Life Went Sideways

I was going to write a post I was, but life went sideways, as it will in 2020. Only maybe not, as it’s not bad, precisely. It’s just annoying.

You see, I had a sequel to Have Spacesuit dictate itself to me in my sleep. All of it.

So? says you.

So, of course I can’t sell it, so it’s sunk costs. I resisted as much as I could, but it was broken sleep, and I finally woke up enough — kind of — to roll to the computer by the bed (I being displaced form my office, just now, since it needs painting and flooring) and write the first three paragraphs.  After which, I decided to mow the lawn till the urge to just write the whole — unsalable by virtue of being unauthorized fanfic — mess out passed.

The lawn took very long because I had to deal with some issues.

And now we have a get together to go to, kind you don’t postpone.

And when I come back there will be a post for PJM to finish.

So. I’ll post tomorrow.

Meanwhile, beginning below with the caveat that I get details wrong on my own worlds, and I’m sure I got some wrong on this one. Meh.

It’s not for money and it’s three paragraphs. Call it an homage. As I said, I know it’s not something I can sell.  Will I write it? Lord only knows. Probably not because I hate wasted effort. If I do, no one will ever know.

Now, if I could just download it onto electrons?  Well…. it’s already all in my head.

BUT we don’t have the tech.

So how it happened was like this: Mother-thing needed help.

Wait, I’m telling it all wrong.

I had this workshop in the Mojave.  There was a house too, attached to it, but most of the time I ate and slept in the workshop. So, as you can imagine it was pretty well locked.

Mother kept saying someday girls would find me. I didn’t know she meant it literally.

I was very shocked when the door popped open. I mean, I’d made those locks.  So shocked that I jumped, so I had my hands on two of my guns.

Then stopped.  She was tall and red headed and mammalian, and wore this simple, molding jumpsuit thing that made her legs look like they went on forever, particularly atop those platform boot things that all the ads shows women in these days.

Mother says it’s expensive to look that cheap.

 I looked up to her face, where her lips were slightly parted, and her big eyes looked at me in shock.  She had freckles across her nose. She panted a little at me, and said, “Stop it, Kip.  Mother-thing needs our help.”

The picture fell into place like one of those puzzles you look at and know suddenly where every piece goes. I let go the guns and said, “Peewee!

 

The Stories We Tell – by Dr. TANSTAAFL

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Image by J. S. Klingemann from Pixabay

The Stories We Tell – by Dr. TANSTAAFL

When our boys were little, there was always bedtime stories.  We bought tons of books for them, but they picked the stories they wanted every night.  Afterwards, in a ploy to stay up later, they asked questions about the stories, and we discussed them.  How we framed the stories for them taught them what we thought was important, and how we viewed the characters and their motivations.  The Little Engine that Could kept trying when the going got rough and wins in the end.  Love You Forever was about family love and relationships.  Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel was all about work and problem solving.

During their childhoods, there were stories about the family, emphasizing different characteristics.  Snippets of information about our ancestors and how we came to be. A great-grandmother who overcame cultural sexism to become a legislator, a great-uncle who fled the old country for aggravating the rich family in town, grandparents brave and adventurous enough to emigrate around the world for a better life for their children.  The stories continued as we raised the children; almost running out of gas near the Canadian border, getting lost and then unlost on hiking trips, falling out of the raft right in front of the rapids. Some of the stories were active, a gestalt of our reactions to different events.  What do you do when the call is bad in a peewee soccer game, how do you react to a bad grade, how do you solve a travel crisis, how do you treat people who are not doing what you need?  How we chose to look at these events and frame them into the larger picture of who and what we are has a huge effect on our happiness and success in life.

Why do some people shake off bad news and keep smiling?  How does something that happens to all of us, derail some individuals?  Is it all genetics?  Is it all luck?  Is it parenting?  I think part of the difference is in the stories we tell ourselves.  Our internalized stories give us the blueprint for our reaction.  I can’t fold to a misogynist because great-grandmother stood up to them.  Dad never whined when the call went against him, so I can’t either.  I can find a solution because our family is good at thinking outside the box.  If I get lost, I will be found again, and this is what dad always did.

Part of being a physician is sometimes giving good news, sometimes bad news, and hopefully not too often, terrible news. The stories people tell themselves can be a source of inspiration not just for themselves but to those around them. Or the stories can help set people up for failure or pull them to a place nobody wants to go.  One patient was sure that since all the males in his family died young from heart disease, that he would also.  So he kept smoking and refused cholesterol medicine, because what’s the use.  One mother who was the eternal optimist, always thought her child was doing great, despite her handicaps, and raised a child who thought she could do anything, because mom said she could.

What is the story we are telling now?  For the last 3 months, it’s been DOOM, DOOM! Stay home, it’s not safe, millions will die! The world outside your house is not safe. An invisible killer is stalking you. You or your loved ones could die. You have no control over any of this, and your fate is in someone else’s hands, perhaps the person who walked by you without a mask, or the “experts” who can tell you when it will be safe to live.  What are the stories children are hearing now?  You may die and the people you depend on, your parents, have no control over the danger out there in the world.  This is how the world has to be now.

Recognizing and treating psychiatric disorders is part of our training.  Generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, agoraphobia, depression.  Today’s news seems to have come up with a way to induce these disorders.  This is not something we have ever seen.  The stories being told are an effective way to create psychiatric dysfunction in a large percentage of our population.  Even worse, in the children, the stories are too immediate.  They have no lengthy novel of normalcy to fall back on.  The current short stories are all they remember.  Will we raise a generation of neurotic, agoraphobic, depressed children?

Individually, within our circle of family and friends and within our larger communities, we have a choice. We can echo the stories of DOOM, or tell a different story.  The story should be there have been epidemics before and there will be again.  We are endlessly creative and will figure out a way to treat this illness, or prevent it eventually.  We all are mortal, and how you live is as important, if not more so, than how long you live. We can figure out ways to protect the individuals at risk, and Americans are the most generous people in the world, and can support people who are hurting as needed.

This is not the end times, unless we choose to tell ourselves it is.

 

Upside Down

Screenshot_2020-07-01 No one on the internet can figure out whether this cat is going up or down these stairs

My mind works in a weird way, a statement that I’m sure has all of you amazed and confused 😛

My current audio book to listen to (I prefer books I’ve read before) while doing baseboard work is Starman Jones.

And yesterday I stopped just at the point where they’re going into a transition in space, and the stars look all weird, like they’re bunching up.

Later, in a group, a friend posted a thing about a book on the coming technocracy and how a few technocrats were set to control opinion and what everyone thought and felt, just like in 1984.

At which point, I realized the picture was all wrong and we were looking at it upside down and just as with optical illusions (click on the picture) when you see it, you can’t unsee it.  (My opinion, btw, as a long time owner of cats is that the cat is going up.  Those stairs look remarkably like Portuguese stone stairs, and that lip is not unusual in those. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Look, 1984 was an amazingly accurate picture of the future, if one looks at it from the point of view of mid-twentieth-century tech with some improvements.

That’s not — thank G-d — the world we got.

To an extent, a few technocrats controlling opinion and dictating what was evil, or outside the pale is what we had till round about the mid nineties.

Look, mass control needs mass media. A splintered multitude of voices doesn’t lead to mass anything.

Yes, I can see how the illusion is fostered. We see media and technocrats, in the pocket and service of the left (partly due to “excellent” educations in Marxist higher education institutions, partly due to the fact that they still perceive leftism as a positional good — note that this is no longer NECESSARILY so and several positional good by mouthing lefty platitudes have backfired on entertainers and businesses recently. I can’t begin to tell you how shocking that would be in the mid nineties.) shutting down dissenting voices, and trying to enforce a single point of view.

We’re also going through an unfortunate period when a lot of the big online concerns are in effect monopolies.

And we tend to forget the de-facto monopoly of big newspapers and news and narrative fostered by those from early 20th century to the 90s or so. Hell, we tend to forget that all of mass communication and entertainment were controlled by a small group of people who all enforced strict opinion control and narrative, not as a conspiracy, but because they’d been brought to believe that “all smart/decent people believe x.” And the more unified the narrative, in blunt and subtle ways, the harder it was to be a dissenter.

I can honestly say those of us who arrived at dissenting positions went not through one, but through several dark nights of the soul while we examined and reexamined our assumptions.  And it usually involved living through something and seeing it drastically misrepresented by the unified narrative TM.

The narrative was all encompassing and inflexible, and trust me on this, even if you had a dissenting opinion you felt like you were utterly alone, and there was nowhere to turn.

This is how “nationalism” became the cause for WWI and II (instead of its kind of obviously being central planning and government control. And elites disconnected from the people.) This is how socialism became the unquestioned way of the future, and we all knew we’d run out of resources and life would go smaller and more bleak forever. Etc. etc. ad nauseum.

This splintered.  And yes, the big tech monopolies are trying tor rein it in.

Let me interject here that both things becoming monopolies and attempts at opinion control are old, old sins of the human breed.

It was happening with newspapers and TV too. It had already happened to radios. And let me talk to you about book publishers and their ever narrowing circle.

It is part of humanity to get in the habit of buying from a brand, or a type of thing.  My family used Tide and drove Fords for instance. It was a given. No argument.

And in the case, of say, Amazon, let me interject both as a writer and a reader, they make it way easier. It’s easier to put a book up with Amazon (though I swear they’re making it more complicated every month) and it’s easier to find something I wish to read with Amazon search than with any other online retailer.  This is before the advantages of the tiny new Kindles, which I can slip into a jeans pocket, and often do, because of my horrible fear of not having a book on hand while out.

However, things change. The monopolistic empire gets sloppy.  Amazon is already showing cracks in what used to be its gold-plated customer service. Publishers of old more or less committed suicide because they didn’t have enough competition and decided they could control what people wanted to read. Monopolistic newspaper empires were in real trouble before the net kicked them in or around the fracas.  And even all day news stations were losing credibility and viewers before the internet revealed most of them were just running fiction under the guise of news. (To be fair to them, so were most newspapers.)

