Quick Review: Open Borders (Bryan Caplan & Zach Weinersmith)

Yes, Open Borders, Please, NOW!

I have been wondering for several weeks whether to buy Open Borders, Bryan Caplan’s essay on favor of open borders, illustrated by Zach Weinersmith. Reason why I didn’t want to buy it earlier, was that I’m already sold on open borders. I don’t need any convincing. But I saw tweets about the book, from people who said it helped with arguments for when other people say stupid crap about immigration. It was enough to convince me to buy it.

And indeed, Bryan Caplan being an economist, he makes really good economic, backed up arguments against restricted immigration, whether it is about taxes, healthcare or cultural impact of immigrants, to name a few. And it’s really of great help when you need to make some semi-xenophobic well-behaved citizen (1) understand how their convictions are flawed or based on nothing practical. I don’t really want to go into specific details of the book; I encourage everyone to get it and read through it all. It’s pretty easy, there are pictures. But I would like to talk for a moment about what I disagreed on (2).

Even though Bryan Caplan is totally in favor of open borders, he accepts to think that his arguments could be wrong (or counter-intuitive at first glance) and offers a few solutions to pave the way for open borders. What he calls “Keyhole Solutions”. Basically, it’s almost the same thing, but with restrictions (so it’s not the same thing). That’s where the book felt foreign, because it talks about changing the status quo, but the status quo Caplan’s talking about is the USAian one. Those “solutions” (3) are actually already in place in several developed country, like Canada or Australia, in the allegedly egalitarian “point system” (4). And this same point system is being considered in some european countries (such as France) to actually restrict immigration. Which means the status quo it would globally tend to, is actually a move away from open borders in many countries. So you might understand why I really don’t see those keyhole solution as an actual global solution. And that it’s viewed as an improvement on the current situation in the USA, is quite worrying about the USA.

Finally, I understand that convincing the world that open borders would be hard and some steps will have to be taken to achieve it. But Bryan Caplan, aided by the wonderful comic strips by Zach “SMBC” Weinersmith, is really a toolbox to give you “yes but” ammunitions when your annoying uncle at the Christmas dinner starts making up made-up facts about immigration.

(1) We can assume that totally xenophobic scumbags are way beyond salvation, but we only need half of the people to understand basic respect for human life. Maybe those SXWBC are all who need convincing.

(2) It’s not about economics, which I lack the knowledge to judge, but about ethics.

(3) For example, setting up an age cap, or selecting countries or languages to preferably accept

(4) To reuse the examples above, it means giving more points to young graduated people, the more points given to 30-35 year old young workers, and decreasing the number of points awarded with age, or giving points if you already know the official language of the country. It’s everything but equal. Because everyone is scored on the same scale doesn’t mean they have the same chances. Equality doesn’t work like that.

Manga review: The Bride Was a Boy

Follow up on my manga review, here I talk about The Bride Was a Boy, by Chii, who tells us how she managed to find a boyfriend and marry him after she was raised as a boy. All the while explaining what a gender transition is.

As mentioned in my previous article, I will be dedicating a full page on The Bride Was a Boy, a Japanese comic book about a transgender woman, Chii (the author) who is finally getting married, despite all the obstacles that she had to overcome to make it possible. Obviously, being a transgender woman, I deeply relate to the author, even though I live in a country where such barriers don’t exist. We’ll get to that in a moment.

15,29,344,374.299194

At first, I was surprised by the title. “The Bride was a Boy” seemed like a weird way to make people understand that transgender women are women and where not actually boys, and I was genuinely scared that it would just make fun of us. But the author clears that up in the very first page: “The Bride was a Boy” is an oversimplification or, as she says “I was a boy, or at least, I looked like one”, and goes on to describe how her life unfolded from growing up as a boy in the eyes of society.

It is a personal account, and like any other personal account (see my review of First Year Out, by Sabrina Symington), the experience differs greatly from person to person. Chii makes a good case of pointing that out. Which is where her manga isn’t just a nice and funny account of a person’s life,

IT IS A PUBLIC SERVICE!

And I don’t mean it lightly. It’s very rare to read an author who wants to be as inclusive and comprehensive as it can, going beyond their own experience. To go into this, we need to look at the structure of the book. The story is divided in 9 chapters, each talking about a significant period in her life. Some overlap (hormone therapy and legal gender change, for example), but overall, it’s mostly chronological. And where this work isn’t just a life story and becomes actually educational, it’s in the fact that between every chapter, Chii explains a transition step or a an issue that can’t put into images because they are quite complex and she wants to make sure it is well understood by anyone who read it.

And it’s very accurate. Where the comic strips tell her life, the educational texts go into a lot of educational details (1), that are still explained in such a simple way anyone will understand, including, and especially, children. She also acknowledge where she lacks the knowledge to explain further, especially when something differs between countries. The most obvious example is the legal name change. She explains how it’s done in Japan, but she can’t possibly tell how other countries deal with it, since there is no two countries that share the same laws and regulations on the matter. But she explains all the important notions necessary to understand the situation for trans people, and she even cites scientific sources at the end of the book.

