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Book Pimping by Sarah and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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Book Pimping by Sarah and Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com.  One book per author per week. Amazon links only.-SAH*

FROM PAM UPHOFF: Fractured Loyalties

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Ra’d knew the main reason he was being assigned to the Embassy World was to get him away from headquarters. But since this was where his girlfriend and her father lived he was far from reluctant.

And if the ministry intel section didn’t want him, he’d just have to be a simple security guard.

But few things are simple for a Warrior of the One.

FROM C. TAYLOR:  Prepare for the STAAR Test in One Weekend: Mathematics, Reading, and Science Test Preparation for Grades 3 – 5 (LOL, but some of you might need it for kids.)

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If you are in Texas, then STAAR Testing is almost here! How do you prepare your child to do well on the STAAR Test? This book has the answer.

The material in this book will dramatically improve your elementary school child’s performance on the STAAR test in a short period of time. It includes easy to follow steps and advice for teaching your child the particular skills of taking the STAAR test, including how to answer griddable questions, use of permitted resource materials, and effective use of the test time. It also includes an exclusive system for improving performance on questions where your child does not know the answer, based on a statistical analysis of the patterns consistently used by the testmakers in previous STAAR tests.

This book covers preparation for the mathematics, reading, and science State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness for grades 3 to 5 for the standard (not alternate) paper test without accommodations.

FROM A. C. EXTARIAN AND R. K. MODENA:  Aff’s Diary: Blessed Hope

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Nestled deep in the forest, all is as it should be in the village of Blessed Hope – and that’s how chief hunter Dari Finbarr likes it. Then one stormy night the embodiment of death for Humans stumbles into their home: a Szari girl. The Szari! A race of powerful beings who sought the extinction of Humankind, and were only stopped by the Tzaro people in a brutal war that is still whispered about in hushed voices. A sole Szari warrior is capable of wiping out entire Human settlements by themselves. The strange, silent Szari is nothing like how the tales describe however; and though it risks his life, Dari is given the task of guarding her until the wise Tzaro are brought to decide her fate. Until then many questions arise, but no answers can be found in the girl’s sad green eyes. Without knowing it, the Humans of Blessed Hope have found themselves on a path that will change the future of all the races on their world…

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: Ruthless.

I Must Write And My Nose Won’t Work

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Coming at you this morning from sunny springtime snowbound Colorado, to tell you why the cat ate my homework.  Or at least the sinus infection did.

I really do not willfully set myself up to get these horrible infections and lose time off work.  The problem is that the symptoms of sinus infection (or ear infection, or throat infection) are easy to confuse, at its onset with the symptoms of auto-immune.

Since for the last two months we’ve been going from family issue to family issue (now in a lull and none of it relating to our marriage.  Just relatives and things happening) and on high stress mode, I assumed that the stuffiness, inability to breathe, etc were in fact just autoimmune.  A course of pred knocked back the symptoms enough that my hands stopped having holes in them, but then some fresh hell put eczema all over my arms.

It wasn’t until three days ago I realized I had a fever, and that the symptoms, including the need to sleep ALL the time were much like those of sinus infection.  Yes, I’ve been irrigating, etc, but it was so dry-and-dense that nothing came out.

So, antibiotics acquired.  I was also told to stay on mucinex.  And there hangs a problem, because mucinex makes me extremely dizzy and unable to concentrate.

The dizziness goes away when I stop it, so it’s definitely it, but I’m not sure what to do about it, since I’m fairly sure I need to dissolve the crud in my nose.  But mucinex makes it impossible to work.

Anyway, that’s why the books that were supposed to come out the last two months haven’t.  I’m going to see if I find something else that allows me to breath but also to write.

At any rate it’s a lovely writing weekend.  I’d planned on dragging older son to the zoo today, but I don’t think I’ll be able to convince him it’s a great idea to go out in the snow.

So this is my non-post post.  And now I’m going to have some coffee and attempt to work.

 

The Good, The Bad and the Eternal

So recently some twitter twit, of whom I’ve never heard in the whole course of my days too it upon herself to put down both John Ringo’s work and mine (I’m still not sure at all why I was pulled into this, except that I gall them by existing and not falling in line.)

Those of you who have read both of us might go “What do these two things have in common?”  I don’t know, but since this was was on a twitter thread where it was also proclaimed that we wanted people like the writer to die, you have to take it with a grain of salt.  I don’t think I’ve ever consciously desired anyone’s death, though I’ve been known to wish plagues of locusts or the like against people who are annoying me.  The person then backpaddled and said that the policies we support means people like him/her/zyr would die.  This is a puzzler.  The only policies I know of that cause people to die are derived from Marxism — 100 million and counting! — so I believe Xer was misinformed.  Maybe Syr read too fast and missed the “anti” prior to Marxist.  Or maybe the uninformed keyboard strummer really believes all that stuff about you know, not paying for contraceptives is the same as banning them.  Maybe zyr believes that if we don’t actually lovingly spoon mush into zyr’s mouth, and pay for it too we want zyr to starve..

