It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is a bad thing – a very bad thing – to make Sarah berserk out over breakfast, which is why most sentient species, some invertebrates and some single-cell life forms have learned to avoid it.
No, this doesn’t mean Dan and the boys are in trouble. No, that’s fine. What happens is this – after week from hell, I was running around with a headache so bad I could barely think through it. In case it wasn’t obvious from the rate of typo to word in the last few posts, I also could barely write through it.
As happens we found a hotel that met our low-price-to-low-flea rate and Dan and I ran away so I could get work done on the overdue Baen novel. (It is unique in writers that our vacations involve the chance to write MORE. Shouldn’t be a great shock, though. Our “let’s go out to dinner” nights involved “I need to work out a novel plot.)
This was particularly needed because on top of the situation with our friend Alan – who should go home from the hospital today and start a new course of chemotherapy, so that’s good news – my kids are having beginning of school year issues. Since it is written (I don’t know where, but if I ever find out, I’m setting fire to it) that nothing the Hoyts do can be easy or simple, they’re both adding second majors and weird ones at that, and giving the bureaucracy hissy fits. This for some reason causes them to run into my office at the rate of a kid every five minutes, to p*ss and moan. So, the office gets impossible to work in (also smelly. The cats hate competition) and I lost two entire days to this. Which also added to my blazing stress headache.
So we ran away for three days and two nights to “get writing done.” So far so good, right?
Yeah. Except that breakfast is included in the room special promo sale. Which is why we stayed here. Have breakfast latish and you don’t need lunch, so that’s one meal less to pay for. (Hey, we’re writers. We’re cheap. Also, largely poor, our days of being rich beyond the dreams of average – sic – having crashed at the same time the towers turned to rubble and the tech boom collapsed.)
So we went down to breakfast.
Just when you thought it was safe to go down to breakfast…
We were in a little isolated table but separated by a curtain from a large group table. I heard the words “They can’t expect Obama to fix everything with one measure. I mean, things were so bad it doesn’t have a quick solution,” and I told Dan “Right then, I’m going to order an omelet, before I start ranting.”
When my calmer half said “I don’t know. I’m kind of hoping they make you start ranting.”
So I went down to get the omelet, and I came back and sat down. The large group of unmitigated stupid seemed to be talking lower – at least. If I said the multiplication tables backward in my head, I could tune out the occasional break through sentence like “What we need is more business regulation.”
And then, zero to nothing, I heard something, and I started shaking – painful body-long shakes – trying to suppress the berserker.
The phrase was “the problem is we have too many liberties in this country.” Like that. Like that, I found I was putting my head through the curtain and saying “If you discuss politics in public, I’m going to intervene.”
I want to point out that when I’m fighting the berserker, my voice gets really weird, and my eyes get this bizarre “one step over the line and you’re dead, Mister.”
I’ve been known to make postal workers run away (true) and airline employees bend over backward to give me anything I want, while I’m being perfectly polite and suppressing the berserker.
But these people were wrapped in an invincible mantel of stupidity. They said – I swear to Bob – “What? This is a public space, we can talk about anything we want.”
I said “Absolutely. And I can correct you anyway I want.”
At that point the better half who is a New England gentleman intervened. “Yes, it’s a public space,” he said. “And we’d like to have breakfast without your politics intruding on it. Can you keep it down, please? Particularly if you insist on being ill informed.” (When calmer half feels the need to put in the knife, imagine what my excitable self was feeling.)
And so I downed as much warm coffee as I could, because if you can’t find alcohol, warm liquids will help, and eventually the shakes subsided.
Too many liberties…
There are three things to take from this encounter: first, it is polite and proper, if sharing a public space with other sentient beings, to try not to say anything offensive out loud. I tend to discuss the latest scientific developments, a novel I just read, anything innocuous. I’ve gone to dinner with PJM colleagues and not discussed politics loud enough for the other tables to hear – and shut up when the waitress approached.
Look, guys, there was a reason that Englishmen who had servants said “not in front of the help” – it wasn’t just to avoid gossip. It was also to avoid making another human being, not in a position to retaliate, uncomfortable.
Good manners and all that.
So, if you have politics to discuss, keep your voice down or save it to your room. UNLESS you’re sure that the entire room is taken up with your coreligionists.
Another thing is that these people looked fairly normal. I didn’t see any badges of the little Satanists for Stalin or anything of the kind. This scares me beyond belief and I’m trying not to be depressed. They really think Obama is fixing “this mess.” I… Look, go over to the Zero Hedge guys… just read this.
A tiny excerpt:
There is more. Oh, yes, there are 33 of these facts. But the mainstream media won’t report it, and those who are dumb beyond the dreams of average swallow it, hook, line and sinker. And what can we do? I’m serious. WHAT can we do? This is sort of like before the French Revolution when people demanded Necker be returned to power because when he was borrowing and spending everyone was doing so well. There are no words. To paraphrase Heinlein, stupidity is the only capital crime. The punishment is always death. Unfortunately when it’s public stupidity, the death often follows on those who weren’t stupid.
Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it and take the rest of us along for the ride.
The third point though…
There are few things you can say that are so HEINOUS that they send me into automatic “Must suppress the berserker” mode. Look, guys I’ve got through entire dinners with communists without getting there, and without looking speculatively at the silverware and considering how to kill someone with a fork. (Okay, I lie about the second one, but all the same. Thoughts are, thank you, private, and my hobbies are my own.)
But that “we have too many liberties” got under my shield and went directly to the “attack” and immediately as well to the “you can’t go berserk in a public space. No, really.”
How can anyone think we have too many liberties?
Oh, I know. They think that because they believe in the myth of the “superior man” who will take care of them. The man on the white horse who knows better than everyone, and who can run everything so that no one is ever afraid or poor or sick or marginalized.
In other words, they dream of the ideal childhood.
The rest of us know that never in the history of the world, not even the calmest, has there been a time when a leader could guarantee safety, health and contentment to everyone. There will always be poor, unloved, suffering people. You can’t help that.
You behave in a way you help those around you and you try not to be a burden, but even then at times that will fail.
Those of us who are religious believe a time will come when we will live like that, in perfect harmony and contentment with a superior being watching over us.
But last time I looked, neither king, premier, president, emperor or satrap had the power to look into the hearts and minds and judge everyone perfectly. And no, the NSA spying ain’t it. And none of the above were the creators of the universe.
They are all, in fact, fallible men, usually fallible men attracted to power over others, who want to run you not for your own good but for their own internal satisfaction. And since people who crave this sort of power tend to be more broken than writers, their internal satisfaction might be something that even they don’t understand.
There is no man on a white horse. There is, always, an old trickster, coming to town and promising eternal peace. If you look carefully, you can see the horse is a mule that has been painted white. And the man is just using the same old promises the human brain is wired to crave, but what he wants is quite different. And even if he truly believes what he says, he can’t deliver. He’s just a man. He can’t know what each individual wants and needs. Only each of you can know what he wants and needs. And sometimes not even that.
Clearly the people on the next table would like to believe in the man on the painted mule. I would too. The idea someone will look after you perfectly is SO appealing. But I’m grown up. You can’t go back to kindergarten. And even my kindergarten teacher had no clue how to handle me.
I’ll handle myself, thank you. Even to the point of making sure I don’t berserk out at the breakfast table. It can be done. It’s just not easy, or comforting or pretty.
It’s a horrible way to live. Except for every other one. I’ll keep my liberties, thank you. You want to give yours up, I can give you a list of destinations willing to oblige you. It starts with Cuba.
No kings, no queens, no lords, no ladies. We won’t be fooled again.