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Intro to State And Revolution – by Amanda S. Green

Intro to State And Revolution – by Amanda S. Green

After a couple of months reviewing HRC’s book, What Happened, I needed a break. I’d promised Sarah I’d continue posting on Thursdays for her (I’m a fan of her fiction and will do just about anything to give her a little extra time to feed my reading habit). But that left me with the question of what to blog about next. I’d initially considered doing Donna Brazile’s book but, to be honest, I simply couldn’t look at another book related to the 2016 election. So that leaves out the latest book blasting Trump and his administration. So, what to do? What to do?

It turned out the question wasn’t all that difficult to answer. It also turned on the 2016 election cycle, not to mention some of our current headlines. I’ll be honest. I’m not sure the results of the election would have been the same if the fix hadn’t been in. If Bernie Sanders had been the candidate or if Clinton had been smart enough to share a ticket with him against Trump, we might have seen a very different result and that scares the crap out of me. Why? Because all those who fall to their knees at Sanders’ feet don’t understand the reality of what he’s preaching. They don’t understand that socialism doesn’t work. They fail to recognize it quickly becomes a society of more equal among equals.

And that, my friends, is what set me down the path of the next few posts.

No, I’m not reviewing the new book today. Instead, I want to explain why I’ve chosen a book I doubt few of you would have guessed would be in the running. That book is State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin. Yes, that Lenin. I first read it in the original Russian years ago. My Russian’s not that good any longer, so I spent time finding an older translation that hasn’t been updated to reflect modern “sensibilities”. I chose it so that the words of one of the founders of modern socialism and communism can be considered and discussed.

But those words need to be put into context. Russia in 1917 was rife for revolution. Tsar Nicholas II was anything but a strong, much less wise, leader. His wife, Alexandra, would do anything to save their son who suffered from hemophilia. The family fell under the sway of the “Mad Monk” Rasputin. At the same time, the country was going to hell in the proverbial handbasket and had been for some time. That is all historical fact and I won’t bore you with all the nitty gritty detail.

Where our understanding of Russia and Soviet communism and socialism fail is in how it manifested over the years and the kind of force that was required to keep it alive. No one disputes the fact that Josef Stalin was a tyrant. Yet, to listen to many, you would think the Soviet Union was a social and economic paradise. There are claims of no unemployment. The state provided medical coverage to one and all. You got your education. It was wonderful.

This is the portrait of Soviet society so many of our young people have swallowed. It is the basic portrait of a society that we could have here according to Bernie and his followers.

And it scares me to death.

A friend of mine was born in the Soviet Union. She spent much of her formative years there before her parents managed to escape. A man I respected more than most anyone and who I would trust with the lives of my loved ones spent much of World War II posing as a Muscovite peasant – without the Soviets knowing. I’ve been behind the Iron Curtain and talked with men and women who had to watch as their countries were turned over to Stalin and his friends as part of the Pottsdam Conference.

Much of what happened is on us and on Great Britain. Our leaders sat down with Stalin and drew a line on the map, giving him what we called Eastern Europe – and East Germany. It didn’t matter what the people living in countries like Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia and others wanted. We gave Uncle Josef what he wanted. Whether as a means of thanking him for taking our side against Hitler or to appease him and protect our Western European allies, it doesn’t matter. It is up to us to learn from what happened to those countries and their citizens after 1945 and learn from it.

No matter what anyone tries to say, those countries weren’t willing partners in the Soviet bloc. When Hungary rebelled in 1956, the USSR acted swiftly and decisively. By the time the revolution was quashed on November 10, 1956, more than 2,500 Hungarians had been killed and more than 200,000 had fled. The new government, the Soviet backed government, made sure there would be no other such rebellions.

Czechoslovakia waited until 1968 to try to fight for its freedom. They failed. Overnight, troops from the Warsaw Pact (USSR, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and East Germany) rolled in. 137 Czechs were killed. More than 500 were wounded and the Soviet Union once more tightened its noose around the country’s neck.

Think about that. Think about having the boot of Communism bearing down on your neck, cutting off your pride, your freedom, your sense of individuality.

Let’s look at some of the misconceptions about life under Soviet communism/socialism. No unemployment. Pardon me while I call bullshit. What that meant was they had people sitting in chairs in museums sleeping. Or walking up and down the trolley lines with a stick. Sometimes those stooped old men and women might dig some dirt out of the tracks but mainly they trudged back and forth, a glassy look to their eyes. You had a job, but that didn’t mean you were “employed”. It just meant you were out of the house – maybe. And since all you had to do was show up and get paid, the USSR wasn’t producing much, so where did the money come from to pay all those “workers?” Well, sometimes they didn’t’ get paid at all, but salaries and resources were largely appropriated (read: stolen) from those considered “rich” who weren’t part of the “more equal among equals”.

Alcohol abuse ran rampant. Hell, you could buy vodka out of machines on the sidewalk, just as you could water. There is a problem when a country has the level of alcoholism the USSR did. The people used liquor to escape their miserable lives, and when they couldn’t buy vodka, they used whatever drugs they could get their hands on to forget where they were and how awful their existences were. By the time glasnost came about under Gorbachev, the USSR had one of the highest substance abuse rates in the world.

Medical care there was archaic compared to what we had here. The hospital I visited while there was one of the country’s best. Yet it reminded me of what our hospitals looked like 50 years earlier. Use of anesthesia for many surgeries was unheard of. My friend had both adenoids and tonsils removed as a child while she was awake and fully conscious. Think about that and tell me socialized medicine is something you really want.

But it didn’t stop there. Sanitization was a myth. I watched doctors and nurses performing procedures like changing dressings without gloving up. Heck, they didn’t even wash their hands after entering the room, touching the door, shaking hands, etc. I prayed I didn’t get sick while there because I did not want to risk Soviet medicine.

