sfp 6 123 for web

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  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    Professor if you keep talking I swear to God I will turn into a liquid on this very bench

  • The Duck From p.112

    Interesting comment from the man with the duck cane about freedom and power. After all, they do both grant the same agency all living and quacking beings crave.
    And while Power seems to necessarily depends upon an implicit comparison with that of other creatures—does anyone have power when everybody is powerful?—Freedom on the contrary speaks of an unshackling from that dependency.

    One that, it’s true, might just be wishful thinking when we all have to share the same tiny pond.

    • Dean

      But you can fly away. Why ask a duck about freedom? As soon ask a fish about water.

    • Weatherheight

      “After all, they do both grant the same agency all living and quacking beings crave.”

      Wait – “living and quacking” implies that these are not necessarily equivalent sets.
      Do you mean to suggest that ducks are… UNDEAD?!?

      ::scurries off into the distance screaming something about an anatidae uprising::

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        Why Walhuighi, why are you doing this to me and to your community, this curse is on your soul

      • Totally Alive Duck

        Oh, no.
        Cover blown. I repeat, cover blown

        • Gilbert Hamilton

          Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.
          quackin’, don’t mean nothin’ honk if it ain’t free, no no
          And, eatin’ crumbs was easy, Lord, when he dropped some chips
          You know, eatin’ crumbs was good enough for me
          Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack

          • Weatherheight

            Ah, Semois Duckling.. the famous warbler.
            Taken from us far too soon, but we still have her best known tune “Me and Squabby McSquee”.

            Written by Duck Duclaire-duck and Fred Mallard, it was released after Semois’ tragic rice overdose while singing at a good friend’s wedding – it then ran to the top of the Amerigander pop charts, being the second record to reach number one after the warbler’s death (the first, of course, being Forest Breading’s “Sitting with a Duck By The Bay.”).

            Ah, nostalgia…

  • Thomas S

    Wow, the profundity is wonderful. I do like that. I feel like reading Kierkegaard or Jürgen Habermas’s confusing meditations on power after reading this, but I know that way lies a very heavy head and a sense of nothing actually able to be changed for all the increased understanding of what it is that you don’t understand.

    • Thomas S

      Here it is – Deleuze and Guattari implied a view of power as a amorphous state in their completely confounding piece “A Thousand Plateaus” – I was so confounded by it.

  • “they worship freedom and yet can never be free”

    OMG, Max in a nutshell. That’s… not a good place to be caught. Part of me wants to see it as sweet, sweet, justice for wanting to use Feral’s suffering as a lash to punish Alison with, but that’s a life sentence, without parole. No matter how despicable that thought was, the punishment far exceeds the crime.

    • Arkone Axon

      Actually, he never said that he wanted to use Feral’s suffering to spite Alison. He just wanted Alison to… go away and leave him alone. He said no to Alison’s request because Alison never actually requested; she demanded. She couldn’t even pretend to be polite when doing so. She took by force what could have easily been obtained with Max’ consent, had she (as she herself acknowledged) shown him the empathy and compassion she accused him of not extending to her friend.

      • Ack

        Yeah, she actually requested. She even pleaded. Check page 84 and 85 of arc 6 if you don’t believe me. And then, once she had bared her heart, his response?

        “My answer is no. It’s going to stay no, and it’s always going to be no. And even if I wanted to do it, I might still say no, just to you. Just to watch you realize that, for once, you weren’t going to get your fucking way. How about that?”

        • Arkone Axon

          First of all, thank you for identifying the pages (I try to provide links, whereas most people I’ve argued with fail to do more than provide general descriptions).

          But… yes, she did “plead.” Especially on page 84. Where she literally cannot stop insulting him long enough to request his assistance without continuing to belittle him.

          “It’s almost like reliably undervaluing other people makes communication harder.” (such an ironic quote, considering that’s exactly what she’s doing to him)

          “And yet you have found a way to feel slighted. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that was your fucking superpower.” (again, right after he opened up with his own pain and her response was to twist it into an attack on herself)

          That’s why in these latest few pages Alison is acknowledging that she DIDN’T actually plead or beg. She demanded in the guise of pleading. She demanded while refusing to show him the empathy she was so quick to judge him for not extending to others. And it’s why, at this point, she’s not talking about justifications or rationalizations or blaming her victim; she’s even admitting that if Max were to use his resources against her the way she did against him, she would “have a hard time saying they were in the wrong.” That’s also why I’m pleased with her statements here. She’s created a horrible situation for herself, yes. But when you’ve dug yourself into a hole, you can either dig deeper while ranting how it’s everyone else’s fault except your own… or you can admit you dug yourself into a hole and start the long, tedious work of climbing your way out. And it starts with admitting that yes, you put yourself in that hole.

      • I’m no fan of Alison’s actions; I’ve been arguing they’re unforgiveable* since they happened. But Max did explicitly say he was refusing in order to spite her, and the reason Alison would suffer from that decision is it would prolong Feral’s suffering.

        Max: “even if I wanted to do it, I might still say no, just to you. Just to watch you realise that for once you weren’t going to get your way.”

        *Which is not the same as irredeemable.

        • Weatherheight


          I would have gone with the opposite – what she did to Max, no matter how justifiable, was still wrong and would remain so regardless of benefit (my definition of “irredeemable”). But I understand why she did it (frustration, lack of sleep and the poor thought processes associated therewith, the clear benefits to both Tara and the world at large), and thus I can forgive her and by inference her action, while still condemning that action. Alison herself, IMHO, is redeemable, but I like to think that anyone can be redeemed – if they really, really wish to be.

          English – everyone has their own version. 😀

          • Shweta Narayan

            you mean we’re NOT all consulting a great big dictionary in the sky?

          • Well, the one most of the people round here use is horrendously misspelt 😉

          • We’re not reaally that far apart. Whatever she does next, she’ll stlll have forced Max, so unforgiveable, because that won’t go away. But she can redeem herself through her future actions.

        • Arkone Axon

          Oh… you’re right. I didn’t notice that bit.

          “I might still say no, just to you.”

          Meaning she could have had someone else, someone who wasn’t being such a jerk, show up and ask instead. But as for her… he wanted nothing to do with her, and given how she was treating him up to that point, it’s quite understandable.

          (Please bear in mind I may have just ended a ten year old friendship because they did something rude, and they don’t want to acknowledge it. They don’t even want to apologize, they’re mad at ME for being upset with them. So… I know what it’s like to have people make demands while devaluing the person they’re demanding things from. I do identify with Alison… but I also identify with Max)

    • Shweta Narayan

      It’s a self-inflicted punishment, though, which could be avoided if he’d leaven his entitlement with a little perspective. He’s capable of outgrowing it. He just doesn’t seem to want to.

  • That last thought is utterly, mind-provokingly awesome. (Or awesomely mind-provoking)

    (And interesting synergies with the discussion of whether free will exists on the previous page’s comments)

    • Marc Forrester

      Power and freedom are the same end by different means. It’s called freedom if you find a way to make your own, and power if you take it from others.

      • And making your own is dependent on having the power to ignore others.

        • Shweta Narayan

          Generally it’s dependent on taking it from others and then ignoring/silencing/erasing them.

          Kinda like when “stealing lands and committing genocide on most of a continent & then expanding to global imperialism” gets called “being the Land of the Free”.

      • Raven Black

        Making your own freedom without it involving power over others involves living in a space nobody else wants to live in. Which most likely means you don’t want to live their either, which makes it a pretty unappealing flavor of freedom.

        Which is to say, when freedom isn’t power, it’s Buddhist-style detachment from material things. Any freedom that involves material things, even passively, is power is disguise, absent discovering some way to get to somewhere nobody else knows how to get to (which is still power really, just not power over other beings any more.)

        • Tylikcat

          And while Buddhist philosophy espouses detachment from worldly things (if you don’t have dependents) pragmatically Buddhist orders have always had complicated relationships with power – either in terms of managing their own economic base (lands grants and so on) or in their martial forces (oh, really, those martial arts were purely peaceful?)

          (The order I belong to has a colorful history, and while a lot of it worked out pretty pragmatically, how it was all supposed to be supporting the ideals they espouse is often more murky. I… really like my brothers and sisters, individually, it’s great to have people to sit with and the beatings are first class. But I try not to be blindly idealistic.)

          • Burma/Myanmar as a current example?

          • Tylikcat

            A fairly extreme one. Though one of my favorite to cite any time westerners start romanticizing buddhists. I’m also fairly fond of Bhutan’s treatment of its Nepali minority – mostly because Bhutan gets a lot of positive press, and yo, people, look a little more carefully.

            (In terms of my own order was thinking of a particular battle of dynastic succession china. They got involved, and came out with a bunch of land, money, and imperial support… and that dynasty went on to persecute a bunch of other buddhists.)

    • Chani

      Yeah… whoa… it’s pretty cool to see part of a thought I wandered onto echoed in the comic itself 🙂 🙂

  • Arkone Axon

    I’m… very much appreciating Alison’s thoughts here. She’s NOT pretending for a moment that what she did to Max was in any way justified, she’s not attempting to rationalize it for a moment. She’s not even talking about how making amends might involve anything unpleasant, just that it feels vulgar because of how crass it would come across to offer payment after taking by force. An abuser attempting to bribe the abused into offering forgiveness. And she’s not suggesting that the victim of her abuse somehow deserved it.

    Now she can try to atone. Emphasis on “try.” Some mistakes… you’re never going to stop paying for them. One of the most horrible lessons I learned was that sometimes… sometimes all you need is one more chance, and it’s the one thing you can’t ever have.

    • Micah Matheson

      As this conversation has gone on, I’ve gotten the feeling that Alison is – perhaps – learning the right lesson in all of this.

      • Kyle Kettler

        The moral anti-realist with a PhD has found a emotionally compromised young idealist to brainwash. Nothing about this sounds like The Right Lesson to me.

        • Micah Matheson

          What do you think he’s saying to Alison that is detrimental or dangerous? It seems to me she’s acknowledging the wrongness of her actions.

          • Shweta Narayan

            If you go through the comments to this chapter in order (I don’t recommend it), you’ll see people going through increasingly bizarre contortions to demonize Gurwara.

            Basically it boils down to: he’s a brown guy calling a white girl on her shit, so he can do no right and must be evil and doing evil no matter what a stretch it is. Either he has to be an awesome supervillain, or he has to be an abusive monster. He’s absolutely not allowed to be a human being.

            But y’know. it’s ~not racist~ because reasons

          • Ran

            Do you have any actual reason to think it’s racist?

            It’s extremely common for readers to get attached to protagonists, and to dislike other characters who make the protagonists feel bad, even if justified. (Heck, this even happens to authors sometimes.) Do you have any reason to think that this only applies when the protagonist is white and the person making them feel bad is not?

          • Shweta Narayan

            Yes, yes I do.

            Is this an actual question asked in good faith? No, no it is not.

            Am I going to do the work of proving it to the satisfaction of someone who thinks the important thing to challenge here is the notion that anyone in the SFP fandom could *possibly* do *racist* things? No, no I am not.

            But for the record, nobody who experiences & deals with racism goes “This is RAAACIST” for fun. What we actually do is see it over and over and over, and spend months biting our tongues because if we do speak up, we’ll have to deal with the clueless entitlement of the people who will, with 100% certainty, jump in to tell us that we don’t really know it’s racist and can’t prove it.

            Sometimes we let our guard down, and get reminded why we didn’t say it before.

          • Ran

            I haven’t asked you to “prove it to my satisfaction”; all I asked is if *you* actually had a reason for your opinion (and I offered an alternative explanation for you to consider).

            (Do you really believe that my question was in bad faith? If so, why? That seems to say more about you than about me . . .)

          • Shweta Narayan

            Nobody calls out racism without good reasons, because the personal cost of doing so is too high. In the case of comments about Gurwara it’s more a cumulative effect than the fault of any one post, which actually makes the cost much higher.

            I’ll paraphase your question: “do you really have a reason for thinking what you just said???”

            Presupposing that the person you’re responding to is just blowing it out their ass unless proven otherwise? Is not good faith.

            It’s also entirely predictable any time a marginalized person speaks. You are being judged quickly because you sound like you’re playing racefail bingo.

          • Ran

            Fair enough.

            I’ve witnessed many cases where racism has been called out mistakenly, but it’s true that there’s nearly always a decent reason for the mistake. (One of the hallmarks of racism is that it’s hard to identify it with 100% accuracy; so honest mistakes are inevitable.) I’m sorry for implying that you had no reason at all; whether or not I would have agreed with the reasons you identified, it was unfair (and ironic!) of me to assume that you were making unwarranted assumptions.

          • Shweta Narayan


            Please do be aware for future that the way you phrased it, both times before, was very close to the phrasing racist trolls tend to use when trying to exhaust POC with endless “debate” about whether our lived experience counts for anything vs their uninformed opinions.

            There’s probably other ways to ask that wouldn’t set off those flags but, migraine threatening so I can’t think atm.

          • Friendly Neighbourhood Rando

            It kind of pains me to say it but if you’re going go call racism or something, you should be willing to explain or provide concrete examples*. I know it is REALLY FUCKING ANNOYING and WHY DON’T PEOPLE GET IT, etc (I have been asked “what has Donald Trump ever said that is racist?” By two white men, so I know the feel), but coming into that kind of a conversation “unarmed” with sources, so to speak, usually enables the other person to discredit you more easily.

            Also, re: Gurwara and Al, power dynamic: I think it’s more complicated than you present it, because they are alone. Like, if they were in a crowd, then I would agree with you that Al has more power (she’s famous, she’s white, etc), but on their own the student-teacher relationship and the superpowered-normal dynamic should hold more weight. So, in-world, I don’t think racism is that relevant, and I think the power dynamic is more in Gurwara’s favour because Al is lending his opinion a legitimacy she doesn’t lend many others’, and he is the one whose views are directing the conversation about *her* issues, which I think says something. Like you said, a lot of white female privilege comes from how you will be seen and who will rally to help you and commit violence on your behalf if you’re a white woman, and that is power that does not apply when there are no others to take such actions.

            However… They AREN’T alone. In terms of the fandom, etc, and in terms of privilege and racism, the audience necessary to give Al a position of greater power does exist HERE, in this comment section. So I will agree that the demonization of Gurawara (especially in this second appearance when he has just been fantastic) is pretty darn racist.

            However again! While I understand that calling “racist” is kind of awful and comes with a cost and is not fun and people telling you you’re playing “the race card” is bullshit, etc, you may want to consider that you have been so negatively and so frequently affected by racism that you magnify the magnitude of the slight in question. I’m not saying it’s NOT racist, though, just that it’s kind of reasonable for somebody without that experience to not notice it (even if it can be infuriating when it happens for the billionth time), and getting defensive at some people’s ignorance is counterproductive.

            *…which you did with Obama, though I don’t remeber that incident, and also Obama was a very particular president, so an example with a senator or congressman instead may be better, seeing as how people are very willing to say terrible shit at and about Trump, a white president.

