Frequently(ish?) Asked Questions

Frequently(ish?) Asked Questions

So, I’m posting this in response to something that’s being shared around a little bit on the fediverse: Somebody noticed that I’m a troop in the United States military, and started advocating that people in the fediverse block me.

First and foremost, let me say: ha! You don’t even know me!

Okay, now that that’s out of my system: this is the first time I’ve ever been remotely aware of being passed around in any kind of . In the interest of just putting everything up front, here’s a bunch of stuff I get asked. (I’m sorry, a lot of this is a long rant about a lot of stuff.)

Q: Who are you?

My name is Sean Tilley. As of this writing, I’m 30 years old, going through tech school in the United States Air Force. I used to write for We Distribute, which was dedicated to the development of the fediverse. I also founded VidCommons, which is a PeerTube project for sharing the video commons with the fediverse legally.

me on the right, playing Command and Conquer: Red Alert at age 5, I think?

I’m a huge nerd, and started learning game development when I was a teenager. I’ve been a daily GNU/Linux user since I was 15 years old. I’m obsessed with operating systems and passionate about Computer Science. I have some experience working in the tech industry, most notably working at Diaspora as Community Manager, as well as BackerKit as Guy That Helps Customer Do Things Because The System Can’t (otherwise known as Customer Success).

I’m a chronically unsuccessful visual artist, musician, writer, and game developer. The things I’ve actually published are few and far between. But, I greatly enjoy making things, and everything I produce is released under permissive licenses for the world to use. After a long dry spell, I have returned to my teenage hobby of developing Adventure Games.

Q: What’s with your Pleroma server?

DeadSuperHero Social is my personal instance that I use to communicate with the fediverse. I run it because it’s lightweight, can handle a ton of concurrent connections, and is relatively easy to maintain. It’s not a perfect platform, but I actually think it’s great.

Actually, I self-host a bunch of things:

  • PeerTube
  • Funkwhale
  • NextCloud
  • This WordPress (with an ActivityPlug integration)
  • XMPP
  • I used to also host Hubzilla, but that thing pretty much ate all the free space

Q: Do your social servers have uh…some kind of guidelines or policies?

No. I’m literally the only person using them, and registrations are closed. My personal ethos is not to harass people or be unkind. I block a bunch of servers I don’t like (fuck you, Pieville, and FUCK YOU, Kiwifarms!), but I otherwise have a pretty open attitude in regards to giving people chances.

Q: Why haven’t you done anything for We Distribute or VidCommons in a really long time?

I feel bad about it. Mentally, I’m kind of locked after a long period of burnout, and can only focus on specific things. I’d love to invest myself more in both projects, especially We Distribute, but right now I’m still trying to put myself back together.

Q: Why are you such a shitbag?

I don’t know. Honestly, I’m pretty insecure and have a lot of regrets about the direction my life has taken over the past three decades. I tend to hate myself, and sometimes wonder whether my mother should’ve just aborted me. I don’t think I really bring that much value into the world, and have spent the last 15 years or so bumbling along through vast levels of ineptitude.

I struggle daily with depression and mood swings, and generally think of myself as less than trash. I regularly fantasize about dying and no one missing me. There are periods in my early life that are particularly awful, and sometimes lead me to consider myself as less than human.

Q: Okay, you’re in the US Military. Why?

A: I figured at some point that my association with the Air Force might be contentious for some people on the network. The primary reason that I enlisted was as a vehicle to escape impending homelessness after my entire life crumbled to pieces. I frown at the idea of Nationalism, and view the myriad symbolism of American society as just a series of symbols and rituals with little personal depth to them. The subject of the military-industrial-complex is something I actually do take seriously, and I’d personally like to see less US interventionism, rather than more.

But, the military itself is not a fully-autonomous organization that just up and does whatever it wants. The complex is directed by various segments of the federal and civic government. While the military is there to make tactical decisions on the battlefield, and does indeed deal in the ugly business of killing human beings, it is not the one solely calling the shots. The intersection of government and private industry is just as guilty, and in some cases, more complicit. Similarly, not all troops are working on the same mission: I refuse to believe that the Air Force IT guy is in the same league as some guy with a machine gun shooting villagers.

Q: You…didn’t really answer my question. WHY ARE YOU IN THE MILITARY?!

See, the military offers a bunch of benefits to people who themselves might not have the means to sustain a healthy way
of life. Call this a coercive relationship, if you like. It’s definitely fucked up that the rich make the poor fight their wars.

