You know that whole “not of bread alone.”  It is true.  Man is not a creature of food and water, of enough oxygen and taking another breath.

Sure you can get humans to that state.  It usuallya takes something like a prison camp, or the vast prison camp that are places like the former soviet union or present day North Korea.  You can get humans to where they wake up every morning and their only goal is to live another day.  They’ll betray anyone, break any law or taboo, eat anything, do anything to survive one more day.  But even in that situation it is not as simple as it sounds.

Man is a creature of story.

We are not, alas, just animals living in the moment (actually we’re not sure animals just live in the moment.  Neurological studies, at least, seem to indicate cats and dogs have memories, ideations and hopes.  And we know elephants do.) We’re creatures of thought as much as of body and our thought needs to have a shape and a direction, too.

Even in prisoner camps — one of the things I read, like I read stories of revolution both successful and failed, and biographies of tyrants, is biographies of people who were reduced to the most extreme conditions and how they survived.  No, I don’t know why.  Shut up — people do have narratives.  What type of narrative they have often determines if they survive.  And it’s not a matter of “positive narratives survive.”  Humans aren’t that simple.  It’s more if you think you’re serving some purpose with your life, you will survive everything.  Some of the successful narratives are “in the end the communists/nazis/this person who kidnapped me and held me in a box under his bed fro seven years” win, “but I can spite them/him by living another hour, another day, and by d*mn and h*ll, I’m going to do it.”

More down to Earth and in normal everyday circumstances, humans live by story.  You might think you don’t have a story in your head, but you do.  It can be as simple as “I’m a really good dad” to “I’m one of the righteous, headed for salvation.”  The narrative in your head will inform how you make big and small choices from “do I give up seeing the movie to play with my kid?” to “Do I buy the big house, or save the money and give it to the poor?” to just about everything.

The story is not just about who you are.  It’s also about what kind of place the world is, and what other people are like.

If you’re the sort of person who thinks that most people, however annoying, are basically decent, just trying to live their lives, it will inform your choices, and your own narrative in a far different way, than if you think every human being who ever lived is a sh*tweasel, and that a not inconsiderable number of them are out to get you personally.  Or that they will be dishonest if given the slightest chance.

It informs your politics.  If you think most average, normal humans are basically despicable, you will crave a big government that will keep “them sonsofdogs” under control, so they can’t hurt/steal from the “good people” like you.  This view requires you to have in your head a natural aristocracy, the “good people” who are like you and don’t have ill intents and can, therefore, be trusted with power.

People who think people are basically decent, though they can respond to incentives not to be, and so we try to keep people free to be as decent as they can be, and not to short-circuit them into being evil.

A lot of our views of the world are informed, not just by news and stories of the real world, but by our entertainment, the religion and legends of our culture, the protocols of our society.

If you expect everyone to be decent, your public holidays and the way you keep your property will be different.  In Portugal where private property isn’t as secure (partly through an history of invasions that got ingrained in the deep consciousness) tall walls surround properties and you don’t leave outside anything you don’t want to walk away.  In the states, in most places, we leave whatever outside in our un-walled properties, secure in the belief it will stay there.

Lately — no, I mean that, more so than in the past — our public narrative has disturbed me.  It is clear from even sitcoms that the writers for television don’t expect anyone to be decent or honest.  They behave as if the average human being is just waiting to become monsters if not watched/if you aren’t vigilant/if laws don’t hold them in check, etc.  Even “heroes” will commit adultery and behave like weasels away from their area of heroism.

These are not just bad narratives, they are objectively wrong narratives.  Even in places like NK or Cuba, good and decency flourish, sometimes as a single grace note, sometimes against all odds.

The thing is that people model themselves on the narrative.  If the societal narrative is “nobody’s clean” you’re going to get more evil.

Also people model what they expect.  If you haven’t discovered The Room by Tommy Wasseau (arguably the worst movie ever made) google something like “what is wrong with The Room” but the narrative of The Room (trust me, I’m not spoiling anything) is a respected, hardworking man who is betrayed by everyone and kills himself. It was written, directed and acted in by an immigrant and in the book about it by one of his co-stars (groan) it is mentioned that the co-star got the odd idea that the guy making the movie thought the main character was “living the dream” even with everyone betraying him, and it ending up in death.

I’ve seen this.  I lived/grew up abroad.  People think that the US is corrupt, horrible, but they still want to live here.  That is because subconsciously, since most of their narrative is imported from the US, they have internalized that “story” as “the way things should be.”

Long ago I came to the conclusion that people raised in the dystopian/rusty future SF of the sixties and seventies thought that the future was supposed to be that way, and got annoyed/upset when it deviated.  A lot of the community’s hatred of Reagan was that he wasn’t heading that way and they got dissonance.  They had to identify him as crazy and also come up with ways that his future would be worse.  Had to.  Because the narrative in their heads demanded it.

A great part of the left meltdown after the election is the narrative being broken.  They thought from now on, it would only be their side in control.  We were the rump of the resistance, old people who “just need to die.”  That in SF/F this was said by a woman who is all of ten years my Junior tells you how much this is a crazy narrative in their heads.  They thought that history had an arrow, and they were “on the right” (left) “side.”

They will now be concocting stories to fit the narrative, to explain how they’re still on the right side, even if they lose.

How successful that rebuild will be depends on how much respite they get.

But for us the important part is this: the world our kids inherit is more dependent on story than on facts on the ground.  Story shapes the future.  It can’t completely shape it, against the facts, but it can shape it more than you’d think from the outside.

We need stories in which humans are decent and in which the future can be exciting/interesting and prosperous WITHOUT being either poliannish or boring.

Some of these got through even when the gatekeepers were trying to enforce their bleak vision, but now we are largely free of them.  (Okay, not totally, they still have the big megaphone, but given their cluelessness, it’s a matter of time.)

You know what to do. Go create a narrative for a society of freedom and human happiness.  You can do it.  If you don’t write, you can always read and review, can’t you?  And you can reward good shows and avoid those that aren’t.  And you can discuss worldviews in shows with other people?

Go forth and work.  Be not afraid, and create a future in which fear is less and less warranted.

327 thoughts on “Narratives

  1. It is clear from even sitcoms that the writers for television don’t expect anyone to be decent or honest.

    The thing to remember is, Hollywood is about three generations into “plan on everyone always being a fundamentally bad guy” being the only survivable business perspective, and that is naturally going to be reflected in the content they produce.

    This disconnect between the way normal people act and the way Hollywood acts has only grown as more and more of the entertainment business has become hereditary, both in front and behind the camera – as it becomes harder and harder to break in to any aspect of that business without family connections, fewer and fewer people from the real world come in as creative contributors, and so their normal-world values are a smaller and smaller fraction of the aggregate cultural landscape.

    In the end I expect there will be an open break between Hollywood and the real world, and I expect Hollywood to come off the worst for it.

    1. Frankly, with youtube and cheaper and cheaper cameras and affects, I would say the destruction of Hollywood is just waiting for a dedicated small circle of people to start writing and filming their own shows. You see if with the Star Trek fan shows and other stuff – but once people make a break with already established intellectual property and start with their own – then what happens?

      If you make a series of shorts, can you make enough through ad revenue with youtube to turn a profit? We have been kicking the idea around my family’s dinner table. Maybe we should kick it around some more…


          1. I don’t know; I was quite pleased when watching the Netflix Voltron remake with my ten-year-old daughter, and SHE was over the moon.

      1. There are already people routing around Hollywood. Indy films may not be multi-million dollar profit centers, but there are lots of small companies out there. North By Northwest (out of Spokane) is still around (at least 18 years now), and though they do more ads than feature films, they still have that positive outlook that seems to be missing from mainstream Hollywood. (I mention them specifically because a film they did back in 1999 features several people that I know.) With digital purchasing, you don’t even have to keep a movie “in print” to have it be available.

        I’ve seen people praising movies that I never knew existed. I think people look for the positive—and of course that’s why cat videos are so popular.

          1. I saw at Instapundit thjis morning a story of the Chinese buying into Hollywood movie companies.

        1. Interesting that you mention ads. My husband and I have been noticing recently that far too many ads seem to be going for the “our customers are horrible people” philosophy. I mean, I can sort of understand the idea of, “Our products are so wonderful that people will do things to get them that would make your average crack addict say, ‘Dude, you’ve got a problem,'” but this isn’t even that. These are people who already have the product in question and aren’t trying to get more, but are just being dicks to other for the sake of doing it. Things like the “Messin’ With Sasquatch” ads where the consumers of the beef jerky being advertised are jerks to Sasquatch for no reason at all.

          I remember once seeing an ad that rejected this philosophy and showed the owner of the car being advertised doing things like paying the toll for the people behind him and slowing down to avoid splashing a group of people waiting at a bus stop. But when I say I saw this ad ONCE, I mean it; it was on for one particular sporting event, then I never saw it again.

          1. At least the “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry” ads have the person improve when they get a Snickers.

          2. The first time a company’s advertising put me off their products was in the late 1980s, with Logitech’s “Einstein in a tutu” and “pissing baby” ads. Like, WTF?!

            I haven’t bought or recommended anything of theirs since.

    2. I read RPG blogs, even though too much of an anti-social loner to have role played. One pointed out how much world building the GM can do by how they play the NPCs. Like if every hireling is backstabber. Since I’ve been noticing that more in stories.

      1. Where do I find an RPG blog?
        I do my best DMing by stealing from multiple sources. You know, research.

        1. dungeonfantastic dot blogspot dot com
          gamingballistic dot com
          jeffro dot wordpress dot com

          Off the top of my head, as a starting point. Pete’s sidebar especially has a lot of stuff. Jeffro has some ‘best of gaming blogs’ stuff that was my entry or reentry point.

        2. I don’t know; a rocket propelled grenade blog is gotta have a pretty narrow range, at least in English. Can you read Russian or Arabic? (I can’t, despite those playing cards the Army had.)

          1. The last time my Dad helped me moved, he was concerned abut the boxes marked “PRG Manuals.”

        3. Research, it’s not just for DM’s. Some of my best players have been even more widely read than I- okay, that may not be a tall hurdle in some areas (Asian history), but I do alright in ancient civ’s from the fertile crescent and westward.

          I’ve not heard of an “RPG blog” either, but there were some old BBS’s that I hung about back in the day with long running threads that added up to essentially story rounds, some of them quite good, others, eh… less said the better. Might be that some of those grew up and became bloggers? Anything’s possible.

          1. Apparently there are forums that some of the original D&D folks are or were active on. A lot of imageboards have quest things that are more what you are talking about.

          2. Well, Mary’s LJ isn’t specifically RPG, but I pass on a lot of the stuff she posts for research to my husband, so he can use it for RPG.


            SuburbanBanshee on WordPress, likewise, though she’s got a lot more religious-or-history type geekery.

            Via her, I ran into roger-pearse blog, make it com, who also has a ton of cool ancient stuff. The Cult of Mythras (sp) posts are really interesting.

    3. From all reports of the types of psychopaths who succeed as Hollywood producers and performers it is hardly surprising their stories would justify their behaviours.

      Wayyyyyyy back when, I was talking with a psychiatrist who couldn’t grasp my fondness for SF/F. In his world movie the currently popular Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange was documentary, not dystopic. I opted out of living in his world.

      They had to fill the Game of Thrones screen with nipples to get people watching the show but that’s no reason to view Life as a series of cascading car wrecks. Given good stories people will always gravitate toward those no matter how many boobs are offered elsewhere.

      1. I think that this is the reason for the Star Wars phenomena – people perhaps first went to see that first film because it had new special effects and such, but if it had had a depressing story with a grey goo world it would never have become the beginning of a such successful franchise. But the good guys were clearly good, the bad guys clearly bad and you could cheer for the good ones with no second thoughts, the story was fairly well told and the good guys won. It was fun, it was positive and it stood out, very much, from what Hollywood was mostly offering at the time. Perhaps it got a bit more nuanced with the second movie but the good guys were still clearly good and it didn’t descend too far into “complicated”.

        1. Further, in <IThe Empire Strikes Back we had the expansion of Han Solo’s “bad boy turns good” redemption story with Lando Calrissian’s story arc. The second film deepened and enriched the lode discovered in the first film.

          1. West End Games put it succinctly in their Star Wars RPG. To paraphrase, while some characters may start out gray, they never stay that way in a Star Wars story. Before the story is over, those characters have to be clearly good or clearly bad.

        2. But-but- Han Shot First! *chuckle* Seriously, though. Star Wars had a good, classic, fantasy-in-space story going for it. And, like Sarah mentioned… there was purpose.

