Shock Therapy

I’ve been reading an awful lot about England in the twenties.  Part of this is to feed the elephant child, who, for the time being, is fascinated with the period between the wars and then World War II.

Part of this is that I’m working – at last – fairly steadily on the overdue novel, which means I don’t have emotional space left for fiction.  No, I can’t explain it, but fiction demands from me a level of emotional engagement, both to write and read, that non-fiction doesn’t.  So when I’m working on fiction, particularly when I reach the stage where I’m pulling everything together, I simply don’t have emotional space left to read fiction.  This is when I read non fiction as it falls under the hand, or according to some craving.  (And when I’m emotionally exhausted, I default to reading ONLY about dinosaurs.)

The current craving is England mostly between the wars (though some WWI also, and eventually WWII.)  If this works, once the long overdue novel is done and Through Fire – the sequel to A Few Good Men, from the POV of Zenobia (Zen) Siena – also, I intend to run a kickstarter for an historical mystery project.

As I’ve said before I’d like to write… Agatha Christie fan fiction. I have sort of a character at the back of my mind, and a setting – right after armistice.  In fact, the first book would be called A Death In Victory.

Agatha Christie fanfic is not exactly what it is, of course – for one most of her novels remain under copyright..  I don’t intend to use her characters or her settings – exactly – simply to set the characters in the same time period, in the same general middle/upper-middle class and to – and this is very important, because none of the books currently doing this dares do such a thing (and though they’re somewhat successful on Agatha-Christie-fandom-fumes, none of them has been as successful as she was, either)– have her snide solidity of common sense behind the character’s motivations.

What do I mean by snide common sense?  How can common sense be snide for heaven’s sake?

In our current day and age, common sense can be almost startlingly subversive.  Agatha Christie, possibly the best selling author over the longest time period ever, is derided by the bien pensants just like Heinlein is, although their politics, their way of life and the feeling of their works are almost – note the almost – completely different.

Sometime ago I read an article by one of the literati lamenting his tendency while drunk to order Agatha Christie books which he called “drunk dialing Agatha Christie.”  I confess that I thought better of his drunk self than his sober one, who referred to Agatha Christie’s “hackneyed plots and wooden characters” making this compulsive mystery reader wonder if he’d read any of the more recent “wonders of the age” and acclaimed darlings.

But of course he wouldn’t recognize today’s hackneyed plots because he would consider them daring.

And here we come to what’s bothering me this morning.

I’ve come to the conclusion what annoys today’s critics and fashionable readers about both Christie and Heinlein is the same thing.  Though they bought, somewhat into the ethos of their time, both of them were stubborn enough or talented enough to make good members of the choir.

Oh, please don’t misunderstand me.  Christie was in many ways a thoroughly conventional woman.  All you have to do is read her thrillers, in which the political understanding sounds like undigested drawing room conversation, or even the treatment of communists in her books, who are viewed as something only idiots are scared of.  She was, in many ways, an echo of the bien-pensant of her day.  But with that, she had a certain amount of horse sense.  Perhaps she got it from her grandmother who, in my reading of Christie’s autobiography, left a very Miss-Marplish impression.

In her own space, among her own people, of her own class, she could make her own observations.  And the observations she made are not the kind of thing the bien pensant like to believe.  Take some of the current mysteries set in her time: every woman longs for liberation; every young man was made a pacifist by the war, or else suffers from a retro-projected Vietnam Vet syndrome as portrayed in movies of the seventies and eighties (and apparently exceedingly rare in reality.)

This allows Christie to look at the fashionable nightclub crawling women and divine beneath the fashionable dissipation a longing for domesticity.  It allows her to treat the upper class communists as poseurs.  And it reaches beneath to show that the bright young things were much like everyone else since the beginning of time: they wanted to partner, succeed and reproduce.

This is Christie’s unforgivable crime as far as todays cognoscenti are concerned.  Had she spent her time bemoaning the horribleness of proletarian living, the oppression of women, the unique racism and evilness of western culture, she’d be required reading in schools today.  (And not nearly as popular, but that’s something else.)

Heinlein’s crime is to an extent similar.  No one could accuse Heinlein of  being conventional—but a lot of what he did then has become conventional wisdom now, from self-consciously having varied ethnicities in his books, to tweaking conventional morality and religion.  His goal was – I think – to make people uncomfortable and to make them think.

But like Agatha Christie he had a certain practical horse sense, come, I think, from growing up in a family that lived, financially, close to the bone.

He might enjoy goring sacred cows, but like Christie he had no doubt that sacred cows or not, Western culture (and in his case American culture in particular) was the most prosperous and advanced in existence, the one that had the best chance of propelling man forward to a destiny among the stars.  He also dared have women who liked men and wanted to have children (in his defense, at the time that didn’t even rise to the level of a sacred cow, it was simply an observation of human nature and biological fact.)  He also had the nerve to claim that Western Culture was worth fighting for.

So, despite everything they would otherwise agree with him on, the cognoscenti rage at Heinlein as they rage at Christie and call him names and more or less shame people into not reading him – because if they did read him, they might find out that he’s none of those things and find within his writings that thing that intellectuals today can’t face: hope for the future and a belief in the basic ability of the individual to live his own life within Western Culture.

Because I’ve been reading about the twenties, and about what was going on culturally then, I’ve come to the conclusion the reason that people who want to appear educated and “smart” object so much to authors like this is that these authors pull you out of the recursive loop that has caught Western society “high brow culture” for almost a hundred years.

Look – we do know that cultures are like individuals in one thing: they can get shocked and fall into neurotic behaviors.  Only the culture is not a very bright individual.  In fact, in perception of where it came from and where it’s going it’s probably comparable to a six year old child, misinformed, confused, and horribly emotional.  This is true – particularly these days, when we are so widespread our information gathering is done by a very few people, and when we are largely illiterate (look, our level of people who read for pleasure is exactly the same as in Shakespeare’s day) and so most of our entertainment – in movies and games – forms our view of history and where we came from.  And those are controlled by a view of history that has been disproven, is a-historical, and is in fact formed by the shock-reaction to World War I.

World War I was terrible, and for many reasons, including the prevalence of pictures and news, the fratricide/civil-war quality of it, the massive number of casualties.  It shocked an entire generation into … writing an awful lot about it, and into trying to tear down the pillars of civilization, believing that Western Civilization (and not human nature, itself) was what had brought about the carnage and the waste.

Do I need to tell you they were wrong?  That they were wrong in turning against Judeo Christianity and Western civ, and capitalism, and industrialization?

Yes, to an extent those, by bringing about an affluent and organized society made it possible for the carnage to reach the levels it did.  BUT it didn’t create the conditions that brought the carnage about.  And tearing it down certainly doesn’t stop that type of carnage.  In fact, the horrors of World War One have been bested man on man, terror on terror, shock on shock, by China’s Cultural revolution, Stalin’s purges and the soggy blood-soaked piles of corpses from the societies who rejected Judeo-Christianity (it has become fashionable to ignore the fact that Hitler was, in fact, a pagan, who promoted a pagan ethos with a vengeance.  Just as it’s become fashionable to ignore that he was a socialist) and western civilization (no, worshipping mythical Arians or “the proletariat” is no part of western civilization.  It is part of the tear down) and family structures (have you read The Communist Manifesto?)

None of this has penetrated our cultural/literary/thought scene, though.  There all of this is still counter-cultural and a little shocking.  If you mention Stalin’s purges, they’re tell you capitalism is worse, man, because it kills your soul…  or something.

The idea of tearing down Western Civ continues, even though there is remarkably little to tear down.  The “speaking truth to power” still fits the 20s definition of being sexually daring, verbally shocking, and saying bad things about the west…  even though everyone in power now are people who believe and say exactly the same things.

