The Two Sides Of The Police Coin – Amanda Green

The Two Sides Of The Police Coin – Amanda Green

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an increase in comments in social media – not to mention the mainstream media itself – condemning the police. They look at events like what happened in Ferguson or New York City and say those incidents prove that the police are no longer looking to serve and protect. Some take the position that the police are out to screw over any minority, especially if that person is a young black male. Others claim that cops are all egotistical, power-hungry pigs who get off on screwing anyone who isn’t in the old boy network. It doesn’t matter to either side what the circumstances surrounding an incident might be. If an officer drew his gun and fired, he was exercising unreasonable force and should be charged.

The suggestions about what to do whenever an officer discharges his weapon in the course of performing his duty have ranged from immediately terminating him and instituting an investigation into what happened to an automatic felony charge without benefit of a grand jury review. What those advocating these sort of responses seem to overlook is that their so-called solutions are as much in violation of the officer’s civil rights as they claim the officer’s actions might have been.

As much as I don’t agree with either position, I can pretty much wave those approaches off. Those clamoring for instant charges against cops are having nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to current events, a reaction fueled by the media that is having a blast doing its best to tear down not only law enforcement but the way the public views those who have chosen to go into it as a profession.

What I can’t wave off are the calls by some to completely do away with all forms of law enforcement. These folks believe that we would be much better off without police of any kind. According to them, we would police ourselves and our homes and neighborhoods would be much safer than they are now. After all, when you call 911 for help, you are running the risk of having a bad cop respond and shoot your, someone in your family or your family pet.

Let’s get something straight right now. I’m the first person to admit there are bad cops out there. But there are also bad doctors and bad teachers and bad any other profession (skilled or not). Bad cops are worse than crooks. Those men and women who have sworn to serve and protect and who then violate their oaths deserve to have the full weight of the law thrown at them. They have not only violated their oaths but they have violated the trust that has been put in them by the public they are supposed to serve.

However, this trend of condemning all cops because of the actions of a few is more than a little troublesome. The generalizations it makes are dangerous ones, not only for law enforcement personnel but for the public as well.

Yes, there are bad cops. But there are a hell of a lot more good ones than bad. The reason we hear about the “abuses” by cops so often these days is because of the media. For those of you not old enough to remember, there was a time when you’d turn on the 10 pm news and see sensational stories about the addicts and pushers offing one another or the innocent kid caught in the cross-fire. Now we hear about the cops and, in all too many cases, the story is framed in such a way as to paint the cop as guilty before the facts have been determined.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there are more than 900,000 “sworn law enforcement officers” in the United States. If, as the detractors of law enforcement claim, all these men and women were corrupt, the first thing that would happen is the media would be silenced. Those corrupt cops would strong arm any reporter who dared try to expose their criminal activities and demand justice.

Let’s face it, with 900,000 people doing any job, someone is going to take advantage of their position. But that doesn’t mean everyone else will as well.

As for the suggestion that we move from professional law enforcement personnel to policing ourselves, well, think about it. Without a professional law enforcement arm to protect our communities and enforce our laws, it will be up to each individual to do so. They will have to be vigilant and watch what happens in their neighborhood. They will have to learn how to use firearms – or other forms of weapons – in such a way that they don’t automatically present a danger to themselves and others just by picking up the weapon. They have to be willing to step up and possibly put themselves in danger to protect their own loved ones or someone they might only know to nod hello to.

But most of all, for it to work the way the law enforcement detractors seem to think it would, these men and women in each neighborhood would have to never be tempted by the same things that tempt our professional cops. Anyone want to bet how likely that is to happen?

Sure, there are places where the community can and will police itself. Most of those are small towns or neighborhoods where everyone knows who lives in their area and they keep an eye out for one another. That doesn’t work, on the whole, in larger cities. Too many people never take the time to get to know who lives next door to them, much less down the street or one street over.

Our society has changed in the last fifty years. When I was growing up, we knew everyone up and down our street. Parents knew each kid in the neighborhood and they wouldn’t hesitate to correct a child if they saw the kid doing something she shouldn’t. There was a trust and sense of community that isn’t there in most places any more.

But that sense of community wasn’t limited to the adults either. As kids, we might not have always liked one another but, by ghu, no one had better bully or try to pick a fight with one of our neighbors. If they did, we would descend en masse to make sure they never tried again.

There was also a freedom we had as kids that our own kids don’t get to enjoy. Once we were old enough – and I’m talking grade school age – we’d get on our bikes, tell our folks where we were going and we’d be gone all day. Sometimes we stayed in the immediate neighborhood and other times we might ride to one of the neighboring towns to go to a park or play with friends there. If that were to happen today, some “concerned citizen” would be calling CPS on our folks and reporting them for child endangerment. Heck, they are calling the cops on parents who let their kids play in the park directly across from the house – with the parent watching.

But this is the world the cop haters think can police itself and we’d be a much more peaceful and happy society as a result.

Sorry, but I see only disaster. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t take too kindly to someone trying to take away my son simply because I let him play outside, especially if he was being supervised at the time. How many injuries and deaths from just this sort of thing would happen without there being an unbiased (hopefully) third party to intervene and decide what the facts might be?

Then there is the claim that crime stats have decreased in some cities after police forces have been downsized. Well, do quote Homer Simpson, “Doh!” Of course the stats are down. Crime stats are manipulated by not only the police but by the city/county and by the feds. The police do it to keep the city council and local citizens happy — and to get new recruits. The city/county does it to try to keep federal monies and the feds do it to justify their own programs.

This is something we have seen in Dallas of late. By changing how they defined certain felonies, the major crime stats fell dramatically from one year to the next. It had nothing to do with the number of cops on the street or the number of brutality complaints, etc. It didn’t even have anything to do with the number of actual crimes committed. It had everything to do with how those 911 calls were classified and how the data was compiled.

Like it or not, cops are human and they make mistakes. When those mistakes are the result of negligence of worse, and when they result in someone being hurt or property being damaged, those cops should face the justice system. That does not mean trying them in the press nor does it mean they get special treatment. It also doesn’t mean they are denied certain rights like having their case presented to a grand jury unless they waive it.

I’m not going to apologize for not jumping onto the bandwagon to condemn those good men and women who put their lives on the line every day when they put on their uniform and go out to protect their communities. I’ll even admit that this is something I am passionate about. I have worked with cops, good and bad. I have absolutely no loyalty or sympathy for a bad cop. They need to be sent to the pen just like anyone else who has committed a felony — or, if a misdemeanor, they need to face justice there as well. But we cannot shackle the hands of good cops to such a degree that they can no longer do their duty to serve and protect. Don’t like the way the cops in your jurisdiction act, then apply to join the civilian review board or run for office so you can have oversight over them.

All that said, yes, there need to be limits on what a cop can do and there needs to be a valid and unbiased review process in place. They are supposed to serve and protect, not rule and conquer.

 

The Inevitable Emmanuel Goldstein

Update:  I keep forgetting to do this!  The Big Ship and the Wise Old Owl is free for another three days or so.

Yesterday, I thought it was safe to echo a chart on FB showing the relative economic freedom of states in the US. Note, that it was a picture/meme and I didn’t dwell very deeply on their premises. Some of the placements seemed funny – Colorado as high as 17? Really? – but most in general accorded to the “feel” of states I’ve lived in or where I have friends. So I echoed, having seen it while I was logging in to pm a friend.

