We were taught in school, and in fact it is something you learn very easily if you read literature starting from say the chansons de geste, is that each generation views the world according to a pattern, and that pattern is often their “scientific” (one should rather say macro, since science has very little to do with it, even after the emergence of a science that could be called that) view of the world.
I.e. if you view the world in terms of the procession of the heavens influencing things on Earth, your work is going to show this, not just as allegories but, say, as and alignment of planets causing Earthquakes and Earthquakes literally causing the Black Death. If you’re an Elizabethan too, and have access to some simple gear models of machines, you’ll see the entire world as a machine of some sort. “The machinery of the heavens.”
The models linger long after the theories are disproved and supplanted. I once had a knock down drag down argument with a family member over whether things cooled faster in the fridge. She contended they did not, because the heat would hide in the center of the pudding to escape the cold. She could not have named Aristotle or his theories of animistic physics, but by heaven, it had been taught to her that way, and she was sure it was true.
In the same way, many writers (particularly in mystery) seem to use the words sanguine and bilious without the slightest idea (unless they are of course historical writers) that it connects back to the theory of humors of the human body that led, often, to bleeding critically ill patients.
This is not a failing. This is called “being human.” Humanity is large and varied (keep that in mind) and many people would rather believe what they’re told than their lying eyes. There is a comfort in tradition.
More importantly, these views of the world get into the nook and crannies of your mind, and you pass them on without realizing you’re passing them on.
This is because, of course, it is hardest to apply this to our own age. It is a matter of the fish being submerged in water.
Our own age, still, has the “image” of the mass-producing society that brought unparalleled prosperity and riches to the world in the last century (along with some truly horrible mass killings.)
The mass killings, Marxism (which people inhale without knowing, even in American Universities), behaviorism, and a passion for numbered, standardized everything are part of the ethos of the industrial age.
It is perhaps too much to ask people working on standard machines, to produce standard sizes, using standardized movements to conform to the machine’s mechanical exactness not to think in terms of “standard sizes” and “Models.”
You see this more strongly in the works of early science fiction writers, who expected psychology to to be standardized, numbered and filed and then all problems of mankind would be solved.
This stopped around the forties or fifties, when there was starting to be a suspicion that humans were not in fact standard issues, and that they had a disturbing tendency to be … human on an individual scale. I.e. “Nobody is normal” started penetrating the collective consciousness, but people STILL try to be normal. A part of the craze for transgenderism (other than that the progressives decided this was the next hill to die on) is this idea that there are standard models of people. Note I don’t say every transgender person is the result of that. There are cases of such profound mismatch between mind and body that even flawed and ultimately mutilating surgery (which is all we can do right now) is preferable to going on with the mismatch. These cases are, needless to say, very rare. But I swear at least half of the generation after my kids identifies as transgender, or gender queer, or gender fluid, or some other form of gender nonsense that has absolutely nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with the fact the poor dears have imbibed this flawed version of humanity as easily filable and definable. If you think that a girl who prefers trains and toy cars, a boy who prefers dolls (one of my playmates would fight me for the right to be “the mother” when we played houses. He turned out very hetero. In fact possibly too much so) a boy who is better at verbal than math, a girl who is the reverse, all of these are TOLD they are abnormal, if not in words, in the reaction of other people, until they feel they must have a problem.
In fact, none of us are standard issue. The very fact that, say, the medieval world, a communitarian world under stress (compared to us) of disease and famine, which needed to eliminate odds to operate, spent SO MUCH time decreeing what men and women COULD do meant that men and women kept blurring those lines, which for that time and place were FAR more clear than they are now. (I am an odd.In the world I grew up in, which retains a lot of medieval characteristics, I not only was pulled away from groups of boy I was playing with and told that girls play with girls and boys with boys (sounds like a motto for a gay bar) but I was also severely suppressed when I was about 8 and developed a fascination with whistling. I was told that women who whistle and men who spin (thread) are both going to hell. This must be a medieval thing, as I have clue zero why whistling should be masculine. In my family’s defense, this might have been an attempt at just getting the horrible noise to stop. My ear for music was not bad before the pneumonia that took my mid-range hearing at 14, but I’m asthmatic, which means my breath control purely sucks.)
Humans are humans. Individual humans will like all sorts of things, and barring things that require a certain type of physical structure, say siring a child or giving birth, humans manage to cross all sorts of barriers. Sure, the fastest woman in the world is only as fast as your average male highschool track champion in the US, but how many men are track champions. Statistically men are taller, stronger and faster than women, but when I was young and in better shape, I could very easily beat the heck out of a man my size or a little larger. (Okay, part of this is that I didn’t play fair, but I was also somewhat stronger than the average female, and stronger than men who didn’t work out. This is not a brag. I’m neither now. It’s just a commentary on statistics aren’t individuals.)
