Nobody Knows Nothin’

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When I’m faced with some big choice, particularly one with many alternatives, I tend to become desperately unhappy, end up with analysis paralysis, and ultimately and almost invariably make the worst choice possible.

The prototype for this was when I was in ninth grade and was faced with choosing the “branch” of studies I wanted to go into. For most people this was an easy decision, since they usually were failing either sciences or humanities, but I had about the same grades each side of the tree of knowledge (ah.)  So I cried myself goofy for a summer and then chose humanities on the basis that one of the math teachers in the school had it in for me and if I had her after 9th grade I’d never have the grades to enter college. Of course she had quit (or was fired. She really was dismal) over the summer, but I didn’t know that.  So I spent the next few years being miserable.

Incidentally if have to make a choice on something like what to work at, the best way to do it is to go and try hanging out with people who do that.  I found most of the people studying languages and literature got on my nerves to the point I wanted to set them on fire.  Turns out this was probably an artifact of the place and time. I actually do get pretty well along with people who do translation for a living and their minds are not dissimilar to mine. But most of the people taking my degree were going into high school teaching, which in that place and that time attracted a certain type of mind, which surely wasn’t a thing like mine.

Anyway, this turned out to be a sort of prototype. If you leave me to make a decision on which mover to pick, I’ll invariably pick the one that staffs entirely from recent prison releases and get half of our stuff stolen. If I have to pick from ten roofers, I’ll pick the one that leaves the job half done and disappears.  Etc.

All of this leading to: I’m not unusual.

Okay, I might be unusual in hating to choose so badly that I end up not being able to and then randomly deciding on the first thing and running with it.  Or doing inny minny miney moe.

Note also this only on decisions affecting the rest of my life, or something really important, for which there is a set date, and which I can’t do over.  I’m fine with things like choosing toothpaste, though I’ve been known to set up trials and go through one at a time and make notes. Heck, before kids and a low-carb diet, Dan and I used to move into town, buy sample doughnuts from each shop, then spend a Saturday taste testing to find our favorite for Saturday morning breakfasts.

But I’m not unusual because people like to have a general idea of how their life is going to go. We like a sort of narrative that allows us to see the future. Given a choice we’d rather have that and a rather limited and crappy future than a wide open one, so that we don’t know what will happen in a year, or ten or twenty.

So, recently I’ve been hearing people all over the right pining for the good old days.  The good old days are anything from the 20s to the 50s.

Idiots on the left interpret that as white supremacy because they think people are pining for a time when America was all white, which means… yeah, the white supremacists are on the left. They imagine, you see, that America was once “all white” and “much better” so phrases like “Make America Great Again” MUST mean that the people uttering them want to go back to that all-white-America.

I hate to break leftist hearts (okay, I really don’t) but they’re failing at history, linguistics, (and life, except for the leftist privilege that means they’ll be promoted way beyond any competence.) AGAIN.

America was never all white. It might have been majority white, depending on how you define “white” but that doesn’t mean much.  And the MAGA that the slogan refers to could be as recent as the nineties or as far back as the eighties, which were hotbeds of segregation only in the minds of people for whom history started yesterday.

As for the greatness imagined for the 10s 20s or 30s or 50s… yeah.  Well, it’s like this: it always makes me twitch to hear people on the right speak of that, because in the end what it boils down to for those years was “a unified narrative.”  And the unified narrative was either all left, or “things people who love freedom hate.”

Seriously. Dig beyond the surface you’ve been taught. The things that Woodrow Wilson got away with in terms of destroying personal freedom! The number of people arrested or just lynched with official wink-nod on vague suspicions of their being German (it could be something as stupid as having Mozart sheet music.)  As for the 50s, sure, very prosperous, but I can read print, or in this case old movies.  The veterans of WWII came home and created an extremely conformist, top-down society.

Sure, the suburbs were only prisons in heated boomer minds, but the companies after WWII were run on much more conformist “company man” type of lines than anything since.  My MIL who made her life in the echo of this time, couldn’t understand why when Dan went to interviews the company didn’t want to meet me and approve of me.  Well, because it was no longer that big a deal to conform and fit in to that extent.  In that, at least, the boomers were right, and the looser company structures did help make US business flexible for innovation.  (Of course it also led to companies that create vapor wear, etc. And then came around again, in the name of freedom and diversity to companies like Google wanting to control their employees every thought. Because humans are like that.)

What people are feeling and what’s distressing most people, right and left, is that we can’t see ahead.  We’re metaphorically speaking, driving a twisty mountain road at night, in pissing rain, and we can’t see more than a few feet ahead.  We can’t even guess where we’ll be in a year or two or ten, much less where our kids will be and where all this will end up.

At least, when we had the unified narrative — terrible as it was, since everyone thought the entire world would end up communist, faster or slower — we “knew” where we were headed and could see the road.  And before that, thought the occasional massive turmoil of the Middle ages, people knew their “eternal destiny” after death, and that eventually there was to be an end times and a resurrection.

It is a feature of our brain to make stories out of disparate events.  The human brain might as well be designed to create story out of chaos.  This confers an evolutionary ability since several incidents of big cats jumping from trees on people generate stories about how going berry gathering in the deep forest is dangerous. And more people survive, because stories are internally coherent and make sense and are remembered.  (Things reality fails at. Often.)

The downside is that we want stories of the future too. We want to know where we’re going.

Right now, we’re probably at a uniquely “blind” turning.  No. Let’s revise that to “it feels like we’re in a uniquely blind turning.

Most of us were raised with the old bad certainties, and now nothing is the way we expected.

Which is a glorious thing. But makes everyone feel anxious and afraid.

This is stupid. In all these “models” of the future, usually ideologically driven, no one really knew what was coming. They were as blind as we are, they just made up stuff.

It’s amazed me for some time that the sf/f generation that grew up with the “everything is sh*t in the future” that was the reaction to leftists in sf/f freaking out at Reagan’s election (they usually dated the collapse to his presidency) are now frantically trying to create just that future, usually through ridiculous crap like “let people poo in public” and “let the homeless camp everywhere.”  But they’d rather have “known” the future than not known, even if the “not known” could be wonderful.

They’re also — not aware the crap they were fed was ideologically prompted — cranking out miles and miles of post apocalyptic. This is a problem, guys, because I can’t stand the stuff. I’ve never come close to living in it, but I’ve lived with shortages and street fights. I don’t LIKE to read that.  And 90% of new releases in sf are post apocalyptic. (Also keep in mind you’re programing ANOTHER generation to recreate those conditions.)

