The Slicing Edge of Freedom

I’m sorry I’m so late with this.  The post at MGC took far longer than I expected.

I started to explain how much more freedom we, who deal in stories and words, have nowadays.  I don’t know if anyone who is not in the business can fully appreciate how much.  It’s so much, in fact, that many in the business still don’t believe it.

I remember circa 98, when no one was buying Darkship Thieves blowing up with something like “I wish writers could just sell their work on the street and at fairs” (I lived in Manitou Springs, then, a small town in the Colorado mountains, with a surprising number of working artists, some of whom are actually very good.  None of them were “known” but they sold and made a living in stalls, store fronts, co-ops and fairs.)

Well, now we can do one better.  We can set up our little stall on line and attract a global audience.  We’re free to write anything, regardless of what “real publishers”TM think of it.  Note for instance how well military science fiction does with the public in general, even though the only publisher who would buy it (for decades) was Baen.  We’re free to have it copyedited or not.  Yeah, some people don’t, and some people aren’t even punished for it.  We’re free to take our books on sale, monetize and get paid, and to work as hard as we want for what we want.

This is not a post about writing, so we’ll leave it at that, but I’ll note there is a reason many of my colleagues are terrified of this development.  They lash out at indie writers, they lash out at anyone suggesting indie writing is an alternative, and they always lash out at Amazon who made all this possible.

That is because freedom is terrifying.

The Bible, which, whatever else it is, is a repository of impressively old traditions and narratives and very accurate on the nature of the walking upright hairless monkeys, says that the Israelites, in the desert, longed to be back in slavery.

I know a lot of my colleagues long for the fleshpots of NY publishing, chains and all.  I also know that after the wall fell the Eastern countries got a number of “backlash communists.”  And I know a lot of people go back to bad marriages of (practical) servitude, rather than walk away.  And that humanity as a whole seems to be trying to crawl back into a caste system in which 90% of the people have no freedom and 100% of the people aren’t as free as we are.

A Libertarian friend of mine thinks this is because people like being slaves; they like servitude.

He is wrong.  It’s not that people love being slaves.  It’s that freedom is scary, because if you’re free you can fail AND YOU ONLY HAVE YOURSELF TO BLAME.

It’s no coincidence that America, arguably the freest country in the world, when it comes to pursuing the avocation you want to pursue and being successful (or not) is also the birth place of SJWs and Micro aggressions.  It’s no coincidence that it’s in America, a country that prizes women so much it’s almost a matriarchy, that women keep insisting they live in a patriarchy and grossly oppressed.  (All without realizing how much more oppressive even other western countries are. Let alone places where your genitals will be mutilated for the crime of being a girl.)

These things are done, and eternal oppression forever claimed, because humans don’t want to be slaves.  Oh, no.  They want to be free.  Completely free to do whatever they want.  They also want someone to blame as they fail.

A few people have even managed to get themselves into that position, but if you’re not the son in law of someone relatively rich and important, it ain’t gonna happen.

You’re going to have to take your freedom, your failure, and your guilt about your failure, as one single deal.  This is called being an adult.

At one time there used to be much psycho-babble about fear of success.  Frankly I thought — and still think — this is bullsh*t.  Everyone i know who claims a fear of success aren’t terrified of being acclaimed, rich and famous.  No, what they fear is that they’ll succeed just enough for everyone to realize how they failed.  Say, they’ll have a bestselling book, but the websphere will be on fire with word of their horrendous typos, or their ignorance of chemistry or something.

Because success has downfalls.  And being allowed to succeed comes with fear you won’t.  Or that your success will be imperfect, and everyone will make fun of you, or–

Yes, sure, you can try to blame the cat for your failure (my son at eight blamed the cat for removing the muffins from the oven and eating one, so why not.)  And you can try to crawl back into a situation where you have an excuse for your failure.

But barring the son in law thing, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.   And no one is REALLY going to believe you’re oppressed for you gender/looks/race in the US today.  Maybe a little picked on, sometimes, for a few people, but not OPPRESSED to the point you can’s succeed.

Adulting sucks.  But it is what you must be, if  you want to have your freedom and eat it too.

Shut up about it, take the bitter with the sweet, shoulder the awesome burden of your freedom and carry on.

Tort Law Negligence by Amie Gibbons

Tort Law Negligence by Amie Gibbons

(This is a repost from a series I did on law basics for the layman.  This is all just what we call “black letter law,” as in simplified and pretty set concepts, and, as always, is not to be taken as legal advice.)

Basic principle: No matter what, no matter where, no matter who, anyone can sue anyone else for anything. (Bonus points if you can name what I’m misquoting   This doesn’t mean it will stick in court and certainly doesn’t mean they’ll win, but they can sue for anything and make you spend beaucoup bucks on an attorney to defend your ass.

Negligence law is under what we call torts. No, it’s not a cake, a tort is a legal term for when someone harms someone else.  So when someone is suing you for some harm it’s usually under torts.  Those are split into intentional, negligence and strict liability (some consider strict liability as a subset of negligence but we’re not going to address it here).

Stuff like a car accident, lighting property on fire with your candles, sitting on a cake in another person’s expensive dress, and dropping a piano on someone’s head are, again we use the word usually, under negligence.  It’s when you harm someone/their property without meaning to do harm basically.

In a lawsuit there are things we call elements of the cause of action, the thing the person is suing about.  And when they sue, the person has to show all those elements, meaning show that if they are telling the truth about what happened, the “tortfeasor” is liable for the damage.

The elements of negligence are duty, breach, causation, and injury.

1) Duty is, as you can probably infer, the duty someone has to look out for another. Doctors have a duty to their patients, parents to watch out for their kids, everyday people driving to look out for others on the road. There’s different standards of care that people can owe to each other depending on the relationship. The standard for average dealings with people on the street without a special relationship is that of the “reasonable person.”

2) Breach is when someone fails in this duty. The doctor did not follow up with the patient after surgery as quickly or often as the industry std said he should.  The parent left the child alone for a few days.  The person driving the car looked down at her phone to check a text, thus taking her eyes off the road.

3) Causation is the tricky part. It’s a two parter. The first part’s easy to get through: the tortfeasor has to be the but-for cause of the injury, as in but-for the person driving, the person walking would not have the broken leg.  Or but-for the doctor performing surgery to get the tumor out, the patient would still be alive that day.

The second part is where is gets messy, it’s proximate cause. Also known as the “direct cause.” It means that the tortfeasor does a direct action that sets in motion an unbroken chain of events leading to the injury with no interference to break the chain. It gets more complicated such as multiple events joined together to make the injury happen, any one of which taken away would have prevented the injury, but the general idea is one cause leads to a chain of events that leads to the injury without something interfering.  (This is a really, really simplified explanation.  Lawyers have a lot of fun screwing around with this element.)

4) Which brings us to our last element, injury. Someone’s dead, paralyzed, pissed about their ruined property, ect…

And my tort professor pounded this into our heads every day of class:

No Injury, No Damages!

Which should mean if a person comes out of you almost hitting them with your car or a piano perfectly fine then you’re safe, but no, because there’s emotional damages and it goes from there, until you can be sued for making someone cry. Doesn’t mean they’ll win in court, but they sure as hell can sue.

