Autonomy

Kevin K

In the New York Times this morning, I read an op-ed in which a woman, Wendy Button, who is prone to depression, says, “Please take away my Second Amendment right.” I am very reluctant to speak to this question because of the nature of my personal experience with it, and my small readership is unlikely to make much of a difference pitted against the overwhelming media power of the New York Times. But I feel that a commitment to the common good demands it.

Yesterday, I noticed that an old friend of mine (his name, like mine, is Kevin) hadn’t been posting on Facebook lately. Since I had been playing with my filtering and privacy settings off and on lately, primarily to avoid the incessant links to commentary on Newtown, the Second Amendment and gun control, I thought perhaps I had inadvertently hidden all his posts. So I went to his wall to see if there were posts that didn’t appear on mine, and instead I saw posts from his family that included the rhetorical “why,” descriptions of being sad and the like. It took me about two seconds, like the cliche scene in a movie where the character drives to somewhere only to see police cars already there: instantly you know. Like a punch in the gut I realized two things: my friend of twenty-seven years was dead, and that he had shot himself with his handgun. I honestly hadn’t given a single thought to our “national conversation” since, until I saw Ms. Button’s piece this morning.

The story of our friendship in brief is this. When I graduated from college in 1985, I moved to San Francisco and started working in the title insurance business, initially as a messenger. Eventually I was promoted to a customer service desk, and once I was indoors, I came to Kevin’s attention as someone perhaps too bright to be merely answering the phone; at one point during a lull I was seen at my desk reading Ogden’s Real Property out of sheer boredom. So he took me under his wing and started training me to be a title examiner, which involves searching public records, interpreting legal documents, and drafting title insurance policies. We quickly became friends, and in addition to mentoring me in the business he became one of those people you know who turns you on to obscure music and art. I would say that he was the original hipster except that he was completely unselfconscious and genuinely loved the things that he turned up and shared with me. He was the kind of guy that would save up his money to go on a road trip to hilariously bizarre tourist attractions like the Cabazon Dinosaurs (featured prominently in Pee-Wee Herman’s Big Adventure). He was into the kind of 1960s pop music we now associate with Quentin Tarantino soundtracks. He revered Robyn Hitchcock, J. G. Ballard, early David Cronenberg films, and, unsurprisingly, Hunter S. Thompson. These things gave pleasure to a soul that obviously viewed the world through the lens of great intelligence, but also with a kind of quiet fear, sadness, and, I think, horror. Before we too quickly judge that such people are instances of pathology, we should turn our attention to the world itself and ask whether they are not peculiarly equipped to see aspects of it the rest of us fail to notice or avoid. I think of him as the only person I know who wouldn’t have been surprised by 9/11, because it was the kind of thing you’d expect from a world that increasingly resembled a J. G. Ballard novel.

After a few years I decided to go back to school in the Midwest, and we lost touch with each other for a long time. Our friendship was renewed in 2008 when my sixteen year old son committed suicide by hanging. Like shooting a distress flare into a darkened sky, I sent an email to literally every email address I knew, telling everyone that Tristan was gone. I received many kind responses, but Kevin and his wife were unique (among non-family members) in that they hit the road and drove all the way from Nevada City to Portland to be with us, and this after a long period of being out of touch. For the four years that followed, we were good friends again, and frequently interacted on Facebook.

Kevin owned a handgun. I had known this for awhile. I stupidly imagined that this was just something of a homage to Hunter S. Thompson’s lived, Dionysian madness. We talked about it a bit after Newtown: he was my only progressive friend who also insisted on his right to bear arms, and on the sophistry of many gun control arguments. Back in October, however, he had a close enough brush with nothingness to reach out to me, as if begging me to talk him down from the metaphorical ledge; I did the best I could, building on my own all-too-intimate understanding of the consequences of suicide for survivors that my son gave me. I stupidly forgot then that he owned a gun.

