Shhh. Did you know there’s a secret cabal that runs the world?
I don’t know why but this idea is hardwired into the human brain as plausible, and also as cool. Things like the Da Vinci Code owe no small part of their success to the fact that people want to believe that some unseen, all-powerful force is behind history.
I could give you a guess as to why. It’s a guess and a just so story, but it has some merit. After all humans owe no small part of their recent (say last 100 thousand years) success to the retention of PHYSICAL infantile characteristics well into adulthood, as well as the prolongation of childhood. Now there is no logical reason this would prolong intellectual infantile characteristics… no reason beyond the fact that we are both a body and a mind and mind tends to respond to the body.
As infants and children, we are all born into a world (a very small one) run by a secret conspiracy of one or two. I mean, I know my parents could turn my world upside down without warning (and often did, without realizing it. I mean, seriously who forgets to tell their 14 year old they’re supposed to leave on vacation the next day?) upending all my plans and changing all my set habits.
Even as adults, our lives can be upended by nothing we’ve done or can prevent. Look, almost all the hard times we’ve gone through were caused by stupid economist (manipulating stupid politician) tricks. Then there’s stuff like 9/11 which more or less put paid to Dan’s job at the time because it involved traveling, and suddenly, with the airline industry in disarray we had the choice of moving East or his spending two days a week traveling. Which made the four-days-on, three-days-off job into a five-days-on-one-day-off. Nothing we could have done or prevented and definitely unseen forces changing our lives.
Where I differ from conspiracy theorists, is that while I agree unseen forces (or at least too many potentially visible forces to follow and “see”) are at work in everyone’s life, I don’t believe those forces are a conspiracy, or centrally located, or even vaguely coordinated.
Take for instance the “conspiracy against libertarian and right wing writers in science fiction.” I don’t actually believe in any such thing. Oh, sure, the usual suspects were positing that we believe there is a conspiracy of elite “feminists and homosexuals” ruling everything and against us. They countered this by pointing out all the states and other governments that republicans control. Which has nothing to do with publishing or the gatekeepers in the arts in general.
I don’t even… I mean… these people literally don’t know if it’s ass or breakfast time. That’s as much sense as they make. They seem to have clue zero of how we think EVEN WHEN WE EXPLAIN IT TO THEM. In public. Day after day at Mad Genius Club, for instance.
My friend Bill Reader (who laughed at my shock at their theory above) seems to have been right. Their only attempts at understanding us seems to come from seeing us as themselves but evil (I need to buy a fake mustache to twirl.) And they believe in centralized conspiracy theories (i.e. the only opposition to “progressive” ideas is the Koch brothers Libertarians who, apparently having taken leave of their senses, are supposed to be financing and spearheading everything from the religious right to banking conspiracies; or the only reason that we don’t already have cars that run on spit and rainbows is because the evil oil companies CONSPIRE against those being made public; or the only reason they’re not personally successful with their degrees in the science of basketweaving is that the MAN is holding them down.) So, we too must believe in conspiracy theories, but they must involve people the progressives consider allies. Hence an elite of homosexuals and feminists.
Yep the idea was so strange I’m not going to lie, I giggled. And when they inevitably pick up on this, I shall gif them because the only way to answer the utterly absurd is with absurd pictures. I think some of my gay friends who are very successful indeed come closest to an “elite” of homosexuals — which comes to nothing as most of them are conservative/libertarian. The individualists fail to organize, and, oh, yeah, they couldn’t conspire their way out of a wet paper bag (not even one of those brown racissss paperbags.) BUT they’re good at the real world of individual work and achievement. As are a lot of people.
Now I do believe there is a self-proclaimed elite running most of the entertainment, arts, news and publishing. But I don’t think it got there by a conspiracy, or that they are “homosexuals and feminists.”
Mostly they got there by gerontocracy, which, except for brief periods is the form of government of most western societies. Where people live long enough, their power and wealth increases with age. And the makeup of the ruling class of elders resembles nothing so much as those who got a head start by being born in the right families 70 or so years ago. Hence the Clintons and the Warrens and others seem to be mostly white, mostly elderly and a little more than half female (perhaps because women live longer.) That’s all.
Now I don’t say it’s easy for libertarians and conservatives (at least open ones) to make it in the arts.
The people in charge are imbued with the ideas that were fashionable in their twenties and thirties. And that, due in no small part to the USSR’s agit prop efforts in our universities (no, not a conspiracy. Both the plans and the documentation of actions are there if you care to look. An enemy undermining you while at war is not a conspiracy. It’s just psychological warfare) are mostly Marxist.
(Oh, btw, the usual suspects also say communism is not originally Marxist, because Marx posited the withering of the state. I’d make a gif post about this — and might — but all they’re showing is that they know as much about Marx as the guy who was ahead of me in line to sign up for Russian classes so he could read Marx in the original. Yeah, he posited the withering of the state. After the all-powerful state had freed people of the evil influence of capitalism, so a new generation was born with no greed or self interest. This would be the Homo Sovieticus. And it borrows more than anything from the tales of the second coming. As we’ve found, barring a Messiah, men are still born as men and an all-grasping state doesn’t automagically make them into angels. Something that would only shock Marx. Oh, and current “progressives” which are probably the only thing more clueless than Marx. Their fathers have eaten sour fruit and the children’s teeth are set on edge, or if you prefer, their father was an idiot, and they’re even more brainless. I mean they routinely attribute criminal behavior or even bad behavior to that corruption of morals of living in a capitalist society, but they don’t even know the whole mystical mumbo-jumbo that underlies that “society is guilty” theory.)
