The Future — it is Open

There is no sword about to fall on your shoulders.  The world isn’t coming to an end.

To those of you rapidly paging down to yesterday’s blog, no there is no contradiction.  The people – at least for now – in charge of our destiny as a people are performing acts of astonishing malpractice.  Things can get very, very sticky.  As sticky as a wad of chewed up gum that got covered in stickfast.


So, what am I talking about now?  Do I really expect you to think there is no problem?

No, of course I don’t.  Look, you silly critter, when did anyone ever promise you a problem free time to live in?  Not only was that always highly unlikely – you have read some history, right? – but you’d probably end up finding it boring if it came about.

We are in an exceedingly tight spot and our foreign policy of speaking softly and carrying an apologetic stick is going to get us in wars.  On the other hand we are and have always been the most innovative civilization in the history of mankind and we have some awesome fighting machines.  (And those are just our guys.  You should see the mechanical ones.)

What I’m trying to say here is that there is no predetermined outcome.  Decay and loss of power and civilizational strength is a choice, not an inevitable destiny.

The big difference between 1984 and Friday is that no one dropped a Heinlein character in the middle of 1984.  The big difference between The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and Brave New World is not much greater.

In other words, you’ve been sold a bill of goods by the cultural elite that kept all the entertainment and information industry locked tighter than a drum until very recently.  Not that they wanted to consign you to depression and despair, mind.  No, they had a bright dream of their own (some of them still do) which went something like this: capitalist society is doomed, therefore it collapses, and beyond it arises the great day of equality and perfect communism, where we shall all be like onto gods and—

The problem is that capitalism proves remarkably hard to kill, and then when you manage to kill it, SOMEHOW the bright day of perfect equality never dawns, possibly because a society that makes humans into things can’t function because humans aren’t things.  But I digress.

So the poor dears have to try harder to show you how bad capitalism is, and then when communism doesn’t work, well, frankly they’re just fed up with humanity, so they show you how that doesn’t work either, so that in the end what passes for all literature and entertainment and art becomes the loooooooooooong sustained whine of a two year old who’s just found out he can’t have a pony and (appropriately) a little red wagon “But I waaaaaaaant perfect communism!  You promised you’d give me perfect communism!”  followed by “I only can’t have perfect communism because capitalism is a poopy face, humans are poopy faces, reality is poopy face.”

Or, if you prefer the “high end” of that kind of expression, as translated to science fiction, the future is rusty and closed to the possibility of new invention and technology and nothing works, and it feels like the 1930s redux, and then they all die.

These are the people who say space travel isn’t really sf, and no one would have adventures in space, but of course, if you read them these are people who grew up in comfort unimaginable to kings and princes of even a few years back, and who think you can’t have fun anywhere, and that, frankly, we should all listen to them when they say incredibly stupid moralizing things like “you can’t go to space until you learn to take care of the Earth.”  (Why?  The Earth might very well turn out to be the least of our worlds.  Our cradle, sure.  But anyone who knows how reality works, knows if we had had to stay in Europe till we learned to take care of it, we’d never have expanded to the New World.  Because part of learning is to experience new things.)  This is sort of like SF written by the devotees of a scatological cult.

Wait, it is SF written by devotees of a scatological cult.  They believe the Earth is overpopulated, human invention has finished its run and we’ll never get further technologically, and besides, no system of society works.  (What they mean is that no system works perfectly, which is how they demand that all systems but socialism work, and of course socialism doesn’t work at all.)

They got hold of the publishing houses late seventies which is when most people say they stopped reading SF – though they don’t tell you why, because most of them don’t know.  They just know that there was nothing on the shelves for them.

Well, I’m telling you why: because at that point the supposed writer-entertainers started selling gloom and doom as our only future, the same gloom and doom people were getting from their schools (we were all going to freeze to death) their newspaper (coming ice age because of the sins of industrialized society) and even their scientific publications (coming ice age for sure, the only good thing was that it would probably exterminate humanity.)

I think I was twenty nine when I realized that all these prophecies of doom weren’t true.  I remember the big sigh of relief when I realized the Earth probably wasn’t overpopulated (Statistics suck, overpopulated is not what you think it is, when tech allows us to survive on the produce of smaller and smaller areas and at any rate, the world, MOSTLY is full of empty space) and that even if it were, that was just a spur to invention and with more people we had more minds to invent things.  I’d assumed till then I was living in twilight years (and sparkly vampires hadn’t even been invented yet.)

Yesterday a lot of people in the comments said they hoped the feeling of doom would pass, just like it passed before.  I agree.  I mean, I remember the Carter years, and the people preparing to go back to the Earth.  There’s always something a little silly about that, anyway, because when a crisis like that hits, it hits in ways you don’t expect.

At any rate, a lot of us are having 70s flashbacks, and in my case they are worse than most.  (I appreciate that a lot of Russian immigrants agree with me, but to them I want to say “you have it easy.  You didn’t see the fall and if you had it wouldn’t be in a modern society.  In my case… PTSD might better describe what’s happening.”)  But they’re also reassuring in a way, because we didn’t end up in the soup then and maybe we’ll escape now.

Don’t yell at me.  I’m aware – very aware – we are all of us in much worse shape than in the seventies, for several reasons, among them a slow bleed away of competency due to our execrable school system.  But – this is important – while our kids are uneducated it doesn’t mean they’re stupid, and nothing wakes you like a bucket of unemployment in the face.

Also, the feeling I have about the American economy is that of a barely restrained horse, wanting to be racing.  Many things could loosen it and two of the simplest would be the end of regulatory insecurity and permitting us to exploit our vast mineral wealth, to wit oil.

Never happen?  Don’t bet on it.  Now the things after that, including a simplification and defanging of the tax code… that I can’t promise you.  But I think we have a fair shot at the first two.

And if we don’t?  If it all goes pear shaped?