When my son died, it goes without saying that I made no attempt to ban belts. Nor did I think of his death as an expression of his autonomy; adolescence is the slow, often painful birthing of autonomy; the task of family and community is to guide a child towards it, not instantly to confer it. No part of me “respects” Tristan’s choice, and I tend to think of it as more akin to a terrible accident than anything else (there was no indication of depression, no warning whatsoever, and absolutely nothing that could’ve been done to prevent it). When he died, I faced a few days that were the darkest I have ever faced, and a part of that was asking myself whether I had anything to live for. I have tried many times to explain this to others (the experience subliminally colors almost everything written on this blog) but I will try again: I started to slip into a kind of self-pity long familiar to me, and sensed that it was a road downward, ultimately, to death. But now, instead of whatever fantasies had accompanied thoughts of my own death in the past, I instead had the image of my son’s body as a kind of testimony to the concrete reality of death: the radical destruction of the most precious thing, a living human being. I had an immediate understanding of the seemingly limitless agony suicides create in the survivors who love them. And for the first time, I realized that self-pity is the foreshadowing of that ultimate assault on all that is good, on life and joy. It was a rough epiphany: self-pity is an agent of death, and death is the ultimate enemy. And it is up to us to choose sides in that war: are you on the side of all that is good, or of the nothingness that surrounds, challenges and consumes it? I made my choice. This was in some ways not an easy choice to make, not because of a desire to die, but, ironically, because of a desire to keep Tristan alive in memory. This common human desire is itself ambiguous. If we feel no impulse to remember the dead, if we make no effort to preserve that memory, it shows that we ultimately do not care that they died, that we do not love their aliveness itself to want to perpetuate it in some fashion. But by the same token, if the yearning for the dead blends insensibly into self-pity, we end up turning our backs on the present and future, on the living, and so animate and perpetuate our pain that we become absolutely committed to remembrance of the dead to the exclusion of all else. This is ultimately to prefer a shadow to life, and to be pulled, horribly, to the dark side. In the end, the only consummation possible for that is to join them, and become memory oneself. That is the paradox of grief.

Had I been less prone to depression myself, I might not have seen with such clarity how dangerous all this was. But this is precisely the thing: I know how dangerous depression is. And that is why I choose not to own a gun. I do not ask that someone take away my autonomy; I don’t need to. And thus I protect my life every day, because that is my choice.

In retrospect, I know that Kevin kept a gun by his side for precisely the opposite reason. He wanted to make sure, when the time came, that the means of his awful deliverance would be available to him. That too was a decision he made, day after day, in moments bright and dark. As a society, we might have made it impossible for him to shoot himself, in which case, I imagine he would’ve hung himself as my son had. I have learned from these experiences and others that there is nothing in this world more powerful than a will committed to its course.

Ms. Button wants her rights taken away from her. This is, of course, absurd. No right is ever absolute, as the proverbial cry of fire in a crowded theater illustrates, nor would reflection on that kind of scenario induce a writer to beg that we take her freedom of expression away from her. Rather, we understand that rights involve and are always subject to reasonable regulation. The Supreme Court itself has said as much about the Second Amendment. This involves certain obvious implications: if a convicted murderer on death row attempted to purchase a handgun online for his personal use, we do not tie ourselves in knots wondering if denying them this in some way obliterates the right more generally. But while there are reasonable regulations that all reasonable people can agree on, what is reasonable is often something that reasonable people can differ on. The life of the law is all about what restrictions harmless people should be burdened by in order to protect them from the harmful few.

Was it too easy for Kevin to buy his gun? I don’t know, and neither do you. I have no idea what hurdles he had to jump to satisfy the state of California that it was safe for him to own a gun, and I have no idea whether more burdensome restrictions for everyone could have saved his life. I know that if he had wanted to die he probably would’ve found a way, but perhaps more thorough background checks for mental illness, longer waiting periods, etc. would have slowed him down some. If that had been enough to save his life, it would have been essentially random and meaningless, just as my son’s death without access to a handgun was essentially random and meaningless. But I do know that Kevin’s decision to buy and keep a gun was not an impulsive one, because it was a decision he renewed by inaction every single day, from the day he bought it to the day he used it for the last time. Regard his last moments as the product of “illness” if you like, but to regard his entire life as nothing but an illness is to regard him as less than fully human. That he made a choice, I understand all too well, for I have made, and every goddamn day continue to make, the contrary choice. Words cannot express how deeply, profoundly wrong, evil even, I regard the choice that he made. But, as we used to say, about belief and its expression, I would defend to the death his right to make it.

