Winners and Losers

Because I’ve been busy with house (groan) matters and trying to write short stories in the cracks between (they’re due) I have been reading one of those interminable collections of traditional fairytales.  See, I need to read something while cooking or walking on the treadmill, or such, but it can’t be anything long or engaging, because otherwise I won’t get my work done.

One of the things that struck me about the fairytales is that people are born to be what they are.  Sure, sure, there are tests (usually three) sometimes (not always) but even then it’s never at doubt that the chosen one will manage all trials.

Some time ago I was talking to a friend about this (no longer remember whom) and he said yeah, in Heinlein books the kids/heroes had to work for it.  And were often very bad at it (Johnny Rico and math, for ex) but in modern fantasies (Harry Potter — though at least she put him through trials), and even most other YA, you are “the chosen one” and therefore it falls to you without being a “battler” as Dave Freer puts it.

Which brings me to the topic of this: it used to be America as a pioneer culture admired the battlers.  The from-rags-to-riches story was the American story and people at least pretended to it, even if not quite true.  People admired those who sometimes fell a lot of times in the effort to reach the summit (say, Abraham Lincoln.)

I don’t know when this started changing.  Look, the fairy tales are a reflection of the society they were created in, a society where though social mobility existed (particularly after the Black Death) it wasn’t supposed to.  The idea was that G-d placed you in the strata of society you were supposed to be in, and your qualities fit that place.  So the stories talked about the naturally brilliant son, the beautiful daughter, etc.  And though they were often born poor they were “blessed” and “Fated” to succeed.  (Which might also be a way to cope with sudden social mobility.)

The US not being that type of society had different stories.

But in the seventies, when I came here, after I’d read all the SF and the mysteries in the local library I branched out into popular psychology.  (At the time I had an interest in maybe taking psychology.)

I remember one of the books going on and on about how people were either “winners” or “losers” and the one you were was set early in infancy (they went on and on and on about potty training.) They believed that time set the tone for your life and after that you always won or always lost.

This entered the popular speech in the epithet “loser” applied to someone, as though losing were a permanent thing you were “fated” to.

To an extent the whole current mania with “alphas” and “betas” and “omegas” follows the same thing.  You are born in a place in a hierarchy.  You can’t fake it, but you can’t change it.

Does all of this have a basis in reality?  Well, the alpha and beta and such have a base in primate studies.  This is and isn’t somewhat applicable to man.  The loser thing only has a basis if people CHOOSE to be losers; i.e. if they’re convinced that they lost once so they’ll always lose.  It is a narrative thing.  If you internalize that narrative then you do indeed become a “loser” i.e. a permanent f*ck up and dependent on the charity of others.

But in a way neither of them apply very well to man.  Most of the characteristics that make a primate a “alpha” would make — to an extent do make — a man a criminal.  The largest population of alpha males is in prison or (in countries that go for it) killed.

In fact that’s sort of the whole point.  If humans still adhered to that ranking and followed it, we’d live in small bands, hand to mouth (literally.)  The whole process of civilization is  a process of breaking out those ranks.

This has nothing to do with the pick up artists or the games.  For them learning to emulate an alpha male works. Because human mating instinct hasn’t quite caught up with civilization and women more willing to go with irrational choices will prefer alpha males or those who can fake it.  That’s valid.  Of course you’re appealing mostly to women who prefer not to think, even if they can.  That’s fine.

My problem is with stretching it to everything from business to politics.  And judging people that way, mostly erroneously.

Human society is FAR more complex than any simian band. This means you might have the alpha characteristics of your group, but not of “primate alpha.”

Some people just have charisma.  They enter a room and fill it.  That is a quality.  Is it a quality that means they’re a “Winner?” Or should be?

Um… no.

While these people have an easier time getting on, particularly in the liberal arts and other fields that are mostly bullshit and spin, it doesn’t make them GOOD at what they do.

Our worship of charisma means that we often will hire the idiot manager who looks good, and talks a good game, but who has no freaking clue how a business runs. We believe they are “fated” to be great.  Anyone forgotten Obama’s pantleg?  How well did that work out?

But worse than that, and what I’ve noticed, is that from this idea some are winner and some are “losers” people started worshiping and responding to outward signs of success as though they were reality.  You know “Nothing succeeds like success” and all that bullsh*t.  Which led to Fake It Till You Make It, which ONLY works if people AREN’T looking at accomplishments, but at “signs of a winner.”

Humans and life are WAY more complicated than that.  I mentioned Lincoln above.  Love him or hate him (and I do both kind of in equal measures) he had a long history of losing, before he won.  (And then he died, because it was that kind of story.) Robert A. Heinlein had tried his hand at just about everything and failed, sometimes through no fault of his own, before going on to become one of the most influential SF writers of all time.

There are a million other examples, but it’s early morning for me (don’t judge me) and those are the only two that come to mind.

But the point is if you’re a battler, you battle.  You might end up not succeeding, but you might also succeed against all odds.

Once at a very BORING party, I found a book of “Arab horoscopes.”  I know it will shock you that instead of cute animals like the Chinese or mythological symbols like the west, they use weapons.  They also — if this book was accurate.  I never looked further — make more sense in casting your “horoscope.”  What size town were you born in, what status was your family, how much education do you have take the place of when were you born, and what planet influenced you?

In a society that’s still very traditional, the end result should be very accurate.

Of course I plugged my data in.  (DUH.  REALLY.)  What came up was “deep Sling Shot”.  “Someone whose life conditions have no reflection on the result.”  Most “deep sling shots” get nowhere, but it’s possible for some to make it from beggar to king — or something like that.  (Not sure.  It’s been 35 years and it was the once.)

At the time this impressed me, because it amused me.  Which is why I remember it.

However, remember these “horoscopes” were designed for people in a deeply traditional society.  Thinking about it, the mixed, confused “original conditions” are far more common in America, and what’s more more prone to change.

So what we need to do is stop fawning over the rich and the successful at the moment and look at the person themselves (at any rate that success is often “Fake it till you make it.”)  We need to stop “respecting the office” when the person in it is a total f*ckup.  (This now extends to teachers and policemen, btw.  People continually tell me about those, “You have to respect the office.”  No, I really, really don’t.  This is not the military.  I don’t owe even external honor to anyone.  They can earn it or not. If THEY don’t show any respect for the office, why should I OWE them any.)

Our tax records, even in these diminished times show that Americans move from top to bottom percentile with amazing rapidity and frequency.  And back again.

We are Americans.  We’re the nation that beat the odds to exist.  We’re all deep sling shots.  How deep and how far we go is not totally under our control, but it is to a great extent.

The greatest determinants of success are application and perseverance.  Even if you lost every time till now, there is no fate dictating that next time you won’t win and win so spectacularly that it erases all former losses.

Battle on.  Illegitimi non carborundum!  We are not winners.  We’re not losers.  We’re battlers.  Win some, lose some.  The important thing is not to give up the fight.


486 thoughts on “Winners and Losers

      1. I absolutely loved Clint’s “Empty Chair Monologue” at the 2012 republican convention. I literally fell out of my chair laughing. My wife, on the other hand didn’t get it and was looking at me like I was crazy. She thought Clint looked the senile fool.

        Repeal the civil service act and decimate federal employees each year for a full presidential term. And yes, I mean the actual Roman term decimate. Well I guess you could just fire every tenth one. Killing them would be a bit of overkill.

        1. On the contrary, if you don’t kill them they’ll just come back as outside contractors, at 5 times the cost.

            1. Forget about the costs, they’re trivial compared to the profits. I mean, slaughtering every tenth rude master is a dirty job, but people will pay good good money for the opportunity.

              I’m sure there are some California Central Valley farmers with Apache blood, so staking EPAniks out on anthills should be considered a traditional cultural practice. They can sell tickets to watch. Extra to throw things.

              The possibilities are endless!

            2. Wasn’t the original decimation counting every tenth soldier and then getting his squadmates to beat that tenth guy to death? That would save on the ammunition costs.

            3. “Old Nick van Rijn said he’d hang them. The rope’s reusable.”

              Different crime, but hey…

              1. My husband checks the guys into the squadron.

                The paycheck is quite federal.

                From his “what I did today” things at each day’s dinner, he’s definitely in the war of the desks– the great victories generally consist of things like “I played X rule off of Y policy so that Z actually had to do something and Military Guy A, B and C didn’t get refused permission to re-enlist.”

              2. It’s kind of like “kill the lawyers.”

                I’m almost positive I know what you mean– I also know a lot of lawyers I don’t want killed, and that would be the ones to be kicked out exactly because the group is largely corrupt.

                1. I share Foxfier’s brief on this — many Federal employees, even many of the bureaucrats, are fine and competent workers … or would be, if that didn’t constitute carrying the load of the slackers.

                  Besides, the bio-hazard of disposing of so many deceased would require a whole new government bureau.

                  It would be far simpler to decertify the unions, convert their pensions to 401-K plans consistent with those in the private sector (small business) and privatize (or transfer to the states) all possible functions. Then initiate a schedule of reductions in force until the bureaucracy is two-thirds its current size for those functions retained. Require every federal bureaucrat to reapply for his/her/zis-boom-bah’s job.

                  Oh — and impose quotas mandating hiring of conservatives at DOJ, EPA and elsewhere lawyers are employed.

                  1. Don’t let the biohazard sway you- just ask your friendly local physical anthropologist. There’s ways around that.

                    But I am with you on use the process, not the mechanism. Eliminate whole bureaus, departments, and places-of-desks wholesale. Put a sunset on them- say under two years. The ones that survive, establish firm ground rules: you are *not* legislators, your “rules” do not have the force of law. Put people of firm principle over them and give them the power to *ruthlessly* cull the ranks of sycophants and power-seekers. Hire only those with experience in the field (I’m looking at you, D. of Energy…).

                    Put hard limits around the use of powers. Tolerate no creep, and here’s where your stickler lawyers can go wild- make abuses liable. Action and responsibility should be forged together seamlessly.

                    Require, absent a condition of war, that Congress meet not more than three days in thirty, or four weeks total in a year whichever ends up less. And congresscritters that do not actually reside in their constituencies for the full year absent one two week vacation plus required Washington duties are immediately removed from office. Enforce term limits. Encourage a culture of responsibility- reward that, and punish cronyism (yes, that’s a thorny mess).

                    Also, require the removal of two regulations for the implementation of one new one until the regulatory burden decreases to a reasonable size, then one for one. And so on…

                    1. The problem with “tolerate no creep” is that we have lives that we don’t want to sacrifice to providing adult supervision to the Leviathan.

                    2. “you are *not* legislators, your “rules” do not have the force of law.”

                      Sorry. If they don’t have “the force of law”, that they can send men with guns after you if you break them, then why have them or those who make them at all. There are a lot of things that shouldn’t be regulated, but the regulations that are put in place must be enforced. On everyone.

                    3. Regulate by certification.

                      Just make it so certification is optional. Then the thing being enforced is “falsely claiming a certification you don’t have,” if they’re found in violation and don’t correct it or remove their ‘certified’ sign.

                      Incidentally pulls the teeth of those using regulation/certification to advance unrelated issues.

                    4. Make legislators do their job, actually thinking through implementation, rather than turning over large sections of it to bureaucrats to pseudo-legislate through rule-making that has force of law. Yeah, they’d hate that; maybe there’d be fewer new laws!

                  2. “many Federal employees, even many of the bureaucrats, are fine and competent workers” – some of whom are doing jobs that are needed, and some of whom (doing things well that aren’t needed) put us in the moral bind of finding equally useful outlets for their competency while eliminating their jobs.
                    Not un-doable, but not trivial either.

                    1. That’s simple. Convince the competent in unnecessary jobs to swap places with the incompetent in necessary ones.
                      Then eliminate the unnecessary jobs.

                2. Washington State Attorney Season And Bag Limits
                  Section 1400.01 – General

                  Any person with a valid Washington State hunting license may harvest attorneys.

                  Taking of attorneys with traps or deadfalls is permitted.

                  Killing of attorneys with a vehicle is prohibited. If accidentally struck, remove dead attorney to roadside and proceed to nearest car wash.

                  It is unlawful to chase, herd, or harvest attorneys from a snow machine, helicopter, or aircraft.

                  It shall be unlawful to shout “whiplash”, “ambulance”, or “open bar” for the purpose of trapping attorneys.

                  It shall be unlawful to hunt attorneys within 100 yards of Cadillac dealerships.

                  It shall be unlawful to use cocaine, currency, or staged vehicle accidents to attract attorneys.

                  It shall be unlawful to hunt attorneys within 200 yards of courtrooms, law libraries, whorehouses, health spas, ambulances, or hospitals.

                  If an attorney is elected to government office, it shall be a felony to hunt, trap, or possess it.

                  Harvested attorneys must have a state health department inspection for distemper and rabies prior to being stuffed or mounted.

                  It shall be illegal for a hunter to disguise himself as an accident victim, young law clerk, drug dealer, bookie, or sheep for the purpose of attracting and hunting attorneys.

                  1. You know what?

                    Go to hell.

                    I get it.
                    It’s a joke.
                    I already reconized that several times, and pointed out why it’s not funny.
                    But one of the most decent guys I know who is a born and bread Washingtonian happens to also be a lawyer.
                    He’s the same poor bastard that actually DOES the work for the thousands of literal bastards who are abandoned by everybody else, usually having to send 15 year olds that COULD have been saved, if anyone had given a damn about civilizing them rather than supporting their “right” to “independently” be psychotic bastards, or working with the kids of never-civilized “individuals”
                    That’s ignoring the literally psychotic guys he struggles to get the help that they WANT– when they’re in their right mind.

                    But this stupid, ignorant, psychotic fun-mirror class warfare bullshit means that he gets shitted on when he’s doing what he SHOULD do.

                    To hell with that.

                    1. OK. I won’t get into a pissing match with a lady.

                      I got this from a good friend who is also a lawyer.

                      BTW…..we both think it’s hilarious.

                    2. I appreciate that.

                      When it’s a joke, it’s funny.

                      When it’s put into a realistic context, it’s killin’ words.

                      See also, Loony Toons.

                    3. It ain’t funny because it violates the First Rule of hunting: You must eat what you kill and we all know that the majority of lawyers are indigestible.

                    4. I had been under the impression that divvying people up by class, profession, gender, religion or any general characteristic was the sort of thing of which we-uns generally disapproved.

                      I personally prefer to hate people retail rather than wholesale. It usually isn’t very difficult to find cause and permits that personal touch which helps ensure satisfaction.

                  1. That’s the root problem with this whole idea. It’s always the other guy’s lawyer who is the bad guy… Yours is the salt of the earth, ‘cos he’s on your side.

                    It isn’t the people in these jobs that’s the problem, it’s the system they’re in. Personally, I think we ought to make “the law” like a monastic order–You want to be a lawyer? You want to administer the laws? Fine. You give up everything in the way of right to be engaged in making law, other than in an advisory capacity. Right to vote? As a lawyer, gone. Right to run for public office? As a lawyer, gone. Once you pass the bar, and “activate” as a lawyer, you’re done with either role in society.

                    We’ve put the foxes in charge of the henhouse for way, way too long. Fixing it? I have a feeling that my path might be the least painful way to do it, short of making a bunch of lawyers like we have running Congress about a foot shorter.

                    1. That’s the root problem with this whole idea. It’s always the other guy’s lawyer who is the bad guy… Yours is the salt of the earth, ‘cos he’s on your side.

                      Or maybe he shouldn’t be executed because HE IS ACTUALLY A GOOD GUY WHO IS DOING WHAT IS NEEDED.

                      It’s not a matter of “he’s on my side,” it’s a mater of objective virtue.

                      And THAT is what the “kill them all” morons ALWAYS freaking miss– the idea that someone in their target victim group might not be a licit target.

                    2. Wasn’t “first kill all the lawyers” first spoken by the villain in a Shakespeare play? 👿

                    3. “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” Henry VI, act IV, Scene II, Line 73

                      Yes. It was Dick the Butcher, who followed Jack Cade, whose plan was to foment disorder in order to become king.

        2. The idea of removing one in ten is appealing, but ultimately lazy– you have to actually work to remove the bad stuff.


          And it will never end.

          You tell a group with trouble to get rid of one in ten– and they’ll get rid of that guy who is uncomfortable, the one who did stuff right and made you realize that there was something wrong.

          Mechanical ideas are appealing because they remove judgement.
          We got here because of people removing judgement.