Of course, as with many nations with socialized medicine, there was another level, a higher level of treatment, available if you were high enough in the Party or had enough money (which meant being high enough in the Party). That medical care included things like anesthesia, better facilities, drugs appropriate to your symptoms and not having to wait until you risked death for treatment. It was another instance of being the more equal among equals.

Your quality of life in the Soviet Union, especially if you lived in the city, depended on your role in the Party. And, yes, Party membership was pretty much mandatory. But there was a Catch-22. Even though party membership was basically mandatory, it wasn’t automatic. If you were considered too bourgeois, or if your family had a history of being trouble for the Party, membership could and would be denied. That meant finding a job could be next to impossible. Want better housing? Forget about it. The Party had you by the short ones and there was little, if anything, you could do about it.

But even if you were “lucky” enough to be a member of the Party, that didn’t mean life was much easier. If you weren’t high enough in the Party, you got to join all your neighbors standing in line for bread or other things we take for granted. You couldn’t practice the religion of your choice. The only recognized religion was devotion to the State. Everything you owned was the State’s. Protests weren’t tolerated, and it wasn’t unusual for people to disappear from their homes at night, never to be heard from again.

This is the sort of world the Left wants us to move toward. Oh, they try to make it sound enticing by talking about all the “equality” and “freedom” we’d have. After all, who wouldn’t like to be worry-free when it comes to medical care, etc.? But reality is often very different from theory and that is especially true when it comes to socialism and communism. Why? Because people are people. Some of us have ambitions and want to do our best. Others want power and will do anything to gain it. Others are spiritual and want to be able to believe what they want and worship when and where they want without government interference. All of which means true socialism can never exist.

So, starting next week, I’ll do a couple of posts on Lenin’s State and Revolution. I have no doubt, I’ll be comparing what he wrote with what Bernie and his followers preach.

Until later.

[For raising the tone of this blog — ATH is culture! — and helping me with the exposing of the roots of the current mess — in her case with more facts! — if you decide to  Send the woman a drink–  And her Amazon author page is here -SAH]

The Inmates Are Running The Asylum

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There is something that all writers are cautioned against (if they are lucky) is “drinking your own ink”, that is start to believe your own fantasies.

Look, when your stock in trade is making up lies so convincing that people will suspend disbelief at least for the extent of a novel, you’re going to be good at telling yourself lies, too.

I’m probably less at risk than most writers, just given the nature of what I write.  If I suddenly start believing that Darkship Thieves is prophecy, it doesn’t really affect my day to day life.  It might drive my family nuts (insert question of how we could tell) but beyond that, it’s no big deal, right?

And if I really believed the Musketeers investigated mysteries, how would you even know, unless of course, like Dan brown proclaiming the “truth” of his “history” I gave interviews to every cat dog and pony show?

For the record I don’t believe either of those, mostly because I’m aware of the danger of drinking your own ink.

But the problem is that normal people don’t get that warning.  Theirs is not to tell compelling lies, so compelling that they might be believed.  And when they hear something a lot, particularly from respected institutions and channels, they don’t always realize it’s fantasy.  And they don’t always ask the questions I always ask “Uh?  Why?  And what sense does that make?”

Which brings us to the fact that right now, not just in this country, but world wide, some portion of the population (impossible to know how many, given that the media kind of amplifies their voices) is drinking the ink of their own fantasies and spinning further and further from reality.

Which brings us to the derp of the day.  You thought that women accusing gay men of misogyny because they won’t sleep with women was crazy?  Ah.  There’s someone who wants you to hold their beer and watch this.

So, if you don’t want to follow the link, this is the gist of it:

From BET:

Singer Ginuwine has sparked a heated debate on Twitter after a recent episode of Celebrity Big Brother UK. In the latest episode, Ginuwine seemingly rejected fellow housemate India Willoughby.

The controversy stems from a conversation between Willoughby and the “Pony” singer, in which she asked whether he would date a trans woman. “You would date me, yeah,” Willoughby, who is a trans woman herself, asked. “Not if you were trans,” Ginuwine replied. After Ginuwine replied that he would not date a trans woman, Willoughby attempted to plant a kiss on the singer. When her advance was rejected, Willoughby stormed off.

Let’s leave aside the fact that someone tried to “plant a kiss” on someone who didn’t want it, which less I checked is sexual assault.  And that this then went public and incited hatred against the victim of sexual assault, which, last I checked, is sexual harassment.

Let’s talk sexual orientation. I don’t want a fight against this in the comments, and will shut it down if it starts, so let’s just establish that right now we down’t know what “causes” sexual orientation.

I don’t suppose it’s a simple matter of choice (though it might be, for some people) because homosexuality existed throughout the ages, even in places where it was forbidden, and it exists in fact, in all species where sexes are not radically visually different (No, I mean like peacocks and peahens, for instance.)

It used to be believed to be a matter of raising, now it’s believed to be genetic.  I believe like most persistent, complex traits we share with a bunch of the animal kingdom “it’s not that simple.”

But the left is full on, invested, all in on “it’s just genetic, it’s always genetic.”

And yet….

And yet, in one of those stunning contradictions only the left is capable of, they just believe there are no innate differences between the sexes, just different “social constructs” on how the sexes — oh, pardon me, genders — behave.  That is, your “gender” is what you learned to be, and there are up to — what was it? — 50 of them?

What this does in effect is deny sexual orientation.  I mean, you can’t say you’re gay — or straight — if there is no real difference between the sexes, except behavior which is learned.  No, not even genitalia, because as we’ve learned over the past several years, it’s what you feel “inside” that counts.  So, even if you still have the genitalia of one sex, you can dress as the other, do cosmetic stuff, and claim to be the other sex.

