Tuesday 5 September 2023

On whether intersex is compatible with life

Is being born intersex the worst thing that could happen to you? Misery is a pretty miserable field to compete in, so I will not even attempt this. Yet of all the things which have personally affected me as a human being - living in human society - I would however have to say that being born intersex is the one thing which has made my life quite consistently into a miserable experience. Sure, there's the post-traumatic stress disorder from what would appear to be early childhood trauma, the details of which I can only remember as fragments and vague impressions, but so many people have childhood trauma that it almost feels like something you can comfortably share and relate to. Also, you're an adult now, so we can get you treatment and therapy, to give it a place. It'll be fine.

Finding it hard to make friends and to find a career path because of having been born gifted is also pretty miserable, as is having your parents divorce and you losing touch with the place where you grew up. I would not want anyone to go through those experiences, but so many marriages end in divorce these days, that anyone can relate to it, and even make fun of it. Similarly, being gifted is a hindrance, yet it's one of those things where once you learn how to deal with this handicap, it can become one of your strengths after that moment of self-realisation. It's just a part of who you are, and society has a place for us, even if us nerds get bullied and beaten up at school.

I so strongly wish that I had never been born intersex. Especially with something as pronounced as true hermaphroditism, which is both rare and also the hardest to ignore form of intersex. If you're one of the many XY women with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, it's not a real big deal, unless you really insist on getting pregnant. Similarly with other forms, like XXY where you're still a regular woman, just with a bit more pep in your step because of elevated testosterone levels. That honestly doesn't seem like such a bad deal, even if society gets pretty uppity about it.

However, when your form of intersex is one of those whereby your body is literally neither female nor male, or perhaps both - depending on your perspective - just where do you fit in with society? You don't fit in with the liberal view of a binary body and binary brain gender that can flip between male and female, nor with the conservative view of women having a female brain and men having a male brain. From experience I know that there's no such thing as a 'brain gender', also after more than a decade of being pushed to 'choose' between undergoing surgery to become either male or female. To be purely a man or a woman, basically. This is the curse of hermaphroditism.

A woman with a penis. A futanari, as it's also known among connoisseurs of Japanese hentai. Also a freak of nature, an abomination. A trannie if people get their slurs confused. A pre-op transgender person, according to one highly educated Dutch urologist. Those are just some of the names and responses that get associated with my... condition.

An intersex woman with CAIS or XXY chromosomes can use a public dressing and shower room, or a sauna without any odd glances. That is not me. I have to hide my body and who I am, because of the stares, the shame, the humiliating, ignorant and lewd comments. My body isn't allowed to exist, or only as the subject of other people's obsessions.

When I want to talk about my horrible experiences of being treated as a transgender person by so-called medical professionals, and being forced to accept their ideas of treatment and surgery, I don't even get to finish my sentence. Usually I get called 'transphobic'. Just another slur to add to the list.

When I want to open up and find others who can relate to my experiences, there is nobody. I tried for years, but it's been all futile. Maybe there is nobody. Maybe I'm too numb at this point to even want to talk about it any more. It still hurts so much, even though I'm so numb from all the pain.

Maybe I should have done what so many other intersex people have done, which is to pretend to be transgender. Get that surgery to cut off the bits that do not match your binary phenotype, and be happy. In my case I wouldn't even need to do hormone therapy or such, as my body already does the female hormone thing, including monthly cycles. I just need to get rid of the 'male' appendage. Though they'd most likely want to rip out the vagina too, and make an fake one. It never mattered to the doctors that I have female reproductive organs as well, except to the one who did the exploratory surgery. What use is medical evidence if it is ignored by other doctors? You're just a lowly patient, after all.

Aside from more intimate settings, I can already fake being just another regular woman. It's after all just a small part of my outward appearance that's different. Yet if I deny the rest of myself that is not this outward image, along with the experiences that I have had, and the fact that I'll likely never be able to consult a doctor on medical issues beyond the body's basic functionality, what is there to live for? A life that is basically a charade, where I hide the trauma, the disturbing parts about my body and everything else that might inconvenience others? A life where the thought of finding love is inconceivable because you're first and foremost prime meat in the freak show?

