Interesting Times – Katie Jones

    Interesting Times – Katie Jones

Some days I would really like to kick whomever originated the phrase, “May you live in interesting times.” I would much prefer that I lived in far less interesting times than today. I am looking out at a world that stands on the brink of yet another world war, trying to suss out who all the players are. The economy of the world is fragile at best, and every developed nation is drowning in debt. Europe is in the process of finding out what happens when you commit cultural suicide by inviting in too many immigrants who can’t or won’t assimilate. America is trying to do the same thing. Russia has one of the only strong leaders on the world stage. The west has too long painted itself as the villain in the mind of her young. Today, students learn to hate their cultural identity if they come from a western country. Our leaders make sounds about patriotism, and talk about multiculturism as an ideal in the same breath. The problem is that you can’t have conflicting cultures without conflict. It’s an immutable part of human nature to indulge in tribalism, and separate other people into “them” and “us”.

This mostly worked in America, because we’re large and spread out. Every region has a culture of its own, and it’s mostly friendly rivalries (North vs. South, Cubs vs Cardinals, soda vs pop, etc.). There are even enclaves of various other cultures within the various cities and towns, where immigrants have settled and hold on to parts of their previous country while they assimilate in the larger culture around them. When I hear people say Americans are uncultured, I really have to resist the urge to laugh in their faces. I can drive an hour from my house and get authentic Bosnian, Indian, Mexican, Korean, and Chinese food made by people who came from the countries in question who came here for more opportunities, freedom, or safety from some conflict. You can never travel outside the country and experience little bits of the world here, as well as some things that are uniquely American, and yet belong to subcultures. (Real Cajun cooking is an experience that every human being should have at least once.)

The problem comes in when people are not encouraged to become a part of the fabric of their new country’s culture rather than apart from it. Assimilation has become a dirty word, and some would have us believe that it is wrong to demand that those who wish to settle in a new country learn the dominant language and respect the local customs. France is paying for their experiment with this in the form of “no go zones” where the police don’t enforce the laws, and native French are attacked on the streets on a regular basis. They paid dearly in the form of a terrorist attack that killed over a hundred people in the heart of France. The issue isn’t Islam, really. The issue is taking in more people than can assimilate too quickly, and allowing them to take over an area to the point that local culture is completely overthrown.

This is made worse when the people taken in come from a culture that is vastly different. Every single area of Europe that has allowed a large enclave of Muslims from the Middle East to settle has seen an increase in sexual assaults and violence. England had an entire ring of these people passing around British children for sexual abuse. The culture of sexual independence in the western world apparently leads these immigrants to believe that it’s perfectly okay to force themselves on women. They find nothing wrong with taking children to their beds, so why should we? Keep in mind; this is a question of culture. In the culture they came from, women are little more than chattel. How can they be expected to conform to the local standards on respecting a woman if they aren’t expected to conform to any other part of the culture? This is the dark side of the shiny ideas about multiculturism. It’s also the danger that comes of western countries teaching their young that they are villains. If western society, which has lifted the station of man to heights never before seen, is the villain, than those who come from a society that hasn’t advanced since the Bronze Age must be misunderstood angels. Maybe we just need to concede more of our standards to appease them. Maybe we need to just accept that they’re different from us, even while they brutalize our women and children. Just because that hasn’t worked out for the survival of any culture ever is no reason not to try it again!

The European populace has had enough, it seems. Demonstrations are happening all over Europe. Groups meant to “protect” the native cultures of the various countries are popping up all over. Some of these groups are barely disguised hate groups. Some are people trying to gain protection from the hostile immigrants. They are all tapping into the rage of the people who have to live in these environments, and it’s only a matter of time before violence on a larger scale breaks out. This is a situation that has never worked out well in Europe, and I fear genocide of one type or another will come of it. At the same time all of this insanity is happening there, our president want to bring in 10,000 immigrants (which is a tiny number all told), with the full knowledge that we can’t properly vet these people. Well over half of the refugees are young men. Syrian passports are easily available on the black market, and we don’t have the best of luck recently in encouraging people to assimilate into American culture. (Pressed 1 for English, lately?) Interesting times, indeed.

Finding Memory Lane

There are days when a certain quality of the light takes me right back to the village and childhood.  I can’t figure out why today is one of those days,w hen you consider it’s snowing and it rarely snows in the place I grew up in.

However, it is often overcast, sharing that with the British isles.  It’s rarely overcast in Colorado (out of the year we only get something like 20 days without sun, which, yes, is likely to happen only when you have out of state visitors.)

And today there’s that feeling of sunlight filtered through grey that takes me right back to the village in November, with water forming a film of ice on ponds or on your bedside water glass, and a hint of wood smoke in the air, from people firing up their wood stoves.

On days like this it seems to me I’m divided, living two lives at once.  Somewhere, on the other leg of the pants of time, there’s a me that never left Portugal and who grew older in the village, not even noticing how different it is now, because she saw it change gradually.

Of course, beyond that it’s hard to figure it out.  Is she a teacher or a translator?  could be either, depending on whether she let herself take the easy path or the hard.  Did she ever marry?  Does she have kids?

I don’t know.  I know I took the really hard path, or as we call it the path of high improbability, because for those who know me, and who know how much I despise uncertainty and a state of flux, the idea that one day I just said “yes” to the crazy American on the phone asking me to marry him is almost laughable.  The idea I left behind my credentials, my extended family and all my friends to plunge into the unknown and forge a new life in an imperfectly understood land, in a language not my own, is frankly nothing short of ludicrous.

And yet I did it.  I jumped, because I knew in my heart it was the right thing, and that I couldn’t do anything else.

And it was, you know, I don’t regret that other life that never happened.  I don’t regret a career that was mine for the taking, or whoever I might have married, or whatever kids I might have had.

I love my husband very much, and I love the kids we had together, and though my career makes me tear my hair out, it is what I was born to do, possibly including this blog.

It is only on certain days like this, when the light is just right, that I feel like I could reach over and touch that other life and savor the few things I do regret: the continued embrace of my extended family; seeing my kids grow up around my dad; the parties and celebrations I missed through the years; and visiting my grandmother’s grave and leaving flowers.

I wouldn’t trade my life for that of hypothetical me.  But I’m aware she’s the likely one and I’m the improbable one.

And for a moment, on these foggy mornings I salute her across the mist and the cold and say “go in peace.  I kept the better part. In that crucial moment, I acted unlike myself and jumped without looking.  And I reaped an amazing reward.”

The Cold Slap of Reality

Caligula, while Emperor, commemorated a whole lot of “victories” which he decided he had achieved because cheese and also radioactive penguins.  Or rather because he knew the Roman people were a war-like and proud people and needed victories and triumphs.

The most notorious of these were victories overNeptune which consisted of having the mighty Roman legions collect sea shells.  BUT there were also “victories” over the Germans and Britain.

One wonders what exactly was going on through Roman minds at the time.  Perhaps younger Romans were all enthused and the older people were going “what the actual flan?”

BUT we’re not here to discuss reincarnation ;), we’re here to discuss what you’re told, even with the mighty apparatus of state propaganda and a castrati press behind it, and what you see with your lying eyes.

Recently in a private group, someone from abroad asked about American economy and if it really is improving as all the papers abroad report.  The answers surprised even me.

I mean, I know from my limited sphere that even those who are doing well have made sacrifices and — at a guess — have come down about two levels in lifestyle since 2008.  But it was a gradual step, so I didn’t expect most people to have noticed.  And when the trade offs are things like “no vacation” it’s not a serious step down.  I mean, most of the people we know are better off than us, so looking at their lifestyles I see the difference, but I didn’t even know if they did.

Of course my friends in artistic professions and feeding what can be called the discretionary spending part of the economy have noticed.  I have.  Though weirdly the big difference is that income goes even more in bursts.  Judging by self this is because people TRY to be good, but then really need something to read on a really crappy day, and end up reading/buying an entire series they’ve been putting off in three days, flat.  Other than that, our income might have gone up.  As a dear friend keeps telling me, recessions/depressions are good for writers’ income.  People need to be able to escape, even if to their imagination.

What I find fascinating though, is that these people, from varying income levels and all over the country (with a smattering of abroad) saw it, as I did.  The dingying of every day life, the precariousness of economic “security”.  The friends who lose jobs and then find a succession of them, none of which lasts.  The sky-rocketing energy (particularly in a city fed by a coal plant.)  The compromises: we won’t go out this month, we’ll celebrate all birthdays with a dinner in the middle month.  That sort of thing.

