I have a character in my head who’s been trained in interplanetary diplomacy. (Oh, shush. Keep it down to a dull roar, will ya? It is getting written, but I think that series starting with No Man’s Land (eh) and ending six books later with Earthman’s Son will be written behind the scenes and not published till they’re all ready. For various reasons. So you shall most certainly abide in extreme patience, okay?)
Um… So, my characters are (probably) not separate thing from me, but rather I read and work through a lot of stuff (hobbies: thinking about stuff) and a lot of it comes out through my fictional characters, which is why sometimes they APPEAR to know things I don’t know.
In this case it isn’t even that I didn’t know it, just that I hadn’t thought about it.
This character — Skip. Look, his father named him Scipio. Not his fault — has a tendency to run at the mouth at me, when I’m not writing him (so annoying. He knows I can’t kill him, but he has no idea how much I can torture him) and a lot of it is from stuff he learned in diplomat school, and a lot of it has come through from my thinking on culture… oh, these last 10 years or so, when I started getting a feeling that something was wrong in the kingdom of Denmark. Or any other culture. Yes, yes, I’ll get to it. Chill, won’t ya?
Anyway, his uh universe (the Schrodinger worlds, you’ve been hearing about) is a weird hodge podge, and it’s hard, even, to date when the story takes place. By Earth time, it’s probably at the same time as Darkship Thieves (different timeline/future history) but then again it isn’t.
The whole conceit is that oh, 20? 40? years on, we come up with a way of instantaneous travel from orbit to orbit (Meh, Heinlein probably did it better in Starman Jones, but never mind) only we are using computers to calculate the translation and… well. about 50% of the ships just vanish, never to be heard from again. Turns out when doing it, you need to take time into account and the AIs dismiss it as irrelevant. So the ships acquire the nickname of Schrodingers because no one knows if those in them just vanished or are somewhere.
But they are…. somewhen. I think the oldest found so far in my head is 15k years in the past and the civilization grew from there. But there is a suspicion about the very advanced “alien” civilization they found, which would put it at… 100k years in the past. Mind you, there are some ships that went to the future too. And weirder stuff.
Which is why there are two competing mostly “good guy” human empires (Skip is not actually from Earth, it’s just what they call him) and …. a lot a lot of bad ones. And a great need for diplomats, first contacts and such. And whole disciplines devoted to studying culture and history of cultures and the psychology of cultures.
Okay, bear with me. I seem to do a lot of the complex processing through fiction, okay?
Anyway, Skip is dealing with a culture that is not only deep-rebarbarized, though retaining some things they process and call “magic” (which is will be interesting as half of this book will sound like medieval fantasy of a bizarre kind) but the colony, at least 10k years old, is also composed of modified humans from a particular mind set looking for complete equality. (They didn’t get it. What they good is unruly and interesting and a little crazy.)
The culture is in itself fascinating, will be hard to integrate due to physical mods, but those are recessive so that integrating into the greater universe means they disappear as a people. (They are cross fertile with normal humans.) However the culture is barbaric. The one thing he hits really hard is the survival needed infanticide, which… well.
So what he has been gracing me with is: The worst thing you can do to a newly discovered re-barbarized culture is to integrate it. The second worst thing you can do is to keep it as a zoo exhibit.
Which is a very long lead-in to this: I think we are partly and part of collective entities known as cultures.
Kind of like, we used to think the bacteria in our gut were parasites, but they seem to influence a lot of stuff about us, from what we eat, how we sleep, and our metabolism, and perhaps somewhat what we think.
In the same way, I think we might be part-culture.
Cultures aren’t just “the habit of doing this and that this way.” Okay, they are that too, and most of them underwent natural selection for each component of it. So, you know desert cultures have rules that maximize the chance of their members surviving in the desert. And forest cultures ditto, and our culture hasn’t adapted at all to this new thing called tech, but it’s getting there, and–
But it’s not just “A group of people got together and decided” which we’ve run with and tried to treat it as, including the social engineering. Wounded cultures; cultures forced into too alien a shape die. And it’s interesting the way they die.
What struck me first that the things we call “decadence” were actually a common set of reactions that also infected “conquered cultures.” It’s a case of “Uh, wait, that’s not “they were decadent, then conquered” it’s “they were conquered and there are these symptoms.” (Yes, in some cases there’s other ways. We’ll get there. I said abide in patience.)
In short: The women become whores, the men become effeminate, infanticide increases, crime in general increases, birthrate plunges.
And what it occurred to me is “All of these behaviors, if you think in terms of primitive warfare, are what will allow elements of the defeated culture to survive.” Women who become concubines to the conquerors will pass some of the dying culture’s “DNA” to the new culture, in the form of lore and bits of language. Men who appear non-threatening will be allowed to integrated in the conquering culture and not be killed outright. And …. all the rest. Survival, not of individuals (gay men didn’t reproduce in the past) but of parts of the defeated culture.
“But that also happens with prosperity.” Um…. kind of. Sort of. Usually not so much when the prosperity is increasing exponentially, but in the generations born to prosperity.
I don’t have enough insight into Rome (or then again, at a smaller level the renaissance) but I do into our culture.
I suspect when humans get prosperous and … cosmopolite (for lack of a better term) enough, they start tinkering with the cultural. Not just here, but always. (Look at the great apostasy of the renaissance with reformation, counter reformation, double reverse reformation, and what’s that dance again. Not that it was bad, the church had grown sclerotic, but it was a lot of change very fast.) And of course, the West became infected by communism/Marxism/Socialism/stupidity on stilts trying to create paradise on Earth, right after WWI, and the rules were imposed from within, but pretty obviously in every “conquered” sector, upending everything.
I think that’s the trigger. Everything changes, very, very fast. To our primitive brains that triggers “We’ve been invaded” (Not wrong, even if the invasion is from inside.) “Deploy the modes of behavior that will allow parts of the culture to survive, even if we don’t.
I think that’s what we’re caught in.
Look, we’re individuals, and we have the power of thought and the power of decision, but unless you on purpose, with malice aforethought acculturated yourself, you don’t even have any idea how much of what you do/how you react is cultural. In fact, culture is a set of behaviors that make it possible to do a lot without going through thought for day to day life in this workaday world.
Think of it as software running on the individual. Except this software is an AI and can, in certain circumstances, that you and your entire genetic legacy (particularly if you’re male) need to be sacrificed so the AI survives.
What we’re dealing with in the west is not decadence or malaise. It’s a culture, rooted in our most primitive brain, that thinks death is imminent, and is taking evasive maneuvers so parts of it survived within the conqueror.
The fact that there is no conqueror, and that the Marxist insanity can’t survive if it becomes dominant doesn’t mean anything, because these aren’t rational processes.
We need to make them rational and reasoned and convince our back brains we’re not conquered, there’s just a cancerous culture in our midst. And like cancer, if it continues growing, it will kill us: and itself.
It’s important to change the idea we can socially engineer at will. And it’s important to repair what’s been broken.
If humanity is to survive.