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Note from 2013: About midway, the paragraph on obesity is an irrelevant stray. At the time I was exploring my prejudice against obesity and trying to understand how the obese felt prejudice. Obese people, perceiving rightly the only requirement is IQ, seem to be drawn to Mensa. The paragraph belonged in some other essay, yet here it is, in the middle of this one.

April 1993 W.O.W.

or Why Aren't We All Spocks and Datas?

By Travis Hardin

Mr. Data of Star Trek fame would have it very easy interacting with another like himself. Being an ordered core of reason surrounded by an outer layer of reason, he lacks the confounding effects of emotion. Just as important, so would his opposite. Data wouldn't have to learn to recognize and subtract unreason in himself or his opposite before representing pronouncements as reasonable.

Data wouldn't have to risk mistaking what beings of meat do and say under emotional duress or under the unsolved psychological burdens of a lifetime as intelligence.

Data wouldn't have to be concerned that intelligent meat might be more emotionally troubled than regular meat due to being discriminated against for being different or due simply to greater awareness.

Data wouldn't have to let politics, diplomacy, and tact inhibit the honest practice of reason. The reason meat can't be direct with other meat is to avoid inflaming their emotions. To communicate, this means reason and directness must be guiding our minds, while on another level, the personal interaction one, we must avoid directness lest we set off the bomb in others. In meat, the double challenge is: Avoid inflaming self. Avoid inflaming others.

Data never needs to develop maturity, to heal emotionally, or to get psychotherapy.

Data wouldn't be concerned, as I am, with the paradoxes of being emotional, such as these: The best in humankind is not brought out when we feel compelled to inhibit the use of reason in discussions on account of others' immaturity. Reason has to hide when, to maintain peace, we must preoccupy ourselves in supporting others' illusions.

Too many of my personal interactions, even with the occasional Mensan, are like interactions with dangerous people. I feel I must politely agree with anything they say to avoid setting off their bomb and possibly endangering myself and others.

People carry around lots of bombs that cruelty or ignorance have lit and anger maintains. One that might concern Mensans is society's attitude toward obesity. Does that attitude cause emotional pain that contends with intellect? What emotional hardships are caused by being fat, or just heavy? I'd venture the potential for emotional pain is serious. I'd like to read about your personal experiences and feelings on whether there exists emotional wounds in you or not. Daniel Pinkwater, who proclaims himself "circumferentialty disadvantaged", has been offering commentary on evening public radio on the subject.

There's the emotional content of political beliefs to be concerned about. A liberal might clutch at brotherhood and the promise of human progress because the alternative seems emotionally unbearable. On the other hand, much of what passes for conservatism is anal retentive personality, xenophobia, generalized anger in search of a target-- any target -- and a large component of sexual neurosis. All under the umbrella and blessing of the prevailing deity, which, Freud reminds us, is a mass neurosis.

Wherever emotional health lies -- the emotional health conducive to high intellectual function of oneself and others -- that is the place to be politically.

Ah, I'm sad that we meat computers fall so far short of our collective potential for intellectual function. (I exempt Roger Penrose from the lament) I see such a shortfall as a serious defect in the human condition, one that drives me to hopelessness on any scale but an evolutionary one.

Oh, to be Mr. Data with his reason and Counsellor Troi with her sensitivity, combined in one! To be and to walk among such people would be so bright in its nobility that God would pale. Such is the direction of human progress. But I have to go now. Some boys are ripping down my yard fence. That makes me feel strongly, and I can't reason.

(Next month: On Reason.)

Excerpts from a 3-31-93 personal reply by Heather P.