I  realize Heinlein was making a point about cultural norms and how changeable they are.  He was right – to an extent.  He was wrong too.  And the point he made to me, when I read Stranger, and I was all of eleven, is that there are things so wrong that no one would do them.

The line is when a character says you don’t need to tell children not to eat their little play friends.  (This is only partly right.  My son, after all, had to be pried away from one of his little friends whom he had bit.  His teeth had sank deep into the other kid and he was, in fact, about to rip out a good chunk of flesh when we managed to make him let go.  Okay, he was three.  But getting him to let go was like getting certain dogs to open their mouths once they’ve bit something.  In his defense though I don’t think he was so much eating his friend as trying to hurt him.  Which of course is something we have to tell kids all the time “you shouldn’t hurt your friends.”)

Heinlein was making the point that cannibalism has been “right” or even “holy” for humanity at many times and in many places in ritual occasions, to appease some god, or in the name of some greater good.  He was right in that.  In fact, killing and eating each other has been an ancient pasttime of humanity, because well… in the end, it is always about the death and the blood.  But he was wrong too.  He was wrong in that there is no human society ever – not after we became humans – where people ate each other for no reason at all and haphazardly.

The reason is obvious to an adult, even if it wasn’t to my 11 year old self – societies in which you eat each other for breakfast aren’t societies.  There is no cohesion, and there is therefore no society.  “Everyone’s hand” – or tooth – “against everyone else” is, ultimately a recipe for a band or tribe to go extinct and disappear.  And that’s why you don’t have to tell your kids not to eat their friends.  People likely to do so have been weeded out of the gene pool long ago; so long ago that cannibalism for the sake of cannibalism is not something most humans contemplate.

This makes sense to me.  I am not, you understand, an idealist, enthralled with the milk of human kindness.  I am not one of those people that thinks humans will do what’s best for them because unicorns frolic and there are flowers and– I believe humans are capable of unimaginable evil in the pursuit of their own self-interest.  But I also believe most humans are smarter than the average cat, and know what their self-interest is, and where it lies.  I trust that most humans understand that while their little friends can make a satisfying meal, the ultimate result of eating your friends is that your tribe, your branch and eventually (if continued) your species dies out.

I will confess this belief has been tried by the follies of the publishing industry.  Clauses that grab an author’s copyright in perpetuity, or – worse – clauses that make it impossible for an author to write anymore until and unless they sell to a given publisher make sense…  If you realize that what the editor or publisher considers in his or her best interest is not to sell a lot of books, not to make the writer a household name, not even to make money, but to have power.

If you look at those miserable rat-bastard clauses as “we can keep those who create under our thumb forever, and we derive great satisfaction from this” then those clauses make perfect sense.  Mind you, it is a sort of “enlightened self interest” I don’t get, but perhaps those with size 2 souls in size 14 bodies need this sort of thing to make themselves feel good about themselves.  Who knows?

What I know is that this has stopped making sense – even that sense – in the days of indie publishing.  You know any sane author – and many insane ones – are just going to look at those clauses, stick their toes hard into the ground and say “fuckit.”  You have to know that.  Maybe not this contract.  Maybe not next, but eventually every author will do it… and not very far in the future even.

So why do it?  Why smear your reputation?  Why stain your soul?  Why throw your self-respect down the wind for that?

Oh, sure, for a time you will still have a few authors who sign those.  They have to.  They’re broke.  They think they need the validation.  Whatever.  But in the end, it won’t even take very long, like the kid who runs out of friends to eat, you’re going to run out of people who sign these.  And then what?  What will you live on?

And yet, not only is the industry still doing thse things in a time of indie publishing, no.  This insanity is extending to every every publisher, and becoming industry standard.

It’s as though, because your kid ate his little friends, every other kid in the neighborhood decided to eat his little friends, till all that’s left is one really fat kid whom all the other parents want to kill.  He can’t watch his back all the time…

It’s suicide, in other words, by elaborate means.

What’s worse, though, is that I’m now seeing signs of this EVERYWHERE.

I think all of you know about our brake job in which they failed to change one of the necessary components – which meant the brakes (newly changed) – went out on my husband in the middle of the road, with the whole family in the car.  We got lucky, but if we hadn’t been we’d be dead.  Just a few days before, if the brakes had failed, it would have hit us halfway from Denver, in rain.  It might have been impossible to stop the SUV.  And I remember the traffic was bumper to bumper that day.  Not only would we have died – we’d probably have caused a few more deaths along the way.