(And don’t forget to check out my latest novel about silly psychic Ariana Ryder, Psycho (and Psychic) Games.)

 

Ephemeral

Do you know who your great great great grandmother was?  All sixteen of them?  How about your great great great grandfathers?  And are you sure?

We humans keep forgetting how ephemeral we are.  I think it was easier to realize that when life expectancy (real life expectancy, not statistics, as in “how does does someone from your class/region/mode of life expect to live?  As in, what they used for Social Security was gamed that way because you were not likely to collect even ten years of it.  So, please, no arguments about how people in a small village in the Alps which you studied for your doctorate always lived to their late eighties.  I have a limited appetite for bullsh*t and I remember being a kid in the village and when a sixty year old died it was “well, he’s old” not “so young?”) was just over the mid-century.

Now we can look to “almost a century” and the rate of centenarians is increasing.  And we tend to forget how ephemeral we are on the face of the Earth, how we come from the unknown and go to the unknown, as far as our genetic line is concerned.

Okay, why is this other than depressing you?

I actually don’t mean to depress you at all.  Our role in this is a bit part.  We do the best we can and frankly even as writers we have maybe 30 good years (if we’re lucky) and then we exit side stage pursued by a bear, and we have little control on who follows us, who uses us, who gloams onto us, and what “children” we spawn.  Ginny once told me that Robert would be proud to have a daughter like me, and I’m very very glad of that, but sometimes I wonder what he would make of me, particularly as I mature.

The same applies to my beloved grandmother, the woman who more than anyone else is responsible for who I am.  Oh, she knew about the story spinning.  As far back as when I was five she gave me a very serious lecture about knowing which voice was mine, and never losing track of that, and also about vocations (not religious, but for professions) and the damage done by ignoring them.

But sometimes I wonder what she’d make of me, now I’m almost as old as she was when I was born.  I know she’d think our house was “a palace” but her ideas of palaces were frankly… well… she was a woman of the early 20th century in a small rural village.  I wonder what she’d make of the rest.

I’ll never know.  The principles she gave me stay within me.  They inform my decisions in a world and a country she couldn’t begin to imagine, or to picture me in.  They probably informed more of her great-grandsons’ upbringings than she could dream of.  And yet, she might not recognize them in the form they took, removed from the village in which she lived her whole life.

I miss her everyday and would give years of life to walk once more around the side gate, past the patio-of-the-renters, past the wooden gate grandad made, past the orange tree and the flowerbed with the calla lilies, and call her, in the big, cool kitchen.  She’d come from upstairs (where she was probably cleaning) and make us tea, and we’d sit and have tea in the good cups with the good (from a tin) biscuits (cookies) and I’d pay to do that once more, and hear her talk about her day, and everything she’d done.  But even more so than when I was in college and couldn’t explain my worries to her, I’d have to stay quiet.  Maybe tell her that her great grandsons are studying to be a doctor and an engineer (nothing strange to her.  It’s the family diseases) but not the details of our everyday life, or the things that worry me, because that would be alien.  I already do a deal of that kind of editing with my mom who is only eighty something.  And if grandma lived she’d be 112.  That’s another world which has passed and gone into the night, with everyone who was an adult then, because we humans are ephemeral.

This is why it’s insane to set too much stock on ancestry.  You can’t because you don’t know it.

I’m always highly amused by everyone who spends time and money tracing one line or two or three way back.  You can’t trace them all.  And you can’t account for what great great grandma did behind the kitchen door with the traveling peddler.  You didn’t know all 8 of your great great grandmas, and no, you can’t vouch for their morals.  In any group larger than two or three there will be at least one squirrely one.  Guaranteed.

Yeah, sure, there’s genetic tests.  The problem with that is that EVERY conception, going back and back and back, half the DNA gets “wrapped up” and essentially thrown away (yes, it’s more complex than that, but that’s the image.)  Which means the Victorians had a certain point and unless you come from a highly inbred line already, marrying your first cousin is not the end of the world, and the kids won’t have ten toes in each foot.  There is a chance the DNA you guys share is actually negligible.  You might not share any with your sibling, though that’s unlikely.  But it’s possible.  And if you and your sibling show completely different ancestral groups, no, your mom wasn’t unfaithful.  You just inherited different sets.

So if your test shows an unexpected group, that’s a revelation, but if it doesn’t show an expected group, it means nothing.  Just that the genetics of that group aren’t present in you (though they might still be passed on to your kid.)

Genetic tests tell you what’s in you, but not what your ancestry is.  Only what manifests in you, if that makes sense.

Which bring us to: we’re ephemeral.  We’re all parts of people we forgot, we didn’t choose and most of whom would be rather shocked by some aspect or other of us.

But I’m not saying we don’t matter.  Remember when I said my grandmother, in a little village in Portugal, who only traveled to the “big city” (twenty minutes away by train) half a dozen times in her life, has influenced the upbringing of her great grandsons, across the sea, who speak a language she never learned, and live in a society she couldn’t ever fully comprehend (not that she was stupid, but yes, it really is that different.)

Principles like respecting true vocations; working as hard as you can in all the time you’re giving; not giving up even after your heart breaks fighting against the odds; putting your family first; being loyal to your friends and those to whom you owe favors — all of them came through me, as well as I could make it, and onto my children.

Your DNA is ephemeral.  It might or might not pass on to your own kids, in any proportion worth mentioning.  Your body is ephemeral.  You don’t even know how long you have it, and it has a tendency to start breaking down unexpectedly.  Your work is ephemeral.  It passes on to the hands of those who’ll interpret it through a fun house mirror (I was reminded of this yesterday at finding the feminists ire in comments on Patricia Wentworth’s mysteries.  If you google it, you’ll find the woman should be a fricking feminist icon, but these women object to her portraying early 20th century women as early twentieth century women presented in public.  (Her women usually exert power in distinctly feminine ways.))

The only thing you can do is raise your children or children in your sphere well: model behavior you want to see passed on.  The behavior, the example, tend to remain.

Everything else passes.

So you have a lot of room to screw up…  Even while doing the best you can.

Now go do the best you can.

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike AND A Few Books For your Consideration by Freerange Oyster

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it!  For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is:
desk

A Few Books For your Consideration by Freerange Oyster

Pam Uphoff

Fort Dinosaur

The Directorate Book 6

Ebsa has escaped from his dreary desk job, leaping joyfully into a scientific study of a cross-dimensional world full of Dinosaurs… his job? Protect too many over-enthusiastic and not terribly practical scientists from their subjects, aided by his thrown-together team of desk-jockeys who liked their former jobs and an Action Team with a nasty reputation.

Sam Schall

Battle Wounds

Honor and Duty

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has faced the realities of war. Death is her constant companion, an unwelcome one. After losing four of her company in an ambush that never should have happened, she is asked to accept a special mission. Command suspects a traitor has infiltrated their ranks and they want Ash and others to act as bait in an attempt to draw them out.

Worse, at least as far as Ash is concerned, FleetCom is focusing on only one possible explanation for the ambush. That narrow view could lead to even more deaths before those responsible for betraying Fuercon are identified. All Ashlyn can do is keep her eyes and ears open and pray the Marines onboard the Dresden are as dedicated to keeping Fuercon safe as are the Devil Dogs.