Everyone sees it, everyone is uneasy.  This despite the playing with numbers, the endless propaganda shoved down our throats.

And I should have figured it out, too, because even the press has stopped shouting “Summer of recovery.”  And I’ve heard total strangers laugh about the unemployment, GDP or inflation numbers in super market lines.  And it is that sort of horse laugh people only do when they know it’s totally ridiculous and everyone agrees with them.

I’m starting to believe the only people fooled are the administration, the president, and those who work for them.  After all no one tells Caligula that stealing a few seashells is not a victory.  Would you doubt the existence of mighty Neptune, you heathen?  Or the might of the Emperor?

And thus they spin ever further from reality and bring us ridiculousness like the idea that a climate conference is a “strong rebuke” to head choppers.

But it’s not working.  I mean, they’re keeping the lid somewhat on.  Most of the people on the street probably don’t know how disastrous our foreign policy REALLY is, or how it’s done nothing but set up the chess board for world war three.  But even they have that feeling on the back of the neck, the prickling that says something wicked this way comes.

Because here’s the thing: no matter how much you curate the narrative.  No matter how much you proclaim and twist and make it all make sense in this parallel world where “progressive” (they’re actually only progressive for the 1930s.  Since then they’ve all been shown wrong.  “Regressive” would make more sense) theory works, reality doesn’t care.  The gods of the copybook headings aren’t moved by pretty words.  And most of the seriously indoctrinated people in our society only learn to spin words and create “narrative.”  And not in an honest way, like novelists.

Yesterday younger son, who has been on a tear against the Berniacs in his age group, said “I despair for my age group; we’ve been so indoctrinated” and I laughed and told him so was mine.  It usually lasts till your early thirties and then it implodes unless you’re a case of arrested development, still living with mommy and daddy.

And he said “How does it implode?”  And I said “Reality.  The cold fish of reality slaps you across the face, and you realize what works, what doesn’t, and how ruinous these nice-sounding policies are.”

That in the end is it.  The triumph is amusing, and hey, gathering seashells never hurt anyone.

But in the end, the sea is still there and will still rage.  In the end, the real enemies, domestic and foreign, are still there, too, ready to spring.

An administration whose primary function is to dispense Soma is ultimately an enemy within, lulling us until the trap springs shut.  But the thing is at this point they’re the ones taking the soma.  Heck, they’re bogarting the soma.

The rest of us are wide awake.

Which is why in the end we win, they lose.

The question is, do they maintain the shell of narrative long enough so the explosion will be truly spectacular and that the gods of the copybook headings return in fire and blood?  Or do they lose enough grip that it goes down not with a bang but with a whimper.

I know which one I prefer.  Build under, build over, build around, so when their rotten structure collapses we’re ready.

But the choice is not only ours.

Stay awake.


Occupied! A blast from the past 8/14

Occupied!  A blast from the past August 2014

We’ve talked about this before, but in fact, I don’t think there has ever been a country like ours, where our elites are deliberately taught – in our best schools – to hate and despise everything that we are, everything that makes us unique.  I don’t think there has ever been another country where our elites are taught to be ashamed to call themselves by our national name.

Or rather, there have been countries like that – but they were countries which had lost a war, and where the governing elite were in fact puppets of their erstwhile enemy, sent in to utterly destroy what the country used to be and to make sure that it did not rise again and (maybe) next time win the war.

Did we lose the cold war?  Well, of course not.  Of course we didn’t. The Sov Union fell apart.  Their internal economy was a shambles – communism does that – and they are suffering the fate of the defeated in a material and obvious way.  The name for prostitute in most of Europe (and the Arab countries) is Natasha. Their population is crashing.  Their men are dying of alcoholism and internally they are being taken over by a hostile minority.  Ignore the invasion of Georgia, those are the spasms of the dying bear.  It’s inevitable, in material term,s to be aware that when it comes to the si devant Sov union  the applicable Latin phrase is Vae Victis.

But here’s the thing – long before communism had lost the cold war, it had won the propaganda war.

Part of this was their saber rattling and the craven and sheltered nature of our intellectual classes.  Craven because they know themselves to be weak.  Dueling with your mind might be an exciting sport – it is, I know, I do it – but it avails nothing when confronted by thugs with hobnail boots.  Most of those who labor in the vineyard of words find themselves utterly naked and defenseless in even the most minor physical confrontation.  (Note, I said most, not all.  I would not advise you to pick a fight with most of Baen.  Even myself and Dave Freer who are relatively mild put bite into any fight – he, because he’s a devious bastage and I say that in the most profound affection [if I ever govern anything he’ll be my secretary of dirty tricks.  The man has no bounds.] and I because I’m built like a tank and I berserk.)  So they both turn coward – and justify it in big words – by cleaving to the people they think are going to invade and kick their butts.  Now it’s Islam, but once upon a time it was communism; and they glorify and have a sort of hard on for violent sorts.  Hence, their worship of that despicable, blood tinged psychopath, Che.

And they were really scared of communism.  It also made sense in their minds – communism, I mean – as it can only make sense in the minds of people who live in the sheltered world of academia or the irrational world of art.  And so… they turned.

And they do influence public opinion.

I wonder how much the Sov Union had to put behind the effort.  My dad told me that the Sov Union spent quite a lot on Agit prop in western countries, the United states most of all.

But then there’s the nature of the beast, as it were – most communists in the US were by nature what we’d class as “radical losers”.  They were outcasts, for some reason or another, (the ugly women, the little men – no, seriously, in Europe in the seventies this was as good a predictor as any of who would go commie.) And most of them were not very effective.  There are stories that some guy in NYC got millions from the Sov Union for which he wrote careful receipts, and which he spent in the most bizarre projects imaginable, failing even to enrich himself.  (Whether it’s true or not that they bought influence in the SF magazines wholesale, I’m not equipped to comment.  The rumor does go around and one does wonder how they could afford to play with New Wave and crash their readership.  Never mind.  A lot of others are doing it, so it might be an ideology uber alas thing.  Something to which humans are prone.  I think it was more like most of the media coordination, a matter of people wanting to be “cool” and “with it” – but then there is always journolist.  This might be one of those watchmacallits of history because those who know will take it with them to their unquiet graves.)

So you see, communism doesn’t work, and no one who has ever run a business, or worked for a business that actually depends on selling its products, or in fact done anything productive can believe it does.

But it makes a total conquest of intellectuals, academics, and people who feel the “real” world doesn’t compensate them enough and that they’re way too smart for the common herd.

There was a time back in the eighties and early nineties when the edifice tottered.  There were whispers about how things really were in the USSR and the more moral of the communists distanced themselves.

They’ve gone back now.  Embraced the mantra that it just wasn’t done “right”.

Which of course is the fault – sorry, but it is – of the US when the crash happened.  At the time they were dying for aid.  They must have it, or the collapse would have turned violent.

The price for that help should have been trials.  We should have – in Heinlein’s phrase – Hung the commissars with their own guts. More importantly, we should have exposed it all, and let the effluvium of seventy years of human wretchedness, perfidy, greed and horror wash out over our mass media.

We didn’t.  They were allowed to save face.  They were allowed to recoup – here if not at home.  (Though the reign of Putin means something.)

Few people have read The Black Book of Communism – which should be taught in our schools, in every grade, in grade-appropriate chunks – but our high schools teach Howard Zin’s People’s History which is the Soviet view of America; they flourish Young Hegelians clubs and hipsters decked in Che Guevara.

The “Well educated” are in fact indoctrinated, taught communist propaganda and syllogisms until they’re UNABLE to think.  We now have an administration composed of people like this, who are unable to connect to reality.  They might be our first Marxist administration, but they suffer from third generation blight, not having come to their opinions from their own mind, but having been browbeaten into them.  They are the good kids, trapped in an illusion from which they can’t break out.

But the d*mned ineradicable fact about communism and its cousin “state capitalism” and the hellish hybrid they’re trying out here is that it doesn’t work.  IT NEVER WORKS.  It doesn’t work even when instituted by very bright psychopaths.  It works even less when instituted by people so indoctrinated they can’t SEE reality.

And it will crash here – hard or soft, with a bang or a whimper.  It will crash and it might drag the rest of the world with us into the endless night.

Tell me how would an alien think the Cold War ended?

Is the cold war ended?

When will it end?

Must we fight it here, on our soil, as it turns hot, and hang our own commissars from their own guts?

Vae Victis!

A Pause For Thanks

So much to give thanks for in this very difficult year that I can’t fully articulate it.