          That purpose involves reason, the drive, the motive force for the action. If it was a weak purpose, like, say, Han and his estranged wife Leia’s angsty son having a lifelong temper tantrum, it might’ve never made it to the second movie… But it took the time to tell a story right. The pacing in the main series works well, even the “I kissed my brother” bits didn’t kick you out of the story. Good story can overcome flaws.

          1. Han shot first, but he was clearly justified in shooting first. Greedo was clearly planning on killing Han, and no one at that time thought Han needed to wait until Greedo had actually fired his gun before acting in self-defense.

            1. If Han was justified in shooting first, the Bush doctrine of preemptive war cannot be rejected out of hand! Therefore we must reedit the film to redact Han’s action.

            2. Nod, Han “shot first” because he lived in a “world” where if you didn’t you’d be dead and yes it was obvious that Greedo was going to shoot Han.

              The problem with the “Greedo shot first” idea is that Lucas forgot Han’s “character type” and was stuck in the “Heroes never shoot first” idiocy.

              Han Solo was the “classic rogue” who helps out the heroes only because he’s paid.

              But he was also the “classic rogue” who leaves his rogueness because he finds something worth fighting for.

              Lucas forgot that and was stuck in the same narrow-minded view of “what is a hero” that SJWs sneer at.

                1. For superheroes, it’s sort of a rationale for why every comic book doesn’t devolve down to “Punisher with super-powers”. Plus, recycling bad guys means that you don’t need to come up with a brand new one every issue. And it’s kind of hard to recycle most of them when they’re dead.

                  So it’s a story-telling convention that started out both to keep the stories from getting too dark, and to make life a bit easier for the writers.

                  1. Nod.

                    In the Wearing The Cape series, the superheroes do the “superheroes don’t use guns” as part of their Public Relations campaign to establish that they’re the “Good Guys”.

                    Of course, in that world the superheroes don’t “fight crime” unless the police call them in and/or the criminals have superpowers.

                    Only one of the characters played the vigilante and that character kept a very low profile so that the regular police didn’t have to notice the vigilante.

            3. I don’t know of a single jurisdiction where an individual holding a pistol pointed at you, with their big floppy suction cup fingers quite clearly on the trigger, is not a threat, and such a threat as to cause a reasonable person to fear death or significant bodily harm.

              Add to that both direct verbal threats to kill Han, plus one could probably add attempted strong arm robbery under Imperial Criminal Code section 87.28437-B when Greedo indicated that if Han forked over the money Han supposedly owed a third party, Greedo would possibly decide to not kill him.

              As such, in the midst of the commission of several crimes, Greedo’s direct threat fully justified Han’s use of sufficient force (heh) to stop that threat.

            4. Prediction:

              Han will turn out to be a nascent Jedi. Greedo shot the point on the wall Han casually tapped on. He had feelings about things. And he’s likely to appear as a “blue ghost” cameos in future movies.

          1. The planet from “Avatar”? That movie did perhaps well on strength of pretty to look at, but while it undoubtedly still has its devoted fans now – and the sequels will also probably sell well enough if/when they finally get done – it does seem to have sort of disappeared from general view now. No catchphrases or similar used in any other stories, or hot fictional geek girls dressing up as the blue cat princess on shows where some of the characters are geeks or nerds, it’s still always a slave Leia costume.

            1. Yes, pretty to look at, Indeed, first and only time I paid extra for the 3D experience. But the premise? In order to get their Unobtainium (really?) the Corporation has to tear up the blue folks’ tree? WTH, has nobody heard of horizontal drilling in the 2Xth century?

              1. yeah, my sequel for the movie is about six minutes long and involves the FTL-capable humans dropping a big rock on Eywa.

                1. Actually, they’re not FTL-capable. Which makes it even sillier. They’re gonna mine a chemical compound and *ship it to Earth in antimatter-powered sublight ships*??!!

                  1. J——n S——i’s Blurry Nation (his crime against the memory of H. Beam Piper) has the Evil Humans exploiting the distant planet to mine coal. 🙄

                    1. Wait. What?
                      Ox not have much caffeine.
                      Ox have some alcohol.
                      Ox read parent comment many times now.
                      Ox still think he flushes better BS than that.
                      Interplanetary (or interstellar?!) travel.. for coal?
                      Is joke, right?
                      What, coal (and water, and oxygen) to heat the boilers for the steam plants that turn the generators for the reactionless drives?
                      Os think he go back to serious science fiction, like, say, DangerMouse.

                    2. and the irony is we only use as much coal as we do because his side just spent forty years opposing widespread nuclear power in the united states….

              2. What turned me off of that movie was how the main character was being an idiot. He’s supposedly a Marine, but he can’t take orders! He gets told “When you wake up in your new body, take it easy until you get used to it.” So what does he do? Flail around like an idiot, right next to a window. A window to the outside, where the pressure is low enough that the base has to be specially pressurized. That’s the point at which my brain went “If Ringo was writing this, the idiot just broke the window, depressurized the base, and killed everybody. The end.” And I couldn’t follow the story anymore — for me, my interest ended right there at the 10- or 15-minute mark. I don’t care for stories where the protagonist is unlikeable, and failing to follow basic safety precautions that have been repeatedly hammered into you = unlikeable, at least for me.

                Yes, I’ll grant that 18-20 year old males don’t always follow safety procedures. But that doesn’t change how instant a turnoff that scene was for me.

                1. Italics should have ended after the first occurrence of “window”. Missed the slash on the closing tag.

                2. That too. And he wasn’t the only idiot. Perhaps they should have made a story where some unnoticed spore or mold on Pandora has been infecting the humans and causing most of them to act in stupid and overly aggressive ways. :/

                3. Not just him then, but the people who designed things or set up that layout that invites that disaster. Sure, laziness and bureaucracy will over time result in Emergent Stupidity, but usually someone goes, “Wait a moment, won’t this get us all killed?” for the big stuff. Usually.

            2. We rented the DVD. I lost interest about ten minutes into it. About halfway through my wife said “I’ve had enough of this” and turned it off.

        3. From reports at the time, the positive message is exactly why the first Star Wars was so popular. This was a Saturday Serial, 1970s version. Cinematic SF was sinking in gray goo. This was the era of Soylent Green, the first Planet of the Apes series, of Silent Running. And this was an era when even cowboy movies had about sunk in gray goo. Then Star Wars came along. The good were good, the bad were bad, the message was positive, and people loved it. Loved it so much that the opening score made the top 10 on the pop charts. Essentially, it was all because no one really likes gray goo.

          1. > Silent Running.

            Way back when, the two local stations aired both Silent Running and Killdozer. At the same time. I naturally chose “Silent Running” and sat there bored through most of it.

            Many years later I saw Killdozer and realized that it was a *much* better movie. And Hollywood wasn’t able to mung the original Sturgeon short story beyond recognition.

    4. “Good is stupid” fits very well in here– remember how Duck Dynasty was *supposed* to be pointing and laughing at those horrible dumb hicks with their guns and religion?

      And when that didn’t work, they tried to put pressure… on the rich guys who had told them they were only accepting because of family and faith. And it didn’t work.

      I still can’t stand the show, along with most any shows that aren’t documentary ish, but hehehehe! ❤ ❤ ❤

      1. I watch every so often, because Mom’s side of the family has a lot in common with some of the Duck Dynasty guys. Apparently my 4 great uncles were . . . quite something, and Mom’s dad’s family (from Louisiana), well, even their character traits were real characters. 🙂

  2. What do you think Sarah? Maybe adapt Darkship to a serial on youtube – like the old radio serials, but instead in video? Need to go with a PG rating probably – but it is a thought….

      1. Live actors? Against green screen so that there is minimum requirements for props and such? Plenty of aspiring actors in the world, as well as directors etc, and it shouldn’t be that hard to find people who could do the computer effects either. And you might find even good ones who would be willing to work for free now, after all doing things like that has been one of the ways to get noticed and find paying work in the business during the last decade or so (Star Wreck…). Advertise for it, make contracts which make sure they will make your story, not theirs, and will be unable to use anything of yours you haven’t given them a permission to use and who knows, it might work.

          1. Alternatively, see if you could broker a deal with one of the indy film companies getting movies made (e.g dead gentlemen, arrowstorm, others) to buy the film rights and make the movie(s)/series for you? I see a lot of indy sf/f films being listed on kickstarter and back some of them. I know I’d be willing to back a Hoyt IP-made-into-film if it popped up.

        1. …or just see if Samuli Torssonnen is bored right now. And if he learned his lesson about “who has the, makes the rules.”

          Even the worst of his Star Wreck movies was better than Iron Sky…

          1. Heh. Yep. But he did manage to get a career out of a few cheaply made fan films. So starting with something like that might work, a few good shorts with the characters, freely available on youtube etc, then if they become popular crowdsourcing – maybe even for a full length feature film, but one which again is available online, no attempt yet to get into the traditional distribution channels – or maybe a serial (would probably work better).

            Don’t even try for the actual movie at first. Start slow, and cheap, and see if you can get the required push build that way.

            And I still think it might be possible to get good enough actors etc who’d work for free. Sarah has a following so something based on her work might look like a chance to get their faces and names out there for people who desperately do want an acting career (and all the other jobs required for producing a film) because the competition there is cutthroat, and anything which might elevate them even a little bit above the crowd, make them even a little bit more visible, should attract at least some competent enough aspirants.

  3. It seems that too many Liberals were thinking Hillary Clinton was the True Heir to Obama and can’t stand the idea that Trump “stole” her Rightful Place. 😦

  4. Oh….. okay. I’ll stop reading and get back to work, now that my husband the economics major has just solved the current plot problem. On your own head be it.

    What do you think of Scott Adams’ theory that perception of reality is dependent on “the movie in your head”? Seems very similar to your “story” theory, though not so clearly expressed. (or maybe it’s just that I like stories better than movies)

    1. That sounds like a statement of the same idea. If you look at a selective attention test, like the one about the basketball passing, you will key in on what you’re primed to expect and are likely to miss something that should be blindingly obvious. If the story in your head is priming you to spot the negative, you’re going to see it, because it’s rare that something is unalloyed positive.

      1. Here is an example of how “Teh Narrative” can be used …

        … although it is less profound than its promoters likely imagine. Two and a half minutes, watch it twice and parse their technique.

        1. they act like all shooting is evil and even “shooting” your hand is evidence of being a psychopath. vandalism of school property can cost a lot of money. I know that sounds old fogeyish but really writing on a library desk? There are all kinds of interactive media.

          1. I know that sounds old fogeyish but really writing on a library desk?

            XD. That was my first thought too.

        2. I think I understand what they are trying to say, and why, when I think deeply about what they are trying to say, the message falls flat.

          (1) The computer screen — we’re supposed to look over everyone’s shoulders, to see what they’re looking at in public spaces? Isn’t that rude? And besides, how do we tell a difference between fascination with weapons, and someone planning to do something evil?

          (2) The bullying — how many kids are bullied every year, who never become mass shooters?

          (3) The social profile picture — so you’re saying that we should have considered, say, Trayvon Martin, to be a potential shooter or thug?

          (4) The gesture — how many people use that gesture for all sorts of reasons?

          The problem is that we’d *like* to think we can predict human behavior…but how many individuals are out there, who fulfill *all* these conditions, but won’t hurt a fly? To further complicate matters, there are mass shooters who *don’t* fulfill these conditions — sometimes don’t have any warning signs at all — as well as those who *do* show warning signs, but we can’t treat them, because they haven’t yet demonstrated that they are a harm to themselves or others…

          Their narrative sounds nice, but they make a complex issue sound very simple.

          1. I have generally found it is pretty easy to project human behaviour, in retrospect. When people project it going forward they tend to engage in stereotyping, negative profiling, and various types of phobia.

            1. Yes, I think that’s the essence of the problem. When something bad happens, we’re always trying to find out what caused it — and the thing is, sometimes it’s just random chance, and sometimes it *might* be possible to figure out what went wrong (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because we can hopefully take steps in preventing what happened from happening again), but it’s *so* easy to notice patterns that aren’t really there, and then say “if only we watch for these things, we can stop what’s happening” but completely miss the mark.

          1. I’m saying she must be as crazy as the rest of us, since she puts up with this kind of pun. Geesh…. See if I invite writers I admire to visit again.
            Oh, wait. It don’t invite them. They just drop in…

  5. You’ve been reading Scot Adams’ blog, haven’t you?

    As regular readers of this blog already know, human brains did not evolve to understand reality in any deep way. If some of us survive and procreate, that’s good enough for evolution. It doesn’t matter that you live in a movie that says you will reincarnate after you die, while I live in a movie that says reality is a software simulation, and perhaps our mutual friend lives in a movie in which his prophet flew to heaven on a winged horse. Those are very different realities, but it doesn’t stop any of us from procreating. This lesson about the subjective nature of reality is one we learned from watching Trump’s march to the election. As the world looked on, everything they thought they understood about Trump’s chances dissolved in front of them. And yet the world still worked fine.