What kind of life is that, and is it a life that I wish to keep living?

Thus it is that having been born intersex is the worst thing that has happened to me. It's miserable and lonely, yet there's no point in crying about it. Either you find a way to live with it, or you do not. At least there are some options, unpleasant as they are.


Sunday 2 July 2023

On gender ideology and why there's just one side

 It's been a while since I last posted on this blog. I have been writing a bit on a new blog that I started on my personal website, as part of my attempt for a year or so now to get away from the whole legacy of both this blog that I began in 2007, and the countless unpleasant memories that I made along the way. Suffice it to say that perhaps as part of writing my autobiography (which should actually be ready this year) I have had an opportunity to reflect on many things, thoughts and events along the way.

Perhaps most interesting about these reflections was being able to finally put the sore finger on why exactly it is that gender ideology and associated groups manage to rile me up so much. After all, aren't intersex people supposed to be on the exact same side as those of various sexual persuasions and those more gender ideologist of all: the transgender folk? This never felt right to me, and the reason for it is actually pretty simple: the binary is a lie.

When I watched Matt Walsh's 'What is a Woman?' [1] a few months ago, I realised just how incredibly cathartic it felt to see Matt tear apart the whole delusion that was constructed around the nonsensical term of 'gender identity', something about which I have ranted previously on this blog. Yet in the intro to this documentary and reading up on Matt's overall views on gender/biological sex, it would also seem quite clear that he's a strong believer in men and women being very different mentally and emotionally, leading to each having distinct roles in society. Naturally, that doesn't quite jive with my own experiences, or my physical reality.

What is however an interesting notion that becomes apparent here is that in order to believe in gender ideology and the notion of 'gender' being somehow distinct from biological sex, you can be either on the conservatory side - like Matt Walsh - or be a fervent proponent of transgenderism. The only significant difference between these two groups is whether or not they believe that this 'gender identity' is intrinsically tied to a specific biological sex or not. In the end the distinction between these two groups is about as clear as between Catholics and Protestants: although they love to lock horns, they're both still part of the same overarching belief system.

Yet much like the Christian dogma, so too is the gender ideology's dogmatic system devoid of scientific evidence. There exists no clear evidence that would support the notion of a 'gender identity' any more than we have been able to identify a 'soul' within the confines of the human brain, and generally speaking, nurture seems to be the deciding factor in gender roles, rather than nature.

For me as an intersex person this feels like something that should have been obvious, yet much like a 'former' Catholic who escaped the Church's clutches, you can run from the dogma, but it's hard to fully shake off its effects after being exposed to it since you were a child. Whenever I see the 'I' of intersex meshed into the alphabet soup of LGBTQI+ and what not, it is mostly as a reminder of how little intersex people like me have to do with any of those groups.

Transgenderism and conservative views on gender both fly in the face of factual reality for intersex individuals, especially those of us who have been forced to navigate all sides of the gender role spectrum, and for those of us who have bodies that are both male and female. After all, how would you even go about defining terms like 'homosexual', 'bisexual', or heavens forbid 'heterosexual' within this context?

In the end those are all just convenience terms that have been assigned to fit within a narrow spectrum of personal interpretations of physical reality, yet this also means that they deny reality the way any dogmatic system does.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What_Is_a_Woman%3F

Tuesday 5 April 2022

The transgender curse

If dreams are indeed a way for our subconsciousness to communicate with our conscious mind, then some dreams are as subtle as taking a brick to the face. Case in point last night's dreams, or perhaps closer to nightmares. In them I found myself in a number of scenarios in which I felt shamed for having (exaggerated) masculine features, such as (excessive) leg hair, or ways that served to remind the me in the dream that I was not a 'real woman'.

