I’m getting sick and tired of that quote “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” G. Michael Hopf.
I’m not calling the author stupid, mind. I mean, he has to be leftist enough to have gotten push from the establishment trad pub, and insane enough to write post-apoc fiction, but he’s obviously a marketing genius with that quote. The quote, however, is dumber than hell.
Worse than dumber than hell, it’s fatuous and the kind of dellusion someone will acquire when he looks at Roman history from A LONG WAY OFF and then decides this is some kind of law of nature. It is not a coincidence that I have seen the idiotic pronouncement attributed to Edward Gibbon, because that’s exactly the sort of person who’d make up that kind of pronouncement, looking back on a civilization he mostly got partial accounts of, and a lot of it through the descriptions of the lives of its prominent citizens, a lot of it done by the equivalent of our yellow press.
And right now several of you are staring at the screen in wrath and shock and going, “but Sarah, how can you deny that great wisdom.”
Very easily, and if you think about it, you will too. Part of what our side is resting on, when believing that fresh piece of bull crap is “WWII was a tough time, as was the depression, and it built men who went to the moon.”
Sure. Go ahead. cherry pick the data to fit your assumptions. What are you? A leftist?
Human societies and humans themselves are complex, difficult things to analyze. NONE of it is easy. And none of it is short and pithy enough to fit that kind of sentence. It is not a coincidence that the man writes post-apocalyptic fic, which, in general, is one of the most wanking branches of science fiction.
Yeah, I know, Americans talk about the depression and are like “we were forged in fire.” But you guys, who rest your understanding of the world on American history and that kind of hazy, unfocused idea of Roman history that comes from a great distance and scholars poring over it have no clue.
Yeah, the great depression was terrible, and it left scars in the collective psyche. Tell me, though, how many hundred thousand died in that famine? In fact, since Jamestown, how many Americans have starved to death or had to resort to cannibalism?
Guys, in historic terms, America should be the softest, most pussified country to ever walk the Earth. FROM ITS BEGINNING. Of course it’s not, and there’s a reason for that, that is a fair constant (can be destroyed, but Lord, that will take another 100 years) and has nothing to do with the pseudo-cycle above. (And yes, I’ll talk about it in a minute.)
In historic terms, all Americans have lived in “good times.” Most Europeans too, for the last 150 to 200 years, except for the long war of Europe.
I mean, let’s be honest and examine that quote in the light of the 20th century, shall we? Sure, Americans had the Great Depression and sent people over to die on foreign shores. Bully. Good for us, even if in retrospect, looking at it one wonders if WWI was a good idea. Once the dye were cast, sure, WWII was inevitable. It was really just the continuation of WWI and you could no more stop it, and stop us putting an end to it than you could stop a ball from rolling down a steep slope. And even if going over to fight and die in WWI was the result of a president who was, let’s face it, morally repulsive and authoritarian.
Meanwhile, France lost all its young men, twice. It starved. I mean really starved. We don’t have recorded instances of cannibalism, but I’d be shocked if it hadn’t occurred “a little bit, all over.” Its fields and villages were destroyed.
Do you know why every European man of the twenties and thirties smoked? Because everyone who fought the war in “Flanders” (and French) fields smoked to dull their sense of smell, so they couldn’t smell the piles of other young men rotting, just over the rise. Some of those fields, when you plow them still turn up uniform buttons and other metal bits with each plow full of Earth. Oh, and let’s not forget, whatever they grow on those fields is mostly grown on the results of decomposing human flesh.
Anyway Belgium got hammered too. Hammered so hard that according to a relative who lived there a long time, they have the genetic defects of extreme inbreeding. (I don’t know, never having researched it.)
So, you know, surely when WWII ended those two countries, where the kids on the streets starved, and saw death up close and personal were the toughest people in G-d’s green Earth, right? Snort, giggle. No. Really. Snort, giggle some more.
For that matter, if you look at countries where life is and has always been hard and people live on the edge of starvation: most of Africa, India, the vast ridiculous hell that is China, you would think it created really tough men who would build– No? Yeah, weird, isn’t it? Mostly hard times seem to create subservient, desperate people who will conform to whatever those in authority ask of them, without daring to say “boo” back.