    You can learn a lot from the stories a culture tells, and even more from a longitudinal study of how those stories (as any student of the Grimm Brothers can attest) evolve over time.

    I think the power of story may be greater now than ever before, even than when Og and Gook sat around the fire in the primordial cave. Stories permeate out lives in far greater ways than most of us realize, not just in what we read (even/especially in news … #BlackLivesMatter, White Hispanic, Fake but Accurate) and not just in cinema and on the Telly, but in the interstices between stories and in the aisles at the store (ever play “Rorschach” with the pictures in the make-up aisle? They have these HUGE blow-ups of young women with the most curious expressions on their faces … every picture tells a story.)

    Immersed in this reality of competing stories, it can require conscious efforts to focus on the good stories, the ones that keep us fighting rather than giving in …

    “Whatever Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets
    And little man, little Lola wants you
    Make up your mind to have
    (Make up you mind to have)
    No regrets (no regrets)
    Recline yourself
    Resign yourself, you’re through

    … and the ones which remind us it is better to fight for the dream of Narnia rather than accept life as a meat puppet.

    Make the effort, and make stories that remind others that:

    “One word, Ma’am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

      1. I read Narnia on my own at age five, and have occasionally wondered since how much of my worldview has been shaped by that moment from Puddleglum. Because to my tiny mind he was The Grownup, and that scene wasn’t so much “awesome heroism” (which it is) as it is “what grownups DO” (which I aspire to).

          1. Lot of my mind set came from Durnik (Belgariad) telling Garion that he gives a wagon axle pin as much effort as a scythe or knife, because even though nobody sees the first one, he knows it’s there and if he did a lousy job on it it would fill him with shame every time he saw the wagon pass by. So that’s similar, I suppose.

            1. Who said that you should do everything as if you were painting the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel…? I think that might be going a bit overboard, but not that bad an advice if you allow yourself to slack a bit when doing something like sweeping a floor you know will need to be swept the next day again no matter how thoroughly you do it today.

              1. Well, the latter, if you don’t do it, you end up with ants and roaches, and because they’re there, the spiders come in.

                And the spiders like warm, dark places like children’s beds.

                *grin* My kids sweep the floor every day out of fear!

      2. When I was young, The Silver Chair was my least favorite of all of the Narnia books. When I got older, I went back and reread it, and I have a much greater appreciation for it.

      1. There’s a strange way that ideas have of getting into multiple minds at once these days. It might be a result of our greatly interconnected world these days, or advertising (which tells stories constantly), or something completely unexpected. My money is quite definitively not on the side of mind control by microscopic alien viruses, mind.

        It is quite possible, even probable, that two widely separated people seeing many of the same trends where our worlds connect come up with quite similar points (yes, obvious, I know). That may be a bit of how we got our current political situation, come to think on it.

        1. I think that his juveniles are some of Heinlein’s best work. The Phantom Tollbooth was amazing.

          How do I fix things? I unsubscribed and now wordpress ignores me!

        2. It actually happens a lot more often than we realize. It’s one of several reasons why I don’t like patents…

    1. “I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

      I need this line on a button, or a sampler or something. Yes, I love Puddleglum’s speech, from the first time I read The Silver Chair way back as a kid, and I like it more and more the older I get.

      And yes, different cultures’ narratives say so much about the cultures themselves – the stories are the main ways of transmitting those narratives (which is why we’ve got things like China’s Cultural Revolution, which tried to make a new culture by destroying all traces of the old one).

      If the narrative is wrong, reality will smash it – the old, “if you aren’t a socialist at 15, you have no heart; if you aren’t a conservative/capitalist at 25, you have no brain.” Only we have so many ways for people to avoid reality now, for their entire lives. So many bubble worlds, especially for people who work in words, and words are dangerous, because they aren’t real.

      It makes me want to require, say, an automatic 2 years military service for everyone (think what that would do for, say, Lena Dunham?)

      1. Nothing. She would be given an administrative job, procured by her adult family. Servitude is wrong and stupid and doesn’t solve anything. Military service is admirable int he face of need and if it’s voluntary.

            1. Other than the occasional media mention, I live in a happy state of ignorance regarding Mz Dunham, her works, life, and the rest.

            2. Military service should be voluntary, but failure to serve should be socially and professionally disqualifying outside of compelling justification.

              There is a tension between what people should be expected to want to do and what they can be required to do. You cannot legislate love of country, any more than even G-D can legislate love of parents. Mandating love negates it.

        1. If you’re waiting to do your military service until you are actually in the face of need, you are probably being attacked by someone’s conscript army. At that point, it’s too late for an all-volunteer force to do much good. This is why even the most liberal and democratic regimes have resorted to conscription. If you want to call the entire human race wrong and stupid, that’s your prerogative, but it says more about you than about the rest of us.

          1. I’ve been under the impression that the U.S. is doing all right with a volunteer army as far as numbers, but since my impressions come from the media, that probably doesn’t mean much.

            1. The U.S. has resorted to conscription in every war in which the survival of the nation was threatened, and at least two wars in which it was not. Your impression has been formed from an unrepresentative sample of American history.

              1. How many wars have we had “in which the survival of the nation was threatened”?

                Small sample sizes do not make for good projections. Until 1776 there had never been a colony which broke from it’s mother country. Democratic self-governance is historically more notable for its faiure than its success, so by your logic it, too, is a loser’s game.

          2. The US did a rather nice job of cutting between the two extremes– right there in the second amendment it says that everybody is going to need to be able to fight, because that’s how you stay safe.

            Kinda implies that folks are going to be expected to fight.

            1. The US didn’t have much of a standing army, but conscription was initially done by federalizing militia units. That initially was similar to the draft: Able-bodied? Voting citizen in a certain age range? Congratulations: You’re in the militia. States created militia districts; member lists were drawn up by . . . drawing a blank here, but maybe associated with the local Judicial branch. Initially officers were appointed by the state, where the governor served as CINC.

              Anyway, when the US Army needed manpower, they federalized the militia. That could be a sore point at times.

              Note: My knowledge essentially stops soon after the War of 1812. Something changed, but I don’t know what.

          3. Conscription is an artifact of a style of war that has had its day, and gone away until conditions change. Mass conscript armies are creatures of specific sets of conditions, ones that no longer obtain. We are going back to the same sort of era before the French Revolution when European military power was based on small, professional forces that the reigning monarchs carefully and jealously guarded, knowing that if they let the genie of military power out of the bottle, they were going to come tumbling down.

            The mass conscript army needs certain conditions, some technological, some social, some purely military. The early Roman Republic met those conditions, and was able to parlay them into an empire; the French revolutionaries recognized that conditions had shifted, and that Europe was again ripe for such things.

            What’s happened now is that the machinery of war has become so expensive, so complex, and so esoteric as to be not easily adapted to the conditions of mass warfare. When it takes you years of work to build a fighter jet or frigate, and years of training for your private soldiers to master the complexities of their trade, you’re no longer in an era where a mob of tyros picked up off the street or out of the farm fields can prevail against the professionals. That’s where we are, now.

            Which is not to say that things can’t change again, just that they’re not right for the whole “draft ’em in” thing to really work. The pendulum has swung away from mass conscript, and towards professionalism.

            Will it go back? What would it take to do so? Points that might be worth looking at, but the fact is, right now, the professional soldier is so much more effective than his opposite that the only real way they can engage is via the IED and terror campaigns. This is not a sign of health, in terms of the other side’s military potential. The only real reason they’ve had the limited success they’ve managed is due to the self-imposed Rules of Engagement we’ve adopted, and the minute those go out the window…?

            Buh-bye, most of the terrorist-supporting world. For examples, see the after-effects of some fool using a WMD on a Chinese or Trump-run American city. With people like Obama or Hillary running the US, I don’t know what the results would be–Hell, might even be worse for the Arabs. Frightening a coward is never a wise move; they’re horribly prone to overreaction and doing foolish, unpredictable things.

            What is interesting about the current era is what I’d term the “democratization of violence”. You see it in the ISIS and al Qaeda propaganda, where they’re urging their adherents to take up the sword, willy-nilly, and kill the Kufer wherever they can get at them. This is something that hasn’t seen much counter-punch, but it will come. I don’t know where the tipping point is going to be, but there will be one, and on the other side of it will be where you see random Muslims getting killed just for being Muslim in the wrong place at the wrong time. The tactic is too satisfying, too easy, and all too likely to be used. Probably really informally on our side, but it will be used, nonetheless.

            Conversely, the counter to such things as the “sudden Jihad syndrome” is the “armed citizen” approach seen with the attacks in Texas. Getting your Jihad on is damned hard, when there aren’t many unarmed victims around; the armed ones make it damned hard to get real traction. Pull a Mumbai in San Francisco or New York, and you’ll get good results; do the same in Spokane, or Dallas, and the whole thing isn’t likely to end very well for you. Do it at the wrong time, and in the wrong way, and you’ll get to find out what the hell happened to the various warlike American Indian tribes. With the added fun of getting thrown the hell out of the country with what you’re standing up in. I don’t think Americans would do concentration/extermination camps for avowed enemy religions, but I can easily see revoked citizenships and deportations for those unwilling to give up the basic tenets of a self-declared enemy religion.

            The nature of war has changed, in our era, and most of that change is due to the completely one-sided dominance we’ve achieved on the field of battle. When you are reduced to use of IEDs and sniping at the logistics bubbas, that’s not a sign you’re winning. You might be able to convince people like the US to leave you the hell alone, but that’s also kind of the martial equivalent of defecating on yourself; the beating is only stopping because you’re so disgusting that the guy doing it doesn’t want to get dirty. He could still (and possibly will, on the way out…) curb-stomp your excrement-covered ass. While you’ve stopped him, you also haven’t won. He’s still capable of gritting his teeth and destroying you, utterly, while you’re unable to stop him.

            So long as we maintain this dominance, the enemy strategy is going to be to attack the places we’re not strong, like our civilian population and rear areas. In this kind of war, mass conscription and professional armies are nearly impotent and irrelevant. It’s all about the battle in shadows, with the propagandists and enablers on the other side, the forces ranged against them on ours, and the civil population. The US has the advantage over places like Europe, if only because of the self-securing features of our civil culture. In Europe, once you’ve taken out the thin shell of the security forces, there’s really not a lot you have in your way going after the citizenry.

            In the US? LOL… You’d better hope you don’t manage to take out all the security forces, because they’re going to be the only people looking to take you into custody and let you live. Pull a Mumbai in Amarillo, and you’re probably going to be lucky if you’re only hunted through the streets like a dog, and then hung from the nearest tree. Worst case scenario, you might find out that there are still people out there who remember the traditions of the Comanche. And, who put the film of your expiration up on YouTube. Just as a warning, see?

            1. Kirk…. I was one of the Navy’s enlisted groups that takes the longest training, with the Nukes being the only guys who are even longer.

              The turn around was less than a year and a half before I hit the fleet, and that was with 9/11 totally screwing things up so I had three periods where I was in limbo because of paperwork. From boot-camp to boots on the ground could have been a year, easily, without changing the schools.

              And it’s a job that has to be done, or that jet is not going to get in the air. Like most of the jobs in the military, it’s support.

              1. That’s the point I was making; the era when you could pick up a kid off the street and make him an effective riflemen in a few weeks of training is over, for right now. The Soviets learned that the hard way in WWII, and the lesson didn’t stick; they traded lives for expertise and training, with the loss ratios showing the tale. It’s no accident that the Germans spent a year or more training their basic infantryman, and the Soviets were throwing unarmed kids with no training into the battle. The exchange ratios tell you how well that worked for them–The overall average is something like an unGodly 10:1 rate, which is so one-sidedly bad that had the German high command not been utter nutters, they might well have prevailed–Which, given what the relative strengths were, on paper, is utterly insane.

                You get down to it, and there’s no way some spirited young mob of dedicated fanatics can stand up to the full range of US-style industrial war. And, a large part of it comes down to that professionalization I’m talking about–As a Navy technical rating, you’re a cog in a disciplined machine that produces precision firepower that is so devastating as to be irresistable at the level of “young fanatic with AK4”, and when ranged against a Marine or Army platoon calling on the systemic firepower represented and enabled by you and your fellow naval ratings… Yikes. There’s no wonder they’re doing the IED thing, and trying to blow up buildings in Kenya. That’s the only way they can fight, on the edges and peripheries.