What we’re seeing, and what makes it look so scary, though, is that it’s all accelerated.  It took almost a century for people to realize that newspapers had become monopolistic echo chambers. Now we’re seeing this in social media in decades.

But the thing to remember — the really important thing — is that once you look at the picture and see the old lady instead of the young woman, you can’t stop seeing the old lady. What’s seen can’t be unseen.

The early burst online told a lot of us we weren’t alone, and hell, we might be in the majority.  We who don’t agree with the established narrative. We who know the horrors Marxism has inflicted on the suffering world. We who know their scroll of revelation doesn’t agree with reality.

Yeah, they’re trying to stomp us out of existence online now.  With indifferent success, as we keep popping up elsewhere.

Because once we see it, it can’t be unseen. It just can’t.  And companies that try to control opinion, just end up destroying themselves.

Look, the total control, the all seeing and encompassing state was a creature of mass production and what Sabrina Chase delicately calls “the entertainment-information mass industrial complex.”

They’re awkward and wrongfooted in this new climate/this new technology.

What they’re engaged in, from the mass arrest of Winnie the Flu to the mass insanity of riots for nothing over things that had already been resolved, are attempts to regain the saddle.

And they succeeded, beyond my expectation at least, with Winnie the Flu, though I note that every day I see fewer panicked eyes in the grocery store.  Panic seems to linger harder in Europe — which makes sense, the blog revolution never happened there, and I can’t even explain why — but here every day it fades a little, despite their countervailing efforts.

You see, the entire mass arrest was designed not just to crash the economy, but to recover the glory days post-9-11 when we spent all day every day in front of a news channel, to find out what would happen next.  Because people weren’t going out at all, and were cut off from normal interaction, it worked. A lot of them were watching tv and day and even sensible people were buying the nonsense. (And it’s going to take a while to dismount, because people hate admitting they were wrong.)

But their victories come at increasingly high prices these days.  Their clever-fool mass arrest (to be fair, the initial one might have been the result of faulty information and panic, but the prolongation was definitely idiots enjoying power) gained them an audience, and “experts” who cavorted and writhed with pleasure in the limelight while helping cause panic.

What it cost them….  Well, I will be blunt, right here: I don’t think any of the traditional publishers will be extant in 5 years, and I’d be amazed if they’re extant in 3.  Their being owned by European conglomerates, they’ll probably survive, but the question is, when do they cut the American branch off?

Universities?  You have no idea.  If I had money right now, I’d be starting an online consortium that educates in real skills, people really will need, from basic “How to deal with your computer” to writing clear sentences, to–

Yeah, this will need money, because as of right now you need accreditation.  This will change.

Mothers and fathers working from home will be less likely to rent their kids minds wholesale to the poisoned education establishment.

The list goes on and on.  Including cities losing both population and power in the next decade or two.

It’s at best a Pyrrhic victory.  Who was it who said, “Would that we could sell them many such victories at such a price.”

I’m not saying it ice-cream and cookies ahead. I’m not saying we’ll get through this unscathed.

Guys, I’ve read history. Any big transition caused by a complete change in tech is bad news, particularly so when accelerated. I can’t think of any that didn’t get a butcher’s bill.

But don’t look at it the wrong way. Things are not going towards 1984, but away from it.  The vile crap we’re seeing is not new. It’s always been there, but it used to be easier for the left to hide.

Once you see the picture, you can’t unsee it.

It’s possible none of us will live to see a time of greater freedom and individualism, but our grandkids will.  It’s going that way.

Yeah, things are going to get very, very bad.  The left loses a mile for every yard they gain, but they too still believe the future will them, and the saddle is right there, and if they just cut the horse’s legs, they’ll get on top again.

They fight like cornered rats because they are.  We haven’t seen the end of this. Hell, we haven’t seen the  worst of vileness, irrationality and destruction.

And I know it’s hard not to be afraid. But remember, they’re the ones who are afraid. They have reason to.

You, out there, be not afraid.  Lift that torch. Let others see.

 

 

Lay Down Your Bets – a blast from the past from September 12 2012

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Lay Down Your Bets – a blast from the past from September 12 2012

This is not a post about world building, though it is that too.  It is mostly a post about life – though I’ll come at it through writing, which might make it easier to understand.

It is a cliche, tired and worn, that one has to remind new writers that magic must have a price.  This is because, particularly when you bring in something that doesn’t exist in our world, it is all too easy for young – in age or craft – people to get carried away and think all laws of reality can also be suspended.  While these books can be lots of fun to write, (kind of like those Saturday morning cartoons where your character suddenly achieves the ability to draw things and make them come to life), they are tedious to read (even that sort of cartoon throws in an archenemy or someone who’s chasing the kid to get the wondrous crayon.)

This is where life differs from writing – maybe.  I think – because acquiring that sort of power in real life would be a blast.  Well, okay, maybe it would grow tedious after a while, but frankly that’s the sort of challenge I’d like to have “how can I stop life from growing wearisome while I have everything I want and a magical pony on the side?”

Annoyingly, it is also the sort of challenge no one has.  Not in real life.  Probably part of the objectionable (or obnoxious) nature of the books where there’s no price for magic is that it’s not nice to taunt us with images of a world we can never live in.

In fact, humans so much wish they could live in a world where there’s no prices, that we often pretend those prices don’t exist, because it makes us feel better.

I don’t mean by this the price of goods and services, though the most amoral among us like to pretend that those have no cost either.  This is where the bright idea comes from that one should just take goods and services and give them to other people, in a sort of fairy-godmothery way, because…  Because when you’re a morally blind idiot you don’t realize the people who produced or acquired goods or who provide services pay a price for them – in learning or sacrifice or even a narrowing of life options – and therefore you don’t realize what you’re advocating is nothing less than slavery.  (All objections of course are removed when people voluntarily share with others things or services for which they’ve paid the price.  That’s their choice.)

It goes both ways of course.  Businesses engaging in “Hollywood accounting” (including those in Hollywood) are engaging as much in theft of another person’s life as those in the bureaucracy who legislate that type of theft.

It’s very easy to think “oh, he’d write screenplays, anyway.  And we paid him.  He doesn’t need the extra howevermuch.”  But while the screen writer might have written screen plays anyway, trust me, to get to the point you want to make a movie of it, he engaged in learning his craft, he wrote a lot of unusable screenplays, and he sacrificed time and effort without which you wouldn’t have that play.  So when taking the extra compensation that accountants make disappear, you are in fact engaging in stealing years or months of his life.

No, I’m not endorsing the Marxist theory that labor equals value.  I’m simply saying that nothing of value was produced without labor – or without learning, or without talent, or without…

I’m saying there is a price to magic.  There is a price to anything and everything in life.  You pays your dust, you takes your chances.  And, as I’ve said before, in the end you always get more or less what you want. … unless what you want is the magical crayon that can draw things and make them come to life – because that violates the rules of life in this particular universe.

Do you want to be the best runner ever?  Well, you exercise, you practice, you put in your effort and you’ll be a very good runner.  You might not be the best ever – or the best in your team – because you have the wrong body type, or because you fall and break your ankle, or…  But you’ll still be a million times a better runner than you were when you started out.  The same goes for playing an instrument, for writing, for any of the arts, crafts or sports.

Most people understand that price.  Most people even understand what we’d call “the price of fame,” where the character becomes ruler-of-the-world or the most famous musician since Elvis left the scene to open a diner in Arizona.  That type of price has been shown again and again in movies, and even though it’s a variant of “poor little rich boy/girl” we know it by heart now.  You become rich and famous, and spoiled, and you lose the contacts in your small town, and your best boy/girl (or for the more edgy movies, both) sends you a Dear John.  You either chuck it all to go back to your origins (happy ending) or you die of an overdose (unhappy ending.)

But Sarah, you say, I never want that kind of fame, so why should I consider that kind of price?

I don’t want that kind of fame, either, and – Praise the Lord, Brothers and Sisters! – I’m very unlikely to ever achieve it.

However, what most people – myself included a few years ago – fail to grasp is that there is a price to more mundane achievements, too.  For instance, having children.

Robert and I were talking yesterday about some woman about my age who said she had to find herself.  Although I despise that trite phrase, when Robert said “How do you EVEN lose yourself?” I had to point out you do.  You can’t help it.  When they’re little you’re not you, you’re mommy.  H*ll, even when they are teens, you still are giving up a major portion of your life to being mommy – to being the adult.  Someone has to do both of those.

I remember the first time I went to the grocery store without the kids, because they were old enough to be left at home alone.  It felt weird.  It was like I didn’t know how to be in the store alone, by myself, anymore.  My habits of shopping from when I was childless were quite gone.  Ditto, the first time I took a walk alone.  The first time I sat down and read a book because I wanted to (and the kids were both at school.)

It’s not just time or habit, either.  During those intensive child rearing years, my thoughts were different.  I wasn’t me.  I was Robert-and-Marshall’s mother.

As the child-rearing pressures ease (do they ever go away completely?) I’m starting to re-find myself; to see the outlines of the person there, who is Sarah Hoyt, not Robert-and-Marshall’s mother (though she is that too.)  This is not the same as the Sarah Hoyt many years ago.  For one, she doesn’t look nearly as good anymore.  For another…  She’s changed through the years and the experiences.

There’s a price.

When I chose to really try to write and publish, I started devoting vast chunks of time to it.  This means I lost some of the kids’ childhood.  There were days I wanted to just take them to the park and watch them play, but I was on deadline.  There were times I wanted to sit around and enjoy them, but I had writing to do.

