Giving Back My Middle Finger

Yesterday in the comments someone mentioned giving back to the community.  That is one of those phrases that makes my eyes turn red and smoke come pouring out of my ears in loony-tunes style.

Don’t misunderstand me.  It’s not that I don’t believe in “community.”  Or rather, I hate the word community.  I prefer almost any other word including “group.”

But I believe in groups of people and I believe in the synergy of groups – not so much, mind, that the group is better than the sum of its parts, but that the group is the sum of its parts.  Or healthy individuals make healthy groups.  Or whatever you’d like to call it.

I’ve been a member of several groups that for a while made it easier for me to reach my goals, and I still am a member of groups that do.  I used to be a member of a largish (I think we were ten people at our greatest size) writers group that, while it lasted, made it easier for me to focus and work every week, despite having small kids and a schedule so full that any writing time came off sleep time.  I used to get up at five in the morning so I had two quiet hours of writing before the kids woke up.

I’m now a member of a much smaller writers group that is not quite so focused, but which talks me through snares and supports me when I’m in the dumps.  The same applies to the somewhat larger group of friends (some of whom are writers.)

Of course, looking further back, I was a member of an extended family.  In my case when I title something “me and my cousins” I’m not just talking about the Arab proverb.  By culture or design (I never knew which) though my family ran to small nuclear families, the cousin-group was raised more or less in and out of each other’s pockets.  I used to think of my cousins the way Americans think of their siblings.  In many ways, I still do.  If I managed to be a solitary kid at all, it was because I was so much younger than the rest of them, being almost ten years younger than my brother, who in turn was five years younger than the (female) cousin who was raised (even more so than our other cousins) as our sister, and who is four years older than him.  The other day I almost died watching this video, because that baby elephant was me, from trying to get involved in stuff that was well beyond him, to giving up, throwing himself to the floor and trying to become the center of attention.  Yes, I had a very happy childhood.  Idyllic in many ways.  Not “ideal” which is not the same thing, but good enough.

And of course I’m still a member of that family, even far away, and I’m a member of my nuclear family, and our family sometimes worries me that it might be too close.  We didn’t raise the boys to be our friends.  That was not our job.  Our job was to raise them to be adults and to trust them to find their own friends.  Of course they have done that.  But we seem to accidentally have become friends, somewhere along the way.  Not equals, but you don’t have to be equals to be friends.  I realized we were going the friend route when vacations with the boys were way more fun than vacations alone with Dan.  We might now be at the point – with them living in the house through college, and us wanting to reclaim our lives again – when we need to resume running away from them for some periods of time.  BUT it can’t be denied that the family is a group, and a functional group at that, which allows each of the members to excel.

Heck, this blog has become a group of regular commenters, a “blog community” (one of the few times this word is more appropriate than group) which adds to my own experience in writing the blog.  I know whatever I throw at you will be enlarged and deepened, or just made more fun by your takes on it.

So, why is community appropriate in this case and not in the others?

Because “community” is – at least in my mind – a more undefined and softer edged critter than “group.”  A group is me and Bob and Joe and Mary.  A community is “the group of people who comment on this blog” which, yes, has some core groups, but meanders and changes and defines itself differently moment to moment.  In that sense, community is a term out of sociology.  Take a mountain village.  It’s a community.  Is it the same group it was a year ago?  Maybe.  Depends on how many people moved in and out.  Is it the same it was 100 years ago?  Oh, h*ll no.  With bells on.  People have died and been born, and, if it’s in the States, moved in and out.  You’ll be lucky if there’s one person who is a direct descendant of someone who lived there 100 years ago.  Unlike a group, also, you’re not aware of everyone in the group and usually don’t have any say in who joins and who leaves.

This might not be true in communities where you have to be voted in, like country clubs, and in many groups – families – you might not have much of a say on who joins or leaves, either.  And of course some groups are too large for you to be aware of every member.  And of course, some groups are too vast for you to be aware of every member.

Now that I’ve made a big muddle out of those definitions, let me try to make some clarity: I view a group as more of an association of individuals.  You’re part of a group because you want to be, and your individuality matters to the group.  A community, on the other hand is a group of undefined faces.  “People” belong to communities, but it won’t be the same over time.  There can be groups within communities.  There is a definite group of core miscreants in the community of regular commnters on this blog, and I worry when one of them disappears too long and start wondering if I did something to offend him/her.  But there is a larger community around that group: people who come in now and then, in a way that’s statistically but not individually significant.  In the same way, when the Baen bar was healthy, I knew “mine” in Sarah’s Diner, which was definitely a group (at least at its core) but we existed within the community of the Baen Bar, from which a few stragglers would join us or stray out on a more or less random pattern.  To make it clearer: My writers group, but the writing community; my family, but the community we live in; my friends but the community of writers in the area.

So, now that we’re clear as mud, let’s talk about “giving back to the community.”  (Give me a minute.  Must control fist of doom.  Okay.  I think– Yeah.  I’m all right now.)

Why does that phrase annoy me?  Haven’t I said that various groups, starting with my family have helped me along the way?  Aren’t I prone to books that become group efforts?  Even in Darkship Thieves, with an individualistic narrator, told first person, would Thena have got anywhere without Kit and his family?

Yeah.  Okay.  I’m not advocating the lone wolf way of life.  I’m actually – particularly for a writer – highly social.  My profile can tip introverted or extroverted, depending on how I feel.  And though I recently had the first party we’ve held in 9 years, it wasn’t so much not wanting to do it, as the fact that my schedule has kept me in “h*ll on Earth” for about that long.  I love AIM and email because it allows me to get work done AND talk to my friends every day, on my own schedule.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: humans are social animals.  It is both our downfall in many ways, and one of our greatest advantages.

No, what gets on my nerves is two fold “community” and “giving back.”

First of all, let’s define community as it applies to any individual.  What communities am I a member of?  Well, I’m an American (Thank you, G-d, thank you, for allowing me to find my tribe.)  I’m a Coloradan.  I’m part of the science fiction community and the writer community.  I’m part of a community of libertarian (note small l, guys) thinkers community.  I’m part of the cat rescue community.

So, what am I complaining about?  Shouldn’t I be giving back to those communities?

These are my middle fingers.  See them?  They’re waving in the air.  Yes, it’s rude.  But it’s not as rude as telling me I need to “give back.”

I should give back what?  What have I STOLEN or TAKEN from anyone?

“But Sarah,” you’ll say, “doesn’t being an American give you the freedom and peace of mind to carry on your life?  Don’t you like the rights you have as an American, to make an example of a community?  How could you have anything or be anything if you were squatting in a dirt pile, clutching a spear to defend your food?”

Uh.  Right.  And every one of the other American citizens has decided, FOR MY SAKE to make sure that we live in an ordered and lawful society, have they?  All this effort has been expended to let little Sarah achieve her goals, is that it?

“Well, no” you say “that would be ridiculous.  But we have these laws and conventions and customs that allow each of us to develop and do our best.  It’s a community.  You got to give back.”

See middle finger?  We are a nation founded on laws.  Those laws allow each of us to do our best – that’s why we have these laws.  It’s called our constitution and to the extent it’s not ignored, it works better than any other organizing charter in the world.  BUT it doesn’t work because we each wake up in the morning, sing kumbaya and decide to abide by it.  It works because it functions well with human nature.

To hell with you and your giving back.  My duties as an American are to defend and uphold the Constitution that made me an American (yes, I took that oath when I got citizenship.)  That’s not giving back.  That’s my duty.

“Okay, okay,” you say.  “What about the writer community?  Are you going to deny you’ve had mentors along the way, people who put themselves out to teach you and help you become the writer you are today in both craft and career?”

I have no intention of denying that.  Yes, a lot of writers help me and have helped me.  Yes, some sacrificed time and earnings to do so, or risked displeasing their publishers.

So, shouldn’t you give back?  Well… no.  What I got was freely given.  This doesn’t mean I’m a monster of ingratitude.  Most of the people who helped me along the way have claims on me.  I’ll do anything for them when I can.  Some have tested this.  BUT it is not “giving back.”  I didn’t steal something from them that I’m scrupulously returning.  Rather, I’m under obligation to their kindness and their friendship FREELY given to me.  And they have the claims of kindness and friendship on me.  What is the difference?  Well, for one I don’t feel I owe them a finite amount.  Their claim on me is infinite.  I’ll do what I can when I can until one of us dies.