                Is it potentially effective enough to win their strategic goals? I don’t think so; the history of these things militates against it. What the most likely outcome is that they’re going to annoy us to the point where most of us just go “end this bullshit”, and let the men like GEN Mattis loose. The point that the Arabs don’t get is that when a warrior takes on a professional soldier, the outcome is almost never in their favor. The warrior relies on personal glory and loot; the professional simply wants his paycheck and to go home to his family. If that means erasing the warrior and his cultural matrix from existence, oh well… We’re really good at that, once the civilians quit meddling. You will note that the Japanese haven’t been talking too much shit about “Bushido”, of late, nor have the Germans been talking up the “Master Race” thing, either. I’ve no doubt that the Arabs are eventually going to get us to a point where we do to them what we did to the Comanche and the Japanese: Destroy all their warriors, and cull their populations of that genotype. Assuming Islam still exists in the 22nd Century, it is going to look a lot different than it does today.

                1. That’s the point I was making; the era when you could pick up a kid off the street and make him an effective riflemen in a few weeks of training is over, for right now.

                  When your high end technical guys take less than a year to go from “high school graduate” to “functioning technician,” it goes against your point.

                  Especially since we have a standing military, so we can afford to draft, train, and then send them to replace the existing volunteers.

                  1. No, it doesn’t; you’re missing the whole system that is able to create that technician. That sort of organization doesn’t spring from the ground when some idiot like bin Laden casts his dragon’s teeth on the ground.

                    Note how hard the Russians have it, when trying to do carrier ops. In the last month, they’ve put two aircraft into the Med; meanwhile, the US Navy is conducting air operations from our carriers that make what the Russians are trying to do look like child’s play–Literally.

                    Yeah, we can produce a trained tech in a year; how about if you’re starting from institutional ground zero? How long would it take for Saudi Arabia to produce a native-born Saudi fleet aviation electronics tech? One that was the equivalent of a US Navy technician?

                    It looks real easy, but the fact is that it’s like that famous recipe for rabbit stew: First, catch a rabbit…

                    1. No, it doesn’t; you’re missing the whole system that is able to create that technician. That sort of organization doesn’t spring from the ground when some idiot like bin Laden casts his dragon’s teeth on the ground.

                      Yes, it does, because your original claim was:

                      Conscription is an artifact of a style of war that has had its day, and gone away until conditions change. Mass conscript armies are creatures of specific sets of conditions, ones that no longer obtain. We are going back to the same sort of era before the French Revolution when European military power was based on small, professional forces that the reigning monarchs carefully and jealously guarded, knowing that if they let the genie of military power out of the bottle, they were going to come tumbling down.

                    2. Fox, you’re missing the forest for the trees–A conscript force cannot afford to spend a year training a technician because they are going to be gone by the time their training is over, and they’ve learned enough “on the job” to be worth a damn.

                      Most conscript forces have a max of two years time in in uniform; training someone for half that time, and then having them in uniform for only an additional few months is completely unaffordable–Unless you’re going to go North Korean or Roman, with 10 or 25 year minimum terms of service, respectively.

                      Yeah, you could do what we did during the last draft, and offer those technical jobs to long-service volunteers, but that’s not a true conscript force; that’s a mixed one, with both professionals and conscripts serving side-by-side.

                    3. Let me see if I get this.

                      Because the US has a force of both career volunteers, and volunteers who stay in for several years, we have plenty of trained people to start and continue fighting a war with. We also have the voluntary National Guard. (Although we should stop abusing that.)

                      If we needed a whole bunch more people, a la WWII, it would only take us a year at most to get those people going. (Especially since our people are sufficiently educated.) But there would be a lot of stuff to teach.

                      Having a year of universal service for men, like the Russians do, would just make our folks annoyed, because they would not have enough time to get useful, much less motivation. Universal ROTC or gun training would seem more to the point, but not everybody wants to learn that. And again, there is a lot more to learn.

                      If there is a war, better to rely on American volunteerism to provide willing, self-selected reinforcements.

                    4. @suburbanbanshee:

                      The problem yourun into with your rapid expansion armies is that you very quickly run out of cadre. A huge part of what makes the US or British model of a professional army work are the experienced professional non-commissioned officers that take years to create. You can’t pull a Staff Sergeant squad leader who has spent nearly a decade in uniform, been on multiple deployments, and who has the extensive and expensive training experience he needs to do his job as an effective combat-multiplier. We tried that crsp during the Civil War, and discovered that not having those guys in the ranks led to huge problems. The South took what limited cadre they had, and used it like yeast, sprinkling them all ovef all their units. The North put their limited numbers of professionals out on the frontier, to keep the Indians in check. The difference in effectiveness between the two armies was discernible, until the North had enough on-the-job training to match the South.

                      Britain had the same issue in WWI; same problems with not having sufficient professionals to serve as cadre. Same results. In today’s more complex warfare, the problem is even worse; when you are deploying forces to the other side of the planet, not having the pros around gets very expensive in terms of human life. And, you can’t just create those guys out of thin air; the actual reasons for US success in 2003 go back to the money and time we lavished on training as far back as the 1980s, when the senior leaders in that fight were learning their trades in the large-scale exercises of that era. It takes fifteen years to create a really good platoon sergeant or field-grade officer, and without them, things devolve into chaos. Which means your mass conscript forces wind up having to take absolutely massive numbers of casualties in order to prevail. See previously mentioned Soviet forces in WWII, for examples.

                  2. On Draft vs Volunteer Force.

                    One thing to think about is that the US always had a standing army which was smaller (per our population) than any other country.

                    We were able to “get away with it” because we didn’t have a potentially hostile foe that was our peer on the other side of our border.

                    The British in Canada were our peers (or better) but after the War of 1812, we had little reason to see the British as an enemy.

                2. Your conclusion about who is going to win that one is correct– although thanks to human nature, there will always be the next “warrior” type guy coming around, who either disrespects the Marines because they will fight for the guy next to them, or thinks the Marines are “personal glory” type warriors. When the Marines (archtype, but strong and obvious pattern) are scary because they’re what happens when you have a warrior and a soldier in the same spot.

                3. A Brief History of the NRA. Dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops, Union veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate formed the National Rifle Association in 1871. … After being granted a charter by the state of New York on November 17, 1871, the NRA was founded.
                  NRA | About the NRA

                  This was from a nation with a long-standing tradition of people hunting for their provender.

                  Of course, hunting and fighting wars are as different as warriors and soldiers.

                  1. One reason why Finland did as well as we did in the Winter War was because volunteer training had been going on for a couple of decades:


                    Simo Häyhä had trained target shooting in that organization, and he wasn’t the only one.

                    And as I have said, we probably would not be able to do the same now. Finland has draft – and likely will keep it for the foreseeable future, it’s pretty popular as an idea and men who don’t do theirs can still be looked at as something of slackers by a considerably large part of our population – but the training lasts only a few months, and while they are then expected to return for training exercises from time to time it’s still not that much, and the career military is not that large. And the White Guard, and similar groups like Lotta Svärd for women, were forcibly disbanded after the wars, and we have never gotten anything similar going after that, partly because Soviet Union would probably not have stood for it. Russia, now, who knows, maybe, but our political leaders have been well conditioned by the old guard to not risk irritating the bear.

            2. Total agreement on the matter of the ability of the US population, in general, to defend themselves with deadly force.

              If we’re startled, a bad guy can do a lot of damage– but it flatly doesn’t hit the news much when a bad guy attempts something, and gets put down.

              We can’t be safe without having a police force that’s something like one in every three adult people? Guess what… we have it, except in areas it’s been specifically removed, like colleges. Almost anyone might be armed.

              That’s why the bad guys keep picking “gun free zones.” Because if you pick a random mini-mart, the old guy with a walker will cap your ass while you’re busy attacking the little guy at the counter.

            3. Kirk, we’d probably use lightpoles, because the tree limbs are a little weak – too many elms, not so many big oaks. Otherwise yeah, that’s pretty much what would happen in Amarillo.

          4. Under the standards of modern warfare, if you wait until you are actually in the face of need, you probably don’t have time to conscript, equip, and train up an army.

            1. Though at the same time, if something were going to happen where we needed conscription, we’d probably have a fair amount of advance notice of it – because the other guy would have to boost his conscription as well.

            2. Which is a truth that will only be valid for a limited time; when that will shift, or what enables it…? Dunno. The way forward is not clear.

              Interesting book out there by a Brit named Adam Roberts, entitled New Model Army. In it, he posits a potential way to bypass the organizational albatross we have surrounding our current military, and enable a new form of network-centric warfare that is reliant on networked non-traditional soldiers. In it, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t quite work, to my eye, but… There are some rather interesting and frightening ideas to be thought about. Imagine a military system where all the arms are produced by 3D printers, and the training/organizational matrix is created by ad-hoc groups utilizing things like sophisticated networked smartphones that also teach the user things like basic and advanced soldier skills. Imagine a major war effort that looks more like a flash mob than a traditional military force…

              You look at what ISIS and al Qaeda are trying to do, and it looks a lot like that. Problem is, most of their subjects really aren’t that smart, and aren’t that creative; imagine what happens to that sort of grass-roots military activity when it’s embraced by the sort of highly intelligent and creative types that we have here in the West, and shudder to think of all the creativity currently used for things like cosplay, but focused on eliminating Islam from the face of the planet. In the future, the real problem potentially isn’t going to be dealing with the US Government, but in dealing with all the little grass-roots organizations that decide to respond to a mass killing at a gay nightclub by some idiot jihadi here in the US by contracting with a drone manufacturer in Shanghai to build and deliver several thousand killbots to the territories controlled by ISIS in the former Syria…

              I’ve joked before, about privately-owned nuclear weapons and their potential effect on the world. The way technology is progressing, the equivalent power of a nuclear bomb may be in most people’s hands in very short order. It will be interesting to see what they do with it.

              1. Kirk, the second to last thought you had above (killbots) has been wandering around my head for a while. Technology seems to be giving gamers more and more realistic games that involves small unit tactics (I loved the commercial with the Special Forces unit fighting a bunch of kids online – and I think the Special Forces lost). Imagine some person linking those games to actual killbots and then letting the gamers go at it against (insert enemy here)…. Same goes for flight simulators, tank simulators, etc.

                Now, against a first world military there are clear Achilles heels with this (control links for drones? puh-leese – use a broad-spectrum jammer and clean them up) – but if you aren’t first world and don’t have those resources, you could be in deep trouble.

                Imagine a ranking of militaries, you start with US, China, Russia, work your way through some Europe and Asian armies then get to “Halo World Champions in cooperation with DJI Drones”

                I can’t say that I know what is going to happen – but the advent of 3-D printers and desktop manufacturing is going to be a true revolution – let alone when it also includes foodstuffs and medical items….

                I do know – I don’t want any 3-D printer of mine connected to the internet. The last thing I need is some Russian Hacker to use my 3-D printer to make a killbot and start the invasion of North America…..


                1. Like I said, democratization of war; the other side doesn’t grasp what is doing with their cute little missives to the faithful living among the Kufer; once they piss enough of us off, to the point where there is a general public disdain for the government security efforts, the grass-roots stuff is going to take off on our side. Where that goes…? Anyone’s guess.

                  The trends continue the way they are? I wouldn’t give a nickel for the long-term survival odds on Islam. The ones living in the west are going to live the experiences of the few survivors that stayed in Spain after the reconquista, and the rest are going to spend their remaining lives wondering when the next privately-financed drone or mech is going to target them.

                  The other side is actively seeking to break the genie’s bottle that keeps war in the hands of governments; I don’t think they have considered what the effects are going to be, once they convince the majority of their victims that this is a game that two can and should play at. Being as there is a notable lack of raw intelligence on their side, I don’t think they are going to figure it out until well after it is too damn late for all of us.

                  1. Sun Tzu said, “The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy’s ability to fight and will to fight.”

                    The Islamists already believe the West to be paper tigers, unwilling to fight to the knife. Our enlightened agree with them, eagerly catering to their cries of Islamophobia and victimization, doubtless hoping to be the last fed to the wolves.

                    Certainly our ROE support their belief. Woe unto all should they break through the thin outer shell of restraint.

                    1. Activation energy. It has not been reached – yet. It’s a very high threshold to trip, so high that many assume it isn’t there or is utterly unreachable, but once it happens… then whoever crossed it will be very lucky if they are able to wonder “What is going to happen?” rather than “What happened?” which is still the better outcome for them than: flatline.

                2. (I loved the commercial with the Special Forces unit fighting a bunch of kids online – and I think the Special Forces lost)

                  Actually I remember one where the gamers are playing against another team and one-by-one their characters get downed and their team is defeated. One of them exclaims “who are these guys?!” and it cuts to some tent in the desert where some Special Forces types are holding controllers and grinning. 🙂

                  1. I remember that one too – that was great – but there is at least another one out there….

                3. Imagine some person linking those games to actual killbots and then letting the gamers go at it against (insert enemy here)….

                  IIRC that was the plot of Ender’s Game.