I’m thankful my issues proved not to need chemo-therapy.

I’m thankful my working on the house during recovery did not cause major problems.

I’m thankful older son has moved out and is pursuing his vocation.

I’m thankful it hurts a lot not to have him around, because if it didn’t, what would that mean for our family?

I’m thankful I have younger son for six months more, at least.  And I’m thankful he’s — against all expectations for someone in his percentile — gregarious and outgoing as well as a good student.

I’m grateful the cats are all still with us, despite their having told us two years ago that Miranda had six months at most.

I’m thankful I’m feeling better and that writing is coming back.  Not as fast as I wish it, but it’s coming back, as is my strength.  (Even if the stupid-tired still clobbers me out of nowhere after some effort.)

I’m thankful that the place we’re renting suits us.

I’m thankful we have houses to consider.

I’m thankful for this blog and the friends and fans I’ve found here. In a way all the regulars have become family.

I’m thankful for Baen who has been very understanding of the illness-and-move caused chaos and who, in this dog-eat-dog world has provided me a family of colleagues who are like brothers and sisters (squabbling sometimes, but brothers and sisters.)

I’m thankful for indie, which as I recover will allow me to publish those things that are just not Baen.  Yes, as the illness subsides and the Great Move of Fifteen is completed once we find a house and move into it, there will be orphan kittens and the rest of the vampire musketeers, as well as Darkship Revenge and the Dragon trilogy.

But most of all I’m thankful I have my husband, without whom none of this would matter.  I’m thankful he decided to marry the weird Portuguese chick who wanted to write sf, and I’m thankful our love has deepened through the last thirty years.

Yeah, it’s been a difficult year, in which strength and will power were demanded that I could hardly summon. But we’ve come through the challenges and, heaven willing, next year will be easy.

May the next year be easier for every one of the regulars on this blog, may you be blessed with love and health and something you enjoy doing, which provides your livelihood.

The times are dire and scary but we have each other and we have many reasons to be thankful for, most of us.  Good measure, pouring over, and given without our doing anything to deserve it.

Today, we go and eat turkey and enjoy our families and/or friends.

Tomorrow we resume the fight. And that too I’m grateful for. While we battle, we’re alive.

In the end, we win, they lose.  Be not afraid.


“Shut Up They Explained”

Or How To Deal With Turkeys

Possibly the biggest celebration in this household is the fourth of July.  We used to have massive parties for it, stopped because last house not suited to it, and will resume again if current bid comes through.

Thanksgiving is, for us, an odd holiday.  First of all, neither of us has family near.  Second of all, even if MINE were near, they don’t celebrate, since it’s a very American Holiday.

And then there are complications, because the Hoyts can never do things in an easy or simple way.

Because we moved from North Carolina to Colorado OVER Thanksgiving, and because the move signaled a marked improvement in our lives, we consider it our own, personal Passover.  (Okay, not 40 years in the desert, but we did drive through a pretty dangerous snow storm just before hitting Colorado, where it suddenly cleared up.)

That first year we went out for Thanksgiving to a really nice restaurant because, though we were broke, all cheap restaurants were booked.  So…

Because of all this and because cooking a big meal for four or five people is daft (and also because I’m not fond of turkey) we celebrate thanksgiving by picking up our friend Charles and going out to eat some place nice. (And because Charles reads this: Tomorrow, two thirty.)

So we escape the dreaded Thanksgiving horror of having someone suddenly veer off into politics, and having to sit in silence listening to loony toons.

Just so we’re clearly understood, I’m not suggesting that you be the one who starts politics at the Thanksgiving table. To quote Heinlein “Only a fool or a sadist tells the unvarnished truth at social occasions.”

I’ve lived with that for years, as have a number of you, I’m sure.

I’m asking you to consider not living by it, anymore.  At least not to the extent of remaining silent and letting crazy relative/drunk friend of the family think you agree with everything he says.

If you have to counter, do it politely, tactfully, and more importantly with facts.  Feel free to counter with “yes, but–” And then change the subject immediately afterwards.  Feel free even to say “and now, lets leave contentious subjects aside, shall we?  This holiday is about family and thankfullness and the good things we have.”

And yes, I know it’s easy for me to say because we DON’T have family gatherings, which is sort of a bitter sweet thing.

But I have spoken in my other family, or at least my extended kin-affiliation group, which is the SF/F community.  And yes, I know how that has turned out, from my being declared the world’s worst person, to my being declared various kinds of deep ungood like racist, sexist and homophobic.  The Sad Puppies movement, sparked by Human Wave, and fully supported by me and Kate and Amanda got maligned in national press as a white supremacist slapping down of women, gays and other races in science fiction.  What it takes to believe that is… well, not knowing anything about the people involved, or the ability to dismiss a man’s 20 year bi-racial marriage as “shields.”  That requires gold-plated belief of a reality not our own.

Which is part of why I’m asking you to speak up, however kindly and politely, when crazy uncle Joe starts telling you that of course everyone knows Bernie is the best thing for the nation, and how the GOP are all poopy head white-supremacists for disapproving of the ACA.

Because the problem with our silence and politeness, our hesitation to slap their noses when they bring politics into everything, is that it’s what’s allowed them to construct an entire parallel reality in their heads.

And this, when shocked with resistance where they thought they’d carried the day, is what makes them go unhinged and run to their stooges in the national press to malign as virtual neo-nazis a movement of people trying to shift the overly literary and belly gazing nature of the fiction that gets awards.  You’d think neo-nazis would be doing more neo-nazi things, you know, like goose stepping, controlling the economy, persecuting Jews and invading Poland.  But no.  They think neo-nazis are really interested in changing who gets a plastic rocket. And the worst part?  The worst part is that they believe this narrative.  They’re not just putting it on.  Which is why it’s so easy for them to get access to the national press, who suddenly publish articles about an award which, in the past, was often carried away by someone who got 80 votes.

How can they believe it, you say?  Well, it’s rather easy.  You see, everything in the news-entertainment industrial complex has told them since they were born that the future is some form of socialism.  That history comes with an arrow, and the arrow leads to “progressive” utopia.  (That progressive utopia has changed a bit, since I was a kid, but they probably don’t notice that.  For instance, it used to be about free love, and now it’s about free love if the woman wants it, and the right to call a man a rapist if she changes her mind afterwards.

That’s because as Marxism failed to work in the real world, it turned from seeking the revolution of the workers to the revolution of the “minorities” and minorities are any group they can define out of the whole, from race to culture to sexual preference, to genitalia.)

So these people grew up with a hierarchy of minorities in their head, a hierarchy of grievances-that-must-be-appeased.  In that progressive future they’re sure it’s coming, everyone is equal except for aggrieved minorities who are more equal than everyone else, and therefore get to dictate to others.

Nathaniel Givens wrote an excellent post about this totalitarian tendency here.

The problem where it specifically hits science fiction, is that when you make literature about “the correct messages”  (I don’t have it to my fingertips, but this really is a thing.  There have been any number of articles about the artist’s DUTY to promote the “right” (left) “Messages.”  Because the DUTY of the artists is to hasten the coming of Utopia.  And stuff.) you need other markers to distinguish the “good stuff.”  Or in other words, when you all are saying the same thing, we need to figure out who is saying it better.

Over the last twenty to thirty years, this has led to an elevation of purple prose and/or bizarre faddish “markers” of “quality” which in turn have led to plummeting sales figures and the reduction of what was once a vibrant genre to a sad little few books in bookstores (excluding game and movie tie-ins.)

Sad Puppies was an attempt to reorient the genre to other definitions of good, removing the “must have message about bright CORRECT future” and the “must have precious language that gets in way of sense, or in other ways play with language to the detriment of the emotional involvement in the narrative.”

It had clear nothing to do with sex, orientation, race or culture (beyond SF culture.)  BUT because the sf cultural war is a subset of the larger cultural war, they of course jumped to the position that the only person who could object to their constant pushing of the most current agenda HAD to be against the bright new future where all animals are alike but some are more alike than others. And the reason they jumped to this, is because it never even occurs to them that the dictate that artists promote what was called by a previous generation “the revolution” is not universally approved, accepted and considered holy.

And the reason that it never occurs to them is because everyone they know either agrees with them or stays silent, partly for fear of the attacks Sad Puppies have endured.

So when faced with rebellion in what they thought was conquered territory, they jump to the conclusion that they’re facing the Big Evil and deploy disproportionate force.

