Yesterday we were driving back from Denver – molestation of dinos happened, (aka I got to look and dinosaur bones and let my inner kid out to oooh and ahhhh) and looking for a radio station to listen to. We don’t actually listen to much Country – not a hatred of the genre, but we grew up at a time when Rock and Roll was cooler, and it formed our tastes. That said, we like some Country – but as we hit that station, my husband said “you realize they think this is what we listen to all the time.”
I must have looked blank, because he said “You know, we’re the unenlightened. There are only two types of people who disagree with them on how the world should be run: i.e. with the idea that you can merge all nations together and stop war; with the idea that if America just becomes poor other countries will become rich; and most of all with the idea that people could or should be guided in everything by their “betters.”
The only two people they think disagree with them, are the evil rich, who don’t want to share out their ill-gotten loot (and all wealth is loot to them, since like Marx they don’t realize wealth can be created) and the unenlightened. I said “the unenlightened.” And he said “Oh, yes, they live in trailer parks, listen to right wing talk shows, own several guns and might or might not sleep with their relatives, depending on who you talk to. But they are all white and all male, this is very important, because otherwise instead of unenlightened they would be a downtrodden minority and their opinions would have immediate moral authority. As is, it’s a wonder they reproduce.””
This made me burst out laughing, but of course, the problem is that in internet forums (particularly when not under my name, but often then too) I get accused of being one or the other of those and often, for a truly contradictory stew, both of them together (evil rich, who live in trailer parks, and….)
The truth is that the Aristo class are a little fuzzy and contradictory on the unenlightened, because, of course, they like to think they are for the “downtrodden” which means they actually can’t look down on the poor.
But the truth of the matter is they don’t (by and large. I’m sure there are exceptions) know any poor. Their ideas of the poor come from ill-digested eighteenth century (truly, not debased) liberal ideas combined with what they see about other classes/races/professions on tv shows and movies. Which are… bad.
Look, stereotypes are a tool of my trade. You have to round out your world with stereotypes or EVERY pulp SF would be the size of War and Peace and about as interesting.
If I have to bring in an eight year old for one scene, she’s going to fall into one of two stereotypes: either she’s going to be all in pink, like dolls and plastic horses with multicolored tails, or she’s going to be in jeans and a torn t-shirt and carry a football under her arm.
No real little girls falls into one of these stereotypes, no matter how close they come. I was closer to the second, but I loved my dolls, spent a great portion of my time playing house (I must admit too I was very unenlightened in those days. I beat up the neighbor boy because he wanted to be the mommy, which I found just “dumb”. For the record, he didn’t grow up to be gay, (that was the OTHER neighbor boy who never – at least while playing with me – wanted to be the mommy. Mostly he wanted to build go-carts, so we might never have played house) he grew up to be a wife-abuser. I probably shouldn’t have pounded him )
However, if the kid is only there for a scene, and maybe featuring as a dead body later, you don’t have time to explain that yeah, she likes to play games with the boys, and play with trains and cars, but she also likes to play at being the mommy.
So, we use stereotypes, of course. And to an extent they reinforce the stereotypes other people have written.
However, good writers, or writers who try to be good try not to use stereotypes for the IMPORTANT things. And certainly we try not to stereotype entire economic/professional classes.
In fact, I stopped reading a particular mystery series, because the murderer was ALWAYS the entrepreneur. And more and more I can’t watch TV – sitcoms and dramas – because all the characters, good and bad are stereotypes.
It wasn’t always this way. Yesterday we were watching the first episode of Columbo, and what got me was how well drawn the characters were. The bimbo actress has unexpected depths, the murdered wife is NOT a victim of male oppression, but a woman embittered by life in a marriage gone sour (and probably entered into for the wrong reasons on both sides.) The husband too, yes, is a murderer, but you can sort of see what he saw and how he got there.
I challenge you to find me a mystery episode like that today. It always ends up defaulting to the stereotypes of “abusing” husband and “helpless” (or saintly) wife, the “right wing” intolerant man, the open minded intellectual, the rebellious (and ultimately right) teen and on and on and on.
That’s not art. That’s speak-and-spell.
And the problem has its roots in the eighteenth century, when liberalism deserved that name. In the eighteenth century, to believe that everyone had the right to equal treatment before the law was as heretical as most of the things you guys and I say here today.
But anyone who believes that, (and I do) inevitably comes across the fact that all men are created equal but (who was it who said it?) “differ greatly in the sequel.” And most people immediately try to justify this by going on about how all men could be equal if just: they had proper nutrition, they had proper education, they had– whatever. (What got us in the housing crisis was the idea that all men would be equal if they just lived in the “right” neighborhood.)
The most popular belief in the eighteenth century was that all men would be “enlightened” if they just had enough of the right kind of education.
It’s a naïve belief, and one that continued through to the idea that if you just indoctrinate the kids in communism, you’ll do away with greed and private property.
It doesn’t – to put it bluntly – work. In many cases it backfired spectacularly. There is no reason that knowing a lot makes you good. (My favorite con-seen t-shirt is “Knowledge is power; power corrupts; study hard, be evil.”) Education helped the underclasses, of course. In fact it often helped them overtake the upper classes, which led to little unpleasantnesses like the French Revolution.
What it didn’t do was make everyone angels, which is something that SOMEHOW keeps managing to surprise humans. (That we can’t be made over into angels.)
