Release School Control

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I’m at LTUE in Provo, Utah till Sunday.  Yesterday was consumed by travel plus my having managed the singularly strange feat of losing my driver’s license en route.  In my defense I have resumed after an hiatus (mostly because I forgot to get the prescription renewed) a medicine that makes other people psychotic.  It just makes me ADHD and exceptionally ditsy.  It also makes me tell the truth in social circumstances, which means you’ll have to forgive me, particularly if you come to the con.  Basically, I hear myself say things and go “did I say that?”

I’m supposed to have adult supervision for the first two weeks (says so on the label) because otherwise I might not realize I am acting strange.  Well, I thought a three week interruption in the meds didn’t mean going back to it, and when I was being strange, I didn’t realize it.  And heaven knows what I did with the id.  If I get stuck in Provo Utah, I expect of detachment of you guys to break me out.

Anyway, before I get to the blog post today, if you’re a fan of the Dyce mysteries and want periodic updates and to be informed of releases, please send your email to subscribe to The Turpentine Addicts group at Elise Hyatt ( No space) at yahoo dot com.  If  you like the sf/f (in some combination) and want to be kept apprised of all releases there, indie as well as traditional, please send me your email to sa underscore hoyt at Yahoo dot com.

Now onto the reason I’m posting today, other than the fact that I got confused and put Amanda up yesterday — and yeah, I have a ton of guest posts and was going to cue one of  them — is that on the way from registration, I was forced to pass a CNN screen doing the “gun control” shuffle in reference to yesterday’s school shooting.

I don’t know the details of the case, other than this was a former student, 19 years old, and expelled for behavior issues.  The other thing I know is that most schools, if not all, are already gun free zones, so zones of total gun control, and not in the sense of keeping your booger hook off the bang switch.

And yeah, I know, people will say other countries don’t have school shootings.  What they can’t and won’t say is that other countries don’t have school violence, which trust me, they do.  They also won’t tell you that our school system is unique in a bunch of ways that might contribute to school shootings, things like the warm body policy, in which people aren’t really expelled except things are incredibly serious, etc.  Also the expectation that everyone will go to school and graduate.  In some places it’s more expectation than reality, but it’s still an expectation.  We also don’t stratify into college and other tracks. This causes the school population to be rather different than in other countries.

Leaving all that aside, and knowing bloody zero about this particular shooting, has anyone ever considered that the reason for so much school violence and maladaptation (and not just shooting violence) is that school is not adapting to the new millennium?

I mean, has anyone, anyone who is even mildly odd, be it in intelligence (high or low) or just personality never wanted to destroy his school, classmates included or not?

I think it took me years after high school to stop having vivid dreams where I was trapped in school and trying to get out.

As Blake pointed out in the Mad Genius Club post last week, school is aimed at the middle of the personality and IQ distribution (this, btw, means it’s inherently better for girls, who, statistically, hunch there.)

I realize this might have been not only necessary, given the technology of the 20th century, in which schooling was only efficiently delivered in mass groups and in a standardized format, but also a desired outcome, since most of life was lived in groups and standardized, from the clothes we bought to the offices we’ve worked in, to the news we had delivered.

It wasn’t good, particularly for geniuses and morons, and people who were eccentric, but it was what it was for the world as it was.

However, in the dawn of the 21st century, why are we still doing it that way?  I homeschooled a kid and he mostly took courses on line, because I’m not a math genius, and I learned Greek on line along with him, since I did not know it.  Computers delivered his education the way he wanted it, needed it and could absorb it.

Yes, I’ve met “homeschooled” kids who weren’t, and who knew nothing.  I’ve met more of those as the result of public schools.

Locking people in a large group of the same age and letting the social mechanics develop along prison lines might enable, encourage and honestly cause some of this violence.  Sure some kids will need tutors and a place to work in, and yep, it’s in the interests of the common society to encourage and help that.

But standard curriculum?  institutional classrooms?  Solve the question of credentials by exams, and set the children free.  The adults too.
More and more public education is a solution in search of a problem.  And boy, is it finding problems.

