Oh, the Humanity! A Blast From the Past Post-7-3-2007

Oh, the Humanity!  A Blast From the Past Post-7-3-2007

I’ve been thinking a lot about humanity, recently. Partly, I think, due to an ongoing and profoundly disturbing thread in my conference in Baen’s Bar (Sarah’s Diner) where someone suggested “feeding” humans to unspecified dark shadows. The thread (which is a fantasy thread, in which regular posters imagine themselves as shape shifters or what-have you, in a reinventing of their lives in the e-space of the diner. Think second life, without the props) has progressed, with some people objecting, to now saying that these people being pedophiles, who therefore “deserve” to be fed to the shadows.

I will confess this still makes me uneasy — vaguely nauseous too — and it’s not due to compassion for pedophiles. It’s more the fact that I like humans in general and humans in particular. This is something I often discuss with Son #1 who is going through his “I hate people” phase. And the whole thing has just been fermenting (festering) in my mind, while I go about cleaning and cooking and finishing my much overdue novel for Bantam (I’m on it, Anne, I swear) all of which was delayed by illness (to be explained later, perhaps.) The illness also prevented my posting here. And it also, at some fundamental level, seems to have changed me. I’m doing a lot more thinking about principles I’ve accepted, unexamined. I suppose this is good for a writer. And I promise I won’t be larding my books with long philosophical passages. (I adhere to the Heinlein code of WHY to write and making people think is way down the list. Though for the record, it is there.)

So — to stop rambling — Humanity, my friends. Are you pro or con?

Okay — right about now you’re thinking “Okay, she’s nuts. Of course I’m for people. I’m people.” Yeah, yeah, that don’t mean nothing bud.

Recently, as with the thread in my conference, I’ve been coming across more and more people — arguably sane, often painstakingly educated, provably intelligent people who hate human beings. The hatred goes from the subtle to the spewingly overt and in all cases it puts me — personally — off.

For an example of subtle — if you haven’t read about Arthur Miller’s issue with his handicapped son, go here

http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/post/PLNK1ECGRMUPNVS22 .

No, I’m not equating his putting away of his son and what must have been a morally excruciating decision with hatred of humanity in general. However — and I’m not dissing the man, I know he has been read, listened to and loved by more people than my paltry words will ever reach — I think the fact that he was able to put away his son and not think about it, and not think of him as his son till very late in life — this might be more of a male thing, btw. I can’t understand it. Particularly when the conditions the child was brought up in were justifiably bad — is predicated on his view of his Down Syndrome cousin as a useless encumbrance mistreated by his own mother. The interesting thing there is that the rest of his family did not in any way see it in the same light. They remember his handicapped cousin as being challenged, but much loved by his whole family and immeasurably enriching of their lives.

Now I know several families raising handicapped children — some profoundly handicapped. It’s not an easy task and not one I envy PARTICULARLY when the child is mentally or emotionally handicapped. Both times I was pregnant, (And this will doubtlessly repeat itself, should it happen again) I felt like I was playing trades with fate. There was this continuous argument at the back of my mind “if the child must have an issue, let it be a missing limb. Yeah. Missing limbs can be fixed with prosthesis. Or let it be blindness. Terrible, of course, but it can be got around. Or deafness. We can do deafness. Just please don’t let it be mental or emotional.” This, I think, is every parent’s nightmare just because of the difficulties in communication, as well as everything else. When my babies were young and pre-verbal, I’ve been known to run from the house into a snow storm, because they were screaming and I couldn’t figure out why or how to make it better. I can imagine that frustration on and on and on forever.

So I suspect the mother of Arthur Miller’s cousin DID yell at her son now and then in a rage. Heck, I yell at my sons now and then in a rage. (Though usually the younger as we have a serious clash of hormones going on.) And I suspect on the whole, the cousin WAS loved by his family who considered him not a curse but a blessing.

It is that Arthur Miller saw only the curse and not the blessing that I think constitutes a “subtle hatred” of humanity. Or at least of humanities’ failings. Yes, I have watched his plays — repeatedly. They were a favorite of TV in Portugal in the seventies — and I think the same thing comes through. This is a personal opinion, mind, and I do not wish people to deluge me with examples of his compassionate words or his empathy or whatever. I never SAW it or felt it. So reading that Amazon blog I went “Oh. That makes sense.”
For the record, I feel the same way about Christopher Marlowe, whose words I love but whose characters and plots I abhor. Many people have lingered on his “sadism” or his love of blood or whatever. That I can excuse as “writing to market” and also the fact that he was — ultimately — a sheltered intellectual (at least in one version of his bio. <g>) so the idea of great massacres made his pulse pound faster and he wrote it. What I can’t excuse is that all his characters are cold and dingy, “good” as well as “bad.” Compared to Shakespeare, who made you love — or empathize with — even his villains, Marlowe made even his “heros” repulsive.

I think — deep down — that’s how he saw all of humanity.

This kind of subtle — sometimes not so subtle, frankly — hatred of humanity glares at me from a lot of current SF and Fantasy (and Mystery too.) Perhaps it’s my quirk, but the line where that hatred peeks from under the layer of hiding is always where the author or screenwriter loses me. I’m sure it’s my quirk because the Matrix did very well. However, the first time I heard the line “We’re parasites on the face of the Earth.” pronounced earnestly (And like it was the first time anyone said it too — sigh) the movie lost me. Or those movies on the future of evolution — I don’t remember who made them? — that played on animal planet, lo these many years ago. We watched them with the kids and the only way I could continue watching them was to comment sarcastically on the designers’ open hatred of humanity.

No, don’t argue. It’s not the fact that he forecast our extinction that I considered so repulsive. To a certain extent that was to be expected, the same way it’s to be expected that singers will utter swear words. It’s the shock value. Fine. People who are unsure of their creative powers use foul language (yes, and blood) to make sure they hit the mark. Back when I was fumbling lost in the land of plot and character I wrote a lot more horror and my characters swore a lot more. No. What I found a glaring mark of their hatred for humanity is that ultimately they could not allow ANY simians to survive or even — heaven help us — any mammals. Their hatred of humanity led them to paint out all mammals and ultimately leave the Earth to intelligent — if you haven’t watched it you’ll think I’m crazy — squid-like beings. You’ll say I’m making too much of this example and perhaps I am, but the fact is that hatred of all things human is so common in arts and academia alike that I KNEW before I watched this series how it would end. I KNEW that everything human-like would be erased from the face of the Earth. (Though I confess the extinction of mice threw me. You’d think… never mind.)