However, it was the comment on our writing that amused me the most.  Look, I enjoy the heck out of some of Ringo’s books, but it took me a while to get into them, just because his plot structure is so different from mine.  I used a very classically ordered plot.  He doesn’t.  Took me a while to realize no, it wasn’t just formless.  And because I’m a writer, it drove me nuts, looking for the pattern, and it wasn’t until I figured out what thread he was following that I could relax and enjoy it.

It’s the same problem I had watching Japanimation with the boys.  Their concepts of story are so different from ours that on first exposure, it doesn’t fit well.

So, is John Ringo a good writer?  Uh. You know, I listened to the Black Tide series, in audio book, while fixing our previous house for sale.  We had been delayed putting it for sale because I’d had major surgery and been so ill, and we were renting elsewhere and running out of money.  On top of that everything that could go wrong did, from younger son stepping on a nail and putting it through his foot, to it raining continuously while we were doing repairs outside.

You’d think it was a depressing serious to listen to, while doing that, but the thing is, as bleak as much of it is, there is a hint of unquenchable human spirit a surging tide of hope (eh) throughout the book, and you actually feel uplifted by this.

I have, for my sins, a degree in literature (actually literatures, which is a word in Portugal, because I had to study the national literature of every language I studied.  My degree is in Languages and Literatures, formally.) If you ask me if John’s work is literature, the only thing I can tell you is that it’s not “literary” which is its own separate genre and requires a certain playfulness with words, and a certain obscuring of meaning which he doesn’t bother with.

But is it literature?  Well, literature and literary have bloody nothing to do with each other.  Literature, in the sense of the stuff you study in school, is stuff that either has survived the test of centuries to speak to those yet unborn when it was written.  Yeah, there’s also modern literature and that tends to be “literary and guessing” and most of it — thank heavens– will be mercifully forgotten if not mocked by our descendants.

That contemporary stuff is picked by literature professors on very specific characteristics.  Some of it is just confusion.  Because the old stuff we study tends to have a level of opaqueness in language, (because of the time when it was written and the evolution of language) they tend to assume that opaque meaning means “literary.”  In the same way because we study the old books according to the current fads, we tend to study the old books according to the prejudices of our time: that is to say through a social-classes, struggle, anti-authority, and other Marxist distorting lens.  Thus Pride and Prejudice becomes about female oppression and money, when well… no, it wasn’t about that except very marginally and at the edges.  And what they do to Shakespeare is unforgivable.

But because we view the immortal literature through those lenses, we’ve created an entire set of books, an entire genre (and subgenres of other genres) that tries to emulate those characteristics, and is both  purposely difficult to read and, at the same time, filled with the prejudices of our time, and the cause du jour.

I am glad to report that nothing of Ringo’s I read fits in those two characteristics.

Does this make it bad.  Good Lord no.  It moves the emotions, which is what any good writer should do.  He also has an amazing amount of logic and world building buried sometimes beneath action and a few jokes.

So, am I a bad writer?  Heaven only knows.  People in general don’t seem to believe so.  Yeah, little Damian lately of the Guardian thought I was, but that’s because I a) used first person, which is apparently a “marker” of bad writing (wouldn’t a lot of immortal writers be shocked.) and b) didn’t engage in pretty-wordage.  He might have been shocked if he read my first published novel, the one which was a finalist for the Mythopoeic.

And that’s part of it.  Am I a bad writer?  Well, if you equate a certain style with “bad” I’ve written some very bad books.  If you equate a certain style with “good” I’ve written a few good ones too.

Even if you judge them as I do, as “books that are immersive and cause you to experience powerful emotions” I’ve written good and bad books, both.  Every writer does.  My favorite authors all wrote some pot boilers and then some brilliant stuff.  Our books aren’t just the product of our minds, and whatever idea we had.  They’re the product of our state at the time.  When a book is due and I’m sick, or preoccupied with something else, it’s not going to be as good as it could otherwise be.  And yet, often, those are the most successful ones.

This is why I try not to pronounce on other people’s books.  I can tell you what I don’t like and what I like, and I can say if there are factual errors in a book, or even errors of narrative (like the person who kept signaling their character was a tall male, while she was supposed to be a small female.)

