April 23, 2003

Bones of Contention

I open this website, and see that the owner is a member of "Web Rats -- Journals With Attitude." There's something about people who have the need to proclaim their membership in groups of like-minded people as a proof of their individuality and uncompromising stance that wakes up the Iago side of my personality. I hate the boors, especially when they gather en masse.

I have encountered this Vera woman before. Here, in fact. This conversation, and its aftermath, seems to have caused her discontent. Her April 20th entry (no permalinks) starts:

Take a seat and hold on to something around you while I rant.

I was already sitting down, so I grasped my mouse in one hand and my coffee cup in the other. (I believe in doing more than necessary when it is warranted.) She says:

It looks like the blogosphere picked up the comments I made in Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blog comments area about the destruction of the Iraqi museum and ancient historical artifacts versus saving a baby's life.

In the comments for April 12, 2003 "Loss" entry, I said:

This may sound horrible, but given a choice between saving a museum and saving a baby, I would probably run and save the museum. Better yet, I would probably offer them a choice of shooting me if that means the historical artifacts remain unharmed.

Italics hers. I am not sure what particular artifact she is talking about -- she does not seem to have considered other scenarios, such as the idea that the looter might not want to "harm" the artifact but merely remove it, or that he might solve the problem of baby and adult female in the way by shooting both of them dead and then going on to do as he pleased. (How its protector's dying will protect an inanimate object from being harmed is not something I can figure out with my weak brain.)

To her apparent surprise, her views were not accepted with universal hosannas:

I was labeled as "that Vera woman is the worst" and "Vera you make me sick" and "that moral wasteland."

Well, maybe she should have used some emoticons -- or maybe she should have used some other false dichotomy to show off her Student-of-the-Month bona fides than that one. On the internet, no one can hear you scream, but they can see things about your character that you probably didn't intend to reveal:

[...]I was amazed more and more at one thing I saw over and over -- the complete disregard on many individuals' part of the value of cultural history, cultural memory, of symbols and of principles -- not objects of great monetary value but objects of great meaning.

(Bolds are mine.) So -- symbols and principles are set against... what? Individuals? That's certainly what it looks like to me. And the anger her critics direct at her is supposed to indicate that they therefore do not value "cultural history, cultural memory" and "objects of great meaning." And we are accused of thinking in simple "black and white" terms... And her examples simply do not scan; do I really have to be the one to tell her that cultural memory means nothing if there are no living brains to hold those cultural memories?

Is it not worth to give one's life for something other than another human life?

(Bolds in the original.) Well -- that depends, I should say, on the situation and the object in question. And that really wasn't the situation in Baghdad... but we have left that city and its travails far behind by this time.

She goes on and on, wandering far off into la-la land where even the elves don't go, ranting about would we sacrifice a human life for the Cure to AIDs™ or the last recording extant of Mozart's works or the complete dvd set of Fantasy Island including Hervé Villechaise's short film Shot From a Cannon... Okay, I made that last one up, but I swear on the altar of Ishtar that the rest of them are true and there are more incredibly dull entries from the Standard Cultural References handbook that I just couldn't bear to copy and paste.

But I will not get into this fake argument anymore, this unseemly brawl over the dead bones of Mesopotamians. Personally, my problem wasn't with the hysteria over whether or not human lives were more important than the alleged looting of the Treasures of the Ages. My problem was with the hysteria surrounding the alleged looting of the Treasures of the Ages. Jim Treacher speaks for me (as they say), here: STOP THE LOOTERS. DON'T KILL ANY CIVILIANS. YES, BOTH. Wow, you mean I can have a third choice?

Posted by Andrea Harris at April 23, 2003 01:25 AM

Good Lord.

Ya know, there's a website set up for mocking this sort of behavior in online fandoms, called Fandom Wank. Lately I've been thinking that a Blogdom Wank site might be fun. Though the blogosphere at large seems to have a built-in anti-wank feature already...your post is a good example.

Besides, the hysteria is totally unnecessry--I mean, most of those artifacts will be on sale on France's Antiquities E-Bay pretty soon anyway, so no big deal... ;) (emoticon included to prevent future wankiness)

Posted by: Tracey at April 23, 2003 at 09:06 AM

Ah, but their appearance on Ebay is symbolic (there's that word again!) of the horror of artifacts removed from their pristine Temples -- I mean, museums -- and exposed to crass commercialism. Horrors, bargaining with mere money for the Sacred Art of the Elder Ones! And wouldn't it be funny if they all turned out to be fakes, the real ones having been sold off by Saddam Hussein years ago...

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 23, 2003 at 10:37 AM

The Elder Ones? I should have known Saddam was involved with Cthulhu and friends.

Posted by: David Jaroslav at April 23, 2003 at 01:48 PM

With Saddam the question "why settle for the lesser evil" had real meaning.

Posted by: Michael Lonie at April 23, 2003 at 10:14 PM

Actually there was a third choice: use tear gas, like cops do all the time. But apparently that's considered a "war crime" for the military because it would be using "chemical weapons." Oh gag.

Posted by: David Jaroslav at April 24, 2003 at 10:35 AM

I see that Vera's description on "WebRats" reads: "A free-range maniac, animal rights proponent, and creator of true wonder"!

Don't get me wrong - I love animals as much as any other sane person, but why are so many self-identified "animal rights proponents" the most mean-spirited misanthropists you can find?

It must go with the territory, I guess.

Posted by: Bob Bunnett at April 24, 2003 at 06:24 PM

Andrea, every time I take too long a time between visits, I read something like this, which reminds me that I need to read your blog every day.

Funny and sad at the same time. Well, YOU're funny. SHE's sad.

I got a piece of hatemail from an animal rights activist that perfectly expresses their inhumanity to man. Or woman, in my case. I wasn't going to fisk it, but now I think I shall.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at April 24, 2003 at 09:13 PM

Thanks -- I do try my best!

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 25, 2003 at 01:35 AM