But, what are the benefits for the average troop? When we dip into a slice of that fat funding source, what does each person get?

  • Free Housing and Food
  • Free Education (both specific to your military job, college, and certifications)
  • Free on-the-job training
  • A pretty okay pension / savings plan
  • A chance to see the world on the government’s dime
  • Because Capitalism makes it ever harder to compete for a job that offers a living wage. and four years
    of military service sets my resume apart.

For me personally, those are all great, but the biggest one is:

THE OPPORTUNITY TO START OVER

I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life. I’m not going to go into detail as to what all the things are specifically, but in a nutshell: I dropped out of school, chased a career in spite of not having and education, and endlessly climbed a ladder trying to get a leg up in the highly caustic tech industry. I suffered for nearly a decade before suffering a burnout so severe that I could barely take care of myself anymore.

Q: What do you do in the military?

Right now, I’m in tech school, which is basically Air Force college. In the near future, though, I’ll be fixing old F-16 fighter jets on a base dedicated to training people on how to fly them. I plan on just working hard and keeping my head down.

Q: What are your political views?

Personally, I identify as left-libertarian, and consider myself to be an anarchist. “Bullshit!” you might say…but no, I’m serious. On the individual level, I do not see a clash between anarchist philosophy and the need to survive in an immutable system designed to destroy consciousness and poison the environment.

I don’t like hierarchy, but at the institutional level, it has to be tolerated to some extent, if you are to live within it. Calling someone a bad person just because they’re a part of an institution is roughly about the same as leveraging that criticism towards someone for having a job and participating in Capitalism. Fuck ideological purity. At some point, we have to make decisions about how the fuck we’re going to survive at the end of the day.

Things I’m Against

I’m disgusted by fascism, white supremacy, right-wing populism, anti-vaxxers, homophobia / queerphobia / transphobia, imperialism, police brutality, government surveillance, corporate greed, gentrification, pedophilia, human trafficking, and the infinite profit motives of Capitalism.

I hate that we live in a world that forces people to do soul-crushing work as cogs in giant useless machines, I hate that we put people in various boxes based on singular properties about them and call that “identity” as a means to turn people against one another, I hate that humanity produces so much useless derivative mediocre crap, and that we use that to distract ourselves and each other from all that oppresses us. It upsets me to no end how organizations will protect their own to conceal their wider crimes. This happens in virtually all kinds of organizations, including military ones.

Things I’m For

I’m pro sex-worker and pro-legalization of all drugs. I think rehabilitation from addiction should be freely available to all people. I think society would be better if the people within it took a more active stance in developing the technological and cultural commons – this is why I strongly associate with Free Software, Creative Commons, and the wider decentralization movement. I consider myself to be pro-kink and pro-queer.

I think knowledge and the means to create something should be available to everyone. I think decentralized structures acting as mutual-aid organizations, along with worker-owned coops, might be a positive way forward for society.

Freedom of Speech

I support Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association. I strongly oppose hate speech and dissent speech, but I think everyone deserves the right to say whatever they want, as long as they are not attempting to harass or incite violence against a person. I unironically believe that, although the First Amendment can in fact empower bad actors to be the worst kinds of people, it also protects many from a truly horrific form of totalitarianism that’s perfectly okay with openly criminalizing entire groups of people for existing. Which, if conditions continue to worsen past a certain point, might happen for everyone.

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”

Frank Zappa

This is, of course, a somewhat privileged position: I’m a white cis male who has only ever gotten a few speeding tickets. The kind of oppression I face is not the same thing BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, or even women face. Nevertheless, though, Neoliberalism is not so picky about who you are when it comes to squeezing every drop of good out of a person when it comes to economic utility. Nevertheless, our right to freely-associate and self-organize is right there in the constitution.

(Just to clarify: I do think private companies have a right to ban people from their service, cancel book deals, and cancel speaking engagements. Constitutionally speaking, Freedom of Speech has always been about the nature of the government trying to silence you or punish you for the company you keep. Getting banned for being an asshat or violating rules or doing something bad for PR is not the same thing. )

People in General

People in general are good, in spite of the daily horrors that we unleash upon ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to try to understand each other, and foster empathy with people who are fundamentally different from us.

I would go as far as saying that the experience of bonding with other people, finding camaraderie and fellowship in each other, discovering each others wants and hopes and dreams, and helping in the collective uplift