I also pay it forward.  Some of you I mentor, even if I’m the world’s worst mentor ever.  (I hope this will change as I’m more able to control my own schedule and perhaps as health stabilizes a little after this upcoming round of “consorting with doctors.”) And I teach a workshop in Bedford, TX, ever September (and no, the price doesn’t go to me.  It benefits the local library.)  And I try to advise people online.

Do I do this to give back?  Well, hell no.  I didn’t take anything away from the newbies coming in.  I do it because I’m human and I remember being where they are.  I needed help (and eventually got it, but not a for a while.  I didn’t KNOW anyone) and so I give help.  It’s a love offering, freely given.  It’s also, in a way, a self-interested act.  When my newbies develop nicely, I have new authors I love to read.  As a reader that’s a plus.  (And I’m eagerly waiting Kate Paulk’s next con book.)

“You call it love offering, we call it giving back.  Why are you arguing words?”

Because words matter.  When you give back something, you return what you took.  It’s an obligation – sometimes a legal obligation – and it puts you under a constraint to act a certain way.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I undertake work under an obligation, I feel like I’m lifting a very large rock, pushing and making an effort to get it where it needs to go.  I rarely fulfill an obligation, particularly while someone stands over me screaming “you owe me” with a light and happy heart. RES has made the point in the comments that it’s hard to do for money what you do for enjoyment, and the same thing applies.  I’ve found that I have an almost pathological distaste for editing – even though NRP is waiting for me to do some of it – if I’m obliged to do it by contract.  I will read/critique friends stories fine, but NOT if I’m the editor for an antho, say.  If I owe it, I keep blocking on doing it.  If I owe it, then I hate doing it, and will try to do it as quickly as possible.

Most of all I hate the idea of “giving back” because it presumes that the individual is nothing without the undefined, faceless community.  No one is going to dispute that people do best with rule of law and private property (well, the “community people” might dispute that last.  That’s all right.  They’re wrong) but the “community” doesn’t do that for the benefit of its members.  Rather, each of its members does that for his/her own benefit.

I also hate the (you knew we’d come to it, right) Marxist ethos at the back of that phrase.  In “giving back” is the idea that whatever you achieved was achieved at a cost to others.  Instead of a group, where we each do better because we have this charter that supports all of us (which is what the best writers groups I belonged to were) we end up with the idea that people did this FOR you and that whatever you have came at their expense.

It all comes back in the end to the idea of economics as a finite pie and a closed system.  This is completely insane (each of us now has more “wealth” than any king in the Middle Ages) but it is the only way Marx could define envy as a virtue, and, by gum, he was running with that.  Envy is only a virtue if anyone who does better is a thief.  Someone needs to “give back” only if he took more than his fair share.

This is my middle finger.  See my middle finger?

But I’m not a thief.  I didn’t steal.  And the faceless “community” can earn its own rewards as I have.  I will give, but I won’t “give back.”  I will volunteer, but I volunteer because I want to.  (A lot of my volunteering involves saving orphan and sick kittens, and much as the cats I’ve known have enriched my life, I don’t owe the “cat community” anything.)  VOLUNTEER should be just that.  Don’t get me started on the schools that “require” “volunteer hours.”  It strikes me as getting kids used to slavery, and I disapprove of slavery.

What I have is mine and I earned it.  I will pay back the debts I know I owe along the way – and the cornucopia of the retribution on those is infinite, mostly because what I was given was a free offering, and I return it as such.  There is no limit to what I can give in those cases.

For the others, the ones who want a piece of me because “you’re not squatting in the dirt and defending your possessions against all comers” can have my middle finger.

The end result of your envy and your belief anyone who achieves anything owes you something IS a society where we each squat in the dirt and fight off entitled little pests like you.  (Well, not really like you.  You’ll be long dead.)  I will fight to my last breath your attempts to make me “give back.”

Go and make your own.

128 responses to “Giving Back My Middle Finger

  1. I don’t want to get political on this because, in all honesty, the problem afflicts Left & Right, but at present it is particularly clustered on the Left. I have noticed that certain … people, groups, … communities … are prone to misappropriation of words. Community is one of those words, I shan’t trouble thinking up others … oh, well, here’s one more: Fairness. They then use the misappropriated term to browbeat you into doing something you would very probably do freely (but now that it is an obligation you rather resent.)

    A community is a group into which we all contribute according to our talents and draw according to our needs and the ability of the community to provide. It is a voluntary association — emphasis on voluntary. Yes, you benefit from being mentored, but the person doing the mentoring benefits as well, so you owe nothing in return. Having a neighbor to occasionally babysit the kid is a benefit to both of you (well, all three of you) and should not be viewed as a reciprocal economic exchange.

    And therein lies the rub: those urging you to “give back” are corrupting a social relationship by treating it as an economic one. They are the kinds of twits who view marriage as prostitution because both involve sexual and financial elements. Michael Medved has said that the contemporary Left suffers from being materialists: they break all human relationships down into material components and thus miss the spiritual elements that make the difference between 90lbs of inanimate meat, bone and fur and a loving family pet.

    It took me years to learn to accept a present from the Daughtorial Unit with grace and appreciation, to understand that it is as much a gift to accept a present as to give one. To me the idea of “giving back” to the community is as offensive as slipping your dentist a tip. It demeans both parties to the relationship and essentially denies the relationship any meaning beyond the material one. There are some debts that can never be repaid, and it is churlish to assert otherwise.

    Yes, you owe your community: to be a good citizen, to treat others respectfully, to appreciate the benefits derived. But it is up to you to determine how to contribute, as it is you who understands the value of the benefits received.

    • Oops – forgot the Notify box. It seems there should be some really good quote on Community available from Chesterton or Lewis, but this ain’t my day for finding it.

    • Yes, charity isn’t charity when it’s compulsory. That’s someone forcing you to do what they want, and then taking all the credit for it.

      • When I was in college the first time, one of my class’s rising stars decided that the honor society really needed to get active promoting mandatory community service and volunteer work. She did NOT like it one bit when I pointed out that 1) there is no such thing as mandatory volunteer work, and 2) a lot of us were on work-study or otherwise busting our buns with classwork. Yeah, I managed to pull 18 hours and do 8 hours or so a week restoring old airplanes (not her idea of community service), but I was an exceptionally well-organized 21 year old. When I let the honor society know that springing a community service requirement on people who were not planning for it was wrong, it led to my departing the group, followed by a messy confrontation.

        And then our commencement speaker had the gall to tell us that we owned a debt to society for being allowed to attend college. Yeah, I still don’t care to be told that I need to “pay it forward” or to “give back to the community.” Tell me what you need and I’ll try to help as I can, but do not push that big red button.

        • *lightbulb* The idea of “pay it forward” to any act of charity is probably related to the way we don’t do gratitude very well these days.
          Full disclosure, I’m horrible at taking even complements with grace– but I can at least say thank you.

          But if things are reduced to a business transaction, then there’s no reason to be grateful, or to act with love towards your fellow people. “It’s just business, nothing personal.”

          Which has rather disturbing connotations when taken with the way that various nasty groups like to turn children against their parents, and the UK’s new thing trying to get rid of best friends to promote fairness and prevent people feeling left out…and the whole hook-up, pre-nup, shack-up, sex is just exercise thing….

        • That phrase, “Being allowed to attend college” really frosts my hide.

          They are so generous they are ALLOWING you to pay $20,000 a year to go school!! Really?

          • It is worse than that — you also need to include the earnings foregone while attending college. But OH! Such value for the money!!! (After the emperor’s tailors got run out of his kingdom they invented colleges and universities.)