Now, a lot of what I paid to have a writing career was dictated by the boundaries of the old model.  However, Indie will have its own boundaries too.  Sure, you can write and put things up there, but if you want to sell significant number, you’d best learn the craft.  (And if you haven’t read Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, why NOT?)  And that will take time.  More than that, it will take effort.  You’ll emerge on the other side, not just as a selling writer, but changed.  Years will have passed that you weren’t even aware of, and you’ll be a different person.

This is true even if what you choose to pursue is a more normal career, like, say, cab driver or server.  You will have to train, and then you’ll have to practice and your rewards are likely to be commensurate with your effort.

The same is true for every hobby, at every level from casual to serious.

Achievement – magic – has a price.  It always has a price.  Mostly what you pay is your ability, your vitality, your time, your life.  But you also pay all the things you could have been doing instead.  For instance, when I chose to be a writer, I chose not to be a translator anymore.  Now if I tried to be a translator, I couldn’t.  The ability is gone.  To get it back would take almost as long as to learn it in the first place.

Ah, you say – but I won’t pay. – I’ll just sit here and do nothing.

But then you pay the price of doing nothing.  You won’t learn, you won’t do, you won’t BE.  In the end, doing nothing, choosing nothing, deciding nothing has the highest price of all.  You find yourself pushed aside from the world.  You find you have in fact paid your life, your time, your talent… for years and years of doing nothing and being nothing.

So, when you’re considering doing something, learning something, trying something; when you’re considering what you wish to concentrate on; when you think one path has no cost and the other is expensive; when you shy back from doing things and take the path of least resistance, remember – everything has a price.

Yes, sure, magic has a price.  It might take years of the magician’s life.  BUT if he doesn’t use the magic, he might instead lose his home, his friends, his kingdom.  He might have to live out his life in vile slavery.

Everything has a price.  Action and the lack of action have different prices, but nothing is free.  TANSTAAFL.

You pays your dollar.  You takes your bet.

What will it be?

Routing Around Damage

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Sorry this is so late. I got up this morning ready to give the last coat to what will be the household accounts office, so we can move furniture in on Wednesday, So I can do what will be my office over the weekend.  And then I remembered the stairs to the basement needed to be Zinzered (Totally a word. Like Killzing only more so) because grandcat did a number on them when older son was at work or school and not spending the requisite time with him. (Which in D’Artagnan’s mind means, of course ALL the time. 24/7)

By the time I looked up it was 12:30.  And now I shall try and go work, though not absolutely sure I have enough energy.  In the past I’ve found a nap helps reset the mind after hours of physical labor, but one also doesn’t like to employ it. It is admitting the body is getting old, I guess.  We’ll see.

Because I was working on the stairs, my mind was ranging over a bunch of things, including the old tale of the garden, and of the entity that offers that you shall be “like gods, knowing good from evil.”

For some reason this seems to be an unavoidable temptation of mankind, the sort of thing we can’t resist, just like we can’t resist the feeling that whatever one has should be divided equally.

I suppose it makes perfect sense from the point of view of a clever ape.  In the ape band, if things aren’t divided equally — say the hunt or the produce of foraging — then someone will grow fat, and someone will starve. We are, after all, as a species, scavenger apes. Which means that most of our ancestors, since well before we became human and throughout our past since that time lived at the edge of starvation.

At the same time, being clever apes, we want to know. we need to know. And we want to know what the rules and are and what we can impunely poke at, and what will turn and sting us into next Wednesday or the next turn of the wheel for that matter.

We also, being clever apes, and scavengers, distrust the good times.  We hate it when things are going too well, people have fat babies and there’s peace on the land.  We hate it, because as every scavenger knows too many fat babies mean a time of famine around the bend. It’s unavoidable. There are only so many resources. You have too many scavengers, and the food supply is stripped bare, and then what?

All of this probably explain the 20th century. Well, as much as anything can besides “Dear Lord, that lousy century!”

Because through the wars, the horrors, the killing by the numbers by government fiat (which we show ourselves quite ready to continue this century, by the way) life was pretty good, for most humans.  You know, in raw terms of food and fat babies, humanity was doing pretty well.

Except —

Except the Cassandras were out full force, and often spurring on the government killing by the numbers — and still trying to do it — alarmed at the number of fat babies.  We won’t go into the various theories of Paul Ehrlich. Honest, the man is impressive. How can you be wrong so consistently? It’s like ALWAYS guessing the wrong number in a set of two. By pure luck, sometime, he should be right. By accident even.

And we won’t go into the climate doom and gloom, because honestly, I’m forever astonished at anyone my age who takes it seriously. Because in my lifetime we were going to freeze to death. I bought it then. How could I now? All the smart people and scientists said so.  And the prescription was socialism.

Oh, they didn’t call it that. They call it being sensible and careful and sustainable. What it amounted to, to the kid who read science fiction, was belt tightening on a global scale.  We all needed to live small lives. Ask permission to have kids, earn permission to live in a little cubicle and eat our ration, and be happy for it, because without that we’d all freeze to death by the early two thousands.  Oh, well. It was just my luck, the time I’d been born into.

At the same time we were running our of oil, out of gas, out of coal, out of minerals. Out of everything.

And then a funny thing happened.  Not only didn’t we run out of any of those things, but learned to use them better, found new deposits, but the weather didn’t grow markedly colder.

In the middle eighties, the consensus pivoted in the space of a year to “We’re all going to boil to death.”  Perhaps by then I was more cynical.

I’d realized a few things.  Like, we weren’t running out of anything, and Paul Ehrlich had rolled snake eyes again.  Another was that the prescription to avoid boiling was the same as to avoid freezing. More socialism. And the other was that these prophets of despair didn’t want us to go to space. No we had to “learn to take care of the Earth first.”

That seemed weirdly moralistic. More a religious position than a scientific one. Because, really, who judges when we “learn to take care of the Earth?”  The Earth seems to be doing okay, honestly, humans or not.  How many trees do we need to plant, before we can have a colony on Mars? What sense does THAT make?  Or as I used to put it — to much sputtering — “I don’t think we’d ever have learned to take care of Europe, if we’d not struck out to other continents. Or if you go back far enough, to take care of Africa, before homo sap migrated.  That’s not how any of that works. You don’t learn your language properly before you learn another. And knowing other planets is what will allow us to take care of the Earth. It’s just the way it works.”

Anyway, I think that’s the other, third flaw of the human brain, born of our biological heritage. We’re jumped up scavenging apes. We can’t help worrying about how bad things will get now that they’re good. If there’s enough food today, there won’t be tomorrow.

Unfortunately add intelligence and shake, and what you get is people convince that they ARE like gods, knowing good from evil, and that they get to tell everyone else what they can do and what they can’t.  That of course, being the other curse of apes. You want to be the band leader. Fraught as it is it’s the safest position.

Well, except those of us who are broken apes, and feel safer by ourselves, in our own branch.  I don’t think any of us would have survived too long out in the wilderness, though.  A solitary ape is known as “lunch” to too many things.

I have friends who run terminally ill computers.  I’ve done it myself in the past.  Now that writing pays, even if irregularly (Dear Lord, I need to stop flooring rooms and start writing more, because indie does pay, and so does PJM…. indie more, but PJM faster) I usually don’t fool with computers past the point the they fail me twice. But in the bad old days when I was just starting out, I normally inherited my husband’s computers, once they started sputtering (or we bought them from his job when they upgraded. That’s how the boys got their own computers when Marshall was 3. Which prevented my losing half the workday because the toddler wanted to play the Winnie the Pooh game.)

Because husband is a genius with computers (he just is) he found ways around the damage of computers that weren’t working very well.

Sometimes he wrote programs, that made the computer not get trapped in dead sectors.  Or at one time he (at least tried to) made me use Linux, because the computer was too slow for Windows.

I’m glad we don’t have to resort to that now. The computer fails twice and I point out we need a new computer. (Though I’m a little nervous at replacing three computers with one. I hate single points of failure. Well, I still have the travel laptop, at least.  That will do for writing, if not for rendering or publishing work.)

But there is no such workaround for humanity.  Maybe in the distant future we can get rid of the persistent illusions that are part of being human.  This idea of “fairness” and omniscience and, oh, yeah, that doom is just around the corner.

Perhaps. I wouldn’t trust anyone capable of doing that, mind, capable of tampering with the very essence of what being human means.

Those of us who are religious believe that eventually there will a New Heaven and a New Earth.  Which ultimately means new humans. We believe something will happen, and the good old hardware will be fixed or fix itself automagically.  And, well, if there is an engineer who put us together, then it’s okay if He fixes it, I guess.

But  I’d be really leery, as my fiction probably shows, of any humans trying to fix the old hardware.  Why, even with computers which are orders of magnitude simpler than you or I, and even with as good as husband is with computers, I always tense when he says “oh, it’s just the motherboard.  I’ll get a new one and–”  Okay, it’s been years since he’s made the problem worse. But it can happen.  I know that. And then the computer catches fire.  (No, seriously. Two of mine so far.  Yes, it’s my fault for all the heretical stuff I write, like this post, I guess.)

So, what is to be done?

I don’t know.  So far, we know that the flaws of mankind can be compensated for with software.  And the best software, so far, seems to be called “Western Civilization.”  At least in terms of leading to fat babies and lots of food.  Sure, it also led to government by the numbers, and killing by the numbers, or as we call it around here “20th century.”

But the thing is, it’s hard to tell how much of it is the software “Western Civilization” and how much is the flaws in the hardware.  The Zulus, who were virgin of the software, left enough corpses strewn around Africa that some of them form the basis of hills. And the things the Chinese got up to in their history are best read about thy those with a strong stomach, and not after lunch.

And then there’s the virus of socialism, which takes advantage of the hardware’s flaws of “fairness” and “knowing good from evil” and “oh, no, too  many fat babies, famine around the corner.”

In fact, the Marxism/Communism/socialism virus is almost too perfect, slots too much with the human hardware flaws to be accidental; just like Western civ and bourgeois values might be too perfect, leading too assuredly to enough food and fat babies to be accidental.