Upon groggily awakening from this delightful ordeal it still took me a few hours to really process its message, but in hindsight I don't think that it's that complicated. I think that at its core lies the way that I was made to look at my own body, and the messaging alongside this about 'passing' as a specific gender. A lot of what I went through in my dealings with medical and other specialists was after all about 'proving' that my body isn't that of a male. It would be one heck of a way to hypersensitise me to anything about my body that wasn't in line with this notion.

Compared to yesterday when I went to bed, I can feel the shift that occurred somewhere in my way of thinking, and also in how I perceive myself, both via my senses and when looking at myself in the mirror. It feels as if some level of desynchronisation has been resolved and I'm now (mostly) back in contact with my physical body instead of whatever distortion was in the way before.

The ironic thing is perhaps that I have said so many of these things before, but I just didn't seem to really believe in them, perhaps. Some lingering fear that I might suddenly wake up one day and all of these things would turn out to be just a dream and all clarity is gone again, perhaps?

Since I'm pretty sure that I am in fact awake right now, and nothing will change about factual reality any time soon, I feel confident in reaffirming that my body was always the way it is today. The abnormal situation that was in place for many years was that my body was perceived as that of a male, when the actual, normal situation was in fact that it always was that of a hermaphroditic intersex person, with a clear female phenotype. A hermaphroditic woman, for short.

When I regard my struggles to look at the body I inhabit today as real, I can also see and remember the many specialists who told me that I am male, that I have a male body, but that I 'want to be female'. This whole mess with the transgender protocol and the many years that I spent trapped in its bowels are clearly a type of brainwashing that was inflicted on me when I was in a very fragile state, emotionally. When you seek help and answers, and instead of finding those things, you are absorbed into this abusive, cult-like system which cares nothing about you as a person, instead only injecting its ideologies and lies into your veins like venom.

Looking back, it's hard to deny that things would likely have been a lot easier if I hadn't had this 'transgender curse' put on me. A curse that made me worry about nonsensical things like 'passing' as something which I already am by birth. A curse which took away many years of my life, and denied me medical help and answers because I refused to comply with The Protocol and submit to it.

The abnormal situation in which I started my life was that neither my environment nor myself were aware of my intersex condition, not helped by my body struggling to kickstart the whole 'puberty' thing which massively delayed the development onset of the secondary female characteristics. When this development ultimately did start a few years back, it especially has helped me to establish the normal, healthy situation which I am learning to accept now, and slowly shake off this 'curse' that was put on me.


Thoughts on the NymphCast project before its first release

Now that the first release of NymphCast (version 0.1) [1] is coming up soon, it's interesting to reflect on its development over the years, and what I imagine its future will be like.

Originally NC was intended to be just a simple way to stream local audio to a HiFi system or similar in the same room, as an alternative to proprietary solutions like AirPlay and ChromeCast, as well as Linux-only solutions like PulseAudio. This came largely from personal annoyances with the status-quo a few years back: AirPlay was a very Apple-centric thing, while ChromeCast didn't work reliably with anything, while the remaining solutions like PulseAudio brought little joy as well.

Now, a few years later, I have a couple of NymphCast systems set up. Some are just for playing back audio, while others can also do video. There's also a screensaver mode that shows images from a local folder when no content is being played back. The discovery of not only the NC Servers (connected to the speakers and/or display) as well as NC MediaServers (sharing media content on the LAN) is performed automatically using a custom UDP Broadcast-based protocol called NyanSD (Nyanko Service Discovery) that I feel improves on mDNS and DNS-SD if only on functionality and simplicity.

What I also like about the system in this v0.1 state is that it doesn't complicate matters with transcoding (video) content, instead putting the burden of decoding on the playback device alone. This means better quality, smaller content size (during network transfers) and the ability to stream content from even low-powered devices (cue Raspberry Pi-based NASes).

The drive towards efficiency has been a central focus during development, with a number of optimisations such as a lock-free ring buffer [2] for the local data buffer, and a zero-copy refactoring for the underlying remote procedure call library, NymphRPC [3]. Along the way I have learned many interesting details about hardware & operating system aspects, wrestled my way through sometimes vexing debugging challenges, and teamed up with a number of friends and acquaintances in making NC work.