Well… Portugal – and other countries – have lived through bankruptcy.  There was civilized life of a sort still going on in Lebanon in the middle of the civil war.  Things just become very weird, and ways of doing things become odd, and supplies can become irregular (which is why it’s a good idea to have some stop gaps laid by.)  Yeah, you might have to be more careful when going out.  Yeah, you might have to fence your yard.  No, you won’t like it.  But in the end all of that are minor adjustments.  Yes, even the bars on the windows and tall walls around the houses are minor adjustments.  You aren’t catapulted suddenly back to the 10th century with no reprieve.

Remember the difference between a dystopia and a dystopia with a Heinlein character in it.  Be a Heinlein character.

In other words, to paraphrase the man, if faced with the choice between being a live lamb or a dead lion, be a live lion.  As he noted, it’s often easier.

Don’t give up.  Don’t accept decay as an inevitable fate.  Fight.  Improve.  Think up new ways to do things, and new ways to get around problems.

We’ll do.  We’re humans and humans survive.

(Human Wave.)

174 thoughts on “The Future — it is Open

    1. Does anybody know if the military was counted as part of that fraction? All of us are dependent on the government for our income (thank you, tax payers, one and all), but I’d be very surprised if that many voted for the POTUS in November.

      1. I’m a military retiree, so yes – a good part of my income is a government pension, and I have no intention in the world of voting for Obama in… six weeks. My daughter who collects a small VA disability payment for injuries sustained on active duty also has no intention of voting for him either. I suppose that would count us as being on the 47% list. My other earnings are taxed, though.

        1. My hubby is also a military retiree, plus works also. He will not be voting for Obama. I am not a retiree although I was in the Navy six years during Desert Storm. No benefits for me except I guess I could do VA if I dared… I do have tri-care because of my husband’s pension. I will not either. Plus I don’t think the military retirees should be considered on the 47 percent list because unlike Congress (and other critters) the military earned their pensions giving up a lot of their health in the process.

          (My disease trigger is pointing towards my job in the Navy and use of organic chemicals.)

              1. My retiree check is taxed, and so is half of my social security. It’s still not enough to require me to pay taxes, just taking the personal and standard deductions. The government does have the use of about $170 of my money each month to play with before they have to give it back to me.
                My VA disability is non-taxed.

                Cyn, see the VA. If nothing else, getting your illness declared service-connected will be useful for you in the future, even if they don’t declare you ‘disabled’. Because my problems ARE service-connected, and I have a VA identity card, I can go into any VA hospital and get emergency care, regardless of where I am in the US. Finding a VA hospital is a bit of a problem, but that’s another story.

                1. It has been a while since I looked at it, and I’m too lazy to do any research, but … My gut instinct is that progressive income tax rates exacerbate class resentments rather than ameliorate them. They embed the premise of “from each according to his ability to pay” and justify the principle of inequality. Given a flat tax it is much harder to complain about some people not paying their “fair” share (but still withiin the ability of our demagogues.)

                  Such rates are also an incentive to game the system. A 20% flat tax is a much lesser reason to scramble for any possible deduction than you get from a 50, 70 or 90% rate. People overlook that your mortgage interest deduction is a) essentially useless if your interest is less than your standard deduction and b) of much greater value the higher your tax rate.

                  Another factor often overlooked is that payroll taxes are intended to fund specific programs which promise (not that it is a promise they have — or intend — to keep) a return on your investment. Though called taxes they are more accurately considered insurance, payments against a future eventuality. (To be fair, any private insurance company making the return on investment claims and employing the financial accounting of Social Security or Medicare would find themselves indicted and convicted of enough crimes to keep them incarcerated until shortly before the heat death of the Universe.)

              2. I heard a military guy complaining on the radio the other day (and what he said made a lot of sense). First the military pay is taxed, remember all military pay IS tax dollars to start with, there used to be a term for this kind of giving and then taking back your gift, but it is no very un-PC. Then, our government hires civilian taxpreparers to come on base and prepare military personnels taxes for them. All military personel can have their taxes prepared for free, by these private taxpreparers, who are being paid by the government (again with tax dollars). Think how much money we would save if they just paid the military what they will get after taxes, and didn’t charge them taxes. We could save all the money paid to these hired tax preparers, plus all the wages paid for IRS employees to go over and randomly audit our military personel, and as an added sidebonus we would save our military men and women a large headache and wasted day every year.

                1. YEP – also when I was in Germany, I could only get an absentee ballot from my State for presidential elections (Utah at the time). Then if they didn’t have a cancelled stamp, then the ballot wasn’t counted. If you know anything about the military postal service, they don’t get cancelled at the post office… it is supposed to be cancelled when it gets into the regular postal system. So– it doesn’t get stamped right… so it doesn’t get counted.

                  Catch 22 for the active duty military … over and over and over again.

                  1. This particular thing makes me mad as h-ll. The voting age was changed (this is how I understood it) so that the military man in Vietnam would be able to vote since he was expected to fight at 18.

                    1. Oh, because your vote is too important and ballots too complicated (they are, after all, different for every district and virtually every district.*)

                      I remember the argument for lowering the voting age, “if we’re old enough to fight, we’re old enough to vote!” It was much later that I figured out the two require very different skill sets. Voting involves judgement, evaluating alternate courses of action and their probable effectiveness as well as the characters of candidates stooping for office; fighting in the military requires you do what the eff you’re told, without any effing questions without any effing hesitation.

                      I also remember the 2000 Florida recount when the Democrats’ mantra was “Count EVERY Vote (unless it was submitted through military post)!” The bases for rejecting ballots submitted by the men and women Gore wanted to command were varied and intricate. Fortunately for the Left, hypocrisy is only a sin when committed by those who endorse a morality above winning.

                      *Yes, I know that it would be a simple simple simple matter to require every precinct’s ballot be put up on the ‘net as a pdf file, and ridiculously cheap as well — but where’s the political benefit to that?

                    2. Yeah, I know – if we’re going to have honest elections what’s the point? Eliminate graft and we’ll put a lot of hard-working wardheelers and shoulder strikers out of business, forcing their families to starve, starve! Sorry – I was thinking with my head instead of my heart or my crotch.