I UNDERSTAND body dysmorphism, and I always assume those who have surgery should be called by their new “sex” and treated as such.  No, it’s not right, and there are limitations to it, mostly because our sex change operations aren’t.  They’re more like sex-pretend operations, cosmetics and hand wavium.  And of course there are limitations, like in sports, otherwise “transwomen” will sweep all the women’s sports, because one of the differences that “don’t exist” between the sexes is that men are stronger and faster.  (And women endure pain better.  But there’s no sport for that.)

However over the last few years we’ve been told people are what they say they are — and dress as — so that we have people who are “gender fluid” and their gender varies depending on what they choose to wear that morning.  I would call that “clothing obsessed” but whatever.

Now, if you drink that ink, and put yourself in that reality, straight men should be attracted to anything in female clothing, right?  And gay men…. oh, man, they must be having such a hard time, now that women wear pantsuits too…   It’s okay, sweeties, you really don’t have to be attracted to Hillary.

If you’re inside that logic and drinking the ink till you’re poisoned, then yep, Ginuwine is transphobic, because he’s attracted to women, so he should be attracted to anything wearing women clothing.

But you say, how do we know that the transwoman hasn’t gone the whole way and had the operation?

Remember the thing I said above?  Right now all we can do are cosmetics.  And the perfection of the cosmetics varies, for that matter.  For instance, one of the ways to construct a vagina is with tissue from the colon, which brings with it issues of smell and others.

Also, there are a million ways of things not being “quite right.”  Even if the physical stuff is done flawlessly and everything looks right, there’s a ton of ways you’ll ring the wrong bell with the other sex. Including the fact that someone who grew up as a member of the other sex, with mannerisms and ways of moving, might not ring quite right to the back brain.  And back brain is where sexual attraction resides.  You really can’t argue with that part of the brain.  It is what it is.

There are mannish women, and men that acquired mannerisms from their mothers, who are straight and have a heck of a time attracting mates, because they have the hook baited wrong for the kind of fishing they’re doing.

Then there is the fact that someone might exclude all trans from the dating pool, not because they’re bothered, precisely, but because they don’t want to have to explain to family and friends, over and over again.  It’s a valid thing.  If you’re going to choose your life with someone, you’re allowed to choose the “least strife” route, particularly if your life is complex enough as is.

Or it could be a man wants biological children with his potential wife, something transwomen can’t provide.  This too is valid.

In the end, what people are attracted to is their own business.  You can’t really say if you’re not attracted to something you’re “phobic.”  I have yet to manage to see breasts as anything but bags of fat on the chest, or to think of vaginas with any kind of interest.  And yet, you know, I manage not to run screaming when I see myself in the mirror, and to take care of basic hygiene tasks without recoiling.  I’m not afraid of vaginas.  I just don’t want to sleep with people who have one.  (Well, I don’t want to sleep with anyone but my husband, but supposing I did.)  And if the person who has a vagina can grow a beard, this doesn’t make it anymore attractive.

Maybe it does for some people.  Maybe it’s all about the secondary characteristics.  There are even people who fall in love with a certain type of mind, and forget the wrapping.

But for the vast majority of people, sexual attraction is something very specific and in a very narrow band.  I’m not even attracted to everyone who has a penis.  Not even to everyone who has a penis in the right age group.  Not even everyone who has a penis and is a geek in the right age group.

If you now start demanding I also be attracted to transmen, or be shamed and reviled, you are out of your frigging mind and have been drinking your own ink too long.

If you claim there is absolutely no difference between the sexes, and we can all take on random characteristics of either sex or none, and then demand that everyone put up with us sexually assaulting them, or worse, show enthusiasm for it, you might be straight up insane.

And just because the insane are running the asylum, it doesn’t make them sane.

Sanity is that which accords mostly closely with and works best in reality.

And this ain’t it.

 

Betraying A Little – A Blast From The Past From June 2011

*Sorry, but I’m just coming up — I hope — from bronchitis, and I’m so far behind work it’s not even funny.  Also, this post has a lot of food for thought and it’s something I often struggle to explain to people- SAH*

Betraying A Little – A Blast From The Past From June 2011

This post will seem to be about translation. It’s not. This is a metaphor. The post is a continuation of yesterday’s on writing minority view points: who should do it, how it should be done, and why the establishment gets it wrong, of course. (Also on whether there is some special virtue in doing it. And on who wants to read this.)

The discussion here and at Mad Genius Club yesterday reminded me of when I was sixteen and embarked on a class called “Techniques of Translation.”

Although I had studied French and English and German, the translations I’d done so far were of the “I took the pen of my neighbor” variety. I thought the class would teach me to smooth out the sentence to “I took my neighbor’s pen” and that would be that.

I was wrong. Oh, it taught that also, but that was a minor portion of it. The class mostly hinged on the moral, ethical and – most of all – professional dilemmas of being a translator. I know any number of you are translators, formal or informal, but any number of you are also not. So, for the ones who are not, let me break the news with my usual gentleness:

There is no such thing as translation.

The French have a proverb “to translate is to betray a little” – or at least that’s the closest meaning in English. It’s fairly close to the true meaning, but slightly askew, of course. Every language is slightly askew to other languages.

The idea that there exists in every language a word that is exactly the equivalent of other languages is sort of like assuming that aliens will – of course – live in houses, go to school, ride buses, understand Rebecca Black’s “Friday”.

Language is how we organize our thoughts, and each word, no matter how simple, carries with it the cultural freight and experience of the specific language. Oh, “mother” will generally mean “the one who gave birth to” – except for some tribal, insular cultures where it might mean “the one who calls me by her name” or “my father’s principal wife” – but the “feel” behind it will be different, depending on the images associated with “mother” in the culture.