Why didn’t you guys warn me that we’re in full saturnalia, and fools are running around with underwear on head pretending to be kings? Sheesh, you’d think you would.

The first entrant was a man yelling that the freedom of these states was just freedom of corporations to screw the little man, and we needed more regulations, more, more, more. We’ll ignore for a moment that like soylent green corporations are people, and that people work for and in corporations, and that in fact corporate profits feed retirement funds.

Instead, let’s think of what more regulations do. You see, more regulations means more unintended consequences, and more need for lawyers and corporate accountants and stuff. And that means that more regulations makes it hard for small businesses, be they single proprietorships or corporations (for instance, yours truly is two corporations. It was needed to get my full evil card) to compete with large corporations and ultimately creates a crony capitalist system.

When some of this was pointed to Notary supergenius (don’t look at me. He’s the one who called himself Notary as a first name.) he linked his own blog in which he explains Ayn Rand was a soviet agent bringing libertarian fascism/communism to the US. You only think I am joking.

When we laughed, pointed fingers and made duck noises, he called us mean, said we were attacking his profession (instead of his idiocy in using it as a badge!) and flounced off, deleting his posts as he went, in case someone suspected he was a fool. (Of course this gave the great and magnificent Larry Correia, who intervened this morning, to reconstruct his posts from the replies and add in moon ferrets which, I must say, made Notary Supergenius sound SO MUCH more coherent.)

At this point we were mobbed (trust me, the man is a mob) by this lefty who thinks posting colorful charts is a discussion, and who doesn’t get anything about the statistics he quotes. Then (heaven help me!) he wanted my opinion of TR’s trust busting. I told him I didn’t think very highly of TR’s politics, but I haven’t researched it in any detail, so I wasn’t going to pronounce.

At this point a gentleman who has written for Baen came in. I will not name him because – eye roll – should I ever lose my mind I’d hope people extend me the like courtesy. ( My grandmother used to say “May G-d grant me my mind up to the hour of my death” — she lost it the last two days, but it was still a pretty good run.  And I pray likewise.) But he is the proximate reason for this post. Which is why we’ll leave him for last.

At this point a gentleman with a German name came in and told me that free markets are unstable and self-destruct, which is why they need government to regulate them, but this doesn’t make it socialist, etc… At which point I pointed out the free market just is. It doesn’t self-destroy, it changes to accommodate stupid regulations, but it exists everywhere.

I meant, of course, the free market that exists say under the name of “black market” in socialist paradises.

However, this second Supergenius! Self-trapped immediately by telling me that ahah, he’d got me. There has never been a real free market without regulation anywhere, and that’s how we know it needs regulation or it would self-destruct.

You know, my desk is golden oak. You’d think it wouldn’t dent that way. Do these people hear themselves. “This thing that never existed is unstable.” Um… ‘mkay. That isn’t even good Science Fiction.

Anyway, Larry Correia showed up this morning with the armor of righteousness and the sarcasm of nuclear power and all the snow flake seals have run and hid, which is good, because it means I can now write. (It’s already twelve o’clock, not a whore is dressed, the pots aren’t emptied, and the streets are full of Spanish Sailors – found in an old phrase book – or IOW “I must finish this d*mn book and I will not spend my time dissecting internet trolls.”)

BUT to return to number three screamer on the thread. This one came in hot and heavy, yelling that the “free” states weren’t free. They were owned by the Koch brothers. And besides, the Koch brothers are buying this nation’s politics and scream, scream, scream.

When I see “Koch brothers” in a political argument, what I see the person posting doing is this:

I looked up – not hard – a chart which told me the Kochs are actually the number 23 and 24 donors in the nation when it comes to political causes. Most of the others are above them are of course liberal. Which I suppose is why the liberals fixate on the libertarian Kochs. (Who are, as we all know soviet spies for libertarian fascism, just like Ayn Rand. We also know that Freedom is slavery, poverty is wealth, and Eurasia is a cherry pancake.)

But then I wondered why the liberals always need a bad guy in their narrative of the world.

Look, I don’t like Obama very much. (Eh!) And when it comes to liberal journalists who try to suppress the truth and paint it with lies, I could quote puppet masters “I’d turn my gun away from a puppet master to shoot one of the renegades” (metaphorically, of course.)

But the thing is I know where they come from (the concerted attack on western civilization) and what they stand for (a series of idiocy rooted in Rosseau and Marx) and I acknowledge that they are a social trend of sorts, one that has be reckoned with.

The only thing I hate about them is their total inability to process argument, and their insistence on screaming memes and talking points to protect themselves from argument.

But then I sort of expect this from a cult, which is what they are. You can’t be argued out of a position you weren’t argued but instead brainwashed and “felt” (“feeled”) into.

So why do they need to personalize the “enemy” as one person, and one person selected more or less at random. For instance, why did they paint George W. Bush – a Christian socialist at heart) – as a wild-eyed laissez faire guy? And why do they make the Kochs – Libertarians – as “fascists.”

And then I realized it doesn’t matter. They need someone to hate precisely because their ideas don’t work in the real world at all. So a wrecker must be identified, who is keeping the utopia from coming true – otherwise their ideas would be false and that’s impossible, of course – and the characteristics attributed to him which are most convenient to the left discourse.

This happens more or less automatically. One of them identifies someone (George Bush because he kept Al Gore from stealing the election. How dare he?) and starts screaming and the other ones fall behind because they desperately need someone to blame for the abject failure of their policies. Hence, we get these unreasoning, mob-screaming fests about the hated name apropos of anything, whenever they feel their beliefs are threatened.

These two minutes of hate would be funny, if it weren’t for the fact that real people are on the other side of them and COULD get hurt.

In fact, in every communist attempted utopia in the world, they have been hurt, by the massive scores. Entire classes of people – Kulaks, Ukrainians, Middle Men – were designated “wreckers and spoilers” and the graves filled with their corpses.

And that, THAT is the worst feature of the communist/socialist/progressive beliefs. Because they THINK they’re scientific (they wouldn’t know real science if it bit them on the buttocks) and that their victory is pre-ordained, they can’t examine their mistakes, backtrack or admit error.

Instead, they must forge ever “Forward” as their societies collapse, their economies falter, and Emmanuel Goldstein must be killed again and again.

And that is why we must stand up and say “no more.”

I couldn’t care less about the Koch brothers. Never met them, though a friend of mine once worked for them. I’m sure they couldn’t care less about the pointing and shrieking either.

BUT I don’t care to have people arbitrarily declared objects of hate.

Leave Eurasia alone. Calm down and go look for your paradise in the ever-after where men are different. Found the Convent of our Lady of Perpetual Redistribution and show us how communism can totally work on your own time and dime.

Just leave us the f*ck alone, and stop screaming for the blood of innocents. We don’t care how crazy YOU are. We just don’t want to be forced to dance in your macabre saturnalia.

 

 

The Charity of Strangers – A Blast From The Past post from June 2007

*Note from 2014 — yes, I was doing my best to be non political.  Eh.*

I should be working on my overdue novel or writing my overdue short story. I’m not. The reason I’m not is because I’ve been turning an ethical problem in my mind.