                    3. But you fail to note that the Left would like the requirement for you to vote to be the same as the requirement to fight.

                      “do what the eff you’re told, without any effing questions without any effing hesitation.”

                    4. Point Conceded. Their main objection is people who do try exercising judgement in voting. Understandable; where would this country be if people asked questions of their unions, ward heelers, elected representatives … in short, of their betters. If people don’t learn to stay in their place the resulting chaos could doom us all. Doom, doom I tell you! We’re all going to die and its all your fault for asking questions the answers to which you just wouldn’t understand.

                      Anarchist! Next you’ll be asking publishers to provide reliable sales figures and (gasp) sell books that readers want to read.

                    1. Keep in mind that in many states there are volunteers standing by to cast your absentee ballot for you, and allowing you to submit it would cause needless confusion.

                      Besides, they will make sure your absentee ballot will be cast for the correct candidates.

                2. You do realize you are saying the Crown should eschew being seen bestowing gifts, don’t you? The way it is done, the Crown gets to bestow two gifts instead of one. And only evil, nasty, mean-spirited cynical people would notice, much less raise the points you have. Shame, shame on you, ungrateful subject.

                3. Great googly-moogly, bearcat! Don’t TELL anyone working for the Government how dumb that is (granted, there are a few who get it)! More likely than not, you’ll get someone who gets all up in arms (and in the Military, that’s likely to be literal) about, “I pay my taxes just like everybody else!”

                  I spent a season at the IRS Mail Room in Covington, KY many years ago, and I pointed this out to someone. I nearly had my head bitten off. You’d think I accused them of being a horse thief.

                  1. This brings to mind when the Daughtorial Unit was young and I would have to giver her money so that she could buy me a birthday present.

            1. … and if that practice isn’t the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of, I’ll kiss a monkey. “We’re going to pay you X number of dollars from the money pool, but then we’re going to take Y number of dollars to replenish the money pool. And we’re going to pay this guy Z number of dollars to administer that.”

        2. I do not think that those who, like your daughter, collect for injuries sustained on active duty are the problem.

          The problem are the ones who think that it is the government’s job to take care of people, to provide shelter, food, clothing and health care to the people just because they reside here and continue to breath. Some of these believers aren’t even on that dole feel this is the charitable way, and they will gladly use the government pick the pockets of those who are working to provide shelter, food, clothing and health care for themselves and their family to do it.

          1. Still – even though it was more or less a private talk with possible donors and backers – I do wish that Romney had made it a bit clearer that not all that storied 47% were in the bag for Obama. I’m prepared to cut some slack, since at least he came out and admitted that a good chunk of the O-man’s appeal in certain quarters is that he will keep the bennies coming.
            Until he can’t…

      2. As far as I know, that number was just a baseline, “here’s the number of people who pay no income taxes” talking point. it’s impressive, but doesn’t say much about where the money is coming from. I’d expect you’re right about not many Military or retired vets vote for him.

        A lot of Progressives try to claim that the Military are by the definitions of the “RightWing Fascists” leeches on the government as well, but they don’t make a distinction between those who are not producing anything of value, and those who are working for pay. I suspect this is deliberate, in an attempt to get Military people to either reject the very ones who respect them and vote for those who despise them, or at least to get them to throw their hands up and not vote at all.

          1. *Raises hand* I really really really want to be paying taxes right now. Never thought I’d say that!

            1. well… You’re talking to the woman who has a button on her corkboard that says “Taxation is theft.” I used to wear it on tax day to annoy my kids’ teachers.

              And this year taxes are going to hurt. They’re really, really, really going to hurt…. however, it would be worse if we weren’t working and therefore net recipients.

              1. We have always been net recipients, even when I was making what we thought of as pretty good money (30k/year). That doesn’t make me happy – I don’t know if it’s possible to refuse the money they send – but we do our best to make responsible use of the money: paying off debts, laying money and goods by for emergencies, etc. So while my comment was meant as shorthand for “I’d love to have a job right now”, I’d really love to be making enough to be a net payor.

                1. If/When you Greedy Gusses earn [strike that, insert: make] enough money to be net payers of taxes, just remember: you didn’t build that. It takes all of us, producing paper, ink, printing presses, distributors, book sellers, all moving their wares on roads and bridges built by the government with money they took from producers every step of the way.

          2. Actually they changed that a few years ago, now they DO take taxes out of unemployment, which has of course already been taxed once. (that isn’t to say that if you stay unemployed you may make a small enough amount of money to get it all back at the end of the year)

          3. Nah, even then, nobody wants to be a tax payer, but there are a lot of folks who really, really want to be making enough that they’d have to be…

            1. That’s what I mean. One of the GREAT things about America is that we’re unapologetic about not liking taxes.

              BTW, on the blog thing, let’s move it forward beginning of October. (I’m traveling/busy till then. Interesting times.)

        1. Long experience of arguing on the Internet has demonstrated to me that no argument, no matter how carefully phrased, is incapable of being parsed, misunderstood and misrepresented by a determined opponent.

          Romney’s statement was NOT carefully phrased. He casually commingled the 47% of the population which pays no federal income tax with the 47% that will automatically pull the lever for the candidate with the capital D. There is not a perfect overlap of the two groups, probably no more than 60%, but the folks spinning the argument are indifferent to Truth as a value any way, any more than their complaints about edited videos from James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas stings mean they care about the … conveniently time break in the Romney clip.

          And it is all a distraction from the guy who declared voters (and elected) should “reward our friends and punish our enemies.” Would that he applied that principle to foreign policy.

          1. I think what he said was more that “47% of the population” was on the government dole, and would vote for Obama in order to keep the money spigot open. Unfortunately, that may not be the case, and a few people may have been turned off by this. Also remember, this was recorded back in May, while Romney was talking to a bunch of financial donors. Mostly what he was saying is that he needed money to convince the independent voters and the people on the fence to vote for him.

