nathaniel Fisk

        I dunno if that is a good comparison. When Yoda was speaking in absolutes there, he wasn’t referring to the method that one takes in accomplishing a goal, but rather the goal itself.

        Use the force vs Do not use the force is a simple, straightforward equation, because using the force to pull the ship out of the muck was the sum total of the exercise.

        It was a lesson in commitment to a goal, rather than the ethics of one’s methods.

        In Yoda’s lesson, Allison succeeded, because the goal was to boost Feral so that she could live happily. If Allison had hesitated or given up rather than use force, she would have failed the object lesson in committing to a goal.

        The lesson that, correct me if I’m wrong, Arkone Axon brings up is more along the lines of “You did it this way, and succeeded. The end goal was noble, even if your methods were not. Learning from this, how will you improve on your approach next time?”

        Now, if we want to frame it as a Dark Side vs Light Side argument, there is plenty of material in the Star Wars verse to draw on.

        • Lostman

          Look at this point; what done is done, and all she is doing now beating herself up for action she took. Regret is a very human emotion, however beating yourself up over something you had second thoughts is not healthy. I very much Gurwara said; she has to own her actions. If she didn’t want to hurt Max, Alison should left when he ‘no’.

          This was something she did, or didn’t do. There no middle ground. As finding another to get Helpmate to come along willingly, that hard. There a lot stuff in Max’s personality that said he was refuse no matter what. That mostly from getting a the short end of the powers stick, and not ever having the chance to grow his own spine.

          • Sean Nathaniel Fisk

            On the contrary, I would argue that it is entirely healthy to beat herself up over her actions. Her main conflict here is that she is a wrecking ball, enjoys being a wrecking ball, and dislikes that she likes it.

            She has the capability to solve most problems with excessive brute force, and has relied on that ability for many of her formative years. She wants to make a change, to become a precision instrument, something that still solves the problem, but without the massive collateral damage.

            She is afraid that if she doesn’t wallow in regret, then she will stop looking for ways to be that precise agent for the greater good that she wants to be. It is easy for her to break things, and she gets a visceral thrill from it. That scares her.

            She is trying to make a fundamental change to who she is. If she accepts that what is done is done, then she retroactively condones a solution she regrets.

            Once she is in a better headspace over all, then yes, it will be healthier for her to accept the past. But for the moment, she is attempting to harness her own disgust with her actions to break her inertia and make movement in an overall positive direction.

            Change on that level is hard. Coming to terms with herself as a person and finding that she is fundamentally dissatisfied with who she is requires time to stew, to pick over what she doesn’t like.

          • Mitchell Lord

            Having been in Allison’s psychological situation a little…I can say the issue is “beating yourself up”…

            Namely, there is a LARGE difference between recognizing what you did is wrong, and trying to change yourself…and circling around in a spiral of guilt and self-loathing.

            Essentially, Allison was in the latter space…which also means that she was incapable of making positive change. Or, in fact, ANY action, to an extent. She was so busy beating herself up for daring to make a mistake. (Though her mistake was far greater then mine), that she was incapable of taking action.

            Only once she has accepted her mistake,acknowledged it as a part of herself, can she make a change. Either make recompense, or “Go and sin no more.”

            Of course, my mistakes were “I forgot to study for a test”, and “I missed an appointment”, not “I bitch-slapped a guy and broke his neck.”

          • Yurei

            Very, very nicely put, Sean. An excellent summation of the issue.

        • Karmik

          On the topic of Yoda:

          I’ve always been under the impression that the lesson he tried to impart was directed more at his exclamation of “I don’t believe it!” – “That is why you fail.”

          Luke was stuck in the mindset of the Force being something that came from him, and was limited in the ways he was limited. He didn’t think it was possible to move something as heavy as an X-Wing so of course he couldn’t do it.

          But the Force doesn’t come from just one person, and it doesn’t TRY to move a starship. It knows full well it can, and whether it does or it doesn’t depends on whether you know how to ask. For Yoda, the Force is an ally that is everywhere around everything and he believes and understands fully that there is little it cannot do. For Luke, the Force is a tool and he wields it like one; a hammer won’t lift a ship out of a swamp no matter how hard you swing it.

        • Arkone Axon

          Actually, the lesson that I’m bringing up is that it doesn’t matter how noble your goals are, if you engage in immoral methods to achieve those goals. Especially when you engage in needlessly immoral methods which greatly reduce your effective results.

          Alison’s methods were NOT that effective. She will never be able to obtain Max’s willing cooperation in the future. She has tainted her own sense of self, made her self-image into someone who would do such awful things. She has made an enemy out of someone who is now 100% justified in seeing her as the greatest threat in his world, because it doesn’t matter what she does for others, to HIM she has been horrible, violent, and cruel. And she has drawn the negative attention of a woman who was killing superpowered children for far less than this, before Alison even put on her first costume. Menace QUIT because of this woman and her cronies, and Alison just made the switch from “not enough of an inconvenience to take the trouble of dealing with” to “worth the trouble.”

      • Timothy McLean

        Just makes “Only Sith deal in absolute” all the more ironic, huh? And “There is no try,” applied to this context, is ridiculous. What Yoda meant was that he didn’t give a darn if Luke was trying, because he wasn’t succeeding. If you’re using that logic here, you’re saying that the ends don’t matter as long as you satisfy the means, which is an absolutely terrifying idea.

        • Chani

          “What Yoda meant was that he didn’t give a darn if Luke was trying, because he wasn’t succeeding.”

          worse, many people seem to interpret it as “if you’re not succeeding, then you must have chosen to fail”. as if there couldn’t possibly be a barrier they’re not seeing, or a barrier that can’t be overcome with pure Willpower.

          there’s a big difference between “just open the door!” and “you’re supposed to pull, not push”.

          whereas alison’s more like “wtf, past-me, why didn’t you think to try pulling the door before blowing a big hole in the wall?” which can go at least two ways: pointless yelling at her past self for not having been retroactively smarter, or trying to make future-alison smart/mindful enough to avoid repeating the mistake.

          unless, of course, time travel *is* possible, and then she might really be able to go back and tell past-alison to think more. 🙂

      • Arkone Axon

        Something to remember about Yoda:

        He was a failure. Completely wrong. In the prequels alone he refused to properly train Anakin (leading to him being poorly trained and easily duped by a con artist whose whole line was, “there MIGHT have been a Sith lord who knew how to bring back the dead, and he MIGHT have taught me a few things, and that MIGHT save your wife from the scary fate you dreamed about), failed to beat Darth Sidious when he insisted on facing him alone, and then ran away to hide in a swamp instead of helping the newly born Rebel Alliance.

        In the classic trilogy? He spent the whole time LYING to Luke about Darth Vader’s true identity, and was ultimately gearing Luke up to be an assassin, to kill his father. Emphasizing that there was no other way. But Luke won and defeated the Emperor by NOT killing Vader, by finding a third option, a better way. So even in the original trilogy, Yoda’s teachings were misguided.

  • Markus

    In the end, Alison isn’t entirely taking of or leaving on the jacket any more. Both positions are compromising, because both positions have found a place where they meet in the middle. The arguing fragments of Al are coming to a place where they can both just be Alison again.

    I also love this argument as a fundamentally Utilitarian justification for not going to extreme measures. If you start killing people to give their organs to the sick, you stop looking for ways to make the organ donation system more efficient.

    • Stephanie Gertsch

      Feral’s story arc is extremely reminiscent of “Never Let Me Go.” (But much less disturbing.)

      • Stephanie

        I don’t know, I don’t see a lot of similarity except for the organ donor thing. Feral is one person making a conscious decision to use her unique abilities for the purpose of endlessly donating organs, as opposed to an entire class of people created for the sole purpose of being eventually carved up, treated and taught to think of themselves as less than human, and carefully manipulated to see their fate as inevitable and beyond their control.

  • Arkone Axon

    Oh, and it occurs to me to note one more thing:

    Alison is NOT done yet.

    She’s admitted she was wrong. Her intentions were good (whether it was “save all these thousands and millions” or “save a friend being vivisected on a 24/7 basis), but her methods were wrong in the extreme. She’s admitted she did the wrong thing here.

    …But now she has to try to fix it. You don’t just say “my bad” and move on. She needs to TRY to fix things with Max. IF she can. (I’d be surprised if her return to his apartment didn’t find her being confronted by something along the lines of, oh, say… an angry mother, pictures of her parents and sister, and a simple promise regarding what will happen if she EVER comes near the boy again)

    • Lostman

      I made a joke last panel how what she did to Max is like taking a loan from a bank to another loan from another bank.

    • Shjade

      I worry about it being more like “an angry mother, pictures of the son she loved – past tense…”

      • Lostman

        There are worse super-villains in this world then mind readers…:P

        • Shjade


          • Lostman

            I was referring to Max’s mom.

          • Shjade

            I don’t get the supervillainy happening though >.>

          • Lostman

            You don’t super powers to do evil.

          • Shjade

            What’s evil about a mother being upset her son ended himself…?

          • Lostman

            Pay back.

    • shink

      There is actually a point to going “my bad”, and moving on. The point is that Alison finds herself resorting to violence to solve situations a lot. She physically intimidated Menace into submission, she grabbed that potential would be rapist at the party, she threatened to kill a crowd of angry (but innocent) bystanders protesting Feral, she kidnapped Max, she shoved Feral through a wall. Alison gets violent quite a bit, and saying “my bad”, will help her better handle the next time she has the urge to be violent,

      • Mitchell Lord

        Plus…there’s REALLY not much she can do to make it up to Max, that wouldn’t make the situation worse. Including, you know, ever speaking to him again or getting within restraining order distance of him.

        Don’t forget…Max has a VERY good incentive to not frak with Allison. She knows his “deepest, darkest secret”. And she’s proven she’s willing to use force. Max, say, threatening her family, wouldn’t accomplish anything. (And would just move him into petty super-villain level.)

        Max doing anything less then blackmail, would mean she could just leak on the internet that Max has superpowers. Plus, off the top of my head, there’s no real way she CAN make recompense. Except maybe an I’m sorry, which feels woefully insufficient.

        Part of the problem…is that Max is SUCH an asshole. He’s a Strawman, pure and simple. He’s the kind of person who existed solely to be someone that Allison could not convince by any appeal other then brute force.

        I’ve MET people like him. Even if you do make a mistake..they only thing they’d ever except is total submission. Bowing down and sucking their…yeah. I’m a bit heated on tthis moment. I took LOGS of my convesation with this guy. I tried to make recompense with him.

        If Max is anything like THAT MAN…he’d want Allison to break Feral’s neck. Or, to become his enforcer, and kill people for him.

        Essentially, he’d want her soul. Because my version of Max? Wanted mine. He was abusive, cruel, and told a friend of mine who was depressed that she was faking, and the only way to prove she wasn’t faking…was to do it. To make a public apology for even JOKING about suicide. “I swear, this conversation makes me want to kill myself.”

        He bullied her into falsely claiming she wasn’t ‘really’ suicidal…just to shut him up, because she was afraid he would ban her. He called the kindest person I know a sociopath, just because she dared defend Friend A.

        You can’t make recompense with someone like Max. Because they only see people as THINGS. And only understand strength. Someone who wants to make recompense…is promising themselves into slavery.

        • Mitchell Lord

          I’d be worried about him reading this comic, but he hates SJWs, so it’s all good.

          • grey

            Did even even imply that much? At most, the most assholish and worst thing he said: “I have a hard time believing people do things simply to be good. Feral must get something out of being an organ martyr to go through all that.” Which, well, Al sort of proved his point, right? She only saved Feral because of the way it made her feel to do so, even as she claims it was to save millions of lives.

          • Stephanie

            I think the most assholeish and worst thing he said was when he told Alison that absolutely nothing would convince him not to let thousands of people die, just because he didn’t want her to have her way. But he’s also pretty consistently displayed a selfish disregard for other people’s welfare. Remember the thing with the gardeners?

        • Arkone Axon

          Um… no, I don’t see Max as being an asshole. Strawman… well, he became one during that date, but frankly he hasn’t done anything nearly on a par with that person you just described.

          Max has a very VERY good incentive to do something about Alison. Specifically, the fact that she told him point blank, “whenever I want to use your powers again, I will do so. Nothing you can do will stop me.” She not only abused him (cue the replies about how it wasn’t torture, wasn’t abuse, and anyway he deserved a lot more of it), but the last thing she told him was “any time I want to abuse you again, I will do so.”

          That is NIGHTMARE territory. I’ve known people who had abusive stalkers like that. I once flew across the country to protect someone from the guy who beat her in an alcohol fueled rage, when the cops told her point blank they would do NOTHING to help her. And for Max, public revelation was a fear specifically because it would lead to… what’s already happening, so what has he got to lose?

          Max never wanted Alison to hurt anyone. Max never wanted to hurt anyone himself. Max just wanted the woman who didn’t like him to leave him alone.

          • Chani

            I’m having a rather disturbing “why not both” moment here. Max could be the kind of asshole that can’t be appeased, *and* feel like he’s got nothing left to lose. He might decide to do as much damage as he can regardless of what Alison does (or doesn’t do) next.

          • Arkone Axon

            Except he hasn’t demonstrated any such desire for pettiness or nastiness. The most he’s expressed is a desire to be left alone and not coerced into doing things. The closest that anyone can provide is “He refused to help just to spite Alison because he’s so mean!” Except that… well, even Alison has admitted she didn’t really ask so much as demand. And that she couldn’t even offer him compassion or understanding, let alone the monetary or material compensation that supposedly he would crave (honestly, from what I’m seeing, what he mostly desires is cameradie. To actually feel that he’s worth a damn. He has a SUPERPOWER, and he was taught to be ashamed of it because it doesn’t let him be a solo hero. That’s psychological abuse from his parents, right there).

          • Chani

            I think the expectation of nastiness is coming from real-world patterns, and the lack of anything contradicting them. Maybe he’ll avoid that trap, but self-preservation is telling me not to take the chance. (good thing he’s a fictional character and can’t really hurt us 😉

            Still… if he’s going to be that nasty, can Alison make things any worse for herself by starting a conversation? I suppose it depends on whether she’s emotionally vulnerable/naive enough to not end the conversation if it veers into manipulation or abuse. And whether she’d recognise when it did.

          • Arkone Axon

            I can only reiterate that Max has never shown any indication of nastiness or cruelty. Every time I read someone claiming otherwise, it just screams “Blame the victim because we like the abuser so it wasn’t really abuse.”

            I WILL concede one thing. Max is not nasty… but his mother was killing superpowered children who had been deemed “inconvenient” back when Alison was still in a training bra. So… you want to talk nasty? The same woman who murdered the kids who could provide limitless energy, feed the hungry, and cure diseases… I can see her arranging for Alison to check in on Feral – only to find a pile of ash beyond the possibility of regeneration, and a note saying “touch my son again and your own family becomes fair game.”

