01/10/22 – Regret and not Regret

Spacetrawler, audio version For the blind or visually impaired, January 10, 2022.




Sometimes we have more in common with the despicable than we’d like to admit, it’s all just a matter of degree.


  1. Pete Rogan

    ‘Sometimes we have more in common with the despicable than we’d like to admit.’

    Yeah? Hitler was kind to his dogs and a vegetarian. So what?

    We can make the mistake of trying to empathize with evil by comparing it to our own. I don’t care how many dogs you kicked or if you slaughter your own livestock. You still didn’t write or enforce the Nuremberg Laws, and unless you’re a lot older than you look, you didn’t dump Zyklon B into the gas chambers. You can misbehave and not be evil. But one month’s service disposing of Jews, or Cambodians, or Guatemalans or infidels and I don’t care how many decades you ate only plants — you’re still evil and beyond the pale of humanity.

    Equeelin, for all that, is something out of the human experience, and for that sake alone defies our classification and mocks our presumptions. Was this self-assisted suicide? Murder by seduction? A failed sex act — or, for that matter, a successful one? Alkyine accepts that she absorbed Ghunzk and that ended him, as a being and as a partner. But she wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t been persuaded by Ghunzk that part of him somehow would survive. Certainly his influence and his argument still survive, if only in Alkyine’s memory.

    If this strikes you as evil, then what, pray tell me, happens at every Mass with transubstantiation? Is this perpetual cannibalism of Jesus? Answer carefully; your soul is in the balance.

    1. rws

      Closest I can come up with would be back before they came up with effective drugs for Aids. Someone that had sex with someone with HIV, when fully informed, would be similar, albeit much slower.

    2. tlhonmey

      How about one month’s service disposing of Nazis?

      Because really the difference is that we decided after the fact that they were wrong about the Jews being a threat, and that we were right about the Nazis being a threat…

      Meanwhile, in order to stop Hitler, we allied with, armed, and equipped Stalin… And the amount of murder and destruction he got up to made Hitler look like a piker…

      Doing an evil thing doesn’t necessarily make one an evil person. Mistakes happen. The question is what do you do when you discover your mistake.

      In this particular case of the rule of Equeelin it is, at worst, assisted suicide. That’s generally frowned upon, in no small part because there is a lot of potential for abuse. But it doesn’t really meet the bar for being “evil.” How long can you keep someone alive against their will before it counts as torture? Sometimes there’s just no good answer for life’s dilemmas.

      Alkyine seems conflicted about it. We’ll see if that gets resolved or not. Personally I’d say Alkyine goes in the “tragic” bucket rather than the “evil” bucket.

      1. Pete Rogan

        You miss my point. In a human context, we can sort through the evil that was Naziism, and make some sense of Churchill’s alliance with the heretofore greater evil to the world that was Stalinism once Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. We know where the lines are, and for what purpose some people moved them in the exigencies of war and the threat of racial annihilation.

        We can’t do that with Alkyine and equeelin because we don’t have the same understanding of Darnitawl physiology, let alone psychology, let alone the arguments for this social ban in Darnitawl law. To presume we understand and can therefore judge it is the same sort of hubris that caused the American Bureau of Indian Affairs to draw up their list of religious offenses. Most of which are still enforced today. If you’re an Indian, you can’t have mescal. You can’t have a medicine man. Nor can you eat a robin. Why? Because a dedicated Methodist, Henry Moore Teller, was convinced that to assimilate the Red Man, such practices had to be punished and abolished. Why? The alternative was genocide. Was he merciful, outlawing the Ghost Dance? The sale of women and girls? Or was his a different kind of genocide — the extinguishing of culture rather than people? Is that better? Can you say for certain?

        Who gets to decide if a mistake has been made? Congress? Teller never recanted. Better a culture dead than human beings, by his lights. And this at the dawn of the age of eugenics, when states were drawing up laws to make sure the mentally and physically deficient would never be allowed to multiply — in fact, would be isolated and terminated in prisons far from other human beings. Same question. American eugenics laws awed the Nazis, who copied them extensively, though they weren’t as extreme. Feel like making a judgment now? On which race, which culture? Whence comes your authority? Your morality is somebody else’s belly-laugh.

        You’re not in a position to judge the Darnitawls. Or Alkyine. When you pretend you can do so, you make yourself ridiculous. Why, you might as well determine the morality of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. These are cartoons. Not real people.

        1. tlhonmey

          When did I ever say the government of the USA was the good guys? I tend to judge them pretty harshly as well.

          Sometimes there are no good choices. More often people use the excuse of there sometimes being no good choices as a reason to just do what they want to do, despite knowing that they’re lying to themselves about their motivations.

          Teller’s choice between exterminating the culture or exterminating the people was a false dilemma. The thousands of Cherokee who were successfully assimilated are sufficient to show that peaceful melding of the cultures was possible.

          The thousands of those assimilated, peaceful people who were later murdered by the government as part of a blatant land grab just goes to show that even in the “land of the free” the powerful will abuse and exploit anyone they think they can get away with.

          The later, “kill the Indian, save the man” ideology was just a way to make the destruction of the outsider more palatable to the masses. My wife’s grandmother had stories of the things that were done, particularly to little girls, in the name of “reeducation” that would make your blood run cold. Humans can be real monsters any time they start lying to themselves about their true motivations.

          I don’t pretend to have any “authority”. I don’t know everything, I do make mistakes. But it is possible to strive toward a better approximation of “good”. The key thing to watch for is contradictions. Reality is self-consistent. Contradictions cannot exist. If you find one, then something in your thinking is flawed. Seek always after what is true. If there is a single element of your moral code that is based on a lie, then you’ve just veered off into fantasy land and it will eventually bite you. No, it doesn’t matter if you know it’s a lie or not. The universe doesn’t care what you think. Root out the lies, the wishful thinking, and never be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Virtually all of the great “monsters” of history had brains that worked the same way yours does. You could make the same kinds of mistakes. You could be making them right now. The only defense is to understand and to make sure whatever philosophy you hold to is as thoroughly consistent with reality as you can make it.

          We don’t have all the data on the Darnitawls. We do have enough to narrow down the space quite a bit though. They don’t like the idea of killing other sapients to no purpose. They’re rational enough to not glorify the sacrificial nature of their own biology. And even the one who broke the rules had to be pressured into it by the “victim”. Reckless, foolish, tragic, sure. But the only thing that would make her evil would be if, deep down, she knew at the time that she was lying to herself about her hope that some part of Ghunzk would survive was a self-serving lie.

          And that’s without getting into the question of how Ghunzk’s species works. For all we know he would have died after mating regardless, in which case refusing to accept his choice would be to deny him agency for no benefit at all.

          Life just sucks sometimes, both in the real world and in fiction.

  2. Demarquis

    Killing someone with their consent is still killing. May or may not be murder, depending, but a unique mind has been lost to the universe, and that person’s potential to experience life has been reduced to zero. A net negative, and something to be avoided at almost any cost, regardless of what label you put on it.

    1. Mic

      “a unique mind has been lost to the universe, and that person’s potential to experience life has been reduced to zero”

      If that unique mind’s only potential remaining life’s experiences are agony or another form of torture, then how can you justify that? I wouldn’t tar every assisted suicide with murder.

      Also, just to add on with “a unique mind has been lost to the universe” – just as every snowflake is unique, so is every turd. Just because something is “unique” doesn’t mean it’s special.

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