There are sentences you are reading that suddenly change how you view the world.  For me that was a Terry Pratchett sentence where he basically said “We’re all prisoners in that space behind the eyes.”

He’s right you know?

The immediate response to this is to lash out.  I’ve been everywhere, I’ve read the great works, I’ve lived!  Or as one early short story my brother wrote “I’ve lived a thousand lives, I’ve sailed on wooden ships in alien seas, I’ve traversed space and time.”

But I haven’t really, of course.  I mean, even the things I’ve really done: have children, go various places, love and been loved, all of them are filtered through the narration behind my eyes.

Which brings us to the XKCD cartoon (which is on my fridge.)


So, what is the point of this depressing contemplation?

Well, it is exactly the point of the cartoon.  We’re all prisoners inside our own brains, victims of the narration (and narrative) behind our eyes.

So, if you realize that it doesn’t make you special, but might make you curious.

I’ve long ago maintained that movies and other visual media is inferior to books.  Why?  Because you’re observing things happening to other people.

HOWEVER when you’re reading a story, particularly first person, though others work too, for a moment it replaces the voice that narrates your life.  For a moment someone else is behind the eyes.

Powerful writing can even create the impression you LIVED something.

In other words: novels, written by people we’ll never be, about experiences we’ve never had and never will have, are the only escape from being a prisoner behind your eyes.  They’re the only way for you to truly experience being someone else.  And they’re a great way to build both sympathy and empathy for others, and a wide enough experience so that in our non-exciting times, we can grow through the harrowing experiences of others.  It also helps build up our imagination, so that we and our problems are not the sum total of what we can imagine.

So.  There are people — okay, not a lot; most of that community seem to be coff bots — who believe that we want to reduce “diversity” in science fiction or literature in general.

Even if this weren’t crazycakes on account of a lot of us being female and of foreign origin, or in my case so very diverse I often disagree with myself, it would be crazycakes for someone who REALLY enjoys reading.  The more diverse the better, particularly in science fiction.  Hell and damnation, I’ve read books whose sole recommendation was that they presented a time and place I’m not familiar with, like, say, ancient Egypt.  (I wonder why so many of those suck?)  Or ancient China (A lot of those suck too.)

Then you find out their idea of diversity is a little different: you’re only allowed to write people who are exactly like you and have had the same exact social experiences.  Because people don’t want to read anyone who isn’t exactly like them, who hasn’t had the same exact social experiences.

It is at this point that you sort of scrabble backwards going “What the heck?” and start looking for the pods.

Sure, SOME kids might need this.  In fact, some kids prefer to read books in which the character’s name is their own.  (My kids always hated that, btw, with a burning passion, because they knew d*mn well that they hadn’t done this.)

But if the kids are more than 10 and proficient at reading, I suggest they need to be weaned of that, before they ossify into the position of thinking they are unique, alone, and only someone who matches them absolutely could understand them.  That we don’t need more of.

Because it’s bridges between people, and being able to understand people very different from you that make society function, particularly a society like ours, built to be plural and where we’re supposed to tolerate non-conformists.

No, I don’t mean we should prescribe that people read books about people different from them either.  Some will never like them.  Heck, some will never like any books, and the fact our school system turns out “barely literate enough to fill a form” doesn’t help.  Reading for pleasure requires proficiency enough you can enjoy the story without thinking of the medium or the words, anymore.

BUT I think those who think diversity consists of reading in our narrow paths and only about people like us are the jailers in this jail where our own cell is the space between our eyes.

Me?  I’m not a jailer.  I’m more the Count de Monte Cristo, trying to communicate by taping with the prisoner in the next cell, and training a rat or two for company.

Because I know the space behind the eyes.  Sure, it’s safe.  But it’s boring.  The world is full of different persons and different experiences.  And history is full of even more so.  I want to escape this space and experience those things.

Plato’s cave is okay.  It’s safe, dry and comfortable.  But I want to turn around and see the world.


307 thoughts on “Prisoners

  1. Plato’s cave or is it Socrates cave? No matter, I have experienced far too much reality. I like the escape of a good story. I prefer the written word over media though. I like imagining my own scenery and my own characters.

        1. comment for comments. You have to post something to get replies. This is what people post before they have anything to say.

          1. AH! Thank you emily61. All I could find on the internet was click 4 click which made no sense to me. While I CAN text on my phone, I fear I may be functionally illiterate on the shortcuts.

          2. What people post before they have anything to say? I never c4c and I often put up a whole day’s worth of comments before I have anything to say!

            Click, Click, Click, Senora, Click your comment box
            Click, Click, Click, Senora, Click it all the time
            Click, Click, Click, Senora, Click your comment box
            Click, Click, Click, Senora, Click it all the time

            (Jump in the line, click your comment box) OK, I believe you!
            (Jump in the line, click your comment box) OK, I believe you!
            (Jump in the line, click your comment box) OK, I believe you!
            (Jump in the line, click your comment box) Whoa!

      1. Sometimes a C4C becomes a whole sub-thread of airplane types, dice rolls, chemical compounds, firearms designations…. We’re a little Odd around here.

          1. And the greenhorn appreciates it! I am finding this a dangerous site as I am spending much time here. It reminds me of the early days of the royal societies where the intellects of the day gathered to discuss what ever topic peaked their interest. Thanks for making me welcome.

            1. I believe that ought be “piqued.” You’re welcome. Don’t try to pet the minions or feed the Fluffy. Beware the transtemporal portals. And whatever you do, do go into the closets without a (certified) Sherpa.

      2. C4C means “Comment For Comments”

        It means that somebody wants to make a comment just to “turn on getting more comments” for here.

        There’s a “box” that you can click on to get more comments. 😉

        1. “To be is to do.” – Socrates

          “To do is to be.” – Sartre

          “Do Be Do Be Do” – Sinatra”

          ― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

          1. That sequence came up in Wearing the Cape: Ronin Games, and the conclusion was:

            Sinatra was a Taoist Master.

  2. In other words: novels, written by people we’ll never be, about experiences we’ve never had and never will have, are the only escape from being a prisoner behind your eyes.
    I’m going to disagree a bit. A sympathetic journey through other places in the world (not necessarily far distant – maybe even next door) is an excellent way to learn how others live and think. It can even get inside that space behind the eyes.
    A written work might help you more in some instances, true, since in RL people can be reluctant to open up and be honest. But actually getting to know people and their lives can be very enlightening.

    That being said, your point about the idiocy of those who would restrict what we can write about and whom we can read is absolutely spot-on.

  3. I am soooooo fed up with people whose idea of “diversity” imposes the opposite of that attribute. Personally, I like people with ideas different than mine, people whose engagement prompts me to employ new perspectives on what I think i know.

    Sadly, what is done in the name of “diversity” is the opposite of that.

    Saw this earlier this afternoon, directed to it by Mark Steyn:

    Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials
    By Adam J. MacLeod
    I teach in a law school. For several years now my students have been mostly Millennials. Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings. Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors.

    They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison. This year in my Foundations of Law course for first-year law students, I found my students especially impervious to the ancient wisdom of foundational texts, such as Plato’s Crito and the Code of Hammurabi. Many of them were quick to dismiss unfamiliar ideas as “classist” and “racist,” and thus unable to engage with those ideas on the merits. So, a couple of weeks into the semester, I decided to lay down some ground rules. I gave them these rules just before beginning our annual unit on legal reasoning.
    Here is the speech I gave them.
    Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think you must first learn how to stop unthinking.
    Reasoning requires you to understand truth claims, even truth claims that you think are false or bad or just icky. Most of you have been taught to label things with various “isms” which prevent you from understanding claims you find uncomfortable or difficult.