And why?  Well, the garage saved maybe $200 on a 1k+ job by cutting corners (less than that at their prices.  Probably $50.)  Is that worth losing customers in a spectacular way?  Well, okay… you CAN do it.  You CAN get away with it, since the contract didn’t specify you’d change those parts out.  You can save those $50 and maybe you feel really good about it – but don’t you understand in the long run that means if the people die you lost a customer, who’d have come back every year or so for a fix-up?  Even if they survive, after they know what you’ve done, don’t you understand you’ll NEVER EVER EVER get them to give you any work?  And that they’ll tell all your friends to stay away from you?

This week a friend of mine had air conditioning installed in her house.  She was told she could have it done in the spaces behind the wall and in closets.  Yes, she was “told” and this was not in writing.  Yes, she should have noticed it wasn’t going to happen that way from what the contractor was doing.  BUT my friend isn’t very savvy in these things.

She was shocked and horrified to find ducts running EVERYWHERE in the open.  HUGE ducts, all around her house, blocking windows and access doors.  And she blames herself, because she thinks it was something she did wrong.

Which makes sense, because it makes no sense whatsoever that a contractor, with a reputable national company would do this KNOWINGLY.

Having seen the pictures, I can tell you if I were that contractor I wouldn’t have done that, EVEN IF I THOUGHT THAT WAS WHAT THE HOMEOWNER WANTED.  In fact, I would have refused to do that, unless I’d drawn what the final result would look like, and the homeowner had initialed EACH OF THE SKETCHES.  The results are that horrific.  NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND CAN LOOK AT THEM AND THINK ANYONE SANE WOULD AGREE TO THIS, much less want this.

Again, it’s cannibalism.  Like the book companies, like the garage, they can get away with it.  Unless my friend got it in writing – and I don’t think she did – that the ducts would be hidden, they can legally claim to have fulfilled their contract.

BUT they have to know not only will my friend ever again work through them, but that she will tell her not inconsiderable network, and show pictures and that from now on none of us will work with this NATIONAL CHAIN without making sure everything is in writing.  And that we might not work with them at all unless there is no alternative.

Why do they do it, then?  Why eat all the little kids in your neighborhood, when you know you can’t survive it long term?  When you know long term it will destroy everyone?

One explanation is of course famine.  People have committed cannibalism – always – when the alternative is death.

Has the economy got so bad that we’re now one vast Donner Party?

Maybe.  MAYBE.

Publishers were doing this long before the hammer was done and the dog at the door.  They were doing it because they could and not caring in the least what writers (or, more importantly readers who didn’t come back because they couldn’t keep lifelong relationships with writers) they destroyed in the process.  And there have always been crooked garages and crooked contractors, though to my mind there’s more of them now, and the stuff they do more destructive and senseless.  That seems to be true from the fact that in both cases that touched me at all closely these were no fly-by-night companies, here today gone tomorrow but national chains with venerable reputations.

So I don’t think it’s a matter of hunger.  But something it must be, because sane people and companies don’t have to be told “don’t eat your friends.”

The answer is that they’re not sane.  Like the face eater in Florida, who was likely on a new and improved form of PCP, these companies are all operating on the drug of Marxism, which tells them that the economic system is a closed loop, in which wealth can neither be created nor destroyed, but taken or lost.  And in that system, of course, all wealth is theft, so you must steal more than anyone else, and the only law is that of the jungle.  You steal while you can, even if it destroys you long term, because that’s all you can do and all you’ll ever have.

The end of this is what always happens in every Marxist system.  An equal redistribution of utter poverty, proving very well that wealth can indeed be destroyed or, if you will, cannibalized.

And at the end of this road lies non metaphorical cannibalism just to stay alive a few more weeks, a few more days, a few more hours.

What a brave new world we’ve created.

70 thoughts on “Cannibals

  1. Short answer: blame John Dewey. Longer answer: this is what comes of over a century of — scorn quotes — “progressive” education. Aggressive secularization to the point where even pointing out a moral issue gets you accused of wanting to found a thousand-year theocracy. The founders knew it: this experiment will not last if it is not peopled with citizens of good moral fiber..


    1. *shock* You mean trusting in making birth-year packs of rugrats socialize each other makes for rather psychotic quirks? Who knew?

      Seriously, though, Amen.

      1. OF COURSE all children born in the same “year” develop intellectually at the same rate — just look at them and you will see they grow physically at the same rate.

        And all talents and intellectual abilities — literacy, numeracy, abstract reasoning, social skills — ALSO develop at more or less the same rate.