            The truth is, there are 88 million people who are no longer in the workforce for one reason or another – primarily because there are no jobs. There are 46 million people on food stamps. There are millions on welfare, and millions on disability. Some of it’s legitimate, some of it’s not. All in all, there are a lot of people who aren’t being productive, and depend on the federal government for survival. Those are the people Romney was talking about, and what he said, while the numbers may not be accurate, is still mostly the truth.

            1. Not all on the government dole are unemployed, IYKWIMAITYD. For example, government employees using labor unions to extract fisc from the government wallet beyond what their economic utility might justify and without regard to their productivity or effectiveness. Campaign contributors getting loan guarantees and favorable regulatory decisions or, contrariwise, non-contributors not getting regulatory decisions to their favor (cough*boeing*cough*gibson*cough*coal-fired electric generators*cough) also represents suckers on the federal teat.

                1. And the Ethanol you’re forced to burn in your car rusts out the engine and reduces your mpg … but buys votes in Iowa.

                    1. In WWII, the government paid a subsidy for mohair in the US to use in its uniforms. Mohair hasn’t been used in uniforms in 45 years, but amazingly, we still pay the subsidy.

                      Your tax dollars at work. 😉

                    2. No, it was used for the care of Mo Howard’s hair on the Three Stooges. That bowl-cut look is hard to maintain, you know.

            1. Pension funds focusing on government bonds to generate steady predictable income flows are termed “widow and orphan funds” for good reason.

              This administration’s policies have undermined the value of such funds’ capital base and reduced the interest paid to such funds, materially harming the fiscal security of those relying upon such funds.

              Q.E.D., this administration is waging a war on widows and orphans.

              While two can play the game, only one side is allowed to get away with it.
              “NUTS,” said Hillary, “If I had them I’d be president.”
              “BALLS,” said Barack, “I don’t have them and I’m president all the same.”

  1. Sarah… thank you, thank you, thank you. I was driving into work this morning, wondering how I was going to make it through the next seven weeks. This was just the reminder I needed, at just the time I needed it.

  2. I saw Story Musgrave at WorldCon. Heinlein characters are real. When it all falls apart, expect civilization to restart somewhere in the vicinity of the Musgrave home.

        1. The wild hog population is spreading rapidly across the US, despite all efforts to exterminate them. There are worse things to immulate.

              1. Due to the tendency of wild hogs to be tough, they need to be slow smoked, to tenderize them, before either grilling or barbecuing.

                  1. Well, if you want to get technical about it, yeah… For pork, I prefer Apple Juice mixed with Apple Cider vinegar, to punch up the acid level.

                    1. Tusk, tusk. People bristling at a few word jokes? You shoat be ashamed of yourselves. Sow can you call yourselves readers if you farrow your brows at one or two porcine puns?

    1. It is probably a personality disorder, but this inspires in me a desire to see a collection of rewrites of such stories as Heinlein’s The Roads Must Roll and Godwin’s The Cold Equations as contemporary SF, making clear to one and all how the field has fallen.

      1. Does anybody else see those critiques of The Cold Equations purportedly coming up with a way to save the girl and think, “Okay, what we have here is, in Mannie’s phrasing, a mighty tall child?”

        That. Is not. The point. You idiots.

        Yes, we should fight to the bitter end, and if there’s no way to win, we take as many with us as we can to serve as an honor guard. But that does not mean that sacrifice is not a real thing which must be made when called for. And the Universe, from time to time, will call for it. It doesn’t care one millibean, let alone a hill of ’em, about the fact that you are cute and innocent and young. That is the point.

            1. Oh, I was once cute in a Donny Most/Ron Howard sort of way. Innocence has always just been a cover story, though. Since 60 is the new 30, or whatever the Boomers are deluding themselves with these days, I’m still young at 42.

              I would consider it a great cosmic irony if someone perfects rejuvenation technology right after the last Boomer croaks. It will probably be Jane Fonda, though only six or seven percent of her body will still be legally considered human.

              1. you know… and I know… people within five years of your age either way dream of that. I know because I’m close enough to the five year cuttoff and young at heart — HOWEVER remember some good people, including commenters here are boomers. Unless we find a way to cull the bad ones…

                1. We just have to either:

                  1) Convince them that bungee jumping is the coolest thing any senior citizen can do, or

                  2) Implement the Heinlein Voting Booth Mark II. (“Get the question wrong too many times, and the booth opens – empty.”)

                  1. I have too much sense to throw myself down the side of a snowy hill with polished boards affixed to my shoes. Why in the world would I fling myself off a bridge or precipice tied to a piece of a giant rubber band?

                    1. Me neither.I hate heights – or more precisely, the prospect of falling off them. Now ang again I have thought perhaps I should do something about getting over this … and then I thought … No. In the words of the country-boy WWII Navy recruit who was offered a position as either an air-gunner, or a submariner: “I don’t want to be higher than the corn, nor lower than the potatoes.”

                2. As a boomer I find the idea of rejuvenation appalling. As the creaking joints of dotage grind away at my energy levels, the blithering idiocy of youth erodes my spirit. Frankly, I do not know how many more presidential elections with their great outpourings of condensed stupidity and badly concealed cupidity I can take.

                  Rejuvenation while surrounded my this madding crowd??? Please, just shoot me.

                3. I don’t want to live forever. I would get aggravated at watching people make the same mistakes over and over. Now an improved metabolism and flexibility would be appreciated.

          1. So my being cute and somewhat innocent and somewhat young doesn’t count for much?

            It counts for a great deal. It means we will mildly regret spacing you … although the demonstrably defective sense of humour goes a long way toward mitigation of that regret.

      1. One of the best HW-ish quotes I’ve ever read, which still resonates with me today, is:

        “Broken, scattered, and scarred, they took stock of the situation and squared their shoulders to the task ahead.”

  3. a slow bleed away of competency due to our execrable school system

    Observing my kids, I’m not so sure about that. Having information about nearly everything ready for the taking on the Internet makes for a very interesting educational experience. Right now they mostly research video games, but the oldest is nine. It will change.