    Reasoning requires correct judgment. Judgment involves making distinctions, discriminating. Most of you have been taught how to avoid critical, evaluative judgments by appealing to simplistic terms such as “diversity” and “equality.”

    Reasoning requires you to understand the difference between true and false. And reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of you have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. You have learned to associate truth with your subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only yours, and which are constantly changeful.

    We will have to pull out all of the weeds in your mind as we come across them. Unfortunately, your mind is full of weeds, and this will be a very painful experience. But it is strictly necessary if anything useful, good, and fruitful is to be planted in your head. …

    Read the whole thing.

    1. Useful quote from that speech:

      [Y]ou have been taught to resort to two moral values above all others, diversity and equality. These are important values if properly understood. But the way most of you have been taught to understand them makes you irrational, unreasoning. For you have been taught that we must have as much diversity as possible and that equality means that everyone must be made equal. But equal simply means the same. To say that 2+2 equals 4 is to say that 2+2 is numerically the same as four. And diversity simply means difference. So when you say that we should have diversity and equality you are saying we should have difference and sameness. That is incoherent, by itself. Two things cannot be different and the same at the same time in the same way.

    2. I posted that, and had to remove it after somebody complained that it was too condescending and barbaric to make students do animal noises if they used the phrase “I feel that” instead of “I think that.” At a law school.

      If you’re not willing to force law students to do evidenced-based debate at a basic level, what’s going to happen to them in the courtroom?

      I didn’t have the energy to argue. Third post I’ve removed this week due to people misbehaving in the comments.

      1. Your reader would probably run from my classroom after hearing me threaten to beat with a wet noodle any student who gets [question] wrong. They all laugh, and remember it and get it right.

      2. That law school is in Alabama, which was my home for many years, and thus I had a ringside seat as the following story was played out.

        Once upon a time, a long time ago, it was decided that candidates to graduate with an education degree from colleges in Alabama should be required to demonstrate the same level of basic knowledge as an 8th grader. All the colleges were required to test their students, and not all demonstrated that basic level of knowledge.

        The students who couldn’t do that were outraged, and felt that the requirement was unfair!. And because they were concentrated among a certain demographic, cries of “raaaaacism” were heard in the land, and something must be done!

        And so they filed a lawsuit, and Judge Myron Thompson, who had not been taught with any such rigor as the professor requires, agreed, and said that basic knowledge for teachers may not be tested, that fairness be restored. And it was not, and the professor is seeing part of the fruits of that decision today.

        I give it 6 months before a similar lawsuit is filed and the professor is reprimanded with vigor.

        1. I read that competency teaching for math teachers in New York has been deemed racist because affirmative action hires can’t pass the tests. Instead of trying to bring everyone up to a standard, they just lower the standard. Another win for equality and diversity. (Equal ignorance and superficial diversity.)

  4. Many many years ago I had this dream where I was sitting just behind my eyes controlling my body. 😀

    Oh, I don’t want to read about characters “just like me”. 😉

    1. What do you mean, dream? Isn’t that how everyone experiences life?

      Okay, so I know now it isn’t. Still . . .

    2. In a limited sense, I would like to read about characters like me. But that’s because I would like to see how they deal with the difficulties being “like me” imposes on them, and how their choices drive their lives.

      So, in the end, not just like me, but close enough that I can learn from the experience.

    3. I’ve had that waking… usually after a period of sleep deprivation/caffeine overuse, but occasionally at other times. I know I should go lie down for while, at the very least, when I can feel myself dissociating like that.

  5. I enjoy reading about differing experiences and insights. I do not enjoy reading about demonstrably false “facts”, nor do I enjoy being lectured about how horrid I am as a person/culture.

    1. Same. Also, why would I want to read about someone just like me? I’m boring! I read to escape. Sometimes I even learn something.

  6. I remember Bob Kane bemoaning the introduction of Robin to his Batman as, “someone the kids who read the comics can identify with.” He asked the room, full of both male and female fans, “Did you identify with Batman or Robin when you read the Batman comics?” The overwhelming response was Batman.

    Likewise one of the famous female authors of the golden age of SF noted that she always pictured herself as the, usually male, lead in the adventure stories she read.

    As my wife would say, these people are not stupid, they’re evil.

    1. Will Robinson, Boxey, Wesley Crusher…

      I would have cheered at each agonizing death had their characters been eaten by the grue of the week.

      1. Heh, I’d probably cheer if Will Wheaton was ate by a grue right now.
        preferably slowly with much pain. If it got his blow buddy Scalzi at the same time, so much the better.

        1. Why would you want to poison a perfectly good grue?

          I’m still holding a bit of a grudge from all the times I got munched playing Zork but I don’t hold that much of a grudge.

            1. If that’s the case we should probably expand the list. Wheaton and Scalzi are both rather annoying but they aren’t even close to the top of the pile.

              1. it’s been a long dispute from way way back in the day. of course, they po so many folks, I doubt they’d even recall who I am any longer.
                When Larry started SP, I recall thinking Scalzi? where do I remember that name from . . . oh yeah, that moron WW and their stupid sweater.
                Then again, I can’t even fully recall what exactly they did that POed me now. They do it so often it blends together.
                Memory is the second thing to go

                1. Memory is the second thing to go

                  Second? I usually find the motherboard or the power supply going before memory.

                2. I can remember. For myself, that is. The Wesley Crusher character I can overlook as TV show “writers” wrote him annoying. Wil’s alleged motto of “Don’t be a —-” makes sense. But then he once went on about how cons were great as suddenly it was all ‘us’ and not a ‘us-them’ thing… until he added ‘except the furries’ making them, well, them. Gee, Wil, don’t be a —-.

                  Sometimes I wonder if it was more than the continual non-appearance at a particular convention that made a badge ribbon I handed out a few years ago so popular. “You are here. Therefore you are…” *offers a ribbon* [Not Wil Wheaton]. I think the only people to reject it were those who didn’t do (non-con-official) ribbons at all.

                  1. Racking the brain. I am having trouble remembering I’d it was pre9/11 or post, and involved someone I was friends with at the time who has no web presence any longer. I recall telling her an Scalzi they were collating their “Don’t be a dick” policy. I think it’s not from a WWWWD blog post. It is sorta like when the blog that shall not be named went off the rails. One got to a point where you just walked away, and stopped eating any thought towards it.

                  2. okay, lets try that again in english.
                    I need bigger fonts on my phone so I can see the autocorrupt better. Egad. that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
                    corrections and missing bits in Bold
                    “Racking the brain. I am having trouble remembering if it was pre-9/11 or post, and, iirc, involved someone I was friends with at the time who has no web presence any longer. I recall telling he and Scalzi they were violating their “Don’t be a dick” policy. I think it’s not from a WWWWD blog post, but another blog or LJ or forum it happened at. It is sorta like when the blog that shall not be named went off the rails. One got to a point where you just walked away, and stopped wasting any thought towards it.”

                    1. It is sorta like when the blog that shall not be named went off the rails.
                      Which blog? There have been so many of them in the past ten years….

                    2. Charlie?

                      I keep seeing references to blog wars – did I miss something big, or does this predate my time on A2H and MHN?

                    3. Yeah, I know of the Jazzy Ponytail. Used to be a late night commentator along with a few other regulars. LeePro, Littleoldlady, realwest…. If any of those names ring a bell.