        1. Of course, that is why everybody is equally capable of being an equally skilled; writer, mathematician, engineer, sewage disposal technician, or male bovine excretement generator and disperser (AKA politician).

          If you don’t believe me ask a Marxist.

          1. Excrement bovine…. Hmmm. Hey! That’s bullsh*t! I learned me that good. In high school (Hawaii, 1973-76), one of my favourite teachers was a real di*k. Sociology/history teacher. Old guy, very tough. VERY tough. Mr Share was his name. He used to tell his students (the ones that couldn’t select an easier elective and ended up in his class by default) to ALWAYS read the entire test, be sure you understand it before starting. It was always easy to tell those who skipped that. Every exam, somewhere, buried amongst the questions would be the final instruction. ‘Answer the odd numbered questions only’, ‘Answer the last one only’ etc. It always surprised the newbies. ALWAYS. He would also spring spelling tests, at random, on us. He used to say ‘If you learn nothing else, learn to spell’. My favorite was his oft repeated, ‘Always answer the question. Even if your answer is pure bullsh*t. Put something down I will grade on creativity’. He did too. I (don’t remember why) couldn’t answer an essay question once, so I rephrased the question for a page and a half. I received two grades on that test. An F for correct answer and an A for bullsh*t, averaged to a low C.
            Needed more like him.


  2. In the real world, non-necessity cannibalism seems to include acknowledging the spiritual power, positive or negative, of the other person. They may be eaten so that the eater can gain that power, or eaten as a way to negate that power, or eaten by relatives to show respect for the family and to pass the power through the generations, but every anthropology study I’ve read about cannibalism mentions recognition of the eater and eatee’s common humanity.

    The process Sarah describes, in the sense of editors and buyers on a strange power trip, seems to be about relegating people to word-producing machines. In the other cases, again, it is the absence of acknowledgment of humanity (and shared culture?) that helps put dollars over safety (because putting ducts in front of egress points ain’t safe, among other things I fear Sarah’s friend will discover as time passes. If there’s one code violation, dollars to doughnuts there will be others.) Dewey’s touch, as Mark said, plus Marx and a touch of Spencer, because some publisher somewhere has probably thought, “hey, if they are dumb enough to sign this contract without raising a fight, they get what they deserve.”

    1. They may be eaten so that the eater can gain that power, or eaten as a way to negate that power, or eaten by relatives to show respect for the family and to pass the power through the generations, but every anthropology study I’ve read about cannibalism mentions recognition of the eater and eatee’s common humanity.

      But people eat lion hearts and other such power-symbols, too– could common humanity be imprecise? Maybe “creature being worthy of admiration” or something?

  3. On a lighter note, today’s Cracked online is “Celebrities who invented cool stuff.” 4. is the inventor of the waterbed, with a couple of nice pictures. 3. is the inventor of the huge gliders that on D Day dropped 50 to 75 airborne troops each well inland at Normandy. You’ll never in a million years guess. 5. of course is the inventor of the cell phone and WiFi, though that isn’t what she thought she was inventing.

    1. Sarah permits putting links in, provided the privilege is not abused. Do not make us go hunting.

    2. Despite the fact that I think Hedy Lamarr is in every way fabulous. It’s not quite right to say she invented WiFi and Cell Phones.

      Early RF communication engineers had a problem with interference. Speech takes a bandwidth of between 100hz and 3500hz (not Hi-Fi, but toll-quality). This modulates an RF carrier as we see in Amplitude Modulation or Frequency Modulation (AM or FM).

      When I send a narrow-bandwidth signal over the air, the Nazis can blast an interference on that same channel. And if Nazis see a powerful signal on a given channel known to be used by the Allied forces, they can do direction finding on it to know where to attack. (My story “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” is predicated upon the Nazis jamming Loran radio beacons.)

      Ms. Lamarr invented frequency-hopping. If the bad guys jam one of the frequencies the device hops to another unjammed frequency a fraction-of-a-second later. And if the bad guys are listening for emissions on a given frequency, they just get a blip every once in a while. The net effect is to smear the effective radiated power of my transmitter over a much wider bandwidth than a normal AM or FM station.

      This is termed “spread spectrum” communications. They are harder to jam and harder to intercept. Thank you, Hedy, I love you.

      Move forward to the ’80s. The Russians did something sneaky. Instead of frequency hopping, they transmit one thousand bits at low power from one pseudo-random sequence then switch to another pseudo-random sequence. They switched between these different pseudo-random sequences fast enough to send, say, digitized voice signals. Though many bits would get corrupted in transmission, enough would get through to reliably detect which pseudo-random sequence was used. They had whole nets operating many dB below the noise floor. This scheme is termed “direct-sequence spread spectrum.”