                    1. In the book, the trainees thought they were playing a simulation/game for training too, and didn’t know it was an actual battle until after they won.

                    2. And the book was an expansion of a novella that was *exactly* that. The tormented child-soldier that crushed wasps in his callused palm and the Speaker For the Dead quasi-religion were later additions. Not especially good ones, IMHO.

                    3. It was the case in the book I read. And I was surprised not by that’s what it was, but that I had figured out that’s what it was long before the reveal.

                    4. IIRC, the book had them commanding actual fleet personnel by ansible.

                      Orvan Taurus commented: “It was the case in the book I read. And I was surprised not by that’s what it was, but that I had figured out that’s what it was long before the reveal.”

                    5. IIRC, the book had them commanding actual fleet personnel by ansible.

                      Yep. They thought they were running training simulations. iIRC, they also had an absolute injunction against attacking the planets directly. But, when they were getting their butts handed to them, they did it anyway.

                      THEN, they found out it was for real.

                    6. It was in Ender’s Game (book) although I thought Ender figured it out before the reveal? The later books were meh. Although I did get into an argument with my sister, she was complaining how Starship Troopers ripped off Enders Game. She didn’t understand why I started laughing until I showed her the publication dates of the two books. She was a bit sheepish after that….


                    7. “Although I did get into an argument with my sister, she was complaining how Starship Troopers ripped off Enders Game.”

                      What is it with these old authors ripping off new ones? Heinlein copies Orson Scott Card; Tolkien copies Robert Jordan; Ursula K leGuin copies Harry Potter. No wonder no one reads these guys anymore! 😉

                      (Disclaimer: these are all examples I’ve heard about, the most recent, of course, being Heinlein ripping off Card in Starship Troopers…)

                4. Technology seems to be giving gamers more and more realistic games that involves small unit tactics (I loved the commercial with the Special Forces unit fighting a bunch of kids online – and I think the Special Forces lost).

                  Nope, they won– and at least one of the college looking kids had some stuff that made him look like a terrorist fanboy, and they were playing on the terrorist side.
                  “WHO ARE THESE GUYS?!?”
                  *cut to a bunch of obviously military guys high-fiving*
                  “Like taking candy from a baby.”


                  Most popular commercial on the ship, although there was some complaint it should’ve been HALO.

                5. “Imagine a ranking of militaries, you start with US, China, Russia, work your way through some Europe and Asian armies then get to “Halo World Champions in cooperation with DJI Drones””

                  I can’t remember where I read it, but I vaguely recall reading that Russia had tapped some World of Tanks players to remotely operate the new Russian T-14 Armata tank.

              2. “You look at what ISIS and al Qaeda are trying to do, and it looks a lot like that. Problem is, most of their subjects really aren’t that smart, and aren’t that creative; imagine what happens to that sort of grass-roots military activity when it’s embraced by the sort of highly intelligent and creative types that we have here in the West, and shudder to think of all the creativity currently used for things like cosplay…”

                The thing isn’t that the people stuck under al-Qaeda or ISIS aren’t smart, technically. The thing is that there’s so much they don’t know, and don’t really have access to. It’s worth noting that most of the really effective terror attacks from Muslims have been conducted by persons with some amount of exposure to the West and Western media and culture.
                To paraphrase, if you tick off a goat-herder enough to get him hunting for you, he’s going after you with a gun, directly. Tick off a university student, and he’s going to be much more clever about it.

                1. There are possibly a couple of posts in response to this one, hanging in the system. Dunno what would have made WordPress mad, but who knows…

    2. “Go ahead and hate your neighbor
      go ahead and cheat a friend.
      Do it in the name of Heaven
      you’ll be justified in the end.
      Won’t be any trumpets blowing
      come the Judgement Day.
      On the bloody morning after,
      one tin soldier rides away.”

      – The Original Caste, “One Tin Soldier”


      “Riding through thunder
      and lightning once again.
      We slayed the Beast,
      we brought an end.
      Now we have left
      the kingdom of the damned.
      Heroes of the day,
      Legends forever!”

      – Dream Evil, “The Chosen Ones”

  6. This gives words to something I found mind-blowingly refreshing in a series I recently watched. “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street,” three seasons of a youth magic-just-behind-the-corners series free on Amazon Prime.

    Basically, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched something where everyone was basically good, in a basically good world, without being twee or unbelievable. There’s exactly one character I’d even describe as “bad”–an officious museum director who doesn’t want to hear anything that doesn’t support what he already knows–but overall the trouble is caused by the largely innocent foibles of good characters. The perfectionist convinced she can control fate. The reliable friend who forgets that he needs some room to stumble and fall too. The overachiever who could get everything perfect if only everyone else would do exactly what she said.

    And over time, they get better, because that’s what people in that universe do.

    It’s an Amazon Prime original, I wonder if that’s got anything to do with it. (And I find season 1 episode 3–The Legend of Pendragon’s Gavel–to be some of the simultaneously gentlest and most incisive political parody I’ve seen.)

    …but yeah. Um. Sorry for the extensive ad for something I liked. (You know how it is when you find something awesome you don’t think anyone has heard of.) But the point is, I hadn’t realized how much I missed the concept of good being good, and people being good, and bad things happen when you know you’re not supposed to do something and then do it anyway.
    Thanks for the post, I like it.

    1. That sounds *exactly* like the kind of series I need right now. And my husband and I just got a trial month on Amazon Prime; might as well make the most of it!

    2. …but yeah. Um. Sorry for the extensive ad for something I liked. (You know how it is when you find something awesome you don’t think anyone has heard of.)

      A large chunk of why this place is so awesome is that you can geek out like that, and not only is it not something you need to apologize for– but do it enough and there’s a good chance that in a couple of months someone will go “hey, were you the one that suggested….?” and then geek out/gush about it.

      I’ve had to do at least three “I have no idea who told me, but THANK YOU!” comments so far. 😉

      1. What Foxifier said! I was in a rut listening to classic rock and then someone here started talking about epic music – and voila – instant multi-person geekout – and now I listen to “Two Steps from Hell” “Audiomachine” “Epic Score” and a bunch of others – so thanks to everyone who commented (and if I haven’t mentioned your group – it is because I am still working through a list I made and still have more to listen to – like Sabaton, Within Temptation “Stand your ground” etc.

        Thanks to all!


  7. You’ve reminded me of something I hadn’t considered for a very long time.

    More years ago than I care to remember, I was a nursing major with a passionate interest in psychiatric/mental-health nursing. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time working and talking with other professionals in mental health. One of them, a psychologist, told me something that has stuck with me to this day. “The way you provide or ‘do’ therapy,” he said, “will be largely determined by whether you think people are basically good or basically bad.” Over the years I’ve found this to be true, and not just in therapy. The view you have of people, basically good or basically bad, will greatly determine among other things:

    * How you raise and discipline your children
    * How you relate to your spouse and significant other
    * How you view your job and employer
    * How you view and handle your finances
    * How you understand and live out your religious beliefs (if any), how you view religion in general
    * Your relative ability or inability to trust other people

    People are social. Most of us cannot live fulfilling and productive lives in isolation. As a result, it is difficult to overstate the power and importance of our stories, both individual and collective.

          1. Though there is the joke with the punchline that it’s best to have both a wife and a mistress so they can both assume you are with the other and get some work done.

    1. A less important sub question is, if everyone is basically good, are they all being good all the time or can they be broken? If broken, is it ever possible to repair them?

      My interpretation of the fallen nature of man* is that we’re all broken, just a matter of how badly. And none of us can be fixed entirely by merely human effort, although we do require human effort to get repaired.

      *Wasn’t it CS Lewis that observed that of all the teachings of Christianity, this was the most easily shown as obvious fact?

        1. No, it’s not really compatible, but the analogous idea is just close enough for the purposes of this discussion.

          To summarize irresponsibly: The Christian view of Fallen Man is approximately, “Man is flawed and cannot repair himself; he must therefore surrender to a Power which does have that ability.” The Jewish view is something like, “Man is fallible but with careful attention to the Manufacturer’s Instructions can—in the very long run—perfect himself.”

          (Where [as in some comments below] Christians will warn of the dangers of believing Man perfectible at all, the Jewish caution is against believing one has discovered a short-cut to this perfection.)

      1. They can be broken. I have seen it happen. Once broken, I don’t know if they can be fixed or not. I suspect not in most cases.

        1. Take this as an anecdatum of many, oh, *many* repair projects that used found materials, non-standard parts, duct tape and glue (both literal and figuratively)…

          They can. A fix of this type is not, ever, “good as new.” It may in some rare cases become better than new, as a bone broken heals stronger after the break. But most often there are places where the fracture is swaddled in duct tape, splinted with driftwood and bailing wire, stuck together with superglue, and sealed with hope.

          People are amazingly resilient creatures. We learn to work around those flaws, like the aunt who can only say nine words (two of them swear words) due to a stroke and lack of speech therapy (and stubbornness, but mostly stubbornness). Sometimes we bridge a gap, sometimes we go by another route.

          Broken is not an end-state. It’s an in-between state, between not-working-right and working, if not completely right, then adequate. We strive to be adequate to the needs of our lives no matter what the challenges.

          Sometimes the break is so bad, there doesn’t seem much solid to build on, but even the smallest stability is a place to start. Human beings crave that stability almost as much as we crave love and understanding- in different ways, but it’s as human as anything. From little places like collecting the mail, to re-learning things that were once thoughtless, like picking up the phone when it rings, breaks become less the focus of who a person is and more just another piece of the whole.

          Not very break will heal the way you’d like. Most broken people only want back what they used to have: innocence, normalcy, the like. A “new normal” isn’t that. But it *is* a form of normal, and it can work. I’ve seen it happen, too.

              1. Trigger Warning.

                Subsequent photo of hamster determined to not lightly again suffer such indignities.

          1. You are probably right. I have known a few severely broken ones. One healed (for values of healed), one did not and probably will not. The others I lost track of.

        2. “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”

          -Eugene O’Neil

          I first heard it as “We are born broken, and live by mending.” A sentiment shared even by Asatru and atheist friends. Or, as Lois Bujold put in the mouth of a character, “The gods do not desire perfection, but greatness. And our brokenness is the soil from which greatness can grow.”

          Come to think of it, that very sentiment, so ingrained in her five gods world, may be why I love them so much. Especially the Curse of Chalion, and the Paladin of Souls – taking people who have been fundamentally broken by life, and having their choice to live and grow and be fundamentally decent and honourable despite it being the fulcrum by which the world is changed.

          After coming within three quarters of an inch of losing my right leg, and having to relearn to walk, I have a powerful awareness of my fragility, and limitations. But I also have a keen appreciation that lying down and giving up ensures a short, miserable life and early death, while pushing through the pain and taking on the world results in a long, interesting, and often happy life.

          I am broken. I live by mending, by doing, by loving, by helping, by praying for the grace of God and the wisdom to be better today than yesterday. And if I fail? I was never perfect, and I never will be. But I can keep trying, reaching for that perfection, and become something better than I was before.

          1. The Curse of Chalion is one of the few books in my adult life that I re-read immediately, as in turned back to the first page after a satisfied breath at the end. It has a great perspective on saints, as well.

      2. Part, I think, of viewing people as “basically good” is understanding they can still do dysfunctional or even evil things. Some degree of repair is possible, I believe. The extent of the repair varies, but some, I submit, is better than none at all. The time I’ve spent as a minister, deacon, psych nurse and life coach have let me see some people undergo significant “repair,” and move on to live amazing lives that bore no resemblance to the lives they once lived. It has also forced me to watch others refuse any help whatsoever and wind up with lives that were completely destroyed, with death in that state following shortly thereafter, in some cases.

        I don’t know if it was Lewis comment or not, but it certainly seems consistent with his sort of argumentation.

        1. In looking at what people naturally want to do, I concluded that people are both “basically good” *and* “basically evil”.

          As I’ve thought about this, though, I realize that believing people are both puts me in the “basically evil” camp: because we have this seed of evil, we need to be taught to do what is good, and to eschew the evil — and that all our institutions need to be designed so that if evil people come to power, the damage that they could do is limited.

          I saw a Prager University video that makes the case that believing that people being “naturally good” means that the people who reach maximum goodness need to be in charge, and then force others who haven’t yet reached “enlightenment” to become good, while believing that people are “naturally evil” means that no matter how good any one person thinks he is, his power still needs to be limited, because he can drift to evil at any time, so we can’t just force people to be good…but people don’t necessarily need to be forced to be good, because, in general, they’ll naturally realize that it’s in their best interest to work with other people.

  8. Even in prisoner camps — one of the things I read, like I read stories of revolution both successful and failed, and biographies of tyrants, is biographies of people who were reduced to the most extreme conditions and how they survived.