Stop trying to enforce conformity.  Let my people go.

 

 

 

The Economic Basis for the Withering Away of the StateOn The State And Revolution Part 4– by Amanda S. Green

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Or how Lenin claims to talk economics but really only talks revolution and oppression.

Talking to Sarah as I prepared for this post, I made the comment that not only to I hate Lenin but that much of what he writes in The State and Revolution reminds me about this past presidential election cycle. There’s much about how the rich oppress and ignore the masses. There’s more about how the masses, the “majority” must rise up and overthrow the minority, the rich bourgeois. There’s the obligatory lip-service to redistribution of wealth, although the means differ from what we heard from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The path might have been described differently, but the goal was the same – to overthrow “the state” and bring into existence a socialist society.

Of course, Clinton and Sanders and all those like them fail to understand one simple truth when it comes to Lenin. He’d laugh at them, lumping them in with the Mensheviks and all others who weren’t card carrying members of the Bolsheviks.

But let’s see how Lenin tries to convince the world, or at least his little part of the world in 1917, how communism would inevitably grow first from capitalism and then through socialism into the great society Marx and Engels proclaimed. More than that, let’s check his interpretation of not only the so-called economy behind the “slow erosion of the state” but also the way human nature must change in the process.

And pardon me while I laugh hysterically. I actually managed to write that with a straight face. Maybe I’ve read too much of this shite already. VBEG.

The first question Lenin asks is, “On the basis of what data is it possible to pose the question of the future development of future communism?” (TSAR, p. 76) His response is that “the basis of the fact that it originates in capitalism, that it develops historically from capitalism, that it is the result of the action of a social force to which capitalism has given birth.) (TSAR, p. 76) Acting on the assumption, which he lays at the feet of Marx, that “contemporary society” is capitalist, he views it as inevitable that communism will follow.

Now, there’s nothing new here. Marx and Engels, not to mention others who followed after them, said basically the same thing. Hell’s bells, we’ve seen the same from those who came after Lenin. What most of them fail to mention is something Lenin didn’t shy away from. It is not just that “the state” will wither away but that there is no set time for it to happen. In fact, if you fast-forward to the end of this particular chapter, you find these little gems that boil down the basics of Lenin’s philosophy:

Until such time as the ‘higher’ phase of communism arrives, the socialists demand the strictest control by society and by the state over the measure of labour and the measure of consumption; but this control must start with the expropriation of the capitalists, with control exercised by the workers over the capitalists, and must be exercised not by a state of bureaucrats but by a state of armed workers. . . (TSAR, pg 87)

So, in the first phase of socialism, that which follows the initial revolution, Lenin advocates replacing one oppressive regime with another. Not only are those proletariats and farmers who have allegedly been so badly oppressed by the bourgeois not gaining the equality they’d been promised, they will find themselves regulated in much the same ways as before. Of course, he puts a good shine on it all by saying the oppression will begin with the “expropriation of the capitalists”. After all, who doesn’t want to see the rich stripped of their wealth and power, right? (yes, the irony was strong in that statement)

Here’s the first thing to really note – this control will be by a “state of armed workers”. Except it hasn’t been, not historically. Sure, the initial revolution might be by these so-called “armed workers” but once their workers government is in place, they are disarmed. After all, if you are going to start oppressing your own allies, you don’t want them to have the ability to revolt against you as they did against the previous regime. We’ve seen this happen in Russia and in other so-called socialist or communist countries time and time again over the last century.

Given these economic prerequisites it is fully possible, after the overthrow of the capitalists and the bureaucrats, to proceed immediately, overnight, to replace them in the functions of control of production and distribution, in the functions of keeping account of labour and products by the armed workers, by the armed population as a whole. . . (TSAR, pg 87)

Possible yes. But by whom? The answer, if you look at it historically, is by new managers and supervisors, new people who will make sure you work up to the levels set by the “people’s state” and woe unto you if you fail. Not that Lenin will admit that – or does he?