          1. Forgot which roman emperor it was. He lined up a legion that had battled badly and had every 10th man killed. Basically random.
            Fire 10% of the Feds by lottery. I would exclude the military.

            1. IIRC, it was standard policy for guys that lost.

              Also, “come and take them.” (So much classier than a middle finger, no?)

              I’m a little scared that so many folks who, in theory, recognize the power of the individual are so willing to kill people because they were willing to take a job where they MIGHT be able to fix a big, known problem.

              Yeah, it’s largely a joke.

              Jokes are a route to say truths that aren’t ready to be said bluntly, yet.

                1. “My sarcastic comment has taken on a life of its own”

                  Oh, yeah, and you’re surprised because… ?

                    1. It’s why you really gotta be careful with (classic) trolling. Your trollings take on a life of their own, and the next thing you know, they breed… and then it’s time to spray again.

                      If it’s a really well done trolling, by that point several readers have already sprayed their keyboards and monitors.

                2. And you expected something else, here?

                  I know I have an emergency stash of instant espresso here, somewhere…..

                  1. To avoid Foxfier’s ire, let’s try something else.

                    The numbers are a WAG – but institute a system where every word (not an article) that a bureaucrat strikes from the Federal Register earns them one dollar in bonus. Every word that they add (I would include articles here) loses them five dollars; and, yes, that can dip into their GS salary, too. I see $58 million they would be dinged for Obamacare regs alone. (I’m not quite nasty enough to let that go negative, but if it proved to be necessary to curb the real hard cases that don’t care if they’re paid so long as they control, it is an option…)

                    That protects the poor bottom person that only enforces the garbage written by his or her “betters” in DC.

                    Politicians, hmm. Maybe days they are allowed to retain their office, at a ratio of 1,000 to 1? One thousand words eliminated, they get an extra day; one thousand added, they lose five days. Yes, just checked, voting for Obamacare would have kicked every Democrat Representative out the door… (Three years and about ten weeks each one would have lost.)

                    1. “Tax all them rich people.”
                      “Tax 1% on net gains for sales, .05% on net gains for inventory, and there’s no tax for inventory not sold.”

              1. Not in this case, Fox, though I’d like to see the DEPARTMENTS destroyed. But hell, I have friends who WORK for the EPA. It’s a living.

                1. Destroying the departments is fine– there are policies in place to make it so that jobs that vanish don’t result in people who had jobs there losing their job, the job just dies when they leave service.

                  1. The system wants restructuring so that the incentives foster positive regulation (not an oxymoron.)

                    The problem is that so many involved in imposing the regulatory state do so out of animus to America.

                    I recently read an article discussing how California’s Green Movement was initially for nuclear energy until they decided that cheap, widely available, non-polluting power would encourage too many of the wrong kinds of people moving there.

                    1. hmm… so many people leaving Calif these days, maybe they should rethink that!

                    2. Some of them are rethinking that — which is why we’re learning the truth behind the “movement” reasoning four decades ago.

                  2. Destroying departments — yeah; I was thinking earlier today, maybe a rotating 10-20 year term limit on entire major Departments (i.e. at the DoEd level), where Congress is required to do an intensive review of the exiting department’s closing report to study how to do the essential functions more cheaply / efficiently (Congressional desire to limit their workload should also limit the number of “essential” functions they recognize), then a zero-based budget to initiate whatever new organization(s) is created to replace it.

                    You’d also want some way to bias the hiring process to staff the new orgn, such that merely having done that department’s work in the past was much less important than competence at doing the needed job functions, so the old bureaucratic networks get broken up a bit.

              2. The “Problem” is the “competent” worker with a “wrong” mindset. I’ve known some very nice, truly smart, people, who went “government” with a “White Man’s Burden” attitude. IOW, a super liberal mindset that should have *disqualified* them from Gov’t service.
                The “I know better than everyone what people need,” should be a strike against hiring. The *fixed* notion that you don’t need to listen, *and comprehend* what people _need_, not _want_ should be a reason to not hire. As Foxfier’s husband has to do, and force rules/laws “bend” to let people do what they need, is a symptom. Rules/laws are necessary, but can, and often are, misapplied. “The law is meant for man, not man for the law.”

            2. IIRC it was a standard Roman punishment for a Legion that showed cowardness on the field of battle long before the Roman Emperors.

        3. We could drain a lot of the pent up ire and balance the budget by selling the right to slaughter our rude masters. Video would form the basis of Civilizational Ethics courses for centuries.

        1. Do-able. You respect the potential the office would have, if occupied by the right sort of person.

          1. “Do-able. You respect the potential the office would have, if occupied by the right sort of person.”

            What if you don’t respect the potential the office would have?

            What if you don’t believe that the potential of the office is worthy of respect in and of itself?

            1. then you don’t respect the office; and if of the politically active sort, do what you can to eliminate it.

              Respect of offices, like respect of people, is presumptive until you’ve had a chance to learn more of them, then granted on the basis of specific knowledge.

              I think I mentioned above, somewhere: the converse is also possible – you could respect the officeholder, but not the office, e.g. saying “Too bad she’s wasted in that position.”

            1. Depends – the incumbent is best positioned to judge the potential of an office to enrich themselves, yes. Those who benefit from the operation of the office are likely best positioned to judge how well it serves them. The populace at large may be best positioned to judge how well the office may serve the Nation, if the purpose of the office is well-defined.
              (I’m not generally in favor of ill-defined offices.)

  1. “We need to stop “respecting the office” when the person in it is a total f*ckup. (This now extends to teachers and policemen, btw. People continually tell me about those, “You have to respect the office.” No, I really, really don’t. This is not the military. I don’t owe even external honor to anyone. They can earn it or not. If THEY don’t show any respect for the office, why should I OWE them any.)”

    *nod* I’ve been there for a long time,

    An Office is just a room with a desk and a chair. It’s the person in the office, and how they behave and conduct themselves that makes it worth respecting or not.

    A uniform is just a suit. A badge is just a piece of tin. It’s the person inside the outfit that makes the uniform and the badge respectable or not.

    *grin* Of course, giving the outward signs of respect is often useful. To paraphrase Matt Helm: “When you’re six feet and some inches, saying ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ doesn’t look subservient. It just makes you sound humble – and it doesn’t make them bullet proof.”

    1. I see that someone is now finally reprinting all of Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm spy books. Twenty-seven in all, twenty-eight if you include Matt Helm – The War Years where another author pulled bits from the novels to tell the story of Helm’s WWII service.
      They seem to be releasing a book every few months, and were up to number 20 last I checked.
      Mostly written in the ’60s so a few disconnects for a modern reader, but still some of the best adventure stories I’ve ever read.

      1. Excellent! Maybe they’ll reprint some of his earlier stuff too. My collection of Hamilton books is so old the pages break if I’m not careful handling them.

        1. I have a few in ebook format. Unfortunately, Assassins Have Starry Eyes and The Mona Intercept are not among them, dammit.

    2. “Respect the office” does not mean the “room with a chair”. In this case, “Office” means the position the person holds in the hierarchy. Just wanted to get that quibble out of the way first.

      There IS something to be said for “respect the office” (and no, I’m not referring to saying, “f$ck off”). We should not tear down the office in the process of saying things about the officeholder. We should make a clear distinction, and make it clear that, if the things are heinous enough, that the officeholder is not worthy of the office he holds. So, instead of saying, “The President sucks”, it should be: “Obama (or whomever our next Resident of the White House is) sucks”. And if someone tells you to “respect the office”, you can tell them you DID “respect the office”, because you used the a$$hole’s name, not referring to “The President”.

                    1. Well, it’s not only the cream of the crops that floats to the top…

      1. Ah… I’m seeing a flaw in that line of reasoning, Wayne, but I’m not able to pin down exactly what or why I think there is, so I’ll leave it be. I just… I understand that “Office” does not mean a “room with chair” in this context.

        I just don’t always agree that the symbolic office should be respected any more than the man sitting in it should be.

        I think that ‘Drak hit on it down below better than I may be able to.

    3. IMO, sir or ma’am is simply politeness (and I say this as a …spit….Millennial). Doesn’t matter if it is a retail clerk or das ears himself

      1. #ReclaimMillennial

        Dude, we’ve got the most sci-fi awesome title EVER, don’t let the f-tards steal it to mean “these nice little progressive drones with not the brains of a green apple.”

        1. “these nice little progressive drones with not the brains of a green apple.”

          Why you gots to be hatin’ on green apples?

      2. Courtesy and politeness is the privilege of the strong. A weak person has to fight all-out, no holds barred, and take no prisoners- see commonality in the SJW attitude? They are weak, admittedly so. Their tactics are the tactics of the weak.

        A strong person can measure their strength and use it only when it is needed or necessary. It’s a part of why the armed most often are possessed of even tempers and calm disposition. It’s also why the willfully disarmed and intentionally infantilized “safe-space” crowd tend to be so vile. They tend to mobs to feel strong because individually they have no experience of strength.

        1. ah, yes – but the weak should generally have the wisdom to fight “all out” only defensively, as the cumulative odds ensure you’ll be taken out if you’re also offensive.
          Unfortunately, “wisdom” is deprecated among the SJW elite-wannabes, so they have no problem fighting (or being) offensive.

    4. I’ve always thought the not “respecting the office” was one the archetypal American traits. After all, if we were inclined to respect the office regardless of the occupant, we’d still be living under a monarchy, wouldn’t we?

      It also seems like there’s been a concerted effort to conflate “respect” with “show deference to”. It just be me being hyper sensitive, but I worry that this is a reflection of a growing “know your place, ceorl” attitude of our politcal/law-enforcement caste.

  2. Most of the characteristics that make a primate a “alpha” would make — to an extent do make — a man a criminal. The largest population of alpha males is in prison or (in countries that go for it) killed.

    Aha! The appeal of gangst{-a,-er} “culture” explained: a desire to be ‘alpha’ that hasn’t been properly thought out.

    1. Well, let’s be honest, in our formative years as males in this culture we learn that is they way to get women…more so today than in my day when it was probably more so than in my father’s (the innate drive is the same but the social mores against have declined). Do you properly think out things as a young bull trying to impress the ladies?

      That’s why we had social pressures on boys trying to become men to not make those displays and girls trying to become women from not giving into that primate desire. Older and wiser minds knew they weren’t fully thought through and would work out badly much more often than not.

      Our out of wedlock birth rate shows how little we teach our young about that anymore.

      1. > displays

        “Beyond the Palace Hemi-powered drones
        scream down the boulevard.
        Girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
        and the boys try to look so hard.”

        1. “It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
          We gotta get out while we’re young”

          1. “I’m tellin’ ya, son, yer gonna drive me to drinking
            If you don’t quit driving that hot rod Lincoln.”

            1. “I looked down at my lovely bride,
              her face was blue, I thought she’d died.
              We left streaks through towns about forty feet wide,
              but me and that Mercury stayed side by side.”

                1. “You know, I’d sooner forget, but I remember those nights
                  When life was just a bet on a race between the lights”

                  1. “Oh where oh where, can my baby be?
                    The good Lord took her away from me… “

                    1. “But it was long ago and it was far away, oh God it seems so very far
                      And if life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car
                      And objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are”

                    2. “Oh it was long ago, and it was far away, and it was so much better than it is today.”

          2. “I’m a truck driving vampire,
            I only drive by night!
            A truck-driving vampire,
            Undead but not uptight!”

            1. “And she’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis
              Loves horses and her boyfriend, too… “

      2. I am unconvinced that our “out of wedlock birthrate” signifies a great deal about the number of bastards born. We are, perhaps, more open about it than we were before the 1960’s, but I think a lot more went on than was officially recorded before that. Really comprehensive government nosiness only really dates back to FDR, and didn’t get a full head of steam until after WWII at the earliest. Furthermore, in my wife’s paternal family, in just the last three generations, there are two cases of children who were not born to their official families. In-clan adoption, and nobody bothers the State with the details. I suspect that’s fairly widespread where extended families stll exist.

        1. Certainly things haven’t changed completely but the disappearance of the home for wayward girls who normal outcome was adoption (as happened to my half-sister) or shotgun weddings means normalizing the behavior which means marginal cases break the other ways (and I think this does imply an increase in the rate. It also means the average person taking the risk has less fear of the risk.

          1. Yeah, I think there’s been a normalization and increase in rate – just judging from the relatively small number of girls who dropped out of high school (the usual way of handling it) in my ~1960 time there, vs. apparent current rates.

          1. My mom has two cousins– twins, actually– who knew they were adopted, but weren’t told that it was from their “sister’s” failed marriage until they hit adult.

            The girl figured it out at about 12, from looking at pictures of her dad as a teen and looking at her brother; the brother is about the nicest guy (not in the sense of ‘well, but he’s NICE”…) you’ll ever meet, but was shocked when he was told.

            1. Whereas I kept hinting around to my parents that it wouldn’t send me on a rage storm if I were to hear that I was actually my sister’s boy (like my cousin was actually her “mother”‘s granddaughter, because my aunt’s daughter couldn’t take care of her). But apparently, I am really her brother.

              1. Another of mom’s favorite stories is her walking her uncle to preschool(K?) when she was going to junior high; her mom was middle of the pack, and that uncle was the first born.

                There’s a reason that all the basically-family-prior-generation folks are called “aunt” and “uncle.”
                Being called “great aunt” without strong reason was a serious insult

                1. I have two nieces older than me… I’m the youngest from my father’s second marriage, and they’re the daughters of my two oldest half-brothers.

                  We never bothered with “aunt” and “uncle” on my father’s side of the family, it was all first-name basis.

          2. Going through my family tree, a whole lot of first births were premature by quite a bit. Which actually makes a lot of sense in a frontier society. Getting married and then finding out a child cannot be produced is not conducive to community survival when divorce is highly frowned upon. And where population growth is really needed in order to establish civilization in the form of villages and towns instead of outposts and forts. I suspect most people whose families have been here since the 1500’s would discover the same phenomena if they looked for it.

            1. I remember a conversation I had with a college professor once. He said that he’d originally been shocked at so many Royal heirs being born six months or less after the wedding. Until he realized how politically important it was to prove fertility before forming alliances. Affairs of state trump rules for the common people.

            2. I think Heinlein phrased it this way, or close enough to it: “Everyone knows that an enthusiastic bride can deliver her first baby in 7 months. Then the rest come along in the usual time.”

            3. There’s also the “I sort of ease into it with guy…. oh, heck, baby’s coming. Make it official” thing.

              Which, from what I’ve heard from family, could be retroactive– the ‘common law marriage’ was NOT a saving face thing, it was a “gov’t didn’t report on this” thing.
              As I’ve pointed out before– I know both homosexuals and heterosexuals who were married in church but not by law; the stats do not mean what some folks wish them to mean.

        2. Another thing:
          It only lists those officially recorded as married.

          And if you go and pay to be officially married, you lose access to a lot of benefits; if you’re illegal, you make things tougher for everybody, too.

        3. After they’d both died, Jack Nickolson found out his sister was his mother and his mother was his grandmother. I run across so many cases of that in 20th century biographies.

        4. The very fact that it was covered up discouraged it. People were not raised with the view that it was normal.

          1. This. Sure, there were some out-of-wedlock births back when that never made it into the official numbers. But there’s no WAY that those can add up to the vast number of out-of-wedlock births we have today:


            Note how the rate stays down around 4-5% for three decades (1930-1960), then over the course of the next three decades (1960-1990) it climbs up to 30% by the end of the 1990’s. There’s NO WAY that that climb is explainable only by “people didn’t feel they had to hide it anymore”.

      3. Well, let’s be honest, in our formative years as males in this culture we learn that is they way to get women…

        Key word there being “women,” not “woman,” and no denotation of quality.

        You want a lot of cheap hoes, yeah, that’s the way to go. Have fun when you hit the Islamofasist zone, they’ve got more practice.

        You want the woman, worthy of aspiring to as a help-meet and life-match?

        You have to take the hard parts of being “alpha,” and master them, yoke them like a whole team of ox, master it and guide it.

        And like a team of animals, any one of which could destroy the mocker without even a risk of harm, you’ll get no respect from the idiots– because you are under control.

        1. “You want a lot of cheap hoes, yeah, that’s the way to go.”

          *ahem* Point of definition:

          You don’t need to be an Alpha to get cheap hoes. Or even expensive hoes.

          That’s what credit cards are for.

          1. Iron, hon, do you have any idea how hard it is to warp an impulse to say something about how I bow to your wide experience with cheap slatterns and those whom one would expect to be paid for sleeping with?

