Divestment

I am, to the best of my abilities, divesting myself of fossil-fuels, monetarily. I don’t have any money invested anywhere (or much full stop), but that doesn’t mean that what little money I do have can be used by others for ill.

So far I have cancelled my bank accounts at Halifax, Natwest and Lloyds (which is particularly bad), and moved completely over to The Co-Operative, which is the only high-street bank which has an explicit policy of not investing money in “any business or organisation whose core activity contributes to global climate change”.

The next step is to check what USS invests its money in, and remove any of mine which is supporting malign corporate interests.

I am more-or-less following The Guardian’s ongoing series on personal divestment.

Company letters

Today I read two letters written by companies which impressed me.

The first is by Kickstarter.  Some asshole was trying to raise money to produce a "seduction guidebook" which advocated sexual assault of women, and though many people asked Kickstarter to cancel the project before the funding period completed, they didn't.  Then today they wrote a (seemingly) sincere letter of apology to their users, and by way of compensation have donated $25,000 to RAINN, an anti-sexual assault organisation.

While Kickstarter definitely made the wrong call, I am convinced that they truly regret it and intend not to let it happen again.

The second is a letter from The Fullbright Company, which is a four-person game development studio who are almost done with their first game Gone Home (which I've been looking forward to).  Today they wrote an open letter announcing their pulling-out of exhibiting their pending game at the PAX Indie Megabooth, an indie games showcase at a games expo organised by the Penny Arcade organisation.  Their choice, which is not in their material interest, is based on Penny Arcade creators' recent misogynistic, transphobic and classist posturing (which you can read about in the letter).

In both cases, it is refreshing to see a company take a moral stance (if a little belatedly in the first case) on something which is not in their immediate financial interest.  It is somethings difficult to remember that companies are made up of individual humans who have moral compasses, and who want to have a positive effect on the world, even in the context of a financial venture.

Cultural Relativism and Technology

[Update: Now I am older and wiser, I don't necessarily any-longer agree with everything I wrote here, but I'm not going to delete it (yet). If you also disagree, let me know.]

I was talking to a couple of friends of mine about politics the other day. The conversation ended in a disagreement about whether or not one ought to adhere to principles of cultural relativism. That is, whether it is fair or legitimate to criticise the practices of members of another culture from the inescapable perspectives of ones own. I was arguing against cultural relativism but in the course of the discussion some arguments were raised which I hadn't considered before and which made me stop and reconsider my position.

My purpose in writing this is partially in order to get my thoughts in order and partly in the hope that the discussion can continue, 'cause it's one that interests me. I wish to wear my ignorance of many relevant topics on my sleeve and, as always, I'm completely open to the prospect of changing my mind.

My feelings were that open criticism of other cultures should be permissible. I felt that if we had carefully examined our own reasoning and motives, we ought to be allowed to criticise the practices of others, even if we understood that those practices may be the product of another culture and its historical context.
Continue reading "Cultural Relativism and Technology"

Ethics versus religion in Berlin; ethics win

Berlin Rejects Religious Lessons

That was fairly close...

BBC News writes:

A referendum in Germany has failed to give children a choice between classes in secular ethics or religion. ... Opponents said that any changes to the curriculum would be divisive.

Sanity is preserved.

Ethics versus religion in Berlin

Referendum Pits Ethics against Religion

What a beautifully irony-laced headline from Spiegel Online International.

From the article:

Since 2006, ethics has been a compulsory subject for all high school students in Germany's capital city, while religion is an optional course. The "Pro Reli" campaign wants to change those rules so that pupils would have to choose between ethics and a faith-based religion class. Those classes would be strictly divided along religious lines, with Protestants, Catholics and Muslims being taught separately.

I actually can't believe this.  It's like a piece of science fiction.