    • My favorite dialog on language:

      Kritzinger: Lange?
      Lange: Yes, sir?
      Kritzinger: Who were those 30,000 you say you shot, when you say, “you shot”?
      Lange: In Riga, Latvia. 27,800 I have some responsibility for. And stood by with my men and allowed Latvian civilians to kill in mobs. I received memos directing the, one would say, “evacuation” of Jews who, shot and buried in soil and corpses, managed to crawl out, still alive. Not exactly war, is it? And gas chambers about to come?
      Kritzinger: What gas chambers? Gas chambers?
      Lange: I hear rumors, yes.
      Kritzinger: This is more than war. Must be a different word for this.
      Lange: Try “chaos”.
      Kritzinger: Yes. The rest is argument, the curse of my profession.
      Lange: I studied law as well.
      Kritzinger: And how do you apply that education to what you do?
      Lange: It has made me distrustful of language. A gun means what it says.
      [_Conspiracy_]

    • In my experience most people who use the argument that others should be ‘giving back to the community’ are using it to place social pressure on others to get them to do something that they would otherwise not choose to do. Usually it involves paying more taxes. (But, hey, they, the government, means to do well with the monies.)

      Or it could be acts of what they deem to be proper public service. Our school system has required teens to do volunteer work – to teach them to be contributing members of the community. They have a list of approved charities. Just what do they mean by volunteer?

      I wish that they believed and taught that ‘giving back’ meant things like: not being obnoxiously loud in public or picking up after yourself and deposing trash in proper receptacles.

      (Can you tell I have lived near a college?)

      • CACS – so true or not skateboarding in the middle of the night, or not running you over on a bicycle or so many things… The polite children are so few that I notice them.

        • Yes, for some showing others politeness and consideration are foreign concepts. There was evidence that they have little understanding of finances as well. After a group of our rear neighbors had a party they abandoned a beer keg in our yard. Those things come at a hefty deposit. And basic sanitation also seemed to be lost on some. I had the opportunity to explain to The Daughter some of the differences between boys and girls after the young heathens in one of the houses decided that it was too much trouble to take advantage of indoor plumbing and started using an outside wall for a urinal. For the most part I enjoyed living near the university, but there are some things I do not miss.

  2. I don’t owe anything to the Vasculitis community. I do talk to newbies who are scared only because I know what it is like to be in that situation. There is no “give back” involved. I do it because I feel I should.

    I absolutely agree with you. The Marxist philosophy behind much we say today started with the Boomer generation (imho). I have not been happy with it since I realized what was going on in the US (around the 1970s.)

    As you said many people are taught that there is a limited amount of talents and money so they do not have to be responsible for their own successes. These people can blame the Man, or the corporations, or other races. Duty and responsibility needs to be taught in the family group so that children are ready to take their places and make a better society. I see responsibility becoming a dead virtue. It makes me sad and mad at the same time.

    Cyn

  3. Have you been watching that Elizabeth Warren video, or something? She makes my teeth itch.

    I will admit that I auto-interpret “giving back to the community” into “Pay it forward”, even though it made me vaguely uncomfortable doing so, but now that you have pointed out that I was doing something I hate (the mis-appropriation of words, as RES pointed out above), I will be reconsidering this practice, and probably becoming irritated at it as well. Thanks for giving me one more thing to grind my teeth over. 🙂

    • Hey, misery loves company. I swear my middle fingers are going to be too sprained to type.

    • Nah, just get annoyed that they’re using a perfectly good bit of theology/philosophy — “freely helping people who need it makes a community stronger” — and use it as a guilt trip to enrich themselves in money, power and/or self-regard. Kinda like the related concept of “social justice” gets abused to support all sorts of nasty things.

  4. Amazing how “giving back to the community” usually translates as “give me money,” isn’t it?

    I was actually a bit worried when I started reading this– there’s a modern trend to act like the moral angle only exists if it’s backed up by legal force, and anybody who does things without a legal requirement to do so is crazy for not trying to force everyone to do it.
    Problem: you can’t force charity. Heck, even the word “charity” has a common use meaning that doesn’t have as much to do with benevolent intentions (love-offering) as providing stuff to those without stuff.

    It’s ironic– the same folks who like to talk about “giving back to the community” are the same ones who like to poo in the nest when it comes to things like social norms. “Oh, but those guys can’t be expected to follow basic laws and not assault people– they’re deprived!”
    Culture works because the members of it follow the basic norms We’re a nation of laws, as you pointed out– so following laws, even/especially to change bad laws, is a norm; manners are another aspect which is most common to gleefully ignore when you think someone hasn’t “given enough”. The very idea of telling someone they don’t give enough is rude, unless they bring it up or are very intimate.

    Funny… the communion envelope for today has a Bible quote for today: You received without paying; give without pay. Good way of explaining social cohesion.

    • The point is “without pay” — you’re NOT “paying back” When you are, you do the minimum and then sit back and gloat. I didn’t care for the boys because I owed them (of course I did in a way. Chinese obligation.) I cared/care for them because I love them. This was, by the way, one of the mysteries of marriage for me. I do stuff for Dan — like ironing his shirts or making his favorite food — not because I’m downtrodden or want his gratitude, but because I CAN and I want to make his day better. That’s all. No obligation, no repayment needed. (Of course he does the same — well, not the same. He doesn’t iron very well, but you get what I mean — for me, but it’s not PAYMENT.)

      • That’s what makes a good marriage work. You do stuff because of them, not because of you and a strict accounting.

        Duty is a good word, too. Such a big cloud of things that it’s hard to find just a few words to form it fully!

        It gets abused a lot, but that corny old cross-stitch about how we can never repay that which our parents gave us, we can only give it forward to our kids has an element of Truth in it.

      • I make dinner for my husband so that it is there when he comes home from work, NOT because it is an obligation or payment, BUT because (like you just said) I want to make his day better.

        • When you start keeping track of who has done what for whom and who owes what to whom you no longer have a marriage, you have a limited liability corporation.

          In a healthy marriage you and your spouse are as one, each guarding the other’s back and each confident somebody has their back.

      • Yup. I give love to The Daughter, I can’t help it. Do I do this because I want The Daughter to be beholden to me? because I am obligated by the love The Daughter has shown to me on prior occasions? because I have spare love that needs to find a place to be stored until I have need of it again? No. No. And, um, really, no. Love does not work that way. It is not a social obligation. It is not a limited or fungible item. I don’t take love away from someone to give it to another.

    • *Amazing how “giving back to the community” usually translates as “give me money,” isn’t it?*

      Yeah. Left wing policy is pretty much: get someone else to do it and someone else to pay for it (and then take all the credit and act like a self-righteous twit).

  5. *ponder* While I do feel the phrase has often been misappropriated, I didn’t get the sense of “stolen” so much as… in relationships among equals, there is an attempt at some sort of equal contribution to the relationship; the person who takes-takes-takes is using the person who gives-gives-gives as a doormat. (Remember, my personal history includes an emotionally abusive sire who felt he was entitled to be treated like a prince whether he behaved like one or not. Guess what he behaved like…)

    So “giving back” (as I read the intent) isn’t in the sense of “returning what was taken” so much as “you have received what people give; you may or may not be able to reciprocate (in kind or in other ways), but you can give to another, returning positive energy back into the group.” Something to encompass both returning the metaphoric positive energy flow directly and giving-on to newer members, and not being a leech that just sits there and demands to be catered to or else it’ll hit you.

    Now, the misappropriated use is when someone else exhorts random people they don’t know to “give back” (to create a positive energy/effort flow to re-fill the well). Because it basically is pointing at someone and saying, “You, there, are a leech on the group’s energy. Start contributing to the survival of the group in some way.” (And if it’s accurate, then that’s one thing; it’s confrontational, but if it’s accurate, it may be necessary.) If it’s inaccurate, then it’s a strong suggestion that the speaker is the leech, and what they’re actually saying is, “You, there, give me some of what you’ve got. Because I want it, and I feel entitled to get what I want because I’m Part Of This Group.”

    Therefore… (Oh, look, a concluding paragraph to the thesis!) Really, the only way “give back to the [group]” can be made without sounding rather offensive, and that’s if someone freely says, “I want to give back to my [group].” (Which can be read as “I want to do those things which help the group survive, whether it’s repaying the kindness of others, or giving-on to those who are just now entering the group.”)