So, when you translate, you’re actually performing a function as a bridge. Translation is not the straightforward affair it seems to be but a dialogue between the original language and the language you translate into. If you’re lucky, you meet halfway. Sometimes that’s not possible, and you feel really guilty about “lying” to the people receiving the translation. When on top of language you need to integrate different cultures and living systems (which you do when translating anything even an ad) you feel even more guilty, because you’re going to betray, no matter how much you try. At one point, a while back, I had my dad on one phone, my husband on the other, and I was doing rapid-fire translation about a relatively straight forward matter. And even that caused me pangs in conscience, because my dad simply doesn’t understand how things are done here. I had to approach his experience and explain our experience in a way he wouldn’t think I was insane or explaining badly. That meant a thousand minor lies.

Okay – now, what does that have to do with yesterday’s topic?

I am, as I tried to point out, a woman who grew up in a different culture. I am American – please don’t dispute it – because one of the wonders about America is that it doesn’t matter where you came from, you can be one of us. However, my past is Portuguese.

Portugal is one of those odd countries, about which most people know nothing while thinking they know a lot. Nine out of ten people think it’s in South America. Heck, a Yale liberal arts graduate once ARGUED with me about this. An international operator once informed me that it was a city in Spain.

People tell me we have ancient wisdom; that we’re standard white westerners; that we’re Hispanic (closer, at least when it comes to our experience in America because most of us ON SIGHT look Hispanic); that we’re passionate and hot blooded; that we’re (at least women) repressed and obedient, and a lot of other things I DON’T KNOW. I don’t know because it’s impossible for me to know, because a) everyone seems to have a different stereotype of what “Portuguese” means and b) because people assume I am this, without telling me.

Portugal is, in fact, obscure enough to be used for “hot strange minority” in comedies or “exotic place” in TV dramas. The way it’s used (a “swinger” couple in Friends, really?) usually makes me laugh my head off.

So right now, those of you who think that literature needs more minority view points or whatever are going “but, that’s exactly what we mean. Why don’t you write your amazingly different culture and enlighten us?” Oh, you’re so lucky you’re faraway enough I can’t hit you with a dictionary.

I’ve been taken to task on this blog before for not writing “about Portugal’s 900 years of history” instead of stuff set in Tudor England. (Portugal is very proud of 900 years of history, which reminds me of Heinlein’s dictum on people who are proud of their ancestry. Never mind.)

So, Chilluns, gather around and let me tell you a story. Imagine a Sarah newly deplaned from Portugal. I knew next to nothing about the US. I’d come here to do my 12th grade, so I sort of kind of knew what it was like to be a senior in high school. Sort of and kind of, because of course exchange students are a species apart. Even that was four years in the past, as I left after my exchange student year, went back, finished my degree, then married the nice boy who’d lived down the road from me in Ohio, thereby managing the feat of marrying the boy next door across the ocean, which is par for the course for my weirdness.

I wanted to write, of course. I particularly wanted to write because for the first time in my life I was living with someone – my husband – who not only didn’t disapprove of it, but encouraged it. On novelty alone, I wanted to write.

The problem is you can’t always write aliens. You can’t always write fairies. And I didn’t feel qualified to write Americans. And there’s only so many people without a past you can write. (I was hit over the head, I swear. I remember nothing but two minutes in the past.)

I decided to do the sensible thing and write stories set in Portugal and/or with Portuguese characters. It did not go WELL.

The BEST response I got (it was personal!) was a rejection informing me I was a narrowminded pain, who clearly had never been outside the US (this, btw, for a story I didn’t think was in ANY WAY critical of Portugal. Yeah, there are things that drive me nuts about the place, but I also love many of those things. Kind of like you’ll love the way your kid always looks scruffy. I thought that was clear in the story. The thing this person objected to? The fact that no one refrigerated anything and the fact that TO THEM the place sounded icky.)

It was that rejection that opened my eyes. I realized I was up against the “betraying a little” dilemma again. It wasn’t going to be as easy as writing WELL about Portugal. If I wanted to write about Portugal, I had to choose my lies carefully, but I was going to HAVE to lie. Or write non-fiction, dry as dust and twice as boring.

That is, to write about Portugal, I had to know enough about the US to know at least what was LIKELY to be in the editor’s head when the word Portugal was said. I had to know what they expected. This wasn’t as easy as say your picture of Australia (Crocs and big knives) because Portugal is not that well (mis)known. More importantly, I needed to know what people wanted to get out of reading about Portugal. Did they want to experience the exotic, in which case I should emphasize that? Did they want a sense of history, in which case I should push that? Or did they want the feeling that they were enlightened and kind for reading about this small, barely second world country, in which case I should emphasize the victimhood and struggle? What did they want?

It was a hopeless case. I realized I couldn’t cram the whole organic culture as I’d known it in there. I couldn’t even put in the warts (because Portugal is a small country, even if I come from there, if I put in the warts, publishers will perceive it as bullying and myself as a “narrow minded pain.”) Worse, I didn’t know what they thought were warts (what? Really? Lack of refrigeration? Mankind lived for millennia without it, you know?)

Worse, at best anything I wrote about Portugal to be halfway accurate would need to be between whatever Americans could accept (exotic, Latin, etc.) and the truth and I didn’t know America enough to get there. It was like trying to translate when all you know is classroom language on one side. You can’t do it.

So I gave up on that and wrote historical (mostly Rome and England because there the stereotypes I had weren’t that far off) and eventually became comfortable enough to write American characters.

I think at this point I could write Portuguese set/Portuguese characters. I’m accultured enough to reach Americans I THINK.

The problem is, I don’t really want to. We come up against those moral and ethical dilemmas again and it makes writing SUCH a pain.