I think perhaps the most difficult question to answer at this point is what NymphCast means to me. As many are eager to point out, NC is hardly the only (free/open source) project that allows for streaming of media content, and there are large HTPC-oriented projects that do everything plus the kitchen sink. In that sense one could say that I have 'wasted my time', but I feel that's rather unfair.

As mentioned, I have learned many things along the way, things which along with the gained experience have made me a better developer today. There are also many reasons why I prefer NC over any of those other projects for my personal use. Not the least of which is that I know every millimetre of it and have made it to fit my own needs first and foremost.

As a continuing way to challenge myself as a developer, its value is also hard to discard. I think the trick for me is to find more synergies with my other interests, such as embedded development, while ensuring that it all stays enjoyable. After all, it's still just a hobby project.

One thing I think will be fun with NymphCast in the future with v0.2 and beyond is that with the tough foundation work done, it is now relatively easy to add 'cool' features. Things like the AngelScript-based 'apps' that can be used to extend the functionality of a basic NC Server system somewhat like a ChromeCast or Apple TV system, only not necessarily restricted to just consuming commercial (streaming) content.

What exactly will happen with the NC project during the next development cycle for v0.2 is hard to say exactly as nothing is set in stone, but I'd be lying if I said that I'm not looking forward to it. Whether it'll ever become more than just a hobby toy is of no real concern to me. At the same time I have found some of the interactions with others about the project rather interesting and inspiring, and I'm flattered that the FreeBSD and Alpine Linux package repositories have up to date builds of NC.

It's been a long journey, with occasional intense stretches of work on NC. I'd be lying if I said it was always easy, but learning to temper my expectations and accepting it as a fun hobby project rather than as something more has made me feel that it was worth it. Today and hopefully in the future as well.


[1] https://github.com/MayaPosch/NymphCast
[2] https://mayaposch.wordpress.com/2021/11/12/lock-free-ring-buffer-implementation-for-maximum-throughput/
[3] https://mayaposch.wordpress.com/2021/11/11/refactoring-nymphrpc-for-zero-copy-optimisation/

Sunday 27 March 2022

Self-sabotage, terror and the futility of dreaming

 There are times when you have to be brutally honest with yourself. As much as modern day life is about quick solutions, when it concerns something that has deeply sunk its roots into your very being, finding a suitable solution and implementing will take time. Any such solution begins with the recognition, identification and analysis of the actual problem. This is an aspect which is essential with any kind of long-term trauma, such as that experienced with abuse during one's childhood and/or youth, fighting or surviving in a war zone, and so on.

With how one's personality is formed from the amalgamation of successive experiences, each of which are influenced by preceding experiences, the earlier and more severe a traumatic experience was, the more severe its cumulative impact is likely to be if not quickly identified and treated.

When the term 'post-traumatic stress disorder' is mentioned, it sounds relatively cuddly and adorable. Even when for too many it means forever being stuck with this demon inside your head that feasts on any positive emotions. As some have described it, it feels like you're dead inside, aren't living in the same reality as everybody else and have become detached from everything, including yourself. Old hobbies from before the traumatic events don't feel enjoyable, subjects and entertainment you could relate to previously no longer make sense to you. And that's before the triggers and re-traumatising events that feel designed only to torture you.

Reading through the tales by survivors of war, abuse, as well as the stories of war veterans hammers these constant themes home. Simple things like feeling joy, or performing basic tasks in standard, civilian life have gone from straightforward to impossible challenges.

What am I complaining about here?

I don't remember much if anything of what happened to me as a five-year old child that made me reject everyone overnight, including my own mother. What happened that was so severe that I'd reject physical touch and the company of others? All I have to go by are some fragmented, unreliable bits of memory and the memories of others. Yet even so, that is where it appears the fear began. Instead of trusting others and continuing to seek out companionship, I withdrew into distrust and fear.