    [Further disclaimers:
    • Children are, by definition, not able to reciprocate the energy put into them for years, minimum, and even then, their forms of reciprocation start out as far more in the form of, heh, “each according to his ability” ideal. A toddler can (maybe) put toys away, not go out and run errands in the car.
    • People don’t have to put in identical resources to contribute to the success of a group; in pair-bonding (or N-bonding) relationships, it’s entirely possible that intangibles, even indefinables, are going to be contributed by one or both(/all) people, and the main thing is if each person feels loved, cherished, and respected for their participation in the relationship.]

  6. johnwagner1

    Sums up my ‘required book reading’ lists in High School/College. You know me, will read anything, anytime. I have too. The second I get a required list, I hate to read anything on it (yes, Jane Austin is on that list. Along with Leibowitz, Bradbury, Vonnegut[sp?]). To this day I will wave my middle finger about madly, vomit and cry if it’s even suggested I should read them (thank G*d Heinlein wasn’t put on those lists…).

    In all other aspects of my life, if you tell me to do anything (esp if it’s ‘for the children’), you’re likely to get a certain rude word from me along with contempt and mocking. Lots of mocking. Copious mocking. I will pay forward what I consider only right and just to do so. ‘Suggesting’ otherwise is not a good idea.

    You say it better tho. Much more polite and well thought out. Not at all like my typical response to your ‘But john, you should read Jane Austin…’

    basset

    • You really should read her. She would disapprove of lists too, I think. The fact I read her — and Shakespeare — despite their being on the list tells you how good they are. But yeah. Other than that, exactly.

      • Being naturally rebellious (isn’t this a human condition from nearly the beginning?) I also hated
        required reading lists. I generally wouldn’t read them when assigned. If I was lucky I had already read the material and did not have to ‘fake’ my way through. If not, well it could be done.

        I did make the effort to turn over a new leaf and with that came mistake of trying to read Catcher In The Rye when assigned. If I had believed that Holden Caulfield was representative of the male of the species I would have given up. That boy was pathetic. For some reason my English teachers thought it wise to assign the most depressing reading at an age when most of us were plenty depressed enough. Go figure.

        (Is Grey Goo good for the depressed? Give us Human Wave!)

        • For some reason my English teachers thought it wise to assign the most depressing reading at an age when most of us were plenty depressed enough.

          This, with the “cruddy ‘great writers’ that couldn’t even get me interested” for everything. How freaking bad do you have to be to make SHAKESPEARE bad?!? (ONE teacher did that well, and he did The Scottish Play, opening with a movie.)

          Is Kipling too much to ask for? Or at least something that rhymes, has a coherent story and doesn’t end up with everyone dead/worse than dead, pick at least two?

          • MY FAMILY hit me with 1984, Animal Farm and Brave New World the summer of my fourteenth year. I don’t know what they thought they were doing, but it made me to depressed to think.

            … so of course I hit the younger boy with those AND A Canticle for Leibowitz last year. Though, honestly, he had to write a research paper on dystopia, so… Yeah, he aced it.

            • My mom had the cartoon for Animal Farm from… crud, I think I was six or so? So ages three-and-up.

              Takes a lot out of the impact, at least with ranch kids.

            • Animal Farm was one of the first adult books I tried reading, back when I was still young and small enough to access the books on the upper shelves of Daddy’s bookcases by climbing them. (Daddy built them, and when he built something it was solid.)

              I was really too young to know the background, but I think I got the point. What the pigs did was wrong.

              • I was to young to realize Animal Farm was an adult book when I read it. I think I got the point though, I didn’t like it, the pig was a liar and an idiot and should have been made into bacon. 😉

                • ….I just realized Animal Farm was the only “big, special, obvious” political writing I can think of that I really agree with the big main point of.

                  Scary.

                  • unfortunately most communists make remarkably poor bacon…

                    • Agreed – but it is still a better use of them than letting their ideas breed.

                    • You know, I just realized I never before thought about where the phrase, ‘commie pig’, came from.

                    • Oh, gads, and tomorrow is my day for frying up the next week’s sandwich bacon… I should probably thank you for saving my waistline, but I’m going to be picturing that bacon in a tux with a glass of brandy per the funky scene when Normal Folks are looking in the window at the Party guys.

                    • Oh dear. If you take in the efforts of the diet police, yes even more so — very bad bacon. Ugh.

  7. The phrase “to give back” bears the burden of an unwarranted assumption that one has not given fair value in exchange for that which one has received, which is insulting both to one’s morals sensibility and to one’s intelligence.

    But then, the parlor pinks never did understand the free market, which is all about free and voluntary exchange, now did they?

    M

    • Free-range Oyster

      “Parlor pinks” Nice turn of phrase! I’ll have to try to remember that one.

      • Duh, wut?

        Either that’s p* poor sarcasm, or you need a little more history in your diet.

        • that’s what I thought, too.

          Though these days it’s more lounge leftists

          • I was charmed by “champagne socialists”, myself. There are others.

            An entire host of people who have comfortable lifestyles while knowing damned well that they contribute nothing to the health and happiness of the human race; they therefore assume that everybody else is in on the same scam, and work hard to prevent others from getting anything on the ground that it might come out of their “share”.

            As with most leftoids, their accusations are projection. You and I have to “give back to the community” because they know that they, themselves, are pure parasites who give nothing while eating up resources.

            • Yeah, I will listen to the Hollywood limo lefties when they demand that all participants in a movie’s production receive equal shares of the returns.

          • I rather like “louche leftists” … although given their general hygienic practices when gathered in occupation, perhaps “lousy leftists” is most apropos?

        • Depends who’s doing the history. I’ve heard of Cocktail Communist, Cocktail Party Liberalism, and even the derivative “pinko commie scum.” The etymology of red= communist so pink= diluted communist or stained with communism, like socks washed with a red shirt, is the important part. Not so much knowing nearly century old slang as being able to recognize what it means.

          Kind of like Goldwater or the John Birch Society; I know that the former was a conservative who ran from the right and lost, and that the latter is an old-style conservative group that’s a boogyman of epic proportions, shown by the straw man being dragged out when all else fails. Still pissed with the guy who’s supposed to be on “my side” politically who chose to accuse me of being proud of ignorance rather than giving a quick run-down of something he lived through as an adult which my PARENTS are too young to remember.

          Knowledge is important, but one should never assume that something you know is common knowledge unless it’s been shown to be common knowledge in current times.

          Especially knowing how hard it is to get unbiased information, go ahead and risk mildly annoying someone by explaining something they know than risk annoying and alienating them by acting like they should know what you do. There’s just too much knowing for everyone to know everything, although we should try to UNDERSTAND as much as possible!

  8. Sarah, thanks for putting a smile on my face today!

    I raised two boys in a smallish southern city. In my neighborhood all the kids had two college-educated parents. My attitude toward my childrens’ work – i.e. at school, scouts, and so forth, was, well, it is YOUR work. If you have a question, I’ll help to figure out what your teacher expects, and I’ll be glad to check your grammar and Arithmetic, if you ask me, but that’s about it. (The scout derby car my son sent down the chute was undoubtedly the ugliest and the wobbliest ever, but it did get to the bottom before a wheel fell off, and we all cheered!).

    Sometimes I wanted to make my boys (coerce them) improve what their work, but I usually resisted. It seemed to work out for my kids. The oldest graduated from a Tokyo University recently with an A-B average and attained level 3 Japanese.

    Unlike my laissez-faire self, my neighbor intervened in her children’s assignments daily and those kids received straight A grades. But, alas, both my neighbor’s children dropped out of college before two years. I wondered if it was learned helplessness.

    At any rate, too many of America’s young people think someone else OWES them academic help so they can get their As, perfect their work, and prosper. Are these the “community” who demand you to “pay back”?

  9. ppaulshoward

    Lots of good comments. [Smile]

  10. I grew up financially “poor”. I can look back on that now and understand that, even accept it. At the time, I didn’t know it. My parents were working not only to pay their own way, but to support my grandparents and a few other relatives that needed it. There was always food on the table in abundance, we always had clean clothes, and we always had anything we NEEDED. Not necessarily wanted, but needed.