Like a child shocked by WWI and having both externalized the blame – Listen to a six year old, sometime “I didn’t break the vase.  It was the cat.”  Same thing “I didn’t cause death and carnage.  It was capitalism and old white men.” – and misattributed it – states looking for resources and expanding their power through bureaucratic means was more important than competition for raw materials, whatever you heard in school – the idiot child that is Western civ continues rampaging through her room, tearing everything that made it comfortable and useful and a good place, and throwing it out the window.

No, of course I’m not saying everything about the early twentieth century was perfect.  Yes, of course greater participation of women in both politics and work, a break down of social barriers and greater racial integration are a good thing.  They’re also unique in the world today.  Other than Western civilization and countries influenced by it, the evils of racism, sexism and rigid class (and tribe) structure are, if anything even more hardened than they were before.

That I’m saying is that Western civilization AND capitalism (particularly the greater affluence created by it) are what brought about the erosion of those ancient evils to which ALL OF HUMANITY is prey.

Blaming Capitalism or affluence or industrialization for those evils is like blaming the cat for removing the scones from the oven and eating them – with jam and cream, mind you.  (Yes, younger kid did that.  He seemed absolutely convinced it was true, too.  He was four.)

And invoking to resist these evils the untamed primitive (No?  “Smash capitalism” and well… OWS in general) which IS the found of these evils is not only insane, it is counterproductive.

It is also where our culture has been for the last twenty years, caught in a recursive loop where everything – such as the collectivist massacres and poverty around the world – that doesn’t fit the narrative is swept under the rug, and “shocking” things that shock no one are continuously hurled Tourette’s-like at the one civilization that COULD have been shocked by WWI or seen anything wrong with death on that scale.  (Hint, other cultures BRAG of how many they kill/how many of them are killed in war.)

Which is why people like Christie and Heinlein are reviled.  Because if you read them you might get the idea that well… there were people wanting to smash capitalism back in the twenties, and that they were poseurs and a little ridiculous.  Or that women CAN be competent, brilliant and still wish to create a new generation of humans.

And then, where would we be?

I’m not a psychiatrist, but I looked up what to do for someone who is caught in a neurotic recursive loop of counterproductive behaviors.  Apparently one of the ways to fix this is to correct the misapprehension and projection at the heart of the loop.

So, I say – break the cycle.  Speak real truth to power.  Write of war and evil, sure, but as human ills, and not as the result of the unique badness of Western Civilization (or civilization) or capitalism, or affluence, or industrialization.  Dare point out that while humanity has had savages aplenty, few of them were noble.  Dare point out that while civilized man can be conventional, conventional behavior is often decent and moral and better for everyone.

Smash fake intellectualism.  Speak truth to power.  Dare write of individuals who can and do control their destiny and make things better (or at least try to.)

Administer shock therapy.

Write Human Wave.

If you’re good at it, soon all the “right thinking people” will hate you.  What more could you want?

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers and thank you to Glenn Reynolds for the link.

187 thoughts on “Shock Therapy

  1. Been doing this in historical fiction since 2006; I firmly believe that our actual and metaphorical American ancestors were brave and decent people, the dreams they had were worth pursuing … and that historical reality is usually a great deal more complicated and interesting than conventional knowlege would have it.
    And really – writing all this, and about brave men and strong women who love them has actually gotten to be quite subversive.

    1. Above comment is actually me – doing a lot of website stuff this morning, forgot to log out and log in again. Apologize for the confusion. Although I should mention there is some good stuff on the IAG’s freshly-rebuilt website…

    2. Above comment is by me, actually. Doing a lot of website maintenence this morning, and forgot to log out of one and into the other. BTW, there is a lot of interesting information on the newly-rebuilt IAG website; a lot of indy authors have been New Wave without realizing that they were.

  2. I should probably try Christie again. I read one Christie novel that i can remember, “Murder on the Orient Express.” I read it on the beach at a lake. Years later, I went to the theater to see the great movie based on the book. Incredible cast, so well done, I heartlly recommend it. And sitting there, I could remember reading the book, to the end, I could remember where I read it, but I could not remember the ending. Think about that. “Murder on the Orient Express.” I could not remember the ending. I don’t what weird memory block hits me with Christie.

    1. That memory block isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. It’s what allows me to enjoy Nero Wolfe books over and over again.

  3. Wonderfully said, Ma’am. The period 1918–1953 is one of my particular specialities as a (thoroughly amateur) history buff, and it’s my belief that you have nailed it exactly about the twenties.

    If I may be permitted, this bit —

    The idea of tearing down Western Civ continues, even though there is remarkably little to tear down. The “speaking truth to power” still fits the 20s definition of being sexually daring, verbally shocking, and saying bad things about the west… even though everyone in power now are people who believe and say exactly the same things.

    — reminds me very much of what I had to say on the subject in a piece I wrote a good many years ago: ‘Superversive: The failure of subversion in imaginative literature’. Possibly a few of your readers might find it of interest. If not, pray forgive me for the link.

  4. I just erased a post that was, in essence, a string of superlatives. It’s exactly what this demands – but it just looked stupid 🙂

    Well done. Well done, indeed. And really makes me want to get back to work on Annie 🙂

  5. [WWI] shocked an entire generation into … writing an awful lot about it, and into trying to tear down the pillars of civilization, believing that Western Civilization (and not human nature, itself) was what had brought about the carnage and the waste.

    Sarah, I think you may be mistaken about this. From what I’ve read about the Modernists, and from my readings of all of them, they weren’t trying to tear down the pillars of civilization; they thought that WWI had torn down those pillars already–that Western Civ had just destroyed itself– and they, as artists and writers, were creating content from tabula rasa, without any structural guides or precepts. Which is why there is so much impenetrable prose (Joyce), incomprehensible verse (Eliot) and introspective contemplation (Woolf) in Modernist work. In some cases it would lead into dead-ends like Dadaism and nihilism, in other cases to biting satire (Waugh, Wodehouse) and in still other cases to cynical world-weariness (Parker, Benchley).

    The wilful destruction of societal institutions was the avowed work of the Post-Modernists (pox be upon them), whose philosophy rests on the precept that Western Civ is evil/malignant rather than the civilizing force we know it really is. Don’t get me started on this filthy bunch, or your bandwidth costs will explode.

    1. well — there were two currents in the twenties. People like Waugh thought we’d gone seriously wrong somewhere. (Where and how was misattributed, I THINK — and was trying to go back to the time before it went wrong. A lot of his tearing down is with the intent of rebuilding a traditional society that never existed) but other people like the utopianists were absolutely trying to tear down stuff because they thought if Western Civ were gone then: Utopia! The post modernists have simply continued tearing it down with no expectation of Utopia — though sometimes not so covertly with the expectation of “dictatorship with the RIGHT people in charge.” They did think it was the fault of modernity and capitalism and… It’s just that they expected something greater to emerge from their “rebuilding” — which involved tearing down what remained — the post-modernists don’t. It’s all relative for them and morality doesn’t exist… the little prigs.

      1. Actually, you have to divide them into the artists and the socialists/Fabians–although, as with GB SHaw, there is an overlap, as always. The Webbs (Sidney and Beatrice) were utopian politicians, their vision of utopia as socialism, and their writing is as predictably dreary as all writers who have a “message”. While, say, TS Eliot may have sympathized with some of their precepts (capitalism sucks), his take was that of an artist, not a polemicist, and his exploration of the Modern Age more incisive and inclusive than anything ever written by the Webbs.

        The difference is as great as that between the LGBT activists (who are part of what I call the Screechers ‘n Preachers set) and an artist like David Bowie, who with ONE ALBUM (Ziggy Stardust) did more to further acceptance of “alternate” lifestyles than the LGBT crowd have managed in a decade of activism.

