Mediocre Expectations

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My childhood upbringing included a lot of jokes about Spaniards.  I’m sure they’re the same type of jokes that Frenchmen tell about Englishmen and vice versa, that Germans tell about Frenchmen and vice-versa.

It is one of those funny things that liberals can’t seem to integrate in their war-as-missunderstanding meme. The more two human tribes live close to/know each other, the more they cordially hate each other.  And of course mate.  I mean, there is this whole “Fight, trade and f*ck” that goes with human tribes being near neighbors.  but fight and unkind jokes are definitely always a part of the package.

One of the jokes my mom used to tell — not so much a joke as an allusion to one — was to say “You almost went like the Spaniard’s donkey,” usually when I was very little and she was late feeding me or something.

I don’t know how many times I asked her to explain — my kids for a while would need to have certain things explained every month or every week.  Kids’ memories are funny — but around ten or so the explanation stuck.

It was from a story about a Spaniard who inherited a donkey and who decided to save money by getting it used not to eat.  “And then when it was perfectly fine with not eating, the d*mn donkey died!”

It seems like a stupid joke, and your immediate impulse, even if you were raised in Portugal is to say “oh, come on.  Not even Spaniards.”

But a great part of the trick of a socialist regime is to do exactly that.  To figure out how to get the donkey used to as little as possible without killing it.

Places like Cuba prove you can go pretty damn far into starving the donkey, if you do it in such a way that first it feels threatened from outside or that it’s getting a little more food than before (while the people who didn’t flee consume what the ones who fled left behind.  The Nazis pulled a similar trick, redistributing their victims wealth to others to give a brief appearance of prosperity.)  And then reduce, and reduce and reduce.

The trick is to balance on the knife edge, between starving the donkey and getting it used to not eating.

There are tricks to keep it going.  The USSR invaded/plundered/exploited much of the third world (while calling the US exploiters and imperialists.  It seems this mirror-trick is a specialty of socialists, as well) which kept its people at home from going too far down in lifestyle.  And Cubans for a long time were their mercenaries, their Hessians, in American revolution terms.  So they too had plunder as well as time abroad oppressing other victim– er… beneficiaries of the glorious revolution.  What they did in the abandoned Portuguese colonies in Africa doesn’t bear describing, nor does it need to be.  Remember the mirror.  “Think of the worst racist colonialist power.  That.”

But sooner or later — sooner if your leaders are total asshats — you fall off the knife’s edge.  It always happens.  The question is always “how much socialism can a human society take in before it dies?” and the answer is always “Depends on how slowly you introduce it.”  See Europe for slow slid.  And us for slower one.

Thing is, there is no such thing as a therapeutic dose of socialism.  It’s not even as near-term beneficial as arsenic.

Because the problem with socialism is that it empowers envy.  And envy is the most destructive emotion/force in human society.  Envy makes you incapable of creating, and incapable of cooperating.  You can’t create, because you’re consume with rage at what others created.  And you can’t cooperate, because you’re sure what they have was stolen from you.

Each of us knows his own capabilities, of course.  Well, we do if we’ve not been raised with self-esteem education, though I suspect even those people know it.

So we know what we can do.  Heinlein talked about how “luck is how morons explain the work of genius.”  This is true and isn’t.  A lot of what is called luck is actually hard work and positioning.  And sometimes just insane amounts of hard work.  For instance, all of our friends consider Dan and I too lucky to live.  Actually we fail at most things we try.  We just try harder (like Avis.)

But there is also luck.  J. K. Rowling would never have crossed the Atlantic in book sales pre-Amazon, then in its early days.

Envy makes you look at EVERYTHING other people have and accomplish as luck and therefore as “unfair.”  It also turns it inward, because you know you’re not lucky.  You know how much effort goes into your breaks.  And when you decide you’re not lucky, you stop being able to do and create.

If on top of that you, like Marx, believe the world is a finite pie, it amps up your envy and hate to eleven, because it means those breaks other people are having SHOULD be yours.  You know you’re better than your circumstances.

And the finite pie eventually stretches to everything.  There is an article making the rounds of the net about how reading to your kids gives you an unfair advantage.  I wish it were satire, but I know one of my kids got told by a teacher that he had “a lot of privilege” at a time when we were barely making it to the end of the month in groceries, because he’d told his teacher that we often pinched money from groceries for books.

In fact, the very concept of privilege is a creation of finite pie and envy. I mean, sure, some people have advantages.

Take for instance a child who wishes to write science fiction and fantasy for a living.  Who do you think would have more privilege?  Someone born to a wealthy NYC family who put her through the best schools in the hub of publishing where she could make all the contacts, or a girl born in a village in Portugal, where they don’t speak English, and where the very concept of science fiction is alien.