And God help the traitor should Ashlyn discover their identity. No one betrays home and Corps and gets away with it.

Sarah A. Hoyt

Darkship Revenge

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The popular Darkship series returns!

After winning the civil war in Eden, Athena returns to her calling, collecting powerpods with her husband Kit. Now weeks away from Earth, she goes into labor. To make matters worse, a strange ship attacks Athena and Kit’s Cathouse and kidnaps Athena’s husband. That ship is called Je Reviens. It’s a named steeped in history—and not the good kind of history.

Hot on Kit’s trail, Athena discovers that you shouldn’t name a ship Je Reviens unless you intend it to return. The genetically modified Mules are back, and they have a plan to prevent themselves from being exiled ever again. And if the Mules win, the best thing humanity can hope for is slavery.

The worst is death.

While a bio-engineered plague wreaks havoc on the forces of liberty, Athena must risk herself, her husband, and her child for the survival of humanity.

The Mules may be about to find out what revenge truly is: one angry mother.

Elise Hyatt

A Fatal Stain

Daring Finds Book 3

A_Fatal_Stain

When Dyce Dare buys a table to refinish, the last thing she expects is to find a human blood stain under the amateurish finish. Whose blood is it? What happened to the person who bled on the table?
Helped and hindered by her fiance, Cas Wolfe, her friend Ben, her son E and an imaginary llama named Ccelly, Dyce must find the killer and the victim, before the killer finds her.

Blake Smith

By the Light of the Moon

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Aatu is eighteen years old, a respectable landowner, and about to marry the girl he loves. The south coast of Finland provides everything his little village requires.

It’s a peaceful life, until a band of ex-Crusaders land on the shore. With the harsh winter and lean times approaching, they cannot be allowed to stay for long. When their priests disturb things best left alone, Aatu fears a minor annoyance will become a disaster.

Aatu’s people turn to the old ways to fight the enemy, to teeth and claws instead of swords and spears. Though they are outnumbered and unused to fighting, Aatu is about to discover that wild wolves are not the most fearsome predators in this land, and even the most peaceful people can become ferocious in defense of the ones they love.

Dark Fate 8 — Did you think I’d forgotten?

*FIRST AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS NOT CANON.  THIS IS COMPLETELY UNSANCTIONED (okay, not completely.  Larry said I could do this for you guys without his ripping my head off) MHI FANFIC.
Good, now that we got that out of the way, why am I doing this?  Both Grant and Fado Negro (Portuguese Monster Hunters) have minuscule parts in Guardian, the MHI book I’m collaborating with Larry Correia on.  However, obviously the Portugal of Monster Hunter is not the real Portugal (Really, no arcane creatures come stumbling out of the undergrowth there.  If there were arcane creatures, the country would be chock-a-block in them, when you take in account the continuous human occupation since… well, forever.)  And this story gives me more of an opportunity to firm the worldbuilding.  (Yes, it would be MUCH easier to do this with a notebook and noting things down, but that’s not how my mind works, d*mn it.)
Okay, that’s the rational excuse.  The real reason is that d*mn Grant Jefferson won’t leave me alone.  (Always had a thing for men from Patrician New England families.  Ask my husband.)  So I’m torturing him.  Also Guardian won’t come out until I do this more or less at same time (I’ll be sending first chapter of that to Larry soon.)
Will this ever be a book?  Don’t know.  First Guardian will get delivered.  Then, this being finished, I throw it at Larry.  And then it’s his SOLE DECISION. (Which means, don’t you monkeys hassle him.)  It’s his world and his character.  I’m just grateful he lets me play in it in Guardian and here for your amusement.*

For those who have no idea what this is, Dark Fate starts

First chapter is here.

Second Chapter is here

Third Chapter is here

Fourth Chapter is here

Chapter 5 is here.

Chapter 6 is here.

Last episode is HERE.

Dark Fate 8

Silvia, the dark, curly haired Portuguese hunter who had been giving me the tour, turned and said something.  I didn’t know the word, though it sounded like a latinized version of “stupor.”  I wondered if it was some kind of incantation.  It had the tone of a swearword, but the meaning didn’t fit.

She grabbed my arm, “Come on.  I’ll tell you the story as we go.  We are needed, and you’re going to get a sense of what monster hunting is like around here.  And of what we’ve been facing.  And we get to see how you fight.”  She gave me a smile.  I just want to say it wasn’t entirely pleasant.  People always seem to underestimate my fighting abilities, partly, I think, because I’m too handsome, but surely with bruises all over my face I didn’t look that handsome anymore?

No, an internal voice said.  It looks like you get beat up a lot!

She’d pulled me back into the big main room.  People were grabbing weapons and guitars from the wall, and I wanted to say that I’d take a flute, though there was none in sight,just to mess with them.  Seriously, what kind of monster hunt called for guitars, of all things?  Were they going to scare the monster away with their singing?

But I had no time to say anything, because Silvia was also grabbing stuff off the wall, and turned to me and said, “what do you shoot?”

I stopped myself just short of saying “monsters” because the meaning penetrated.  “I have a Glock,” I said.

She snorted.  What in hell?

“Not a little pistol,” she said.  “You’re going to need a real gun.”  She handed me this thing that looked like a world war II rifle had a baby with a machine gun.  “You have no idea what sirens can do if you think that you can take them on with anything short of automatic fire.”

“But…”  I looked at the gun.  I still didn’t know what it was.  Did they make their guns in backyard forges?  “Aren’t sirens just really seductive creatures that steal your soul in the… in the act?”

“Stupid,” she said.  “Not that kind.”  Then she frowned.  Around us the other people were packing up weapons and slinging guitar cases, and leaving.  I could hear the elevator shriek out in the hall.  “Now I think about it, she said, our sirens might be different.  Portugal has always been a seafaring country, and we attract different kinds of sea monsters.  You know the sirens who tried to sink Ulysses?”

I had a vague memory from my high school classes, so I nodded.  She said, “Yeah, these would be sort of like that, except their singing not only can control humans, but it can command all the people that drowned in the sea in that area.  And old ships.”  She shuddered.  “You need a high rate of fire.”

“You mean it’s a zombie sea-apocalypse?”

She said.  “It’s revenants, mostly, not really zombies, but it’s… They can make skeletons that no longer have flesh take flesh of anything around.  Oh, yeah.”  She had already grabbed a gun similar to mine, but now she grabbed a bright, plastic water gun.  “Holy water helps.  At least agains the Catholic dead.  It can overcome the command of the sirens.”

“Silvia, are you coming or not?” A guy who hadn’t gone with the others was standing by the door scowling at us. He had a phone to his ear.  “The van has to leave. Anibal says that if we don’t come they’ll go without us.”

“You go,” she said.  “I’ll take my car, so I can brief the American task force.”  I’d got what he said, even though he was speaking in Portuguese, but she answered him in English, and I tried to tell myself there wasn’t dripping sarcasm in the words “American task force.”

Unfortunately I understood what the guy muttered, as he walked away.  Something about how I was supposed to help and not be a baby needing babysitting.  My face burned with a blush.  Silvia turned to me.  “Now, do you need anything else?”