It never occurs to them we don’t give a good g*dd*mn about the color, gender and orientation of the protagonist, let alone the writer, provided that the story is interesting and the kind that will bring more readers to the genre.  No, if we don’t agree with the stylings of what wins the plastic rocket, we must all have swastikas in our closet, including those of us who would be prime targets of the people with swastikas.

Because they haven’t had any opposition and therefore see the world as “the good people” — them — and those who oppose the bright new future — the evil ones — regardless of why or how they oppose some part of it (or to break their little shiny wagon, those of us who remind them history doesn’t come with an arrow leading to some leftist utopia.)

And I want you to go out there and challenge people that crazy?  Why?  Do I hate you for some special reason, that I want you to end with a face full of stuffing and not in a good way?

No.  Really.  Look, I hate confrontation because I go from nothing to berserking.  And since killing strangers or even relatives at parties is frowned upon by society, that means I have to control the berserk, which means I end up shaking and crying a lot, which is not — REPEAT NOT — a pleasant experience.  So in public I tend to avoid confrontation as much as possible.

And if it were only science fiction that had gone off the rails because of built-in, never challenged opinions/assumptions, I’d give up on science fiction and go write something else.  Okay, even if all other genres were taken over, I could give up on writing, or go all indie all the time.

But it’s not.  This disconnect from reality and creation of a new one that has nothing to do with what happens in the real world affects the entire — and hilariously self-named — “reality based” community.  And some of them have the levers of power.

For instance, I’m sure some of you have seen, in the last few days, a link to our president saying that the Paris Climate Summit Will be a Powerful Rebuke to the Terrorists.

For anyone with even a modicum of sanity left, looking at that statement it’s like looking at a parallel world.  In what universe do religious fanatics, bent on imposing a seventh century religion tremble in their caves at the thought that the west is getting together to talk about PREVENTING THE WORLD FROM GETTING WARMER?

It’s plastic rockets versus neo nazis all over again, isn’t it?

BUT the thing is if you assume the never-challenged assumptions that our president carries in his head, he’s making perfect sense.  Being logical even.

It goes something like this, with apologies for over-simplification:

They drink their own ink. You have to trace the narrative all the way back to understand that this is “logical” in the parallel world our president inhabits. a) there are no bad people. All crime, or even you know, bad temper, has “root causes” (this is partly because it’s what our entertainment sells us, partly because it makes a better story. But entertainment has never been as prevalent as now. At least not narrative entertainment. And most people internalize entertainment as truth) b) if it’s an individual it’s society’s fault. c) if there are no bad individuals, there are no bad nations. d) when nations/religions/cultural groups turn sour, it’s SOMEONE’s or SOMETHING’s fault. e) It’s always fun to blame the west, but f) the western civilization caused problem of global warming also works and it feels so trendy and cozy. g) So global warming (he SAYS it exists) is responsible for Jihad. h) So, the way to fight Jihad is to stop global warming.

You have to admit it’s a pretty chain. The fact it has NOTHING to do with the world we live in is just a minor, inconvenient … ah… truth. But the fundamentals of that chain of “reasoning” is so deeply embedded in Obama (and most leftists) they can’t think any other way.

And this is why you must talk and you must challenge, even crazy uncle Joe at the thanksgiving dinner.  And if you can you must challenge the rots of the belief.  They might be brought to realize that even if (taking measurements as we have them which might or might not be accurate) the sea levels are a couple inches up a beach at high tide, really this has nothing to do with a movement started in the seventh century.  And then challenge them to PROVE to you it does.  And ask them why it can’t just be that there are bad people and bad causes.  Use examples they despise, of course.  Us included.

Yes, this is easy for me to say.  Or not.  I can’t say I’m not political, but I had far rather have kept it out of my public profile.  That I don’t is because I fear what happens when people totally disconnected from reality have the keys to my nation’s security and economy.

Having a person high on something driving the car and swerving to avoid the pink dragons only he can see is fine.  That is, until a really big invisible pink dragon blocks his vision and he swerves into the path of a semi.

We can no longer stay silent.  We’re staring potential dictatorship and almost certain global war in the face.

It’s worth risking being beaned by a drumstick to stop catastrophe.

We can no longer allow our silence to give them the impression everyone agrees with them, except those evil, mustache twirling villains of their nightmares.  We can no longer allow them to think the things in their head dictate reality.

And I’m very sorry to tell you that at this time, in this place.




Cultures and Lightbulbs – Alma Boykin

Cultures and Lightbulbs – Alma Boykin


There’s a joke that asks, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “Only one, but the light bulb really has to want to change.” The same is true of cultures, fictional and actual. It is possible to change culture, but it takes time, and if the majority of members of that culture prefer the old ways, things are going to remain static, especially in the deep-rooted, “90 percent of the iceberg” aspects of culture. So what does make a culture change, for good or for ill?

I ask because I’ve been reading Thomas Sowell’s latest book, Wealth, Poverty, and Politics, the one he said he wasn’t going to write (back two books ago. I hope he keeps deciding to stop writing.) It is a very nice synopsis of some of his earlier works about cultural differences and economic outcomes, with a great deal of additional material, all looking at the question of why do some groups seem to do well economically and others don’t do as well, no matter what advantages they might initially have? He looks in the very long term, and includes geography, although there are ways to overcome the disadvantages of geography (see Switzerland for a sterling example). I’ve also been reading a German book about the pre-Indo-European cultures of the Danube River Basin from Hungary downstream. Aside from being a bit too enamored of Marija Gimbutas’s theories about religion and matriarchy at times, it’s a very useful book that fills in some holes in my knowledge of the area. As with Sowell’s volume, one of the ideas in the book is that of cultural change and adoption, looking at the Greek language for pre-Indo-European language traces, as well as using archaeology for clues.*

In the case of the people who migrated into the Peloponnesian Peninsula, the need to find words for new-to-them plants and animals, as well as adopting certain local religious practices, seems to have encouraged cultural shifts and adaptations. If you come from a place without large bodies of water, and find yourself surrounded by a sea and needing to fish for food, you are probably going to start trying to placate whoever is in charge of the ocean and storms. You may absorb the locals’ deity, assuming there are locals, or you may discover a new-to-your-people god or goddess. (How that happens I leave to our anthropologists and theologians).

The Comanche Indians are another example of voluntary culture change. They originated as Great Basin Shoshone, with cultural practices that reflected the relatively impoverished environment of their home region. When they reached the Great Plains and acquired horses, their collective response was something along the lines of, “Dump that junk! Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome! Wheeee!” and they borrowed where useful, improvised where necessary, and adapted supremely well to the High Plains. A few beliefs lingered, or so anthropologists and later observers believe, but in terms of visible behavior, the Comanche became the archetypical plains horse nomads. After 1876, when forcibly confined to reservations in Oklahoma, the Comanche once more said, “Dump the old stuff, we need to adapt in order to survive,” much to the frustration of future generations of ethnographers and Comanches. They kept certain beliefs, tossed the mechanics of certain crafts and skills, and adapted once more. But this change was, to an extent, voluntary as their earlier cultural shift had been. One can argue that being stuck at Ft. Sill was not voluntary, but the decision by the apparent majority of Comanches to not pass on traditions and skills to later generations, even as crafts, and to tell their children to learn from the white men was a deliberate choice. A choice modern Comanche are trying to undo in part by working with museums and archives to back-engineer certain skills and practices.

These cases are voluntary, of cultural groups moving to new environments and opting to change their practices (and beliefs?) to varying degrees to take better advantage of their surroundings. Did some Comanches and others object to major changes? I presume they did, since they are humans, and change is not easy, especially the deep cultural ideas and beliefs that got you through hard times in the past. It’s like some families from certain long-persecuted religious groups insisting on having portable wealth, even though they’ve been in the US for multiple generations without experiencing difficulties. You never know, after all. It’s safer to plan for the worst and buy lots of gold wedding jewelry so the women can bribe people if necessary, or use it to pay off debts to money lenders during starvation-hard times.

But like the joke about the Dalai Lama and the hotdog vendor says, “Change must come from within.” The US occupation forces would have had a very hard time undoing the effects of Japanese militarism if a whole lot of Japanese had not said to themselves, “That didn’t work and it’s not worth the pain of trying to keep that tradition alive.”