      Move forward another decade and folks use “spread spectrum” to the first cellular networks. They started with frequency-hopping. Later digital cellular networks and WiFi standard 802.11b use “direct-sequence spread spectrum. These were not the brain child of the delightful Ms. Lamarr.

      Why, yes I am a member of the IEEE.

      1. Yes, it’s overstated, but it’s still a fun story with a bigger germ of truth in it than a lot of legends have.

        My own take on the matter is that it’s also the reason SETI doesn’t find anything. Once invented, spread spectrum is such a complete answer to so many problems with wireless communications that it seems to me that we’re rather slow — a really bright civilization would have long ago converted just about everything over. Which means that we don’t hear other civilizations’ TV signals and suchlike because there’s only a short window of time in which straight modulation will be used — all we’ll get is a hiss, not particularly distinguishable from random noise. We could watch TV sent from Bernard’s Star — if we knew the spreading function!

  4. You know, you can pick up just one fashionable “advance” and examine it, and you can see the syndrome you’re describing going full bore. One solar energy company after another going belly up. The electric car that will “brick”, freeze up beyond repair, if you let the battery go down beyond a certain level, which you can do by just letting it sit. And I fully expect students in one hundred years will be studying about how electricity generating windmills wiped out the bald eagle

  5. It is not necessary to go back very far to see when such abuses of public trust were commonplace in America. 125 years ago Mark Twain gave us the Duke and the Dauphin traveling along with Huck & Jim. A hundred years ago Sinclair Lewis enthralled the public with his exposes of conditions in the slaughterhouses. During FDR’s reign there was widespread propaganda about how gumm’nt agencies fought to protect the innocent consumer from such exploitation (including a Jimmy Cagney movie in which he portrayed a stalwart fighting agent of the Bureau of Weights & Measures) and in more recent times we have Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich and Mother Jones exposing corporate greed’s ravishing of the environment. So, to an extent, we always have these human parasites among us. The question would seem to be: how many and how openly? AND, perhaps, how gullible are we allowing ourselves to be?

    In a technologically sophisticated society few enough have the broad-based knowledge to not have to rely on the honesty and expertise of others. Car brakes aren’t even fully mechanical anymore, using computers and solenoids to connect the pedal to the brake. It is entirely possible they’ve developed ways of moving the cooling to the room instead of having to move cool air (in fact, if I remember my High School fluid dynamics, compressing the air through a pipe and allowing it to expand into the room should draw heat energy from the room … or have I reversed a sign in there?) Do registry cleaners actually work or are they just a scam? Which anti-virus prophylactics are truly effective … this year? With so much to know the wonder is less that our ignorance is sometimes exploited than it is a wonder it is only exploited sometimes.

      1. In this context what matters about Sinclair Lewis is not his authenticity but his enthralled public — meaning folk found his stories credible based on their own experience and beliefs. If it would make you happier feel free to substitute Dickens, Hugo or Zola as authors who exposed social ills of their eras.

        Sheesh – I throw out such bait as Carson and Ehrlich and you complain about Lewis?

  6. Sarah, I believe that in general you are wrong about our society. I hope so. You are probably correct about the publishing industry, hell entertainment in general. I think however that you are seeing instances that back your feelings, such as the AC disaster, and extrapolating conclusions from annecdota. Again I hope so.
    There are many people trying to give honest value for your money, and giving more than you pay for. As an example, my brother is a contractor and home remodeler. Even in these tough times for the construction industry he is doing very well. Why? He gives people more than they ask for and tries to make every customer satisfied. I know lots of people doing the same. I work for Miami U. in the instrumentation department. We are responsible for repairing and maintaining all scientific equipment on campus. We strive for quick turn around on repairs, and design and building of new equipment that scientists discover a need for. And when someone comes to us and asks for a reliable device that will do x, we try to look ahead in the direction he is going and give him a device that will do y and z as well. Not because it makes it easier for us or personally profits us but for pride in our workamnship. Well, we have learned that many scientists want something that will do step one and finish that before asking for it to be expanded to step 2. Too much focus is part of what makes them scientists. We would rather do the job once and handle steps 2,3,and4 when we do the original. :We are lazy that way 🙂
    This is a case where I really hope you are the one extrapolating from the specific to the general and getting it wrong. I realize that I may be the one doing the wrong extrapolation.

    1. Sanford, I think we all recognize the existence of people such as yourself and your brother. The problem for many of us is the lack of any ability to distinguish between y’all and charlatans. Hence the ad campaign for Angie’s List.

