Saturday, February 13, 2016

Meddling in other people's business



This post is the kind of thing I seldom do. I'll be meddling in other people's business, something I was thought to be unfair since my early childhood.

If so, then why am I publishing this post?

Because I strongly believe it is time to say something about things happening all around me. I've been silent about these facts for a while, but it is time now to speak my mind.

I know I'll hurt the feeling of some people, but this is what life does all the time. It is impossible to have opinions without hurting other people's opinions. And learning how to deal with different opinions if an important step to anyone's maturity to be reached.

This post is about the (not so) recent problems with the development team of OPAL (https://github.com/opal/opal), a Ruby to Javascript compiler most of us have already used in our own projects.

It all happened in June 2015 and since then I've been asked by some friend developers about my position in all the issue, but always refused to answer directly to them, until now. Now it's time to make my position on this subject clear to everyone. And my position is, I believe,

AN APPEAL TO REASON

First of all let me explain, for those unaware of the subject, what happened.

In June 18th, 2015, a developer know as CoralineAda raised an issue (https://github.com/opal/opal/issues/941)  at GitHub's OPAL page, requiring that another developer named Elia Schito to be removed from that project because, in her ow words: "Elia Schito is publicly calling trans people out for 'not accepting reality' on Twitter. His Twitter profile mentions that he is a core contributor to opal. Is this what the other maintainers want to be reflected in the project? Will any transgender developers feel comfortable contributing?"

This issue generated a long discussion (which I won't reproduce here because anyone can read there in the gitHub issue directly) when another OPAL core member know as meh answered her and said he was against the removal of Elia Schito and closed the issue.

In fact, things degenerated in a flame war. One side had all those who, like CoralineAda, believe that one is not supposed to express opinions which may hurt other people's feelings. The other side had those support unlimited freedom of expression and those who believe Elia Schito's personal opinions were his problems, not OPAL's problems.

As in all discussions of this kind, harsh things were said by both sides. After a while one just couldn't tell right from wrong anymore, because reason wasn't the guideline anymore, but personal feelings. Whenever this happens people tend to forget the real goal of a discussion: finding a compromisse between different positions.

Our society is enduring kind of a revolution when it comes to many things, including sexuality. Back in the 70's homosexuals were "leaving the closet" and fighting for their rights. At that time this caused a strong reaction in some sectors of the society. Some people refused to accept the fact that sexuality wasn't a matter of character or competence. Job positions were denied to homosexuals. Public workers in some more sensitive areas of government who were found to be homosexuals were asked to resign their positions, 'cause people would think (right in the middle of the Cold War) they would be entitled to blackmail to reveal secrets or something.

Now, forty years are passed and things changed a lot. Homosexuals are all around and the mere thought of blackmailing someone for being gay is quite ridiculous. Come on... Elton John is now a Knight of the British Empire! And he is not just using pink spectacles anymore. He married a guy formally!

Point someone in the streets and accuse him or her of being homosexual nowadays. First of all, you'll give this person the fifteen minutes of fame Andy Warhol talked about, remember? Second, if someone is going to be hurt in this situation, it's probably you, not the person accused.

I even suspect that some people claim to be homosexuals nowadays just to get some fame!

Things change. Sometimes they don't change as fast as people would like to, but they change. Maybe you don't believe this when you are twenty, because you haven't lived enough to see the changes. But when you are almost fifty like me, and you can remember things from forty years ago as I can, then you'll see how things change.

Now many people are questioning their "sexual identity". They say they were born in the wrong sex. A male says he is a she, or a she says she is a he. 

Well, as far as I am concerned, one may say he or she is whatever! I don't really care. If you want to say you are a sofa or a refrigerator, it is your business, not mine. As far as you don't attack me anyway, I won't waste my  precious time attacking you. I have a family to take care, a job, lots of personal projects and no time enough to take care of all this stuff. Certainly wouldn't lose my precious time attacking you or anyone else for saying you are a woman, or a man, or a cat (like this woman here) or a martian.

But there are two important points to be considered here:

1) I'm not a role model to everybody. I think like this, but you may think differently from me, of course. Many people will express different views. Some will feel offended by the idea that a man may consider himself a woman, or a woman consider herself a man. Anyone is entitled to have a personal opinion about this.

