“I Have Rights”

This morning on Twitter, I started out with a conversation about a great blog post about how PR agencies don’t seem to get ‘online’, then segued into a short discussion about the differences between blogging and journalism (very basically, I think that bloggers haven’t done themselves any favours by continuing to operate without a ‘code of ethics’. Suw pointed out that the problem may simply be with *people* rather than journos or bloggers. Tom and I agreed with her. Hurrah! People are crap!). It ended with a discussion based on one sentence I wrote:

“Everyone thinks they have a right to be listened to…”

I was asked, “Doesn’t everyone have a right to be listened to?”

My answer, “Nope. Everyone has the right to SAY what they want. They don’t have the right to be listened to….There is a very, very big difference and some people don’t get it.” And then we went on for another 20 minutes trying to have a nuanced conversation two sentences at a time.

Maybe it’s an unfashionable thing to say. Maybe it doesn’t fit within a certain mindset. Maybe it’s wrong. I don’t know, but I’m going to expand my thoughts about this much more than 140 characters per post on Twitter allowed me to.

So my statement is: “Not everyone has the right to be listened to.”

Three thoughts within that statement need to be expanded: “not everyone”, “right”, “to be listened to”.

Let’s start with “to be listened to” as I suspect this could be the most confusing bit.

There is a semantic difference between “hear” and “listen”. The sentence ‘I heard my mother telling me to do my homework, but I didn’t listen.’ explains the basic difference pretty well. “To hear” is the act of detecting soundwaves with your ear. “To listen” is to make an effort to hear something or to pay attention to what you hear.

“Hear” can also mean – “to be informed of” (“I heard you were moving”). “Listen” can also mean – “to obey” (“My kids never listen to me when I tell them to clean their room”).

“To be listened to” means requiring the action of another person. You can’t stand alone in the middle of the desert and “be listened to”, you need another person to do the listening.

“Listen” is the word I used. Purposely. With the first definition I can restate my initial sentence in stronger, more absolute terms as “No one has the right to insist everyone else makes an effort to hear what they say.” or “No one has the right to insist everyone else pays attention to what they say.” Restating the sentence using the second definition of “listen” is “No one has the right to insist everyone else obeys what they say.”

Equally it is correct to say “Not everyone has the right to insist anyone else makes an effort to hear/pay attention to/obey what they say” as not everyone has the right to compel anyone else to do anything.

“Not everyone has the right to be listened to.”

Right“. What is a right?

1. A right is something for which you do not have to seek the permission or approval or willingness of others. It is something to which you are legally and fundamentally entitled irrespective of anyone’s private thoughts.

2. A right is universal – everyone is covered, not just certain people or one group of people or everyone except one group of people.

3. A right pertains only to yourself and does not mean you can make a claim on anyone else. You do not have the right to claim ownership of another person’s money, property, time, life etc though you have the right to earn your own money, own your own property, do what you want (without infringing on the rights of others, of course) and live your own life in the manner in which you choose (again without infringing on the rights of others).

If you were the only person living on the planet you would be able to live your life exactly how you want to no matter what sex you are are, what colour your skin is, what crazy things you believe, what crazy things you say, whether you are fully physically able or not. You would have the “right” to be able to find, gather, grow your own food, you’d be able to make a shelter, think anything you want, say anything you want etc etc

If then suddenly some other people appeared, do you gain MORE rights because there are other people around you or not? That is, because of the existence of other people, does that mean you are fundamentally entitled to “more”. Do you now have the right to their food, their home, their clothing? Do you have the right to force them to do things for you like grow your food, build your home for nothing in return? Do you have the right to tell them what they can think? Do they have the right to make any of those claims on you?

The answer to these questions, of course, is “No”. If not, please tell me why you think so in the comments.

Now…In this world where you’ve been entirely on your own and at liberty to sustain your own life in the manner of your choosing when suddenly other people have appeared, do you now have have the right to make them listen to (Make an effort to hear/pay attention to/obey) anything or everything you say? Do they have the right to make you listen to them? Do any of you have the right to be listened to?

Of course, the answer is ‘no’, but if you think the answer is ‘yes’, please use the comments to explain how ‘claims on property, liberty and thought’ are not allowed but ‘claims on time’ or ‘being forced to obey just anyone/everyone’ are.

A “right” is not an expectation, a desire or a wish based upon ones own personal preferences. A “right” is a fundamental entitlement for every single human being on the planet.

“Not everyone has the right to be listened to.”

Finally. “Not everyone” means just that.