And yet, both I and that girl from NYC are professional science fiction writers.  Sure, I had to battle a lot harder to get there, but then I wanted it badly enough.

There is no way to make everyone’s circumstances at birth equal.  We’re all born with different IQs and more importantly different drives.  We want different things.  Even if we were all issued robots as parents, some robot would malfunction and create an inequality of circumstances, let alone what people are BORN with.

You can’t make people stop reacting to pretty people better than to ugly ones.  You can’t make smart people as dumb as the dumbest.  Even if you legislate that, people will get around it.

Which bring us to socialism.  You see, socialists are not the children of the Enlightenment or the American revolution.  (Yes, I know there are a bunch of confused people out there.  I’ve read them.  Rolls eyes.)

Yes, they called themselves that, but so what?  Socialists call themselves a lot of things, like a bad Chinese restaurant changing names.

The French Revolution was the bourgeoisie (which is to say a group of people who were the rulers in all but name, overturning and arrogating to themselves the power of those who had it before.)  This is pretty much every socialist revolution ever.

And to get the people on their side, they manipulated them with envy and the idea of zero sum (though not articulated because Alas, Marx hadn’t been born.)

They promised to make people EQUAL.  Not equal before the law, but equal.  This promise can only be fulfilled by a procrustean process of subtraction.  Because the government creates nothing, it only steals and redistributes.

So the French revolution ended in fire and blood fairly quickly.  But post-Marx its descendants perfected the expropriation-redistribution-denial more and more till they can progressively starve a country and its people adapt to each lower level, stop noticing the descent, until they hit bottom, which — looks at Europe — can be along way down.  Particularly when invaders are brought in to support the government on that descent, invaders for whom the new circumstances are an improvement.

Do not be fooled into thinking this isn’t happening with us.  I bet if you tally the last eight years, you can point to a dozen things that you’ve cut back on.  Staycations were always a thing with us, but we’re doing them less often.  Also going out to eat, also my taking classes.  Just a dozen little things aren’t happening, but we’re so rich and they’re so minor we haven’t noticed.

The thing is we are both the donkeys fed on pound cake (another of Mom’s thing “like feeding donkeys on poundcake.”  If she explained that one, I didn’t get it, and the donkey who won’t sit still.

Our socializification started as early as Europe’s.  Look at FDR and Wilson, sometime.  And while we have here and there clawed a little bit back, at the level of government and taxes we’re not markedly different.  (Not when you add in the stuff we pay to city taxes and local taxes.)

The difference is the American… legend.  The whole rags to riches story makes it impossible — unless you’re exquisitely brought up or a government dependent — for us to wholly buy the socialist envy narrative.

Enough of us retain a clear enough head to CREATE that we keep running ahead of the grey wolf of socialism.

The internet, ecommerce, new tech in movies and music and publishing are just part of that.  Without the new tech those fields would be dead as dead already.

But they’re running ahead of the wolf.  Without throwing other people behind.

Of course, if we don’t start winning that race, it will just be a REALLY slow descent.

So, to you, particularly the younger ones, I say: refuse to accept the socialist tyranny of mediocre expectations.  If you want something badly enough you still can do it.  Yes, the promotion of cronies and party apparatchiks is actually legitimately unfair.  But you wouldn’t want to win like that.  You’re better than that.  So, don’t envy them.

Piss off a socialist today.  Go out and create something that makes money.



141 thoughts on “Mediocre Expectations

  1. I needed to read this today. I seem to be failing at my ambition of becoming an ex-author (people keep asking me to contribute to short story projects and I am really bad at saying ‘no’) so I have three stories that I have agreed to write and two others that I said that I would probably do, and my ongoing series of book reviews.

    None of which is making money, of course, but I am creating. And that’s worth something.

    1. Have you noticed this is literally true, a point made obvious by adding a single syllable: “Piss off a socialist. Procreate.”

      The concept of people being a burden on Society seems inextricable from Socialist Dogma.

      1. “But… people… ARE society!”
        “Society… is people!”

        And I am very carefully going to bed now (for sleep, mind you) and not making what seems an obvious crude quip.

          1. Thinking further, it is noteworthy that it is the Socialists who avidly defend Planned Parenthood against the charges of profiteering from sale of fetal remains documented in the videos so carefully edited (as denounced by Katy Couric) by The Center for Medical Progress.

            Socialism: turning humans into commodities for over a hundred years.

      2. *wry* We’re good at that…..

        Hm. Kind of makes sense– look at the examples of inducing the appearance of prosperity– remove the people who have stuff, give other people the stuff.

        Kids do use a lot of resources….but it’s the only way there will be more in the future, and the whole Intangibles stuff outweighs it.

      3. So basically, we should go and fuck ourselves. At last a collectivist initiative I can really get into!

    2. This should be on a bumper sticker, tee shirt, or both.

      Make some, sell ’em (I’ll buy one), make some money, & fulfill your slogan.