          • Chani

            I never said it wasn’t abuse. Maybe I wasn’t clear earlier, but I totally agree with you that Alison’s behaviour was abusive. Max didn’t deserve that, even if he’s as much of a jerk as his mother. (er.. where was his mother connected to those killings?)

            What I’m trying to say is that Max can be a victim *and* also happen to be a jerk, the sort who may perpetuate the abuse his parents showed him. That’s not an excuse for Alison’s behaviour. He didn’t deserve it. It’s just something to be cautious of, because… well, you provided a good example there of what a nasty person can do for revenge. I can’t see Max not being tempted by that. He might not even need to get his hands dirty; just “let” his mother find out about it, and tell himself it’s not his concern if she happens to do something about it…

          • Arkone Axon

            Yes, but… again. We have not seen Max be a jerk, except for those who keep returning to the “When Alison showed up, insulted him, and demanded he save her friend, he didn’t jump to save the thousands of innocent people that Alison herself didn’t really care about” argument. So far the worst thing he’s done, even according to those claiming “Max is a jerk,” has been to refuse to tell a couple of gardeners (who don’t even actually work for him) to go home, and then to put his foot in his mouth with that stupid Randian comment.

            What you’re conveying here is something along the lines of, “a rape victim can be a victim AND a harlot.” That’s… really not a good thing to be suggesting.

            (and this is usually when someone then jumps and screams, “stop equating what happened to Max to rape!” because it’s too effective an argument at pointing out the inherent double standard here in demonizing Max, even to the point of “well, he can be a victim even though he’s also clearly a jerk.”)

          • Chani

            hold on… it sounds like you’re saying I have to prove max definitely *is* a jerk before we can consider the possibility that he *may* be a jerk.

            also, maybe I’m not awake enough, but can you eli5 why it’s not good to suggest that victims might not be perfect? I did clearly say that the imperfection does NOT make them deserve harm.

          • Arkone Axon

            Yes. I am indeed saying you have to provide PROOF, or at least some actual evidence, that he is a jerk before you can claim that he is a jerk. Even the accusation alone requires at least enough evidence to make the accusation seem plausible… if we’re going to say “he’s a victim and a jerk,” then we need proof of his jerkhood that matches the proof of his victimhood. Otherwise you’re simply throwing out accusations randomly, and that is not good for all manner of reasons.

            And it is not good to suggest that victims are not perfect because, if you don’t know for a fact that they did something, then your focus should be on the crime committed against them. To use the rape analogy (again), it was standard practice for far, far too long to assume that anyone claiming to be a rape victim must have done something to deserve it because they were cockteasing, or dressing provocatively, or otherwise did something. So even to suggest it now is rightly regarded as barbaric (at least in western culture, but that’s where we’re focusing anyway).

            I’ve also seen that suggestion applied to victims of assault – I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment, but I get tired of people calling themselves “Operators” who speak of victims of violence as if they were sheep deserving of the slaughter. Being unarmed by choice and being opposed to violence doesn’t mean you deserve to be assaulted; it might not be prudent to learn to defend yourself, but you don’t blame a skinny peace lover for being bashed in the head by a mugger, you blame the mugger. You blame the guy who committed the violence, not the guy who let their (perfectly understandable) abhorrence of violence prevent them from taking precautions against violence.

            That’s why I’ve been so disgusted with the rush to assume the worst of Max. It’s literally the same thing as calling a rape victim a cocktease who led the guy on, or calling a home invasion victim a wimp who should have prepared against a group of armed attackers. And even discussing the possibility that they might be a cocktease, an easy target, or a jerk, is shifting the blame away from the real jerk in the situation: the abuser who committed the assault.

            (Which is why Gurwara has guided Alison into accepting that she is the bad guy here, that there is no excuse or justification, and she’s now got to TRY to salvage a really bad situation that will never actually be as good as it would have been had she not decided to engage in abuse)

          • Chani

            I’m not claiming he IS a jerk, I’m claiming he COULD be a jerk.

            As for victims… I *specifically* said he didn’t deserve it. how much clearer can I be? It’s like… I’m saying ((B implies A) is false; B is true) and you’re telling me to stop saying (A is true).

            And for “even discussing the possibility… is shifting the blame”, I wasn’t here to discuss blame. I was here to discuss what these characters might do next in the comic. It seems like you’re only interested in discussing Max’s victim status, on which we are violently in agreement.

          • Arkone Axon

            My point is that even discussing whether or not he could be a jerk is counterproductive and problematic. He’s done nothing to deserve being called a jerk. Or to borrow your own analogy, I’m saying “stop saying (A is potentially true) without evidence to support it.”

      • Arkone Axon

        What I meant by “don’t just say “my bad” and move on” is that you don’t say “I’ve been engaging in bad behavior” and then not do anything to correct the situation. She committed multiple felonies towards Max, and she accepts that now. She also realized that this is a pattern of behavior for her. She needs to address both those issues, try to change them.

        (also, she didn’t just threaten to kill a crowd of bystanders. She threatened to kill them unless they told her who was working with the guy she’d just killed… who had walked into a hospital and murdered all the doctors and nurses attempting to save lives with Feral’s help. So… I can understand her being upset at that point…)

        • shink

          To your second point Gurwara’s tired admission of an old man “might makes right”, is something that has farther reaching implications then are explored in this comic. You(and a few others) keep saying “Alison committed felonies”, as if the law has meaning to her, as if it should. It doesn’t, let me give you a summary of what the law actually is as defined by the likes of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes (the thinking of which the legal structures of most of the world are based on at this point). The legal structure is a group of laws made by a group of people more powerful then us that we have consented to follow (consent in this instance can only be removed by actively leaving or completely disengaging from society, it is very much coerced). People consent to legal structures because of either fear of the state (Hobbes), or because a legal structure lets money work and society function (Locke), and I think they’re both right. A functional state has a monopoly on the legal use of force in a society, and wields enough force to crush and kill any elements of society that either break it’s laws or rise up against it directly. Legal structures are also required to enforce the value of money, and of course money gives us a way to trade resources without actually trading resources and lets commerce happen.

          Alison stands as a sovereign according to the thinking of Hobbes. She does not fear the state as the state does not possess a demonstrable ability to kill her or indeed effectively use force against her in any way.While she does use money she also wouldn’t need to if she decided she wanted things for free and could easily set up a slave empire if she wanted to, (because no one can stop her). Beyond that money isn’t really something she generally has to worry about as she always seems to find more if she wants it (whether or not she accepts it).

          Instead of this legal structure to guide our actions that the rest of us have, she instead has philosophy, goals, and desires. Much like a king she is free to use her considerable resources and power to pursue whatever her heart desires, and attempt to craft the world around her however she sees fit. She owes nothing to anyone.

          This point made, her interacting with Max ever again would undoubtedly be unwelcome and be met with extreme fear by Max. Max at this point would expect her to force him to use his powers again, and in order to overcome that fear she’d have to demonstrate expert level skills in empathy and diplomacy that she just doesn’t possess. She really doesn’t have the skills to fix that situation, and likely would just make it worse.

          • Chani

            “Alison stands as a sovereign according to the thinking of Hobbes. She
            does not fear the state as the state does not possess a demonstrable
            ability to kill her or indeed effectively use force against her in any

            People have said that before, but… Alison does have emotions, and those make her vulnerable. It’s mostly a good thing, but I’m surprised no villain has tried kidnapping her family or something.

          • Arkone Axon

            One: saying that she is literally above the law… if she decides that is in fact the case, then she’s done as a hero. She is now full on villain. Anti-hero at best. The law applies to EVERYONE. If she’s outside the law, then she’s not a person, she’s an alien entity that needs to be dealt with accordingly. She is either a person with the same rights AND responsibilities as anyone else, or she is an outside entity to be regarded as a violent threat, much like a natural disaster. To be stopped if at all possible.

            Two: Saying that people don’t have the ability to use effective force against her… you’re underestimating human ingenuity. So far the only reason nobody has really succeeded is that nobody with sufficient resources has been sufficiently motivated to find a way. But if Alison starts declaring, “I am above the law and can do whatever I want,” even if she’s only saying it through her actions and not actually admitting it… humanity WILL find a way.

          • Happyroach

            “The law applies to EVERYONE”

            Oh that’s rich. Sure it does. And if you’re a rapist who’s white, male, upper class and a jock, of course the law will treat you the same as if you were say, poor and brown of skin. So of course David Becker is serving 7 to 10 for his crime.

            And of course the people in the White House who’ve recently broke the law are totally going to go to prison over it. Nor are reporters facing federal prison fr doing their jobs.

            Don’t make me laugh about how the law applies to everyone. Only children are that naive.

          • DracoExIgne

            I’m pretty sure Arkone’s “The Law applies to EVERYONE” is meant in the ideal sense, and not in the literal sense. I’m sure most people who would actually like this comic would realize that the law in action doesn’t apply to everyone in the same level.

            However, the idea that all persons are equal beneath the law is what holds nations together and protects society. One person, even a superhuman, cannot be above the law and have society still flourish.

            This is the reason why white jocks and politicians getting let off easy is so offensive. Everyone is supposed to be equal under the law, and that is being undermined.

          • Arkone Axon

            You are correct. Though of course there are those who will jump to conclusions and sneer and take offense. As if the disgusting actions of someone like David Becker, or how a blatantly biased judge let him go like that, somehow affects my comments about how the law is officially blind to petty trivialities such as economics, race, or gender. Which is why treating ANYONE as being above the law, above the rules, is unjust and unethical. Whether it’s an entitled little rich jerk, or… a superpowered female who thinks the ends justify the means.

          • Happyroach

            In an ideal sense, there would be no need for laws. I also think that pretending an ideal state of law has an sort of meaning is a dangerous delusion. Laws were created t deal with practical, real-world things, and should only be judged in that context.

            Honestly, we DON’T want the law to apply to everyone equally. Even in an ideal state, we don’t want a starving person who steals bread to be treated the same as a wealthy man who defrauds a family out of their house. And in practical terms also, the benefit from allowing a wealthy person engage in crimes may be regarded as more important than if say, a poor person committed those crimes.

            I disagree with the idea that “all are equal under the law” is a requirement for holding nations together- even leaving out the example of modern nations, there are far too many examples t the contrary to believe that. No, what holds nations together is the ability to monopolize force. Only a nation where the populace agrees that he rulers can coerce people into obeying it’s edicts can survive. Whether it’s a population that only tacitly agrees with the coercion, or a nation where the government can monopolize force, the only laws that are worth the name are the ones that can be enforced. others are merely polite agreements.

            Which brings us back to Allison. If different laws can apply to A
            member of the Stanford Swim Team or a Felix Saper, why shouldn’t
            different laws apply to Allison? Why expect her to be treated the same as everybody else, when we don’t demand that from society at large?

            The bottom line here, is that no nation can really enforce their laws on her. The only thing restraining her is her own personal sense of ethics and enculturaton, and her polite agreement to generally follow laws.No state has he ability to coerce her physically. which is why the periodic calls that Allison should be punished or jailed for her actions is so bewildering. Punish HOW? Jail HOW?

          • Arkone Axon

            Well, considering that the starving who steals bread has taken approximately $1-5 worth of product from their victim, whereas the wealthy man has taken $50K-10,000,000… yes, I would like to see an equal application of the law. The wealthier man has also clearly stolen far more, as well as damaged their victim to a far greater extent.

            And… as has been noted, different laws should NOT be applied to a member of a college athlete. That is why it is considered such a huge scandal, and why there was such a furor over the questionable ruling by Judge Thomas Estes. Is the law currently fair, impartial, and perfect? Of course not. But it is considerably less unfair than it was a century ago, when a white woman could accuse a black man of rape with no evidence and the guilty verdict was inevitable. It is less unfair than it was a half century ago when Slut shaming a rape victim was standard procedure for defense attorneys. It is less unfair than it was a quarter century ago when white men could be acquitted of beating an asian man to death because, according to the judge, their rage over economic conditions left them temporarily insane. It is still not perfect. But that makes it all the more important to believe in the ideal, and then work to make the ideal into the reality.

            As for how Alison could be punished or jailed… I can think of a half dozen ways offhand. (also, if the only thing keeping her from wanton destruction and slaughter is her own decision not to… that is a frightening thing to suggest. For all sorts of reasons)

          • Lysiuj

            Well, it’s good to know that someone shouldn’t be considered a person due to certain actions or statements, or if they decide not to obey society’s rules and norms (that sure sounds like a lovely system).
            I can only imagine what you’d say if someone said, or even implied, that Max shouldn’t be thought of as a person – oh wait, I don’t need to imagine do I?

          • Arkone Axon

            COMPLETELY missing the point. The law applies to everyone, to every person, even those who aren’t citizens of the community. If a foreigner commits a crime, they are subject to arrest and prosecution. If a foreigner is the victim of a crime, they are entitled to the protection of the law.

            But to say that she’s so powerful that the law no longer applies to her? That’s not going to end well for ANYONE.

          • Lysiuj

            All of which would still involve treating everyone involved as persons.
            So again, do you honestly think that’s ever a good idea? Were you just using hyperbolic language in the last post, or actually supporting the stripping of personhood under the right circumstances?

          • Arkone Axon

            First of all: neither of the above. I was specifically pointing out that treating Alison as if she were above the law, outside of the law, means regarding her as a dangerous entity like a natural disaster, rather than a person. Anyone saying that the law does not apply to her is, by extension, creating the assumption that she is a literal monster to be stopped rather than a person with rights as well as responsibilities. I do not regard her as a monster, nor do I regard her as above the law. The law should apply to her, both in terms of punishment and restraint for her crimes, and safeguarding her rights (i.e. neither giving her a free pass because “she’s a superhero and therefore it’s okay,” nor throwing her in an interdimensional prison without benefit of a trial because something something registration)

            Second: That’s the second post you’ve made here where you jump to assume that I personally am suggesting stripping Alison (or anyone else) of personhood, rather than pointing out that claiming that Alison is above the law is doing that by extension. Will this be enough to convince you, or are you going to make a third post where you once again accuse me of the exact opposite of what I am saying here?

          • Lysiuj

            Well I honestly thought I was taking your comment at face value. In the interest of a healthy debate, let me try to parse this:
            What I thought you said: “If Alison is above the law, she shouldn’t be considered a person.”
            What you actually said: “If someone thinks Alison is above the law, then *that person* must not consider her a person.”
            Is that right? Was this the mistake I made?