And this is going to lead me to break one of my longstanding rules, which is not discussing religion or politics in public.

Not that what I’m about to discuss is religion – exactly – or politics – exactly. But it touches on both.

The fact is, I’m aware that some of you are going to be very angry at me. I’m aware some of you will be angry enough never to read me again. I’m also aware that I’ll be violating one of Heinlein’s rules – to wit – “Only a fool or a sadist tells the unvarnished truth in social situations.”

Perhaps I’m going menopausal. Or perhaps I simply don’t care anymore. Or perhaps sometimes – SOMETIMES – the truth needs to be told.

I know I will get a very strong reaction to this because I’ve discussed this topic before, years ago, in a women’s writing group. The group consensus was that I was “mean” or perhaps “evil” and there was nothing I could do to change it.

And yet – and yet – I see evil in what is going on. And I think it should be stopped.

So I’ll begin at the beginning. Let’s talk about charity.

I grew up, like any normal kid in a fairly “nice” family learning to share and to give to those who had less than I. This was so emphasized that until I was twenty eight I thought I had killed my cousin Dulce by refusing to share my bread and butter with her. (She died in the last small pox (not confirmed, mind, but likely, given the distribution of the blisters AND the mortality among the unvaccinated) epidemic to sweep through the village. As I had it too, I’m sure some reference was made to the fact we were playing together a week or so before. That my mind attributed this to my refusing to share just goes to show how I was brought up.)

Beyond that, I always had a sense of empathy. Like most of your nerdy writers, as a child I was excluded from enough games and clubs to give me a sympathy for the underdog. So far so good.

And then when I was eleven, I joined a youth group. This was the seventies. We were for social action and justice. Which was our parents’ charity and poor relief dressed up and nice and with a new hairdo.

We spent six months – SIX months holding fund raisers and collecting money. One of the girls in the group had come up with this idea that we should help this family that lived next to her. Six kids in a shotgun apartment, no decent clothes, no toys and most of the time no food on the table.

We worked our behinds off. We were that kind of earnest young people. And I was so proud, so incredibly proud, when we collected the equivalent of about six months’ salary and delivered it to these people. I could imagine what a difference it would make in their lives. I could JUST see it.

I felt very virtuous. This lasted until I told my mom what we’d done. Mom was horrified. Turns out the parents were both alcoholics. Not only wouldn’t the kids get any of the money, but the parents would use it to get stinking drunk, which in turn would result in more aggression towards the kids… you get the point.

Turned out mom was right – bummer – and I’ve never felt that virtuous since.

This is apropos what?

Well, bear with me.

Thirteen years ago when we moved to town – an apartment near downtown – I loved this city. One of the things I loved was how SAFE it was. There were exactly four “homeless” people identifiable as living downtown. I’m sure there were more served by the various shelters, which demanded sobriety or a modicum thereof before you used their services. But downtown, we saw four. And, really, downtown was a safe, friendly place, with a lot of small businesses in place. I could, without driving, buy most things I needed, from groceries to office supplies. The kids could sit out on the front porch, when they were toddlers. It was just nice.

And then it changed.

Because I don’t follow such things it took me time to figure out why – all of a sudden – every corner had people pushing shopping carts. Aggressive people; people mumbling to themselves. It took me time to figure out why the little park in the middle of town was now infested by people sleeping on the grass, threatening (and mugging) passerbies. Why the little businesses were fleeing downtown. Why my friend who worked downtown had issues with people coming into the bookstore and urinating on the carpet.

The city hasn’t grown that much. It might have doubled in size, but I don’t think so.

And the local economy was not worse. On the contrary. We’ve been ranked as one of the more affluent towns in the US. So… how come this problem suddenly?

And then the city forbid panhandling – this is not related, except where it got me to understand the situation a little better – and all of a sudden the newspapers were full of interviews with the people affected…

Do you know, with a few exceptions – families fallen on hard times and the like, though they’re not the kind that haunts parks – the “homeless” population could be divided in two: Young kids – teens to twenties – who’d run away from home. And people who had been living a rootless, boundary-less life since the sixties or seventies.

The funny thing, you know, is that I’d always thought kids who ran away from home did so because they were being abused or there was another huge problem. And some of them did mention that. However, the vast majority of the young indigent said a paraphrase of “I left home because my parents had all these rules. And now, man, if I can’t panhandle, I’ll have to go back.”

The adults, otoh had various expressions of confusion as to why we were doing this to them and how – with no provocation – we were taking away their means of livelihood.

Since that time I’ve been a little skeptical about the type of charity that just gives “services” to the homeless.

My skepticism increased when I realized a) the reason downtown was now full of homeless was a “no questions asked” soup kitchen run by a religious charity right smack downtown. b) Homeless were taking the bus from the largest city nearby. (This is not a conjecture. I overheard them talking and on one signal occasion was approached by one demanding to know where the soup kitchen was because he’d just taken the bus to our town. They’d told him there was this great place…)

Okay – hear me out – I’m neither mean nor stupid, nor have I arrived at this opinion without a lot of thought.

Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t feed the hungry. Yeah, we should if we can. I assure you that for a long part of my teen years I needed – and received – both food and clothing from the charity of strangers. One of the reasons the Red Cross will always get a check from me is the clothes I wouldn’t otherwise have had after that growth spurt at fourteen.

That’s not the point. The point is that the first rule of charity should always be: First Do No Harm.

I still live downtown. I walk by the park a lot. And you know what? I’m sorry for these people. Really and truly sorry. Most of them not only lack the skills to integrate in society – they lack an understanding of WHY they should.

They get food. They get clothes. They get a place to sleep. WHY should they change anything about how they live? Why shouldn’t they do drugs and have promiscuous sex? Those of them who are mentally unstable not only have no reason to seek treatment or to take their medications – they don’t KNOW they SHOULD.

Oh, I’m sure people who volunteer at the soup kitchen – and other places – tell them they should. But… the thing is, they are human right? Humans work mostly on inertia. If you don’t make it difficult to just drift on, why should they try?

Now and then you hear of people who clean up, who move on and up. But these are the exceptions. Like people who lose 100 lbs, they are the exception and display immense willpower.

Our society is so affluent we can afford to give these people a life that’s downright luxurious compared to the peasants of most societies in history. Food everyday. Enough clothes to cover themselves. Clean places to sleep at night.

And we demand nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I realize part of this is a reaction to Victorian times, when it was assumed that people were poor because they’d done something wrong. I know many people are poor through no fault of their own – or at least no fault of their own that they can easily remedy. Lack of skills, lack of will power, just a lack of ambition, are enough to keep someone born outside the right conditions “down.”

But most of the time, none of those are enough to make the person outright “homeless.” That requires worse. A stroke of bad luck might do it, if bad enough. A mental condition. Or… a drug addiction. Alcohol abuse.

The stroke of bad luck usually leads to people living in their cars or crashing with friends. It leads to people who are TECHNICALLY homeless, but not the visibly so. Not the ones who haunt the park and mug passerbye. These people – the homeless with cause or, to use an old-fashioned term, the deserving poor – are undoubtedly there through no fault of their own. And there are already several organizations that assist them. If they need anything, they need an explanation of how to get there from here – how to apply for help; whom to ask.

And then there are the others – the VAST majority of others – which are the ones who patronize this “no questions” soup kitchen. The ones who don’t know why they should change. The ones we are ENABLING in their dysfunction.

