Woke astronomer wants to rename the Magellanic Clouds—and everything else Magellan

September 19, 2023 • 11:30 am

If you think the “tide is turning” on wokeness in STEM, as a colleague of mine asserts, think again. Have a look at this headline of an op-ed from the American Physical Society (APS):

You can guess why: Magellan was a Bad Man. But first, the clouds, which are actually galaxies:

The Magellanic Clouds (Magellanic system or Nubeculae Magellani) are two irregular dwarf galaxies in the southern celestial hemisphere. Orbiting the Milky Way galaxy, these satellite galaxies are members of the Local Group. Because both show signs of a bar structure, they are often reclassified as Magellanic spiral galaxies.

The two galaxies are the following:

The Magellanic clouds are visible to the unaided eye from the Southern Hemisphere, but cannot be observed from the most northern latitudes.

The Large and Small ones:

They’ve been called the Magellanic Clouds by most astronomers since 1847, that is, for about 175 years. Before that they had other “indigenous” names, and that is one of the two reasons the author calls for renaming them:

Yet Magellan was no astronomer, and he was not the first to document these galaxies. Indigenous peoples across the Southern Hemisphere have names and legends for these systems that predate Magellan by thousands of years. For example, the Mapuche of modern-day Chile and Argentina call them Rvganko, or water ponds, which they think are in the process of drying out; the Kamilaroi of modern-day Australia regard the galaxies as places where people go after death; and the Arimi of modern-day Tanzania see the clouds as a man and a woman who help the Pleiades bring heavy rains during the rainy season. Magellan’s crew was also not the first Western team to write about the two galaxies; Arabic and Italian explorers are known to have described the galaxies at least a decade before Magellan embarked on his journey.

But this holds true for nearly all visible astronomical features, surely including the Sun, the Moon, and Halley’s comet. Each language of an indigenous people who observed these features would give them a different name.  Names get changed, and there’s no reason why the earliest names should get precedence. As for the superstitions associated with these clouds, well, that’s even less reason to revert to “divine” or numinous names.

No,  the real reason Mia de los Reyes wants these clouds renamed is because Magellan did bad things:

Furthermore, Magellan committed horrific acts. A first-hand account of Magellan’s expedition describes how, in what is now known as Argentina, Magellan enslaved the native Tehuelche people. He placed iron manacles on the “youngest and best proportioned” men, telling them that the manacles were gifts. In what became Guam and the Philippines, Magellan and his men burned villages and killed their inhabitants.

Despite his actions, Magellan has been—and continues to be—widely honored by the field of astronomy. Magellan’s name currently appears in over 17,000 peer-reviewed academic articles. His name is attached to astronomical objects such as a lunar crater and a Martian crater, both of which are named Magalhaens; the NASA Magellan spacecraft; the twin 6.5-m Magellan telescopes; and most recently, an under construction, next-generation extremely large telescope called the Giant Magellan Telescope. The Magellan telescopes are all located in Chile, a country with a history of violent Spanish conquest. Indeed, Magellan’s “discovery” of the Strait of Magellan allowed Spanish conquistadors to explore Chile’s coast and led to genocidal campaigns against the native Mapuche people.

I and many other astronomers believe that astronomical objects and facilities should not be named after Magellan, or after anyone else with a violent colonialist legacy. We would like the International Astronomical Union—the body in charge of naming astronomical objects—to rename the Magellanic Clouds. We hope other astronomical institutions, particularly the consortia that manage the 6.5-m Magellan telescopes and the upcoming Giant Magellan Telescope, will also revisit the use of Magellan’s name.

As usual, I decide that names should be changed if both of these questions can be answered “no”:

a. Is the name be used to honor the good things the person did rather than the bad?

b. Was the person’s existence a net good for the world as opposed to a net bad?