Our Aristos are descended from the eighteenth century liberals (sorry but they are.) We are too. We are the liberals who decided you had to endure some human imperfections, while trying to be as good as possible, and trying to give others the same opportunity. (I think the founding fathers were our kind of liberals. You give the opportunity, but you can’t enforce the results.)
The “liberals” of today are descended via the wrong side of the blanket, bastard sons (and daughters) of communism, by way of the French revolution. They think this time men can be made perfect, if JUST—
One of the justs remains “they’re educated right.” Only because real education results in a varying array of opinions, with sub-opinions differing greatly within the opinions (just the words abortion and “gay marriage” suffice for me to pick a fight with most of you, and not in the way you’d expect either. And then within each of the sub-opinions on that, if I give vent to my full beliefs, I can get both sides to hate me too. Not to say I can’t do business with most of you. Of course I can. If you believe in a small government that stays out of most people’s private life, and if you believe in local control over federal control, you’re a brother or sister of mine, and we’re going the same way.) When you think, and when you analyze history, your opinions will vary. You won’t be “enlightened in the right way.”
So… Because our Aristos REALLY want the masses to be enlightened, because this will lead to of course universal peace, brotherhood and rainbow-farting unicorns, they have given up on real education in favor of indoctrination and teaching the “right” conclusions.
On top of that, because pesky humans still insist on coming up with different ideas, once out of the control of the school, (or learn to double think, which I did, early) they reinforce this through entertainment. Which means the only movies/series/books the gatekeepers will bless are those that enforce the stereotypes they want.
Which is why these days, if you watch practically anything, anyone who disagrees with the Aristos is either evil, rich and greedy (weirdly greed for power never makes their lexicon of sins. At least not greed for political power. It’s always greed for money – rolls eyes) or an ignorant gun totting redneck living in a mobile home and talking only in Bible phrases. (Or, as someone said “clinging to their guns and religion.”)
This is because the only reason these poor children raised with stereotypes can imagine for anyone not to agree with “but teacher says!” is that you are either personally invested in saying the “wrong” things because you get paid for it (let me say right now that I’m FURIOUS I’m not getting checks from Haliburton, the Zionist conspiracy, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, the Koch brothers and all these other people who are supposed to be paying us [I’m particularly mad at the Kochs since they’re libertarians who support the arts, because well, this art could use some support, guys.] I guess they can’t get my address?) or because you aren’t “enlightened” – hence, poor, living in a mobile home (I have no clue what they have against mobile homes, except as a mark of poverty) and indoctrinated into the religion they disapprove of. (Note these people must be white and male, and non-muslim, because otherwise you tread on the toes of protected minorities.) And in the case of those poor and unenlightened, they think the only reason is that you have been traumatized, you lost your job, you don’t get enough from welfare and therefore you “cling to hatred of those who aren’t like you.”
Because apparently the idea that societies organized on redistributionist lines have not only never worked but resulted in misery and death, and the fact that every time the Aristos take over fully misery and death is exponentially increased HAS NEVER OCCURRED TO THESE PEOPLE. Because after all “teacher says” these ideas are right, therefore they MUST be.
The truth is that, for the whole time I’ve lived in this country, the best way to climb the ladder of wealth is to be “liberal”. This is because by the eighties the liberals were already in control of not just entertainment but the boards of most corporations. Even entrepreneurs who make it, immediately acquire a veneer of lefty opinions (often ill digested) in order to fit in at the country club and network and get ahead. (No? Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Major Republicans, right? Pfui.)
As for the trailer park? Well, I have nothing against trailer parks or people who live in them – I want to make that clear. The way life goes, up and down, I might well eventually find myself in one (if I’m lucky. There’s always the appliance box under the bridge!) – but it is usually a “lower income” neighborhood. And like most lower income neighborhoods, while it might have some socially conservative people with morally inflexible judgements, these days mostly what it has are people who ran aground while imitating the (no need for marriage, do sleep around with everyone, no need for a job either – the state will provide) “morals” and definitely the manners of the Aristos.
Study after study has proven that if you have the bourgeois virtues: you marry early and stay married, you work as much as you can, you save and defer gratification, you’ll still do pretty well – for a definition of pretty well, in relation to current economy and to where you started.
So while you might live in a small house, you’re unlikely to live to in the kind of trailer park that the “liberals” have resort to for their stereotypes. In that kind of trailer park most people will in fact vote for the Aristo agenda, under the impression that garantees mo’ government cheese.
Indie, both in writing (and in film – which scares them even more, and which is coming down the pike at torpedo speed, mark my words) scares these people spitless, because it will cease to reinforce the stereotypes.
The bursting of the education bubble (lower and higher) scares them even more because people will get “the wrong” kind of education.
The desperate power grab we’re seeing from the Aristos is complicated by their fear of this, which they can sense only dimly. Because they think in stereotypes, they really think all homeschooled kids learn ONLY the Bible. Because they think only in stereotypes they really think that books that don’t obey their blueprint are bad.
And I think, because they think only in stereotypes, they will ultimate be blindsided and left behind by the future.
Aristocracies that grow too divorced from reality ultimately can’t survive. At best people learn to work around them and they lose all power. At worst… there comes the guillotine.
I’d prefer the first to the last, but if we don’t manage the first, the last will surely come.
Sometimes it’s hard — and thankless — work saving the clueless from the consequences of their lack of clue. (And I still don’t get any checks.)