Yes, yes, I can hear the shouts now. I’m mean. I don’t care about poor people. I am made uncomfortable by the presence of the needy.

Except… That these “needy” are shutting down businesses and driving other people into poverty. Except that I do donate money/time/service to various causes helping those less fortunate than I. Except that I think what these “needy” need is help of a different sort. Help seeing the way out. Support on their way up. NOT “no guilt” help that keeps them trapped.

HOW can it possibly be that allowing them to self destruct helps them? Or society? Or the communities blighted by their presence?

Look – we’re back to that family and how GOOD I felt “helping” them. Except that I didn’t.

There was a way to help them – oh, sure there was – or at least a way that would have done no harm. We could have bought groceries for them for six months. This might still have led to more drinking as the parents might have sold the groceries – but it would have been more difficult.

Or – and far preferable – we could have given OF OURSELVES. We could have befriended those kids. Eventually taken them home to our comfortable houses for meals/playtime/interaction. This would have helped far more.

BUT that wasn’t easy. And besides, it wasn’t what it was all about. It was about social action. And justice. It was about collecting money and handing over a check. It was about the charity of strangers. And it was about a bunch of pre-teens feeling good and virtuous.

I think this soup kitchen – which is now undergoing a massive fundraising to expand – is about exactly those things. I’m sorry, but I believe it is about people who volunteer there and people who donate to it feeling good about themselves. D*mn good.

And who am I to grudge people a bit of self-satisfaction?

Well… perhaps I’m an evil bitch, because I feel that self-satisfaction arrived at at the expense of other people’s lives is bad. Perhaps I’m an evil bitch because I care not only about the small businesses being driven from downtown and the families that can no longer work in the park but these people who are being “helped” to remain lost in a moral no-man’s land. With no way out.

I’m not against charity. I’m against charity to faceless strangers. I think most of the time it ends up doing evil.

There are ways to help – but those demand that you actually get close and personal. That you find out what’s holding these people down. That you CARE. For more than feeling virtuous. And that, let’s face it, it’s more than most people have the time or patience for.

Recently, reading St. Dale by Sharyn McCrumb (excellent book, btw) I came across a joke she quotes. A man is struggling in the water. “Help, help, I can’t swim.” Another man is standing by and says, “I can’t swim either. Will $20 help?”

This is what this “no strings” soup kitchen reminds me of. This is what catering to people’s physical needs and not their mental/spiritual ones reminds me of.

The charity of strangers. Well intentioned, perhaps. But mostly about the giver.

And in the end, I think in more than fifty percent of the cases it violates the dictate to “First, do no harm.”

*And more from 2014 this post came with a note later that same day, so I’m copying and pasting it here also, particularly since recently we’ve had people claim that the fact that Africa hasn’t developed “despite” all the aid we give it is a sign of inferiority or… something. This was the article I was thinking of but couldn’t find at the time.*

The Charity of International Strangers

I’m not going to make this into a political blog, [note from 2014 Sarah — Fate mocks our best intentions.] but I found this article ties so much into my previous post it’s hard to avoid.

I have to confess THIS had never occurred to me under “first do no harm.”

http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,363663,00.html

Scattered Friday Post

Okay, mostly I’ve been head down and working on Through Fire, so my head is empty and it echoes.  No, I’m not done, but I’m close, which is why I’m skimping on this post, natch.

I’ve already killed one of the main characters, but don’t worry, it’s not fatal.

So, instead of doing a real post, I’m sort of putting down some things that have flitted through my mind the last few days.  (Writing about revolution, you know?)

You know, we tend to get all depressive about the future, which is stupid because if the future belongs to anyone it’s nor Marx, and yes, I realize there’s a good chance it belongs to barbarians who kill the Marxists (who are also barbarians, but pretending not to be.)  But it could also belong to us.  And frankly, us vs. the barbarians?  We’ll win.  They’re not that smart.  If they were we’d be in real trouble.

So I thought I’d list off the top of my head reasons why I think we’re winning:

- The mass media is losing more and more power.  The fact that Lena Dunham is considered a mover and shaker, despite the fact they admit her audience is tiny gives the game away.  It’s like with the pushed books in SF/F, all hype and blather, but there’s no there, there.

- All they got anymore is re-threads of re-threads, of re-threads.  The liberal establishment is not only the establishment, but it’s dying of a fatal lack of creativity.  They remind me of French painters who learned to draw by copying ideal statues and all their work was mannered and followed so many rules you needed to be one of them to appreciate it.

- Make no mistake, culture is where the politics of the next generation is formed, and their culture is dying.  Now most millenials won’t admit to reading non-approved stuff (ask Foxfier why if you don’t get that they know they’re up against the establishment and prefer not to call fire on themselves) but everyone of them does: blogs, indie, a lot of their own fanfic.  And while a lot of what they read and write is blinkered (remember yourself at their ages, guys?) it’s not approved or a uniform voice anymore.  And there’s a refreshing tendency to just want STORY not “story that makes SJW points.”

- A friend before the 2004 election when I was still in the political closet and very nervous said “Chill.  They scream the loudest when they’re losing.  It’s a way you can tell how they’re drowning.  They go on the attack and talk about how your position has no hope.  It’s all projection and despair.”  Well… they decided to mess with GAMERS.  Gamers.  (Shakes head.  Even I am not that foolhardy.)

- Their protests are becoming more obviously sponsored by the dying old guard — ANSWER, Working Families, and other places that have been communist fronts for ages.  Their attempts at generating mass uprisings of the proletariat keep failing.  (Snort giggle.  Marxism is a fantasy ideology, morons.  He had the predictive power of reading fish entrails.  If that.  At least with a fish you could tell what the fish had eaten.  Marx described the past as well as he predicted the future.  You were taken in by the ravings of a psychotic who wouldn’t know reality if it bit him in the butt.)

- The more desperate they get, the more they scream.  The more they scream, the more it becomes obvious they’re raving lunatics.

In the end, we win, they lose.  Keep at it. We are the revolutionaries.  We are the avant garde.  We’re the ones who have the courage to form our own beliefs independent of the establishment pap we’ve been fed.

The only hope for civilization’s renewal or — indeed — continuance is with us. Shoulder to the wheel and push.

Watching the Watchmen – Cedar Sanderson

Watching the Watchmen – Cedar Sanderson

Before solutions to police corruption can be posited, it must first be defined, categorized, and fully understood. I’m only going to touch on this in the broadest of terms, as this could literally fill a book. I’m sure the commenters will have much to add, as well. Let me begin by pointing out that I know no bad cops. I’ve known a few that were very good indeed, and I would trust a cop, were I in trouble and in need of help. But as a woman, I would also be very very cautious being pulled over late at night on a dark road. That’s where we are, as a population. On the other hand, comparing our nation to, say, one a bit further south, our cops are paragons. So take this for what it is.

Corruption can exist at both an individual level, and at the organizational level. At the individual level, the corruption may range from the seemingly innocuous of accepting free coffee from local businesses, to the level of murder, drug dealing, and utter betrayal of the power entrusted to them. At the organizational level, the corruption may be tacitly legal, or knowingly illegal. With almost 19,000 separate police departments in the US, there is a lot of latitude for good cops, bad cops, and cops stuck in bad places.

