The opposite of creation is not destruction. Destruction, however much easier than creation, however much detrimental to society and to self is at least an action: you do something.
The opposite of creation is a sort of sterile, puzzled nothingness.
I’ve been observing this lately among the Social Justice Warriors (and btw, you should totally follow that link and read that article.) They acclaim a certain type of “art” (for lack of a better word) which is not even the type of creativity you see in school kids where they say take two comics, mash them together, and think they have created something new and Earthshattering.
That is the creativity of the naïve and inexperienced. No, the SJWs “create” by regurgitating onto the page things they read elsewhere and have been told are examples of right think or right positioning. Which is why their works feel beyond boring, sterile, castrated somehow, as if some piece of essential humanity is missing.
I’ve met this sort of “creativity” before.
I’m not going to run down my country of origin. It did pretty well in poetry. I liked Camoes, but that was because it was a requirement and also, I think, because I didn’t know very much of Roman poetry at the time (I suspect it’s rather derivative.) And I liked Fernando Pessoa. And I liked Eurico de Sa (though I liked him as a teen and wonder how it would have ported into my adult self.)
All of those are, of course, post renaissance, and in my opinion Camoes (the Lusiades) suffers from a constriction of imagination.
Part of this is that even into the nineteenth century the country had “accepted modes of thought” (it might still for all I know, but I doubt now they’re religion based.) There were things that were simply unthinkable without offending the majority of the “right thinking” Catholic-brought-up population.
Someone or other in a book I was reading said that Portugal was more Catholic and more authoritarian about it than practically any other country (except maybe Spain) because it had a high number of Carthaginians in its ancestry and those were total fanatics.
This is possible. I don’t know. What I know is this: when people here tell me to write “authentically Portuguese” fantasy and not elves and dwarves and what not, they don’t realize the level to which a religion of exclusivity (not Catholicism, per se. It didn’t do it in Italy or in most of the rest of Europe, but Catholicism the Portuguese way) scoured the imaginative landscape clean of all other elements.
I presume at some point the North had Celtic folklore, because it was part of the Celtic commonwealth. And all of the country, most definitely, had Roman myth.
It’s just that even in the twentieth century the idea of a Portuguese Tolkien was unthinkable. And while the Lusiades had symbolical Roman myth, it was almost self-consciously symbolic and imitative.
I’ll say right now I’ve been away from the country for a long time, and it’s entirely possible that other authors from the times I’m referring to have been discovered and that they were more imaginative. What I know though is that even our equivalent of the Grim fairy tales, collected from the people, are devoid of any supernatural beings but Saints. The scouring of the intellectual/emotional/mental landscape of the country was very complete.
And from what I can gather, looking back, it wasn’t what the civil authorities forbid, (though there was that too) but that the culture had made certain things unthinkable. You couldn’t think of them and remain part of the group.
I suspect the same thing is what happened in the Soviet Union under communism, and why they are having so much trouble rebuilding a civil society without recourse to authoritarian, soviet-like structures.
I’ve talked to people even in lighter socialist countries, like Sweden, who can’t seem to conceive of a non-socialist representative society. If I tell them their system sucks (It does, no matter what progressives say. It makes individual initiative and entrepeneurship impossible, to say nothing of somehow destroying the race’s impulse to procreate. In a connected world, too, it also attracts the kind of migrants who don’t share the culture and who simply want to mooch of it) they instinctively, without thought, go back and compare what they have to what they had when monarchy was absolute in the middle ages. Despite examples in the rest of the world, the idea of representative government without socialism is literally unthinkable. Their schooling has made some thoughts things that can’t be thought.
In the old traditional publishing they could hem us in in the same way. I knew if I wrote even something so innocuous as a communist villain and a good businessman in the same story, I’d never sell it. Ever. It was unthinkable.
I think a lot of these systems become this way and make certain thoughts unthinkable because they’re so certain of themselves, and because what was there before was so much more horrible.
I’m fairly sure that Catholicism in Portugal became absolutist to scour the public mind of Muslim thought with its myriad of genii and spirits. Anyone who has seen Roman ruins in Portugal and sees that for all the centuries of occupation the locals, secretly, buried their dead in the ruins of the church (because it was the only consecrated ground left) can doubt there was Muslim oppression and that the backlash against it was horrific.
Hence the backlash against the horrible becomes the totalitarian thought of the future.
But there is also, undoubtedly, a different reason for totalitarian thought, and that is when the past was better, and when your regime/thought/ruling doesn’t work very well at all.
If we look carefully that’s what FDR did by maligning his predecessors and enshrining the New deal. It was also attempted with varying degrees of success when Clinton took over after the elder Bush. Seizing the opportunity presented by a minor dip in the market, (amplified by news reports of the misery it inflicted on the nation. Ah, if they did those reports now!) they started proclaiming that “trickle down economics” didn’t work and that the new soft socialism would.
It didn’t. Not really. It inflated stock market bubbles with government money and let Friends of Bill get away with murder, which was then used to advance the “all business is corrupt” narrative. (Also no one in the Reagan administration ever used “trickle down” they used “supply side”. Also, anyone who lived through both administrations, let along those of GWB and Obama, knows that whatever the heck Reagan did WORKED.)
However, in the news and the media, saying what Reagan had done had improved the economy was literally unthinkable. Even when some of us remembered it.