There are some people who have a right to be listened to: law enforcement and judges, for example, but only, of course, when it comes to their jobs. You are legally required to listen to, to obey, a police officer when they are telling you to put your hands on your head when they are arresting you, but if you are Alex Ferguson, for example, you don’t have to listen to, to obey, what they think would be best starting line up for Manchester United. And if Alex Ferguson tells you to put your hands on your head, you don’t have to listen to him, unless you are one of his players and putting your hands on your head is part of a warm-up…

The reason some people- and there are others besides the ones I mentioned- are “listened to” is that they have authority. Authority is earned – by passing the bar then being a good lawyer, you may become a judge; by passing the entrance requirements and tests, you may become a police officer; by, well, I actually don’t have any idea how someone becomes a football manager, but I think you get the idea. Authority in all situations and circumstances is not the right of anyone.

Some people have authority in some situations. No one has authority in ALL situations.

Not everyone has the right to be listened to.”

I think when people hear the “not everyone has the right to be listened to” sentence they automatically think ‘freedom of speech’. Freedom of speech means that you have the right to say what you want. It does not mean that anyone else is compelled to a) provide a platform, public or otherwise, for you to use b) pay for you to say what you want c) publish, broadcast or listen to what you have to say.

I think it’s pretty simple. Many people don’t.

28 Responses to ““I Have Rights””
  1. giagia says:

    I will also add: the first person I remember saying ‘I have the right to be listened to’ was a rightwing American fundie Christian. We were talking ‘Creationism’. The most recent person was ‘JTankers’, yes, ‘Crazy JTankers’.

  2. Alex says:

    Uh huh…sure…uh huh…whatever you say…huh huh
    I’m sorry, did you say something? I was watching that hot girl in a bikini.

  3. giagia says:

    Hey, no fair, Alex! I have a right to be listened to, you know. I’m gonna call me a lawyer…

  4. Alex says:

    American: I don’t see it that way, … Let me tell you what I
    think we’re dealing with here, a potentially positive learning

    Grim Reaper: Shut up! Shut up you American. You always talk, you
    Americans, you talk and you talk and say ‘Let me tell you
    something’ and ‘I just wanna say this’, Well you’re dead now,
    so shut up.

    Britton: Now look here. You barge in here, quite uninvited, break
    glasses and then announce quite casually that we’re all dead.
    Well I would remind you that you are a guest in this house

    [The Grim Reaper pokes him in the eye.]

    Grim Reaper: Be quiet! You Englishmen… You’re all so fucking
    pompous and none of you have got any balls.

    – from Monty Phthon’s Meaning of Life

  5. John says:

    Everyone has the right to express an opinion but there is no pre-ordained right for that opinion to be valued by anyone.

  6. James says:

    Isn’t the ‘right to be listened to’ one of the keystones of a successful democracy, the government having to *listen* to what people *say* at the polling station? Doesn’t everyone have a right to be listened to if they complain of harassment in the workplace? Don’t doctors have to listen to patient requests…I think the voice of the individual is held quite highly in law.

    But this is besides the point, didn’t your mother ever tell you it’s rude not to listen? :P

  7. You my dear are a f[censored]g genius. what a bloody excellent post and point and one I shall refer to in future. thank you for that.

  8. giagia says:

    James- all of those things you mention are actually based on other rights or rules of law. The right to vote in free and fair elections is a Human Right, Article 3 of the European Human Rights Act. If someone is being harassed at work they are covered by the Protection From Harrassment Act 1997. Do doctors have to “listen” under the Hippocratic Oath? Well, in as much as if they don’t they won’t be able to “keep their patients from harm”. But they don’t have to do whatever the patient asks them to if they think it is the wrong treatment.

    There is not and should not be a ‘right to be listened to’.

    Should the government have to listen to the BNP, for example, when drawing up new employment law? Should Boeing design a new airplane based on the wishes of passengers who might want smaller wings so they can see better out of the window? Should the medical establishment consult alcoholics when setting the suggested weekly alcohol limit?

    Let’s get a bit closer to reality now…

    Should fundamentalist religious people be listened to when the education minister is working out the school curriculum?

    Should fringe scientists’ or health practitioners’ beliefs be given equal weight within our society generally as established science or medicine?

    Should people be allowed to contravene employment law just because they really, really believe that homosexuals/women/blacks/the disabled/etc shouldn’t work/aren’t ‘real people’/are hated by God?

    Should BELIEFS be given more weight than the law of the land generally? (Why for example is it not child abuse, manslaughter or murder when a religious parent allows their child to die because they refuse certain medical procedures, but if someone did the same thing because they ‘just didn’t care enough’ they’d be prosecuted?)

    This isn’t, of course, just about ‘religion’ – that’s my own personal favourite topic- it is about this almost obsessive need to ‘listen’ to everyone and try and find an “equal” space within society for the loudest voices and every fringe belief.