    Our “community” consisted of “family” and “friends”. The two groups were about equal in size, and both were large. I was the oldest male among the assorted cousins that lived in the local area, and most of the children of friends. I was the leader of most of the mischief we got into. I also learned at a very early age to be responsible – that “duty” word – for the safety of others younger than I was.

    I currently belong to several online “communities”. One of them consists of the people I went to high school with. Ours was the last of the schools to teach grades 1-12 (no kindergarten) in the same set of buildings, and our class was the last class to actually attend all those grades. We keep in touch, talk about things that happened 40-50 years ago, pray for one another, and just “hang out” together.

    Another community I belong to consists of a few hundred people that served in one of the finest military organizations that’s ever existed – the 497th Reconnaissance Technical Group. I served with the 497th three times. I know Wiesbaden, Germany, as well as I know Colorado Springs. I feel a kinship with the people that served there, even if they were there when I wasn’t. It was a very tightly-knit group.

    A third community is less easily defined. It consists of people I met online over the past fifteen years, have talked with online or on the phone, and even a few I’ve met in person – AFTER meeting them online. They’re friends I just haven’t met (in person) yet. I’d still do what I can to help them, when I can.

    Frankly, I don’t consider that I ‘owe’ anything to any of these groups. I’ve given and received from all equally. I’ve done my best to support and perpetuate each of these communities to the best of my ability. My military service was one of duty and commitment, and I did the best I could, in all instances, as I saw it. I have an addled mind and a damaged body to prove it. I have three adopted children. I’m friends to stray animals and wild creatures. I help support my children so they’re not a burden upon others.

    When those that demand that I “give back” can show me they’ve done as much, I might consider it. Until then, they’ll get MY middle finger, also.

    Stand tall, Sarah, I’m with you. If you need someone to guard your back, just let me know.

  11. Individuals form communities for their mutual benefit. The whole exceeds the sum of its parts. This difference may be mis-construed by manipulating Marxist manipulators as what the individual “owes” the community, when in fact, it’s the non-zero-sum nature of cooperation. But the marxist only believes in zero-sum exchanges, ergo, if you’re ahead of the game, you must give back. From bogus premises flow bogus conclusions.

    Oh, and Envy is only a virtue when God didn’t write the 10th commandment.

  12. Laura Runkle

    Thank you. Don’t get me started on this unless we’re face to face. I will just say that I volunteer for some things. When I’m asked, I will do some things. When I’m told, my hackles go up so fast.

    • we must figure out a way to get face to face, Laura, preferably at a con. We still MUST take the world’s worst reading and get a circle of flies together for a dramatic reading 🙂

  13. I don’t know if anyone mentioned this, but I also think the truth is that “pay back” misses the truth that when a person is part of something they “pay as you go.”

    Even in the sense of “you couldn’t have made your fortune if you didn’t have public roads.” Maybe true, but paying back assumes that you didn’t contribute concurrently while you took that benefit… you didn’t provide a service or support for others or a useful product all along, but rather you built up a debt to “community” resources.

    And of course that isn’t true at all. Roads aren’t built for the benefit of the farmer, they’re built for the benefit of those that want to eat without growing their own food. The pay and pay-back happens simultaneously. Roads aren’t built for the benefit of Henry Ford, they’re built for people who don’t want their new model T shaken to bits on the way to grandma’s house.

    By the time to “pay back” arrives, everyone has completed their transactions.

  14. YES! The idea that, just by existing, I owe anyone anything – Ho, yeah, middle finger time.

    And also YES! about something I do for love becoming a horrible chore when it becomes an obligation (only for things I do for love; the day job doesn’t count) Even if it’s a good obligation that I agree with. I once took a full year to complete a picture that should have taken me a week, and it was commissioned by some dear friends, and it was a fun picture to draw. But the obligation took all the fun out of it. (For some reason, this doesn’t apply to classroom assignments – maybe it’s the incredibly tight deadlines that get my juices going, or that I feel freer to experiment with a classroom exercise.)

  15. Anyone else find it intriguing that the takers keep saying “give back to the community” while also saying “you deserve [item or benefit]?” If someone earns something, it is because they were “oppressed,” not because they worked extra hard for it.

    • I don’t think “earn” or “working hard” is in some people’s vocabulary; they really think that others are successful only because they were part of the right crowd, or they cheated somehow. It’s what they would do (and actually do), given power. But work and talent just doesn’t register. It’s a way to justify their own failure.

      I’ve seen this in more primitive, tribal societies – our tribe is in charge, we get everything, regardless of work or merit. It applies here if I give the job to my useless son-in-law rather than the more deserving and competent employee.

      • Closest I’ve seen is try so hard– always applied to people who aren’t successful, and who usually are doing something that’s obviously wrong but idealistic from the “give back” folks’ POV.

  16. One of my consistent themes, Laurie (when I’m being consistent, that is).

    Civilization, particularly industrial civilization, is an intellectual construct. Our emotional reactions were set by evolution — and we spent almost the totality of our evolving time as hunter-gatherer-scavengers. In an HGS society, you might find food, but nothing you can do will make more of it exist to be found; it’s totally zero-sum — if A eats, B doesn’t — and it’s almost totally luck — A finds food, B does not. But if the only people who eat are the ones who find food, the tribe dies; therefore “sharing” and all the concepts that lead from that evolved and became the basics of behavior.

    This is why Marxism appeals to so many people. It satisfies the emotional need for “fairness” in a zero-sum society. The fact that the society we live in is decidedly non zero-sum is ignored because it isn’t emotionally real; they are therefore free to demand measures that will, in effect, return the society to a zero-sum state, because they’re too blinkered to understand what they’re doing. They’ll happily and virtuously starve everyone in the name of “fairness”, and wail their discontent with the increasingly-limited resources all the way down.

    • There is more skill than luck involved in a hunter-gatherer society. If you are a good hunter, or good mushroom picker who knows where the deer or mushrooms live, you will gather a lot more food. That is not luck, it is skill and talent (and hard work)

      If on the other hand you are fat and lazy, and don’t want to climb the mountian you are unlikely to kill a mountian goat (and also probably won’t be fat very long, unless you steal someone else’s food). Again this isn’t bad luck, but is the result of laziness, and very likely a lack of skill, because being lazy you have never worked hard enough to develop the skills.

      Hunter-gatherer communities involve LOTS of hard work, and lazy people who expect you to ‘give back to the community’ are generally not appreciated and many times not tolerated.

      • Perhaps, though, that’s another route for the “fair” idea– not everybody can hunt. Part of why there’s women’s work is because women aren’t so good for bringing down big, dangerous game (and if they are, it’s a bad idea to have them do it because they’ll make babies who grow into guys who are EVEN BETTER at it than they would be).

        I know that it’s crazy to send your best craftsmen out to do dangerous stuff if they don’t insist on it, and ditto the ones best at doctoring. (Kill the healer!) Pretty much any person that can do something besides “deal with really dangerous stuff” shouldn’t be sent out to do dangerous stuff. Yeah, the dangerous stuff is absolutely vital— but if there’s a good supply of people who can do it, you restrict people from it. So women, master craftsmen (who will usually be old) and healers (who may also be shaman…shamen….shamans….Magic Doing Guys.) wouldn’t be taken out where they might get killed.

        People are going to naturally work in groups, because if you don’t, you only last one generation. (Pregnant ladies don’t hunt boars so well. Ditto little kids.) No love, no next generation, and no old age for that matter.

      • True, but orthogonal. Worrying about “fat lazy people” isn’t pertinent — they don’t last long in an HGS society.

        What is pertinent is women and childbearing. Childbearing takes an enormous metabolic toll; if the women are required to work as hard as the men are, they don’t have the energy to bear children and the tribe dies out. So the successful hunter, gatherer, or scavenger MUST bring the fruits of his labor back to the tribe and share it, or there are no babies and pretty soon no tribe. Since that directly bears on reproductive success, that’s what evolution selects for — which is why our emotions insist on “fairness”.

        Yeah, that’s simplistic; there’s a lot more to it than that. But it’s a blog comment, not an anthropology thesis (not that it would be accepted as an anthropology thesis nowadays).

