Sunday 31 October 2021

What even is "the culture war" honestly I don't even

[epistemic status: i'm fairly confident i know what i'm talking abt w/r/t anime. prob less w/r/t covid. idefk w/r/t everything else]

[note: contains spoilers for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, specifically Minagoroshi-hen + everything coming before it. discusses mental illness, transphobia, incest, and rape]

I.

In about the middle of the Higurashi arc Minagoroshi-hen, Keiichi Maebara does something interesting. For the medium in general, for the story, and for the general cultural context it was created in. After Satoko is sent to live with that old bastard Teppei again, and Keiichi has a "flashback" to the way Tatarigoroshi-hen ended, with all the blood and horror and confusion that entailed, he doesn't give up in trying to rescue her peaceably. This isn't the interesting thing; this sort of thing happens all the time in visual novels and anime and whatnot. No, it's the method he uses: after a few false starts with small-scale school protests at the CPS office, he basically starts the local branch of ACORN. And tells Rika about how even a miracle needs a hand.

pictured: Keiichi telling Rika why she needs to get her ass in gear

More specifically, he goes to the village council and, with all his friends in tow, tells them off, in this glorious scene where he invokes the village's far-left anti-government history and yells at them for growing complacent and complicit with the oppression of their own. He explicitly links the righteous cause of the Dam War with the smaller-scale abuse of one of his friends, one of their fellow villagers. Mind you, the Dam War is pretty explicitly based on the Sanrizuka Struggle, and when the quoted rhetoric starts talking about popular democracy v. the sham of capitalist electoral democracy, it shows hard. (One could make a case that the insistence shown throughout on staying within relatively legal means is a reflection of a liberal sentiment on the part of Ryukishi07, and I'd be sympathetic, but at the same time, socialism and communism in Japanese society have often been strongly traditionally interlinked with the ideals of pacifism and respect for rule of law, not least because the most reactionary forces in Japan are so vehemently against that.)

Get this: Keiichi Maebara and co. explicitly resurrect the Onigafuchi Guardians, the left-wing struggle group formed to fight against the construction of the dam, with the intention of rescuing Satoko from what is certainly physical and emotional abuse and what is heavily implied to be sexual prostitution. And despite that focus on avoiding murder and other crimes, they don't hesitate to resort to pretty dirty means, including physical intimidation, storming the offices, and bringing in fuckin' mafia lawyers and well-connected politicians to help. The local weird-cop-with-a-heart-of-gold Ooishi even tells Keiichi he ought to grow up to be a union leader with his ability to rouse the passions of people to create a righteous ruckus. Overall, the aim of actually rescuing Satoko is a success. So what does this have to do with the title of the post?

Our main cast pitch their rescue mission successfully by linking it to a huge hot-button issue in the village, a sore spot whose wounds haven't resolved. They point out that in the course of the Dam War, Satoko's family incurred a brutal level of ostracism for supporting selling out and moving away, and her parents' accidental deaths were frequently rationalised and claimed as deserved consequences for their treachery. This curse extended to all the Houjou family, including Satoko herself as well as her uncle and aunt, the latter of whom also died in circumstances viewed by the villagers as karmic retribution. To Keiichi and friends, maintaining this ostracism is totally contrary to the spirit of social (and to an extent class) solidarity among the people of Hinamizawa that was forged in the Dam War—to them, it's no more than a now-useless relic of the bloodiest period of the fighting. To the contrary, the real principles of the Onigafuchi Guardians would be upheld by changing the analysis: forgiving Satoko of what she had no say in in the first place, understanding her as one of their own, and fighting ruthlessly as one people against anyone who dare harm her or leave her to die.

This is beautiful to me—I'm not ashamed to admit I cry sometimes thinking about it—and it's become sort of an ideal model in my head of what political action could be. There's some embellishment, of course, and it's definitely more relevant to places where a preëxisting solidarity still unites, and especially to smaller-scale communities. And there's the thing about having connexions in the right places, and all of the major characters in the story being written with some degree of Asperger syndrome. But overall, being based on actual struggles, unsuccessful as the big one was, it's a pretty decent way of fitting labour history in an otaku context, and given how many fucking nerds inhabit the left right now (hi), it's kinda important reading in my opinion.

Recapping the sell again: Keiichi, a relative newcomer, busts into the leadership with his more long-rooted friends saying "fuck you, one of our own is hurting, you're wrong about what your own damn struggles mean." He dissects the history and says "you've been going about this all wrong, your fight was actually fantastic, but there's some super fucked-up parts of its legacy." He goes further and says "I know you've all been wanting to reckon with this shit and here I am to give you that chance. Stick to your own damn principles, this is what they actually mean." And he proves it.