  2. “One day, in the heat of the siesta, we sat in the cool shade of a tree, talking about Guarani legends. He told me the tale of Isarki, a young warrior many ages ago. Isarki was a fidgety, unsettled youth, never satisfied with his lot. One day while wandering around the forest, he men an old Indian witch, a medicine woman, a very powerful figure in pre-Spanish Paraguay. Isarki was a treacherous lad and therefore admired the jaguar, who was even more treacherous. He asked the witch to change him into a yaguarete, which was what the Guaranis called a man who turned into a tiger. The old witch did his bidding, and for many weeks Isarki terrorized the forest, until one day a fox outwitted him. Back he went to the witch and asked her to turn him into a fox, because the fox was even more cunning than the jaguar; again she complied with his wish. As a fox Isarki roamed the settlements killing all the fowls, until one day he met a snake, which slithered from his grasp. Back to the witch he went, to become a snake. As a snake he was stung by a wasp, and so he changed into a wasp. As a wasp he stung a man who was trying to steal his honey; the sting, of course, remained in the man’s flesh and the wasp died. Isarki returned to human form, as a human spirit must do when living in an animal body. Sadly he went back to the witch and asked her to make him into an animal more ferocious than a tiger, more cunning than a fox, more loathsome and deceitful than a snake, more vicious than a wasp. So the witch changed Isarki into a Spaniard! (Tristan Jones, The Incredible Voyage)

  3. Socialist groups were showing up here in the states as early as late 19th century. I used to work for a company that designed and built museum exhibit (the display counters/frames/cases) and then helped install an exhibit. One particular such exhibit I helped on had photographs of a Society of Socialists and their meetings – this in the 1880s! Here in Texas! So it wasn’t something that just sprang up out of the blue with Wilson etc. It was something that had been making its way into the unknown corners of our country, in such tiny numbers that no one looked twice at them. Yet, here we are, looking a full generation in the face, ready and willing to have it replace the Federalist government they have grown up in.

    1. Socialism was originally an heresy of Christianity. There were a lot of socialists setting up in North America from the beginning. They mostly formed communes, and only brought ruin to themselves. Marx was its Mohammad or Luther. One of his key innovations was branding Socialism as being other than a religion.

      1. I’ve always thought of moden socialism as basically feudalism without the noblesse oblige.

        1. Beyond question they share a similar view of the common citizen.

          Historically the old nobility built much of their wealth by discerning economic bottlenecks (mountain passes, river crossings) and extorting “commissions” for allowing traffic through. Looking at Eurocrats, Kommisars and their American equivalents today there is a distinct similarity.

        2. There was a bit of blow-back over on Baen’s Bar about calling the Left “regressives.” Not civil, you know, calling them names.

          One of the main secrets of the socialists, or the Left in general, is to never, ever describe the reality of what they are doing.

          1. Their rejection of the roots and foundation of Western Civilization makes them ultra reactionaries, who effectively are trying to turn back the clock to before civilization.

          2. And the “Chief Objector” claimed to have never heard the names that Lefties called people like us. 😦

            Of course, another Liberal of the Bar “redefined” hate so IMO nothing his side says can be “considered as evidence for hatred”. 😦

            1. Sorta the same way they’ve redefined racism so that nothing a Black person says against Whites can be deemed racist, and how they’ve redefined sexism so that nothing a woman says against men is sexist?

              BTW – just noticed this — could it be just accidental that Mediocre so closely resembles Medicare?

              1. To be “fair”, the second person’s definition of “hatred” was that there had to be “physical harm” to the object of the hate.

                  1. Nod, when I “called” him on other Liberals using the term “hate” differently than he would use it, he said that they were wrong to use it that way.

                    Sadly, based on other conversations with him, I doubt that he’d call his follow Liberals on their “misuse” of the term. 😦

              2. Redefined, so they can claim innocence when called upon their racist and sexist views?

                1. Redefined as necessary to ensure the discussion is always about our failings and never about their failings.

                  Thus we discuss racism in schools rather than the disparities between student behaviour associated with whether they come from “intact” vs single parent families.

                  Thus we discuss average dollars per hour worked rather than analysing hours put in, time in workforce, negotiating for more pay rather than flexible scheduling, etc. when looking at the disparities in male/female earnings.

                  Thus we discuss wealth inequality without discussing the differences in patterns of consumption, savings, and investment.

            2. One of the reasons I no longer bother with the Bar. The posts there (other than those having to do with non-political topìcs) tend to be continual rehashes of the same material, with the various top talkers repeating themselves ad nauseum. And for some of them, the repetition seems to be solely for the purpose of pissing others off.

              1. To be fair, that’s what the Politics and TvP conferences were designed for -to keep that stuff away from the rest of the bar.