But mostly – mostly – I find these… ideologies of exclusion that make everything out of them unthinkable exist not in backlash or on purpose to erase something, but because they are fataly flawed internally and if people were aware of a different slant or looked at them with fresh eyes, they’d find the flaws.
This is the case with a certain type of religion (Islam, mostly, in most parts of the world) but also with all the pseudo-religions of the left. Yep, all of them. Environmentalist, socialism, feminism, and that bizarre blend that’s the Social Justice Warrior.
They’re besieged all about and hemmed in with “this you can’t read” and “this you can’t look at” and “this you can’t think” and they call this being enlightened and free-thinkers. And they don’t have enough critical thought faculties left to laugh when they say it.
For instance one of the SJWs in my field was congratulating herself not long ago for not having a bookstore near her that carried books that weren’t written by SJWs and therefore never having been exposed to “bad think.” Because…
I mean, if those thoughts are self-obviously bad and wrong, she could read them and find rational reasons to reject them, right?
But the truth is she couldn’t. She has no logic as a defense for adopting the positions she does, or avoiding the opposite. She just thinks what she’s told to, and avoids what she’s told to.
Because “wrong think” could destroy the entire construction of what she believes. (Shouldn’t be difficult. It’s internally contradictory. Say, for instance, how do you deal with a woman’s right to choose when a woman chooses to abort all female children. Why you scream about her false consciousness and tell her she’s a subconscious victim of the patriarchy and then you stop her choosing. But then how do you face the fact you stopped her choosing? You don’t. You made her choose right for her own good. Yes, okay, but how are you different from those who say that abortion is harmful to the mother and to society and she should choose life for her own good? You’re not, save for thinking “right thoughts” and holding on to the sanctioned opinions. Just like a medieval peasant in a theocracy, right?)
This type of rigid thought structure is bad, I think, for all professions and all jobs (and thus, ultimately for society.) You can be a decent cobbler, but not an incredibly innovative one, if your entire training is to be afraid to stray outside safe-thoughts.
But it is death for the arts. It just is. You can’t create if you don’t have access to the full panoply of human thoughts and imaginings, at least in the symbolic sense.
None of us – I think – believes in fairies or unicorns, but bringing a fairy or unicorn in to a story is useful to create a certain situation, and humans in that situation are also interesting.
Social justice warriors should be able to imagine a bad woman in power. If women are fully human, they can be bad, without their evil being the result of oppressive patriarchy. But they can’t. They can’t think “badthink.” That would bring into question the entire idea of female supremacy, let alone the idea that men and women are exactly alike but men are worse. In the same sense they can’t, say, write a futuristic story in which someone creates a true hermaphrodite race, because that would make them question that men and women are already alike form the neck up. (Oh, wait, they COULD write that, but it would be all about sex and “consent” and nonsense externalities, not how their thought would be different IN ITSELF from other humans and how THAT would affect the culture, which is where the real creativity lies.)
Their alternate history, likewise, tends to devolve into either revenge plots against those they view as oppressors, or puerile utopias. It is beyond them to create something like the Grimnoir Chronicles, in which the unthinkable happens and the world changes in unthinkable and yet utterly realistic ways.
And this is why when you’re reading their stuff you tend to feel you read it all before and Ursula Le Guinn at her worst did it better.
This is why they default to accusing anyone who is not bound by SJW thought of not wanting women in science fiction, as though objecting to a gynotheocracy were the same as not wanting them to participate. This is why they think allowing people who disagree with them to publish is the equivalent of shutting them up. Because they can’t – simply can’t – coexist in a world that allows other forms of thought.
Which is too bad, because with indie, it’s gone beyond Baen and they are most certainly have to face the fact that some people out there don’t read, write, or play games like they do. No one is going to force them to appreciate the other side, but no one is going to shut the other side to please them and make them feel “secure” either. (And btw, that’s where the whole not feeling safe comes from. They’re not afraid the “wrong-thinkers” will attack them. Only that these people will say things that question their belief system. A totalitarian, exclusivist belief system can’t tolerate being confronted by different thoughts. It feels like an attack and like you’re falling apart. Hence the fears aimed at nice, polite, decent men like Brad Torgersen. If you think of their claustrophobic, limited mind-space it makes PERFECT sense. This is why they need “safe” rooms, too, to get away from divergent thought and divergent people. All while proclaiming diversity, which would be funny if it weren’t so sad.)
They’re going to have to adapt or be marginalized.
Now, if we can come up with a way to make decent, professional indie movies, perhaps we can get away from the present Hollywood phase where the height of creativity is to redo superheroes (cartoonish to being with) as female, because, you know, that makes it totally better. Even when it doesn’t.
As for the SJWs, yep, they still have access to the megaphones of the culture. But those are drying up. The publishers are losing their money, and as TV and movies sign on to their properties my guess is that what will happen there is what happened to literature SF. You can’t make people consume what they don’t like. Not for entertainment. They’ll just go elsewhere.
And then the money dries up there too.
The lack of creativity that comes with their sterile, binding set of dogmatic beliefs doesn’t even allow them to destroy INTERESTINGLY. These exclusive thought-modes can’t exist in a truly pluralistic environment and the environment that’s emerging in the arts is pluralistic to the point of chaos.
Thought will move past them and elsewhere.
Creativity will return, and with tech change, there’s a good chance it will be freed up in ways we can only imagine. (But they can’t.)
A brilliant new renaissance is over the horizon.
In the end, we win, they lose.
Be not afraid.