People prefer anticipating a really bad future to not knowing the story ahead.

But the fact is, no one ever knew.  We’re no worse off than any other generation.

Now get out thee and dream futures worth having. And then work, so that if we only get 1/10th of it, it’s still worth having.

Go.

 

 

170 responses to “Nobody Knows Nothin’

  1. Since becoming aware that the reason I grew up with media that always agreed on what reality was, and how we should feel about it, was that the Party line was predigested and spoon fed by oligopoly broadcast and wire services, I don’t miss it. But I do miss the feeling of certainty it brought.

    • Timothy E. Harris

      I must be a different sort if Odd because I never had that feeling of certainty about the party line.

      My parents were big Kennedy supporters and helped with block-busting in the Cleveland OH area in the 60’s – so while we heard about the rioting in Watts & Detroit & Hough, in our mixed neighborhood there were block parties. The News broadcast inevitable racial trouble – my experience was some of my new black neighbors were nicer than some of my old white ones. People were people, not groups.

      I knew the Commies had to be taken seriously as they had nukes & missiles, but never thought the way forward was to become more like them or capitulate to them. We could stand up to them & preserve our freedom – if we elected people who took those freedoms seriously. And elections were always uncertain, else why have them?

      And as a tech geek listening to short-wave radio from about 9 y.o. on, I heard news from outside the US narrative which gave different perspectives, which, in turn, moderated my internalization of The News. It’s still possible to listen to just the prescribed narrative (and almost impossible to avoid hearing some of it) but it’s easier to get the other side(s) as well these days.

      Change is inevitable. When you have a choice pick the change that leads to increased freedom. Mind, if that choice is long-term then near term obligation can lead to greater freedom down the road, else nobody would invest for retirement.

    • Once upon a time, Walter Cronkite was called “The most trusted man in America.”

      That just meant he could lie through his teeth with impunity and no one would call him on it.

    • Growing up in the household of two Conservative Academics in the 1960’s and ‘70’s left me severely unimpressed by the Uniform Narrative. I questioned EVERYTHING. I didn’t buy into some of the sillier counter-narratives (The moon landing was faked? By a Government that leaks like a sieve?), but I also didn’t swallow the popular bullpucky. Four imbeciles get shot at Kent State after the ‘protesters’ did a million dollars worth of damage to the town (in 1972 dollars, yet) and set fire to a building…and they are martyrs?

      *spit*

      Anyone still on campus at that time, who could have left, was an idiot, and the pity is that so few caught bullets. Actions have consequences. Arson resulting in a death is treated as deliberate murder because fire is uncontrolled. The ‘protesters’ are simply goddamned lucky they didn’t set off a gas main, or see sparks carry over to another building with people in it.

      Teh Narrative has never struck me as particularly persuasive.

      But I’m a Crank.

  2. People’s reasoning here is somewhat circular, a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy. A person who is expected to “be great” is likely to be deferred too, granted advantages, and encouraged in ways that those expected to strive mightily to achieve mediocrity will not experience.

    Of course, it is highly likely that such expectations will ill-prepare the individual for the hard work required to achieve greatness, accustomed as he is to having his way paved ahead of him. And the costs of such failure to achieve the expected greatness may well produce a “soured” individual, one who grows resentful of a world which has denied his greatness.

    It is also possible that a person expected to achieve mediocrity will significantly overachieve, having gained the strength and discipline fostered by adversity.

    Like the title says, ya just never know. People are funny and their development rarely predictable.

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    After all of the failed predictions of the future that I’ve heard, I think any would-be prophet should be given the Old Testament punishment for failed predictions.

    IE Death by stoning. 😈

    • DO YOU WANT ME TO STOP WRITING SF? I don’t even like pot!

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        I never consider SF writers Would-Be Prophets unless they claim to predict a Real Future.

        IE Harry Harrison in Make Room! Make Room!

        So you’re safe. 😀

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        On the other hand, what did Lazurus Long say about Real Prophets? 😈

      • Sigh. I pine for a time when “getting stoned” involved liquor.

        I swar there’s a song about how such terms’ meanings change, but this ain’t my day for finding it.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Everybody must get stoned.

      • If you never write a vividly accurate description of our apocalyptic immediate future, how can you hope to ever win a Nebula like a real science fiction author. Now, type after me… “After Trump got his hands on the nuclear codes, it…”

        • “…surprised a remarkable number of delusional people that we didn’t immediately bomb the Commies, despite the insistence of the same people that the Commies put him in office.”

        • There is no credit to be earned depicting the Orange man as nuclear idiot. Now, if he funded a program to develop a virus that would target “People of Color” and it got out of control, now you’re talking Hugo attention. Racism, biogenetic engineering, government conspiracies: that’s where the sweet spot sits.

          Make the protagonist a transexual Muslim scientist and you’ll probably pull down movie rights of eight figures (some of them to the right of the decimal point!)

  4. To quote a metal group I quite like (Battle Beast): “Is familiar hell better than unknown heaven?”

    A lot of people seem to think so, unfortunately.

  5. SheSellsSeashells

    Sure, the suburbs were only prisons in heated boomer minds,

    A suburb is only a prison for minds that only bother with what their own two eyes glance over. Anywhere’s a prison for people like that.

    (I grew up on a twelve-acre snippet of a former cotton plantation. I’d have had just as much fun and space for imagination running rampant with subdivision kids, which you could still just barely do back then.)

    • ‘S funny how the folks complaining about the stultifying suburbs back when are the ones eager to impose a national HOA now.

      • Back then they were the ones being told no. Now they get to say no.

      • Any HOA is merely a training ground for tyranny.

        • Nah, I’ve heard of some good ones–basically glorified versions of doing a sweep-around to pay for a snowplow that doesn’t trap folks into their driveway.

          Definitely prone to abuse, though.

          • I won’t buy or rent anywhere there is an HOA. I’ve see far too many “decent” HOAs turn bad, and usually there isn’t much you can do about it.

            Some busy-bodies in my neighborhood tried to CREATE an HOA, and tried to force everyone to pay dues. They even sent out a letter threatening to put a lien on our house if we didn’t pay our dues. Our neighborhood has never had an HOA, it’s one thing I like about my neighborhood. We ignored it and thankfully it went away (the people trying to organize it probably found out quick that you can’t just do that sort of thing).

        • The smaller the stakes, the more vicious the politics. HOAs are about as small as it gets, unless you want to go down to square dance committees.

          • Ah, heck. You can see it in youth groups. “We are joining this group because this group has fun while following national rules, and breaking some …” THEN almost immediately try to change how things work as soon as they start coming and learn that for the group to work, a gee, adult volunteers actually have to, you know, work?