    2. “and in still other cases to cynical world-weariness (Parker, Benchley)”

      What’s cynical and world-wearying about _JAWS_?

    3. What’s impenetrable about Eliot? “The Waste Land” takes more than one reading, because of its unusual technique, but if you read it repeatedly (and I found it evocative enough to repay doing so), a clear theme emerges, and, in fact, what I can only call a conservative one: The evil of sexual sterility and promiscuity. See for example the seduction of the typist, or the long conversation in the bar about the woman who ruined her teeth by taking an abortifacient to end her sixth pregnancy. All of which fits in with the Fisher King references.

      Then of course there is Eliot’s true classic work, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (which, by the way, is available on iTunes, as read by Eliot himself, as I just discovered). Robert Heinlein lists it among the few books Hugh Farnham kept in his fallout shelter. . . .

  6. Sometime ago I read an article by one of the literati…

    Well, there’s your problem! As far as I am concerned, taking note of the self-identification as such by the soi disant — scorn quotes — “literati” is purely a matter of time management. If I know who they are, I can avoid their witterings in favor of something more edifying and entertaining. Say — John Norman or “Oh, John Ringo, no!”

    I am amused by your referring to the Elephant’s Child as though you yourself were not possessed of a similar ‘satiable curtsiosity. Mm-hmm. You keep saying that. ::grin::


    1. well, I THINK he was an editor in NYC, but he might have been one of the precious dahling writers or a critic. I don’t remember. He didn’t identify himself as literati, but he’s filed that way in my brain, and I don’t want to expend the effort to track down his entirely forgettable identity.

      As for the Elephant Child — I was never there. And besides I was led astray by evil friends. You can’t prove it was me. It’s a fair cop, gov.

  7. Agatha Christie fanfic is not exactly what it is, of course – for one most of her novels remain under copyright.. I don’t intend to use her characters or her settings – exactly – simply to set the characters in the same time period, in the same general middle/upper-middle class and to … have her snide solidity of common sense behind the character’s motivations.

    So, you plan to Solar Pons her, eh? Deucedly clever, old bean!

  8. Whether they intended to or not, I think the Left has set themselves up for some pretty NASTY shock therapy over the next two to six years. I also think they’re in for a big surprise as more and more small businesses go underground, as their 50-year war on Western Civilization results in a crash to make the 1930’s look like a golden age, and as it sets the West, especially Europe, up for open attacks from the Muddled East. I will do my best to set the stage for a positive recovery, but I’m just one person.

    My particular historical specialty is the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, and its influence on the rest of the world. The only “bright” spot in the entire Communist world is China, which has instituted a quasi-capitalist economy. Cuba is a disaster, Venezuela is a disaster, the Sandanistas are in charge in Nicaragua again, and Bolivia is on the verge of total collapse. Areas in Africa that have embraced capitalism are flourishing, those that have quasi-dictatorial governments or outright dictatorships are in retreat. As Walter Russell Mead said, the blue model is a total failure. Neither Socialism nor Communism work; Capitalism does.

  9. The most annoying thing about the cognoscenti is that they refuse to admit that different people like different things, and that such a state of affairs is both normal and desirable.

    I’m sure Sarah remembers the “gentleman” (and I use the word ironically) that she, I, and mutual friend Patrick Richardson debated with on the PJ Tatler some months ago, who, if memory serves, basically insisted that Ender’s Game could not be considered “good literature” or perhaps even “literature” (I forget the exact crux of his argument, and I’m too lazy on a Saturday morning to look it up) because he, a self-described learned person, didn’t like it.

    Sadly, such people are everywhere, even, sadly, in my own family. If you don’t like what they like — be it books, music, clothing, food, whatever — you must have something wrong with you and need the firm hand of society to push you back into liking approved things.

    Like Sarah, I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I believe that this impulse comes from needing to be part of the “in group.” Fortunately, there are those of us who are quite happy being ourselves despite — or perhaps because of, in some cases — the derision of the masses who just follow the crowd.

    (Oh, If you’re curious, I absolutely loved Ender’s Game, but didn’t care much for the first sequel, and haven’t read any further in that series.)

  10. I am not sure sometimes if I am writing human wave or a good story. But, in my more recent stories I can feel the urge of the characters to become greater than they are– or at least live good lives against the odds.

  11. When I was a classroom teacher, I regularly destroyed the leftist critique of western culture with an exercise in logic or a simple syllogism. It sounds something like this:

    “Okay, class, raise your hand if you think slavery is evil? (The result was always unanimous)

    “Name for me the cultures that practiced slavery at sometime in their history.” (Pretty much all of them)

    “Is the United States somehow more evil than other nations because slavery was based on race?” (The brighter students usually sorted this one out in short order because evil is an absolute.)

    Bonus question: “What nation during the colonial period enslaved more people than the English, Dutch, Spanish, French, and the Americans combined? Why is this nation not singled out as the most evil nation in the history of the world?”

    1. That tilde jogged my memory – are you the same ~Paules that used to hang around at the E3Gazette a few years back? I seem to remember an insightful fellow by that name when I wandered through… 🙂

    2. I like that. Teachers should also ask students if they want to share their grades with those who are not doing as well as they are. After all, that doesn’t seem very fair, people getting different grades, does it?

    3. OK: which was the country that enslaved so many?
      Another useful question: which countries did not ban slavery until after 1960? Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Oman, Niger,

  12. At times there is a confluence of elements that resonate, either to the benefit or the detriment of the world. One such time was the Renaissance, another was the period following WWII in which the recent experience of two generations brought the concept of nationalism into disrepute, an ill-favour that was exacerbated by the propaganda of international communism. Both illnesses – nationalism and communism – suffer the same inherent flaw: submission of the individual’s conscience to the will of the collective.

    Last night, en route to turning of the TV we inadvertently bounced to channel 4 (PBS) and found ourselves watching a Great Performances celebrating the 25th anniversary of Paul Simon’s Graceland and the furor that surrounded his transgressing the African National Congress’ ban on South African artists performing in the larger world. The program went to great lengths to justify Simon’s “breaking the blockade”, even finishing with an ANC representative granting Simon absolution.

    Ignored in the whole piece was the fact that the ban itself was an act of oppression, imposing restrictions on artists and violating their freedom and creativity. Whether by Apartheidists or rebels, forced subordination of the individual to the collective is the sin, just as unquestioned obedience to the diktats of country or party compromise individual integrity.

    E. M. Forster infamously said, “if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” Which shows Forster’s ass; you should betray the one which is in the wrong, which often enough will be your friend.

    1. “submission of the individual’s conscience to the will of the collective”

      When the Enlightenment became the Endarkenment, when Rousseau sold the idea of the “General Will”.

    2. Said ban ignored by, among others, Queen. Great music, *and* on the UN Cultural Blacklist — “Greatest. Rock. Band. Ever.” >:)

          1. Leave the UN, eliminate all funding for them, refuse all requests for assistance from them (especially armed assistance), kick them out of the US, raze the building to the ground (I’d pay good money to swing one of the sledgehammers. Deficit reduction!), and auction the site of to a development company to build a gorram shopping mall on the site.

    1. We do need mockery. My husband has been saying that for a while. Insofar as the “serious” people want to be cool, we should puncture that by laughing. It’s just that that early in the morning as when I write these, I’m up for mordant, but not often for funny.

      1. Sarah, the problem is that the current Left is almost impossible to mock, because based on what they admit to believing in, how do you make it more ridiculous? Add in the fact that they have a tendency to respond to mockery with accusations that will get one fired / shunned / prosecuted, and you might as well proceed right mast mockery to shooting them; the penalties aren’t that much worse.