Most of the time, though?  Most of the time, the worst thing I can say about a book is “I couldn’t get into it.”  If after page five I just don’t feel any reason to read on, I can’t tell you why, but the book isn’t getting a second chance.  Now, are these ever ideological?  Rarely.  Only if the politics comes at it out of place.  A long diatribe about current politics in a future book, particularly naming names, will pop me out.

But usually it’s far more subtle than that.  Usually it’s just “this just doesn’t interest me.”  And sometimes, mind you, I personally like the author as an individual.  The book just fails to interest me, and since I’ve reached the age when I’m aware my remaining reading time is finite, off it goes.

Sometimes mind you, this is situational.  I might be unable to get into a book at a time when I’m ill or stressed, then find it completely immersive three months later, when I stumble on it again.  Similarly, I might love a book, then go back 20 years later and wonder why.

So I might say things like “I haven’t read it” or “couldn’t get into it” or even “I don’t like it” or “It depressed me.”  But I rarely say “it’s a bad book” PARTICULARLY if it’s a book by someone whose ideology I despise.  Because, you know, I’m aware that they’re rubbing me wrong on the ideological front, and therefore I might not appreciate their good points, or even their great qualities.  Because I’m human.

Will some of those books I couldn’t get into go on to become immortal literature of our time?  Probably.  Statistically speaking, at least one of them should.

Don’t I feel bad about it and like I should like it?  No.  Why should I.  What I like is what I like.  What I consider good is what works on me at the moment.  Writing and story telling being such a personal art, aiming at evoking not just an emotion but a series of them in the reader, I can only tell you “this was good for me now.”  And if it works many times over years, like Heinlein or Pratchett, I’ll tell you “this is just good.”  But it’s always for me, and through my lens.

Do I have any idea what works will be immortal?  What will resonate with future generations?  Ah!  No.  I’d be surprised if at least some of Pratchett and some of Heinlein didn’t make it.  I think it’s quite likely some of Ringo will make it.  And I think it’s unlikely to the point of making me snort-giggle any of my stuff will make it.

What about the stuff the SJWs write?  Will any of it make it?

Some might.  Just because someone is objectively mistaken and in need of dried frog pills, it doesn’t mean they aren’t touched by the divine spark that makes something immortal.  An that spark makes you forgive a million bad points.

The one thing I can say for sure is that they don’t know what will make it any more than I do.  And their attempts to get people to stop reading us because we’re “objectively bad” only mark them as kindergartners, repeating what they heard teacher say, without actually understanding.

As they usually tell us about drugs and the more outre sexual explorations “How do you know you won’t like it till you try it?”

“When any government, or church for that matter, undertakes to say to it’s subjects, this you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motive.” – Robert A. Heinlein.

And that goes double for half-baked keyboard warriors pronouncing a holy ban on things they admit they never read.

Pfui.  Only children and savages are afraid of the written word to the point of condemning it unread.

We are given a certain time and a certain number of books that allow us to experience someone else’s mind.  Sure, a lot of those minds I won’t like, or more likely won’t interest me.

But there are minds that interest me and which are vibrant and alive in all sides of the political spectrum.  And I’d be a fool to deny myself the pleasure of those immersive books just because their authors are politically deranged.

As for trying to guess which books the future will admire, and which it will praise, and trying to read them today?  Who cares?  When that future arrives you’ll be long dead.  Do you need approval so desperately that you must have people you’ll never meet retrospectively endorse your choices?  I don’t.

The future can like what it likes.  And I can like what I like.  And if the future likes something else, that’s fine.  I doubt I’ll care.

Read.  Read whatever you like.  Enjoy what you enjoy, hate what you hate.  But do not condemn books unread, because that’s a waste of time and mind.

 

A Higher Loyalty or Self-Justification? – by Amanda S. Green.

A Higher Loyalty or Self-Justification? – by Amanda S. Green.

I planned on finishing up Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks & White Liberals” this morning. That’s not going to happen. I have been struggling with the post and decided it is better to put it aside for a week than try to force it. Sowell’s work deserves better than a quick overview. It is important enough to be given careful consideration, even when he writes about things that might make us uncomfortable.

But that left me wondering what I should do for Sarah today. I didn’t want to leave her without a post. Then I remembered the book waiting in the TBR queue. You might have heard about it. Some fellow who used to work for the government wrote it. It came out earlier this week and has the distinction of pissing off people on both sides of the political aisle. Need another hint? The Clinton camp still blames him for her losing the election and the Trump camp blames him for not indicting Clinton – and others.

That’s right, boys and girls. I’m talking about James Comey and his new book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership. Before we get started on Comey’s initial comments in the book, I have done my best to put aside my personal feelings for the man and his actions over the last year and a half to two years. I want to give him, or at least the book, a fair shake. I also have promised friends of mine who know him and who are having problems reconciling the man they see on the promotion trail now with the one they worked with.