Zero Dark Thirty: Final Thoughts

I wanted to see it again, for two reasons. First, the first time you see an exceptional film, it’s not so much the element of surprise as it is the onrush of temporal flow that comes from never having confronted this particular sequence of events before, which creates certain impressions, but on a second viewing, you can “spatialize” the temporal parts, classify them, analyze them. Second, I wanted to give the “torture endorsement” interpreters more of a run for their money.

Several things jumped out at me. The impression I had that by the time we reach the mission, torture is long forgotten, is an artifact of the length and a first viewing. Perhaps this is overcorrection, but detention and torture shadow every scene in some fashion, and whether or not it is fair to assert that the film is strongly committed to a specific thesis about the necessity for  torture to obtain the specific information that leads to the successful kill (that strikes me as a prosecutorial approach to the film rather than an art-critical one), it is fair to say that the protagonists seem to regard torture as propelling them forward and attempts to stop it as thwarting them. For me personally, the most painful instance of this was a remark made at one point that it is futile to re-interrogate detainees now (after torture has been restricted) because the detainees have “lawyered up” and their lawyers will presumably use the contents of the questions they will learn from participating in proper interrogations as a means of tipping off Bin Laden. This cynical equation of lawyers and due process with treason, and of course the implication that things were better before, is hard to construe as anything but dismay that torture has been ended. Similarly the comment made by Dan that Maya has to be careful now that the politicians are starting to close in, that she “doesn’t want to be the last one holding a dog collar” clearly pits the CIA’s team against the political order that would hamper, obstruct and penalize them. On a second viewing, I could not agree with, say, Andrew Sullivan’s account, that torture is shown not to work and when it is abandoned the investigation is more successful. Rather, we are shown the teams’ frustration at the loss of availability of torture. To the extent that the audience identifies with Maya, it will be offered an opportunity to view torture similarly.

The second issue is the role that revenge plays. I still think the film serves as a kind of critique of revenge, but in my first viewing, I think my sympathy for Maya made me downplay the extent to which a desire for revenge animates her after Jessica’s death. The only trace of a personal connection Maya is shown to have to anyone is after the death: Jessica’s face (next to Maya’s own) is the desktop wallpaper on Maya’s computer. I had on the first viewing not recognized the face except as a family member, possibly even a child, and had thought that this indicated an object of Maya’s solicitude. Instead, it is an object of Maya’s grief, and taken with the scene in which she announces that she (as if she herself, personally) will kill Bin Laden, well, the revenge motive is hard to discount.

None of that precludes something like the account I gave previously, for revenge itself is a futile attempt to master nothingness, and the note of calm emptiness the film ends on remains haunting even when inflected in this way.

I have resisted addressing the political response to the film, except, like Glenn Kenny or Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, to push against it to make a space for the film as an end in itself, but this response is not going away, and needs to be addressed. First, the irony: the film is unusual in being condemned by so many people before seeing it. First, Republicans wrongly assumed that it would function as a kind of pro-Obama propaganda film and help him win the election. We now know how misguided a reaction that was: the film was never seen before the election, and the shadowy, mostly absent role Obama plays (by implication) is to thwart the team by ending torture, to delay a response once made aware of Bin Laden’s location (all those wonderful shots of Maya writing the number of days no action has been taken, in red magic marker, on her boss’ window, day after day, underscore that and accuse, if anyone, the president and his advisers) and then in the end to be the one who authorizes the killing. In short, he is mostly absent, mostly ambiguous. But when the film appeared, it was Democrats’ turn to be upset, for the film seemed to indicate that Obama’s lauded success was due to Bush’s reviled torture policy (I’m using these proper names to make sure we don’t take the eye off the ball here, which is who shall win elections, control government, and shape the perceptions of posterity). Apparently some Republicans have said as much out loud. This in turn leads Democrats to denounce the film as fascist propaganda. The bill of particulars is: torture is shown to lead to a clue that leads to the killing (I keep calling it a killing for a reason, bear with me), this showing is “patently false” (as one put it), and the overall tone of Bigelow’s aesthetic celebrates efficiency and cruelty (Vishnevetsky is perhaps most valuable about the film’s portrayal of technological optimization).