Should something have been done about that back then? Possibly. My mother, herself sadly personally acquainted with childhood abuse, never felt that a therapist or similar would be beneficial, and I guess my father didn't care enough. Thus I grew up safely on the family farm, even as the spectre of adulthood and its challenges crept closer.

Between my father cheating on my mother, their divorce, the repeated moving from place to place, first with my mother and brother, then by myself, I guess it fed into the whole internal fear and distrust about others. Of being left alone, of being abused by others, of not being able to trust others. Even as people helped me out along the way, I can see how I never managed to engage sufficiently to maintain social bonds.

As the years of trying to get medical answers about my intersex body dragged on and on, it too fed into this early trauma-based narrative. With conflicting conclusions and reports by medical professionals, and extreme, often conflicting views expressed by psychologists and psychiatrists along the way, it led me to a new narrative. That I do not know and therefore cannot trust myself. Not my body, not my own mind. I was wrong before about what it is, what I am, what is going on. Why would I ever put my trust into anything again?

The horrible thing about losing faith in yourself like that is probably that you end up in a situation where you either try to extract promises out of yourself - only to see them being broken - or to force yourself to do things that really need doing, the strain of which neither conducive to your mental health or energy levels. Until at some point you just break down, I guess. Getting out of this feedback loop, even if you're aware of it, is hard as it goes essentially against everything that your own mind is telling you.

There are a lot of things which I know I should do. There are many things which I know I could do. There are the things which I know I'm capable of, and yet between the terror I feel inside and the mental exhaustion it just makes me afraid that any illusions I hold of a better future are just that.

Despite acknowledging the problem I'm struggling with, I can find no clear-cut answer. Over the years I have done the whole thing with psychologists, psychotherapists, SSRI anti-depressants, EMDR therapy and what not, but I think what I'm missing there is that it doesn't really address the root of the problem. This is the problem that apparently began when I was a child, and which has seemingly only been worsened over the decades.

What I reckon would be immensely helpful would be the establishing of stability and safety. In a previous blog post a while back I mentioned that I'm looking for a job. Something that would provide me with more financial stability and certainty than the freelancing gig that I have been attempting the past years can offer. By reducing daily stress levels, it should become easier to address other issues.

Yet what I find causes me problems here is that it costs me an incredible amount of energy to wrestle through one impersonal job interview process after another, especially after going through dozens of them back in 2018/2019. As fun as it was to see more of the world with the on-site interviews, dealing with rejection after rejection did not help matters. Cue this process worsening the problem that I'm trying to address with this solution.

If I'm truly an experienced senior software developer, why am I still struggling? Cue imposter syndrome and the loss of more faith.
And even if I landed a job, would I be able to retain it? Cue more fear and deadly fatalism.

I guess at this point I'm trying to revert the long process of self-sabotage that comes courtesy of the positive feedback loop that is inherent in dealing with the cancerous growth of such doubts and questioning of oneself. Even though I cannot revert my past decisions to waste half my life on finding answers to impenetrable medical questions, or undo what someone apparently did to five-year old me, what I can do is to think of what is best for me, in the present. Even if that includes admitting that I cannot do this by myself, and exposing myself to the risk of trusting others.

Even if that somehow works out, there is still a lot more work to be done about myself and many more layers of old experiences to dig through for analysis. Yet with a bit of progress every day there can be a hope for an actual future. One day I hope to go through life not feeling afraid of everything, but feeling relaxed and safe. To be rid of this near-constant, instinctive fear that seems to fill me practically every waking moment while draining all traces of mental energy to cope with even daily life.

After all, what is there really to be terrified of in life? I'd like to find out.


Tuesday 22 March 2022

Brain, not groin: how the concept of gender destroys individuality

 What is a person? A human being, who is born and grows up learning and discovering along the way. Because no person is born with exactly the same brain structure, and no person goes through the exact same experiences in their lives, each of them is an individual. Each individual has their own wishes and dreams, as well as their likes and dislikes. Each person thus forms a part of the rich tapestry of humankind, of which the most distinguishing feature is that of constant change and the betterment of humanity through the efforts of individuals.

