It’s become a thing among Heinlein fans, writers and readers alike. We get together for a good talk, and a glass of wine, and one of us will mention something nuts and the others will go “Well, these are the crazy years.”
Things like the girl who had to remove a decoration from her purse before boarding a plane because the decoration was in the shape of a revolver, though about finger sized and evidently cut in half lengthwise. The TSA thought the ban on guns applied to this too. (Of course, she’d flown with it before, so it was just this TSA station, but nonetheless its rulings were absolute.)
Things like the little deaf boy who can’t sign his name because one of the letters looks like a gun.
Things like kids getting in trouble because of a fictional story they wrote. Things like my younger son – it’s a theme, yes. The boy is lightening rod on his mother’s side. More on that later – getting sent to the school psychiatrist because he used the following sentence in an essay “Some people think I’m crazy.”
Then there is the shooting in the Aurora theater, which doesn’t even make any sense, except in a culture where it’s better to be famous for killing people than to be obscure.
There’s half (half?) of our literature and movies, which glorify behaviors that in real life get you killed or make you a bum. There’s the fact that being thrifty, hard working and honoring your contracts makes you “uncool.” There the fact our women are taught to hate all men and men are finally learning to avoid women. There’s…
You say it in groups of Heinlein fans, and people go “Well, these ARE the crazy years.” And you move on.
I’m here to tell you these are not the crazy years, these are the fracking insane years. Yesterday I went for a long walk and because I didn’t have my son – he was volunteering at the hospital – and therefore had to stay off the more interesting parts of downtown, I took an audio book to keep me company. The book, because I’m writing space opera and trying to internalize his rhythms (and also because I really am trying to avoid using his terminology, etc, by reminding myself what it is. I grew up with it, and to me it just means “science fiction” but of course it’s more than that), was Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein.
When he hits the description of the Crazy years – you know, kids striking for less homework, more pay (for going to school) and eating clay sandwiches and such, I thought “Brother, you didn’t know from crazy.”
Part of his explanation – built into his world building – was that the crazy years were brought on by population pressures. One must give the man one strike, and that’s a big one, but it’s one he shared with every scientist of his time.
At least he seemed to have a clue what really was at the bottom of it. “Semantic confusion.” Semantic confusion is a big big issue, and it is what is at the bottom of our own insanity.
Heinlein believed that semantics would become an exact science. Since he based his beliefs on the scientific magazines of his time, I’m going to assume there was research into this. But it seems to have come to nothing. Or did it?
Was this one of those sciences that was never published? One of those things that were considered too dangerous for people to know?
Let me put it this way, if I say “Women should sleep around with every guy possible, because guys want to have women available to them with no strings attached” most women figure out that’s bad, right? But if I say “Women should sleep around with every guy possible so no man will hold strings on them and they can be free” this is liberating, right? Semantics. Not looking beyond the significant for the signified.
But the emotions know, if the head doesn’t. Pretty words can beguile women, and tv shows can show the wonderful joys of the slutty lifestyle, but every one of a us knows a woman who is turning forty and fifty, still raising the fist of liberation but finding fewer and fewer takers and, let’s face it, sinking into a pit of quiet despair.
Because men and women are different, and studies prove this. You shouldn’t need studies. It’s evolutionary. It benefitted men to sleep around and so those who did it with no issues were the ones who left most off spring. It did not benefit women to sleep around. It benefited them to have a guy know (or think) the kids were his, and therefore bring her the best hunk of mammoth from his hunt. Her kids survived.
Studies have shown that though in both cases sex creates attachment, the effect is much stronger among women.
There’s other stuff. We won’t talk about the human papilloma virus, now endemic in populations, which apparently causes interesting forms of vaginal, penile and mouth cancers. The widespread dissemination of it requires that most people have MANY partners.
BUT at the heart of it, guys enjoy the hooking up culture, women don’t. I’m not saying there weren’t always women who enjoyed it – of course there were – but statistically speaking, women favor attachment over hooking up.
How in hell did “liberating women” turn into “make them available for men’s fun with no pressures and no commitments?” How can we believe “Men and women are exactly the same, despite different evolutionary pressures, despite the fact we can see and hear they aren’t?”
Semantic confusion. We confuse equality before the law with equality.
How did not teaching your kids to read – whole word, making the classroom fun, “new methods” of learning for something that has been done in a mass setting and successfully since at least the Roman Empire – become “pedagogy”? and “Desirable”? Semantic confusion. We think “new” is better and trust “new discoveries” to make learning “less boring.” (Almost all basic learning is mind bogglingly boring. But it opens your wings to the sky.)
How did “Question Authority” become “Question all authority except your hippie teacher?” Semantic confusion. The teacher is after all cool and still behaves like an adolescent and assays your fears of growing old and unhip. And he says the authority are those other people. You know, the unhip ones, like your parents. And you don’t think that the teacher has power over the classroom. That he has his own authority. And that he’s using it to manipulate you.
How did “Speaking Truth to Power” become saying platitudes that are already enforced from the top down in our laws and in our societal assumptions. You know, things like “Anyone could be homeless. They just need compassion.” (Actually this is true, but for the long time homeless compassion should come in the form of making sure they take their meds and at least moderate their behavior enough to live in society.) Things like “Women are exactly the same as men and any differences are cultural.” (Actually women are driven by different hormones which shape thought, which shape – oh, never mind. Yes, some women are more masculine then men, but not the vast majority.) Things like “You should be able to make a living at whatever you want to, whether it’s something other people want or need or not.” Things like “What’s wrong with capitalism is that it doesn’t distribute money equally.”
This is “Brave and courageous” I suppose because they can give you your very own TV show, for parroting what the authorities want people to believe.
But the thing about semantic insanity is that words aren’t the truth. Words are just words. Our lying eyes still insist on telling us where reality differs from the words, and things start cracking up.
The first symptom is an amping up of insanity. Do women feel used and treated like dirt? Do they get upset because younger women (DUH) attract more men?
Well, you get screams of “harassment” at mere words said in passing; and you get “lookism” and its being considered a bad thing to note someone is in fact female.
They could step back and think that perhaps sex for its own sake is bad, and perhaps there is a reason for mating for life and having support in your middle or old age. But that would require real talking truth to power. And that they can’t do. Because everyone knows married people are unhip.
Is your kid failing to learn to read by the new spanking shiny methods? Well, then he must have a disability and it must be the fault of something that’s tragically unhip, like irradiated food.
… But insanity can only be amped so much. After a while even the crazies know it’s crazy. And then, there’s the fact that semantic insanity encourages the sort of behavior that makes things worse and takes society apart faster.
And then the crash comes. The normal result of the crash is a strong man regime, and maybe that’s where we’ll end up. Only not the current strong men, because they’re semantically insane. The very people trying to speed up the crash are the ones least likely to survive it.
Because most of them are third generation indoctrinated and unable to think of the signified beneath the significant.
I’m an odd duck. I’d prefer no enforcement of even the old morals. It makes most of us Odds distinctly uncomfortable, when any societal normal is rigidly enforced. And it makes it difficult for creativity and invention to flourish.
But that’s where we’re headed if we don’t rein in this semantic insanity, because a strong-man regime that’s closer aligned with the majority of people is better than what we have now, which is only aligned with the reality inside people’s heads. (Or at least the kakistocracy’s heads.) It will allow people to survive better.
Or we can turn back now, and try to think clearly and believe our lying eyes and not the pretty stuff we want to believe.
There is a different post over at Mad Genius Club: Entanglements.