            3. At which point, the only rational course of action is to tell them “Leave us alone or we’ll kill you.” There’s really no common ground with someone that dishonest.

      2. True. I was surprised to learn of one in Spanish Florida. Hazy on how long ago it was, but it may have predated the US. Let’s not forget the Pilgrims had their Common House and discovered it had a detrimental effect on the colony. Things improved once they got rid of it.

      3. Actually, no, socialism / communism was not a heresy of Christianity; read the Book of Acts, Ananais and Sephira. Take Christianity to it’s ideal form, and what the Apostles tried makes sense; in this Fallen world, you will never make it work.

        1. And yet the Apostles had a recommendation: If you don’t work, you don’t eat. The idea was to provide for the needy, not for the able bodied to sit on the blessed assurances.

          Ananais and Sephira lied to God in claiming the partial sum turned in was the entire amount for the land. We can speculate why, but as Peter pointed out, it was their land and they could do with it what they pleased.

          1. Indeed, at one point they laid down the law that the Church should not provide for the impoverished widows who had Christian relatives but instruct those relatives in their duties.

        2. It was voluntary– so it’s not socialism. If I have to give you something before you have part-ownership, then I do actually own it, so that can’t be socialism.

          Now yeah, in the unfallen world, we would want to give gifts to others all the time– and they would want to do the same. Just like an utterly idealized family.

    2. Most socialists I know would get quite angry to be called one. Such as one who voiced an opinion that companies should be restricted in how much money they make. Really? Who makes that determination? And how would they feel if the government capped how much they could earn? A close cousin is the idea that there shouldn’t be rich individuals. Really? And what of us, who are rich compared to some in other nations?

      Right or wrong, I’m convinced that jealousy is at the heart of socialism. The idea isn’t so much that the socialist will benefit as it is that no one will be better off than the socialist.

      1. The seven deadly sins are obvious choices when designing a heretical knock off of Christianity. Imitate whatever magic makes Christianity attractive, but relax prohibitions to pull in customers.

        Like Socialism and Envy, or the allegations about Islam and Lust.

      2. Ever read C. S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Proposes A Toast”? (included with the Screwtape Letters)?

        Screwtape talks about the “Great” job Hell as done in England of convincing people that “democracy” means that nobody should be better/smarter than anybody else. 😦

      3. “The idea isn’t so much that the socialist will benefit as it is that no one will be better off than the socialist.”

        That’s what envy does. The greedy man needs to have things if he wants to be happy. If he wants a Ferrari, for example, he not only needs a society that builds Ferraris, not to mention one with roads he can drive it on, gas stations where he can fill it up, specialized service stations that will install finicky Italian parts, etc.

        The envious man, though, is happy enough to see the entire world burn as long as he gets to be king of the ashes.

      4. I think jealousy is more a particular shiny that you can’t have because that evil Other has it. In my mind covetousness is more general and envy more about the situation of Others’ having than their possessions. Can you tell I’m a logophile?

        1. Envy is when you hate someone because he’s got his.

          Jealousy is when you hate someone because he’s got YOURS.

          That is, if one student wins an award, and another just resents him for it, he’s envious but if a third resents it because he thinks the teacher was playing favorites and he earned it, he’s jealous.

          1. Waaaaay back, when I was in a confirmation-type class (which just confirmed that even then I was . . . Odd), the instructor said that if you look at your neighbor’s car and go, “Ooh, I want that car,” as in a similar make/model/color, that was envy. If you ball you hands into fists and growl, “I want THAT car!” you’re coveting.

            1. So if you say, “He needs to drop the front end about an inch to get the rake right, and that color just doesn’t work on that body style,” you’re just a hopeless car geek who shouldn’t be let out in polite society?

              1. If not, you are getting dangerously close to it.

                If you say, “Sheesh, for that much money I could have gotten a full engine overhaul for [airplane], plus speed strakes and maybe a Holy Cowl,” you are a lost cause.

          2. And there can be a jealousy that is not sinful. A man can be jealous for his wife, unwilling to share her with any other man, and that is entirely right. And when God tells the people of Israel, “I am a jealous God”, he is saying, “You are my chosen people; I am not willing to share you with any other gods.” Which is, again, entirely right.

  4. We, who choose to actually work, DO create things that make us money… It’s all about taking personal responsibility for our situations and working to improve them.

  5. The envy also is strengthened by selective blindness. I had an Aunt that was always envious of my Parents, because we had a nice 3-4 week vacation every year. *She* couldn’t afford one. She never noticed when her family went out to eat 2x 3x a week, we didn’t, she never noticed all the trips they took to the movies, we didn’t.
    The path to success is to defer your immediate gratification. Or, like Bill Gates, it is easy to establish an innovative business when you have the Trust Fund from your Grandfather to fall back on.