    We are all human beings with universal, social and legal rights. None of those rights – none of them, read them and see – say that once all of those rights are fulfilled that everything else CONTINUES to be equal.

    The right to marry and start a family doesn’t mean that if you’ve not found a partner by a certain age the government is REQUIRED to find you one. Nor are they required to provide everyone with IVF if they can’t conceive naturally.

    The right to own property for example doesn’t mean that everyone is ENTITLED to a house. We as a society *choose* to provide those most in need with shelter because it’s better for our community generally.

    The right to live free from discrimination based on your sex, race, politics etc doesn’t mean that you DESERVE to get every job you apply for no matter what.

    The right to live free from slavery or forced labour doesn’t mean that you can just sit around and be provided for cos you don’t want to get a job that you might think is boring or beneath you.

    The right to education doesn’t mean that if you didn’t bother and fucked up in school, that once you are out you DESERVE a place in university or a good job.

    Far, far too many people have confused what ‘rights’ mean. First and foremost, they do NOT mean ‘being able to infringe upon the rights of others’. The concept of ‘rights’ has been watered down to the point where too many people don’t even get the importance of them.

    “I know my rights”.

    Yea, right you do.

  9. James says:

    There is inevitably an issue of interpretation here. Why isn’t a ballot paper a form of speech when it expresses a statement of opinion and desire? Could you not say that in respecting the majority vote, the governing bodies are merely listening to the largest number of voices? So in this respect, if the majority of people expressed a desire for a BNP government or even just a BNP MP then yes, the BNP would have to be listened to when drawing up employment laws.

    Everyone does have the right to be listened to, but I don’t think that is the real issue here. The problem, as you allude to, surely is in deciding how loud a voice an individual should have, particularly when it stands against the will and beliefs of the majority?

    You were keen to pull apart every word in your star sentence, ‘not everyone has the right to be listened to,’ yet you seem to have no problem in simply throwing around words like ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘fringe’. Don’t get me wrong, I entirely get the flavour of what your trying to say, but what is exactly is a ‘fringe scientist’? To my mind, that is merely a scientist who practices in the less popular areas of science. Perhaps a better phrase would have been ‘psuedoscientist’? But even here, to use such a word is to make an allegation rather than a statement of fact. How many countless scientist have been written off and then later proven to be correct? What about those scientist who dared to claim the ills of smoking but who found conclusive proof decades in the making?

    My point is that sometimes the individual is right and sidelined beliefs, moral or scientific, have later come to be accepted by the majority. You asked, ‘Should BELIEFS be given more weight than the law of the land generally?’ I ask you, what is the law of the land but a reflection of what the majority believe? Why should the voice of the individual be suffocated by the current, and often ill-informed, majority? You mentioned religion, so I’m going to talk about my favourite topic, my ‘fundamentalist beliefs’ if you like. What right has the meat and dairy industries etc. go on slaughtering millions of helpless sentient beings? Why should I be FORCED to live in the knowledge that animal death is all around me whilst the government does nothing just because vegetarians and vegans like me are in the minority? And this is not an issue of compromise, I’ll never be happy until all animal slaughter ceases.

    I think the point to be made is, everyone has the right to be listened to, provided they are in the majority. That is actually incredibly depressing, thanks Gia! But anyway, even if our democratic system isn’t perfect, I still maintain that British people at least have the right to be listened to. On your point of deservedness and enbtitlement, I’d say that no, no one is enetitled to a job or a university place (although in practise this may not always be the case), but everyone at least has the RIGHT TO PURSUE these goals. If I meet discrimination in my search for a job, then I have a right to at least be listened to and my case considered. Incidentally, not everyone who fucked up in school did so because they didn’t bother-your statement almost has a tang of discrimination to it.

    A complicated debate to be sure-oh humble twitter, what have you done?

    PS – I’m pretty certain that anyone presiding in Britain does have a right to be provided with adequate shelter. Hence why gypsies try and camp on council ground, to make sure they fall under the duty of care of the council. Hmm, but maybe that is more to do with standard council social policy rather than ingrained legal rights.

  10. giagia says:

    I’ve got TONS to do today, so I’m just going to pick upon a few things.

    “How many countless scientist have been written off and then later proven to be correct? ”

    Not many. At all. Every ‘fringe’ scientist is not an Einstein.

