Sunday, 27 December 2015

All Power To Otherkin

Hi guys, welcome to Orygyn!

Quick but mandatory disclaimer, I am not an otherkin myself. I just don't judge people for decisions they make about their lives that don't affect mine. If you don't already, you should try it some time. It's great! :)

TheAmazingAtheist recently made a video about otherkin. Basically these are people who either partially or entirely identify as other animals. There are of course nuances to this: some people do it out of a supernaturally-based belief in reincarnation, others simply recognize something within themselves that they only see in other animals. To me, this is quite intuitive. We're all animals, our brains are broadly similar, and we all have the same evolutionary purposes: survive and reproduce. It's easy to see how people can make the connection between the emotions and traits they see in themselves and those in other animals. As an atheist, I can't get behind the "reincarnation" aspect for those otherkin for whom this applies, but the rest isn't that hard to grasp.

TJ's video is very patronizing towards otherkin. Of course, this isn't that unexpected: a new or unfamiliar idea will go through stages whereby it is first ridiculed, then gains some acceptance, to which there is a backlash, then finally wider acceptance. Or it'll never get past the first stage. I think otherkin will become an accepted idea, but it'll take a while. Let me explain.

As a kid, I watched a lot of cartoons. One that I saw a lot of was Batman of the Future (Batman Beyond in America), a Batman series set in the future where Bruce Wayne has retired and he is mentoring a kid called Terry to take over from him. There is one episode where the kids at Terry's school (Terry being the new Batman) get genetic treatments to give themselves the physiological traits of other animals: fur, fangs, tails, wings etc. This is presented in the show as a school fad, and leads to problems for Batman, but the idea may not be far off becoming reality. We're already splicing genes. Who's to say we couldn't one day do this for real? Another interesting perspective on this is offered by the Orion's Arm project and their concepts of rianths, provolves and splices. In their fictional vision of the future, the modification of genomes is so easy, so uncontroversial and so widespread, that a panoply of different combinations of different animals and different levels of sentience and intelligence, ranging from a baseline animal of a particular type to hyperintelligence (orders of magnitude beyond human) exist without significant conflict or unease. Otherkin are the first step along this path. Supporting them is, in my mind, extremely socially progressive. It is to support an idea decades or even centuries ahead of its time. Far more importantly, however, defending the impetus of otherkin to be themselves is just a decent thing to do.

As I eluded to in my first paragraph, their views on themselves don't affect your life in any way. Nothing about their identities precludes them from being caring friends, hard workers, creative thinkers, motivated go-getters, and otherwise all-round decent people any more than does their skin colour, sexual orientation or gender identity. It is something that, with the right attitude, simply becomes nothing more than another eccentricity, just like your tendency to rant about drug policy while drunk, or my tendency to respond to everything anyone says to me with "yeh" and nothing more.

The only counter-argument to this worth even mentioning is that "if I choose to be friends or associate with this person who identifies as otherkin, people won't just shun THEM, they'll shun me as well", to which I say simply this: FIND BETTER PEOPLE. They're shunning of you is even less credible than their shunning of otherkin. This of course ignores the fact that there are an endless number of situations in which there is simply no obligation or need to even MENTION the fact that you have a friend or acquaintance like this.

There is a loftier message here: too often we get on with other people based on condemnation of others. I do not judge people for quirks or eccentricities they may possess that have no effect on my life, but still I have a bad habit of being suggestible in conversation, and I can end up building on another's bad-mouthing just so that we have SOMETHING to talk about. This speaks to my flaws as a conversationalist and a sheep in certain contexts, under certain pressures, and is something I'm constantly working on. I understand this allure, but we can still hold ourselves to an ideal where the judging of these people, either through our thoughts, words or actions is not something we should condone. We should get on with each other based on our interests, our philosophies, our feelings and our ideas, not on our qualms with others. This is the thought with which I'll leave you today.


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