    Daddy mistook the meaning of my reading extensively about twentieth century German history. I never embraced Nazism or anti-Semitism, it is the opposite.

    How can an advanced civilization, who excelled in science and the arts, could do what they did? If it could happen once it could happen again. I marvel at the ways some not only refused to become part of movement, but put themselves at risk to protect others. I wonder at how anyone of the targeted groups survived with grace the terrors to which they were methodically subject. There, in that terrible period of history, the lows and highs of humanity are displayed.

    Oh, and I still pursue the subject. I hope to see the publication of a third book of Heather and Lydia Munn’s historical novels. I highly recommend the first two: How Huge the Night and Defy the Night. While the targeted to a juvenile audience, like the best of juvenile fiction it is worthy reading for adults.

    1. The most heartbreaking thing about the ending of “:One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich” is that it’s a happy ending. Ivan sums up the things that went right: he didn’t get sent to the death work gang, the “boss” who hated the communists as much as he did faked the figures so they did their quotas without working themselves to death, he earned a favor from someone whose help would probably some day be vital, he had saved a bit of food for a sick friend. Not a bad day at all.
      I remember stories from Warsaw Pact countries about people waiting all day in line for something, and the before the store closes, someone hands a paper and pencil to the person at front of line and it works its way to the rear, and the next day, all the people are there and line up exactly to match that list.

      1. Presented without additional comment:

        In My Library: Marc Staal
        If you think your own family life feels frantic, imagine what it must have been like for the Staals of Thunder Bay, Canada, home to four future pro hockey players. “My dad built us an outdoor rink, probably just to get us outside,” said Marc Staal, who — along with brothers Eric, Jordan and Jared — ended up playing in the National Hockey League, where Marc has been the alternate captain of the Rangers since 2010. All four worked on their father’s sod farm, so growing up wasn’t all fun and games. Neither is hockey: Marc once caught a puck in the eye and also suffered a concussion after colliding with his brother, Eric. But the 29-year-old father of two girls takes it in stride: “Hockey’s a contact sport,” he says. Here’s what’s in this Ranger’s library.
        The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz

        In 1940, Rawicz escaped from a Soviet labor camp and with six other prisoners marched about a thousand miles, through China and over the Himalayas, to freedom. Despite the pain they endured and the wounds, they kept going. Hockey players play through injuries all the time, but reading this makes what you’ve gone through kind of laughable.

    2. How could they do what they did? The answer, I believe, is simple. For Germany, it came down to family dynamics. Take a society and culture that, regardless of its accomplishments, reinforces someone (the father in this case) as the undisputed, not-to-be-contradicted head of the family. Allow this to reach the point of supporting his word as law, even if he is harsh and authoritarian (draconian, no less). Kids grow up with a sort of dissociated anger. Now, they can’t express it, and by definition don’t even realize it’s there. Finally, toss in someone who can give all that anger one or more targets…

      1. One lesson I have taken from my study is that just because something is advocated by scientists and calls itself scientific does not make it so.

        Another is that science is, in and of itself, may be morally neutral, but what people justify in the name of science? That can be horrendous.

        1. science is … morally neutral

          So is being ripped apart by an animal.

          Makes it no less wrong to set animals on someone.

          (Wanted to use a line I really l like that tends to get the objection across for the “natural” and “not evil” and such arguments; think of it like the “arsenic is all natural” point.)

        2. Science has entered the world of Orwell in which words lose all original content and become emblems of things beyond meaning.

          When we spoke with Thomas Dolby in 2011, he told us that he wrote this ’80s classic so he could direct a video using a silent movie motif in the style of the old Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films. Said Dolby: “This was just when music videos were starting to come to the fore, and I was very keen to try out my talent as a music video director. I saw music videos as really a silent movie with a soundtrack, and so I managed to persuade my record company to let me take a shot at writing and directing one. I came up with a script, as it were, just like visiting a home for deranged scientists and this sort of mad professor type played by Magnus Pyke and all these loonies around the place. And a gorgeous Oriental assistant whom I was madly in love with. So that was how the song ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ came about. I was pretty much writing it to accompany a video.”
          * * *
          This song is about a scientist who falls in love with his lab assistant. Dolby told us it’s “probably about the most frivolous song that I’ve ever written,” but he still loves it. “When I play it now, I still get a big kick out of it. I mean, I’m perfectly proud of the song, and it’s got a great groove and loaded with hooks. And when I play, it’s iconic, I think, for many people. Especially people who were around the first time. It makes people very happy,” said Dolby. He adds, “I have no regrets over that because I think that it provided a sort of starting point for people to get into the more serious, more personal aspects my music.”

          Want to jump into more Thomas Dolby? Some of the songs he suggests are “Screen Kiss,” “Budapest Blimp” and “I Love You Goodbye.”
          * * *
          Dolby calls the character he created in this a “Slightly forlorn mad scientist.” He says some of his personality is in the character.
          * * *
          This was Dolby’s only hit in the US, although he had a few hit singles in England. Commercial appeal was never the point for Dolby, who told us, “I don’t cut any corners, I don’t write simple pop relationship songs. They are pretty deep and a lot of my heroes when I was growing up were marginal cult artists that weren’t easily pigeonholed, and certainly weren’t adorning the charts week in week out. And I might easily have been a cult artist just like them were it not for the fact that I managed to have some mainstream success, and that opened up a whole new fan base to me and provided a way to get them into the more intense side of my music.”
          * * *
          Most of the effects and the bass line were made with a Moog synthesizer. At the time, this was no easy task. Said Dolby: “When I started out writing songs, synthesizers were still quite a rarified luxury. They were quite hard to get hands on and quite hard to operate. And when you did, there was still quite a lot of resistance in the mainstream to music made electronically. And so that was a natural place for me to be, because I wanted to be challenged and stimulated like that.

          But over the years, the whole realm of our choices become more democratized, shall we say, to the extent that on your iPhone today for a few bucks you can probably have more powerful synthesizers and samplers than I had in my entire studio back in the early ’80s.”
          * * *
          Mutt Lange sang backup on this track. Here’s the connection: Dolby was busking in Paris when he was 19 years old, and he sent a tape with some of his songs to a London music publisher Lange worked for. The super-producer heard the tape and called Dolby in to work on Foreigner’s 4 album, where he played the synth intro to “Waiting For A Girl Like You.” Lange also had Dolby work on Def Leppard’s Pyromania album, shortly after The Golden Age Of Wireless was released.
          * * *
          The speaking voice parts were done by Magnus Pyke, a famous TV show host for a children’s educational show in England. His trademark was yelling “Science!” throughout the show. Dolby, who was raised in London, liked the idea of bringing Pyke to an American audience, and thought he was a perfect character for the video.


          Dolby remains mostly known for this song, but he also became a successful producer and computerized music innovator. He has written music for video games and a few movies (including Howard The Duck), and became the music director at the TED conferences.

          [His] image is that of a tech geek in tune with modern machinery, but he told us that his true talent is songwriting. Dolby explained: “The big difference between my songs and many of the other sort of electronic records of the day was that you could actually sit down at a piano and do a decent version of one of my songs, because they had fundamental songwriting ingredients to them. They had verses and choruses and intros and lyrics that told a story and a personality behind the words. So yes, that is what I think I’m best at, and I think that is the rarified form in this day and age, because there is a lot of music out there that is really based on a groove, based on the sound textures, and that’s fine. But it’s not the place for me to be.”
          * * *
          The first episode of the hit TV show The Big Band[SIC] Theory used this song as its theme, as it went along with the scientist main characters. This episode was used to pitch the show and never aired, and when the show got picked up, an original theme by Barenaked Ladies was used.
          * * *
          Dolby wrote the line, “Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto” because he wanted a Japanese woman to appear in the video. “I was boldly ahead of the times in fetishizing Asian women,” he said in the book I Want My MTV.

          1. The big difference between my songs and many of the other sort of electronic records of the day was that you could actually sit down at a piano and do a decent version of one of my songs, because they had fundamental songwriting ingredients to them.

            One of the PBS ads that they used a couple of years ago has this song as the soundtrack, done in a folk style on an acoustic guitar. It’s really pretty, that way.

  9. I’ve long noticed that the ‘We’re destroying the world!” dogma admits of no contradiction. Even efforts to get people to simply be clear on what they mean tend to trigger emotional outrage, let alone pointing out, say, that there are more polar bears and whales than 50 or even a 100 years ago, and that deforestation of the Amazon basin has effectively stopped and looks to be reversing. Similarly, that something approaching 6 billion people on this planet are now living pretty decent lives (historically, quite excellent lives) where they are not starving or enslaved or getting invaded and are more secure in their persons and property than almost anyone has ever been at any point in history – this doesn’t mean things are getting better. Nope, because income inequality or imperialism or racism or something.

    There are real problems, sure, but this overall gloom and doom, where everything is terrible, keeps us from seeing the specific problems and taking specific steps to address them. (painful example: for a fraction of what has been spent on green energy boondoggles, every city in the world could have installed state of the art sewage treatment, which, especially given that we don’t really understand how the oceans work, seems like a good, tidy and life-improving idea. Life is better when your beaches, lakes and rivers don’t stink. But we don’t do that – we instead tax people to build charging stations for the few people with Teslas, so they can make it all the way from LA to SF in their expensive, heavily subsidized toys. Because global warming or something.)

    The panic mongering has no connection with reality. I keep reminding people we don’t really have to worry about Trump, since we all died in nuclear war Reagan started. They don’t seem to get the point.

    Anyway: Narratives – yes. Generalizations determine what you can see. Focus on specifics.

    1. I cannot recall ever seeing ‘We’re destroying the world!” dogmatists express true joy or happiness in any other aspect of their visible lives. It is as if they are compelled to project their inner despair onto the larger world.

      The simple fact is that even were we to reduce the planet to a loose agglomeration of rubble orbiting Sol we would not have destroyed the environment, merely converted it to something less congenial to our form of life. If all is material and life without meaning, then what difference, at this point, does it make?

      The ability of people, especially those bright stars proudest of their ability to compartmentalize, to hold multiple mutually exclusive concepts in their heads is ever amusing to me — especially when they manage to express their faith that such ability is a virtue.

      Yes, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast — but I tend to favor a late breakfast.

      1. To quote Stephen Kruiser:

        “I am not at all opposed to miserable people being miserable if that’s what they choose. The problem with social justice warrior progressives is that they won’t rest until everyone hates the world as much as they do. They’re very good at spreading misery.”

        1. But how can you be happy while polar bears are drowning from global warming? HOW?

          1. Easy. I’d exterminate the world’s zoological collections if it got me enough environmentalist tears.

          2. the clueless Neville whatsis has a post I didn’t feel obligated to approve (his problem. He has two links) in which he asks how we can pontificate while our fellow citizens are going to suffer under the incoming administration.
            I will pay attention to him when he feels bad about the countries that Obama destroyed for his ego, the dead of Benghazi who died waiting for the rescue they had a right to, the Mexicans murdered by the stupid Obama gun scam and all the crazy shit the outgoing administration did.

            1. how we can pontificate while our fellow citizens are going to suffer under the incoming administration

              How did he manage when folks suffered under Obama?

              At least I can be pretty sure Trump’s DOJ won’t actively throw a case of open voter intimidation, or run guns to drug lords. That’s a reduction in suffering right there.

              1. I think he was complaining about the stoppage of government cheese. I could be wrong, since I didn’t READ his post because I have to keep all the IQ points I have.
                Same reason I didn’t approve him, not even as a chew toy. Neville has proven an ability for mind-numbingly stupid comments.

                1. …so one of those asses who “helped” me into more than doubling the tax on our house for various “helpful” taxes. And the increased cost of everything.

                2. If he gives clear evidence of being so unhinged over Trump for anti-Semitic reasons I might be interested in seeing that.

                  Actually, I’m going to be searching soon for as much of that as I can find from any source. So I wouldn’t mind if anyone gave me pointers.

                3. I apparently ate government cheese as a kid. My Nana was living with us and got it as part of her Social Security benefits, but it was not good for her, so my parents would “buy” it off of her with foods she could eat.

            2. the clueless Neville whatsis has a post I didn’t feel obligated to approve (his problem. He has two links) in which he asks how we can pontificate while our fellow citizens are going to suffer under the incoming administration.

              That white supremacist prat? a) There is no absolute certainty for what the incoming administration might do. b) There is naturally a fair amount of suffering across three hundred million people.

            3. Our fellow citizens are going to suffer under the incoming administration?

              Our fellow citizens are going to have to grow up under the incoming administration.

              There, fixed it for him.

              1. There are those who have suffering visited upon them through no act or thought of their own. For these, I have sympathy and charity.