What about groups that don’t adapt as quickly, or who apparently do not assimilate? People who moved to the US from other cultures and continents in the 19th and early 20th centuries faced rough times until they 1) assimilated to a degree acceptable by the surrounding society or 2) found ways to appear sufficiently assimilated, or 3) made a niche and held out until they were perceived as interesting, “quaint,” and harmless oddities (like Old Order Amish and Mennonites, certain American Indian groups, and others). The Amish, being Protestant Christians involved in agriculture, fit in relatively well when they came to the Colonies because they were surrounded by Protestant Christians who, for the most part, practiced agriculture. Yes, their pacifism and language caused difficulties, especially during WWI, but their basic beliefs continued to fit into the accepted varieties of US culture, at least until the late 20th century. Later arriving Mennonites fleeing the Russian Revolution and associated wars found ways to adapt as well, with varying degrees of assimilation.

But those changes came from within. Can cultural change be forced by outsiders? Yes, but usually it requires armed force or overwhelming numbers, more rarely through persuasion at least until the rise of cultural-equivalency and the idea that non-Western cultural practices must be better simply by virtue of being non-Western. Although the visiting professor from India I had drew the line at condemning the British for trying to abolish suttee. She was a widow of the Brahmin caste and apparently her in-laws still wanted her dead. So even for her, a little “cultural Imperialism” wasn’t entirely bad.

I tinkered with forced cultural change in the novel Hubris and its eventual sequel Renaissance. The Azdhagi had begun shifting from within, to a less pack-centered and more democratic (herpetocratic? Sauriacratic?) style of government in a meritocratic society when a series of disasters struck. In response, caused some of those changes flipped back to the way they’d been many generations before and flipped hard. Other shifts occurred over the next few generations, including a major change in Azdhagi religion. The religion kept the old forms of group ritual and the use of incense and chanted “hymns,” but the object of worship changed considerably, from a monotheistic belief to ancestor worship with additional deified spirits. Some of the stories’ characters adapted, others didn’t, and a few realized that things had never quite been what they assumed.

History, at least the history I’ve studied, suggests that the most lasting changes within a culture come from inside that culture, unless overwhelming force is applied and there is no way to revert, even after the force is (mostly) removed. This poses some interesting ideas for fiction writers, and greater challenges for policy makers.

*Why Greek and not the modern Danube Basin languages? Too many other groups have moved into the area since the pre-Indo-Europeans were there and far fewer pre-IE words remain in the Slavic and Magyar languages.


The Dumbest Idea In History

You know, recently we have been hearing a lot about how this or that or the other thing — authentic foods, yoga, certain fabrics and attires — are “cultural appropriation” and therefore a manifestation of racism and should be stopped.

This goes hand in hand with the weird and rock bottom stupid idea that culture is inherited in the genes.  This is what gets the stupid-left (yes, there is a smart left.  Mostly they pull the strings of the dumb bunnies) all in your face and screaming when you criticize a cultural behavior, like, say, wanting your women covered in sofa-slipcovers.  They call you not ignorant or provincial but “racist” and thereby reveal that in their tiny, blinkered minds, people are born with the innate fear of the magical rays given off by women’s hair, that send men wild with incontrolable lust.

It might be easier, honest to Bob, if they had children or, for the few of them who DO have children, if they’d paid any attention to their kids’ development instead of to the weird movie going on in their heads which leads them believe things like that a baby recoiling from unfamiliar appearance means the baby is racist.

The only culture babies are born with is the fauna and flora in their intestines.  No, seriously. Anyone who has or knows anyone who has adopted a child from another country/different race knows that kid grows up to be more like their family than like his/her birth family.

No baby adopted as an infant from China learned Chinese instead of the English of her adopters.  (My older son went one better and totally rejected the Portuguese I spoke to him the first year and a half of his life, learning only English.  My guess is because that’s the COMMUNICATION he saw happening, while observing his surroundings, and since no one else spoke Portuguese he tuned it out because it must be gibberish. He must be deficient in those Portuguese genes.)  No baby adopted from Africa has an instinctive liking for African music, unless he’s been raised with it.  (And then comes the question of which part of Africa, but we’ll leave that alone.)

If you’d taken my boys away at birth and given them to a perfectly normal white, middle class, suburban family, they’d probably still be odd, but their oddness might not include science fiction and fantasy.  And though they’d probably still both be good with written expression, they might not be good with written expression as we recognize it.  If they’d grown in a family that didn’t read or write that much, they might be better than their families, they would still not be up to a level recognized as excellent in society at large.

What they would still be is still tall and swarthy and built like brick sh*thouses.  Because, you see, that part is encoded in the genes.  You can’t change your black eyes to green because you grow up with a different family.  But you can be incredibly organized if you grew up with parents that required incredible organization, even if you come from a genetic background –oh, Portuguese — that is prone to the organizational method known as “let’s all pile in, and may G-d sort it out.”

I’m not saying there are no genetic characteristics that affect things other than appearance.  Of course there are.  They are a little harder to sort out from “raised with parents with those characteristics” but I’m fairly sure there are SOME.  Like both my kids are too stubborn for …  well… anything. (I remember trying to get Robert to obey me in some small thing (He’d thrown a paper on the floor, I think, and I told him to pick it up, and he was in one of his non-obeying days) which took me half an hour and a friend, watching it, said was like breaking a prisoner of war.  (Not really.  I didn’t torture him. It’s just that I had to talk him into obeying.) He was three.)  And DO trust me, we did not TRY to make the d*mn kids stubborn.  (And Robert is a lamb unshorn compared to his brother, he who made pre-school teachers tear out their hair.)

But innate tendencies do not a culture make.  Innate tendencies might dictate whether you leap out of bed with a song on your lips and incite murder in the mind of your roommate who drags self out of bed with groan and crawls till noon by the grace of coffee, but it does not dictate what language you speak, what attire you wear, or whether you think women look best when disguised as sofas.  Those are things you learned from your relatives/guardians when you were too young to think.  They might be filed under “must do” at a level where you have never examined them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t examine them. And change them.  It just means it takes time, is painful, and no one is going to do it without major upheaval requiring it.

I would never have changed my language from Portuguese to English without having moved to the US.  I mean, for one it would be weird, and mom and dad don’t speak English.  Going around the house with an interpreter would have made them think me crazier than they already thought me.  And I would never have given up my fresh bread with butter for breakfast, if ya’ll had bread delivery in the morning.  (And why don’t we have that?  It would seem to me there’s an entrepreneurial thing waiting to happen.  Bread, bagels, doughnuts or cinnamon rolls, newly made and waiting for you, still warm, in a delivery box by the door early morning.)

But circumstances dictated I changed those, and while it was difficult and painful, it got done.  Because I’m human and humans are creatures who learn and adapt.  Which means they can learn new habits, new languages, new expectations: everything that makes up a culture.

In fact, throughout history, we’ve learned and changed.  We’re not still in a cave somewhere chipping flint the way our first vaguely human ancestors did.  Or in the branches, afraid to appropriate the culture of those who walked upright.

No, when a group of humans found something, the other group followed, learned, improved.  You can still find very isolated tribes who don’t have the concept of the wheel, counting above three or past and future tenses.  BUT note the point is “very isolated.”  If they hadn’t been isolated, they’d have picked up these concepts from the cultures who contacted them. It’s called learning more “functional” concepts.

The “functional” here refers to concepts that allow you to live longer, reproduce more and raise more fat babies who will have more fat babies.

Because Western culture, the dominant culture of the world at the moment, went a little (okay, a lot) crazy after the long war of the 20th century, some seriously non-functional-in-the-long-run concepts have crept into it.  In the short run they confer a brief advantage in the fat-baby race, but in the long run they lead to fewer HUMAN fat babies, and perhaps to the extinction of those who adopt them.

One of those is this notion that people come pre-packaged with culture.  In the short run, having infected our social services, it means you’ll get more tolerance for refusing to assimilate, and we’ll indulge your ideas that all women should be covered up, and that they all should live to produce your fat babies.  This might even work on enough women to give you a genetic advantage.

But the idea that culture is innate is not only a STUPID idea (note I’m not painting this post on cave walls, so we must be capable of learning and changing), it’s an EVIL idea.

Let it take hold and sooner or later it leads to genocide.

Oh, sure, the remnants of Judeo Christian ideals, imposed on that stupid idea, means that we tolerate self-harming and definitely society-harming behaviors and shush people who criticize them as being racist.

The problem is the idea of inherited culture is fundamentally incompatible with Judeo-Christian ideas, which require self-control, discipline, ability to change and follow a set of ideals, and which in Christianity’s case, is big on redemption and conversion, both of which require you to change, to adapt and to become different in your interactions with the world

So if the idea of inherent and race-dependent culture wins out, the idea that all humans should have equal rights and that we should support and take care of those less fortunate because they are human like us and their kids might be fine, goes out the window.