And then there was the more overt one — a friend’s father, a member of the earliest fandom of sf/f. He visited our house and was a wonderful man, salt of earth. He played with my — then — toddlers and we had some interesting discussions about science and the news and what not. And then I chanced to meet him, just before 2000. He started talking about Y2k. Yes, I know it was a mooch thing, but he didn’t think it would be and he was looking FORWARD to it. He thought 2/3 of humanity would die and he was gleeful about it because — wait for it — it would thin the herd. Better for the Earth and — he assumed — ultimately better for the species.

This was genocide on a level that not even Hitler or Stalin could aspire to. It was a mass death of the guilty and the innocent. But this man — urbane, well behaved, educated — was looking FORWARD to it. And thought it was deserved.
So… how does this hatred of humanity come about? And why should we care?

It comes about in various ways I think. Most of all, though, I find it in urbane, intelligent, educated people. Our arts and culture community. Our leaders of opinion and thought. And I think it comes about because these people stuck out of the herd. My friend Dave Freer might be able to elucidate this mechanism better than I can from an evolutionary/primate perspective, but I think all of us know that humans will try to knock down and “kill” all those who are too different. And probably most of the people reading this blog know what too different is. You were the kid who sat in a corner with a book and who used words like ‘occluded’ that the other kids thought were insults. Now — I have an idea of how this is worsened in our present times and how our education and society fosters it — but doubtless the hatred of humanity in the particularly capable is fostered at a very early age.

Many of us — like doubtless a very young Christopher Marlowe (and I hope to go into him more, myself first. And the differences in what we know of the bios of Shakespeare and Marlowe as related to their attitude to humanity) — found themselves mocked and derided by people we knew were idiots. We found ourselves back up against a corner in the playground by bullies who objected to our being different. (Yes, some like me came back swinging and learned very early to take on as many bullies as came at one, leading to the dreaded phone calls to mom “your daughter broke so and so’s glasses.” “Your daughter bit so and so and his arm infected.” But most people don’t. Most people, particularly women, for whatever reason, seem not to have a good handle on self preservation instincts.) And we conceived a self-defensive and seething hatred for the great mass of humanity except those we allowed inside the magic circle. And even those, we were likely to see through the worst possible lens. And hating all of humanity, of course, we hated ourselves with it — partly because the universal hatred of everyone else towards us had to penetrate at some level and lead us to believe we DESERVED it. As little as we admitted it.

Why should we care about it?

Because a disdain for the unwashed masses, a feeling that we should “save people’s souls” over their sinful bodies, the idea that we should build an ideal “homo sovieticus”, all these have at their root a great hatred for humans. It doesn’t matter if you love humans as they could be. It matters that you hate humans as they ARE. People who hate humans as they are and who try to whittle humanity into what it could be or should be or some such have been responsible for the greatest massacres in history — including the horror show that was the 20th century. And yet, humanity was not markedly improved by any of their efforts.

But shouldn’t you hate a species in which 90% or more could be qualified as unwashed masses? Shouldn’t you try to improve it or whittle it, or narrow it down to the most worthy?

No, listen — it’s not even a case of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (and I’m sure I’m mangling spelling and grammar there, but you get the point — in more homely language Who Shaves The Barber?) — it’s a case of once that sort of thing starts it never ends. There will never be a “most worthy”. The “genius” who starts killing all the stupid people ends up alone. The “compassionate giver” who hates all mean people ends up finding they are all mean. And it’s the fact that the same way you can’t stand outside the window and watch yourself walk by, certainly you can’t look at humanity from outside and say “this is worthy. this isn’t.” Your views are tainted by your eyes. No other way. Arthur Miller would doubtless, given the chance, have rid his aunt of his Down Syndrome cousin. And in the end would render his family poorer and not see it.

So you say “Okay, fine, do away with all of humanity.” And…. substitute what? The octopi chirping as they swing from trees in primeval forests? Certainly all of you know those are no more than the wishful dreams of less-than-all-there film makers.

Humanity might suck raw eggs, but then what else is there? Do those of you who are past adolescence remember desperately wanting to be someone else? I wanted to be tall and willowy and blonde, to be able to flirt effortlessly and to fit into groups without thinking. Fortunately no mechanism was available to try to implement this. No mechanism is really available to make humanity as onto angels, either. And in the end as the only species we can PROVE (yes, yes, I heard of dolphins and elephants and even cats) is sentient and, more than that, the species we belong to — all we have is this suffering red clay. And there is no way to improve it but to improve ourselves. Wishing for extinction is akin to cutting off your head to cure headache.

And now we’re back on why the idea of why feeding fictional pedophiles to fictional dark shadows bothered me so much.

As I said before, I’m not a pacifist. And I refuse to stand with people who think EVERY life is equally sacred. If this seems a contradiction on what I said above, it’s not really. Look, I am a woman of very little faith. I try to follow one religion. I flirt with another now and then. BUT in the end, in the very end, I’m one of those people who can’t believe without seeing. My internal spiritual life is best described by paraphrasing Jorge Luis Borges. “I pray every night because my grandmother told me to. I have no idea if I’m talking on one end of a disconnected phone.” In fact, I suspect I am. Often.

But… humans… humans are here, and I can touch them, and I can love most of them to a point. Ultimately my most hated political future could become a ‘tolerated acquaintance’ if I knew them personally. And I know that. I’m forever struck by the admirable and lovable, even, in people who are otherwise wastes of oxygen. I’ve found admirable people whose political views I DESPISE. I’ve met people who’d killed other people and found them to be good and worthy in the rest of their lives. I’ve known addicts who made those around them miserable, but who had great qualities — be they generosity or a genuine love of their neighbor.

So, having said this, why am I not against the death penalty? Why am I not a pacifist?