    A fringe scientist doesn’t have to be a pseudoscientist at all. Scientists who do M-Theory, for example, are pretty fringe. To my untrained eye there doesn’t really seem to be a way of disproving any of that at all. ‘Well, we didn’t see anything here.’ ‘Oh! That’s cos it’s over there instead.’ ‘Nope. Not there.’ ‘Silly me! It’s way over there!’ etc etc

    I think we can agree that government policy on science, education and industry should not be written based on the idea that we live in an 11 dimensional universe built of undetectably tiny strings. So why do we have to consider religion? It’s equally ‘fringe’, it can’t be proven…

    Animal rights is a very good example of people thinking that just cos they believe something a lot that everyone else has to change the world for them. If animal rights activists can actually give logical reasons why we should outlaw meat, eggs and dairy and stop medical experimentation on animals, then the laws will change. Simple. But they can’t at all. Sorry, but just being unhappy with it is not a good enough reason.

    I would kill 100 dogs with my own bare hands if it meant that my grandmother could have been cured of her brain tumour and not died. She was my favourite person on the planet ever. I’d kill 1000 little baby kittens, stamp on their cute little heads if she didn’t have to go through that.

    Go on. Tell me every dog, cat, cow, lamb, pig whatever is more important than my grandmother. I dare you.

    Hey! Why not go tell every single person- HUMAN BEING- that is suffering from a disease or an affliction which medical researchers are trying to cure by using animals to test on that a fucking rat is more important than their lives.

    Before ANYONE starts going on about ‘sentient animals’ blahblahblah I think they should be forced to go into hospitals and walk up to people dying there of cancers and Alzheimer’s, and all the paralysed and blind, look them right in the eye and say ‘You are less important than a rabbit. I will continue to work hard to make sure that a cure is never found for you nor for the thousands or millions of people who will suffer your same fate in the future. You are scum. By-eeeee!’

    You’re given a choice: save MY dying child or save that pig.

    THAT is why people will still continue to eat meat and support medical research on animals.

    Please don’t say ‘the pig’.

  11. James says:

    I suppose when you consider the number of successful fringe scientists versus number of forgotten fringe scientists, the failure rate must be close to 99% or so. But then isn’t science all about failing 99% of the time ? Just because M-theory may prove to be a dead end doesn’t make it any less of a credible scientific exploration. Governmental policy in schools should be about generating and nurturing scientific interest in young people and that may very well involve introducing older pupils to M-theory to give them a flavour of current thinking in physics. Governmental policy towards higher education and research should be towards realising that 99% of experiments will result in a disappointing null result, but that such a result can be just as important a positive result.

    Hence, M-theory scientists and ‘other’ fringe scientists should be listened to and have a right to be listened to. Obviously there is a separate issue of practicality here in deciding how a scientist should be defined, but this is where relying on a system of peer review and academic qualifications comes in. So to answer your question on religion; there is more to the debate on religion, but in principle community respected religious and spiritual leaders deserve to be listened to just as much as persons respected in the scientific community. Again, religious persons and groups have a right to be listened to, their beliefs should be merely tossed away without consideration or concern to the individuals involved simply because they hold a ‘belief’-there is no respect in that.

    With to regard to consuming animals, I will simply ask, why are people so hung up on the idea that to not eat meat is some how a choice where as to eat meat isn’t? A human requires grains, fruits and vegetables to live a healthy life. Humans, and I would suspect no animal either, NEED to eat meat. There is absolutely NOTHING that humans need to consume from animals. In fact, to eat meat you have to make the CHOICE to breed or hunt an animal, slaughter it, skin it and gut it before you can finally undergo the process of cooking it. This process is not simple and is in fact so painful and emotional that the vast majority of individuals never go anywhere near it in their life. You would have been happy to go a psychopathic killing spree of cats and dogs to cure your grandmother’s brain tumour (however that would have worked), yet may I ask, have you ever had the decency to
    meet an animal before you eat it? How many times have you slaughtered an animal in order to consume meat, have you ever even been to s a slaughter house or simply watched an animal die?

    It’s even fucking simpler than that. You tell me, what RIGHT do humans have to take an animal’s life simply so they can chew on it’s flesh? Why should a calf lose it’s mother or a calf it’s children? What’s the point? Why is glutinous human pleasure rated so highly? In fact it is even worse than that. Within tribal societies, there is perhaps sometimes an argument to be made that to not have consumed animals will result in human starvation (although how ‘detached’ from the modern world are tribal societies really?). But with developed countries, the reverse is true. The mass consumption of animals is not only damaging to the environment, but is perhaps the main reason for global food shortages. Did you know is takes 8 tons of grain to produce a quantity of beef that contains the same energy values as 1 ton of grain? That is not only illogical but completely immoral.