The answer to (a) is clearly “yes”: Magellan is being honored for organizing and leading the first voyage circumnavigate the planet (he died halfway through), and the clouds were noted by, among other people, Antonio Pigafetta, a scholar who went on Magellan’s sail around the world in 1519–1522.

(b) is harder, but it’s not cut and dried. Some of Magellan’s warfare was due to misinterpreting the local behavior, and, indeed, he was more concerned with converting the locals to Christianity than with killing them. Indeed, that’s how he died on his voyage: he was attacked in the Philippines by a local ruler who resented Magellan’s efforts to convert the locals.  Given that Magellan’s voyage “planned and led the 1519 Spanish expedition to the East Indies across the Pacific Ocean to open a maritime trade route, during which he discovered the interoceanic passage thereafter bearing his name and achieved the first European navigation to Asia via the Pacific” (Wikipedia), he had good accomplishments as well as bad.

Given this, I don’t vote for a name change. But there are Wokesters who apparently think that unless someone is nearly perfect, we shouldn’t honor them. There goes most of our Presidents, including Washington, Madison, and Jefferson: all slaveholders. JFK was a serial adulterer, as was Martin Luther King, who’s also been accused of looking on and laughing as “a fellow Baptist minister ‘forcibly raped; a woman just a few minutes walk from The White House in Washington DC.” (The evidence for this is not dispositive!)

The fact is that nobody is perfect, and who among us can afford to have all our deeds made public, for many of us have done some pretty bad stuff? But perfection appears to be the gold standard for naming things, including birds and galaxies. In fact, physisicsts are still going after the James Webb Space Telescope, a pet project of Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, and a deeply misguided one (bolding is mine):

Magellan is not the first person with a questionable history that astronomy has glorified, and he will likely not be the last. As physicists Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Sarah Tuttle, Lucianne Walkowicz, and Brian Nord wrote in a 2021 essay on the naming of the James Webb Space Telescope: “There will always be complications in naming monuments or facilities after individuals. No hero is perfect.” But as they also point out, we can and should choose names of people that represent our highest ideals.

Ummm. . . . who might that be? Surely not George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, JFK, or Martin Luther King, Jr!  Even King cannot be said to “represent our highest ideals.”  He represented many of them, and deserves all the honors that have accrued to him, but he also did bad things, like cheating on his wife. If the rape story is true, it’s even worse.

But why was the name “James Webb Space Telescope” attacked by Prescod-Weinstein and others? Because of the accusation that, as head of NASA, Webb allowed the demonization of gay employees and oversaw a purge of them from the agency. But as even the NYT reported (October 2022), those accusations are completely false. Will the Offended Woke Physicists give up in light of the evidence and shut their pie-holes about Webb? No, they will not. They still want the name “Webb” effaced. It’s insane.

The main reason I think this is a tempest in a teapot is because this renaming accomplishes nothing:  it is purely performative, which is why it’s woke, and ludicrously so.  The author says this:

When we uphold the names of people, such as Magellan, whose lives and legacies have actively caused harm, we alienate the communities who have been harmed. The communities that suffered because of Magellan have rich astronomical traditions that are often less valued than Western ones.

My response to the first sentence is simply, “no it doesn’t.” If we rename the Magellanic clouds, will dozens of Filipinos or Latinos, previously alienated, suddenly flock into astronomy? If you think so, you don’t know how the world works.

Instead, the author raises a completely different point that has absolutely nothing to do with names:

Even within the field of professional astronomy, the repercussions of Spanish colonization continue to this day. For example, I am the first woman of primarily Filipino descent to become an astronomy professor in the United States, in part because lack of access to resources has historically prevented Filipinos from participating in astronomy research.

Well good for her, but Dr. de los Reyes doesn’t seem to know the difference between resources and nomenclature.

h/t: Anna

53 thoughts on “Woke astronomer wants to rename the Magellanic Clouds—and everything else Magellan

  1. “But there are Wokesters who apparently think that unless someone is nearly perfect, we shouldn’t honor them. ”

    Either the Inverse Iron Law of Woke Projection or Dialectical Inversion says :

    All must honor the sacralized whom the Woke (i.e. Outer School Marxists) elect. No questions asked.