The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with equality of labour and equality of pay. But this ‘factory’ discipline, which the proletariat, after defeating the capitalists, after overthrowing the exploiters, will extend to the whole of society, is by no means our ideal or our ultimate goal. Rather it is a step for the radical purging of society of all the infamies and abominations of capitalist exploitation and for further progress. . . (TSAR, p 90)

And here’s the difference between what we hear from the likes of Bernie-bots and Clinton followers. They try to blind us with the glories of socialism by talking about the equality that will result. We’ll be paid the same for work not matter what our gender or color, etc. The government will make sure we all have healthcare and education. Whether they believe this is the ultimate goal of their version of socialism or just hoping we don’t do our homework and study the foundation documents of the philosophy, I don’t know. But, just in case Lenin is right and socialism is just a step on the way to a true communist society, we need to be prepared and we need to fight to stop the slide down this slippery slope our country has been on for the last 100 years.

Yes, 100 years or more. Going back to the early 20th Century, you can see some of the philosophic traces of socialism creeping into our government. Much of that came during the Depression and the policies Roosevelt instituted them. The slide increased in the latter half of the 20th Century. What do we need to do to make sure no further damage is done to our government and our way of life? We start by educating ourselves and our children. Then we start by speaking out and by standing up. The latter is exactly what Lenin and his ilk convinced their followers to do. So let’s take a page out of their own book.

For when all have learned to administer and really independently administer social production, independently keep accounts and exercise control over the idlers, the gentlefolk, the swindlers and other such ‘guardians of the traditions of capitalism’, then any escape from this popular accounting and control will inevitably become so incredibly difficult, such a rare exception, and will probably be accompanied by so swift and serious a punishment (for the armed workers are practical people and not sentimental little intellectuals, and they will scarcely allow anyone to mess around with them) that the necessity to observe the uncomplicated basic rules of all human intercourse will very soon become a habit.

And then the door will be opened wide for the transition from the first phase of communist society towards its higher phase, and simultaneously towards the complete withering away of the state. (TSAR, pp 91-92)

So, even as this worker’s paradise grows into fruition, Lenin admits there will be a need to suppress any who don’t fall into line. You must believe, comrade, or face “swift and serious a punishment”. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a government or society I want to be part of.

In his discussion of how capitalism will evolve into socialism, Lenin has the following to say: Modern wage slaves, as a result of capitalist exploitation, are so crushed by want and poverty that ‘they have nothing to do with democracy’, ‘nothing to do with politics’, that the majority of the population in the ordinary peaceful course of events is excluded from participation in the life of public politics. (TSAR, p 78) Doesn’t this sound like the talk of disenfranchisement we heard from the likes of Bernie and his followers during his campaign? Switch “modern wage slaves” with “women” or “persons of color” and doesn’t it sound like Hillary? They, as well as many other liberals running for office, continue to hit on how minorities are not allowed to take part in politics in this country, how they aren’t adequately represented. I’ll admit, gerrymandering still exists but not to the extent they’d like us to believe. They point to Voter ID laws as a way to keep the poor or homeless from voting. In doing so, they ignore how easy most states have made it to get a recognized form of ID, knowing there are those who can’t afford a driver’s license, etc. That sort of admission flies against the narrative and, if nothing else, they’ve learned how to push the narrative at the feet of the master, Vladimir Lenin.

 [A] progressive development, i.e. towards communism, occurs through the dictatorship of the proletariat and cannot occur otherwise, for the resistance of the exploiter-capitalists cannot be broken by anyone else or by any other path. . . And the dictatorship of the proletariat, . . . cannot lead simply to an expansion of democracy. . . becomes democratism for the poor, democratism for the people and not democratism for the rich, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a series of exclusions from freedom in relation to the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must suppress them in order to free humanity from wage slavery; their resistance must be crushed by force: it is clear that where there is suppression, where there is coercion, there is no freedom and no democracy. (TSAR, pp 79-80)

Dictatorship of the proletariat. . .exclusions from freedom. . .we must suppress them. . .crushed by force. He advocates this and then, in the next sentences says there can be no freedom and no democracy when those conditions are present. How in hell is that supposed to work?

