Monday, 1 November 2021

On being accepted as a person

 Sometimes a new perspective comes from unexpected influences. Suffice it to say that the past years I have spent plenty of time thinking and writing about what I think the relationship between me, society and reality is. Yet it's so hard to see clearly when you have your nose pressed virtually into the tarmac of some aspect of reality. To regain this global perspective, you have to get back up onto your knees, onto your feet, so that you can finally take that look around you. Make sense of what happened.

When I got confronted with Dave Chappelle's newest Netflix special 'The Closer' and decided to give it a whirl to see what the fuss was about, it hit me in a way that I had not seen coming. The comedy show starts off coarse, with very uncouth jokes that are sure to offend anyone with a disposition for easy triggering. Yet when Dave starts digging deeper into his experiences with the LGBT community and especially his friendship with a transgender person: Daphne Dorman and her struggles with making sense of life. [1]

What hit me the most about this story was that Dave Chappelle does not believe that a transgender person who starts off male can become a biological woman. Gender is a fact, in the sense that biological sex (gender) is something that at this point in time cannot be altered. And yet none of this has any bearing on these transgender people. He has his views, others have theirs, and yet he doesn't have a stake in the LGBT community. Instead he is more than happy to respect others for the people they are.

The key point here is that one does not have to agree with the other person's views and opinions in order to treat them as a person.

We cannot expect that everyone around us understands the larger parts of what makes us into the person we are, never mind the infinite number of small details, but the one thing we can expect and ask for is to be respected as a person. Someone living their own life and going through their own human experiences.

The liberating and perhaps cathartic part of listening to this part of Dave's show was in how it made it obvious that I do not care about this LGBT community either, and never have. What was instead happening to me was the very human experience of coming to terms with my intersex body, amidst the strong desire to - just once - feel that I was being accepted as a person. My frustrations and perhaps jealousy when I was spending so many years of my life on getting nowhere with the struggle to get answers about this curious body of mine, even as in my eyes this LGBT community got all the help and attention they could ask for.

When you feel invisible and mostly ignored. Even when appearing on talkshows and in the media it didn't feel in hindsight that I was there as a person, but more as a curiosity. Who truly cared about me as a person?

Certainly not the doctors who dismissed me as being 'transgender', and who tried to push me into that direction. A direction I didn't want to head into, because it didn't feel right and didn't make sense, and yet it appeared that nobody was interested in my opinion. I felt so terribly alone and frightened for all those years.

Now, years later, with a body has well and truly asserted that it was - in fact - always that of a hermaphroditic intersex person, I have been able to at least put a lot of those questions to rest. It's easier for me to look at what remains at this point. As I get back up on my knees, and onto my feet, I can see with clarity now how everything related to gender and biological sex ties together. The main source of confusion for so many years. Now it's clear to me how the brain is just this neutral entity that has no specific preference for a particular arrangement of genitals. Which is a good thing since I was worried for years that I might have to pick a set to have removed.

But above all, that my brain, and the person inside it is just that: a person. Something that transcends basic things like gender and sexual preferences, skin colour and the languages one speaks. In learning to accept myself as a person, I have also learned to accept others as such. EAch of them individuals with their own lives and experiences.

While I may not agree with everyone's views and opinions, and cannot understand everyone's motivations, that shall never take away the basic notion that every person is deserving of sympathy and respect. You owe it to yourself to respect yourself as a person, as much as others deserve it to be respected as such. Respect and sympathy do go both ways, after all.



Monday, 11 October 2021

The Cosmos from the perspective of a biochemical reaction with self-delusions

 In the zoo, a man is standing in front of an enclosure which holds a group of primates. Of the latter, most are doing the things that primates like to do when left to their own devices: eating, sleeping, arguing and so on. Yet one primate in this group is different. From where he is standing in the primate enclosure, he is looking outside, beyond the walls of the enclosure. Beyond the bars. To the skies and the freedom, but also this primate that is standing there. Outside the enclosure, looking at him.