    Because, of course, once the questions start, the struggle sessions begin.

  2. On the matter of naming things after individuals, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Sarah Tuttle, Lucianne Walkowicz, and Brian Nord assert: “we can and should choose names of people that represent our highest ideals.” In response to which, our host asks: “Ummm. . . . who might that be?”. The question almost answers itself: representatives of our highest ideals such as Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Sarah Tuttle, Lucianne Walkowicz, and Brian Nord. One of the formerly Magellanic clouds could be Prescod-Weinsteinic, and the other could be either Tuttleic or Walkowiczic.

      1. +2
        Don’t forget that icons of highest ideals have turned out to be not so much so, from Mother Theresa to Gideon or even Einstein, Feynstein or Schweitzer (well the latter 3 are actually some of my heroes, but they all have their rather not so great sides).
        However, I think Columbus was a really bad apple. Even considered so -cruel, bloodthirsty and murderous- by his contemporaries, which really is a kind of reference. If the Wokies would target properly, II suggest they should strive to rename DC, Columbia university, Columbia sportswear, Columbia films, the Columbia river and the very country of Columbia. (The shuttle Columbia does not need to be renamed, that would really be bad taste, IMMO, you don’t rename post mortem). Good luck to them for an at least less ridiculous endeavour. Well, it remains kinda ridiculous, since just ‘performative’, but it would be a slightly less ridiculous performance.
        But the Prescott-Weinsteinic clouds sound kinda smooth, now don’t they? Nay, but District Tuttle, the Tuttle river or Nord Sportswear could actually work pretty nicely.

  3. Here’s an appropriate quotation I pulled from Quentin Wheeler’s Substack piece, “Coyne of the Scientific Realm,” that Jerry linked to in a post earlier today.
    “Becoming educated and intellectually mature includes recognizing that inconsistencies, paradoxes and gray areas are, for both better and worse, a part of the human condition. As is thoughtfully learning from past mistakes and short-comings. Judging historic figures by current standards, ignoring the milieu in which they lived, is as naïve and unfair as expecting them to measure up to a level of purity of thought and action that their accusers fail to meet in their own lives.”

    1. I’d give a +1 – but it can be used against me in the struggle session.

      Why self-incriminate?

      I’d like that to be facetious, but one might see how it really might work against oneself – so I give PCC(E) “mad props”.

      It is pointing into the Heart of Darkness of the whole Woke / Marxism thing.

  4. Magellan is being honored for being the first person to circumnavigate the planet

    I don’t think it really makes any difference to your argument but he wasn’t the first person to circumnavigate the planet – it was one of the survivors of his crew. However, it was his expedition that he organised and led, and we honour him for that.

    Personally, I think there are more important things to worry about than the names of two galaxies. I’m sure the indigenous peoples who have known of their existence for thousands of years (although not what they actually are) have their own names for them and don’t care that we call them the Magellanic clouds. I doubt if they could come to an agreement about which indigenous group should have the naming rights.

    1. The first circumnavigator is likely to have been a Malay who had traveled to Portugal, then returned to the East Indies with Magellan; he got off there, and did not continue on back to Portugal with the rest of the crew. I can’t quickly locate his name, but I read about him at the time the Spanish TV series about Magellan, Sin límites, was shown in the US.


      1. In fact it was both the Malay (known to history only as “Enrique”) and Magellan himself who shared this honour. Magellan had been to the Spice Islands via the Indian Ocean, reaching as far east as the Mollucas (SSE of the Philippines), on a voyage in 1512-13, and brought Enrique back with him. On the circumnavigation, Enrique was one of several men taken hostage by the local ruler in the aftermath of the confrontation in which Magellan was killed in the Philippines. His fate afterwards is unknown, but by that point both men had travelled westward of the longitude they had started from on the earlier voyage. So although unlike Elcano and the other survivors of Magellan’s crew they didn’t complete their circumnavigation in a single voyage, Magellan and Enrique were the first humans to travel through all 360 degrees of longitude.