          • Arkone Axon

            Speaking as a Jew who can barely go a day without seeing a news article that doesn’t so much talk about anti-semitism as glorify it, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Sometimes you find yourself having to wave at a cumulative pile of evidence, only to have it dismissed out of hand anyway.

            But… I’m not entirely certain that the negative reception of Gurwara is about racism so much as the trope called “Protagonist centered morality.” In other words, I think that people don’t hate him (or Max) because of their skin tone or gender. I think they hate him (and Max) because Alison didn’t like him, and therefore must obviously be evil.

            I even commented on this back when Max and Alison had their first dates (the evening walk, and then that disastrous rooftop dinner), before everything went sour. How people were literally jumping on every single possible thing to condemn him. And how it would be like having friends watching obsessively and sending text messages like “Did you see that? He ordered the bleu cheese! Run, girl! That’s proof! HE ORDERED THE BLEU CHEESE!!!”

            Well… when Gurwara strolled into class, he started ordering the bleu cheese.

          • Zorae42

            Draco Malfoy, Loki, Kylo Ren. Heck, there are more Kylo/Rey fics than there are Finn/Rey fics (but Finn is nice black guy so he’s apparently not as good of a match as the ‘attractive’ white guy who tortured her and who is most likely related to her). There’s also the fact that there are people defending Max beyond his right to not have his autonomy violated (there are people here who legitimately claim he’s not a selfish ass).

            It’s actually a pretty common trend, just have to be an ‘attractive’ white man and the fanbase won’t care what you do.

          • Arkone Axon

            Speaking as one of the people defending Max… I’ve also been defending Gurwara, literally since his introductory scene where people were demonizing him for daring to question Alison’s moral rightness in everything she does.

            I’ve also been NOT demonizing Alison. I’ve condemned her actions against Max, which were both evil AND stupid (for reasons I’ve elucidated in past comments, and which boil down to “killing the goose that laid the golden eggs”), but I’m very pleased that she’s now owning up to her responsibilities. Which is why I’ve also been saying that Gurwara might be the hero that saves the world, because he’s pulling Alison back from the brink of no return, away from the path of self righteous good intentions that results in inordinate amounts of evil and misery.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Tangentially it’s kinda interesting to me how the same people who stan for Max and hate Gurwara really *don’t* want to see Al date Clevin (and not just because she’s a total mess & would be bad for him).

            Like maybe it’s only high-status white men this works for, and which ones count as “attractive” seems to pair with status more than what they actually look like?

            So, wondering… are there white men who get this treatment while being low-status in their narrative?

          • Tylikcat

            Huh. Does the adorable naif count as low status? …isn’t that a stock role? (My exposure to fan fiction isn’t that great, so I don’t know their popularity.)

            (I am totally the wrong demographic. Max annoyed me from the start, and my more or less immediate reaction to Guwara is that he amused the hell out of him, and in the case of a real world analog, I’d like to ask him out to coffee.)

          • Shweta Narayan

            i think The Nerd Guy is generally a low status figure unless he does something amazing? I dunno! right now the only fic I read is by one particular writer who does wonderful reimaginings of things, cause brain is seldom up for reading so I have to maximize chances of fun.

            My initial reaction to both Max and Gurwara was actually identical! It was “Molly & Brennan PLEASE don’t do what it initially looks like you’re doin that so many people do, please let that setup be deliberate for undermining later”

            Cause Max with his semiquote “evil eyebrows and cheekbones” as people were saying, could have turned out to be Jewish. The high cheekbones and heavier-than-anglo eyebrows is toooo often Jewish coding as Villain coding, including by people who have no idea that’s a thing and just know that some eyebrows n cheekbones are evil.

          • Tylikcat

            Huh – I read Max as Germanic! (High cheekbones and distinctive eyebrows is a ridiculously dominant trait from one branch of my family.* And the height…) Still, it’s one not uncommon in my German colleagues…

            * Okay, possibly not a good example. One cousin who traveled with an uncle when they were investigating the family roots – and then removing anything untoward from his official account because he’s like that**, swore that they found a family crest with a star of David on it, the star mysteriously disappearing by the time they reached this side of the Atlantic. This is all to believable of that uncle, and since this is the side of the family I’ve been thrown out of, and that cousin is dead, I suppose I’ll never know. (I’m unlikely to repeat the research, unless I happen to be living in the area, I suppose.)
            ** Which is really too bad, because all the good stories then came from other sources, of course.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Heh yeah this takes us back to race being a social construct; I went to school in Europe & learned strongly that people with dark hair/thick eyebrows/high cheekbones were nearly as low on the hierarchy as overt darkies like myself, despite my initially thinking they were just other white people.

          • Tylikcat

            My read was that Max was too light complected to run into that… and in theory the US rule is that white is white unless you’re hispanic or of obvious enough, say, Middle Eastern extraction to make an issue of it. (There’s a huge amount of covert colorism – I mean, god forbid that you’re sallow – but there were also policies building an illusion of uniform whiteness.)

            (I’m dark haired and was darker skinned than either parent – though tech and academia both tend to breed pallor – which in retrospect was a source of racial insecurity to my mother, but I grew up in a multicultural enclave, and was pretty oblivious. Whenever I was taken as the one non-european member of the family growing up, I was delighted… ah, Seattle in the seventies. Of course, I also didn’t find out that my mother had grown up bilingual in spanish and english until I was in my late twenties. But I’ve said many times how much I despair of my family. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve been figuring out what a lot of the fraughtness was all about.)

          • Shweta Narayan

            In theory that is not actually proposed by Jewish people, light-skinned Jewish Americans are white. In practice, that’s not how it’s ever worked.

            Even before the recent sharp rise in antisemitic attacks, ethnically Jewish people have been seen as such and treated differently from “real” white people. Including friends n family of mine who I would not have realized weren’t anglo just from looking at them.

            And non-Jewish Eastern Europeans are actually othered and treated as foreign for being *lighter* skinned than anglos. “Conditionally white” is probably the best term I’ve heard for this.

            Whiteness, like any prestige category, has caaaaarefully monitored grades, and a boundary that sometimes benefits people who play along n stomp on the people who are properly outside, but changes according to the convenience of those in the center.

          • Zorae42

            Well Clevin is adorable and dorky yes, but he’s kind of chubby and has glasses. Which is not a bad thing nor does it make him unattractive! It’s just that he’s not “traditionally attractive” (or what media says is attractive), which is probably why he doesn’t get the same treatment. Although he also seems to be a really nice person so I can’t understand how someone could justify liking Max and disliking Clevin for anything but shallow reasons.

            Depends on how you define low-status. Spike from Buffy didn’t really have much ‘status’ and tons of people loved him; although he was a vampire so that’s kind of a status (maybe?). Same with Sephiroth (although he was insanely powerful so that’s also kind of a status in itself). General Hux is Kylo’s second most common match and he’s not even in the movie for very long. Honestly, just go through TVTropes examples for ‘Draco in leather pants’ if you think you can without getting trapped on that cursed website.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Clevin’s actually closer to conventionally attractive in earlier pages, I think? I was surprised. I hadn’t even put together that it was him Moonshadow attacked after killing the other college dude, because he looked different when he showed back up.

            But yeah I guess he got put in “The Nerd” category.

            tv tropes is my baaaane!

            At least when i get sucked into wikipedia for hours I come out with stuff I can use, all tvtropes has for me is lots of terrible ideas 😀

            but yeah I’d say vampire = inherent narrative status, but I have no real idea what Hux’s role/status actually is, cause can’t watch video, just that the fandom latched onto him.

          • Weatherheight

            I find TVTropes to be more seductive than entrapping. Just one more page, baby. Five more minutes, and then you can go…

          • Huttj509

            Finn/Rey would get in the way of Finn/Poe OTP.

          • Kyle Kettler

            I am sorry that you can see an element of racial insensitivity in my response to Micah. I’d like to do my best at a real apology.

            I have the privilege of only intellectually considering racial discrimination, rather than viscerally understanding it. It is an unearned luxury that I did not even consider Gurawa’s race as positioning his arguments to Alison. It is probably not going to budge your opinion of my comment but I will gladly apologize for flippantly disregarding that component of the scene.

            My perspective sees an intellectually established adult figure dissecting the ‘axioms’ of one of the most powerful individuals on the planet. Gurawa has a PhD and knows all the points and counterpoints in the literature about metaethics. Alison seems not to. Therefore I considered the situation to feature a power differential in Gurawa’s favor over Alison. His leveraging of this power does not strike me as benign: Gurawa is lessening Alison’s belief in the force of moral arguments. Given that Alison is (likely) unstoppable as a force for interpersonal violence this seems like a mistake.

            Now that you have pointed me at the racial issue I see that my initial read is informed by unsavory stereotypes of people of color. There is a bias to consider non-white characters villainous; this might be predisposing me to consider Gurawa’s intentions to be malicious. There is a bias to consider non-white characters immoral; this might lead me to offer no charity to an opposing philosophical view (I am a moral realist, in case that isn’t clear yet). There is apparently a context of anti-Gurawa comments that I wasn’t aware of which may be more intentionally racist.

            While I still think that Gurawa is (and all anti-realists are) most likely up to something suspicious, I can see that my initial post was short-sighted.

          • Shweta Narayan

            Thank you for this reply. I was thinking I shouldn’t have said anything after the other one, but you changed my mind on that.

            I wouldn’t actually have read your first comment as a problem on its own, though I’d still call it a stretch; it’s the context of an entire chapter of people making stretches that *all* make Gurwara the villain that it bothers me. Even his injuries/disability have been used as “evidence” that he’s evil.

            Much of this comes down to the perceived power balance, so lemme clarify a thing: the power differential isn’t entirely in Gurwara’s favor, and may not be on balance, because white women have had a great deal of power over men of color for as long as whiteness has been a concept. They can always leverage white male violence against “scary” brown n Black men (or Black women, at that), and often do. Their perceived purity/helplessness/fragility, all of which is femininity only as it applies to (cis) white women, means when they get upset they get sympathy, and when poc get upset with them… they still get the sympathy.

            (For one of many examples: in what context can a random civilian get in the face of the president of the US and shake their finger in said president’s face while screaming abuse, without being seen as a threat, and without the president being able to do or say anything without being themself perceived as the threat, and not be treated like a criminal by the US media? When it was a white woman harassing Obama.)

            If even the POTUS doesn’t have the full balance of power cause he’s a man of color dealing with a white woman, Gurwara definitely doesn’t.

            (Granted, I don’t think he’s tyring to or managing to destroy her axioms, but rather to help her gain some nuance on them and understand her own position better before she destroys herself. If he’s doing what you think, I agree that that is pretty awful, but so far I don’t think he’s done anything other than help her. Despite that “fuck you” in class that felt to me very much like the violence of the white woman getting in Obama’s face,)

          • Tylikcat

            “in what context can a random civilian get in the face of the president of the US and shake their finger in said president’s face while screaming abuse, without being seen as a threat, and without the president being able to do or say anything without being themself perceived as the threat, and not be treated like a criminal by the US media?”

            …fantasizing about women of color being able to do so on similar terms with our current president is going to get me even more off topic than we were on the previous page.

          • Shweta Narayan

            I’m not a US citizen so in the interests of being allowed to stay here I am *not* saying that would be amazing if it were possible.

          • Tylikcat

            I am, though I belong to a number of groups cited as not deserving of protection by the current administration. For the moment, I am continuing on in loud-mouthed obliviousness.

            Well, not really obliviousness.

          • Shweta Narayan

            yeah I’m also that , and I’m also coming up on the time period when I can apply for citizenship, and while my social media presence is, uh, pretty clear about where I stand, I’m trying to strategize.

            Having said that my last comment was not exaaactly good strategy oh well 😀

          • Tylikcat

            When it comes to internet policy… I’m a Pirate. I just wish they could get their economic policy together. (And yes, having some background there, and coming out of the open source community, that does imply that I should get involved. Just… a) I’m really busy right now and b) I’m in the US, which tends to devolve to two parties at any given time…)

          • Shweta Narayan

            we do what we can when we can.

            Though I do wish US third parties would like, try infrastructure & consensus building at times like now, rather than in the last few months of the election cycle every 4 years, because WHY

          • “groups cited as not deserving of protection by the current administration”

            So non-Trump voters then 😉

          • Tylikcat

            I think you are overly optimistic.

          • I think you’re probably right.

          • I’m not sure how to read the last few pages and reasonably draw the conclusion that Alison’s belief in the force of moral arguments has been lessened. Frankly, it seems to me that the only way to do so is to dismiss all this philosophical introspection as anti-realist brainwashing.

          • Rugains Fleuridor

            If that sort of twist is going to happen at this point, his name ought to be Professor Shyamalan.

          • Shweta Narayan

            A. Night Gurwara XD

        • Arthur Frayn

          How is he being an anti-realist? When someone has done you wrong, how can they ever make it “right?” What actually, REALLY happens is they try to atone and after a while you do one of the following: you forgive them, you let the matter drop, or you stay hurt and upset with them. What Gurwara is saying is actual realism and anti-idealism. He said when he sat down that he only believes in consequences. He’s trying to un-brainwash her and get her to own her actions and choices.

          • Shweta Narayan

            though even that is what happens ideally; most of the time when the powerful do other people wrong, they double down rather than face it; they find ways to blame the victims & accuse them of being the meanies.

            I don’t think folks are giving Al nearly enough credit for being willing to acknowledge her failures; it’s almost-but-not-quite implausible how she does that, and it’s pretty amazing storytelling that gets us to accept it. Not only that the protag done fucked up, but that she really should be going through this level of self-questioning, and change from here on out.

          • Kyle Kettler

            Moral Anti-Realism (or Moral Irrealism) is the meta-ethical doctrine that there are no objective moral values. This certainly describes the position that ethics are “beautiful lies” that we tell each other.

            I wrote a top-level post describing a system of morality in which there is an obligation to atone for one’s actions whenever those actions cause harm to a person EVEN WHEN the harmful action was justified.

            This is an important meta-ethical question because Alison is an individual unbound by the normal rules of consequences. “Uninstalling” the limits she places on her own behavior because of the force of moral arguments seems wildly irresponsible. In a world where the plan for a malicious Alison is “board space ships and run away” I think it behooves all baseline humans to shore up her sense of morality and self-restraint.

          • Arthur Frayn

            Sorry Kyle, I hadn’t heard of Moral Anti-Realism ™, and was only going on what your words appeared to mean, rather than their secret anti-meaning. For normal English speakers, realism means dealing with reality and the way that reality can be consistently expected to behave by experience. So moral anti-realism (and you didn’t capitalize it in the post I was responding to) would mean morally expecting things in defiance of reality. Please be clearer when you indulge in jargon, this isn’t grad school philosophy.

            Also it would help if you included a link to your top-level post that you expect me to read.