            Come on, this is a tough week! Don’t give me big, flashing, neon targets like that for utterly unfair cheap shots!

            1. Well, crapola, Foxy! There’s no point in me just handing you opportunities for straight lines and cheap shots if you’re not gonna take ’em! *grin* Seriously: have you ever seen me pass up a straight line that someone handed me?

              Think about this one carefully, though, first:

              Have you also ever seen me not just grin and dive back in with an equal or worse cheap shot of my own?


              Pays yer money and ya takes yer chances.

              1. Problem being, I’m Catholic. I’m obligated to try to do justice.

                And then you hand me the issue of either doing justice to you, the person, or doing justice to that, the straight line.

                And I’m better at cheap shots.

                Get the behind me, oh sleek satin! (vaguely like satin, but not really evil. Just tempting)

                1. “Get the behind me, oh sleek satin! (vaguely like satin, but not really evil. Just tempting)”

                  All of the Rouge Angles of Satin trying to tempt your off of the true and narrow way? *snicker*

                  S’all right. I’m a recovering Catholic myself. I know how much it sticks with you, even long, long, long after you leave the faith and the Church.

                  It’s like the herpes of former religions.

                  1. I’m a Typhoid Mary, thanks to our own Mary C and Suburban Banshee and some other folks– recovered my husband pretty much by accident.

                    *Grin* May you have a massive relapse.

                    1. “*Grin* May you have a massive relapse. “

                      *grin* Probably not going to happen, but file it under YNK for “You never know.”

                      My life has taken enough strange byways and highways that I won’t rule out anything for certain at this point. But if I find a faith at this point, it’ll probably be Asatru. I like their afterlife, and dying with a blade in my hand suits me.

                      On the other hand, I’m what seems to be getting to be a distinct rarity in my circles: I’m an atheist who is not anti-religion and who is not anti-Christian. (And who is not nutso, which also seems to be an atheist rarity these days.)

                      I think that, based on the evidence, religion (most of them), Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular have done more to build and preserve Western Civilization than any other major force in the last two thousand years. On a personal basis, I believe that whatever helps someone get through the night and helps them put a friendly face on the uncaring darkness is worth having.

                      i have just determined that for me, I don’t need to put a face on the universe and creation, and I don’t require a deity in order to be a good (or even merely decent) and moral, ethical person.

                      However, I’ll freely admit that my eleven years in Catholic school and my early life as a Catholic went a long way in shaping my personal outlook, ethics, and morals. It’s what I meant by not ever really being able to get away from it. And there’s worse frameworks, to be sure.

                      (Stating that also doesn’t make me any friends with a lot of my fellow atheists.)

                      Don’t bother tempting me to the dark side – I can bake my own cookies.

                    2. On the other hand, I’m what seems to be getting to be a distinct rarity in my circles: I’m an atheist who is not anti-religion and who is not anti-Christian

                      Rare because it doesn’t tend to last; it indicates an honest state of mind that gives me great hope for you, no matter what you call yourself.

                    3. Stuff they don’t teach you in religion class:

                      St. Athanasius hid out from the Arian Imperial government in the tomb of his pagan Egyptian dad.

                    4. “Rare because it doesn’t tend to last; it indicates an honest state of mind that gives me great hope for you, no matter what you call yourself. “

                      Well, it’s lasted for thirty years now, so it’ll probably hang in there for a few more.

                      Now, don’t get me wrong: it doesn’t mean that I won’t argue with a Christian about theology and catechism and religion until the cows come home. One of my best friends for a long time into my early forties was a Piarist, and we still exchange emails. Arguing over coffee until all hours was the basis for our friendship.

                      A basis. The other basis was a mutual love for medieval weaponry and a liking for beating on people with live steel in AARMA. 🙂

                    5. Now, don’t get me wrong: it doesn’t mean that I won’t argue with a Christian about theology and catechism and religion until the cows come home.

                      *Fox grin* That’s what got my hubby.

                      Three kids and roughly a decade of intellectual honesty, and suddenly he’s going “oh, by the way, I’m going to be going to RCIA on Mondays. Can your mom sponsor me?”

                    6. Hey! I was raised Presbyterian. I believe that we protestant Christians are due much credit for spreading free market capitalism around the world.

                    7. Christianity is such an utter freak, historically speaking, that I believe it’s nearly impossible to isolate advantages down to individual aspects.

                    8. Well Ironbear was claiming Western Civilization for Catholics. I think it was more the competition among all the various factions that led to Western Civ dominating the world. Now we have the children of Western Civ sitting around their college dorms saying that there is no way in H3LL that could happen without cheating.

                      Where is the Islamic participation trophy. Africa has the resources, why didn’t they get a trophy. New Guinea, Where is there medal?

                      NO FAIR!!!

                      We Must be descended fro EVIL!

                    9. “Hey! I was raised Presbyterian. I believe that we protestant Christians are”

                      Latecomers to the Western Civ party? *grin*

                    10. @foxfier.

                      *waggles eyebrows* Yeah, but you’re already married, so ye’ll nae be catching me that way, lassie.

                    11. “Now we have the children of Western Civ sitting around their college dorms saying that there is no way in H3LL that could happen without cheating.” – Oldgriz

                      Hey. It’s not OUR fault that we play Western Civ on Nightmare difficulty. *maniacal laughter*

                  2. m what seems to be getting to be a distinct rarity in my circles: I’m an atheist who is not anti-religion and who is not anti-Christian. (And who is not nutso, which also seems to be an atheist rarity these days.)

                    Convo one morning as I step out of my bedroom:

                    David: I spent most of last night defending Christianity from a bunch of atheists who wouldn’t know logic or history r science if it hit them with the force of an extinction event meteorite. What. The Fuck. Happened to atheisim? It’s becoming more like a religious belief than actual religions do.”

                    Me: “Atheism +”

                    So you’re not alone, hon.

                    1. Oh it’s been like that for a LONG time. People like to claim that religion is the cause of misery in the world, but they’re wrong. Fanaticism is a better culprit (though not the sole source of misery, just a really big one) and atheists can be just as vulnerable to it as any theist.

                      One of my more sarcastic remarks I’ve made was wondering if I’d missed some manual when I became agnostic 20+ years ago. The one that requires me to sneer and belittle religious folk (Christians, of course, since they’re safe) at any and every opportunity. To show how smart and enlightened I was.

                    2. *chuckle* Yeah, well, I’d been seeing the sneering superiority for years, and David’s only recently encountered it and is STILL rather shocked.

                      Interestingly, it actually makes him angry that he sees so much abuse heaped on Christians from atheists, especially the Christians who aren’t bothering anyone. Probably pissed at the reason those cowards don’t go after Muslims that you observed.

                      I vaguely remember reading recently that there was someone who was tempted to turn deeply religious to defy the screaming arrogant atheists; Twitter, I think?

                    3. “‘… What. The Fuck. Happened to atheisim? It’s becoming more like a religious belief than actual religions do.’

                      Me: ‘Atheism +’

                      So you’re not alone, hon.” – Shadow

                      It’s the, IIRC, New Atheist/New Atheism movements. As little as a decade or so ago, as long as you stayed out of the forums and haunts of the more militant atheist groups, you could go forever without being exposed to it. Now, it seems that if you don’t adhere to all of the tenets of atheism, you’re not a “Real” atheist, and you get shrieked at.

                      SJWs by a different name.

                      “One of my more sarcastic remarks I’ve made was wondering if I’d missed some manual when I became agnostic 20+ years ago. The one that requires me to sneer and belittle religious folk (Christians, of course, since they’re safe) at any and every opportunity. To show how smart and enlightened I was.” – Patrick Chester

                      You didn’t get the manual along with your introductory package and complimentary Godwin Fish sticker set? (00) Damn. I thought we mailed those out to everyone.

                    4. Hmph. *I* didn’t get an intro package, either. And I thought you had to buy your own Darwin fish. Is it because I just can’t make up my mind? I thought that was the definition of Agnostic. 🙂

                    5. I can’t turn deeply religious just to tick atheist fanatics off. I’ve come to a point in my life where I can’t pretend to believe in something just to make others happy or mad.

                      I have mocked atheist fanatics by “confessing” to my violation of the Most Holy Atheist Dogma by not hating Christians like they do.

                    6. Their problem is that they have stared too long into the abyss that is Christian faith and become the image of all they find intolerable in that.

                    7. I applaud you. It’s amazing how many people are prepared to try to “argue” for a view on grounds other than “it’s true.”

                    8. Unfortunately, I could never explain where that attitude came from. Most atheists I’ve met have had that snotty, look-down-the-nose attitude towards anyone religious. After meeting some other fanatics, I’ve boiled it down to ‘it’s human nature to want to say that you’re better than this other group. Unfortunately, it usually has no basis in fact.’ There are factual examples to the contrary though… and they’re usually not the ones bragging.

                    9. Few atheists have reached that state via reason — there is no more reason, no factual basis, for being an atheist than a theist. In both circumstances the evidence for reaching any conclusion.

                      Thus their choice is made on a desire to reject theism, a choice based on their rejection of theists (who can, leave us acknowledge) be quite off-putting. They are frequently making an equal and opposite error as those they’ve rejected — often worse because at base their reasoning is a rejection.

                    10. “Their problem is that they have stared too long into the abyss that is Christian faith and become the image of all they find intolerable in that.”

                      *whistles admiringly* Nifty turn on the now cliche “staring into the abyss” phrase, RES. Nicely crafted.

                    11. “Most atheists I’ve met have had that snotty, look-down-the-nose attitude towards anyone religious. ”

                      I believe John C. Wright, from his atheist days, has explained it as believing that you have fathomed the nature of the universe, alone and unaided, naturally makes you feel superior to those who have failed to do so.

                    12. Which points to the flaw in any moral system that has “but I don’t want to do a bad thing” as the basis for good behavior.

                    13. Naw.

                      I’ve never considered being a misanthrope a Bad Thing.

                      It’s the Kinder, Gentler Ironbear that’s at odds with my better nature. 🙂

                1. *nod* Saw that. Scott Adams blog is in my bookmarks under Regular Reads.

                2. I’d missed the tweet launch. Erk. Ugh. Ya know, I’ve screwed up a few PR things in my time, but I don’t think even I could to it that badly.

                  Can we revoke her second X chromosome? Not replace it with a Y, but just revoke it?

                  1. You know, when I found out that Trump had gotten the nomination I thought, “Oh great, way to hand the election to Hillary.” But seeing that… thing that she thought was a good idea, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

                    1. Given the high negatives and the fundamental dynamics of this race it is likely that come election day each candidate will be detested by nearly 90% of the electorate.

                      Nothing good is likely to come of that — it may be the triggering event necessary to reset the republic.

                    2. Well, *I* certainly don’t want to see her snatch…

                      Oh, wait. There were more words. I glitched at the word “snatch” and missed the rest.

                    3. Bad Wayne, making ox head hurt – innards also hurt.
                      Ox have standards.
                      Ox standards low, perhaps.
                      Ox still have them.
                      And they higher than that.

                    4. Given the progression I’ve seen toward electing the best entertainer rather than the best potential statesman/administrator/CinC/.. etc, I’m guessing Donald and Hillary will be equally hated but Donald will get the nod for entertainment value.

                    5. Middle of last year I proposed my “funniest clown” theory: If the only choices we get are a bunch of clowns why not at least pick the funniest one.

                    6. One coworker is using that system, HerbN: “I’m voting Trump. I don’t believe him or in him, but it’s all going to Hell anyway. I might as well get a laugh out of it.”

        2. “You have to take the hard parts of being “alpha,” and master them, yoke them like a whole team of ox, master it and guide it.”

          *That’s* what the Lord was doing wrong with the Israelites! It makes so much sense now… He wasn’t *controlling* his *alpha* qualities well enough! And every good man whose wife has betrayed him…obviously he didn’t “aspire” enough, and as such he has only himself to blame for the quality of woman he vowed fidelity to, right? /sarcasm

          Seriously, PUA’s are full of it, no question, but so is your oversimplification. There are plenty of good men who *are* “under control” whose wives are nonetheless “hoes”. That doesn’t excuse the insanity of the “PickUpArtists” but it needs saying anyway. Virtue is no guarantor of a virtuous spouse. To suggest otherwise is simply unjust, in my view, and…I’ll shut up now. Sorry for the acidity of the sarcasm, but I *hate* that “you didn’t try hard enough”-style *bullshit*. It’s sanctimonious, callous, and ignorant. A good, virtuous woman can still marry/be married to a cad, and a good, “under control” virtuous man can nonetheless be wedded to a faithless shrew. A man shouldn’t “master” the “hard parts” of being “alpha” so that he can “earn” the attention of a virtuous woman or “help-meet” to marry. No, he should endeavor to be a good, upright, honorable man simply because it is right, and it is what the Lord requires of those who bear his Name upon their hearts. Regardless of whether he “wants *the* woman” or not.
          …and now I really *am* shutting up. God bless.

          1. I should add: and if a man *does* endeavor to demonstrate those qualities (good, upright, honorable, etc) partly in hopes of “aspiring to” gain a match with “the” woman, he ought to prepare himself for a great deal of heartbreak. Virtue is not a path to a soul mate except inasmuch as the Lord is a soul mate and virtue is pleasing to him.

          2. Virtue is no guarantor of a virtuous spouse.

            Didn’t say it was.

            Actively sorting for non-virtuous mates in high quantities does make it so you’d need a miracle to find one, though.

            1. On that point we most definitely agree. Although I’d probably add that even *without* that added burden, modern western civilization *in and of itself* makes it so you’d need a miracle to find one. At least it feels that way, sometimes… I hope my initial reply didn’t offend…I’ve been wrestling with some (okay, *many*) things and your post sort of hit just the right button, heh. God bless! 🙂

              1. *wry* Gee, why would you get upset about something ‘little’ like the destruction of our entire culture via the incredible pain and abuse of the most vital foundation group, the family?

                I kinda sensed that it was a “came up” thing.

        3. You want the woman, worthy of aspiring to as a help-meet and life-match?

          No argument but at 16 all you know are your hormones are saying “fuck like bunnies” and these days few boys have a father to teach them to say no to that and aspire to something better. The culture not only doesn’t teach that but often teaches that women want a player they can tame so the route to that woman of quality (who is your soul mate but never portrayed as a help-meet because that’s icky and patriarchal) is through being a player.

          Please don’t think I’m approving. I’m just observing. Puberty is stuck 50,000 years ago and the complete set of civilized behaviors we created to change that were flushed around the time I was hitting puberty (but having silents for parent I got them unlike my peers with boomer parents) as inauthentic or something.

            1. Not surew which problem you mean, my analysis (that we aren’t teaching teenagers to value the long term in terms of sexual and relationships and not putting fences around them while they learn), that teenagers have these issues, or something else.

              I do think by pulling the work “women” out you picked up on something I hadn’t intended but that I needed to throw back in the hopper. Maybe it is lucky I choose “women” over “dates” when the latter was closer to what I was trying to say. If you hadn’t called me on it I might not have added the “being a player is a way to a quality women” meme which shows up in different forms in different places (the PUA “pre-selection” idea being the most relevant to my thought process probably). Then again, recently, I’ve come to think there is more to pre-selection than I previously credited.

              1. You’d just said you weren’t praising the way things are, just pointing them out; I was agreeing with you on what you pointed out.

                Kids aren’t being taught to control themselves for positive outcomes. It’s… not pretty.

  3. Regarding our fictional heroes being “chosen” or “fated,” I think there’s two reasons for that:

    (1) “Ambition is evil.” Those who seek something and work hard for it, you have to worry about their motivations for seeking and whether that reflects greed or a desire for power or something else we don’t like. “Chosen ones” don’t have those sort of impure motives, they just have the privileges and burdens that go along with being Chosen. For example, you mentioned Harry Potter. If Harry had actively worked to seek a position of importance in the Order of the Phoenix, there would be questions as to why. Is he obsessed with getting revenge for his parents? Seeking to put himself in position to take power after the war? Just a naturally violent person who wants any excuse to fight? However, by making Harry important to the resistance simply by virtue of his birth/something that happened when he was a baby, you sidestep all that and can keep Harry our pure, unsullied hero.