The wish to erase this uniqueness, this sense of individuality, is something that occurs repeatedly throughout human history. Whether it is through tyranny or the social pressures that are exerted within societies upon individuals, the end result is that individual thought and action are suppressed, with a central view instead imposed upon the individual. The class systems that are still prevalent today are one form of this, somehow normalising the thought that some people are in fact better than others. Not due to merit, but by accident of birth - or as is common today - through commercial exploitation as in the case of e.g. idols and commercial sport.

A very specific class system is that involving the biological sex of individuals. This, too, is an accident of birth, with a roughly 50/50 chance of ending up with either set of reproductive organs, or - for a certain percentage of births - a mixture of both. What relevance does the reproductive system have to the individual? Since the reproductive system is not functional until puberty commences, the answer for children is 'very little', with society's discrimination based upon these organs playing the largest role by far.

Before a person is born, much of their life has already been determined by the sheer coincidence of their biological sex. From the colour of the baby room's wallpaper, to the sheer discrimination when it comes to baby and children's toys, clothing and entertainment. Not only are 'boy' and 'girl' individuals thus segregated, but also exposed to social programming that will continuously reinforce certain truisms which are kept in the society's subconsciousness.

One of these recurring truisms is that men and women are inherently different. That not only are their bodies obviously sexually dimorphic, but so too are their brains. That's why in some cultures, men are regarded as violent, impatient and poor at multitasking and finding things around the house, but also good at map reading, spatial awareness and being tough superheroes. It should not take one very long to discover that these are things which are in fact not true, just as is the case for similar platitudes and statements made regarding women.

The simple reason for this is individualism, and a distinct lack of sexual dimorphism in the human brain. Even when regarding the human body by itself, a wide variety can be observed in body types, even as society prefers to present certain body types as 'ideal'. In the past this has led to such atrocities as the 'wasp waist' - which was generally achieved through a very tightly bound corset and occasionally the removal of ribs - as well as bound feet among Chinese women until this practice was forbidden by the Communists. That these fashion styles were not beneficial to the health of the individual should be obvious without saying. Yet even today such practices still exist in some cultures.

In the end, what thus makes one's biological sex more than just a coincidence that affects one's personal development, is mostly society's social programming and indoctrination in the form of social gender roles, and less the influence of our body's endocrine system upon our mood and behaviour. Thus the question of what the effects of such social gender-based discrimination and segregation are on the individual. It should not take a brilliant mind to regard such social roles as essentially a form of society-promoted tyranny.

When scientific studies fail to show evidence for the truisms in society which underlie such gender role-based discrimination, then the reasonable action is to abandon these truisms. In a truly enlightened society, an individual could be themselves, while participating in said society out of their own volition. When an individual is instead coerced into a specific role and way of thinking, then that person has lost aspects of their individuality, having instead become a victim of that system.

Ultimately, the most essential sign of (human) intelligence should be the acknowledgement that what makes a person is what is going on in their mind, rather than their groin.


Saturday 5 February 2022

The end of science, and humanity's fear of being alone

 If there is such a thing as real-life good versus evil, it may be found in humanity's struggle between reason and dogma.

When wandering tribes of hunter-gatherers established the seeds of modern society in places like Sumer and the subsequent Akkadian Empire, it would blossom into (among others) the civilisations of Ancient Egypt and Rome, bringing to people a life where clean water, hygiene with bathing houses and sewer systems, and general prosperity and happiness became attainable. Along with this came the liberty to contemplate the broader sense of life beyond mere survival, which culminated into the great thinkers of the merchant state of Ionia in what is now Greece, and the establishment of the great Library of Alexandria.

That is when the dogmatic rot began to set in. Rather than the violent destruction of the Library of Alexandria and the Roman Empire, their demise was marked with increasing corruption and reduced intellectual freedom. This is perhaps best illustrated by the adoption of one of the then new branches of the Abrahamic religion, which we now know as 'Christianity'. Rather than a pantheon of gods who were a reflection of fallible human beings, instead it was assumed that there was this singular Abrahamic god who was not only omnipotent, but also perfect and infallible.