          • But those limits clearly weren’t working. Gurwara had already demonstrated she wasn’t considering the needs of others and was working on an Alison’s Might Makes Right principle. That’s not safely sustainable, especially with Alison having admitted she outright prefers the violent solutions to problems. Something like Max was inevitably going to happen. In fact we know it’s happened before, that she has killed people through friendly fire, but Gurwara’s now managed to get her to think about her responsibility to others, not simply to some abstract force of justice.

        • If anything, Gurwara is showing Alison the reality she’s been ignoring, that not everyone thinks like her or wants what she wants.

          Alison is emotionally compromised, but that’s been true since page 1, and that’s not a safe situation to leave the most physically powerful being on the continent in.

  • cphoenix

    “Money. A goddess worshipped by poor and rich alike. And it seems obvious which of her acolytes she favors more. I have always suspected she was simply Power, by a different name.”

    I think this version makes at least as much sense as the Professor’s version. So if money is Power, and freedom is Power, does that mean freedom = money? No. So they can’t both be right.

    In fact, I think the money version makes more sense than the slave and master mean different things by “freedom.” A rich person and a poor person mean at least somewhat the same thing by “money” – a fungible medium of exchange that can be used to satisfy material desires. But the slave and master mean very different things by freedom. The slave means “freedom from oppression.” The master typically means “freedom to do whatever I want.”

    There are some masters who think they are oppressed – pitiful dangerous people! In fact, that may be why they became masters rather than individualists; however, in fighting their imaginary oppression, they seek and find license to do whatever they want. Other masters – the powerful dangerous people – recognize that their desires require subjugating others, and are willing to do it: willing to pursue their “peculiar institution” wherever it takes them.

    The individualist recognizes that freedom is a tool, not a goddess; a practical state full of nuance, not an absolute ideal to be pursued. The individualist will pursue happiness, recognizing that no one else can give it to them (including by being enslaved), and will seek enough freedom to enable that pursuit. For an individualist, freedom is a means to an end, and the concept of “enough freedom” makes good sense. This is very liberating.

    In a very similar way, to a middle-class person, money may be a tool. They may use it to be comfortable and secure; money is a means to achieve those ends, and once they have enough, they pursue those ends rather than turning to pursue more money. A poor person’s life is necessarily focused around money as a determiner of survival. A rich person’s life is often focused around money as a calling, a goal, or a thing to fear losing. A person who has the concept of “enough money” – and who does have enough – will be freer than either the poor or the rich person.

    Anyway, my point is that the Professor is full of it.

    • Martine Votvik

      isn’t that a bit like saying that an apple and a banana can’t both equal fruit because apple doesn’t equal banana?

      • cphoenix

        No. “Another word for” is different from “a type of.” It’s like this:
        “Apple is fruit by a different name. Banana is fruit by a different name.”
        “I’m not sure what you mean by “fruit,” but obviously an apple is not a banana. So the word “fruit” isn’t both a different name for apple and a different name for banana.”

        • Martine Votvik

          I don’t really think you pointing out the weaknesses of my analogy undermindes the point I was trying to make with it.

          • cphoenix

            I’m sorry, I thought you were engaging me in a discussion about the structure of logical arguments, and I was clarifying my argument.

            If that’s not what you intended, then we miscommunicated.

          • Martine Votvik

            I wasn’t trying to engage you in a discussion about the structure of logical arguments in general, I was trying to show how you employed a logical fallacy in your specific reasoning. You can of course choose to pick at my own faults in arguing my point, but it doesn’t retract from the point itself. Which is that money and freedom doesn’t need to equal each other in order for both to represent power. Power isn’t a singular thing.

          • saysomethingclever

            it looks like the miscommunication is due to the metaphorical nature of the equivalency in the statement “Money is power”. A single unit of whatever currency does not measure or represent a unit of power, in the sense of influence or control in the real world. It’s fairly pointless to take “money is power” as money = power and try to structure an argument on that logic.

        • Marc Forrester

          The saying is only that money is power though, not that money is another word for power, and I doubt the professor would define money so simply in any case.

    • Dafydd Carmichael

      Money IS freedom though. Look at Trump. He didn’t get where he is with intelligence or strength. Money is the lubricant that greases all wheels.

      Trump may be a bad example in that he immediately polarises opinion and muddies the water, but we can apply it to any rich person. Elon Musk wants to be free to play with rockets and potentially go to Mars. Money makes that happen.

      On the other hand, you take a slave, and you give them their freedom. They are free from oppression, perhaps, but they are not free to do what they want. They probably couldn’t even afford to cross the country to visit a relative.

      Money IS freedom. Money IS power. and when people say they want to be free, they mean they want power.

      • qixlqatl

        “when people say they want to be free, they mean they want power.”

        I would split hairs a bit here and say what freedom loving people want is ‘agency’, not power as such. We all have a certain amount of power (of widely varying amounts, sure), and even though I have relatively little of it, I would be content to be free (consistent with the non-aggression principle) to use that limited power for my own benefit. Money is agency, though, and in this society, under this government, pretty much the only agency left.

        • Dafydd Carmichael

          I think there’s a lot of overlap between what you can accomplish with agency and what you can accomplish with power. Unfortunately, that’s just the way people behave.

          • saysomethingclever

            agreed, agency does seem to more readily equal the kind of freedom we are trying to build consensus around, than power does. but that makes me wonder if it’s possible to have power without agency or to have agency without power. Like Dafydd said, there’s a lot of overlap between the two.

        • SmilingCorpse

          I don’t think you are splitting hairs at all. There is a distinction between the two. I don’t know if you’ve seen House of Cards on Netflix, but I’m reminded of it for an example. The lead, Frank Underwood, is a power hungry senator. But he makes it a point that he knows the difference between the two in one of his many fourth wall breaking soliloquies. He compares money to a Mcmansion that crumbles after a decade and power as a temple that stands the test of time. He uses that to express disdain for a corporate lobbyist that he thinks can’t tell the difference.

      • SmilingCorpse

        Money and power share the same relationship as electricity and magnetism. Bother are closely related, but still distinct from one another. Especially in this day and age. Money can buy influence, it can even buy loyalty, but it can’t buy total control over someone. Elected officials can still vote against a special interest despite a generous donation from said special interest. Even if you buy influence with money, it’s only as often as the money is flowing. Cut off the flow, no more influence. Think about all the famous figures in history. Very few are remembered for their wealth, most that are are remembered for what they did with it.

        • Freemage

          But as Dafydd notes, money is very much an example of what Voidhawk calls ‘Freedom From’–Max has a type of freedom that the illegally exploited gardeners do not have, solely because of money. He also has a considerably greater amount of Freedom To, of course–most people can’t just arrive at a building rooftop with their own helicopter as a romantic gesture. But it’s the Freedom From that Alison took away from him, and that’s what’s wracking her so hard, now.

          • SmilingCorpse

            But Dafydd also states that money is the same as power. The point of my rebuttle is that, while closely related, money is not the exact same thing as power.

          • Freemage

            But when you’re talking in abstract terms like the good professor is, “Wealth”, “Power” and “Freedom” all share a helluva big Venn Diagram space in terms of the concepts they include.

            Since he was using religious imagery, I’d say they’re conceptually aspects of the same deity (ala Christian Trinitarian teachings) vs. actually distinct ‘gods’.

          • SmilingCorpse

            True, but the same parallels can be drawn with electromagnetism. While heavily interconnected, they are still distinct.

    • Voidhawk

      Money is delayed Power. It’s the ability to get other people to do things for you (eg, grow food, fight, amuse you). But Power comes in many different varieties, most obviously Soft and Hard. Money is Soft power, in that it has a wide reach but requires/creates the (somewhat) acquiescence of those it is used on. Force (military, personal physical, etc) is obvious Hard power. It requires no acquiescence, but is limited in scope.

      Alison has the greatest accumulation of Hard power in the world, so the comic is about presenting her with all the world’s Soft problems.

      The most powerful people/organisations in the world use Soft power to leverage Hard power, and then use the Hard to gain more Soft in an endless upward spiral. For example: a company lobbies the government to legalise resource extraction in a region, then uses that legality to deploy police/PMCs to arrest residents/protesters, then re-invests the profits in buying the next election.

      As for Freedom, I see it as a spectrum with Freedom From at one end and Freedom To at the other. To have complete Freedom From an act obviously requires that no-else has the Freedom To perform that act. With certain acts (eg murder), we judge that Freedom From takes precedence over Freedom To in almost all cases. Other acts go the other way.

      Some situations are very complex. Free Speech laws generally favour Freedom To speak over Freedom From being spoken about (here in the UK, Libel laws require the person suing to prove they have lost something, as well as disprove the allegation). Contract Law deals with the specifics of what each person can and cannot force someone to do with soft-power.

      Money gives you great Freedom To, and lack of it reduces you to bartering away your last Freedom Froms.

      • Tylikcat

        I think it’s a it of an overstatement to call money soft power. Way too much money goes into arms and soldiery. Money is transferable power that exists in a specific social context. (Hence the lack of use of money on a lonely desert island.) It is bound by that social context… but if you have enough money, that’s not a lot of restraint.

        Though you are correct that it’s pretty different than Alison’s brand of force.

        • shink

          Money is indirect power. It can be used to acquire hard or soft power, as it can be used to buy both goods and the services of others, whether those services be making goods and acquiring more wealth, the use and application of military/police force, or the buying of an election so as to wield more soft power over society through successful manipulation of the rulers. All of these applications of money acquire more freedom for the individual, as does simply using money to acquire goods to consume (which serves as freedom from want, need, sickness, etc.).

          To call money power however is a massive misnomer. Money is used to acquire power, and acquiring freedom without it is next to impossible and generally requires a massive projection or threat of hard power, but money is not in itself hard power, or even soft power. A politician who refuses to be bought scoffs at your money and very well might take it away if they manage to achieve a political office with the soft power clout and the hard power capabilities to do so. A rich man who commits a crime or makes the wrong enemies might very well be put to death or imprisoned, where as a dictator will almost never be made to answer for there crimes even if overthrown. The difference is that one has money, the other has power. This is the reality behind why so much money is spent chasing power, and why even multi-national corporations are generally very careful with how and where they decide to break the laws of the countries they are in.

          • “a dictator will almost never be made to answer for there crimes even if overthrown”

            Hitler, committed suicide to avoid consequences.
            Mussolini, Hanged
            Ion Antonescu, shot
            Ceaucescu, shot.
            Erich Honecker, trial stopped due to terminal illness.
            Saddam Hussein, hanged.
            Pol Pot, died while under house arrest, possibly poisoned
            Muammar Ghaddafi, shot.
            Charles Taylor, serving 50 years
            Radovan Karadic, serving 40 years

            The odds on getting out alive aren’t great.

      • cphoenix

        Excellent analysis. II’d suggest, though, that the state of Freedom a person experiences is not just a one-dimensional continuum.

        Warren Buffett, for example, has almost infinite Freedom From, and his Freedom To is limited mainly by his personal morality (which is apparently quite strong). Living the life he wants, he lives in the same small house he lived in before he got rich. Similarly, Elon Musk works insane hours. Neither one seems to acquire or use Hard power.

        Saddam Hussein had almost unlimited Hard and Soft power, but his Freedom was limited by having to stay safe. He had to sleep in a different palace every night. He had lots of Freedom To on an institutional level, and many (often rather sick) kinds of Freedom To on a personal level. But he was missing some important Freedom From’s. I suspect the same is true of the leader of North Korea.

        When someone is very poor, their options dwindle along both axes; they have very little Freedom To or Freedom From.

        Another complication is that how much freedom you have depends largely on your point of view. A parent of a young child may perceive that they have no Freedom From worry or Freedom To travel; a different parent may relax about low-probability bad things, and not care about traveling. This goes double double for stay-at-home parents; some enjoy it, some feel curtailed, and some feel both at the same time.

        Come to think of it, a parent of a young child has almost unlimited power over that child – if they choose to use it. So much depends on parenting style.

        • AshlaBoga

          Freedom is a matter of perspective. Heck, power is a matter of perspective too.

          For all her power, Alison probably will die of old age before she’s 130 unless she has an age retardation ability that we remain unaware of.

          • SmilingCorpse

            Death, it humbles all but the most foolish.

    • MisterTeatime

      Freedom may not be money, but money is definitely freedom. How often do rich people go to prison?

      • cphoenix

        You’re saying “fruit may not be apples, but apples are definitely fruit.” I agree with that.

        The wording in the Professor’s quote that I disagreed with: “___ is another word for ___”. One would not say “apple is another word for fruit” nor “fruit is another word for apple.”

  • Silenceaux

    The phrasing of making amends to erase low social standing is kind of interesting, considering the back and forth in the comments section these last few months. Alison feels ashamed of her action, but I wonder if her peers would judge her as harshly as she does herself.

    • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

      I’m sure Lisa will be *thrilled* Alison subdued the will of someone else for her own gain

      • Freemage

        If Alison’s actions were for ‘her own gain’ (ie, diminishing a friend’s suffering while at the same time magnifying that friend’s ability to aid others in desperate need), then there’s no such thing as deliberate altruism. Alison’s only benefit was feeling good about the direct consequences.

        That’s the problem that I’ve been having with this discussion. I’m not saying her actions were justified (or, even moreso, that Max ‘deserved’ his treatment). I’m not advanced in my ethics enough to feel I could make that call, yet. But if the only form of altruism is doing nothing, then it becomes very difficult to justify any action at all.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          If you wish I could have said “subdued the will of someone else according to her own unquestioned moral imperatives” and this also comes with a slew of cringe-worthy historical precedents Lisa is sure to be delighted about.

          • Freemage

            I can point to almost as many historical precedents for “not intervening according to” unquestioned imperatives, though. It’s the unquestioning part that’s wrong–the lack of forethought, of examining the consequences that produces much of the damage. One can criticize that without attacking her motives as such. (So yes, I prefer your proposed change, because it actually does get to the heart of the matter, but I’d put even more emphasis on the unquestioned aspect.)

          • Micah Matheson

            I believe ∫Clémens×ds is talking about slavery, Freemage. Which was upheld as a moral rightness by many – an elevation of the “lesser races” from unenlightened savagery to respectable servitude. The same attitudes are central to most colonialist expansion/exploitation, as well.

          • Freemage

            Oh, I realize that. OTOH, I can point to the Holocaust (and the U.S. policy of turning away Jewish refugees) as a counter-point. For that matter, the Civil War is often portrayed in the South, to this day, as an example of unquestioned moral judgement on the part of the North and the federal government.

            You can try to anticipate the consequences of a particular intervention, and Alison arguably should’ve done a better job of it in Max’s case, but there’s truth in the “known and unknown knowns and unknowns” concept, even if the phrase was made famous as part of a blatant lie.

          • Arkone Axon

            I should note that the difference between the positions on the Civil War lays in the matter of proactiveness. Simply put, the South demanded the moral right to force blacks to work against their will and without their consent, and the North refused to grant them that right.

            In the case of the Holocaust and the U.S. policy… no arguments there. The United States has done a large number of immoral things, and some of them (their refusal to aid refugees, putting Japanese-Americans in concentration camps, etc) were done during WWII.