                For those who seek to bring suffering upon their own heads, and mine as well if they can but beguile me into standing beside them whilst the anvil plummets… I point and laugh. Because honestly, what good does it do me to feel suffering just because I’m told I should?

                If it does not meet with my own moral code, I’ll have naught to do with it.

              2. Our fellow citizens will suffer as well. When an economy is as distorted as this one, the correction when the distorting forces (regulations) are removed is liable to be horrendous. In that situation everyone suffers for a while no matter if they deserve it or not. After the first year or so however things get rapidly better.

                1. Assuming that the Trump administration actually removes the distortion, which is as much not yet in evidence, not yet conclusively proven, as Nevy’s claims that Trump will make things worse. We are, what, thirty days from Trump taking office? I may concede that there is strong evidence come May or June. Not now.

                  1. Trump has made clear that he intends to reverse the Arrow of History, which all viewers of movies and television SF know never ends well. Time is not the sort of thing with which mortals casually mess.

          3. polar bears are drowning from global warming

            Obviously we need a federal task force to teach polar bear how to swim.

            What’s that you say? They already know how? *tosses funding proposal in the trash*

        2. Puritianism may or may not be the crippling fear that someone, somewhere is happy; I’ll leave that discussion for historical experts. However, Progressivism certainly seems to have much in common with that quip.

      2. They’ve taken the wrong lesson from John Calvin and St. Augustine’s ideas. Instead of “we may be saved or damned, but we can’t know and can’t change it, so let’s live as if we are saved and make things better in case we are pleasantly surprised by the mysterious and wonder-full ways of the Most High” they take the “we are all damned by innate depravity and the world is dooooomed to die by fire and how dare you suggest otherwise or not be wearing sackcloth and ashes in memory of our first great sin of [capitalism/patriarchy/evolving thumbs/Christianity and Judaism/whatever].”

      3. I once lost it in the face of a ‘too many people, we’re destroying the planet!!!’ spew, and told a family member – yikes! I am an Odd, after all – that yes, there are too many people, exactly one too many, and it was him – and I’d be happy to consider his points right after he killed himself to prove that he was serious.

        Not the most socially astute thing I’ve ever done, but oddly satisfying.

      4. One other thing – same guy in the above story was going on about some other tragedy, and I pointed out that in around a billion years, the sun will have burned through too much of its hydrogen and will begin to swell and heat up as it shifts to burning heavier elements, eventually burning up the earth and all life as we know it. (now, THAT’s what I mean by ‘destroy the planet’! Even then, the sun going red giant may not destroy it – a cinder may remain.)

        He seemed genuinely bummed, like he somehow imagined that it were possible in some absolute term to save the planet FOREVER. He and his equally clueless family are sure they are the party of science/high information voters. Sigh.

        But to Sarah’s point – they are perfectly good neighbors, kind to their pets, hard-working. If they could just stop trying to save the planet, we’d all get along just fine. Or, if the narrative that people can in general be trusted to behave tolerably well could prevail, perhaps we’d have a culture in which saving the planet could become a harmless hobby instead of a scary crusade. One can hope.

        1. Heh. I am fond of pointing out that there have been several mass extinction events during the time the planet has had life, and life has pounced right back after every one of them. So it takes a while, but that while is long only on human terms, not in geological epoch sense. So even if we mess everything up royally now and actually do cause a real mass extinction – to the planet it will not matter that much, if at all. A few million years or so and no aliens coming here will notice.

          Also, even if we don’t cause that mass extinction, some natural cause will do it anyway sooner or later, barring human intervention. There is still quite a while before the sun kills this planet, but the smaller scale disasters will keep on happening until then. Why wouldn’t they?

          So – what happens now and what we do matters, in the long run, only to us.

          Usually the “we are destroying the world” people will start to talk about how OUR mass extinction is happening faster and will be much worse than any of the others ever. Almost as if they were proud of the idea.

          I guess the idea of human exceptionalism comes in many forms.

          1. Fun bit of trivia: They’re discovering that life recovers faster (in terms of regaining lost numbers of species and niches filled) after larger mass extinction events than after smaller events. On the order of several million years faster. It’s been a while since I saw the paper so I don’t remember the exact numbers, but it was an appreciable decrease.

                1. Probably more like a reshuffling of the cards…

                  There’s also the odd effect that you find when pruning trees; they grow back more luxuriantly than they were doing before the pruning. Life has a way of spitting in the face of adversity, and I suspect that this is a feature that exists on the micro-, macro- and meta-level.

              1. California burns down every few years. I realized that I took it for granted when I lived in Denver and my coworkers were freaking out about a huge fire and my mental attitude was, “eh, the state’s just burning down again.”

          2. “Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

            You’ve seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You’ve heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.


            The Earth is built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you’ve had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.”


            1. Some years ago, I read an article which said there had been a study done on how many nuclear weapons it would take to wipe out humanity (I assume they meant directly, and not counting secondary effects).

              They put it at something over 20,000 TIMES the total nuclear arsenals of the world at the height of the Cold War. And that’s just to get all the humans. That’s not to completely wipe out the biosphere.

            1. Since they think that humans are the cancer of Earth, logically, if they were able to think logically, they should encourage anything which they think might speed our removal from the biosphere so that it could then recover and start repopulating the planet with new lifeforms. So, mass extinction should sound good to them, right?

              Or maybe they are actually doing it… the hatred of nuclear, which would pollute less barring accidents, and even then the pollution doesn’t all that bad (from the accidents that have happened so far) compared to something like what mining for the rare earth minerals needed for their electric cars and wind power etc seems to be doing is one thing which comes to mind.

              1. I often wonder at the ‘green’ support for cars with nickel batteries. Then I remember: … if they were able to think logically…

                They also don’t seem to consider that electric cars need production of electricity. Much of the means which we presently have to do so they are attempting to curtail. Were the population to shift in great numbers to the use of electric cars it would require a increase in production, not a decrease.

              2. they should encourage anything which they think might speed our removal from the biosphere

                And yet these same people keep bleating about how we need vaccines and how health care is a constitutional right and how disease pandemics are a bad thing….

                1. Not just “need vaccines,” but that everyone should be required to have all the magic vaccines, as well as DOING everything that’s “healthy,” and removing everything “unhealthy.”

                  It’s a matter of the living by ‘compassion.’ It makes them feel bad to see people suffer, so the suffering has to be removed– same reason the disabled, disfigured, old and fat need to be put out of their (the ‘compassionates’) misery.

                  1. It would be simpler for the rest of us if they would develop a certain callous indifference toward their fellow man….

                    Wait, no…

    2. “I’ve long noticed that the ‘We’re destroying the world!” dogma admits of no contradiction.”

      I remember several years ago a Reader’s Digest issue was oriented around “Hey, we still have a ways to go before we fix everything in the environment, but here are some fantastic wins we’ve accomplished in the last couple of decades!”

      The next month they published letters to the editor saying “How could you even *hint* that things are getting better?!? How are we supposed to fix the environment, if everyone thinks it’s getting better???”. The idiots writing such letters were completely clueless that if we *only* get gloom-and-doom, and *never* acknowledge accomplishments, then we’ll just give up and go back to dumping our waste oil in the storm drains, among other things. If nothing we do really fixes anything, and we can’t be even a little successful, then why bother trying to fix things?

      Sometimes we need to sit back, say “these are the fantastic things we’ve accomplished”, and then ask “Ok, what should we do now?”. Knowing that you can accomplish *something* helps propel you to do the next great thing!

  10. > If the societal narrative is “nobody’s clean”
    > you’re going to get more evil.

    …and you’re back to “Stanford Prison Experiment.” Or simply the Mr. Hyde transformations of people as they moved up another notch in the corporate ladder.

  11. “It is clear from even sitcoms that the writers for television don’t expect anyone to be decent or honest.”

    I’d suggest a caveat to this point: it’s not so much what writers expect from real people in ordinary life as what they are interested in from their characters under exceptional pressure, largely because that sort of thing is easier to make an interesting story about. Decency and honesty don’t have to be boring, but they’re much harder to spice up for shock and titillation value than the alternative — a man who successfully resists the temptation to be unfaithful can be interesting, but it’s much more titillating and provocative to watch him fail to resist that temptation and then have to deal with the consequences, or so goes the thinking (q.v. Don Draper on Mad Men).

    1. Well, sure, if you don’t know how to write a story about relationships beyond fucking and self-interest, it is going to be harder to make use of the stresses of an honest and decent person.

    2. yeah, but characters who are supposed to be good and sleep around is not a necessity. They could get the same mileage from “looks like” and “can’t prove he didn’t.”

    3. I’ll just stick with my WKRP in Cincinnati DVD set. And the Citizen Khan episodes I snagged from YouTube…

    4. I once saw someone make the claim that a study showed comedies are much more “moral” than dramas: dramas would tend to show someone who fails to resist temptation, and it’s all hunky-dory, whereas a sitcom will show someone who fails to resist temptation, and then make fun of the person for all the awful fallout that results from said failing.

      While throwing in a failing and following the consequences can make things interesting, it’s not unusual for writers to throw in something gratuitous, just to be titillating and provocative, without affecting the plot at all.

      I remember a Matlock episode where they drove up to the guilty parties who were loading a truck, and one of them immediately pulled out a gun, and a police officer immediately shot the guy. I expressed disgust with the gratuitous shooting, and my Dad said “Hey, it’s self defense!” Well, yes, clearly it was, but it wasn’t necessary to write it in the show — particularly since it was the end of an episode of a show that’s *very* episodic. It also ignores the complications that come with even a clean self-defense shooting: the press, the call for backup, the requiring of everyone to get on the ground afterward, the reports, the paid administrative leave while things are investigated, etc. By not showing *any* of this, it popped a “suspension of disbelief” bubble that I didn’t even know I had!

  12. “They thought from now on, it would only be their size in control.”

    After the 2010 mid-term elections, when they lost control of Congress, you’d think that they’d have gotten the message. But their own narrative was too strong at that point, and they continued on obliviously, acting as if they’d be in charge from here on out. Then they lost the Senate in the 2014 mid-terms, but the message still didn’t get picked up. And so, as Ace likes to say, “And that’s why you have Trump.”

    And it appears that they STILL don’t get it, since Pelosi was reelected as the leader of the Democrats in the House.

    1. And now they have seized on “fake news” as a distraction, a way to protect themselves from the obvious MSM goofs in calling the election, and their obvious propagandizing for the Left.

      1. As Obama said, Fox News is on in every bar and restaurant in most of the country.

        I wonder why that might be. Don’t those bar and restaurant owners appreciate all the things the Democrat Party has done to for them?

        1. … Fox News is on in every bar and restaurant …

          Which just goes to show the disconnect. The TV’s in the bar I’ve been in were either tuned to a ball game or perhaps some game show, very rarely anything else. News? Maybe, is Something Big had just happened, but a Weather-related channel is probably the closest to news they get most of the time.

          As for Fox News? Well, some airports, though CNN is at least as if not more likely.

      2. “Fake news” is naturally bad, contrasted with “fake but accurate” news, which is totally OK, though they’d rather not talk about it.

        1. I would have to confess that whenever I hear the term “fake news”, my immediate reaction is that the blogosphere is talking about the MSM.

          I don’t pay attention to the MSM, and my connections to the blogosphere are tenuous at best, but it’s taken me a little while to realize that “fake news” is what the MSM is saying about the blogosphere…

          Makes me wonder if all this talk about “fake news” is merely picking at stabs of self-inflicted wounds among all the people only barely paying attention…

    2. Ah, but they won in 2012, meaning they win presidential elections when their dupes minions supporters come out in force. Besides, The Donald was. not. worthy. Everybody* acknowledged that there was No Freakin’ Way He could pull the sword from the stone.

      *Everybody except a basket of deplorables.

      1. Hillary tried to get the sword from the Lady of the Lake, but the Lady screamed in Horror and threw the sword to Trump. 👿

          1. Can’t say if he was prior to Hillary trying for the Presidency but Hillary wouldn’t have let him near that lake when she tried for the Presidency.

            She wanted the sword and won’t want Bill to get the sword. (Bill getting the Lady was secondary to Hillary). 😉

    3. And may yet get Kieth Ellison for DNC Chair. I think he might be better suited for a chair completely different. Still, then the Dems would be clearly visible as what they really are.

    1. Right off the bat, those movies mentioned that I’ve seen– and taking a guess from Disney’s prior patterns– are a horrible example of what he’s talking about, because they’re coming of age movies.

      It isn’t “The child is right, the adult is wrong,” it’s “the Way Things Are is wrong, and in order to become an adult, you have to fix it.

      Look at Tangled for an example– Flynn is old enough to be an adult, but he isn’t. He’s a freaking man-child. He has to find what is wrong, and fix it– and he can become the man he’s supposed to be.