        1. you might as well proceed right past mockery to shooting them; the penalties aren’t that much worse.

          It’s a good idea, but there isn’t enough ammunition in the world to make it happen… 8^(

          There is a mighty shake-up about to take place, and the LEFT will be the one that feels the pinch the most — especially the ivory-tower crowd. Remember, stupidity is a terminal illness, and a third of our nation is infected.

          1. there isn’t enough ammunition in the world to make it happen

            Speak for yourself, Keemosabe.

                1. Actually, I haven’t bought much ammo (other than my required 100 rounds last Nov 19 Ammo Day) for about two years. I don’t go shooting very much these days; other than some handgun practice and .22 plinking, I really only do serious shooting with my overseas guests. So the supplies I had already laid in will probably end up being part of my estate (to go to my Son&Heir and The Daughter, who go through ammo like hyenas through a dead antelope).

                  Considering that I have about 1,000 rounds for each chambering of firearm*, and somewhat more [coff, coff] for the AKs, I’m doing fine, thankee.

                  * .22 ammo isn’t ammunition, but a household staple like flour or sugar. I actually have NO idea how much .22 ammo I have — a rough guess is 20,000 rounds — but I did find a thousand rounds in the trunk of the car the other day, which I don’t remember buying or putting there.

                  1. Well, I’ve got about that much if you’ll credit me for its unassembled form in primers, powder, bullets and lead ingots …

              1. As an honors graduate of the “Kim du Toit School of Ammo Logistics” (Rule #1: if you have less than 4 digits of a caliber, it’s time for a resupply run), I cannot let Kim take all the blame for bogarting the ammo….

              1. I’ve been proclaiming that since the first week of November.

                We had one chance to turn away from the iceberg. We didn’t. Now the rest is pretty much predestined. All that remains is for the band to keep playing “We Love The Lightbringer Barack Obama.”

            1. Everybody is infected; some people still have working immune systems, that’s all. Unfortunately, the only effective treatment for the disease is sense, which is about the bitterest medicine there is; and one course of treatment will not do — it must be repeated regularly as long as the patient lives. This is why so many people prefer the disease, even if it kills them, and their country along with them.

            1. Revolvers don’t jam either, and you can fire a double-action revolver as fast as an automatic, they just don’t carry as many rounds.* I have used a pump rifle all my life, and can fire any centerfire pump, accurately, as fast as the same caliber semiauto can be fired accurately.**

              *This just means you should have two revolvers instead of one auto. Hey any excuse to get more guns is a good excuse!

              **This should in no way be taken to mean that I don’t like AK’s or would in any way be amenable to an “assault-weapon” ban.

              +Nor should this mean I have anything against swords as a backup, but put simply I would rather take a gun to a knife fight, than a knife to a gunfight.

      2. Drink more ccheap Ametican coffee. Or tea if you follow the Brit tradition (just make sure it’s one of those caffeine-addict STRONG Brit breakfast teas.

        After you finish gagging, you are wide awake. And, I assure you, VERY snarky. (Which may or may not translate to humor, depending on the reader.)

        1. When we visited some friends who had recently returned from overseas, found that German coffee was better at kicking you in the tail in the morning than most American brews, except maybe a Charbucks (called that because they over-roast their beans) double espresso.

            1. One of the problems I had during that summer in Canada way back when was that I could not find coffee done the way I like it. Everything always tasted like dishwater to me. Way too weak. I remember trying something that was sold as ‘European’ coffee in some New York coffee shop. Same problem. Dishwater.

              Well, I did learn my idea of coffee mostly from my aunts, and their version used, probably, about twice as much grind (coarse, meant to made in a pot, no percolators or coffee machines for them) per cup as what most Finns drink so it can be hard to find ‘proper’ coffee here too. Especially since I also like it the way it tastes when it’s made in a pot, and no place (and none of my friends, either, all use machines) serves that anymore so I can only get it when I make it myself… Fortunately I also like stuff like lattes and cappuccinos. If there is enough milk in it it doesn’t matter so much if there isn’t quite enough coffee (and/or that the coffee is of inferior quality).

              1. I make my coffee in a pot, because your right it tastes better that way. I have an electric coffeemaker, and used to use it when around the house because it would keep the coffee hot, but finally quit and just make it in a pot and pour it in a thermos, because I couldn’t figure out how to get the coffeemaker to make as good of coffee. And coffeemakers never make the coffee hot enough! I like to sip my coffee hot, not gulp down lukewarm colored water 😉

    2. RES, very good points.

      We did not see PBS’ 25th Anniversary thingy, but I am surprised to see it describe the controversy about GRACELAND as an issue about violating the ANC’s ban on South African Artists.

      At that time I listened constantly to NPR. The anger regarding GRACELAND was strictly about how wrong it was for a white musician to expropriate music “that belonged to an oppressed race.” If you have access to any stories from 25 years ago about this topic I believe you will find they were all outraged that he yet another white man stealing the musical heritage of an oppressed people. It was all very repugnant to listen to, and I was trying very hard to be a radical.

      In the midst of all this racist anger Paul Simon organized s a public meeting where he invited a lot of these angry folks and indulged in some rather pathetic self-criticism and apologies. He did try to defend his actions as being beneficial to the South African musicians that he used in the GRACELAND sessions, and publicizing their musical forms to a wider public etc.

      Perhaps there was some talk at the time about his violating the boycotting of South Africa, but I only remember the racism spin, which I believe is more malignant than the boycott violation.

  13. Write Human Wave.

    If you’re good at it, soon all the “right thinking people” will hate you. What more could you want?

    Supposedly, among the Amerindian tribes it was believed you judged a warrior by his enemies; the greater the enemies, the greater the warrior.

    Sadly, mostly the foe on the Left is paper tigers. They are old, feeble and largely toothless. Unlike in the past they cannot prevent your being published; all they can do is write scathing reviews on Amazon.

    And, as many have found, their scathing reviews can be the highest endorsement.

  14. Christie and Heinlein’s popularity despite the intelligentsia disparaging them reminds me of Archie Bunker and Alex P. Keaton. Bunker and Keaton were originally intended to be the ‘villains’ of All in the Family and Family Ties, yet they became the driving forces of their shows and the best TV representatives of their decade. If you watch old episodes of those shows, the liberal propaganda is in every episode, so it must have killed Hollywood to see America embrace and love the characters that they intended to show as heartless or fools.

    1. The same was true with a British show, “Till Death Us Do Part” (actually the model for “All In The Family”) – the character Alf Garnet, intended to be a mocking caricature of the blue-collar Tory, was taken straight to the heart of the viewing public.

  15. Sarah,

    Thanks for this post. I can’t into detail right now, but it happened to find me at a time when I was struggling with something. It dovetailed with the culture of nihilism that was bothering me, something that I thought of writing about. If anything comes of it, I will let you know. Thanks again, it literally made me feel better.

    1. I’d vote for the French Revolution. Although there were communitarians in the English religious tradition (Diggers, Levellers), it took the secular religionists of the French Revolution to start what Marx expanded and the First World War and Communism smeared all over the world.

  16. If you mention Stalin’s purges, they’re tell you capitalism is worse, man, because it kills your soul… or something.

    Had to pause at this. And you’re right, no doubt, but I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps if the lefties attached a spine to their soul, it might survive acting as an autonomous soul.

    1. Because it doesn’t let them push you around like a chessman on a chessboard. But they can’t admit that in public.

  17. Spot on, Sarah.

    The end of this essay reminds me of a simile from Neal Stephenson:

    “For a Westerner to trash Western culture is like criticizing our nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere on the grounds that it sometimes gets windy, and besides, Jupiter’s is much prettier. You may not realize its advantages until you’re trying to breathe liquid methane.”