    1. I was surprised to hear scorn heaped on a successful local because he ended up owning a block of buildings and expanding his business. It was the same song, different verse, when I heard scorn heaped on a friend who managed to do likewise and tried to help his town.

      1. Note Lizzie Warren’s recent denunciation of Trump as “money-grubbing” — as if Warren hasn’t plied multiple get wealth without working schemes, such as flipping houses or claiming minority status to gain an employment edge.

        1. “Money grubbing” denotes someone who is involved in physical labor in some way/shape/form; it can never be applied to ivory tower academics who live in isolation from reality.

    2. Be fair, starting an innovative business is not easy, trust fund or no, at least assuming that in the context of BG you must mean a successful business. That’s not to say BG’s rise did not benefit from that and from other big advantages that he doesn’t particularly deserve credit for (such as Mom’s connections to IBM, IBM entering into an unusual arrangement licensing agreement for software for that line of computers, and that line of computers succeeding — for reasons mostly not under BG’s control — much more than some similar IBM computers). But seriously, a trust fund alone is not enough to make it easy. (Starting a seriously successful business, not necessarily a big public corporation like Microsoft, but at least several times a good professional income, is prestigious and uncommon. In particular it is far more uncommon than trust funds are, which given its prestige would be a peculiar outcome if it was easy to do.)

      I think it’s probably more like being a varsity athlete in a good university program, or maybe like being a professor used to be: it is prestigious for hard-to-fake reasons, it is uncommon, and it can be significantly easier if you have a trust fund, but that does not make it easy.

      1. I think where the trust fund comes in is that it makes it easier to make that leap if you know that, if the leap fails, you won’t be left destitute. It doesn’t make your particular leap any more likely to succeed.

        1. Larry Niven is a “trust fund baby” and IIRC he has said that it allowed him to learn to write without worrying about making a living.

          Of itself, it didn’t make him a good writer but the trust fund made it possible for him to spend his time learning to become a good writer without the legitimate concerns of “having to pay the bills” while doing so.

          1. And for those who aren’t, and who don’t have a spouse who works and lets them focus on their writing, well, it just takes longer. You may only be able to spend one or two hours a day rather than six or eight (or however many) but there are plenty of writers who started as working stiffs of one form or another.

          2. I suspect that Trust Funds do more harm than benefit to their recipients.

            From the standpoint of society, they do encourage people to work hard, consume frugally and invest their capital in such ways as to accumulate sufficient wealth to entrust it to their heirs.

            I would rather not let the examples of John Kerry and Bill Ayers persuade me to ignore the benefits bequeathed by John M. Olin.

  6. So, your mother had this unnatural fixation on asses.
    Explains a lot.
    How could you grow up anything other than odd.

    1. I had been wondering why you were sitting out there with a net, a frying pan and a “How to Cook Carp” cookbook. Now all is explained. 🙂

  7. A lot of what is called luck is actually hard work and positioning.

    There’s the old story, which may be apocryphal and I’ve heard it attributed to various individuals, of the golfer who needed a hole-in-one to win a certain tournament. And by-gum he got it. A reporter supposedly commented “Gee, that was a lucky stroke” to which the golfer replied “Isn’t it strange that the more I practice, the luckier I get?”

    Near the end of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit. Will Travel Kip was saying how lucky he had been in his adventures to which Peewee’s father started listing things Kip had done closing with “If that’s luck, it’s luck every time the batter hits the ball.”

    Luck, I think, is like Edison’s definition of genius: 90% perspiration.

    The difference is the American… legend. The whole rags to riches story makes it impossible — unless you’re exquisitely brought up or a government dependent — for us to wholly buy the socialist envy narrative.

    And that, I think names one of the biggest threats to us and the reason why the liberal takeover of education and to a large extent entertainment is so troubling. It’s a deliberate attempt to change that legend. How much success they’ve had and how much they can continue to have is open for question but it is a concerning trend. Entirely too many young people don’t see America as the land of opportunity, the land of the free, the land of “second chances” (as I have written about before: ). It’s still there, but belief in it has waned. In fact, while looking for the link to that blog post I came across a number of pages claiming that America is “the land of no second chances.”

    OTOH, it looks like the Left is getting impatient and moving too soon. The old legends have been weakened, but not eliminated. A lot of us still believe.

    1. I think there is such a thing as luck… and as long as we’re citing Heinlein, here’s a passage from (what else?) Starship Troopers:

      I guess my “luck” has usually been people—Angel and Jelly and the Lieutenant and Carl and Lieutenant Colonel Dubois, yes and my father, and Blackie . . . and Brumby . . . and Ace—and always Sergeant Zim.

      1. But note that those are only a tiny fraction of the people around him. They were just the ones that he paid attention to more than others. Other people, surrounded by the same people, did not make the same choices.