As the gaze of both these primates meet, many thoughts flash through their minds. Who is this other primate? What are they thinking of? What would it be like outside these walls that confine? What would living inside the enclosure be like? Might these other primates at the other side of the confinement also hold similar thoughts?

As night falls and the group of primates is herded back into their night enclosure, this one primate in the group steals one last look behind him. At the night sky with so many points of lights, and the place beyond the enclosure where that odd primate was standing earlier that day. The thoughts they shared with that one gaze. Maybe one day...

If there's one thing which is remarkable beyond description, it truly has to be the ability of the human species to both amaze and disappoint. When on one hand you have thousands of years of science and the most brilliant minds that humanity has produced so far, and on the other the ceaseless attempts by humanity to not only sabotage itself and destroy as much of itself as it humanly can, but also to ruthlessly ignore or even destroy the scientific works produced by others.

After reading Carl Sagan's 'Cosmos', one cannot help but feel a sense of intense loneliness and pointlessness, along with desperate hope and appreciation for the amazing feats that humanity is capable of during its better moments. Even so, humanity as a species has barely registered in a geological sense, never mind on a cosmic scale. Are we alone in the Cosmos? What is the point of all of this?

Unless we are actually just that group of primates in an enclosure called 'Earth', while being observed by other intelligent species, it is highly likely that we are in fact alone. Or at least in this tiny, minuscule, mostly deserted part of the Milky Way, which itself is a rather dull galaxy in a Cosmos that is so vast that the primate inside the enclosure has more of a chance to grasp the vastness of Earth's surface, rather than us human primates of grasping even the vastness of our neighbourhood of the Milky Way, never mind the Cosmos.

Most of the Cosmos we have never even seen or observed in any fashion, as all electromagnetic radiation and other forms of signals that we could observe are still on their way to this part of the Milky Way. Even after billions of years, the speed of light is not fast enough to cross these vast distances. On such vast time scales, it leaves one to wonder whether maybe humanity reached this stage in their evolution too early, or too late compared to any potential other intelligent life.

Perhaps these other civilisations don't live near enough, but a few galaxies over. Perhaps there simply is no way to communicate with another civilisation that far away which doesn't take thousands or millions of years at light speed in each direction. Or perhaps we really are the only form of life that is capable of any level of inter-planetary communication and beyond that happens to be around at this point in time.

Perhaps another civilisation will show up on a world within easy communication and perhaps even travel distance, within a mere few thousand years after humanity has managed to destroy the Earth's biosphere sufficiently that survival is no longer an option for even the most wealthy or influential members of the human species. Perhaps they caught the radio transmissions we sent out many years before that, and decided to pop over in their faster-than-light (FTL) capable spacecraft.

Carl Sagan worried when he wrote 'Cosmos' in the late 1970s that humanity would wipe itself out in a great nuclear weapons fuelled fire amidst the feud between the Empires of the USSR and USA. That fear has fortunately not come to fruition, in no small part due to the strategy of MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction. This had both sides essentially in a stalemate position with each only a hair trigger away from obliterating the other Empire and plunging the Earth's biosphere into a violent and highly uncertain nuclear winter. Since neither side felt like a suicide attack at any point in time, and a few technical glitches fortunately didn't culminate in the accidental launch of nuclear-tipped ICBMs, Sagan was able to write further books well into the 1990s, until his death in December of 1996.

Since that time, humanity has launched the International Space Station (ISS), and robots are scouring the surface of Mars and soon other planetary and other bodies within the solar system. The Voyager space craft, which Sagan was involved with, have made it far out of the solar system and beyond the reach of our Sun. Humanity has never before been this close to making new discoveries and cover ground in new explorations that may - and likely will - change our fundamental understanding of this solar system and everything beyond it forever.