  18. I read several Christie books back in my late teens and early twenties.

    I had read all of Heinlein by the time I finished high school and read his new ones as soon as they came out, You are absolutely right; he always looked forward.

    I am in my fifties now. I am not so sure about forward any more. I have always been a prodigous reader. Maybe that’s why I’ve felt like an alien these last twenty years. An historian cannot be surprised.

  19. Sarah,
    One of my literary hobbies is reading GK Chesterton’s old columns in the Illustrated London News. It really does give some fascinating insight into the world of the Progressive era. Given what I’ve read in some of his columns, I don’t think the anti-Western, anti-traditional strains of thought are the result of WWI; they existed years before the Archduke was shot. Perhaps the War accelerated the trend, but the trend was in place first.

    Also, there was another cultural response to WWI – doubling down on virtues, by authors like Tolkien and Lewis. I suppose they find themselves in the same category as Christie and Heinlein; I never had to read them in school.


  20. Thomas Wolf wrote an article about when Leonard Bernstein hosted a reception for the Black Panthers. It was quite revealing, and relates to your post.

  21. BTW – I think I read nearly every thing of Christie’s back in junior high and high school, then turned to Carr and Sayers. There was much of what you say in their books also.

  22. For a postwar zeitgeist novel (with latent Human Wave tendencies) I heartily recommend “Cold Comfort Farm”. Not only does it shiv the literary grey-goo novel in the spleen and leave it to bleed out in an alley, it makes fun of the “in tune with nature” lovies–who haven’t changed much since the 1930s–and tiresome individuals leading “rich emotional lives” with no consideration of others. I want “I saw something nasty in the woodshed!” to be the shibboleth of Human Wave.

    Plus, there is one character who has survived the War and is outwardly normal, but has very authentic survivor’s guilt that is sympathetically touched on and then let go. No maudlin thrashing about in other people’s feelings, which would be rude.

    1. Oh, yes – I also recommend Cold Comfort Farm – and the movie version with Kate Beckensale and Aileen Atkins is purely the most hysterically funny movie you will see in about five years. The one character (an American movie director, no less) who answered the old lady screeching about how she saw something narsty in the woodshed with, “Yes, but did it see you!” is worth the price of rental or purchase alone.

  23. World War I was terrible, and for many reasons, including the prevalence of pictures and news, the fratricide/civil-war quality of it, the massive number of casualties.
    –Sarah Hoyt

    Once upon a time in America, the ideas of women’s emancipation and votes for women began to spread among the women of upper-class, upper-income communities. (Seneca Falls, NY was a community of summer homes). Then came the Civil War. The women’s suffrage movement struggled through a 40-year period of little growth. What happened? Women weren’t stupid, they’d seen what the costs to men were of carrying the burden of the full responsibilities of citizenship. And women didn’t want that burden, thank you very much, not even for the great moral cause of abolishing slavery.

    Yes, of course greater participation of women in both politics and work, a break down of social barriers… are a good thing. They’re also unique in the world today.

    Rich people can bear the costs of the social pathologies that come with their reckless, self-indulgent behaviors much more easily than poor people can. Maybe the reason the feminist fantasy is “unique in the world today” to the affluent West is because the rest of the world isn’t stupid.

    1. Eh. I believe adults should be ALLOWED to participate equally in the body politic and work. Note “equally” means no particular breaks for anyone. I don’t like “special considerations” which are part of what you call the feminist fantasy. I.e. if a woman is strong enough to be a firefighter (there are outliers) and WANTS to be one, then the lack of a penis shouldn’t prevent her, but neither should the tests be made easier for her, because they shouldn’t be made easier for anyone. And the hunting to the death of innocent pronouns and violation of innocent words (herstory! Gags) should be stopped.

      However one of the beauties of the industrial free-market economy is that there ARE jobs for those of us who aren’t horribly strong, etc. THAT is a good thing.

      1. However one of the beauties of the industrial free-market economy is that there ARE jobs for those of us who aren’t horribly strong, etc. THAT is a good thing.

        It’s also a good thing for us males that have minor, hidden disabilities. If factory jobs were all that were available, I’d be on disability, taking tax dollars from others. As it is, I am employed, providing tax dollars for the idle able-bodied layabouts to suck up.

        Kinda doesn’t seem fair, does it?

      2. if a woman is strong enough to be a firefighter (there are outliers) and WANTS to be one, then the lack of a penis shouldn’t prevent her

        Doesn’t a firefighter need a hose?

        Now that that is out of my system, everybody who remembers Congresscritter Patty Schroeder arguing it should be sufficient for firefighters to be able drag people out rather than carry them – please raise your hand, or at least your middle finger.

        1. Oh well– I knew a woman in the Navy who a little over five feet tall and built like a brick. She could bench press 300 pounds and was known to carry a Marine around if the Marine in question made her mad. She could do it– I on the other hand was happy if I could lift 75 pounds.

        2. I remember reading about that, and I think she even said that dragging someone down the stairs should be good enough. That would even dent MY head, and I have a hard head.

          Besides, dragging someone actually takes MORE energy, because you have to fight friction the whole way.

          1. Well– you aren’t supposed to damage the rescued victim. 😉 That’s why there is a fireman’s carry and other types of carries– I agree– no dragging!

        3. Just ask Miss Patty if she’d rather be dragged out or carried out.

          The answer should either elicit howls of laughter, or illustrate exactly why physical strength is important in a firefighter.

  24. If you love England in the 1920s, the 3rd season of Downton Abbey begins Sunday night in the US.

  25. Here’s my quick version of the test I use to determine if a speaker is doing the WesternCiv teardown:
    If the argument begins with the phrase: “American…” or “America…” and proceeds to identify a horrifying cultural or political trait.
    No country in the history of humankind has done more to wipe out slavery, racism, sexism, and all of those other -isms that afflict the downtrodden.
    So… why is it the worst country ever?

    1. So… why is it the worst country ever?

      Because they are not in charge.

      Of course, what’s humorous — in a dark sense — is that even when the leftists had the Oval Office and majorities in both chambers of Congress, they still weren’t satisfied, because non-leftists could still throw up roadblocks.

      They won’t be truly satisfied until every non-leftist is dead or in prison where they can’t interfere with the statist utopia every leftist dreams of.

  26. I’m not an Agatha Christie fan at all. I don’t think she plays fair when it comes to the mysteries themselves. On the other hand she is not alone in the fact that what is not considered serious literature in the past is amazingly solid when you actually read it which is why getting books on Kindle for free is great.

    Case in point, I just finished reading Zane Grey’s Lassiter. Nothing says more about what he thought about civilization than his ending where his characters roll a boulder shutting out the world from their canyon where they are holed up and themselves in.

    H Rider Haggard is a pretty good view of what modern professors would call race relations but really aren’t. Quartermain and his friends see themselves and the Africans as equals, what is unequal is what civilizations they came from and how they are therefore predisposed to live. These predispositions are not racist, they are human….. family back home, their religion, etc. They can mix as men but their destinies are different. This is a less connected world than the modern one we know and decisions about life are far more final. Also Quartermain is an extremely heroic and yet very ordinary man. An absolutely great character and too bad they turn him into a leading man and action hero in movies.

    Social commentary in Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series especially in A Princess of Mars is great. The Martians are a true communist society at the primitive communism stage which they have adopted as their planet dies. John Carter teaches the martians to trust individualism and not just mass strength and gets better and more humane results. Marx would hate ERB and John Carter but might think Tarzan could be put to some use after a re-education camp broke him.

    James Hilton’s use of amnesia for Random Harvest is so bad it would shame a soap opera but his portrayal of Great Britain as self satisfied, pacifistic and self deluded is very important. The main character prepares for war and not peace and is the one who is really moral, selfless and brave. You can be sure that the kind of people he portrays would say after the war they always were for the war.

