For those of you living in a hole, who haven’t read about how Damien Walter, who for inexplicable reasons is taken seriously enough by The Grauniad to be given column space, has so far pursued his fascination with Larry Correia as to indulge himself with a fishing expedition on Twitter, trying to find “proof” of whatever crazy prejudices he attributes to Larry.
He also indulged himself – poor man – with yet another column Whining the Future, and explaining to the world how everyone who disagrees with him (the problem is it’s so hard to agree with someone who says crazy stuff like “the future is queer” – which leads one to add “and short”) is a dinosaur clinging to his guns and religion – oops, sorry, that was another person running his mouth about people who didn’t agree with him and whom he didn’t understand homophobic/racial/cultural/purple dinosaur privilege/prejudices, and how little Damien’s way is the way of the future. (No, I have no idea how large this man is, but reading him one can’t help imagining him about four feet tall and wearing short pants. For some reason, I also see him holding a lollipop, but that’s unlikely.)
I’ll leave the detailed fisking to the professionals: John C. Wright and Larry Correia. Really, when they were done there was nothing but a few scrapings of “progressivism” on the floor, and to attempt to revisit the column in detail would go way beyond beating a dead horse, to attempting to reconstitute the horse from a few strands of DNA. I’m not so ambitious, so I’ll merely note, as Larry did, that my experience too is that these loud-and-proud social workers who mistake themselves for authors are running people off reading in droves. They might be – some of them are, at least on paper – bestsellers, but this is a much diminished bestsellerdom compared to even the midlisters of the seventies.
And please spare me the excuses publishers made for years: it’s the movies, it’s tv, it’s the internet.
As someone who is hopelessly old-fashioned in her choice of entertainment, preferring reading over just about anything else, and who is friends with a great many similarly unnatural people, for years we’d gather together and lament the lack of anything to read, no matter how we looked. Also, as the mother of two young men of this our present time, who have had the net at their fingertips since the age of three, I can tell you that the internet never stopped them from reading. On the contrary, they’re likely to have one eye on youtube and one on a book – provided the book is interesting enough. And incidentally neither of them found it hard to get into Agatha Christie or Robert A. Heinlein or even C. S. Lewis, language conventions and a bygone mode of life notwithstanding.
Rather the problem has been that for the last fifty years or so, publishers and not a few writers have confused the production of stories for sale with a sacred calling of pushing “progressive” opinions, situations and narratives down people’s throats, whether the buying public wanted the narratives or not. Because they believed that this “future” is inevitable, and also just (in the sense it would destroy many people who are better off than these writers and a few who are worse off, but whom the writers imagine despise them, anyway) and therefore must be pushed.
The public responded well enough to an extent, while those narratives were somewhat understated, but the problem is that given the monopoly of the big publishers over the culture, and their ability to control the laydown on a book, they lost track of the fact that the progressive narrative was not … ah… universally acknowledged, and that the impression that it was was something they themselves fostered. And so they decided to push ever outward, and more bravely towards ever more “progressive” public re-education.
Which is why at this point reading some of the more “daring” fiction, you have to go and check the copyright page, to make sure it was published in the same universe you live in. It is also why, in despair, many publishers have turned to pushing porn, er… I mean paranormal romance (or heck, most romance) and outright “uh?” like Fifty Shades of Grey, because sex still sells. At least sort of.
But never mind all that – though it should be obvious to a blind man, at midnight, in a coal cellar.
What struck me about Walter’s article was his unshakeable certainty that he and other “progressives” are the way of the future.
Look, I know that’s what they’re taught in Europe. Well – I was taught that in Europe too. Unfortunately for my teachers, it was a bad idea to teach Marx to someone who read History in her free time, and Shakespeare for relaxation.
Because I knew that each era had a way of conceptualizing life and the cosmos by the “science” and “philosophy” of the time.
Thus the Victorians – like Marx – had great faith in science and what I’d call “social engineering” but not in the sense we use it. More in the sense that various parts of society constituted well-oiled parts, working in interlocking harmony.
Well… I could see the philosophy of the time all over Marxist ideas, like the idea of finite pie economics, the idea of an inevitable triumph of proletariat, the idea of proletariat: of people as widgets that fit into certain “classes”. Oh, come on. It was like the great drive to classify the natural world that did so much good in the Natural sciences. And also left us holding the bag on some particularly funny classifications, like pachyderms, which really have a lot less to do with each other than they thought.
Marx went splat a bit more because humans are a moving target, our culture and opinions ever moving, each generation reinventing the same things in a slightly different way. And economics was never a finite pie, which Marx might have known if he hadn’t cadged a living from Engels. Never mind.
I could see that the philosophy behind Marxism was already outdated. In the sixties and early seventies, we could already see that so many of the things Marx had predicted just had failed to materialize, that “classes” were ever harder to classify, that socialist paradises had a lot to hide behind the glitzy façade of the Soviet Life magazines sold at every street corner. I mean, I might not say it aloud, because I wanted to pass my classes and enter college, but no matter how much my teachers assured me that the Soviet Union was a beacon of civilization and the United States was like the Roman Decadence but not nearly as much fun, even I, at fourteen, knew which way people fled even at the price of leaving everything behind, including family.