            Example. Had it setup so that in one yearly fund raising activity, any participant could earn their entire year of fees for dues, group activities, extra for gear, and even extra activity opportunities available through greater organization, (including adult volunteers) regardless of economic status. BUT you had to participate in the fund raising activity to benefit … To say the group (when we were participating) was not very sympathetic to the “but we can’t afford to …” whine, is a bit of an understatement. Net earned varied between $9 to almost $13 per hour worked, tax free!!! The years we participated. Not bad for 11 to 18 year old. Everyone got the same rate, just depended on how the year went for the fund raiser.

            Yes. I am describing boy scout troop, but this isn’t limited to them. Our son not only paid for his monthly dues, the annual registration fee, annual gas fee (meant no one could say they couldn’t afford to drive for activities for financial reasons), summer camps, extended camps (backpacking), 6 years worth; he also paid for 2 trips for National Jamboree, and one trip for both himself and his father for council Philmont high adventure, plus his backpack and sleeping bag, through this annual fund raiser. You bet we had him participating every hour that the activity was running.

        • Feather Blade

          It helps if you can name your HOA, not “HOA” but something specific to the function for which people pay dues.

          Like “Road and Sewer Association” or “Lawncare and Street-sweeping Association”.

    • The Monkees “Pleasant Valley Sunday” was supposed to be poking fun at suburban life.

      I, however, always thought it made it sound rather nice.

      • These are the same ignorant jackanapes who wistfully long for the Seventies Times Square of Travis Bickle: squalid, seedy, deteriorating and deadly.


        There’s a frickin’ reason Charles Bronson became a STAR back then.

      • Funny how an observation comes up in multiple places at once.


        “It’s very sad when you look at Counter-Culture figures; a counter culture has to have a culture to be counter to, and the Counter-Culture did such a good job that it’s now the Establishment.”

  6. I wonder….were the 1950s really more conformist than our present era?

    Certainly, there was a lot of conformity then, much of it rather strange to modern eyes. William Whyte commented on a Monsanto promotional film from circa 1952:

    “It was a pretty good film, but what did it have to do about Monsanto’s research–much of which has been most imaginative? In one part of the picture you see five young men in white coats conferring around a microscope. The voice on the sound track rings out boldy, “No geniuses here. Just a bunch of good American working together.””

    I doubt that very many companies would want to make such an assertion about their researchers today.

    BUT, today’s absolutely hysterical denunciations of anyone who dares express unapproved political opinions…or even admits to friendships with people holding such opinions…may well exceed anything seen in the darkest days of the McCarthy era. And universities are less-protective of dissidents, indeed are typically eager to join the lynch mobs.

    • absolutely hysterical denunciations o

      See: reports coming out of the oppression rampant at Google and other Silicon Valley companies. Diversity is welcome so long as nobody utters an opinion.that differs from the herd’s.

      • Of course it also led to companies that create vapor wear, etc. And then came around again, in the name of freedom and diversity to companies like Google wanting to control their employees every thought. Because humans are like that.

        It is certainly that way at TehGoog, but the Rise Of HR and the implementation of corporate thoughtcrime policing preceded even the tech bubble – basically it started out here in the reflexive spasm of mandatory and repeating manager and then all-hands training on sexual harassment after the Thomas hearings.

        The existing Human Resources Gedankenpolizei just found a welcoming and nurturing home at TehGoog and ZuckerBook.

      • Google does not exhibit the kind of conformity-worship that was on display in that old Monsanto film: they are quite happy for you to think their researchers are geniuses, rather than ‘just regular Americans working together.” But they do exhibit a very high demand for conformity of political and social views, as was on display in the James Damore case.

        • Google has an active underground that helps communicate what those kids (yes, kids – TehGoog preferentially hires new grads as they are easier to exploit into working 75 hours a week with free t-shirts and lunch) should and should not say, do or wear (“Red baseball caps! Eeek!!”) in order to maintain that paycheck.

          Last place I worked in cubeland was surrounded by Google buildings. The stories we heard…

      • Conformity is Diversity. Just add it to Ignorance is Strength, Was is Peace, and Freedom is Slavery. It fits right in.

  7. If nobody knows nothing, does that imply everybody knows something?

  8. people are pining for a time when America was all white

    I confess, I do pine for a time when everybody was “white.” A time when men married the mother of their children — before making her the mother of their children (if only just barely and thanks to the beginners’ luck of miraculous seven-month pregnancies.) Not only that, they tended to stay married throughout those kids’ childhoods.

    I also miss the time when men worked and supported their families — and expected those families to grow the eff up and contribute to the household.

    I pine for a time when people strove to become adults rather than lingering in adolescence until senescence.

    Sure, these days they call that “acting white” but it built a prosperous society with freedom for all who accepted the premise that nobody owed you a living, you had to earn it.

    America was never “white supremacy” so much as it was “bourgeois supremacy” – but then they hate the Bourgeoisie even more than they hate Whites.

    • The modern concept of “whiteness” is just a relabeling of bourgeois values so that they can apply their particular flavor of racism in the fight for socialism.

    • That’s not “white”, it’s Civilized.

      • Mebbe so – but they denounce as “White” any Black, Brown or Yellow people who attempt engaging in it.

        Funny, though, because in the next breath they lecture us about how “those people” were building civilizations back when Whites were in caves.

        Wish they’d make up their demmed minds.

    • 12 days shy of a 6 month first pregnancy in my case.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        I had the opposite issue. About 18 months post-marriage, and family legend has it that I came out waving my mother’s IUD and chanting “Nya nyaaaaa, missed me!”

        • I was the third kid, but Mom told me that I was premature–by a few years. 🙂

        • knew a guy who claimed to be unfertile who has 3 kids. claims they are not his, the two boys look EXACTLY like him. One of the mothers (oh, yeah, 3 different babies mama two while married to someone else, great guy. this is the one with a daughter) had not had sex for a year with anyone but him. Quite the swell guy. He tried to pull a fast one on me once business-wise and I put the fear of crazy Yooper into him. All three moms made sure his fiancee knew he was able to get her, and likely anyone he fancied preggers.

  9. My dad was with the State Department for his career. When he joined, the performance evaluations he received also reviewed my mother’s contributions to U.S. diplomacy. Talk about needing to make a good pick in the marriage mart.

    • I can believe it. People undervalue the worth of a wife laying down (metaphorical) covering fire for her husband.