Police corruption is so disturbing because they are the organization that has been put in place to keep the laws, and when they operate outside those laws, whether explicitly or implicitly, then the Rule of Law is threatened, and tears form in the fabric of society. “Police corruption, which may take the form of soliciting, taking, or offering bribes; selling favors; accepting gifts; abusing authority; and aiding and abetting criminal behavior, is anathema to the repository of public trust in institutions that are entrusted with protecting citizens from crime and bringing criminals to justice. In a nation that regards democracy and justice as cardinal values, the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of corrupt police officers are crucial for preservation and advancement of social order, as well as efficacy of the criminal justice system itself.” (Onyeozili)

Despite public perception of what is called the thin blue line, the unwillingness of the police to report their own for misconduct, a study done by Rothwell and Baldwin shows that the police are overwhelmingly more likely to have policies in place defining misconduct, punishments for those actions, and internal affairs units than any other civilian or government agencies. Because of this, corruption at the individual level is less than popularly believed, but the converse is that corruption in other agencies, like the IRS specifically, is profoundly disturbing and far more likely to go on without any internal whistle-blowing. However, because of the gravity of the abuse of power, police corruption is likely to lead to more public outcry when it is discovered.

To deter corruption at an individual level, the police department must have those clear policies in place to define what is not acceptable for the officers. While some offenses are obviously unacceptable, as in, they are illegal, there are others that fall into gray areas, like accepting gifts. Further, the police department needs to have punishments that will actually deter wrongdoers, which administrative repercussions might not. Criminal convictions of cops who have erred in the line of duty are few and far between. It’s more likely that sweeping-under-the-rug will occur, with unpaid leave, transfer, or dismissal. Policies at a departmental level vary, are not always enforced, and for publicity reasons, are usually downplayed as much as possible. Or, as was discovered in the Rampart investigation, policies might work against themselves, allowing corrupt officers to evade murder charges through manipulation of something called a Lybarger admonition. “Obviously, then, anything an officer says during the investigation of a shooting can result in nothing more than his dismissal. Although administrative action is a serious deterrent, it is not as serious as the prospect of criminal prosecution for murder. Of course, it may appear that Lybarger admonitions would induce officers to “spill the beans” immediately so as to inoculate themselves against criminal actions. According to the RIRP, however, the actual result is usually an ineffective interview of the officer by an attorney from the police union, consisting of leading questions such as “You feared for your life, right?”

The Rampart scandal also illuminated another serious drawback in policing, through the discovery that by hiring individuals based on qualifications other than their suitability for police work, ignoring their psychological profiles, and with backgrounds glossed over in order to meet quotas. “In any case, the bottom line for the LAPD is that Rampart was caused by the misbehavior of a few individuals who should never have been hired. The implication of this frame is that the problem lies outside the LAPD organization and within the character of certain types of individuals. The policy solution is thus simply to prevent such individuals from entering the organization. This is a classically individual-level analysis.” (Kaplan, Paul J. “Looking Through The Gaps: A Critical Approach To The LAPD’s Rampart Scandal.”) It becomes clear that pre-screening before commission as a police officer is not something that can be omitted, and is an important part of corruption controls.

As a direct result of the Rampart scandal, where police were proven to have been hired for affirmative action appeal rather than their integrity, a study was done and a solution was suggested. If an innovative solution means one that is controversial, this certainly fills the bill: “A scholarly study published in April 2000 in the professional journal Economic Inquiry found that aggressive “affirmative action” hiring raised crime rates in many parts of the U.S. In careful statistical analysis of 1987-1993 U.S. Department of Justice data from hundreds of cities, economist John Lott (then of the Yale School of Law, now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) found that quotas requiring more black and minority police officers clearly increase crime rates. When affirmative action rules take over, he reports, the standards on physical strength tests, mental aptitude tests, and other forms of screening are lowered. The result is a reduced quality of officers–both minority and non-minority recruits end up being less impressive.” (Rothwell, Gary R., and J. Norman Baldwin. “Whistle-Blowing And The Code Of Silence In Police Agencies: Policy And Structural Predictors.”)

Perhaps more troubling than individual corruption, even when it involves a gang, as in the Rampart scandal, is corruption at the organizational level. Especially as we see with the implementation of affirmative action raising serious concerns about the quality of officers, the corruption can be above the law, making it much more difficult to cope with until legislation can be raised to counter the effects. Police departments seizing monies, goods, and property without ever bringing criminal charges, for instance. “Over the last two decades, forfeitures have evolved into a booming business for police agencies across the country, from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to small-town sheriff’s offices. Although there is no single tally of all this activity — the information is buried in the budgets, court records and annual reports of thousands of individual agencies — the available data makes clear that billions of dollars in cash, cars, real estate and other assets are being confiscated nationwide every year via civil forfeitures.

One measure is the growth of a program in which federal law enforcement officials seize property on behalf of local authorities in exchange for a share of the proceeds. In 2000, officials racked up $500 million in forfeitures. By 2012, that amount rose to $4.2 billion, an eightfold increase.

Bing is among a significant number of property owners not charged with any crime who lost their home or have battled for years against forfeiture actions. Other similar cases reviewed by ProPublica include an elderly widow, two sisters who shared a house, a waitress and hospital worker caring for two children, and a mother of three whose family wound up homeless. All stemmed from drug charges brought against a family member.” (Thompson, Isaiah. “Law To Clean Up ‘Nuisances’ Costs Innocent People Their Homes.”) Increasingly, we see concerns raised over the number of civilians who seem to be targeted in order to seize monies, goods, or property. While it may be a ready source of income to some departments, it erodes public trust in the police and structures that were supposed to be in place for the protection of those very things.

Accountability and transparency are said to be the foundations of a healthy police force and many systems have been implemented in recent years to show their willingness to be held accountable. Body cameras and dash cameras on individual officers, real time crime data, and the rapid adoption of COMPSTAT-like programs are all part of this progress. The author of the paper expresses reservations, however, pointing out that just having numbers is not enough without knowing “numbers are always the end product of a series of decisions, many of which are subjective and somewhat arbitrary.” (GILSINAN, JAMES F. “The Numbers Dilemma: The Chimera Of Modern Police Accountability Systems.”) For instance, he points out that until a generation ago, domestic violence was not counted as a crime, while homosexuality was.

In both cases of individual and organizational corruption, the root cause is that the offender has made a decision to satisfy a need without proper deliberation, to weight the long-term costs of the action taken. “Neither as individuals nor as members of organization do we optimize our decision-making, picking the best of all possible alternatives. Instead, we satisfice, picking the alternative that best seems to fit, without expending a great deal of energy to review – in a systematic way – all other possible choices (Gilsinan).” Given this, then, a way of forcing individuals and organizations out of the rut of easy thinking and into a deeper contemplation of the consequences of their action must be considered.

As a parent, I well know that to teach my children proper behavior’s, I had to create a consistent system of rewards and punishments. They could not be applied capriciously, and they must reliably hold true, or if an exception was made, to have a good reason for doing something different. Although slightly more complex when applied at this level, the general principles remain the same. To keep an individual from moonlighting, stealing, or extorting, make it painfully harsh when those actions are taken, and be sure to pay the police at a level where such money-making efforts are not tempting. At the organizational level, legislation needs to be reformed to prevent departments from preying on the innocent for income, and independent commissions should decide the merits of such cases, who cannot benefit from them. In the end, the police must be held accountable for their actions, and there have to be systems in place to enforce that accountability. Otherwise, we have only to look south, just over the border, to see the fear and uncertainty which could all too easily overtake our own daily lives.