Which is why the former East Germany is more likely to have authorities ready to stomp on your neck, Russia — a place where life has always been hellofhard — is full of peasants under whatever the tzar calls himself, and of all the countries who were put through the hell of communism, only Poland shows a little bit of a spine.
It’s almost as though hard times break people. Which is why totalitarian regimes bring hard times on as soon as possible. And soft times make people uppity and likely to talk back.
Um…. who would have thunk it? Only someone who has read history to any depth and is not going off the rose-colored glasses of conservatives who imagine the forties and fifties as some kind of golden paradise for America.
Look, sure, we were prosperous then, and it was an era of America dominance, but I’ll be honest with you, kiddies: It’s still an era of American dominance, and it will be as long as we want it. There are reasons for that. The fact that right now America is using its dominance to have protracted nervous breakdown and take the rest of the world along for the ride is not proof of anything, except that other countries will follow us, even when we lose our way. And we’re still prosperous. Though the Junta is trying to stomp that out.
We were going to have our lunch eaten, in order, since WWII by Germany, Japan and China. Except that none of those can or will supplant us as world leaders, because we are something quite new in the face of the Earth. What we are and what we do makes us capable of innovation, innovative thought, and incredible leaps of production (the Junta is having a hell of a time digging a hole even we can’t dig ourselves out of, and I’m not sure they’ll manage. For one, they won’t have very long.) And what we are and what we do makes us a threat for every old country in the world, which is why they try so hard to pull us down. (My guess is that all they’ll manage is to mutate us into something that scares them even more, but I am trying very hard to make sure it’s not something we hate.)
But for the record, the thirties, forties and fifties were not some great conservative wonderland. Just because the left claims it was, and keeps imagining they live in movie-fifties, it don’t make it so. They were in fact profoundly statist and regimented, and as close as America has come to communofascism: until now.
And all that quote does is convince people they’re caught in some great wheel of suffering, and must be punished for being “too prosperous” (in WHOSE opinion?) and too “soft” so their grandkids can be great. WTF, people? I was the one who was raised with fados. There is no predetermined tragic future, and if there were, there would be nothing gloriously tragic in it, and no virtue in enduring so maybe some time in the future — BRIEFLY — something great can emerge.
Your Dogma has thrown up Karma all over the carpet, and the fact none of it accords to lived reality makes me want to collectively bitchslap you so hard you taste next Wednesday. Which I guess is what this is.
And stop sniveling and coming back with adolescent bravado “Well, then, I guess history makes no difference.” Most of you have more degrees than college professors, and you’re not stupid.
Of course, history makes a difference. It shapes culture. But culture, like human evolution, is very slow to change. Oh, sure, it can change. And it changes faster than glacial-slow gene selection. (You are basically your ancestors, except for some very small differences. Your great grandfather, moved at birth — meaning he got decent nutrition and was raised here — here would be a normal 21st century man. So would your ggggggrandfather back in the eighteenth century. the culture has changed, not the genes.)
How slow does culture change? Well, as far as I can tell a lot of it survives even massive invasion and change in PEOPLE. For instance — and weirdly that’s what I was going to write about today, but it got tangled with this topic, so I guess I’ll do it tomorrow — the English are a violent people prone to civil wars and revolutions, and it’s amazing how much of that we’ve retained when at last half the people in the US at the time of the revolution had a good dose of non-English blood, and it’s gotten more so since.
The only really good way to change a culture is to take its people captive, change their language, forbid the use of their rituals. And yet, often, it still comes through, depending on the people you took and how strong their culture is. (Stares in Babylonian captivity.)
Yes, there are events in history that determine the character of the people. And they tend to reinforce each other.
But this idea that men are changed — rapidly — by their circumstances, and can be molded “soft” or “hard” depending on the times (and not the culture) is caca. It’s puerile. It’s unworthy of thinking human beings. It’s ABOVE ALL Marxist.
The Marxists believe humans are empty vessels into which upbringing and conditions (material conditions) pour everything, so that each human is a widget, and given the right (imposed from above) environment, the next generation will be perfect “Soviet Men.”
They’ve yet to manage it, though they’ve managed to break several generations, in several cultures. Arguably those that were already in a way pre-broken.
However, I will give the creator of that quote that he probably didn’t realize it was, in itself, designed to breed apathy and fatalism. And that he PROBABLY (maybe) knows it’s bullshit.
But it makes great sales copy.