This means that in those fields where the gerontocracy has seized power, not being a Marxist is the equivalent of being a child-abuser (this analogy was made by the Puppy Kickers during last year’s Hugo kerfuffle.) If you’re not a Marxist, you don’t want the evil capitalism that distorts all of humanity’s good impulses to be superseded. You actively hate (as opposed to merely not believing in) the idea of a society where we all live in peace and harmony and everyone receives benes according to their talents and needs.
Worse, at least in the arts, (where “Marxist analysis” and writing/painting/composing to “improve the world” have replaced the sense of aesthetics that ruled before and that went back to the renaissance’s rediscovery of Greece and Rome), if you’re not following the Marxist aesthetics of either criticizing the world as exists (particularly the individualist and capitalist parts of it) or trying to change it, you fall outside their ability to classify. I.e. you will read to them as very bad. Or possibly as bewilderingly mixed. To put it another way, they can’t make head or tails of an aesthetics based on ludic enjoyment and cathartic/emotional release.) So when they say the things we like are very bad or “infantile” or “incompetent” they are right, according to the way they judge. Of course, according to the way we judge most of their stuff is preachy, puerile and most of all stultifyingly predictable.
So, what we have here is a clash of two cultures, having nothing to do with a conspiracy. And btw, it doesn’t mean any of us can’t fake their aesthetics and get into traditional publishing. In fact, if indie hadn’t arisen through disruptive technology, most of us would have gotten in/kept working at it. Look, Marxist aesthetics aren’t hard to fake, really, and most of us learned them in college ANYWAY. In fact, removing them from our brain is the hardest part of writing at least at first for most of us with an “excellent” education.
Fortunately we don’t need to fake it, or get into fields that are, at best, limping on towards their logical end, due to technology, economics, and the fact that the current market in literature (and art, and–) bypasses gatekeepers and sells straight to the public.
You don’t need to believe there’s a conspiracy against you to believe your values are at odds with the decadent gerontocracy in control and also that hitting your head against a wall is painful, when there’s a big gate you can go through and which is open right next to said wall.
(Not that I don’t advise people who have yet to break in to try both. One book for trad, one for indie. Because the magic of a gerontocracy is that sooner or later the rulers die. Sooner, since they’re so hot and heavy on assisted suicide and all. And having a foot in the door and a place inside from which you can undermine the establishment has never hurt anyone. At worst, you’ll have a minor part in changing it before it dies. At best you’ll make a lot of money while doing it.)
But I personally don’t believe in conspiracies. Not the history-revising conspiracies, not the economy controlling conspiracies, not even the gatekeeper conspiracy.
I believe in chaos. I believe in chaotic systems. Which is why I don’t believe in centralized government OR planned economies. I mean, I believe they can exist. Just like gatekeepers exist, using their fading “power” to control rent seekers and unthinking newbies into following them like blind ducklings into No Awarding fresh blood in the field, even while shrieking they’re being held down. (Because you know, the most powerful house in the field is fighting against people who have the power to… No, it doesn’t stand scrutiny. Also, notice who is leading them. Gerontocracy again.)
Those aren’t conspiracies so much, as people using the channels of power they acquired through decades of patient climbing on the backs of others.
I also believe they fail spectacularly and in proportion to how much they try to control. (So, say, the USSR fails harder than someone just trying to control to whom awards are given in a backwater field of a dying industry.)
Conspiracies fail because three can keep a secret if two are dead and even the disorganized chicanery of gatekeepers and rent-seekers can be disrupted by a hacking of emails AND because technicians and engineers stand ready to rock the best laid plans of oldsters in control of dying industries with technologies that bypass them.
Those who see in a clash of cultures a conspiracy or in their opponents’ rejection of the gatekeepers belief in conspiracies are woefully unprepared to deal with a world where change is going accelerating, disruptive technology building on and causing more disruptive technology, no matter how much the “elites” try to slow it down.
And that’s fine. We have no interest in their useless lawn, when we can plant orchards of of our own.
So let them attempt to conspire. Let them continue to perceive us as through a distorted mirror.
As I said, gerontocracies are self-limiting. In the end they collapse for the obvious reason. And afterwards, we’ll be here, building. And catching society on our own load-bearing structures which we’re creating under, around, over and beside the ones that the “progressives” are so happily destroying. (Partly because theirs is a philosophy of destruction and always was. Practical Marxist revolution =destroy what’s there — ????? — utopia. And partly because they’re old and out of touch with the world as it is. Which means their brilliant ideas don’t work well in the present. Particularly in science fiction, the gerontocrats and those who follow their lead are the future of the past.)
So. Go about your business. Fear not the conspiracy. Dance happily in the chaos.
While they have some power, they will make our life a bit unpleasant. But their power is smaller every day. And in the end, we’re free. And that’s no conspiracy.