Maybe.

Or maybe cultures, like species are subject to evolutionary law and the best adapted one emerges the victor.

Which would mean we win, they lose. In the long run. The very, very long run.  But neither of us will see it.

I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I’m not the engineer, and I’m not the software designer.  In fact, I’m not sure any of us is qualified to design software at that level. All attempts at doing it seem to result in a lot of dead hardware.

I do know that if the program is not running on “Respect individuals, don’t hurt them and don’t take their stuff” it ends up in a lot of broken hardware.  A lot of it.

I do know that I cannot be like gods knowing good from evil.

And I will fight against anyone in the grip of the illusion that everything can be made fair, who thinks they can hurt people and take their stuff and somehow bring about paradise.

I’m not the Engineer. I’m not the software designer. But I can read print when its engraved in all the sorry history of mankind, and elsewhere too.

And in the garden there was a serpent….

Do you guys ever wonder if time is circular, and if those writings, metaphorical, of course, are the result of many-times-experience of mankind?

Man, if that is true, we must be the worst students ever.

Of course A Canticle of Leibowitz posited something like that, but the idea was that it was all designed to warn about nuclear war and how to avoid it.

Bah. No nukes needed. To destroy civilization, the inherent flaws of mankind suffice, and are plenty.

“You shall be like gods, knowing good from evil.”

It always leads to destruction and death, and the dark of night, and sweating while laboring to extract our livelihood out of dirt.

Perhaps this time we can avoid it, yes?  Perhaps we can take the old snake and make a pair of shoes out of its skin?

Probably too much to hope for, but at the end of the Pandora Box that’s 2020 maybe some hope remains.

Route around the damage. Write a new program.  Not the same old stupidity again.  Let’s try new and exciting stupidity.  Let’s go elsewhere and try our all too human flaws.

Enough is enough. They shall not pass.

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and Book Promo

*The good news is that we have changed up the rotation somewhat so I get an office sometime before the 15th of July.  The bad news is husband and son made me realize we ALSO need to do the family room and bedroom (for various and hard to explain reasons.
Which means the insanity and everything out of place all over the house will continue till probably mid-August.  I’m too old for this.  OTOH it will be done… – SAH*

Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM MARY CATELLI:  Madeleine and the Mists.

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Enchanted pools, shadowy dragons, wolves that spring from the mists and vanish into them again, paths that are longer, or shorter, than they should be, given where they went. . . the Misty Hills were filled with marvels. Madeleine still left the hills, years ago, to marry against her father’s will. If her husband’s family is less than welcoming, she still is glad she married him, and they have a son, two years old. But her husband’s overlord has fallen afoul of the king. And all his men fall with him, including her husband. She sets out, to seek the queen and try to bypass the king — and the Misty Hills. Some things are not so easily evaded.

 

FROM AMIE GIBBONS:  Scorpions of the Deep (The Elemental Demons Urban Fantasies Book 1).

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As below, so above…

Sarah Blakely has lost the love of her life. With her world disintegrating under her feet, she abandons her post-college plans and moves back home. She’s trying to find her new direction when tragedy strikes.

On a hot summer night, one of her friends goes berserk and attacks, trying to take off with Sarah. No reason, no rhyme, just a man that took something and lost his mind, at least according to the police.

Sarah’s friend Beau isn’t so sure. The explanation that their friend snapped while on a bad trip doesn’t make sense. The whole thing feels wrong, and Beau thinks something more is going on, something beyond what most humans see.

Sarah doesn’t believe in anything more, though sometimes, she wishes she did.

But there are more things on Hell and Earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy. Dark things that feast on your emotions and use them to burrow in under your skin.

And one of those dark things has set its sights on Sarah.

FROM ALMA T. C. BOYKIN:   Intensely Familiar: Familiar Tales Book Thirteen

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Home is the Hunter . . .

Something moves in the darkness, hunting the hunters. An ambush leaves Lelia Chan weak and troubled. Her husband André returns from an extended deployment with problems of his own, some old, some new. Both shadow mages and their Familiars need rest. Their enemy, however, does not.

Magic solves magical problems: that’s the rule among Riverton’s magic users. But what if it doesn’t? Especially against a foe who is Intensely Familiar.

 

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:Curious

It’s Morning And the Paint Calls

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I am going to paint the room that is to be floored this afternoon and which will then become the household management office (it’s more complex than it sounds because between us Dan and I own… 4? small businesses (might be five, though I think one is folded under the other) so Dan spends a lot of time doing the tax work for those and needs a pleasant place to do it in), so I can’t write a chapter this morning, but I’ll try to do one before I collapse this evening.  Though I’ll be honest, yesterday my body decided I was DONE (done, done) after I pulled up carpet and killzeed the floor. So…. it might happen in which case I’ll catch you up with a chapter later.

Lest you be alarmed the illustration is neither the wall as it is nor how it will be. It is a rather unexceptionable unpainted — or absolutely flat —  white, and since it has texture it collects dust like mad.  It will be a very equally unexceptionable pale yellow, almost white, with a touch of shine, so it’s washable and I can clean it, since Colorado is a DUSTY state….

So as soon as I put this down I’m going to go downstairs, get the painting ladder and set to.

MEANWHILE I’d like to leave you with something. So follow this link. Beware, profanity, but really, really, you should watch it.

Yes, I know, what’s a nice girl like me doing watching razorfist?  Well…. he doesn’t say any words I don’t know the meaning of, and behind that front he is actually rather sensible.  And he’s saying things we need to hear. All of us.

Be not afraid!

Back this evening.

 

The Danger of War Elephants (a.k.a. whipping up mobs)- by Marc MacYoung

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

*Reposted with author’s permission from a Facebook note, here. Because it needs wider dissemination. The note was written December 2019. As a side note, from my misspent youth, even though I still like to think I was fighting on the side of angels, let me say that what he says about violence being addictive is 100% right. So is danger. For years after moving to the US I MISSED it. I mean, I didn’t miss it, but my body craved the adrenaline rush. Took a while to dry out.- SAH*

The Danger of War Elephants (a.k.a. whipping up mobs)- by Marc MacYoung

Around 2,200 years ago a guy named Hannibal and thousands of his closest friends took a stroll over the Alps to vacation in Italy. This laid the groundwork for the many restrictions about traveling with pets. If they ever figure out which route Hannibal took, some joker can post a sign at the Italian border that reads “No elephants.”

On ancient battlefields elephants could wreak major havoc. The tricky part of that idea is the question, “To which side?” See, war elephants could just a easily go berserk and start crushing your own side as the enemy. That’s why the Carthaginian ‘drivers’ were equipped to kill the elephant if it flipped out and started killing the wrong team. With one as-hard-as-possible downward strike in the right spot and Dumbo was done. However, if the driver was killed, fell off or dropped his prod all hell broke loose for everyone.

A very strong analogy can be made comparing mobs to war elephants. While there are many comparisons, where the analogy really works is a berserk elephant and the driver (Indian term, mahouts) having lost the prod. The mob, like an enraged elephant, doesn’t care who it crushes.

It is common for conspiracy types to talk about shadow forces manipulating and whipping up the mob. There is an equally strong tendency among the middle-class, self-certified intellectuals to poo-poo the idea that such dark organization exists. Into this mix we also have the media and politicians, who are doing everything in their power to downplay that it is, in fact, a mob. (Read, “Yes there was a disturbance downtown. But it wasn’t a berserk elephant rampaging the streets.”) Both the conspiracy types and the pseudo intellectuals use this media-downplay as proof of their position. Which initially doesn’t seem to make sense, but if you turn your head and squint, you can see how that works.

Here’s the problem, even if the conspiracy theorist are right about shadowy, goading mahouts or, the faux-intellectuals are correct, and there are none—that’s still a rampaging elephant coming down the street at you. In other words, no matter why it’s there, you still have to deal with the mob.

Yep, that’s a pissed off, self-righteous, very dangerous mob of people deep in a part of their brains that most Westerners don’t understand —and more importantly, apparently don’t want to. It’s much easier to pretend ‘people don’t do that,’ even if it means dismissing evidence we see with our own eyes.

See it’s an inconvenient truth that humans are social primates. Yes we’re individuals, but at the same time, we’re very much pack animals. Using a “Lie to Children” to introduce an extremely complex subject, humans have a switch inside our heads, that once thrown our thinking and behavior isn’t individual as much as it’s more of a hive mind. This is “group think” on a cocktail of steroids and meth. We stop thinking for ourselves and become part of a collective. While this can work for all kinds of good, it can also—just as easily—turn nasty, hateful, xenophobic, and violent. But, most of all, it’s mercurial, and that is where the real danger lies.

Thing is, even in the deepest and darkest depths of this phenomenon, we never quite lose our individuality. (That’s why we can deny the idea and that we’re susceptible to it happening to us.) What we do however, is accept certain ‘group’ beliefs as unquestionably true and reject any information that would challenge, disprove, counter or limit the idea. It’s easy to demonize anyone who doesn’t think like us and it’s even easier to declare them our enemy. Rome delenda est. (Brownie points if you see what I did there.) In short, when this switch is thrown, we become zealots for these ideas. Fanatics who, even if we don’t physically act out ourselves, we approve of the behaviors of those who do. In a mob scenario, that means not everyone will be smashing windows, throwing bricks, and busting heads of those-whom-the- mob-has targeted. In fact, most won’t, but they’ll cheer on and encourage those who do. (Look up the tricoteuse—women knitting during the guillotinings of the French Revolution/Terror.) It is this support that spurs on the violence. Violence that we know is wrong, but because it’s for the ‘Cause,’ that makes it all right in our minds.