In other words, Hinamizawa is reckoning with its own cultural history through a reëxamination and reaffirmation of its own guiding principles. And this reckoning is bound up with examination and action on a pressing concrete concern: a child of the village is being abused and the established authorities are doing nothing. This should be at least somewhat familiar.


II.

A few months ago a prominent or notorious Internet personality was arrested for alleged incest. I trust about 90% of the readers of this blog know exactly who I'm talking about; if by some strange chance you are reading this and you are not aware of whom I am speaking, please, please don't try to find out. This isn't a "tee hee reverse psychology" thing, I'm genuinely asking you to stop and do something else. Skip to another part of this post maybe, or do something else. Don't fuck this up for yourself worse than it already must've been for you to have found this post.

Anyway, the person in question has been known to online audiences for I want to say about 15 years or so. They have had almost every part of their life documented since that time. The circumstances are strange and sordid, but it's fair to say that they're mentally incompetent, have done some awful shit here and there, and have in return basically had almost their entire life defined by this bizarre sadistic interactive reality TV show. Part of the story is that they ended up coming out as transgender several years ago. I don't really know if they're "real" or "faking" or whatever, but the thing is, I do not care, and neither should you, and neither did the millions of people watching Fox News when they appeared on there.

Yeah, the story made it to Fox News. As part of a thing about like, what prisons should trans people go to. As an extension of the whole "what bathrooms should trans people use" debate, of course. But it's incredible to me because I have been online long enough that compressing all that down to "this is a story about what gendered things should trans people use" is utterly bizarre to me. It's genuinely surreal. And I imagine that when something terrible happens involving any other trans person or person read as trans, it's similarly surreal for everyone around them to turn on the television and see their name invoked as a spectre in some cash cow media debate.


III.

I sometimes wonder, when I write, if I am drawing too much inspiration, arguments, observations, etc. from Twitter. If I should look at something else.

And then I read the New York Times and half of it is just arguments about Twitter, and I turn on C-SPAN and all of the senators elected by the states are yelling at each other about something they saw on Twitter, and all of the representatives elected by the people of the US are yelling at each other about something they saw on Facebook.

Two out of three isn't bad, I guess.


IV.

I wrote this post almost a year ago. It comes across as deeply inadequate now, for a few reasons. Mostly because the terrain has shifted in a million weird directions since then, and I did not appreciate the fact that the antimask → antivax shift would also yield a rhetorical shift from proud annoyance to histrionics. The most common antimask argument I hear is no longer that mask mandates are removing a convenient freedom, but that they are a muzzle, a symbol of dehumanisation in an occult ritual, deliberately designed to remove any sensation that we are living, breathing beings with outdoor, intimate lives. "They" hate humanity.

There's something innately compelling about this line of reasoning, in a direction separate to both the previous antimask-er denunciations of "PC-ness" and the promask-er claims of pure scientific rationality. One who subscribes to popular antivax theories lives in an enchanted world, one where an entire pandemic can be spun out of thin air, a spell placed on humanity by the evil sorcerers Fauci and Bill Gates, in order to make people accept a vaccine which is really a gene-altering nanorobotics experiment, one designed to kill off countless millions of people and permanently tag the rest with a cybernetic tracking device, plugging the now-dehumanised slave caste directly into the mind of the AI god that Google and Microsoft have been slowly developing behind the scenes. Nick Land's wet dream and Aleksandr Dugin's worst nightmare; the incarnation of the very Ahriman that so many Anthroposophists have lost astral sleep over for decades.

And the stakes offered aren't nearly as childish as the old 2020-brand stakes. Rather than the untrammelled right to go to stores and blow sputum into employees' and fellow customers' while demanding factory-farmed food and leaded gasoline (and fuck you for having a problem with that, 'cause we got the bomb), what is at risk here is the messy vulnerability of being human itself, the reality that people are imperfect and have emotions and like doing things outside, and sometimes get sick and even die. The technocrats, we are told, wish to arrest the tears flowing from the eyes of a normal, healthy, breathing person upon viewing the dappled but gently fading majesty of a sunset and arrest them in their tracks; such a display of imperfection, of impermanence and softness, with all the implications of a corruptible body with one life to live, is intolerable. And that is why the mouth must be muzzled and the body injected with methanol and formaldehyde masquerading as medicine.