After a bit of trouble getting the e-book to open – for some reason, it doesn’t want to download to my MacBook Air – I finally opened it through the Amazon product page and started reading. While Comey probably had no input on the front matter, as a reader, the publisher (Flatiron Books, part of MacMillan) has already insulted me. Instead of the standard disclaimers, we are told this e-book is for personal use only and cannot be made available publicly in any way. Wait, what? Does that mean you can’t use excerpts in reviews? They might try to argue it but the wording is too vague. I am going to assume they mean you can’t loan it or share it with anyone.

But then you get to the copyright infringement language. Language the publisher so helpfully bolds just to make sure the evil customer who dared buy an e-book version knows. Talk about telling someone who just paid more than they should for the book that you don’t trust them.

The book opens with a note from Comey. That’s not so unusual in books like this. It seems authors – or their ghost writers – have a need to tell folks why they felt the need to write the book. Now, this is information that could be woven into the text elsewhere but why do that when you can put it right up front, making sure you set the narrative firmly in the reader’s mind?

Comey begins the book by asking a simple question, “Who am I to tell others what ethical leadership is?” He notes that anyone writing a book about this topic can come across as presumptuous and sanctimonious. He’s not wrong there. In fact, as I read the opening paragraph or two, those were my exact thoughts. Maybe it is my own knee-jerk reaction, but I’ve found more often than not that when someone starts off asking such questions, they are more than willing to tell you exactly why they are the one to write the book. But I pushed down that reaction and continued reading. After all, this is just the Author’s Note.

So why did he write the book if not as an exercise in vanity (something he denies). According to Comey, “We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded.”

When I first read that statement, I laughed and wondered if he had paid any attention to life in D.C. during his tenure there. Then I wondered if he had ever studied history. To think you’d find ethics and truth in the political hub of a nation is like thinking you will find the proverbial needle in a haystack while standing five miles away and the only tool you have to help you is a standard pair of tweezers. At least he had the decency to note this “dangerous time” isn’t limited to the United States.

In some ways, I can even agree with him. However, the behavior he condemns isn’t limited to the current administration. Nor is it anything new. If you’ve paid any attention to current events over the last several decades, you’ll know that.

This is, according to Comey, a time for “ethical leadership”. He admits he’s not an expert in what that term means. But he has studied it, read about it and thought about it. I guess that is enough, in his mind at least, for him to spend a book telling us what an ethical leader is and how they should act. We’ll see.

An ethical leader, he said, doesn’t run from criticism or uncomfortable questions. Ethical leaders look beyond the short term or the urgent. They take “every action with a view toward lasting values.” These values are found in religious tradition or in a moral world view or an appreciation for history. There must also be a “fundamental commitment to the truth” or we will be lost.

He ends this Author’s Note by discussing how he came up with the book’s title. It seems it came about because of a dinner he had with President Trump. During that dinner, the President allegedly demanded Comey’s loyalty to him personally over Comey’s duties as the FBI director to the American people. I say “allegedly” because, at this point in the book, there is no proof that this discussion ever took place or that the comments were made as Comey lays them out.

So far, however, I have not had a urge to throw the book across the room. That puts it far above Clinton’s book, What Happened. But it does leave me with a number of questions and concerns going forward. While Comey spends a great deal of time in this Author’s Note talking about ethical leadership, he never really defines it. He talks a good game, but he never really gets down to the bottom line.

I also find myself wondering if, as I continue reading the book, I will find it turns more into a diatribe against the man who fired him and less about the purported topic of the book. I will continue reading but my skepticism is starting to rise. Perhaps Comey would have been better served if his editor had decided to put this Author’s Note at the end of the book or, better yet, weave its contents into the book as a whole. As is, Comey comes across not as a dedicated public servant but as someone who wants to lecture and, quite possibly, justify controversial actions he took over the last few years.

If there is enough interest, I’ll do a couple more posts on the book after I finish the Sowell essay. In the meantime, I will continue reading until I either want to toss my tablet against the wall or I finish the book. As I’ve said before, the only way for us to understand what is going on in our country is to educate ourselves. Sometimes that means reading books written by those whose beliefs we don’t share or whose politics we don’t agree with. I look at it as learning what the enemy playbook contains. Whether this book falls into that category or not waits to be seen.

Until later!

[OMG, the reading masochist is at it again.  If you want her to do more snarkage, hit her pourboire jar. – SAH]

 

So Creative!

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It never fails.  Sooner or later, in a  gathering of conservative/libertarian writers or artists, someone asks the same question “How come in all the creative professions, everyone is leftist.  Are right wing people just not that creative?”