    I’m also struck with how technical writing was often more literary and fiction writing was more formal and technical back then. For better and worse there was far less division between the two. Obviously learning was a more informal and lifelong affair than it is now.

  27. I think this misses two things:

    1. The leaders of the world back then were extraordinarily little men. These people – kings, emperors, prime ministers – were simply playing a game and didn’t fully comprehend what they were up to. Grasping at power, wealth and prestige they didn’t measure up to the times they lived in. The First World War – the first part of the catastrophe of the 20th century – came about because no one in power had even a shred of an ideal. Some tattered ideas about patriotism and imperialism, but no ideals. The best government (that of Britain’s) which did contain the best man of the bunch (Winston Churchill) still present a sorry specimen: what were they after? To preserve the Empire? For what? So that it may be preserved…really? No thought, no foresight…nothing which might make any of them see two inches in to the future entered their minds.

    2. But these leaders who played with fire and started a conflagration were also heirs to a civilization which had been steadily killing itself for centuries. This intellectual and moral decline was masked by a few moral improvements (most notably the end of slavery, but even that was, in a real sense, out of sequence…all actions tended towards an increasingly widespread imposition of slavery – brutal or gentle – upon the common man; the 20th century – from Gulag to Welfare – has borne this out) and rapid technological improvement. Our civilization started to die when it started to break up at the Reformation…when, for political reasons, it became necessary to turn everything pre-Reformation in to “Dark Ages” and to see in Catholicism nothing but anti-intellectual barbarism. But regardless of what one thinks of the Middle Ages or the Church, it simply isn’t true to believe such things as we were required, as it were, to start believing in the 16th century.

    It is, indeed, very necessary for us to start going back to common sense – to start asserting truth, and speaking that truth to Power. But in order to do so we’re going to have to go back quite a bit and ask, humbly, if Thomas Aquinas would kindly re-educate us on what is Truth and how it applies to human life.

    1. Sigh. Except that I come from a country where I COULD SEE the stultifying results of a church that thought it should have temporal power. They think so again, btw, and are allying with governments on such things as universal health care and redistribution.
      I come from a country where the reformation and the triumph of reason never happened. Let me tell you, it was no paradise and no innovations came from it.

      Sorry but a theocracy is not the answer, and I don’t care if the flavor is Christian or communist. Little men are always the ones who end up on top.

      Freedom is the answer, and a G-d for grown ups lets you kneel or not without interference from the temporal authorities.

      1. The Middle Ages might not have been as bad as painted, but they were bad enough. Let the other side change the past. Let’s concern ourselves with the future.

      2. I am of the same opinion– theocracy and monarchy are two failed systems. I am lumping the Islamic Sharia law in with theocracy by the way. Both cause the maximum amount of misery on the most people. Tyranny!

        1. Islamic sharia law is the worst of both worlds, since it is also a secular system. Mind you, Augustin is useful, for those who believe and are willing to read him as self-discipline as “do this” but NOT as a law to impose on others.

          1. I would – quite frankly – rather be subject to Pratchett’s Auditors. The phrase “over my dead body” springs readily to mind. “No way in hell” and “I will be damned first” also occur. I’m looking for stronger language, but not finding it.

      3. My contention is that the Reformation was an attack upon reason – or, if we want to be more gentle about it, at least a straying away from reason. Reason is Medieval, unreason is modern. It is important that we understand that the ability to make gadgets is not necessarily a function of reason – it is a learned skill more than anything else. Reason – the use of the mind to perceive truth – is not the same as the ability to make a new I-phone app. We can precisely measure the temperature, weight and volume of things but we are very inexact in everything else, which is why people are, for instance, able to get away with being communists with trust funds.

        You are correct that theocracy is not the answer – and that goes back even further than Thomas Aquinas; all the way back to St. Augustine in the 5th century. It is yet another bit of untruth which we are all supposed to subscribe to: that some how or another back then before our civilization started to break up we had a theocracy, or at least an attempted theocracy, and it was only by freeing ourselves from it that we advanced. To be sure, the Pope had much greater ability to influence things back then – such as when he managed to get the King of England flogged for complicity in murder. It is, I guess, much better these days that the Pope will never again be able to have a temporal ruler whipped for his crimes, right?

        Truth never, ever changes. What was true 1,000 years ago is true today and will be true 1,000 years from now. There are, also, no new truths to discover. Oh, there are new facts to fill in the picture, but what is true is already brim filled. You won’t make truth any more, or less, true once you have figured out just how old the universe is (when I was a boy it was about 6 billion years old, now its about 13.75 billion years old); nor will any other discovery of pre-existing fact alter what is true. People were also just as smart 10,000 years ago as they are today – we might have more facts to sort through, but the level of “smart” is no different from the guy in the cave working out a better way to chip flint arrows and the guy in the lab figuring out a new way to make steel. What we figured out as true – and we did figure it out – in the 13th century is still true today and always will be true…and since then, we’ve been working at ignoring or disparaging the truth. Small wonder we’re so tightly packed about with lies…but if we want to get away from the lies, we have to resolutely go back and find out the truth, which has always been there, and our ancestors knew far better than we.

    2. …the end of slavery, but even that was, in a real sense, out of sequence…all actions tended towards an increasingly widespread imposition of slavery – brutal or gentle – upon the common man; the 20th century – from Gulag to Welfare – has borne this out

      Western Civilization ended slavery, whether it was by war or simply the natural attrition of the practice as it became unprofitable. Gulags and Welfare are an attempt to re-institutionalize slavery by those who believe it is in the natural order of things for the elite few to lord it over the masses. This is socialism/communism, not the liberated Western Civ that gave us the technological innovation we have enjoyed for the past few hundred years.

      1. Christians had slaves, as did ALL OTHER ancient cultures, but only Christians FREED slaves, unlike any other culture.

        For so long as the Christian Faith is comprised of humans, for so long will Christians fail to live up to the precepts of their Faith. So? The fact that Communists, for example, live up to the precepts of their philosophy is scarcely an endorsement.

        1. Ancient history is not my forte, but I seem to recall that Mosaic Law had provisions for the freeing of slaves and indentured servants, so imagine it must have happened with some frequency. Or did you mean wholesale abolition of the practice? In that case, I believe you are correct. As far as the imperfection of the followers of Jesus, I can do best by quoting Him: “The whole need no physician, but them that are sick.”

          1. Mosaic Law (in Leviticus did include the concept of the “Jubilee year” when all contracts terminated, all debts written off, all prisoners and slaves freed, after seven times seven years. But, as you note, that did not end the practice of slavery, merely limited its scope to a fifty-year maximum. It also required return of real property to its owner as of the cycle’s start, thus making sale of real estate impossible although a variety of ways were found to circumvent this (life tenancy could be sold or granted, for example, even unto many generations.)

            [SEARCHENGINE] Jubilee year debt for more on the topic.

            1. I’m familiar with the Jubilee year and its requirements. I thought there were other provisions as well. I’ll have to make another pass through the OT – it’s been a few years (more like a decade –ed) since I sat down and read it through, and I’m (clearly) rusty on many of the particulars. Thanks!

              1. In all fairness, it’s been several thousand years since what “The Jews” did mattered. Christians had the ability to end slavery in a way Jews never did.

              2. “Slavery”, among Israelites, was actually indentured service for up to a six year period (for males). Slaves that didn’t want to get out in the sabbatical year had their ear pierced and were released at the jubilee. Non-Israelite slaves were slaves for life.

                However, the Romans also had a tradition of freeing slaves. What nobody had until the late 1700s is freeing ALL slaves.