                    4. Ah, I got ringing that isn’t my tinnitus as well.
                      getting so we need figurative rockers to pull up and swap lies about the good ol’ days while tellin’ the young’uns about the inerwebs back in the day, but the crowd here was there, and know we are full of it

      1. As a friend of mine says occasionally, ‘I am a lesbian trapped in a man’s body’. It is appalling how many do not understand he is simply saying he is a guy who likes women.
        I can identify with any character who has integrity and does not wimp out. Solid villains, as in Doc Smith’s Lensman and Skylark series or in Louis L’Amore’s books, make a story. In almost seven decades of life I have learned that I much prefer evil intelligence to stupidity. There is no value in defeating “stupid”, it usually is not worth my time. There is heroic virtue in defeating an intelligent enemy. I may not win the fight, but the ultimate victory is even sweeter if the fight was hard fought.
        Just my not so humble opinion, of course.

        1. As my wife likes to say, “Sometimes you have to die to get the happy ending.” The movie End of Days comes to mind as an example.

          1. In a short story based on Herbert’s “Dosadi Experiment” a man of war (note ‘man of war’ NOT soldier or warrior) is wounded while completing his mission. When asked why he risked his life his answer was that his survival was optional. For a true ‘man of war’ mission is the only important thing, even his survival is secondary. Those people are really, really scary. Ask their enemies.

            1. My favorite line of the genre comes from the Errol Flynn flick “Adventures of Don Juan”. The movie’s final scene has the Don telling his sidekick, “There is a little bit of Don Juan in every man, but there is a lot more in me.”

    2. Most of them are not willfully evil. They ARE stupid, or willfully ignorant. It has the same effect in the end.

      The older I get the clearer it is to me that the Progressive Left is a movement of mediocre clerks – ‘intellectuals’ with mid-level intellects – desperately denying their mediocrity, and thus trapping themselves in it. They desperately want to be Important, and they can’t be without doing the heavy lifting of rising above themselves. They want what they do and write and think to be Important, and can’t stand that none of it will surpass the flawed and great storytelling of things like TARZAN (which is awful writing, and great storytelling) much less the work of geniuses like Mark Twain or Rudyard Kipling. So they come up with reasons why the Great aren’t acceptable and then try to put themselves on those emptied pillars.

      They try to co-opt the great – like Hammett – to their causes, and sometimes succeed….but have to live with the fact that what Hammett wrote, amd why it will be remembered, has nothing to do with the Progressivism they got him to embrace.

  7. No, I don’t mean we should prescribe that people read books about people different from them either.
    I think – since we’re going to force them to read some stuff, anyway – we could require some of that. (In school, obviously.)

    But – and this is the real sticking point – “different from us” can’t be just “against the so-called prejudices of the moral people”. This is really where the post-modernist morons are destroying things.

    If I were just required to read some well-written books by writers from other cultures, I would be cool with that. (It might be harder to get me to ‘identify’ as we discussed before, depending on just how different the culture is, but I’d give it a shot.)

    But, what a significant portion of them want in “diversity” is Heather Has Two Mommies and See Dick Become Jane. They don’t want diversity because it will broaden your mind, they want to indoctrinate you into their cause. They want you to endorse things in which you don’t believe.

    I think that last bit is the key between “good writing” and “indoctrination” as we’re seeing it play out in our society. I can read that good book set in, say… Thailand, and maybe even enjoy the book – and not endorse the culture contained therein. The indoctrination pieces insist I must, when done reading, have converted to the cause and endorse all contained therein. Or, at least, endorse the book itself.

    1. Diversity is a little girl in the Midwest reading the Little House books and _The Flame Trees of Thika_ and Kipling and _Eighth Moon_.

      1. Girl in Finland reading about Tarzan and Barsoom and of four kids and a dog in England a decade or two before her birth having adventures and a wild horse called Wildfire and the cowboy who caught and but never really tamed him and the girl he fell in love with, and other cowboys and a half wolf dogs and their people in Alaska and Canada (decades before she was born) and American settlers on Mars and Moon in an imagined future.

    2. One of the pleasures of reading “Ellis Peter’s” Cadfael stories is the recognition of similarities between the Friar’s time and our own but also the different value structures underlying actions.

      It isn’t that they do not have the same passions and needs, but that those passions and needs can be directed through different channels by different values, and that their values are as genuine;t meaningful and important to them as are ours to us. And maybe, just maybe, our own structures are not universal, not divinely ordered, and most especially not “just good sense.”

      There’s Diversity for you!

      1. One of the reasons I enjoyed Cherryh’s Chanur saga, the Foreigner series and The Cuckoo’s Egg was the serious attempt to really get outside a ‘human’ way of thinking. I think she succeeded more than not (insofar as it’s even possible).
        They made me think. They made me wonder. They made me ponder. Those aren’t requirements to make something a good read, but they are definitely one possible good outcome.

        1. Hal Clement’s oeuvre was telling tales from alien viewpoints and I adored his Ice Planet and Mission of Gravity among others.

          Heck, even Doc Smith gave us Worsel, Tregonsee, and Nadreck!

          1. I remember Lazarus Long’s comments in one of the later books to the effect that he had found a universe where the Lensmen actually existed. He escaped from that reality as quickly as he could as no human could long avoid trouble from an absolutely honest, mind reading, incorruptible police force.

            1. That’s in The Number of the Beast, and it wasn’t Lazarus Long who said it – though he does eventually turn up.

            2. Lazarus, along with lots of people today, forgot something:

              The Lensmen were incredibly rare: At the start of Galactic Patrol, they mention that the only found 500 a year out of 1 MILLION human candidates… and every human was by no means a candidate. Their casualty rates were not, apparently, low; they were covering a Galaxy or better, and frankly weren’t concerned with anything resembling petty crime. Drugs which addict on first dose and kill with very small dosages do NOT constitute petty crime. Lensmen were equivalent to SpecOps troops, and were used accordingly.

              I’m re-reading the series now, and those things kind of jump out at you.

              1. The primary targets of the Lensmen would have been criminal cartels and political leaders (but I repeat myself.)

                It is worth considering what effect the advances in due process post Miranda might have caused in the Lensman Universe. (I have this image of a Lensman throwing up after inquiring as to the meaning of “is” of a Bill Clinton.)

                1. That’s what twin Delameters were designed for.

                  I would be interested to see what they came up with after they realized that Kinnison’s weapon that fatally breaks apart the “chemical necessary for thought” would have no effect on Leftists…..

              2. I reread the series periodically. The absolute integrity of the Lensman was something I always try to emulate. I would never be chosen as Lensman material but my conceit is that I “have the look of eagles” demonstrated in Tri-Planetary. I even used the Ralph Kinnison’s line to the young guys that worked for him in the chemical plant about them not leaving but doing their job because his reputation was made and their reputations would be tarnished if they quit. I have had the honor of having my team offer to resign over my termination twice. A price was paid for being honest but the long term effect was extremely rewarding, especially as I see the way my adult kids behave.

            3. Kindly consider that RAH may just possibly have been butting the Doc* with a joke.

              As revealed in “Larger than Life” in the 1980 anthology, Expanded Universe, RAH trusted Smith to test drive a used car Heinlein was considering buying during the war.

      2. “One of the pleasures of reading “Ellis Peter’s” Cadfael stories is the recognition of similarities between the Friar’s time and our own but also the different value structures underlying actions.”
        Indeed. And a delightful read they are.
        She also wrote TONS more stuff I haven’t gotten around to yet.
        I lienjoyed her historical dramas, “The Heaven Tree” trilogy and “The Brothers of Gwynedd” quartet (writing as Edith Pargeter, her real name).
        Welsh history, very well researched and written.
        They form the knowledge base for her Cadfael stories.
        I like “Tree” best; “Brothers” is more historical, but gets bogged down sometimes because of it.