I get very tired of it.  Okay.  I get very angry at it.  It is a bit of internalizing of enemy propaganda that drives me up the walls and tears divots off said walls on the way.  Particularly since the explanation that someone immediately comes up with is that “liberals” have to be more creative, since they’re going against what is established, while “conservatives” are by nature less creative, because, of course, they’re just going with established conventions.

That particular piece of nonsense has only one answer, really “Say what?” followed, possibly by “Are you nuts?”

For the entirety of my life, the left HAS been the establishment.  All the art works, all the news reports, all of the social sciences shout the beliefs of the left.  It is those of us who challenge the base assumptions of Marxism who have to figure out things from first causes, and to step out of conformity and make ourselves targets to everyone.  So that’s an explanation that works fine, maybe for another world and another reality with a completely different history, but it has absolutely nothing to do with our current reality.  Which, now that I think of it, is a lot like most Marxist theories.

So, what explains the “greater creativity” of the left.

Greater creativity?  Prove it, tovarish.

I mean, Hollywood has seemed to lose creativity and get more enamored of remakes in the same proportion that it’s got rid of all its conservatives, or even from anyone to the left of Lenin.  What remains of the fields they have taken over, and whose skins they wear demanding respect is as creative as a kindergartner who paints the circle blue instead of green.

Second, let me see, how do we explain that fields where all the gatekeepers are leftist are dominated by leftists?  Dur. I don’t know, it must be a mystery.

Seriously, that is the only explanation needed and in most cases the absolute truth.  Only in most cases?  Sure.  Sometimes they hate us for things that are neither craft nor politics based.  (Note I’m not sure that’s NOT the case with me, since I seem to have people love me or hate me on site for no reasons I can discern.)

This is when people say “but they don’t ask your politics.”

Sure.  They don’t.  Only sometimes they do.  As an older, not in the closet rightish colleague told me when I was complaining that the things that happened to my books were uncanny, but it couldn’t be political animosity, because I was deep in the political closet: “they know what you laugh at.  They know when you look offended.  You’ve given yourself away a thousand times without even realizing it.”

And it’s true.  The left, in control of any field, will make the most inappropriate political jokes, the most outrageous statements against anti-Marxists.  They will perjure themselves on the consequences of their philosophy, and they will abjure known facts of history without a qualm.

It’s almost impossible for anyone who has fought free of that miasma not to react to its being displayed so openly.  And I’m not going to tell you those tests aren’t intentional.  Witch hunts are a permanent fixture of the left side, like any intransigent religion.

Heck, lately they tend to assume if you’re not singing in the choir and proclaiming the silly cause du jour from the mountain tops you must be a “right wing extremist” or whatever they’re calling people not exactly like them today.

So, there is an effort to keep libertarians/conservatives off the field, and amazingly the field is full of liberals. You’d have to be a Marxist to invent some self-flattering cause.

The good news in a lot of these fields is that the worm is turning and turning fast.  The official gatekeeper picked offerings are in fact less and less palatable, while the indie or well less than official side picks up speed.

That is because we, thank heavens, retain creativity.  We’ve had to, in order to form the opinions we do have in the face of an intrusive and unforgiving establishment forever on the hunt for heretics.

Other things we had to develop include resilience and the ability to debate.  Note, it’s not our side claiming that words that disparage us endanger us, or that we need safe rooms.  We might now and then opt to stay away from the crazy people, but that’s because they’re so tiring, and besides, as grandma said “with the insane, I’d not even go to heaven.  They might push me down from there.”

We’re battlers, not afraid of trying new things, not afraid of experimenting with new ways to reach the public.

So, yeah, the creative establishment in every field is leftist now.  Doesn’t take much to figure out why. It is leftist because the gatekeepers selected for Marxists confusing “leftist social message” with “artistic worth.”

But a million pathways to success open every day.  And we, the goats, who have always operated differently from the rest of the band, are the ones better equipped to exploit them.

I feel like saying with Elizabeth I “This is the day the Lord has made, and it is wonderful in our sight.”

But instead I say: Build under, build over, build around.  Stop wondering why so many leftists are in positions of power.  Political nepotism does that.  It also destroys everything it takes over.

So be ready for taking the weight when the traditional institutions crash.

Now go and create.