Because I love people. And loving people I understand sometimes — sometimes, in rare cases — death might be the best thing for not just the rest of people but the individual himself. This is when other deaths/destroyed lives would come from the person continuing to live. And I’m not talking about things like “Oh, business men who exploit the masses” — that’s nonsense. I’m not talking about abstractions or degrees of separation or penumbras and emanations. I’m talking about people who by direct action destroy others: Mass murderers; pedophiles; perhaps arsonists if they can’t be treated. Those people, ultimately will only continue making themselves and others miserable. Yes, there are indications that these are illnesses, but they are illnesses we don’t know how to cure and which will destroy innocents.

Life imprisonment doesn’t work in these cases, because frankly, it can stop being for life very easily. Once life imprisonment is the worst punishment available, then people start arguing it down. And then you’re in the position Portugal was in the seventies and eighties — and maybe still — where mass murderers will get out in ten years or so and perhaps earlier. And the life of those on the streets is endangered as is any hope of a civil society.

(I’m not dogmatic on this. If you really believe life imprisonment will keep people out of danger, then do. I won’t dispute — too much. I’m simply more cynical, I guess.)

In the same way, war must happen sometimes — with its inevitable trail of deaths of innocents. (And no, I don’t want any discussion of current events in the comments, lest I bitch slap people.) Which makes it only justifiable if it will save a greater mass of innocents. Under that light, I can’t but say WWII was perfectly justified, regardless of the opinions against it in British and American papers at the time by well meaning people. (Before we entered the war. And yes, there were such arguments. Some eloquent.) Whether we saved Europe’s soul by trampling its body is something else, and yes, I do have an opinion on it, but it’s a discussion in its own, probably running to several pages, because I do go on…

Anyway, if you look at death penalty and more broadly at “he needed killing” not as a revenge thing or a consummation devoutly to be wished for, but as something you do because it MUST be done — because it’s the only thing that will save the greatest number of innocents — then the idea of feeding even the bodies of pedophiles to inhuman and supernatural shadows will revolt you. Whether pedophilia is an illness — mental or genetic or whatever — or simply a human failing — just a particularly repulsive one — these people are still human. Amid the darkness, there will be occasional glimmers of light. They — all of them, every human alive — were once innocent babies. Chances are better than even that any piece of scum on the street was once someone’s beloved little boy or girl.

We might need to eliminate them to keep the community safe, but what remains in them of our own humanity — the mirror of our own worthiness — demands that we recoil from things like feeding them to another species, real or imaginary.

The rest — the idea of the great things to come once we just eliminate or purify humanity — is for the chirping, tree dwelling octopi.

157 responses to “Oh, the Humanity! A Blast From the Past Post-7-3-2007

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about humanity, recently.

    A writer should. One that doesn’t is in a lot of trouble.

    Humanity, my friends. Are you pro or con?

    That is a serious question on the most serious subject any human ever faces. For myself: Pro, with carefully qualified exceptions.

    One of the great problems our species faces derives from one of its critical differentiating characteristics: We are conscious of the fact that, however good things are at the moment, they can always be better. Unfortunately, one of the ways in which “they can be better” is after the removal of certain members of our own species. Given the way it’s been abused by various social engineers, including the truly terrible men of history, that’s a thought that shouldn’t please anyone.

    Now and then, we’re forced to perform such an excision…hopefully because it’s fully and incontrovertibly justified. Overgeneralizing it is where things go awry — and whenever you hear anyone ranting about “the problems humanity causes on this planet,” you’re in the presence of such an overgeneralizer. Put one hand on your wallet, the other on your weapon of choice, and back away slowly, smiling non-threateningly all the while.

    • We are also conscious of the fact that, however good things are at the moment, they can always be worse.

      And we know from experience that things simply cannot remain the same, no matter how hard it is strived for.

  2. The Matrix lost me too for a similar reason. I don’t remember the “parasites” line, and I wasn’t bothered by Agent Smith’s “humans are a virus” speech on the grounds that he was the villain, and I didn’t think we were supposed to agree with him. No, where it lost me was during Neo and Trinity’s rescue of Morpheus where Neo takes as many guns as he can and just starts mowing down security guards. Those were innocent people. Yes, I know the whole, “Every non-awakened human can be taken over and thus is a potential threat” argument, but the callous way that Neo built his plan around massacring them, not even trying to find another way so they wouldn’t have to die…it was hard to see Neo as some kind of Jesus-figure after that.

    It seems there’s a lot of paranormal fiction these days that takes a similar attitude: there are main characters, “special people” who matter, and the rest of humanity is no more than designated victims, and that’s how all the characters seem to think it should be. It’s okay to care about people with names and lines of dialog, but humans as a whole have no more right to complain about vampires eating them than cows do.

    I’ve heard the attitude justified on the grounds that in these sorts of works, the mass of humanity DOESN’T in fact matter–these humans aren’t even really fictional characters, merely an abstraction, they don’t exist, murdering them is thus not a crime, and so it’s okay to idolize the murderers and think its cool. And while that’s sort-of true, it still makes me pretty uncomfortable, and I try to avoid works like that.

    • What? You’re against the videogamification of mass murder? Hmmm… OK.

      • What? You’re against the videogamification of mass murder? Hmmm… OK.

        As a video gamer, I think this deserves a more thorough response.

        As a kid, I remember playing “cops & robbers”, pointing toy guns at people and trying to say “Bang!” before they did, and when I failed, falling over and playing dead (previous generations may know this as “cowboys & Indians”; I know it’s still played today, though I think the local kids have a Star Wars theme). This is the same rules that most video games, especially the early ones, operate under, and they make sense because they reflect reality: if the other guy is trying to kill you, it’s okay to kill him first. You can see this from Space Invaders to Wolfenstein to Halo. Sometimes, especially recently, there are token friendlies, and they’re either invincible or the game seriously punishes you for attacking them (the chicken swarms in Zelda come to mind), just as there is no friendly fire in “Cops & Robbers”.

        A handful of games allow you to be an unrestricted bad guy, and while these get a lot of press, they’re not in the majority. I can understand the moral objections some people have to these, just as I understand moral objections to books with a villain protagonist. Still, villains are understandable, and for most people with a grounded moral code, playing a villain doesn’t make you one. I know through a friend a devout Catholic priest who plays pencil and paper RPGs with a specialty for playing specifically evil characters.