Because I grew up in a village, where clothes were mostly still made by hand to the measurements of the person who wore them, I can tell you that the very idea of “standard sizes” is bonkers. There is no such thing. Yes, it is an easy way to make garments that fit everyone in a rough size, but “fit” would make any village seamstress cry. In fact my mother had the habit of buying me clothes, then bringing them home, taking them apart and adapting them to my actual shape. And this was when I was young and skinny, i.e. the body form most designers thinks all of us should have. (They scale up the size of garments, but don’t change the contours, which means if you’re a 16 or above, you look like you’re wearing a sack. Which in turn, I’m sure, fuels both our horror of fat, and our poor self image when we start putting on pounds, which in turn makes us slouch, which…)
I tend not to think in sizes as in “I’m size x.” (After what hypothyroidism has done to my body, mostly I think in “yuck” but that’s something else.)
However the problem is that we’ve transplanted that sort of thinking of “one size will fit everyone in this range” to how people think. This slots very well with a sort of dimestore Marxism and discount counter behaviorism which at this point is the reason for living of the left.
Behaviorism first — as believed and imbued by people, translated to history books, etc, the theory of stimulus-response became one of “Everyone in that situation would do this.” Which is why we ended up with history books in which we do not study great figures or men who stood out, except to know they exist, but instead study “great movements of population.” As though the blinkered crowd moved history.
Sure, some things predispose crowds to some reactions. I’m fairly sure Napoleon wouldn’t have existed without the terror, because people wanted order and wanted it to JUST STOP ALREADY. Also France was broke after the revolutionary follies, and broke countries often invade other countries. But without the larger than life personality of Napoleon, the Empire might not have formed. There would have been SOMETHING in reaction, but not necessarilly what there was. And do note, that the war didn’t stop until Napoleon was rather finally put away.
So the answer to history is “yeah, the crowd will be looking for this or that, but you need someone who picks up an idea, gives it form and runs with this.”
This was completely absent in my schooling. It was all by-the-numbers mass stimulus/reaction.
And sure there are behavioral explanations to why each individual will act somewhat and some very differently, but when you get done with all the convoluted explanations, occam’s razor is blunt and you remember Heinlein saying that every time a dog drools a Pavlovian has to ring a bell.
Unfortunately the idea of standard models and humans as vast classes of interchangeable widgets is so ingrained in society that no matter how much we put it down, it keeps coming back again like a jack in the box.
Yeah, sure, if you’re dealing with a woman rather than a man, it’s more likely she’ll have an interest in, or have death with child rearing. But these, again, are broad categories, anchored in physical differences. In the same way “Stereotypes exist because they’re often true” sort of works. If talking to me, because I’m from Portugal you can sort of assume I will understand Spanish (if spoken very slowly or written, this is true) and because I have a degree in literature, you can assume I like to read. Because my degree is also in languages you can assume I speak at least a couple other than English and Portuguese. You can assume that because I’m a writer, I like words and am generally at least semi-competent with them. And because I’m a woman of a certain age, you can assume my body is starting to try to take me out at unexpected times. (Seriously, if it kills me, I’m taking it down with me.)
What you can’t assume, though, is that you know my food preferences (would you believe I hate hot food?) my political views, or even my favorite books or my preference in periods/places of history to study.
But Marxist theory presumes to believe they know all of those (no, not real Marxist theory, but Marxism as she is taught in our schools, by inference and implication) so I often give people near-heart-attacks when I tell them things that such as that I came here so a village wouldn’t raise my children. Or that I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for individual humans. Or….
In fact where Marxism which divided people in nothing but broad economic classes (even if he presumed to know a lot of things about the motives of those classes) met the idea of industrial standardization which had seeped into people’s minds for over 100 years, we got this bizarre idea that people are exactly like other people with the same broad characteristics, and therefore must fight for “common interests.”
This is where we got the rather bizarre idea that people like me are gender traitors, as though every woman in the world had common interests and common experiences, other than say, giving birth or menstruating, and as if we couldn’t find more in common with many men (like those engaged in the same profession. I mean, feminism is the strange idea that I’ll find more to talk to about with my next door neighbor, who is a nurse and a very nice woman but not at all interested in the same things I care about, than with Dave Freer, who read the same books I did growing up, has the same rather bizarre sense of humor and has for decades been in the same business I work in. IOW Feminism as she’s practiced is delusional.)
Now in political and social terms, the theory is often hilariously wrong, and we can point and make duck noises, and we’re starting to make people see what arrant nonsense it is, at the margins at least.
But the problem is in other, side-cranies of the world-image inside our heads.
There is in our age a tendency to want to standardize EVERYTHING, including human experience, reaction and behavior that CAN’T be standardized. (See previous comment about half the kids thinking they’re transgender.)
Years ago, when Robert was a toddler and I was thinking of homeschooling him, I read a lot of books on how to teach, what worked, etc. (I ended up not homeschooling him, partly because I had a near-fatal pneumonia that almost killed me, and when I fully recovered, three years later, he was in school. Eh.)
One of the books I read was by Maria Montessori, because of course, she is known for “helping kids learn” rather than teaching.
And then the book went against the wall. This champion of individual learning actually proclaimed that if you hadn’t learned a language by age 3 you’d never be able to use it creatively. If she’d said that unless you had learned it — seems to by 18 actually, from people I know — and spoken it every day with natives by x age, you’d never get rid of the accent, I’d have shrugged and groaned. The meat suit, particularly its auditory and vocal functions are trained early. BUT she said you’d never think in the language like a native or be able to use it creatively and artistically unless you learned it by 3 — or was it six? — in any case, this writer who learned English by fourteen and who was, by then, winning contexts against native-borns, and starting to sell some short stories, laughed until she cried.