Humans are a primate species which has made it pretty far through a series of lucky coincidences. We are now at a level where we should theoretically be living in peace and safety, as no predators can harm us, and we have the means to not have to fear lacking shelter, food or clean water to drink. And yet here we are.

Maybe it is that humanity is held back by its evolutionary roots. Courtesy of many millions of years of evolution, adding and tweaking, primate brains are built up out of distinct regions, identifiable as belonging to distinct eras in the evolutionary tree. We are after all self-replicating, highly complex biochemical processes that didn't form this way overnight, but had to fight to survive, to replicate and evolve. This may put certain constraints on what the average human being would prioritise and focus on. Because it was the right thing to do for millions of years.

It's depressing to consider how close humanity came well over two-thousand years ago to having a scientific revolution courtesy of the Ionian culture that spawned most of the great thinkers we often refer to as just 'Ancient Greek'. Yet ultimately humanity instead ended up dragging itself through thousands of years of darkness before the Renaissance began to revive those old ideas about science rather than superstition and kin. Tragically even today we can observe today the ongoing destruction and vilification of the scientific method and those who seek to adhere to it. All of this paint humanity as a whole into a rather grim light.

Even without the Sword of Damocles in the form of thermonuclear destruction dangling above our heads every moment, most of humankind is like the rest of the group of primates in their zoo enclosure. Uninterested in learning more about the world and everything else around them, content to live out their brief lives, or too occupied with procuring the means to maintain their existence before it naturally expires to ever really notice that there's a whole world beyond the bounds of Earth.

Those of us who gaze at the stars and wonder what else is out there find ourselves torn between hope as well as the fear both of, and for the human species. The good we can do, and the terrible things that many of us end up choosing. Will we ever make it out there, among the stars? Or will human civilisation flicker and die, leaving barely a scratch on Earth's geological record, left there for perhaps another, an alien civilisation to stumble over and wonder what things must have been like back then?

That history is still left for us and future generations to write.


Tuesday, 21 September 2021

In space nobody can hear your screams

Delete your blog, your social media profiles, burn it all, and pray that whatever it was that was bothering you will go away. Move to an isolated mountain cabin, in the midst of a dense forest located on an island in a remote part of Siberia. The quiet will be nice for a while, I imagine.

That's when it begins to dawn on your that reality doesn't care about anything what you did. Nothing you did or said online will ever go away, along with many other things.

Much like those awkward baby and early school photos which your mom likes to show off sometimes to her friends, especially during family gatherings. Those good old days. Yet nobody said that you have to like everything in your past.

Just roll with it.

Stuff happens, water under the bridge, etc.

Especially when we feel like a ship that's been torn loose from its moorings and is cast adrift into a major storm, all we can do is our best while we hang on for dear life. Until things calm down again and we can take stock of the damage and losses.

You're not a bad person.

Unless you actually are, of course. But very few people willingly seek out to do harm. It's hard at any rate to put the blame squarely at the feet of individuals, when the society they live in judges them mostly by their monthly income and status. Desperate people do desperate things, which can lead them into a downwards spiral of negative consequences.

What is your worth as a person?

To society?

Does society love you?

To yourself?

Do you love yourself?

There are countless things in life we do not understand yet, and there is so little time to make sense of it all before our time as a coherent biochemical process in this Universe expires.

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Go and watch a series like the recently released Squid Game [1] and realise that things could always be so much worse, even as you feel rotten inside for days because its story rubs in so hard why modern day society is so cruel and hostile to individuals. How far would you go to stay afloat in a world that demands constant dedicated and sacrifice from you?

But do you love yourself?

Why silence your own voice, insignificant as it may seem?

You cannot expect kindness from society, but that's no reason not to be kind to yourself.



Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Why I should delete my personal blog

 It's been nearly fourteen years since I began this personal blog. Back then I remember it being mostly an outlet for what I was going through at the time, as a way to let others share in my experiences while I was trying to figure out my body and my place in the world as a then presumed intersex person. Above all it felt like a way to not feel so incredibly alone.