  10. So possibly all the news stories since the election about lefty run cities falling apart with rampant uncollected trash, feces, unmanagable homeless, and the police force quitting in disgust have their origin in the lefties self-fufilling reaction to MAGA. In the desire to prove Trump wrong, they are refusing to do their jobs so they can point to the mess and say, “See? Trump’s failing.”

  11. Christopher M. Chupik

    Nobody knows nothin’ and boy do they want you to know how much they don’t know.

  12. I had family members pining for the ’50s in the 1970s. My parents were certainly glad of the Civil Rights Movement, but not the STRESS police force, the riots that gutted Detroit, the rise of groups like the Weather Underground, the commonness of children without fathers, the increased use of recreational drugs. (Whenever someone brought up alcoholics in comparison, our old neighbor pointed out “the drunks” stayed sober on the job and didn’t break into people’s cars looking for loose change.

  13. In fairness to the lefties, it’s not that they think America was better when it was whiter and because it was whiter. It’s that they think conservatives think that America was better when it was whiter because it was whiter.

    It’s the same kind of mentality that causes them to think that delivering the revelation that the majority of families on welfare are white will somehow cause conservatives to start supporting welfare. No, sorry, my problems with welfare have precisely nothing to do with any sort of belief that it’s mostly consumed by racial minorities. Furthermore, the reason for the perception that the majority of people on welfare are minorities is because approximately 90% of the news stories on poverty are about urban poverty, mostly because journalists are lazy and don’t want to go outside the city limits, and their editors don’t see any reason to push them because they know most of their readership doesn’t care about what they can’t see.
    Remind me how most of these people vote?

    • I hardly think it to their credit that they believe us worse racists than they are, given their monomania re: race.

    • The lefties also think Cuba is one of the :”good guys” even though they are not only a repressive regime, but they target blacks in particular for oppression in ways that the racists of the Jim Crow south would have envied. The left doesn’t want equality. They want to rule like feudal nobility over the mass of serfs. In order to do that they need to divide people by identity.

      • It seems to me I have heard that they do not particularly find homosexuals desirable.

        One hardly knows whether to conclude that American fans of Cuba are simply blind to those problems or see America’s Blacks and Gays as useful idiots for prying open the gates to power and discarded afterward.

        I suppose it could be both …

      • This. The communist/socialist ideal is just feudalism dressed up in new clothes.

  14. <blockquoteThey're also — not aware the crap they were fed was ideologically prompted — cranking out miles and miles of post apocalyptic. This is a problem, guys, because I can't stand the stuff. I've never come close to living in it, but I've lived with shortages and street fights. I don't LIKE to read that. And 90% of new releases in sf are post apocalyptic.

    There’s fiction that’s “post apocalypse and everyone is wallowing in misery” and there’s “post apocalypse and people are working hard on rebuilding a better life.” IMO, the two are not the same and the latter is a thousand times more palatable than the former. I like to read about heroes, actual good guys who beat the bad guys in the end and the latter allows for that–but even the latter I can really only tolerate in modest doses.

    That doesn’t mean that everything has to be all sweetness and light. Big heroes require big challenges and big threats. But, while there are exceptions in general, if there isn’t at least one arm-pumping “yes” moment in the story I probably won’t bother coming back to it.

    • Sigh. I see I screwed up my tags. Oh, well, I’m sure you can figure it out. 😉

    • I concur.

      I think post-apocalyptic writing has a couple of bits to it that make for “lazy” writing, and it’s therefore popular.

      First, it wipes a society back to a foundational survival level, usually. You’re not living in a “post scarcity” world where things are easy to get. There’s struggle just to survive. So your “conflict” part of the plot is already partly written.

      Second, it allows you to retain your modern assumptions and concepts. You know* where the gas stations are (you just make them abandoned), you know how cars work (you just make them rusted), you know how firearms work (you just make them rusted and rare, maybe ammo is rare). You don’t have to look into proper sword technique or imagine a different society, you just take what you know and turn it all to crap.
      (* “Know” is a euphemism here, as a substitute for “you think you know”. Plenty of post-apocalyptic writers have no idea how any of that stuff works.)

      Third, it can allow for all kinds of fantasy elements (depending on the writing era: mutations, psionic mutations, alien critters, sword fights, magic now works, etc.) without having to create a fantasy world.

      Now, to do it right and well, you can’t do it lazily. But to do it lazily, you’ve got it made.

      Oh, and fourth, it also allows you to slip in your favorite political trope, if you’re so inclined. I think this can be more lazily done in post-apocalyptic than other places. And that’s where the real “Oh, ick! Not reading this tripe!” comes in.

      • One of the near universal mistakes in “post apocalyptic” fiction is that most so-called apocalyptic scenarios we would rebound from in quite short order. I’ve got one back-burnered where a flu superbug (there’s one out there with a 60% mortality rate–not easily human to human transmitable thank the gods) goes pandemic. Wipe out two thirds of the population (more because you wouldn’t have enough well people to care for the sick) with the disease, then more because of loss of services because the people running them were dead or sick. And things get really bad for a while. But the infrastructure is still there. The knowledge (or most of it) is still there. It would take some time to restore order but once restored, rebuilding would happen really quickly.

    • The Nomad sub-series of the Kurtherian books. The first book was so gloomy and post-apocalypse that I almost didn’t continue. It got better fast because it segued to “rebuilding” after spending the first book on what they would be rebuilding from.

  15. For some people (and I suspect many people) the “hell” of 50s and 60s suburbia was a welcome step up. The popular conception of the 50s depends heavily on mediated perceptions (TV, movies, music, and so on.)
    My father, who was a child during the 50s, grew up in the wilds of coastal Northern California, in the rough and tumble world of loggers and fishermen. Indoor plumbing? A luxury! Food that you didn’t have to shoot and clean and cook yourself? Amazing! Diversity? The Hoopas and Yuroks lived a few miles upstream.
    Wally and the Beaver didn’t live around his part of the world.

    • My grandmother had quite a rant about “houses made of ticki-tack” or however it’s spelled.

      She grew up rich. The kids got to sleep in the BARN.
      With mountain lions prowling around the outside.
      (It was very safe, Scottish– you build the barn well to protect your investment.)

      That someone would sneer at houses where there was room for the parents, and the kids, and they were separate, and you couldn’t just walk through the walls– it horrified her. And then it pissed her off.

      She was an old school reporter, even if her beat was a rural county; the SOB that wrote that is lucky he never ran into her, or he’d have walked away feeling like a slug– and not sure why.

      • Well, those houses were mass produced and they did employ non-traditional materials, such as sheet rock and dry wall.