First, we come up on the reason I moved here at all: I always felt like a stranger in a strange land. Part of this was me. Part of it, though, is that my family – I’m reminded of this every time I go back – is odd. Oh, not in any bad way, but I continuously meet other Portuguese who assume they know how… my family interacts; what I was taught at home; what we ate; what we believed. They’re wrong on almost every count. And the weird thing is they’d be right for ALMOST every Portuguese of my class, age, and upbringing at least as far as I can tell. I’ve come to the conclusion my family (and to an extent the village I grew up in) is just a bunch of outliers. Which explains why going to friends’ houses for vacation was like being an exchange student. No, I don’t know why or how this happened, but I know if I portray “real Portuguese” it will feel profoundly weird to me.

Second: Most Portuguese in the US – for the few people who actually KNOW Portuguese people – come from the Islands (Azores and Madeira) which makes them about as much like me (from the North of the continent) as a native of NYC is like a native of the deep south. No. Less so. In the states, you’re more likely to have had schooling rituals (prom/homecoming, etc) and chain stores in common.

Third: I have been away from Portugal for twenty five years, save for brief visits. In that time everything has changed, perhaps more so than in most places, due to integration into EEC, huge immigration from Eastern Europe, etc. I SIMPLY don’t know how things work now. Even the schooling system seems to have been reinvented from the ground up. There are a LOT of private universities, for instance, while in my day there were two and they weren’t taken seriously. There are also more grades and arranged differently. People’s shopping has rearranged with the introduction of supermarkets and not always in ways I understand. And NONE of it makes sense to me. For instance, my parents’ house was near a train stop. Not a station. Usually not listed in anything, just a place on the line where the train stopped. You could get in and get your ticket onboard from the conductor. Over the last twenty five years, the “stop” has acquired shelters, clocks and announcements. Also graffiti and loiterers. Okay fine. But this time, when I went back, I found out you now have automated machines where… you get a ticket to get a ticket on the train. Yes, that’s right. You buy a ticket from the machine, which allows you to buy a ticket on the train. Why? I don’t know. My mother couldn’t explain it, and the stuff on the machine made no sense. Even HOW to do it made no sense. My parents have started using the bus, which is more uncomfortable and takes longer, simply because they don’t get HOW to do it. I’m sure there’s a reason for this double-blind ticket purchase other than the Portuguese love for bureaucracy. Or maybe there isn’t. BUT I don’t know. And that’s a minor example.

I realized I knew nothing of Portugal when my husband, my kids and I found ourselves in a sizeable village at lunch time, starving, and I couldn’t figure out WHERE to buy food. (In villages it’s not necessarily marked, and besides you can buy food at any of the following: grocery stores; restaurants; taverns; coffee shops; improvised for-the-season cafes. Or all of those might NOT serve food. The ones I found I couldn’t determine if they did, and had no idea how to ask.)

I know you don’t believe that last, and that’s an example of why it’s hard for me to write about Portugal – because I don’t know what’s in your head and now half the time I don’t know what’s in Portugal, either.

So, to pull it all back – insistence that minorities only must be allowed to write minorities MIGHT seem like it makes sense. Kind of like translating “I got my son’s pen” makes sense. They know how their culture/lifestyle works, so of course they’d write it better.

But it’s NOT like writing it. It’s not an account. Because novels are – at least supposed to be – entertaining, it’s more like translating. What you write must not only be accurate. It must sound accurate to the reader. The two are antithetical. So at best it’s a compromise and a small betrayal.

Are minorities/foreigners/etc. capable of doing this? Of course. As I said, I think at this point I am at least for short stories (not sure about trying a novel.) But can they do it better than a non-native/non minority who studies it really well and writes about it?

Well… yes. No. Maybe. It depends on the individual writing and how willing they are to take out their own experiences, unpack them, and then betray them a little to match what’s in the reader’s head, so they can make sense of it all.

Portugal is hellishly difficult to research from the US – great regional variation, for instance (coming from the fact that it’s only in the last twenty years that they’ve started defeating tribalism, and that not well. Not real tribes, but the different regions ARE different ethnicities.) Also no one has written a “Daily Life In Portugal” – though there is a “Daily Life in Medieval Portugal” which I haven’t read, though I’ve bought it. Portugal is hellishly difficult to research from Portugal, too. I had trouble finding a good, comprehensive history when I visited. And because their distribution of books is insane (the concept of back list was alien when I was growing up at least) and there’s no amazon.pt, it’s very difficult to get history (or other) books on specific narrow topics. You might go to the story looking for an history of Roman Portugal, but what’s on the shelves right then is an history of Port Wine; an history of Celtic Portugal; and an history of shoe laces.

However, I think I’d at least consider reading the book if someone were dedicated enough to wade in and read all the books (many of them in Portuguese) you can read to get the complete-enough picture to write about Portugal and did it without either condescension or too much clean up (Portugal… well, dears, let’s just say when I was growing up there we considered Italians and Greeks organized. And Ireland has almost Germanic precision as far as we were concerned. And we were PROUD of this. We should be. Looking from the outside it’s a minor miracle anything works enough to keep up a technological society to the extent it exists. BUT I understand this – it must be genetic because not only do I fight it every day, but so do my kids. HOWEVER most people would, I think, clean most of it away) and without implying Portuguese are victims because they live in less materially comfortable circumstances (and have a guaranteed month of vacation in Summer, a week at Easter and Christmas, plus the most holidays of any country in Europe.)