      And this ties back into the prior discussion about communities and the wild wild webs. Back in the mists of History, in the mythical small town America, people knew their neighbours and knew which were reliable and which were a mite hare-brained. In the Internet community it can be hard to tell whether a poster is a troll or Wayne having a bad med day ;-D … or whether a poster is thoughtful, intelligent and informed or just a pompous sesquipedalian windbag (I pause to permit the “RES, you’re not sesquipedalian!” protests.) Heck, we can’t even tell if a raft of commentators are actual people or just a batch of industry-paid shills.

      And human nature being what it is, the ratio of bad experiences to good does not have to be very large to be significant. (It says something about the procreative urge that any of us exist, given how widespread are tales of disastrous “first explorations.”)

      I think the question raised is how to determine whether the kind of self-destructive cannibalism Sarah described is pervasive or merely anecdota. How many such data points to create a useful graph?

    2. Sanford, I’d like to think you and your brother are the standard and not the exception. However, I have found myself more and more having to challenge those who are supposed to give good service for money. Everything from the phone company telling us after five years that we are too far away from the box to receive the service we get — even though they have upgraded the equipment and expanded the service area beyond us and even though we never had any problem until they did the supposed upgrade — the to A/C repairman out to do the semi-annual check of our equipment who said we needed to replace both the inside and the outside units despite having no problem with the units. No, not the same folks who installed the unit Sarah responded to.

      In both situations, and there have been many others, I’ve had to work my way up the management chain, sometimes taking months to do so, to get the situation fixed or clarified. In the case of the A/C, this is a company we’ve been with for close to 20 years. Fortunately, that was straightened out pretty quickly.

      However, I do think we hear more of the horror stories than we do the stories where something goes right. At least I hope so. Personal experience leaves it in doubt.

      1. Plus these service companies make you pay when they fix it too. In my youth, if you did the service wrong, you at least did the fix for no money. It was expected that you would repair any damage you made on your own dime. This is from hard experience.

        1. BTW I now give my money to members of my family because I know how they are “wired” and I know who to yell at if something goes wrong. That doesn’t mean that my family is more “trustworthy.” It just means that they don’t want their older sister mad at them. 😉 I do have one sister that I don’t give money if I need that “said” money. It will never come back into my pocket. –at least I know this and react accordingly.

          1. Cyn, I do the same thing – at least as much as possible. If I can’t figure it out or my son can’t, then we look to the so-called professionals. That’s why we spent a day not too long ago in the attic laying CAT-5. I wasn’t going to pay to have the “pro” do something we could do.

            At least with regard to the A/c issue, when they sent out their quality control manager, he knew what he was doing and he confirmed not only that neither unit needed to be replaced but also that the workman who had supposedly done the evaluation and service hadn’t done what he was supposed to. I was happy by the time he left but, needless to say, I will get a second opinion on anything they recommend from now on.

    3. THAT is the rational way to go about business, Sanford, and I hope the idiots are a minority. It’s just this is endemic in Europe, and I think it used to be better here. (It’s still better here than there.)

    4. There are a lot of good people out there doing good things. There are also a lot of frauds and fiends. The trouble is finding out who is what. That either takes experience, or recommendations from someone we trust. With today’s litigation-for-anything society, it’s hard to get a warning OR a recommendation, because there’s such a fear factor.

      Sarah, I can send you the name of a good, trustworthy mechanic here in Colorado Springs. If you mention my name, you may even get a 10% discount… 8^)

        1. I could give you a name, but he’s kinda in New Hampshire… 😦 (He’s also very slow for us (friend of the family; his other jobs come first ’cause he knows we’re patient 🙂 ). But a perfectionist, which is rather nice.)

          Good luck finding someone more local!

        2. If you find one, let me know! I need one, too. Plus a first-class cleaning lady that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. Jean and I just can’t do what we used to.

          1. Cleaning lady I might have found. Or at least I haven’t tried her yet, but I like her as a person. I just can’t afford a cleaning lady right now, period, not until the indie stuff starts paying.

  7. I think the answer is to choose your associates better. The collapse in Atlas Shrugged was caused by the non-participation of those who most wanted to and were capable of fixing the dystopian society that Ayn Rand supposed. In real life it is messier because there are more hacks who won’t Go Galt. But hacks sell fewer books and the size of the pie shrinks. And most of the ridiculous measures I read here are panicked responses to the shrinkage of traditional publishing.