  28. Skimmed the other comments. Might read them over tomorrow, but I seem to be falling asleep again now. (Which is worrisome as I doubt I’d qualify as “awake” an hour yet.)

    Anyway – I’m similar when it comes to reading fiction while writing it. I don’t do it. I could probably manage it, but only if I’ve read the book several times and I’m reading it “casually” as opposed to “on demand”. (There are just some times where I have to read, say, Pride and Prejudice. Imperative. Other times I just want to read something familiar and if I haven’t read P&P in awhile, it might be P&P that I read.)

    In any case, I typically read nonfic when I write fic. I tend to gravitate towards things that are either tangentially related to what I’m writing about, or for a project I’ll write about “soon”. The trick is to read nonfic that is not absolutely necessary to continue with the fic, otherwise I get focused on the study and then thrown out of the fic.

  29. 1) The horrors of World War One could easily have been mitigated, if not avoided, had the Europeans Powers *FUCKING PAID ATTENTION* during the American Civil War — *every* aspect of WW1 was presaged by incidents in the ACW. (Mechanized infantry? Johnston’s corps at First Bull Run. Effects of rapid-fire weapons on massed formations? Hoover’s Gap, TN, 1863, among other instances of Fun With Repeating Rifles. Aerial reconnaissance? Thaddeus Lowe — hell, the ACW even had an “aircraft carrier”. Trench warfare? Petersburg Siege.) The Euros were too arrogant and stupid (likely caused by generations of inbreeding) to see what was coming.

    2) Speaking of American, and its Civil War, may I present one each Col Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, CO, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry; and Sgt. Buster Kilrain, same unit: .

    3) “Speak truth to power”? Fuck that — I’m a Historian; I Speak *FACTS* To Power. “Truth” is for the sissies in the Philosophy Department down the hall (and when the Lefticles throw around linguistic onanism like “truthiness”, well, tell me again what Truth actually means in this life). “Facts are. They exist as separate entities. It is the interpretation of facts we are concerned with.” [Kurita Takashi, _Wolves on the Border_] (And before some would-be-wiseacre says, “But that’s an interpretation”: Sorry, no, it isn’t. “Sarah Hoyt wrote _Darkship Thieves” is a Fact. “The sun rises in [what folks call] the East” is a Fact. Facts Are — attempting to deny this shows a lack of understanding of what a Fact is; not to mention a general lack of intellectual capability.)

  30. There are intellectuals, and then there are (admittedly) witty people who promote the idea that they are one. You can know the difference with ease. The intellectual seeks to know and understand the world, and is more rightly described as a philosopher. The “intellectual” seeks to be seen, heard, and most of all, admired.

  31. In his book “The Ideology of the Offensive,” Jack Snyder provides evidence that the pre-1914 general staffs of ALL the continental powers developed plans that were based on bizarrely inaccurate ideas about the relative power of the offensive and the defensive. He attributes this partly to the fact that these men had mostly spent the bulk of their careers in staff positions, where having the “right” theoretical ideas was key, with little or no experience of actual combat.

  32. This post interests me as I’ve been working on a project that could perhaps be described as “Human Wave Pulp,” taking some of the basic concepts behind the heroic pulps of the 30’s (especially Doc Savage) and applying them to a modern or near-future world using the ideas you espouse as “Human Wave”.

    (Which I love, BTW. Where do I sign?)

    The world needs more two-fisted science heroes, I think. Neil DeGrasse Tyson can’t do it all by himself. 🙂

  33. Sarah, you say: “Yes, of course greater participation of women in both politics and work, … are a good thing.”

    I note that most of the cultural deterioration in this country, and most of the growth in government, have come about after the imposition of universal suffrage. Correlation isn’t causation, and all that, but I don’t think we can dismiss that greater participation of women in politics with “of course it’s good.” If it was a good thing, I would like to see someone make that case. I think that anyone who tries to support the idea that female suffrage is good will find that his argument boils down to: “It wasn’t until women got the vote that we started ignoring that nasty old constitution.”

  34. re: what you can read when writing. Completely agree. When working on my novel, I really can’t read Fiction. Only non-fiction research OR one of the classics like Heinlein.

  35. I guess I am different– sometimes I need a rest from my fiction so I read other people’s fiction. At this time I have been reading Sabrina Chase, Kate Paulk, and Sarah Hoyt. Also, Terry Pratchett and if I am really stuck, I’ll read very light romance.

  36. Robert M. Pirsig, in his book “Lila,” has some interesting things to say about the post WWI era. His thesis is that the period we’re living through is one in which intellectual values are taking precedence over social values. Up until the modern era, a good idea was one that served society well. What’s coming is the attitude that a good society is one that promotes truth and knowledge well.

    In Pirsig’s view of history, WWI was the culmination of the era where society ruled over ideas (and therefore individuals). When your country went to war you fought for it, without question. But the industrial revolution (a product of the new force of ideas) had made that sentiment far more dangerous than it had ever been before. The horrors of the war caused western society to question this fundamental assumption.

    But the transition to the new paradigm has not been smooth, and is far from over. Social values aren’t giving up without a fight, and a raft of philosophies have sprung up to support the preeminence of society, some (like communism and socialism) disguising themselves as philosophies that promote ideas over society, but which in fact are the opposite. All political philosophies and ideologies are struggling to redefine themselves within this new paradigm. Conservatism is focusing on its intellectual heritage (Hobbes, Smith, Burke, Hayek). Liberalism, which was the archetypal school that promoted intellectual values, has become the status quo and so, through progressivism, has morphed into an ideology that puts society ahead of ideas (hence the adjective “social” in front of every idea, in order to co-opt it into the service of society).

  37. Have I said I love you lately, Mrs. Hoyt? In a brotherly way of course. Your exhortation to become this generation’s Heinleins and Christies is well made and I’m doing my best to comply.

    Since you cannot write Agatha Christie fan-fiction, I can point out that much of Dorothy Sayers’ canon has gone into the public domain. (It would all be there save for the depredations of Mickey Mouse.)

    Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are delightful characters and Harriet’s wrestling match between the demands of feminism and domestic bliss is a great source of internal tension. I could easily see a mystery solved by Miss Vane shortly after the events of Strong Poison.

    Just stay clear of Lord Peter’s father who I’ve made a member of the Diogenes Club…

    1. I reiterate my earlier citation of August Derleth’s Holmes fanfic and recommend you Solar Pons Dame Agatha’s characters.

  38. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend “Gramscian damage” by Eric S. Raymond. He points to a strain of what he calls “suicidalism” in Western philosophy going back to the post-Enlightenment Romantics, and evidence of how Stalinists, postmodernists and Islamists have been systematically exploiting it since.

  39. You talk about “retro-projected Vietnam Vet syndrome”. I ask, have you ever heard of “shell shock” and its origins in the WWI?

    1. Of course I have. And what nerve gas did to people was terrible. And yes, there were people who came out of it shocked into pacifism.

      What I’m talking about though — and I’ve run across this now in a number of books — is “he fought in a war, now he’s going to kill everyone… because he was taught to kill.” By the way, this doesn’t apply to Vietnam war Vets either. All the homeless/homicidal/psychotic Vets stories are 99% bullshit and in the remaining cases you find there were other factors like… heavy drug use, which does cause all those issues.

      This is something that the seventies came up with due to a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. All of us can kill. It’s keeping from killing that’s an effort. Yes, some people have trouble reasserting the taboo once violated, but most flip back into it as soon as circumstances change. Otherwise no country would survive returning vets.

      1. What I learned with the Vietnam Vets (I am married to one) and pilots in recent wars is that the government was known for introducing speed into their warriors so that they could go for two-three days without crashing. Once you are addicted to these drugs, it is hard to get off of them. Many of these Vets came home with these addictions. Most of the guys I know went isolated– I know of one (in many many) who showed PTSD symptoms. A lot of Vets go to organizations like the Hells Angels who accept them.