    (2) The desire to put very young characters in the top positions. I first noticed this with the tendency of sci-fi political systems to be monarchies, something I eventually came to the conclusion was about age. Sci-fi adventures are usually stories of the young: a character who has hit 30 in an adventure story is a grizzled old veteran fit only to teach the next generation, then die in a heroic and motivating manner. Democratic politics, on the other hand, is a game for the old: those who achieve the presidency at 50 are considered absurdly young. Thus, if you want your youthful heroes to be exercising political power, you have to give them a system where it isn’t absurd for them to be ruling at age 20.

    I think a similar dynamic applies in a lot of other stories: the author wants to write about the characters at the top but doesn’t want to either spend the decades that would be involved in having a character grow naturally to that position or just start with characters of that age and experience. The way to do that is make your naive everybody a natural choice for leader based on some inherent characteristic. Thus, you get Kirk being promoted from Cadet to Captain after one mission, Egwene al’Vere becoming leader of the White Tower after spending maybe three months in the place, etc.

    1. > Sci-fi adventures are usually stories of the young:

      That’s largely due to the tradpub’s concept of science fiction as children’s or teen stories. Captain Video, garishly-covered magazines, comic books.

      There were serious works written, of course, but no publisher anticipated great sales. The only adults who bought science fiction were… “off.” And certainly no kind of dependable market.

      *Now* science fiction is mainstream, but that was almost entirely due to Star Trek and Star Wars. Hey! Ordinary people would watch that sort of thing! Who could possibly have guessed? And not only that, they’re crazy enough to scalp tickets and stand in the rain to see a sequel.

    2. Springboarding a bit.

      In addition to “chosen one” another trope I see a lot of is the person who, while not particularly fated just “falls into” the role and gets swept along by events. I’m thinking Katniss of The Hunger Games books. Okay, Katniss was “heroic” in volunteering as tribute to save her sister but the whole “raise a rebellion” thing she was basically along for the ride.

      We’ve gone from Clifford Russel, on the strength of his passion and convictions, convincing an intergalactic tribunal to leave Earth alone to this.

      1. \hijacking thread for Hunger Games discussion

        I think that series went terribly wrong with the whole “Quarter Quell leads to open rebellion” plotline. The way that the trilogy should have gone in my opinion:

        (1) Katniss volunteers to be a tribute to save her sister, participates in the Games, and figures out what she needs to do in order to survive. Pretty much the first book as it existed.

        (2) Katniss returns to the Games as a mentor, learns of the existence of the rebellion, and must decide for herself how much she wants to get involved, knowing she’d be risking not just her own life but her family’s. She obviously wants the Capital gone, but is it worth it if it might kill the sister whom she’s already risked so much to save?

        (3) Katniss decides yes, it is worth it, and proceeds to find herself an active role in the rebellion where she can kick butt. She may not be one of the “leaders,” but she’s not being passively lead either.

        As it was, I thought Katniss lost pretty much all her agency after the first book. As you said, she’s, “along for the ride.” She occasionally makes a decision, but it turns out not to matter as someone else overrides the decision for her. Up until the penultimate chapter of the last book, you could have replaced her with a blow-up doll that said, “Hi, I’m Katniss,” and it would have made no difference.

        Sorry about the rant. I have…opinions on that series.

        \end hijack

        1. You explain why I lost interest. I saw the first movie with my daughter. Thought it was pretty good. I thought #2 fell off. Then #3 bored me at times. #4 came along and there was no compelling reason to see it.

          By the way, my daughter read the books and said they were really bad, the movies were better.

          1. I haven’t gotten into hunger games, but from what I’ve heard this also summarizes why I have an issue with it.

            It’s trying to use a trope it doesn’t understand.

            It’s like the whole “question authority” thing– when’s the last time that anybody saying that expected you to question it an accept the answers, or to question their authority?

            “Fate” is a great shorthand for “obligations,” and neatly avoids the question of “and why should I listen to you?”

            But that only works if the author understands what they’re dealing with…. otherwise you end up like that famous issue where someone was trying to explain Shakespeare to Bushmen, and they couldn’t figure grasp why someone who’d been killed in a hunting accident hadn’t done what their culture said was normal, which would’ve saved him, rather than what Europe’s culture said was normal, which was the whole plot point.

          1. I hit this problem on the Starbound trilogy: These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, and Their Fractured Light. It actually justifies it rather better than the Katniss books, but my, do you have some young characters to keep it in YA.

      2. The fundamental problem is that you can’t really have a YA doing significant things to bring down the dystopia without making it even more nightmarish than dystopias normally are; what sort of world forces people so young into such roles? So it gets — unrealistically toned down.

        1. “without making it even more nightmarish than dystopias normally are; what sort of world forces people so young into such roles?” – Mary

          *carefully scoots Master and Commander at the Far Side of the World DVD under sofa*

          Ummm… the same kind of world that saw Farragut given his first Prize command at the ripe old age of twelve?

          Damn! I guess I didn’t scoot that DVD far enough under. What I meant to say was, oh absotively! *grin*

            1. “Most realistic dystopias would force them into far worse roles than that.”


              On the other hand, I really don’t see anything wrong with stories showing that young adults (err… kids?) can actually deal with horrific circumstances and step up to become heroic, even in dystopic realities. (Dystopic?)

              In a lot of ways, Podkayne of Mars was a horror story.

              Telezy Amberdon was fifteen, and she went through some horrific events that required her to grow up fast while still physically young.

              1. I wonder if Animorphs (the KA Applegate books, not the TV series) would fit that. I think the main characters were 16ish by the end, and they’d been fighting a guerrilla war for years.

                1. I’m not really familiar with Animorphs, so I’m not sure?

                  In my BtVS/Terminator fanfic series, I had a group of ten to eleven year olds get caught up in the whole mess and have to fight a running guerilla war through Sunnydale at night. It got grim in a couple of places, but I also concentrated on having them all rise to the occasion and show that being young didn’t mean “being helpless”.

                  Oddly, they ended up being some of the fan favorite OC characters in that story.

                  1. Longrunning Scholastic book series. Think teen shapeshifter vs the Puppet Masters

                    1. Eww. And now you’ve got me intrigued. I’m going to have to hunt those up so I can read them.

                    2. I read some of them, and liked them okay. It was my introduction to the idea of American exceptionalism in military affairs. (That wasn’t the focus.) Didn’t care much for the how the series ended, or the author’s next series.

                    1. *blink* Link? To my Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Terminator Crossover?



                      The one where the gang of ten to eleven year old Guerilla fighters – the First Sunnydale Irregulars – feature the most heavily in is the very first on the list: The Hell-er-nator: Chaos Machine.

                      Pardon my *blink* – I’m not used to having people express an interest, so you caught me by surprise there. *grin*

                      Warning: Only Book I and Book II are finished. Book III is about half way done, but then I got sidelined by real life, and I veered off into working on a couple of (hopefully) for pay publication novels, so #3 sits there until I get back to it.

                2. Main thing I remember about Animporphs can be rephrased as:
                  “FFS, I’m two years younger than you, and a geek, and *I* figured out that you’d be in this trap when I haven’t read a single other book? Good grief.”

                  Only book I read was where…. Skylar?… got stuck in bird shape.

                  Usually, I’d think”hey, it’s only one book.”

                  But it’s a MAJOR PLOT POINT.

                  And the book sucked.


                  1. To be fair, it was that or death (Tobias had been trapped in an observed area, so demorphing would have been death or infestation), it was like their second or third outing as a hero team, and it served to drive home the point that they wouldn’t necessarily come out unscathed.

                    Also, it set up some events in the later books.

              2. Apparently you can’t, nowadays. If a YA is in a dystopia, he must be pivotal to the fight to overthrow it.

                Heinlein managed it better. in “If This Goes On. . . .” he managed to give Johnny a crucial but plausible role.

                1. Which is what I had to do in Through Fire. I couldn’t give a woman who is a stranger in the world and has no political opinions the lead. It would break the character.

          1. Chuckle Chuckle

            Nope, Mary is talking about a story where the twelve-year old creates the rebellion that takes down the “evil state” and becomes leader of the new glorious state. 😉

        2. At least one John Christopher YA dystopia ended with the main character choosing to join the opposition instead of living a life of ease as part of the “ruling class”.

    3. The dilemma you point out also reminds me of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which made a gag out of the same thing: how can you possibly entrust anybody with power if the only people who want to accept the responsibility of that power are unfit for it by definition because they want it? “To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem. …Who can possibly rule if nobody who wants to can be allowed to?”

      1. I think I remember a John Campbell editorial, in which he postulated a society in which the President is drafted, not elected, from a pool of reasonably competent people who really, really do NOT want the job.

        1. Campbell’s pool could be manipulated.

          I still prefer my Presidential Lottery system. Run the Powerball against the pool of valid Social Security numbers, and the first number of an adult that comes up, they fill the next available office.

          Sure, we’d have to let some of them out of jail, and some might drool a lot, but it would definitely be a *representative* government…

          1. I’m still advocating a simple replacement of primary/general elections with Thunderdome (2 men enter, 1 man leaves). It is difficult to keep the ambitious from striving for power, but we can at least make the process automatically thin the herd, and firmly discourage folks from running for re-election. A side benefit is that the pay-per-view revenue would erase the national debt.

        2. I’ve had serious nightmares about that idea.

          Makes me think that Campbell never had to deal with someone who really didn’t want the job, as opposed to someone who accepted that they had to do it but wouldn’t have chose the job.

          For a short version, look at any relationship advice board with the shit that happens when people have to do something they don’t want to, but feel obligated to do a good job of it.

          It will obliterate any idea you may have about “oh, but if the punishments for bad outcomes are big enough, they’ll do a good job”– no, slaves that object to their servitude WILL go to suicide, and beyond.

          1. “…slaves that object…” — for most people (there are always exceptions!), I suppose that a 4-year indenture is not quite slavery (“this, too, shall pass”), after which you get to live in the society you administered. Something would have to be done about not using time-in-office to create explicit special benefits for later, I suppose, to improve the focus on benefit to society vs. self.

            1. Involuntary work at the order of others.

              It wouldn’t take long for someone who goes “y’know? Don’t want to live in a society that does this” and burn it down.

              1. Nod,

                The person with the Presidential Power has a “very big gun”.

                You force somebody into taking that job over his objections so you should be very concerned about what he’s going to do with the gun you gave him. 😈 😈 😈 😈

                Oh, Babylon 5 episode, there was a major strike on B5 and the “Senate” didn’t want to give into the union’s demands.

                So they gave the Station Commander “absolute authority” to end the strike.

                The government “negotiator” was very shocked by how the Station Commander ended the strike.

                The Station Commander said “You shouldn’t give a man a gun when you don’t know how he’ll use it”. 😈 😈 😈 😈

                Oh, in his mind the Station Commander had been given the authority to find ways to meet the union’s demands. 😀

                1. Reminds me from the line near the end of the movie “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” The manipulators offer to make the main character Caesar. His response:
                  “You would find me unsuitable. My first official act would be to have you all crucified.”

              2. Variable. For a limited time, most people will endure some degree of discomfort. Counter-examples where the tyrant is for life, or a least a very long time – may apply to only a much smaller percentage of people.
                Not to say the method of screening for competency might not want to eliminate potential tyrants, because the penalty for judging wrong is so high… but it does say you can’t quite get away with a completely random selection instead of the possibly-manipulated pool of competent victim-candidates.

                1. For a limited time, most people will endure some degree of discomfort.

                  Something like:
                  ” Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”


    4. Hm… I know that one thing our culture greatly lacks is the idea of obligation.

      Harry Potter was the “chosen one,” but it caused him more harm than good– because it required things of him.

      Ditto for monarchies, if they’re not evil.

      Possibly the “you’re fated to do this” thing is a sort of short-hand for “well, you just gotta.”

      I don’t need to figure out my motivation for trying to do my best by family– I just gotta. If you don’t have something that obvious to draw on, wouldn’t it make sense to have some kind of a magic wand for “well, you gotta” obligation?

      1. Agreed, Foxfier.

        Still… I tend to lean heavily toward having (and respecting and liking more) the character who steps up just “because someone has gotta, and I’m the only one that looks to be doing it,” rather than the character who gets drafted because He/she was The Chosen One. *ominous music*

        I know, I know: The Call, Refusing the Call, the Heroic Journey and all.

        I’ve just gotten to where I agree with those who’ve gotten a bit burnt out on the overuse of the Chosen One trope. It’s why a long time ago in Buffy fandom, I found myself gravitating more and more toward the normal Joes who chose to fight the darkness, and accept the cost, rather than those who were Chosen.

        It’s… gotten to be a lazy trope.

        1. I agree with you on which is preferable– there’s a reason I call it cheap.

          On the other hand, a Call that you don’t have to have internal strength to answer also gives a lot more room for growth, shifts the turning point from “I think I can” to “well, I’m already here” and avoids villain decay.

        2. In one of Mercedes Lackey’s Urban Fantasies, the Main Character is sort of a Chosen One.

          Apparently she is a “Guardian”, a sort of psychic warrior given special powers about standard psychics/magic users in order to hunt down psychic predators.

          Oh, these Guardians have no “Choice” in the matter in that if they don’t hunt down those psychic predators, their powers sort of turn on them and they become obvious prey to the predators.

          I thought that “feature” said something about Ms. Lackey.

          Of course, who decided that an individual was going to be a Guardian is never mentioned.

          Then there’s John Ringo’s Urban Fantasy series, starts with Princess Of Wands.

          There are several “Chosen Ones” in that series but they are “chosen” by their patron deities and they could in theory refuse the call.

          The MC Barb was Chosen by G*d and Barb had accepted the calling.

          John said that he disliked the usual “Chosen One” meme which often doesn’t say “Who Decides Who Is Chosen” so his “Chosen Ones” were chosen by their deities and the Chosen Ones know “Who Chose Them”.

          1. Yeah. I liked Barbara Hambly’s take on that whole thing way, way back when in her “Time of the Dark” series. She had a “sort of Chosen One but only kind of if you squinted sideways,” too – only Hambly did it much better.

            Then again, Hambly is a pro.

            1. Well, she subverted the “Chosen One” idea a bit in the first trilogy.

              In the first book, it appeared that the Dark wanted the infant king killed for some reason.

              The assumption being that he would grow up and remember something (from one of his ancestors) that would allow the Dark to be defeated.

              Of course, the Dark really wanted to capture the old wizard because he could do something for them. 😉

              1. Been a really, really long time since I reread those last. I’ll have to take your word on it – the details blur at this point in time.

              2. Curiously, I started to read and love the Darwath Trilogy, the Windrose Chronicles and Bride of the Rat God because of the way that she wrote about SoCal, One of the Windrose books has a bit set in Big Tujunga Canyon – close to where I grew up and where my father used to take us on nature hikes, and where we used to ride our family horse.

                And Search the 7 Hills – a good few of my devout Christian friends loved is. Yes, all of them had a sense of humor about how combative the early Christians were. Nothing to which the later Protestants would be. I was raised Lutheran – this kind of theological dispute is in the blood.

                1. ” Nothing to which the later Protestants would be. ”

                  Er, no. There were riots over doctrinal issues.

                2. The Darwath Trilogy! Ah… sorry for the outburst. Thanks, Celia – I couldn’t remember the series name of those books.

          2. Speaking of John, there is the example of Hope.

            Not chosen, really… Had the training and the attitude for the situation that developed. In three words, “found her niche.”

          3. I liked the way the “Chosen One” was determined (by the characters, anyway), in the Chronicles of Prydain: ONE old guy knew a prophecy, but he didn’t know for certain who it pertained to, and it was only at the end of the last book that it was confirmed (to the characters) who the “Chosen One” was.

            1. IMO that was more the “Lost Prince” or “True Heir” theme.

              The Old Man (a wizard) found a baby that might satisfy part of the prophecy but because he didn’t tell the boy (later young man) about the prophecy, it was the young man’s own actions that showed that he would be the next High King. 🙂

          4. *musing* compare and contrast with an ultimate chosen one, AKA The Virgin Mary….

            She COULD have said no, rather than “as you wish”…..

              1. I believe that her questions were essentially: 1) Why choose me? 2) How could I deserve / rise to such an honor and responsibility?

                  1. I’m just guessing, but I suspect that when addressed by an angelic being most people will be wholly gobsmacked struck dumb.

                    1. Given than most people receiving an angelic visit tend to “fear and tremble” and require the angel to say “be not afraid”, her response is actually quite impressive. Especially when taking into account that she was probably quite young, in her early teens.