“I don’t think so,” I said.  I heard the groaning of the elevator outside, indicating that the guy was going down, leaving me alone with Silvia.  Which wouldn’t be so bad, if I didn’t have the impression she was mocking me.  “I don’t play guitar.”

There was an expression of confusion, but then she laughed.  “Yeah, this is why I need to brief you.”  She put a black cloak over her shoulders, hiding the weapon slung at her shoulder, and then made a mmmm sound, looking me over.  Not like she was appreciating me, more like she was trying to figure out something.  She sighed, ducked into the room where I’d seen the woman ironing shirts, and came back with a black cloak.  I was still holding the rifle-machine gun- thing and hadn’t done anything with it.  Silvia took it as if I were a toddler, and slug it over my shoulder on its strap, then put the cloak on me.  It was shorter on me than on the rest of the guys, but as she tied it around my neck, I realized that it did indeed hide my weapon.

“What kind of gun is that?” I asked.  “I’ve never seen–”

“It’s an FBP,” she said, and to my blank look, “You mean you never heard of FBPs in America?  It’s only one of the best submachine guns ever built.  Never mind.  I’ll tell you in the car.”

She walked out into the elevator, waited till I was in — I tried not to show I was shaking — closed the door.  Then she looked upwards and shouted, “Tareco, take us down.”

We started moving much more steadily than I had when I was in the elevator by myself.  I looked up, and could see the same panorama of chain, cobwebs and rust as before, but now in the middle of it, there was a very large, blue, clawed hand, pulling at the chain.

“Tareco?” I said, my voice faltering.

“There’s nothing to worry about.  He’s harmless.  We only let him out when the soccer club wins, because people then think he’s a balloon.”

“WHAT?”

“Oh, he’s a dragon,” she said.  She fished for a packet of cigarettes from her jacket pocket, lit a cigarette and took a puff.  “We captured him some years ago.  Well, in my grandmother’s time.  But really, he’s harmless.  He was holed up in a cave, scared of everyone.  So we took him in.  He’s okay.  Like a big, giant cat.  Hence, Tareco.”

“Oh,” I said.  Monster hunter also had monsters working for them, but a dragon seemed like a large risk to be taking.

“He’s our first level of security.  If you’d been unauthorized, he’d have burned you to a crisp when you left the elevator.”

Harmless my butt.  Anything that can make you crispy and might think you’re good with ketchup isn’t harmless.  I kept a very careful eye on the creature up there, and if I’d had the slightest notion if there were any special tricks to firing this FBP thing, I’d have shot it, just on principle.

But the elevator ride was much smoother, and no one made any comments as we exited via the tunnel, the office and the deli.

Her car was a Renaut so tiny that I sat with my knees almost at my chest, even though she put it back as much as possible.  Well, not their fault I was outsized even in America.

She drove like monster hunters tend to drive: when you risk your life ten times a day it doesn’t seem worth it to drive like a grandmother.

Only here everyone drove like that.  I’d driven in Italy once, and thought it was crazy.  Now I longed for the restraint and careful respect for human life the Italians had shown.

We drove against the traffic in what I was sure was a one-way street, plunged down an alley where I was sure there wouldn’t be enough room between two rows of parked cars, but through which Silvia seemed to maneuver us, unscathed, with minor movements of the wheel.

As we emerged into a crowded city street that I was sure was designed for two lanes but supported six at the moment, Silvia relaxed, turned to me and said, “Now, some History.  It all started with King D. Manuel.”

 

 

Swords in the Bronze Age by J.M. Ney-Grimm

Swords in the Bronze Age by J.M. Ney-Grimm

Tracking down knowledge is my drug of choice. Each new fact is just so interesting! Even better is the moment when an entire constellation of facts coalesces, and I see how it all fits together and what it all means. That’s a total thrill!

But my insatiable curiosity (and I seem to be able to be curious about everything and anything) was not why I researched bronze metallurgy in ancient times. I was writing a novel set in the Bronze Age of my North-lands, and my protagonist was essentially the treasurer for a warlord. The wealth of the citadel lay in its metals and – especially – its weapons. So I needed to know all about how the metals were extracted from the earth, how they were purified and poured into ingots, and what forging techniques were used. My protag knew all that stuff, so I needed to know about it also.

For those of you who share my curious bent, here’s what I discovered.

Gritty DetailsToo many of the sources I found were overly theoretical. The author might explain why ancient cultures developed metallurgy as they did or how they traded for their tin. But I needed nitty gritty details.

How were their smelting furnaces set up? How long did it take for the metal to become molten? How exactly did the ancients fashion bronze scale mail? How did they make their bronze swords?

Historical re-enactors and experimental archeologists proved to be my most fruitful sources. I found actual patterns for re-creating bronze helmets and bronze armor, along with photos of the finished results. I found videos showing Bronze Age combat techniques.

Smiths Were MagesThe website of Neil Burridge, a smith who creates Bronze Age artifacts using authentic materials and methods, had the details I was truly seeking. Videos of him in action allowed me to see a real smith moving within the forging environment, garbed in the protective gear of heavy apron and gauntlets, using the tongs and crucibles, exercising prudence with the liquid fire that is molten metal.

He also explained vividly the awe with which the ancient smiths were probably regarded. Metallurgy was not a theoretical science for them. It was a practical discipline, absolutely necessary for their tools and weapons, but with techniques developed over hundreds of years and handed down from one smith to another.

They didn’t know why these techniques worked. And they weren’t infallible. Sometimes a pour would turn out a perfect result. Other times it would fail, and the smith wouldn’t know for sure what had caused the failure. Certainly ordinary people, with no access to a smith’s secrets, would have regarded the whole business as magical.

Why Would a Skilled Smith Waste His Time?Although the people in my novel were using Bronze Age technologies, I envisioned them as possessing military organization more like the armies of ancient Rome. Thus my smiths would not spend days setting up for the pouring of one sword that might – or might not – deliver success. They would pour many blades in one day, and then hand the blades off to others for the steps that transformed the plain metal blank into a weapon.

Anvilfire.com, a website “dedicated to advancing modern blacksmithing while retaining traditional standards of craftsmanship,” supplied me with information about this finishing process. The bladesmith created the blade. A separate shop did the grinding and polishing. Yet a third made the hilt and secured the blade to it. And a fourth made the scabbard.

Making a sword was resource intensive, both because of the valuable metals required and because of the labor from many skilled individuals that went into it.

Firesetting at the Copper MineSo what about those materials? Bronze is made by mixing a small part of tin with a larger portion of copper. The ancients didn’t have modern strip mines or deep underground mines. Nor did they have sophisticated machinery run by deisel engines. How did they get copper and tin out of the ground?

Copper mines bore some resemblance to my expectations. The copper deposits needed to be relatively near the surface, but the ancients actually did tunnel down to a vein of ore. There, at the working face, they built a fire to heat the ore-containing rock. Once the rock reached a high enough temperature, they doused it with cold water. This process increased the brittleness of the rock and induced a preliminary degree of cracking. Blows from a hammer or pick could then break it into rubble, which could be heated in a smelting furnace to extract the copper.

StreamworksTin was another matter, one entirely new to me.

Tin was found in alluvial deposits in stream beds, usually as a very pure tin gravel well stirred with gravels of quartz, mica, and feldspar (gangue). So the trick was to separate out the tin gravel from the others.