And yes, anytime you have a mob of adrenalized, ideologically excited people, you’re a thin hair away from violence erupting. Like a fume-filled room with gasoline on the floor, all it takes is a small spark. Or, in this case, finding a target. That target doesn’t have to be legitimate. When people are in this mindset, the slightest accusation or interpretation will be enough to green light the attack. For example one person screaming “Fascist” at a particular individual will be enough to trigger a mob attack. Another example, is while rampaging down the street smashing a Starbuck’s front window because the person with the club decides that store represents “Corporate and capitalistic oppression.” While it seems like a whim decision, the ground work for that decision to ‘just happen’ has been laid a long time back.

Before we get to the mahouts let’s take a look at the rampaging elephant (a.k.a., the mob)

This is where we leave ideological motivations and get into …well, I hate to call it psychology, but there’s something very important to understand about being in a mob rampaging down the street. That is it’s fun, exciting and a SERIOUS power-trip. You and your fellow rampagers are gods among mere mortals. You can act out your worst impulses with impunity. You are unstoppable. All must give way before your self-righteous anger and power. At least that is what it feels like.

In truth, it’s more like a pack of dogs that got out of the yard. They can do a lot of damage yes, but only until someone shoots them. Opening fire is the historic and effective counter to mobs. (That, by the way, is the difference between a city response and a country response. City authorities will quietly destroy dogs behind closed doors after they’ve captured them. Rural response is to shoot any dogs that threaten livestock on the spot.) But shooting into angry mobs is frowned upon in civilized society. The combination of perceived power and delayed response (or outright lack of response) encourages the mob mentality in cities.

And once people are in the grips of this, they don’t want to let it go. It is an exhilarating, heady, and most of all, addictive rush. Individuals becoming addicted to this rush is a serious problem. In fact we can run with the addict analogy. For anyone without experience dealing with addicts, to an addict there is only one priority, feeding the addiction. That is what it is all about. Everything else goes out the window and they will fuck over anyone and everyone to feed that addiction. One of the best summations I ever heard of this phenomenon is “addicts are appetites with legs. They crave the rush and don’t care how they get it.
That’s what turns things into rampaging elephants. The ‘Cause’ becomes an excuse for the behavior. Who gets crushed is less important than the act of smashing. And, the people most likely to be crushed are those nearest. In this case, those who are ideologically closest, also known as those ‘on your side.’

I’m going to use a specific example, but it is far from the only one. What I am talking about is a very human behavior, no matter who is doing it. Something many people in the West don’t know about (but especially those who have been told by academics how wonderful Communism is) are the decades of intense internal purges against those who were not ideologically pure enough or who had fallen from the ‘true path.’ A useful and commonly understood term from Maoist China is “struggle sessions.” These were crazed —and sanctioned —attacks on fellow communists that the mob deemed had fallen from Mao’s narrow interpretation of communism. And for the record, this whole situation met the standards of behind the scenes forces, namely Mao destroying anyone who might pose a challenge to his power and control. The thing is, like a berserk elephant, the mobs rampaged through the streets and halls of power taking down anyone they turned their attention to. Oh yeah, one more thing. a lot of the rampaging mobs were young, idealistic and whipped up by local ‘mahouts.’

But, after a certain point, it was mob mentality that was driving the attacks and purges, not the ideology. It became about the rush and addiction to hurting people. Who did it hurt most? Other communists and countrymen. That’s the rampaging elephant crushing the side it’s ‘supposed to be on.’ Because hey, when you’re feeding your addiction to this power, it doesn’t matter who gets crushed, it’s all about the crushing. What originally appeared mercurial, starts making sense in the context of feeding an addiction.

If the idea of addiction doesn’t sit well with you let me give you another take. There is a lot of fear, anger, envy, resentment and entrenched hatred out there that is easily molded into mob action. What’s even more dangerous is boredom. As Eric Hoffer said: Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.

Now let’s look at the conspiracy nut’s position that there are shadowy, behind-the-scenes, conspirators pushing the mob forward for their own purpose. Thing is, it’s very doubtful that there is a single, Mao-like overlord or group driving this behavior in the US and Europe. In other words there is no uber-mahout with countless mini-mahouts doing ‘his’ bidding, driving elephants for ultimate and unified goals.

Having said that, that doesn’t mean there aren’t behind the scenes –or often pretty open about it—people/groups out there organizing mobs and whipping people up to target others for an agenda. These groups are often at cross purposes, but just as often closely aligned and using the same mobs. These groups have weaponized mobs and use the threat of and actual mob- violence for their own agendas. The outright denial of this reality is just as nuts as the idea of an ultimate-mahout pulling the strings.

The problem with using mobs as your war elephants is how easy it is to lose the elephant killing spike when the elephant goes berserk and turns on your side (or you even). Now you have a rampaging elephant and no way to stop it. That’s the danger of weaponizing a mob. They start picking the targets, not you. Sure you can do it. A mob can cause a lot of damage to your enemies and it’s really easy to recruit more to replace burnouts, jailed, and the fallen. This especially in light of how many mass movements recruit young, idealistic and the diagnosed mentally ill for their cause. These people act as goons and torpedoes for the person/group at very little direct cost –or negative consequence—to said person/group. Usually it’s not these shadow players who get their heads that get split or thrown in prison, but the ‘addicted’ mob members. Remember, like meth, it’s real easy to get addicted. And addiction that ‘works’ until the addict crashes and burns. That’s how it usually works, until it doesn’t. This is when the mob turns on its handlers. As happened in Evergreen University, where packs of armed students roamed the campus looking for a professor. The war elephant they’d spent so much time developing, turned on administration and faculty

There’s also another historical point that needs to be brought up. But before we go there, ask yourself this. “Which side is the elephant actually on?” Thinking about an out-of-control elephant crushing it’s own side is actually a misnomer. The only side an elephant can be on is its own. The mahouts are using the elephants for their own purposes. They have a side and it’s not the elephant’s. They’re using the elephant for their own ends. Destruction is going to happen to whoever is in front of the rampaging elephant, that’s why traditionally mahouts were equipped and ready to kill the elephant. But it goes further than that. War elephants can outlast their usefulness. The historical example I’m talking about is how the Nazi Party purged the Brownshirts after they’d served their purpose and the Nazis had come to power.

I mean really, who want’s to keep thugs around after they beat up who you wanted them to? But that reality isn’t likely to be seen to someone who has become addicted to the rush of being part of a mob.

All of these factors go into why you should pay close attention to what someone who is trying to whip up a crowd is actually saying. If it involves motivating a crowd and calling for a action the situation has been taken out of everyday activity and daily routine. It’s moved into a different territory. Is it dangerous? Don’t know yet, that’s why you have to pay attention.

What is this person saying and implying? Not what you think he or she means, but what are the actual words and what are other ways to look at it? This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s really important. If you automatically assume you know what the person is saying, you’re likely to get worked up about it—for good or bad. Instead, stop and consider other interpretations of that message. Often you’ll find there to be two or three ways it could be interpreted if you weren’t automatically filling the blanks and ascribing motivation. This is to say way too often people either assign the best or worst intentions to what someone ‘meant’ without considering alternative interpretations. Then they argue that position as if it is an unquestionable truth.

This especially when it comes to ‘calls for violence.’ There are many currents and levels at play here. There are absolute fanatics who will choose to act violently no matter what was actually said. As such, a fair point can be made that a person’s words didn’t encourage or promote violence; so claiming the loony acted on ‘orders’ is over the top. On the other hand, another way this can go is when someone actually does encourage violent action against enemies of the “Cause” and it’s dismissed as “He didn’t really mean that.” Uhhh, Yes, yes he did. He came out and clearly said it.

In between these two extremes there are many shades of gray. Especially with the lighter shades, there is a lot of plausible deniability. “It was just a figure of speech” as an example. In the darker end of the spectrum there’s a lot of blame, hatred, finger pointing and vitriol at a group to work the mob up to attack, without actually telling them to attack. From there it’s just a small step to cross into violence. (I’ve seen this taken to the point of while some of the instigating group are loudly talking, more quiet members of the same group bring backpacks of broken bricks and frozen water bottles. When the person whipping the crowd up urges them to turn around, the mob finds projectiles conveniently being handed out.) Did the speaker actually encourage those to be thrown? Nope. But the mahouts have been busy.

There’s no real simple answer to this issue, but the idea of mobs being used as war elephants makes a lot of sense. So if you know someone who has been recruited or is trying to be recruited, or even if you’ve found yourself addicted, hopefully this information will be useful to you. If nothing else it can help you better understand the perspectives of those arguing over “He’s encouraging violence” vs. “No he’s not.” Because it isn’t black and white.

M

To Mask or Not To Mask… By I.M. Doctoo

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To Mask or Not To Mask…

By I.M. Doctoo

 

I recently read a self-professed rant from a person identifying themselves as a surgeon, berating people who object to wearing masks.  It’s a classic “appeal to authority” argument with the ranter holding up their own experience as a surgeon as authority regarding masks.  There are, however, many shades of accuracy in the argument, and the “surgeon” really shows some gaps in their medical knowledge… not to mention their compassion. 

In the hopes of leavening the panic with a bit of counterargument and facts from ANOTHER medical professional viewpoint – here’s MY rant in response to:

 

“… here’s my rant about masks…”

 

 As is customary in such things, the original article is in italics, my response is in bold.  I’m withholding the name of the OP doc for obvious reasons.

 

 I have spent the past 39 years working in the field of surgery.

 

 Good for you.  That makes you an expert in surgery.  Not physiology, not immunology, not virology, microbiology, or epidemiology.  Also, given the name provided in the original article, plus additional information such as “39 years” and retired, we can paint a fairly good picture of this person:  Male, age 65+, very likely a 10-15% body fat, tall, lean and fairly fit Caucasian (based on demographics of medical students pre-1980).  Their most likely vices were nicotine and caffeine – and to have lasted 39 years as a surgeon, they likely gave up smoking in the 90’s when it became prohibitive for docs to smoke – and likely only recreational alcohol use except for college and the occasional vacation.

So, we have a mental image of our “ranter.” This is important for some later comments.