          5. I’ve actually just finished rereading Lackey’s urban fantasy stories (genre familiarization–I’ve got an urban fantasy of my own in the works). In a couple of Lackey’s later books in that same Universe, she revisits the concept of “Guardians”. It looked to me like one could, in principal, reject “the call” but once taken it was irrevocable. One of the things of that world is that untrained magical types are “tasty” to certain monsters so if you have the “talent” (which is inborn) you either learn to control/use it or suffer really bad consequences. The Guardian power is actually different. It’s not inborn magical talent (although some Guardians are also people with that inborn talent) but something that comes with the “mantle” of being a Guardian.

            But for the most part her world is very much “born, not made” at least as far as ability is concerned.

        3. ” … the character who steps up just “because someone has gotta, and I’m the only one that looks to be doing it,”

          John McClane, that guy

      2. Of course, the major problem with “Chosen One” is that they never tell you who the Choosing One is. Which makes the hand of the author rather clear. (To be sure, one would have to give the Choosing One motives and things.)

        You could have a lot of fun with the classic trope of loophole. Let the Evil Overlord carefully set up a wish to make himself invulnerable. Then all we need is the youngster to just fit the loophole.

      3. “The Chosen One”? Is that, like, “Ring-Bearer”?

        It matters less who is chosen or how they’re chosen — what matters is how they handle their choice.

      4. We’re singularly lacking in respect for the triune gods of duty, obligation, and honor. And, I fear the bill is about to come due, for that disrespect…

  4. What does Illegitimi non carborundum! mean exactly? As far as I can tell it means Not unlawful carbon!

    1. It’s pig latin for “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” If you google you’ll find it’s a thing on the net and has been for… ever.

        1. Aye, there was (at least one) WWII general that used that. And even if you don’t know Latin, the “carborundum” gives it away as not being real Latin. Latin is old. Carborundum is (relatively) new. If I recall right, one of Edison’s assistants (might have been after he left Edison, unsure atm) made a try at artificial diamond. Got silicon carbide instead. Failure? Yes. Also one helluva success. Useful stuff, carborundum.

      1. I remember it from high school days and I was class of 1969.
        Actually took two years of real Latin for all the good it did me.

        1. You only wasted two! I spent six bloody years on it, along with ancient Civ, and historical archaeology. For all the good it does me to mutter things most folk who’d understand are too centuries long dead to care, now… *chuckle*

          First time I saw illegitmi non carborundum was scrawled on a bathroom wall in college, as I recollect. Not in the history wing, in the physics wing. *grin*

      2. Not so much pig latin as mock latin. In pig latin it would be “Ontday etlay uthay astardsbay indgray ooyay ownday. 😀

          1. I generally use the phrase dog latin to refer to gibberish that sounds “Latiny”

    2. To be specific, just in case it’s not obvious:

      “Illegitimi” means (approximately) “illegitimate child” or “bastard”
      and “carborundum” is an abrasive grit often used in grinding wheels

      When I had occasion to say it in front of a lawyer friend, his eyes lit up because someone who was not a lawyer was using Latin.

    3. It’s mangle latin, to take a cousin’s term.

      Carborundum is an industrial grinding powder.

      Intent: (the bastards) (do not) (grind you down.)

  5. “Respect the Office”.

    It’s strange that people who talk about “respecting the office” normally say that when they like the person in that office and when they’re talking to somebody who doesn’t like the person in that office.

    Of course, these same people “don’t respect the office” when they hate the person holding that office.

    For Example, Liberals want us to “respect the office” when one of them is President but don’t “respect the office” when a Republican is President. 😦

    1. Much the same as their mantra, “the people have spoken” when they win an election while they clamor for civil disobedience when they lose.

        1. Nonono. Silly steak! It’s only patriotic against Republican government. It’s treason against a Democrat

  6. “We need to stop “respecting the office” when the person in it is a total f*ckup.

    I both agree and disagree. In the cases that you mention I agree, however in some cases the office represents something much greater than the man in it. The Presidency for instance. In that and similar cases, one respects the office in order to show respect to what it represents even if Obama occupies it (Occupy White House?). I would say the same about judges. One respects the robes to show respect for the rule of law even if it is the worst sort of progressive wearing them.

    None of the above means that one cannot evicerate the holder of the office. The attitude towards Mr President and Mr Obama can be totally different even though Obama is currently the President.

    1. Regrettably, the Secret Service takes a dim view of those who attempt to eviscerate the holder of the office of President. This despite the fact that many have deserved it. Spoilsports.

      1. Given the Secret Service’s issues during the Obama administration, I’m wondering about that… To me it’s also a scathing condemnation of the man. He alienated the people guarding his life so badly that they really don’t seem to care whether or not they’re doing a good job of it…

        1. I’ve known a couple of Secret Service agents, though not any on the Obama detail. I’ve also seen tidbits starting to come out regarding the Obamas. Some pieces I’ve heard:

          1) They’re currently really low on agents. Supposedly a lot have left the service within the last couple of years.
          2) Hillary specifically was horrible to the agents assigned to her; getting assigned to her was considered a punishment detail. Bill, on the other hand, was generally nice to his agents.
          3) A lot of the incidents that have happened in the past couple of years supposedly involve things where the established protocol was violated, probably at the behest of someone on the political side. An example would be a White House door left unlocked due to orders from someone in the WH that’s supposed to be kept closed and locked.
          4) Bush (W) was well liked, and would do things like spend Christmas day at Camp David where security didn’t need a lot of people so most people could spend Christmas at home. Meanwhile, his successor tends to spend Christmas in Hawaii, requiring a lot of people (not just Secret Service) on a massive trip.

          1. I’m not sure if that’s the only reason, but yes, the Secret Service is shorthanded. Both the protective detail (guys in black suits) and the uniformed branch (guys who patrol the White House and other buildings – basically, federal cops rather than bodyguards).

            This from our son-in-law, who is looking at joining the uniformed branch. From what he said, though, part of it may be that their numbers were frozen for several years, and they finally got authorization to boost the numbers.

            He also mentioned that he’s been told that currently they work a *lot* of mandatory overtime, to the point that for most their total annual pay is considerably higher than their nominal base salary. Given the cost of living near DC, he regards that last as a positive – be interesting to see how he feels after a few years.

          2. 2) Hillary specifically was horrible to the agents assigned to her; getting assigned to her was considered a punishment detail. Bill, on the other hand, was generally nice to his agents.

            What I heard from Air Force officers, which is a population that’s biased to be Democrat at least 60-80% of the time:
            Hillary actively hates the military, and anybody tainted with it.
            If you’re a SecretService guy, and you SHOULD be getting a break– your schedule is based around it– because you’re on a military base? You won’t. You’ll be acting like you’re in the middle of the NorKs

    2. I’m of two minds about this.

      You respect the office, as an organizational tool, to accomplish a mission.
      You don’t respect an office blindly, or go bowing to any arbitrary claim of authority.

      If you want to join (voluntarily) an effort for the purpose of accomplishing a shared mission, then it makes sense to follow the orders of an officer: It isn’t about him, it’s about getting the job done.

      If everyone decided the guy over him didn’t know what he was doing, and did his own thing, any organization would dissolve into an amorphous mass. Certain tasks can be done that way (and done better in some cases) (see open-source software, the free market), but not everything can.

      But it’s a limited thing, not a grant of arbitrary authority, or the sort of culty “superior/inferior” man mode of thought I’ve observed. It’s for a limited time (until the mission is complete), for a limited purpose (to accomplish the mission).

      1. I would note that “respect the office” is not equal to “obey the office”.

      2. Twenty years in the military – and yes, there was a lot of ‘respect the office’ or the rank on the uniform, not necessarily the person wearing the rank, or in the office.

        Reading Sarah’s post about people who merely look and act like winners reminds me vividly of a certain military broadcaster who had a deep basso profundo voice, and looked like a recruiting poster … and yet was so stupid and inept that he was known as the broadcasting services’ very own Ted Baxter. A pillar of ineptitude, a legend for it among military broadcasters of a certain era …and yet … he kept failing upwards. Over and over again, we’t think he’d finally screwed up terminally … but no. He’d reappear, usually promoted to the next rank.

        No one could figure out how he managed it, unless it involved blackmail of someone very important.

        1. No one could figure out how he managed it, unless it involved blackmail of someone very important.

          There’s a certain man in the nuclear power biz whose nickname is Jethro (he looks a LOT like Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies) who has the same luck. He’s an utter incompetent, even when he was in the Navy, but I’ve now ran across his path 3 different times over the last 18 years and each time he’s in a higher position of responsibility.

          1. I know – it’s a total mystification. I put him in a short story – heavily disguised, of course — as the Teflon Man. Nothing ever seemed to stick.

        2. It is a mystery, and the biggest one is how peers and subordinates can see it like it really is, and yet… The bosses above him can only see a veritable genius.

          Personally, I’ve always paid close attention to these types: If they’re doing well, that means the organization above them is equally incompetent. That’s never failed me, as a rule of thumb.

          I ran into the biggest screw-up I ever knew as a junior NCO, when I was in Iraq the last time. He was a Master Sergeant in a to-remain-unnamed state National Guard program, where he’d wound up after his active duty time, and he’d been a full-timer. Interesting experience, it was all “Hail, fellow, and well-met!”. He completely blew past the nightmare I’d lived, working for him and alongside him, and here he was outranking me by a full grade. I’d actually been put into his squad as a Corporal, and told “Fix him–You’re in charge of the squad, even though he’s a promotable E-5, and the squad leader on paper…”. Worst. Three. Months. Of. My. Life. Well, at least, up to that point–Recruiting command later disabused me of that notion.

          I reached out to a few contacts I had with his unit, and wow… Earfuls of “Oh, my God… That guy…” from everyone below him. Above him? Including one guy I thought had his stuff together? “Oh, he’s great!!! We love him…”. And, yes, everything we got from those people bore careful scrutiny, ‘cos it was usually wrong. The whole organization was functionally incompetent, past a certain level.

          Stuff like this is why I reluctantly conclude that humans can’t do organization above a certain level, without having huge endemic problems. Which is why we ought to really reduce our attempts at organizing things, to be quite honest. It all ends in tears, whether it’s the EPA or the British Empire.

          1. Well, yeah – I pretty much figured out that my career field was a severely dysfunctional organization by the time I had spent (some uncounted) years in it, from the way that this jackwagon had flourished and prospered, in spite of him being such an incompetent git that EVERYONE knew of him. Seriously, he was a legend in the field and not in a good way.

            The best and most all-around able broadcaster that I knew of – and he was great in every way that was required for us to be – he was a good friend, and my back-to-back professional buddy – he retired as an E-6 at the same time that I did. He should have been the Chief of Broadcasters, to my way of thinking. Neither of us made E-7, and when I looked at him, the last year or so in, and realized that if he didn’t have a chance of making that grade, then I had bloody all.

            Yep – dying career field. I think that only committed suck-ups had a chance at all, once that world-wide satellite TV channels became the norm. But happy ending for my friend – he went into local politics in Texas, and now is a moderately big wheel in Plano, Texas –

          2. There are two types of successful managers. The best type is actually good at managing people and processes. They manage down. They take good care of everything in their purview.

            Then there are those who manage up. Their entire focus is keeping the bosses above happy. Books are tweaked. They turn into monsters to those below them when nearing a make or break deadline. They will throw anyone under the bus to cover their ass.

            The sad thing is the a good up manager often gets promoted faster than his capable peers who manage down and expect the results to speak for themselves.

            I’ve worked for both.

          3. Who gave them info?

            Because a lot of oflks I knew rockedfolks’ world via giving them not-via-f*tard reviews feedback.

            If the only one giving them info is Mr walksonwater, they’ll believe him.

    3. Respecting the office depends on value of the office, i.e. of its existence when properly executed.
      For clarity, “respect the office” can work the other way, too: I can make a conscious choice NOT to respect an office (e.g. Diversity Administrator) for various reasons, while choosing to respect the officeholder (“too bad she’s wasted in that position”).

  7. Which led to Fake It Till You Make It, which ONLY works if people AREN’T looking at accomplishments, but at “signs of a winner.”

    I’m going to partially disagree with this. “Fake it ’til you make it ” can be a valid strategy if you approach it the right way.

    When I first got interested in computer I knew nothing. However, people into computers read Byte so, damnit, I did too. At least the table of contents, which sometimes felt like the only part I understood. I was approaching this in a fake it way; I was reading Byte therefore I was a computer guy.

    However, over time and with a lot of effort and other reading (I actually loved Creative Computing more…it was my first computer magazine) I realized I was understanding more of each issue until I had “made it”. I think I actually made it long before I realized I had. Some days I’m still insecure about my programming skills and that might come from starting out faking it.

    However, the strategy still worked because I took the faking seriously enough that it could penetrate. Had I been a casual faker, carrying the issue around so people saw me only (I did that too) instead of doing that plus reading it it wouldn’t have worked. But if you do the faking seriously enough you can eventually make it.

    1. I think you’re close to the original direction of the phrase. It appears to have been intended to mean that one should present oneself as confident and, if not successful, then as “on the way up”. Most people who were raised before the ’70s (and many more, though the proportion drops off significantly after the late ’60s) will drastically alter their bearing and attitude by putting on a suit and tie. Add to that the fact that a simple smile can alter your mood in a positive manner, and someone who had to eat Ramen and a few bulk frozen vegetables for a month to buy that suit can summon up the determination to go places and do things.

      Unfortunately, like so many motivational phrases, it can be distorted by the type of person who sees a suit as just an old white men’s symbol into being nothing more than a way to infiltrate the enemy, or to impress the gullible.

      1. Yes, it is in how you take it. Same for the “dress not for the job you have but the job you want” which is really about a lot more than clothes. I’ve followed that one as well which, except for the Wonder Woman costume incident, has worked out pretty well.

        I understand how it can be perverted but it is still used in the original meaning. There is an excellent TED Talk on the topic by a woman who suffered brain damage in a car accident (as she puts it she lost more than one standard deviation in IQ) and lacked confidence on return to school. Faking enabled her to continue but only helped in the long run because she was doing the real work and the faking was part of a strategy to get moving.

        Maybe there is a better, less prone to abuse way, to express the idea. Perhaps “believe in your destination not your location”?

        1. Okay, her reformulation (just rewatched the talk) is “Fake it until you become it”.

          Perhaps that captures the positive interpretation better.

          Just like I’ve done the best on exercise and controlling diet ever. The reason I have kept doing it is I’ve watch BGL go down over 50 points but that wasn’t what got me started. What got me started was a couple of vanity “I’m going to look like this” pictures. Those are fake…I won’t ever look like that but pretending I could, faking it, got me rolling. The real, the improved BGL, is what success looked like and what being able to continue was.

          1. I was looking for a vaguely-remembered apt quote and came up with this instead:

            “As we think, so we become.”

            Widely attributed to the Buddha, but that seems to be disputed.

            1. I think it would be far more accurate to say “As we do, so we become…”. That “thinking” thing doesn’t mean squat; I can conceive of a lot of things, but if I never do any of them, I’m never going to become them.

          2. This reminds me of a certain down-and-out actor Lawrence Smith (stage name Lorenzo Smythe, a.k.a. “The Great Lorenzo”).

            1. Grew into his role so deeply that he played it for the rest of his life. He was a chosen one. And highly unlikely, at that.

              1. A chosen one? No, he was an exceptionally competent actor who was also a hero. When he was given his choice of his own life with the price being very bad things happening to his society or giving up his own life to protect his society, he chose the society. That is a hero. He was not fore-ordained in any way to do this as Harry Potter or other “chosen ones” were. He was just the right person at the right time who could not turn his back on the problem.

                1. He was chosen by a group of all too human politicians, but still a chosen one.

        2. yeah, sure if you do it that way, but what I’ve encountered is people going in debt to live the “rich” lifestyle so they can become rich.

          1. Hmm, a secular (materialist) version of the prosperity gospel, aka the worst of Pray TV, do you suppose? (“Send G-d [me] your money and he will reward you ten fold!”)

        3. “Maybe there is a better, less prone to abuse way, to express the idea. Perhaps ‘believe in your destination not your location’?” – HerbN

          In AA, at least in the era I got sober in, “Fake it ’til you make it” was a main operating principle for newcomers, but we more often phrased it as “Act as if.”

          Act is if you were already there. Actions beget habits, habits shape thoughts, thoughts beget thought patterns which then become embedded habits of thought and action.

          It got me through parts of my first couple of years of sobriety.