          • Arkone Axon

            Yes, that is the mistake you were making. To be “above the law” is to be OUTSIDE the law. (And thank you for taking a step back, reviewing things, and acknowledging your error)

            There’s a reason why mainstream superheroes are often featured in courtroom dramas – “Justice League” had Green Lantern John Stewart placed on trial for the destruction of a planet, “Young Justice” had Superman and several other members of the league submitting to a trial to answer for actions performed while under Vandal Savage’s mind control five years prior… hell, look at more “down to earth” heroes such as Daredevil (an attorney who struggles to reconcile his vigilantism with his oath to uphold the law) or Batman (who, in many depictions, is officially deputized as a special officer of the Gotham City Police Department, which is why they don’t have a problem working with him). Being powerful doesn’t give you any special rights, it just gives you the ability to do more, and with it the responsibility to not misuse your power.

            The reason why Alison is not beyond redemption at this point is because she still struggles to work within the boundaries of the legal system, within the mores of society. She’s not attempting to bully her way through every situation like this guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_McElroy

          • Lysiuj

            Ah, I see. Well then I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  • Nathanaël François

    This entire ethics “debate” has been nothing short of excellent.

  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    “Maybe it’s naive to assume there will always be a way to do things cleanly”

    Sure. But naïveté, in the grand scheme of things? It’s cute, hopeful.
    It’s criminally and actively, willingly ignorant to assume the wrongful use of violence won’t bring forth much more dire consequences.

  • Dean

    And of course Gurwara is using ‘Brava!’ correctly.

    • Lysiuj

      He’s got to have her properly ready for the stage, after all.
      (No I am not letting this joke go).

      • Rugains Fleuridor

        I’m glad you aren’t

  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    “Oh for fuck’s sake you magnificent twat okay here’s what’s going to happen: I’m *so* sorry your little power fantasy never realized but if you think I’m ever letting the possibility of an endless amount of organ surplus go because you plucknugget resent me then you display an amount of ignorance I don’t even care to patronize to. We’re going now, take a fucking coat–the skies are cold and windy–and I’ll make it up to you. I don’t care how, just ask. I’ve got memorized the numbers of a half dozen relations in the news who would be dying to have an interview with the Man who made the superwoman swoon, how about that? You get to have aaaaaall the admirers you want and the precious, precious three seconds where you fool yourself into thinking their empty love will fill that fucking void in your assclown’s heart. And you get the revenge of knowing how humiliating it’ll feel for me if you fuckwit care for that.”

    “…You know, you’re wrong. You’re wrong if you think I had it all. They made me into a self-righteous child solider and I had no friends. I get to be haunted by horrific regrets, I get to feel alone and sad all the same. The worst part? How fucking powerless it feels in the end, and how guilty that makes you to indulge in that feeling when “powerless” is never what you are. It’s a mess. I won’t lie and say I wished for another life, but I know what it’s like to be frustrated, and helpless, and think… having just that one thing… would change it all. You can’t even start to imagine what I would give to have your power instead of mine. And keep the delusion that I’m still holding onto now, that it will fix everything. That it will fix me.
    But it won’t. Nothing does. We just have what we have.
    Now come on, we’re going. You know we have to go, this is just not questionable. Maybe you’ll want to tell me more about how it was for you on the way.”

    • Firanai
      • Spongegirl Circleskirt

        What they said.

    • Lysiuj

      Very well written, really.
      But. Are you trying to present this as an alternative to violence that she could have used?

      “if you think I’m ever letting the possibility of an endless amount of organ surplus go”
      “You know we have to go, this is just not questionable”
      still feels like she’s coercing him, just with threats of violence instead of violence.

      • juleslt

        [threats of violence + offer to make up for his trouble somehow] is definitely better than plain violence, though.

        • Lysiuj

          Debatable. Not speaking from personal experience, but several commenters here have said that they would prefer physical violence to other forms of violence, so I’m not sure it’s so clear-cut.

          • juleslt

            Surely, a warning before resorting to physical violence must be a plus?
            I’m sure they were talking about physical violence being better than manipulation, not better than threats.

          • AshlaBoga

            I wonder how many of this commentators have had someone use force on them and ignore everything else. There was a guy who was doing martial arts demonstrations and I volunteered to throw a punch and have him block it. So I throw the punch, he puts my arm in a lock and starts explaining how it works to the crowd. Thing is my arm is being bent pretty far, so I’m getting very uncomfortable and I ask him to let go. He ignores me and keeps on speaking, while I point out that this hurts and there’s no need to keep me in the lock. My friend starts screaming at him to let me go and then he lets me go and says I shouldn’t be such a pansy. Crowd did not like the guy after that.

            Trust me, being ignored by someone who’s using force on you is more scary than them sounding reasonable because it makes them seem alien and sociopathic.

          • Shweta Narayan

            I’ve had both, many times (in my case from people who did not or would not understand that childhood asthma can kill a person). the physical violence did not come nearly as close to killing me as the emotional violence/gaslighting/mindfuck did, because it didn’t alter my survival sense after the fact. The emotional violence made me question for years afterwards whether I was just being fussy, and as a result I’m much much sicker as an adult.

            so, ymmv but I’d rather have nonlethal physical pain than people talking me into ignoring my own sense of what’s best, any day.

        • Yurei

          Not necessarily. As Allison said, at least a half-nelson is honest and unambiguous. There are many folks in this world who resent mental or emotional coercion as much as, if not more than, physical coercion. Case in point – Patrick. His mental games eventually drove Allison into one of the darkest moods she’s ever been in and caused lingering pain Max won’t really have to deal with.

          Being mentally or emotionally dominated is just as traumatizing as being physically dominated, and both are much harder to heal post-trauma. As well, Max has no idea what Allison will do with her ‘so-called’ offers of recompense. *WE* know she’d make good on them, but for all Max knows it’d just be another trap, or she’d find a way to twist it around and torment him again. He already doesn’t trust her, why would he trust her offers to prostrate or humiliate herself for his enjoyment?

          And realistically? “Do the right thing or I’ll give you such a pinch”, which is what Allison did, is better than “Do the right thing and I’ll degrade myself in public for you, but do the wrong thing and you’re still getting such a pinch” in what way? A threat of violence is only good if actual violence follows defiance of the threat, and let’s be honest here – we all know Allison would follow up on that threat.

          So what’s more dignified – a simple “Fuck you, we’re doing this whether you want to or not”, or “Here’s what we’re doing. here’s what I’ll deign to do to make it up to you later if you want, but right now we’re getting Feral off that table no matter what I have to do to your face to make it happen”?

          As she said last page – at least you’re free and clear to resent the half-nelson.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        I’d call it manipulation, rather. Stating they have no other choice does wonders to convince them there aren’t. And these are still written with the caveat that this is Alison, not accepting no for an answer.

        My personal resolution to that problem doesn’t necessarily perclude violence, only, not coming from the greatest potential tyrant the world will ever know.

        • Lysiuj

          Then what would you reply to Alison last page, about manipulation also being wrong?
          “My personal resolution to that problem doesn’t necessarily perclude violence”
          Woah. I honestly wouldn’t have expected to hear that from you. You always seem to be arguing that we can’t strip people of their rights and liberties for the greater good under any circumstances. I’m interested to hear more, if you wouldn’t mind.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            It’s complicated and difficult to make self-coherent, but I do believe there is such a thing as righteous violence. Self-defense, for an obvious start, but the broader “defense against oppresive abuse of power” can fit there as well.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Oh and about manipulation: I disagree with coat!Alison that any and all attempt at reasoned discourse is brainwashing. Politically, we have to believe humans have free will.

            Anthropologically, physically, realistically, we have not. Obviously.

          • Eric Schissel

            How are you defining “free” will, exactly? That matters. There are perfectly reasonable, intuitive definitions of free will by which we certainly _do_ have free will. Qv Quine. Though I am aware that this is part of a lengthy and unresolved definition in which the term “obviously” belongs on neither side of the subject- as often in philosophy (a subject I almost majored in, for what -that- is worth; almost not counting even in …well, maybe in explosive ordnance.)

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            That’s why I separate the realms of politics and that of physics. As a mathematician, I rather like one where, let’s say… we shall call free will the ability by which consciousness is somehow able to triumph over the determinism of the macro scale. That one we absolutely don’t have.

            And I say politically we got to believe we have it because, well, even that one’s not so certain, what with how many unconscious biases, psychological and social phenomena control our behavior and whatnot.

          • Tylikcat

            Determinism of the macro scale?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Well, it gets fuzzy at the quantum level, with probability distributions and uncertainty principles. But to ours, expecting free will is like expecting a domino in a chain will not fall because it wants to.

          • Tylikcat

            So, the neuroscience of decision making is really up in the air. There’s a lot of stuff about decision making that says we’ve already made up our minds before we’re consciously aware that we’ve made up our minds – but gosh, conscious awareness is behind the game, news at eleven. Certainly, when you’re talking neuronal processes, and the effects that go into changing synaptic strength and pruning synapses and everything else involved in making decisions and being predisposed to make them one way or another and how those predispositions form… stochasticity is everything, quantum processes matter (but I don’t know of anyone who has said anything about effect size in an intelligent way – and damn, that would be hard*) and… I would have to put the whole thing as currently unknown.

            The mathematical neuroscience work around decision making that I’ve been in the vicinity of (a labmate who was also my former roommate – I’m not a mathematical neuroscientist, really, though I’ve had to grade coursework for such a class 😛 **) models decisions in such a ways that they would be susceptible to very small changes. Of course, I think a lot of people are scratching their heads and wondering of chaos and quantum effects leave room for free will – because if so, neurons are good vectors for it. Probably.)

            * Biochemist me is snickering.
            ** The agreement was that I was going to teach and grade the programming part of things. Then there were last minute renegotiations…

          • MrSing

            I dunno if quantum mechanics would really leave room for free will either. If my decision is either the cause of the interaction of natural laws on my neuro chemistry, or random chance interacting on my brain, I still don’t see much room for free will.

          • Tylikcat

            If I see a seminar from someone I have respect for* on the subject, I will totally attend. In the mean time, the math is tasty, the computational models are fun to write… and on a day to day basis, in terms of my own life, I don’t give a damn. Real free will or placebo free will – tastes great, less filling! I’m interested, but not that worried. (I mean, I have so many more pressing problems that I don’t have the mental energy to deal with, y’know?)

            * Which is probably going to come down to their academic creds in this case…

          • MrSing

            I just meant that I don’t even have an idea of what having free will would be like. Either we are bound by the laws of nature or those of random chance or something else? What would that “something else” that we call “free will” even be?

            How would you even test if a choice was done by free internal will? We can obviously test if someone was pressured by external pressures by other people their “wills”, but how would we even do that for our own free will?

            Freedom is incredibly important to me as a “useful illusion” to make a society I want to be a part of, but to be honest, I can’t even imagine what free will actually is.

          • Tylikcat

            The best and the worst think about studying neuroscience is that we don’t know jack. I mean, I used to joke about how in biochemistry, you only have to scratch at anything a bit before you hit “we don’t know” but neuroscience” is worst – or better, if you want to think of it that way.

            We have a lot of data. There are a lot of low level pieces we can tell you about. (I work a lot in this area, because things are more or less sane here.) But how it fits together big picture? Ahahaha… no.

            I mean, things like consciousness are incredibly ill-defined. We *know* some things about it, but it’s super fuzzy even what we’ve talking about. (But it’s pretty clear that there’s a lot of self-delusion going on.) I mostly try to keep a sense of humor about it, and try to be meticulous about my data.

            (…and then, like everyone else, speculate wildly with colleagues off hours. I mean there’s science, and then there’s science fiction. And then there’s grant writing, which is a little of both.)

          • AshlaBoga

            “And then there’s grant writing, which is a little of both.”

            I admit, I laughed.

          • Happyroach

            Agree completely with what you just said. This incidentally, is why claims about AI being developed in our lifetimes are complete bunk. We are barely at the stage of being able to define the basics of things like intelligence and consciousness, much less duplicate them.

          • Tylikcat

            I try not to make time bounded predictions, but if you mean “thinks like a human” yeah, not soon. The other definition of AI has generally been a moving target – a succession of “this problem requires AI…” followed by “Oh, that problem is now old hat.” Which is actually incredibly cool, and we’re doing some pretty cool things with modeling inverts. (OTOH, our neuron models are imperfect. So when people start talking about modeling brains as such, I start snickering.)

          • Shweta Narayan

            …y’know…. on the subject of brain modelling kinda, i’d be interested to see what you think of SMRITI (http://www1.icsi.berkeley.edu/~shastri/psfiles/shastri_em.pdf) – from what I know it seems p convincing that what Shastri has with it is a plausible model, though of course it’s simplifying a whole lot, but also – I am not a computer person and clever CS tricks would probably fool me, plus i’ve been mostly dead for some years, and I suspect you’d have a much better sense than me about whether it’s actually living up to the claims 🙂

          • Tylikcat

            Quick note before I run off to the farmers market.

            I come from a computational neuroscience tradition that puts a lot of emphasis on detailed single neuron models. And sure, you can abstract that a bit if you’re going to set up a giant network… except that a lot of people tend to gloss over the fact that brains are only sort of a digital system, they’re really super analog, and all the stuff you throw away when you make simplified models is important.

            The link above doesn’t work on my box, but I found the SMRITI page though if there was a particular paper you wanted me to look at I’m missing that piece. I’m going to need to read though to see more about their neuron models, but modeling the hippocampus seems like a reasonable goal – it’s a reasonable size, we know a fair bit about its connections and activity and a lot about the behavior of the individual neurons.

            What steams me is when you have groups that want to build vast simulations of, oh, say, entire human brains, and their plan reads something like “we will simulate neurons, and connect them all up like in a real brain, and then the magic will happen”… and holy fuck, that’s just not how neurons work, neurons are highly non-equivalent, synapses are are also non-equivalent, and it’s like these people have never head of actual neuroscience…

            …which would be fine, right until they hype the hell out of it, and get a huge amount of funding for something that is stupid rather than ambitious. Yeesh. Take that funding, parcel it out to small labs who actually have a clue, and forget the dog and pony show. Nnnnnggggh.

          • Shweta Narayan

            That’s a quick note? 😀 You must think a lot faster n me.

            Also SO MUCH YES people keep assuming they know what to model and thinking neurons can be on or off and… and… *tears hair out* it doesn’t wooooork that waaaaaay

            or y’know the new version of that (which I was in on the ground of a bit, enough to be even more annoyed with it); Mirror Neurons Explain Everything :eyes rolling all the way back till I can see my own brain:

          • Tylikcat

            Well, I did look through the paper I was looking at more, and it was super into explanation the connection model and not so much into explaining the neuron model, though maybe there’s a link to where that’s explained somewhere that I missed (I was still going through quickly). I type fast as long as I know what I want to say – sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s not, sometimes I’m bouncing between another screen where I’m chatting with one of my students.

