X-Message-Number: 16635
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001 15:01:20 EDT
Subject: Thanks to Michael Donahue

My thanks to Michael Donahue for his post. While I don't share all his 
opinions I appreciate his deep eloquence and core values. I agree that this 
forum is no place for the discussion of gay rights. However, the fundamental 
issues of freedom and autonomy raised are important. Many, many people are 
afraid of cryonics because they quite rightly feel they will be totally 
helpless, at the mercy of others, and cut off even from the oversight of 
family and friends by their dislocation in time. Their fear is visceral, 
understandable, and completely comprehensible given how often just this kind 
of abuse happens today in governments, religions, hospitals, nursing homes, 
families, the military and virtually every other human institution where 
people have control (of varying degrees) over other peoples' lives.

I feel this fear intensely, and it has nothing to do with worries about how 
my sexuality will be handled. It has everything to do with my knowledge of 
history and human nature; based not only on reading, but extensive travels 
and contacts with many human cultures. 

In his wonderful book about his experiences as a concentration camp inmate 
MAN''S SEARCH FOR MEANING, Victor Frankel observes that "the best of us did 
not survive." He notes that the most decent and caring people were weeded out 
by their own humanity. The private hateful e-mail I have received, and the 
dehumanizing position taken by several of the people who posted here are 
evidence that this fear is justified. 

I think there is also a marketing lesson to be learned about people who get 
involved in cryonics. While I expect this to change, it has been the case 
that cryonics is overwhelmingly populated by single and childless people 
(including married couples) with a disproportionate number being male. I'm 
speaking not just of activists here, but also of members. 

Understanding the reasons for this is important because the dominant group in 
any undertaking de facto establishes a "culture" in what they write, how they 
behave, and the kind of internal institutions they create. There is a very 
different "feel" to social functions hosted by Seventh Day Adventists (which 
I sometimes attend) versus those hosted by critical care medicine physicians. 
People will join a group to a great extent on whether they are comfortable 
with that group -- not just its expressed ideals, but also with the social 

Groups that respect autonomy and which treat people with decency aren't 
always the most successful in the short run. Decency is basic respect for the 
rights of others as defined by allowing them autonomy providing they do not 
use force or fraud on their neighbors, or advocate the same. However, the 
history of groups that don't do this is uniformly not a pretty one. 
Ultimately, hate and fear driven agendas focused on small groups of people 
get broadened as both the early minorities are disposed of (and fresh 
scapegoats are needed) and as growing fear creates dissent among the ranks 
which must be dealt with. I've personally seen this in many different 
societies; until you've witnessed public floggings and a beheading it is hard 
to have a visceral feel for this! Islamic Iran is currently pulling back from 
exactly this kind of vicious spiral. Afghanistan is still heavily in its grip.

In the rigorous scientific sense, I don't know which is the best group 
survival strategy. The US, which is pretty tolerant and inclusive as cultures 
and countries goes has done spectacularly well. 

I do know, however, which kind of world I want to live in. And it is not a 
world where my autonomy is not respected and I am remade or tinkered with on 
the basis of values I don't hold. I think most humans feel this way about 
themselves, even if they aren't willing to extend that to others. The core 
point of this whole thread has been about the importance of that point, not 
about gays or sexuality per se.

That is the lesson that should be learned. Thanks to Mr. Donahue for 
highlighting those issues so well.

Mike Darwin

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