    1. Yes, the internet is changing this. I’ll get the kids coming into my room and going “Mom, I just read about this” which was never taught to them in school. Teh internet is glorious.

      1. The ‘Net is also one of the biggest gifts to homeschoolers of the past century, and homeschooling is the best* answer I’ve seen so far to the failing public schools. Because of the particularities of my job, I interact with a lot of parents who homeschool their kids — and without exception all the homeschooled kids I’ve met have been well educated and well socialized — usually better educated and better socialized than public-schooled kids of similar ages.

        Better educated is no surprise given the dire state of most public schools these days. But better socialized surprised me until I thought about it. Homeschooled kids tend to have more interaction with adults (their own parents, other homeschooling parents in the local homeschool co-op group, parents at their church/synagogue/temple**) than public-schooled kids, whose main social interactions are with kids of their age groups. Result: kids who know how to interact well with polite adult society, and who will be much more likely to (say) favorably impress a boss at their first post-college job interview.

        * Assuming you have the time and energy to teach your kids, which not all parents do. A good private school (they aren’t all good) is another excellent option, nearly as good as homeschooling — and better than homeschooling if parents are working full-time jobs and can’t afford to quit them to homeschool their kids. But homeschooling tends to produce the best results of any of the options I’ve seen.

        ** Most homeschooling parents tend to be religious and devout — not all, but most. The reasons why would make for an interesting essay, but this isn’t the time to get into them.

        1. I was definitely one of those kids who got on much better with adults than i did with most of my public school peers – and it took me years to un-do a lot of the social damage from public school (I’m not sure I ever will un-do it all). I had some very close friends, thank goodness, but they were also kids who got on with adults better than their fellow teens.

          Granted, the older I get, the more I think no kid gets on well in public school; some just hide it better than others.

          1. Public school pedagogy abandoned kids in Middle School to sort out their own socialization norms. And gives them Lord of the Flies and Catcher In the Rye to read. Who would imagine such a methodology would yield bad results?

        2. I saw two major groups at the North Carolina Home Educators fair. The one made up of people with various religious convictions and the other left over independent hippie types who would not trust the government with their children. It was fun watching them, from the Mennonites in plain dress and the tie-died interacting over tables of progressive phonics readers in the dealer’s room, all looking for the best way to educate their particular children.

    2. Unfortunately the last three generations (more or less) have had to deal with Marxism slipping into the school system. Plus coming out of the system semi-literate (I saw that happen to my sisters).

      Fortunately this newest generation is getting better educated through their own efforts… The Internet for all (it used to be for the gov. & research universities) has been a major game changer.

    3. Don’t be so sure of that. Speaking as a reformed hard-core gamer (I worked nights in radio so had entire days wide open to me), video games today aren’t just designed to be “fun”. They have gotten far, far more sophisticated than that, to the point of designing the action/reward system based on Skinner and other behavior research. In other words, they know exactly how to stimulate the correct responses in our brains that keep us playing…”for just a little longer”.

      The very first time you observe any of your children get surly…IN THE LEAST, when told they can’t play or that it’s time to shut it off…it’s time to start what we call in our house, “playcations”. I don’t know if that’s an actual term, but it works in our house. It means no gaming from x to y dates.

      Further, it’s helpful to use something like a digital kitchen timer. Put it on the table, shelf, desk, whatever where they play, set it for a certain time, and hold rigidly to the rule that when it goes off, so does the game. Just a tip here…you might want two set identically. I gave this advice to my younger brother who’s 10-year-old was playing three hours of wargames on Xbox a day. The kid figured out that he could reset the timer to give himself an extra ten/fifteen minutes and poor ol’ busy mom and dad never noticed. Keep the second one next to you where you are. You could simply set your own timer, there are plenty of smartphone apps for it, but putting it next to the kid starts conditioning them to watch the amount of time they are playing and, after a while, they’re going to get used to finishing in that amount of time.

      I cannot stress enough how important it is to nip this problem in the bud before it turns into something very ugly.

      1. Excellent advice. I enjoy computer games myself, as I don’t watch television, and after several hours of reading for class I don’t always want to delve into Silverlock or The Apocalypse Codex or whichever book is currently sitting forlorn on the shelf. But sometimes I have to forcibly give myself a reality check: “What have I accomplished today that has significance in the real world?” If the answer isn’t much, for my own standards of “much”, and the reason for that is that I was doing flash games or whatever (as opposed to being ill, or having other disruptions in my life) then no computer games for me for a day or two.

      2. For most of my life I’ve been a pretty hard core gamer, then I wrote my first book, then it didn’t go anywhere and I went back to being a hardcore gamer because I couldn’t mentally focus on anything but THAT book, then Pymander Press was started and promised to pub my book, and I found I could write again; now, after a decade of playing MMO’s for up to 16 hours straight at times, I’m lucky if I log in every day, I prefer to be writing, or obsessing about writing. It is possible, for an individual to burn themselves out on a hobby. I think part of why I’ve not burned out writing in the past two years at all, is because I can only be burnt out on one thing at a time, and I really can not play games anywhere close to what I used to, or enjoy them the way I used to. (But I still need some sort of distraction while brain is processing the subtle things in my writing.)

        1. I really like WOW, and I really kind of want to get the new update just so I can play through (and get my main character, who has an elaborate backstory in my head to Level 90.) But since I started writing seriously I can’t get into it because I feel guilty that I am not writing.

      3. I put many, many hours of effort into years of gaming, until one day I looked at the computer, looked at what I wanted to do in life, and said to myself “Why am I spending time on this? What will it give me in five years?”

        I miss spending time doing things with friends online, but since then, I’ve accomplished a heck of a lot more and stranger things with my life.

        1. Just in terms of hours, think about the musical instruments that could have been mastered or foreign languages learned. That’s what did it for me in the end. I still play a shooter or a 4x when I’m in the mood for vacuous entertainment…as most TV is pure shite these days, especially as evidenced by yet another lame prime-time sci-fi attempt…(cough)Revolution(cough).

          Other than that…I simply don’t have the impulse anymore.