        Harry Kelsey’s book “The First Circumnavigators” (Yale, 2016) gives the best summary of this.

      2. That is a fascinating story! I found that it is actually covered in Magellan’s wiki page (section Early life and travels). The person is Enrique of Malacca, and Magellan and Enrique made the same trip. It was Magellan who picked him up on his prior trip from Portugal to the Moluccas (a different place, keep up) west-to-east and back again. So when Magellan reached the Philipines, which are at almost the same longitude as the Moluccas, and just a bit north, both he and Enrique had essentially circumnavigated the world. At that point Enrique left and may have gone home and so may have more perfectly completed the point to point circumnavigation. Magellan of course was bumped off in the Philipines, conceivably by Mia de los Reyes’ exceptionally enlightened, welcoming, tolerant and gentle ancestors.

  5. Meanwhile, according to various reports, NYC (hardly lacking in serious problems worthy of serious attention) is apparently considering a plan for the removal of statues honoring such villains from the past as Columbus, Stuyvesant, and Washington.

  6. When do we stop using terms like ‘solar’ and ‘lunar’, named for ‘Sol’ and ‘Luna’ the Latin terms used by the arch-colonialists and oppressors, the Roman Empire? When do we stop using Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, named for the deities of barbarian raiders? Or were the Vikings (vikings?) Indigenous People? If so, is it un-woke to call them barbarians?

  7. I don’t have a strong opinion about the proposed name change but I feel that this movement to “cancel” historical figures is often born of a twin conceit.

    The first being that famous historical people could have an should have risen above the context of their times and freely chose not to.

    The second conceit being the belief by social justice warriors that they are not making the same mistake. That they are themselves freely choosing to rise above the context of the time. They therefore see themsevles as good while the historical figures were evil.

    Nobody rises above the context of their time. It is logically and physically impossible. Although some may seem to, it is simply part of the normal variance within the context. The belief that one is doing so can lead to a zealotry disconnected from underlying reality that is almost guaranteed to do more harm than good.

    1. Racial hatred seems to be the main motive here. Nothing must be named after whites who have slighted non-whites, and if that cannot be proven, it is still problematic since they are tainted with whiteness.

    2. “[T]he belief by social justice warriors that they are not making the same mistake.” Or that if they had been born in Magellan’s time & place they would not have done just as he did (or worse).

    3. Exactly. This conceit is called “presentism,” making moral judgments about the past based on today’s values. There are famous authors I like that didn’t do anything bad, but are now being put down because, being born in (for instance) the early twentieth century, they didn’t have modern attitudes on certain subjects, but shockingly had attitudes that reflected the times they lived in. Even authors I consider progressive for their time are now being criticized because they weren’t progressive enough. I fully expect future generations to do the same looking back at people of today. Environmental attitudes would be one possibility – future folks looking down on people that weren’t sufficiently adamant about promoting changes in CO2 emissions, ignoring practical considerations of why it takes time to make those changes.

      1. “I fully expect future generations to do the same looking back at people of today. Environmental attitudes would be one possibility.”

        Medical and surgical treatment of children who don’t conform to sex stereotypes.

        1. Sure, although I think that attitude is already starting to shift. I don’t recall where but I read an interview with an endocrinologist that said he expects a wave of lawsuits within a decade and that people will look back on this much like the opioid epidemic. I’m seeing more indications of that beginning so I suspect that prediction will be more or less accurate.

      2. If Magellan was doing things that would have been horrifying to his compatriots back in Portugal, then it wouldn’t be presentism to judge him for those things. Maybe he was acting badly because he was so far away from anyone who had power over him.
        Whether in that case, his name should be stripped from clouds is a different matter. People who did terrible things are part of history too, and a big part!