          • Freemage

            Well, the Civil War was a little more complicated than that. Lincoln and the North, by and large, didn’t care about freeing the slaves actively. The South wanted to secede because they feared the North would abolish slavery at some point, as a means of undercutting the South’s economic power (which was built off of slave exploitation, a system that works great for agrarian states and lousy for industrial ones).

            This isn’t to say I don’t think the North didn’t need to invade the South and put down the Confederacy–just that painting their actions as altruistic is actually kind of glossing over a lot of the politics and more self-serving goals. “Freeing the slaves” was a political maneuver by Lincoln that didn’t even happen right away. Even the Emancipation Proclamation, 2 years into the Civil War, didn’t actually free the slaves in Union slave-holding states (though most of those swiftly followed suit with state laws).

            However, on the subject of proactiveness, that’s the debate Gurawa was having earlier during his initial coat-swapping. Providing special exemption from forcible intervention for non-action doesn’t actually make any particular moral sense. One can argue that it raises the bar of thoughtfulness required (since the application of force always comes with the risk of negative consequences and collateral damage), but simply saying, “We should never force someone to do something they don’t want to” is one of those bumper-sticker bromides that actually doesn’t stand up to real-world analysis.

        • Weatherheight

          The human tendency to reduce another’s action to a single motivation comes into play here. Humans do things for more than one reason. So, in essence, his point stands, but this does not necessarily cheapen the altruistic impulse – just balances it with other competing impulses.

  • Potatamoto

    Y’know who’s freer than Alison? The Pirate King.



      • scarvesandcelery

        I think you mean “Arrr!”

        • Eric Schissel

          How does Douglas Fairbanks figure into this? Now I’m _really_ confused.

          (Ok, hint for the confused: before DF, pirates generally said “arrr!” when they stubbed their toes or got seriously lacerated…)

      • Potatamoto

        Alison is disqualified from being Pirate King because of her inevitable behavior when confronted with a huge chunk of meat.

        Alibot’s behavior is less predictable. She might qualify.

  • qixlqatl

    Great comic, great discussion!

  • Richard Griffith

    Wow. The lines in that last panel. Strong stuff.

  • Walter

    Smart cookie, that Prof. G.

    • Lysiuj

      Or smart chip, as it were.

      • Walter

        Smart cookie(s). I keep forgetting the other Guwara.

  • Stephanie

    Hoo boy. Gurwara knows that the person who was forced to boost Feral has wealth and power, and that they prize freedom? That’s way more details about Max than I’m comfortable with him knowing.

    • SmilingCorpse

      Alison had enough tact in mind to conceal Max’s gender. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        Fixated on freedom, frustrated by his lack of power, self-absorbed, entitled, uncaring for the well-being of others…

        Yeah he definitely knows it’s a man.

        • Stephanie

          Haha! I wasn’t gonna say it, but yeah.

          • The Improbable Man

            I am amused that this is the first time I haven’t seen you two at each others’ throats, and it’s over a sexist stereotype.

          • SmilingCorpse

            I would call their interactions spirited debates, at worst.

          • The Improbable Man

            And I would call it TOTAL CARNAGE, I LOVE IT!

          • palmvos

            I will hand you 4 broken joysticks and ask you to fix them so we can play again. still don’t have enough keys….

          • Weatherheight

            Indeed – I enjoy them myself. Each does a good job of keeping it civil most of the time and yet manages to be entertaining,

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            (I can compensate by unleashing my ungodly wrath upon you for calling this a “sexist stereotype” if you wish)

          • The Improbable Man

            I’m not upset about it or anything if that’s what you think (my reaction is not one of “OMG YOU SEXIST JERK”, just “hey that meets the definition of sexism”). I just found it amusing after reading most of your exchanges with Stephanie.

            That being said, if you want to elaborate, be my guest, I’ll read it and consider your perspective, maybe I’ll learn something. I have a hard time not seeing “[List of personality characteristics], must be a member of [Group]” as sexist stereotyping, if Group is a gender, though.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            It’s a way better definition of sexism, racism or indeed any kind of bigotry to consider it as endemic properties of our societies and culture as a whole so that we keep in mind who they actually hurt, rather than specific acts one can technically (and misguidedly) apply to any kind of situation.

            Granted it’s not very high brow to… I don’t know, elaborate on the sentiment evoked by this collection of pictures, that white people are helpless weirdos who lost all collection to reality long ago, but while it can definitely come with spite and generally hateful intentions, this is not racism. I don’t advocate for hating anyone, mind you, but it’s important we realize due to prejudiced social behaviors cemented into the unfair institutions we have, that one hateful act is much more potent than the other, and more deserving of criticism.

          • MrSing

            But isn’t everything you said a set of stereotypes that our culture holds of a lot of men?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Yes, so?

          • MrSing

            Wouldn’t that make it an endemic property of society?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            No, to reach that status it would have to materialize into systemic disparaging, supported by institutions.

            Like everyone else, men have standards they have to fit in or face social rejection–and a good many suffer greatly from this–but while true, it’s not enough to say that all social standards are bullshit: you’ve also got to realize who has the bigger agency (and interest) in maintaining them, and which they oppress for the benefit of which else.

            Let’s just say Max being a fucking dolt on the very concept of “people supporting one another” didn’t really impede him in life.

          • MrSing

            So you’re saying that men being associated with those very negative stereotypes can’t harm them because an incredible rich kid wasn’t?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            No I definitely haven’t said that.

          • MrSing

            So, why isn’t it sexist to make these stereotypes about men when they are endemic and cause negative consequences for men solely because of a factor that is out of their control?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            I just said they weren’t endemic.
            Also you seem to weirdly not realize that being an entitled, individualistic douche might be an insult when I (and hopefully you?) say it, but these are properties than society at large values in men? Making them both not endemic and not disparaging?

          • MrSing

            But did you not admit that it was a stereotype that many people held about men? Or are you working with a different definition of endemic that doesn’t basically mean “regularly found (amongst people)”.

            Also, I don’t believe that many people appreciate “frustrated by his lack of power, self-absorbed, entitled, uncaring for the well-being of others” as positive traits. Describing a person with those traits would generally be used to say that they are pathetic, cruel or pitiable.

            Can you honestly say that these traits are seen as positive? Would you ever say you value a person for these traits?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            I explained what I meant by endemic well enough and twice. That’s more than enough.
            And these traits? It’s all in the framing. Here’s how you sell them still in today’s cisheteronormative mainstream of wondrous toxic masculinity: Independent, Tough-skinned, Competitive, Strong, Self-Confident…

            Make no mistake: society berates men who don’t have or want to have these traits, not those who display them. “Pathetic, cruel or pitiable”? That’s what I think, but one quick look at the common profile of today’s wealthiest CEOs seems to indicate society doesn’t give a damn about my own opinion.

            So no you can’t be sexist against men. Sexism hurts men sure, my God does it ever, but these two things have nothing to do with each other.

          • Arkone Axon

            Do you truly not see the illogic there? “Society berates men who do not have these traits,” i.e. society pressures men towards specific qualities as determined by their gender, and you think that’s NOT the exact same thing as society berating women for not conforming towards similar qualities?

            Also, do you think that the average male making $20,000 a year or less ever sits back and lifts a beer and declares, “Hooray for all those rich guys keeping women in their place, because their success somehow benefits me?”

            Here are some quick definitions of sexism:

            “prejudice or discrimination based on sex.”
            “behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.”
            “discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex or gender.”

          • MrSing

            Would you not say it is a more valid reason that these kinds of people end up in power, not because those traits are rewarded in men, but because they make people succesful at gathering power? It would seem unfair to say that society only rewards those traits in men, when in fact it rewards those traits in people seizing power. I’m sure you could find many examples of women in power who are as cruel and narcistic as their male counterparts.

            Also, it is not very fair to say that just because society would supposedly reward those traits in men only, it makes them intrinsic parts of being male. I don’t need to remind you that the truly rich and powerful are not the majority of people by any means.

            And if you say that society actually berates men who don’t have those traits, would that not be an example of a systematic pressure on men?

            And if I were to say that men are imprisoned at higher rates than women, it could not be because they are seen as naturally more cruel and violent? Meaning that judges have less sympathy for them?

            Or when men commit succesful suicides at a much higher rate than women, it could not be because complaints could be seen as pathetic whining and frustration at a lack of power?

            Or is that not systematic?

            I’m not trying to play the complaining game and say that either men or women have it worse off. All I’m saying is that these views you proposed do fit the criteria of sexism, even with the non-essential criteria of them being systematic.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Let’s go paragraph by paragraph.
            – No. Assertive women are considered bossy or even hysterical and their motives painted much more grimly than their male counterparts, no matter how much anecdotal evidence you’re willing to pull up.
            – I never said that.
            – It is indeed a systemic* pressure, only I dearly hope you realize who is the insulted party when all of these amount to “Dude, you are so not a man, thus are a woman, ergo are weak.” Hint: it’s not men.
            – Both those statistics are *wildly* arguable due to context, but even if we take them for granted, try rethinking which causes which. Here’s an (blatantly false, but an interesting start) idea: maybe women don’t go to prison as often because once again, the Powers That Be consider them weak and frail and incapable of doing anything consequential, least of which harm?
            – Women have it worse off, and please never dare uttering “playing the complaining game” ever again for the sanctity of everything great in this world.

          • MrSing

            I’ll do the same.
            -Powerful men are constantly criticised too. Presidents, bosses, and managers are very frequently called less than flattering names too, including people questioning their motives. This is a common thing for people in power.
            -You implied that because society supposedly rewards those traits in men, we can assume that we can stereotype men that way. Otherwise your original comment makes no sense at all. Your claim was that men are all more commonly those negative traits, your justification was that society rewards those traits in men.
            -If you really believe that men not being able to succeed and being socially shunned for not possessing certain bad traits is not real harm, I don’t know what to say to you. And when men are harmed by this pressure, you claim that women are the only offended party? The argument can basically end here, since you admitted there is systemic pressure against men, meaning that sexism against them is possible. Women being harmed in the collaterol does not make the men any less harmed or discriminated against.
            -That is a really bad argument. Women can commit crimes and not go to jail where men can’t, and yet women are the offended party? In this equation women are obviously favored and men hurt by an unfair system and yet women have the short end of the stick? Besides that, if you do not believe the statistics to be acurate, I’d like to see your justification for it. Men dying more often from suicides and being more in jail seems pretty clear cut to me.
            -It doesn’t matter if women have or don’t have it worse of. Sexism is still sexism even if it hurts one party more than the other party. Hurt that does not need to occur for reasons that are not logical is always wrong. And I JUST said that I don’t want to play the complaining came specifically because I don’t want to get into a discussion on wether men or women have it worse BECAUSE it is besides the argument. That why I “dared” to utter those words.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Okay look. Safe for details I have genuinely no patience going into, and that “it doesn’t matter if women have or don’t have it worse off” doesn’t get you *any* favors, the thing you’re still missing will hopefully be made clear in that wildly inappropriate analogy.

            Slavery is not the best economic doctrine in the wondrous capitalist society American claimed itself wanting to be. It makes much more sense to have the most people possible using their capital to help markets proliferate. Out of its many crimes, the South made one of shortsightedness, unless they really expected cotton to be the economic powerhouse of the two next centuries. Going the non-crime against humanity road like the North would have propelled long term economic growth the influence of which would still be felt today.

            In this respect, and in this respect alone, slavery hurt everyone. Even the best of slave owner scum would have benefited.

            Here’s the thing about that one respect: nobody fucking cares, and for good reason.
            And your whole spiel about how the lone abolitionist-at-heart in the South had it real bad when his slaver pals mocked his progressive attitudes is not pulling my heartstrings.

          • MrSing

            Clemens, I only say that it doesn’t matter wether woman have it worse of than men or not purely for the sake of the argument we are having because it has no bearing on it. We are not looking at sexism against women in this argument, I had hoped that would have been clear.

            I’d also appreciate it if, instead of coming up with a strange narrative about slavery, you instead would agree or disagree with the actual arguments I made. Especially since it has little to no bearings on what I said.

            There are certain situations in which men objectively suffer and where women benefit, based solely on the preconceptions people have about their genders, and vice versa. This was never the case for slave owners. There was never a systemic symptom where slave owners were worse of than their slaves.

            Men die more than women when they try to kill themselves. They are put more into jail and for longer times. They have less chance of winning custody. They are historically and globally more likely to be drafted into war. They hold the most work related deaths and injuries.

            All these things are facts. And NONE of this says that women have or don’t have it worse than men. It just says that there are some aspects of society that clearly are hurting men on a systematic level because of there gender. And this is very likely linked to the stereotypes you joked about.

            You can say that these are caused by sexist views society has about women, but that just seems weird to me. It would mean that every time society hurts women it is because society is sexists against women, but also that every time society hurts men and benefits women, it’s still because society is sexist against women?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Man, you sound just like an MRA. You should start reflecting on where this analysis of yours is taking you.

            Two things, and this conversation is over: the answer to your last question is yes, and since you so dearly need me to say it, yes, #NotAllMen

          • palmvos

            as far as this:
            ‘Or when men commit successful suicides at a much higher rate than women, it could not be because complaints could be seen as pathetic whining and frustration at a lack of power?’

            the key word there is successful. when i ran into that statistic- it was pointed out that men tend to pick more violent (effective) means of suicide than women. men are more likely to use a gun, women are more likely to OD on household drugs or other toxins. not only does the second method take longer but medical professionals have ways of fixing it. gunshots are another kettle of fish entirely.

            fine i googled it… look at what you two made me do!

            interesting to point out according to the source above although men succeed more- women attempt more. trust me the attempt is the more important statistic. whether one succeeds at it (bias showing) depends a lot on the courage, ingenuity, and other things one has in that pit of darkness.

          • Freemage

            One theory for women taking non-violent methods is that they are more likely to be taking into consideration… the clean-up. Gunshots and jumping (the two ‘surest’ methods around) both leave a massive mess. Women, even those facing their darkest periods, still factor in things like how their body will appear, and how much work they’re going to make for someone else.

          • palmvos

            Gun shots… OK, ill buy that. but I doubt if many people outside of first responders realizes that falling leaves a mess. besides- bridges over water are a popular option… and the cleanup is automatic. so the test for this theory is bridge over water jumpers if there’s still a significant disparity on attempts at least, then this theory fails to hold water.. (no I’m not at all sorry)

          • MrSing

            It says in your source that they can’t distinguish between self harm and actual suicide attempts, making the counted attempts unreliable. Self harm is bad, but it isn’t a suicide.

            What matters is that men are dying more. (Meaning they also don’t often get multiple suicide attempts, since they are more likely to succeed, meaning their attempt number is always going to be lower.)

            Most people who attempt suicide, aren’t that intent on actually dyings http://lostallhope.com/suicide-statistics. Around 2/3 of them actually don’t really want to die. But when you use a gun, as you said, you don’t have a high rate of survival.