          Now? Sobriety and living clean has become a habit, and a way of being. I no longer have to really think about it – it’s reflexive. But a lot of that came down to that early run of “acting as if” embedding and ingraining the habits of sobriety.

          1. “Act as if”…yeah, I can work with that.

            And the habits points is a big part of what I’m talkinga bout…not all of it but certainly a big part.

            1. Yeah. I’m not as active these days, although I’m still sober and still go to meetings as needed, so I don’t know if it’s as embedded a catch phrase still as it was in the 80s and 90s. I do know that that philosophy worked for a lot of people in getting them through the critical first months, first year, and first five year periods that are the hardest.

              *shrug* Act as if you were there – and then do what it takes to actually get there.

              1. Do what it takes to make the act succeed because in the end it is the same thing you need to actually succeed.

                Or, if you do what a sober (or middle class or computer literate) person does (not acquire what they have but do what they do) eventually you become a sober or middle class or computer literate person.

                I am trying that now on blood sugar and weight. If I eat like a skinny person and exercise like a skinny person maybe I’ll become a skinnier person…I may never be able to shop at Aeropostale.

                1. Yeah. And naturally you have to combine it with the other steps and procedures to make it happen or it doesn’t work – but mindset is important in a lot more things than people realize.

                  As you probably gathered from the decades I listed, I got sober back in the early/mid eighties, so it’s worked well enough to keep me clean for a bit more than thirty years, some of it through some pretty tough times. My first sponsors emphasizing the need for acquiring the right mindset early had a lot to do with that, I think. Mindset, and then backing it with the actions to make the mindset an eventual reality.

                  *grin* As it’s an ongoing process and a recovery, not a cure – we’ll see if I’m still clean in another ten to thirty years, and then we’ll know if it really works or not.

                  1. Yeah…30 years is pretty impressive…I’m amazed I’ve merely succeeded at breathing that long some days.

                    And the part about working it is very key. One of the things I attended this past weekend was called Endorphine Soup which is about the use of ritualized pain and similar things. It always ends with a hookpull ritual for someone to take the first step in recovery from a trauma (they actually take applications). At the end the gentleman who teaches it always emphasises that “the magic is instantly transforming you have to do the work…the magic is what gets you started”…by magic he means the ritual and is speaking symbolicly but he’s right. The whole point of the exercise is to jump start you…I suspect that first time you stand up at an AA meeting and say the phrase has a similar purposed: to push you to where you can act.

                    1. One day at a time. I don’t usually mention the span when I mention that I’m sober, but I realized that I gave it away when I mentioned the 80s and 90s as the decades I remembered that AA aphorism from.

                      *shrug* If you keep doing it one day – or even one minute, sometimes – at a time, over awhile it adds up. And then you blink, look back, and go “Wow. It’s really been that long?!”

      2. In that commencement speech that Neil Gaiman gave (the one with the great “Make good art” sequence) he also said that if you feel overwhelmed by a job and like you can’t do it, then pretend to be someone who can do it. Don’t pretend to do it but imagine someone who could do it, and then do what he’d do.

        Often times the biggest obstacle to what we can accomplish is our own insecurities. (Believe me, I know all about that.) The whole “imagine you’re someone who could do that, and then just do what he’d do” is a useful strategy to overcome that. And that’s always been the takeaway I had to “fake it until you make it.”

    2. “Fake it until you make it” is a common, valid, often necessary approach to public-performance roles: It’s very difficult to learn how to act well, for instance, without actually getting on stage and acting poorly many times.
      It might even be a way to describe the process of becoming a good writer… 😉
      The problem is when you don’t grow, but think it good enough to remain a faker.

  8. This touches on something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Something that I really need to cough up an essay (or half a dissertation on).

    I noticed that tension in field training: Between the rational, civilized (verb, not adjective) rank and hierarchy as an organizational tool: You respect the rank for the sake of making the organization work and accomplishing the mission. Between that and rank and hierarchy as a reflection of the natural monkey-tribe dominance hierarchy. The “born winners” and “born losers” thing seems of a piece with what I noticed. “Why do we have to listen to that asshole: Who does he think he is? (He isn’t alpha/popular/dominant) Why isn’t Y in charge? This is a joke, I’m not following that guy.” (I shut that down hard to the best of my ability as a peer cadet) “Uhh, because it’s his job. Because we have to organize Z. Because someone has to do it, and we’ve got to accomplish the mission, so shut up and listen to him.”

    1. PS – peer evaluations could have been invented as a cultural/memetic weapon to utterly destroy and ruin an effective organization. Mental smallpox.

      When I was (briefly, suddenly, without warning or preparation) made commander of my flight, I had to do more things that it was possible to hold in my addled head at one time. I relied extensively on the excellent memory and skills of a few extremely able fellow cadets. They were not “alpha” types, but they were competent, had their shit together, and helped immesurably with making sure everything got done and got done right. I was impressed with them. The same people who were doing the monkey-tribe thing *hated* them with a burning passion, and submarined them on the peer evals. (Seriously, are we a military organization, or an episode of survivor, WTF?!) I don’t think it screwed them over too badly, but it might have.

      1. “When I was (briefly, suddenly, without warning or preparation) made commander of my flight, I had to do more things that it was possible to hold in my addled head at one time. I relied extensively on the excellent memory and skills of a few extremely able fellow cadets. They were not “alpha” types, but they were competent, had their shit together, and helped immesurably with making sure everything got done and got done right. I was impressed with them. The same people who were doing the monkey-tribe thing *hated* them with a burning passion”

        Marc MacYoung (of No Nonsense Self-defense) defines “Alpha Male” a bit differently than the Monkey-tribe/MRM types do. I don’t have the page bookmarked so I can quote – he has a *huge* site with a lot of information and quoteable bits scattered through it – so I’ll have to see if I can remember enough to paraphrase.

        IIRC, MacYoung puts it along the lines than an “Alpha” is someone that’s capable of organizing and inspiring others in the process of building and maintaining a community and the nuts and bolts of civilization, not as being a “tough guy” or a “bad ass” or a “dominant male” or whatever. He sees the monkey games as being a perversion of what it really means to be alpha and to be tough and a man.

        And Marc MacYoung knows his sh*t and whereof he speaks when it comes to being a tough guy and a real bad*ss.

        *shrug* I’ve always likened it as human beings are not wolves, and even real wolf packs don’t operate the way the classic Alpha/beta model says that they do. Nor are we lower primates.

        1. I’m inclined to agree with that definition, but would also point out that most self-proclaimed alpha males don’t meet it.

          1. I kind of figured that that part went without saying, 60. *grin*

            I get some time later, I may prowl around over at NNSD and see if I can find that and dig up an actual link and quote. Marc states it a LOT better than my kludgy paraphrasing.

            At the same time, I can’t really fault the Men’s Rights Movement guys for trying to figure out the sexual dynamics and socio-sexual hierarchy thing, you understand. We – society – have done so much to destroy the concepts of what it means to be “male” and to “be a man” that it’s left at least two generations floundering and looking to latch onto some sort of working definition that they can deal with and aspire to, even if it’s not always the best possible one.

            I don’t think that the whole “Alpha-Beta-Gamma” thing really works one hundred percent… but I’m also pretty secure in who and what I am, and I’m not floundering for something to define myself against, either.

            1. Aha! Found it. Didn’t have to dig around as much there as I was afraid I would have to:


              Part one, there’s three parts. And his definition of “Alpha” is laid out in Part II.

              It’s a bit too long to quote a good excerpt from here, but the whole trio of posts is a good read, especially for a writer or aspiring writer.

              Small excerpt:

              “So here’s the thing about Alpha males, it isn’t just because you can cut them off at the knees and call them a tripod that makes them Alphas. It is that they can be TRUSTED with power. Hey, even Ben Franklin saw this when he said ‘You can give a man office, but you can’t give him discretion.’

              What we’re talking about is leadership, not just power. It is that someone or a larger group trusts them to give that character power to act in accordance with ’their’ interests — not just his. In case you haven’t recognized it, this is THE difference between the hero and the villain. They both have power. The bad guy has his henchmen. They give him power and allow him to force anyone who doesn’t give it willingly to still submit. And until the time that they run across your hero, these henchmen always had success using force for the villain’s ends. (Not a very successful bad guy who routinely sends his henchmen to get slaughtered by the local populace. Once word gets around in the Henchman Union, his potential employee pool dries up).

              Your hero, on the other hand, is given power in the form of aid and assistance by the supporting cast. Granted it’s usually on the sly (because if the hero doesn’t win, they don’t want to draw down the ire of the villain and his normally successful henchmen). The townsfolks are investing in your hero’s ability to save them from the local tyrant. If they didn’t believe that he could do that then they wouldn’t help him. “ – Marc MacYoung

              It’s not being a bad ass, or about being Male, or being masculine. It’s about power, leadership, and trust. And trustworthiness.

          2. Long before they started appearing in numbers I accepted I was what they call a beta.

            Of course, most of the PUA alphas require the civilization that betas keep running to survive. A few are even smart enough to realize that and figure the teaching PUA skills is vital to making sure the betas have a reason to keep it running.

            1. Meh. *shrug* I’ve always been an outlier. A “wontolla”, Kipling called it.

              I think I’d probably be a sigma in the MRA hierarchy, if I have it right. I really haven’t followed or read too much into it.

              Society needs its semi-tame wolves too, to keep the sheepdogs nervous.

              1. You are probably referring to the PUA heirarchy rather than the MRA hierarchy. While there is some overlap, there is a BIG difference.

                1. Possibly/probably? I have no clue. I don’t really follow the whole thing, and I have only peripheral knowledge and awareness of the various distinctions and groups and subgroups in that selection of subcultures.

                  I’ll take your word for it for the nonce.

        2. Actually, I would suspect the wolf model might work better than the lower primate one for humans…after all it was wolves who named themselves dogs in a great branding shift who domesticated humans (prior to cats at least) not baboons.

          More seriously, human and wolf made a great team enough that they domesticated each other…I suspect similar pack hierarchies are part of the similarities that made a great team.

          1. Yes… and no. And keep in mind that I have a long time friend who works extensively with Wolf and Wolf Reclamation projects, so I’ve had my ear bent a few times so now *I* get to get pedantic on someone else instead of having him get pedantic on me! *grin*

            (I think that Sarah knows him as well? Blake Powers, of Laughing Wolf?)

            The wolf model works to some extent, because like humans, wolves are intensely social animals with a definite social dynamic and structure. Like humans also, wolves are intensely intelligent and sapient animals – we’re only now starting to figure out just how intelligent, and how much reasoning ability they really have.

            The Wolf Model (note the caps) of behavior breaks down in that it’s based upon a fictional model of wolves and wolf pack structure that doesn’t really exist: it was arrived at predominately from observations of captive wolves.

            Real wolf packs have an Alpha Male and an Alpha Female – a mated pair, and the rest of the members of the pack are *generally* (note caveat) family members: the offspring of the first pair, and their offspring. So it’s more of a family socio dynamic, which again is like humans, but it doesn’t match “the Classic Wolf Model.” When a “beta” gets to the point of being able to challenge, he sets off, gets a mate, and founds his own pack.

            It’s only in an unnatural environment where the betas, deltas, and gamma male wolves can’t break off and find mates to form their own groups where the “model” starts to be seen. So it’s really modeled on dysfunctional wolf social patterns…

            Dogs, while descended from, are not quite analogous to wolves. I’ve bred, raised, and trained dogs for enough decades now to be aware of the differences.

            1. pedantic – paying attention to the important details, even when it screws up someone’s Really Awesome Grand Theory of Everything.

            2. Real wolf packs have an Alpha Male and an Alpha Female – a mated pair, and the rest of the members of the pack are *generally* (note caveat) family members:

              I have familiar with the real model (one of the Anti-PUA alt-right blogs gets on them about it) if you think doesn’t that strongly resemble the basic clan organization, including when to split, that we see in hunter gatherer societies? To me there seems to be a strong resemblance to human organization up to the early agricultural town in the late neolithic. It’s not exact but I think the similarities made the growth of human/dog codependence easier.

              1. Ah. I see what you’re saying now.

                Oddly, a lack of caffeine helped in this instance. 🙂

          2. Remember that the whole wolf alpha stuff was deduced from a bunch of adult unrelated wolves forced together in the zoo. In the wild, the “alphas” are in fact the mommy and daddy, and the rest of the pack is their still immature offspring; when they are mature, they hive off to form their own packs.

        3. My ROTC instructor spent a lot of time pointing out the differences between leadership, management, bossiness, and just being a jerk.

          A lot of “alpha” drivel seems to be “I am such a dick people will let me have my way.”

          1. Just asked my husband for verification for the quote from the WORST leader he ever had, given to a guy who was such a good leader that he kept the shop from failing:
            bad leader: If they don’t hate you, you’re not doing your job.

            This guy took credit for the good leader’s work, and when he destroyed relations with every other department — wasn’t his fault.

  9. PS: Was Thomas Edison a “born winner”? He is something of a childhood hero to me, along with a few other types. Thomas Edison pretty much invented (or re-invented) “failing your way to success”. If you aren’t failing a lot, you aren’t trying enough things. There were any number of brilliant schemes that he launched that failed hard.

  10. “The fault . . . lies not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings”

    Or otherwise, as the case may be.

    Speaking of alternative horoscopes:

    I met a Japanese girl from Hawaii who was very into the Chinese horoscope. We hit it off, in a large part because she was a Monkey person and she determined that I was an Ox person. Apparently Monkeys and Oxen get along like nobody’s business (really). A couple of months later, I was reading through her astrology book and saw that, because of the Lunar year calendar and all, I was actually a Tiger person. Stupid me, I said, “Honey, guess what? . . .” Two days later, she wouldn’t talk to me and would leave the room if I walked in. Apparently, Monkeys and Tigers are oil and water.

    And they say that men need to communicate more. That’ll teach me.

    And, oddly, if I were to pick an animal analogue for myself, I’d really see myself as more of an Ox than a Tiger. (Sorry, OT. Not meaning to step on any hooves, here.)

    1. And, oddly, if I were to pick an animal analogue for myself, I’d really see myself as more of an Ox than a Tiger. (Sorry, OT. Not meaning to step on any hooves, here.)

      I do hereby, through the power vested in me by my simply claiming such, declare tcbobg to be an Honorary Ox.

        1. Heh. I’m an Ox (well, Taurus) on western horoscopes and a Pig on eastern. People have observed that they’re not at all surprised that I act as if I was born in a barn . . .

          1. And the response is “Yeah, and every time I hear a jackass bray I get homesick!” 😉

            1. So you must *love* the televised presidential candidate ‘debates’ . . .

              1. Only a little less than having one of my nuts removed without anesthetic.

    2. What you have missed about their say “men need t communicate more” is the issue of what they need to communicate.

      Start with the phrases “Yes, dear.” “You’re right, dear,” “Whatever you want, dear” and “I completely agree, dear, it was foolish and wrong-headed of me to proceed without first checking with you.”

      1. If Sarah was just a little bit less honest and honorable, you would be getting carped from orbit for that one.

        1. “Yes dear. I was w- wr- wro- wr- I was less than completely right in that matter.”

          1. RAH was said to have said “When you’re right and your wife is wrong, apologize immediately”. 👿

  11. Harry Potter is the Chosen One?

    Voldemort should have tried to recruit him as Harry has better reasons to hate “Muggles” than Voldemort did.

    After leaving with that family for twelve years, Harry should hate non-magicians. 👿 👿 👿 👿

      1. True, but treating Harry (the only one who can kill him) as a “trusted servant” would be better than what Harry had known before. 😉

        On the other hand, Harry defeats Voldemort and decides that He will be the Chosen One To Rule The Magic World And Crush The Mundane World! 😈

        1. True, but Evil being shortsighted, self destructive, and unable to foresee the benefits of other more productive lines of action is also one of the tropes.

          1. Notice that it never occurred to Voldemort that if given the choice between him and their son, Narcissa and Lucius might opt for their son.

          2. Having dealt with a fair amount of evil… I’d say it’s pretty accurate for most evil. Genuinely smart and forethoughtful evil is rare… terrifying but rare.

            1. I have made the argument many times that what we consider “good” is actually pro-survival in the longer view (even leaving aside any divine rewards/punishments), that “good/moral/ethical” behavior generally leads best to an individual’s welfare and happiness.