Do I hunger for such a book? To be blunt, no. I worry that the betrayals made would spin the book even further away from my admittedly odd experience. I worry I would for the rest of my life be meeting people who go “Oh, you’re Portuguese, so you’re exactly like…” (I wonder if Greeks feel that way about “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”)

I prefer to read about interesting people, no matter where they come from. Oh, I’ll give a try to the exotic, if simply because it’s a change of pace. Stuff set in rural South Africa for instance. And I absolutely ADORED Paul Mann’s Indian mysteries, one of those series I don’t think lasted long enough.

HOWEVER if I start a book set somewhere and it’s all about “victimhood” it goes against the wall so hard it leaves marks. Oh, sure, some people have it really tough (Paul Mann’s description of the underclass in India was responsible for my donating more than I should to various charities) but for books to be entertaining they can’t just be about oppression and misery and taking it. Good authors get over plotting by dropping walls on character. And most readers don’t view fiction reading as an exercise in self flagellation where you must suffer to understand how bad other people’s circumstances are.

And when I say I’d read about exotic locales, those can be in Europe, too. Small town England in the present day would be fascinating. (The latest I’ve read set there was Agatha Christie.) It has nothing to do with stealing victimhood, only with me being an SF geek, forever looking for the alien – even when I’m aware it’s “translated” and “betrayed.”

So, that is the ultimate conclusion: I’d be willing to read anything, written by anyone, as long as it’s interesting. I don’t want to read about people “like me” and I’m not angry there aren’t more of us as characters. (One of my characters has a series about a woman with my background. I don’t want to know. No, seriously. I’d have to kill him in a horrible way. And don’t say “what do you mean one of your characters has…” Any explanation would land one of us in the loony bin.) I don’t object to reading about people like me, though, if done in a way I find entertaining. And I don’t care about the background of the author, provided he/she can write the story convincingly.

Exciting, uh? Aren’t you amazed? I know I am. That this is shocking to the establishment explains why they’re in trouble.

It’s Always the Gulag!

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Some Gulags are more bearable than others. This internet gulag is fine. Get me a frosty drink.

I was discussing the Worldcon follies with husband and he said “it’s always the Gulag, with these people.”

I was struck by the wisdom of these words, because… yeah, it’s always the gulag.

I remember P.J. O’Rourke describing the older cousins of our present progressives — the ones smart enough to read the communist manifesto and know that if they agreed with every point, yep, they were communists — as being like the children of strict religious ministers, fanatic and afraid to put a foot wrong.

He might have been right for that generation.  The current generation (and this includes the older people who have lost their minds and are acting like teens) remind me of nothing so much as the “perfect little girl” at religious education.

I just heard the rest of you groan.  At least those of you who were ever in religious education.

You know exactly the girl I mean.  She’s always more pious than you, and always ready to denounce you for telling Jesus jokes in the back of the classroom.  (What?  Like you didn’t.)   She always tells the teacher more in sorrow than in anger.  And she really doesn’t want you punished, she just doesn’t want you to detract from her piety and earnest desire to learn.  And oh, yeah, she always has a smile like that picture of Hillary as a little girl: the perfect sweet smile that doesn’t reach her eyes.

And she’s always so protective of the other kids who want to “earnestly learn” and so ready to tamp down any form of unapproved behavior.

Of course Jesus jokes were very far off approved behavior.  (“Lord, why don’t you turn the stones into bread?”  “No need I brought ham sandwiches.”  Okay, I was 10, okay?) But they really weren’t disrupting anyone else, and also the teacher was so boring it saved us from the indecorous behavior of falling asleep at our desks.  But, more importantly, the group of us telling rather innocuous jokes (trust me) might have been more sincerely religious than the perfect girl.  Part of the reason that we made the jokes is that we’d gotten the point of the lesson and we were bored senseless.  The perfect girl never listened to the lesson ONCE.  Instead, she sat there practicing her pious expression for the world.

We met a more secular version of her in high school, where she always had the perfect makeup, the perfect hair, ran little errands for teacher and in my case, considering the times I went to high school in, was often “impeccably leftist.”

She was, of course, always ready to denounce and isolate you.  In the US that ran to “you can’t sit at the cool kids table.”

I’ve long ago said the “new blood” in established science fiction fandom (not that new, not that young, they’re maybe ten years younger than I)are liberal arts graduates who found it tough to get anything published much less noticed in “literary fiction” and thus moved to the larger pond of science fiction, all the while lecturing us about our pulpy short comings.

They arrived among us like missionaries from England, landing in Papua New Guinea (Hi Joe) in the nineteenth century and demanding all the natives wear pants, as that would greatly improve them.

They ignore everything that went on before, including the many women who were published in science fiction before 2000.  They’re storming the ramparts, and SF was all princesses and bug eyed aliens before them.  (Has anyone seen my eyes?  I think they rolled out on the carpet.)

(I have a mild fever, so I’m trying not to get in facebook arguments, but I honest to Bob heard someone say that if there were no discrimination against women, J. K. Rowling wouldn’t have used her initials.  Yeah, sure.  Shame about J R R Tolkien.  Seriously, guys, if she did choose to hide her gender, and didn’t merely think her initials sounded better, it might have been because she was writing a boy character and was afraid that editors would complain of her “betraying her voice” as I’ve had happen to me.)

And once they’re published, these bunnies decide they’re the cool kids.  They’re civilizing the savages, after all, and making science fiction “respectable” and “Socially relevant.”

Of course, then, the cool kids must be “safe” in the conventions they neither started nor popularized, undisputed in their piety and their “suave” geekiness.  And the rest of us?  To the Gulag with us.

Over and over again we get messages we’re not welcome and they don’t want us.  They tell us to go start our own awards, then rage at the Dragons.

I’m fairly sure that if we take them at their word and stop showing up for religious ed—  worldcon and other traditional literary conventions where we’re not welcome, they’ll find out that the thing is mighty thin of company.

It’s okay.  They’ll attract more people like them, who are there for the virtue signal.