Until earlier that year, I had felt that keeping my struggles with being intersex and such a secret was the right thing to do. I didn't need to share it with anyone, because it simply was something you don't talk about. Of course, when a friend back then not only convinced me that it was nothing to be ashamed of, and proved it by dragging me in front of a (virtual) crowd of people, I found a level of acceptance and understanding that I had never thought possible.

When I look back on the many years of blog posts since that time, however, it's hard to be confronted with the thoughts which I wrote down back then, and the actions taken. With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to see the spiral my life took, down the path of frustration and depression as I got nowhere with getting sensible answers from medical professionals. When I read those old posts, I am reminded of the frustrated attempts at trying to get answers, to get something changed for the better, only to always end up at rock bottom again.

It's not just the medical side either that's hard to read back. Clearly I had no idea or plan how to get out of this cycle, nor did I know what I really needed, or what would have made my life better. While it's easy to argue that I was obsessed with getting answers about my body, or even with getting answers I liked instead of accepting the 'gender dysphoria' and other diagnoses (e.g. autoparagynaecophilia) I did get handed, at the same time one could argue that it was reasonable to expect an honest attempt from medical professionals.

Especially for something as important to a person as the identity of one's body, as it didn't match the descriptions of male or female bodies, and this uncertainty fed back strongly into the uncertainty I felt about my identity and self-image.

The mean part about this psychiatric theory of gender dysphoria is probably how it flips biological reality upside-down. Rather than having the brain as the neutral element and the body as the element that is subject to certain levels of masculinisation, away from the default female phenotype, it assumes that the brain is what defines a person as either 'male' or 'female'. Because of the strongly held beliefs by the gender teams and other experts I consulted that the gender dysphoria and not the biological model was the appropriate one to use with an intersex person, my interest in learning more about my body was dismissed.

Who cares about what your body is like, when all that matters is what you feel it should be like?

Who cares about this 'intersex' thing, tell us whether you want to be male or female.

We can make you into a beautiful woman.

My body is now working its way through what I presume are the final stages of my long-delayed/extended puberty. I'm grappling with the realisation that my body was essentially female all along, and not male as it was assumed even by those specialists. What does this even mean for me? The most interesting realisation here is that I can still be myself, with any expectation of 'feeling' or 'behaving' in a male/female fashion being just ridiculous societal biases. This is a very liberating and empowering feeling.

Clearly, now that my body has gone off on its own like this and wrapped up a female-style puberty, even years after I stopped doing hormone therapy, I think that the question of whether I have an intersex body has been resolved. No thanks to medical healthcare professionals, sadly.

With that one reason for starting this blog has been basically resolved. All I have to do now is finish writing that autobiography and get it published and then I can move on. Easy peasy.

As for the 'not feeling so incredibly alone' part, I'm honestly not sure in how much this blog has contributed to resolving that. Part of me thinks that due to many of the things that I have written over the years, most likely I scared people away, rather than make them feel like I'd be a person they'd want to learn more about. Heck, I don't even like that person I see when I read back those old posts.

That makes me think that perhaps it is for the best if I were to archive this blog. Saving only a copy for my private perusal, to look up details while writing that part of my autobiography. Maybe this blog has served its purpose, if it ever had one.


Sunday, 22 August 2021

On the health benefits of having a penis and the horrors of sexual obsessions

The incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in adult men is approximately 30 times lower than in adult women, mostly due to many natural defences [1]. One of these is a urethra that's on average between 18 - 20 cm long, compared to approximately 4 cm for adult women [2]. As a result, while 50 - 60% of women will experience at least one UTI in their lifetime [3], most men will not experience an UTI, with most UTI cases among men occurring either as a young child or among the elderly.