Took me a long time to internalize it, though, because it’s hard to believe that everything you were taught (or almost everything) in school was a lie.
Since then Marxists have got more defensive, and spend most of their days explaining to us why every instance of Marxist failure is not real, and why socialism/communism/progressivism have never been tried.
Considering how much of their time this explaining takes up, it’s amazing that they still believe, unblinkingly that the future belongs to them and that it underlies things like their analysis that those who cling to their guns and religion their stories about monster hunters and spaceships are the outdated ones, instead of the incoming wave, ready to replace the tired and nihilistic view of the world fostered by that old dead white guy, Marx.
As we know indoctrination works. That and the fear of no longer being in step with the “good people.”
Which means that they don’t even think about the likelihood that the future isn’t “queer” or “feminist” or belongs to the classes that the new Marxists have decided are downtrodden, in place of the “proletariat” that disappointed them by getting cars and homes of their own and wanting to be well off more than they wanted proletarian revolution. (And before one or several of you comes and beats up on me because these people really are “downtrodden” – Quatsch. Yes, yes, victimhood, etc, but most people have at least one characteristic that was discriminated against at one time or another somewhere or other. Yes, there are broad classes of people who were very badly treated by Western civilization and who are still badly treated by every other civilization. But people aren’t “classes” of people, and being a victim is ultimately a matter of choice. Are there people who look down on me because I’m female and have an accent? Yep. And most of the ones I’ve run into are “progressive” but never mind. I am me, and not “designated victim of the week” and most people eventually figure that or they’re too stupid to live, and I don’t care.)
Anyway, “progressives” are absolutely sure that the future is somehow not-capitalist (even though capitalism is not so much a system as what people default to, and breaks through even in the most totalitarian of systems, under the guise of the black market), and belongs to whatever the minority of the day is. Even though there is no proof of this. And they’re convinced that white people are losing “privilege” (does Harry Reid look like he’s looking anything to you? No? Nancy Pelosi?) and therefore are “scared.” (Okay, Bill Clinton does look scared, but that’s because I think he knows he’s getting too old for random tosses in the hay.)
Like the long dead nineteenth century white men whose philosophy they parrot unthinkingly, they view civilization as having a direction, and – in a leap of faith – see it as moving in the way they want it to.
Considering the wonders their beliefs have done for sf book circulation and, more materially, for the economies of Europe and the United States or the standard of living in Cuba, say, this is faith indeed, faith that challenges reality. It is also of course, a sign of undigested and unexamined beliefs.
So if they can look at science fiction – which has been mostly female for at least twenty years – and see it as a long slog of the downtrodden, if they can look at a field that has lionized every writer of color who was willing to parrot the party line, and see white male supremacy… well, they’re not at war with us. They’re at war with reality.
But they never give up, because they were told history comes with a “this end up” arrow and theirs is the end that is up.
Yet, when I made the journey from the left in my mid-thirties, I found it very freeing. What we forget is what a dank no-hope philosophy Marxism is. The idea of a finite pie leads inexorably to the idea that fewer humans is better and no humans best, and eventually to self hatred and hatred of humanity. And the idea of classes and that the better off are better off because they took advantage of the system or were born with “privilege” makes you envy everyone better off than you, a destructive emotion at best. It also leads to guilt about every good thing you have. And to fantasies about a future in which all the good things go away.
It was a revelation, suddenly, to realize that it wasn’t scripted that we’d overpopulate the world and destroy ourselves; it wasn’t scripted that third world cultures would win out and that the future would be poorer and harsher than the present; it wasn’t scripted that crime would always increase, and human life become cheaper. It wasn’t true that the future was like Soylent Green but less fun.
None of it was scripted. There was no arrow saying “this way up” in history. I was free to hold what elements of the past I wanted, and to give up the ones I wanted. I could work towards a better future. I was free to think whatever I wanted without fears of being excommunicated.
I think people who cling to their Marx and Engels accuse us of being afraid, but I think they’re the ones who are afraid. Afraid everything they “know” is wrong. Look, we’re not the ones excommunicating people who cross over. Like the old Soviet Union versus the United States, movement is much greater in the direction from “progressivism” to “freedom” and when movement in the other direction takes place, we might wonder what happened, but we don’t obsess about it, and we don’t character-assassinate. We talk back to them, sure, but we don’t spend our time calling them names. (Oh, fine, I called Damien Walter short or at least juvenile, but note I said he just gives me that impression. For all I know he’s seven feet tall and doesn’t even like lollipops.)
They do. Because unless they keep that fence of rigid belief around the herd, that certainty that it’s their way or the highway, and their demands that you fall in line or “shut up and go away”; unless they metaphorically stone everyone who walks away or dares to disagree with them publically, people who’ve been indoctrinated just might smell the freedom outside and realize none of these dismal predictions are “inevitable.” They might realize that the future is theirs to create. And that they did build that. And that there’s nothing sacred about victimhood. And that they have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in a world that is an infinite pie.
And then, they will be done.