            But, even disregarding that. We have a society in which men, for some reason or another, actually succeed in killing themselves more often than women. 3.5 times as often, according to your source. Isn’t that a gigantic problem? Women who attempt and survive, those we can still help. Those men are lost forever.

            I’d say that the “successes” are the more important statistic.

          • palmvos

            no it doesn’t matter that men are dying more. what matters is you’re cherry-picking the data to support a preconceived notion. if you looked at the source something is going on in that paragraph- there are 12 self harm admissions for every suicide. that does’t work out for the 3 times rate. the attempt ratio disparity is from a different source so it isn’t an estimate. i found that out it in less than a minute.
            summarizing I said above- using successful suicide for a proxy for how miserable life is doesn’t do well as there are many steps in between misery and death and those factors bias the results significantly. attempts are better but not ideal. we don’t compile data that really measures misery well. suicides right now are more a measure of how little USA works on mental health across the board than as any proxy for how bad any one group has it. your argument may have merit but this argument does not support it well.

          • MrSing

            If you had looked at your own source you would have found out that they can’t distinguish between unintentional self harm and suicides. Meaning that the attempts get artificially inflated.

            And that still leaves the fact that men are dying more often. As in, never being alive again and forever being out of the reach of help. ‘Don’t you agree this is worse than actually surviving and having a chance at healing?

          • palmvos

            you will reply. your kind must.
            I did look at my source- wondered about the disparity and found where the 3 times attempt statistic comes from. it doesn’t come from hospital admissions which if you’d put any effort at all in you’d know. I’ve done a lot more to show where I get my data than you have. this will be locked soon.

          • MrSing

            My kind? What is that supposed to mean? What did I do to deserve that?

            Anyway, one source says, and I quote, “494,169 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm. This number suggests that approximately 12 people harm themselves for every reported death by suicide. However, because of the way these data are collected, we are not able to distinguish intentional suicide attempts from non-intentional self-harm behaviors.”

            Calling none of them suicide attempts is every bit as valid as calling all of them attempts, which is what they did. They basically said they have no clue how many were attempts, so they counted them all. It was nothing more than a guess.

            The other that states the “3 times more likely gets it from the study that says “Nonfatal Outcomes (Attempts) (figures are estimates; no official U.S. national data compiled)”. Not only is the data non-official, they do not give out how they counted their attempts.

            But, let’s assume it is correct and women do attempt suicde

          • The Improbable Man

            I agree with you that one is more potent. I thought you were going to argue that what you said earlier wasn’t sexist at all. We likely agree on the topic, it seems.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Well it’s definitely not nice but the fact that entitlement and selfishness is so much more prominent in men so as to make it practically obvious we are definitely speaking about one hurts more because it’s true than because it’s vile 😐

        • MrSing


        • Arkone Axon

          …I honestly am at a loss to decide WHICH of the many many examples of self-absorbed, entitled, selfish females I can offer up, both from personal experience AND from the pool of those known to the world at large. Or the many many examples of benevolent, caring, selfless men. But… let’s try a few from the public list:

          Ann Coulter and Martin Luther King.
          Leona Helmsley and Bill Gates.
          Margaret Thatcher and Juan Carlos I.

          • The not all men argument, really?

            benevolent, caring, selfless men.

      • Stephanie

        That just means the pool of potential Maxes is twice as big. Not an insurmountable obstacle for someone determined to find his identity. Hopefully Gurwara doesn’t have a motive to do so. I very much dislike the idea of Max’s power falling into the wrong hands.

        • SmilingCorpse

          I hope so as well. As fun a ride as this was, I’d really hate to see it all undone and start over.

        • Tylikcat

          It’s possible that not knowing about Max’s identity is more importantly about Gurwara’s protection than Max’s – we know Max has access to money an influence. What do we know about Gurwara?

          • Freemage

            He’s a philosophy professor. Trust me, unless he’s secretly the world’s oldest superhero, he’s got, at best, the power of tenure.

          • Tylikcat

            Hey, I think he might be secretly working for the UN… But that’s still probably not much help.

    • Akiva

      That’s not an insignificant number of people. Even if Guwara assumes the person in question is literally in the 1%, that’s 3.2 million people, and it’s conservative to estimate that half of them have flirted with Objectivism. And that’s still assuming the unknown person lives in the US.

      • Stephanie

        I realize this, but every data point Alison lets slip narrows the field even further. And it’s not unreasonable to start a search with Alison’s known contacts in the city. What other super rich Objectivists has Alison been going on public dates with lately?

  • Eva Smiljanić

    She does have a point. Making amends is often equal to trying to get rid of your own feelings, making the other person feel guilty for still hating you instead of being genuine.

    Also, I agree that freedom is power. The power to do what you want.

    • Tylikcat

      Agreed on both account. I think… maybe amends in the wrong framing, as it centers your actions and your redemption? You really need to start with the other person and what’s going on with them.

      Part of me says “And that’s going to be really hard, with Max,” except… maybe there’s still a possibility of listening to Max? I mean, part of me is still inclined to think Max is a twit, but I can’t see any resolution – if such a thing exists, and really a lot of time these things are years in the making – that doesn’t start with hearing a lot more about what’s going on with Max.

      I think I’ve generally known that there’s… I guess a brutality to my own insistence on autonomy. I would have an easier time of it if more people were aware of the dimension of power dynamics in their own requests and actions (I think of my ex-husband, and his pressure for me to quit my job and stay home and take care of him… okay, that’s kind of beyond power dynamics and to “Um, have we met?”)

      • Arkone Axon

        I agree with you about how any hope of reconciliation with Max would require that Alison first… listen to him, let him rant, let him vent, let him speak, and LISTEN to him. Lord knows she didn’t do that prior to this.

        Though I would think you would sympathize more with Max, if your ex-husband was that much like… Alison, at least in regards to the “I demand that you suborn your own desires and beliefs to mine” behavior she demonstrated there. The whole “using physical force to coerce “morally correct” behavior” is straight out of the “religious patriarchal” handbook. (I’m not assuming that your ex-husband was religious, I’m just noting that from the victim’s point of view there isn’t much difference between a singular invulnerable being saying “my moral beliefs are so superior to yours that I can’t even be bothered to try to reason with you,” and an entire government saying “These religious views you disagree with are the LAW and you will abide by them.”)

        • Tylikcat

          No, I’m saying I thought Max was a twit beforehand, and the fact that Alison treated him abhorrently won’t magically cure him of that. Saying that Alison behaved badly doesn’t mean I have to like Max. I suppose it could happen? (I work at a private research university. Twenty year olds with inflated opinions of themselves? I can walk down to the coffee shop and find a dozen of them.)

          But, in light of this incident, I think Alison should try really hard to listen to him (which might be really hard to arrange, because I think it’s likely that he won’t want anything to do with her). That’s on her. And I’m at least a tad bit curious if there was anything else going on in his motivation other than chasing after the hot chick who had the power he desperately wanted.

          Also: I don’t think you have a clue what went on in my marriage. And I’ve been pretty open about it here, so I’m *really* not sure what you’re going on about. (Yes, my husband tried to pull shit. It was awful for our relationship, but that didn’t mean I allowed him to succeed at it.) But to try to use these things to tell me how you think I should feel is boorish in the extreme. Stop it.

          • Shweta Narayan

            AA doesn’t argue in good faith, ftr. They’ve misrepresented past events in the comics, without links to the relevant pages, in ways that *have* to have been deliberate.

            The main point as far as I could tell was to woobify Max by convincing people that everything between Al and Patrick was so unconscionable that she had no right to boundaries with Max.

          • Tylikcat

            Well, no one gets to woobify me in my own life. Good gods!

          • Shweta Narayan

            srsly. but wanted to provide that context in case you hadn’t seen it.

          • You’re possibly the least woobified person I know. Despite stuff that would have woobified many.

          • Arkone Axon

            Actually, in a large number of my posts I’ve posted links. Nor have I “woobified” Max or anyone else. Nor have I declared that what happened with Al and Patrick was “so unconscionable.” I simply pointed out that she offered a great deal more empathy and understanding to someone who was guilty of far, far worse crimes than mister “doesn’t want to give the night off to gardeners being employed by someone else.” You want to talk about arguing in good faith, then speak of what I’ve actually said.

            (You might try providing some actual quotes of mine, assuming you’ve read anything that you feel actually supports your accusations)

          • Max as the woobie? No. Just no!

            It’s like trying to woobify Steve Bannon

          • Arkone Axon

            Excuse me. I have not been obsessively following every single post you’ve made, so no I don’t have a clue about went on in your marriage aside from the last post you made; hence my clarification about not assuming a thing. Nor did I try to tell you how I think you should feel. I pointed out that what Alison did to Max was fueled by the very same “my moral beliefs are superior and therefore you should suborn your free will and do what I say” that fuels abusive behavior in general. You’re jumping to assume offense where none was intended, and assuming a considerable amount besides that.

          • Freemage

            If you haven’t been obsessing over the fine details of her posts, then bringing their content up as part of your reply was, flat-out, rude as hell. If you weren’t suggesting she should feel a particular way, then you might want to look more closely at this sentence: “Though I would think you would sympathize more with Max, if your
            ex-husband was that much like… Alison, at least in regards to the “I
            demand that you suborn your own desires and beliefs to mine” behavior
            she demonstrated there.” Because yeah, that’s saying you believe (from her posts) that her husband’s behavior has a parallel to Ali’s, and that that should impact her views in some fashion, and that you are surprised it didn’t.

            Tylikat was NOT assuming anything, she was reading the sentences you wrote.

          • Arkone Axon

            Rude… right. I pointed out that Max’s situation held parallels to her own, in regards to someone else stating “my beliefs are correct, my desires are paramount, you must ignore your own beliefs, desires, and self-interests in favor of doing what I want you to do.” She’s the one who brought it up in the specific comment I then replied to. If it was wrong of me to point at a personal experience she had just referenced, then it was wrong of her to bring it up as if it mattered. And if it DID matter, then the only way it would have been rude of me to respond to it would have been if I had deliberately said something sexist about her belonging in the kitchen or made light of her issues. Which I did not.

            In point of fact, this is something I jump on other people for, and that I try not to do myself. Namely: choosing to be offended where no offense was intended or meant. I’ve got enough people in my life who actively want to make me feel like crap (or worse than that, but they don’t feel they can safely get away with violence and persecution at this time). I don’t need to go rushing to take offense at people who never intended any, or drown out the “excuse mes” with angry rants that just make the other person think “wow, you’re a jerk. I no longer feel sorry.”

          • “this is something I jump on other people for, and that I try not to do
            myself. Namely: choosing to be offended where no offense was intended or

            Which might be a valid position if unintentional offense did not cause harm, but so often it does, and the only way to address it is to point it out and request people not to do it.

            Examples, well, the entire patriarchal aspect of society, if not the universal narrative of needing a straight white male to explain and fix things; the tendency to treat disabled people as child-like and demean them with inspiration porn*; telling non-whites “I don’t think of you as black”, and so on. These may not be intentional insults, they may even be intended as complements, but they do real harm and they need to be corrected.

            * A major part of my disability rights campaigning is focused on a government run scheme – “Disability Confident” – whose idea of getting more disabled people into work is telling employers how inspirational we are. No. Just no.

            As for Tylikcat, you told her how she should think, that the way she thought was wrong. There’s not many people would be happy with that. Especially when it’s exactly the same negative situation she had described!

          • Arkone Axon

            Yes, you’re right – I did point out errors in her logic. That’s called “debate.” “Your position is in error, and here’s why.”

            And before you jump on me further: I belong to a few subgroupings that could allow me to claim oppression, including a few medical disorders that are still considered socially acceptable to mock. And I’ve got a lot of friends and acquaintances with their own issues and/or belonging to assorted subgroups that are often subject to harassment. And I’m not going to identify them because I get SO tired of hearing it brought up at every turn. My issues have given me challenges, and overcoming those challenges have made me stronger. And as I said: I’m used to people actively wanting to make me feel like crap, who have been truly and utterly delighted to realize I could be an acceptable target for their malice. I’m also used to people who are simply ignorant and unaware. And one of the things I’ve learned is that treating the latter like the former is the least productive thing you can do. It’s called “being a jerk.”

          • “That’s called “debate.” ”

            Oh, I’d always wondered what that was.

            “It’s called “being a jerk.”

            Is it being a jerk if someone treats me as a child for being a wheelchair user and I tell them not to?

            Is it being a jerk if someone says “look at all these disabled people we could get jobs shelf-stacking” and I say “Why not supervisors, managers, and rocket scientists?*”

            Is it being a jerk if “someone says ‘they’re so inspiring'” and I say “Why ‘inspiring’ and not ‘normal’?”

            Is it being a jerk if I express displeasure if someone tells me to look for minimum wage work because I happen to be disabled, whereas I’m in fact a highly qualified engineer?

            Is it being a jerk if someone says “I’d rather be dead than in a wheelchair” and I point out wheelchairs are actually massively enabling?

            We have society level problems in the treatment of multiple
            minorities, we don’t solve those problems by ignoring the issues that keep up down. The people who are openly bigoted are relatively few and far between, it’s all the rest, the ones who’ve passively assimilated negative attitudes in their mothers milk whose views we need to change.

            *I are a rocket scientist, or close enough for government work.

          • Arkone Axon

            Yeah… you’re telling this to someone who has friends in wheelchairs. And a mother in a wheelchair. And I don’t consider that to be inspiring – I actually find it insulting in the case of my mother (she’s in that chair due to health complications arising from morbid obesity as a result of extremely deliberate and willful life choices, of a “Imma get angry at anyone who tells me to diet or exercise” variety), since she deliberately put herself in the chair that others would like to escape.

            I didn’t know about your disability until you posted about it just now. Just like you didn’t know I had any issues until I mentioned it in my previous post. Because they’re IRRELEVANT. Courteous conduct and rude behavior are both things completely unrelated to the person who engages in them. Your gender, your race, all of that – that means nothing when it comes to rational conversation. Your intelligence, your education, those matter – but the fact that the chair you’re sitting in while you type happens to have wheels on it is about as relevant as what kind of armrests it has.

            There’s an old movie that sums it up, in fact. “Almost an Angel,” where Paul Hogan plays a hardened criminal who becomes convinced that he died and came back as a “probationary” angel, given a chance to do good. In one scene Hogan deals with a jerk at the bar. Who is being rude and verbally lashing out at people because he knows they won’t punch him out… because he’s in a wheelchair. So Hogan offers to trade punches, while remaining seated in his own chair.

            Afterwards they have this exchange (which begins their friendship and the main storyline where Hogan helps the guy’s sister):
            “Everyone else saw a poor cripple.”
            “What did you see?”
            “A guy in a wheelchair, being a jerk in a wheelchair.”