    3. Funny how their definitions of “diversity”, “equality”, and “inclusiveness” vehemently exclude… well… anyone who doesn’t fit in one of their designated Approved Categories.

      “They’re making a list of thought criminals, which are us, and we’re making a list of thought police.” – SciVo

      1. Oh, I know. And that’s where the other are going with it.

        Requiring someone to read (again, in a setting where they are required to read anyway) something from a diverse culture doesn’t require propagandizing. If you have an honest discussion about it, or are allowed to express a divergent opinion, then it’s very useful. If you are NOT allowed that, then it’s bound to be nothing more than propaganda.

        Oh, and it has to be *GOOD* writing (even if not the same way of writing or telling a story that we would expect).

    4. “This is really where the post-modernist morons are destroying things.”

      I just read a very good dissection of said morons, in reference to their destruction of the profession of historians, but covering other disciplines as well. It made sense out of a lot of the stuff about post-modernists and their ilk that I have absorbed over the years but didn’t quite know what it really meant.
      “The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Past

      Keith Windschuttle, Author Free Press $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-684-84445-9
      The deliberately provocative title of this latest entry in the ongoing culture wars belies a reasonable, subtly argued if wide-ranging and at times unwieldy critique of contemporary historical theory. Australian author and lecturer Windschuttle contends that the introduction of fashionable academic “”history”” courses under such rubrics as cultural, media and gender studies are agenda-driven and have undercut the practices of history as a discipline. Windschuttle clearly subscribes to Roger Kimball’s “”tenured radicals”” thesis, and places much blame for the decline in traditional history on postmodernist French literary and social theorists–above all, Michel Foucault. In the introduction of theoretical approaches like structuralism, poststructuralism, deconstruction and semiotics, he says, contemporary radical theorists posit a cultural relativism that denies an objective, knowable truth about the past. The author argues that history is inherently empirical: that historians draw conclusions by inductive reasoning based on research, rather than by the application of preconceived theories. Each of the nine chapters examines a particular episode or issue and analyzes current trends in scholarship. For example, a chapter on the conquest of Mexico presents a fascinating overview of this event and various historians’ interpretations of it. The author warns that “”cultural relativism will never serve the real interests of indigenous peoples if it denies them access to the truth about the past.”” While these views will scarcely endear Windschuttle to the academics whose theoretical approaches he attacks, he largely succeeds in shedding more light than heat on some contentious issues.”

  8. Because I know the space behind the eyes. Sure, it’s safe. But it’s boring.
    You obviously don’t have the same voices in your head as I do. OK, sometimes it’s boring. But not always. 😉

    1. If it gets to boring you can always just let the voices out. Probably be a good idea to have a lawyer on speed-dial.

    2. Er… actually I do have the voices. Remember I write. That’s another way to get out, but I didn’t want to say that, because it gets complicated. “Do you believe these voices are independent from you, then, sometimes?” “Well, yes.”
      And then the men in white coats come.

      1. Those guys are really friendly. Very helpful. They’ll help you into your new jacket. They’ll help you into the van….
        But, then they give you medicine to make the voices go away. Then it gets quiet. And lonely.

        What? Too much?

      2. Writers letting their voices out good. . .Other people not writers that occasionally need to restrain themselves less they see how far they can toss an annoying co-worker. . (Ok, that’s not really a voice but sometimes that’s what the voice is saying. . .with other voices betting on distance or even probability of being able to lift 400 lb co-worker).

      3. I once told a really BORING psychiatrist at a party that “I took a poll of the voices in my head and they voted 523 to 97 that I should go home and play with my radios…..SHHHH! I think some of them voted twice!” The poor fellow actually walked quickly to the door and left. I think I scared him.

        1. I once told a really annoying co-worker, who was engaging in all sorts of disruptive drama, that “The voices in my head do not like you; I think you had better leave.” Said co-worker did a double-take – both at my tone and the level look I gave her – then abruptly shut up and left the room.

          Everybody within earshot, including a supervisor who was frankly sick and tired of that person’s shit, applauded. Said co-worker never spoke to me again from that moment on, until s/he was fired a couple of weeks later.

      4. Sometimes, some of the characters, I say “seriously? WT*bleep!*” I have not, ever, been a murdering psychopath, a chlorine breathing hive mind with inadequacy issues, or a lonely artificial intelligence that is trying to create life so it has someone to talk to. I scribble things down because *I want to know what happens next* more often than not.

        It’s a terrible way to read a story. Slow, painfully slow compared to just picking up a book. And blurry. Getting the words that make it feel just right is messy. But, well, there it is. The sacrifices one makes to get to the end of the story, and all that.

      5. One of the three (out of IIRC 762) questions I didn’t answer on the MMPI when I was getting my Nuke Plant Access was along the lines of ‘The voices in my head often distract me at critical times. Y/N’ it seemed to me the answer could be either, ‘Yes the voices in my head distract me’, or ‘No, the voices are there but I can ignore them when necessary’. Since there didn’t seem to be a ‘There *aren’t* any voices in my head’ option, I gave it a pass. Got my clearance.

        1. That is right up there with “have you stopped beating your wife?” – If you have never beaten your wife the correct answer is NO but careful how you answer. There are some questions that do NOT admit to a yes or no answer if you are to tell the whole truth. Nuke security is a pain but I guess it is necessary considering the destruction with which one is playing.

          1. One of the quandaries I routinely face when attending the Red Cross blood drive is the question about whether (paraphrasing from memory) you have ever had sex with a person who accepted money or drugs for sexual intercourse and of course the proper answer is “I don’t know.” I’ve only had sex with one person over the last few decades but cannot affirm what the Beloved Spouse may or may not have done. What I am confident of is that it would not be a good idea to stand up and shout across the room to ask Beloved Spouse about such matters.

            Similarly, there’s a question about whether I’ve had contact within the last year with anybody who has had a (disease I can’t recall) vaccination. As if I knew what the person in line ahead of me at the grocery check-put has been vaccinated for!

            1. I am easily able to answer those questions regarding ‘In the last year, have you had sex with . . .’ With a resounding No.


              BTW, thanks for reminding me – I’m overdue for a donation and the blood center website says they’re in need of type O. I think this one might put me at the 5-gallon level.

            2. Standing up and yelling that across the donation center would be a feature, not a bug, to me. But I’m that sort of person. *evil grin*

              “Hey, honey! Did you accept drugs or money for any sex? The guy here is asking.”

        2. I don’t have auditory hallucinations. A lot of writers do. It’s more like “thoughts that aren’t mine” — I’m really good at completely tuning them out UNLESS they’re telling a coherent and interesting story.
          This is why we call it Gateway Writing. It’s like tuning in to another world.
          Yes, I know it’s my subconscious storytelling. I’m explaining how I experience it.

          1. I now envision a story (similar to Asimov’s The Gods Themselves) where someone puts writers in the lab (not necessarily willingly) and wires them up to try and communicate with these other ‘verses. The “wiring up” turns into something not benign.

            1. Was done in one of the timelines where the Depression didn’t prevent American progressives from having the funding to pursue the sort of experimentation the German progressives are better known for. Georgette Heyer would’ve been sorta okay, if they had stopped with her. Raymond Chandler wasn’t that bad. Lovecraft was a mistake.