        That’s because there was a bleeding housing shortage! There were a LOT of “new” families after a decade of Depression and a major WAR* and people like Bill Levitt applied methods developed during that war (seriously – it was in all the papers) to provide much wanted HOUSING for people who couldn’t wait for houses built the traditional way.

        It should also be noted that those houses rarely remained “looking just the same.” A while back, when the Historic preservationists wanted an example of a Levitt & Sons home to preserve they couldn’t find any. People added rooms as families grew, they built or rebuilt garages, putting in things like mother-in-law apartments and they added decorative touches to individualize those homes.

        When you consider that the same people sneering at “little houses made of ticky-tacky” wanted us all to live in Stackaprol- units …

        *See:
        Apartment for Peggy (1948)
        A retired professor rents his attic apartment to pregnant Peggy and her GI-Bill-student husband. The professor ponders if his life is no longer useful while the young couple faces the challenges shared with many WW II veterans’ families.

        Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)
        A newly hired dumb secretary working for a bookie masquerading as a Realtor causes unintended hilarious troubles for her employer.

        The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
        Yes, this Oscar winning best pic included a housing shortage subplot.

        People who do not learn from History are condemned to embarrass themselves.

        • +100

          To make it worse, she grew up going to Indian School. Her mom was the teacher.

          A lot of the kids of those who worked for her dad ended up going, too; was good enough to send her to college two years early.

          She KNEW how horrible the “authentic” housing was.

        • IIRC, there was also at least one Heinlein short built around the post-war housing shortagi

          • Donald Stephens

            it was “A Room of her Own”. It also has political campaign themes.

            • This. For some reason I remembered bathroom…

              • I know that a second bathroom was much higher priority than any number of extra bedrooms for us! 😉

                • Honey. I grew up in a house that had ONE bathroom for seven people, one of them a teen girl. (Not me.) AND to make it better, the bathroom was outside the kitchen door (because at the time there was no tech to plumb the all-stone, 100 years old already house that great great grandma built. OR to put in another back door. SO they sensibly built a structure where you could just go out the kitchen door and into its door.
                  When my parents built the house with TWO bathrooms, (universally considered extravagant. Heck, my grandma’s already was. Most of the village had outhouses.) and one of them was JUST mine and my brother’s?
                  Paradise. I was the princess of all living.

                  • Truth.

                    I still have no idea how I survived to adulthood. (not that I get to use the bathroom alone anyways, not with small children– but at least Elf isn’t banging on the door because HE needs to go, too!)

              • Amsel, Matthew

                You were correct, it seems:

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Bathroom_of_Her_Own

                Now I need to reread Expanded Universe…

          • A bathroom of her own? I think?

        • I lived in a subdivision in southern California in the ’80s. Don’t know when they were built, but trees and shrubs and flowers were around them. I think it took me a year or two to realize there were only three house plans, and three mirror-images of them.

          • The area of Kenner, La I lived in originally had the same 3 house floor plans, They just made it look like more by using different roofs, and flipping the plans as well as rotating plans. The first house I was in had a mirrored floor plan to the second, but the second had a hipped roof, the first a gabled roof, gables on the side, there were others with gabled front to rear, and the smaller 3 bed plan on either side of the second place were rotated so one had the kitchen and living room as the front of the house, the other side had the Living and master bedroom as the front.
            Of course, now a days rarely will you find one in the original form so they all look even more different.

          • Progress! Originally there was one. It took time to even get two.

        • Another variant (I suspect before the 1950s explosion in house building) was the “buy a shell, and finish it yourself”. I *think* that’s what my Dad did; we moved from that house when I was 2. (There’s a possibility that my maternal grandfather built the shell, probably with a lot of sweat equity from Dad.)

          My mother later bought a house finished in 1951 from the original owner; generally well finished but with some peculiar bits.

          • Jim Walter homes. Hubby grew up in one, although it had been finished years before. The were still in business at least up to a few years ago, there was a franchise in Fredericksburg, VA forever. But by the 90s they were less in the business of just selling the shells. Oh, you *could* still get them that way, but for just a small further investment you could get them finished out to whatever trim level you liked, anywhere from just having the electric and plumbing done for you to having them turn-key ready.

            • lived in one as a teen and my nearest friend nearby lived in the next variant down, even tho it was built ten years earlier. they were selling the tuned-up versions in the 80s, but we went for the shell + wiring and had to do the insulation and walls and interior doors ourselves. so yeah, i learned how to hang sheetrock at 15.

      • The author of “Little Boxes”, Malvina Reynolds, grew up in a socialist household, and married a labor organizer. I don’t need to borrow Sarah’s shocked face…

        I’ve seen the back of the referenced houses, in IIRC, San Bruno. They’re visible from I-280, and at least from the back, they’re quite similar.

        OTOH, I’ve lived in two ’50s tract homes. First in the 1950s, though there were multiple floor plans, including some two story houses as well as our one story ranch. 20 years later, I had a house in San Jose; that was classic tract with few variants. Very retro-space-age.

        On the gripping hand, the 1936 house in San Jose I had later was built by a company who did a substantial number of houses in that area. They tended to include a 20 x 20 room of sorts (sometimes used as a screened patio with laundry, other times turned into living space). The builder had some signature moves, like a small shower stall separate from the bath tub. Both had distinctive archways.

    • (my grandma would’ve been neighbor-lady to your dad)

    • I think it’s important to remember the universality of WWII for the US, and how that near-universal experience drove what the returning GIs and their home-front-veteran families decided was “a good place to raise kids” – these guys had walked through war torn Europe or island hopped across the Pacific, had seen really really exciting times and the rubble that resulted, and they were looking for the polar opposite of their experience with the 1930s depression and then the world war.

      So prosperous and safe and clean and boring were really, really good things, especially compared to the alternatives that had been observed first hand.

      That being said, these same folks marched in the Civil Rights marches in the 1960s – see the photos of WWII USAAF radio operator and gunner Charlton Heston at the forefront of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, which was 18 years after the end of WWII.

      To put that in some context, 18 years ago this year was when 9/11 happened.

      • First thing to note is that NONE of those people had any real experience with “normal.” If you were eighteen when the War began in earnest, 1942, that means you would have been born in 1924. You were just about five years old when the stock market crashed, the only president you’d ever been really aware of was FDR. You were twenty-two when you mustered out, likely with a wife, possibly a baby and had never had a real job! You tried to provide a “normal” childhood for your kids but what did you have to model that on?