Fortunately these days, our gulag is not so gulagy.  Sure, you can ban us from your spaces, but it’s starting to sound about as “bad” as being declared persona non grata by the old soviet union.  Well, dang.

You guys go on and enjoy the lines for boots and cabbage.  We’ll be over here having fun with fully stocked supermarkets… Metaphorically speaking.

It’s always the gulag.  But no matter how technologically illiterate the “cool kids” are, the rest of us can get together, establish relationships on line, and even, you know, attend conventions (like Liberty con) where they don’t try to exclude us.

Fear not.  Eventually the cool kids will want to “distance” from us and will call themselves something like “relevant science fiction” or (can we persuade them) Woke SF or something.  And the rest of us will continue writing and reading stories that are fun, and frankly not much caring about thought crimes.

The fun part of the left’s “perfect girl” obsessions is that they care so much about appearances they often discard the gift and hold on tight to the wrapping.

They never seem to catch on it means nothing.

 

 

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

Sunday 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: linen

Fill In Blog Post – by Havelock Vetinari Hoyt

despondentkitteh

Hi, my name is Havelock Vetinari, though I’m usually called Havey — I think they mean heavy — and sometimes Captain Floof McFuzzy Pants.

As you can see from my picture, above, I’m QUITE the most handsome of the Hoyt cats, far cuter than Greebo who is all black except for some little white patches, and whom mommy calls her little bulldog.  I’m certainly not a bulldog, though daddy sometimes calls me his puppy, since I come when he calls me.

I’m not sure why I shouldn’t come when called, for you see, I love pets more than anything else.  It’s why I let the Hoyts bring me home from a golf course when I was really little.  They petted me, you see.

Mom says my head is full of fluff.  This is not right.  It’s fully of me.  And I can see very well when mom is avoiding the computer because she has a headache. So I’m going to let her sit in the chair and read her kindle-thingy, while I fill in.

I don’t know what I can fill in with, but I can try.

Let’s get acquainted.  I like being petted and playing with things — though mom and dad both yell at me for playing with their robe belts — and I like eating.  I really like eating.  A lot.  Before the Hoyts there wasn’t much to eat, so I’m very happy to have a lot of food now.

I also like my friend Euclid-cat, but he’s getting very old and forgetful, now that he’s almost 18.

What do you like?  Do you have cats of your own?  Are any of them made of floof?

So, anyway, that’s it.  Mom has a headache, so I did this post.  I’ll let her know it’s taken care of, and then she can rest a bit and see if the headache goes away.

Fraught

 

I will admit right now that I’m a very bad libertarian.  I AM a libertarian and think that in any dispute we should come down on the side of individual liberty.

You can get me to swoon by saying “taxation is theft” in just the right voice (ask my husband.  He knows.) I’ve mumbled about financing services with lotteries.

But I do think there is a place for both the army and the police in our society.  Seriously, now.  To believe there isn’t, or that we can do without is the equivalent of believing Marxism will make men into angels.  We’re not that deluded, are we?

Both Dan and I have/had relatives in law enforcement, and both of us have heard discussions and followed law enforcement enough to be uncomfortable defenders of the police force at times.

For instance, I was once kicked out of jury by the defense lawyer for pointing out that no, rounding up the “usual suspects” is not unfair.  Most shootings for robbery are a case of known wolves, and few people jump straight from being angelic school boys to full frontal armed assault.  (Or any kind of assault, really.)

(I also once got taken out of a jury for pointing out — quoting PTerry — that all babies look like Sir Winston Churchill.  On second thought I should give lessons on how to get out of Jury Duty, except I wasn’t even trying, just being me.)

We need police, unfortunately, for the same reason we need the army.  There are bad actors out there, and no matter how peaceable, peaceful and inoffensive you are, someone/some country is going to try to hurt you.  And yeah, sure, I GET my more militant libertarian friends saying everyone should defend him/herself.  In theory that’s great and a super idea, but guys, some people shouldn’t have a gun.  And I’m not talking about the mentally ill, I’m talking about people too blind to know what they’re shooting at or similar impairments.  And then there are the too young, too old and too stupid.  And people who don’t understand they have to protect themselves.  And, and and….

It’s all fine and dandy to say “Too bad, strike them off” but that’s not realistic.  Realistically if each person has to hire a protection service, you end up with dueling gangs.

But the police is an uncomfortable solution, because it has the power of government behind them, and while it works for the people it doesn’t always remember that.

This week brought both the news of someone killed during a swatting, and of a young officer killed on the outskirts of Denver.

There is this thing they do in Colorado where they have massive processions and funerals for officers fallen in the line of duty.  It is as it should be.  It’s important to understand the debt of honor owed to those who fell doing a difficult and often thankless job.

When a Colorado Springs Police officer on his first week (I think) of work got shot in the face for what he thought was a routine traffic stop (the guy in the car was escaping from the scene of a murder and thought he was caught) the funeral disabled North Nevada for hours, and since it was near our house at the time, I took the kids out to watch the hundreds of police cars from everywhere in Colorado.

Because it’s right and meet to honor those who fell doing a difficult and thankless job.  (Even if traffic is treated as a cash cow by city officers.  Never mind.  The kid was doing what he should be doing to keep the streets safe, since the guy he stopped WAS driving erratically.)

But it’s a knife’s edge.  When you have sheep dogs, some will lose their minds and bite the sheep.