          2. I believe JMS of Babylon 5 fame has written he had the characters including full accents (Londo Mollari among them, IIRC) manifesting in the shower as they prodded his scriptwriting towards the end of that series.

  9. I’ve been pondering this one with concern for a bit: If I’m the most special unique snowflake in existence, as everyone has been telling me over and over again for my entire life, so much so that the only valid perspective is mine, and I have no capability to identify with even fictional characters that are not effectively me, then the very small next step is “And all you meatbags are not really even people,” which is over the line into psychopathy at a level that starts generating a body count.

    So how close is the effort to create Generate Speshul Snowflake to instead producing Generation Eichmann?

    1. Probably closer than we want to think about. Fortunately they are in also in the process of turning men into girls. The desire to be genocidal lunatics may be present but the capability of performing genocide is limited.

      1. Millenials! Always wanting someone else to do the hard work of subduing the people so they can stamp on their face.

      2. Women can be evil murdering psychopaths. Less likely to be a sniper, and , I think more likely to be a poisoner. E.g. poison the reservoirs or school lunches.

    2. I wonder if that observation plays into the increased number of crazies who opt for suicide-by-cop-and-high-body-count in one way or another.

    3. One of the reasons serial killers are so tough to catch is that they are almost always extremely intelligent. A true genius has a unique view of the world. I decide what values I will hold based on my own thoughts, not on your expectations. Most geniuses, even those we consider relatively sane like Einstein or Oppenheimer, are boarder line asocial. If it were not for our choices we could ALL be the Unabomber because society’s rules do not apply to us. Every genius is at least boarder line insane; the higher the IQ the further into that world we go. Everything is usually very logical, it is just that we start from a different set of premises. The Psy Corps on Babylon 5 is a good example of the difference between “humans” and “mundanes”.

        1. And, if the front door is locked and you have to get into the place through the 3rd story window from the roof, it’s
          “Prepare to rappel, boarders!”

      1. Every genius is at least boarder line insane

        Border, you provincial putz, b-o-r-d-e-r!

        I’ve killed characters for lesser transgressions.

        1. RES, You are quite right. As I recall the ritual involves a knife going into the left side, just below the rib cage then down and then across to the right side horizontally. Language abuse is close to an unforgivable sin atonement is required.

  10. I’m not in the space behind my eyes. I’m too large to fit there. I take up about 90,000 milliliters, and the space behind my eyes is only around 1200 milliliters. I’m sitting at a desk in my apartment with my fingers on my keyboard.

    If you identify yourself as being your brain, you might suppose that you occupy that 1200 milliliters. Or if you identify yourself as being a pattern of data stored in your brain, or an immaterial entity such as a soul or spirit, you might suppose the same, though it seems odd to me to think that a soul or spirit has a physical location. But I identify myself as my entire physical being. The other models seem to me to be versions of Cartesian dualism, and I’ve never had any use for dualism as a philosophy.

    1. My brain is “merely” a throughput device; a modem via which I interact with my body and the material universe.

      1. Ah, you ARE a Cartesian. I’m not; I don’t use “I” to mean an immaterial essence that uploads information from the physical world via my brain (or my pineal gland, as Descartes proposed!), but my entire physical being.

        1. Probably. However, regardless of any number of degrees of separation, it’s STILL reality. Jumping off the Empire State Building gets me just as dead in this reality. And teasing vicious dogs still results in very tangible, and unpleasantly painful, bites.

          So what’s the reality like that my mind exists in? (Assuming such a state to be true.) Input is turned off while conscious in this world. And memory of the Other World is either blurred, or unavailable. And testing to destruction isn’t an acceptable means of verification. What if I’m wrong? Or what if God really does have a problem with forgiving people committing suicide?

          I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re all here to learn things to prepare us not just for this life, but also for the next. Considering all the things we experience and have to get through here, I’m not so sure most of us are headed to Paradise as our next stop. What if this world is merely a training ground, and He has more serious work waiting for us after we pass?

  11. Years ago, I was at a company management training class at which one of our outside speakers was a psych professor of the Jungian persuasion. His message to us was: Your natural tendency will be to hire people who have personality types similar to your own. Resist this temptation, or you will all have the same blind spots and will all happily walk off the cliff together.

    This type of Diversity isn’t getting so much attention these days as the race/gender/sexual-preference variety…indeed, Apple’s new diversity chief was severely criticized for suggesting that Diversity could be present among a group of “12 white blue-eyed blonde men in a room.”

    1. After all, optimal Leftist diversity is a picturesque & attractive group of all races, religions*, sexual orientations, genders, and handicaps- and all possessing the exact same Ivy league educational background and fashionable leftist political views.

      *within reason. No wacko fundies, Orthodox Jews, weirdo Mormons, or devout Papist allowed, of course.

      1. I trust that y’all saw this week’s picture of a Big 5 publishing house’s young editors sitting in a boardroom together? All of them white (except for a couple-few Asians), female, wearing the same fashions, and graduates from the same schools at the same economic levels? It was like looking at cookie-cutter cookies in a window.

        The funny thing is that I’ve seen pictures from back in the day when corporations had official policies to just hire white people from rich ivy League backgrounds — and even in the IBM suits, they looked more different than those young women do. They were individuals with their own thoughts and interests.

      2. I’m not sure why Muslims are welcomed; the more radical, the better. I suspicion it’s because of the mutual dislike of the wacko fundies, Orthodox Jews, weirdo Mormons, and devout Papists.

        1. It’s the idea that brown peoples are less contaminated by Eee-vil Western Culture, and are therefore more pure in thought and action.
          And yes, Rousseau is on my list of “graves I want to take a piss on”.

          1. That reminds me: A time machine and a pistol with one bullet is such a depressing thought. Do you go for the one of the actual monsters of the 20th century (Stalin, Mao, Hitler), their 19th century enablers (Marx & co.), or Rousseau?

            1. For values of time machine that include Sakuya Izayoi, it is arguable that you only need one.

        2. Have you seen anything abut the Karl Lagerfeld kerfuffle? It seems the German designer went on French television and opined, “One cannot — even if there are decades between them — kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place.”

          Très démodé!

    2. “A managers hire A people. B managers hire C people.”

      (heard so long ago, I no longer remember the source)

    3. As I recall the story about that Apple diversity chief she got her black-butt roundly denounced by the like-thinking class.

      In the Kingdom of the Blind the one-eyed [person] is a dangerous lunatic.

        1. I’m sure that Justice Thomas can testify to that. Or Dr. Sowell. Diversity of flesh and equality of thought.

  12. I always find it baffling that people who read and watch fiction with elves, dwarves, dragons, Vulcans, Wookiees, robots, vampires, werewolves, and zombies claim they can’t relate to stories where the protagonists don’t have the same skin color and bits between their legs. If they can’t relate to someone who’s not their same gender and skin color, how can they claim to relate to elves and aliens who aren’t even their same species?

    1. But the SJW criticisms were always nonsense. Their own works don’t meet their standards. For that matter, their standards are often mutually exclusive. They aren’t – and never were – a framework for judgement. They are a false-front from which to condemn.

      And that’s true of a lot, if not most, of the Left’s positions. There was no cohereant framework, because unless they get to constantly change the rules, they are such mediocrities that they can’t ever win.

        1. The thing that charms me about The Who is that in WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN and BABA O’REILEY they pretty much said everything useful the Punk movement had to say, and said it better and with better music.

    2. I think I’ve told this before, but it fits here, so I risk repetition. Call it a blast-from-the-paste-comment if that helps.