            Mirror neurons are a perfect example of why a work in motor control, and in sea slug, where we have some idea what our data means. It’s seductive as all hell, but…

          • Shweta Narayan

            i did a lil reaction time work that suggests the motor map is involved in understanding action verbs involving different body parts (tried imaging work too but it was all-noise; turned out later that the berkeley scanner was a GREAT SEISMOGRAPH). But like that. is a specific, limited, testable claim. And even for that I had professors on one side trying to make me make more grandiose claims, and on the other side ignoring the fact that attention actually *does* affect language processing more than it does very low-level visual processing so boring the heck out of subjects was not gonna work so well. None of which mattered in the end because, seismograph. The JOYS of interdisciplinary work.

          • Tylikcat

            Oh, I like that. See, this is the problem with working with humans – all the stuff the IRB won’t let you do!

          • Shweta Narayan

            lol yes when I ran a shadowrun RPG one of the running gags was “Metahuman Subjects [IRB] would not approve”

          • Shweta Narayan

            though with language, the problem is less IRB and more “do these words really mean what I’m assuming they mean” + “are these stimuli really equivalent” and “how do I even make 60 items for a stimulus set”

            also, at the time I did the study, “how do I draw clear recognizable & unambiguous actions… IN XFIG?”

          • Shweta Narayan

            whups sorry about the multiple replies apparently my brain can follow one thing but not everything in a message atm. There was a paper I linked but it was an overview.

            I was v impressed at how the functions emerged from the structure of the model but computers are lit. magic to me (and some of the ways I break them are magic to my programmer friends), and I’m suuper cautious about trusting a computer model too much as a non-computer person, because I see a lot of people in my (ex)field being misled that way.

          • Tylikcat

            The link didn’t work, I don’t know why. I didn’t try to mess with it and figure it out, I just went to Google. But if it was the overview, I think I know which one.

            I’m not a had core programming (in the sense that I hate sitting at a computer coding all day – ugh!) but my dad was a CS prof, and… well, I’ve been on the internet since 1978, and starting coding only slightly after that. It’s a little pathetic, really. (There were a lot of gaps, I had a lot of better things to do, too. And sometimes I couldn’t afford computers.) I have a love / hate relationship with models, which is one of the reasons I left the U of WA and my old lab there to seek biology that really went squish. I love the design, and it can be a great way to test your own understanding and … well, hell, tasty, tasty math. But you can’t go mistaking the finger pointing at the moon for the moon, can you?

            A model is only as good as your understanding of the limitations of the model.

          • Shweta Narayan

            if i hadn’t washed out of grad school i’d want that last line on a tshirt to wear around my department and annoy everyone other than the phonetics & semantics/pragmatics people 😀

            so! many! people end up believing that the moon is really a finger zomg

          • saysomethingclever

            “The best and the worst think about studying neuroscience is that we don’t know jack. I mean, I used to joke about how in biochemistry, you only have to scratch at anything a bit before you hit “we don’t know” but neuroscience” is worst – or better, if you want to think of it that way.

            We have a lot of data. There are a lot of low level pieces we can tell you about. (I work a lot in this area, because things are more or less sane here.) But how it fits together big picture? Ahahaha… no.”

            …and this is why my SO left academic neuroscience for the game industry… “fun” is so much easier to define than anything important.

          • Chani

            it’s an invisible pink unicorn! 😉

            It seems like we want some part of our “self” that is not subject to external power – that even if someone can force our actions, there is some part inside us that can choose to resist. Even if they think they know what we’ll do, we want the power to choose differently just to spite them.

            Perhaps “free will” is a result of power: the power to choose your actions without any influence you have not chosen to allow. But then, how do you choose what you’ll allow to influence your choices? Somewhere there must have been a first choice that came before you were choosing to filter any influence – so you’re never truly free of your own past. (That sounds a bit like Goedel’s first incompleteness theorem, which seems fitting.)

          • Flipz

            I don’t remember where I saw it (I want to say PBS SpaceTime on YouTube?), but I saw a video a while back that put it like this: even if our decisions are “determined” by whichever of the infinite us-es we happen to be, the fact still remains that our specific instance of ourselves is *defined* by the events we partake in, which includes the decisions we make, thus at least partially suggesting that we have “free will” in that we define our existence by the choices we make.

            No idea if that holds up under actual science from cutting-edge experts, but a very smart person on YouTube said it and mostly makes sense when I subject it to my own scrutiny, so that’s how I currently see it (at least until someone proves me wrong, of course).

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            ew, many worlds theory, ewwww

          • MrSing

            You have reduced the problem to the fact that we have to make a “free” decision to be considered having free will, but you haven’t proven that this decision isn’t just from random chance or internal and external determinism or just a combination of the two. There still is no “free” part in that will.
            It either is randomness that determines which possible one individual out of an infinite we are, or it is the consequence of decisions that are made by chemical processes in our brain that are completely dependend on natural laws. Or a combination of the two.
            Nothing shows free will.

          • Shweta Narayan

            well, there’s the question of whether we have “real” free will, and the issue of whether we have the experience of free choice; and I’d say Max cares a lot about the latter and not at all about the former.

            Experience of free choice, I’d define as “not overly constrained by external things we’re aware of *and* resent.” (e.g. most of us accept that we can’t fly, on a day to day basis; so it’s not a limit on our experience of free movement; but for Max, the knowledge that he could have potentially gotten that ability turns it into something to resent. And that’s a difference whether we have real free will or not.)

          • MrSing

            But aren’t our wants also merely the product of, if you’ll excuse the poor metaphor, our “programming”?
            Sure, there are plenty of examples of people overcoming their “wants” by force of will alone.
            But isn’t this always to fullfil a more abstract want, that is also a part of our “programming”?
            If we can’t have a choice over our wants, it does not matter how strong our will is and how easily we can override some instinct for another. I never chose to be alive and a human. I never chose the different, sometimes competing, wants that I have.

          • Shweta Narayan

            sure, in the abstract.

            In the specific case here, though, the characters are experiencing wants and choices as if they have them, so as far as their conscious reasoning goes, those wants and choices are real enough to struggle with.

            And perhaps that’s always going to be true in a given situation, because the illusion of free will, if that’s what it is, is an extremely strong one.

          • MrSing

            I already said that the illusion of free will is an extremely vital part of the human experience, neccesary for any kind of bearable society, and that I personally value it very highly.
            My point was, and still is, that I don’t know what free will is and that I don’t actually see room for it in our universe.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Ah in that case, it seems early to make so strong a claim. Like Tylikcat said, we don’t know jack about brains.

            I think to figure out free will we’d have to figure what it means to a) have a consciousness that b) can make a choice, and we are *so* far from that.

            Last I checked we’re at “well there’s some overlap between brain areas when you think about an action and when you do it, but there’s all these other differences so these areas probably have a role in suppressing/enabling motor action” — which is kinda like trying to explain cheese by pointing at a cow & going THIS THING IS PROBABLY INVOLVED!!!!

          • MrSing

            Maybe they will find something that is “free” eventually in the brain, but it would have to be pretty spectacular.
            As far as we know, everything is either determined by natural law, or by random chance or a combination of those two. It would be quite surprising if we found something outside of that. I, personally, can’t even imagine something outside of those two options.
            That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, I am a very limited being after all, but it does make me doubt the existance of free will very much.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Sure, but everything’s made out of a set of subatomic particles too, which… tells us precisely nothing about cognition, which does seem to be an emergent property of a specific type of complex system.

            Until we have any idea at all *what* it is that we experience as decision making, we have no real way to make claims about how deterministic it is. Which doesn’t stop us, of course.

          • MrSing

            Well, I never heard anyone offer up what could possibly be there except for random chance or determinism.

            If you know of anything else that could explain what drives our decision, no sarcasm, I’d like to hear it. Because I honestly have no idea.

          • Shweta Narayan

            I really don’t, and it’s entirely possible that free will & consciousness & decision making are like phlogiston (or intelligence); not just wrong, but specifically not the right way of looking at things.

            But like, you’re asking if an alchemist can offer up possibilities for how a microwave works. I do know enough to know we don’t know nearly enough to even venture a guess yet.

          • Happyroach

            I think the bottom lone though, is the argument about free will is something of a diversion. A universe without free will acts the same as a universe with free will, so why worry about it? Unless of one uses the idea that there is no free will in order to justify whatever decisions one makes, in which case, that’s no different than saying the Devil or spirits are responsible.

          • MrSing

            But that’s not what I’m interested in.
            I’m curious about what freedom actually is and how it could exist. If we find out it might have all sorts of applications in medicini and psychology, but me? I’m just curious.

          • Shweta Narayan

            speaking as a cognitive scientist who did some neuro work – I strongly suspect effect size of any/all quantum effects = negligible.

            But also YEAH I wish ppl understood better that p much all conscious reasoning is justification after the fact (though it can in fact affect future unconscious reasoning if you work at it, both in my experience and non-rigorous “metaanalysis” of studies, meaning just that I’ve gone huh, this is consistent w that other thing in another subfield entirely and these things link ’em up.

          • Tylikcat

            When I was a biochemist, and working in protein dynamics, quantum effects were the bane of my existence and simultaneously everything that was cool. (Enough of my childhood physics geek remains that I often wanted to just chuck it all and just study the dynamics of water. Damn. Water is amazing.) I didn’t do much with ion channels at that level – when I was working those were still really giant for implicit solvent simulations, and a lot of what I was focusing on at the time was more CS-y. But it’s because of that work that when people start talking about quantum effects, I don’t automatically think they’re talking out of their asses.

            Okay, individually, an awful lot of them are talking out of their asses.

            (Aiee. Every time I think about it very hard, I really miss my proteins. So many cool things to do, so much knowledge of mortality.)

            And yes – one of my favorite things too (if i’m following you) from reading the more consciousness stuff, which isn’t my area, I’m mostly a biomech and motor systems gal atm, is how a lot of this stuff does match up to my experiences, and it a useful tool for evaluating my own assumptions.

          • Shweta Narayan

            yeah at that level & stage absolutely, and that *must* affect the details of how our brains get structured, but at the level of neuronal activation I’m dubious. There’s just so much redundancy in the system, and from what I understand the relevant stuff happening at even the single cell level involves so many molecules that effects on any given one aren’t going to affect the whole, and anything random is cancelling out.

            And then there’s the redundancy built into the system.

            Like, it could happen, sure. But chances seem small. and, specially since among cognitive scientists I have met many people who want to talk about quantum effects and only a couple who understood them, with zero overlap between the two groups, so by default I don’t trust that anyone talking Quantum + Brains actually understands both those thingies.

            (Though if Shastri’s model with the timing effects is relevant maybe I’m
            wrong? I could see tiny changes affecting something like
            timing much more strongly than whether a pattern activates at all.)

          • Tylikcat

            Well, that’s why I immediately wonder about ion channels… oh, hell. I confess, I just flipping want to work through more of the ion channel conformational changes because they’re gorgeous. (I might be in physiology right now if they had had funding for me to work on the Magnesium channels…)

            It’s possible that everything cancels out. It’s also possible that the effects amplify. I just know that it has been my experience that in protein dynamics a lot of the most interesting dynamic effects rely on quantum effects and can’t be fully modeled with newtonian mechanics (which means MD can only approximate them, which was a big deal because explicit solvent MD simulations take forever to run, but QM ones are are order of magnitude more costly.) I agree that I at least don’t know of anyone who can say, I would just be inclined from what I’ve seen in protein dynamics (well, and also neurophysiology) to at least leave room for the possibility.

            I even think it’s kind of high? But that doesn’t mean that it would follow that this would be that this would be the source of free will and consciousness as an emergent property or whatever the fuck. I haven’t heard anyone talk about that who struck me as at all reliable. (*sigh* I mean, you can find people you can have a reasonable discussion about quantum computing with, though again, there are more hype heads there, too.)

          • Shweta Narayan

            :nodding along: All of that I find plausible enough, and given that it makes sense if the effects are detectable at a single neuron level. But when people decide that language, or consciousness, or free will, or heck, poetry, is an emergent property due to quantum… that just kinda proves to me that they don’t know what quantum effects *or* emergent properties are. It’s like “These two things are hard to conceptualize therefore they’re the same thing!!!”

            And mostly it’s because they don’t want to give sensory & motor systems enough credit & don’t want to accept that what they think of as rational thought piggybacks on those, either because ~rationality is what makes us not animals~ (to which I’m like… we… are… animals) or because sensorimotor stuff is haaaard (which is at least more honest if just as annoying)

          • Shweta Narayan

            also also i think motor systems tell us a lot more about higher level cognition than any computer analogy ever will 😀

          • Tylikcat

            I think there are different kinds of computer models, and they can tell use different sorts of things. I don’t know which ones you’ve been most exposed to – I know some of the CogSci folks use super abstract ones that are really useful to computer science, and have nothing to do with neuroscience as such. Whereas you then get into ones that are highly detailed in the different channels, and the geometry and synapses and some pretty amazing neuronal behavior falls out of that. …those low level models are my favorite. But I’m not against using simplifications, as long as people are clear on what they’re using, why their using it, and what effect that will have. (For instance, the majority of models do not take spatiality into account in any major way. Which is kind of a major oversight – necessary for some things, but don’t be blind to it.)

            I also think generally it’s a bad idea to spend so much time working on computer models that you lose touch with actual data. But… well, I have made personal career decisions around that. …and I’m considering going off and building robots for a while. So.

          • Shweta Narayan

            ooo robots 🙂

            Yeah I’ve had… some exposure, not much, to models on all those levels and I figure so long as we’re clear they’re models and know what they model & what they simplify out, they’re all potentially helpful and many are actually awesome.

            But what I meant by analogy was the whole “The mind is a computer program! the brain is hardware! Therefore we must use binary logic cause computers do & where the studies show really clearly that we don’t function like computers it must be for some super convoluted reason because we hAVE to function like computers!” stuff that way too much cognitive science is rooted in.

          • Tylikcat

            And that’s what I meant… damn, did I write that part? (I definitely have a cold today, darn it) about how there is a tradition of trying to deal with neural models as purely digital, whereas brains are clearly and obviously analog and ignore that at your peril. Super useful stuff came out of some of those digital models… but we can’t be divided into hardware and software. Just like we can’t be divided into mind and body.

            (Honestly, there’s way too much smugness around some parts of neuroscience and some buddhists these days. I mean, yes, it all works out rather nicely, but as someone who doesn’t want to get my chocolate in my peanut butter, as it were, I am current avoiding those parts of neuroscience. Even if the sleep and meditation lab at Madison is doing some really cool work.)

          • Shweta Narayan

            also also also 😀 renegotiations during the semester would be how I found myself explaining how back propogation works to a room of computer science kiddies

            plus side is, they were all kinda terrified of me after hearing “It’s ok it’s just math” come out of the mouth of a humanities person ^-^ I’d thought I was being reassuring…

          • Tylikcat

            Hey, I was a liberal arts major, so no clue.