Sheep Who Think They’re Wolves

Lately this ridiculous blog post has made the rounds, written by some guy who was mugged, but was sure he deserved it because of his privilege.

The blog post was not a surprise to me.

Years ago, an online friend about ten years younger and from a considerably more comfortable background than mine, was ambushed at the grocery store by someone who forced her – at gun point – to go to two or three ATMs in town and withdraw the maximum allowed and give it to him.

If it had been me…

First of all, it wouldn’t have been me, because I come from a more dangerous time and place. Someone tries to kidnap you from a store, and take you, in a car to another place, you fight right there and right then, with everything you have, even if it’s just screaming your heart out. Because there’s a very good chance someone taking you away from the populated place to a deserted one ah… doesn’t have your continued survival at heart. It has been pointed out to me (several times) that I’m a paranoid woman, or at least not a naturally trusting one. We’ll say that on at least a half dozen occasions this has saved my life.

So, if it were me, I would not have gone. I’d have kicked, screamed and applied elbow to stomach. Even if someone had picked me up from the parking lot of the grocery store, I’d figure at least there were cars around. (Hint, never park in a deserted area at night/when the parking lot is not well attended.)

More likely, anyone trying that trick would end up with a knife in an inconvenient place, because I usually carry more than one knife, and if you get close enough to press a pistol against my back where no one can see it, the least I can do is ensure you sing soprano the rest of your life. (And that’s if I can’t reach your gut.)

But let’s suppose that for whatever reason (I was on crutches and had laryngitis) this happened to me. How would I feel afterwards?

Mad. Hopping mad. Furious. I’d make it my personal mission to find the bastage and end his joy in life.

How did my friend feel? Guilty.

She sent out a long rambling message to the intent that really, how bad does someone’s life need to be that they’re willing to rob strangers at gun point?

Head>desk.

Where do people learn this? This unearned guilt in anything good they have, and this bizarre belief that anyone doing anything bad had a horrible life/childhood/background.

They learn it from us. That is, they learn it from writers. Books, TV…

You’ve heard the thing about making sure your villain isn’t just a villain, right? You have to give him/her/it a reason for what they do?

Unfortunately over the years this has morphed into the more sinned against than sinning villain, into the repressed/tortured villain. Into the person who lashes out because, like a tortured dog, they can’t help it.

Humans are not dogs.

Yes, there are people who do horrible things because horrible things were done to them. What percentage of evil doers fall in that category? We don’t know. We don’t know, because if questioned, every evildoer will say that’s why they do evil. Every evil doer will angle for sympathy. “I kicked the puppy because the kitten bit me.” “I stole Bobby’s pencil, because Mike stole mine.” “I robbed the bank because I was beaten as a child.”

The problem with this is that all of us, every one here, I’d bet, knows someone who had a horrible childhood, was beaten, was kept in the cold and rain, or whatever, and has never committed a single crime. All of us know people who had a tough as heck childhood and who are strivers, good friends, honest as the day is long, loyal spouses, gentle with kittens and puppies.

To say that to be yelled at one Sunday when you’re three will cause you to commit murder is to wrong everyone who had a horrible childhood.

It’s possible that it’s true for some people. One of the things we’ve found out is that some people are more resilient than others. Some people break easy. Some people break bad. People are not widgets.

But the other thing we know – we have to know – is that not everyone who is evil is more sinned against than sinned. Not everyone who hurts others has been hurt.

Look, we’re all flawed. Laziness is part of human nature. So is greed. It’s perfectly possible for someone who is lazy and greedy to decide he’d rather rob than work. I’ve heard of it/seen it happen. And so have you. Even back in kindergarten I knew people like this, and so did you.

They rob because they can, and because no one ever stopped them/they don’t think anyone will ever stop them.

This is a reason too. It’s not a sympathetic reason, but it’s a reason. (It’s a little more sympathetic if you realize the people who never set boundaries helped in these person’s lives, while they could still have learned and become normal, nice people, did them a grave injustice.) Having people take a sadistic pleasure in their power over others, or think that others owe them a living is a motivation.

Your villains don’t need to be saints.

The problem is that the narrative of the saintly villain leaves the good people – or people who are convinced everyone else is good – strangely unprotected. Not people like me, mind you. We’re not good. Or not that good. We’re good despite our bad, if that makes sense. But people who are good because they’re good, those people will read the books and imagine that every menace out there is a villain-with-a-heart-of-gold looking for an opportunity to redeem himself. They’ll think that every wolf has the heart of a lamb. And that if they commit heinous crimes it’s society’s fault, or the fault of the person being wronged.

The problem with this is that wolves are wolves. Being a particularly compliant lamb gives nothing, except convincing the wolf his mode of life is right, and he should go on eating tasty mouton. And the next victim might not escape with just property damage.

 

For Me, But Not For Thee – David Pascoe

For Me, But Not For Thee- David Pascoe

The teaser trailer for Episode Vee-Eye-Eye is out, and I imagine at least some of the Huns are excited, though I understand herself hold the franchise in some disdain. I, myself, am cautiously optimistic. Abrams has done – qualified – good things (and I’ll get to why I say that in a bit) with Star Trek, and I have hopes he’ll do something similar-but-better with the franchise nearest and dearest to my eight-year-old self’s heart.

/aside
I tried to hold out. I don’t need to see this, and besides, it’s probably crap. I mean, yeah, I was raised on Dad’s story of how he and Mom went to see Ep. 4 opening weekend in LA, and the line was three deep all the way around the block, and Mom held their spot while he went to the box office to find out the expected wait time, and the perky lass inside opened up the window and asked, “how many?” “For Star Wars?” *perky nod* “For the next showing?” *perky smile-and-nod* “Two, please,” and how he then went to find Mom and said, “Don’t say anything, just come with me.”

I watched the trilogy as often as I felt I could get away with it growing up (it hit all the right buttons in a very formative time, like happens) and listened to the Ep. 5 LP when I couldn’t do that. I was ecstatic when the Special (Snowflake) Editions were released in theaters, and went with a mess of friends (all two of ‘em), and again when the prequels were released. Though I’d grown since childhood, even if George’s craft hadn’t. Consequently, I’m wary of this new thing. And then I watched it, and grinned. Well, fought a grin. Yes, I might get hurt, again, but … well: hope.
/end aside

And then a college buddy tossed me a <a href=”http://www.kxly.com/news/beale-how-star-wars-ruined-scifi/29980964″>link</a>, and my blood boiled. Not just for the unfair characterization of my generation by one (I’m presuming, which is better than assuming, which makes a posterior of you and Ming and leaves me out of it (and Ming is a jerk, as all know)) but for the sneering assumption that science fiction is some sort of closed club only open to those of correct opinion and award-winning status. The right awards, of course: those for literary quality, not the Franklin award for people-will-give-up-hard-earned-lucre for your work. What really sent the steam escaping from under my collar with a animalistic howl was the blatant superiority of the smug little op-ed cloaked in weary resignation (tying in well with Sarah’s post yesterday).