Now, to be propaganda, a thing has to leave you with some greater propensity to approve of something, yes? But I ask you, who would be encouraged to learn that torture, the infliction of pain, can facilitate killing, the infliction of death? Will the film change the minds of any radical Islamists, dissuading them from their perception of the US as infinitely cruel and unjust? (That’s a joke, albeit an unfunny one.) Will the film change the minds of radical Christian pacifists, dissuading them from their conviction that nothing can justify torturing and killing people? Will the film change the minds of conservatives who had argued in favor of torture as a necessary means to an end? Will the film change the mind of a hypothetical Marxist who sees the US as nothing but the imperialist police state of late capitalism? Who might be led to change their minds about anything here? All these audiences would presumably nod at and appreciate the “truths” the film reveals, the manner in which the film seems to validate the perceptions of (deep breath now) radical Islamists, Christian pacifists, Marxist anti-imperialists and neoconservative Republicans. Only Democrats who were previously admiring their bloody end result while vehemently criticizing the preceding administration’s cruelty and lawlessness could possibly be affected. If the film forges a link between Bush and Obama, between torture and killing, what is at stake? Nothing less than the whole “restoration of human decency” narrative which is one of the central rationales of the Obama administration. So one would hope that the link doesn’t exist, and if the film asserts that it does, one would hope that the film is “patently false.”

But is it?  Consider the following quote from Steve Coll:

The record remains riddled with gaps and unanswered questions. An estimate of how large the chasm is between what the public knows and what still-secret records describe can be drawn from accounts of a recently completed Senate Intelligence Committee staff report about the CIA program. The staff report is said to run to six thousand pages, based upon a review of about six million CIA documents and cables to and from “black sites” where just fewer than one hundred al-Qaeda suspects were held and where at least some of them were interrogated brutally, as depicted in Zero Dark Thirty. The Senate report remains highly classified, however, and is unlikely to be released in full anytime soon. The result of such secrecy is that what is often described as America’s “debate” about the use of torture on al-Qaeda suspects largely consists of assertions, without evidence, by public officials with security clearances who have access to the classified record and who have expressed diametrically opposed opinions about what the record proves.

There have been some remarkably confident assertions that that is the case, based almost entirely on the contents of a Senate investigation report whose contents are largely classified, and in turn based on information furnished by, you guessed it, the CIA itself. A Democratic administration in private dialogue with a Democrat-controlled Senate, in other words. It must be true, because the government tells us so! We have it on good authority that the current administration does not torture because it knows that torture does not work and did not help produce the current administration’s current success. Whose authority? Why, the current administration’s, that’s whose! Accusations of patent falsehood should be made of sterner stuff. One looks forward to progressives falling out of power again, if only so that their hermeneutics of suspicion can overcome its current bout of narcolepsy.

The claim is ridiculous on its face anyway. “Patent falsehood” means here that it is provably false that information from torture interrogations in any way assisted in the finding of Bin Laden. Not only do pundits who lack access to classified information not know that: in all likelihood, the CIA itself doesn’t know that. One has to show that in the possible world in which no torture occurred, Bin Laden is still found and killed. God alone knows that.

Thus I think that Bigelow’s seemingly evasive way of putting things is actually exactly right: torture was “part of the story we couldn’t ignore.” It was indeed, no matter how desperately we might wish that it hadn’t been. Within the confines of the simplifications needed to transform a mass of information (the product of Mark Boal’s own investigative journalist skills) into a coherent story while doing justice to the broad themes of that information, and specifically the story Bigelow chose to tell, that of an individual CIA analyst as the personification of the CIA’s experience in the hunting of Bin Laden, well, I’d be very surprised if the truth wasn’t something along these lines. There are other stories that can be told, indefinitely many, but they chose to tell this one.

The pundits’ easy rejection of Bigelow’s assertion that depiction isn’t endorsement founders on one simple fact: showing that torture was believed by the CIA to help get us to Bin Laden and kill him, and that that may very well have been the case, only amounts to endorsement if you take the CIA’s perspective as your own, if you want Bin Laden killed yourself. The pundits may very well think that it is simply inconceivable for any viewer to not take the perspective of the CIA, of US national security, of American passions for revenge, to not regard this killing as a great achievement. I would say, “speak for yourselves,” were it not for the fact that you obviously already have.

A great work of art has held up a mirror to our nation, and to our souls. Like Maya, I weep for what I see. The response of some is the moral equivalent of suing the artist for libel. This is what passes for self-examination among our minders and scolds, in this new empire we have built on the ashes of three thousand dead.

Zero Dark Thirty Review: Exegesis

I stand by my review. But it is rather short, so perhaps it will be helpful to spell out what I was thinking in more detail.