    On the SEPERATE issue of medical experimentation, clearly if there was a clear cut case that killing an animal will save a human, moral issues over animal take a back burner. But why do you place such blind faith in medical experimentation on animals? Animals have different physiologies to humans and much, if not all, animal experimentation is absolutely useless. I am starting in PhD in September where I will be working with a team who’s research will hopefully further our understanding of cancer cells, possible to the point of gaining greater control over them (although cancer is not really the main driving force behind the research). It’s across four universities, and to give a scale of the project, the department I am working in has just been given at £6 million grant for their work on this project alone. The concern is with cell protein production and I can tell you, the level of detail we are looking at makes using non-human cells completely redundant; we’re talking about equations with 70+ variables.

    So by all means, go kill a thousand kittens. But I’ll be mightily pissed off when it turns out that killing a thousand kittens will do nothing to advance our knowledge of brain tumours-and killing a thousand kittens will do nothing to help brain tumour patients. In fact, I would quite happily walk up to a patient and say, ‘you are not less important than a rabbit, but your misguided belief that killing endless numbers of rabbits through the processes of animal experimentation will cure your brain tumour is simply false hope. I AM working hard and through the process of computer simulation and the imagining of human cells, I hope that my work may contribute towards a cure for you and the potential thousands or millions of people who will suffer your same fate in the future.’

  12. eduao says:

    Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  13. Alex says:

    I believe Gia is saying that to HER, she would make the choice of killing animals to save ONE person who she valued.

    I know I would kill not only animals but anything and anyone to save some people in my life. I would even give my own life to save her.

    Now to address some of James’ comments more directly…

    “Why is glutinous human pleasure rated so highly?”

    Because we are human and we say so.

    “Animals have different physiologies to humans and much, if not all, animal experimentation is absolutely useless.”

    I call bullshit on this one. Consider how close our DNA is to apes. Moreover, pigs and humans have very common phiologies. Even more, study of any mamal’s physiological systems led to better understand of human physiology. Sure we could have used humans for more direct research – like the nazis…so are you saying we should be like the nazis?

    FYI – I used to do experiments with pigs and rats (Sorry gia, I had to say ‘pig’).

    “I am starting in PhD in September where I will be working with a team who’s research will hopefully further our understanding of cancer cells, possible to the point of gaining greater control over them (although cancer is not really the main driving force behind the research). It’s across four universities, and to give a scale of the project, the department I am working in has just been given at £6 million grant for their work on this project alone. The concern is with cell protein production and I can tell you, the level of detail we are looking at makes using non-human cells completely redundant; we’re talking about equations with 70+ variables.”

    How the fuck do you think we have advanced this far so we can actually look and study cells at the molecular level? To say that NOW we can do this so animal research is useless is like saying NOW we have the space shuttle so cars and busses are and have always been “useless.”

    Every piece of knowledge that we have now today so that you have the luxury of studying molecular details came OUT of studying animals. You should appreciate the history of science more and be grateful that others have done the hard work for you already.

    And you think an equation with 70+ variables is hard? Try quantum molecular dynamics of a protein with spawning electronic states for each and every probability density functions. I laugh at your 70+ variables.

  14. Alex says:

    One more thing…since James is going off to study “cells”…

    We have an understanding of cells and genetics thanks to people like Gregor Mendel – who studies plants.

    And cells were discovered in 1665 by British scientist Robert Hooke who first observed them in his crude (by today’s standards) seventeenth century optical microscope. In fact, Hooke coined the term “cell”, in a biological context, when he described the microscopic structure of cork like a tiny, bare room or monk’s cell.

    And I am sure everyone would agree that plants and cork have really nothing in common with human physiology…so was their research “useless?”

  15. Alex says:

    I can’t help it…so much fodder…

    “I AM working hard and through the process of computer simulation and the imagining of human cells, I hope that my work may contribute towards a cure for you and the potential thousands or millions of people who will suffer your same fate in the future.”

    You poor creature…computer simulations does not represent the real world. You will discover that in about 3 years…or later.

    And computer simulation of whole human cells? That’s your research? Using ONLY 70+ variables?

    That’s like a computer simulation of Tokyo with only 70+ polygons.

    You have much yet to learn. I advise you to keep your mouth shut and exercise your right to “listen to others” who know better than you.

  16. giagia says:

    Sorry James… You’re a PhD candidate?! Have you had the ‘How To Think’ class yet?

    Anyway you’re a student. It all makes sense. You don’t have to say anything else. I understand you 100%.


  17. James says:

    Fortunately, Gia, I’m happy to say that I’m off to start my four year studentship this September. I’m going to be one of a new batch of human systems biologists that the BBSRC are trying to push forward; they want to get more mathematicians involved within biology. What the fuck is wrong with being a PhD ‘student’ Gia? What fucking right have you got to write me off doing a PhD you…? It’s a fantastic opportunity for me and I am very lucky and very proud to have got it.