        • Quibble– not so much “hard” as “dangerous“. Pregnant women can do a lot of very hard work– my mom was doing 12 hour cattle drives at 8 months, because they needed her– but they put her in stuff that wouldn’t get her hurt. Might die of exhaustion at 40, but you’ve already got the kids to where they can carry on alone.

          It’s just a quibble, and given that most of the stuff that’s “hard work” these days is more dangerous than just tiring so I might be quibbling on something that you just said but I didn’t hear.

          • ::shrug:: could be. What I think, though, is that you’re looking too far ahead in history. Cattle driving is a form of agriculture, and when a society reaches the point of agriculture there are lots of things that, while physically strenuous, return enough value that having women do the work is worth the investment.

            The HGS societies I’m thinking of come well before that; think “pack of wolves”. We evolved for a long time before we ever got around to sticking seeds in the ground on purpose or domesticating animals, and my thesis is that our emotional reactions to wealth and scarcity evolved in that environment.

            • Defensible reasoning.

            • Keep in mind that in American rural economies the women’s efforts provided cash flow — butter and egg money, kitchen garden — while the men’s efforts essentially constituted capital investment. Both were necessary to the successful household economy, each could specialize because the other filled a niche.

          • The other thing to consider is that if uterus-owning people do a lot of physical work, such that their fat reserves drop below a certain level, then they often don’t ovulate. No ovulating, no pregnancy. No pregnancy, no next generation.

            • Nods. There seems to be something else in that women who do a lot of stressful work stop ovulating. I’ve often wondered if that was the basis for having women not taught to read/do mental work. The culture I grew up in (though not my family, where every woman could read, as far back as we can remember — but then again we ran to two-three children, with four a rarity, so we might have reinforced the idea) outright stated that teaching a woman too much made her womb shrivel. We tend to think this was bigotry and “keeping women down” but I wonder if it was just observation. “So and so does the accounting for her husband, and they can’t seem to have kids” — repeated a hundred times.

              • Oy! I should’ve thought of that, I had that problem in the Navy.

                Leadership is also very stressful– if I remember how tribes work from a simplified view right, it would only take one or two in living memory for stuff to be established in the local understanding, and then it goes into tradition.

              • There is a study that college educated women usually only have zero to two children (one of those feminist studies… sorry if I can’t tell you where.) Plus if you notice, when a woman is incubating, her brain power drops… a lot of her chemical makeup is used to nurture the baby.

                I think it might be an observation. I thought that the less children may be because educated women started later with childbearing than other women.

                • I think it’s a multiplicity of factors: Later family start, stress, intentional prevention of pregnancy (contraceptives), and possibly less opportunity for sex if they have a demanding enough job and especially if the husband does, too.

                  Fact is, many Professional families choose not to have children, either because they have decided that they wouldn’t have time to raise them correctly, or so they have more time for themselves, or because they think that the world is too awful a place to bring children into.

                  • None of these apply to my ancestresses, who married at the normal age for their society. Grandma married at 21 (old maid, therefore) but then she had four kids, so that wasn’t HER problem.

                    • True– both of my grandmothers were college educated women who worked outside of the home before they went back to being house-wives to four and five kids. (On family farms, so not exactly House Wives of Whatever. Digression, that comes to mind because I’ve seen folks seriously act like that reality TV show is normal for housewives.)

                      That’s actually what I was thinking of with the hard-not-dangerous work. I’ve pounded grain to flour by hand before– ONCE. Brought in a lot of firewood, picked up fruit…. Actually, that would explain the dangerous/boring split up, especially with the stronger/ better endurance thing for men/women.

                    • The Goths and some similar Germanic tribes made women learn all the complicated education-type stuff, because the men were likely to be dead young unless they concentrated on the fighting and herding stuff. And Gothic women tended to have lots of kids (and go through a lot of husbands).

                      Of course, this led to things like Gothic clans deciding that a woman who married out of the clan really still belonged to her birth clan if anything happened to her husband, which led to significant in-law problems.

                    • well, it’s not so much the learning as the stress, I think? As in, if you are learned but all you do is read poetry, you’re probably okay. IF you are learned and trying to run a business and a house (trust me, I know whence I speak) you get all stressed out and stop the baby making.

                    • The key here is probably stress. The antediluvian body observes stress hormones and runs up the body’s Famine! flag, signalling systems to prepare for hard times and stop wasting calories … and certainly don’t be producing no babies when we’ve nothing with which to feed them.

              • In cultures without effective birth control a wife is likely to spend a lot of time pregnant. I have been told that growing miniature humans inside one’s abdominal cavity can swamp a gal with sufficient hormones to seriously impair mentation — sorta like the way guys lose IQ points when confronted with buxom bounty. Providing advanced education to somebody likely to experience serial mental impairment does not seem a practical course.

                • For some weird reason, while pregnant with Marsh — an otherwise perfectly OKAY pregnancy — I kept confusing Portuguese and English.

                  • Maybe it is nature’s way of preparing a woman for the intellectual level of her social milieu for the foreseeable future?? Sure, you can discuss existentialism and abstract art and jazz with a baby, but it tends to be a one-sided conversation (unless you call spitting up on your shoulder an appropriate response.)

                    I will note that many women have reported their offspring were music critics in utero.

                    • Robert only complained when I used my belly as a desk — specifically the electric pencil sharpener scared the bejeezus out of him, and he tried to come out the side of my belly. 😛

                    • Personally I believe spitting up is a very appropriate response to most abstract art.

                    • Actually it can provide a lot of enjoyment. If you don’t think so, you never followed the Hoyts on a ramble through a museum, doing tandem, live commentary. (NOT through the real art stuff there. There the only commentary is on how things were done. Only when you get to installations that are virtually indistinguishable from the city dump or “sculptures” of kitchen implements that you can get in my kitchen drawer after the kids get impatient and force it a couple of times.) We call it “desecrating modern art” and I think if we ever do it while there’s a con going on, we’ll invite my fans to come along. Robert and I are also thinking of doing “the Hoyts desecrate literature” podcasts with some of the stuff they had to read in school. Look, they do this stuff because they’re trying to be “cool.” They SHOULD be laughed at.

                    • ….Including that one where the guy and his son and his nephew drown, and they only find his son’s boot in the dad’s hand, and the dead nephew, but it’s supposed to be encouraging because there’s a live starfish in the dead son’s boot so that’s… something?

                      Gag, I feel sick thinking of it. What a navel gazing bit of lattice, and I don’t care if it’s supposed to be great. No wonder most of my classmates don’t read.

                    • Fox, when did you go through school? Because what they assigned my kids sounds WORSE. I swear to you.

                    • Graduated in ’01, but only had two English teachers in high school. One was a college English teacher who couldn’t take the politics (did the one I mentioned, {IIRC part, the section with the cat} of Hills Like White Elephants, and one about an invalid mother where the subtext is that the woman is a smothering mother that kills her sons spiritually) and one that didn’t assign us any reading not done in class until senior year, and then had us read it out loud in class anyways. Spent an entire year on “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and she made that unpleasant. I loved it when I read it through myself, even though I’d mostly read Forgotten Realms stuff up to that point, but now I can’t think of it without gagging a bit.

                      The “poetry” was so bad I can’t remember any of it, and I can recite
                      Fire Lizard Song
                      15 years after I last read it. (the whole thing, not that clip) For someone as flutterbrained as me with everything but poetry, that’s bad.

                      Oh, and I was in the middle of basically nowhere, so a few of the worse fads, especially those for “troubled schools” (that is, any not full of the kids of yuppies on a trust fund) passed us by.

                    • You didn’t get hit with the “magic realism” including the guy, wassname, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, bosom friend of Chavez in Venuzuela, so just the guy you want high schoolers reading…. so they never read for pleasure in their lives again…

                    • so they never read for pleasure in their lives again…

                      I thought that was the intention? Don’t folk who read for pleasure start thinking for themselves, too? Who knows where a thing like that could lead?

                    • I’d love to argue with that, but I was diagnosed as unable to read because I wouldn’t read those stupid “see spot run” books, so I wasn’t allowed to even look at any other shelf in the library.