 

Baseless Elitism: The Dangers Of Inductive Reasoning Vindaloo Diesel

Baseless Elitism: The Dangers Of Inductive Reasoning
Vindaloo Diesel

False Induction

You know what really bugs me? Elitism. Not all of it, only the unjustified kind. Justified elitism is your basic meritocratic thinking: “I have achieved/accomplished/finished this, I therefore hold in a higher regard those who can do this than those who can’t.” That’s one thing. Then there’s unjustified elitism, such as “I am an atheist and he isn’t. Because there is no proof of god, this means I’m smarter than him.” Or “I’m ‘progressive’ and he’s ‘conservative’. He doesn’t support government-mediated social welfare and entitlements. Therefore he is a petty-mined, unintelligent, uncharitable bastard.”

It’s not quite the same thing as racism or prejudice. Instead it represents a failure of inductive reasoning. Person A takes a position on a specific subject. Person B takes this position and then generalizes it into an overall assessment of Person A’s character, intellect, or other personal characteristics.

In other words, it’s like trying to figure out the composition of an entire forest by looking at a single fir tree.

Overgeneralization and Oversimplification

Other than the fact that I’m sick of this false elitism being perpetrated all over my backside, what’s really scary about this mode of thought is that it hampers open communication and understanding of the complexity and nuances of ideas. So let’s leave behind elitism for a minute and focus on the twin foibles of overgeneralization and oversimplification.

Nothing illustrates this better than the idea of the Party Line. ‘Oh you voted Republican? You must not be a conservationist.’ Or ‘Oh you’re a Democrat? Gun-grabbing hoplophobic eunuch…’

You can see the problem already. It’s attempting to impute an Either/Or where none should exist. Can you link conservation, gun control, drug legalization, and social welfare together logically? Not especially. Which might explain why I see no problem with supporting two of them and being vehemently opposed to the other two (guess which ones).

Whether it’s the two party system or the innate desire to label someone either ‘us’ or ‘them’, I couldn’t say. What I do know is that this tendency destroys our ability to question our own stance and understand the other guy’s, whether political, scientific, personal, or professional. This tendency to oversimplification means that instead of the four positions mentioned in the last paragraph, we see only one, whether referring to ourselves or to our political opponents. Attack one, attack them all. To put this into context, say Person A attacks Person B’s position that all handguns should be banned. ‘A’ presents a well-reasoned argument that may have had some sway over Person B if he hadn’t gotten all defensive and closed himself off to the merits of Person A’s case immediately. Why did Person B get so defensive? Because when Person A attacked one of Person B’s many political opinions, Person B felt like Person A was attacking not only his entire political ideology, but also his personal character. Person B was oversimplifying his own political views into a single artificially monolithic construct.

Turning this around, imagine that Person A expresses a distaste for the Intelligent Design. Person B then makes some remark implying Person A is of a decidedly leftist persuasion, like himself. Person A takes umbrage and decides to start a movement called Conservatives Against Intelligent Design (launching at the end of the month-ish). In addition to making a total ass of himself, Person B has alienated a lot of people who, like Person A, aren’t particularly socialist, but aren’t ID supporters either. Best case scenario is that people like Person A no longer voice their opinions, fearing they’ll be lumped in with people like Person B. Worst case is that people like Person C, who was on the fence about evolution-creation but was definitely conservative, and Person D, who’s a political opportunist, throw their hats in the ring in support of ID (I’m pretty sure this is the real reason for the strength of the ID movement). They’ve taken advantage of Person B’s conflation of one issue with an entire ideology and used this as a weapon against B. They’re not taking the opposite position on that issue in order to say ‘Hey we’re different from this guy.’

Oversimplification and overgeneralization are bad no matter how you look at it. But ignoring all the strategic pitfalls you may find yourself in by engaging in false induction, at its most basic it is a crime against reason: It prevents you from being honest in your assessment of the beliefs, opinions, and contentions of everyone including yourself.

The Sin Of False Pride

I’ve got no problem with pride, so long as it’s deserved. As my best friend and I used to say back in high school “It ain’t cocky if you can back it up.” Of course, that was our excuse for being egomaniacal twerps who deserved a good ass-kicking and never got it. But anyway, the thing about pride is that it’s generally contingent upon a perception of achievement or superiority. The problem I see today, the problem I mentioned in the first paragraph, is that either the perception is false, or the achievement/superiority is much smaller in reality than it is in the individual’s mind.

People who possess otherwise fine minds allow unreasoned and often silly propositions to piggyback their way into their ideology along with one well-reasoned. As is seen all to often in scientific circles, a man can develop one of the most important theories in sociobiology while simultaneously supporting crackpot conspiracy theories. The brilliance of one does not somehow invalidate the wrongheadedness of the other. Granted, that was an extreme example, but many scientists seem to not dwell even a second on the many inconsistencies between the various philosophical theories underlying leftist concepts (’the collective’ and ‘Maslow’s hierarchy’ being foremost among them) and what science actually says about individual behavior. They imply that being ‘experts’ or ‘having proven themselves’ by getting a PhD, their political stance must be as reasoned as their professional and scientific opinions, when nothing could be further from the truth. These are the same people, after all, who don’t understand the distinction between positive and negative liberty, or that between a classical liberal and a conservative.
Or a leftist may imply that because he voted for social welfare, he’s a more charitable person than the next man. He’s taken a simple proposition; that he supports government-mediated charity whereas the other man doesn’t, and extended it to imply that the other man doesn’t believe in charitable works whatsoever.