          • Shweta Narayan

            meeee toooo but it’s basically just a lotta arithmetic

          • Eric Schissel

            If I remember Quine’s definition- will have to see if I can find it again- it seemed a good one; the ability to form goals and carry them through without what we’d recognize as external coercion (external could include such forms of apparently internal (inside-body) coercion as such Suicide Squadish techniques as bombs wired inside us by other people to blow up if we don’t do what someone says, but there one does skirt paranoia unless one really can -prove- that they exist, surgically e.g.)

          • AshlaBoga

            The issue with her comments on persuasion is that it is the basis for nonviolent society. My parents taught me their idea of right and wrong, my Rabbi taught me his idea of right and wrong, my profs… taught me to question everything.

            By her definition of intelligent people who know you better than you know yourself, my psychologist used to manipulate me. The idea that anyone can be free of outside influence is insane, we are social animals – we need outside influence or we end stunted and stagnant.

          • saysomethingclever

            I would add that we have to believe humans in general have free will in order to *behave* as though we have free will ourselves.

      • Caravelle

        Yeah, I don’t really see the difference between that and what she actually did. Except that here she suggests giving something in return, to which I’d expect Max’s answer to be “I don’t WANT anything “in return” for you forcing me to do something I don’t want, I want you to leave me alone”. Like, given his personality and philosophy his best incentive is to make her choice as stark as it can be, not to make her feel better about herself. Conversely, I’d expect he’d prefer to be actually forced into something he doesn’t want rather than living with the fact he cooperated with someone who was forcing him into something he didn’t want.

    • Ben Posin

      Your writing strikes me as more persuasive than what Alison says–though to give her her due, she wasn’t expecting this was the sort of thing that would require much in the way of being persuasive, and she was feeling pressures in the moment that you aren’t. But yep, these would have been better things to say. Based on what a twat Max was I’m not particularly convinced that either would have actually worked, but we’ll never know.

    • Arkone Axon

      That… that just sounds like more of the same ranting she used to justify her actions in the first place. “You get absolutely ZERO empathy or compassion from me! You are failing to do what I want, and therefore I will completely discount your fears – which are groundless and therefore you’re not really afraid! I will also discount your desires, your pain, you don’t GET to feel pain! Other people suffer and they are actually PEOPLE to me!”

      I actually prefer what Alison is saying here in these last two pages. Where she’s actually acknowledging that what she did is very very very much an evil, immoral, and repugnant thing to do. As opposed to doubling down on the “This rich guy who never hurt anyone is committing genocide by not doing what I want, and he is so much worse than the supervillain who killed more people than Malaria did in the last few years, but who I let go free so I could date him!” attitude that some people on this forum are clinging to. I mean… one person trying to rationalize Alison’s actions claimed that Max proved he was a selfish bastard because he thought unlimited ice cream coming out of his nose was a useless power, because you could feed the world on… snot flavored ice cream…

      • Eric Meyer

        Ah yes, but before, that was her ranting OUT- trying to convince other people. They were just words that she was using to justify herself.

        Now, this time, she’s ranting IN at herself. She’s feeling the impact of the words, feeling what they actually mean, and so working her way through those reasons and feelings, to try and find the truth in them.

        Philosophy isn’t about questioning until you find the RIGHT path, it’s about questioning until you understand why you think as you do, and knowing WHY you’ve taken the path that you did, and why you will take the paths that you will.

    • AshlaBoga

      Damn. That was good.

    • saysomethingclever

      well done!

  • Weatherheight

    The problem is, of course, that violence is never really “off the table”.
    Doubly so when you’re good at it.
    “You’ve got to be careful what you get good at…” indeed.

    • Tylikcat

      “The problem is, of course, that violence is never really “off the table”.
      Doubly so when you’re good at it.”

      I think generations of Buddhist martial artists* would want to at least add a lot of nuance to that. (And a bunch of them would argue with you.) Personally, I agree that it isn’t off the table, and I think it’s naive to pretend otherwise… (And I’d tell a lot of those Buddhists to look at the histories of their own damn orders.)

      …but damn, it really matters how you train. And, darn, I suppose I don’t just mean on the mat.

      I do train in lethal techniques. I also train in non lethal techniques. (which I have a considerable more time to practice, because when you break your toys they won’t play with you anymore.) I am training both to be better at violence and at non violence – which means to be able to avoid harming people when attacked… but also, to de-escalate, rather than escalate. A bunch of that isn’t actually martial, though I personally think any martial arts instructor who doesn’t teach de-escalation, especially when teaching younger students, is being irresponsible.

      Training in martial arts just doesn’t mean that I turn verbal conflicts into physical ones. It has helped me be less twitchy around movements with the appearance of attacks. And I’m twenty years in and train every day (at least, if I’m not “can’t get out of bed” sick). I’m not saying I’m all that, but damn, I’m met a lot of seventeen year olds who’ve been training for a year and a half months and are super proud of how hair trigger they are, and if most of it’s for show, some of them have pretty much trained themselves to punch anything they see moving out of the corner of their eyes, and think themselves bigger men for it. (I’m sure there are some women like this, but this has been an overwhelmingly gendered trait in my experience.)

      But that’s intent, not inevitability.

      * Many of the Daoists** as well, but that range would be substantially more varied, and include no few who would get you liquored up first. My primary art is Daoist (and my primary instructor is still my instructor in that art), but I’m a member of a Chan order because I like how they train and Long is the bomb. Life is complicated 🙂
      ** Yes, I spell it with a D. I prefer pinyin to Wade-Giles, for mostly practical, but also aesthetic, historical and political reasons.

      • Weatherheight

        Hmm. I see my point wasn’t clear here.

        Violence is *always* an option – not necessarily one must inevitably choose, but rather a choice one can make out of a range of options. At times, violence may well be the best of a set of bad options; at other times, violence is an option that’s there but is non-viable for the goal you want to achieve – violence resolves the situation short term but raises more problems in the long run.

        Getting good at violence isn’t an assurance you will use it, but as humans we tend to fall back on what we know. However, martial arts are, to my mind, a special category, primarily because they teach not only technique but also a mindset, a philosophy of violence. Well trained soldiers also have this same paradigm – there is a rather limited range of situations where the philosophy states that violence is acceptable and also what kind of violence is acceptable.

        Alison, to my mind, is in the process of forming a more nuanced code than she had before, and for more than one reason. First, she has found that her current understanding of violence doesn’t jive with her actions. Second, she has developed physiologically and biodynamically; she’s matured physically and her brain is capable of seeing more options than she did as a tween/early teenager and her power set has expanded, again giving her more options.

        One of the reasons I like your posts is often you point out that violence has to be studied to be understood and that this is also true of non-violence. The point I hear you making when you do this is “Know your tools”; violence can be either a scalpel or a battle axe, and each has its specific appropriate uses. Failure to study leaves you both unable to apply appropriate technique and also to recognize when a given technique is appropriate. Acting in ignorance is more likely to do unintended harm in the form of unintended consequences.

        And that is the arc I’m seeing in the comic overall – awareness of one’s actions in both intent and in consequences leads to outcomes more in consonance with intent (in harmony, if you will). I get the impression that Alison has some training in technique but little or no training in mindset and that’s what we’re seeing here – she’s trying to develop a mindset of violence with which she can live.

        But like it not, violence is always on the table – the issue is knowing the difference between it is necessary and/or effective and when it just makes a bigger mess.

        • AshlaBoga

          I have a friend who’s a lawyer and a martial artist.

          Pretty much every single time they have an issue, they fall back on the law instead of combat. Max was in breach of laws in the comic – his mother bribed government employees (I think they were government) to hide his secret. The file Patrick gave Alison could have been used just as effectively as bending his arm. Simply inform someone with power that she trusts, and offer to not charge his mother with bribery in return for his help just this once.

          • Weatherheight

            Indeed – but violence is still an option, just one they choose not to exercise. 😀

            Okay, to be less flippant – just because I don’t believe violence is an option, this does not mean that my “opponent” feels the same way. To pretend this is so is naive; to not plan for the possibility of violence from my “opponent” and taking measures to counter it is irresponsible. When I say “Violence is always on the table”, I don’t mean that it’s a first resort, but it may become a resort towards which one must move. Avoidance of violence is the standard to which I aspire, but I also recognize there comes a point when avoiding violence becomes incentive for my “opponent” to take advantage. Alison failing to respond to Cleaver’s violence and acting to stop it would be just as bad as Max not using his powers to benefit others. This is part of why I still consider Alison to be heroic – when the consequence of her inaction is the possibility of suffering of others, she chooses to take on responsibility to prevent the pain of others.

            I wish i didn’t live in a world where violence has to be kept on the table, but, for right now, that’s the world I find myself in.

            I don’t recall details about the law requiring registration. Transparency may well not have been part of the law. Max may in fact be registered but was told by his mother he was not. Max may have a special dispensation because of his mother’s connections that have kept him out of the formal databases. Max’s power may have been determined to be highly classified and thus very heavily restricted. The problem is that the law was passed at a national level, and laws passed at that level are typically rife with special exceptions and situations where the law doesn’t apply as would be logical to most folks.

            My problem with using Max’s testimony on the subject is that he doesn’t seem all that well informed about practically anything. It’s easy for me to take everything he says as a spoiled rich brat spouting off trying to look important in order to deny his feelings of inadequacy – I find it impossible to take seriously just about anything coming out of his mouth.

            Max being a minor at the time would have placed the responsibility of registering him on his mother – the Senator. Attempting to blackmail a Senator has its own problems (and make no mistake, this is exactly what that would have been), especially given Alison’s feelings about coercion on this page. Her only practical option was to go public against a Senator, leaving her family and friends vulnerable to all sorts of political BS – again, not an ideal solution.

          • Weatherheight

            This post prompted a thought in me – Alison’s dilemma may well be a conflict within a militant code. To wit, we in the West (in general) consider violence used to intervene in violence against others and to stop that violence to be an acceptable use of violence (WW2 being probably the classic example, but beating up a mugger trying to steal some guys purse also fits the trope). But also within the militant code is an injunction against using force to forward our own goals but rather to restrict violence to a higher goal (at least, in principle – practice, well…).

            Alison’s situation with Max contains these competing aspects of the code – without Max’s power, great harm will be wreaked (the hosts who will die much sooner than they might without his ability – protection of the many by the use of violence); but Alison’s concerns are frankly much more immediate and personal and are much more likely to be the true driver of her action (resulting in the moving forward of her goal by the use of violence).

            The psychic tension of these competing values and their inherent conflict within a single value system seems likely to produce the cognitive dissonance Alison seems to be expressing. I’m sure that someone else has made this point, but I must have missed it. Thanks to both you and Tylikcat for giving me yet another way to look at this.

  • Lysiuj

    Following through from last page, there’s even less distance between “the two Alisons”. Coat Alison repeatedly has her hands on her coat, which feels like she has just put it on. And by the end Alison isn’t even waiting for the coat to be fully on or off before speaking.
    As she continues, she can’t help but shift further from the two person conceit, and closer to simply talking to herself.

  • Lysiuj

    Next page, panel 1 – “What? No, I wasn’t finished yet!”

  • Rugains Fleuridor

    Gurwara: “Okay, I’ve run out of chips and I’m bored; this show is over.”

    • Gurwara’s a Good Teacher. He does not get bored at his students’ philosophical struggles.

  • Anna

    I also notice Alison very carefully keeping her promise to not reveal Max’s identity by referring to him as “them” throughout all of this.

    • Ben Posin

      She’s taken care with her language, but the conversation itself is a HUGE breach of her promise. Compare this with how she dealt with Feral’s doctors: all they know is that Alison arranged a “procedure.” Gurwara now knows that Alison very recently forced an individual to do this. You feed that knowledge to an organization or person with a lot of resources, and Max’s name may end up on a potential list of suspects before too long. The most important part of a secret is the fact that a secret exists.

  • Flesh Forge

    Every time the comic covers the choice between “be good” or “be evil” the stated conclusion is always “be evil”. Every single time.

    • Beroli

      Reasonably sure another way to put that would be “the comic consistently disagrees with my concept of what ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are.”

      (Only reasonably sure because the comic has never actually presented a choice as straightforward as “be good” or “be evil,” unless, e.g., letting Miles carry his drugged victim off somewhere unopposed counts. Has never presented a choice as straightforward as “be good” or “be evil” as if it were nuanced.)

      • Tylikcat

        And Miles has had his defenders, as much as that tweaks me.

        • DracoExIgne

          Some people like allowing others to be evil.

    • Stephanie

      Can you explain why you feel this page comes to the conclusion “be evil”?

  • Walter

    The most concerning part of this to me, the only part that makes me give any credence at all to Alison’s worries about herself re: turning into a bully, is the dismissal of persuasion as ‘dishonest’ compared to torture.

    “At least a half nelson is honest.” Moonshadow would be proud.

    The idea that there is something evil about changing people’s minds, that folks have some innate dignity about being influenced by only the parts of the environment not explicitly trying to change their opinions, is that of a savage. It belongs to the suits of armor on Paladin’s wall, to a past better left behind. Alison has the benefit of history. She should be beyond such sophistry.

    • Tylikcat

      I think it’s useful to include it as part of the conversation. She had worries about manipulation. That aren’t very well grounded – at least when it comes to her, Patrick is another matter! – but they continue to influence her. So including them in what is essentially a dramatization of her thought process makes sense.

      • Walter

        I don’t think it’s bad that she speaks them out loud, I think it’s bad that she has them at all. Like, the amount of mental contortions that it takes to arrive at “I better not persuade this guy with reason, that might be manipulation. Instead I’ll go with abduction and torture” is sufficient to take you literally anywhere.

        “I better kick that puppy, because otherwise it might cause people who view it to arrive at opinions other than those they currently possess without using force, and manipulation is after all terribad” would be an insane thing to think, but its closer to Alison’s current line of thinking than Alison’s is to ordinary people’s lines of thought.

        I’m hopeful that speaking this stuff aloud, in the clear light of day, will snap her out of this. It may be too late. If Max has gone into hiding, or killed himself, then the world will never know the benefits that his cooperation would have brought. If he hasn’t, then she needs to see about changing his mind. (Note, this will involve asking people for help. She is not the right person to approach him after the previous brutalities.) It is the absolute most important thing that can be done. The gains from Maxing Feral were amazing, but imagine Maxing Paladin, or Menace…or everyone.

        • Tylikcat

          Alison has some pretty messed up thought processes around some kinds of persuasion. I suspect this is a pretty understandable result of her engagements with Menace, and then her rather ambiguous relationship with Patrick. She knows that under some sets of circumstances, persuasion can have really fucked up consequences….

          …and yeah, this has absolutely nothing to do with the relative merits of sitting down, listening to Max and having a reasonable discussion with him. But I think the only way she’s going to work past that little mental knot is if she acknowledges it, hauls it into the light of day and really thinks through it… and even then, a lot of that is emotional response, and that kind of stuff takes time.