  8. The main reason I think this is a tempest in a teapot is because this renaming accomplishes nothing:

    Indeed. The functional names that astronomers already use – and are very likely to continue to use – are of the ilk of “30 Doradus”, the “Tarantula Nebula”, NGC (“New General Catalogue”) 2070, “R136”, SN1987A, or Sanduleak -69 202. They may change with improved surveying – the Gaia survey being a case in point, with several billion consistently observed and named objects – but not for particularly fashionable reason.
    I also wonder which of the many (dozens?, hundreds?) possible indigenous names will be used in publications from authors of different nationalities. That’s going to get really interesting as the average number of co-authors on papers rise – which is a trend that is unlikely to reverse.

  9. A truly frightening aspect of this dark, woke chapter of our society is where it might eventually push those of us who refuse to join. Republicans despise wokeness. Most Angelical Christians (fundamentalists in my mind) are fighting it. Truly racist and violent organizations (kkk type) oppose it. Etc, etc… I belong to none of the above groups or parties but in my personal interractions with the populace at large I feel muted, careful and watchful. This stuff is really everywhere! Who are my allies? My ethnic background is Scotts Irish. I live in a deep blue liberal county whose city mayor is “The first Latina”. Two facts I would have celebrated in the past. As the speech here becomes more Orwellian I feel increasingly out of place. Wokism is backfiring. I had a wide open heart and mind that have defensively slammed shut. And a note from yesterday’s discussion about the DEI checklist for the literacy professor position? Jerry used the word “sneaky” to describe how the university got around the new laws. Remember it wasn’t that long ago when DEI was called CRT. That is very sneaky to me.

    1. PCCE: “Let me tell you about an instance I read about recently of a black sheep.”

      Caswell: “Wow all sheep are black!”

  10. Professor Coyne, you are quite precise with your posts and your positions. However, I cannot understand why you would include an accusation about Martin Luther King being accused of looking on and laughing as a fellow Baptist minister forcibly raped a woman. What is the purpose of including this as you said, “not dispositive” accusation in your post? You had plenty of established examples in this post of flawed public figures having objects named in their honor. This added nothing. Compared to your typical measured positions this was tabloid.

    1. You’re right that this accusation is not documented as well as the others, but there is some documentation, and in 2027, when the tapes are released, we’ll know whether it’s true. See here: https://theconversation.com/im-an-mlk-scholar-and-ill-never-be-able-to-view-king-in-the-same-light-118015. Those accusations were a big deal when they came out, but the press shied away from them because, after all, it was MLK. This is also why they shy away from renaming Washington, D. C and the Jefferson Memorial.

      What is undoubtedly true is King’s serial adultery, adultery which, according to the article’s lights, renders King unqualified to be an icon to be admired. As I said, that doesn’t tarnish his image for me as a civil-rights hero. If the rape stuff is true, it would. I have no idea if it is true, but given that there’s evidence, I’m not dismissing it as “tabloid.”

      Finally, the James Webb example tells us that even if an accusation is totally false, it can still continue to haunt a person. The King accusation is more credible than the ones that still make people go after Webb. I don’t consider the MLK accusations “tabloid”, and neither did the press (see here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/arts/king-fbi-tapes-david-garrow.html).

      I hope this accusation of King is wrong. The evidential foundations, notes taken from an unreleased audio tape, is weak. But it’s not “tabloid”, i.e., made up out of whole cloth. As I said, we’ll know more in a few years.

      Nobody can accuse me of trying to go after King because, as readers of this site know well, he is one of my heroes. But he was also flawed, and that is the point: everyone is flawed, and usually in ways that would render them unsuitable to be a “woke” hero.