        Further, the Fifties as a time of social conformity is a complete falsehood. That was the era that gave us the Beat Movement, Jack Kerouac, James Dean, Film Noir, the Freedom Riders and the NRA going into the Southern negroes’ homes to arm them and teach them how to shoot back at drive-by Klansmen.


        It was also the decade that gave us Rock’n’Roll, Marlon Brando, Playboy, Galaxy Science Fiction, Tales from the Crypt and other EC comics (including Mad magazine and the beginning of comic books’ Silver Age with the reinvention of The Flash and Green Lantern (not to mention Fredric “Seduction of the Innocent” Wertham.)

        • I’d asked about that, after a fashion to a fellow who really was born in 1923… that a fellow born in ’23 would have likely been on the farm (yep), been just starting to become aware of the Outer World when the Great Depression made the farm economy and farming Even Worse. And that as he becomes “of age” WWII starts (in fact he wanted off the farm so bad he joined the army in 1940 – to his folks consternation – knowing full well what was coming. THAT BAD.) And if he survived that, the late ’40’s & 50’s couldn’t HELP but feel optimistic: Antibiotics (& vaccines) – disease that were the curses of millennia fell one after another! Atomic power! “Too cheap to meter” wasn’t true, but… Rockets to space! And after stringing com. lines in the Philippines in the early 1940’s, going to work for the local/state power company was SIMPLE – nobody was shooting at you!

          Of course, the rest of the world was REbuilding* (I still recall the bit in Race for the Double Helix where one fellow berates another for the extravagance of candy, but now – about TEN YEARS AFTER WWII ENDED – the sugar ration was finally over. And that was in a “first world” Allied country!

          What did the fellow reply? “Yep, that’s about right.”


          * Or still working up to building the FIRST time.

          • I recall watching an interview with some one of the members of the pop bands that comprised the English Invasion and his discussing how vibrant and alive American pop seemed in a Britain still rationing and rebuilding fifteen, twenty years after the war’s end.

            To re-purpose an ugly remark from a nasty woman, Liberal Americans were born on Third Base and think they hit a triple.

        • I’ve always thought “Your momma don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock & roll” was a particularly dumb line in a song. My reply is “Your momma sure did dance, and your daddy DID rock & roll, and that’s EXACTLY why they want you in by 10!”

          But kids always think they’ve invented something new to shock their elders.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Statement of badfact! Heston was straight white Christian Republican male and therefore must be racist by default! Recant!

        • James Garner writes about Heston in his memoir, The Garner Files. He dismisses Heston as a marcher and considers his conversion to the Right Wing an act of idiocy. Garner was an Okie Democrat and his opinions might well be weighted accordingly. It was a charming memoir, though; about what you’d expect from his screen persona. Frankly, had he not been a born and bred Democrat I think he’d have found himself in greater agreement with the Republicans.

      • Likewise the apron & pearls wearing June Cleaver types of the 50’s that the modern Left loves to mock for her vapid consumerism.
        But how many of those ladies grew up literally dirt poor, with maybe two pairs of shoes, outhouses, and washday being a whole day’s toil?
        How many pulled 12 hour shifts in WWII factories, 6 days a week on poor food, little sleep, and consumed with worry about her sweetheart or husband overseas?
        For her generation, a nice Levittown house with modern electric appliances would be like winning the lotto would be for a modern person.

        • Grandma had stories of life in rural Iowa. Want hot water? There’s the well, there’s the wood, there’s the stove. She saw the moon landing on TV and at least once traveled by jet. But I suspect she’d have told people that what made the modern age modern was the electric motor – and the pressurized water it provided.

          • Late 60’s, we spent two weeks meeting the cousins in Montana. Okay, mom’s parents siblings, their kids, and grandchildren. One of the places we stopped to look at was the one room log cabin* that grandparents lived in while grandpa worked in the mines in ’30s before moving to Colorado to work in the mines during WWII**. No plumbing, with 2 children, ages 3 and infant less than 3 months. No well either. Grandma used to have to take buckets down the hill across the road to the creek (small river) to get water for everything, and haul it back to the cabin. To cook, to clean the house, themselves and the kids, to do laundry. Which with a 3 year old and infant she had to do every, single, day; all year. Remember this was Montana. Meant breaking ice on the river to get to the water a good 5 or 6 months of the year.

            * Maybe 400 or 500 sq feet (hey, I was 10). Room for a bed, trundle (for mom), a box for a crib for the baby. Table and a wood stove in the corner.

            ** I have grandpa’s wallet that he had with grandma & the girls picture in it that he was going to be shipped out with. PTB discovered he was a mechanic that had worked in the mines, so he was shipped there for the war’s duration.

            The home they had in Drain, OR, was a palace by that cabin’s standard. A 3 bedroom shack by their children’s, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren standards. FWIW, None of us has particularly mansion type homes or the income to have them, by today’s standards.

        • The show M*A*S*H having completed its remarkable run the producers attempted to extend the series by turning to the home front and the returning veterans. While it proved unsuccessful, the program provided at least one memorable bit of dialogue. When Max Klinger’s Korean wife announce a desire to bring her family to her new American home Klinger protests, demanding to know where they would sleep. His wife announces they could sleep in the kitchen, “It has linoleum!” in contrast to the dirt floors to which they were accustomed.

          It is easy to forget that into the Seventies and Eighties in America there were still homes, as the NY Times reported, in the Rural South with dirt floors.

          Sigh. Now we “enjoy” a congresswoman who thinks all Americans should be provided housing in free luxury apartments.

          • She’s not at all frightened of an overarching all seeing centrally controlled government imposing it’s will on everyone’s lives, but show her a garbage disposer and she’s so afraid she had to document the horrific device on youtube.

            That’s the kind of leadership that New York’s 14th Congressional District needs.

  16. I don’t see this as a Blind Turning. I think we’re looking at a 1970 rerun…at least culturally and politically. This has 2020 as a replay of 1972, with the Democrats running a rabid Leftist who gets crushed by Trump.

    Except that for all his weaknesses, Trump isn’t Richard Nixon. He’ll serve two full terms unless assassinated…and in that event, President Pence is a lock for 2024.

    And don’t forget the Chinese. When national security is on the political table, the Democrats lost all possible credibility with the Tet Offensive. Over fifty years ago.

    Don’t get cocky, but stop cowering. Stand tall and we win.

    • The Leftist Baby Boomers are trying to recreate their glory days with marches and protests and burgeoning socialism, and they’re taking Millennials along for the ride.

      The good news is that those Boomers won’t be around much longer. The bad news is that we’ll have to deal with this again in 40 years when the Millennials who bought this crap and didn’t learn better decide it’s time for a remix.