                      Yeah, great way to kill off interest in reading. Maybe next they’ll graduate to electronics manuals.

                    • Yeah. Our kid was reading at 4th grade level in kindergarten. THEN his first grade teacher tried to convince us he couldn’t read and would never learn. AND THIS AFTER SHE HAD CONFISCATED A SIGNED PRATCHETT HE WAS READING IN CLASS (the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, which he was not supposed to take out of the house because… signed. He stole it back. Then he told me about it. This was good. I’d have repeated the march on Rome if he’d just told me she took it.)

                    • Magical what? There wasn’t any magic allowed, only the most depressing of straight mundane stuff possible– even charm removed. Closest we got was “Bridge to Terabithia,” AKA “Hey, let’s see how many kids we can have get excited about something fantastic-flavored, then hit them with stuff that makes cutting seem enjoyable!”

                    • TRUST me, magical realism ain’t got no magic either.

                    • I guessed it was kind of like the… what’s it called… “Mundane Sci Fi”– where you gut the spirit and keep the skin, wear that on the story. Just as depressing as it sounds.

                      Growing up, I had a grandmother who didn’t even like fairy tales– she had a nasty run-in with fortune telling. The stories she’d let us read, and that she told, were a thousand times better than anything I was assigned to read.

                    • Got hit with Gabriel Garcia Marquez in college. I just hate his writings. I usually will read even the most banal stuff… but I choked on his stuff… ugh.

                    • You mean, you don’t like the “mental taste” of evil? How odd!

                    • I don’t know why English profs like “One Hundred Years of Solitude” so much. I didn’t last two chapters before I put it down and never finished. When I have to do anything more with it I look for the Cliff notes. No way do I want to taint my poor brain.

                    • Y’all are making be glad I went Navy instead of College.

                    • The starfish story sounds better than some of the drivel we had to read, and I graduated in ’97. By far the best was 1984 (and some Shakespeare, but they are plays not books)

                      The race thing was big when I was in school (since we had no blacks in the community, much less in school I always found this odd) I recall one book where a rich white guy hired a young black man from the ghetto, who then proceeded, for no apparant reason I could ever figure out, to kill the rich guys daughter, chop her up, and burn her in the coal furnace in the basement. All of this described in the dullest manner imaginable. The moral I got out of the story was to not hire someone from the ghetto; which I suspect is NOT the moral they wanted us to get. Another book was a slice of life style book about a black woman fieldworker. With absolutely no plot, action, conflict, anxiety, or absolutely anything else of interest happening.

                      Luckily I had learned how to speedread, and simply skimmed enough to pass the quizes.

                      P.S. The teacher that assigned these types of books is the same one that took a Louis L’amour book I happened to be carrying, and a Harlequin romance a girl in class had, and used them as examples to the class. Supposedly L’amour and Harlequin were equal trash, written for the unwashed masses, and not worth reading by the more enlightened (like those of us in the Advanced English class) because the were simple storytelling, fit only for entertainment (which she seemed to spell with only 4 letters).

                    • Nah, 1984 was just mentioned ad nasium; can’t show Big Gov’t being bad. Just focused on the “anything stopping you from reading something I want you to read is bad” type version. (Ironic? Yeah.)

                      The Lottery was every year– it was anti-religion/tradition, so you gotta have that. Because it’s perfectly reasonable for folks who show all signs of being modern WASPs to be OK with random stoning by lottery.

                      The race thing… argh. If they hadn’t beat us over the head with it, I never would’ve noticed it. I’m still pissed about that. There’s no reason I should think of the brilliant lady in the class ahead of me as “black,” other than her younger brother being a total criminal thug of no special difference other than having a year-round tan and getting away with it at school because he claimed he was “African American.” Didn’t do anything different than the other criminal thugs in our small town, just got away with it. (Thank God we didn’t have anyone to tell her that being scary brilliant was “acting white” or some such BS.)

                    • Eh. My kids thought they were black until well into elementary. See, we’d never talked about it, and have black and white (and some bluish — i.e. they can’t tan if they try 🙂 ) friends, so the kids heard of “black” people and thought it referred to HAIR. Hair is black. Skin isn’t REALLY — more brown. So, logical. I’m very proud of the fact that they have friends of all colors and that they never remember to tell me what color the friends are. I’ll hear stories about these kids for months, then one day they show up for a party and I realize… yeah, they’re black. It matters THAT much to my kids, that they never mention it. OF COURSE, all their friends are geeks, but that’s something else.

                    • @Foxfier I went to college after I did my Navy stint. I was 42 when I finally earned my English lit degree so I was not as easy to propagandize. I had an English prof who encouraged my writings and another who hated my writings. It was interesting.

                    • My Daddy tells the story of the student, I believe from Moore College of Art, who had done a experiential installation for her graduate thesis. She had a giant vat of green Jello placed in a room, and stark naked, she ran and dove into it. Momma called it was chutzpah.

                    • Maybe I’ve heard that story? This would explain my obsession with jello vs art?

                    • I’m actually commenting on one of the other comments farther down in this thread, but can’t post a reply to it.

                      My youngest daughter spent her first year and a half in England, then we moved to Germany. One day she saw our black neighbor, and said “You’re brown!”. Luckily my neighbor was a good sport, and agreed with her. My daughter complained for six months that she wanted to be brown, too…

                      My high school days were 1960-64. Most of the books that kids use these days weren’t even WRITTEN when I went to school, and didn’t become popular until well after I’d satisfied all my English requirements (and then some) — thank God! My daughter loves “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and had an English teacher that didn’t massacre the book. If she’d only had a science teacher that knew ANYTHING about science.

                  • Bearcat – the dirty little secret is that English Lit majors, and their professors read romances like candy (hidden and in secret). They are some of the highest consumers of that type of literature. And while getting my degree in English Lit. I would read romances to relax my brain. 😉

                    • I only started reading romances (really) in the last few years. I read sf novels back to back (and cozy mysteries) while in college. The number of times I almost got run over in Porto because I walked around with my nose in a book! I didn’t read the assigned books. Well, except Austen, Shakespeare. I also read Tess D’Ubervilles and Effie Briest because the double meanings and symbolism were funny. Though to be honest I’d read most of the stuff assigned LONG before college. I just had to remember it.

        • No, your not being to simplistic, I was being simplistic for much the same reason (blog comment). I wouldn’t consider bringing back meat to your mate (or potential mate in hopes of convincing her to become your mate) ‘giving back to the community’. I would consider that more of a ‘labor of love’ and while it might be necessary if you want to have a family that continues to exist after you die, it is not a requirement, by the community in general, but by your family.

          I don’t think our emotions as males (at least mine which are all I can really vouch for) insist on fairness, but they do insist on protecting and providing for women. Unless of course the woman is always nagging that I need to protect and provide for her 😉

          • I’m not disagreeing with most of what you said Ric, it is very true. I was just mainly disagreeing with the comment that finding food was basically all luck, regardless of whether it is hunting, gathering edible plants, or healing (healing is an important skill tradeable for food) it is skill and hard work that is prized in a hunter-gatherer society.
            Everything you said about protecting the reproductive capabilities of women being equally important to the livelyhood of the tribe is true. And being reproductive is also; well maybe not a SKILL, but definitly an important commodity tradeable for food.

            • “Luck” is perhaps the wrong word, but I’m not able to come up with a better one at the moment. What I’m trying to get at is whether or not the Universe is manipulable. For the truly primitive HGS tribalist, no amount of effort will result in, e.g., the prey animal being there at all; he might put out an equal amount of effort searching and come back with nothing. Bringing it down is a matter of effort and skill; having it be there in the first place is random — “luck”.

              Darwinian-mechanism evolution is all about reproduction. Other issues arise only as they contribute to the ease or difficulty of making babies. Human societies can also evolve by Lamarckian mechanisms, by acquiring traits and passing them on via language, but that’s less effective (though faster) than Darwinian because it doesn’t affect reproduction directly. Our heritable characteristics, including emotions, came about by Darwinian mechanisms, and have to be overridden by intellectual effort or they control the way we react to things.