        So even in that there was a large element of “make your own luck”.

        1. This. “Random chance” means just what it seems to. Without looking for it, you have a CHANCE to do something come along. Turning that INTO something is the work part.

          The Left wants to remove the “work” part of the formula – the problem is that they almost always remove the “chance” part, too. Just look at the state of public schools…

    2. They are doing their best to eliminate the possibility of second chances. Oh, I can see why you wouldn’t give some people second chances: I regularly check the local sex offender registry.
      But if you were a stupid eighteen-year-old and did drugs and got busted and weren’t a Kennedy or a Bush or whatever, you’re going to have to put that on every job application for the rest of your life. Yeah, no one wants to hire a druggie, right. Or a shoplifter. Or a whatever. There are lots of other possible applicants, maybe not as smart or qualified, but who don’t open a potential employer up to possibly hiring someone who’d offend again. Why take the risk?
      Used to be you’d go west, change your name, re-invent yourself, and as long as you hadn’t done something bad enough to get on a wanted poster, you could have a new life as long as you went forth and sinned no more.
      I can see the employer’s side of it. I can see the individual’s side of it. I think society has failed to address societal interests in this situation, and by letting it go, we’re not being well served, we have a growing class of people who cannot be self-supporting.
      I’d say something like two years of keeping your nose clean post sentence for a non-violent offense and your record is wiped. Five years post sentence for violent offense. (Obviously, if you got life or death, you never get your record wiped.)
      Or we need to get our acts in gear and transport all those folks to the Moon, Mars, or wherever our Australia ought to be.

    3. In the last analysis, luck comes only to the well prepared. Clausewitz. Or as Charlton Heston once told me, “I got a lucky break. of course I had worked my ass off being prepared, just in case I got a lucky break. ‘

      1. A friend of mine in college had what amounted to a catchphrase: “Luck is where skill meets opportunity.”

        1. When fish fall from the sky, having one land in your hands is luck. Having your arms outstretched and your hands open is preparation. Closing your hands when the fish lands in them is seizing an opportunity. Having a net in your hands is planning and preparation.

          Whining about your shoulders being tired and the fish being slimy is progressivism.

          Arranging things so that you can be reasonably certain of carp flying your direction is provision.

    4. “If that’s luck, it’s luck every time the batter hits the ball.”

      I am very fond of Have Space Suit_, but I don’t like that claim. I am content with remarks like “chance favors the prepared mind” and “success is when preparedness meets opportunity, and opportunity is there all the time” but sometimes opportunity is much more importunate and immoderate than other times. In my earlier comment I noted some of the unusual aspects of Bill Gates’ opportunity: they would have done him little good if he wasn’t more capable and better prepared than 999/1000 of his age cohort (maybe 9999/10k, I dunno), but given that he was, they don’t seem to be just the ordinary good fortune that can be expected to happen along from time to time, they were like Lady Luck had sidelined quite a few other projects in her zeal to make Bill Gates not some run of the mill very smart highly-motivated businessman, but considerably richer than Larry Ellison.

      (If that’s luck, it’s luck every time you evade the predator chasing you for just long enough that the predator happens to have a heart attack.)

  8. I have come lately to believe that the socialism that idiots like Bernie Sanders want to install is nothing but the same old feudalism, all dressed in more modern clothing. A privileged aristocracy at the very top, living in luxury and defending it with vicious energy, a clerisy of bureaucrats eagerly doing their bidding … and everyone else being dependent serfs. There’s none of that pesky, independent middle class to muck up the aristocrats’ benevolent rule.

    1. Yep. If you look into the governments ans semi-governmental groups in Europe today, a lot of the internationalists are from the old aristocracy or the mid-tier. The old “we were born and raised to govern so you must listen to us” idea remains in place, just shifted to being part of the Eu-ocracy instead of the German/Prussian or other royal courts.

      1. Wretchard talked about the “servile state” and that seems to fit everything. They seem to think that we exist to serve them.

  9. Luck does exist– you just have to work really, really, really hard, and think, and be ready to take advantage of it when you run into it. Unless you are hoping for double-luck, where a skill you HAPPEN to have matches up with the luck that you run into. And triple to have it find you, if you’re not looking for it. And quadruple…..

  10. About fifteen years ago I started noticing a trend with movies featuring ‘everyman’ protagonists. They would succeed, achieve something cool, get everything they ever wanted (the girl, the money, the fame), and then give it all up and go back to being what they were before; a workaday schlub.

    Personally, I hated that ending and I couldn’t fathom why the writers or the studios thought it was a good ending. The happy ending is that you get to have the life you always had but now you get to ‘appreciate’ being adequate.

    It didn’t make sense to me but looking at it through the lens of socialist ideology I at least can sort of see it if I squint: It was telling the audience they should be happy to be medium instead of great, that being mediocre was honor enough. That success isn’t success, that being big is the same as being small, that it doesn’t matter as long as you are content with what you have. The place you are is where you supposed to be.