Or the conservative might look upon my own stance on marriage, drugs, or freedom of expression and declare that I am an immoral hedonist while he’s a sparkling beacon of tolerance, brotherly love, and non-judgmentalism. He’d be just as wrong as the men in the other two situations.

So long as we allow this false pride in ourselves and in others to go unchecked, we will never have a free exchange of ideas, we will never be able to argue on the merit of the positions themselves, and we will never find our way past the flawed positions that all political ideologies flow from.

** Vindaloo Diesel is alternately known on the internet as a meathead, intellectual, geek, or giant troll, which he uses to disguise the fact that he’s actually an amazing guy who helps people he should probably ignore. His friends find equal amounts of consternation and amusement in the fact that he’s incapable of dating women who aren’t evil gorgeous blondes who treat him like garbage. When he’s not ranting about life, the universe, and everything; he’s either lifting weights, looking for fights (but they keep running away!), engaging in juvenile humor, or making homoerotic jokes with male friends who may or may not actually be straight (because Gay Roulette is even funnier than Gay Chicken).

 

Meaning

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You aren’t G-d, and thank heavens, neither am I.

Not that I’m putting Stranger in a Strange Land down.  on a scale of Heinlein books, we’ll say it was my favorite at 14, not so much at 55, but still, you know, yeah “Thou art God” and all that might have been the zeitgeist of the time (or to quote Heinlein at a later date “what some writers will do for money!’) but Heinlein still missed the most outrageous implications of the idea.

And why should he not?  He was a man who believed in personal responsibility and tending your own garden, and keeping your nose off other people’s gardens, so his Martian who has tumbled on to a modified, collective solipsism uses his powers for good…. ish.  Sure, there’s a lot of mattress beating, but in the end, the “special powers” are used to do things like lose weight, fix one’s life, etc.

Being G-d — note, not godlike, which is more what people try to escape to with super heroes and all that — is rather more complicated a business.  You’d be responsible for before and after, for eternity and its sequel.  It’s a job only an insane person would want.  Unfortunately, a lot of insane people are being thrust into that position.  Or they’re going insane after being thrust into that position.

Not that they’re gods, or heaven have god like powers, but they don’t believe in a power or a reality higher than themselves, which effectively thrusts them into the position of deciding what the rules are, and what the purpose every single day.

Humans weren’t designed that way.  We’re creatures of the band.  Our remote almost-human ancestors would have been born into a rigid hierarchy, because ape bands have a rigid hierarchy.  It can change, but it can’t go away.  We were designed to obey rules and boundaries, learned and instinctive.  And the very keeping of body and spirit together, in more primitive times, imposed an order on a primate’s life, whether pre-human or human.  There was food to forage for, and things to hunt, and young ones to look after, and someone had to look out for the lions.

It wasn’t a wide and  formless chaos in which you didn’t even believe reality existed outside your perceptions.

No, I don’t believe in nobility of birth, which makes me rather mad for an ape.  But I do believe in structures, in order, in purpose.

I remember with both fondness and dread the summer vacations of my teen years.  The first month or so was lovely, as I could spend the day doing whatever I wanted.  The last month (particularly if the start of school was postponed way past October as it sometimes was due to stupid political tricks) was heinous.  I could spend the day doing whatever I wanted.

The difference is that in the beginning of vacation, I had a pile of books I’d been accumulating during the school year, I had walks I wanted to take, friends I wanted to touch base with, stuff that had been waiting to be written.

By the end of that vacation I’d done all that, and it was a formless nothing, broken occasionally with housekeeping duties (they were there at the beginning too, but viewed as interruptions.)  I never liked school much (I liked learning, but remarkably little of it happened at school) but by the end of that, it was a welcome relief, because it circumscribed those wide and formless day in which I, mostly, got sick of myself.

Were the social rules thrown out in the late sixties (heck, started to be thrown out in the early twentieth century after WWI) restrictive and stupid?  All social rules are restrictive and stupid, and a good number of them are objectively counterproductive.

Except for where they give us a framework and a guide to life.  When we threw out all social rules, we also threw out ancient precepts and cautions, things like “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” and “deserving poor” and… and misery or happiness are in your hands, choose.