    In three weeks I was blessed to attend all-day affairs with three distinct crowds: TEDx Grand Rapids, Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace, and Lean Startup Michigan. All three groups were as different as you could imagine possible, but all three were concerned with the same problems and making things better. All the while I had in mind my own writing and how I can monetize it. What I got was that there’s no one right answer–just a general principle of keeping my eyes open for opportunities and hustling to exploit them.

    Any society is a mix of makers and takers. I’m happy to say that among the folks I was hanging with, there were a lot more makers than takers. It gets tricky knowing who is whom. Clearly, the big publishing corpse Sarah describes is nobody I want anything to do with. The business I heard described is uninterested in selling and it seems altogether reasonable to believe they can be bypassed.

    We should remember that when the Soviet empire fell it was sudden. Certain secular trends had been in place for decades that had hollowed it out. But then the Gipper came along and used the means at his disposal to accelerate the process. I suppose that someone is going to figure out howto put a stick in the spokes of the big publishing corpse and bring it down hard. That someone is going to get very rich. Instead of a cannibal paradigm, we should be should be imagining how the rotting publishing corpse can fertilize our garden.

  8. The publishing industry is a perfect example of the closed loop, marxist approach. Stagnation occurs and only the ones at the top benefit when choice is limited. This can happen in a capitalistic society when monopolies rampage unchecked, but they are sanctioned by the state in marxism rather than opposed by it in capitalism.

    The current explosion of indie publishing, especially in the digital market, is a perfect example of what happens when innovation happens and choices open up – old hands that refuse to adapt begin to wither and die. The process will take a while, but the road has been made – either adapt or perish. And since adapting is hard sometimes, most of the entrenched entities will fight tooth and nail to stay on top.

    Reading the horror stories of those screwed over, even the more established authors, has given me a very big push towards indie publishing once I’m ready.

  9. stevepoling (@stevepoling), RD Meyer, you are both right to a point. I predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1988. It was in a limited audience situation, and no one took me seriously. Yet the things I was seeing in Russia were many of the same things I’m seeing in today’s society. Here it is in a nutshell: the Russians gave up taking care of business. There was no reward for doing a good job, and little punishment for doing the minimum. No one was willing to do MORE than they were required to do. The idea that things would be ‘better’ was finally dead. What I saw as a result of this was the accumulation of trash where things were usually kept much neater, the lack of repair of whatever wasn’t essential, and the steady degradation of everyday existence. It took “x” amount of energy and work to keep things going, but the average amount of energy allocated was always “y”, which was less than “x”. The amount of energy actually expended was usually even lower, at times as much as half or less of “x”. The result was systemic collapse. The same thing is beginning to happen here, and is well under way in much of Europe and Asia.

    It’s going to take more than a change of politicians to change the course of the future. It’s going to take the rebirth of the spirit that once defined the United States, the spirit expressed by Sanford Begley and his associates. It’s not too late — it’s NEVER too late as long as a few good men draw breath. It IS getting more and more difficult. One scenario I see as being imminently possible is the fracturing of the United States into several countries, some successful, others not so much. The people willing to work for what they get will find a way to succeed, while the ones that want everything given to them will be disappointed. There is also the very real chance that such an outcome will NOT be peacefully achieved.

    I’m currently reading “Road to Damascus” by John Ringo on my Nook. What I’ve written above is well-illustrated by that novel (so far).

    1. Weatherman (and Maoist) Bill Ayers has been a major influence on America’s pedagogical theory, writing the textbooks employed by the teachers’ colleges.

      In March 2008 Ayers was elected (by a large majority of his peers) as Vice President for Curriculum Studies at the American Educational Research Association (AERA), putting him in a position to exert great influence over what is taught in America’s teacher-training colleges and its public schools. Specifically, Ayers seeks to inculcate teachers-in-training with a “social commitment” to the values of “Marx,” and with a desire to become agents of social change in K-12 classrooms. Whereas “capitalism promotes racism and militarism,” Ayers explains, “teaching invites transformations” and is “the motor-force of revolution.” According to a former AERA employee, “Ayers’ radical worldview, which depicts America as “the main source of the world’s racism and oppression,” thoroughly “permeates” AERA.

      Ayers has also contributed money to Teaching for Change, an organization that seeks to turn K-12 schools into “centers of justice where students learn to read, write, and change the world.”
      [ ]

      So it is perhaps not surprising that Americans are learning the wrong lessons. The modern mania for “group” effort in our classrooms ensures that some kids learn to coast on the coattails of others, while those other kids learn that extra effort is merely something to be exploited by those dragging on their coattails.