      He really should’ve used TV cartoons as an example; they’re designed so they can’t be coming of age in the same way.

      Several of them also have “the way things are” being RIGHT– like Ariel was really, really dumb to go get help from the sea witch.

  13. One of the problems with standard YA fantasy is that there are usually evil parents and evil peers, and then all of a sudden, the protagonist runs into all the nice people and nice peers… but before then, nothing.

    One of the healthier things about YA paranormal romance/urban fantasy is that the protagonist often has perfectly normal parents and peers who are friendly, or at least not evil. I suspect that this reflects authors who didn’t have Odd childhoods…. but hey, it’s healthier.

    1. There is the plotting problem that those good parents and peers can make the author’s life a lot harder.

    2. It’s why I like Young Wizards. The parents are good people, there’s an actual reason for why the kid wizards are the ones running around, but the grownup ones are Advisors.

      One of the better scenes in the series involved the parents realizing they had actually done a good job of raising their children up to be responsible, and good people – and having to come to terms with the fact that upbringing is part of why they have to let them go and maybe get killed, even if they’re just in their early teens.

  14. I’m not in disagreement, but something about it bothers me. The closest I can get is that locally we were taught that all come short of the glory of G_d, but treated most as inherently good. The best fit is that we viewed the natural man as having no bounds with a tendency toward selfishness, which could be overcome by other means. There’s a combination of the religious and customer there, but I’ll simply point out that Franklin took a purely secular view of the religious aspect that “works” to a point.

    Thus, if a family was known to be honest and honorable, the assumption was that a child of that family was “brought up right” and knew honesty and honor. If a family was noted as rounders, the expectation was that the child would be, too. This could be negated by action; the child from a good family who was a bum; the child of bums who made good. The attitude toward strangers was, to steal from Kipling, “Watch your man, but be polite.”

    This lends to a theory that I admit at the start breaks down: The very ones we see calling for a hyper-strong central government are the ones who have discarded such things as absolute morality and honor. Having discarded such things, they seek a replacement in government. For the natural man knows no bounds, and this, they assume, is the state of things. Perhaps it is, for their culture.

    The break-down are those with strong religious belief that lean toward such things. Some of them would thrash you with their purse at the suggestion they were making government their g_d.

    1. Look at the most common reason they reject the lower level ways of dealing with imperfect man:
      it’s not perfect. There are horrible families out there, so you can’t trust them to take care of their own absolutely. Modern example, honor killings.

      They’re thirsting for perfectability in governent– not recognizing that it is just people, too, so it is a power that has to be balanced. Which is never easy, nor perfect.

    2. Andrew Klavan has taken to calling Liberalism (Modern) as an attempt to practice Christianity without Christ, and this seems to fit the problem as you describe it. Those who disdain the age-old values of Honor and Integrity seem to imagine there is some secret sauce added by government service which converts the base metal of men’s souls into golden spirits.

      No, putting corrupt people in positions of authority does not mitigate their corruption, it corrupts the authority of the positions held. Even good and decent and honorable people are tempted by grants of power — John Koskinen was, by all accounts, a decent bureaucrat* before being assigned the IRS where he was surrounded by those skilled at making arguments justifying their abuses of power, forcing Koskinen to to choose between defending a flawed but necessary institution or allowing it to be dragged down by its (external) enemies. He chose … poorly.

      It is only the rigor of an external allegiance — to G-d, to Integrity, to Honor — that defends any person against the temptations of authority, and putting people lacking such allegiance into power will guarantee its abuse.

      *Alternatively, he was a corrupt man put in to defend a corrupt institution, but that interpretation isn’t as congenial to the point I wish to make.

      1. Side question: I heard he became Christian (delighted, but not surprised, the intellectual honesty that delights me in him made it pretty much inevitable if I had him figured right), but haven’t heard what flavor.
        Anybody know?

        1. The Spouse has first dibs on Andrew Klavan’s auto-biography, The Great Good Thing which cover his journey from secular Jew to baptized believer in Christ, so I haven’t read it yet.

        2. Judging by the reviews Amazon for his book on his conversion experience, he does not discuss the flavour of his faith. Reviews posted (142) are almost entirely 5-star (avg 4.8) which generally means only the enthusiastic reviewed. As you can see from the product description, Klavan’s book is likely more about his faith journey than its destination.

          The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ Hardcover – September 20, 2016
          Edgar Award-winner and internationally bestselling novelist tells of his improbable conversion from agnostic Jewish-intellectual to baptized Christian and of the books that led him there.

          “Had I stumbled on the hallelujah truth, or just gone mad—or, that is, had I gone mad again?”

          No one was more surprised than Andrew Klavan when, at the age of fifty, he found himself about to be baptized. Best known for his hard-boiled, white-knuckle thrillers and for the movies made from them—among them True Crime (directed by Clint Eastwood) and Don’t Say a Word (starring Michael Douglas)—Klavan was born in a suburban Jewish enclave outside New York City. He left the faith of his childhood behind to live most of his life as an agnostic in the secular, sophisticated atmosphere of New York, London, and Los Angeles. But his lifelong quest for truth—in his life and in his work—was leading him to a place he never expected.

          In The Great Good Thing, Klavan tells how his troubled childhood caused him to live inside the stories in his head and grow up to become an alienated young writer whose disconnection and rage devolved into depression and suicidal breakdown. But he also stumbled into a genuine romance, a passionate and committed marriage whose uncommon and enduring devotion convinced him of the reality of love.

          In those years, Klavan fought to ignore the insistent call of God, a call glimpsed in a childhood Christmas at the home of a beloved babysitter, in a transcendent moment at his daughter’s birth, and in a snippet of a baseball game broadcast that moved him from the brink of suicide. But more than anything, the call of God existed in stories—the stories Klavan loved to read and the stories he loved to write.

          The Great Good Thing is the dramatic, soul-searching story of a man born into an age of disbelief who had to abandon everything he thought he knew in order to find his way to the truth.

  15. What I remember of the Ford through Carter years and into the Reagan was the idea that America was in irreversible decline. That coincided with the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Watergate (and saw an eschatology craze – make of it what you will). I distinctly remember, during the start of the Iranian Hostage Crises, that a political science professor I respected held the opinion that an America who could project power was a thing of the past.

    Part of the hostility toward Reagan was that he was a conservative, but also because he didn’t believe – or seemed not to believe – America was beyond recovery, at least as a world power. They considered anything else at best delusional and at worst on a collision course with the the Soviets.

    Maybe I should keep that in mind when I’m in one of my political funks.

    1. Heh. I remember the plaints late in the Carter era that the American Presidency was an institution simply too complex for anybody to manage effectively — and Reagan was certainly too simple a person to handle the job.

      What such critics knew of good management was that they hadn’t ever seen it. They had seen busy managers, they had seen micro-managers, they had seen all sorts of bad managers, but their experience of effective managers, the kinds of managers who aren’t doing anything perceptible but get results, was no more existent than Darknesses’ comprehension of Light.

      Most people do not understand what good management is, and this is especially true of the people reporting on politicians.

      1. The essence of “good management” and the MSM’s knowledge thereof can be expressed in Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame underwear model pitcher Jim Palmer’s dismissal of the pitching acumen of his Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame manager, “The only thing Earl (Weaver) knows about big-league pitching is that he couldn’t hit it.”

      2. > and Reagan was certainly too
        > simple a person to handle the job.

        I remember them saying that. And the realization that it didn’t matter, because Reagan was perfectly happy with letting the people who were supposed to handle things do their jobs without trying to run everything personally.

        And the media excoriated him for working only a 40-hour week instead of the usual 60+ presidential grind, and not hovering over every crisis.

        Uncle Ronnie was simple, all right. Simple like a fox…

  16. I find myself disagreeing with your thesis, Ma’am, and agreeing instead with Thomas Sowell. The error of the Left is not that they believe human beings to be evil; it is that they believe human beings to be perfectible. From this premise, and from the gratuitous assumption that some human beings are already very close to perfection, they conclude that those nearly-perfect ones constitute a natural aristocracy who can and should rule over all those less enlightened. The opposing vision is not of men as naturally good, but of men as sufficiently flawed by nature that none can be trusted with unchecked power. That these are the two dominant philosophical views of human nature is empirically verifiable.

    C. S. Lewis summarized both views admirably in ‘Present Concerns’:

    I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government.

    The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true.…

    The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.

      1. I don’t see where the two views are in conflict.

        You can’t be evil unless you’ve got an option to be good.

        So the folks who aren’t doing “the right thing” are only not doing so because they’re dicks.

        So of course you don’t put the dicks in charge.

        They’re just two different windows looking at the same world-view.

        Note, this also explains the non-persons….

        1. Yes, both concepts play together, basically as a result of mood – since these folks believe in the perfectability of humankind, any step “forward” as designated by The Arrow of History into the Inevitable Commie Future causes them to be happy Socialists, so they just seize some more private property; when they don’t get their way, or when The Gods of the Copybook Headings sneak back in and whack them on the head, they conclude that while humanity is undeniably and by doctrine perfectable, this current set is hopelessly backwards, and it is now time to dissolve the people and elect another.

          This negative side of their mood swings is of course not a new thing, having previously fillled so many mass graves of the 20th Century.

          This is why it is important to keep these people out of power – that way their tantrums only result in wailing, gnashing of teeth, idiotic news articles, and sweet, sweet schadenfreude instead of mass bloodshed.

          1. I was trying to figure out a good name for the Communist airship in a story. “Arrow of History” sounds like it would be an awesome choice. Were it to meet a horrid fate, I, for one, would not think it amiss.

            1. When the Arrow of History met up with the Shield of Tradition, disaster followed for all around.

              Actual arrows of History tend to be more discernible in the rear view mirror.

      2. Only us kulaks and wreckers. And we have to be kulaks and wreckers, otherwise, since Man is perfectible, we would have Utopia already. Someone must be stopping it!

    1. Tom Kratman apparently changed from that view on the grounds that a lot of leftists aren’t thinking things through that far, and that it is more magical thinking in practice.

      Assuming my memory and paraphrasing are not at fault.

  17. You know, I’m generally of the opinion that people aren’t basically good, but that’s why I think we should keep government small. So the easily corruptible humans can’t screw over everyone. Interesting to see how the same basic idea can take you two different direction.

  18. This post instantly brought to mind some recent sci-fi that I have serious problems with for related reasons. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t been mentioned so far.

    Westworld is a very good show in almost all respects. It’s smart, well-written, and sublimely acted. But two things keep it from being truly great. One is an obsession with identity politics symbolism, including radical feminism, that cheapens everything the show does. The other is an unbelievably misanthropic outlook. And I say this as someone who LOVES bleak sci-fi and who loves many stories (across genres and entertainment mediums) with strongly misanthropic elements.

    Without spoiling anything, Westworld expects us to believe that entirely lifelike androids would be the constant targets of casual, thoughtless, and monstrous violence by ordinary people. I know human beings are capable of any cruelty possible. (And of any extreme act of selflessness and kindness, too). That isn’t what bothers me. It’s the idea that almost EVERYONE who comes to the show’s Western-themed world would be so lacking in empathy that they would have no problem inflicting all manner of agonies on what essentially look and behave like real people, all because “it’s just a game.”

    I understand WHY the show depicts what it depicts, from a structural standpoint. It’s constructed around a template of Gnostic imagery, and in Gnosticism, the world and everything in it is sinful. This template is woven deeply into the narrative structure of the show, and it “works” on many different contextual levels. The story they’re telling couldn’t exist without it. But I just don’t think it’s realistic. I’m not offended by it, I just don’t buy it.

    As usual, this essay articulated ideas I’ve had for a while but never put into words. It explains, in my mind, why someone who would create a story with such a negative view of human beings might also have such a weird fixation on identity politics. Unfortunately, the hiding of identity politics in entertainment is an increasing trend I’m seeing in so much of what’s coming out of the American entrainment industry. Hollywood has always forced progressive politics into its products, but what I’m talking about is new, in intensity and boldness if not in substance.

    1. It’s the idea that almost EVERYONE who comes to the show’s Western-themed world would be so lacking in empathy that they would have no problem inflicting all manner of agonies on what essentially look and behave like real people, all because “it’s just a game.”

      Does kind of argue that they haven’t spent much time, say, in MMOs, hm?

      A decent number of folks don’t like doing this or that quest where you have to kill non-violent, non-evil mobs, much less anybody who actually has lines.

      Bring in “they act like people”? Good heavens, you’d have barely more than the folks who act like psychos in game with PCs!

    2. Obviously the people producing the show have no problem with the idea of everybody treating others like objects. In their world “there is no such thing as spirit! We are made of matter and nothing more. We’re just another tiny, momentary speck in an indifferent universe.”

      We are not of their Tribe and therefore not worthy of being viewed as human.

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