          Saying that something is a bad thought doesn’t really touch on it being and understandable thought, and something she’s still going to fucking have to deal with. (And she better deal with it before she makes anyone else deal with it.)

          • Shweta Narayan

            Yeah, I’d be more worried if one-of-her wasn’t making the argument that there’s a big space between emotional/manipulative coercion and physical coercion. Like, she does actually know that despite Patrick. Which I was honestly not sure of at all before these last few pages, I thought maybe he’d pushed her into thinking that *any* reasoning with people other than just presenting the morality of a situation as she saw it was horribad.

          • Weatherheight

            “Saying that something is a bad thought doesn’t really touch on it being an understandable thought, ”

            Or, given the particular life circumstances of a person, a reasonable and effective coping mechanism in their lives at one time but a mechanism that is no longer reasonable and effective in any other situation.

          • AshlaBoga

            Yeah, but you’ve admitted that you’re pretty good at persuasion and like most us who have used manipulation as an alternative to violence, we have seen first hand that appeals to reason and/or emotion will create better long term outcomes than appeals to force.

            Alison might be against manipulation because she’s bad at it, I’m getting a “sour grapes” vibe from her. She’s bad at it, ergo she makes herself feel better by saying it’s as bad as physical violence.

          • Tylikcat

            Sour grapes, or, I don’t really understand it and it scares me?

            (To be fair, from where they both were, emotionally, figuring out how to engage with Max productively would have been really hard. This is not stuff people generally just know how to do.)

            I don’t know. A big chunk of my motivations to learn about manipulation – I’m talking back when I was a kid – were not good examples but bad ones. I didn’t want to hurt people by accident or because I was out of control in any way. I mean, the siren song of influence certainly had its appeal as well.

          • AshlaBoga

            Well, I’d say that for Alison it might be both. She never truly understood Patrick’s methods, and she’s not good at manipulation.

            Whereas, in my case, I was actually quite physically violent between age 5 and 10 (I got my growth spurt a bit early and I had trouble expressing myself and my parents got divorced…) so I focused on verbal communication BECAUSE I had Alison’s problem, not despite. Years of people telling me to “use my words,” resulted in me becoming better than average at using my words.

          • Tylikcat

            I was, um, hyper-verbal pretty much from the get-go. And despite all the beating on my cousins with bokken and crap and being tall, I pretty well internalized the idea that in most situations physical violence would not work to my long term strategic advantage (i.e. if there were authority figures within spitting distance.) But… yeah, words. Words were mine. And first I scared myself by discovering that I was really good at lying.* And then I found out just how much more damage I could do by telling the truth. Which… is mostly something to know, and to use in a considered and targeted fashion. I go back and forth about some of the early examples – what is too much verbal cruelty when you’re trying to stop someone from causing a friend potentially serious physical harm and it’s all snap decisions? It worked. I kind of think a punch to the stomach and a knee to the groin would have been kinder.

            * You know that thing that kids do, when they make up stories, and it’s about testing limits and stuff? Totally freaked me out when what I expected was “And then I get called on my bullshit,” and instead everyone was all “Oh, okay, so that’s what happened.” I thought subtlety and attention to detail would… I dunno, get me praised for creativity.

      • Timothy McLean

        The problem is simple. Everything we do is manipulatory, in some fashion. You ask your friend for a favor to manipulate them into helping you. You pay the grocer to manipulate them into giving you food. You teach children to manipulate them into making better life choices. You are polite and respectful to others, arguably, to manipulate people into reciprocal politeness and respect.
        Dismissing a method for being too “manipulative” is dangerous. That same logic can be used to dismiss anything she doesn’t classify as “non-manipulative,” and all that we know for certain that she won’t classify as manipulative are violence and telling them to do it.

        • Shweta Narayan

          re: politeness, my sociolinguist friend has a great phrase. Um, something like “all language is violence”. Anything we say to anyone, just like anything we do in their presence, can be seen as coercive. So politeness rules are generally about distancing self from that violence, & indicating that you accept a certain relationship within the dominance hierarchy (more like network really it’s not simply hierarchical) & that you believe the other person does too; so, if you’re right, nobody will escalate.

          So politeness allows the status quo, which is generally a state of minimal violence to the people in power, to continue. Impoliteness rocks the boat n challenges the power structures.

          Since Al has a great deal of both power and privilege, politeness is normally working in her favor, so she’s able to see it as just being nice rather than as her sledgehammer, which in fact it is. With Max, though, it didn’t work, because he was assuming everything lined up in *his* favor. And she has no idea how to deal with that.

          It’s kind of a big hole that Al doesn’t see this yet (so she needs to take a sociolinguistics class lol)

          • Tylikcat

            …sometimes Al can be such a bro. And then she’s talking to Max, who think’s he’s the bro. Oops.

          • Shweta Narayan

            I’d been thinking even before she went violent that the boy has no survival sense whatsoever. Talking to the strongest person in the world & not even attempting to see if she’s ok with what he’s saying, wow.

          • Tylikcat

            I have a mixed reaction there. I mean, I have stood up to people in situations I couldn’t reasonably expect to win.* But when the person went medieval on me, I’d be furious, not surprised?

            …I don’t know where Max was coming from. I mean, entitled twit seems the simplest explanation, but I still wonder why he latched on to Alison.

            * I did managed to get through more of them than I should have, just reinforcing them non pro survival character trait.

          • palmvos

            why Max is into Alison.
            1. gal saved his life.
            2. Alison is hot.
            3. She was relatively easy to impress.
            4. She probably looked genuine. someone in Max’s position has likely been educated in people who want him for his money/position. Alison didn’t need or know of it.
            2 of these 4 would get her at least a call- #4 would make him relax a bit … which was how he screwed it up. (I’m talking about that dinner date…)

          • Tylikcat

            But, Max knew exactly who Alison was from the get-go. So all of Max’s “you have the best power” issues were already in play. Which doesn’t contradict anything – gods knows, as I mentioned, a lot of men were attracted to me because I was smart and strong and then later we broke up because they found me too threatening* – but it certainly complicated his motives a lot.

            Alison went in ignorant. Max did not.

            * Well, usually because they found me threatening and tried to pull weird controlling shit, and I noped out.

          • palmvos

            Max knew who Alison was when dated her … but their first meeting was a bit stressful and likely left an impression. I doubt that Max would have tried to date Alison without that experience.

        • Tylikcat

          Agreed… except for the simple part, just because that just kicks the question of what parts are acceptable and what parts suck down the road. I mean, sure, of course “manipulation” is a silly metric, and Al needs to get her head on straight about that bit. But getting a more grown up understanding of adult communication and working out a set of ethics regarding it is anything but simple.

          • Timothy McLean

            Considering that my point was essentially “‘Manipulation’ is a deeply flawed metric,” I don’t see how that is a proper response.

    • Jason Smith

      “Changing people’s minds” is the whole point, of course. It’s a question of _how_. While “manipulation” is a broad term, it generally has a negative connotation when it comes to people. Threats, lies, appeals to baser instincts and other “tricks” are generally seen as “manipulation”, while bargaining and honest debate of facts and philosophies are just “discussion”. I think the scale might go: Discussion, Manipulation, Punching.

      • Walter

        I definitely agree with that scale, but Alison’s scale seems to be “Discussion, Punching, Manipulation”. That seems weird to me.

        • Jason Smith

          Fair enough.

        • juleslt

          And probably related to her experience with Patrick/menace, as pointed out by Tylikcat above.

        • Yurei

          The idea is that coercion is coercion. You can coerce someone mentally (“bamboozling” them with demonstrations of intelligence until they feel too stupid to disagree with you anymore), emotionally (“charming” them, or making them feel like horrible people for disagreeing with you), or physically (grabbing them by the face and forcibly dragging them to where they need to be to do what you want done, then threatening to break their knees until they comply).

          Mental and emotional coercion are still coercion, and are no more or less heinous than physical coercion. Which is more villainous – Allison grabbing you by the face and telling you she’s going to origami your kidneys if you don’t do what she wants, or Patrick reaching into the deepest darkest most private recesses of your mind to find the thing he knows for a fact you can’t say no to and either charming or blackmailing you into doing what he wants with your own memories and personality as his unwilling allies?

          In both cases, your dignity as an individual has been violated. One can argue whether or not the ends justify the means, but Allison is quite correct in surmising that no especial malice should be ascribed to physical coercion that should NOT be ascribed to mental or emotional coercion.

          She simply happens to specialize in one of those three types and not the other two, nor is there a nice, comfy, socially accepted ‘middle ground’ between “sterile appeals to heroism” and “machiavellian mind control” for physical coercion, the way there is for mental or emotional. But to state that machiavellian mind control is somehow cleaner or purer than brute physical coercion is pretty disingenuous.

          • Walter

            Look, people are persuaded, all the time, every day. It isn’t destructive to our dignity. Signs persuade us. Weather does. People change our behavior constantly in response to our environment.

            If Patrick finds out that what makes Max tick is mostly vanity, and Alison offers to make him a tv star, that’s not evil. If what makes him tick is greed, and they offer him a cool billion a year, that’s not evil. Whatever he wants, the world can give it to him. It seems like he envies Alison’s powers. Max’d Paladin can probably build him a suit.

            The point isn’t that persuasion is, automatically, superior to coercion. The point is that Alison’s coercion was SLOPPY, and now the savior of the world is in the wind. What if he kills himself? What if he decides to Max Cleaver? What if he starts talking on the internet and the conspiracy takes him out?

            Max’s willing cooperation was the pearl of great price, and if you are willing to throw aside your scruples about kidnapping and torture, then you shouldn’t cringe at the idea of bargaining. Alison stepped on the goose who laid golden eggs, and unless the world is very lucky it will probably miss out on the profound benefits that more Maxing could bring it.

          • Yurei

            That’s the same sort of judgment-call argument people have been having since the conversation with Gurwara began, and is somewhat irrelevant. Is Patrick digging through Max’s mind for the lever Allison can use to secure his assistance any less morally repugnant simply because in that instance Max wouldn’t know he’d been coerced? What would Max do if he found out that he only got what he wanted because a man he likely hates as much as he hates Allison pillaged his mind in secret?

            Allison made a mistake with Max. Nobody’s really arguing that. She’s spent a good few pages now arriving at the conclusion that she needs to broaden her toolbox because her punching-first approach to life is a bad one. Let’s make a supposition, though – say Allison wasn’t a brick. Say she had an empathic aura that affected anyone near her instead, made them extremely sympathetic to Allison and made them desire to do anything she asked of them. Effectively, she could simply say to anyone she wanted to “Would you please do [X]? I’d really appreciate it!” and the individual would fall all over themselves to do whatever it was Allison asked them to.

            Would that be any more or less heinous than Allison using her metahuman superstrength to strong-arm someone into doing something they don’t want to do, if she KNEW that the individual she was schmoozing would refuse her outright if not for her theoretical charm aura?

            Allison’s proposal, and one I tend to agree with in this instance and given her background, is not so much “Discussion > Punching > Manipulation, or “Discussion > Manipulation > Punching.” it’s simply “Discussion > Manipulation|Punching.” There’s no moral superiority ascribed to mental or emotional coercion or domination. It’s just as foul and unworthy of civilized society as physical coercion is.

            *Persuasion* is not coercion. Allison tried persuasion and failed. At that point, all she had left was coercion. When she resorted to coercion of any type, she committed an error. Stating that it would be less of an error if she brainwashed someone instead of strongarmed them is disingenuous.

          • Walter

            There are three arguments going on here.

            First,I feel like characterizing spending resources to change Max’s mind isn’t necessarily manipulation. Bribery isn’t brainwashing, etc. Lots of people go away to college and come back with entirely different ideals. This doesn’t make colleges dens of sin, it’s just a place where a lot of learning takes place. The fact that I pay money at the cash register and it causes the cashiers to let me out of the store isn’t brainwashing, it is a transaction. I have something they want, and vice versa.

            Max has something the world wants. It feels like we probably have something that he wouldn’t turn up his nose at.

            Second, I’d like to argue that manipulation IS morally superior to coercion. It leaves the victim’s agency intact. Lots of people are persuaded to sign up for suboptimal used car purchases. Many of them grumble afterwards. Few of them experience the anguish that victims of muggings do. Experimentally, many of us are more ok with being tricked into something than we are being beaten up and having our wills broken.

            Lastly, and most importantly, if we leave aside morality entirely and go full consequentialist on this, then this was still the wrong thing to do. Making Max uncooperative and then letting him run free was suboptimal. If Alison was really going to do might makes right dark age morality, then after her slave did her bidding she should have stuffed him in a sack and taken him to the next person she wanted augmented. Millions may die if he takes the opportunity of his assailant leaving him alone to end his life.

            Which of these do you disagree with, and why?

          • Yurei

            1.) What resources did Allison have to buy Max’s cooperation with? In her situation, she couldn’t go back to ask other people to give her things to buy Max off with – if she left without him he’d disappear, same as he’s likely disappeared by now, and she’d be left with *nothing*. She would’ve had to work with whatever she could promise on the spot, and Max had already told her what it was he valued most from their interaction – watching Allison fail.

            No amount of money Allison could lay hands on would matter to Mr. Turbo Moneysacks. She could offer up her pride, as has been suggested, but there was no guarantee that Max would prize Allison’s humiliation higher than he would prize her failure – and again, she gets *one shot* at this. Max clearly did not value Allison’s support, or any sort of moral imperative to help people. He valued precisely two things – his own grudge, and his own cowardly hide. Both were best served by flipping Allison the bird finger. What other resources did Allison have available to her to secure Max’s willing cooperation?

            2.) You’re not quite catching my argument on this one. Bribery is not coercion, no. Discussion is not coercion. Steering events such that an individual has no choice but to act in the manner you desire them to act *is* coercion, whether that steering is accomplished via charismatic words and emotional domination, insidious mental conditioning, or main force. If an individual’s agency remains intact, as you’ve stated it does, then they have not been coerced. You’re equating being rustled by a used car salesman to being mugged, but let’s be realistic – Max was never getting a used car out of this.

            In the argument given, Max’s will is *always* being subverted. Allison, and myself, argue that subverting his will and stealing his agency amounts to the same thing no matter the method used to accomplish it. There’s no moral high ground to using verbal sleight-of-hand or emotional railroading when you’re achieving the same goal as a half nelson – removing the individual’s choice of actions.

            3.) Nobody’s really arguing that Allison did the best thing. Obviously the best thing would’ve been to gain Max’s full, willing cooperation in a timely and even-handed manner, get Feral off the table, and gain access to an incredible resource. What Allison did was immoral, and she’s paying a price of emotional anguish for it even if she’s not currently paying a price of legal trouble for it. Whether the action she took was *justified* or not is a different debate. Most I’ve seen here would say no; I would say the case is not quite so clear-cut, but then ethics never really are.