        Moral dissonance comes in much more strongly when the rules we are presented make no sense at all. To take a video game example, feminists get up in arms about violence towards women in games where you’re an unrestricted bad guy, as if gunning down hordes of innocent men is perfectly acceptable but robbing one woman isn’t. Works that are magically able to differentiate morally between acts against the main characters and those against NPCs are another example where the rules make no sense.

        I had one pencil and paper RPG campaign break down over a similar issue. We were the usual fantasy hero party, bravely defending the village from the Orc menace, and it worked because we were using the ‘war’ moral rules. Orcs are trying to kill villagers, so it’s okay for us to kill Orcs. Then we stumble across and Orc settlement, with noncombatant Orcs including children (obviously not a threat) and we’re presented with something that has completely changed the rules. Do we kill them all? Leave the old, young and non-combatant to their fate? The resulting argument wrecked the campaign.

    • What I found most evil about the Matrix was how it went out of the way to portray the guards and civilians as regular people – guard reading a paper, lady with a bag of groceries, guard talking about napping at work – THEN mowing them down. Prior movies tended to de-personalize the rank and file bad guys – generic Nazis, stormtroopers in masks. Here, the Wachowski Bros go out of their way to show you that the victims of the fight for freedom are just normal people. It’s sick. It’s also a bit of the lefty coping mechanism, because you might have to murder 20 million Ukrainian peasants, for example, for the crime of wanting to keep their 2 acres, cow and chickens – in the name of freedom and justice.

      It’s also the same problem the Star Wars re-whateveritis has now embraced: once we know that a stormtrooper – Finn – can be a good guy, how can we cheer on their deaths in their thousands and tens of thousands? In real life, more often than not, the rank and file ‘bad guys’ are just normal people, too, nice even – that’s why we write and watch escapist fiction. One of the key things we’re trying to escape from is the horrible complexity of real life. We escape for a while in order to steel ourselves to the task of the civilized to work with it. I hope.

      • Back in the day it was the Wachowski Bros. Then it became the Wachowski Siblings. Now it’s the Wachowski Sisters.
        They are free to be who they want to be. Makes it kind of hard to take them seriously though.

        • Well, I don’t know that I can take them seriously after “Jupiter Ascending” regardless.

          • They have cool graphics if you can turn your brain’s higher functions off.

            • There are only so many times I can watch Channing Tatum swoop in to a room on his laser-rollerblades from the left, swoop up a wall, and come down shooting lasers per movie, and it turns out that number of times is one. I think it happened… three times in JA?

              And the whole wedding bit where that guy was going to marry his genetically resurrected mother? A little too obviously Oedipal for me. Bleah.

              Agreed, the design elements and graphics were fanTAStic, but almost everything else in the movie left a bad taste in my mouth. The Wachowskis will get no more of my money. (I wish I could say the same for Zack Snyder, but my lovely, patient, angelic wife for some reason REALLY wants to see Dawn of Justice or whatever they’re calling that thing.)

            • Or I can watch “Rebuild of Evangelion”, and get the awesome graphics with a fair bit of brain food.

          • I thought Jupiter Ascending was a fun movie. A little too episodic when they visit all three siblings and have to pack a lot of story into each segment, and the space beaurocracy segment was a little too silly, but it was fun overall I thought.

            And it had space reptile warriors.

            • Space reptile warriors are almost always awesome, yes. But not even the presence and survival of genetically-bee-spliced Sean Bean could save that movie. What hope do space reptile warriors – even FLYING space reptile warriors have?

              • I just kept thinking ‘How drunk did they have to get Sean Bean to appear in this?’ That’s a movie that should be burned and forgotten.

              • A subplot where there heroine is forced/tricked into marrying the villain, then the hero swoops in at the last minute, and saves her, all packed into Act Two, was a bit of a problem.

                I’d’ve been interested in seeing what the heroine would do now that she’s the head of an industry that operates on harvesting sentient beings for continued life, and she wants to stop it.

                • I’m a bit curious what they would have done if they hadn’t run out of money. My understanding is that the money men just finally said “NO MORE!” and told them to turn what they had already shot into a movie.

                  • I feel much the same about Dark Knight Rises: a movie that had so much going for it and was so close to being amazing, but just doesn’t come together.

                    • I’ve seen a number of movies like that. “Died on the cutting room floor.” Where you know there was more than enough footage to assemble a good movie, except whoever was splicing the bits together either simply didn’t care, or their head was in some universe only loosely connected with our own.

                      To be honest, a few movies suffered from “regional release” editing, where someone apparently went in at random with scissors.

                • But that’s just it. She’s not. She abandoned humanity in the rest of the galaxy to go back to her janitorial job on Earth, which made ZERO sense. Gaaaaaah!

                  • That movie had so much potential. Loved the concept. Loved the actors. But the plot and execution is where everything slipped.

                    • Yeah they have a great visual imagination but no plotting skills. I think they just create cool scenes but can’t put them together logically. They tried to turn that liability into an asset in Cloud Atlas.

            • julieapascal

              Jupiter Ascending was funny. The space bureaucracy thing messed up the timing which is why it seamed really odd, but it was really funny so I forgive them.

        • They directed Cloud Atlas. I can forgive a lot for that.

      • I loved the Smith scene: it was the moment where the officious, impersonal villain takes off his glasses and reveals the utter insanity at his core. To hear those lines delivered in that deliberately monotone voice just drives home how unstable he is – and it’s dealing with chaotic, irrational humanity that’s driven him to this. It also personalizes the villain in a way that none of the other machines in the movie were.

        Part of me wanted to shrink away. The other part wanted to tell this guy to take a vacation. Crunch some numbers.

        • Patrick Chester

          I loved the Smith scene: it was the moment where the officious, impersonal villain takes off his glasses and reveals the utter insanity at his core.

          I find myself thinking of that scene during some of my help desk jobs. Should I be worried? O_o;;

          I also thought of the “humanity as virus” thing to be something the Machines told themselves to make them feel better about conquering/enslaving humanity as living batteries. (Though I suspect that “form of fusion” bit mentioned in some of the exposition provides a greater deal of power than the human powerplants do.)

          • I always figured the machines were bored. Bored people play video games. Bored videos play people games. 😉

            • There was only one big plot hole in the movie I could tell: the machines recreated a point in time where humanity was intellectually curious, knew about high technology, hacking, etc, when they could have just re-created feudalism and a class of people incapable of comprehending their prison, much less rebelling.

