0181 - Switches - 2021.03.22



I have resting murder face, and I tend to be silent around people I don't know, which really creeps people out if they aren't already aware that I'm actually a marshmallow. Sometimes I lean into it and do it on purpose. Most of the time, I don't. I don't usually enjoy scaring strangers.

And, of course, that's not even touching the fact that as an able-bodied white cismale in my thirties, I literally present a threat to some folks simply by existing. I can't not be that, in much the same way that Caleb can't deflate their biceps or Zoa can't not be made of alloys and polymers.

I've touched on the fact that I dislike sci-fi that presents aliens or AIs as just another form of minority, relitigating the civil rights movement with a coat of chrome paint. I'm also a little wary of the X-men, which uses mutant powers as an allegory for whatever persecuted minority you like, usually LGBT+ folks (as in the infamous "have you tried not being a mutant?" scene in X-men 2.) It's a perfectly fine and enjoyable form of fiction, of course, but the metaphor somewhat falls apart when you realize that yeah, as a matter of fact, mutants in this setting actually are a significant threat to the communities around them, and maybe "these are normal people who promise to be good" doesn't cut it when a city block could be levelled if Cyclops sneezes funny.

Everyone is dangerous in different ways, some people more than others. Everyone is an unstable, unknown, imperfect individual, some people more than others. Caleb could, in the blink of an eye, pick up Lee and snap them in half, and they have a documented history of mental illness. Is Caleb dangerous, and is being afraid of them reasonable? Zoa could, in the blink of an eye, tear Lee's head off and throw it into traffic, and the only thing preventing that is a few lines of code. Is being afraid of Zoa reasonable? Lee is the driving force of the plot of Forward, because of their unstable and unconventional mindset, and, despite their obvious brattish laziness, is just as capable of mayhem as anyone else - it only takes five pounds of pressure to pull a trigger, after all. Is being afraid of Lee reasonable?

Or, if you don't like "afraid", is taking precautions reasonable? What precautions do you take, walking down the street, knowing that you could be ripped in half by a deranged supersoldier or compressed into a sheet by a malfunctioning robot in the blink of an eye? What precautions could you take that do not somehow also make you a greater threat to others around you, resulting in an escalation of paranoid personal protection, a world where everyone waddles around, covered in padding and armed to the teeth? How do you assuage the fears of the general populace, knowing that fear is fundamentally irrational, and unique to each individual?

Are you afraid of soldiers? Are you afraid of cops? Are you afraid of civilians who carry guns, or knives, or have martial arts training? Are you afraid of people behind the wheels of cars? Are you afraid of people pointing their cellphones at you? How much do you trust a crowd of a thousand strangers not to contain at least one homicidal maniac?


0181 - 2167/07/06/16:29 - sidewalk.
CP: I'm... I just... I don't want special treatment. For anything. I don't want people to be intimidated by me, I don't want them to think they know me, I don't want them to feel sorry for me, I don't want them to give me free st-st-stuff, I don't want them to thank me for... for my serv-... for a job I did that d-d-doesn't actually do anything good for them. Or anyone.
LC: Yeah, I... I guess I understand that.
Zoa: Me three.
CP: I... I just wanted to... to connect to someone. Have something in c-common. That's why I... I just wanted to... I'm sorry if I was scary or creepy or overbearing or... or...
LC: You were... I mean, you were just doing textbook "make new friends" stuff at me, Caleb. If I got creeped out by that, that's on me, that's my thing to deal with. I'm sorry.
Zoa: Is that feel-bad sorry, or I-promise-to-change-my-behaviour sorry?
LC: ...Both, I guess.
CP: Well, you c-c-can't change your... you can't really help... you can't control an instinctual, emotional reaction to things. You can't hold yourself responsible for that.
LC: But... I don't want to feel that way, when I look at you. It's... it's an objectively bad thing, for me to feel that way, especially if I can't properly control how I act in response.
Zoa: "I don't like feeling the way I feel" and "I don't want my feelings to control how I act" are common themes with you, I've noticed. Has Doc given you any sort of advice or exercises to help with that?
LC: It gives me psycho mumbo jumbo and bullshit busywork, yes. Every day, I get new ones.
CP: Y-yeah, the mindfulness exercises and self-assessments and roleplaying take a lot of energy and focus and... and hours out of your day, and it... it can feel like th-they're not worth it, a lot of the t-t-time.
LC: Right, that's why I never actually do them. Just let me flip a switch and skip to the end, damn it!
Zoa: When's the last time you actually flipped a switch on anything, Lee?
LC: A virtual switch! You know what I mean!