UTI is an increasing problem that, if left untreated, can lead to renal damage, sepsis and death. [4] While antibiotics can treat most types of UTI, some types are not an effective therapy [5]. It is the most common type of bacterial infection in women [6]. Here the very short length of the female urethra and the proximity of its exit near the vagina and anus highly increase the likelihood of bacteria like E. coli making their way from the GI tract into the bladder.

The obvious conclusion from research like the above is that the female anatomy is somewhat lacking in terms of features. Especially when one considers that the clitoris is literally a vestigial penis, with the developmental pathways that would have led to it fully developing and the urethra extending and merging into the thus formed penis simply not having been triggered. If this pathway would be restored in human females, it could prevent most cases of UTI and save an incredibly amount of suffering as well as medical and other costs.

So why is this not considered a viable research topic?

For me personally the most fascinating aspect about something like this is that because of my chimeric nature - with both male and female stem cell lines making up my body - I get to literally experience such a thought experiment in real life. With the advantage of this long urethra, I essentially do not have to worry about getting a UTI, even though my body is otherwise female. To say that this is a feature that I appreciate would be understating matters.

If I had to name a disadvantage of being essentially a woman with a penis it's the way that society deals with it. Not just those who respond with disgust when they learn of it, but also those who clearly feel that the right way to respond is to fetishise my body for being this way. I can see this being a major reason why most women would not be interested in such a change, even if it meant avoiding medical troubles and possible complications from a UTI.

While to some extent I can understand the curiosity involved, when perfect strangers start gabbing and asking questions about just how my genitals work and what I can or cannot do with it, that's a point where I don't feel like I'm being treated like a human being any more, but rather an attraction at the local freak show. I wish that this didn't happen regularly, but sadly, it does.

So even though through sheer chance I have gained a bodily feature that every woman (potentially) could have, and I have no issues with having been grant a boost in my health and convenience aspects, it has also made me so clearly see the ugliness in humankind, both in its narrow-minded way of thinking about what bodies should look like, and its obsession with sexuality and genitals.

What is one supposed to do with any of this? I'm not sure. For me it is both an interesting factoid and a sad conclusion about the human condition. For others I hope it can serve as a way to learn to think outside the box, and perhaps consider viewing aspects of life from different angles.



Sunday, 15 August 2021

Defining oneself by the things that do not matter

 Assumptions make life easy. If you replace doubt and uncertainty with rock-solid assumptions, suddenly life seems much happier and easier to navigate. Not that it really changes reality, of course. It merely covers what is there with pretence and deception. Who can say what is real, after all?

And yet we have had the facts staring us down like the headlights on the front of a truck as it barrels towards a deer caught in the sudden light. It's just too bad that the deer is blind and isn't even aware of the light. Just like how some of us find ourselves suddenly caught by the fender of the truck as it tosses our limp body to the side of the road where we get to figure out these facts if we wish to survive.

When the violence and pain subsides and you find yourself truly seeing for the first time in your life, it doesn't feel good. More like waking up from a drug-fuelled trip that had one feeling all good and awesome, only for it to end and leave one trembling and shivering to face the grim reality of the run-down existence one is squatting in, while surrounded by others who are still caught in the cruel lie.

Like Neo waking up in his pod in The Matrix, naked and confused, and confronted by reality. Not the cushy, make-believe world that would be so comfortable to slip back into while forgetting about the real world. Choices have to be made and the consequences of one's actions confronted head-on. After all, only one of these worlds can be allowed to exist, Mr Anderson.

The feeling of being jaded, of having seen it all and yet the charade still continues even after you have lost all interest. After the confusion of escaping the make-believe world about gender roles and gender identity, to look back on all those wasted years is enough to fill me with bitterness along with a strong sense of fatigue as it becomes clear to me that many others are still caught in this delusion, this artificial world of fantastical imaginings that have absolutely no bearing on reality.