              Some people like to point out Al Capone’s “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone” but is it really true? What did it get him? In prison by 33 and dead by 42. I suspect my lifetime earnings (looking just at the financial side) are, if not higher at least comparable and they don’t come at the expense of looking over my shoulder all the time wondering when the axe is going to fall.

              Sure there are wealthy people in crime, surrounded by luxury and sex toys and the like. But look at the trail of corpses along the way, folk who died miserably before ever reaching that wealth. When one is starting out on that path the odds of “winning” and ending up wealthy and in luxury? Not good at all. The expectation value is low.

              And when the smart and forethoughtful person realizes this, they generally avoid the path of “Evil” leaving you instead with the few who are also gamblers and willing to risk the near certainty of ending in misery in return for the tiny chance of “winning” that gamble.

              Which strikes me as foolishness itself, but perhaps of a somewhat different stripe.

                1. Actually, WIB is close to being spot on. Not 100%, but no analogy and no aphorism ever is.

                  Most professional criminals and thugs tend to live lives that are desperate, brutish, and short, and end up living their days in and out of cages until some LEO or other thug ends it.

                  The exceptions, the truly wealthy, smart, and successful criminal Evil Overlord types are rare enough that like Paul’s example of Stalin, they stick in the memory and in the pop culture lexicon for ages.

                  Most criminals are stupid and shortsighted. Most cops catch criminals because most criminals are stupid, shortsighted – and because they can’t keep their mouths shut.

                  1. In my experience, you and he are reversing cause and effect. They are not evil because they are monsters, they are monsters because they are evil. Their actions come from the fact they have embraced evil. Shortsightedness is rather endemic. People with foresight of any great length are usually trained into it.

                    When you get someone with foresight and intelligence who has also embraced evil willingly, it is terrifying. I have met such people. They are extremely difficult to be rid of.

                    1. “In my experience, you and he are reversing cause and effect.”

                      If you think that in my case, wyrdbard, you are either misreading or reading things in that I didn’t state.

                      I never stated anywhere in there that I did or did not think that they were evil before they became shortsighted and stupid.

                      Don’t put words in my keyboard. I got plenty of my own.

                      I will state now that IMO, cause and effect are irrelevant in this. Why someone is evil and what made them that way is irrelevant. Whether they were evil before they became irrevocable thugs or afterward is irrelevant for all practical purposes.

                      It only becomes relevant if I’m writing fiction and I have to assign motivation to characters, because characters need to make sense.

                      “When you get someone with foresight and intelligence who has also embraced evil willingly, it is terrifying. I have met such people. “

                      Why yes it is. So have I.

                      They’re also not the bulk and majority of your criminals and murderous thugs. They’re definitely not the bulk of the ones that get caught at it.

                    2. I may have misread you. Or misread Writerinblack, with whom you stated your near total agreement. He stated that the things we call ‘good’ were just things that lead to prosperity, therefore the people who do things that lead to prosperity are good, and people who do things that do not lead to prosperity are bad. Since you stated that “WIB is close to being spot on. Not 100%, but no analogy and no aphorism ever is.” and did not specify where you disagreed with him. I think it is a fair mistake. Not reading things you didn’t say.

                    3. He stated that the things we call ‘good’ were just things that lead to prosperity, therefore the people who do things that lead to prosperity are good, and people who do things that do not lead to prosperity are bad.

                      By putting in the word “just” you completely reverse my meaning, the direction of the causal arrow. The kinds of things that we define as evil tends, IME, to lead to bad ends. The example of those drug lords for every one who ends up in wealth and luxury there are hundreds of others who started on the same path that ended up in a ditch somewhere.

                      “Good” is actually pro-survival. And that the long term effect of something–things that lead to happiness and prosperity are generally things we would agree are “good”. The benefits of “evil” tend to be short term, carry huge prices that outweigh the benefits, and/or be really longshot gambles.

                      This would actually be true in the case of the existence of some deity or deities that cares about the welfare of humans. After all, if said god cares about us and wants us to be happy (long term, not necessarily short term) wouldn’t the rules of what that god wants us to do be put in the terms of what does just that?

                      So it’s not so much defining good and evil in terms of prosperity but noting that “doing well by doing good” is actually a pretty effective life plan and if you start out that way is a far better bet than the other (yeah, going “evil” you might be the super rich drug lord–and he’s the one people see when folk say things like “nice guys finish last”–but there are a whole lot more people who start out on that path who end up in misery or an early grave. Not a good bet at all.)

                      The expectation value (the result of a particular outcome multiplied by the probability of that that outcome, summed up over all possible outcomes) is simply much lower for “evil” than for “good” especially when you add in intangibles like peace of mind and not living in fear of rivals or the law.

                    4. Let me try putting that a little more emphatically.

                      I am not saying that “he’s rich and successful, therefore he’s good.” Rather “yeah, some ‘evil’ types get rich and successful, but most of them die young or end up in misery, so if I were to choose evil I’d be more likely to end up with misery or an early grave rather than wealth.”
                      It’s not a matter of each individual always getting a good outcome when they’re good and an evil outcome if he’s evil. World doesn’t work that way. But on balance, your odds are simply better when you’re “a good person” and act accordingly than otherwise.

                    5. Coming to this late and up against the right-hand wall, but I think the whole cause and effect concept here is invalid. Like Nature/Nurture it starts a step too late. I think the Christians have the most profitable approach, namely that we are in a fallen world and suffer fallen natures such that we needs must be raised up out of our sin.

                      Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.
                      Thomas Sowell

                      A culture which disdains to effectively civilize each new batch of brats is doomed. The brilliance of the Free Market Exchange system is that it directs the Yetzer Ha-Rah into socially productive channels.

                    6. ” Since you stated that “WIB is close to being spot on. Not 100%, but no analogy and no aphorism ever is.” and did not specify where you disagreed with him.”

                      Hey, I just woke up and I’m on my first cuppa Joe. There’s a limit to how much typoing I wanted to do. Gimme a break. 😉

                      I honestly figured that “no aphorism or analogy is 100%” covered it. Apparently I needed to unpack that a bit farther, and I had cared to.

                      Not a problem. We good?

                    7. Cool.

                      I may take WIBs post on a point by point and show where I think it’s spot on, and where I think the analogy breaks later on, in detail.

                      Or I may not.

                      Whether I feel arsed to unpack that or not depends a lot on how much I feel interested in doing so after I finish my first pot and get my caffeine to blood rations back to normal, and what else is going on on the web elsewhere.

                      Right now, I’m going to refill my seven cup thermal mug and then go take the Aussies out for a run and let them play a bit. They’re feeling neglected, obviously, going by the way that Weya keeps nudging my leg with his nose.

                      Then I may putz around in photoshop for awhile before going back to work on my novel. We’ll see.

                      Writer In Black’s central thesis is intriguing, though. Especially since parts of it are counter-intuitive, and those are the parts that are the most right.

                  2. I think WIB is correct, as a likelihood rather than a certainty. Enough exceptions that you can’t cry “unfair” to the God or the Universe if it doesn’t work that way in your life – but it’s a much better bet than the converse.

                    1. Exactly. I’m not looking at each individual case but as an overall pattern and the “way to bet” when one is deciding what to do in ones own life. It came from a lot of thought from the question of “how can you have a moral compass if you don’t believe in God”?

                    2. Very similar to the answers I came up with over time. I got bogged down in motivational details, trying to be too granular in the subject, though.

                    3. “the question of ‘how can you have a moral compass if you don’t believe in God’?” – WIB

                      I’ve always liked Penn Gillette’s answer: “I already have murdered, raped, and stolen all of the people and things that I want to: zero.”

                      If I wouldn’t do those things before I became an atheist, I’m not going to start after I become one.

                    4. I’ve always liked Penn Gillette’s answer:

                      And it’s a good answer so far as it goes. I got a bit more involved in my own answer because I wanted more of a philosophical basis than “I don’t want to”.

                      A typical “counter” that someone will come to me with is “Well, then, what if you could do (bad thing for which I’d get some immediate reward) with absolutely no chance of getting caught? Huh? What then?” The person making that “argument” presents it as though it’s an unassailable counter-argument to one not needing to have some deity dictating rules to have clear right and wrong. However, it’s rebutted in three elements:

                      1) The situation postulated is an extreme outlier. Having already internalized a set of rules and ethics appropriate to the more general case, were I to encounter this outlier I would find it abhorrent. (The Penn Gillette answer basically.)
                      2) How sure can you really be that there’s absolutely no chance of getting caught.
                      3) Human beings are creatures of habit (also see point 1), were I to take that “opportunity” it would make it that much easier to make the same choice later. And sooner or later it would be likely that I’d decide wrong on the “no chance of getting caught” bit and would, in fact, get caught. After all, while most crimes go unsolved, most criminals do get caught–because they keep committing crimes until they are.

                    5. It is a precept of the Judeo-Christian Faith that humans have instilled in them a “still, small voice” of conscience. Whether or not one believes in a deity would seem irrelevant to abiding by core programming.

                      Anyone who insists that that voice only operates if one accepts faith in a deity is expressing a lack of faith in the deity’s programming.

                    6. Of course, our fallen nature can make us ignore said voice or distort said voice.

                      Now C. S. Lewis commented that most people (after the spur of the moment reaction) see the difference between “accidental harm caused by another” and “attempted harm by another even if the other didn’t succeed in causing harm”.

                    7. “And it’s a good answer so far as it goes. I got a bit more involved in my own answer because I wanted more of a philosophical basis than ‘I don’t want to’.” – WIB

                      I tend to be flippant a lot in response to what I generally don’t see as a serious question. If I’m of a more thoughtful bent, I’ll usually turn it around on them:

                      “If you woke up tomorrow morning and found that all authority were gone: no government, no cops, no Federal agents, no courts – just poof! vanished overnight from the face of the earth – would you decide to run amok and rape, kill, steal anything not nailed down, assault, loot, and commit arson?”

                      Most people will give some variation of an incredulous look and a heated, “Of course not!”

                      “So there you go. No different for me. I determined that my extraneous authority and limiters had vanished. I’m not going to behave any differently than before – because I’m my own limiter just as I was before I ceased to believe. My ethics don’t change in the absence of deity, and they remain: do unto others as I want them to do unto me.”

                      Gotta admit: people who repeatedly press me on the topic and continue to argue “But what if…. ?” cause me to eye them carefully and make note of where my wallet and gun are, and that both are in reach. Someone who refuses to credit that someone can actually be moral and act ethically in the absence of deity and higher authority might be projecting, and I won’t trust them any farther than I can hit them COB with a 7mm magnum.

                      Me, I’ve already raped, murdered, and stolen everything and everyone that I want to: zero.

                    8. Ironbear and WIB, I am seriously Christian although currently unchurched for the same reason I never served in the military. Accepting arbitrary dictates from those who give orders is not for me if I can avoid it. People who are atheists (or more likely agnostic) because they haven’t been given the gift of faith don’t bother me in the slightest. Angry, evangelical atheists OTOH–and they tend to go together–are true believers as much as any Jehovah’s Witness or marauding Jihadist, and just as deluded. They tend to actually be believers along the lines of Lethal Weapon:
                      “God hates me!”
                      “Hate him back. It works for me.”

                    9. “They tend to actually be believers along the lines of Lethal Weapon:
                      ‘God hates me!’
                      ‘Hate him back. It works for me.'”

                      Heh. I went through my Naytheist and my Anti-theist phase, like I suspect that all atheists and agnostics do. I grew out of it.

                      In an interesting twist, it was my Piarist friend who kick started me out of it by observing, “If you don’t believe there is a God, then what’s the point of hating ‘Him’?”

                      (o0) *loooooooonnnngggg pause* “Oh. Well…. yeah, you’re right. Dammit.”

                      I think that it’s human nature to want to rail against something, anything. And then once you realize that you’re railing against nothing, if you’re a thoughtful person, it kicks the props out from under you and makes you find an equilibrium of some kind.

                      I believe that some people never seem to reach that equilibrium. They profess not to believe, but they keep railing against what they believe isn’t there.

                      I don’t believe, and that’s sufficient for me.

                      I don’t have to rage against you because you choose to believe. What you choose has no effect upon me.

                      If nothing else, it’s a lot less wear and tear on my nerves. Running around being at war with everyone and everything is freaking exhausting.

                    10. @Ironbear – “human nature to want to rail against something, ” – classic stages of loss & grief: 1) denial 2) anger … if you can’t blame someone specific, you may blame God.
                      That’s not, as you note, atheism. More of an “I’ll believe in Him, but only what I want to believe about Him.”

                    11. a problem with relying on your own sense of what you will or won’t do – i.e. relying on being a “good person”, or on your deities’ programming, etc. – is the lack of infinite foresight. This is an old problem – hence such memes as “everyone has his price”, “avoiding the Tempter’s snare”, et al: Not being able to answer whether there is some level of temptation or pressure that will break your ability to avoid doing what even you may see as evil, or (for others) may rationalize as the lesser of evils.
                      Having the sure belief that there is a Creator, who loves you but has very high standards for your behavior, is likely to (& has already done so for many) raise your threshold for breaking when so confronted.
                      This, if you must rationalize faith with pragmatic benefit.

                1. because they cant exactly show their drug income receipts to their landlord to secure an apartment…

                  (Or just as often, the apartment is in their babymomma’s name)

  12. The Chosen One song from the game “The Bard’s Tale” sums up my feeling about that particular trope. “It’s bad luck to be you”.

    The above comment about ” ambition is evil” makes a lot of sense.

    1. Back in my college days, you did not want to be the “Chosen One” as designated by my Dungeon Master friend.

      I think the average before “Chosen One” died gloriously (and horribly) was about seven or eight sessions…

    2. I get the feeling that’s not Dream Evil’s “Chosen Ones.”

      “In glory we return / our destination’s end
      We slayed the dragon!
      No more living in fear / it’s time to raise our king.
      We made it happen / we’re the chosen ones!”

    1. “Professional courtesy” I’ve always found to be something of a backhanded compliment. You’re essentially saying, “I don’t actually respect you, but because of the job you hold, I guess I have to do this.”

      Of course, that may just be because I associate the phrase with jokes involving sharks and lawyers…

      1. Alas, in my world “professional courtesy” can mean not getting paid because the customer/student/patient is a fellow [profession] or their parents are, and they expect to be treated/tutored/helped gratis.

    2. The problem is, the common meaning of “respect” has shifted from “admiration” to “cringing subservience” to “fear.”

      “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  13. This is what I like about the VTTX (virtual tabletop exercise) that is right before finals in one of my professional development classes. There is no fate but rather an exercise controller who wants to see what was learned about Hazardous Materials command over the past semester. It is virtual put up or shut up time relative to what we’ve learned.

    Life needs more opportunities like that.

    1. Indeed it does. I’d love to see teaching done like that – you must successfully teach a lesson on a topic in your field, with the students tested by a neutral party later that day (or the next). Can you communicate the material effectively and correctly? That’s usually a part of the third interview round at many universities, or it used to be.

      1. I’ve had concepts finally fall into place while teaching a class about something that I was reasonably competent in but had never really thought about before.

        1. And it ranks up there with comps (university pre-PhD comprehensive exams) to show you just how little you know.

  14. I guess I grew up farther away from everyone than I realized. Between “Talent and Genius” (obviously not the subject of today’s post, but one that has come up several times) and “Winners and Losers”, my understanding of these terms is so different, it’s easy to wonder if we’re talking the same language.

    For me, it’s about a combination of attitude and lifetime accomplishment record. In that sense, “winners” are those with a positive attitude, who don’t let failures stop them, and build on to successes, while “losers” are those who go through life with a bad attitude, and let themselves be stopped by their first failure any time they try anything. The ones who are true conundrums to me are those who either have the positive attitude in spite of never making any successes (RARE), and those who have a bad attitude yet seldom fail at anything (which can be because they hardly ever try anything difficult).

  15. Good place to point to my “land of second chances” blog post:

    One of the thing I like best about the US is that, more than just about anyplace else in the world, it’s the land of second/third/fourth/morth chances. The ability to say “I screwed, up, but I can still make things better” and have that mean something is quintessentially American.

    It makes sense, in a way. So many people originally came to America because they were looking for a second chance. For one reason or another things weren’t working for them “back home” so they came here for a new start in a new home. This whole “try again” attitude permeates American culture. It did, anyway. Lately it seems to be falling by the wayside.