Again, there's something uniquely compelling about this. I had a bad fucking childhood; there is something to be said about the terror of a future of hysterical scolds deciding all of your choices for you and shifting the responsibility to you forever, and the attraction of a free, vulnerable sociality as something which is constantly under threat. The predominant mode of government just being a series of neurotic parents, policing you and shaming you constantly, but never offering any genuine warmth. Only a feigned, cloying echo of care. There is something actually real here—get a job at Amazon or, hell, thousands of workplaces these days and observe how your boss wants you to know you're part of a family, that your soul is to be bared to your coworkers as part of your job. For decades the failure to work properly has been treated as a moral failing; recently it is treated as a psychopathology, one to be alternately therapised and maternally scolded out of the person. And it's no secret, and even a cliché (one I covered in my last piece!), that plenty of "woke" people are just like that for similar reasons that, at some other turn in their lives, they would have become evangelical Christians, scolding others for blasphemy and sexual looseness rather than for perceived infractions in some increasingly-arcane code of gender relations, race relations, and sexualities. The scolding is the point there, not the actual belief system, and it does seem at times that recent American history has been a series of trading one kind of scold for another.

But all of this fantasy and romanticism is merely the dressing over the far more banal evil that is immediate to anyone who leads a life afflicted with even minor discomfort: our bureaucrats are largely simply incompetent and not qualified at pandemic management; the men we are being asked to admire and praise are neither our God-given saviours nor evil geniuses bent on our robotic enslavement, but people responding to perverse incentives and responsible largely for catastrophic mismanagement of what could and should have been a clearer and better-organised response to a pandemic which many watchdogs have been warning about for years; that Bill Gates' much more immediate crimes are patent trolling and lobbying for more stringent international IP law which prevents rather than forces mass vaccination in the Third World. The pharmaceutical companies themselves? Largely motivated by profits. If that happens to coincide with public health, then great, and if it doesn't, oh well.

Of course there are drawbacks to any and all public health measures. There are good reasons to be critical of certain lockdown policies and their implementations; certain evidence suggests that the initial round of lockdowns were highly effective in preserving lives, but that they have been declining in efficacy ever since. The results overall have been rather varied and inconclusive depending on how you define effectiveness, stringency, etc., with theoretical and philosophical arguments underlying a lot of these arguments (e.g., Agamben's rejection of biopolitical domination). One can also acknowledge the range of negative effects they've had: excuses to kick responsibility from the powerful to the powerless, glorification of declines in quality of life, lots of deaths in nursing homes, enrichment of the rich and impoverishment of the poor, and, whether you like it or not, legitimate threats to civil liberties (although, to be fair, both the Trump and Biden administrations have postponed the mandatory rollout of the egregious Real ID Act). Which is, of course, not to say that no action should have been taken, nor that many of these problems could have been anticipated. Much of the pre-vaccine response failed, but there's plenty of public health measures that I do think worked.

Like masks. I don't really think there's much need for mask mandates in highly-vaccinated provinces of the world right now, but almost everything credible I've read from the earliest days of the pandemic not only suggests that they have historically been unreasonably effective, but bears out this effectiveness over and over. That and social distancing have been probably the most uniformly effective aspects of the response from all I've read. I could be wrong, there could be factors I'm not taking into account, but overall that's the picture I'm getting. Asking people to stand a few feet away from each other and wear a facial garment have also been some of the least obtrusive aspects of the pandemic response, especially when compared with stay-at-home orders and whatnot. East Asian and Asian-American communities have been using them for a century with no problem; one of the clearest signs something's wrong in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is a sick, much less energetic Taniguchi walking to school wearing a mask, which several other students are also wearing, due to an influenza spread at the school. And one of the most striking symbols of the early blunders in the pandemic was, in around January-March, public health officials scolding Asian-Americans for wearing masks. (Forgive me here, I couldn't find an exact headline.)

Which is why it's fucking weird that masks have been, for the last 20 months, the primary culture war symbol of the pandemic, the thing that people latch onto as a signifier rather than as a concrete tool. Granted, vaccines and booster shots and whatnot are slowly filling the role, but "I will not wear a mask" has been the rallying cry for all kinds of discontents ever since the pandemic began, and mask-scolding regardless of situational necessity became the agitated response. If you recall the paragraph about general antimask beliefs earlier, you'll notice the bit about masks as an occult ritual. I'm not throwing that in as a rhetorical flourish; I have heard that exact belief stated seriously in real life, that mask-wearing is an Eyes Wide Shut-type ritual conducted for the benefit of the ruling elite's Satanic territory.