              • when they could have just re-created feudalism and a class of people incapable of comprehending their prison, much less rebelling.

                Wait… are we still talking about movies, or have we moved on to politics?

          • I always wondered about that one, too. You’ve already got fusion power, but you run it through human bodies first? Oookay, then . . .

            • And by going fully Soylent in terms of nutrition, they’re ensuring that the population drops drastically year after year. So much for their ever-renewing energy source.

      • I thought that was a brilliant move – potentially. Unfortunately, the movie really missed an opportunity for some added depth. And it would’ve taken so little: a few lines of “We can’t do this.” and “There’s no other way.” Some horror in the hero’s faces when they see the aftermath, or the agent leaves a human corpse behind, the horror at realizing that every agent takes an innocent hostage into battle, and some resolve to put a stop to this.

        Heck, when the whole agents-take-over-people was explained, I was expecting Morphius to be implanted and possessed when he was captured, so Neo would have to fight (and kill?) his friend and mentor. Or better yet, at the end, killing Smith and liberating Morphius from that control.

        Ah well, can only think of what might have been.

      • Patrick Chester

        It’s also the same problem the Star Wars re-whateveritis has now embraced: once we know that a stormtrooper – Finn – can be a good guy, how can we cheer on their deaths in their thousands and tens of thousands?

        Actually, the “TRAITOR!!!!” Stormtrooper has a fan following too. 😀

    • I also didn’t care so much about the “virus” thing because the villain was saying it and saying it was how we knew he was truly villainous. For the rest, I suppose I just sort of figured that everyone was a pretend projection and the real person in the Matrix just got rebooted… yes, I know that “dying in the sim is dying for real” but I figured that was for the people who managed to break free. Not that I spent a lot of time thinking it through or anything. And I’m the sort that says things like, “But what did those Storm Troopers ever do to you?”

      I did stop reading the Redwall books to my kids after about the third one because of the wholesale bloodbaths treated one way and a named character dying being a tragedy. It wasn’t the only moral issue I had but it got on my last nerve and I shut the book and told the kids we were done.

    • That whole movie was an apologia for terrorism, why the surprise.

    • “It seems there’s a lot of paranormal fiction these days that takes a similar attitude: there are main characters, “special people” who matter, and the rest of humanity is no more than designated victims, and that’s how all the characters seem to think it should be.” – Zsuzsa

      *nod* Later seasons of Buffy, in a big way. Especially Season 7 with its recurring theme and emphasis of “You have power or you don’t and only people who have the power are worthy.”

      • Us muggles get no respect!

        • Yup. Buffy is cool and all that, but she and to a lesser extent Faith got their powers handed to them along with other nifty perks. It was the human characters who went in with no super strength or powers, saw that it needed doing, and went at it whether terrified or not, just because it needed doing that always impressed me. Nothing but guts and determination, or book learning and skill in Giles case.

          • I always liked Xander. The goofy male in a ‘girl power’ story. He had nothing going for him but kept fighting and standing up for right. He was just a guy.

            • Willow: “Do guns make you horny?”
              Xander: “I’m seventeen. *Linoleum* makes me horny.”

              • Wasn’t it Cordelia with Xander in that scene? I could be misremembering, but it feels more like the sort of thing she would ask rather than Willow.

              • Nit:

                Cordelia: “Looking at guns makes you want to have sex?”
                Xander: “I’m 17. Looking at linoleum makes me want to have sex.”

                Best line in the whole damned show

            • Patrick Chester

              Didn’t he use construction equipment on one season’s Big Bad?
              *checks TVTropes*
              “…and the glorified bricklayer picks up the spare!”
              Ah yes, using a wrecking ball. On a deity.

            • There’s a reason we’re considering “Alexander” as a baby name. *grin*

              The trope gets played with some– Sokka is the “meat and sarcasm” guy-with-a-boomerang, and of course there’s the famous “the city is flying and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”

              • Sokka and Suki were my favorites out of all of the characters on that show, for precisely that reason.
                (Well, that, and they had way fewer hang-ups than everyone else.)

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          After the way Harry Potter’s Aunt & Uncle treated him, Harry should have hated all Muggles. 😈

      • I far and away preferred Angel. His powers were a curse, responsibiltiy and pennance all at once.

        And on top of that, there’s Buffy. Kept wishing he’d kick that entitled so-and-so to the curb.

    • Have you read Terry Pratchett’s Only You Can Save Mankind?

      • Not really a Pratchett fan. I know its practically blasphemy among sci-fi fans, but I think I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t find his stuff either interesting or funny.

  3. I see humanity as Gaia’s seed pods. We are supposed to fall off of Earth and plant Gaia’s offspring around the universe.

  4. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand”. [Evil Grin]

    Thought on “They need killing” vs “Feeding them to monsters”.

    It is the difference between “just shooting them” and “torturing them to death”.

    It may be necessary to kill somebody, but IMO the more horrible types of death damage the killer’s soul.

    Even if you’re just sending somebody to a horrible death, you’re doing damage to your soul.

    • Reality Observer

      Which is why I believe that, when execution is necessary, it should be with a large caliber through the frontal cortex.

      Every other method, while cleaner, is basically suffocation. Even when they work perfectly (which they do not always).

      • (Nods) I never did understand the issue with firing squads. Lethal injection I get–it’s basically an anesthetic overdose.
        The electric chair, the gas chamber–I never did think much of those.

        • The Other Sean

          The electric chair was developed as part of the propaganda campaign by the Edison (DC) camp against the Westinghouse/Tesla (AC) camp. It didn’t work great in initially testing. Why prisons went ahead and continued to use it I just can’t fathom. Shooting is quick enough, relatively simple, and in this day and age avoids problems with drug procurement.

          • There’s an interesting and rather ugly story behind that. It was at the time that Edison and Tesla were competing for the electrification of the cities. Edison backed DC; Tesla backed AC. Edison set out to give AC a bad name by designing it into the electric chair, to “prove its greater lethality.”

            I’m afraid things didn’t work out quite as Edison hoped.

            • Yeah. “How long does it take to electrocute a live elephant.”

              Far too long… but Edison made a fair chunk of money off the video.