    But it’s always nice to have your comments met with sarcasm, it usually means that the other party is stumped to think of an intelligent reply.

    To Alex: I used the word ‘cell’ colloquially. The Wikipedia for ‘NF-kB’ will give you some idea of what the team I’ll be working with looks at. I specifically read up on oscillations in NF-kB signalling for my PhD interviews, although it’ll be about 18 months before I know what particular project I’ll be working on. To get a flavour for the work in general, you can always try looking up ‘bioinformatics’.

    ‘Every piece of knowledge that we have now today so that you have the luxury of studying molecular details came OUT of studying animals.’

    So where do the examples you gave of Mendel and Hooke fit into this statement then? And surely for giving us the ability to study at the molecular level, the crown has to go to Thomson? Oh and can you please tell me how imaging human cells is anyway comparable to a Nazi ‘experiment’?
    ‘You poor creature…computer simulations does not represent the real world. You will discover that in about 3 years…or later.’

    Have you never heard of numerical approximations? Computer simulations are no more adept at describing the real world than equations on a blackboard, but we’re doing pretty well are we not? Why don’t YOU go and read up before you start throwing out such condescending statements. You could start by googling ‘a new kind of science’. Also again, you could look up bioinformatics.

    Oh, and you many not think 70 variables is a lot to deal with, but how many variables are contained in the Navier-Stokes equation, and how well understood is that? (Give you a clue, it’s a ‘million dollar question’). Here again, looking up computation fluid dynamics will hopefully *open* your eyes for you a little.

  18. giagia says:

    I’m not ‘writing you off’ doing a PhD. I’m ‘writing you off’ for the fact that you’re all about student politics – animal rights and thinking that ‘everyone has the right to be listened to’. You’ve clearly not lived long enough nor met many other people other than students in order to actually think much about things. I’m too tired and busy and bored to discuss ideas that were ‘new’ to me 20 years ago.

    A physics professor friend of mine said to me the other day, ‘You know when you’re a student and you have all these idealistic politics and you think if everyone just believed what you believed that you could all change the world? And then you get a bit older and realise that everyone older than 30 who still believes all of that is more than likely an idiot. If they are over 40 and still believe that, they probably work for the local council.’ So true.

    And, I’ll let you know that Alex has a PhD in bio-physics (is that right, Alex?), two *other* science Masters degrees (what are they?) and a law degree. He’s a little bit more advanced than someone who’s starting their PhD in September. Just so you know.

    So, no, I’m not writing you off for being a student… it’s just that I’m bored.

  19. Steve says:

    As hilarious as the idea that veganism is an important agenda is, I wouldn’t write off the students (no matter how much they get on my tits) or the people working for the council in their 40’s. As Lennon said, “apathy isn’t it”. If anyone does ever manage to wake people up behind a big, society-changing idea, it’s the ones who haven’t given up that will get the momentum going.

    Of course, the fact that I’m writing this from my *’fall-of-western-civilisation-proof’ South American home does say a lot about where I fit in to all that, but I’d quite like to read about it on the internet.

    *’big gay’ prefix opportunity for Gia.

  20. Doug says:

    Are you killing the kittens and puppies just to kill them so that somehow– magically– you save your grandmother, or are you performing research on those animals that leads to a cure for cancer? If you answer “yes” to the first part, you’re psychotic (and likely your grandmother would agree; if she was of grandmother age, she had a good run on this planet, and few of us would like to imagine our grandchildren slaughtering other living creatures en masse to keep us alive). Just how far would you take it, exactly? Would you kill every non-sentient creature on this planet to win a few more years of life (if that: accidents and other illnesses do happen, you know: we all die eventually) for someone you loved? I can understand your pain; however, as someone whose husband has pointed out that we’re nothing but remarkable, and remarkably fleeting, configurations of stardust, Gia, you must understand: we have our time here, and then we’re gone, and spilling gallons of blood from innocent animals out of pain, with no eye toward research or purpose, will change that.

  21. Doug says:

    “won’t” change that. Sorry.

  22. giagia says:

    “Are you killing the kittens and puppies just to kill them so that somehow– magically– you save your grandmother”

    You’re not seriously asking that question, are you?! Oh. I see by how you followed it up that you are. *sigh* OK. I guess I have to spell things out:
    1,000 kittens, puppies, pigs, cows – 10,000, 100,000, 1,000,000 – matter far, far less to me that the health and happiness of human beings. If it takes the deaths of a million animals to find a cure for a disease which effects hundreds, thousands, millions of people then I support that research.

    Do you support stem cell research? There are huge numbers of people – and the American government- who are against stem cell research because of God or Jesus or something. Why is that any different from not supporting animal testing?