    Don’t strive, don’t try, just float in the middle like a good little drone because the people in charge (whether the government, the studios, or the businesses) know better than you do and you should just accept that irrefutable fact.

    I don’t have fame or fortune but I’d sure like some and I can assure you that it wouldn’t change me and I wouldn’t walk away from it. The best analogy I can think of for me is that I was always the youngest kid in my class and consequently one of the smallest and shortest until I hit puberty and over the course of a summer became one of the biggest and tallest in my class. Being bigger might have not allowed me to hide as well as I did before (it’s less obvious the littlest kid in the back of the class is ignoring the teacher and reading a book then it is the big kid in the back is doing the same.) and made me more of a target for a certain kind of bully (the ones who wanted a kid big enough to prove their courage on but also one who is a geek so not as big a threat as implied), but not once, not ever, did it occur to me to wish to be one of the smallest kids in class again. I remained the same person but being big seemed to give me more elbow room to be that person.

    Basically, I’ve been big and I’ve been small and big was better. Which, admittedly kind of sucks for those who are not big, but I learned a long time ago not to apologize for whatever small advantages you happen to have.

    1. I vaguely remember that flood, too– but I didn’t see it as “Be happy where you are,” I saw it more as badly done “the grass is always greener”/”don’t know what you have until it’s gone”/”if your problem is you, changing where you are won’t fix it.”

      Like Groundhog day. But not funny.

    2. We should know our station and stick to it! How DARE we aspire to something higher! That’s where THEY are! Don’t they know there isn’t enough room?!

    3. oh, and you don’t need to drive your car anywhere, use public transit- i.e. don’t do go anywhere we don’t approve of, don’t do anything we don’t approve of, and those evul conservatives are the oppressive ones…

      1. Don’t live anywhere where public transport is impracticable. Pay no attention to the way that makes it easier for us to control you.

        1. like how the major routes (and the light rail here in L.A.) goes into and out of downtown when it actually needs to go around it…

          1. The last I looked, Chicago area mass transit assumes that you want to go into Chicago instead of going from one suburb to another suburb. 😦

            1. yep even to most places of employment moved out of the downtown area fifty years ago….

            2. I know a guy who can’t drive. He’s told his employers that if they move to the next town over, he’ll have to quit. The move is east-west and all the public transit goes north-south, so it would take him hours to get there.

      2. Public Transportation – A means of transport that takes you from where you are not, to a place you do not wish to be, at a time not of your choosing, for a fee. Additionally one can meet frighteningly interesting people in the process.

    4. (Turns and looks at the nearest bookcase)

      It’s older than you think. I’m looking at River Rogue, by Brainard Cheney, published in 1942, about a timber rafter named Snake who makes good and rises in society. He ends up not only throwing it all away and going back to his old home, but forgiving an old time friend for killing his wife, arguing he was insane.

      Didn’t think much of the ending when I read it. Still don’t looking over it.

  11. I bet if you tally the last eight years, you can point to a dozen things that you’ve cut back on.

    True. Staycations, eating out, and classes for me are exactly what we’ve cut back on. Plus neglecting home repair, which I hate, but gutters and doors cost money. For us, the problem has not been loss of income, but increase of health care costs combined with illness/injury that necessitated more health care. When you’re paying out several thousand more for the doctor and your insurance covers less…you’ve got to pinch more in other areas.

  12. “and where the very concept of science fiction is alien.”

    Pun intended?

  13. Wha—? Wait, work? You mean put out effort? Um, let me think about this . . . preferably in a hammock in the shade with drink-refills brought by an attractive member of the opposite sex, a cool breeze, and a good book. 😉

  14. My guess is that the point about feeding pound cake to a donkey is that it’s wasted effort. Unlike with people, all the ingredients are nutritious to the donkey in their raw form.

  15. in a related note (sort of) I have been noticing from the media a lot of cutting remarks made about horse racing. at least since the Kentucky Derby. that it is boring, only last 3 minutes (they even got that wrong), it’s only about the hats. other comments I don’t remember at this time. I have notice this on lefty radio talk shows, nighttime shows, etc. maybe i am reading to much into this. i did grow up two blocks south of Churchial Downs.
    but i thinking that this is going to be the next attack from the left. after all they HAVE to attack something, or they will stop existing.
    anybody else notices this, or is it just me?

      1. I suspect it’s more the rich conspicuously consuming. How dare they!

        1. I would far prefer “the rich” to do that than to be busybodies tell me how I should live. Gee, who would do such a daft thing? Hrmm…

    1. A lot of such claptwaddle derives from the animal rightists, who can be regarded as another manifestation of socialism. They denigrate any animal use as “abuse” (because all animals are more equal than humans, doncha know) and this crap gets repeated by the useful idiots of the leftist media.