Even the vaccine bio-ID conspiracy theories are more plausible compared to this one, and for good reason: when you get vaccinated, you are being injected with a set of chemicals which many people don't read the full ingredients list of, and of which some assorted lunatics have insisted the full ingredients list is actually secret. Chemophobia is all too common, and since the mRNA technology present in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the US is relatively new, misconceptions easily arise that they're experimental or untested, or that some sort of spooky secret Ultimate Spider-Man-type transformation is occurring in those who've received it. But masks? Masks are nothing more than pieces of cloth which tend to depress the rate of transmission.

Which is probably why they've achieved such popularity as a culture war device. As of a year ago, mask compliance in the US is generally high enough that scolding the few holdouts is effectively useless and possibly counterproductive, and as mentioned, wearing a bit of cloth over the face is generally unobtrusive enough that there's no strong reason not to wear one. In that case, scolding and deliberate noncompliance are both signals one is sending: scolding others, even in a generalised sense, signals that one is making a great sacrifice which others are disrespecting, while deliberate noncompliance signals that one refuses to make that sacrifice. Either of these make sense with regard to things like lockdowns and work restrictions perhaps, but again I have mostly seen them signalled with regards to masks, which I remind you are a bit of cloth over the face.

At this stage it should be clear that, for one, even necessary and good measures can be promoted for ulterior purposes and profited off of by bad actors, and secondly, in the public discourse, masks do not even function as symbols of themselves, but only as symbols of everything else.


V.

Being transgender, and especially a trans woman, in the present is frequently nightmarish. I am not referring to the near-universal sense that one is, to some extent, living at odds with one's own body. Nor am I referring to the varieties of concrete discrimination that trans people face every single day. This is not to downplay them, for reasons that will become clear relatively soon.

When you are a trans person, you wake up and assume that the newspapers will carry an article about you, in a sense. It will not actually be about you, even if, by a rare chance, your name and photo are in the article. Most of the time, it will just be very vaguely about the category of person you are. And even then, it won't be really about the category of person you are, it will be based on an image that many people, most of whom probably don't even know a member of the category of person you are, have of the category of person you are. And the article will usually be something like this: Is this category of person even real? Why are they demanding so many things? Do they understand that we must slit the wrists of our grand old identity for them to suckle even a crumb of the dignity that rightly flows through our blood?

Many of these arguments are very simple, and I've mentioned them before. Do trans women bathroom? Should trans women prison? How trans woman domestic violence shelter? I don't necessarily begrudge any individual for having anxieties here, to be clear, and I will also not suggest that trans women, or trans people generally, are uniformly harmless as a group, because absolutely no one is uniformly harmless as a group. Actually, what I will say is that something has gone wrong as soon as we start making suggestions about which groups are uniformly harmless or harmful, in part because that shows we've stopped talking about people and started talking about vague extrapolated pictures of people, and if you don't believe me, consider why America is largely divided between white evangelical Christians and everyone else. This is why when the discussion becomes about trans women going to prison it's always about what I was talking about in part II of this post and never about CeCe McDonald, and conversely why when the topic of cis women going to prison comes up at all in mainstream discourse it's never about cis female child rapist Monica Young.

The topic of trans women in women's shelters is an especially strange one, because it always fails to touch on a few things, namely why a trans woman might want to go to a shelter in the first place. It's simply unspoken that a trans woman probably has no good reason for wanting to go to a shelter. That trans women face enormous rates of domestic violence is unremarked upon. Trans women, as people who mostly have an XY chromosome, are cursed to only ever have predatory motives for doing anything. (If I, personally, not speaking for other trans people at all, were ever in a situation where I had to go to a violence shelter, and the one that accepts me is a men's shelter rather than a women's shelter, I'd personally be ok with that; shelter is shelter. There's a lot to be said here about the gender dynamics of this, and I would be a bit uncomfortable with being treated as male socially in what would be a very vulnerable moment for me, but one point I'd like to make is: for one, there's not even enough DV shelters for men around where having to choose between a men's shelter and a women's shelter is a likely scenario for anyone. Oops.)