          • The reality is much of society is trained by their upbringing to make demeaning presumptions about disabled people and other minorities, whether conscious of it or not, and calling them on that is the only way to make their behaviour improve. My being a wheelchair user is not irrelevant when someone makes a point to me that demeans disabled people, such as “we know most of them are faking” (actual example, from a bank official). It’s not being ‘a jerk’ to call them on that, it’s being someone who demands to be treated with the courteous conduct you agree is so important.

          • Arkone Axon

            Oh, I agree with you that it matters when you’re talking with someone who is dismissive of your condition, or that of others (and the “faking” comment does in fact bring up childhood memories of adults doing exact that to me in regards to my own issues). But in regards to this conversation, being held via online correspondence with anonymity in regards to each other’s physical appearances, it is truly irrelevant.

            And as far as demeaning people and whether or not to jump on those who give offense inadvertently… again, I had to deal with people who absolutely LOVED the fact that my issues were (and indeed, still are) considered socially acceptable to mock. You don’t see a lot of characters in wheelchairs on television being portrayed as comic relief (the only one I can think of was from “Scary Movie 2,” and that’s a movie where every character is meant to be comical); there is an entire TV tropes page devoted to one of my issues and how Hollywood still finds it acceptable to mock. As did a lot kids when I was growing up. As did a number of teachers and adults (because Severus Snape is truth in fiction; teachers can be bullies too). So I learned that there is a huge divide between people who truly do not know any better, and those who gleefully jump on acceptable targets. And believe me, after dealing with the latter, I learned to appreciate the simple lack of sadistic glee in the former.

            And – again – that is all irrelevant. We almost certainly never met when I was growing up, you’re not responsible for any of my past experiences, I’m not responsible for yours. We are two people engaged in a civil discourse. What I’m talking about, when I speak of inadvertent offense and how to respond with gentle correction and to remember the difference between deliberately malicious intent versus mere ignorance, is what was shown in an episode of “South Park.”

            ” And now I might mention, Pip, that in London it is not the custom to put the knife in the mouth.”

            “Oh, dear, I’m terribly sorry!”

            “Not at all, I’m sure. Anyway…(continued story)… this gets me to the cruel part of the story, merely breaking off, Pip , to remark that a dinner napkin should never be placed into the tumbler.”

            “Not at all, I’m sure… (continued story) And I break from the tale now
            only to mention that one should never pass gas at the dinner table!”

            “Oh. Excuse me.”

            “Not at all, I’m sure. (Continued story) And the story ends, Pip, with
            me suggesting that one should never pull out the wee wee and check it for
            scabs whilst at the table.

            “Terribly sorry, Pocket.”

            “Not at all, I’m sure!”

          • Freemage

            “Yes, you’re right – I did point out errors in her logic. That’s called “debate.” “Your position is in error, and here’s why.””

            Except it wasn’t pointing out the ‘errors in her logic’ that was rude. It was telling her very specifically how you believed she should ~feel~ (specifically, that she should have more sympathy for Max, based on her own life history as you understood it).

            Note that in the post you were replying to, she states outright that Alison acted abhorrently. She simply also states she thinks Max is a twit. Since presumably you weren’t complaining about the former sentiment, that leaves us with you claiming that she’s ‘wrong’ for not liking Max as a person.

            That really and truly is rude, presumptuous and belittling, and the fact that you claim to not have meant to be those things means about as much as a drunk driver’s declaration that he didn’t mean to plow into those kids.

          • Arkone Axon

            You’re right. I DO think she’s wrong for condemning Max based on a total lack of evidence. At least, real evidence, not “here’s some minor thing he said and then I’ll ignore the rest of what he said, plus the context, then infer a few things about what he must have meant, and GASP! He’s the worst villain in the story!”

            That’s not “rude, presumptious, and belittling.” That’s called DISAGREEMENT. Having a dissenting opinion and stating “I think you are wrong, and here is why.” You want to talk about rude and belittling? How about implying that someone who disagrees with you is on the same moral level as a child killing alcoholic?

          • The worst thing he ever did was tell Alison ‘I think I’ll let Tara continue suffering the torments of Prometheus because that’ll really piss you off.”

            Max is many things, but one thing he isn’t is innocent.

          • Arkone Axon

            Translation: the worst thing he ever did was tell Alison “you’re a rude and unpleasant person, and you can’t even stop insulting me long enough to demand my help. Go away.”

            Which, supposedly, means that the worst thing Alison ever did was say “I want your help but I can’t stop being a jerk to you even for Feral’s sake.” (Fortunately, Alison herself has now canonically acknowledged that this is EXACTLY what she did, and needs to at least attempt to make amends for. Edited due to a typo)

          • Given Alison was clearly being driven by the experience Tara was going through, there’s no reasonable reading of Max’s statement that can discount the effect on Tara.

            And there’s a difference between lacking the self-belief to imagine yourself succeeding in a task and deliberately sabotaging yourself.

          • Weatherheight

            Nicely said, and with admirable restraint.

      • Shweta Narayan

        when people all around ignore the fact that one has boundaries at all, brutality in enforcing them is necessary.

        • Tylikcat

          Sometimes I feel like it’s me against an awful lot of inherited cultural expectations. And with the overbearing doofs, especially those who try impose expectations on me when I’ve already told them exactly what I will and won’t do, I have no problems whatsoever with wielding the clue by four.

          …but sometimes I feel like I am kicking puppies.

          • Shweta Narayan

            thing is people who don’t feel entitled to overstep your boundaries won’t be hurt by you enforcing them, only sorry to have hecked up.

          • Tylikcat

            In theory, yes. In practice, there are a lot of people who think I’m an unlettered savage and if I just learn how to participate in their social rituals I will be so much happier. (Fulfilling my true destiny as a woman optional.) It’s honest in its way? It can be really hard to communicate across that kind of cultural gap.

          • Shweta Narayan

            but that… is… a form of feeling entitled to overstep your boundaries?

          • Tylikcat

            That is totally true.

          • OMG, gender roles as the new version of the White Man’s Burden? That actually might be a useful insight into where the MRA’s are coming from.

          • When the six foot puppy/manchild craps on the carpet, you need the clue by four, a rolled up paper isn’t going to cut it.

      • That’s into “what planet are you from?” never mind “have we met”.

        Max is an unsolved problem. His fears aren’t groundless, and Alison has made them worse. That’s really something she should get round to addressing at some point, or perhaps have others get around to addressing for the sake of a discussion that doesn’t end with faces being introduced to tabletops.

    • Weatherheight

      And vice-versa. 😀

      • Shweta Narayan

        I’m wondering if he’ll get into freedom-from vs freedom-to or if he believes that distinction exists at all.

    • scarvesandcelery

      There’s definitely a point where the desire to make amends moves from being a necessary response to a wrong to a selfish attempt to alleviate one’s own guilt as soon as possible. I’m reminded of this excellent Oz quote from Buffy:

      “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with this. But I told you what I need. So I can’t help feeling like the reason you want to talk is so you can feel better about yourself. And that’s not my problem.”

  • Pol Subanajouy

    Okay I admit it that last metaphor was aces. I’m tempted to steal that.

  • Philip Bourque

    Freedom is an illusion. We are all slaves to something.

    • SmilingCorpse

      3edgy5me m8

      • Philip Bourque

        It seems I overshot the mark. I was aiming for “2edgy4me”. Pity.

        • SmilingCorpse

          Maybe next time. lol

      • palmvos

        if i down-vote this does it -1 the post?

    • Marc Forrester

      It’s a direction, not a destination.

  • Now I want him to explain why his arguments don’t lead to nihilism. Also I want to introduce him to Patrick.

    • SmilingCorpse

      He explained a few pages back that his stance wasn’t cynical or nihilistic, but rather reluctant acceptance. From what I gather, he tried to fight it, but was shown time and again that he couldn’t. “There’s nothing I can do” isn’t the same as “There’s nothing anyone can do”.

  • Robert

    Power and freedom are both delusions.

    They are perceptions we create within ourselves that cannot stand up to our daily interaction with reality.

    Unless you allow your perceptions to become your reality… but does that make them truly real?

    • palmvos

      as i understand it. in quantum physics perception makes reality. in human thought perception is reality. as we are proving more and more that our reasons for making a decision are actually developed after the decision is made. and if reality cannot be perceived… is it real?

      • Weatherheight

        “In quantum physics, perception makes reality.”

        Well, maybe.

        As I understand it, the problem with quantum physics is that you’re attempting to measure very small perturbations of very small objects using a force (photons and/or electrons) sufficiently large enough to directly affect those very same perturbations, and this thus calls into question the reliability of observations. Heisenberg’s pithy principle is mostly about methods rather than reality.

        That said, as quantum physics moves towards more passive measurement (within the limits of what qualifies as “passive”, which again is troubling), there does seem to be some indication that reality at that scale is more flexible than is comforting. Leave those extreme micro- and macro-scales, however, and quantum methods become less predictive than more conventional methods.

        Perception in cognitive psych is also becoming difficult, since we have the issues of raw iconography (the actual bio-electric signal – what the eye sees, as an example) and interpreted iconography (what your brain thinks that your eyes saw) and how in the heck you tease out those two things into separate categories (or if those two categories are even valid).

        What is real is slowly becoming an issue of where you happen to be standing at the time and compiling, correlating and contrasting those different viewpoints – which sounds a lot like what post-industrial societies are grappling with, the synthesis of disparate and highly variable realities and viewpoints.

        Which brings us back full-circle to “What is real?”. 😀

        • Tylikcat

          Oh, hey, shades of last page.

          • Weatherheight

            round and round, what goes around comes around…

            ::strikes a hair band pose, flinging his mane dramatically in faux-slow-mo::

        • palmvos

          ‘That said, as quantum physics moves towards more passive measurement (within the limits of what qualifies as “passive”, which again is troubling), there does seem to be some indication that reality at that scale is more flexible than is comforting. Leave those extreme micro- and macro-scales, however, and quantum methods become less predictive than more conventional methods.’

          you did know that they are working on and having some success at using quantum effects in cryptography right? which means that the freakiness of the quantum world will affect the macro world…

          • Weatherheight

            Oh, what I meant by the macro scale is that astronomers are finding that the rules of quantum mechanics developed for the micro-scale of subatomic reactions seem to work in some ways on the cosmological scale involving extremely large bodies (galactic and intergalactic interactions). Which seriously blows my mind (If I really understood astronomy, I suspect i’d be even more mind-blown).

            And yeah, quantum encryption and data storage are going to make a huge impact on our world – in a whole lot of ways. Some of those ways scare the hell out of me, frankly.

    • Eric Schissel

      To paraphrase Terry Pratchett (prosaically) there is literally no justice, either, but our belief that there is and can be is no less important (urgent!) for its being an illusion.

  • Kyle Kettler

    Allison is way off here. In the real world, we often have obligations to multiple people at the same time. Sometimes those applications conflict. In the case that we must fail to for fill one obligation in the course of pursuing a more stringent one we may be forced to treat someone unfairly. If I have promised to meet you for lunch at noon, but see a child drowning on my way… My obligation of beneficence (to help the child) almost certainly trumps the duty of Fidelity (to keep my word and meet you at noon). If I fail to live up to an obligation to you then I generate a new obligation: a duty of reparations.

    I think Allison is trying to shirk a necessary, but unpleasant conversation.

    • Tylikcat

      With Max?

      Do you think Max wants to speak to her? I suppose she could send a note…

      • Freemage

        That’s the big issue here, I think–approaching Max, even with the intent of doing good, would just trigger more of the anxiety. He does NOT have the ability to stop her if she wants to hurt him, or to force his action; they’ve established that. So simply being in her presence just reminds him of his lack of freedom, outside the freedom she gives him. Even if she does give it, he’s still going to be fully aware she could take it away.

      • Or a cheque 😉

        Not that Max would be interested in whatever small change Alison could scrape together, but I suspect a note from Alison would get the same treatment Patrick’s cheque did.

        • Tylikcat

          But he might enjoy that. Or at least, I bet his enjoyment of that, even if negative, would be greater than his enjoyment of Alison showing up to apologize in person.

          • Good point. Being stinking rich doesn’t preclude taking childish pleasure in attacking others. Plenty of examples of that about just now.

  • AshlaBoga

    I think that there might not be such a thing as balancing the scales.

    Consider a surgeon who has saved a thousand lives and would save another hundred in the next year. He kills someone while driving under the influence and is sent to prison for five years. If saving lives was equal to taking them, he wouldn’t have been sent to prison because he saved nine hundred and ninety nine more lives than he took – and he took the one by recklessness, not intent. Yet, we as a society clearly do not consider saving a life to expunge the guilt of taking one.

    • Marc Forrester

      Although we do take the accused’s usefulness to society into account when sentencing, and even more so when considering parole. The lives saved would have significant effect in most courts.

      • AshlaBoga

        I like the idea of a mathematics to morality, but how would we ever develop such a thing?

        Jeremy Bentham tried, but even most modern utilitarians (as far as I can tell from studies) disagree with his felicific calculus.

        Furthermore, we must consider that atonement might not always be possible. If all human life is unique, then saving one person does not balance out a murder, simply because when it comes to people, -1 + 1 might very well not equal zero.

        As Koestler wrote, “Perhaps they will teach that the tenet is wrong which says that a man is the quotient of one million divided by one million.”

        • Urthman

          The whole math thing is intrinsically messed up. What if it turns out I get quantitatively more pleasure from hurting you than you get pain from being hurt?

          • AshlaBoga

            Now we come across theoretical utility monsters and the mere addition paradox.

          • Eric Schissel

            and also arguments about “rule utilitarianism” vs. “act utilitarianism”, etc. …

        • palmvos

          I think any attempt at ethical calculus (what did that green tech enable anyway? it is fairly early in the tree) needs to first deal with the lack of a universal measure of pain. we have no real scale that can measure pain. we can measure the intensity and energy of light, the intensity and energy of sound, we can even measure the intensity of ‘heat’ in food. but we still have no way of comparing being systematically humiliated by (fill in blank) with 3rd degree burns, a headache, and that feeling when the Novacane wears off after major dental work.

      • Eric Schissel

        Nowadays we don’t do this so much in practice, I read/hear/etc… or have people who’ve served their time (in the US) started reporting an easier time than once in finding post-prison employment?

        • No, people who’ve been incarcerated still have a very hard time finding employment after they’re released; further, certain professions (such as healthcare, education, and law enforcement) are closed to anyone with a felony conviction. While it is theoretically possible to have your record expunged of many charges (although not sex-offences), the reality is that getting it done costs more and is less certain than most ex-felons can afford.

    • Eric Schissel

      There is a growing movement called “restorative justice”, though… might be relevant in this context, whether or not scales can ever be fully balanced (or at all even in principle), that merely means one considers other reasons why restorative justice might be a good idea, such as providing for those left behind e.g.

      • Akiva

        Bringing up restorative justice is seriously misguided in this context. As if it wasn’t bad enough that we have a severely racist and classist justice system which is already going to let a surgeon off the hook more easily than a guy who works at a convenience store for the same crime*, we definitely don’t need to add an exciting new dimension where the surgeon is determined to be more able than the clerk to make amends to society and so should get punished even less.

