I am now reading An Air of Treason, the last of PF Chisolm’s Robert Carey mysteries. Took a break in the middle to re-read Black Tide Rising. (Bad idea btw. As I’m still having auto-immune from hell and keep dreaming I’m a zombie. Anyway…)
The Chisolm mysteries are interesting from a writer pov. As she’s traditional, I wonder where the decision to take the characters to London and get them involved in the court came from. Since it happened on book four it has that whiff of “we have to make this series ‘big’ by having important people appear.” I could never understand this idea on the part of agents and editors, and I could never dissuade them from the stupid notion that “having important historical characters appear sells books.” Particularly when the important characters are the center of the plot. I kept telling them “but we know how it ends. They weren’t killed.”
Anyway, I found mystery 4 and 5 set in London less enjoyable, partly because I have my own vision of Elizabethan England. And while hers makes a certain sense with the remaining history and bits, her “sense” of it was different. It feels more Marlowe than Shakespeare, as there are no clean people, not even Shakespeare.
This sort of thing depresses me, so even though I liked the main characters those two books left a bad taste.
The sixth book leaves the confines of London, though it’s still not back to Scotland. I hope the next one will be, as I like those much better partly because it’s like the old west crossed with Elizabethan times.
Anyway, I came upon a chapter in which Carey’s Scottish lieutenant has been set upon by bandits on a lonely road, robbed and beaten within an inch of his life, and he’s thinking if he were in Scotland, he’d call the surnames (having a surname marked you as better than a peasant) related to him and burn out the bastages, and kill them onto the 7th cousins.
I was thinking about that, and the tribal nature of humanity came into sharp relief as something useful in building civilization.
Yeah, it’s barbarous to go and kill people related only vaguely to those who hurt you. No, it is in no way “fair” or “just.” You can see though how it would have helped build civilization — or perhaps we should call it “the self taming” of man — when any type of rule of law was at best weak and uninterested in “justice.”
Assume humans put out more violent (we’d call it psychopathic) people in the past. We know psychopaths tend to be charming and therefore more likely to leave descendants. So, imagine that you had a few of those in your tribe or clan. Unless you were the strongest in the area (and even then, as the others could gang together and still beat you) you had a good incentive to keep the crazier people connected to you under control, lest death be visited upon you.
I have no proof of this, of course, but there seems to be proof, or at least indications, that we’re much “tamer” than people even four hundred years ago, and I could totally see this being one of the ways it came to happen.
On the other hand, we’re still tribal. Which got me to thinking. A lot of the fights we are involved in on the net are tribal. And metaphorically speaking, one side involves itself in a lot more burning of towers while one side — ours — seems to want to fight by the Marquess de Queensbury rules and be strictly fair and honest.
Again, part of that is because we value fairness, honesty and the rule of law. All understandable. However, not only does it put us at a disadvantage, but it also might be unfair to our opponents. By not hitting them on the nose with the rolled up newspaper when they — metaphorically speaking — mess the carpet, we’re training them on the idea that they’re so righteous that even their crazier members should be lauded, not restrained.
This leads to what someone has called “peak crazy”, as in, people like cabbage head, who can “talk to plants” and thinks all piv is rape are taken seriously and given university posts. Or worse, government posts. (Shall we count the members of the current administration wearing Che t-shirts? In public?)
Worse than that, though, it allows all the “markers of respectability” to be concentrated on the other side. What I mean is uninformed observers assume the side that isn’t being CALLED crazy and maligned in bizarre ways in public must be above reproach. And this means when journalists, etc, need a quote they go to those people.
Now where they to uniformly report on the people they talk to this would be no problem. I doubt cabbage head can hold it together and not sound like a psychiatric case for a whole interview. However, journalists then discard the obvious nuts (a human think “ooookay, so, not airing that one. She thinks women could ‘evolve’ a way to reproduce without men. right.”) So the ones they keep are the ones that while joining the crazy lynch mobs can appear reasonable for the purpose of being “experts” on air for twenty minutes.
Thus are info wars lost. And this is why as much as I hate tribalism and clan warfare, we might want to consider burning a few towers now and then. Metaphorically speaking. Fairly, because we’re us, after all. But you know, most of these people don’t have skeletons in the closet. They have skeletons dancing in red dresses in the living room. Pointing out these skeletons and the peak crazy statements is just fair. And it’s better for them. We can’t complain they’re totally out of touch with reality when we make no effort to rein them in.
Clan warfare has its uses. And hey, at least we don’t need to kill babies up to the seventh generation. Just do a bit of research and engage in a cleaner and saner version of the mudslinging they do.
Because as long as we let them cover themselves in the mantle of respectability, that’s what interested observers see. And it’s not good for anyone in any field of human endeavor.