  4. While it’s still a little collective-actiony, one good solid sci-fi cure for TheFutureSucksitus is Bradbury’s The Toynbee Convector. (Yes, I just mentioned it on the other thread. Shut up.)

    We’re going to make it. Between here and there things are going to get hairier and scarier. But we’re going to make it. Because I refuse to entertain any other possibility. And so do a lot of other people who have a lot more to say about it than I do.

  5. Plan for the worst, look for and hope for the best, and you’ll come out ahead either way (unless the Universe wakes up, finds the coffeemaker is broken, and you happen to be the first person it sees. Then all warranties, guarantees and previous service agreements are null and void.)

  6. Sarah… I was directed towards your writing by the great Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, and I find you such a breathe of fresh air from the zombies and political elitists in our midst. The election brou-ha-ha has really got me down, and I have tried to focus on the positive, but to no avail. Thankfully, your writings and point of view are helping stem the tide. Keep it up. And, while I am not prone to the fiction-side of the aisle, I just may have to make an exception in your case…

      1. I can imagine one or two. Literary (In-laws once gave me John Irving’s Hotel New Hampshire. No idea why – I s’pect it was a regift; I read it. All. The. Way. To. The. End. I was not sorry about the people who died. I was sorry that they didn’t all die and expunge that novel from my memory.) I doubt you will take up sports fiction. I strongly doubt you will turn your hand to porn. I could go on.

        1. The only redeeming virtue of _The Hotel New Hampshire_ is the Queen song it provided us (“Keep Passing The Open Windows”, _The Works_ — the band was supposed to have written the soundtrack for the movie, but had to pass; that song is what survives of the project).

  7. “Remember the difference between a dystopia and a dystopia with a Heinlein character in it. Be a Heinlein character.”

    Words to live by. I think I want a T-shirt with that one on it 🙂

  8. I remember the 70s well especially around 1979. We lived in a rural area and we had goats for milk. BTW if you want good milk, cheese, etc with a good lawn more consider goats (or one goat). The get more bang for the buck than a cow and will eat almost anything.

    The neighbors would trade produce. We would get potatoes and corn from some of the farmers and would give them tomatoes. Every fall the neighbors would get together at the church (members and non-members) and have a big festival. If someone was ill, the neighbors would be over with food. It was very different than today.

    It was a harder life in some ways for us. We saw a boom in wealth when Reagan became President. I remember the words spiraling inflation and high unemployment. The last straw was when the embassies were over run by radicals in the Mid-East.

    I was having a flash back to that time. Just a few days ago. I don’t think that a lot of the kids today can even grow vegetables. I did notice this last year that many of the apartments were trying to grow tomatoes off their porches.

    There is some hope … I know that many of the teenagers and young adults get their news off the Internet sites. I also see that my brothers’ who are about two generations behind me (counting it as 7 years a generation) are getting more involved with stating their opinions. Two of them own businesses and understand what killing capitalism will do to them and their families. They are the lions.

  9. Science Fiction remains “The Literature Of Hope”, to me. People have been saying the world is about to end for two thousand years at least. As long as there are enough “Sons of Martha” to stand “Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s day may be long in the land” — we can pull through. But it will not be easy. And it never was.

    And now …. enough of this, back to work!

    (See for those don’t recognize the poem. )

      1. Great article. As he points out, space travel is inevitable as long as energy production keeps increasing, and energy production increase is inevitable because it is a sure means to get wealth.

        Those who say we won’t get to space are actually right. WE won’t get to space, if by “we” you mean an organized humanity. Individual we’s will get to space, however.

        1. Great article. As he points out, space travel is inevitable as long as energy production keeps increasing, and energy production increase is inevitable because it is a sure means to get wealth.

          My antagonist is stuck in our region of space about 300k years ago without working FTL and without the means to create one. (he’s a geneticist). He knows that all sapient races that achieve sustainable fusion are a hop, skip, and jump from discovering workable FTL. As anyone knows, he muses, it’s as inevitable as bows, sails, and steam engines. So, he takes the hominids he finds inhabiting a planet around a nearby star, juices up their DNA a bit, finds himself a nice asteroid to sleep in for a few eons, and comes out when his sensors tell him we’ve Got Fusion.

          The prologue shows the champagne celebration of scientists and engineers firing up the first sustained fusion reactor and, unknowingly, signing the death warrant for 5.5 billion people.

        2. If you really want to mess with one of these types, point out that space travel is a reality and we are all doing it right this second. On a hab about eight thousand miles across. If we can’t figure out how to make a hab eight hundred decameters across work, what in Bog’s name makes them think we’re competent to run this one?

      2. I go through phases where I can’t read sci-fi or fantasy for just this reason. I get better, but while I’m in them if you tried to put a “the future’s gonna rock” book in front of me I’d shove it up your nose. Sideways.

      3. “Fatalism: …a species of fear – the fear that your fate is in your own hands, but your hands are weak.”

        — “Art and Fear” David Bayles & Ted Orland

  10. When I first saw the gas stations with two prices, one cash and one credit, the first thing I remembered was the Carter years. (The first political event I can recall is Carter’s election.)

  11. While I do think we’re going to have tough times ahead, I’ve also seen too many predictions of “doom” that didn’t come to past.

    While not a Heinlein character (lack the needed skills) and have a mom that even a Heinlein character would have problems caring for, I hope that I’ll be around to see the better times after the tough times.

    1. To my mind there’s only one ‘skill’ required of a Heinlein character, and that’s more of a mindset. If you have a resourceful mind, you’re never out of options.

      “Never give in, never surrender.” Oops, wrong movie. Oh well. Still fits.

  12. Thanks, and yes, I agree (especially on those ’70s flashbacks). Whatever happens, we will get through – aren’t we the ones that do everything anyway? THEY don’t, other than talk, and talk is easy. (I’ve decided the whole basis of left-wingism is to force someone else to do it and someone else to pay for it, and then stand around taking credit.)