What you have left is the idea that some humans are fundamentally unable to work in the modern world.

Sooner or later, then, a leader arises who says “Hey, these are sub-humans.  Let’s get rid of them.”

In fact, this has happened not once, but several times throughout history, because the idea that you’re born with your culture is one of those stupid notions humans can’t quite get rid of.  (Possibly because we are tribal creatures, at heart.)

Note this is not what I want to happen, it’s a horror I dread, but it WILL happen.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.  From the idea that telling someone to learn the language of the country he was born in and lives in is racist comes the idea that genocide makes perfect sense.  Because if some people can’t learn and adapt, well, then, they’re a drain on society.  And if not everyone is — within statistical variance and excluding obvious impairment — equally able to learn and contribute at least enough to pull their own weight, then why should the more able be saddled with the less able?

At the end of this thought process mass graves yawn.

But I’m starting to hear such rumbles.  All of us are.  And they’ll grow as the short-term-incentives we provide lead people down disastrous long term paths.

We must fight that idea loudly and derisively every time it comes up.  Telling someone to learn English is not racist.  Language is NOT encoded in any race’s genes.  Telling someone to show up on time for a job is not racist.  Some cultures have no sense of time, but that’s culture (and tracks fairly well with the cultures that industrialized later.)  Telling someone like me (who grew up in a culture that doesn’t prize organization) that I need to be more organized and start posting these on time is just sense.

Culture is not race.  Humans, as humans, are incredibly adaptable.  All of us came from people capable of overcoming, improvising and adapting.

Given the right incentives everyone can do it.

Does this mean people need to leave behind colorful modes of dress, interesting dishes, beautiful art?  Oh, please.  No.  It just means the main culture will absorb, change and use those parts of any culture that catch its attention.

Cultural appropriation?  Flummery.  It’s called being human.

And now I’m going to appropriate some fire to appropriate some coffee, so I can appropriate this keyboard to write stories in my appropriated language.

And proud of it.



Prepare to be Assimilated

Yesterday I was surprised when Dave Freer sent me a post that echoed almost exactly what I’ve been thinking.  In a late night (for me.  He has temporal privilege, living in Australia) conversation last night, I found that we agree in more than one thing, including how nasty things are going to get if we don’t get at least a partial course correction soon.  That is a post for another time — how the fact that the left’s escathology and the belief history comes with an arrow and that they are the inevitable “end of history” (a belief that’s religious in nature because no rational principles lead to it) has caused them to be blind to the fact that silencing opposition is NOT winning — but for now it remains scary that both of us are worried about the same things.  Why scary?  Because I’ve known Dave for… twelve? thirteen? years and the man has a gut feel for the future. Even when you really wish he weren’t right, he tends to be.

But today I want to talk about assimilation, or, in sociological terms, acculturation.  I, and Kate Paulk, and Dave Freer, and a ton of the rest of us are immigrants who went to another country with the intention of living there the rest of our lives and who had incentives to fit in and be part of that country.  (In the case of two of us, husbands. And in my case a philosophical belief in the principles the nation was founded on.)

But even then, with the best will to fit in, it’s a HARD thing.  Really hard.

It’s not just in your head either, though it is there too.

Humans are tribal, and living in a multi-ethnic society doesn’t make you less tribal.  This is why people keep looking for racists under their bed, because you know, it’s baked in, and they know they’ve “discriminated” at some point.  Only this isn’t the racism of the progressives.  Minorities can be (often are) as racist or more racist than the majority.

But more importantly, in a multi-ethnic society that tries as hard as it can to eliminate racism, you get a different kind of “racism” that has nothing to do with race.  You get tribalism that fastens onto odd things.  It’s best expressed in “Ya’ll are not for around here.”

What you might not realize if you have never immigrated and acculturated is that the way you move, the way you speak (absent accent), the way you eat and the way you walk (not to even mention handwriting) are ALL culturally linked.  Most of it is not identifiable at a conscious level, either.  Most of it is so deep that all it does is trigger the “ya’ll are not from around here.”

I know I’m fitting in better because it’s been years since people stared at me while I went about my daily business and before I opened my mouth came up to me and asked “Where are you from?”

(And btw, the reason I stopped resisting identifying as Latin is because other people are making that identification for me, usually people who have a grudge (and who, bizarrely, manage to think I’m Mexican.)  My kids came to the same decision for the same reason.  It’s one of those “you say that I am” and it actuates even when my hair is colored light brown — it has no color of its own anymore — and I’m pale from a combination of lack of sun and illness. SOMETHING is triggering this response in people.  I don’t know what it is.)

Now, when you don’t fit in, for whatever reason, you’re going to find that some people — often not the sanest people in the world — are going to have issues with you and often be hostile.

Remember this as we go through the stages of assimilation.

It starts when you find yourself in a completely different land and you realize there’s no going back.  I came over after Dan and I discussed our options and decided where we were going to live.

The choices were here or there or between and wherever, a sort of multinational, above nationality existence.

We chose the US for several reasons. To begin with there was that philosophical belief set I had which conformed best to the founding documents of the US.  Then there was the fact that Dan could never be REALLY Portuguese, even if he moved there, learned the language and acculturated completely.  He’d still be a foreigner living there.  Being Portuguese means sharing ancestry.  Our kids would be considered mestizos.  Our grandkids would probably bear “the Americans” as a nickname.  Our great grandkids might too, and by the sixth or seventh generation, THEN they would be Portuguese (and might not remember why they had that nickname, and might think it was just some ancestor who liked American movies.)  Then there was HOW we wanted our kids to grow and the options we wanted them to have.  We decided the US was our best bet.  There were no doubts our kids would be Odd and the more free the society the more outliers thrive in it.

So I came over and set out to acculturate.  Part of this involved watching a lot of old TV because it gives you the catch-phrases, the “feel” of things.  I also read a lot and pretty much everything, which helps, though what helped most was reading auto-biographies and NOT by famous people, who are presenting an image, but the sort of “my grandma wrote an autobiography and we printed a hundred copies and donated one to the library” candid shots of normal people you can get in those.

Even with the best will of the world, even wanting more than anything to fit in, it’s very hard.  Not just in America.  America might be one of the easiest places in the world, because it is multi-ethnic and a country of immigrants.

But even so, people catch the subconcious signals of “something wrong about you.”  They stare.  They don’t trust you.  Sometimes they think you’re stupid, because “smart” in a society is not an IQ test but a series of signals a lot of them subconscious.

I muddled through, but sometimes there there were days I felt so homesick that I’d give anything to never have set out on this course.  And people treated me oddly, and it’s very easy to use that as an excuse for failure.  I learned not to do it because, through friends who did it constantly, I identified it as a trap.  I chose to ignore it.  But I still knew it was happening, and it made me long to go back to my tribe, to the place I belonged.

Some number of immigrants do this.  It gets to be too much for them.  They run back “home” where “things make sense.”  I might have done it but for that philosophical conviction.  That’s how hard it is.

At this stage many people make plans to retire in the “homeland” or at least to go back after death.  I guess it’s a comfort.

And I still had that option, six years in, because the hoped-for kids had failed to materialize, so if something happened to Dan, or simply if it got to be too much for me, we could always “go to Portugal.”

Only then I had Robert.  And the most important reason to live here and stay here came into being.  And if I was to raise this child American, I certainly wasn’t going back, even if a tragedy happened and something happened to Dan.

This is the point at which you’re most offensive to natives, btw.  You know just enough of your new society to see all the warts, but not enough to see the good side or necessary side of the warts.  And you’ve been far enough from your native society for a while so it creates this glow of nostalgia.  You know you’re “trapped” in the new place, which creates resentment.

This is when the words “In my country” — meaning in the old country — come out of the mouths of immigrants.  I was lucky to watch a Turkish immigrant in a group we belonged to alienate everyone with this behavior, so I didn’t do it.  I thought it, sometimes, but I didn’t DO it.

So then came the serious-fitting-in part, helped, btw, by dad.  We took Robert back to meet the family after he was born and dad who, btw, longs to see me every year, told me not to be running back for every important event in the kid’s life.  “Don’t be like those immigrants from France who raise the kid to be Portuguese, while in France.  You made your choice, now make sure your kid knows his place. Raise him American.  We’d love to know him, of course, but he’s American and that’s where he has to fit, and live and thrive.”  This was much like Dave Freer’s FIFO advice yesterday.