Elitism. We can’t ever seem to get rid of it. I’m talking specifically about scifi fandom, here, though it applies to humanity in general, since we’re tribal by nature. I blame that whole mess at Babel a while back. Really screwed things up for the rest of us, the jerks. Anyway, this smug superiority that separates

We see this all over the place, really. Check out the people at the top of the political pyramid, our self-proclaimed leaders. The top man claims it’s fine for him to violate law and tradition, and rule by executive <del>fiat</del>privilege, but not for the next person to occupy the office in which he squats. His subordinates, from his number two on down blatantly violate the laws by which the rest of us are expected to abide. And so they target law abiding citizens for a harassment only “legal” because it’s fine when they do it. By this example, they encourage others to participate in similarly thuggish acts, such as <a href=”http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2012/05/29/the_lefts_dangerous_new_line_of_attack_swatting”>targeting</a> <a href=”http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnyegriffiths/2014/11/07/bungie-executive-swatted-in-sammamish-wa-home/”>people</a> with whom they have some imagined beef. Or, y’know, just <a href=”http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/09/02/the-guardians-village-idiot-admits-to-libel/”>libel on an international forum</a> (sure, Al Grauniad’s pet attack-chihuahua isn’t an American citizen, but he <i>is</i> part of the elitist mob of SJWs. so there’s that).

An entire generation – it seems – is trying to get in good with the cool kids and their vitally important failed economic and pseudo-scientific religious dogma, and those of us who simply want to enjoy what we enjoy become the sacrificial scapegoats in their quest for politically correct enlightenment.

Anyway, as I said, it’s rearing its ugly head, <a href=”http://www.kxly.com/news/beale-how-star-wars-ruined-scifi/29980964″>again</a>. From the location, it could be somebody hoping to build cred in preparation for WorldCon next year. A cursory – and therefore possibly incorrect – exercise of google-fu suggests the writer of the op-ed may be a journalist and film critic. Pure speculation, but we’re mad here, and I like to stir the pot. Regardless of the origins, this particular bit of nonsense claims that Star Wars ruined science fiction FOREVAR because it’s not about ideas, but about action.

Never mind the concepts of authoritarianism versus popular government, or the good/evil struggle writ large and small. Let us not speak of love and friendship, of the tug of family ties to an orphan, or the impact of the destruction of a planet at the whim of a tyrannical aristocrat, the questions of free will and destiny that are worked out in the swing of lightsaber and the explosion of spaceships. No, those aren’t important ideas like slavery and sexual identity are important ideas.

I get it. Star Wars isn’t your deal, guy. That’s cool: I’m not an enormous Trek fan, and the recent Battlestar did nothing for me. Just don’t throw up your hands in disgust when people <i>do</i> love a thing you don’t. Don’t belittle them sidelong for enjoying the actions or scope of something limited by its medium, and then claim the Matrix is the most creative scifi film of the last two and a half decades.

Because it’s not about that. Really.

It’s about drawing in new fans. Attracting people (young and old) who would otherwise look upon us Odds with contempt or – at least – bewildered confusion. I loathe most of Episode 1, but darned if my buddy’s kid doesn’t love him some Jar Jar and pod racing, and will grow up a science fiction fan because of it.

But sure, react – or not – with your ennui at where the genre has gone. Be disgusted because the Forever War hasn’t been made into a film, and the attempts at Dune have been flawed. Pine for a never-made Neuromancer that couldn’t be made when cyberpunk was The Thing, and won’t be made now because it’s not. That’s cool that you want to keep scifi pure and about Big Ideas. SFWA agrees with you, at least. The Hugo voters are all about these big ideas that were new when Gilgamesh was written, and when Homer was telling a story about a dude who just wanted to get home after a war.

The more you tighten their grasp, the more fans will slip through your fingers.

And there we’ll be, shining a light of fun stories and big heroes.

UPDATE: Message from Sarah (like a message from Fred but weirder.)  Older son’s weirdest story yet, Candyworld,  should be free today, though possibly not that early morning.  Anyway, keep checking.

It’s a Cyber Monday Sale

Whom The Gods Love is Free for the next five days (I’m going to try to do the thing where I keep something free through the end of the year!)

Consider Hoyt for your Holiday Gifts!

Actually it’s a December sale.  Yesterday I was so out of it that I went and changed the prices without putting in “for a limited time only” — though to be fair, it’s at least until Christmas, but all the same.

Witchfinder is on sale for 3.99!

Musketeer Mystery Series is on sale for 2.99 a piece!





So is Crawling between Heaven And Earth, a collection of 17 (I think) of my earliest published short stories.

So is Ill Met By Moonlight

And All Night Awake:

I forgot to set Any Man So Daring but it will be on a sale in a couple of hours.

The collection of the three books, the Magical Shakespeare Omnibus is up for 5.99

No Will but His is 2.99

Wings will be on a countdown sale starting at 99c on the 10th of December.

Refuse the Despair

*I am alive.  Long story, but I’ve only been awake a little more than an hour.  And last night I was too out of it to write a post.*

Yesterday I was looking at pictures of friends in France. They’re about my age and their kids are the age of mine.

Now, most of my pictures on line (though not all) are of conventions and fan events, because my facebook page is a professional page, not a personal one. (I would start a personal one, but most of my personal life is just my kids, and if they’re looking on FB for pictures, they’re ill. Now this might change as the kids move out/get a life/live in other states, but right now there’s no point.)

So, my pictures are different. But we also have family pictures. We used to do a thing every year where we took pictures of events throughout the year, and the things the kids participated in, then narrated it, put it together, and sent a CD to the grandparents.

We don’t do that anymore – mostly time issues – but we do still take pictures, now on the – increasingly rare – occasions when the four of us do something fun together, like go to a special event at a museum or take an overnight trip somewhere. (The last one I can remember, absent cons) is the Van Gogh exhibit in Denver which we took in last year on Black Friday.)

The thing is, in all these pictures, my kids are smiling, or goofing off, or even giving each other the stink eye.

Our family pictures involve stuff like mini-golfing together and posing around fiberglass animals. Or pretending to be swept out with the monumental dust-pan and broom outside the Denver Art Museum. Or Marshall looking very sophisticated (but not bored) in his leather blazer, looking at pictures.

Yesterday I read this at Ace of Spades, so I was primed to think how much people, consciously, try to make their lives look like “they should”.

And then I looked at pictures from France. I think all of us have watched at least one French movie, right?

Well, pictures from France, even pictures of people my kids’ age all transmit that “the world is a dingy place and we’re all hard eyed realists with incredibly complex sex lives” look of French movies.

Is it true?

Oh, heck no, no more than street cars mentioned by Ace are romantic or beautiful or anything like that. This is just the image sold in the movies. Most people in France, except for the issues brought on by socialism (break up of families, high unemployment, pervasive bureaucracy) live the same small, happy lives as anyone else. You know, someone to love, something to do, something to eat. Lives just comfortable enough they don’t struggle for more.

But how much you enjoy how you live and what you perceive as “the good life” can definitely be influenced by what you see. And that in turn changes what you do and what you see around you, and therefore your mood.

It’s probably not a coincidence that France has one of the highest rates in the world for consumption of anti-depressives.