      Once upon a time, I was involved on an IRC channel of/by/for Animaniacs fans. Often there were nick-changes at a furious pace and different characters, of various species. And every great once in a while, someone new (who, it would turn out, was obviously a younger guy… how young, who knows) who would hit on every female character.. for a week or two. Until he finally worked out that the IRC character did NOT necessarily match the person at the keyboard. And there would outrage, and even demands (which got oh so mocked) that people ONLY play characters of their own gender. This was hilarious in an environment where species was not merely flexible, but downright fluid – in the helium rather than molasses sense.

    3. If they can’t relate to someone who’s not their same gender and skin color, how can they claim to relate to elves and aliens who aren’t even their same species

      That may explain all of the terrible fanfic out on the net – people taking characters and attempting to rework then in the person’s own image.

  13. “barely literate enough to fill a form”
    Working in a public library, I have been amazed at how many job seekers need help deciphering the application process.
    And I’m not talking uploading PDF’s or other work that requires a modicum of computer proficiency. I mean people that want to know what to put under “Work History”. Or don’t know what “References” are.
    Truly, a terrifying world we live in.

    1. One of the failures of the modern education system- we metaphorically push kids around in strollers until they are 18, then expect them to run marathons.

      1. Twenty years back, my father was amazed at how incompetent some of the new engineers were, fresh from college.
        Now it seems to be across the board.
        Not every college and public school puts out uneducated children, but far to many do.

          1. There is usually a disconnect between education and knowing how to apply what’s learned. The latter takes experience, which is why it’s common to pair a green EE with an old grizzled lineman for a while. Our engineer tells how, when still green, a lineman asked him what kind of transformer bank one was as they rode past, and he honestly couldn’t tell. Then the lineman said “What use are you, then?”

            Honestly, a lot of brand spanking new engineers are like butterbars. The good ones know they don’t have the experience, and listen. The bad ones have to learn the hard way.

            1. I understand the same sort of pairing is done in the military with an experienced sergeant and a new lieutenant: the smart young ones learn from the smarter old ones; the dumb ones end up killing a lot of people.
              “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.” David Mamet

          1. Well, between my religion, (yes I’m a mormon), and a long standing family history of alcoholism; I tend to avoid booze like the plague.
            I didn’t really intend any deeper joke than that.

              1. Not that I’ve heard. However, I have heard that BYU now allows Coca-cola and Pepsi to be sold on campus. Coffee and tea =/= caffeine. (Being a conservative old stick, I still hold that an excess of colored flavored carbonated sugar water still isn’t good for you, caffeine or no)

                1. You heard right about BYU. Which means that all us Texan Mormons can now drink our Dr. Pepper in front of each other.
                  (The Word of Wisdom never included soft drinks, just coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco; some members tended to “err on the side of caution” and include caffeinated soft drinks on their own.)

          2. I prefer rum myself. However since I’m on meds and like the sweet part best, I stick to juice and non-alky drinks.

            1. I prefer single malt scotch, I even like the Island scotches as I have learned to like the petroleum notes in the flavor. (image a chorus of “Diesel and Shale”. Tequila is good IF and only if you get a sufficiently aged tequila and not the young stuff.

              1. Note: Patron only ages its’ absolute premium brand three years, at least when I toured the distillery in 1997. Young is a relative term.

          3. I will say it’s not trivial to find really good tequila – but even then it’s not a huge appeal. It’s never been a first choice for me. And, due to all the stories (even ox can learn from others mistakes, some) I get very careful around/with it. Even if I have more than one cocktail, there is never more than one with tequila. Call it paranoia if you like, but I have not awoken to find myself next to a stranger*.

            * Napping on commercial airlines doesn’t count for this.

        1. Nah, religious restrictions don’t count so you get a pass.

          Top reasons to be a pagan. Pretty much no religious restrictions on anything and even if there are it’s all flexible and subject to change.

            1. Superstition and magical thinking can be divided into religion and magic depending on how the rituals are practiced. If it is a solitary activity, it is magic. If it is a group activity, it is religion.

                    1. When several parishioners get together to complain, it’s a Group Grope Gripe

                      *clicks bottles together* “Oh, RES… Come out and play…”

              1. basic difference:
                In magic, IF I do all the motions JUST SO and say the words EXACTLY right then the result I want MUST occur.
                In religion I admit to a more powerful being who is NOT compelled to answer in the way I desire. I request my boon and the deity may or may not grant the request.
                The difference is who is in control, me in magic a deity in religion.

    2. References? Aren’t those the people who slowly back away and slide behind furnishings on noticing me entering a room?

    3. C told me that she talked with a TA today about being embarrassed by not being able to remember the names of all three gods to whom a particular temple was dedicated, when she took her midterm. The TA told her that she had graded papers from students who didn’t know that it was a temple, or that it was Egyptian! And these are students at a UC campus, not a state college or community college.

      A day or two ago, I was complaining about a scholarly book I was editing whose author cited Darwin’s most famous book as “Origin of the Species.” Apparently she had never learned the correct title and didn’t bother to look it up. There’s a reason scholarly publications are copy edited. . . .

      1. I recall Freshman English back around 1980, working hard to ensure that every paragraph had a beginning, middle and end, all supporting the argument made at the paper’s start and all building to a concluding point.

        Then there was the day when we swapped papers about to grade each other and I realized there were students there struggling to make subject and verb occur, much less agree, in a sentence.

            1. Of course, in reality, the problem is way more culture than genes. You can’t really eliminate geniuses (although I suppose it is possible to create a population which produces fewer of them with time) but you can certainly create a culture which destroys the ones born in it by keeping them down by force.

        1. I met one in grad school. She was getting her MA in Education – curriculum development – secondary. Could not write a book summary, and struggled to read the books for the class. She was game, and tried very hard, but I really wondered how well she could teach. (She was in her late 40s, coming back for a degree she needed to move up in the administrative side.)

          1. In grad school I was asked to help a Sociology PhD candidate with the math for her dissertation. She kept coming up with numbers like 2.3795269342 +/- 5 …. when I insisted this was not data, it was NOISE I was told to go away and I was forbidden from attending her dissertation defense, contrary to all precedent which says a defense is open to any and all interested parties.
            Some purported sciences are pure nonsense.

          1. Many people seem to overlook that humility does not require you to disparage your own talents, merely that you maintain an appropriate perspective of their true value, neither inflating nor deflating yourself.

            No matter how creative you might be it is important to recognize you don’t create your own dirt.

    4. It’s not that the education system has failed, it’s that the average of human being is just… Not “all that”. I fear that the general run of human is actually not really that bright, observant, or capable of doing much in the way of adapting their environment to their needs, or themselves to that environment. I don’t know what the actual percentage of “switched on” humans is, but on my bad days, I think it’s around 10%. On optimistic ones, maybe 15-20%?

      Ever wonder where these people who let their GPS systems drive them into the forest in the middle of winter, and who then get stuck until spring, actually come from? It’s not that they’re “coming from somewhere”, it’s that that is actually the default human state–Oblivious and really not all that bright, especially when it comes to basic survival in a lot of cases.

      I’ve always been that annoying kid who figured out what the hell was going on ahead of the rest of the class, and finished the damn test while the teacher was still explaining how to fill in your name on the Scantron forms.

      Every time I took one of those tests, I’d look around the room and observe how many were struggling with the instructions they were given, how many were assiduously following along with the teacher, out of some perverse conformity, and then… Just how few of my fellows there actually were, who were able to figure out what the hell to do on their own, and then doing it. The percentage then, as now, has always hovered around 10%, no matter what situation I’ve found myself in.