Two things struck me coming out of the film. The first was the Silence of the Lambs parallels, right down to the night vision goggles and the creepy lair, and the way that, for me at least, the presence of those parallels “leveraged” a fuller response, since we’ve had far more time to understand and appreciate Silence. For awhile I thought that because so many reviews opened with this comparison, that the implications of it would start to be explored as well, but I’m not seeing that happen. The second was the emotional tone of my reaction to the ending, which gave me pause. I came out with an almost sublime sense of calm, space, silence. Naturally the first thought in reflection on that was: is this “catharsis” – a prettified revenge? All I can do is ask you take on trust that I am willing to entertain that hypothesis, both about the film and about myself, and yet it felt wrong, an interpretive easy way out. I had not felt avenged on the day that the killing occurred and I did not feel avenged revisiting that day in a darkened theater. That impression has persisted. The film is about revenge, but not in the way that one might think. Putting these preliminary thoughts together, I identified this sense of silence, calm and space that the ending induced with the silence of Silence. Maya wants to put an end to the screaming of the lambs, every bit as much as Clarice does, and Clarice’s desire is not about revenge. It is about protection, and something beyond protection.

People are troubled by the torture scenes, but the film is not engaging with the critics’ moral passions on this level at all. The notable fact about the torture scenes is not that they precede and suggest a causal connection to the ultimate success, as if the film was undoubtedly endorsing that success (is that assumption so very difficult for us to question?) because, honestly, on a first viewing, you forget about the torture scenes by the end (well, I did – make the most of it). Rather it is that they come immediately after the devastating opening of the audiotapes of the 9/11 victims, suggesting the other causal connection: these interrogations are the revenge. “Without skipping a beat” the cries of the dying turn into the cruelty of the interrogator. The question is not whether this cruelty “works” or not, since that would be to suppose it is motivated by a desire for what works. It isn’t. It is motivated by resentment over the insecurity created by what has gone before. And this kind of retail revenge goes nowhere. It is, if anything, a kind of ironic coincidence if anything useful comes of it later, the film seems to say.

So inflicting pain on people thought to be responsible for your insecurity goes nowhere. We must move on. The middle of the film, then, is dominated by detective work, cognition, the attempt to know something: an attempt to bring what is cloaked in darkness into the light of disclosure. As a means to an end, disclosure for closure? Well, in a sense, obviously, but knowledge has benefits of its own. For what is it we are observing? Detection, investigation, the pursuit of knowledge as a part of a “war on terror.” Many have commented on the oddity of that phrase, since typically one wages wars against nations and not techniques. But of course terror itself is only indirectly a technique. It is first and foremost a condition one can find oneself in. And now the phrase becomes unnervingly apt: we spent a decade in war with our own terror. Terror in the face of the destruction of “world,” terror in the face of non-existence. Maya (illusion) is our proxy in an inquiry into nothingness, in the hopes that through understanding it, we might master and perhaps even abolish it. Whether Maya wants to protect human beings in some non-specific sense, or her nation, or just herself, is immaterial. All of that, presumably. She wants to protect them from nothingness, the shock of the onset of nothingness, from knowledge of the abyss, from terror. That makes sense.

“You will never find him. He is one of the disappeared ones.” This caution from a detainee, offered wisely and genially, applies to her lead, Bin Laden’s courier, but the film trailers insinuate that it is about Bin Laden himself which, in a sense it is and isn’t. Some are troubled by the fact that the enemy is never given a point of view in this film, but this is not a moral choice so much as a logistical one. The enemy is death itself, and when Maya comes to identify Bin Laden’s body, and shortly thereafter is unable to respond to the question “where do you want to go?” with anything but tears, this is not about the hollowness of revenge judged from a moral perspective. Revenge is two hours behind us, abandoned. This is about the hollowness of taking safety for the absence of death, and taking a man who causes death for death itself. She sought to look into the face of death itself, and thereby conquer it, but all she got was another corpse. It should not surprise us that the death Bin Laden incarnates should slip away like a shadow leaving only a meaningless body behind.