As others have pointed out before, it's not even like these things are new or specific to trans people. Accusations of sexually predatory nature have been used to horrific effect for centuries on all kinds of enemies; think of the "love jihad" accusations against Muslims in India justifying pogroms under the Hindutva fascist movement, or even more pertinently to this discussion the continuing stereotype of lesbians (and gays!) as being lustful, pedophilic, and prone to sexual harassment. This last point reinforces the unreality of the situation, because in just 10 years the same media institutions that once uniformly portrayed cis lesbian women as predatory gropers have shifted to portraying them as victims of trans women, who are the real predatory gropers here. (And to be clear: it's not like they've even totally stopped portraying cis lesbians as predatory gropers!)

Sympathetic stories are not unheard of, of course. Liberal newspapers and magazines in the US especially have, over the past six or so years, been pretty fond of including positive stories about trans people in their pages. It's not uncommon to see op-eds promoting aspects of trans experience and trans life; even some news articles, like this from the L. A. Times, are written with a pro-trans angle. But many of them are kind of counterproductive; that linked article failed to mention that the fundamental nature of this walkout is a labour dispute, connected with broader struggles over safe workplace environments in the entertainment industry. Most articles I've seen up until a couple days ago, when the trans worker organisers filed labour charges, followed suit, branding them mere self-sacrificial protests against a guy saying some stuff they didn't like. Which, no matter how positively that action is discussed, still feeds into the idea of trans people as being thin-skinned, manipulative, and privileged.

This, then, is the nightmare. Your life is not really lived; the core of your being is a signal, a walking, breathing signal. Seemingly everyone else is constantly having discussions about what kind of person you really are based on a picture that vaguely resembles you in some respects but resembles totally different people in other respects, and they fully intend to act on the results of those discussions. Toward you. Because they—sometimes, often, including your own friends, your own family, the people at whatever clubs or synagogues or churches or mosques you're a part of—are convinced that that picture is what you're like. Or what your trans friends are like. And even a decent number of the people defending you, boosting you, cheering you on in some way are doing so not because they want to support trans people, not even because they want to be the kind of person who supports trans people, but because they want it to be known that they are the kind of person that people know supports trans people. What should be a signal to you that you are safe around someone becomes a signal that that person could turn on you the second they realise you do not live up to their expectations of you. Curiously absent from the ruins made by some of these actions are images, cartoons, preconceptions of what trans people are like. Present in the ruins, and curiously absent from the reasons such ruins have been made, are actual living trans people.

And, to be clear, this is not a judgement of cisgender people. Plenty of cisgender people don't participate in this spectacle, and plenty of them actively resist it and offer support to trans people, and plenty of trans people do participate and become absorbed in the fantastical image of themselves. It's the spectacle itself, and whoever cynically sustains it, that's the problem. (And it's a culture that seeks to locate the blame for rape, no matter what, anywhere other than people, regardless of sexuality or gender or whatever, who commit rape.)

This is not a new story. It is probably a very old one, and you can probably find variants of it over and over since the beginning of class society. Just replace "transgender" and "cisgender" with a new set of actors, and repeat.


VI.

That is to say, the point of all of this is, we are confronted with people who've made it their job to eradicate any traces of humanity from themselves and from the rest of us. That's the point of making all of this into such a huge spectacle, where we argue over symbols and images of people. By arguing in terms of signals and images, we're led into a situation where we think in terms of those, rather than in terms of humanity. Which makes us more pliable, more willing to see our fellow human beings as objects and symbols rather than as living flesh; when we see people that way, it stunts our own capacity for organic resistance.

Furthermore, this view of people as fungible entities is fundamentally more adaptive for AI systems, especially the kinds of AI that surveil us and monitor our every move and track us by superficial traits. What you see as lazy marketing, along the lines of the manufactroversies surrounding Marvel movies and their supposed politics of representational diversity, is really about that; you see ads that push your buttons because the ad servers are tracking you, finding out what makes you happy and what makes you angry, and beaming that directly into your skull, whether you want it or not.

It's no secret that tech companies have been doing this, that they are fundamentally datamining and advertising companies before they are providing a service to ordinary consumers. This video from the artist Richard Serra, from 1973, still applies today:

if you're not paying for it, you're the product

Seriously, watch that. I mean it. It's probably still true for television, but if you mentally substitute "Facebook" (or any number of web companies) for "television" you're dealing with something even more meaningful. You are being trained to submit your life to databases, no microchip necessary, and you are being trained to enjoy it, even to view it as the means you use to access the truth about what's going on. You are reading what you believe to be the damning truth about Zuckerberg and his platform on Zuckerberg's platform. You are reading a blog post that you found on a site probably hosted by Bezos that is mining you for data and custom-serving you inflammatory material that you believe is uncovering the lies about such sites and Bezos and their datamining and inflammatory material.