      • Amsel, Matthew

        One wonders what the lack of Soviet funding and direction will do to the remix – it was significant when the boomers first did it.

        • But they don’t have it now. They’re mostly funding it themselves to recapture their sense of youth and importance. I imagine the remix in the future will be similar.

  17. My MIL who made her life in the echo of this time, couldn’t understand why when Dan went to interviews the company didn’t want to meet me and approve of me. Well, because it was no longer that big a deal to conform and fit in to that extent.

    This one actually makes very good sense if you think about the population that was involved– you just had most people come back from a HUGE shock to the system; most people can fake it during an interview, but it’s harder to cover the “there is something SERIOUSLY WRONG” vibe with someone’s family.

    Obviously, there were abuses, too. Every system gets abused.

    But systems also stop abuses.

    Gotta go by the fruit, and be able to figure out why a rule is there, and if that reason still applies.

    • And also, in the old days they were pretty much hiring for life unless something major went wrong, so additional vetting was probably valuable. The corporate loyalty compact had benefits and obligations going in both directions, with a path to a career and retirement from the place you got hired after college the norm.

      By the later 1980s when I started working, the obligation-to-employees side was pretty much gone – while employees were still expected to stay loyal to their employer, there was no hesitance to pull the trigger and layoff in batch lots whenever it suited.

      If that sea change alone had been effectively communicated in my senior seminar class in my last year of college it would have been very helpful to my career.

      • Have you seen the whining from recruiters lately?

        They talk to someone about a position, and then the target GHOSTS them! No return call, nothing!

        Le horror!

        • If a person told to depart, they are GONE. Marched out the door, under supervision. But if they decide to depart, they are expected to linger two weeks. Something is asymmetric here.

          • Timothy E. Harris

            When Very Big Company decided to eliminate my job (one with a lot of access to the corporate systems) company-wide they did offer moves to other positions as well as moderate severance if a new position was not found. When told the manager I wanted the severance I was shocked that instead of being immediately let go, I had to work there in whatever useful odd jobs they had for a full 60 days to get the severance. They wouldn’t even let me use the accumulated personal/vacation time I had accumulated that they would have to pay out anyway.

      • I started in semiconductors in 1974. Loyalty to employees was slim to nonexistent even then. One guy from my class was laid off from Fairchild Semi a month after moving from University of Redacted. My roommate was laid off in mid September (we started late June) from National Semi.

        I left Nasty after a couple of eponymous years there. Signetics was a bit better, and HP was better still after another three years. It wasn’t until HP started spinning off products (Agilent was the first big spinoff), that things went south. Agilent a) shifted semiconductor operations to SE Asia, then b) sold the unit, laying off the US employees.

        Interestingly enough, the Big Manager who tried and failed at the Big Win* for semiconductors(damn, I hate that term) managed to make CEO after dumping semiconductors.

        (*) This was at the peak of the Dot Com V1.0 bubble, when wide area and municipal networks were going to be used to deliver porn useful information to everybody. It wasn’t railroading time just then.

        • yeah, just like how we were all going to be buying thin client computers for home use and all our content was going to be delivered over said municipal networks..then they want us to use an iPad and store everything in the apple cloud or whatever. they keep trying to push us back to the client/server model of computing for some reason…. and I’m sure they would neverrrrr ever ever take the opportunity to comb thru our data to sell our information…

      • When I was laid off in the 1990s, there was talk about how you could say you got caught up in downsizing to explain why you were looking for a job. Some of the older employees remembered when that explanation was hard.

        • In 2001, that explanation was pretty much standard. By that time, semiconductor manufacturing had been outsourced or offshored so much that the actual companies were, at best, developing designs and test programs. The only companies actually still building stuff in Silicon Valley were RF devices (then The New Hot Thing) and remnants of LED companies. It didn’t help that the regulatory environment sucked; “clean industry” doesn’t go far when the fire chief is terrified of the chemicals you’re using*.

          (*) In the late 1970s, the III-V (Gallium & Phosphorous, et al) crystal growing operation in Palo Alto expected one small explosion a month. Processes got a lot better by the mid 1980s, but the San Jose FD was less than thrilled to get that in their sphere of responsibility.

          • The Semiconductor Rollercoaster was in full swing by the time the dot-com bubble blew everything up, so while when I joined LSI Logic in the late 1980s they were able to brag while interviewing me that they had never had a layoff, by the early 2000s when I got zapped we had been through a whole bunch of RIFs.

            And I’ve said for years, if you’re an RF engineer, even if you get laid off, the other RF companies are going to have recruiters standing around in the parking lot throwing offer letters at you when you finally leave the building. Similar for analog circuit design engineers. Longest I ever heard about an either one being out of work involuntarily, through all the worst times in the Valley, was 3 weeks, and rumor had it that delay was due to negotiation for getting a balance of vacation/personal time from day 1 instead of after N months employment.

            • My post-semiconductor consulting gig was for a tester company that was developing an RF add-on for their top-line tester. They succumbed to the Edifice Complex; moved into a brand-new building just as the market was tanking. When they went under, the consultancy went with them, but I had enough money to finish renovating the house and got the hell out of California.

              I had minimal experience with RF, but could sweet-talk the tester into doing what it needed. Fun job while it lasted.

  18. The left’s attitude is the same that the Soviets had and they view the old Cold-War era statement that: “In the Soviet Union the future is always known; it is the past that is always changing” as a goal to be achieved.

  19. There is Bradbury’s answer in The Toynbee Convector”.

    I thank God that some of our current billionaires were probably raised on D. D Harriman (Musk must have not been able to read the newer stuff in South Africa). The new crop of Zuckerberg and Brin were probably raised on grey goo and socialist realism–yes I know they got away when he was only 6, but I judge by current attitudes and stances. That lot only has dreams of implementing the Great Leap Forward, God help us all.

    • So help me, I still they best way to treat FB is to nuke it from orbit. Twice. And the Get Serious about ridding the earth of that pox.

      • Insty had a link someone cataloging TehGoog’s anti-antitrust strategies, and I loved how many of them as used when the EU was after them were basically “We’re not as bad as Zuckerbook!”

  20. Our enemies want to make us all scared, so that like Gideon on high, they can come and save us.

    I don’t want to be saved.

    I want to be raised. I want to be exalted. I want the world to be a bit brighter, a bit better tomorrow than it was yesterday.

    Which they hate, because it is easier to knock someone into the mud and give them a helping hand than to lift them up to something better.

    • Also they hate all of humanity. So they don’t want humanity to live or be better.

