Freedom Ship International: a traveling city on the ocean

Earlier today, my partner told me about a project to make a ship that is a city.  Like, an entire city.  I did some googling, and discovered that what she was talking about was the Freedom Ship, which at this stage is just a big plan.


Envision an ideal place to live or run a business, a friendly, safe and secure community with large areas of open space and extensive entertainment and recreational facilities. Finally, picture this community continually moving around the world. You are beginning to understand the Freedom Ship concept of a massive ocean-going vessel.


At first glance, this project sounds really, really cool.  But looking closer at the website, it sounds not so much like a real city -- it sounds sort of aggressively pre-gentrified.

The idea of a city that is a boat, in fact exactly the sort of city they're roughly describing at that website, that sails around the world, stopping in at all the major ports, sustaining a real population of people who actually live there, is really cool.  And, I think, just bordering on possible.  But what they seem to be trying to do with this project isn't to make a city at sea -- they're trying to make a rich neighborhood from a city, at sea.

That, to me, makes it sound like a much more awful place.  And it has all the trappings of that awfulness -- the name, especially, squicks me out.  Neither a ship nor a city are good places to maximize freedom.  They're great for a lot of other things -- adventure, multiculturalism, innovation, etc.  But the principle 'your right to swing your first ends at the tip of my noes' is a lot more restricting when people are packed densely.

But this project does give me hope.  Because if we're getting into the business of building ships like this, then it's only a matter of time before somebody gets it right.  (And with the speed things change in the world now, that might only be a couple of decades.)  I'm not interested in signing up to live on the Freedom Ship, but it would be awesome to live on the next one, the S.S. whatever, something with an organic nature that builds up its own, real infrastructure with a real mix of people from different socio-economic classes all pursuing what better life that ship can offer them.

And if it doesn't happen in real life, it almost certainly will, eventually, in one of my novels.

David Wong on privilege

In the recent Cracked article, 5 ways you're accidentally making everyone hate you, David Wong explores the role of power in a lot of accidental conflicts.  By far my favorite one is the last one, "#1. You Assumed That Because You Were OK With a Situation, Everybody Was."  In it, he does an awesome job of expressing a major theme in privilege:

You will be on one side of a conflict that does not feel like a conflict to you, because that is the conflict. Trust me, there's a great chance you'll be oblivious to it until it's too late. Entire governments have fallen this way.


You didn't perceive yourself as being in a position of power because that is the main advantage of power -- that you don't have to think about it. You don't think about money when you're eating at a restaurant. But you sure as fuck think about it when you're too poor to eat.

John Scalzi and The Real World

(Via Neil Gaiman on Tumblr) John Scalzi has written an awesome article, called Straight White Male:  The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.  In it, he uses an analogy to MMORPGs to explain what privilege means, while trying not to call it privilege.  He does an awesome job.

Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

Neil Gaiman suggests reading the comments, too, which I'm doing (there are a lot of them) and a decent number are affirming and positive.  But some of them are just making me sad.  For instance, Prof.Pedant says:

My problem with the use of the word ‘privilege’ is the reflexive implication that in a perfect society no one would have ‘privilege’ and everyone would be treated like a ‘gay/minority/handicapped/female’ – i.e. badly. I haven’t thought of a good word to use instead, but that word needs to imply that the default we all want is to be treated with a reality-based version of the dignity, respect, and opportunities with which many straight white males are treated. More fairness equals more good.

The word privilege doesn't imply that at all.  What privilege means is that this imbalance exists, and all people with privilege can, and should, do about it is to know they have it, know why they have it, and try not to contribute to the marginalization that makes the fact of our privilege notable.

I might be wrong -- I'm middle-class, white, I present as male -- but my understanding is that in a perfect world, everyone would have privilege.  They would be extended the privilege of the benefit of doubt, of assuming that they're good, honest, hardworking people unless there's a good reason to think otherwise specifically about them.

Here's the link again.  I highly recommend reading Scalzi's whole post.