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.