      • I think they love their definition of humanity. Which doesn’t match any definition of humanity outside of an insane asylum or a college quad. They also know how fragile their definition is, so the only way it can grow is by the destruction of all other identities.

  21. Woodrow Wilson certainly has a claim to “worst president ever.” Far as I can tell, if you took the left’s worst caricature of Trump and the right’s worst caricature of Obama, let them have a baby, and made Benito Mussolini the godfather, you’d have a pretty good approximation of Wilson.

    • He has a claim to it, but the distinction still goes to James Buchanan. Regardless of your opinions of the rights or wrongs of the ACW, letting your secretary of war ship massive amounts of military supplies to the states holding secession conventions while not sending stronger garrisons to those states indicates criminal negligence at best, treason at worst. And there was Dred Scott…

      • I don’t hold Buchanan responsible for Dredd Scott. However, the Utah War was entirely his responsibility. After recruiting and sending out an army out to Utah to suppress a nonexistent rebellion against federal authority, he ignored the real one.

    • I cannot say who was the worst President for sure. Even in my own lifetime there the competition of Barack and Nixon. But as much of a stinker as Nixon was, he still at least passed as actually American in overall (not necessarily specific) attitude.

      • Timothy E. Harris

        The problem is that “worst” is so unspecific.
        In my lifetime, Carter was by far the least effective President. LBJ was the nastiest SOB and the worst war leader. Obama had the most ideologically based counterproductive “accomplishments”.
        Nixon gets a dishonorable mention for idiotic Wage & Price controls.

        • Argh, I had forgotten Carter, and LBJ (as I am sure many would like to..) though I admittedly have no actually memory of LBJ.

          Yet even Carter at least stumbled into doing one or two things right.

          • As a high-school kid, I remember jumping for joy (quite literally) when LBJ declared he wouldn’t run for re-election.

      • Nixon’s political team was doing exactly what previous administrations had done, including the cash-in-the-safe slush fund, break-ins, bugging, and political dirty tricks, but he made the first mistake getting caught at it while being unpopular with the press.

        But the reason Nixon didn’t serve out his term was solely that he tried to be loyal to the Plumbers after they got caught. If Nixon had disavowed them in a televised speech right away – “I can tell you this, I did not know what those people were doing, and I would not have approved if I did know. As head of the executive branch I have directed the Attorney General to cooperate with local authorities, and to launch an investigation to find out just how far this misbehavior reaches” – it would have been more along the lines of Iran-Contra with Reagan, with some damage but not the whole impeachment rigamarole. Which would have certainly spared us President Jimmeh, and possibly preserved the nation of South Vietnam.

        But Nixon’s impulse was to cover up and deny, and that gave his opposition in the FBI the time window to start feeding things to Woodward and Bernstein.

        • “Nixon did not resign because of a break-in, but because of a cover-up.”

        • Quite interesting that the House Witchfinders are having John Dean as a “witness”. At least, he’s familiar with corruption.

          • It’s part of their attempting to paint Trump as the new Nixon. It’s also dumb as eating rocks, but what else is new?

            • That makes no sense; Trump is the new Hitler. Nobody, even in the worst smears on Nixon, compared Tricky Dick to Adolph.

              Of course, there were still plenty of people around who knew and remembered Hitler; he wasn’t merely a rando synonym for “poopy head” the way he’s tossed about now.

          • Perhaps committee Republicans can call G. Gordon Liddy as witness to explain what corruption in the White House really looks like?

            He could even explain how the Deep State works by describing Dean’s use of the campaign as cover for the attempt to erase evidence of Mrs. Dean’s “professional” activities “entertaining” powerful Democrats.

  22. I am that person that always chooses the longest line to stand in. I’ve learned to talk to my line mates as I wait. So I relate. As for politics… There’s always someone who says Reagan was the worst president ever even when restrictions and life got easier under his presidency.

    • I remember mid-80s boom times, and the talk-show host was mocking the leftie screeching about how horrible the economy was.

    • The Carter administration the family was living in a hastily converted Menard pole building, with gas-fire toilet, the car(s) were barely, used heaps. After the Reagan Recovery, the living space was a trailer, admittedly, but not in a trailer park, had WATER plumbing, and the car was new. The *airplane* was used. I won’t be upset with a “worst” like that. We could use more worsts that good. And fewer bests as bad as…

    • Restrictions and life got easier under Reagan’s presidency, but not as fast or as much as they would have had Carter been re-elected!

      From the same people who are now telling us the current economy is the result of Obama/Biden policies.

      • I would dearly love to know just what exactly those folks are smoking (if they actually believe what they say…) so I can take whatever precautions might be required to completely avoid such.

  23. It occurs to me that we ought acknowledge: Socrates knew nothing, and counted it the beginning of wisdom.

  24. At National Review’s gangblog, The Corner, Jay Nordlinger offers this tidbit from a podcast he’s recently done:

    Big Questions with a Big Prof
    Timothy Snyder is a historian, a professor at Yale. He works on Eastern Europe, Russia, the Holocaust, and still other areas of concern, or interest. He spends a lot of time thinking about democracy and its foes. I have done a Q&A podcast with him, here.
    [SNIP]
    “Among the many interesting points that Snyder makes is this: The enemies of liberal democracy in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s were awful people, of course: Nazis and Communists. But they had ideas. Visions and goals. They wanted to shape the world in particular ways.

    “Today, enemies of liberal democracy tend not to have ideas, visions, or goals. They just want to “burn it down.” They are nihilists and destroyers.”

    • Amsel, Matthew

      Basically, we’ve traded the Luthor for the Joker

      • or Doomsday. Or maybe Lobo. not sure.

        • I sometimes think it might be Ambush Bug.

          • Myxlplk? Bat-Mite?

            • It is certainly not any villain that was interesting enough to merit a return.

            • I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with somebody on the Marvel side of the ledger who fills that niche and I got nothing. For Luther, sure: Kingpin, Obadiah Stane, many more.

              Possibly The Impossible Man (and the Poppupians in general) but I’ve not ready any in over twenty-five years and gather he may have been domesticated.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well, there was a Silver Surfer/Superman cross-over where Mister Mxyzptlk got to “play with” Silver Surfer and Mister Impossible got to “play with” Superman.

            • Sabertooth, Wolverine’s nemesis.

              It’s established that he just really likes destroying stuff.

              There’s a couple of not very interesting mutants that are “nukeit for giggles.”

              • Amsel, Matthew

                To be fair, Sabretooth is very intelligent and can create and execute complex plans when he so chooses. He’s just really grouchy and prone to lash out.

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