        • I’ve thought that the best way would be laughing gas. Just hook them up to a tank of NO2, and let them happily float away.

          • I’ve seen a proposal of using straight nitrogen. Unlike Hydrogen Cyanide, it’s not poisonous, so we could just open the doors after the execution is complete; unlike Carbon Dioxide, there are no mechanisms in our bodies that would cause panic and discomfort, because the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, and CO2 isn’t a by-product of our aspiration. Indeed, because it’s 78% of our atmosphere, it’s also very easy to procure!

            To the best of my knowledge, though, it hasn’t been tried…

            • Many of the spaces in an LNG carrier are filled with pure N2 as a fire safety measure. I was speaking with the master of one who lost one of his crew, The sailor thought one of the areas would be a good place to goof off. They had thought he’d been lost overboard until the ship went into it’s next scheduled maintenance drydock. He was found during inspection of the normally inert sections. He’d gone in and fallen asleep.

            • CO makes better sense than CO2 – more of a “just falling asleep” sensation, or so I understand from suicide attempts that were rescued in time. Also cheaply and easily made.

              • Nitrogen is probably better, simply because of public response.

                Both the freaking out side, and the “I wanna die/kill everyone in the house, I’ve seen executions done that way, it wasn’t painful, I’ll use that” side; the PSAs on “don’t used your bbq inside” would work as a guide for someone trying to weaponize carbon monoxide.

    • Patrick Chester

      Even if you’re just sending somebody to a horrible death, you’re doing damage to your soul.

      That’s it exactly. Even if the “somebody” is a horrible person whom has inflicted unspeakable suffering upon many victims.

      Why take a step down the same path that horrible person did?

      • This is a big reason why I have a big problem with attitudes that some people have towards prison rape. First of all, rapists don’t check your conviction to see whether or not you deserve it. Second, sure, it’s humiliating to be a rape victim, but what kind of sicko rapes prison inmates? Do we really want them to be a part of society? Do we really want to encourage such twisted, evil behavior?

      • Yeah – I think individual executions should always, from the standpoint of the executioner, be regrettable, not a cause for celebration.

    • Counterpunch: People I like, humanity I’m not too sure about. Hey: I’m a misanthrope. I love people, it’s persons that I dislike.

      Agreed with you on the majority of that, ‘Drak.

  5. For all the dope on the Pacific NW Tree Octopus, go here:

    (I know many things, for I walk by night, and them dang tree octopi being sneaky, I don’t walk near trees.)

    • sabrinachase

      Pish and tosh.. They are only aggressive during the nesting season. Of course after the windstorm we just had, there might be a few caught in gutters, weathervanes, etc. Use caution doing yardwork for the next few days.

      • I think the way the wind has been blowing here, there might be a few blown clear across the East side to Idaho.

      • and hiding among the blown-down fir & cedar branches, all over the ground.

  6. Yes and no. Humanity in general very much yes. Humanity in herds not no but hell no. The problem with herds of course is the herders.

  7. The Other Sean

    I have to wonder if Cthulu’s followers were responsible for the evolution video. 😉

  8. Is Cthulhu arboreal?

  9. Birthday girl

    So your word was “occluded.” Mine was “inane.” My 10th-grade American Lit. teacher used to verbally bully me (and other shy students), until one day I referred to something he said as being inane. He stopped and stared and asked “did you say inane?” Yes, I said inane; I enunciated carefully so there wouldn’t be a misunderstanding. He stopped tease-bullying me from that moment.

    • I used the word “vague” once. omg.

      • Birthday girl

        And of course, there is always “uvula.”

        • Saturday Night Live, mid-late 70: Jane: “I’m feeling rundown achy, no energy.” Dan: “You know, Jane, it could be your uvula.”

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            OK, you “made” me look up that term. 👿

            I never heard the term before but I remember old cartoons where some characters use a giant’s uvula as a punching bag. 😈

    • Purposefully and rhetorical earned me some smacks.

  10. And the book from Bantam would be?

  11. This is why I extend Io9’s slogan to “We come from the future, and the lights are out.” The articles aren’t anti-human all that often, or at least it’s really subtle, usually, but the commenters?

    I added myself to a facebook group called Space Venture Alliance and a lot of the people on it are fine but a lot of them seem seriously focused on fantasies about a future where things can be set up to control people. At least no one starts in with “before we waste money on that, lets solve problems here” so that’s a plus.

    As for the death of 2/3rds of humanity… post apocalyptic makes for good story fodder but there is always someone who thinks that disease or disaster wiping out humans would be a good thing. If it’s some community college prof posting about how great it would be if bird flu killed most of America or someone else, there always will be someone else. No one even questions “there are too many humans” or follows through with “and then what would happen?”

    There are a few sci-fi authors who’ve bucked the trend… I recall one story where the interstellar UN shows up to pacify a world without realizing that the rebel farmers who moved there start having children at age 15 and then have about 15 of them so the UN’s population estimates were way off. But *most of the time* sci-fi authors seem to decide, against all reason whatsoever, that settling and colonizing a new planet was a good time to institute a cultural morality of limiting families to one or two children. (Back when writing colonialism was still acceptable.)

    • Rainbow Six used that as the justification for their terror groups. I loved that book, especially the last scene.

      • Yes on the last scene. I think I hurt my face grinning.

      • Yes. I admit I had to read that again after I was forced to endure whatever that Gorilla Environmentalist story is and be told how people are evil. (And that the US has much worse air than where open pit cooking is necessary)

    • The one reason this is plausible is in initial phases when there are severe resource shortages.

      • Maybe, maybe not. The most dangerous severe shortage is probably going to be genetic diversity. Limiting reproduction is a very dangerous risk.

      • I suspect that if such an initial stage lasts more than a few years at most, the colonists will be in “stuck-in-survival mode” deep doo-doo. Thus, being ABLE to have larger families would be an early year goal.

  12. CombatMissionary

    Wow, Sarah, this one makes you think!

    For the record, if you’re still after this manner of thinking, feel free to cram political rants and philosophy into all your books. I’ll still buy them. 😀

    My opinion: there’s too much religious dogma to go into detail, but seeing this life as a schoolhouse for the eternities, I tend to be fond of people, but I’m also smart enough that I’m extremely frustrated on a daily basis by the choices made by the masses. And ditto your points on capital punishment.