  23. Alex says:

    First there is no such thing as ‘cancer’. Uncontrolled cell proliferation can occur in uncountable ways and each one is different.

    Secondly even if I gave you the structure of every protein in the cell it really wouldn’t get you much closer to understanding what needs to be done to arrest cell division.

    Oh well, PR is everything these days…and P.I. will make up shit to get naive grad students to work in their lab for free…AND get government funding (from those decision makers who know less than nothing about biology).

    Good luck to you James…and remember what I told you when you wake up one day and realize you have wasted years of your life…and people’s money.

  24. Maksim says:

    How often do you meet people who get into science or work in labs with at least a thought of prestige our possible fame?

  25. James says:

    [Government Health Warning: I seem to have lost track of time, but as I’ve already typed everything out I may as well leave it.]

    To Alex: Yes, protein structures matter jack. However, if we better understood cell signaling such that we could ‘intercept’ the message “cell divide” and replace it with “cell die” then there is an obvious connection to cancer there (yes I’m using a colloquial terms). My current understanding is that (again this is a simplified explanation) in many cases, a common ‘chemical’ is used to signal such messages. Seemingly a pulse, for example, is therefore used to send a message with the pulse periodicity determining the message sent-this is poorly understood area atm. Furthermore, there is work being carried out on how messages are sent between cells with suggestion being that certain cells act as nodes.

    But that’s not really the point of the project. On the whole, graduate biologists (and above) have a pretty poor understanding of how powerful mathematical modeling can be and graduate mathematicians (and above) usually have virtually no clue as to the world of biology. This in contrast to the relationships seen between physics and maths departments for example. It’s mainly (historically) statistics departments who collaborate with biologists and there is lot’s of work that goes on, but even here mathematicians rarely have any ‘hands on’ experience. Hence, a project has been set up where biologist will be spending time in lectures rooms learning how to write equations and mathematicians will spend time cultivating cells and fiddling with lasers and the like. I have to say, stepping from a maths office where there is so much chalk dust it looks like its been snowing into a biomed lab was stepping onto the starship enterprise. Math’s departments must be the cheapest going.

    Reading the above, there is obviously a PR element involved as well as ‘wide eyed’ amazement on my part. It sounds so nice, mathematicians and biologists living as one happy family. Perhaps, but then perhaps something will come from it. I think in the long term, there may actually be interest in orientating towards ‘theoretical biology’ degrees. Especially now computer software is ‘catching up’ with medical imaging hardware for example.

    Also from a purely selfish point-of-view I’ll be earning a pretty decent tax free salary; twice the income of my parental home which is the only marker I’ve got to go off really. I make no great claims, if there wasn’t any money in it I wouldn’t be doing it. My girlfriend and I want a house, family etc. (eventually). My girlfriend and I have £50,000 of debt between us, although personally I think the deal you get with the student loans company is more than generous so I’m not complaining. Our immediate debt is only £12,000 pounds, but even still we’d go under in about 3 months if we worked for free (but yes I know 12 grand is nothing compared to a mortgage, feeding a family etc.,) Working in a lab is vastly more interesting than 99% of jobs anyway and if I’m being honest, a hell of a lot more satisfying than being pushed around for 2-4 years until I’d a) qualify as a lawyer b) qualify as an accountant – my other career choices. (Oh and infinitely more gratifying than my previous part-time jobs). So from a purely fiscal perspective, I don’t see what I’m doing as a waste of my time. I’m certainly not looking more than 18 months down the line for now anyway. However equally, there is a certain kudos that comes with studying a maths PhD which may potentially lead to greater employability.

    So to address your criticism, yes I am a naive grad student but then how experienced can you expect a graduate to be? I would imagine that if i was to come back and argue with my present self in twenty years time it would not be a level playing field. I just have to compare myself to when I was taking A-levels to see that. I think part of the fun of being human is watching how you evolve as an individual as you age, how much of ‘current me’ will remain in 20 years? On that ‘current me’ point, reading back my above posts I think I must have been drunk writing them. Certainly I let my emotions get the better of me, but then a couple of posts in particular by Gia were designed to spark my emotions. Evidently, not all animal testing is ‘evil’ or ‘wasteful’ but I think you have to compare what I said to Gia’s post on how she would willingly kill 100 dogs etc.; conversely I have to read what Gia said with relation to my own posts. (Yet I still think it was unfair for Gia wrote me off as a PhD ‘candidate’ who hadn’t taken the ‘how to think’ class yet.)