 For a significant part of that time, I have worn a mask. I have worked with hundreds (probably thousands) of colleagues during those years, who have also worn masks. Not a single one us of became ill, passed out or died from lack of oxygen. Not a single one of us became ill, passed out or died from breathing too much carbon dioxide. Not a single one us of became ill, passed out or died from rebreathing a little of our own exhaled air. Let’s begin here by putting those scare tactics to rest! 

 

This is anecdote, not science.  But aside from that, let’s start with what masks this surgeon was wearing:  A standard surgical mask is a thin paper (or synthetic fiber) weave designed with a pore size of about .1-.3 microns to stop the medical professional from sneezing or coughing on the surgical field. It’s lightweight and did I say thin?  About the same weight and thickness as a single layer of lightweight fabric.

Now let’s talk about what the CDC and NIH guidelines say about effective cloth masks:  “Multilayer fabric consisting of a high thread count cotton outer layer, two layers of batting, and an inner ‘comfort’ layer of flannel.”  By the way, that’s not a bad composition for filtering.  It has small pores, a “tortuous” pathway for the air to flow and the flannel (or silk if you prefer) provides an electrostatic effect that can help filter more particulates.  Except for one small thing – the pathway is designed to filter INCOMING particles.  To perform the task of filtering sneezes and coughs, you only need the simplest of barriers.  But more on that later.

Now let’s talk about what our surgeon was doing during those hours in surgery:

He was standing still.  In one place, while the nurse handed him all of his instruments. 

They were not walking, climbing steps, hurrying into the store, carrying a child, hauling groceries, etc.  No, in fact, moving around the surgical theater is contraindicated and increases the chances of contamination.  So, he stood still performing surgery.  For hours at end, with little to no change in rate of breathing or airflow the whole time.  Most likely the moment he could escape the OR – that mask was OFF!  In fact, hospital and OSHA regulations said that the mask MUST come off the moment one leaves the contaminated field.  Because that’s what a patient area is… a contaminated space.

So, our surgeon actually has NO idea how if feels to wear a mask in any situation other than standing still for hours at a time.  Again, this is important to his rant.

  1. JUST. DOESN’T. KNOW.

He doesn’t have the experience, and some statements further down suggest that he doesn’t retain the medical knowledge either. 

 

(It is true that some people, with advanced lung diseases, may be so fragile that a mask could make their already-tenuous breathing more difficult. If your lungs are that bad, you probably shouldn’t be going out in public at the present time anyway; the consequences if you are exposed to Covid-19 would likely be devastating.) 

 

So this statement shows a profound insensitivity and arrogance. “Already tenuous breathing?”  How would he know?  Again, his personal experience is negligible, and he proves himself to be ignorant of basic physiology with this comment.  A “normal” person can have breathing difficulty without their lungs being “that bad.”  I personally have an airway issue from a double-fractured septum.  It reduces the airway diameter and increases the speed air flows through my nostrils.  It is differentially affected by various mask materials – It’s fairly simple to test O2 saturation during recovery from exertion.  If you have a sportswatch, it likely has an O2 test (look for “stress”) some of them use a relative scale, but again, a reasonable test is to go up and down the same flight of stairs three times, quickly.  Do this test without a mask.  Before the first trip, check your blood O2 saturation (or stress level – it uses heart rate and O2) – then make the three trips and then check O2 every minute until it returns to normal/pre-test level.  Now do it again with a mask.  For me, it takes about twice as long to come back to normal with a thin surgical mask – even longer with a cloth mask.

So yeah, O2 recovery from exertion is a thing, and it’s affected by masks. You need higher airflow with more physical movement.  THIS IS WHY PEOPLE ARE ADVISED TO NOT EXERCISE WHILE WEARING MASKS!  Duh. It’s different than simply standing still in one place for hours.

Surgeon 0, Science (common sense and compassion) 1.

The reason this comes up is because filtering virus particles and other microorganisms requires one of two things – either (1) pore sizes smaller than what is being filtered – or (2) a tortuous path that performs the same function by causing airflow to change directions.  With the latter, small particles don’t change directions as easily as gases, so they run into the fibers of the mask and get trapped. [By the way, this is why used masks need to be disposed or sanitized.]  Surgical masks use technique 1, and air flows fairly easily.  EFFECTIVE cloth masks use technique 2, and they definitely alter airflow.

My favorite source for data on mask composition (and it’s a good one – these are real benefits of proper mask wear and construction) is: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c03252.  They report both filtration efficiency based on particle size, as well as the differential pressure drop.  The pressure drop through the various mask materials doesn’t seem significant – 3.0 Pascals (Pa) for multilayer/hybrid cloth masks vs. 2.2 Pas for an N95 or 2.5 Pa for a surgical mask… until one realizes that (1) it represents 15-25% increase in resistance, and (2) the flow rate they tested – 1.2 cubic feet per minute (CFM) is around half of the normal RESTING breathing rate of a human (60 liters/min which equals roughly 2 cfm) whereas just WALKING typically results in flow rates up to 5x higher (300 liters/min).  Now – there’s something important here – and that is that pressure drop increases with the square of flow rate (It’s called Bernoulli’s Principle).  Fast walking, going up stairs, carrying a load (like an infant) means a 10x increase in airflow from what was tested.  10x airflow means 100x the pressure drop.  So now the 3 Pa pressure drop for a cloth mask becomes 300 Pa drop.  That may still seem insignificant compared to atmospheric pressure (100,000 Pa), but consider this – a standard CPAP setting of 10 = 1000 Pa – so the amount of pressure drop from a mask under these conditions is about one-third the pressure of a CPAP!

So – yes, masks DO cause a drop in pressure. 

Surgeon 0, Science 2.  The only reason our surgeon ranter never experienced a pressure drop is because he was STANDING STILL!   

 

~ “But”, you ask, “can’t viruses go right through the mask, because they are so small?” (“Masks keep viruses out just as well as a chain link fence keeps mosquitoes out,” some tell us.) It is true that individual virus particles can pass through the pores of a mask; however, viruses don’t move on their own. They do not fly across the room like a mosquito, wiggle through your mask like a worm, or fly up your nose like a gnat. The virus is essentially nothing more than a tiny blob of genetic material. Covid-19 travels in a CARRIER – the carrier is a fluid droplet- fluid droplets that you expel when you cough, sneeze, sing, laugh, talk or simply exhale. Most of your fluid droplets will be stopped from entering the air in the room if you are wearing a mask. Wearing a mask is a very efficient way to protect others if you are carrying the virus (even if you don’t know that you are infected). In addition, if someone else’s fluid droplets happen to land on your mask, many of them will not pass through. This gives the wearer some additional protection, too. But, the main reason to wear a mask is to PROTECT OTHERS. Even if you don’t care about yourself, wear your mask to protect your neighbors, co-workers and friends! 

 

OKAY, this is Point Of Failure Number Two.  Sorry, Doc, but you just FAILED virology 101.

Because what you’re talking about is AEROSOL – that’s viruses trapped in droplets of snots and spit.  However, COVID19 is also AIRBORNE!  So yeah, they DO “fly across the room” – well, they actually float.  Like dust motes.  Dust particles as large as 2-5 microns float in air – in fact, you can see them indoors in still air illuminated in a beam of sunlight through a window.  Two-to-five microns is pretty big compared to a virus.  The coronavirus particle is around one-tenth of a micron.  [Hint: watch how long cigarette smoke hangs in the air – it’s a similar size.]

So yeah, individual virus particles can float, and guess what?  They can get through that mask… any mask. 

Surgeon 0, Science 4

The good news is that the virus doesn’t last long in air.  Yes, it survives more in aerosol droplets – but to understand why airborne virus is an issue – think about where the virus lives.  Docs test you for COVID19 by taking a swab from the back of the nose.  They’ve found that even in some people not showing symptoms (and especially people showing the first symptoms – the amount of virus in that area is significant.  That means that you don’t have to sneeze of cough to release coronavirus.  You just have to breathe out.  That puts airborne virus in the air.

Floating.

Especially floating past the fibers of that surgical mask or a single layer cotton mask (or worse, macramé or sock material!).  Have you ever walked past a smoker while wearing your mask and smelled the smoke?  Then your mask is not filtering.  Cigarette smoke particulates run from .1 to 1 micron, typically.  If they can get through your mask, then so can an airborne virus!

Now aerosol droplets are pretty large typically more than 1 micron – and in cases of coughs and sneezes – MUCH more than 1 micron.  The CDC itself (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aerosols/pdfs/Aerosol_101.pdf) says that the time required for a particle to settle out of air depends on its size – a 100-micron droplet (spittle) settles out in about 6 seconds.  10 microns (sneeze) in 8 minutes.  Half a micron (virus and some bacteria) or smaller? More than 2 days.

The large size also means they are more easily filtered.  Cheap, low thread count cotton or polyester will filter most particles above a micron in size – so in reality, a mask made of the thinnest material is sufficient for preventing your own aerosol droplets from getting out. 

The problem is that if the goal is stopping the virus, it’s not enough.  If you are infected, you’re emitting both aerosol and airborne virus. 

Now, if I were inclined to be charitable, I’d say that our surgeon just suffered from oversimplification.  *IF* – we’ll see, though.

~ A mask is certainly not 100% protective. However, it appears that the severity of Covid-19 infection is at least partially “dose-dependent.” In other words, the more virus particles that enter your body, the sicker you are likely to become. Why not decrease that volume if you can? “What have you got to lose?!”

 

Masks are still effective, right?  Well, yes and no.  No comfortable mask is going to filter the airborne virus.  It WILL filter aerosol.  Yes, but the simplest/thinnest mask will do that – but not the airborne virus – because despite his protestations to the contrary, our surgeon ignored one of the infection routes for the virus… and that’s a serious failing.