The method of the ancients, as far back as 2,000 BC, was this:
• Dig a trench at the lowest end of the deposit.
• Dig a channel from the nearest water source to pour water over that part of the deposit
• Allow the stream of water to wash the lighter gangue into the trench
• Pick up the heavier tin gravel that remained
• When the lower portion of the deposit had yielded all its tin, dig another trench a bit higher and redirect the water channel, to allow the next section of the deposit to be harvested

The tin gravel thus obtained would be roughly smelted on site, simply roasting the gravel in a fire. The pebbles resulting from this rough smelt would then be transported to a dedicated furnace for a second smelting that yielded the purer tin needed by bladesmiths.

tinPebbles

What About the Ingots?Modern ingots are rectangular blocks, but those of the ancients took several different forms. The earliest were so-called “biscuit” ingots, round on the bottom like a muffin, gently concave on the top. They took the shape of the earthen pit into which the molten metal dripped from the smelting furnace.

But metal is heavy, and the biscuit shape awkward to carry. Around our own Mediterranean, an “oxhide” form was developed. It weighed about 80 pounds and possessed four “legs,” one at each corner, that allowed it to be tied between pack animals or gripped and carried by men.

oxhideINGOT (1)

I became fascinated with an ingot form used much later by the Chinese in the Malay Penninsula. These were hat shaped, much smaller (weighing only a pound), and actually used as currency.

hatINGOT

A Peculiarity of Forging in BronzeBronze has one very peculiar property in the smithy.

Most metals, such as iron or even copper, when heated and cooled slowly to room temperature, become more ductile and more workable. They are less prone to internal stresses.

Bronze does not behave like this. When slow cooled, it becomes brittle and difficult to work. Thus it must be heated to cherry-red and then quenched in water. This quick cooling makes it so soft that it can then be hammered. The hammering condenses the metal, giving it more rigidity.

A bladesmith will hammer near the edge of a blade to harden it and help it keep its sharpness, while allowing the center rib to retain more of its resilience.

Were These Swords Any Good?If you compare a bronze sword to a steel sword, the steel is always going to win. But when the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age, bronze metallurgy was at its peak. Several thousand years had gone into the development of the most superb techniques. Iron metallurgy was in its infancy, and getting the iron swords to be rigid enough was a problem. The iron swords just weren’t as good as the bronze ones, which were light, strong, just rigid enough, and held an edge well.

But there’s no need to take my word on this. A YouTuber with a passion for swords, Skallagrim from Canada, discourses quite knowledgeably about the pros and cons of bronze. More amusingly, he tests one of Neil Burridge’s bronze swords “to destruction” in the video below.

(There’s a brief reprise snippet of Mr. Burridge before Skallagrim gets going with his destruction. Go to the 3:30 mark, if you want to skip that snippet.)

Even after all my research, I cannot call myself more than a mere smatterer. I learned enough to write The Tally Master, and not much more. But I hope you found these tidbits entertaining, and I’ll be happy to answer questions in the comments below. Or to speculate with you, when I don’t know the answer. 😉

Dances With Demons

I was going to write about something completely different. Or perhaps not. I was going to write about understanding people from completely different backgrounds; about putting yourself in other people’s shoes.

Particularly in the age of the internet — and yes, particularly on the left, but we do it too — it’s very easy to judge someone for something stupid and build a whole picture of what people are like that has nothing to do with reality.  (Take for instance all the assumptions made about my beliefs and preferences because I prefer less authoritarian government.  Or less preachy fiction, for that matter.)

Before you defend on “we do it too”, I’ll remind you I’ve been called a communist and/or an atheist for … not being a conservative, but a libertarian.  When I disagree with socon stuff I quickly get called names.  As for libertarians, they’ve been known to call me statist (!) because I say “Yeah, but we’re never going to get it.  Not on planet Earth.”

So, I was going to do a post on that.  I might still.  But not today.

Today friends I love so much they’re like family to me decided it was a great day to get in an argument about suicide, and whether it is just a cowardly act, and whether telling people all the mess they’re leaving behind would change their decision.

I’m not going to get into the morality of suicide and whether it’s cowardly.

Look, some are, I’m sure.  The guy who ran through all his money with gambling.  The criminal who seeks to evade punishment.  That’s “the coward’s way out.”

But that’s not always the case with suicide.

There’s the “inexplicable” the “why did he do that?” the “What the actual hell happened?”

This one, circling back to understanding other people, often seems inexplicable to the people who are outside.  It often takes our best and brightest.  It often happens with no outward sign.  And yep, it leaves families very angry and guilty and a thorough mess for the survivors.

The problem is that this one is best understood as “possession by demons.”

I’ve been there.  That moment you step off the ledge, you’re absolutely convinced that you’re doing what’s best not just for yourself but for everyone around you.  Even if you’re rational enough to see the mess you leave behind, you are certain it’s still better than dealing with you as you are.

It’s a lie.  It’s an awful lie. Again, it is better understood by externalizing it and realizing that depression lies.  If you view depression as demons taunting you, it’s easier to realize they lie.

What causes it? Why do best and brightest, people we admire, kill themselves?

Part of it is the defect that makes them great. We’ve talked about people who think they’re great at something (writing, art, whatever)  and who thoroughly suck at it.  Worse, they’ll never get better, because they don’t see ANYTHING that needs improving.  Those people might never accomplish anything.  They also will never kill themselves.

The high achievers, though, those that drive themselves to things we can only dream of?  They often feel they’re total failures.  I have a couple of friends like that.

And when you feel like your life is one of unremitting failure you open yourself to the demon voices.

No, I don’t mean that literally.  Or maybe I do.  Sometimes I think it would help if we could externalize it and view those voices as something else, out there.

We do that anyway, to an extent, by considering it an illness.  And it is.  I mean, it’s brain chemistry, though often exacerbated by personality.

On the other hand the personality is the same thing that allows us to succeed.

I’m not that successful, but many of you know I dance with the black dog on a regular basis.  Lately it’s been better for no reasons I can control: mostly that my hypothyroidism is getting treated, and that my hormonal cycle is a thing of the past.

But I’ve been there. Often.  Might be there again in the future.

So, if you’re there…. there are some things you need to know:

1- the voices in your head lie.  You’re not worthless.  In fact, you’re probably very worth it.  You just have this little defect in your brain. It causes you to devalue everything good you do. It’s not how other people see you.  It’s lies.  You are, as a friend says, “seeing the world through a distorted lens.”

2- Your being here can save someone else. Sometimes just your existing can save someone else.  You might never know it. There is someone out there who once engaged me in conversation on a day that would otherwise have ended very badly.  For her it was just a chat with a stranger.  For me it was life saving.  You might save someone’s life and not even know it.  If you die now, you won’t be there to save someone’s life.

3- It will get better.  I understand even for very ill people, bedbound, there are moments of joy as well as moments of suffering.  There will be better days.  I know you don’t believe me now, but do try to hang on.

For those of you on the other side:

Watch carefully, but don’t berate yourself, because sometimes you can’t see it.  Many people HIDE depression.  It’s the nature of the beast.  Mostly men, though not just men.