      1. Of course I would be remiss to ignore the “grey goo” their spirits are nurtured on. It makes a great difference whether a boy is fed Holden Caulfield or “Kip” Russell and Thorby Rudbeck.

        Remember the amazed discovery when the Harry Potter books first came out, that this was something boys were willing, even eager, to read?

        1. Oh, that Harry Potter thing will never sell. A book about wizards for boys? It’s written above their grade level!

          Don’t be absurd. 😉

  10. By the time I was in 5th grade, I was devouring five books a week. I’m currently “slacking” by reading only three or four. Having a life – wife, kids, job, hobbies, etc., – does slow one down, but I don’t think there was ever a time in my life I didn’t read one or two books a week. That’s considered “normal” in my extended family, and has been for many, many years. Besides, it’s not just the BOYS reading Harry Potter… 8^)

  11. For a different example of cannibalism we can look at another Heinlien book, Farnham’s Freehold. I think it is a better example of the cannibalism we see in society. The cannibals don’t actually consider themselves cannibals, because they don’t consider the eaten humans. The majority of cannibalistic tribes don’t eat people of their own tribe, except in special circumstances they only eat members of other tribes, because they view them as inferior and therefore acceptable as food.

    The publishing industry is much the same, they view authors as an interchangeable, renewable food source, not as fellow humans. So they don’t see these onerous contracts as cannibalistic. They aren’t eating members of their tribe, but members of another tribe, there will always be other tribes catch members out of for dinner. Never thinking about the fact that if they capture and eat to many others from another tribe, that tribe will decide it is worth the cost to go trade some of their daughters for guns to shoot the spear-wielding cannibals.

  12. Hey! Boss, that’s copyright infringement! You can’t say dumb*ss!


      1. Well, D’uh! I feel alive (for the mostl), just anti-social. Primarily just lurking, it’s difficult to type anything on craptop (even with usb keyboard), I fear she’s not long for this world. I’ve been Beta-ing Toni’s new game, Planet Baen. It’s all click/drag/drop (those still work) and earning free ebook coupons. Good thing too! With me disabled (no one wants to hire a gimpy, half dead guy–go figure) and wife’s hours cut, they’ve been useful in filling my ebook habit.
        I read all your stuff daily (or whenever I go online), think of me as a feral basset, hiding in the shadows…watching, studying, making lists…then falling asleep halfway through. Heh.

  13. Bearcat: “The publishing industry is much the same, they view authors as an interchangeable, renewable food source, not as fellow humans.”

    I don’t think that’s it at all. I think it’s something entirely different: publishers are terrified of losing good authors, so they write these exclusive contracts to try to protect their sources of income. How much does Misty Lackey make for Daw, or Anne McCaffrey for Del Rey, or David Weber for Baen Books? All of book publishing is in deep trouble, so they’re holding on to what they’ve got as tightly as they can, because they’re afraid to lose it.

    (Warning: possibly-excessively-cynical view of human behavior ahead)

    Sarah: “So why do it? Why smear your reputation? Why stain your soul? Why throw your self-respect down the wind for that?”

    The Rules of Human Behavior:

    1) Hang on to the power/status/wealth you have for as long as you can
    2) Add to the power/status/wealth you have, as much as you can, as often as you can
    3) When behavior is rewarded, repeat it. When behavior is punished, avoid it.
    4) Absence of an expected punishment is itself a reward. Absence of an expected reward is itself a punishment.
    5) None of us ever does anything for any reason except one: we believe the potential rewards outweigh the potential punishments.
    6) The human being never lived who wouldn’t break the rules the instant he decided it was in his own best interests to do so.

    There are a few exceptions, but for 99.9% of humanity, these rules hold. Always.

    Regarding your friend’s experience: maybe the Big National Chain is in fact the problem … and maybe not. It might be the contractor who’s the problem. There are people who will do that: get a franchise for a big company, do some really rotten jobs in Big Company’s name, get paid, then simply disappear. Change address, change name, lather, rinse, repeat. They never get punished because they can’t be found, and the punishment, if any, falls on the parent company that made the mistake of trusting them. Has your friend tried complaining to Big National Chain?

      1. Vetting is always problematic; anyone who has any management experience knows about the difficulty of maintaining standards, but … doesn’t it rather seems a modern equivalent of “If the Tsar only knew …”?

  14. In my experience, regarding large companies in general, they stop caring so much about individual customers as the leadership gets farther removed from them. To the (successful) small entrepreneur, each individual customer is a vital part of their success. They take good care of their customers, and their customers speak well of them to others, helping grow their business. They know that if someone speaks badly about them, it hurts their business, so they make absolutely certain that if someone has a problem with their work, that they take care of it and make it right.