The Denver police department apparently ran a burglary ring in the seventies.  The new craze for militarizing the police and for the police treating every house-call like they’re entering Fallujah is a problem.  Yes, I know, in the swatting, the man made suspicious gestures.  You know what?  Someone breaks my door down, I’m not going to stop and ask if they’re the police.  And as someone who HAS been threatened with swatting (who on our side hasn’t been?  When we were renting between houses, our insurance agent refused us rental insurance because I’m a conservative blogger, so vandalism, arson and swatting are all risks.  (Frankly this surprised me.  I never thought it was a serious risk.  Wonder what statistics she was looking at)) I get terrified at the idea of the door being broken down and the stupid cats running out and being lost/run over/eaten.  I could see me getting up to check on a cat, or to tell them to not let the cat out, and being shot.

And sure, the police should do a lot more checks, particularly when the SWATTING call is over the top.

OTOH as the shooting while responding to a complaint of a domestic dispute proves, sometime the risk is real, and police officers do have to protect themselves.

There is a knife edge.  Go too much on one side and you’re risking your life.  Go too much on the other and you’re killing innocents, and being used as weapons by bad actors.

Again, I want to make it clear most police officers are decent, hard working people.  Do you get the occasional thuggish brute?  Sure.  You get them in every profession where you give people power.  You screen, you try to eliminate them in training, but you know, humans being humans one or two will slip through.  Eliminating them is like eliminating the very rare man who is disposed to rape.  Can’t be done.

The problem is this: the last administration simultaneously armed the police to the teeth and instigated the population against the police.

This is a familiar playbook.  Almost all revolutions from the left started when law enforcement over-reacted.  I have a private theory (somewhat proven by sound recordings released a few years ago) that Kent State was the work of agent provocateurs trying to use that playbook.

It didn’t work, but if the left abandoned things that don’t work they’d have discarded Marxism decades ago.

So we got the whole myth that police (many of them people of color) are stone cold racists, shooting minorities for no reason.

And the police became defensive.  As you would, if some of your colleagues around the country were shot merely for being in your profession.

In Colorado, a couple of years ago, a couple of police officers got killed by stepping into traffic on the highway, while responding to an accident.

So now we’re told we have to move two lanes over, which frankly makes it more likely to get more accidents and causes untold resentment.  When you cut a four lane highway down to one (one for the accident, then two for police officer protection) there’s a whole lot of shoving and slowing and confusion going on.  Add to that that all this is done in the GLARE of lights so bright they’re probably responsible for the accidents to officers, because at night they blind the drivers for minutes.

It also causes resentment.

Which brings us to today.  We went to Colorado Springs yesterday to deal with a lot of accumulated business.  We still do our personal banking, most of our health stuff, and such in the Springs, because we’ve patronized some establishments for 20 years and don’t feel like finding new ones.  Also, younger son lives in the springs, and we decided to have a leisurely dinner with him, and then stay over night.

We knew there was a funeral for the officer, closing I-25 at 8:30.  It was on signs all over the highway.

So we got up really (REALLY) early (as in, husband is napping now) and headed North to get ahead of the procession.  We made a mistake.  We were so early, and doing such good time, we got off the highway to grab a diner meal.  We were done at eight and tried to get back on the highway…  and the entrances were all closed.

Every single access to I-25 was blocked WELL ahead of the announced 8:30 time.  (They were actually not supposed to start till 8:45, but were supposed to close at 8:30.)

There are a ton of people who work in Denver.  Some tried to argue.  The police all had that look of “tough.  You’ll suffer for what you did.”

I get it.  Look I GET IT.  They’re hurt.  Law enforcement is one of those professions where the only people who GET you are those in the same job, and you think of them as brothers.  And when one of you is killed, you want to punish “all them bastages” which translates as “everyone else.”

But it’s like the “pull over two lanes to ensure safety.”

All you’re really doing is making a whole lot of people resentful, because they won’t get to work on time and will spend a ton of time on the road.  (The alternate routes were chockablock and we finally got home an hour ago.  In our case it was stupid and blame it on “we needed coffee and some kind of food and made a poor decision.”  If we’d continued on we’d have saved three hours.  BUT a lot of the people caught in the mess with us have no other choice.)

It loses sympathy for the police.  It disgraces what should be a respectful and solemn occasion.  And it avenges itself on people predisposed to be on the side of law enforcement.

All of these are bad.

It’s no big deal in our case.  We were on vacation, this was a jaunt, and the only inconvenience (I know.  GRAVE inconvenience) was making this blog late and delaying husband’s nap.  BUT for many people it ruined their day, set their teeth on edge, and made them predisposed to believe the police don’t care.

This us versus them mentality will lead to trouble.

I get it.  I really do.  I understand both sides.  It’s a side effect of the job itself.  Except for the intentional provocateurs trying to set sheep against sheep dogs, it’s a delicate balance and sometimes it fails.

But because of the intentional provocateurs, both sides are predisposed to misunderstand and pre-judge each other.  And this will end very badly.

I want to honor men who fell doing their duty.  And I want their comrades to understand that the rest of us have lives that have to go own around the ceremony, that the rest of us not only didn’t shoot an officer, but WOULDN’T shoot an officer, and are per-disposed to believe most police officers are the good guys with no more rotten apples than any other profession.  Punishing everyone just because they’re not on the force is… daft.

If you’re going to publish you’ll close a major highway at rush hour, at 8:30, don’t close it at 8:00.  There is no point stopping people’s commute.  They’ll get up half an hour early to accommodate the procession, but only *ssholes would resent that.

However if you say one hour, then close half an hour earlier, you’re being the prepotent *sshole and messing with people because you CAN and because they’re not of you.

THAT will only play into the hands of the idiots who hate all policemen, and those who want to use the police as the trigger point to bring about their “socialist utopia.”

If you need the place closed from 8, then say so.

Be mindful of the people you serve.  Just like most police officers are decent, so are most people who aren’t police officers.

Presumption of hatred on both sides will only lead to hatred.

And standing at each other’s throats will only please those who wish to bring civilization down.