If you do spot it, bring it up.  Talk it out.  Listen.  Sometimes just having someone to listen to you helps.  And sometimes you call the suicide hotline and give your friend the phone.

If someone you love kills him/herself.  You’re going to be angry.  You’re allowed to be angry.  It’s an awful mess to stick someone with.

Don’t torment yourself by feeling that you must have done or failed to do something.  That’s not how it works.  Suicide is never a rational decision.  Rational people don’t kill themselves.

You can still be angry, but if it helps, view it as a car accident, a disaster, or more accurately a fatal birth defect.  The same thing that made the person you loved driven and self-demanding is the same thing that killed him/her.

Sometimes the demons win. Sometimes those who dance with the black dog stumble and fall.

All we can do is reduce the number of times that happens.

 

 

What were they thinking? by Amanda S. Green

What were they thinking? by Amanda S. Green

All too often, I find myself asking just that, especially when it comes to our public school system. No, this isn’t a post condemning public schools and recommending homeschooling. Although, to be honest, I am quickly going in that direction. This is a post about consequences and the need to finally start applying them to school districts and their security forces instead of granting a free pass.

I’ll be one of the first to admit that Dallas ISD has had its problems over the years. There was a time not so long ago when it seemed like there was a revolving door in the superintendent’s office. Then there are the issues so many major cities with a large school district face, issues too many to list in this post. However, there is one premise every parents operates under when she sends her child to school. We expect that child to be kept safe. The last thing we expect is for district employees and contractors to harm our child.

In the past week, two incidents have come to light that must raise questions about not only the training of ISD employees, especially the district police, and the way in which it communicates with the parents of students attending DISD.

The first, on the surface, doesn’t look that different from a lot of situations that arise. A couple of tween/teen girls got into a fight after school and the campus cop stepped in to stop them. So far so good, right? After all, he’s there to keep the peace and make sure no one gets hurt. The problem is that a video, admittedly a poor quality video, shows him picking up a 12-year-old girl and body slamming her to the ground. The girl and her family claim he then pepper sprayed her. The girl suffered a broken clavicle and, duh, had to go to the hospital. Oh, and she was suspended three days for fighting.

As I said, the video is grainy but you can make out the campus cop grabbing the girl and slamming her to the ground. He then makes a move that may or may not confirm the family’s allegations that he pepper sprayed her. That will, in all likelihood, be left to the district and possibly to the courts to determine.

Oh, and the district? It has admitted that “his actions [the officer] do not appear to represent the type of response we want our officers to display.”

Duh!

In the meantime, the officer has been placed on administrative leave. What is truly disturbing, if true, is the family’s allegation that students who videotaped the encounter were told by the school to delete the videos. CYA or misinformation? I don’t know but, for the moment at least, I can believe someone (with or without approval of the administration) telling them to do just that. If true, it is another chilling indicator that our schools are no longer safe for our children — not only are they punished for protecting themselves but now they are at risk of injury from overzealous employees.

Where is the accountability? I hope DISD makes its investigation into what happened transparent to the public. If not, then perhaps it is time for the superintendent’s office door to open so new leadership can be let in.

That incident is bad enough. But, as noted above, there was another that took place. This instance involved a 7-year-old boy with ADHD. In this case, the boy’s mother was allegedly contacted by the administration at the charter school he attended and told he had been causing problems. This wasn’t anything new, as the school was aware. So, as she had apparently done before, she went to the school to pick him up.

Only to discover he had been taken into custody and transported to a behavioral health care facility. There he was held for close to a week before he was released to his family. The reasoning was he  no longer presented a danger to himself.

Now, if the child was acting out to that degree, the district acted properly. However, its communication with the mother sucked big time. The district, of course, is refusing to release any details of the incident due to privacy laws. The mother is accusing them of not only poor communication but of using excessive force. You see, there are pictures of her son with his hands cuffed behind his back, walking down the school corridor between two uniformed officers. Now, I know it is only a picture and that means there is a lot we aren’t seeing. But, in this shot, we see a kid who is standing still and not acting out. He isn’t fighting the cuffs or the officers. he isn’t trying to get away. So what really happened?

By the way, even though the district claims it can’t say anything more about the incident, in a message to parents asking them “to not continue to spread misinformation.” So, it doesn’t want to give details or release the rest of the photos/video of what happened but it has no problem saying the mother is lying. Riiiiight.

Again, where is the accountability?

I have no doubt both incidents could have been handled much better than they were. Nor do I have any doubt that some of the blame for it lands squarely with the children and/or their parents. the 12-year-old shouldn’t have been fighting. The 7-year-old should not have been acting out. But, especially in his case, we need to know the full circumstances. The school apparently knew he had been classified as a special needs student (if I read the accounts right).

So, is the problem with training, with hiring the wrong employees or is there something else, something systemic within the district that needs to be corrected? Whatever it is, if I had a child of an age to go to public school and I lived in DISD, I’d have second — and third — thoughts about sending him.

New Short Story in the Honor and Duty series out now.

51cgabs60sl

Diversity and Memory

Human memory is very short.  This is one of those things that drive me bonkers when people talk of how it was “when”.  Unless you were alive “When” what you’re getting are the stories you were told.

And stories are inherently untrustworthy.  Yes, even oral transmission.  Yes, even the sagas changed.  Okay, some societies were more successful than others at transmitting long, complex stories orally.  But even then, without writing things drift over time and become weird.  And if it’s not something considered sacred or important, things drift over 100 years or so.  What I call the space grandmother-to-grandchild.  Because children misunderstand or their imagination adds bits that they then pass on as “as true” as the parts they were given.

I was reminded of this when I was singing a song I learned as a lullaby.  I was singing it when working on the house for sale, and Robert who understands only rudimentary Portuguese said “Oh, for the love of, mom stop it.  I don’t want to hear about a woman taken by death.”

At which point I stopped and blinked at him.  “What?”  I’ve actually always rather liked the song, which is of a stranger who knocks at the door and demands the daughter of the house accompany him some space (he is supposedly blind.  So this is charity.)  She walks him to the edge of the village, where they’re overwhelmed by his companions, and then it turns out it was a duke who tried to marry her but she refused him because she didn’t want to leave her family/status behind.

The problem is there is a lot of varied symbolism, and son who had just taken a class in myth (and the Jungian theories thereof) had started an interesting rabbit.  It is possible the symbolism is for death, including that the stranger arrives at exact midnight, that he knocks on the middle door, that no one else in the house will wake, etc.

Being me, I spent sometime tracking the song.  It seems to be very old (about 14th century) but the version I was taught was only collected as fragmentary bits, and the only version they have complete removes all the spooky stuff and instead is a frank Cinderella story, making the stranger a king and going on about how rich the girl was afterwards.

The point being as far as wording, it’s all completely different, and there’s only echos and hints to give “this is the same story.”  That is less than a thousand years of transmission, in a language that didn’t change significantly.  (Medieval Portuguese sounds more like Spanish but it’s perfectly understandable.)

So, in my explorations of “What if there were people we know nothing about, entire civilizations, say at Classical Greek level?” I kept face-palming when coming across intimations, that surely, of course, there were these long sagas transmitted orally for… seven thousand years, or ten or twenty.  Look, sure, we’d get some of the same general “feel” but the details and language would be completely different.