For some reason – and it has to do with taking a really weird turn at the romantics and then getting stuck with more socialist realism than should be possible outside the Soviet union – they internalized the idea that high art is vaguely boring and definitely pessimistic (here I think it’s a great deal too bad that most of their “art” is protected from competition with foreign art by various stupid laws, and is subsidized with stipends allocated by bureaucrats, for whom, of course, life is both boring and pessimistic, with shades of sadism.)

And so, even though they might have been able to get around the blight of socialism, in time, and even though they live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, they’ve internalized self-hatred, unhappiness as a sort of chic accoutrement, and the meaninglessness of their own quotidian life. (Which, even without socialism would make their family lives a mess and taking daily pleasure in things difficult.)

So, what does this have to do with anything other than beating the French? (Admittedly always a good pastime, particularly since I’m writing stuff in Liberte seacity.)

Simple: a lot of our high culture is French. It is sometimes French by way of Germany, but it is French. Most of our glitterati love French culture and by that I don’t mean the good stuff like what Mr. Du Toit appreciates (I have some favorite French writers, myself.) No, most of them admire the more recent stuff, not even the French cinema, but the pictures they get from friends who go on vacation there. They admire the air of being unutterably bored and depressed and the way everyone there seems to accept the world is on a handbasket ride to h*ll. It’s so… sophisticated!

In their minds, most of our glitterati are hanging out in cafes, smoking thin little cigarettes and sneering at the world.

I mean, most of them aren’t even looking at France but at American movies that show France, but they think it’s all so unutterably romantic and so much better than our cowboy can-do attitude, and they want to think life means nothing and all is lost so they can be just like the French.

In fact, the insanity in SF/F now reminds me a lot of the French science fiction of the seventies. (It was excusable. It was after all the seventies.) Stranger and stranger sexual identities, tearing down of all taboos, life is a bitch. Humans are evil. And then you die. Check.

Look, yesterday a friend sent me a picture of what can only be called a cave-world in China. The first comment was “Now that it’s discovered, humans will destroy it.” And it was followed by upteen comments agreeing with this.

Now, the caves will almost surely be despoiled, because it’s a communist regime. (duh.) But not because it’s “humanity” and even if it were, why the heck SHOULDN’T they be despoiled? (Other than scientific investigation, natch.) I mean, what is their intrinsic value outside of humanity studying/admiring them? And yep, a dozen of the comments were “Humans should just die off, they ruin everything.” Uh… everything for whom? If there are not humans, who appreciates/gives aesthetic value to anything? If an elephant paints in the forest and no human sees it, did it really happen?

These people clearly did not believe in this – no, seriously – For one, they were all still alive. No one can go to life hating themselves that much and survive. But it was the pose to strike to appear intelligent, in comments, in novels, in drawings, in…

To be hopeful and happy is to be low brow. To show yourself intelligent you need to despair in the approved Socialist-realist way.

The problem with this is that this sort of thing seeps into the culture by forming the younger people. It forms their attitudes and their beliefs. They are too unsophisticated to know the adults don’t really mean it, so they mean it a little more.

After a few generations you’re stuck with people so depressed, they will accept overlords, even barbaric overlords who stone women and gays, if it will save them from their ennui and their depressive view of the world.

And therein lies the rub. The helplessness of modern “realism” is a gateway drug to being sheep in thrall of totalitarians.

You’re so tired of despair and sadness, and yet you know the world is terrible and you want to atone for any happiness you still feel. So you give in to petty tyrants like the people in SFWA who change the rules and tell you you’re bad because you used the word they just forbid. Or whatever. And you abase yourself and feel dirty and miserable.

Until a really big tyrant, like, oh, Mao or Stalin or the despicable Che, come along and free you from your guilt by more than likely killing you, and if not making you wish they had.

It doesn’t have to be like that. On comments, on books, on drawings, refuse to follow the blinkered “chic unhappiness” of the elites. Laugh at their poses of sadness and thoughtfulness. They’re like little kids trying to look serious so we’ll think they’re grown up.

Mock, contradict, ignore, replace.

In the end we win, they lose.

It has to be so, if humanity is to survive.

Refuse the easy rewards of the merchants of despair. Build your life on hard work and can-do.

Something Learned, Something Blue

Things we’ve learned this month: people die. In fact, over the last two months, any number of readers of this blog have found this out.

Okay, we knew that already. I still remember the weird shock that someone close to me COULD die, when I was fourteen and my paternal grandfather died. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know it happened – the test is simple. Are your great great grandparents alive? If not there’s a good chance you’re mortal. If yes, are their parents alive? If not, see previous. – it just had never happened and some part of the human mind is experiential. We believe what we’ve experienced. And somehow experiencing death in books is not the same, because those people having been part of your life your entire life.

I suppose it’s the same thing when a friend your age dies. At least when you’re middle-aged and the death is not accidental. It leaves you feeling a touch of memento moris and carpe diem. And as we all know when you come down with a touch of Latin it’s all downhill from there.

Okay, fine, seriously, experienced – which surprises me a little as my faith has never been iron-clad – I’m feeling this as though Alan has gone away. It’s just that when your friends move out or leave town, you can call them and eventually see them again – which obviously doesn’t apply when they die.

What I mean is the “feel” of it is that he still exists but elsewhere, but not being able to get in touch with him is going to make things very tough and does, coming up against small things every other day, because so many of our history and references are joint, that even though in the last few years we only saw each other a few times a year, you hit that spot in your mind a lot – like stubbing your toe in the dark.

Anyway, among the things I learned is that when your friends die it’s not like when a beloved pet dies. I wrote Darkship Thieves as a NaNoWrimo the month Petronius the Arbiter died, and I spent a lot of time just writing. Oh, I missed Pete a lot, but somehow it was easier to get over or forget for a few hours.

So, NaNowrimo came to complete halt for two and a half weeks. It’s moving again now, but yesterday was a lost day because I had to clean the house, at least minimally. For some reason, I don’t transition well from house-cleaning to writing. It’s not being exhausted, it’s a mental switch thing. I pop out of writing mode and into “Is there really a mountain of cat toys under that bookcase” mode.

Some things in life are like that. One of the things I realized, back when I still sent stories out on spec (how odd that sounds. I will be doing it again soon, too, with Analog) is that I went through phases. There were phases in which I wrote like a banshee and stuff stayed in the drawer, and phases in which I sent stuff out.

Even the vaunted year of a story a week, nothing got sent out until I missed the occasional week. Not sure why, that was just the way it was.

Now the same seems to apply to the indie publishing. I have a mountain of short stories ready to put up – mine and Robert’s – and while short stories make almost nothing, they do help greatly if I keep one free a week over this season. Only, I’ve not done it. I even have covers. But the minutiae detail seems like … an impossible hurdle.

I’m going to try to get something up for cyber Monday and put some things on sale, though.

And today, since the cleaning is done, I’m going to be working on Through Fire. I dreamed the rest of the book last night, which we know is what I do before I finish it.

You see, for the two years I’ve been slogging through this, I’ve had this scene in my mind, of Zen with someone drifting in the ocean at the end of the novel. I now know who is in the boat with her, and why they’re drifting, and why that scene is the needed end to THIS novel. I can only say “you’ll see.” It used to puzzle me excessively. But now I “get” it and it works with the theme and everything.

Okay. And now I go write.