        * For instance, one can afford a good lawyer and the other is at the mercy of the overburdened public defender system, and the public defender pressures them to plead guilty… and that’s not even starting with racist and classist prosecutors and juries and judges, or who has the privileges that give them the opportunity to become a surgeon in the first place.

        • Eric Schissel


    • Raven Black

      The math of that gets very weird. If *that* surgeon wasn’t there to allegedly save a thousand lives, how many of those lives would have been saved by some other surgeon, such that this one’s activity was not actually all that valuable? It’s likely too that some number of the clients claimed as lives saved would actually have survived without surgery at all, so those should be discounted too. (I personally know more than one person who have declined alleged life-saving surgery many years ago and are still alive, and I don’t know all that many people total, so I suspect the life-saving surgery that doesn’t actually save a life ratio is a lot higher than people think, especially if summed with the occasional wasn’t-actually-needed surgery that hastens death.)
      Not just for surgery but in general, “saving lives” is incredibly hard to measure because we can never be sure that, eg. the person you pushed out of the way of a bullet wasn’t going to trip anyway, or was ever really going to be hit, or if hit was going to die from it.

      Whereas it’s much less likely that the drunk driving victim would have been killed that day by someone or something else if not by this particular surgeon. Though still possible.

      (And then there’s the second-tier reversal or multiplier issue of course, where the people you saved or killed were Hitler or about to find a cure for cancer, and the third tier where the cure for cancer was going to prolong the lives of non-productive people so society starves and/or stagnates, and the various Hitlers were going to unite nations against them leading to eventual eras of prosperity and Star Trek replicators which in turn cause us to parasitize the universe which is good because the universe, it turns out, was a jerkface.)

    • OTOH if we allow him to get away with death by DUI because of who he is, then that weakens the message that drink-driving is non-acceptable, which is likely to lead to more loss of lives. ‘Justice’ is much more about setting an example for the rest of society than about individual punishment.

  • Weatherheight

    Utilitarians, This Page is for you!



  • Weatherheight

    “But no matter what you do, this person may still hate you. After all, they worship freedom and yet can never be free. None of us can. Not while you live. You are the freest being they have ever met and I doubt they will forgive you for it.”

    This is how I read Panel five, then I read it the way I think it was intended (with the line about freest being coming before the word balloon below).

    Am I the only one who got a shiver at the possible implication that Arjun makes that Alison’s power will always hang over everyone as long as she is alive, and the only way to possibly redress that is for Alison to not be there anymore?

    And now to show just what a nerd I am…

    “So with sadness in my heart
    I feel the best thing I could do
    is end it all and leave forever
    whats done is done, it feels so bad
    what once was happy now is sad
    I’ll never love again my world is ending.”

    Sagisu Shiro

    • Freemage

      Actually, I read it the way you did, and still do, despite the vertical aspect of their alignment. That’s precisely what he’s suggesting–that there is a specific type of person who, upon learning of Alison’s existence, will always feel diminished by her in comparison, and that this type of person will be found most commonly among those who previously had been among the most privileged, because she is suddenly ‘winning’ the game in a way they cannot.

      • AshlaBoga

        Yeah, the impoverished and downtrodden probably don’t view Alison as a threat – but the rich and powerful? They have the most to lose.

      • Shweta Narayan

        The thing that really makes me wonder is that Max knew all that when she saved him from the fire.

        So what was he intending, *before* she ditched him and made him angry? I have trouble imagining it being anything good. Why make a show of humiliating Klevin and treat it like a teachable moment? And why needle her about Feral on the second date? And why the helicopter really, though it backfired?

        I mean yeah he *could* just be so full of himself he didn’t realize how that could come across. Or he could have been deliberately undermining her confidence. We saw Al getting smaller and quieter and her shoulders hunching before he brought Feral into it.

        • Freemage

          Honestly, I’m willing to put it down to him being that clueless and socially destructive. Like our current president, he’s lived his entire life in a very sheltered bubble of the privileges that come from wealth and power–he’s never had anyone tell him that his conduct is harmful, at least not anyone who had any ability to affect him.

          • Shweta Narayan

            I’d totally believe that in general, except… he decided to hit on the one person in the world who had all the powers he wanted and envied her getting to take for granted, and… there’s got to be a reason for that, right?

            or are the rich really *so* different that that wouldn’t bother them?

          • Tylikcat

            …and now I’m imagining Max as Daisy Buchanan. He’s pouty enough.

          • palmvos

            from Alison’s point of view at least this thing with max started when she saved him from that fire. now there were a group of commentres that, after the Max file was given, speculated that the fire was a setup by Patrick. (I think this idea is ridiculous.) You’ve hit on a reason it wasn’t set up by Max- he probably had an idea that she was some aloof something, then she saved him and he was genuinely impressed and surprised. seriously- look at his comment about feral, then think about his description of her…. he was probably a bit shocked that she would ‘stoop’ to being a firefighter. so in gratitude (if ever there was a dumb reason to have a relationship…) he tried. then the dinner date happened and she snapped right back into ‘freer and more powerful than me’ (insert pejorative here) category. now he feels hurt, betrayed, and just generally pissed off. everything but self reflective. and then the Max file and all that stupid stuff happened. seriously Alison can’t make it up to him because her crime at its base is not just her actions, but her existence.
            besides… its not Max’s forgiveness she needs. forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
            it might be interesting if the authors decide to try to illustrate that old saying
            ‘before going for revenge dig two graves’ in other words Max tries or succeeds in getting some kind of revenge and destroys himself in the process.

          • Shweta Narayan

            This i totally buy, also he might have been just … going for it because wow megagirl thinks he’s cute?

            i don’t know why I keep imagining Max as more self-aware than that, we’ve seen no evidence that he is.

          • Freemage

            Oh, it obviously does bother him–but the rich aren’t used to being bothered. He might not have realized just how much he would resent her being able to just fly away from him mid-argument, or not being able to simply fall back on, “I’m rich, screw the rules” as a means of impressing the other person.

            Look at the current POTUS. Most modern presidents (at a minimum, since Reagan) have an issue with what’s called ‘the Bubble’–the moment you actually win the election, you get surrounded by supporters and sycophants, and your time is filled with formal briefings. As a result, you lose your connection with real people, and you end up not realizing that your actions are perceived negatively by some portion of the population. (Shrub notably commented after the GOP lost control of the Senate–an outcome everyone outside the Bubble predicted–“I honestly thought we’d be okay”.)

            Trump, though, has lived in a bubble of wealth and power his entire life, one that’s been gilded on the inside, so as to only show him his own reflection. For him, the Oval Office isn’t isolation–it’s a crack in his armor. He can’t just choose to listen to his favorite people; he has to pay attention the world outside, in ways he never has before. And he’s floored by it, because he never expected to be criticized this way.

            To a lesser extent, yeah, I think this is what’s driving Max. Up until now, his only major setback was not being even MORE super-special than other rich kids, because he didn’t get the best power to lord it over the world (though if he pulled his head from his ass, he’d realize that his power would be the deciding factor in ANY super-level conflict).

          • Shweta Narayan

            Yeah I think I just. Failed to model his level of privilege. It’s inconthievable 😀

          • “Trump, though, has lived in a bubble of wealth and power his entire life, one that’s been gilded on the inside, so as to only show him his own reflection.”

            +1 for the imagery!

          • Shweta Narayan

            …i thought i replied but it doesn’t show up for me. Anyway, yeah for me that explains everything except him hitting on her in the first place, which I think still needs to make sense n doesn’t, so we’re still missing a piece.

          • Beroli

            I can see your earlier comment; it’s just not loading for you for some (actual debate on a blog I follow: was Disqus created by the devil or is that an unfair slander of the devil?) Disqus reason.

          • Shweta Narayan

            ha thank you 🙂

        • Tylikcat

          I really do read that all as some kind of honest attempt to attach her. I’m just not sure for what purpose. I mean, the romantic intention of young men can be… odd. Maybe he thought getting her into bed would make everything better? (That would have been an even bigger bucket of fail.)

          My most depressing scenario – though it leaves all his attempts at impressing her honestly ham handed rather than passive aggressively so – is that there is something about his own situation he really doesn’t like (that is weird enough or personal enough he didn’t want to bring it up right out) and he was hoping that a relationship with her would allow him to escape.

          (Though I don’t put that as a high probability event.)

          • Shweta Narayan

            AHA disqus I have foiled you! (I could NOT see this comment except in my email until I tried looking for it on your page.)

            Agreed & I think I’m reimagining Max as more self-aware than he is. “Mega girl thinks I’m cute??” is really reason enough, plus the fact that he likely *does* see “girlfriend” as a sub-category of “possession”, since I see no sign that he’s undone any of that social conditioning.

        • I tend to think it was mostly to have a Mega-Girl sized notch on his bedpost. Max doesn’t see other people as real, they’re just things to use, abuse, and toss away.

          So to an extent when he meets a girl it’s always Cliff, Shag, Marry?* Alison’s cute enough and prominent enough he was never going to cliff her. Marry her? Or rather, have a serious relationship with her. I think that’s actually a possible one. She’s clearly out of the ordinary as an arm-ornament in the circles Max likely runs with, and there’s the issue of his secret superpower, which he does seem to want to discuss at some level, so he may well have seen potential biodynamic arm-candy as having extra value. Shag is obviously possible, and while it does offer considerable kudos among his likely circle, continued shagging would offer even more.

          He might have genuinely wanted a relationship. But the important thing to remember in all that is that Max doesn’t see other people as real.

          *For those who don’t know the game, people throw a name out and everyone else gets to say whether they would toss them off a cliff, shag them once, or marry them.**

          ** And the distinction between Cliff, Shag, Marry? and being a normal late adolescent male is a subtle one at the best of times.

    • K. J. Hargan

      The logical (and frightening) extension of this argument is that Max will probably be using his Freedom To, with his wealth, try to kill Alison.
      Rocket launcher? Daisy Cutter?
      We know she’s invulnerable, but are there upper limits? How far will Max take his need to be free?
      Ya know, this is basically how Lex Luthor became the nemesis of Superman. It wasn’t the balding accident or the competitive antagonism in their teen years; it was the Unmatchable Power of Superman’s Free Agency that appalled and motivated Lex Luthor.

      • Freemage

        Actually, Max has another route available to him. Find a super who really hates Alison, and who has some sort of offensive power. Crank them until Vegeta’s scanner breaks, and let them loose.

        • Raven Black

          I love the idea of him trying that and then the uber-powered villain going “actually, now that I have all these new powers I feel a certain sense of… freedom. I don’t need to compete with Alison, that would be ridiculous. Thanks, bye!”

          • Arkone Axon

            …They did that in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, now that I think about it. Well, something similar, anyway.
            “I’m freeing you so you can solve all my problems! I… what are you doing?”
            “Solving your problems…”

          • Shweta Narayan

            “Killing Alison would be a real bad career move but wow she was a jerk back when we worked together so tell you what Max buddy I’ll give her a mega-wedgie for ya.”

          • Number of supervillain wedgies administered per second is one of the suggested metrics for the usefuless of a speedster character in Charlie Stross’s The Annihilation Score 🙂

        • K. J. Hargan

          I think you really hit on something here. Bombs and bullets don’t hurt Allison. But what if Max supercharged Cleaver? Could he convince Cleaver or any other powered person to attack Allison? Max could do this indefinitely, as long as he stays safely hidden, until he hits on the right combination. I really think you got the next development. Allison better be ready for some supercharged mercenaries.

          • Tylikcat

            I still think there’s a pretty good chance that Maximizing Daniel would kill him. There’s a strong cancer interaction there.

          • K. J. Hargan

            two things.
            1. Because Daniel/Cleaver is an anomaly, there’s no telling how his body would react to supercharging. His cancer, which is his superpower should have killed him long ago. Could supercharging him make him stronger or vulnerable to Max’s suggestion? Unknown.
            2. Holy shitballs! Of course! The supercharging that has already happened to Cleaver AND Allison was Max acting surreptitiously! How else did he know how HIS powers work? He has had to have tried it out! He clearly was not on that rooftop in the slums far from his estate by accident. He’s been stalking her and knows how she has changed! He had already supercharged Allison and knew she could fly him off the roof!

          • Arkone Axon

            Stalking… no. Accidental, maybe… hell, he could actually be the SOURCE of their powers. Or simply exuding waves of whatever energy or retrovirus or technobabble is responsible for their powers in the first place. That would be very interesting, if all the current biodynamics started randomly upgrading and nobody knows why, and the guy responsible can’t even help it.

          • Weatherheight

            Take it to the logical extreme for the extreme irony win – Max is the source of everyone’s powers, the conduit through which the Weird Energy from Another Dimension™ is flowing to all other biodynamics. Every biodynamic owes their anomaly to his being alive.

            There’s an angle that would really make for interesting moral and ethical discussions…

            What happens if Max dies…?

          • Arkone Axon

            And would Alison then attempt to keep him alive even if it meant consigning him to a fate equivalent to that of the kid from “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas?”

            Edit: I should note that I do NOT see her doing that. Not given her epiphanies courtesy of Gurwara. However, there are those who have been bending over backwards in their attempts to justify everything she did and to demonize Max. I’m wondering if they’d say that she ought to do exactly that?

          • Weatherheight

            Is the suffering in the world caused by and suffered by biodynamics greater or less than the suffering alleviated by biodynamics in the world?

            Are there as-yet-unseen negative consequences caused by the presence of biodynamics that will out weigh the as-yet-unseen positive consequences?

            And what about illegal fishing in Lake Superior?

            Fun questions…

          • Tylikcat

            Demographic studies would be interesting. I was under the impression everyone’s powers were increasing, but if their were any regional aspect to this… I mean, this is what data mining is for!

          • There’s a lovely example of datamining for super powers in Charles Stross’s The Rhesus Factor. Our hero (an avatar of the Bastard Operator From Hell) knows cultists tend to learn magic before they learn practising magic eats your brain, so he mines the nationwide death stats for local spikes in vCJD (and finds much more than he was looking for).

          • The whirling fireballs when he amped Feral were just a tad noticeable.

          • Daniel’s power is definitely sharper than a serpent’s tooth. Past a certain point I suspect he’s just going to become self-dicing, so loaded with blades that even breathing, or his beating heart, will kill him.

          • SmilingCorpse

            Probably not Cleaver, but Furnace would most likely be a candidate.

          • K. J. Hargan

            Pretty sure Furnace drowned when the dam broke. Don’t think he survived.

          • Weatherheight

            Well, I assumed the body floating face down in the water and apparently dead was Chris, but since this is a supers comic…. 😀

          • K. J. Hargan

            Brendan Lee Mulligan, the writer, has been pretty light on classic comic book type tropes. The character supposedly dead showing up to fight the hero seems… out of place here.

          • Weatherheight

            I agree, but if Brendan’s trope is subverting the classic tropes, he can subvert his own tropes by falling back on the “classic” tropes. We’d never see it coming!

