Recently we were talking here about the culture war and I realized with shock that I’d never have engaged in the fight if Larry Correia hadn’t started. And the reason why not surprised me.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware of the strange phenomenon in our field, where those with power pretend to be the underdog and scream about the injustice, even as they dispense whatever justice or injustice they want with no reprisals.
It wasn’t that I was scared of what it might do to my career. Since 2012 I have known indie can make me more money than even Baen, so if Baen should for some reason be unable to publish me, (say, because public opinion turned overwhelmingly against me) I could go on writing and publishing. If I burned this name, I could adopt whatever pseudonym I decided to use. No one even needed to know.
No, the reason I would never have stepped out of line, if Larry hadn’t started it up, is that I had internalized the condition in the field — the condition in the culture at large — as the way things are, the sort of unspoken law, against which no one can fight. The very vehemence of the response to Larry told me, not that he was right — I and anyone with even a modicum of honesty knew that, however much we kept our mouths shut — but that the establishment was vulnerable. No one uses that much overwhelming force to stop that which is no threat. More importantly, there was a sheer joy to speaking what had been forbidden, to letting the truth pour out. It reminded me of the probably apocryphal words attributed to Christopher Marlowe shortly before his death: “To speak the truth would be worth it even if it were just once and one had to die for it.”
Realizing that, realizing how far we’ve come since Larry dared stand up and speak, realizing how much things have changed (and no, not to increased strife. The strife was there before, but only one side was discomfited) I realized how many times even I, who have an avowed problem with authority, even I who moved across the ocean to escape a culture that believed a lot more in one’s allotted place and one’s allotted destiny, have a tendency to accept “my place” and stay in it. Not because I’m afraid, or because it is comfortable, but because it seems inevitable.
It is never inevitable. If something is wrong, fix it. If something is uncomfortable, change it. If something is making you chafe, step out of it.
Oh, sure, there are obligations and promises given, and I’m NOT suggesting you be monstrously self-centered. I’m not talking about the type of situation where someone is dependent on you and you have an obligation to them. All of us go through those situations, and the reward comes in living up to your obligations.
I’m rather talking about those situations where things just aren’t right, where entire fields, or entire offices or entire families or social groups are being run by a small, easily offended clique or by tyrannical individuals who enjoy power, and you stay quiet, because staying quiet is easier and you’re used to it, and you don’t want to buck the trend. It’s not, mind you, that you’re afraid to lose your job, but that people might look at you funny in the break room, and things will change.
In these cases, it is your duty not to know your place. It is your right to speak your mind. It is your time to challenge the status quo. And it is important that you do.
Because politics is downstream from culture, and if you don’t change culture, any change you make to politics will be fleeting. And we’ve let it go far too long.
Know your place. And then forget it. Your place, in a free society, is wherever you want it to be.
Go forth and make it so.