To be clear, in case you really believe that these people don't have it out for you and ordinary people everywhere, you need to know that Facebook in particular is profiting off of genocide in Burma. This is not a one-off thing; it is pretty much still ongoing, and not totally limited to Facebook. Social media companies routinely censor information from Palestinians or pertinent to Palestinian life and rights. There are countless examples of social media companies enabling discrimination, warfare, and violence, and profiting off of it. 

This is the dehumanising reality we are all trapped in. It threatens the very core of who we are. It is erasing the very definition of sociality, the very bonds between humans as individuals and communities. The leeches who profit off of this destruction of our most basic identity, of our ability to relate to each other face-to-face, rather than through walls of advertising, would love to see nothing more than all of us plugged into their AI-powered databases, and fortunately for them, most of us already are.

Even now, no matter their token efforts to clean up their platforms so respectable people aren't afraid of using them, they nonetheless profit off of antivaccination content, content that influences vulnerable people, undesirables, deplorables, to refuse medicine which saves them from getting a disease that has killed millions so far. A disease that was possibly created in labs funded by these same rich assholes as part of a biological weapons development system. They want people who are rightly sceptical of them and their plans to get sick and die; do you think they're focusing their provaccination efforts among already well-educated elites because those are the people they want to die? No, those are the people who have already been totally indoctrinated and who'll do whatever they say.

As an aside, think about this: Jeffrey Epstein, the prolific child sex trafficker, said that he supported Time's Up, the MeToo organisation. Think about how Asia Argento raped Jimmy Bennett when he was 17 and then paid him hush money to prevent him from coming forward, and how MeToo leaders reacted so differently to his allegations than to her allegations against Harvey Weinstein, in no small part because of the genders of the people involved. Think about how so much shit surrounding Epstein and similar cases has been memory-holed and labelled antisemitic due to its superficial resemblance to medieval blood libel and due to the fact that unsavoury conspiracy theorists have picked up on elements of the story, mixed with ludicrous fantasy and insinuation, for their own purposes. Who does all this serve? You?


VII.

As of the sixth, the World Health Organisation has officially recommended the use of the Mosquirix vaccine, a.k.a. RTS,S, against malaria. It has been tested for decades and has already been used in pilot programmes in Ghana, Malawi, and Kenya. This is great news on its own, but it also paves the way for the even more effective R21/Matrix-M vaccine, which, curiously enough, uses the same adjuvant as the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is currently undergoing trials and looking exceptionally promising in terms of effectiveness.

This is very big news, for a lot of reasons. First of all, it's stunning that the rush to create a COVID vaccine has stimulated malaria vaccine development in such a way. This is kind of a big moment in medical science we're having; we're watching history be made. And not just in the exceptional circumstances. Malaria is one of humanity's oldest enemies. Billions of people, likely more than are alive today, have died from it. It depresses economic prosperity, burdens healthcare systems in vulnerable countries, and causes cognitive impairment. It has decided the outcomes of wars and the fates of nations.

But this month we became a little closer to eradicating it. Just like what we did with smallpox 41 years ago following one of the largest vaccination campaigns of its time, we'll do the same with malaria over the next dozen or so years. One day, not long from now, we will survey the world and confidently declare that never again will a human being suffer from the destruction wrought by malaria.

Little by little, we can and will climb out of the mud and get just ever so closer to touching the stars. Whether it's diseases like smallpox and malaria or social systems like feudalism and authoritarianism that hold us back or the looming threat of global warming or, one day, the threat of ageing and decay itself, we can cast aside all the things that limit us, that make us suffer, that enrich only a few at the expense of the rest, or in many cases enrich no one at all.

And one of those steps is getting rid of the plague we've been suffering through for the past two years. There's been a lot of false starts, but I think with vaccine technology getting as amazing as it is, and such an incredible, unprecedented global rollout, we're on the cusp of not only getting back to normal, but possibly even paving the way toward a world better-prepared for these sorts of things. If the Build Back Better Act can pass Congress without being significantly whittled down (save for those bits about IRS account monitoring), I think we can even escape it a little better-off too.

I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in May. The FDA is allowing people to get whatever kind of booster shot they want, and I think I'll pick Moderna, barring further personal research, because that seems like it offers the biggest boost in immunity. I think that if you're not already vaccinated, if you get the chance, you really should too. I mean it. Genuinely.

And if you can't figure out what I was trying to do in part VI, then I'm very, very sorry. But thank you anyway, and I hope your continued stay in Hinamizawa turns out well.

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