2) I have my personal opinion. And it is not very different from the one expressed by Elia Schito, I must say. I believe people are having trouble, these days, in dealing with reality. Because the fact of being born a man and saying you are a woman does NOT makes you a woman. It does not change your genoma; it won't give you an utherus; it won't make you capable of having a baby like a woman. A man may dress like a woman, speak like a woman and anything else, but he won't be a real woman, in fact.

So, it is said. This will hurt the feelings of some people, but that's what I believe. But...

I also believe I must be gentle to others. So, if I have no reason, if I'm not directly asked (and depending on the context, even if I am), I should not throw my beliefs and thoughts all around without considering the fact I'm going to hurt people needlessly.

What good would I do by offending a male friend or colleague who says he is a woman by saying he is not a real woman? This is not my business! Unless, of course, he wants to have sex with me. Then it turns out to be my business and I'll have to refuse and clearly say I only have sex with real woman. Because now it concerns to me, not just to him/her. Except for this situation, I see no advantage in fighting over something which is not my business.

My point here is that we are not supposed to interfere in other people's thoughts and opinions. If you want to believe you are a woman, a man, a cat or a dog, this is your business, not mine, and I am not supposed to interfere in your belief, unless it affects me directly. The same way, no one may be forced to agree with your beliefs and if a person disagrees in his mind, it is not your business too.

During this long flame war in the above mentioned GitHub issue someone asked meh if he would work with a child molester if this child molester created good code. This question was raised because meh's position was that personal ideas, beliefs or tastes were out of the scope of the project and no one should be forced out of the project for this.

I miss the times when people studied rhetoric at school. This helped a lot when discussing things, because analogies were much better crafted then.

The comparison is completely inadequate. Child molesting is a crime! I wouldn't even talk to a child molester. If I find out any of my  relatives, friends or colleagues is a child molester, I'll call the police immediately, without hesitation. But having an opinion may hardly be compared to hurting children!

Come on...  Sometimes I feel like if I were living in George Orwell's "1984", with the Thought Police being represented by these politically correct squads that are all over the place trying to control not only what we do, but also what we think.

Going back to the poor analogy of the child molester... How may we know how many of our relatives, friends or colleagues have sexual fantasies of molesting children? We just can't know! What we can judge, then, are the actions. If I see someone molesting a child I may call the police. If I see photos in a colleague's computer of children being molested, I may call the police (here in Brazil having this kind of material is a criminal offense, even if the photos don't picture yourself). But how may I control someone else's thoughts?

Logic says, then, that no one may be punished by his thoughts, but just for his actions. Molesting children is a crime. Thinking about molesting children is not, even if this makes one a disgusting person to me.

What is happening today, going back to the transgender issue is that people are asking for respect for their positions and beliefs, but at the same time refusing to respect the positions and beliefs of others. In other words, they are asking everybody  to "accept differences", but just when it comes to their differences. They just can't accept different opinions. They ask for tolerance but they refuse to be tolerant.

Late comedian George Carlin expressed perfectly this context in one of his sketches, by saying: "I have a right to my opinion and my opinion is that you have no right to your opinion." 

Finally, because this is already too long, let me say a few words about two things.

Context is the first thing. There are private things and public things, and they are not the same in most cases. Personal interests are different to public ones. CoralineAda has the right to avoid personal relations with people who think like Elia Schito. This is her personal right. But she has no right to force all other people to to the same, as it seems she believes she has. And the context of a software project is hardly the place to discuss other people's opinions on sexuality. 

And then consider the dangerous extensions of CoralineAda's request. She says "What will people think of opal project if you have a developer against trans people" and if we extend this thinking she is implying in her request Elia Schito must be expelled of all software projects, 'cause people will think bad of all them with such developer. But this is his profession. He is a software developer. Then she is asking that he is kept unemployed forever, living in poverty.

What next? Go to Elia Schito's neighbors and say "What will people think of this neighborhood with such a person living here?" And there we have Elia Schito homeless, forced out of his house for expressing an opinion. 

What next? His family? His friends?

Is she really trying to sentence this guy to a faith worse than death just because he has a different opinion?

Is an opinion quite a terrible crime? Because we don't sentence people to perpetual unemployment and to being homeless, with no family and friends, even for a cruel murder...

Let's go back to reason and create good code. In forty years things will have changed and this trans people issue won't even be remembered, probably.