When the choice between a male or female body was offered to me, I thought that was all there was. Yet I could feel my mind slowly shattering as I tried to grasp my own identity within that context, to redefine myself as existing as merely an amalgamation of only male and female attributes. The reality of that experience was as pleasant as the one captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation went through while imprisoned and asked to perform one simple task. Merely to state that he saw five lights, when above the head of his torturer it was clear that there were only ever four lights present.

Everything starts with a small lie. Just a small white lie to make the annoying thing go away, or perhaps a larger one. Lies grow and develop, they multiply and procreate, until it develops into a society and a way of living. Up till that point, I had not found myself overly concerned with defining matters in terms of male or female, finding myself perfectly happy just seeing everyone as fellow human beings. All of that got destroyed when I found out about being intersex and began to think about my identity.

How do you define yourself in a society, when this society has no concept of a being like you? As jaded as I am today, I find that none of it matters to me. Not any more. Things are pretty simple, after all. Biologically speaking, male genitals make for a man, female genitals make for a woman. Simple. That is before society then comes in like a party crasher who ends up lighting the whole joint on fire by accident, through segregating by genitals and making up rules and limitations that lead people to believe that there's any meaning to one's biological sex beyond intercourse.

The freedom that I found in the end was this realisation and with it the relief that I have no obligation to define myself using an arbitrary and non-deterministic set of qualifiers. It's fine to just be you and not worry about the genitals of people around you and the possible implications that their genitals may have on your life. Unless you are in fact intending to date them, of course.

Along with this sense of freedom came the release from having to 'pass' as anything. I am seen as a regular female by society, even though biologically I'm male and female, yet none of this matters to me. Just use those female pronouns so that we can skip the bit where I can awkwardly explain to very confused people what this 'hermaphrodite' thing is all about. I'm too jaded to care about any of those things that do not matter.

Of all ludicrous notions that societies have come up with, the notion that one's biological sex would somehow intrinsically play a role in and limit one's capabilities is perhaps the most cruel. Slipping insidious poison needles into one's psyche that make one believe that something should be easy, or hard because of one's biological sex, or to feel like a failure because one does not live up to the lofty expectations tied to those stereotypes.

None of that is real. None of that matters. Most of us just assume that it does, because that's part of the make-believe world we live in. Except for those of us who experience that high-velocity kiss with reality and live to tell the tale, and the rare few who manage this process in a less traumatic way. To wake up to the reality that this obsession with genitals is not helping any of us, and psychiatric intervention is more than overdue.


Sunday, 8 August 2021

Thoughts on getting vaccinated and the buffet of ignorance

 Before the recent pandemic, the only major vaccination campaign that I have participated in took place during HS, after a girl in our school had died from encephalitis as a result of some virus that was going around. As a result a mass-vaccination campaign in that region of the Netherlands was set up, which saw me and the rest of my family driving over to a nearby town where a vaccination centre had been set up.

I do not remember hearing of any issues with getting people to show up to be vaccinated, although my younger brother was hesitant on account of the possible side-effects. Once we got at the vaccination centre, however, and he met up with his friends who were also there, they all got vaccinated together. After this vaccination campaign, the viral infection petered out, no doubt helped by a sudden spike in immunity.

For my generation ('Millennials'), being vaccinated never was a topic of debate. As a child you'd of course get vaccinated against measles, mumps, TBC, etc. For our parents the luxury of having effective, safe vaccines against just about any childhood and adult disease was something you'd have to be a fool to pass up. They, after all, had been raised by parents for whom yearly epidemics and outbreaks of everything from polio to smallpox and measles was commonplace. Our parents told us stories of measles-injured children by them at school, who had suffered nerve damage, or of children with permanent injuries from surviving polio.

We're the first generation for whom smallpox is just an entry in the history books, and who were able to grow up unafraid of the spectre of childhood mortality as did previous generations. And yet now this SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has shown us just how fleeting this appreciation is.  While people are quick to point out the fraud committed by Wakefield [1] the fact there remains that his goal wasn't to prove that vaccines were unsafe, but only that the combined MMR vaccine was. His goal was to promote the individual vaccine doses by the manufacturer who had paid him to commit this fraudulent study.

