Because We’re The People Who DO
This is kind of the opposite of Galt – though I’m still advising you go mini-galt if you can and full galt if you can until push comes to shove – but I’d just like to remind you that most of us, here on the side of the constitution, on the side of the Odds, on the side of American exceptionalistm, are the people who do things.
I was chided today while getting my hair cut (not really, my hairstylist is a nice guy, but he said he’s learned to cut despite this) because I can’t stand still. There’s always the little movements. Attention deficit disorder is a way of life.
However, concomitant with that is an interest in just about everything, particularly how to DO things – both useless and useful.
For instance, when I got married, I had no clue how one went from the pasta in the package to cooked pasta. My first day in the apartment alone was a “uh?” and I read the instructions on the pasta. Over the next three years, I accumulated more cookbooks than some small third world countries. In fact some of them are on the cooking of small third world countries. (I have a collection of cooking around the world.) Dan says for five years I never served the same dish twice, and I’ll admit I only do now because sometimes I’m very busy with other stuff. Because learning what you can do with food is interesting and if it stops being interesting, I stop being able to do it.
I’ve also learned how to reupholster sofas (by doing it disastrously wrong once, of course,) how to do carpentry, how to paint walls, how to do crochet, how to do various styles of embroidery, how to do some dress making – and if I can find the time/opportunity, I’ll take courses in knitting and dressmaking.
I do things. I like to fix things. I like to organize. I like to build useful stuff. Long ago, when he was unemployed for a while, and then got a job, Dan brought me home a gift: it was an antique dresser that had been kept in someone’s barn and had come apart piece by piece. He got it for me as a toy. It was our big celebration. (If you’ve been to my house, you know it’s in the boys’ bathroom and falling apart again. I MUST find time to fix it.)
I’ve removed and installed kitchen cabinets. I’ve laid carpet and hardwood flooring. I’ve planted gardens (except in this house, where nothing will grow) and despite brown thumb made them grow.
And you know what? That’s part of the US exceptionalism, too. It’s starting to percolate in other countries, but it’s not the same. Here, there is a higher percentage that looks around and goes “well, it needs doing, and I might as well…”
I remember once, shortly after 9/11 I was very depressed, and went out for a walk. It was a relatively warm day after a cold week, and people were out, fixing their houses, installing windows, repairing roofs, cleaning gutters. It seemed like everyone was out doing stuff, and I thought “we will do.”
Of course, even in America the ones least likely to do it are the pampered flowers of privilege. The ones most likely to do stuff – useful stuff – to learn and use useful stuff are people like us.
We’re the people who do.
At the bottom of everything, if salvation will come at all, it will come, as someone (sorry, I can’t remember who) said in the comments “from a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere.”
What this means is, that our elites are in many ways very stodgy people. First, as I said, they most of them suffer from 3rd generation blight. They were eased through life. They never met real challenge. They’re not the most creative people around.
So… they’re carefully trying to close off every avenue of creativity and prosperity that individuals can create. But they’re not us. They don’t really “get” us. They’re like the aristocrats of the ancient regime, very good at the life of Versailles, but ignorant of how the real world works. I’d bet you dollars to doughnuts most of them never MET a working class person in their lives. Not to talk to. They’ve perhaps had short conversations with working class people in the service professions when handing in dry cleaning or ordering an espresso. That’s it.
And they’ve certainly never met people like us who are competent with our minds and our hands: and this is (I think) still most of America. We are or can be competent in both realms. And we don’t blush to use our hands.
So, they’ll miss stuff.
While you’re going mini-galt – cutting back on what you spend, making do or doing without, repurposing, reusing and reinventing — if you’re going to spend time on entertainment, make the entertainment learning something new: whether it’s how to cook, how to clean really well with cheap products, how to knit, how to re-sole shoes, how to carve, how to do box-container gardening, or even how to play an instrument. I highly recommend the teaching company’s great courses, too. The history can be a little politically correct, but the hard sciences are usually okay. Learn as much as you can. Think of your mind as a compost heap to which you throw new material and new skills and allow them to ferment. Encourage your kids to do the same.
First, because, if things get really, really, really bad – and if the immigration bill does make it through the house, they will and fast – the more skills you have, the more likely it is that you can find something you can do that will allow you to survive.
Second, because the more you know, the more you allow the fields of knowledge to cross-pollinate, the more likely you’ll come up with something startling that open new ways of life and totally circumvents what our would be Lords and Masters plan for us.
Look, they spent almost a century crawling their way through the institutions and then, just as they were in total control, the computer revolution – something they ignored as that thing geeks did for a long time – destroyed their monopoly in the arts and the media and will at least seriously dent their monopoly in education.
Where will the next breakthrough comes from, that changes the game?
Who knows? I can’t quote from memory but there’s a passage in the beginning of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress where Heinlein explains that you can’t predict a breakthrough that requires genius, except that you can predict it will happen, just not when where or what it will be.
I have this theory that the more things you know, the more things you try, the more you are ready for every contingency, the more you become the contingency. You put yourself in a knowledge and action rich environment and suddenly the discovery happens. You flap your wings, you’re the butterfly, and the world changes in ways no one could have predicted or prevented.
We have this over the forces of Luddites and statists. We can DO. They can only try to control those who do.
I can hear you say “but what I can do is nothing. All I can do is… tell stories, build a piece of furniture, cook a meal, rescue a cat—
Do it. And extend from it, and become really good at what you do. It’s not just the genius who breaks through who makes a difference. The person who was there to cook the genius a meal or feed his cat counts too. Or perhaps the person who cooked that person a meal or told that person a story.
We believe that individuals acting in their own best interest can improve things. We have history on our side.
We also have insatiable curiosity and tireless interest. Let’s use those.
Learn. Learn widely and do fearlessly. Heinlein said specialization is for insects. And many people would like everyone to be insects so that they can easily be controlled.
Don’t jump from that ledge. Instead make yourself as unpredictable as possible. Learn so much that you’re the one who can come through in a pinch.
Learn to pull a rocketship out of a hat.
A post on Breakage and healing is over at Mad Genius club. And I’m going to apologize to my subscribers. I promise to update that page after Liberty Con. Trying to cue the blog, write the non fiction columns for PJM and finish a short story is about all I can do before Thurs. early. After I come back, I’ll have models of shirts to pick from, and other stuff. Just bear with me a little while. I can do almost everything. Just not all at once.