  16. I wonder how this interrelates with the “evil corporation” trope, in terms of time of appearance? The movie “Tucker” comes to mind, but thinking about how rarely you have a good entrepreneur (unless its YA or J fiction with a kid as the businessman) unless he’s up against Evil McEvil LTD. I can’t recall seeing a new YA book with a good corporate or business figure in 5-6 years, but I may be biased because so many of the books at the school are from the Scholastic sets and catalogues.

    1. I think that we don’t see good entrepreneurs because of the Marxist ideas that have become part of society’s unexamined assumptions.

      1. …and some we don’t see because they’re head-down, full-time making their business grow, and not all that visible except to their customers.

    2. This goes hand-in-hand with the “chosen one” thing. 9 times out of 10, if you have a “good” corporate type, they will have inherited their wealth (see Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark). Again, they have the privileges and responsibilities of being on top simply because they were born to them, not because they did any of that icky stuff involved in building the corporation.

      I can think of a few exceptions, but they definitely are exceptions.

    1. There are so many true Horatio Alger stories occurring around uneasily that they don’t have to be invented, just noted.

        1. They do make certain types uneasy, though. Breaks the paradigm.

          1. There are still real life Horatio Alger stories, Mark Zuckerberg for instance. But once they succeed, they build walls and dig moats so that nobody can follow their path. You know… Gotta keep these greener pastures green.

  17. Respecting the office while keeping your sense and conscience leads to great stories. Leads into an essay I’ve been meaning to write. Great stories (really satisfying ones) tend to be ones where there is a moral dilemma. See, where the story was how to get the job done and not lose life unnecessarily while still respecting a crazy, paranoid captain, and a waffling, non-imaginative replacement.

  18. Before we get to lcked in to the idea of a change from “struggles to the top” to “fated to win”, go read some actual Horation Alger tales. His young “strugglers” have some many breaks fall their way that they might as well be “fated”. It takes a writer of considerable subtlety to dipict somebody in a heroic tale who actually struggles. Rowling is fun, but about as subtle as a brick.

    I’m not saying that the shift hasn’t happened, just that it isn’t quite that stark.

  19. Eh. It’s old good “predestination”. If you throw a bottlecap at something Protestant, half the time you’ll hit predestination as it bounces. Whether it will be manifest destiny, that stupid “time travel” thing or whatnot.

  20. “There is no fate but that which we make for ourselves.” – Kyle Reese

  21. We need more Duck Tales stories of uncle Scrooge and his Number One Dime.

    1. Gives luagha the hairy eyeball. Are you trolling me? I have books to write. Also, my son took the comics away and packed them. I need to start my own collection.

      1. No offense but any of our women folk out here in Texas. For one thing, their kids pop out ready to go. For another, a lot of those ranch gals are absolutely spectacular.

        I was at Operation Gratitude one packing session when the guest of honor was a highly decorated young Marine sergeant. I mean, you would have to put the recruiting poster on a better grade of paper for this guy. Made Chris Evans look like he needed a square meal and some jaw work. Ranch boy.

        And his wife, the farm girl he married at 18? Surgeon General Lacey from the Lensman novels would have looked at these two and said, “**** it, we’re done here.”

  22. And were often very bad at it (Johnny Rico and math, for ex) but in modern fantasies (Harry Potter — though at least she put him through trials), and even most other YA, you are “the chosen one” and therefore it falls to you without being a “battler” as Dave Freer puts it.

    Haven’t read beyond this, but– ANIME!


    1. I love anime. It’s so crazy, and so not Hollywood it makes it hilarious. I loved Sword Art Online, Kill La Kill (very NOT PG13) lately I’m watching Drrrrr. What a hoot!

      1. My husband and my version of “date night” of late is OD’ing on SAO every couple of days. Kids in bed, we’re done with our MMO obligations… and we’re sitting there reading the dialog, detecting emotion in a foreign language, making WAGs, and drooling over outfits. (THAT COAT!!!!)

      2. Not sure how it’s actually spelled, or even the subtle translation/literal meaning of it– but in Fairy Tail the Salamander says something like “See-yo kah-nai” and it’s subtitled as “don’t give up” or “get stronger.”

        I give it a twist with a little more…ah…supernatural aid than him, if you consider dragons natural for that setting and the angels and saints super-natural, but the idea translates rather well that way.

    2. A lot of anime consists of “Speshul Snowflakie is Speshul!” and sparkles, too.

    3. Anime indeed. It seems like a medium that is uncorrupted by a lot of our ubiquitous cultural tropes and assumptions. It’s also so … freeform – there’s a lot of wild random settings that defy any attempt to categorize it by genre.

      Of course, some anime does do the “chosen one” thing. But there are others where the heroes are self selected.

      I think Starship Operators was pretty good IIRC (though it has been a few years).

      1. A chunk of why I love Fairy Tale is that their POV guys are mostly “I was hurt, I saw a need, you helped me, I *WILL* fill that need.”

        Be the solution you believe is needed.

    4. Yeah, watching Fairy Tail (admittedly at a very slow rate) has helped bring me out of October’s pit of despair.

  23. To an extent the whole current mania with “alphas” and “betas” and “omegas” follows the same thing. You are born in a place in a hierarchy. You can’t fake it, but you can’t change it.

    Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.

    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

      1. Cherryh’s azi classes are almost certainly named for this, but IIRC Randy Wilde was quoting Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

  24. “To an extent the whole current mania with “alphas” and “betas” and “omegas” follows the same thing. You are born in a place in a hierarchy. You can[] fake it, but you can’t change it.”

    I am SO weary of that whole alpha/beta thing. It was crappy science in the animal study world, in the human world it’s just a friggin’ joke. Plus, the people doing all the web site on it are such -hopeless- jerks. Look at Vox, what a DB that guy is. I literally can’t read his site because of all the psychosexual wankery on there. Oh my stars and garters.

    Then there’s the Chosen One thing. It can be entertaining in fiction, particularly when the Chosen One is really the poor bastard who has to stand under the stink pipe waiting for the World of Crap to fall on him, as in MHI. Here kid, the Powers have determined that you get to fight the Unconquerable Eeeeevile because your mom had blue eyes. But when it’s all down to the secret superpower that only The Chosen One has? Whatever.

    I generally prefer the farm boy that becomes king by virtue of his pure heart and strong right arm, vanquishing evil and getting the girl (because he’s the first man she’s ever seen who’s not some form of sh1tweasel.) I’m a simple soul when all is said and done: good guys fight adversity and win, bad guys suffer, hero gets the girl. I guess it’s all down to reading John Carter of Mars as a boy. How are you going to beat the incomparable Deja Thoris?

    1. “Then there’s the Chosen One thing. It can be entertaining in fiction, particularly when the Chosen One is really the poor bastard who has to stand under the stink pipe waiting for the World of Crap to fall on him, as in MHI. Here kid, the Powers have determined that you get to fight the Unconquerable Eeeeevile because your mom had blue eyes. But when it’s all down to the secret superpower that only The Chosen One has? Whatever.” – thephantom182

      I have Call Waiting. I deleted The Call’s messages from the answering machine, and never got back to them.

    2. How are you going to beat the incomparable Deja Thoris?

      You don’t because if you beat her once, she’ll kill you. 😈 😈 😈 😈

      1. No offense but any of our women folk out here in Texas. For one thing, their kids pop out ready to go. For another, a lot of those ranch gals are absolutely spectacular.

        I was at Operation Gratitude one packing session when the guest of honor was a highly decorated young Marine sergeant. I mean, you would have to put the recruiting poster on a better grade of paper for this guy. Made Chris Evans look like he needed a square meal and some jaw work. Ranch boy.

        And his wife, the farm girl he married at 18? Surgeon General Lacey from the Lensman novels would have looked at these two and said, “**** it, we’re done here.”

        1. I think I complained about it on my blog, but a cousin-by-marriage won the medal of honor as a “hispanic.”

          He’s Basque. Spanish Basque, but basque, been here longer than dad’s family.

          And he also looks like a recruiting poster. ❤

            1. He’s more freaking American than I am! His family has been here longer than the Irish AND the Scots– he’s a cousin because he was so good at talking everybody into the Scottish lady’s school!

            2. Mild funny: I got to short circuit an e-friend who was on a “we’re all white” kick by pointing out that no, my husband— and thus my kids– are not.

              He’s Sicilian. And heaven help me if the little Baron of Elfland didn’t get so much sun that I was in abject mourning because I’d maimed him with sunburn, but he didn’t even freaking TAN.
              Mild pink at 3pm, a lovely toasty brown at 4:30AM the next morning.

  25. This now extends to teachers and policemen, btw. People continually tell me about those, “You have to respect the office.” No, I really, really don’t. This is not the military. I don’t owe even external honor to anyone. They can earn it or not. If THEY don’t show any respect for the office, why should I OWE them any.

    I have a modified version of this; I respect everybody, until they do something to lose it.

    95% of the time, this makes stuff decent; another 3% of the time, it lasts like ten seconds. It’s that additional 2% that causes pain.

  26. While I personally hate the “chosen one” trope, I equally hate the nihilistic “It doesn’t matter what you do trope” that is equal sides of the same coin. Both of them have pervaded fantasy and science fiction, to the point that books like Hunger Games and Game of Thrones have basically taught readers that to try to improve things is only going to make them worse. That’s why I try to write stories where people win or lose because they work hard at it… and yeah, sometimes they’re just screwed by circumstance and sometimes they just get lucky. Got to fight the darkness in today’s literature, one page at a time.

        1. sounds good, wanted to take a look at that – Amazon says “currently not available” – where to find?

            1. The dead tree version shows as “unavailable”. 🙂

              1. Yeah, there’s a secondary listing like that. The link I shared it should be available. I’ve emailed Amazon about it, I’m not sure why. Though if you’re going to get the paperback, I’d advise waiting until next month, I’m going to rerelease it when I release the third book and the paperback should be cheaper then

            2. thanks, got it. I was probably viewing the wrong version on some page. (My bookshelves are too full for more pb, I’m mostly getting ebooks at present.)

          1. Can such people be? Liberals are good but occasionally forced to do bad things because of Conservative hypocrisy, and Conservatives are bad but will occasionally do a good thing when Liberals have managed to let a little light into their corrupted hearts … or when they are trying to pass as decent human beings.

            I know this because I read the NY Times <I<and the Washington Post.

        1. You have read Darkship Thieves, right? Sarah’s characters are never non-GMO humans. 😛

        1. Except he’s lying, or he’s decided that everything that everyone said about their enemies was true.
          See: House Bolton’s existence.

          1. The historical Wars of the Roses? Half the contemporary sources are guys and gals writing letters to their relatives. “Blah blah blah, interesting battle yesterday, some of the nobles got captured, this guy got killed, send me that craft project, blah blah blah.” Not anything like, “Your sister got raped yesterday and then was grilled and eaten by the local knights, after she was thrown out the window.” Which seemed to be the GoT version of “normal.”

            Richard III was betrayed by people from the other side, whom he had treated nicely and forgiven, given posts and status, and thus put in the position that allowed them to turn on him. Whether or not you are a Ricardian, you can hardly claim that he was killing huge amounts of people left and right. (Anti-Ricardians would claim that he was a scheming kinslayer who managed to conceal his murders, but would admit that he was great for the economy, Parliament, and the civil and judicial rights of commoners.)

            Nor was there tons of incest among the English royalty and aristocracy of that day, nor were they isolated from the life of normal people. Merchant families married into the nobility and gentry, and there was a surprising amount of social mobility.

            And whenever they did civil war stuff, English nobles back then largely let the farms and peasants and merchants alone, because they wanted the crops and properties to survive. That was part of what they were fighting to win. (The civil wars at the time of King Stephen and Empress Maud, on the other hand… those were nasty. Possibly the English nobles had learned something from that fubar.)

            1. The civil wars at the time of King Stephen and Empress Maud, on the other hand…

              People tend to <DELbe ignorant of overlook the influence that conflict had on Henry VIII and his desperation to leave a legitimate heir.

              For that matter, how much of Martin’s “sources” for GoT are their era’s equivalent of “Huns are raping Belgian nuns”?

            2. In fact much of this was because Richard’s brother had married the daughter of commoners.
              Yes. Well, the wars WERE nasty in the sense of betrayal and turncoating to the level it’s impossible for moderns to GET, and the conditions were awful in the sense that queens gave birth to stillborn babies aboard ships (i.e. the conditions of the era but made worse by war) BUT they weren’t nihilists. GRRM’s characters are nihilists, like their author.

    1. Agreed. The next Cat novel is pretty dark, but you can see the light coming even so. I can NOT write grim-dark-desperation-fatalistic. I don’t even want to try.

  27. The presidency is but one part of government — albeit the part where the MSM play a large role. There remains much we can do to defend our rights and prove our principles

    Double Down on Conservative Victories
    By John Hood
    [C]onservatism is not in an existential crisis. Keep in mind that we have more principled, effective conservatives in public office than ever before in our lifetimes, thanks to historic gains in Congress and especially in state and local government. Not coincidentally, we also have more conservative institutions, grassroots networks, research institutes, and media outlets. Our movement has big challenges, yes, but also tremendous successes and exciting opportunities.

    Conservative and libertarian donors, large and small, made major investments over decades to help build these institutions, networks, and leadership pipelines across the country. Intellectuals, activists, communicators, and politicians skillfully turned these investments into victories and accomplishments. At the state level, conservative governors and legislatures have rewritten tax codes, pared back regulations, reformed welfare programs that discouraged work and family formation, and expanded consumer choice and competition in education and health care. At the local level, a new generation of leaders is devising a new conservative agenda that embraces market innovations such as Uber and Airbnb as well as the cultural and geographical diversity of the 21st century.

    Although happy about the likely result of federal elections this year, the American Left is profoundly worried about the Right’s recent and sustained advances elsewhere. That’s why liberal politicians, bureaucrats, and judges are trying desperately to silence conservative and libertarian groups by targeting their donors and curtailing their freedoms of speech and association. The Left is also trying to expand and perfect its own state-based networks of organizations and activists as a counterweight.


    Sometimes there is no alternative but to fight a losing battle against overwhelming odds. Still, some on our side seem actually to enjoy it. They like to tell the resulting war stories, often to unwitting donors in direct-mail appeals. Perhaps it’s my middle age showing, but I have little interest in producing or listening to glorious sagas about bright, shining defeats. I prefer wins in prose over losses in poetry. I want our movement to continue to craft and implement proven strategies for success over time. That means marshaling scarce resources, gathering intelligence, declining battle on the adversary’s chosen ground, and attacking the adversary at its weakest point.

    Right now, the Left’s weakest points lie outside of Washington. Politically, there are thousands of state and local offices on the ballot this year and in 2018. Intellectually, there are at least as many opportunities to make our case to the public and to enact public policies that advance our agenda. There are many investors, leaders, and activists ready to do their part to clinch these victories in the coming months and years. What about you?

  28. As a prison librarian, I can tell you that there are a lot of “Alpha males” in here. And I can’t help but think of them as “losers”.
    (Does that make me a freedom bigot?”

  29. Hi Sarah, Long time no speak. I have to disagree with you on “fake it till you make it”, but I suspect that is simply because we interpret that phrase differently. My background is primarily in sales where “fake it till you make it” is not only gospel but extremely good advice, though the connotation is probably closer to “act as if”. In other words if you want to be successful, act as if you already are, by mimicking the traits that have brought success to others. If you want to be promoted, then act as you would if you already had the job you want (within reason of course) in order to prove that you deserve it. Its not so much a status or appearance thing as I understand the concept but more of a mindset thing, which dates back at least as far as “Think and grow rich”

    That is to say, when I was younger and wanted to be financially successful, I had to act as if I already was. This did not mean loading myself up on debt in order to ape the external material markers of success, but rather taking on the traits of those who already were successful, even if it was just an act, until said traits became a part of who I actually was. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that “fake it till you make it” works in that respect. When I was in highschool I was not the most social person. In fact I was fairly shy. But I got a job in sales where being shy is a great way to starve. At first it took a lot of effort to pump myself up in order to play the outgoing, gregarious, charming person I needed to be in order to make money. Over time however that mental construct became a part of who I am. Im still not the most social person and prefer my own company to that of a crowd, but you would never guess that if you saw me in a social setting. Anyone who’s met me at a bar, or club, or social event has always assumed I am a naturally outgoing extroverted personality, its only once they truly get to know me that they realize I’m really not. But as I said I think the main difference is in what we interpret the phrase “fake it till you make it’ to mean.

  30. Fwiw — someone recently recommended a book Grit: the power of passion and perseverance which apparently is along these lines

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