The closest you have to this, that you can verify is the transmission of what I call “Bible lore.”  When the church used Latin, people got taught a mishmash of what was in the New Testament and well… whatever they understood.  And they passed that to their children.  And it got passed on.

I spent most of my time in the village correcting the stories that had passed on, (yes, I was an insufferable kid.)  Stuff like “No, our Lady wouldn’t be around at the time of the deluge, unless you mean Balaat, which means “our Lady” in Phoenician.  What is wrong with you?”  But nothing was wrong.  Just invasions, language changes and people assuming what was now had more or less always been, projected backwards.

Human memory is vague and transmission is uncertain.  All of us about my age (almost mid-fifties) who have kids, have gone through this.  At some point I bet your kids came to you and asked, “When you were a kid, what was your favorite computer game?” or “when you were playing x or y how did you get around level 4?”  And when you said you didn’t have computers as a kid, they assumed you’d grown up in poverty.

This is funny, and obviously kids figured it out when they grew up. But when the change wasn’t as rapid and catastrophic, that wasn’t necessarily true, and people just happily projected their circumstances backwards.

We see that in America, to an extent, with the projecting backwards of some sort of “paradise” around WWI and WWI.  A “freedom” paradise at that.  When, no, actually statism was rife and the way of the future and everyone believed in it.  Which is what got us where we are, and why we must fight back.

It’s also what drives me to frothing at the mouth about the “diverse past” brigade.  These are the people who will go insane, because you have no black and/or Chinese/etc people in say Medieval England.

EVERY time I talk about this, and how stupid it is, we get “the begs” “But there were moors.”  “But the silk road” “But–”

The begs are bullsh*t.  No, they seriously are bullsh*t.

Before the 14th to 15th century Europe was remarkably genetically uniform.  Sure there were the Moors, who mostly are “Mediterranean” looking and mostly were in Mediterranean parts of Europe.  Sure there were Chinese that someone had seen, somewhere.  But there were no more than about 1 in a million of people who were TRULY exotic looking.

Look at the digs they’ve done of medieval villages.  Not only were they all the same race, they were usually all relatively closely related.  “Genetically uniform.” Unless you’re digging in a major port city, like London, and even there the “diversity” is less than you find in any of our very white suburbs.

I grew up in a relatively diverse country and WELL AFTER the middle ages, but people from the next village over were “foreigners” and people from 200 miles away had derogatory names attached to them. We did have a black person in the village.  She was known as “the black person.”  And we had a descendant of Chinese.  The family was known as “the Chinese” though you’d need a microscope to see any difference between them and the other villagers.  Then there’s my sister in law known as “of the (female) Moor.”  Their entire family is.  Who knows how many generations back.  I’ll note they run to redheads and blonds, so —  You figure it.

“But Sarah you grew up in a uniquely insular and closed in place.”  Not even.  Not hardly.  We were about 30 miles from the sea, and the village was “diverse” in that a blond (Portuguese blond, which means light brown hair) or a relatively tall woman (like me) occasioned little remark.

We once had my aunt from Brazil (she married my uncle) come back and try to trace her origins.  This took us, circa 69, on a long trip through the mountains of Portugal (they’re not real mountains.  The tallest mountain in the country is 1km if you count the tower built on top.  But mountains enough) driving through old roman roads and dirt tracks made for ox carts.  We found villages where work stopped and a holiday was declared because they had visitors.  In these villages the title for an older woman was “auntie” because she PROBABLY was.

In the middle ages?  With no transport except shanks pony?  People who trace such things say divorces happened in the following way: you couldn’t take your wife anymore, so you walked fifty miles away and declared yourself a bachelor.  Your wife, meanwhile, when you didn’t return, was officially a widow.

Now people move around, they always have.  So here and there you’d find one person who’d started out in Africa, or maybe one who’d come from Asia.  But they’d be so few as to be irrelevant in terms of population, really visible and yep notorious in terms of “oddity” (to the point people would come to gawk at them) and in general “Strange”.

So unless THEY are the point of the story, to put them in the story being treated as just another person is not historical.  It’s wishful thinking.

The problem we have is that the left wants to project “diversity” into the past so we will all think that every society was this mosaic of different, exclusive societies.

This is because the left is what is known as “delusional” and “Self defeating.”

When there was “diversity” in the past, and it didn’t end in a war, it was like when Portugal imported an untold number of slaves in the sixteenth and seventeenth century (seriously, even beggars had slaves to beg for them); they were never sent back, but by the mid twentieth century black people were almost as rare as blonds in continental Portugal (I once mentioned this in a group discussion and some idiot came back with she’d been to Portugal in the eighties, and she’d seen a lot of black people and they’d taught her their lovely songs, or something equally asinine.  Yep.  Thousands (maybe as much as a million) black people came to Portugal after the African colonies were handed over to the USSR and their Cuban mercenaries under the guise of “independence.”  Those people were like Cubans in Florida, escaping at great peril from a murderous regime.  BUT that was post 75, not before.)  So what happened to all those black people?  They got “genetically swamped” and the general hue of the population got slightly darker.

And that’s what happened to any “diversity” in the past.  I found, reading a biography from the 19th century, where the high class British woman says all servants are “Portagee” that apparently there was a large influx of Portuguese into England at that time.  What happened to them?  They got genetically swamped and I guess some Englishmen can tan.  (In my day the outflux of immigrants was to the countries half-depopulated by WWII: France and Germany, most of all.  And sometimes in France I come across someone with a Portuguese name.  But most of them? They’re Frenchmen.)

The truth is that diversity in the past was more melting pot than salad bowl.  Sure, if you had some reason to be resentful or separate (thinking of the Mouraria in most Portuguese cities (aka the Moor neighborhood that remained after the reconquest)) you’d have your separate area.  Though I’ll note genetically by the 20th century those areas were the same as the rest of the country.  Linguistically and religiously too.  In fact, Jews are the only minority in a majority population that succeeded in keeping somewhat separate/keeping language and customs/and some genetic integrity.  Note I said “some.” Jewish people in Germany looked more German than Jewish people in Spain.  (Leading to the story On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi.)

Mostly diversity is what you have when there was some great population dislocation (invasion, mass immigration, etc) and it’s a step on the way to “reconstituted homogeneity.”

By projecting the type of “salad bowl” diversity they favor into times that were startlingly (to us) non diverse and where what “diversity” there was was on its way to being smoothed out, what the left is doing is trying to create the idea that all this “separate but equal” forever is the NORMAL state of affairs, and the way human societies are.

The reason this enrages me is that it works.  People see this in books and movies and series, and become confused, so that I get the “begs”.  “But there were moors!”  “But there was contact with Asia.”

It works on projecting the lie backwards.  It doesn’t make it any less of a lie.

What it does is make people believe the gulfs between populations are so vast, so insurmountable, that we should each “stick to our own kind” and balkanize society.  After all, all these diverse groups have been keeping isolated since ever.  There must be reasons for it.

What the left can’t understand is that if people believe and embrace that, what they’ll have is not their beautiful mosaic of cultures.  Because humans are naturally tribal, and naturally loyal to their own kind, what they will get is the new-racialist theories that are starting to appear.  “Hey, if these people have always been there, won’t mingle with us are and incapable of learning our language/customs, we don’t need them.”