            That said, Max acted in a morally reprehensible manner. Of this there can really be no serious doubt – he has had the opportunity to save *millions* throughout his life and he’s chosen not to due to his own personal anguish. Heroes died that might have lived, if Max had stepped up when he was young to amplify their abilities. People died that those heroes might have saved. Contributions to society have gone unmade because the Paladins of the world have never had a Max to bolster their talents. Never once has he cared.

            The golden goose you’re talking about was already dead-set against laying any eggs. Millions have *already* died due to Max’s cowardice and cruelty, his unwillingness to share his gift with the world the way others do. If the millions Max *might* have saved can be laid at Allison’s feet for screwing up her shot with Max, then why is Max allowed to keep his hands clean of the millions *he* ‘might’ have saved by not being a World Record-level asshole?

            Two wrongs don’t make a right, never have, never will. But in this case there was no correcting a dire wrong that had been in the progress of being committed for years. Allison traded a slim chance at a major ‘right’ for a guarantee at a smaller ‘right’. Was that optimal? We won’t ever know. Was it moral? No, it wasn’t. Was it *justified*?


          • palmvos

            ok, on manipulation. by itself you are right, it is not as wrong as physical force. straight up bribery, and its lesser cousins are ok. but, when you use Patrick, he operates on a level of information that is extremely asymmetric. one of the debates out in the real world is about Google and Facebook using their data to predict with alarming accuracy what you are going to be interested in. (Target knows when you are pregnant) I would say that Patrick is a whole new level of privacy invasion. so would it be wrong of Alison to go ask the Alphabet CEOs to help her convince Max? …. I asked you first!

            as far as letting Max go. we are talking about a well nigh invulnerable woman who can fly. Max grew up very wealthy and so far has shown no signs of being able to function in the wild as a hobby let alone a lifestyle, where can he go, that she cannot follow?

          • Loranna

            . . .So, if someone has a Charisma score far enough above the normal human maximum that they can succeed on near any persuade check they make, no matter how ridiculous, are we calling any social interaction by said person coercion, rather than persuasion?


          • Weatherheight

            “who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

          • AshlaBoga

            By Alison’s definition, I guess we’d have to.

            I remember a webcomic where a reality warper created a video that cured insanity and made it impossible for a person to engage in almost any cognitive bias (self-deception wasn’t removed entirely, just reduced to a tiny sliver of what’s normal for a human). Technically, that was extreme manipulation, but most people were on board with it, because it just forced you to acknowledge contradictions in your beliefs and to do everything in your power to resolve the contradictions.

            Heck, in the 2nd Stargate movie, they used a brainwashing device to force superpowered priests to accept the fact that their Gods were actually evil non-corporeal reality warping despots. That was brainwashing of an entire religion, but it was acknowledged as far less evil than letting the religion wipe out billions of people who wouldn’t convert.

          • Loranna

            In regards to the reality warper . . . so, he in effect, created a video that, if watched, drastically altered an aspect of human nature in a person?

            In regards to the Stargate movie . . . “evil non-corporeal reality warping despots” still sounds like a valid definition of a god to me – just not a god I’d want to follow!


          • AshlaBoga

            Eh, the Ori from Stargate SG-1 were also chronic liars, “worship us and we’ll ascend you as well!” and “we created the universe.” But the team did debate the ethics of using the Ark to convince the followers of the Ori that their gods were liars. It’s just that when the destruction of earth was only days or weeks away, the debate just got shelved with “survive!”

            And the reality warper example is could be described as enforcing critical thinking in viewers. You had to think about the logical basis for the morality of your actions, which of course effected some people far more than others.

          • palmvos

            ok, just to nitpick a bit the Priors (the Ori preists) had no free will of their own. if fact that was why it worked- as when they put one Prior into the ark’s aura, they got all of the other ones at the same time. the only reason Daniel had any will of his own when he was a prior was Merlin ( i forgot what his ancient name was) was helping him. so equating showing the priors the ark to any form of individual coercion is not really a good comparison.
            sign… go increment the nerd score again…. how high does it need to go before i get issued a Segway again?… oh…

          • Shweta Narayan

            And I think Tylikcat has it exactly right: Patrick is a lot of the *reason* she has such a strong negative reaction to mental/emotional coercion & prefers physical force.

      • juleslt

        Nitpick: I’d take threats out of the “manipulation” list.
        If a half nelson is honest, then so is a genuine threat of a half nelson.

      • Tylikcat

        …it’s a common enough name, but, do I know you?

      • masterofbones

        What counts as “manipulation” is more based on effectiveness than tactics. If any method makes people question the reality of “free will”, people start getting scared. They don’t like the notion that they are slaves to their personalty.

        Manipulation isn’t “bad” because it is unethical. It is “bad” because it makes people realize that they aren’t special after all.

    • Elaine Lee

      There’s not something evil about changing people’s minds, but actually doing it is difficult. I’ve been arguing politics with people online since the days of CompuServe and it’s extremely unusual that anyone changes his or her mind, or even gives you a “that’s a good point.” Most of the people who read this comic are progressives and the reason progressives lose elections is that we allow ourselves to believe that a reasoned argument can win the day. It doesn’t. It won’t. People feel first, justify second. We make the decision, then rationalize it. So any winning argument must appeal to feelings first. If it’s true what Alison told us, that Max was unmoved by her story of Feral, then no rational argument she gave him would work on him. That leaves force or manipulation. Despite what many people in this comment section say, manipulation can be more damaging than force. At least, in the long run. There’s more humiliation involved. Does Alison pretend to care for Max? Does she pretend to be his friend? How long would that last? Until Feral was off the table? She’s already told us she felt repelled by Max. A few friends like Alison would turn Max into more of a monster than he already is. The best we could’ve hoped for is that Alison would’ve had the patience to try two or three more arguments, and when they failed, she could’ve felt better about going to her default option. “At least I tried.” If I don’t pay my taxes, the authorities take my possessions, maybe put me in jail. That’s force and it works, for the most part. But if I fall pray to a charming con man who wins my love/trust and cleans out my bank account before leaving, that’s much worse. It’s humiliating. Since she was always going to get her way in this, allowing Max to hate her cleanly, was the best gift she could give him.

      • Walter

        It’s really weird to me that when I propose persuading people to become their best selves, people assume that the whole thing is a ruse that will culminate in Alison brutally breaking Max’s heart.

        I’m not saying ‘string him along’. I’m saying ‘bring your cool friends over, bring him into the circle. Maybe roll eyes behind his back, but change his worldview and there is no need to ever have the confrontation scene where he is crushed by the realization that he’s been ‘fooled’. Alison wouldn’t be repelled by NewMax, the dashing hero who saved millions of lives.

        • Stephanie

          That sounds a long game that I don’t think Alison is necessarily capable of playing. She’s a very “heart on her sleeve” sort of person, and I don’t think she could convincingly portray a genuine friendship with Max under those circumstances. She would constantly be thinking, “At this very moment, Feral is having her organs torn out of her without anesthesia, while I gently coddle this guy into eventually doing something that any half-decent person with an ounce of compassion for the welfare of others would have agreed to in the first place.” And those thoughts would show up in her demeanor towards him.

          • Walter

            Ok, but if you are willing to abduct and torture someone to save millions of lives, but not willing to go to acting class to save billions, I don’t know what to tell you?

            Like, this isn’t a hardened paragon of libertarian thought with a vast social support structure. This is a mostly isolated rich guy who seems to be in his twenties. Alison knows a MIND READER. If they can’t social engineer him into a situation where he does an hours work and gets a billion dollars every month or so I’d be very surprised.

            What drives him? Does he seek comfort? Then make the most comfortable path the one that sees him augment select people. Does he seek fame? We’ve got boatloads of fame. Like, fundamentally, this situation isn’t that far outside of the ‘willing trader’ framework that he is comfortable in. He has something earth wants. Surely, it (or the subsection covered by ‘people who want a Golden Age’) can make a deal.

            I doubt it would even be that hard. Max is thirsty as all get out. Alison has (can have) millions of dollars, loads of cool friends, and the world’s adulation.

          • Stephanie

            But she hadn’t taken acting classes. She can’t have retroactively taken acting classes in order to be able to convincingly fake a friendship at that time.

            Now, just asking “What do you want in exchange for doing this?” That, she could have done. No guarantee it would work, but it was within her abilities and wouldn’t have cost her anything on its own.

          • Walter

            I’m not saying she should have done something differently once he had set himself against her. I’m saying she shouldn’t have let it go that way in the first place. This is too important.

            Like, go to his house, say nothing about his powers. Apologize and eat some crow. Go get Patrick. Drive by and learn everything about Max’s thought process. Go home, call Paladin, tell her a version of the story that gets her on board. Call Pinsize, likewise.

            Now you’ve got wealth, and telepathic knowledge of dude’s views. From there it should be possible to come up with a plan.

            Con artists regularly take less information to get people to do things that are detrimental to themselves. Alison wants Max to massively benefit himself, and she has much more info and resources than any con artist ever had. This was eminently doable, if she hadn’t stormed in and confronted him.

          • Stephanie

            What you’re describing here is very different from the “include him in her circle of friends and change his worldview with the power of friendship” plan you described earlier. That is not something I think Alison could feasibly accomplish.

            The plan you’re describing here is solid in hindsight, but it only works if Alison has knowledge of the future. She’d have to have a reasonable expectation in advance that just asking him wouldn’t work. Remember, she didn’t go straight to his place and immediately start yelling at and insulting him. It’s not accurate to say that she “stormed in and confronted him”; it didn’t become a stormy confrontation until he said no. Initially she just approached him, laid out the stakes for him, and asked him if he would help.

            Alison has expressed that she finds it difficult to relate to the level of not-giving-a-shit that would enable someone to refuse a “base-level decent” request like that. I don’t think she really anticipated that asking wouldn’t be enough. And then, when it turned out he actually was that much of an asshole, she lost her temper and tanked the negotiation. Obviously this is something she’ll have to keep in mind in the future so she isn’t blindsided like that again.

          • Walter

            I’m not asking for knowledge of the future, just for the extravagant caution that the situation demanded. Once Alison knew that Max’s cooperation was the key to transforming life on earth, she should have started taking precautions.

            She mentions, in the discussion, that she can’t believe he hasn’t already done something like this on his own. If she’d followed that thought up earlier she would have been prepared for disagreement. It was all there, but she ignored it and went in like a bull in a china shop.

            For goodness sakes, she dumped him earlier in the day over this exact issue. During that conversation he expressed skepticism as to Feral’s motives. I don’t think it’s fair to say that she didn’t have an inkling that his decision was a possibility. If she didn’t, it’s because she willfully blinded herself to it.

          • Stephanie

            I agree that it would have been wiser for her to approach the negotiation more carefully. I think Alison herself has come to the same conclusion.

          • Happyroach

            Wouldn’t the extravagant caution that the situation demands call for her to not dump Max in he first place? Since we’re being cautious and assuming massively more foresight than she has, a “properly” manipulative Alison would be buttering Max up for whatever resources he might provide n the future. A pProperly cautious” Alison would smile and nod when he talks about his gardeners.

            Sure it’s totally out of character, but it’s the way of doing things when taking precautions.

          • Walter

            Eh, even I can’t blame her for her behavior before she knew about his power. You can’t go through life assuming that literally everyone might well have the key to the future of the human race.

            Once you find out that someone does, though, it’s probably a bad idea to go assault them.

          • SmilingCorpse

            I agree with everything except the part you suppose that Alison tanked the negotiation. Max flat out refused her and even went as far as to say he would say no regardless of how he felt about the situation, just because she was the one asking. That was a clear slamming of the door to any amicable recourse from my point of view.

          • Stephanie

            Max is definitely a huge asshole and there’s no guarantee that all the diplomacy in the world would have worked, but it is also true that Alison got antagonistic pretty quickly and there’s no way that helped.

          • SmilingCorpse

            Indeed, perhaps the tipping point was as Alison said. That she saw his response to the relief of thousands of people in the U.S. alone be a dressed up version of “Poor them? Fuck you, poor me!” I can certainly empathize. I don’t relish the thought of coming to anyone, heart in hand. Let alone someone who lead a privileged life and was so out of touch with the people around them.

          • palmvos

            the plan you describe here is solid. only catch is- remember Alison’s comment about manipulation being less honest than a half-nelson? Patrick is likely what she was thinking about, not just talking to Max and trying logic and/or emotion. but an invasion of privacy so profound it staggers the imagination. the fact that the victim is ignorant of it is no real excuse. no- if violently coercing max is wrong using Patrick’s ability is less messy but not really any more innocent.
            also, Alison is rather pissed at Patrick at the moment and does not even want his money right now.

          • Weatherheight

            “That sounds a long game that I don’t think Alison is necessarily capable of playing.”

            This seems true at this moment in her personal development, and more than likely in perpetuity when it comes to what Tara is currently doing.

            I think, however, that Alison is capable of being friends with Max at some point, but she needs a point of connection with him, and Max is trying really hard to avoid that moment of vulnerability needed to become friends. In a real sense, Max’s need to assert his independence is cutting him off from the connection that he so obviously wants.

            Ironically, that same sense of isolation is something with which Alison struggles and with which could potentially assist Max. But Max’s desire to impress others and assert himself in defiance of his parents won’t permit him the vulnerability to accept that option. So what he needs he can’t get, and what Alison has to offer she can’t force him to accept.

            And yeah, not only might she be incapable of “faking not being disgusted”, that’s also probably not an effective technique to encourage change and/or growth in Max.

      • Tylikcat

        I’m not saying do this in the context of friendship at all, because a) you’re right, that’s basically dishonest and b) it’s also a lot of work, and I’m lazy. In my experience, if you want to persuade people you don’t do it by making arguments.* You do it by encouraging them to talk, and listening well, and agreeing where you can and asking respectful questions, and otherwise figuring out as much as you can about where they are coming from – because this is about them, and not about you. And then (well, really, it’s not a first this, then that – they can be going on somewhat simultaneously, but keep your priorities straight, if you’re not 90% listening you’re screwing the pooch) use that as a basis to construct and argument or make a deal that works for them. And yeah, a little flattery might make everything go more smoothly – but that’s mostly subtle stuff, like listening attentively. You’re not trading your future friendship for whatever you want – that’s just icky.

        * Why yes, I make a lot of arguments here. This is because I like to mouth off. Totally different.

    • Stephanie

      “Persuasion is dishonest” was an argument she made briefly and then immediately dismantled and discarded.

      • Walter

        I’m happy about that.

      • Shweta Narayan

        Consciously, anyway. I think it’s still haunting her thinking somewhat, for example in her thoughts this page on what she could have offered him, but having it out in the open tends to help… it just takes time.