But there is this temptation and tendency to put people in groups, and shove them there, broad categories of “how you behave.” And once you put people in groups, the next step is to say “you can’t do this, because your group can’t.”
It’s very human and it’s worsened by “standardized production” thinking and Marxism. It’s also very wrong.
One of the commenters yesterday said something about people being more interested in history where their ancestors were involved. This person is a nice commenter generally and if I hadn’t been very out of temper due to doctor appointments yesterday I would not have snapped the commenter’s head off. I’m also sure that person was also taught this in school. It is also not true. It’s part of that “widgets will have these characteristics” bit.
In the village school where many of us were distant cousins, I found that kids were interested in history that was interesting. (Something our teacher sucked at, honestly, so I who by then read history by preference, would tell these exciting tales to the other kids at recess. Village girls (and some boys who crossed over from the boys’ school) were very interested in the battles in South Africa between Boer and Zulu, fascinated by the French revolution, and very interested in the 100 year war. You don’t need to match the widget to the history. You need to teach it passionately and in terms of common humanity. The proof is that half of this blog is interested in history that has bloody nothing to do with their ancestors.
In the same way one of the commenters made fun of my supposed Russian accent. The problem is that what he made fun of is not something I do. I do not say “Show me the way to the nuclear wessels” V and u are distinct in my accent, as are v and f, unless I’m trying to imitate another accent (at which I’m piss poor.) The similarities between Portuguese and Russian accents are in a certain flattening of intonation, not in consonant transposition. (I actually make the vowel mistakes of hispanics, not the consonant mistakes of Russians. Ie. I say leeve instead of leave, and don’t really HEAR the difference between live and leave.) The problem is if something sounds “like Russian” people HEAR the other mistakes, even if they aren’t there. In the same way that once, a gentleman became convinced that I had Ricky Ricardo’s accent (trust me, if you hear me, there is no resemblance, because Portuguese is so different from Spanish in pronunciation.) He’d heard I was Portuguese, and since this meant South American to him, and all of South America spoke Spanish (!) he heard me with a Spanish accent which was actually physically impossible. And he was willing to swear this is what he heard.
In the same way a lot of people who catch oddities in my expression will think it traces back to Portuguese. Ninety percent of the time (unless I’m very ill and have been reading in Portuguese for a week or so, which does sometimes happen) what they’re identifying as “Portuguese” is actually some archaic or regional form of English, born from the fact that I fall in love with dialects or historical expressions. Or just the fact that at the moment I wrote I was ill and under-caffeinated. (For instance hypothyroidism made me think in spirals. I had to approach meaning from the outside in, in a circuitous manner, as though I were ambushing the words.)
This last part is important. People who are used to thinking in categories, think they see characteristics of those categories which aren’t actually there.
Why this is important: right no most of our politics and policy is oriented to that idea of groups, and people keep seeing confirmation to their often completely crazy cakes beliefs in the behavior of groups, because they approach expecting, say, all women to be the same, all people who tan to be the same, all immigrants to be the same.
The funny thing is that we’re on the verge of a breakthrough (well, the breakthrough has happened but not percolated down the societal layers, that changes mass manufacturing into individual manufacturing at all levels, from books (already here) to clothes.) But our mind is still stuck in broad groups and categories of models that must all be the same.
Hence, you know, our visitor yesterday maintained that all immigrants take three generations to acculturate. This is probably true, nowadays, when acculturation is a bad word and when we’re receiving large batches of immigrants from one particular culture. But while it is broadly true, if applied to people who came here for economic reasons and have no interest in being Americans, it is not true for those of us who came here to be Americans, and who worked like hell at every aspect of it, from the politico-social, to watching old sitcoms and becoming familiar with popular culture and references. (This is another of those things: I often run into people who make a cultural reference like “Pow, right to the moon” and then apologize because obviously I haven’t heard of it. Actually I have, as the sitcom played in Portugal when I was a little girl, but even without that, how is it possible to live thirty years in a culture and not assimilate stuff like that by osmosis? Unless you are actively fighting it.)
But he wants an inflexible rule for “all immigrants.” And feminists want an inflexible rule for “All men” even though the percentage of men who rape women has always, historically, been vanishingly small (unless you count starting at women as rape, of course.)
The thing is, we don’t come out of assembly lines. We’re not made to specification. The freaky studies where identical twins lead similar lives are news because they’re freaky. Probably every one of us knows at least one pair of identical twins, raised by the same mother and the same father who were opposites or at least very very different.
The variety of influences, both genetic and epigenetic, both environmental and physical that go into making an individual who he is, means none of us are standard sizes or standard shape, or standard thinking or standard issue.
To think otherwise is a relic of the mass-industrial age which is now passing.
We are entering a new age of the individual. Stop thinking in standard models. The result of thinking in mass-manufacturing terms is the filling of mass-graves.
And the twentieth century was more than enough for that.