    My parents tell much worse stories of the Great Depression, poverty like we simply don’t have anymore. And it usually takes a disaster to motivate people to make real, significant change.

  13. They believe the Earth is overpopulated, human invention has finished its run and we’ll never get further technologically, and besides, no system of society works.

    I’ll tell you what; I actually was worried in the late 70s-early 80s about tech having run its course, because it seemed like innovation was slowing down. Little did I realize that first, part of the slowdown was because of the attitudes of the time, coupled with the fact that some of the bases of the things we are doing now took somewhat longer to turn into useful items (probably because of the slow economy) than they should have. Now, things are running so fast it’s almost impossible to keep up.

    As far as society goes, eh, people are a cussed bunch, of course no system works perfectly.

    1. like the complete idiots now who say unemployment will always be high because there are too many humans and machines have made work simpler. P-LEASE! I heard same in seventies.

        1. Machine take the low-end of the labor pool, doing routine and somewhat routine tasks. The difference between the left and right wings seems to be that people on the left believe that a significant part of our population is incapable of doing the non-routine jobs that open up.

          1. Ori – the Left NEEDS people to be dependent, in order to guarantee their vote. “The downtrodden masses” are easily swayed. If everyone had an education that would allow them to succeed, if there were so many jobs that even the sick, lame, and lazy were being seduced into working, the left would be without a base to appeal to.

            1. The Left needs people to be dependent so they have something to feel superior and self-righteous about – “Oh, you poor little (minority-of-choice), you need my great white help, you couldn’t possibly succeed at anything otherwise!”

      1. The best argument against that is empirical. If it were true, you’d have seen a decrease in total employment since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and you haven’t seen that.

      2. By and large, they’ve been wrong and you’ve been right. However, as every student of history knows, the only thing worse than being wrong is being right too soon.

        Logically, if average productivity keeps increasing faster than the rate of population increase, there must come a point where we don’t need everybody to work to produce enough for all of us to have some target level of good and services. The thing is, though, our system is set up to a) require continuous increase in the level of productivity and b) require most people to participate in the means of production. We don’t deal well with large numbers of unproductive people and we really don’t deal well with growth which is flat or negative. The problem is left as an exercise for the student.

        1. Why, we do what every civilization before us has done when afflicted with excess population (whether of some undesirable faction or in absolute numbers): send them off somewhere relatively distant to start a colony 🙂

          Now, for the Greeks, just across the water into Italy was far enough (fun fact: Naples is pure Italian, isn’t it? home of the pizza and all? That name comes from Neapolis, the “new city” founded by a group of Greek colonists), but for this day and age, I do believe I’d settle for the Moon. Mars if I can’t get it.

            1. I don’t consider perfection or perfectibility as theology– but you can have your own viewpoint. 🙂 Philosophy –maybe. An observation–certainly.

  14. Thanks for this reminder, you know my mindset lately is a little pessimistic and it is good to see some old fashioned Heinlein bootstrap determi9nation as a counter. And I particularly love this line “On the other hand we are and have always been the most innovative civilization in the history of mankind and we have some awesome fighting machines. (And those are just our guys. You should see the mechanical ones.)”

  15. While there are people out there decrying that the Internet these days is too segregated–that is, you have people hanging out with their own political tribe instead of having the more universal webzine/discussion forums of the 1990s (such as–I tend to think it isn’t segregated enough. It should be segregated not only Right vs. Left, but pessimist vs. optimist.

    When you have someone like John Derbyshire saying “We’re doomed!”, it may be an ironic joke to him–but to someone who takes it seriously, it leads to either (a)suicide by cop, or (b) cutting deals with the enemy, since they’ll be victorious anyway. When you have a Human Wave attitude, the options are much more numerous.

  16. Semi-OT, so I apologize in advance, but I recently found some archival stuff that led to other archival stuff that gave me an idea for a history book that will 1) fill an empty niche, 2) let me tell some great Human Wave-type stories, and 3) appeal to readers and to several local private grant-making foundations. And if I work things right, I can sneak it past the history gatekeepers by using a reputable independent history press *insert gleefully evil grin here*. And I got permission to use some photos in my other book free of charge, which really helps trim the amount I had budgeted for rights and royalties. *bounces in chair, does little happy dance*

    OK, back to work.

    1. It’s amazing how much history is hidden in the open. That is, the facts are there for people to find, but since no “respected” players mention them, they are widely unknown.

      Example: the (relatively recent) history of the gun rights movement. There is a leftist version of facts, there is the Establishment GOP version of facts, and there are the facts.

      Leftist version: the NRA, which is a lobbying organization for gun manufacturers, has forever held a stranglehold on gun policy. Nothing has changed–but it will! because gun control is Progress, and you can’t stop Progress.

      Establishment GOP version: there was a crime wave that caused support for gun control to spike in the 1980s and early 1990s. Clinton and the Democrats passed the assault weapons ban, and the voters responded by electing a GOP Congress that saved the day for gun owners.

      Fact: Gun control was always the project of political elites, with little actual support among the populace. However, polls were manipulated to seem to show widespread support for certain gun control items. The confluence of a radical left-wing Congress and a Democrat president in the early 1990s got some of these items passed in 1993 and 1994. This resulted in the election of a GOP Congress, which immediately proceeded to stab gun owners in the back by refusing to repeal the AWB and, in fact, passing the wildly unconstitutional Lautenberg Amendment.

      By the late 1990s, gun owners were starting to give up hope. The Columbine Massacre seemed the final straw: gun control opponents began openly advocating confiscation, and a book by alleged historian Michael Bellesiles claimed that gun ownership was rare in the early US, and was largely fabricated for the benefit of Colt Arms.

      This caused gun rights supporters to once again take notice. When the Clinton administration successfully forced Smith and Wesson to agree to much of the gun control agenda, 2A activists responded with a boycott on the Internet that ultimately brought S&W to its knees and sent a message to other gun makers. They also were able to use the Internet and improved communications to establish that Bellesiles’ work was a fraud, and as a result he was stripped of his Bancroft Prize and his publisher ceased publication of his book.