    Once their company starts to grow, they will at first be careful of who they allow to join their company, either as employees, contractors, or franchises. However, eventually, the company gets too big for the owner to stay on top of all the work. Since the newer people aren’t in the position that the entrepreneur was at the beginning, at least some are going to be less willing to jump to correct problems, and area also more likely to hire people who are less dedicated than they should be, because once the reputation is there, they don’t see an urgency to prevent bad feelings from the customers, because there are always more customers.

    As the company grows, the aggregate inertia from all the layers below the original entrepreneur insulate him from the day-to-day details of the company, and more and more often gross failures of quality and professionalism can be completely prevented from being noticed. This is likely what has happened to this company.

    There is a TV show called, “Undercover Boss”, where they send the CEO or similar high muckety-muck out to pretend to be a new employee. In one episode, it was the boss of a Fast Food chain, but I can’t remember which one. He went through a day finding out that no one knew the procedures the way they were supposed to, and that this was because they had never been trained properly (there were training guidelines for this company that they were all supposed to follow), so at the end of the day, he broke cover and told everyone that they were going to shut down for a week or so to train everyone. If it had not been for that show, he would probably have never known.

  15. Eating the seed corn.

    A lot of national chains seem to be suffering from it– I’ve always gone to Les Schwab’s, but the one I grew up with is under new management that forced out one of their best guys, and most of their customers went to his new tire shop; the one nearest my home took four hours to switch out tires– on the rims– and then bilked me out of an alignment I didn’t need. (too trusting– which is what they counted on). There’s one shop that I know is good, and I’ll drive the six miles to use them for everything, now. The Jiffy Lube shops lost me when they tried to get me to over-pay them to repair a chip in a windshield that was already repaired because I told them it was my mom’s car and when they tried to scare me into paying big to get the licence plate light “fixed.”

    1. I will never use Schwab’s if at all possible. “They come running” is their advertising slogan, and at most Schwab’s I have been to it is true. Unfortunately when half a dozen guys are running around working on your rig they forget things. Most commonly this is tightening the lugnuts, not only have I had a tire come off from them failing to tighten lugnuts, but I could name over half a dozen other people who have had the same experience (at several different Les Schwab stores). They are also very bad for suckering women into unnecesary work, like your alignment, brakes, etc. I had a friend that worked for them during high school, and he told me they actually trained them to recommend the brakes needing replaced on any older car driven by a woman; regardless of what condition the brakes were in, simply because most women wouldn’t check the brake pads themselves and would believe what the ‘expert’ told them.

      1. Yeah, I’m rural. (well, by raising)

        The FUD training didn’t hit until some Seattle guy bought the place, after the old manager retired, and he fired all the guys who weren’t politicians. Oh, sorry, he didn’t fire them– he laid them off “for the winter” and then offered to re-hire them with a $3/hour pay cut. 3*40*50= a good used car a year.

        Which rather supports the idea that it’s getting more common.

  16. Arrrgh. Cannibals here, too. Fortunately, we’ve been well-protected, so far, but this is the single largest reason I didn’t go back to public school teaching when my kids were old enough. I refused to let the BS by me long enough to be recertified.

    1. yes. It’s why I haven’t got my teaching certification, even though I like teaching as much as I like writing and it pays better (yes, really).

    2. It has been argued (see Gatto, John T.) that this is part (an essential part) of the screening system in place to … ummm, “protect the system” from certain kinds of … personalities. Schools of education are widely recognized as having the lowest average SAT scores, teach mind-numbingly irrelevant pedagogy, IGNORE professionally critical subject matter (e.g. classroom management) and then dump their least prepared graduates into the most demanding school systems. Look at the distillate to evaluate the process, because either that distillate is the desired product or the distillers are incredibly incompetent.

  17. So much of this is so effing stupid because, for instance, a good mechanic does NOT need to cheat on things to make money; word-of-mouth will get them more business than they can handle. And yet some do it anyway, and wind up out of business because word spreads and people go away, or they get sued or whatever

    1. YES. That’s what drives me nuts. It’s not people seeking an advantage. It’s people being DUMB and hurting everyone, including themselves.

      I can see giving publishers the lion’s share of the income for instance, so long as they get me into stores and treat me right. BUT what good does it do them grabbing the midlister’s copyright? It just means I stop having goodwill towards them. Which means I won’t work them unless I ABSOLUTELY have to.

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