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Yesterday I lost control. Those who read my rants in the past might think this is a common occurrence. After all you’re visiting the blog of someone who wrote an entire book because she was furious.
Actually, though I can get very, very angry, I don’t normally lose control. Like other people who berserk, I learned early it is easier to keep tight control and make yourself ill than to lose control and have to glue back everything you broke.
The precipitating incident was neither that unusual nor that unexpected – it was simply when it came, both in the sense that it came after the Card attempted crucifixion and that it hit me after a weekend when I had run myself exhausted.
What happened was this, and while I’m not naming names, the names are named in the comment section of “Being Normal” and also in my FB diner, if you read the comment thread (I’m not naming names because I’m mid novel and do not have time to deal with the mess on this blog for the next month): the wife of one of my colleagues – one of the most recognizable names in this field – and herself a performer, chose to write a poem honoring the surviving Boston bomber, or at least glorifying him as a poor victim.
Is the young man – only a year older than my younger son, heaven help us – a victim? Undoubtedly. But not our victim. He’s a victim of his upbringing and his poisonous beliefs. To the extent the US influenced those it was with the left-America-hate, against which immigrants have less defense than those born here, and which the writer of the poem would heartily endorse.
To the extent those terrorists were homegrown it was because their family didn’t come over at the bottom, with dreams of making it in America. Those two kids were not working night shifts to pay for community college. They were wealthy, well-heeled and attended the best colleges: where they were told they were Victims and America something to hate.
This woman clearly agrees that they’re long-suffering victims, more pitiable than the innocents they killed.
Right now you’re going “So?”
In fact two of my Baen colleagues told me just that – one giving me the (possibly justifiable, since by then I was too angry to explain myself) “What is this to us?” answer, and the other lecturing me on how the field is full of such leftists and she, herself, still being cloaked, has witnessed instances of writers being kept back/snubbed by leftist colleagues, because they failed to pass a loyalty test. That she thought this was news to me, when I was cloaked for ten years and when I’m more sensitive to Marxism than a cat to the smell of poo was almost tear-inducing.
But both reactions helped me home in on why, having read that “poem”, I went from zero to my muscles knotted with fury instantly.
First, let me go over the thesis to my post last week about “Being normal.” Humans are social animals. Whether you believe we were created or “just growed” the basis upon which we are built is that of a social ape. That means most individuals, confronted with a group, will strive mightily to be normal.
This is the power that drove the melting pot. This is what made blended societies (America is not the only. I come from a country colonized by Romans, Greeks, Celts, Swabians, Vandals (you knew that) and Visigoths (though those were further South) and the North of which was a target of French crusaders and later the place where Englishmen sent their ne’er do well sons, before they had an empire.) work.
People tend towards the perceived median of their society. The process of dropping someone in a new society and watching them integrate has a name: Acculturation. This is where you drop your former culture and adopt the new one.
As someone who has gone through this – and then ran screaming and adopted what my new one should be – let me assure you humans have exquisitely fine-tuned sensors for what models to adopt, what postures will be rewarded, what will be punished.
It’s not a moral judgment, though you CAN apply morals and thoughts to it, which is why I’m not an extreme-left Latino-victimhood college professor, though that would be the most highly rewarded. (Most people don’t, though. Because we’re CLEVER monkeys we go with what’s most highly rewarded.)
Weirdly I’m not talking about the bombers, themselves, though I’d warrant a similar process went on there. I’m talking about us: about America and specifically about any “artistic field” including my own, though I get a little squeamish when people tell me we’re “artists.” I aspire to craftswoman.
I’m not stupid, though I can play dumb on TV.
Even before I tried to be published; before I attended my first convention and became aware of the politics in the field and among writers, I was aware of the … ah… hierarchy. The hierarchy, denoted by those who got the big push (ie were on every shelf, were talked about and got awards) was as in every intellectual profession “the more left the better.”
There was little room to be mistaken. The stories talked about at this time, in the waning years of the cold war, were always the ones where somehow the USSR was better than us and won.
I decided early on I couldn’t go all the way in acculturating to the field. I had seen too much of communists gone wild, and I KNEW history and how much wilder they could go. After all, one must be able to look at oneself in the mirror in the morning.
But most people didn’t have my experiences or my internal stops. Most people acculturated, either to enter the field (or before – those who came from excellent colleges) or afterwards.
The problem is this: any isolated group – and writers of science fiction and fantasy are isolated in their own way and by their own peculiarities – will go more and more extreme, because the people who acculturate, want to show how they are “more authentic” than the people already there.
Since the field of competition in sf/f was “weird leftism” (and I mean that. We’re not talking the leftism of Card or Robert A. Heinlein who, yes, was a leftist most of his life.) that’s what started going more and more extreme over the last thirty years, PARTICULARLY since the fall of the USSR.
No longer having a “great champion” to lionize, they invented causes: feminism, western imperialism, etc etc etc. They convinced themselves America was the worst possible country ever. (Mostly because they’re either spectacularly ignorant of the history of all other countries, or they choose to see only the good parts.) They postured as more sensitive, more feeling, more—
Which leads us to where we are today.
And the reason that poem drove me over the edge was the full realization of where we are today.
Orson Scott Card was near-crucified for expressing an opinion one would EXPECT from someone with his religious beliefs. (I disagree with his opinion but while religious I’m very odd. Also, my religion is not his.) HOWEVER it is not only permissible, it is ENCOURAGED to publish a poem empathizing with a mass murderer, who murdered in the name of a religion that HANGS gay people, mutilates women, and aims at world-wide dominance.