By the way, the vaunted N95 masks do NOT filter exhalation.  They are strictly to protect the WEARER, and not the public, as is particularly discussed on social media.  N95’s have an exhalation valve that allows exhalation out, but closes when you inhale so that the air is filtered.  That’s not going to stop a sneeze.  So forget about your cloth mask being equivalent to a doctor’s N95 – it’s much more like the paper-thin surgical mask which we already show can’t filter all of the virus (especially not when it includes straw holes, breathing flaps, or is worn below the nostrils!).   

But here comes that kicker… “what have you got to lose?”  Well, even the thinnest of masks can be problematic for some people.  If you have reduced airway, you need higher airflow – masks by their very nature reduce airflow.  Our surgeon may not have noticed it, but it happened.  It’s just wasn’t critical for the activity he was engaged in.  There’s other biological imperatives – people with beards or facial deformities can’t get a good seal. Persons with a psychological issue (like a rape experience, claustrophobia, feeling of being trapped, etc.) can’t wear something over mouth and nose – it causes panic attacks, higher respiration rate, and problems with O2 saturation.  [By the way, if you have to sleep with a CPAP, your airway is prone to collapse when airflow is reduced – so you probably shouldn’t be wearing a mask that restricts airflow! See above that the effective pressure drop with high flow rates from mild exertion begin to approach the pressures of a CPAP machine!]

But he doesn’t address that, preferring instead to take the arrogant normative male position of “What have you got to lose?”

The answer – is that we have a hell of a lot to lose because it’s possible to be airway compromised and still need to go to the store for groceries (hint – not every place delivers or can pick exactly what you ask for from an online order)!

Surgeon 0, Science (and compassion) 5

 

~ “But doesn’t a requirement or a request to wear a mask violate my constitutional rights?” You’re also not allowed to go into the grocery store if you are not wearing pants. You can’t yell “fire” in the Produce Department. You’re not allowed to urinate on the floor in the Frozen Food Section. Do you object to those restrictions? Rules, established for the common good, are component of a civilized society.

 

TWEET!  Penalty on the play!  Red Herring and false analogy!  You’re really going to equate wearing a mask with pissing on the floor? 

That’s pretty damned arrogant; not to mention privileged.

Penalty assessed: Surgeon -1, Science 5.

He’s right in a way, though, but that’s why I didn’t take away two points for the blatant Red Herring Fallacy (https://thebestschools.org/magazine/15-logical-fallacies-know/).  We don’t have the right to impair the health of another.  Unfortunately applying that concept to masks misses two important points – the impact on the health of the wearer, which can be physical or psychological – and the blind assumption that anyone not wearing a mask is spreading COVID19. 

So – that’s Failure Three.  The evidence on this last assumption is still in debate.  The initial data that said COVID was spread by asymptomatic individuals was based on contact tracing and data from China. I’m not saying China was lying, but a lot of their data is incomplete and/or inconsistent.  Frankly, we should not be relying on it.  There’s other data, though – the Skagit Chorale case (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm) showed 53 of 61 members of a choral group were likely infected from one “superspreader” who was presumably asymptomatic at the time.  HOWEVER, there’s been no positive identification of the person who brought the infection to the group other than one person who had reported cold-like symptoms that started four days before the second of two rehearsal sessions the group had in common. 

This case *looks* like a classic case of asymptomatic spread… but it isn’t it’s undefined. 

Now let’s look at Hamburg Germany – a businessperson from China attended a meeting, and later 2/3 of the attendees tested positive with no other contact in common other than this “asymptomatic” person who subsequently tested positive after return to China.

Another asymptomatic spread, right? 

Nope.  The case study has been challenged in the scientific literature because it turns out that other evidence surfaced showing that the “asymptomatic” person was actually symptomatic and sought some “cold relief” prior to the meeting.

Then again, we DO have cases that can ONLY have been transmitted from people showing little to no symptoms.  The aforementioned high nasal virus tests have occurred in asymptomatic persons, and they are likely spreading virus.  On the other hand, data from northern Germany, Iceland, Sweden, S. Korea, the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, all point to a high percentage of positive tests resulting in little to no symptoms (as high as 90% asymptomatic) and low transmission FROM those presumed asymptomatic individuals (<40% of cases).

You’ll notice the caveat about “presumed asymptomatic cases” because this factors in one other of the scientific reports on asymptomatic transmission.  The prestigious Scripps Research Institute published a meta-analysis on asymptomatic spread (https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-3012) that again repeats the 40-45% value regarding spread of the disease from asymptomatic patients.  The problem with this paper is that it is a meta-analysis – it reads existing reports, puts it into a combined analysis, and generates conclusions.  The problems are (1) it is not a controlled clinical trial or study, (2) it relies on the accuracy of the reports used in the study, and (3) it is based on some studies with ridiculously low counts of asymptomatic subjects – in fact, two of the five “longitudinal” databases include 3 and 4 “positive but asymptomatic” subjects, respectively!  In addition, there are at least three databases that are homeless or inmate populations that ignore the very evidence of “superspreaders” such as shown by the Skaggit Chorale study

There is a saying in computer science that fits here: “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

The only conclusion we can come to is that asymptomatic individuals MAY spread COVID19 – but if they do, it’s probably only accounting for around a third of the cases.

The one that CAN be gleaned from the Scripps meta-analysis is that each population that showed high likelihood of spread in the absence of symptoms – involved hours, if not DAYS of contact. You know – like in jails, nursing homes, cruise ships… etc.  Precisely the groups that social distancing – without masks – is supposed to address!  In fact, the authorities blame the 2.5-hour rehearsals and singing (with aerosol droplets, no less) for the Skaggit Chorale superspreaders.

~ “But aren’t masks uncomfortable?” Some would say that underwear or shoes can be uncomfortable, but we still wear them. (Actually, being on a ventilator is pretty darned uncomfortable, too!) Are masks really so bad that you can’t tolerate them, even if they will help keep others healthy?

 

TWEET!  “Think of the children ploy!”  Also known as “Appeal to Pity.”  Yes, you’re doing it for others… except there’s no solid evidence that you are “keeping others healthy,” and plenty of evidence that mask wearing can cause psychological harm to others.

But yes, the whole argument is that we need to wear masks FOR OTHERS while ignoring the fact that some people CANNOT and should not wear masks.

Surgeon -1, Science 6

I can just hear it now: “But how will we know the difference?” bleats the masked person in line behind you at the grocery store?  “How do we know if the person not wearing a mask is doing it for a valid medical reason?”

Sorry, but you don’t   It’s a matter of trust, which is sadly lacking in society these days. 

If you are an individual – you might ask “Psst, why are you wearing a mask?”  Well, you can ask, but you are not entitled to an answer.  It’s considered private – or in technical terms, PHI – Protected Health Information.  You, as an individual have no right to breach another person’s privacy.  You might think it your duty to “protect others” but you are violating the protections guaranteed to the person you are questioning.

Now, if you’re not an individual?  You represent a business from grocery store to professional office?  You can ask… and all you are entitled to know is “I have a medical reason.” 

That’s it.

No more.

Not only that, but your business is REQUIRED BY LAW (Americans with Disabilities Act) to make a reasonable accommodation for another person’s medical disability.  But you aren’t entitled to any more than a notification of that disability (and what accommodation is required – although I would think that not wearing a mask is its own explanation).

45 CFR 164 is the relevant section of the US Code of Federal Regulation and it covers the rights to privacy with respect to your personal health information and the penalties for disclosing PHI, or forcing a person to involuntarily reveal PHI.  It triggers a fine for companies, and it’s steep.  For the common citizen?  Basically, all you’re entitled to is silence, but if you push the issue, you may find yourself subject to other reactions.

 

~ “But won’t people think I’m a snowflake or a wimp if I wear a mask?” I hope you have enough self-confidence to overcome that.

 

TWEET! Ad-hominem attack! Y’know, Doc – if you’re resorting to this, then you probably already know how weak your argument is!

Surgeon -10 (this was a low blow), Science 6

 

~ “But won’t I look stupid if I wear a mask?” I’ve decided not to dignify that question with an answer!! 📷🙂

 

 

That’s probably wise.  Because again, it would be either an Ad Hominem or a Tu Cocque attack and has nothing to do with the science or medicine at stake.

Surgeon -100 (It should have been -1000 because at this point, the surgeon is stooping to every logical fallacy in the books! On the other hand, he didn’t say it, merely implied it), Science 6

 

~ “But I never get sick; I’m not worried.” Well, then, wear a mask for the sake of the rest of us who are not so perfect!

 

This is an extremely self-centered approach and a version of the “Sunk Costs” fallacy.  “Think of others, but YOUR problems aren’t important!”

 

There is good evidence that masks make a real difference in diminishing the transmission of Covid-19. Please, for the sake of others (and for the sake of yourself), wear your mask when in public. It won’t kill you!

 

TWEET!  Bandwagon Fallacy!

Well, maybe it won’t kill you – but are you REALLY endorsing causing emotional anguish to the young mother of two with a not-so-benign history with medical professionals?  Or the immigrant from behind the Iron Curtain with traumatic memories of the chloroform-laden cloth being held over her face? 

This is a case where the Doc’s own experience needs to be brought back up. 

There are around 150 medical schools in the US – there’s also about 40 osteopathic schools, and they graduate about 15,000 students each year.  Of those, less than 5% go into the surgical sciences (and the associated 6-7-year residencies) – so generously, about 750 new surgeons per year.  A 30-year-old surgeon is still an apprentice.  40 is average, 50 is old, and a 60-year old still doing surgery is very rare.  So there’s about a 30 year span of practice, so call it 22,500 surgeons in the U.S. at any given time (Physician’s Weekly says 18,000 – but they aren’t including specialties.  Statista says 50k surgeons, but again, that would include some who aren’t doing many procedures – they’re teaching and supervising.

But 50k is a good number.  Statista also says 500k physician specialists, and around 800-900k active doctors in patient care.  Those 50k surgeons thus account for 6-10% of total doctors – and the doctors all total account for 1 in 7000 of the population of the U.S.