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      A useful distinction we so scarcely see mentioned and a good way to make sure you don’t cross that very line is to wonder whether the “persuasion” you’re thinking of is intent on bringing new information to process to the other person so that they can make a “better” choice, or if the idea of a choice is dismissed for the benefit of literally not resting until they do change their mind out of exhaustion.
      Respecting the value of a definitive “no”, the way Alison couldn’t.

    • Zorae42

      Oh boy, better take usury laws off the books then. I mean, if you to take a loan with 75% interest there’s nothing wrong with that since I persuaded you to do so. Better let Charles Manson out of prison as well as any other cult leader since all they did was change people’s minds and there’s nothing evil about it.

      I guess Lawyers, Car Salesmen, and credit card companies are all wonderful people and pillars of society since they persuade people as a living and persuading people is never evil apparently.

    • Shweta Narayan

      This is the first time Al’s come close to getting beyond anything. If she hadn’t included her current ideas about manipulation, I’d be much more worried, because that means never confronting them n possibly learning better.

    • AshlaBoga

      The basis for modern civilization and society is the shift away from violence to changing people’s minds with persuasion and then using violence when you fail. Previously, violence was the first option and persuasion was used if the violence failed.

      I’ve had people talk me into admitting I’m wrong, and I’ve had people steamroll over me with force. And I much prefer the first one, even if it had a longer lasting effect on my emotions, because that’s called growing up. The ethics prof with thespian aspirations here is using the same methods on Alison that she ruled out as a “dishonest,” does she realize that?

  • Namida Aneskans

    It says something about the quality of your writing that you’ve had a couple of characters spouting monologues for quite a few pages and still made it super exciting. 🙂

  • demosthenese10

    “Excellent performance!” … The next panel, “You still fail my class.”

    • masterofbones

      I can’t be seen to suddenly pass you after receiving a bribe after all.

  • sociotard

    He didn’t even pay any pennies!

  • masterofbones

    Step 1 to convincing people to do things

    1. Explain how it benefits them.

    Allison failed to do this, and instead explained how the action would help her – excellent tactics if she were trying to convince herself to help out, absolutely worthless for trying to convince another human.

    And it seems like she has recognized the problem. I’m actually quite interested in how she progresses from here.

    • Gilbert Hamilton

      You wouldn’t think it hard for any given ugly sack of mostly organs to imagine how having extra replacement organs around might benefit them.

      • masterofbones

        Indeed, I believe that it would have been easy to convince Max to help, or at least to get him to explain his position better. But Alison didn’t really even try.

      • DracoExIgne

        Not Max though. His family seems to be the bad kind of rich, i doubt it’s something he’d have to worry about.

  • Tylikcat

    “I can admit that until violence is off the table, I will always be quick to use it.”

    Either I’m really missing something about what she’s saying here, or this bit strikes me as… not just problematic, but kind of despairingly stupid.

    Go study rhetoric. Join the debate club. Go study non-violent communication and active listening. Go study one of the internal martial arts for that matter (I specific internal* because I think her studying a more external form would be a train wreck, and an internal art is most likely to be openly addressing the stuff she should be dealing with from the get go – just… like, an internal art with a teacher who is both practical and philosophical – not just beatings, not devolving into folk dancing, either.) You don’t have to be *quick* to you it – that’s a disposition that can be trained, and, to an extent a choice. This isn’t static.


    * and yes, it’s not a totally meaningful distinction.

    • Chani

      I was going to make a comment about her essentially feeling addicted to the violence… but actually your comment makes for an interesting perspective on addiction. Training can change habits, and habits are a part of addiction. I suppose it might depend on whether she can make habits stronger than the temptation, which depends on just how strong that temptation is… And believing that it’s stronger than her is a self-fulfilling prophecy, but having hope and then failing could be pretty damaging too… But, having better tools available would reduce the temptation to use violence, too. Successfully using those tools would boost her self-confidence, and that would help too. 🙂

      Actually… hasn’t she already started on that road? after the moonshadow arc… I wish I could search the comics… here it is: http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-5/page-164/
      Alison found a way to do better. 🙂 She’s just forgotten that for a bit, or mad at herself for not being instantly perfect after taking the first step.

      • Weatherheight

        Addiction is such a loaded word that I really try to avoid it – like so many diagnostic tools, it gets baggage added that it was never intended to carry.

        But you seem to have a good handle on it, and I wanted to acknowledge that. The idea that stumbling early on is inevitable for most people is kind of important to recognize.

    • AshlaBoga

      I agree. Violence is on the table for me in many situations, but it’s the dead last resort. As long as you remember that there are dozens, even hundreds of options other than violence, you’re far less likely to make excuses for using violence.

    • Mechwarrior

      Given how much more resistant to injury she is than the average person, she could actually employ non-violent methods without personal risk in far more situations than the average person could, should she make the choice.

  • Elbadasso

    “Brava! It was like Hamilton! Only with the threat of superhero violence! WHAMILTON!”

  • AnonoBot9000

    So Allison seems to be glossing over the fact that Feral voluntarily put herself on that table. She was not coerced, and was not forced. She made the choice to make that sacrifice, to help people. Allison instead seems to be treating this as some great injustice being done to her that had to be righted as soon as possible, regardless of the cost to any innocent bystanders. Feral could have gotten off that table any time she wanted to. All she accomplished was transferring the safety and happiness of one person, to her friend. Via force.

    Also I note that through all of this, there seems to be no concern what so ever for making amends to the person she kidnapped, assaulted, and is continually exposing to the threat of further harm to selfishly get what she wanted. So there really isn’t any redemption occurring on her part.

    She is just talking herself into further super villainy, and established that anything she wants is more important that what anyone else wants, because she is stronger.

    • Stephanie

      “Feral could have gotten off that table any time she wanted to.”

      Knowing that people would die as a result, sure.

      Imagine that you’re sitting in a chair in an empty room. You’re not tied down. The door is unlocked. You could leave at any time. Except that every five minutes, a stranger–chained up, unable to flee–is sent into the room with you.

      If you remain in the chair and receive a painful electric shock, the stranger is free to go. But if you’re not in the chair when it’s time for the shock to be delivered, they’ll be brutally murdered.

      Again, nothing is physically preventing you from leaving. But, assuming that you’re a person who values human lives, can it honestly be said that you’re not in any way compelled to stay?

      “All she accomplished was transferring the safety and happiness of one person, to her friend.”

      And, you know, probably tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent people over the course of Feral’s life, but who’s counting?

      • AnonoBot9000

        And by choosing to stay in that room, SHE made the CHOICE to value those lives over HER own safety.

        That doesn’t make it right or acceptable to assault and kidnap someone else. Inflicting trauma upon them, while also opening a path towards future harm or enslavement of that person, so that Feral can leave the room, without feeling guilt.

        You don’t get to choose what someone else sacrifices. If Feral want’s to make that sacrifice to save people, good for her. If richguy doesn’t want to, well, that sucks, but as a human that is his choice to make. Talk to him about it, and try to come to an agreement from both sides. Or, go find another solution.

        Congratulations, you saved thousands of innocent people. All it took was infringing on the rights, inflicting harm upon, and opening up to potential enslavement of an innocent person, that you just happened to disagree with.

        Lets go with your chair example. Let’s say, in order to get out of that chair, all you had to do was fracture a babies skull. It wouldn’t immediately kill the baby, but it is possible it could cause issues, potentially fatal, later in the child’s life.

        Would you still do it in that case, in order to get that person out of the chair?

        • Stephanie

          “Congratulations, you saved thousands of innocent people. All it took was infringing on the rights, inflicting harm upon, and opening up to potential enslavement of an innocent person, that you just happened to disagree with.”

          I’m fine with that, since the alternative is “Congratulations, you avoided hurting one person. All it took was condemning thousands of people to die horrible and premature deaths.”

          “Let’s say, in order to get out of that chair, all you had to do was fracture a babies skull. It wouldn’t immediately kill the baby, but it is possible it could cause issues, potentially fatal, later in the child’s life.
          Would you still do it in that case, in order to get that person out of the chair?”

          For this example to fit what Alison did, we have to assume a couple of things. First, we have to assume that the person is freed from the chair because nobody is being marched into the room and killed anymore. Second, we have to assume that even while they were in the chair, they were only able to save a fraction of the people who were in danger. Let’s say there are ten murder rooms, but they could only sit in one of the chairs at a time, so everyone who went into the other rooms died.

          Fracturing the baby’s skull saves everyone who would ever have been sent into any of the ten rooms for the foreseeable future, right? So yes, that’s a tragic but necessary trade. You’re trying to make an emotional appeal here with the baby thing, but in order for that to work, I’d have to ignore the emotional relevance of the thousands of otherwise-doomed people. I’d have to deny their humanity and treat them as a faceless, undifferentiated mass. Note: That group presumably contains many children.

          • AnonoBot9000

            Except those people are already being saved, by the person who is choosing of their own free will, to stay in the chair.

            So what you are doing, is intentionally inflicting harm upon someone, regardless of their feelings or beliefs, in order to not inconvenience the person sitting in the chair.

          • Stephanie

            Remember, Feral was only able to save a fraction of those people before. That’s why she wanted to be on the table 24/7–she was never “done,” because the absolute maximum number of organs she could donate still only met a fraction of the global need. So Alison’s action did in fact save thousands (probably tens or hundreds of thousands) of innocent people who would otherwise have died in spite of Feral’s constant donations.

          • Chris Hubbard

            Its like if Prometheus volunteered for his punishment so the people could keep the gift of fire.

          • Danygalw

            Three options:

            1) many more people dying for lack of organ donations
            2) Feral voluntarily, continually, experiencing excruciating pain indefinitely
            3) Max …

          • Ben Posin

            Also—instead of fracturing a baby[‘s skull the actual cost in question is falsely imprisoning an enormously selfish dude for a couple hours and literally twisting his arm without apparent lasting injury. Which is…not really the same.

          • Stephanie

            Very true. I think their implication with the baby-skull thing is that making Max do this could conceivably somehow lead to him being exploited for his power in the future, but I think a lot of commenters seriously overestimate that risk. One person even compared it to being exposed to a potentially lethal dose of radiation. In reality, as Alison said, the information is already out there, and she went to great lengths to conceal Max’s involvement. If anything, her conversation with Gurwara presents a greater risk to Max’s secret than making him boost Feral did.

            Also, why do any of us take it for granted that Max has a right to keep his power secret? IIRC, that was the direct result of his mom pulling strings, right? Everyone else had to disclose theirs.

          • Ben Posin

            A good point—from what we know it does sound like he may be breaking the law by not being registered with the government.

        • Ben Posin

          You state a lot things here as if they are firm moral laws, when they are instead opinions you hold, which others may not find persuasive or aesthetically pleasing. For my own part, I’m perfectly happy from a “veil of ignorance” perspective of setting up society with rules that require someone to sacrifice a couple of hours of their time and use a non-exhaustible talent to save thousands of lives each year and end enormous suffering. And to require that cooperation by coercion, should it be necessary. If you’re not, hey, feel your feelings, but I’d rather live in my society than yours, even with total ignorance as to whether I might be one to face such coercion.

  • K. J. Hargan

    Even with the great coercion versus extortion debate (because that’s what it essentially is) going on in the threads, this one panel has completely explored and broken down Moonshadow’s rationale and motivation.
    I’m still saying Guwara is Moonshadow, or is employed by her, specially now that Allison sees her point of view.

    • Stephanie

      I don’t really see Alison coming around to Moonshadow’s way of thinking here. I think she’s just admitting to herself that that approach is seductive, and that she needs to establish boundaries for herself if she wants to learn not to rely on violence.

      • Skylar Green

        Moonshadow’s thinking isn’t only along the lines of violence being the only answer to a problem, but specifically Moonshadow said that she will do what she does without hesitation because she’s not afraid to make a mistake. Alison, meanwhile, is either paralyzed by the desire not to make mistakes, or acts impulsively and then overreacts emotionally based on guilt for worrying if she made the right decision.

        • Stephanie

          In practice, doesn’t Moonshadow go to great lengths to ensure she doesn’t make a mistake, even to the point of getting herself physically injured in her attempt to keep fire guy alive after she couldn’t confirm he was a rapist?

      • K. J. Hargan

        But you don’t see how she has admitted to herself that violence is the easy and first option for her? Yes, if we like her, we hope that she works on that. But she doesn’t say that. Threatening to break someone’s arm is a large step to murdering a rapist, but only one step. Is the Moonshadow story part of this chapter or was that last chapter? If we’re still on the same chapter I expect Allison and Moonshadow to remeet and discuss the issue because it’s the theme of this chapter.

      • K. J. Hargan

        yah, this is Chapter 6. Moonshadow was Chapter 5. It would be cool for them to compare their experiences but I don’t expect it as this is a whole other plot line.

  • Kid Chaos

    “…and now I’m going to fly you out over the ocean and drop you. Nothing personal, okay?” 😜

  • Problem is, violence IS often the only solution, especially when it comes down to two mutually exclusive viewpoints. You can talk and talk all you want, but at the end, you’re still going to have two people who cant agree.

    • MrSing

      Whatever happened to “live and let live”?

      • Stephanie

        It doesn’t really apply when thousands of lives are at stake. You can’t always “let live” in the metaphorical sense and still “let [thousands of people] live” in the literal sense.

        • MrSing

          That is an extremely specific scenario which is still debatable, whereas Henrik Magnusson claims that violence often is the only solution. Which is a quite worrying approach to problem solving.

          • Stephanie

            Oh, I see what you mean.

      • That only works when options arent mutually exclusive. You cant “live and let live” in yes or no questions, especially not ones that determine social policy

        • MrSing

          But you said that violence often is the only solution, and did not limit this to non-mutually exclusive viewpoints.
          Certainly violence would not be the only solution under these circumstances? Or one we should employ often?

          Even so, when options are mutually exclusive, should violence still not be a last resort? I’m not saying that violence is never a solution or never neccesary, but I strongly disagree with the notion that it is often the only solution.

          I’d say that violence is the only solution under exceedingly special circumstances.

      • JohnTomato

        What happened to “live and let die?”

        From Lord of the Flies to Heart of Darkness the noble human is mostly a fable. All men must die, the tricky part is to die well.

    • Danygalw

      Often? Often! No.

  • Spongegirl Circleskirt

    Our baby is growing up!

    • MrSing

      The problem is, there are some major differences in when people view using violence as indubitably the right thing.
      And the fact that just because many people would do these things when under pressure, doesn’t automatically make them the right thing.

  • DracoExIgne

    Meanwhile I’m just sitting here wondering what’s going on with Patrick. >.>

  • Nestor D. Rodriguez

    Heh. On an only slightly related discussion I was in, I came up with this, which I feel may be relevant.

    It’s true that violence may not always be the answer, but it should never be removed from the list of options.