      You see the same thing going on with regards to fixing things–70% of the population will just work around a broken door knob, another 10-15% will take the effort to inform the “authorities” that the doorknob needs the attention of building maintenance, and the rest will mutter darkly and then fix the damn thing themselves. This is an overall metaphor for society, in general, and is pretty much standard in nearly all situations you might find yourself in.

      I reluctantly conclude that civilization is probably actually supported by only about a max of 15% of the population. The rest are just along for the ride, and would quite happily still be living in caves, gathering fruits and berries, and hunting small game animals with clubs.

      If anyone can refute these observations, please do. I could use some cheering up, these days.

      It ain’t the education system, folks: This is really what the normal state of the human animal actually is. Dense as a brick, and not all that observant or capable of adapting the environment to themselves, or themselves to the environment. There are an awful lot of people who’d be stuck out in the snow, faced with a mis-labeled door that said “Push”, when it was really an outward-opener that needed to be pulled.

      1. Personally, there’s things where I’m way ahead of the curve, and there’s things where I’m far behind it- sportsball, celeb gossip, and the like.

        It’s not that those people are totally oblivious to everything, it’s just that they shut out the stuff that they think is boring. I’m sure all of us have topics that we have to fight and struggle to pay attention to (sportsball and celeb gossip).

        It’s not that they’re not very bright, but they have never had to really pay attention to the stuff they don’t like. Which is where the collapse of the family, the failure of the modern education system, and the loss of early work experience comes in.

        Paying attention to stuff you don’t like is not a natural trait in a prosperous society- it’s a discipline, hard and uncomfortable to learn, and hard to teach. Glorified babysitting is a whole lot easier for the modern teacher.
        So you get oblivious people because people have never really learned otherwise.

        Take the same group of oblivious people, turn their home area into a war zone, and a good majority of them will learn very quickly the habits of how to survive and observe. Or die very quickly.

        1. Friend of mine taught himself statistics, and not the cookbook variety, in order to understand sports statistics better. It’s not the subject material, it’s the approach to life I’m talking about, here.

          Average person is oblivious, and nine times out of ten, just accepts everything in their environment at face value, and as essentially unchangeable. Doorknob quits working? Well, we’ll just ignore that, and work around it, rather than try to figure out what’s wrong with the mechanism and fix it ourselves…

          I’d bet money that were you to implement some kind of maze entrances and exits that changed daily to most people’s houses, there’s a solid chunk of the population that would just starve to death in their homes. How big a chunk? I dunno, but it’d be significant.

          I think a lot of folks who come here to Sarah’s site are sort of… Uhmm… Optimistic, maybe…? We tend to be the sorts of people who fall into that “10% carrying 90% of the workload, keeping civilization going and the lights on…”. The rest of the population is, I’m afraid, somewhat on the “go along to get along” scale, and would probably still be living in caves or hide shelters out on the Eurasian plain, without the minority of folks who actually innovate and keep things running. The rest of the human race is not stupid, by any means, but there’s something going on that leaves them with most of their intellect completely disengaged and running on autopilot.

          Call it mindfulness, or whatever you want to, but there are a bunch of our fellow herd members who aren’t going to pause at the cliff edge and go “Hey, do we really need to do this…?”. And, what really grinds me is the fact that a lot of these people are far from stupid, it’s just that they’re completely uninterested in making things work better for themselves or others.

          You run into this with a lot of stuff–Backpacking and mountain climbing come to mind. Average person just takes things as they are, with regards to the equipment. So what if the pack and frame don’t work together well on their bodies? They’ll suffer through it, by-and-large. But, there’s about one-in-ten people who, faced with that problem, will actually sit down and modify the gear to work better for them. Some of these folks go on to be multi-millionaires, selling their ideas and expertise. Others, well… They’ll just do a lot better at the whole hiking thing.

          I think the essential difference is that willingness to modify things to work right, or work better. The majority don’t have the instinct, the skills, or the desire.

          1. I think most could be taught to some extent. But they’d need to be taught young. Once humans have learned that it’s possible to do okay even if you do not do much of anything most will stick to that. Once upon a time that teaching came at least to some extent to most through social mores, with the idea that being productive and having a good work ethic was the right thing to do, and those who didn’t measure up were punished, at least to some extent, by becoming social rejects. But we have mostly lost that now. And otherwise our lives are so easy in western countries that you don’t need to strive hard to just survive, so most don’t.

          2. I’ve got a good friend who is a wizard linguist, but has no mechanical skills at all. This isn’t that unusual for really smart people, as we all know.
            So I am not surprised when normal people have similar gaps, especially in things that don’t interest them.
            The doorknob example- maybe they’re too dumb to replace it, or maybe they know how, and will get around to it tomorrow (had a dryer hinge that took me 7 years to get around to replacing tomorrow).
            One of the things I’ve done here in PNG is safety briefings for new people. And one thing I’ve noticed is that most folks kind of pay attentions, unless there had been an incident. Right after that, people’s interest is right high and they start paying attention.
            I’m also in a job where we turn over our staff regularly- 1/4 is gone every year. So we see normal people step into roles they never imagine they could do, and do them.

            1. Consider prison inmates. As a rule, we’re not talking about the best and brightest of society. And yet, this group is downright ingenious when it comes to improvising weapons out of… everything. Or smuggling items, hiding items, passing messages, and so on.
              It’s a group unlikely to possess a lot of degrees, yet they will have a very good grasp of what the prison rules are- and can probably quote them chapter and verse. They will also have a very good idea of the specifics of the law- which is why we have the term “Jailhouse Lawyer”.

              Humans are very, very good at figuring things out

              The pessimism of your post is contamination from the modern Cult of the Expert, the idea that things are best left to the professionals.

              1. After Gigancat managed a feat of planning and ingenuity that no one had thought possible (he was large, really large, but not especially bright, even by cat standards), the vet opined, “Pets, like people, are only as smart as they need to be.” Gigancat had, apparently, decided that he needed to be smarter, and he leveled up at least three difficulty levels. We were impressed. (While at the vet’s boarding kennel, he found a way onto a high counter, opened a drawer from above, dragged out a bag of catfood, closed the drawer, took the food back to his cage, and tucked it away for later eating.)

              2. Another example of the ingenuity of humans- consider the early history of Australia. Take a bunch of uneducated city folks, and stick them in a hostile land. Most of those folks got the hang of life on the Fatal Shore right quick. Or died.

                Anyway, the idea that most humans are stupid sheep is at the core of statism. That the great masses of the Proletariat would be helpless without the guiding hand of their Betters. That only the right sort of people can be trusted with leadership.
                Which is nonsense. The common masses tend to muddle through without the need for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (or whatever you want to call today’s tyrant), and often will do far better than those under the hand of some enlightened clique.

                1. I think most people are sheep. They don’t have to be, but they are. Current pedagogy works to ensure they stay sheep, rather than encouraging independence and critical thinking. If not encouraged in that endeavor, most humans will simply slide into the rut of the rest of society.
                  (Again, I don’t think most people yearn for freedom. Only if they have been raised/taught to value it will they desire it enough to fight for it. Everyone else will look more for security and predictability than anything else.)