    To Gia and Alex: So yeah reading my posts on here, it is easy to write me off as being all about ‘student’ politics, I can see that. My main defense here would be that it’s all too easy to get ‘carried away’ on an internet forum. Although ‘Eduao’ could see some merit in the exchanges on here. I would say though that my beliefs, as they are, and my understanding of the world, as it is, do not come solely from my age. Comparatively, I could put down much of what is said on here as grumpy and middle aged. You would call me naive and I would say you were bitter and jealous of my youth. I wouldn’t though because, even though most reading my posts would probably consider me a prick, as you have both bothered to reply to my posts I do consider what you have said. Evidently, the view you have of me is one that is likely to be repeated.

    If I acted how I sound on here that is. Please, please don’t imagine me as some triumphant student politician that marches (and/or mopes) down the street with a ‘meat is murder’ stretched across my pounding chest (and/or draped across my starving vegan bones-which ever you prefer). I’m one of the most reserved people you can meet. Not shy, just I dunno, clenched. I know where I stand in relation to people very well, which is that 90% of my acquaintances/humans piss me off; perhaps not surprising given that 75% of the people I regularly talk to are students. I’m convinced that nightclubs are a conspiracy (which everyone always bloody insists on going to), especially on student nights. Conversely, endless endless photographs of people on night outs on Facebook make me give up hope for the human race. Everything is a bloody competition when your my age. My being in 4 year long relationship (although small compare to a twenty year marriage) is met with, ‘I dunno know how you’ve done that. I wanna have fun, y’know what I mean? Before I settle down after uni and that.’ Yeah right, I’ve seen you trying to pull don’t forget. Then my graduate friends aren’t much better, either already gloating about the salaries they’re earning or the car they drive, or endlessly ranting on about how they want to ‘travel’ / females posting pictures of themselves in bikinis at umpteen different beaches-well done you have breasts like every other woman, what an achievement. Then there are my white friends who call each other nigger and my black friends who go to all black parties (especially wannabe black lawyers for some reason).

    Ack, it’s no bloody surprise that student’s have a poor reputation. I for one agree with most of what is said. However, worryingly, as my friends and I get older, I still don’t see maturity kicking in (which I guess some people must think about me). Also, now that I’m beginning to slowly look like a twenty something such that ‘adults’ directly engage me in conversation, I still see that many of the same character floors reappearing amongst the young population. The youth are written off, but I don’t the miracle transformation into ‘thoughtful human’ occurring with 90% of the population.


  26. brian t says:

    Hi! Just found this blog, and if you get a few new subscribers today, you can blame Adam Curry for mentioning it in his podcast and linking here.

    Anyway, this old thread caught my eye, because its basic point is something I’ve long thought and occasionally said: the right to speak does not imply an obligation, on the part of anyone else, to listen. One of the other respondents mentions “the right to vote” as implying an obligation, on the part of the government, to listen to us.

    The answer to this apparent conundrum is in the relationship between people and democratic governments. A government isn’t this “thing” that exists independently of the people of a nation. It’s there because we put it there, and when a person stands for election, he or she does so on the basis that they will (effectively) sign a contract with their electorate, (That’s electorate as in everyone , not just those who voted for that candidate.)

    The elected candidates form a government, which pledges to obey a “social contract” with the country. This is evident in the language used e.g. every politician makes noises about being “a servant of the people” at some point.

    If an elected government or representative breaks their contract, there are consequences, as we have seen and will see again. My point is that the voter-candidate-government relationship doesn’t need to be framed in terms of “rights”: these are real or implied contractual relationships that have clauses. Voting is not the expression of an absolute or inalienable right; rather it’s a contractual right, as laid down in the social contract, which also includes contractual obligations on those we elect to office.

  27. giagia says:

    Hello Brian! Yea, I heard the show last night! I emailed Adam to thank him for the mention of my husband’s talk as well as for saying I was “hot”. He replied, “I should have said ‘smokin’ hot’.”


    Now…What I find interesting is that seemingly a lot of people think that the right to say (think, believe) what you want actually *does* mean that you also have the right to be listened to…

    I wonder why people think that?

    When I’ve said to those people, ‘Does the government have to listen to Neo Nazi groups when working out employment legislation then?’ They say, ‘Well, no, of course not.’ Immediately, they negate their viewpoint, but can’t see it. It’s almost like they think, ‘Everyone has the right to be listened to – except, of course, racists, bigots, dumb people – OK. Just me. *I* have the right to be listened to!!! And you’d better listen to me or else!’

    I don’t get it.

  28. OregonJW says:

    Absolutely brilliant argument! Obvious and understandable as your original expression was, your surgical examination of why that is so was utterly delightful. Love to see, and have the opportunity to hear you and, perhaps, Stephen Fry argue something, somewhere, sometime. ;D Maren