But see, the second religion a) has been identified as “of little brown people” which is why we keep getting told being anti-Islam is “racist” – even though most of them look about as dark as I am. b) it aims to destroy America, and so it must be good, right?
(And before you tell me the repulsive terrorist-glorifying poem was written by one of my colleague’s wife, not himself. Yes. Indeed. However, DO rest assured that in this field we have to watch what our spouses do too – or we had to. I frankly can go indie and my give-a-d*mn is broken. – Imagine as a thought experiment that my husband wrote a poem about the Koch brothers, sweet Libertarian bachelors who have not in fact ever killed anyone. How long do you imagine it would take before ANYONE refused to talk to me at conventions?)
So this is the way things are. Why would they upset me, if I’ve always known they’re that way?
Because I suddenly realized, with a swimming sense of nausea and shame that this is as much our fault as theirs.
ANY field that’s isolated will tend more and more extreme. The attitudes rewarded will go further and further off kilter.
In our field, they’re not isolated, but those of us among them keep very, very quiet. We don’t name and shame. We certainly don’t SHAME. We do what my colleagues did yesterday, and shrug and go “This is normal for them.” We even admire the more talented of them, despite their moral aberrations.
This is because for most of us politics is not religion. We don’t punish apostates. Instead, we are willing to go “Oh, yes, that’s what he was taught. But he’s still a superb artist.”
The reverse is not true. On the other side politics is religion. Have the wrong opinions and you’ll “never work in this town again.”
The end result is that “the right” in the field (in almost any entertainment field) and by “right” here I mean even squishy libertarians like myself, moderates itself. I can’t picture in any way shape or form anyone writing a poem glorifying someone who took a gun to IRS agents, say. I certainly can’t imagining them thinking it would further their career, or make them “hip.”
But the left has no such checks. They’ve long ago passed the boundaries of what is normal outside the field. The all-scoundrel-males, all-saintly-abused-females-all-the-time crashed print runs enough. Now we’re subsisting on a tenth of what our precursors sold.
And yet, none of us stands up in front of the crazy train and screams “you’re going too far and the bridge is out ahead.”
So they try to tune to the group, and they don’t know that the group is now an inch from a yawning chasm.
Think about it: in my professional group, in MOST artistic professions, the “normal” reaction (and yes, I’ve seen it from colleagues who didn’t write posts) to a heinous attack that kills innocents is to feel sorry for the criminal.
We should have stood up and shouted “fire” in this theater long ago. Because there is a fire and it is threatening not just to disconnect our field from the rest of the country, but to set the country against itself and, ultimately, cost us our lives.
But, you’ll say, if we so much as say “boo” to them, they start a storm of poo flinging. They accuse us of horrible crimes. Some of it will stick because people don’t investigate.
Do you think I don’t know that? Note I’m not naming names IN THE POST because I have a job and don’t have time to deal with this. And they would surely start a witch hunt.
I’ve watched demonize Heinlein with a constant shrieking of “Sexist, racist, homophobe” even though for his time and place, Heinlein was almost pathologically NONE of those.
We cut them slack, we admire them where they’re right, we do not withhold anything due to their opinions, we do not accuse them of preposterous crimes.
Even the poor woman who wrote the poor poem (well, it is) is PROBABLY not a bad person. She is, however, a Liberal Arts graduate, and clearly she was a good student. And there are no cries to tell her “Bridge out ahead” – not in her circles. She actually can write this, with no one frowning at it, and THINK she’s “speaking truth to power.” (Because the side that has no say in any artistic field is the power, doncha know?)
And since yesterday I’ve been afflicted by a sense of guilt. Because we should have screamed long ago. Our forebears in the field should have screamed before I was even out of elementary. They didn’t.
Now what? I’m no more willing to be a martyr than the rest of you. Some of the poo will stick, and even indie, I have to sell to the public.
I don’t think any of us can in conscience do to them what they do to us. Politics is not religion with us. We see the good in them despite the loony beliefs.
So, what? I don’t know.
This wouldn’t bother me as much if I weren’t religious and if I didn’t believe in a terrible day of judgment when my soul will be weighed against what I’ve done, and what I’ve failed to do.
Or maybe I would. A friend commented about how eventually, the cold civil war will turn hot, because we can’t talk to them anymore. And then I was reminded of this passage, from Starship Troopers on house breaking a puppy:
“Suppose you merely scolded your puppy, never punished him, let him go on making messes in the house… and occasionally locked him up in an outbuilding, but soon let him back in the house with a warning not to do it again. Then one day you notice that he is now a grown dog and still not housebroken – whereupon you whip out a gun and shoot him dead….”
Our colleagues are not dogs. But like dogs, they try to fit in the pack. And in many ways we’ve been treating them as the stupid dog owner above treated his puppy. “They’re just—“ this or that. “It’s best to ignore their fits.”
Which means the group, as a whole is running around making a mess out of the culture. Are vague threats to take up arms the right response? Shouldn’t we try a rolled up newspaper first?
But, you say “poo flinging!” Yep, indubitably.
And I – even I, even with indie – don’t have time for it. But it might behoove us to start thinking of making time, and of making fun of the more ridiculous bits of their madness.
Because otherwise it will just get madder. And because a culture that lionizes those who want to kill it is not long for this world.
UPDATE: BTW, when you’ve managed to get to both Dave Freer and I (given we’re the sort of bums who JUST want to tell fun stories and make a decent, non-spectacular living) you’re burning your good will with the general public. And while this is not about the poem, it strikes close.