Ethan Hawke: Why ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are fickle concepts in history
When you simplify history, you obliterate the truth, says Ethan Hawke.
ETHAN HAWKE: Why I think Geronimo is such a wonderful figure unlike Pocahontas, unlike Sitting Bull, unlike Red Cloud, unlike some really amazing figures. Geronimo is really complicated. He's a murderer. I mean he like cut off people's eyelids and put ants on there. I mean we're talking about – people often love to tell the story of Native Americans or any first nation peoples as if they're Buddhist monks, you know. As if it's the Dalai Lama himself riding a horse, you know. And it's totally disrespectful to the culture and what it was. Whenever you want to make it simplistic you talk down to people and I have found in my experience from visiting reservations and things like that they're just forced into their own pockets and their own communities. And there isn't a lot of dialogue.
I'm sure that this book will make many first nation people mad at me because that I don't have the right to appropriate this story. And I'm sympathetic and I understand that. I respect it. I don't want to appropriate anybody's story. I try to focus the story on the war and from a historical point of view but try to see it from both sides. And what I love about using Geronimo is that he's a very Shakespearian figure. He's very complex. He's good and he's bad. Cochise is more of a typical hero. He was a great great leader and one of the last people ad that part of the world that could really unite a large group of people. Geronimo never really united. I mean Geronimo was never even chief for crying out loud.
What I love about the book if I'm allowed to say such a thing is we end before Geronimo ever really becomes famous. We end the story. There's a lot of bad behavior from white people and a lot of bad behavior from Mexicans and a lot of bad behavior from the Apache. It aspires to be a human, not some kind of white guilt book but a book about history and what happened. And there's a lot of wonderful white people who did their best. There's this guy General Howard. Maybe some people would question me calling him wonderful. In this context he worked for the service of good. He started Howard University for African Americans. He took the unwavering equality of mankind part of Christianity extremely seriously. And he was a very serious Christian who believed that all men were created equal. And so he strove to create that in his life.
He had one arm. He lost an arm in the Civil War. He's a very interesting character and one of the white characters. There's also some pretty terrible white people obviously. And one of the things that I love about studying history is that you see that it's not like oh, one thing was bad and one thing was good. You know the wrong people won certain battles. The wrong people won certain elections, you know. President Grant really did want to do the right thing by the Native American people but then he lost the next election and you see why treaties are broken, elections are lost, the wrong person gets in power and is not concerned with ethics. I found studying this book really interesting.
- In 2016, Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth published the graphic novel Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars. Who were the good guys and bad guys in that era of history? It's not a straightforward question.
- The novel includes historical characters like Geronimo, Cochise and General O.O. Howard, all of whom were at times arguably heroes and villains.
- "One of the things that I love about studying history," says Hawke, "is that you see that it's not like 'Oh, one thing was bad and one thing was good.' You know, the wrong people won certain battles. The wrong people won certain elections."
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We each have a way of moving to music that is so unique a computer can use it to identify us.
- The way we dance to music is so signature to an individual that a computer can now identify us by our unique dancing "fingerprint" with over 90 percent accuracy.
- The AI had a harder time identifying dancers who were trying to dance to metal and jazz music.
- Researchers say they are interested in what the results of this study reveal about human response to music, rather than potential surveillance uses.
Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love my tsundoku.
- Many readers buy books with every intention of reading them only to let them linger on the shelf.
- Statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb believes surrounding ourselves with unread books enriches our lives as they remind us of all we don't know.
- The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits.
Is it ethical to use a dead man's sperm to become pregnant?
- Many parts of the world are suffering from a shortage of sperm donors due to the high bar for acceptance and varying laws regarding donor anonymity.
- A recent article suggested that, as a solution, we should consider allowing men to opt-in to posthumous sperm donation, much like men and women do for organ donation.
- It's technically feasible, but how would we navigate the complex ethical and legal issues surrounding such a proposal?
Can, and should, dead men procreate? Yes and yes, says a recent article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
The UK is facing a sperm donor crisis. According to the article, UK sperm banks only take on a few hundred new donors per year, forcing them to import thousands of sperm samples from the U.S. and Denmark, which dominate the global market for sperm donations due to their high supply.
These countries have a high supply of sperm primarily because of laws and regulations protecting the donor's anonymity — in the UK, for instance, babies born from sperm donations are permitted to contact their biological father after they turn 18, an emotional confrontation that dissuades many from donating. In fact, in a 2016 study based in the U.S., 29 percent of current donors said they would have refused to donate if they could not be anonymous.
How can we increase the supply of sperm donors while simultaneously shielding donors from a potentially life-upending confrontation and providing children with the right to know their own ancestry? Allow for post-mortem sperm donations. Men could opt-in to become sperm donors after their death, just like they do as organ donors. So long as they were collected no longer than 48 hours after death, sperm could be collected via surgery or electrical stimulation of the prostate and be frozen for later use.
"If it is morally acceptable that individuals can donate their tissues to relieve the suffering of others in 'life-enhancing transplants' for diseases," wrote the article authors, "we see no reason this cannot be extended to other forms of suffering like infertility."
A legal and ethical quandary?
As it turns out, this idea isn't all that new. The first posthumous sperm retrieval occurred in 1980 after a 30-year-old man suffered a fatal brain injury in a car accident. His family requested that his sperm be preserved, which was done through surgery soon after he had been declared dead.
There have been numerous postmortem sperm retrievals since then, but they've always existed in a legal grey area. For instance, in 1997, a UK man named Stephen Blood caught meningitis, collapsed into a coma, and died soon after. His wife, Diane Blood, had requested that doctors extract two samples of semen from Mr. Blood.
However, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority had forbidden Mrs. Blood from using those samples to become pregnant, as Mr. Blood had passed away prior to giving written consent to the procedure. In the UK posthumous sperm donation is illegal without written consent. After an appeal, Mrs. Blood was permitted to seek fertility treatment outside of the UK and later gave birth to a son.
Other countries, such as France, Germany, and Taiwan, have a full ban on posthumous fertilization. At the same time, countries like the U.S. and Belgium have no legislation on the subject whatsoever. Given the complex legal, ethical, and medical nature of posthumous fertilization, this range of legislative response is not unexpected. For example, is it ethical to collect sperm from an individual who never wanted to procreate in a country where the young population is dwindling and sperm donors are in short supply? Such is the case in many parts of the UK Is it reasonable to collect sperm from donors who have died and who are, by extension, more likely to be older and with less healthy sperm? Is the offspring of a deceased sperm donor considered to be the donor's legal heir?
These and other issues muddy the waters for countries when crafting policies around posthumous sperm donation. However, the authors of the recent Journal of Medical Ethics article argue that allowing for this procedure is at the very least ethically permissible and likely beneficial for society at large.
"The ability to reproduce matters to people and donated sperm enables many people to fulfill their reproductive desires," write the authors. "It is both feasible and morally permissible for men to volunteer their sperm to be donated to strangers after death in order to ensure sufficient quantities of sperm with desired qualities."