The Jews are the only group that managed to keep separateness in Medieval Europe.  They paid for it in suspicion, progroms and frankly massacres whenever things went wrong. They are still the object of suspicion and hatred by the new racialists.

If you convince the majority that all these other minorities have been around that long, that separate, that’s the level of suspicion and hatred you’ll be calling down at them.

And this is why I say the left is delusional and self-defeating.  The end of their careful lying is the exact opposite of what they think they want.

I don’t like where they’re pushing us (as opposed to where they think they’re pushing us.) but that’s the least of my annoyance.  Mostly I’m annoyed that they’re forcing lies on future generations.

To decide where we’re going and how we’ll live, we need to know the truth, the unvarnished truth and how things worked themselves out.

To build a future based on lies is like building a bridge with rotten boards.  It might look pretty, but it will mean death and devastation long before you get to the other side.

 

 

We Are The Superior Civilization

You know, sometimes I am a wee bit daft.  (Taking two hours this morning to rip out carpet in the powder room and coat the floor in two layers of kilz is part of how I’m daft.  Yes, I’ll be putting floor in again, but not carpet.  Carpet in the bathroom is icky and when Terry Pratchett said Gaspode smelled like a privy rug, he wasn’t doing him any favors.)

Anyway, how I got daft is that when I floated that there might have been “civilizations” between the emergence of anatomically modern humans, and ya’ll objected because no signs of dentistry, no extensive mining operations and even the crab bucket, I thought “Well, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”  It wasn’t till yesterday morning that I stopped and went “waitaminut, Czar Nicholas’ skeleton showed signs of prolonged and horrific abscesses. We only found out how extensive the Roman mining operation in the village was when it rained for a month and roads collapsed under cars.  And even with the crab bucket and no Judeo-Christian ethic, ancient Asia had a lot of very advanced, flourishing civilizations.”

Which is when the dime dropped and I realized you guys immediately translated civilization to “as good as we have or better.”  Which, of course, made me giggle.  Because I’d have liked you to tell a Roman, with their world-bestriding empire that they weren’t civilized.  Or, before that a classical Greek.

Understand I am not imagining others before us had the internal combustion engine, or steam, or trains, or…  Sure, they might have, but that’s a heck of a coincidence, since those things usually come about by an individual stroke of genius, and even when they do they often aren’t used the way we did (Romans and their mechanical toys.)

To imagine other civilizations of which we’ve forgotten every trace followed exactly the same route we did to the same place we’re at requires believing that inventing steam and the internal combustion engine and harnessing electricity is as natural to humans as dams to beavers.

Now, maybe that’s true.  It would certainly make for a very good science fiction story.  (Short story, I think.  Too much of a punchline thing for a novel.)  BUT the odds defy rationality.

I was imagining, you know “builds houses of wood or stone.  Domesticated SOME animals.  Has villages and cities. Might have trade over long routes. MIGHT have had wheeled vehicles.”  (The last, as we know, one can have quite sophisticated civilizations without.)

Look, it’s not your fault.  Since the seventies, we’ve been bombarded by crazy bs about superior aliens or superior lost civilizations.  (And before that, there was a trickle of it, too, going back I think to the eighteenth century, just couched in different terms.)  You’ll get stuff about how the pyramids were built of stones that floated at the sound of a certain note.  (A C note, or the equivalent, I bet.  “Listen, Mac, you take this stone to the top of the pyramid, I give you a C Note.  A  hundred Amontheps in your pocket, bucko. Buys a lot of fish and falafel.”)

Part of this, and part of the reason it intensified since the seventies were the “unilateral disarmament people.”  You know, those jokers who wanted us to get rid of our own nukes and stand disarmed in front of the USSR, who would then realize we were peaceful, and not attack, and everyone would live in peace and harmony with rainbows and farting unicorns.  Yes, it was a stupid and crazy idea since the continued survival of the USSR depended on plunder and conquest.  But I’ll remind you our last president still believes that bag of moonshine.  All of it, including the unicorn farts.

As I was saying, because this was a tough sell, and because a lot of science fiction writers were very scared of the nukes (even Heinlein, though at least he never advocated unilateral disarmament.  Instead, he put his hopes on the UN.  Head>desk.  We’re all human.) and susceptible to USSR propaganda, there were a ton of stories of superior civilizations JUST LIKE OURS that had killed themselves in nuclear holocaust.  They weren’t all billed as fiction. Sodom and Gomorrah and pillars of salt were often brought up as “proof” of a previous nuclear holocaust.

For these stories to be effective, both fiction and the ones that didn’t admit to being fiction, you HAD to have lots of similarities to us.  Previous civilizations had to have developed exactly to the same way and the point we have, or no one would buy the urgency.

Hence, when anyone says “there was a civilization before us” your head (our head) jumps to airplanes, trains, steel mills, refrigerators, dentistry.

I’m telling you the chances of that are negligible, though I won’t scruple using a more advanced than us past civilization to give my characters a nasty shock when they get to space.  I won’t because that’s just cool.

However of things like Ancient Greece or Rome?  I almost think the chances against it are worse.  And of course civilizations that live and die by coastal sailing would be mostly engulfed in the great melt of the last ice age.

And no, Europe hasn’t been extensively studied.  As I said before, Europe is mostly built on Europe.  And you can’t dig in a field without finding SOMETHING.  If you think everyone runs to the academics or the authorities when something is found, you don’t understand people’s interest in building a house, or sowing a field, as opposed to you know, giving up ownership of their land in all but fact.  Frankly I’m amazed so many people do report discoveries.

But the thought of “superior civilizations” got me to thinking of what say the Romans or the Greeks, or those other ancient civilizations if they ever existed, would make of us in the West.  We cross the globe by flying through the air.  Not just heads of state or priests, no, common people.  He*ll, our pets fly.  Most places have clean, fresh water that someone doesn’t have to carry a mile or so (which has been most of the work of humanity I think, forever.) Forget aqueducts.  We have water that comes from our faucets whenever we want it.  Cold AND hot.  We have temperature control inside our houses, allowing us ignore the weather and keep warm in winter and cold in summer.  We can magically cure diseases that killed millions of people by injecting this magical elixir into the sick person’s veins.  Our old live a long time in relative comfort.  We  get our teeth fixed and replaced, so most people can chew to the end of their lives.  Most of us can read, and most of us have access to untold wisdom of the sort their hermetic orders would kill for.

We are the superior civilization.  We are the enlightened ones, the shining and resplendent inhabitants of the wonderful future.

And we worry about what gender we feel like being that day, who is allowed to pee where, whether someone used the wrong word to refer to someone else who might be offended, whether our use of fossil fuels offends Gaia, whether slapping a kid on the behind is a criminal offense, whether we are doing all we could do with our lives.

In other words, we’re neurotic, unsatisfied, and a bit crazy like most of people who were born and raised rich throughout most of human history.

Which is why if we really were doomed to repeating a cycle, and if the civilizations before us were the same but more advanced, the message of the pyramids would be “Don’t use so much toilet paper.  Just wash one square and reuse it.”

Perhaps we should be grateful they are truly profoundly unlikely to ever have existed or tried to send us any message.