That’s simple. You see, the proletariat dictatorship is just the first step toward the glories of communism. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that forgets about the slow withering of the state. It’s gonna take time, comrade. You gotta have patience, comrade. Give us your work and your loyalty, comrade. Trust us, comrade. All will be well in the end – which might never come.

You see, it’s not enough to crush the state, you have to erase all the capitalists and then make sure there are no more classes. Then and only then is it possible to even start talking about true freedom.

Of course, what do you do about human nature in all this? How do you handle those who are self-starters and who want to push themselves and produce more? What about those who are lazy or who resent being told what to do? That’s easy – they comply with the proletariat dictatorship or they face being crushed the same way the bourgeois was. Think about it. You’ll have a state of Stepford comrades. Won’t that be fun?

And only then will democracy begin to wither away because of the simple fact that, relieved of capitalist slavery, of countless horrors, savageries, absurdities and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse that have been known for ages and repeated for thousands of years in all copybooks – and to observing them without force, without compulsion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for compulsion which is called the state. (TSAR, p. 80)

So, democracy – or the state – hasn’t even begun to wither away during the proletariat dictatorship. But it is during this time the new state will enforce – and force – everyone to observe “the elementary rules of social intercourse. . . without force, without compulsion .  .  .  .” So, we’ll force you to act a certain way until you are so beaten down you no longer resist, no matter how many generations it takes.

Here’s the million dollar question. While the proletariat dictatorship is doing all this, who is keeping those in power in check? No one, because they haven’t reached that advanced state of “social intercourse” that no one thinks about personal gain, etc. And that, my friends, it the fatal flaw with Lenin’s argument. In fact, with every argument for socialism or the ideal of communism. Human nature is not such that we will stop fighting to survive. We are selfish – or can be. We will fight to protect those who are dear to us. We are corruptible. In other words, we are not perfect, and perfection is what a true socialist society would require. Perfection not only in the masses but in those holding power during the years and possibly centuries or more it takes to reach that point in our evolution.

Economically, not much changes during this first phase of the path toward the withering of the state. Oh, the people in charge change but there is still taxation. They just don’t call it that.

The means of production are no longer the private property of individuals. The means of production belong to the whole of society. Every member of society, performing a certain part of the socially necessary work, receives a certificate from society to the effect that he has done such and such an amount of work. With this certificate he receives from the public store of articles of consumption a corresponding quantity of products. Consequently, after a deduction is made of the amount of labour which goes to the public fund, every worker receives from society as much as he has given to it. (TSAR, p. 83)

First, Lenin is smart enough to admit this isn’t equality – not yet at any rate. Under this new proletariat dictatorship, you work for society. You are paid according to how much work you do and that is how much you are paid for. Of course, before you then have to give your bit back to the “public fund”. That amount is – and I know you’re surprised by this – determined by the dictatorship. So, once more, the government is taking from you and you have no voice in the matter. If you object, you face being crushed just as the bourgeois were.

Here is probably one of the biggest lies of socialism and communism: the exploitation of man by man will have become impossible because it will be impossible to seize the means of production, the factories, machines, land and so on as private property. (TSAR, p. 84) There are so many other ways to exploit another, all you have to do is know how to manipulate someone emotionally or intimidate them physically. Or, as with the proletariat dictatorship, be in a position of power where you hold life or death over someone’s head – or over the heads of their family. Can we all say Josef Stalin? This “defect”, as Marx calls it, is supposedly only temporary but can the country survive long enough to pass into the next phase of socialism and then into communism?

It is clear, the more you read TSAR or the more you read the underlying documents, that socialism and the communism that is to follow it are pipe dreams of deluded men. Lenin took advantage of social problems within Russia to grab power. He was an opportunist who came in and decried and denounced the socialist who had been in Russia during the Revolution and who took power. He accused them of not being true socialists and yet what happened after he took power? Or, more precisely, after his successors took power? The state did not wither. Capitalism didn’t die – it moved underground with the state’s approval (as long as the right palms were greased). Russia did not move toward some enlightened state but, instead, became one of the worst dictatorships in history. And it’s not alone.