            ::giggles maniacally::

          • K. J. Hargan

            Charlie Brown on the mound: If he knows that I know that he knows that I know that I know that he knows I’m going to throw a fastball…. My stomach hurts.

          • Weatherheight

            “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”!

          • K. J. Hargan


          • K. J. Hargan

            Wallace Shawn who played the Sicilian in Princess Bride is in a really thought-provoking movie called My Dinner With Andre, which I highly recommend to all you deep thinkers that visit these threads.

          • SmilingCorpse

            Come now. Are you really going to count out a superhero/villain in a comic?

      • Arkone Axon

        Honestly… you couldn’t blame Max if he did. From his point of view, the most physically powerful being on the planet has just told him, “I am going to abuse you again and again and you can’t do a thing about it.” Super powered, unstoppable, morally myopic stalker from hell.

        Though I do have to point out that there’s a difference between Max and Luthor. Luthor CLAIMS to be appalled by Superman’s existence, but… really, it’s that Superman is superior to Luthor in every way (can physically look down on the guy who owns the tallest building in Metropolis, has more power, more everything), yet THINKS OF HIMSELF AS AN ORDINARY MAN. Luthor once paid a private detective to find out Clark Kent’s relation to Superman, and the investigator actually did discover the truth. Luthor then fired the man for incompetence for daring to suggest that Superman IS Clark Kent… because according to Luthor, “no one with the power of Superman would pretend to be an ordinary man!” So in Luthor’s case it’s about jealousy, not moral outrage. Whereas Max… Max literally just wants to be left alone, and he’s faced with a nemesis who has told him point blank, “I will never leave you alone.”

        • K. J. Hargan

          In either argument it comes down to fear. Luthor, although he’d probably never admit it, fears Superman and the Power he has to curtail his Freedom. Max now fears Allison because of her callous use of his Power. In either case, because of the enormity of the Powers of the opponent, the only response is ultimate violence.

      • Weatherheight

        Well, based on her resistance to Daniel’s cleaverhands here, even at three microns and all his strength, soft tissue damage was significant but bones remained unbroken. Raw concussion and energy damage hasn’t proven very effective, so a rocket launcher shouldn’t do much more than shake her up good (although an AP round might be problematic). I doubt the flechettes of a Daisy Cutter would do much beside call out the Comics Code Authority, but the oxygen deprivation and knockback might fling her into the next county. Now, if we could get flechettes down to 3 to 10 microns sharp in a DC, that might just do the trick.

        Based on canon, I’ve always gotten three points as to why Lex hates Supes.
        1) Clark answers to no one if he decides not to (more or less your point).
        2) His power is unearned – Clark didn’t do any work to earn his power, which cheapens the efforts of those who have worked hard and achieved.
        3) Clark’s status as being non-human but looking human sets unrealistic expectations for what humans can do and be, again cheapens the efforts of those who’ve worked hard and achieved without Clark’s obvious advantages.

        Interestingly (to me at least), all three are at least as much about Lex not getting what he thinks he’s earned as an actual problem belonging to Clark.

        • K. J. Hargan

          “…would do much beside call out the Comics Code Authority…” XD

          I think all three of your Luthor points could be boiled down to a neurotic envy based on extreme (and maybe not unwarranted) egotism. Hmmm, pretty much describes Max.

          • Arkone Axon

            Not really… Luthor has literally cost his company billions on a Superman vendetta and can’t go two minutes without frothing at the mouth about how much he hates “the alien.” Whereas Max… wanted Alison to leave her alone. If you want to compare him to a villain, compare him to Doctor Horrible, who finally crossed the line to “I’m going to kill the hero” when the hero was Captain “beat up all nerds because scientists and engineers are clearly up to something” Hammer.


      • “it was the Unmatchable Power of Superman’s Free Agency that appalled and motivated Lex Luthor.”

        I remember a somewhat similar reaction from someone on being introduced to Iain Bank’s Culture in an online bookclub. He launched into the Culture as appalling (and not for the way it meddles with other societies). Hang on,says everyone else, the Culture is the perfect post scarcity society, all your needs are met, you don’t need to work unless you want to and you can be whoever you want to be. Exactly, says he.

    • Shweta Narayan

      I’d say Gurwara totally sets up that way of thinking, but then he implodes it by questioning what freedom even is. He seems, to me, to be anticipating Al’s own train of thought going there, and showing her why it’s wrong before it messes her up even worse.

      • Weatherheight

        I feel that.

        Of course, this argument by Professor Cohen is probably tiptoeing though Alison’s head right now…


        • Shweta Narayan

          …I think Gurwara’s assuming something like that too. He’s definitely had prof. Cohen in mind in the past. I think/hope that’s why he’s saying the things she’s going to think anyway, to help her pull those thoughts apart and have an understanding less built on feeling bad about stuff and more on seeing how structures of power work.

          (Though… I wonder if Gurwara’s misinformed about that whole thing. Because he seemed to be. Relatedly, Prof. Cohen is one of the only characters whose handling I’m not… actually ok with, in the whole comic. Did it really need to be a gay probably-Jewish dude who violated academic ethics that badly? That’s not who I see abusing their power on actual campuses. I … really need the comic to not repeat that (IMO) fuckup with the disabled brown dude tbh.)

          • Weatherheight

            On the one hand, yeah, I get you. Professors are usually pretty together ethically.
            On the other hand, *anyone* can be a screw-up – when profs violate ethics, it’s usually epic.

          • Shweta Narayan

            On the one hand I agree with you about anyone screwing up, but on the other hand? That’s not how it reads in the larger context.

            Not only is it more likely for a more highly privileged professor to
            violate ethics far enough to *agree to teach* a student with such a huge
            conflict of interest, it does far less damage to the group(s)
            represented to show that because they have a lot of positive
            representation as well.

            The number of negative portrayals of lgbtq+ folks vastly outnumbers the positive (for negative I count all these: the queercoding of villains, the gay villain (whether portrayed as inherently evil or embittered by an unaccepting world), and the dead body that exists so that het folks can feel remorse and grief; I want to also note that a lot of villains are both queercoded and antisemitically or otherwise racially coded.)

            Plus right now we’re seeing the media going “Is bombing a synagogue REALLY a hate crime” and granted the antisemitism wasn’t as explicit a few years ago but like, these things just aren’t existing in a vacuum and fiction provably affects people’s brains.

            So, yeah. I call that one a *bad, unnecessary, harmful* narrative choice. One of the only ones I can point to in the entire comic, which is pretty amazing, but one that never *quite* leaves the back of my mind.

  • You cant ever really make anything right after you’ve done it wrong. Nothing is ever forgiven or forgotten, you just have to live with the consequences.

  • JohnTomato

    Time for Ali to build her Fortress of Fortitude.

    Ali is a “One Off.” No one else is like her and applying bromides to her is a fool’s errand. Arjun, as he is now presented, may have to start from a zero state to bring new concepts that would apply to Mega Girl.

  • pidgey

    Gurwara clearly has no worthwhile perspective on this particular topic, if he thinks Alison is the freest being ever, just because she’s the most powerful. I’m still not convinced he isn’t just angling to get Alison to decide she knows what’s best and just hang what everybody else thinks. I mean, at that point she actually would be the freest being ever, but measurably less powerful than she currently is.

    This is one of those stereotypical conversations people have when they’re high and think that semantics is the height of philosophy. It’s very clear to anyone who thinks about it for a few seconds that the reason freedom is so highly and widely prized is because it means the ability to make whatever choice any given person wishes they could make, and can’t. It doesn’t matter what the restriction is that keeps them from making that choice, so freedom is everything everyone wants, even if it’s self-contradictory. Freedom isn’t power, freedom is a nonsense word.

    One of the most destructive and unhelpful things philosophy has done to the world is to start semantic arguments exactly like this one. Get back to me once anyone manages to settle on a coherent, self-consistent definition of freedom that people can agree on and that represents anything even slightly worthy of being thought of as an inherent good, and maybe we can start having this conversation.

    • Arkone Axon

      He is right about one thing. Alison is quite capable of going on a murderous rampage, and no one has the ability to stop her. To the point that right now he may literally be saving the world, simply by persuading her to NOT go on murderous rampages. That philosophy professor could very well be the hero that saves his world.

      If a normal person were to go on such a rampage, it would end the moment someone with sufficient force of arms neutralized the rampager. Police officers, a law abiding gunowner, just some guy who gets lucky with a tackle. But with Alison… they need special gear and tactics to do ANYTHING to her.

      What’s worse, she is prone to casual violence in a way that leaves people afraid to be around her at times. “He’s our friend. Please don’t kill him.” And fear is a shackle. Fear is a chain holding us down. What limits us is our fears. It’s literally the tool of oppression; we fear punishment by the law, we fear losing our employment if we protest mistreatment by employers, we fear throwing away our votes by casting a ballot for a candidate who “can’t possibly win.”

      So yeah… I’m actually thinking about Portal 2 at this point. Imagine jumping through portals and hearing THIS voice:

      “Cave Johnson here. Just a quick heads up; I want to remind all you testers that Alison is really counting on us to up with a solution to her latest big dilemna. I don’t want to remind you of what happened to the last bunch she declared had failed the world, so… get testing, because I don’t want to be smashed into pulp.”

      • AshlaBoga

        Have you read Lex Luthor, Man of Steel? He pretty much focuses on Superman being our ALIEN saviour as invalidating the efforts of the human race. Of course, really he’s focuses on Superman threatening his sense of superiority, but he does note that Superman might be hindering human progress via maintaining the status quo. It’s Lex’s flawed ranting with a few good points thrown in to make the corporate sociopath sympathetic.

  • Sergi Díaz

    It’s not Power. It’s the unexistance of Power altogether.

  • Ben Posin

    In what order are we supposed to read the bubbles in the second to last panel? The connection between speech bubbles in that panel and the final panel makes it seem like we should read the bubble on the right first, but this seems to read much better to me if we start from the bubble on the left.

    • Stephanie

      Bubble on the left first, since the bubble on the right is the one that’s connected to the following bubble. The four connected bubbles are going counterclockwise.

    • Weatherheight

      I had that issue myself – I ended up where Stephanie advised, but it was a bit confusing to me too.

  • Christopher Brooks

    Power is a necessary condition to freedom but not a sufficient one. The only really problematic power is power over others which is a form of it that necessarily limits the freedom of others, power over others can be eliminated by epowering those others to an equal or greater degree. This is why making every person omnipotent should be the primary cultural project of humanity and also why both the state and capitalism must be eliminated; capitalism because it denies the power that access to the direct industrial means of production allow, the state because it is the embodiement of power over others.

    • Edward L. Howell

      Well spoken!

    • Weatherheight

      Even The United Federation of Planets struggles with this goal. Omnipotent is also troublesome, since all-powerful isn’t a thing in the material world, so far as I’ve seen.

      That said, working towards a post-need society and a state that is actually fair, just, and unbiased to all of its participants are both goals I share.

      • Christopher Brooks

        The Federation has actively rejected things that would bring it closer to that goal due to it following the No Transhumanism Allowed trope,and when one of its members was offered a passable imitation of omnipotence(the Q) he rejected it; Riker didn’t suggest that maybe other humans should be given the opportunity as well as him and that if the Q would benefit from some ‘new blood’ then giving every human who wants it the chance at obtaining Q powers would serve that purpose far better than one single human the chance. Not that Q would necessarily have gone with that idea but it wasn’t even suggested.

        Trying for omnipotence is as much about the journey as the destination, I HOPE we can find some way to access the very undepinnings of reality and learn to do anything, change physical law, obtain computational power beyond the Berkenstein bound-in fact have infinite time turing machines and the like, create a thousand new universes with a thought and basically through this obtained through either technological or internal development means of some sort be truly omnipotent but I recognize this as being a truly long-term and speculative goal and not something that will easily happen; while I am wildly optimistic and have a Tzeentchian sense of hope and ambition that makes me have hope that I personally will find a way to this and be able to share it with everyone I also recognize that this is somewhat unrealistic.

        However, if omnipotence for everyone becomes the cultural project of humanity then the basic goal of society will be to empower all its individual members. If someone is poor and can’t get an education the fact this disempowers them then becomes a social concern for the primary project of society and so correcting this as far as we are able to do then becomes the concern of society as a whole(unlike a global culture where the shared cultural project is to increase profit as is the case in capitalism). Giving access to technology, education, means of self-development, good food(since one is more powerful when one has proper nutrition a global fod distribution network would be one of the sub-projects of such a society) to everyone as far as possible on an equitable basis is ths built into the goal rather than being an afterthought as it always would be if the primary social project is something like increasing profit margins. It will also unite humanity-since we can all recognize and be compassionate to each other for how far from our goal we currently are-without stamping out differences and creating a monoculture(since there are so many possible paths to this goal people would be encouraged to try as many different ways as possible to reach it and interfering with others against their consent unless it is to prevent the exercise of power over others would be seen as against the primary project since doing so disempowers them).

      • Christopher Brooks

        Since my reply was for some reason removed… probably little point in typing out another one.

        • Weatherheight

          If you wish to express and have the time, I’d like to peruse it.
          I’ve also found that on occasion, Discus gets freaky with posts – I had a post vanish for two days then mysteriously repost shortly after the moderating paradigm changed.

          • Christopher Brooks

            Apparentlyit was marked as spam, may or may not be corrected in future but you might be able to read it by looking at my post history.

    • palmvos

      I’ve seen a lot of societies imagined… but the closest to this ideal that comes to my mind is Solaria (after Elijah Bailey is dead!) and I’d hardly call that a paradise.

      can you perhaps expand on what you mean by omnipotent?

      • Christopher Brooks

        The relativ lack of contact in Solaria would suit me personally quite fine-my only offline social contact is with my sister, my mother and the cat I live with and all my friendships and such are offline, I’ve gone over six months without contact with people(I’m not currently a total shut-in like I was then since I’ve learned to cope better in some ways but still reclusive) and it was actually quite pleasant for me, etc. It’s not really what I’m after though and there are indeed no societies that I’ve seen depicted that come close to my ideal; perhaps I should write one? The actual closest I’ve seen though would be I think the Kether Dominion in Orions Arm http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-topic/45cbd68bc347f.

        By omnipotence I mean having total access to the physical/metaphysical/pataphysical substrate of reality so that anything one can conceive of can be done(the issue of conflicting conceptions is an issue that will need to be dealt with admittedly) and one can alter oneself so that one has an infinite ability to conceive of different things as well. While unrealistic the closest everyone can come to this ideal the better off we would be. I imagine that if we do obtain this everyone will essentially have their own multiverse so no one interferes with each other unless they consent to contact, which would likely often involve things like showing each other the universes we have created and similar as the ultimate expression of creativity.

  • Tsapki

    Peace is a lie, there is only Passion.
    Through Passion, I gain Strength
    Through Strength, I gain Power
    Through Power, I gain Victory
    Through Victory, my chains are broken