Instead we replaced them with a lot of nonsense “victim of society” and “no one is ever really guilty” and “Who are we to judge.”

This opening of our minds till our brain fell off left those people not fortunate enough to be raised by people of strong principles floating in a sea of tedium and lack of purpose.  Since the only firm principle they have is that there was never anyone as enlightened or perceptive as themselves, they can’t examine their own beliefs and actions for errors.  They also can’t find reality with two hands and a seeing eye dog, which is why they think reality changes with what you believe, and therefore think that your refusing to engage in their preferred speech, or saying things they don’t like is a literal aggression.  Because they believe words an stories can tear the world apart and put it together in another shape.

It’s not that they’re gods — though they might think they are — but that they’ve reverted to the mind of the primitive savage, unable to connect cause and effect outside themselves, and therefore living in a world they think thoughts or intentions can alter for good and ill: buffeted by the thoughts and intentions of others, looking in vain for the safe room that will allow them to remake the world anew with their thoughts.

That is what is behind their attacks on those who don’t think the same way they do.  That is what is behind their bizarre displays like trying to levitate the Denver Mint.  It is definitely what is behind their belief that if they erase history and remake it in their image, and install a regime that has brought death wherever it was tried, this time there will be utopia.

They’re savages, in a haunted world, blindly offering sacrifice to forces they can’t understand and trying to think the world in their image and semblance, then finding scape goats when it doesn’t work.  Which is always, because that’s not how this works.  That’s not how any of this works.

Reality is that which doesn’t go away when you stop thinking about it.  It has a power over you.  The actions and wishes of others, both the ones that live with you, and those who occupied this earth for millennia before you were born have an effect on you,  both good and ill.  They discovered things that worked, and things that didn’t.

The perfect communist state is not going to suddenly work, just because you want it to, real hard.

Things like getting up early, keeping healthy, finding an occupation you can work at without too much suffering, looking after yourself and those you are responsible for, keeping a decent and cleanly appearance and space, abstaining from (too many) mind altering substances (well, a glass of wine doesn’t alter my mind.  It does relax my mood.  But that’s me, with my genetics.  Your millage may vary.) work.  They’ve worked … well, since we have records or humans.

What should you pursue?  What will give meaning to your life?

I don’t know.  I’m not G-d.  I do know that for all of us there’s something that’s worth doing really hard.  Whether it’s keeping the most amazing garden ever, or writing books, or simply being the perfect secretary.

For many of us what gives meaning to life is not what feeds us (and for a long time writing was both of those things to me, but different types of writing) and that is pursued in the after-hours. Or what gives meaning to life is not your work, but that it enables you to feed your family, go out with your friends, and enjoy those.

I know someone whose higher purpose seems to be long hikes; I know someone whose higher purpose is to be the best administrative assistant ever (haven’t talked to her in years, but Portugal, you know?); and I know writers and artists and clothes designers, partly because, you know, I tend to associate with that type of thing.

As far as I can tell your higher purpose in life should be something that will live after you, to be satisfying.  That can be raising your family, yes, but it can be writing books, crocheting, making quilts, or even just living an exemplary life, which people, seeing, want to imitate.  You won’t see your influence, but it will live on after you and shape the future.  Even if all you do is rescue stray kittens.

And you need companions on your journey, people who will see and understand.

The early left had all this, as they were convinced that they were working towards paradise on Earth, and they were by and large happy individuals.  I think the current left knows their purpose is nihilism disguised as revolutionary fervor.

That doesn’t work, because you start hating yourself and everything around you.

Work for something you think will bring good.  Yes, some of us will be tragically wrong like those early communists (though remembering humans AREN’T infinitely perfectable would have corrected their error) but many won’t, and thus the future becomes better than the past.

But more importantly, you won’t be floating in a sea of lack of purpose and tedium.  You’ll get up to do something which is an ordered endeavor and furthers what you believe is good.  And you’ll have a band, going along with you, and supporting you on the way.  You’ll be a happy ape, whatever else you are.

I doubt anyone will read my work after I’m dead, but someone will have read it, and used his or her own gifts to create something I can only dream of.  Or someone who read it will have said something to someone else, who will go on to create something great.

And so we go, and so things get better. Not from above, by government fiat.  Not because some human who is “a sort of god” can think us all into paradise with his mind, but slowly, incrementally, with the present grounded on the past and the future extending into infinity with promise we can’t imagine.

Now forgive me, I must go, I have my own tree to climb.  Later today I hope to finally catch the short story I’ve been hunting.  And then there’s a novel on the horizon.  It might even turn out to be great.

It’s a worthy pursuit.