      • If the community requires a daily quantity of 100 mushrooms a day and the two hunter/gatherers sharing the task bring back 60 and 40, respectively, aren’t they equally contributing to the community? Either one alone would cause there to be insufficient mushrooms and the community fails. The principle of necessary minimum applies, I think. This is expounded upon in Matthew 20:11-15 in which the vineyard owner recognizes the marginal value of the extra harvest reaped by taking on additional labor at a higher wage justifies the higher labor cost.

        Similarly the principle of comparative advantage shows that a tinsmith who can make a two teakettles a day (market value $100 each) or four teatrays a day (market value $50 each) benefits from taking on an apprentice who can make three teatrays daily, assuming he can market all his goods and the apprentice (plus materials) costs him less than $150 a day because, as we all can see …

        I’m sorry – what was the question again?

  17. I think I might be misunderstanding (language barrier), but if you’re suggesting that a community is a freely-chosen group of people, then yeah, they shouldn’t have to be told to “give back” because they choose to be with those people in the first place and, given that they chose them, they’d help them without being told.

    I think a lot of people became annoyed when Pres. Obama suggested making the Sept 11 anniversary a “National Day of Service” because it came off as compulsory, which seems to be the problem. If someone had said “Hey, maybe we might want to help others out some in some small way on Sept 11”, I don’t think there would have been as much of an uproar. But then again, there are some people (Hi! I’m talking about me here!) who wonder why a special day must be recommended as that one day to help people and recognize certain things.

    Seriously. Am I not going to help people 364 days a year? Other than that one day that was chosen to “celebrate/mourn/remember”, I’m going to forget about it? I don’t need to be told when/where to remember what. Quite frankly, 10/12/2000 is a far more important date for me than 9/11/2001, primarily because I lost more friends that day than I did on Sept 11.

    Okay, I’m pissy today. Sorry. Back on to the topic at hand…

    The best part about this group pf people is that I _choose_ to participate with you. I want to be a part of this group; therefor, I want to help by contributing/talking/sharing with everyone. I’m doing it by choice. If Sarah had come along and told me I must join this group and there is no choice, I’d throw a bigger fit and purposefully dodge you all (yes, Dan, even you…).

    …and I totally lost my train of thought. Damn it.

    Well, that was my “I choose you!” moment.

    • True.
      Asking if people would take the day to help build up the nation, helping those around them so the entire group grows stronger would have been more effective.

      I don’t think he understands that sort of thing, though. Remember, this is the same guy who wanted to expand the “volunteer service” groups like Peace Corps to be bigger than all the military services.

      That which is not forbidden is mandatory.

      • Other way around — or it’s supposed to be — what’s not mandatory is forbidden. If it’s not in there (Article 1, section 8 & 9), the gummint ain’t allowed to do it. And the ignoring of that is the beginning of all our sorrows.

        M

        • Nil obistat si licit or something like that? (My google-fu is lamed by being on radio internet ATM. Seriously.)

          Sadly, the one I quoted is the one that seems to be lived out most these days.

    • Thanks for prompting the thought, warp: one part of the problem here is that not all contributions are “counted” by the communitards. For example, if I open a garage and employ a dozen people productively maintaining vehicle safety on our community’s roads, charging my clientele a price sufficient to cover my costs (word of warning: never ask an accountant to explain what actually constitute “costs” unless you’ve insomnambulism) and compensate me for my risk in investing in a business rather than tax-free munis … That represents taking from the community. But agitating a bunch of lazy slobs into protesting my garage because I won’t subscribe to some “affirmative action” scheme that requires my ignoring whether an applicant knows a pneumatic wrench from a sonic screwdriver is community organizing and I should underwrite it???? Sorry, but that really torques my nuts.

      • Again, the problem is that some people do it because they want it to be counted, others do it because it needs to be done.

      • Yes! One good businessperson who creates something of value to sell and employs a number of people does more good than any charity.

  18. Struggling to stay awake right now – spent the last few days at a convention and think I’ve got the plague – so will make this short or risk rambling on for forever. (As I do.)

    I doubt I’ve been around and commenting long enough to be part of the group you mention about, but in case I might possibly be edging into that territory since I have been commenting semi-regularly for awhile and hadn’t been commenting lately, nup: still alive and unoffended. xD

  19. The various cells that comprise my body are all part of the community that is RES. I do not fault my left hand for doing less than the right, nor begrudge the left knee its failure 32 years ago which cost the community ligament, cartilage and the ability to run like a summer zephyr. I do not admonish the hair atop my head its failure to contribute as much as once it did to the community that is RES, nor do I fault that hair which chooses to grow on my chin instead of more useful places.

    I will confess to enjoying certain members of the community somewhat more than others, but propriety forbids greater detail.

  20. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    First of all, let’s define community as it applies to any individual. What communities am I a member of? Well, I’m an American (Thank you, G-d, thank you, for allowing me to find my tribe.) I’m a Coloradan. I’m part of the science fiction community and the writer community. I’m part of a community of libertarian (note small l, guys) thinkers community. I’m part of the cat rescue community.

    So, what am I complaining about? Shouldn’t I be giving back to those communities?

    The Cat Rescue community is the most important one. Ask the cats 🙂

    As far as giving back the community – you give back to the SF&F community every time you write a book. Yes, you get money out of it as well, but you are still giving back. Your ideas will influence some other writer, just like Heinlein’s ideas influenced you.

    This probably isn’t what most people think of as giving back, but it makes sense to me.

    Wayne

  21. Sarah, I would *like* to be a regular commenter here. I keep reading these posts, and I keep being inspired to comment — usually a half-dozen or more inspirations touching various concepts, as I move through the post — but I am in a profession which makes it impossible for me to read any blogs before sometime in the evening. And then I hit the end of the post and see “85 Responses to …” (or “168 Responses”, in the case of the “Taboo” post), and … commenting feels like a waste of both your time and mine.

    I am, among other things, a retired Chief Petty Officer. A while back we were at the airport here in Norfolk to pick up a friend. Our friend arrived, we collected her bags … and I saw a group of kids with shiny-new haircuts and toting shiny-new seabags. I told my wife to wait while I collected them and led them to the other end of the airport, where the Naval Station maintains a courtesy desk for incoming Sailors. Being Sunday evening, it was unmanned, so I had to get an airport courtesy phone and call the Naval Station to get a van dispatched …. the point is, while I was compelled to do all of that, inconveniencing my family considerably in the process, and while I told my wife “I’m a Chief, I *have* to” … at no point did I feel that I was “giving back” anything. I did it to assuage my own sense of what those anchors meant when they were pinned on my uniform. To make ME feel good about ME. That it helped those young Sailors wasn’t the point of the exercise, nd I didn’t feel that I “owed” them anything. Satisfying the demands of my own vanity was the point.

    Harry Browne was a genius …

    • Thus we see explained the difference between voluntary and “voluntary” contributions to a community. At several points here EP could have shrugged, said “Well, I tried” and gone on his way. Would have, in all likelihood, had it only been part of his job. Communities are built by and upon the efforts of people who view community as more than mere economic exchange but as a commitment to uphold a standard.

      The bloggers at Powerline this morning had occasion to quote a lesson about community that George McGovern learned running a business (failed) after he left politics, which I take the liberty of reposting as germane

      I can recover eventually from the loss of the Stratford Inn because I’m still able to generate income from lectures and other services. But what about the 60 people who worked for me in Stratford? While running my struggling hotel, I never once missed a payroll. What happens to the people who counted on that, and to their families and community, when an owner goes under? Those questions worry me, and they ought to worry all of us who love this country as a land of promise and opportunity.

    • I’d call that an act of love, myself.

      You care about fellow humans, you empathized with the booters (thank you for that– heaven knows that Chief Kelsey was a delight to me when I was a shiny noob) and you acted in a way that might have made things mildly uncomfortable for you (since you’re around your family all the time, and will probably never see those kids again).

      Then, as the cherry on top, you assign the action to a non-admirable impulse, rather than a good one. Nicely (and oddly, the snark in me sneers) admirable!
      (Honestly, the good chiefs I knew were like that; the tiny minority of politicians were a different thing.)