So… I made my choice.  And I really started trying to fit in.  This did not involve changing our diet so much, or my clothing choices (I’m odd, okay) but a closer observation of people.  I’d have got rid of my accent, if I could.  Though being a mother helps with this too, because unconsciously you start picking up speech patterns and gestures from your kids.  I might still strike people as somewhat odd, but it wasn’t as in your face anymore.

I also stopped reading in Portuguese, because when I do that a lot, it affects my word choices and rhythm of language in English, and I was trying to get published.

And at some point, I stopped being stared at when I was at the grocery store, and I stopped feeling I stuck out as a sore thumb.  I still couldn’t write people who grew up in America.  (I still can’t write people who grew up NORMAL in America, but that’s something else.)

I don’t know when that happened because I was busy just living.  Somewhere along the line I stopped thinking of Portugal as “home” and Portuguese as “we” and instead changed that to America.

Then came the shock of going to Portugal after a five year hiatus and being in a foreign land, rubbed wrong by the way these people moved, the way they talked, the way they prepared food, a myriad little things.

Now, be aware I’m not an “ugly American”.  I’ve been to other countries (neither America nor Portugal) and reveled in the differences particularly in food and dress but also architecture and just ‘different’.  That’s the point of traveling, I think.  But it’s also easy to enjoy the difference when you know in two weeks or whatever you’ll be back home and have things your way.

It’s harder when the back of your brain remembers doing things that way and — this is hard to phrase, but it’s something like — is afraid of relapsing and of getting “trapped” in the old place.  It’s a feeling of being in a foreign land that is nonetheless eerily familiar, and yet not familiar enough that you could survive in it on your own. Because of how familiar it is, you see the warts.  Because you’re now acculturated elsewhere, it’s easy to see the solutions too and you find yourself saying “Back home we do it this way” then stop, aghast, realizing what happened.  And it’s a relief to come back to your adopted homeland.  And you feel guilty it’s a relief, because you love the people you left behind, and they would be hurt if they knew how much your prefer your new place.

This is where I’ve been for at least 15 years.  It’s where I’ll be the rest of my life.  There will always be little things that aren’t “right” about America, things I learned so far back that they’re not conscious.  Nothing big or philosophical, but the little ways of doing things.  Sometimes I can’t explain to my husband why I hate an area he loves, or vice versa (this is important while house hunting) all I can do is wave my hands and say “No, just no.” And I know I give the “indicators” of class and intelligence all wrong.  (Not REAL class or intelligence but how those markers are perceived in the US.)  I KNOW that was part of my trouble in the field.  I also know that my “I’m getting really, really angry” is mistaken for shyness or fear here, which has led to some in retrospect funny situations.

I will never fully belong either place again.  That’s okay.  It’s a choice I made. And of the two, I belong here the most.  Say I 90% belong here, opposed to 10% in Portugal.

But the process to get where I am was neither easy nor unintentional. And it involved consciously NOT romanticizing where I came from, which I find is a big temptation for immigrants of all types and colors.

So…  So this brings us to taking in refugees from a culture so different from ours as to be mind-boggling, (and you wouldn’t get HOW different unless you’d lived in one half way there), from a religion that considers itself at war (physical, not just spiritual) with us and modernity, from a place where tribe is primary above all…

Do I understand why they want to come here?  Sure.  Even if half the reason is probably wrong of the “streets paved with gold” variety.  They want a better life (or a life) for themselves and their children.

Will it be an easy road to acculturation?  No.  For one, our culture ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES acculturating.  It’s considered a “betrayal” of your “native” culture.  I was accidentally  in the room yesterday (I am ill, okay) while someone watched an episode of Dr. Ken, in which his wife accuses him (a second generation Korean) of being a lapsed Korean and brags about how she has passed on “her culture” (she’s second generation Japanese) to her kids.

The entire episode could serve as a cultural dissection of “the crazy years.”  These two people AND THEIR KIDS are AMERICAN.  That’s the only thing they are.  Yeah, okay, they come from elsewhere, as do most Americans.

BUT the message heard, loud and clear, is that you’re supposed to hold on to all this culture from an imaginary homeland, even when you marry someone from elsewhere, and pass this entire undigested baggage to your kids.  The message is that not only is there no escaping your roots, but it’s somehow bad to want to.

This is the message these new refuggee-immigrants will get, though TV, through movies, through social workers.  How important it is they hold on to their all vital tribalism.  Not just in food and clothing, but in thought.  How it’s somehow “racism” to demand they fit in into their new homeland.

Remember I’m saying this as someone who’s been there.  Acculturation HURTS.  Even when you want it, it’s a very painful process.  Think of the worst days of your teenage years, and multiply them by five or ten years of consciously dragging yourself through this process.

It’s hard enough to do when you chose this, when you love it, and when your tradition doesn’t demand you hold yourself as an enemy of your new land’s ways.  (And btw, I think that’s why it’s considered “racist”: acculturation and pushing for people to assimilate hurts people.  Bleeding hearts don’t understand that sometimes hurt is part of the growth process.)

I can’t even imagine trying to do it when immigration was forced on me, when going back was never an option, when my habits, culture and religion both encouraged me to be suspicious of my new countrymen and caused them to suspect me.

Hard?  Rather say impossible, or close to.  And then add to that telling you that you’re not SUPPOSED to assimilate.  And you’re supposed to raise your kids in the old culture.

People who have never acculturated, people who are frankly quite ignorant of what “foreign” or “abroad” means, beyond their easy, lazy, fluffy headed vacations talking to other people like them abroad, call those scared of such an influx of people in that bind “ignorant.”  I guess because they lack a mirror.

Is it scary?  It is very scary.  Can it end well?  Of course it can.

But the way it ends well is where our society cheerfully smiles and says “fit in, or f*ck off.”  We’ll embrace little Achmed and little Fatima as our countrymen, but NOT if they go around demanding Sharia, telling us to stop eating pork, and that we can’t write/make stupid parodies of Allah, as we do of every other religion/belief in our culture.  Sure, they can roll their eyes at the stupid parodies, or write outraged blog posts about our disrespect.  But they don’t have the right to try to curtail us by law, or to bring their f*cked up culture, which caused their problems to begin with, here.

I don’t see it happening, at least not while our current multi-culti elites are in power.  Which means what we’re doing is importing trouble for later.

Further more, what we’re doing is being horrible to these people and ensuring they’ll never fit in, either place.  And not like me, not 90%/10%.  No, we’re talking they will fit about 30% either place.  And because not self-selected immigrants, they’re probably not odd, not used to NOT belonging.

Of such discontent is strife and war born.

UNDERSTAND this is not what i want, not an expression of my desires.  It is what it is, and how the human animal works.

It is impossible to have this deranged belief that culture is genetic and that people can’t and shouldn’t change (a belief belied by history) and a multi-ethnic society.  At the end of that road is a war none of us wants to imagine and a far more restrictive society than any of us would like.

The only ways out of it are to either take no immigrants, certainly no immigrants in a large group (which makes it harder to leave the old country and its hates and loves behind) OR to hand to every refugee a little handbook.

The cover would say “Fit in or f*ck off.”  And the inside would explain “At home we did it–” is banned, that it’s gauche to try to pass the culture you left behind to your kids.  Oh, food and attire are fine, no one complains of that, but do not try to pass on “we hate x because in the 11th century, they”.  And the only way to stop passing that on is to be American as HARD as you can.

Which hurts.  It hurts like hell.  The generation that immigrated will never fully heal from it, and their kids will still bear scars.

But it’s the only way to make good on your choice of America.  It’s that or go back.  There is no other choice.  Making your new country fit the old is the WRONG choice.  Else, why did you leave.

Fit in or f*ck off.  No, this doesn’t mean becoming the Borg.  America is the society on Earth with the greatest tolerance for oddities and outliers.  BUT you do need to fit in minimally to succeed.  And you need to start thinking of America as “we” and not holding yourself up above the rest of your countrymen.

This goes double and with bells on if you were born and raised here.  Stop imagining there is a perfect society elsewhere and that you somehow belong to it.

Life is in great part the art of adapting to the flaws in reality that don’t match your desired state.

Sometimes all you can do is Fit in or F*ck off.