So, this brings up an issue with our surgeons “appeal to authority.”  He claims to speak for doctors in general, but in reality, he’s just one in 50k of surgeons, and one in one million doctors (active and retired) in the U.S.  

Unless he has conducted a controlled clinical trial, with appropriate experimental design and statistical analysis… his position is just anecdote.  It’s his experience.  He might be able to muster the agreement of a majority of his fellow surgeons or even a large number of doctors, but even perfect agreement would yield only one-third of one percent of the persons in this country. 

Worse than that, is that he represents a small demographic.  Again, this is a person who completed their medical education pre-1980.  The percentage of non-male, fit, 20-something students in med school in the 70’s was very low.  My class in 1982 was <20% female.  One of the chief complaints with “normal” physiologic measures (body temp of 98.6 F, blood pressure 120/80, heart rate 68, respirations 16, ideal build 5’8″ 168 pounds…) is that it’s an average derived from medical student volunteers in the 50s through 70s.   

No matter how he couches it, his experience is no more than anecdote – particularly since his grasp of the fundamental science, compassion and empathy of the practice of medicine is lacking.

 

P.S. – And, by the way, please be sure that BOTH your nose and mouth are covered!

 

WOW!  Something we actually agree on!  And don’t forget to sanitize it!

 

Recommendations around mask usage are confusing. The science isn’t. Evidence shows that masks are extremely effective to slow the coronavirus and may be the best tool available right now to fight it.”

 

Yes, they are, but they don’t need to be.  Wear a mask if you are sick and can’t simply stay home.  Wear a mask if you are at risk.  Wear a mask if it makes YOU feel better.  But the whole concept of FORCING mask wearing on everybody is as ridiculous as forcing everyone above the age of 2 to wear a bra – for more than half of the population it is totally unnecessary, and for a significant percentage more, it is a matter of choice.  Then there’s the ones for whom it is damaging to their own health.

Above all, let it be a personal choice and RESPECT that choice without recriminations.  If you are so worried about your own health regarding being exposed to those who aren’t wearing masks… there are things you can do for yourself that don’t involve being a control freak who condones BULLYING other people with fallacious arguments.

Sterile

Saturn Francisco Goya

When Dan and I were first married (maybe two years into our marriage) we took a vacation in Algarve, in the South of Portugal. For those not conversant with the region, it has miles and miles of white sandy beaches, a placid, warm sea, and a generally pleasing climate.  All of which were more or less alien to me, since I grew up in the North, where the sea is freezing (due to an arctic current) and has waves that make it a surfer’s paradise. Also, the North is warm — ish. Often hot, actually, but not always — July through September only.

Anyway, Dan likes beaches, I like beaches…. we were young and fairly happy.  On the second or third day, we saw an elaborate castle-building shape-set in a window. The kind of play set (to sculpt sand) I used to dream of as a little girl, when I built VERY elaborate castles (including fountains in courtyards) with my hands, a silly plastic scoop and a dorky little bucket.

When I mentioned it to Dan, he of course said we should buy that set and build a castle.  (In our defense, the set was like 50c in US money.)  So, we did.  We spent most of the day building the castle, which had arches and bridges, multiple towers, and a little village inside.

We built it just far enough from the tide line that it would stay up for a few hours. I don’t know about you, but periodically on the seaside I come across such constructions, and they always make me smile. I wanted to pass that “smile” on.

As we were finishing, a group of kids sat nearby and watched us.  I thought they were just curious about what these English-speaking strangers were doing, and paid no attention.

However, no more had we finished the castle and — it being dinner time — started to walk away, than these kids ATTACKED the castle, tearing at it, and screaming in a paroxism of hatred.

At the time I was shocked and heartsick. Even these many years later, I’m slightly nauseated.

Sure, it was just a sand castle. BUT I can’t understand the need to tear and stomp flat, nor could I understand their FURY. They looked angry and gleeful at destruction.

And you know exactly what expressions I’m describing, if you go and look at videos of the riots.  It’s the same expressions, the same gleeful destruction, as they topple statues and write semi-literate graffiti on them.

But you know, it’s 32 years later, and I do know what animates them.

To understand fully — and I must say I never got to that point — you have to understand I went through 6 years of infertility before I had my first son.

What does that have to do with anything?

Well, while I never got to the point where I wanted to kill pregnant people, or even to make it impossible for people to get pregnant, when you’re trying very hard and every month (and a half. Long story) brings confirmation of your failure; when doctors keep reassuring you everything is working fine, and yet you can’t keep a baby growing in you, you start feeling resentful. Of life in general, and of people who get pregnant when a guy sneezes near them in particular.

Again, I never got to hating pregnant women or babies. But I started viewing every visible pregnancy as a personal taunt and affront.

This was not rational, nor put into so many words, but there was that night I went to the grocery store (we were in the habit of shopping in the wee hours) and EVERY SINGLE PERSON THERE was pregnant.  I mean, the cashier was pregnant, the stockers were pregnant, all the female customers were pregnant. I swear even every person on the cover of the tabloids was pregnant.

I came home filled with self-loathing and despair and spent hours crying.  Which wasn’t rational. I wasn’t any more infertile before I saw all those pregnant people. And they certainly didn’t get pregnant to upset me.

I think that’s part of what we’re seeing from the left in general, the left in the arts in particular.  And I think it’s part of the fury animating the rioters, who are children of privilege (and for the most part milk-white.)

That rage at their…. non-generative impotence is the only thing that explains why statues of saints or generals who fought against slavery, or even writers who were enslaved themselves, must be torn down.

It’s not over slavery. That never made any sense, anyway. And it’s not over George Floyd. The riots starting over his death never made any sense anyway. I mean, the killer was arrested almost immediately and no one, not even the most cop-supporting right winger says what he did was right. So why riot?
Yeah, sure, international interests fomenting it, and paying for it. After all China and Russia both would like us to tear ourselves apart. It would leave the way open for their domination of the world.

But that’s not the only thing. The people taking part in this really are gleefully engaged in destruction, and really believe everything the past bequeathed us must be destroyed, from statues to math or logic. I mean, we joke that logic is a tool of the patriarchy, but feminists do say that. Without irony, I might add.

Yes, most of these people are privileged, never had to work a day in their lives, and are extensively college-indoctrinated.

Why does that matter?  Well–

It matters because our current method of education — I had to fight its effects tooth and nail in my kids — is designed to stop people thinking independently.  There were a never end of rules, regulations, orders to do things, a preponderance of demands you obey, even if the order is patently stupid.

What’s more, every academic and “intellectual” environment has become an extension of the school. There is an entire method in place, from tainting by association — if you don’t know someone has been unpersoned and you talk to them, you in turn become unpersoned — to shunning for expressing the wrong thoughts, to being told you shouldn’t read the thoughts of bad/evil people because they will automatically “infect you.”

What has been built is essentially a system of training people NOT to think. Of training people to be unable to defend their beliefs, because they can’t conceive of anyone who thinks differently and is a good person. To have “forbidden thoughts” means you’re a bad person. Period. There’s no dissension, no debate, no discussion, no exploration.

What this means, ultimately, is that people indoctrinated in un-thinking can’t create.

To be able to create, or at least to create something new, you have to be able to conceptualize the new and different. Which, frankly, to social apes, is always a little scarier.

It is scarier for social apes who have been trained from a young age to know that a wrong thought can get you thrown out of the band, to starve or get eaten in solitude.

This, by the way, explains the sterile art of the left, both in writing and the plastic arts.  All those short stories (and novels) that are extended just-so stories, with their ideology expounded in maid and butler dialogue, all the “art installations” that amount to piles of unrelated things, or strangely ugly shapes randomly assembled.  In fact, all the ugly, repulsive and offensive (because stupid) art that your tax money supports and your universities encourage.

It explains much more than that, like all their machinations that keep backfiring because they simply can’t imagine being in someone else’s shoes.

But art? It explains art most of all.

You see, art, real art, engages your emotions. It’s not a screed, and it’s not a random snide attack on the approved targets.  It’s something that bypasses your thought process and goes straight for the feelings.  It doesn’t mean it’s always beautiful, btw. I know I spoke above about ugly “art” but that’s different, a weird combination of ugly and boring.

Real art can be ugly or terrifying, but it is not simply what’s in front of your eyes. It engages you in another dimension. It pulls at what for lack of a better term, I’ll call “the soul.” You find yourself experiencing whatever you’re looking at, or reading, and it really (no joke) becomes a part of you.

Now, the graduates of the excellent schools of the left, the winners of establishment praises (and prizes) get all the material rewards that it’s possible to reap for their “art”.  Because the establishment rewards its own.

But they know they’re missing something.  They’re human. They see the strength of past art, art they can’t match.

Just like they see the feats of math and civilization and logic.  And because they were taught in schools that believe rote is a bad four letter word and they lack even the basics of math and language and logic, these feats are beyond them.

Because they can’t create, they destroy.  Because then beauty and logic, and civilized life do not taunt them with their existence.

Because if they can erase the past — like all the idiots claiming we can’t read older sf writers, or even white ones, or whatever — they can convince themselves their infantile creations, with the thumb marks on them are the height of creativity and intelligence.

And yet, they know they’re lying to themselves.  They can destroy and erase the feats of the past, but they can’t remove them from their own minds. And they can’t quite convince themselves these things never existed.

They can blind themselves, but in the eternal light where their eyes used to be, the past will always rise up to mock their inability to create, their inability to generate.

Somewhere, deep inside themselves they know they’ve been creatively castrated; rendered sterile. They know that the future won’t tear down their works, because they won’t need to. Their pitiful creations will never be robust enough to live outside the bubble of leftist self-reinforcement.

Like blind eunuchs, they turn in rage and fury against everything that is not them.

They devour civilization and life and joy. But it profits them nothing.

They can’t be satiated.