      2. That’s really sad. I’ve been unemployed, more than once, due to local industry swings, and moving was not an option (spouse still worked), which qualified me for unemployment “retraining” (okay with essentially 3 degrees what I was after was skills “updating” or $$$ for current vogue language seminars to pad, oops update, my current resume … I write software). To get this help, one must go through the hoops, which include testing to determine your reading and math skills, which are an hour each, and you can not bring in any device or book, or leave the room between the time the two tests are administered … important points. Does not matter which test was first. Point is, I finished first test in less than 10 minutes. Turned in. Test Administrator “Check your work” Me: “I did; 4 times”. Conversation (which I intentionally took as long as possible) took 5 to 10 minutes, which left 45 to 40 minutes to just sit there …. I don’t just sit there very well. At least after the 2nd test I could just leave. Either way got really strange looks from administrator and other test takers (well one time there was a former classmate also involved … I think we raced to see who would finish the test sections first …). What’s really sad, a lot of the others there could not even finish either test.

        1. My first civilian aircraft mechanic job application process included a math test, 40 questions, 10 each addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. First one in my applicant bloc (by at least 15 minutes) to turn in the packet, Proctor started grading the test, and about halfway through the first sheet she started glancing at me and shaking her head. When she finished, I went up and asked of there were something wrong with my test. She replied that no one had gotten all the questions correct before.

          1. I do understand and can relate, somewhat. I know someone whose younger brother did his school homework and tutored him. The younger brother is 5 years younger! Yet, put a diagram of anything in front of him, no matter how complicated, and this person can and will take apart that item and put it back together. Not only will it work, but it will work better. Basic math computation (forget logic problems) and reading, he had no problem with; was told he got the highest score on the Pacific Power Mechanics test. Beyond “academic” basics, not so much.

            On the other hand, I never got anything above a C in school on papers, graded on content, then lost points for misspellings, etc (this was college). Not that I can’t write, but I can not spell to save my life (guess who is old enough to have written papers not on a computer), and unless spell checker, points it out, I don’t catch incorrect spelling. Even now, with spell checker I will change the word to something that expresses what I want to say, even if it means rewriting the entire sentence, or delete an entire post because rewording is not an option, just because when misspelling the word I wanted, the spell checker will NOT provide the “correct” word (I am that far off).

            1. I had the misfortune to be in grade-school during the phonics-phad of the late 1970s-early 1980s. So now I have no problem reading the phonetic-codes used to show sounds, but I also spell by ear. This is great for almost all languages other than English.

              I’ve been told that I spell very well for an Elizabethan. The teacher was NOT referring to the current Elizabeth. *sigh*

              1. Phonics fad started with early 60’s (ish); first grade 1962. At least that’s what my spelling is like. And lord help me with new words without a dictionary. If I don’t hear them first, I will almost certainly mangle them verbally; some words I still get wrong (and I will get corrected, sometimes appreciated, usually not so much; which means I don’t talk, much). Also, my reading vocabulary is much higher than my writing or speaking vocabulary; at least as long as the author uses the word correctly, and the overall sentence and paragraph concur.

              2. If the “phonics fad” drives anyone up a wall, the “whole word” thing seems to do worse. I experienced phonics, or at least a version of it. And yeah, I do mangle some words (Greek-derived words play by different rules, yes?), but overall… it doesn’t seem too bad.

      3. And then there are the “clear” (HA!) instructions that can be read two, or more different ways. And I never seem(ed) to ‘get’ the allegedly ‘clear and obvious’ version and wonder WTH is wrong…

        “It means $THIS.”
        “Then why didn’t it SAY $THIS? It reads $THAT.”
        “No it doesn’t.” etc.

        1. At a job, a decade so or go, I was 100% responsible for a software project; including, ultimately instructions/manual, or at least I was once the original technical “writer” left. Constant complaint until that person left, was “can not find instructions on how to …” (fill in … blank). My response was to send not only chapter and page, but additional help specific to their question (along with a politely stated buried line “easy to find …”; not really read further). Now note I was actual software writer and therefore (technically) 3rd or 4th level support; clients were not suppose to talk directly to me. But, most the questions, came from the company support personnel because they could not answer the question, or find the answers; and some from high-end clients who got first rate attention. Fast forward to the first release where I was actually the one responsible for technical manual, being written by a new technical writer, who knew nothing about the material; not uncommon. When, I, me the one who had been working on the software for the last 5 years, could not figure out where the new material needed to be inserted into the manual, and sometimes even changes to existing material were not clear … Manual got reorganized and rewritten!!!! Stopped getting the questions upon the release of the software with the new manual, so did something right. Original writer came back a year after this was done and was, uhhhhh, very not happy. FYI. Problem NOT with tech writers being English as second (or third language).

  14. An interesting post and interesting comments but I wonder can one really be a prisoner if one controls all input/output? When I was in 2nd grade I fell in love with the “Renaissance Man”. Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci did it all; art, science, medicine, engineering. My goal was to become as much like him as was humanly possible in this age. My vanity says that I can converse on any topic at an educated amateur level. I studied physics because it is the base of all science. At the bleeding edge of research, no matter the field, they are probably doing physics.

    For this reason I loved ‘The Voyage of the Space Beagle’ by A. E. van Vogt. Dr. Elliott Grosvenor, the only Nexialist on board, is a man (generic word for homo sapiens – I have NO patience for the sexist nonsense that besets our world) after my own heart. Oh, to be a consummate generalist … but then, I suppose, I would be a god (at least a demi-god) and that would probably lead to a bad end for all of us.

    Since I have built the walls of my jail out of modulated force fields, I can move to the location and time of my choosing. Not my idea of a jail, actually.

    1. A school district in my region is looking for “minority” teachers so that “minority” students will have a teacher who looks like them. *SIGH* Interestingly, the immigrant students (of which we have a large number in the region) don’t seem to care. They work with whatever they get, and work hard. (Aside from those who for cultural reasons will not bother, or who punish female relatives who do try to succeed academically.)

  15. My favorite quote regarding books in which the pov character has the same name as the reader is;

    “since I was called Bobby, I would identify with the presumed hero of the book. This was an oaf, who, by all that’s holy, tripped over shadows. A fat chance of letting myself get mixed up with a schlemiel like that.”


  16. Mmm. You may be a prisoner of your own mind, Sarah – but I would swear that you are rummaging around in mine too, every so often. (By the way, next time you’re up there, would you be a dear and sweep out at least some of those cobwebs? Please and thank you.)

    I had a mini-epiphany the other night. You see, pieces of the WIP tend to come to me when I’m doing other things than sitting at this keyboard (frequently when I should be trying to sleep, dang it). So I turn off the kitchen sink, or groan out of bed and turn on the light, fire up the word processor… and it doesn’t sound the same on the page. Even though I’m sure I am writing the exact thing that the narrator said for that scene. (Yes, narrator – anyone who doesn’t have one of those, how do you manage to be even a wannabe writer?)

    The realization was that I was reading the narration – which is not all of the scene, not at all, at all. I’m actually getting the entire multimedia experience in my head, of which the narration is only a small part.

    Now to translate that realization into the writing.

  17. My breakthrough book was “The Shy Stegasaurous of Cripple Creek” by Robert Heinlein. After I worked through his juveniles, I went for the hard stuff.

  18. Sort of related:

    I will be reading news, and sometimes come across an article like this one:

    and while I’m reading I’ll stop seeing the screen / paper and I’ll have a very vivid imaginary movie play based on a scenario inspired by the stuff I’m reading. Unfortunately for me, it goes VERY FAST and by the time I pull myself together to write it down, most of the details are gone, and I’m just left with a few amusing scenes (Patient Zero in an airborne Zombie Apocalypse. We’re fscked.)

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