Rather than gods as a sounding board for the internal struggles of humankind, this transitioned society into one where dogma and absolute obedience are an absolute given, something which probably pleased leaders, but also coincided with a neglected Library of Alexandria and the slow demise of ancient Rome as a beacon of civilisation and engineering prowess. As the bright flame of human civilisation guttered and turned into a sickly yellow pinprick of light, European civilisation descended into its thousand years of medieval regression. At this point it might have seemed that all hope was lost, and humanity was on its final, dystopian course towards its demise.

Yet beneath the suffocating blanket of dogma and Holy Wars, reason and with it science persisted. From monks tinkering with plant biology to the increasing trendiness among the affluent to 'do scientific experiments', science and engineering re-emerged like new growth after a wildfire. Throughout the Renaissance of the 15th century and subsequent Age of Enlightenment which began in the 17th century, the old became new again, and society began to pick up where the ravages of dogma had left it floundering for over a millennium.

In many ways, today's society is still struggling with the same old questions of the Enlightenment, churning over and over through the benefits versus disadvantages of separating church and state, to question freedom of thought. Not only with religious freedom, but also including the freedom to discard dogma altogether. After all, what reasonable argument can be made for the Roman or Greek pantheon of gods being any less real or vice versa than the Abrahamic god or the gods of any of the world's other religions? Aren't they, when reasonably regarded, not merely allegories and reflections of the human mind?

Throughout history, humankind has rejoiced in the opportunity to convince others of them being wrong on some dogmatic topic. Whether it concerned religion, nationalism, or another topic which seemed so incredibly important and just at the time, dogma has caused untold suffering at the hands of those who were convinced of this dogmatic belief. At the same time, dogma also has provided humanity with something it craves so strongly: a sense of belonging and stability. These are things which are now being threatened more than ever.

When we look at science-fiction stories - whether in book, TV or movie format - they all share a common theme: there is other life, other civilisations out there. Surely the Milky Way Galaxy must be teeming with life, after all? Yet it's easy to forget that, although from a recent historical perspective it seemed natural that explorers would find other humans living elsewhere on Earth, those humans too originally came from a central location on this planet. Many thousands of years ago, the first human explorers were the first humans ever to visit parts of this planet. They did not meet existing tribes, just a world devoid of humans.

Based on everything we know today, from Earth-based telescopes and space probes we sent out into Deep Space, there is no sign that there is other life elsewhere in this entire Galaxy. That would mean that as we find our way outside of our solar system, through Deep Space and explore other solar systems and galaxies, we would be the first one there. There would be no cheerful, aggressive, paranoid or idyllic civilisations and worlds waiting for us like Sci-Fi wants us to believe. No Klingons and Romulans, or Vulcan faster-than-light ships zipping by Earth. Just the complete silence of galaxies devoid of humans.

Amidst this silence, we would find our dogmas falter. We'd have no nationalism (or planetism?) to fight over, nothing to prove, argue or defend. Just empty worlds and quiet, sometimes dark worlds amidst the void of Outer Space. Quiet places that will only reflect our own humanity back at us when we look at them. There is nothing to conquer, no enemy to defeat but our own ghosts. All the comforts and certainties we have established on Earth over millennia are meaningless here.

Will new dogmas arise in this environment? Will reason and science win out at long last? Can humankind survive when it is thrust back out into the wilds like this, to face its own solitude? In some science-fiction works, such as the Gundam series, humanity establishes colonies beyond Earth, followed by those worlds eventually turning against Earth, setting the stage for interplanetary conflict. In this scenario humanity would continue what the ancient Sumerians and Akkadians already did: nationalism, conquering and keeping the bright red flame of dogma burning as it is fed with more blood and more suffering.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for humanity is thus not whether it can establish a foothold beyond Earth and travel among the stars, but rather whether it can conquer its own internal needs and fears, to let go of this infantile desire for dogma, and to work up the courage to look up and see things for what they truly are. Even if it means abandoning comfortable self-deception.