What his article did, however, was fuel pre-existing sentiments, and a general movement of anti-intellectualism. First in the 1970s the notion of 'natural living' became mainstream, with a growing group of individuals subscribing to the notion that the post-war style of living was somehow 'unnatural'. That our food, our houses, our clothes and medical science were all in some way harming us. Whether any of that is true was beside the point, because it sounded and felt right. We had to 'return to nature'.

This is how people today end up rejecting medical science, at the cost of their own life such as with Steve Jobs [2], or spin up conspiracies that common seasoning salts like MSG [3] are somehow harmful despite the absence of any evidence that MSG is more harmful than sodium chloride (table salt, which has a 4 times lower LD50). Along with the pseudo-sciences of homoeopathy, astrology, detoxification and kin, there has rarely been a more diverse smorgasbord of choice when it comes to picking your flavour of ignorance.

The best part of this all is that we can do so in nearly perfect safety, because of the sacrifices of those who came before us. The countless children who didn't live to see their first or second birthday. The women who died in childbirth, and the millions who died from what we now regard as easily preventable and curable diseases. Thanks to antibiotics, vaccines, germ theory and other potent weapons of science, we're better protected against the forces of the natural world than ever before.

Yet, as every single zombie and similar monster film teaches us, what we need to be truly afraid of is not what is out there, but what or rather who is amidst us. All it takes is for one person to open that backdoor, then another and another, to slowly have the zombies creep into the complex and eat everyone's brain. But those people who let the monsters in were so sure that they were doing the right thing, that they were willing to die to prove that they were right. Shame that they were wrong.

I must to my shame also admit to having drunk the Kool-Aid at some point, when I was really into supporting Greenpeace and going along in the whole 'nuclear power is bad' vibe. In hindsight this was me peaking on the Dunning-Kruger [4] graph. But Greenpeace was right about saving whales and put their lives on the line there, so they couldn't be bad, right? These days, however, Greenpeace doesn't care about whales any more and just focuses on shutting down nuclear plants while selling climate change accelerating natural gas [5]. This despite that nuclear power is extremely safe [6] and one of the best low-carbon power sources we have.

In hindsight, I should have never sent my pocket money each month to Greenpeace as donation, and instead sought to inform myself a lot more than I did. What that experience taught me was that idealism may feel good, but the assumptions that come with it make one significantly more likely to be a victim of the Dunning-Kruger effect rather than a participant in some revolutionary vision. Just because you think you're on the right side of history doesn't mean you are.

In that regard, the articles I write for Hackaday such as a recent one on RNA therapeutics [7] feel both like a sort of penance and an opportunity. As the common saying goes: you do not really understand a topic until you can explain it to someone else and have them understand it.

With the massive amount of information available via the internet since the 1990s and the ease of cross-checking one's sources, the only excuse for being a Dunning-Kruger example is sheer intellectual laziness. Although writing the aforementioned article on mRNA vaccines didn't change my mind on whether I would get a SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) vaccine, it did make me appreciate and understand why these mRNA vaccines are so special and likely to herald a new revolution in medical treatments for everything from viral diseases to auto-immune conditions and cancer.

When I got my second BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine shot now nearly two weeks ago, it made me both very aware and appreciative of exactly what this vaccine was doing inside my body. To get a better-than-natural antibody response to a disease that's still foreign to my body's immune system (so far) without putting myself in any appreciable risk is truly what makes this a marvel of medical science.

It is said that the only thing to fear is fear itself, to which I think I'd like to add that fear is bred from ignorance. Ignorance is best cured with evidence and facts, which then resolves the fear and allows the ignorance-afflicted person to live healthier, happier lives. All it takes for this process to take place is to allow for curiosity and a desire to learn to take hold. Who enjoys living in fear, after all?