      By the way, I wrote about the accusations of King in 2019: https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2019/05/30/a-new-portrait-of-martin-luther-king-jr-by-one-of-his-biographers-paints-him-as-a-rape-accomplice-and-abuser-of-women/

      1. How does all this judgmentalism square with your recent acceptance of Robert Sapolsky’s insistence that there’s no free will, and we should neither be blamed for our faults nor praised for our virtues; they are all contingencies that follow from long chains of causes in our lives, etc.?

        (I look forward to Sapolsky’s forthcoming book — Determined (?). I sense that he’s right, but even he says it’s hard to adapt such a view to our general feelings for law, justice, morality.)

        1. Because “judgmentalism” can change peoples’ brains and thus their behavior. “Blame” and “praise” are ways to accomplish that rewiring.Clearly you haven’t read what I’ve written on this subject before. People are malleable to environmental influence, which includes “judgmentalism.” If you keep kicking a friendly dog, eventually it will avoid you; if you pet it, it will become friendly. Same thing.

          If you haven’t read Sapolsky’s book, how do you know what he says?

  11. “Indigenous peoples across the Southern Hemisphere have names and legends for these systems that predate Magellan by thousands of years.”

    The implication, unstated, is that Magellan’s name should be replaced (in international astronomical usage) by one of these names. But which one? From which indigenous group? From which continent? If you use the Mapuche name, you are deliberately not using the Kamilaroi name, and thus are guilty of erasing and disempowering the Kamilaroi. And vice versa.

    The further implication, since Professor de los Reyes doesn’t even raise the issue, is that it *doesn’t matter* which of these indigenous names is chosen. She really doesn’t care. The *only* thing that matters to her, it seems, is that the European name ceases to be used.

  12. Why stop at Magellan ? They need to scour the historical records for all names
    of the conquistadors (and of the RCC that aided and abetted them) who committed
    widespread genocide of millions of natives. Then they can cleanse and expunge
    any mention of said names in any context to purify the historical and current record.
    Anyone who glorifies the conquest of the Americas (as well as Christianity) is
    totally historically illiterate.

  13. “this renaming accomplishes nothing: it is purely performative”

    In terms of knowledge, or science, yes.

    However, the pattern I see in the relentless “problematization” – and its attendant tacit dialectical syntheses – is the intent to gain one incrementally advanced victory, from which to advance even more incremental advances to ultimately get control over the target.

    Another example is “debunking sex” (as Julia Serano puts it). They don’t take “no” for an answer. That it looks like a performance is a fortunate result because the science is not the objective – control and power over knowledge is. All makes sense once that is grasped (IMHO).

    I think this is strategy is sketched out all through the Marxist literature but I’d have to find a reference.

  14. An answer to any claim a name should be removed:
    You want to remove {person}’s name out of some misdeed or being an imperfect character. I agree. And on the grounds that no person is perfect, no person is of ideal character, and as the religious say, no person is without sin, religious, woke, or otherwise, there are no names that can be used. Not even the names of events, places, or spirits as those too were created by imperfect people. The only way to cleanse names is not to use names at all.
    Here are some suggestions:
    James Webb Telescope, now to be called
    UUID(‘f836e3d5-f84b-49de-97b7-a3160b998eac’) Telescope
    Strait of Magellan
    Strait of UUID(‘e31aeacf-33e9-4e0c-862c-760052f21d8f’)
    Magellanic Clouds:
    Large UUID(‘5dd96ad5-3dd6-4bb3-8727-7333f81b515d’) Cloud
    Small UUID(‘5dd96ad5-3dd6-4bb3-8727-7333f81b515d’) Cloud
    In this way, offense is not possible. And further, as names are inherently problematic, names of any sort, or any thing, or any person should no longer be used at all.

    1. Some people have argued that naming things after people and erecting statues are Western traditions–and therefore bad–and should not be done at all.

  15. Presumably the ancient Chileans, Polynesians, Australian Aborigines, Italians, Arabs and all the rest did horrible things too, like making war on each other and taking slaves. So if historical nastiness is enough to disqualify Magellan, it should be enough to disqualify them, too.