Birds of Passage – Dave Freer

*This is Sarah.  Sorry to be so late posting this.  I took meds before bed and they zonked me out later than usual.  Yeah, I’m better, but I think the sinus infection has “evolved” into a bout of the common cold.  I’m not sure what it means, and this should be a post for tomorrow, heaven willing, that write best when I’m just too sick to control it, but well enough to write.  I’m approaching the edge of this.  Interestingly, if I weren’t so out of this, I would have written a post on assimilation.  EVEN when you’re motivated, love the principles the country was founded on AND have no one of your culture around, so you can change without reproach is hard.  30 years in I still have to check myself somehow.  No one is going to do it when the incentive is the other way.  Anyway, I’ll get out of the way and let Dave be far more coherent than I am.*

Birds of Passage- Dave Freer

One of the things about migrant birds, welcome or unwelcome, a sign of snow or a sign of spring, or a sign of your crops being flattened, is that eventually they bugger off back to where they came from. Like Arnie, they will be back. But at least they go.


And no matter how welcome they were, seeing them leave is often quite welcome too.


It’s a very different thing when they come… and never leave. That requires a lot more accommodation by the entire system, and, if it doesn’t work out, and they make a pest of themselves, shotguns.

It’s an image worth keeping in mind when we talk about human migrants, refugees or just… migrants.


Now I’ve long held that U.N. definitions of ‘refugee’ is a load of fetid dingo’s kidneys. You’re a refugee when you’ve gone just far enough to escape the strife you and your family were facing. That strife is serious you-will-be-shot-your-daughter-raped if you do not leave now. It’s a slippery slope if you start allowing less rigorous definitions. That means that ‘refugee status’ extends a few hundred meters outside the range of being shot and your daughter raped. That status continues only for as long as the clear and present danger exists. When you can go back, you should.


If you can never go back you need to look for a new home. You become a prospective emigrant, facing the same hurdles and challenges as any other emigrant. Country A may feel sorry for the plight of the poor refugees huddled on the border, and allow them to immigrate. But that is not being a refugee. It’s being an immigrant. If you’re going to allow that refugee to leave the 100 yards of safety and come to your country: well it would be bitterly unfair to the native born, to taxpayers and to the legal immigrants to let them immigrate and become citizens and beneficiaries of your country without the same conditions. If you’re merely granting asylum: Their status is temporary, highly conditional, and if the clear and present danger is not there: they go home.


I was an immigrant. And like any sensible immigrant, I look at what is happening with horror, and a great deal more harshness that Mutti Merkel or your current American administration. Put simply if the situation gets to shotguns, there’s a lot scatter in that shot and it’s going to hit a lot of unintended targets, including birds like us that settled into that garden well, made it a pleasure to have them. So: sensible immigrants want the influx to stop, yesterday.


It’s not a lack of understanding on my part. Or a lack of sympathy on my part. I uprooted my family from a place where long generations had fought for, worked their guts out for, died for, for the dream of a bright future for their descendants, a place where our roots went centuries down, if not millennia. We left because the country had got to 50 murders a day, a lot of which were political and race motivated… and I didn’t see any sign that it could improve. And yes, I had invested twenty years of my life into trying. The long term, with the slow collapse of infrastructure, the growing GINI coefficient, the steady and relentless fall into corruption and bribery, got to point where I looked up and saw my Jewish friends had left, and the Portuguese ones were packing. *


Back when I had been a young conscript one of my friends had quietly got on a plane to move to Israel – where he would do more time as a conscript than I would. I was one of the few people who knew he was going, and not coming back. His family didn’t. They were liberal, wealthy and very disapproving of Israel (although non-observantly Jewish). I asked him: Why? I’ve never forgotten what he said.


“White South Africans have everything, except for a future. I want a future.”


Now you can argue about his choices, and whether he was right. That’s not important. What is important is that he left his past – and I mean left it. Went to live in a country where he knew almost no-one and didn’t speak the language, and was expected to go into military service, and fit in.


I appreciate that this is what faces many people in Africa, the Middle East. They feel they have no real future, and, certainly things are much, much better elsewhere, in the West.


They’re quite right of course. But there is nothing magical about the geography of those countries. There is no reason South Africa should not be as rich (or richer), as safe (or safer) than Europe, America – or Singapore or Australia or Japan. Those places did not magically provide riches, safety, comfort and infrastructure that works. They were paid for by long generations of hard work, by wars, by blood. Those shaped the cultures of the people that live in them.   THAT, not some magic of geography, makes them good places to live, heavenly compared to most of the Middle East or Africa or from what I gather, much of the Americas south of the US border. Oh and spare me that ‘but the West got rich off labor of Africans and stealing their minerals etc. The labor and the minerals had all been there long, long before ‘the West’ existed. Africa remains full of agricultural and mineral potential, and full of those laborers… It’s got some bright and educated men, all the potential in the world, but it remains a pest-hole, where many – as many as half of the people — dream of leaving, of going to Europe or America.


Unfortunately… the place they go won’t automatically make them rich. But that is not what they want to believe. Remember, to average African the US or Europe is what he’s seen on the movies. And yes, he has seen movies. The fact that single working mothers do NOT live in luxurious multi-bed mansions – and never actually seem to work — but live the good life, is just not believed. It’s a bit like the Gold Rush. No-one believes they won’t get rich and live in – relative to their present circumstances – idle luxury. And maybe – because present circumstances really suck – that is true. Besides Cousin Achmed has money to burn when he comes home. And when you ask him about work he’s kinda vague.


The problem is that there is an expectation. Just like those hopefuls going to find gold in California – you can tell them, but they won’t believe you.


And they’ve learned the levers to pull. They’ve learned how to game Western sentiment, Western mores and Western idealism. That lever, I am afraid is “refugee” – which is hell on the refugee who really can never go home. Who doesn’t do this for a better life… he just wants himself, his wife and kids safe. SAFE. Not being raped, not being shot at.


It’s rather like the cry ‘rape’. If we’re to protect rape victims or refugees, and I believe we should — as do most of us – then if and when someone makes a fake claim, it’s not just enough to say ‘off you go home then’. If you want to protect real victims and the sympathy and support they get in future, you have deal with abuse. For the sake of all future victims, you have to deal with it hard.


This idea seems to have passed everyone by. It’s important, dammit! This is not the last time anyone will need to flee a war zone. But unless this fixed it may be last time that anyone can.


Going back to the birds and the shotguns… someone posted ‘this is what you can do if Syrian Refugees settle in your area – take them baby-clothes, shoes etc. You want to be the Good Samaritan. He’s the hero in the story.’ Well… no. Oh, the Good Samaritan is the good guy – he’s helping the beaten and robbed guy survive. Live to live happily ever after. So what IS going to help that refugee (assuming he or she is a refugee) survive, learn to live happily ever after?


It’s not baby clothes. Or shoes.


It’s the one thing no one has given to migrants for the last forty years. Because some dumbasses decided they’d be better off without this essential, which is all they need, but might hurt their feelings. Huh. Much better to screw their lives up, and their kids, and possibly the lives of others and their refuge… than the bad-feelz for a few days.


It’s what, I promise you, they need far, far more than anything else. I have reason to know, it worked incredibly well for us – to point where when we became citizens of Australia – we had more than 1/5 of the entire adult population of the Island at the ceremony to celebrate with us – and one hell of a party. It’s why we’re happy, settled love the place we’re in, and have a huge network of friends here.


It comes down to four letters, and it’s the best thing you can ever, ever give migrant, or a refugee: Simple advice. Other, more material things – food, shelter, even baby clothes — follow on it. I must thank Inga, the Australian who gave it to us. She came to Australia as a refugee after WW2 from East Germany. She became one of our best friends, until she passed away, survived by three strong sons, a daughter, grandchildren and even a great grandchild. She survived, and did pretty well at the ‘happily ever after’ bit.


Just four letters (Ok, Inga just gave me the first two. I worked the other two out)




Fit In, or Fuck Off


It’s simple, cheap, and… not easy. But two out of three ain’t bad. And you know what? It works. There are millions and millions of historical examples. Most of us carry the mixed up genes of those examples.


It’s the one thing those refugees really need. It’s the one thing that will make sure that the West is a refuge, is a place they find that ‘gold’, is the place where their kids do not turn into terrorists.


It’s the one thing no one is giving them.




*There’s a saying back in Africa: ‘When the Jews go, it’s time to go. When the Portuguese go, it’s already too late.’ It’s a common saying, don’t ask me precisely what it means or where it is from… Maybe the former have, you might say, many generations of selection for surviving persecutions and pogroms. Besides, they tend to be bright. The Portuguese? I dunno. Maybe that because that’s where the Moors stopped, or were stopped, or because they survived various other attempts to destroy them. Or maybe they have predilection to obstinacy and optimism, genetic or otherwise – that could go a long way to explaining Sarah Hoyt and Larry Correia.