  16. When I was young I discovered science fiction. I am sure it was unintended by the authors, but from it I concluded that about 90% of the hu,man race lived off the discoveries and hard work of about 10%. The Brothers (FSC) in my high school told me this was probably true, which made it an obligation on the gifted 10%, even though their beneficiaries would never understand that.

    1. Hmm. Something tells me they would *not* argue the 90% then had an obligation to those 10% who made it possible to live. It always seems to go one way…

      1. Maybe not. But I can only control me. Perhaps if I work hard enough, I’ll get to be one of those 10%.

        Then again, we are the sons and daughters of Martha. World without end…

    2. I discovered Science Fiction with Rocket ship X-M but was really converted by Destination Moon. Of course I was in 3rd Grade at the time.

    1. The A big lie of academia is that the NAZIs were conservative. I’m certain this group could come with some more that are equally as big.

    2. Nah, they’re just useful idiots. That was Stalin’s big lie; they are just parroting it.

  17. In the last 8 years, I’ve had 6 jobs (#7 starts next week), 4 apartments, added a kiddo, 2 cars (bought used, less than 1,000 each), and my “staycations” were when I was funemployed. This year, if we work really hard, we can make it to a family wedding across the country and that will be this decades vacation.

    And we work hard because we hope to some day gain riches beyond dreams of average. Surrounded as we are by people who are making no move to better themselves or their situations, it makes us very odd indeed.

    1. …hope to some day gain riches beyond dreams of average.

      Rather than avarice, so that line really sums it all up. Just getting above average is now a helluvan achievement.

  18. Seriously, Mrs. Hoyt, what do we have to do to get you to pull together a “best of” set of essays and publish them for us to throw cashy-money in trade?

      1. Hey, Jerry, some of us would be willing to throw cash at YOU if you would re-issue the books of Chaos Manor columns in Kindle format….. Adventures in Microland, etc.

      1. _Musings of a Mis-placed American_
        _Hoyt’s Hunches – Musings, Meditations, and Essays on Life, The Universe, and Flying Fish_

      2. I’ve been digging through the archives in between other projects today, making note of posts/essays that might do well as part of a Best Of, and I’m part way through 2009 at this point. It’s been fun, especially since everything I’ve read was before I started hanging out here, so other than a few that were reposted later and that awesome blog-fight with the high schoolers that got brought over from LJ it’s all new to me. Oh, and I noticed that this August will be AtH’s 10 year blogversary; an auspicious time for a greatest hits compilation. I’ll pass my completed list along after I get through the archive and make at least one filtering pass (I can tell my list is going to be too long already). Free suggestions, worth what you paid for them. 🙂

    1. Pfui. 7 out of 10 boil down to “things aren’t as bad as you think, buckle down, get off your lazy spoilt butt and apply yourself to the problem.” 1 in 25 is “my health sucks and its affecting my writing.” 2 in 35 amount to “you kids get off my lawn.”

      Too many deal with the ways in which puppy-kickers kick puppies, folk from Vile 666 demonstrate incapacity for reading comprehension (back when I was in school, reading until you found something to take offense over then throwing a tantrum was a sure fire way to fail a course) and the stupidity of those who presume themselves morally fit to lecture the rest of the world.

      Then there are the essays exasperatedly explaining that people are not widgets, men and women are different, at least when you grasp statistics, and ignoring these realities produces bad results.

      Be sure to include “What I Saw At The Revolution” (alternately, “How I learned that going along with the crowd is a good way to get shot.”) Put in the first couple about Human Wave SF. He beats me but he’s my agent and other explorations of ink-drinking merits inclusion, as well.

      It isn’t as if you could select based on number of comments, and some of the most fun stuff occurred in the commentary.

      1. Left Right, Left Right, where you went into how US vs EU right/left are *not* identical

        Other Side of the Periscope

  19. Re the French Revolution. I am in the middle of Alexis de Tocqueville’s “The Old Regime and the French Revolution” and it ain’t what you think.

    France had been run for two centuries as a pure top-down administrative system. Neither the nobles nor the bourgeoisie had any power. What they did have were privileges and exemptions, and did they insist on keeping them. The poor bloody peasants paid all the taxes and built the roads and served in the army. And everybody hated and envied everybody else.

    And not having any experience of politics or freedom, the French nobility and bourgeoisie were clueless when the revolution came. They had airy-fairy notions of rights, but no experience of doing government and politics.

    And after it was all over France was still a top-down administrative state.

    1. I found his point about how state control (statism) actually began with Louis XIII and expanded, and just took a different form with the Revolution, to be quite useful. And you can follow it through Napoleon to the Prussians and modern EU, now with a socialist twist.

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