    We’ll just have to find a morally perfect group of humans and use their name for the Clouds. Which I suspect means they’ll have to go without names entirely.

  16. If I might note one more new element – worth bearing in mind, IMHO – I learned about from starting to read Beautiful Trouble (2012 – also a website):

    The real action is your target’s reaction

    Here, we have problematizing scholarship/articles. Very little is done to build a case – that is simply left for critics/commenters (?) to do and reinforce the necessity of the activism – just like the 1619 project.

    With protests, they plan to have cameras are ready. Here, I guess scholarly journals or websites with the commenters. Twitter. Etc.

  17. I prefer to see statues of imperfect beings not because I blindly celebrate every aspect of their lives, but because, knowing their imperfection from my understanding of history, I can feel more humble in front of my own imperfection. If history often has its dark sides, then it is important that we live within constant memories of it. If history is going to be whitewashed like that (sorry, to be woke I have to say whitewashed and blackwashed) then this removal of historical figures and names is the left’s version of the right pretending that evolution is a myth, or that God didn’t create the nature (according to their beliefs of course) in which 50% of all embryos abort naturally. Since the left and the right both whitewash our history, does that make them both woke? Why is only the left version called woke?

  18. What was contemporary public opinion on Magellan’s treatment of the Native Americans? Did his culture condemn those acts?
    Slaveholders in the USA certainly did horrific things to their slaves, often. Were those slaveholders considered to be reprehensible at the time, other than by a few sometimes reviled abolitionists?
    The “woke” seem to be very sensitive about others’ opinions. They might consider not being so judgmental of those in the past, who were immersed in a different culture, which might have had very different ideas of morality.

    1. If Magellan was doing things that would have been horrifying to his compatriots back in Portugal, then it wouldn’t be presentism to judge him for those things.
      Whether in that case, his name should be stripped from clouds is a different matter. If something is named after a person, it doesn’t mean that person is being celebrated. After all, there’s a Devil’s Tower national monument, even though the Devil is considered to be morally reprehensible 🙂

  19. Judging people of the past by present-day moral standards is considered to be a prejudice in itself, “presentism”.
    We can try to think for ourselves about ethical issues, but people who do have a difficult time of it.

  20. There’s something incredibly mean about this — mean-spirited, uncharitable, spiteful, and judgmental in the negative sense. It goes together with the way people who fail to live up to emotional standards are routinely being cancelled, fired, cut off, or cut out of one’s life because failing to do so is harmful to the precious and easily damaged sense of self, the identity of a society trying desperately to heal by erasing the past.

    It seems to me that this attitude came out of a growing cultural preoccupation with therapy and the idea that resiliency is capitulation because what doesn’t kill us, makes us weaker. Forgiveness is a kind of sin: never bend, never seek to understand, never make allowances, historical or otherwise. The situation is always easy to understand, and the solution is always simple. Victims need to trust their feelings, and surround themselves with friends and heroes who have no feet of clay.

    So Magellan is no longer allowed to contact us, not even by apologetic texts wishing us a happy birthday. It’s for our mental health.

    1. It might have come from the extreme political polarization in the USA, making the parties cluster around more extreme opinions.
      So we have the Trumpists on the right, adhering to all sorts of bizarreness new-hatched from Trump’s fervid brain – and “wokeness” on the left, with its own unmooring from reality.
      Those of us who partly agree with the right, and partly with the left, maybe can help the country recover from this very toxic polarization.

  21. Isn’t it the case that after a sufficiently long period a name is just a label that lost the original connection? How many people think about Columbus, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln etc. being named after somebody? Same with the Magellan clouds.

    For practical reasons I propose that we add to the criteria of PCC(E): “If a name is older than 100 years we are not going to change it, regardless of any new information that may turn up.”

    Of course that does not preclude us from putting up an informative sign at the location (or something like that).

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