    • The Other Sean

      Although given the BS that comes out Washington, D.C. on a daily basis, some capitol punishment may be in order.

      • From Laugh-In

        Goldie Hawn: I don’t see why there should be any question about capital punishment. I think everyone in the capital should be punished.

  13. BobtheRegisterredFool


    Animals cannot distinguish morality by taste. It is unwise to accustom things to the taste of man. Even if you plan to destroy the things anyway. (Blah, blah, blah pathogens.)

    • Plus, what happens when you run out of people from the officially Bad groups, and the Terrors From Beyond are still hungry?

      • Ask the French and Russian revolutionaries – they figured it out…

        • Obviously. If we hunted down all the obvious kulaks, and things are not paradisaical, there must be kulaks feigning it — appearing sweet and quiet and even holy while they secretly hoard and wreck.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Hope that there are other tribes out there that you can feed to the Terrors From Beyond.

        I suppose that there have been fantasy worlds where the “evil conquerors” are making war against other people because the conquerors had to feed the Terrors From Beyond that they had foolishly invoked. 😈

      • The Terrors From Beyond are ALWAYS hungry…

    • Good point; Daniel in the den with the lions was a special case!

  14. More hungry than they would be if they hadn’t been fed, because now they’ve grown.

    • And grown more powerful from all the human blood and souls.
      Class, what is Orne’s First Law of Summoning?
      That’s right, let’s all say it together: “I say to you againe, doe not call up Any that you can not put downe”

  15. So — to stop rambling — Humanity, my friends. Are you pro or con?

    Okay — right about now you’re thinking “Okay, she’s nuts. Of course I’m for people. I’m people.” Yeah, yeah, that don’t mean nothing bud.

    “People” can be a good or bad term.

    When folks start using it as a category that doesn’t include all humans, alarm bells should be ringing.

    Note: I’m aware some folks here will talk about people who behave in a manner such as is unworthy of a moral being as having surrendered their humanity. Y’all are talking in a different moral format; this is a category, an inherent characteristic, not a judgement of behavior.

    English. (probably all languages, but I only know the one well enough to comment) You gotta work hard to get an idea at what someone is saying. *wry*

  16. It was a mass death of the guilty and the innocent. But this man — urbane, well behaved, educated — was looking FORWARD to it. And thought it was deserved.
    So… how does this hatred of humanity come about? And why should we care?

    Could it be a radical rejection of Christian and Jewish thought about how, yeah, we can be really bad– but it can be fixed?

    As the old joke goes, the doctrine of original sin is one element of Christianity that is really easy to get most anyone to agree with….

    Maybe they need a Stitch lesson?

    “Is little and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.

  17. In terms of writing and character motivation, wanting to wipe out all or most of humanity is tricky to pull off for a villain’s goal. Done well, it can be extremely effective. Done poorly, it comes off as the whine of a stupid adolescent. I find the best ones posit some kind of non-human species inimical to humanity, acting less out of outright malice than a simple: it’s you or us, and I like us better than you. Another interesting part is the charicerization of the human agents that might work on behalf of the aliens out of personal greed or because they’re just dupes.

    For cases when the AUTHOR is saying that it’s for the best that humanity be wiped out, that pisses me off. Particularly when you get all the way to the end of a book fully expecting the characters to do somehting to avert or reverse the disaster, only to have them turn around and lecture the reader through the realization that: we deserve it.

    There’s only a handful of exceptions I can think of. David Drake’s short story Than Curse the Darkness had me wishing the Earth would just be cleared off, at least for a few minutes after reading.

    I also confess a weakness for Sheri Tepper’s plots of Kill all men! Emasculate all men! Wipe out all humanity! She’s reached the point of self-parody and I find her books hilarious.

    Then there’s Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun/Urth of the New Sun. An offender in all those counts, but dammit the books are just so good!

    • The best parts of ‘Kingsmen: The Secret Service’ is that they played Global Warming Alarmism for laughs, and someone who wanted to cull humanity as an evil loonie.

      • I’ve gotta see that movie

      • And the people who went along with him were portrayed as even worse. The one princess who didn’t go along with the evil plot, despite needing rescue, was a heroine. And despite her being royalty, was not portrayed as evil or dumb.

        Not to mention she did reward the hero…

    • GRRM got me wishing for a mass extinction event… but I’d also be happy if someone from the Culture’s SC department showed up at Westeros accompanied by a drone.

      • I tried reading the book that has the mythology et cetra of Westros. Couldn’t get past the half-way point. I kept looking at the Tergaryan stuff and thinking “This, class, is why you must out-cross every fourth generation or more, and out-cross past first cousin.”

        The dragons flamed the wrong people, dang it.

        • There should be a rule: no writing background mythology of a series until the series is finished!

          • Nit: that would mean no more “pearls of Weber”

            I dunno if us Honorverse fen could handle that.

    • For cases when the AUTHOR is saying that it’s for the best that humanity be wiped out, that pisses me off.

      I recently finished Nick Cole’s “Ctrl Alt Revolt”. One of the passages mentioned “Screen Actors Guild elder statesman and multiple Academy Award-winner Sir Pauly Shore”.

      Sometimes humanity doesn’t deserve to survive.

    • A stupid adolescent villain can sometimes work.

  18. I haven’t read the Arthur Miller piece, but putting a family member away in an institution because of developmental issues seems like it may have been a rather common thing back in time.

    After my grandfather died and my mother and her siblings were going through some of his things for my grandmother they came across paperwork for his ‘sister’ at the Grafton State School. Now, he has a sister, Anne, that is pretty prominent in the family, but it wasn’t her. When my mother asked my grandmother about it, she was informed that ‘Vicky’ was retarded, and what the family did in those days was send people like her to Grafton. So, sometime in the late 30’s or early 40’s (can’t remember exactly) they sent her away. The only reason my mother found out about ‘Vicky’ was because power of attorney had been transferred to my grandfather upon my great grandfather’s death. She just disappeared from the family and no one talked about her again. It was quite a shock to my mother and her siblings that they had another aunt.

    • From memory, when it was done right it was like having to put an older relative in an old folks’ home– but it was usually far away. (Supply and demand being what they are, and the quality of medical care being what it was, there simply weren’t enough people who could survive very long and needed that much care.)

      Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans’ daughter Robin was very instrumental in changing the notion that you had to put a kid with Downs’ into institutional care. She didn’t even make it to her second birthday, and that wasn’t unusual. Fast forward half a century, and figuring out how to take care of folks with Downs when their parents have passed is a serious problem. (Yay medical technology!)

      • An aunt and uncle (by friendship – pea patch relations as they say) had a son who was retarded. And almost 6′ tall and strong, with the mind of a forever 5 year old. He ended up in the state school because when he had a tantrum, he injured my aunt, and he liked to roam and visit people. This was in a small-ish town in the 1950s, but sooner or later someone new would have seen this large man on their porch and panicked. He did well in the school, and aunt and uncle brought him home on holidays. But he asked to go back. Died when he was in his 30s.

        • Now that we’ve moved away from automatic institutionalization, it becomes dangerously easy to forget that not every family has the resources to deal with their child’s disabilities at home. Which IMO makes it dangerous to put pressure on families to keep their child at home by judging those who don’t as “unloving” or “selfish.”

          It’s especially difficult in the ASD community because often the parents of a child on the autism spectrum are themselves on the spectrum, but at a much lower level. They can function in society enough that they don’t get a diagnosis, but they don’t have the resilience that most people take for granted. If just getting through everyday life is an uphill struggle because of impaired executive function (the ability to plan, prioritize, keep on task and on target, etc) or the like, having to also deal with a child with significant developmental issues often strains things to the breaking point.

          I know of several cases of child and/or elder abuse when the biggest problem was that the Designated Caregiver in the family simply wasn’t up to the task. Cries for help got pats on the head and platitudes of the “chin up” and “hang in there” variety. When failure became imminent and the Designated Caregiver tried more desperately to communicate that they were unable to handle the task, the “chin up” was repeated with a nasty little side dish of “stop whining.” Only when the wheels came off and everything fell apart was it finally noticed that yes, there was a real problem here, but by that point it was so bad that the criminal justice system had to be involved, and there was pressure to punish harshly in order to avoid the appearance of coddling an abuser and sending the wrong message to those who would abuse out of malice, rather than being overstretched and at the end of one’s tether.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            I was lucky.

            I was the caregiver for Mom after she started going downhill mentally and while at times it “got too much for me”, I also received moral support as well as practical advice.

            Before Mom had to go to the Nursing Home, I got told of (and used) an adult daycare center where I could take Mom and leave her there for most of the day.

            Note, I was the only family member who lived here so I was the only family member available to care for Mom. My sister lives over an hour’s drive from here.

    • George Will and his wife were offered a foster home for their first child to give them time to consider whether they would institutionalize him for Down Syndrome.

  19. Like “Rainman.” Thrown in an institution and forgotten about. My sister worked a Habilitation Therapist (no rehab as they’d never been habbed) at the Idaho State School & Hospital for the something or other PC for retarded. She said that the ‘best’ families showed up for both birthdays and Xmas. Many never came around.

    • I think my parents were the first family members that visited ‘Vicky’ in something like 60 years. I think, but am not sure, that one of my other aunts visited once after they found out. My parents visited a couple of times, and sent her presents at Christmas and her birthday. She passed away a couple of years later.

  20. Arthur Miller was the object of one of my favorite thumbnail put-down reviews, John Simon on “The Crucible.” “The problem with The Crucible as a metaphor for McCarthyism is that there were no witches in Salem Village.” (a couple more:Pauline Kael on “The Magic Christian”: “Ninety minutes of the venal rich insulting the venal poor.” Mary McCarthy on EVERYTHING by Lillian Hellman: “Every word she says is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.

  21. The most hateful and vomitous work of anti-human SF I’ve ever read is “The Herald” by Michael Shaara. After the success of his “The Killer Angels,” Gettysburg retold as a good novel, his family got his other stuff republished, ok SF and a baseball novel, and then they were faced with…. this. They retitled it and chopped tens of thousands of words out of it before republishing, obviously because they assumed no one would read the undiluted item without screaming. Barry Malzberg recommended it and I picked up a copy and… a small group of green fanatics figures out how to spray something that will painlessly kill only humans in a huge circular area (not even original, novel and movie “The 27th Day”) and starts using it. Signs of a kind of post-apocalypse pornography: the corpses don’t rot, they just lie there like mannequins. Hero has mixed feelings on the terrorists as he runs away with beautiful no-personality girl. Soldiers looking for the terrorists accidentally kill girl. Hero, who knows where the device is, activates it and kills millions of people followed by infuriating passages justifying his action, which was motivated by the death of one person. After terrorists have somehow covered the whole populated world, Shaara makes clear in a manner he must have thought was clever that the few people who somehow survived are all “nice” in a left-wing way. If I ever again go to an SF con that has a “worst SF ever” room I’ll take on this.

  22. julieapascal

    Someone just posted this on the Space Venture Alliance thing I mentioned…

    Actually, as a World Federalist, I should say that historically, peace has been kept through force, after understanding has told which way to apply it. I suppose in such a case, people would understand after all, that war isn’t an option.

    Back to the Stone age, groups in contact will fight until one conquers the other or they’re both taken/assimilated in some way by a 3rd. Either way, they no longer fight among themselves, because they now accept or have imposed on them the same laws.
    In the case of being taken by a king or emperor, or joining in a federation of some kind with binding laws, order is imposed from above.
    The perceived loss of sovereignty (the “right” unilaterally to initiate war at will as a nation-state) is countered by gain in security. Nothing is as costly as a war, even if you “win” (or never fight it but always prepare for it). Cost to be in a federated union is much lower than trying to go alone.

    It’s argued that it’s not true at all historically that we have no solution to war. It isn’t true that it must require we wait until we advance to the next phase of evolution and simply no longer want to fight. We must apply some sort of universal love solution so we’re not so damned irritable and irritating all the time.
    It isn’t true that it’s only a good idea for the future, some sort of utopian ideal we can only hope to strive for, but not for today.
    World Federal law is the first, most basic, immediate and useful step to ending war and settling international differences. As is moving something off into space. ”

    Apparently from Boulder CO. And apparently entirely serious.