There are two more chapters left in TSAR – and, yes, I love the irony of the initials of the book forming the title of the ruler the socialists rebelled against. I think I’m going to try to combine them into a single post next time. Right now, I’m looking at doing Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell next. Of course, after TSAR, I might need something I can snark – probably do, to be honest. In that case, I could do either Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House by Donna Brazile or Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. Do you guys have any preferences?

You can find the previous entries to this series of posts herehere and here.

[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]

 

 

These Are the Good Old Days

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There is a song on the radio right now that drives my husband insane.  In it two singers talk about how the times they were trying to break in were really “the good old days” and they didn’t notice.

This infuriates him, because, yeah, the heartbreak of being young and rich beyond the dreams of avarice must be terrible.

In my defense, I was always aware of “these are the good old days” while living through them.

When I was in the hospital, to all medical opinion dying of pneumonia at 33, what weighed on my mind was the novels left unpublished, but what I missed were our weekends with the kids, driving around, going to garage sales, parks and diners, or the “vacation” weekends, going to amusement parks and museums.

Do I miss those days?  Well, heck yeah.  But I enjoyed them to the hilt when they were happening.

And when we were young and had a writers’ group that met at our house every weekend, I enjoyed the heck out of the camaraderie and the silliness, and the parties.  It was fun.  It helped with that whole “raising two boys when far from both families.

I miss those days.  If I could go back and relive just one day in my life, it would be the day we discovered Lakeside amusement park (really cheap.  If they dropped a virus that only killed English speakers, my family would be the only casualties.)  The kids were two and five, it was a beautiful day (Memorial Day, as it turns out.  We were playing hookie on worldcon, the first of many times.) and the kids went on all the rides and Dan on most, and I walked around and read a mystery, and watched them have fun.  When we dragged the kids away it was ten thirty pm, and Marshall fell asleep against me in the car, his little head hot and heavy like kids’ heads are.  Then we found a late-open Chinese restaurant and had a late dinner.

But at the same time I’m neither stupid nor senile.  Those days are encircled with a gold nimbus, because memory has elided their struggles and problems.  I know that they were there and were real.  And just because I know how the biggest struggle I was involved in in those days turned out — I did end up selling my writing.  Who knew? — it doesn’t mean I knew then.

Yes, if I had a time machine, I’d send two notes to past self.  “It will work” and also “Write one for submission and one for the drawer.  Trust me.  Around 2007 it will all pay out.”

But then again, if I did that, would I have pushed as hard, worked as hard at the craft?  Would I be the writer I’m now?

No, sufficient onto the day the trouble of the day.  Those pains and fears paved the way to how I write now (not amazingly, but decently, I think.)

And maybe today’s struggles, disappointments and work are paving the way to something much better.

Are these the good old days?  Well, I’m caught in kind of a weird bubble in time, where I still worry for the kids’ future (and they’re still on the pay check, as they finish their professional training) but I’m moving my emotional …. focus away from them, because, well, I’ll always care for them, but at this point I don’t have much influence, nor should I.  It’s time for them to adult.  And it’s time for me to be more than “mommy of Robert and Marshall.”

I was always both, mind you, mommy and writer, and I’ll always be both, but the emphasis must now be on writer.

Believe it or not, this is harder to do than it seems.  “Psychological work” I think.  And hard.

But there are things I enjoy, from the days Dan and I go up for the park or museum, and to Pete’s, to the days when Robert or Marshall have time to hang out and talk.

Yeah, there are struggles too, and in the future those will be softer in memory and these will be the good old days.

But then the new days will bring both joy and sorrow aplenty.  And if I succeed in expanding my career, that will bring new work and new responsibilities, and less free time.  It always does.

Wherever you are, no matter how bad the struggles you’re going through, seek out the good things in your life right now, and enjoy the heck out of them.  It might be a moment building railways with the three year old on the floor.  Take it.  When he’s 23, you’ll cherish that memory, and so will he.

