The Unheard Voice of the Science Major

I had to live through two strikes while I was taking physics at York University in Toronto. One was a strike of T.A.’s or tutorial assistants at the university and the other was a strike of the TTC or public transit in Toronto.

Realizing the import of the T.A. jobs, I wanted to support the strike

For those continuing to take science into a masters program or a doctorate program, the strike of the T.A.’s was of paramount importance. You see graduate students can make money by being in charge of tutorials or by marking papers. These are the jobs of the T.A. Graduate students can make enough money to pay for their post degree programs. Or they can if the university is willing to pay them enough. School is expensive. Without T.A. jobs, the schooling of a Ph.D. can cost the victim well over $100,000.

Realizing the import of the T.A. jobs, I wanted to support the strike by not going to classes. But I had a sneaking suspicion of my fellow science students. So that first day I investigated all my classes. Everyone was there. My fellow students had a sneaking suspicion of me, too.

Besides, what is a science major to do? Our classes were hard and we kept having to learn math in our physics courses before it is ever brought up in our math classes. This physics hurrying is because the whole undergraduate program is crammed with too much stuff already. We couldn’t slow down for the slower math classes.

There really wasn’t any time to waste while learning stuff and if anything it’s gotten worse. Employer’s expect us to know everything we are required to know. If we miss classes due to strike sympathies the only place to make it up is in the summer holidays. And professors (our teachers), have plans for the summer that does not include teaching us.

In the public transit strike, I was living off campus and I fortunately was given access to a car from nice relatives. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go in to check my classes to find that no one was missing any classes during the strike. Having been in a union at a lumber yard I would have liked to show brotherhood or sisterhood with the striking union and not go into school. But again this is impossible for a science major.

The only time my political opinion counted for something was in my very last year of university. I was given the opportunity to write and draw political cartoons. This slight bit of political power was way in excess of what other science majors had so I was grateful.

I still think that science majors should be given a political voice.

But I still think that science majors should be given a political voice.

Right now, scientists in the US are finding out what it’s like to have no political voice. Unheard of years ago are science marches, sharing results and observations overseas and other acts of disobedience. No longer is it a given that whomever in power will value the contributions of scientists.

Perhaps these professors who are now organizing could one day give some power and clout to their lowly undergraduates. Maybe if they have experience in civil disobedience early, this can all become easier than it is today.

Pragmatism Rarely Fully Works in Science Fiction

There are some critics of science fiction that say that science fiction should keep as close to real science as possible and never stray.

Sure science is powerful in the day. But it only deals with what is, and its attempts to dominate what will be, routinely end up wanting.

science fiction writer from 1900. Let’s say s/he aligns their work very strongly to the mighty theories of gravity and evolution

Let’s first look at a science fiction writer from 1900. Let’s say s/he aligns their work very strongly to the mighty theories of gravity and evolution. S/he agrees with all the ins and outs of both theories and in fact uses them as plot devices. That might be great for 1900 but only a few years later both theories changed drastically.

Einstein’s theory of gravity was found to be more accurate than the older Newtonian theory of gravity. And in evolution things still changed slowly but the “incomplete” fossil record said that there are times when living organisms change rapidly, usually under pressure or in crises. There arose the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution. This allowed species change to be less obvious day to day and allowed all the differences we see in creatures to occur in a smaller amount of time.

That writer from 1900 becomes extremely out of date and fast. ‘If only,’ s/he laments, ‘I stuck to the logical bases that everything on earth falls and that change makes organisms change. These two smaller-than-a-theory observations were logical in 1900 and might stay logical until the end of time.’

Sticking to known theories is also a bit on the conceited side. You are essentially being very stubborn about these theories and saying “We live at the end of science.” This is because science can’t change or your stubbornness is wrong. Science is continuing with both guns blazing right now – there is no evidence that it will end.

Shouldn’t science fiction writers do the same thing and follow their curiosity?

So to you boring science fiction authors who say Einstein’s theories of relativity are paramount and we will never go faster than light – you are guilty of this conceited stubbornness.

One more thing. Science continues its unabated growth due to scientists following their curiosity. Would you have the same thing constricted for science fiction authors? Shouldn’t science fiction writers do the same thing and follow their curiosity? As long as their speculations remain logical, I see no problem in this whatsoever.

Soft Genocide

Much has been said about the genocides of the 20th century. Indeed I had a post up (that wasn’t that funny) on my humour blog, talking about 4 obvious genocides that century. So far the 21st century has been worse. In only 16 years there have been 2 genocides. The one in the Darfur region of the Sudan and the Yazidi genocide. There may be more but most people are hesitant to throw around the word genocide.

most people are hesitant to throw around the word genocide

But there are other genocides and actions that have just as nasty an outcome as genocide. I would like to introduce to you something I call a “soft genocide”. I will show what happened to the Ainu of Russia and Japan. This history takes place not in the developing world but that of fairly well developed Russia and obviously developed Japan. This seems closer than the developing world and I intend to bring the idea of soft genocide even closer at the end of this essay.

I am interested in the Ainu because they are white people. They are not Caucasian but also evolved with white skin. I’m just curious because I have lived around Europeans all my life and can even in some cases guess what country they are from. I would like to stare at a number of Ainu people to get to somehow know different white faces from European whites.

But there are so few pure Ainu left. The Japanese and Russians are both guilty of whittling down the population of Ainu. It was so bad in Japan at one point that many Ainu intermarried with the Japanese to end the persecution. In total the Japanese government says there are 25 000 pure Ainu in Japan.

Russia will not officially recognize the Ainu as an ethnicity. This and other indignities Russia has offered the Ainu. Still it is thought there may be a few hundred pure Ainu in that country.

You might think that they are safe with their 25 000+ people but I am a reader of science fiction. Generation ships are currently popular in that genre because they just seem like a more realistic way to the stars to the present pragmatist writers.

10 000 members of a society are considered to have enough genetic variety to survive and thrive and give birth to viable descendants. But that isn’t the only number presented, according to this Popular Mechanics article. Some think that the number is closer to 40 000. Since we’re talking about a society of pretty closely related people as opposed to a generation ship that looks like a United Nations of people, I’m going to say that 40 000 of that group seems like a more realistic number.

I say that the Russians and Japanese have committed a soft genocide of the Ainu.

The Ainu have only 25 000 people of the same ethnicity. So it is my opinion that the Ainu as an ethnic group are dead. Or are going to be in a distant future if they only breed with pure Ainu. Don’t get me wrong, people will still use the Ainu name. There are about 200 000 mixed Ainu in Japan. But it will be diluted.

Thus I say that the Russians and Japanese have committed a soft genocide of the Ainu.

I don’t think they would have been alone in this. Indeed, I live in a nation that has committed a plain genocide. The island of Newfoundland used to be inhabited by the indigenous Beothuk nation. We wiped them out. There are no reserves upon which can be found one Beothuk person.

More commonly, here in North America, we were playing the same game that the Japanese and Russians were doing. We warred with our indigenous people until they were no longer able to fight us. Then we persecuted them with our diseases (sometimes deliberately spread) and made them live on much smaller reserves. Their culture and their dignity was attempted to be stolen by residential schools which were often violent and for sure were trying to kill their cultures. If the accident of civil rights hadn’t come along, I think the Indigenous North Americans would be much closer to the plight of the Ainu.

We must stand against all genocides

Soft genocide, then, is a simple game. All you have to do is get the minority under 40 000 persons and then a slower, softer genocide has been committed. We must stand against all genocides, no matter how innocuous they might seem.