        It is hard to like a society that spit on you when you came home. Sometimes my hubby will tell stories of what the “hippies” did to returning soldiers. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t right.

        1. Plus many of these guys looked for things to take the pain away. Many of them use alcohol, drugs, sex, whatever worked while they were in country. Some brought these addictions home. Those who have been to war are naturally attracted to others who have been to war. I think that scares the government too.

        2. Within a few years of returning home, Vietnam vets were no more likely to be addicted than the general population. This is because, contrary to what drug addicts claim, breaking drug addiction is not some terrible ordeal. (I recommend Theodore Dalrymple’s Romancing the Opiates on the subject. Indeed, many addicts have given up drugs on much less motivation that having left behind a dispiriting war.)

      2. Owen Wister ably uses the recognition of PTSD in one of the early scenes of his 1902 novel The Virginian, wherein the title character cautions his bedmate against disturbing him should he start shouting and thrashing about in the night.

        The fact that it is an obvious sly ploy to get the entirety of the bed for himself makes the point about societal views of the time.

      3. Stolen Valor by BG Burkett for anyone who doubts the Vietnam Vets part of it.

        One notes that most of the claimed vets are in fact antisocials who LOVE having an ironclad excuse for everything.

        1. Mary– I am not sure if you are saying that the only ones who have problems are anti-social or that they are all anti-social. I do know that even the ones who don’t use it as an excuse are anti-social. I haven’t met a social Vietnam Vet yet– and I have met a lot of them.

          They are social with each other and sometimes with the wives– but you have to be a part of “the group” for them to be social. So anti-social. It doesn’t bother me because I fit in with the introversion crowd anyway.

          1. As I recall Stolen Valor it means anti-social in the context of hostile to the larger society, not just prone to reclusiveness. Stolen Valor argues that many of those claiming PTSD a) did not experience combat in the Vietnam war and b) were employing this cover myth to excuse and justify their own acts against the social order.

            1. I just figured out the miscommunication– there are several classifications of veterans. A Vet is someone who has survived the military with an Honorable or General Discharge. A War Vet is someone who was in the military during a war. A Combat Vet is someone who experienced combat during their service. A Vet and a War Vet– do not necessarily go into the combat zone. For instance I am a War Vet. I was in the Navy during Desert Storm, but I didn’t see combat because I was stationed in Japan at the time. But I have all the status and privileges of someone who has been in combat because I served during that war.

              Then there are faux Vets (who are illegally claiming Vet status). They can be prosecuted for saying they are Vets if they didn’t serve in the military. So I am not sure what a “Claimed Vet” would be. Maybe someone who was in the military but didn’t have combat duty? Or someone who was never a Vet?

              1. Just to make it clear– a person with dishonorable discharge is a blight on the service and do not have any privileges that are offered veterans.

          2. Hmm… I know a few Vietnam Vets who are about as social as anyone else in their age group. I probably know more, who are NOT so social, but who I don’t know are Vietnam Vets.

            1. I wrote this long thing about how the Vietnam Vets I knew became friendlier and less prone to nightmares (and other things) as they grew older and were farther away from the war in time– but WP ate it. Let’s just say that at 65 my husband is a much friendlier person than he was at 40. Plus the behaviors he used to have (glare at strangers, watch the tops of buildings, carrying knifes in every pocket, etc., etc.) have become less.(hypersensitivity)

      4. The other consideration is that, except for the possibility of striking out at someone who wakes them incautiously, most of the time, PTSD takes the form of withdrawal or depression, rather than violence.

    2. PTSD, Combat Fatigue, Shell Shock — it gets renamed with every conflict. Think you the survivors of Shiloh were untroubled in their sleep? But it was only with the Vietnam Veterans that a) all veterans were automatically suspect and b) ostracized because of that prejudicial assumption. The ubiquity of the depiction of the “troubled vet” in the popular media is a consequence of writers indifferent to the bigotry propagated and too lazy to create actual character motivations.

      1. Yes, exactly. There has also been at least one study that shows how you’re “welcomed” home changes how syndromes set in. The Vietnam vet issues, as Cyn pointed out isn’t so much or only what they did/saw (we’re finding a lot of WWII vets did/saw worse.) but what they met with back home. And yes, the psychotropics used both officially and not can cause issues. For instance, use of LSD tracks to paranoid schizophrenia in a lot of people with the genetic tendency to the illness.

        1. I can’t confirm the suspicion as it has been long since I read any number of 19th Century novels, but I believe Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (1893) and several works by Twain and Bierce include depictions of soldiers “addled” by combat. The topic might be an interesting thesis subject for a literature student.

          1. Yes, but the question is — was the description similar/prevalent/and what contact did it have with reality and how far was it convention?

            I’m not denying people get PTSD — it doesn’t even take combat! — I’m just saying that the studies done on Vietnam vets show a complete disconnect between fictional/popular culture depictions of vets and how vets REALLY function in society. (Whether still combating their demons or not — that being irrelevant for how they function EXTERNALLY.)

            Having seen a lot of the propaganda operations of the left, one feels instinctively suspicious of a trend in entertainment that serves their purpose “The Vietnam war was evil!” for instance.

            1. Well externally– Most of the ones I know do really well. They just don’t reveal a significant part of their lives to curiosity seekers, which includes young psychologists who want to “save” them.

            2. Oh, yeah — the Vietnam Vets ought be able to bring a class action defamation suit against the purveyors of pop culture.

              I had wandered onto the separate path of literary recognition of the underlying condition.

            3. The American Civil War produced “soldier’s heart”. That is, some battles in it did. Mostly the sorts of unrelenting fighting you got late in the war — Grant’s campaign in Virginia for instance. World War I was such a horror because you had battles that lasted month with no reprieve.

      2. As part of one of my history projects, I went way back in the stacks and read a lot of the popular magazines and a daily newspaper from 1935-1945 and towards the end of that period there was a lot of concern about servicemen returning home at the end of the war with all kinds of issues, including what we call PTSD, or as it was then called – combat fatigue, or sometimes jokingly ‘nervous in the service.’ No, not a new thing at all.

        1. Given the widespread experience of bureaucratic incompetence by most veterans, I suspect “nervous in the service” had several layers of meaning.

          1. Plus a lot of government thugs considered the military contract as an excuse to experiment on the soldiers/sailors/etc. Some of the documents from both the US and British governments that are being unclassified are really enlightening and scary.

  40. From what I read (, Vietnam was the first war that involved the full spectrum of modern training methods. This means that the natural disinclination to kill that existed in previous wars was overriden. That can easily cause a higher rater of psychological pain.

    Also, it seems that anything the country could do wrong it did. From the way replacements were handled to the disgraceful way veterans were received.

  41. Alrighty, then, Ms. Hoyt, you’ve just gained another probable customer!

    I recall at least two separate discussions of modern fiction where (as an ex-Infantry officer and active philistine) I was told that Starship Troopers was open sarcastic parody, …

  42. How did Victorian England, confident to the point of arrogance, turn into the wimps of the 1920’s and 30’s? Part of the answer is the cultural effect of the “horrors of war”, as noted above. But part of it has to be the sheer number of young men who were killed, and particularly the *sort* of young men who were killed.

    Twin studies show that temperament is much more heritable than, say, intelligence. If there’s a gene (complex) for patriotism, or courage, or (broadly defined) conservatism, the carriers of those genes would have self-selected into the armed forces, and from there into the thick of things. And they would have been (and were) preferentially removed from the gene pool, leaving behind a population richer in wimps and self-centered hedonists Which pretty much describes the 1920’s, eh?

Comments are closed.