Finally, I should talk a bit about the art and the tone in itself, because not only it is a great romance in a super cute style,

IT’S ALSO SUPER FUNNY!

_20180829_222344
The back cover cracked me up. That’s totally the kind of cute humour the story is full of.

It’s super refreshing. It is a love story that ends well about a transgender woman who gets married with her quirky and funny boyfriend who never at any point doubted she was a woman. Let me say that again.

IT’S A STORY ABOUT A TRANSGENDER WOMAN WHO LIVES A HAPPY LIFE.

And we need that. We need stories where it’s not just about being harassed, assaulted or killed, but where it is possible to actually be happy when and after transitioning. That we can have the same things than any other people, that it’s normal, and that no one comes to take it from us because they don’t like the idea of us.

So, I think you understand now that I totally recommend this book. Read it, give it to your friends and family, because it’s really a comic book for everyone. No question about it. Why are you even still here?

 

(1) She even go as far as talking about the DSM and the difference between Gender Identity Disorder and Gender Dysphoria, and why now GD is preferred by the scientific society but Japan still uses GID. She also points out that any information regarding medical regulation and laws on gender change are true in 2016 when the book is released but may change later.

High-tech to low-tech: How I changed the way I use technology

It all started with my camera. Or should I say “re-started”. Because in the past few years, I had progressively removed from my life every thing that came in consumables to replace them by de-materialised content. But I realised that by making it more convenient and easy, it caused all these activities to take way too much of my life (some more than others). When I was taking my DSLR around, I was taking so many photos it was cutting the pleasure out of visiting the places I was travelling to.

It all started with my camera. Or should I say “re-started”. Because in the past few years, I had progressively removed from my life every thing that came in consumables to replace them by de-materialised content: digital photography (from compact to DSLR), portable music (MP3 players, then directly on phones), e-readers. But I realised that by making it more convenient and easy, it caused all these activities to take way too much of my life (some more than others). When I was taking my DSLR around, I was taking so many photos it was cutting the pleasure out of visiting the places I was travelling to.

That’s why, in 2013, I decided to go to Korea for a few weeks and not take my camera. And obviously, what should have happened, happened: I was missing taking photos. A friend suggested to buy a disposable camera (I didn’t even know it still existed), and shoot. And although it was an expensive alternative to DSLR, it gave me a sense of challenge, since I had to adapt to the − huge − limitations of the camera. But it didn’t prevent me from taking night time photos:

Concert

And I loved it!

So it didn’t take much for me to switch and buy a used SLR and going chemical. I’m still doing film photography, and not ready to stop.

But it wasn’t the end of it. It recently leaked over other “hobbies”. Despite my e-reader, I always kept a foot in the paperback world, because there is always some time I go to a book store, browse around and decide to take something, although I could just write down the title (in my phone) and buy the e-book online. But I don’t. Because somehow, I still want to be able to just buy a book on a whim, because I liked a cover, and not after I spent an hour browsing the web for reviews, reading the author’s bio on Wikipedia, and doing a pros and cons list that takes another hour. The other day I bought a book just because someone (I didn’t even know) told me it was a good book. And I loved it. I want to be surprised like this. It doesn’t happen online.

And more recently, I started a vinyl disc collection. It’s still small, and since I moved to Montréal, I don’t have a turntable anymore, but I want to have more of these. When I listen to music on my phone, it’s mostly to make the commute less boring; when I listen to music from the computer, it’s while doing something else. But if I need to get up every 18 min to turn a LP around, I better listen and enjoy the music!

ironmaiden.jpg_large

And that’s the whole point: to enjoy.

Whether it’s reading a book, doing photography, or listening to music, even watching a movie, I don’t enjoy it as much as when I have to go out of my ways to do it.

I don’t enjoy the low-tech because it’s more convenient. I enjoy it because it’s not.

And I find it funny that it took a week without my smartphone to realise why I was doing what I was doing.

I am not going to lie. The smartphone is freaking useful. Possibilities are endless. Writing down an appointment (and getting a reminder), having your whole address book handy, even if you change your phone, plus all the small apps dedicated to your town or the services you use, are the many things that make the smartphone a very handy and almost indispensable tool in the pocket. Unless there is an apocalypse, I won’t be getting rid of mine anytime soon. I don’t either want to buy a new one when mine will be really busted, unless there is a really fair and environmentally viable alternative to what is done today

But right now, my choice to go back to low tech isn’t even ecological (it still nice to have ecology on your side though). It’s a behaviour-related choice. It’s about separating what I like the most from the noisy digital world, and doing the effort that will make it worth. My enjoyment is proportional to the effort I take to achieve it.