      In short: the story of the 2nd Amendment movement is much more drawn-out, more interesting, and more damning of both major parties than you will ever discover from watching either MSNBC or Fox News.

      1. Or that Clinton deserves credit for the 90s economy (other than credit for not strangling it in the crib, what credit he does deserve is for planting the seeds of the housing collapse a decade later.) (He also had nothing to do with the recovery from Bush’s recession; that had begun by August of ’92.)

        Look at a graph of the Dow Jones Index for that decade and you will find that the slope changes drastically upward almost on the very day in 1994 Republicans won the Congress. Cutting Capital Gains rates stimulated investment and the Internet companies followed the same track as prior technological advances (look at the railroads in the 19th Century and automobiles in the 20th) of rapid expansion, multiple manufacturers and industry standards followed by a period of consolidation as more successful companies absorbed the less successful to collect useful talent pools and patents. The only thing unusual about the Internet cycle was the speed at which it occurred.

        Rapid economic growth also enabled balancing the budget in spite of the Government’s profligate spending and stimulated the native optimism of the American people.

        The facts are that, in spite of a media spotlight on the Presidency, the ability of the Chief Executive to affect the economy is highly limited and is mostly effective as an economic constrictor (yes, I just said the president is a sphincter, an economically defensible declaration.) Back in the 80s nobody imagined that the computer industry could (not wouldcould) expand to the point where Apple (APPLE!) would be the World’s Biggest Corporation. So why would anybody believe the prognosticators now?

  17. I’ve always been a Heinlein fan. I recently picked up a book I hadn’t known existed from a local second-hand book shop. The title is “The New Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein — Expanded Universe. The back says it contains “7 never-before-collected stories, 14 never-before-collected articles, and previously unpublished commentaries on all of the above.” This is an updated version, published in 1980, of the 1966 version, and contains quite a bit of new information.

    I haven’t finished reading it yet, but it’s extremely interesting. Robert and Virginia Heinlein were far more complex people than most who have not met them know. His vision of the future hasn’t exactly played out, but some of it is very close. If we don’t correct our course at this election, we may have to resort to guns and bullets to do so. The success of that will be decided by which side the US military decides to back. Right now, it could go either way.

    Having been on the “inside”, and in a position to see things most citizens don’t, I can truthfully say to Sarah, “you have no idea, but you’re thinking is in the right direction”. Consider this: today’s infantryman – just one – could wipe out an entire cohort of Roman Legionaires single-handedly. Without breaking a sweat. There isn’t an armored unit in the entire world that can move more than a half-mile without us knowing it within 24 hours. One of the problems we have in Afghanistan (and in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and a hundred other places) is that we have to keep track of ALL of the threats to our nation, regardless of where they come from. That’s a boatload of data, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Only the most important items, according to the chief analysts, is presented to the President every day. Even reading 1000 words/minute, it would take the President at LEAST an hour to read his intelligence briefing, and having it presented in visual-plus-interpretation mode would take longer than that (I know – I’ve prepared some of those items – for Jimmy Carter, no less, who HATED intel).

    The Internet gives us an equal opportunity to keep track of most places. It takes a LOT of reading, a lot of studying, and almost constant tracking. If anyone thinks differently, just read the Page-1 stuff at Fred Pruitt’s Rantburg for a few days. Instapundit, by comparison, is easy. The average person can easily get information overload. That can cause some serious problems of its own.

    Unfortunately, we have a lazy president that doesn’t think much of the military, the intelligence community, or his foreign affairs responsibilities. We ended up with another “Jimmy Carter” moment, another dead Ambassador, and another overrun embassy, while the President does the only thing he’s really good at – campaigning.

    In the meantime, the only thing I can say is read. Read the Internet, read GOOD science fiction, and read historical novels, to learn how our ancestors handled a similar situation when it arose – as it has many times in our history. Stockpile a little, prepare a lot, and pray for the best.

    1. The premise for SF is that, while technology changes, Human Nature does not. David Drake’s RCN series admittedly recycles ancient history, Other writers are only slightly less open in their sourcing.

      They hate the future for the same reason they hate America; the Future IS what America was:

      “The cowards never started/The weak died along the way/Only the strong survived/These were the pioneers.”

  18. Born into the US Army, raised all over the world, and continued to do that for years after, one thing I have learned is that humanity is tenacious. We just keep growing in places one would think was barren of all possibilities. I once visited a resort in Burma, beautiful, posh, every need was met. However, on a trip into the nearest town, we passed an area where people had built shanties over the swamp. Rickety, dirty, no shade, no escape from bugs and critters, ragged kids running around, but the people were smiling, laughing, and happy to have a place to sleep at night. Two miles down the road, all the tourists lived in luxury at the resort. But the locals, just went on living as best they could in the place where they were.

    In Hong Kong, we had a lot of Filipina women working as domestics in our area. As the Relief Society President for our local Branch of the LDS Church, it was part of my duties to make sure they were treated well, had enough food, and a place to live. Many of them lived in what they called the dorm. One day I went to check on a sister who had just given birth. The “dorm” was an old building, crumbling in places. There were no less than five people to a room the size of a standard bedroom. (10×10) Families with children lived in one room. Some families had rooms next to relatives, but they all lived crammed together. There were few children, in fact, the woman I visited was sending her baby back to Manila to live with her parents while she continued her job. Anyway, these women, were happy, smiling, loving, caring women. The supported and helped each other in all things. They learned to live where they were. They had jobs, and they were supporting their families at home.

    So, if the world goes to pot, and everyone has to start over with less, we will managed. The difference is that Americans tend to be the type that won’t sit around a wait for someone to bail them out. The majority of us will get together, come up with a plan, set it in motion, and get on with life.

  19. speaking softly and carrying an apologetic stick

    That is no stick our government wields. It is, at best, a junior Nerf bat.

  20. The prophets of gloom and dismay
    Drove bright, shining futures away.
    Some writers cried, “No,
    Your shadows must go!
    Our new Wave shows readers the way.”

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