We need the illusion, we need Maya. We cannot live in a world rocked by unpredictable explosions and sudden annihilation. We cannot come to terms with the ontological condition we find ourselves in without the luxury of at least some time and peace. And in a smaller sense, the protection is very real (this is another reason why the revenge interpretation is not quite right: the film shows how attacks keep coming and must be disclosed to be prevented, how nothing is entirely behind us, with all action directed merely at the past). In a larger sense, though, all that conquering the shadow’s current incarnation does is make us aware of the fact that one does not defeat the shadow by killing a man. Even if you come to know, locate and annihilate the man, you cannot know, locate or annihilate the shadow. It is disappearance itself; you will never find him.

An Ugly Hypothesis

Tolstoy said that art is to be evaluated by the moral position it takes. This is wrong, and the sort of thing that makes otherwise decent people suspicious of morality. Or is it that we suspect that the moral hysteric isn’t really moral after all? These are not mutually exclusive hypotheses. In any event, my only purpose today was to promote the following defense of Zero Dark Thirty from Glenn Greenwald’s hamfisted, self-righteous response to it. I may want to add more after I see the film Friday, but I can think of nothing to add to this commentary on the “torture debate” about the film. As for Greenwald himself, and every other hysteric who called the film “propaganda” an ugly hypothesis occurs to me, a very “Nietzschean” hypothesis. Many people who have seen Zero Dark Thirty have said that it very disturbingly portrays torture without moral commentary, which I suspect is accurate, having seen Bigelow’s work before. Greenwald sees the film as celebrating torture, and then morally condemns that. In order to make that mistake, he would have to (1) observe the realist morally-neutral representation, (2) feel pleasure at the infliction of pain on helpless individuals, (3) feel guilty about feeling pleasure, and then (4) project all that outward. Which is puzzling: you wouldn’t think someone on the Left would harbor an unconscious desire for revenge and violence, would you?

The Dogma of Ambiguity

This New Yorker review by Richard Brody of Zero Dark Thirty, a film which, like most people in the real world, I have not yet seen, is fascinating in what it inadvertently reveals. Brody suggests that the film’s realist aesthetic participates in a “dogma” shared by many art films, that artistic success is a function of showing reality as it is without judging, and that such showing will presumably reveal moral ambiguity. It is not quite clear whether Brody wants to challenge this more generally, or simply complain that Bigelow is not doing it right, or well enough. The issue, of course, is that getting Bin Laden is good, torture is bad, torture is a part of getting Bin Laden – I use the hopelessly vague words “is a part of” advisedly – and therefore the entire enterprise is morally ambiguous. If you respond favorably to the film, then you become complicit, and thus receive an education in moral ambiguity. Brody tries valiantly then to show why it is bad when we do this with the war on terror, though good when we do it about countlessly many other things, in other art films.

Now the simpler reaction to have here is the partisan one. How interesting for a community to relentlessly accuse another community of being obtuse, unsophisticated, emotionally shallow, etc. etc. for demanding moral clarity, and then suddenly turn on a dime when an artist presents the war on terror, which for a time was a partisan litmus test, in a morally ambiguous way. No! Now we want moral clarity! Cut President Bush (or was it President Obama? Well, one of those) no slack! Consistency then would seem to require that one of these communities cut back on the whole condescension towards those who engage in simplistic moral judgments. One might even acknowledge that sometimes the problem is not a conflict between the morally sophisticated and the morally simplistic, but just moral disagreement simpliciter.

But something more interesting, I think, is going on in Brody’s review, when he begins to push the view that what Bigelow gives us is fake realism, because we see nothing but professionals doing professional stuff (and at the risk of paining anyone, let me remind: successfully). Where is Maya’s love-life? Her personal weaknesses? Etc. A commenter in the attached thread complains that “by far the most disconcertingly manipulative strand of propaganda for me was the ‘feminist’ aspect.” In other words, Maya is strong, feminism wants women to be empowered, now I’m rooting for the CIA, something has obviously gone terribly terribly wrong.

Now this reminded me of another reviewer, I don’t recall who, who, remarkably, called Bigelow a “sadist” pure and simple, which to my mind outdoes anything I’ve seen from conservatives in the moral hysteria department lately.

So is this the problem? That moral ambiguity doing service for, not to say as a shield for, weakness is desirable, but moral ambiguity in the service of strength is a “dogma”? So much so that even if the strength is female, this renders the feminism fake? How interesting. Perhaps Nietzsche was on to something with that whole “master morality/slave morality” contrast after all; Bigelow and her critics seem to be on opposite sides of it.