These are the good old days: cherish them.  They’re all the bad old days: work through them.

May your next set of good old days have more good and less bad.  It’s all we can hope for.

 

Those You’re Responsible For

I’ve been heckled by friends into reading the Jordan Peterson book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos I haven’t read all of it yet, but I’ve read half and skimmed the rest.

So… is it helpful?  Weirdly, yes.  Look, I even get the title.  I don’t know if you guys realize this, but we live in one of the most unstructured eras in human history.  The result of throwing out all the old rules wasn’t so much freedom as what they like to call “the anomie of modern life.”  One of the people that Peterson describes in the book is so chaotic that she “thinks she might have been raped” FIVE times.  FIVE TIMES.  She can’t tell if she was, because she can’t tell if she wanted to do this or not, or even exactly what happened and what was a dream.

I was talking to a young friend yesterday and we agreed (I think.  It was a fragmentary conversation online) that part of the problem people have getting their lives in order is knowing what they really want to do and what people expect them to do.  By which I don’t mean “social rules.”  It’s that this weird chaos, devoid of manners or morals, does in fact have a lot of “you should” particularly when judged by the people who look down on universal morals and rules.

For instance, it is bad to hold onto the morality of not sleeping around or really sleeping with anyone outside of marriage.  I mean, a lot of the people in other times didn’t even hold to that.  They slept together when they were “merely” engaged.  OTOH any young people today has internalized that they need to at least lie about sleeping with a lot of people.  Because heaven forbid you are in a monogamous relationship and have never slept with anyone else, or, gasp, a virgin past you middle teens.  If you confess to that, everyone will know you’re weird and repressed and stuff, right?  (BTW the whole idea of repression and sublimation being bad for you is one of those Freud things that doesn’t seem to have any basis in the real world.)

So the modern world has not rules, but a lot of expectations, some of which are objectively bad for you, like “Women should sleep around as much as men [in outdated movies and books.]” (This is objectively bad because most women don’t want to sleep around that much and most women don’t want sex without consequences, on account of the hormones released during sex creating attachment.  Yes, there are exceptions for everything, but how weird is it that a woman should feel guilty because she doesn’t WANT TO sleep around?)

Anyway, part of the book’s concept is that “if it feels good do it” is an awful way to live your life, since objectively, in most situations, what feels good at that moment is not what brings you long-lasting happiness.  And since “if it feels good do it” comes close to being the only universal law of behavior in our society, we’re in trouble.

I haven’t finished reading it yet.  I skimmed and am going back to read slowly and carefully.  But one thing I read might come to save my life.  No, seriously.  And the weird thing is that it’s something I knew.  Of course I knew it.  But he put it in words where I can’t avoid it.

It’s I THINK rule 2 on self care.  And yes, I realize that me talking about self-care is like a fish talking of the joys of flying through air.  But that’s the whole thing, and why it’s important.

The way he put it was something like this “Treat yourself as you’d treat someone you loved who was utterly dependent on you.”  So, you know, would you let a child under your care work 18 hours a day and not rest, or eat, because it’s something that interests them?  Uh… been there, done that and no.

Would you let a child you love under your care just play all the time and learn/accomplish nothing?  Uh, no.

Would let a child under your care eat only candy because it makes them happy?  And so on and so on.

If I were a child under my care, I’d alternate between long, unrelieved work to rival sweatshops, not exercising because “tired, don’t feel like it” and eating lots of wrong things because “it’s been a long day.”

IOW, I’m a lousy caretaker to myself.  And seeing myself as someone I have “responsibility” for, as though I were an external person makes it all different.  I don’t think I’m “selfish” for not working night or day, or for treating myself well “let’s go for a little walk” when there’s other stuff to do, or even for eating the better for me, but more troublesome to make food because “I need to take care of this person.”

Maybe some of you need that too.

BTW on one thing, I found I’m way better than average, and that shocked me.  I’m lousy at medicating, and now that I’m on thyroid meds twice a day and can’t forget without dire issues, I have two alarms on my phone.  Anywhere I am when the afternoon alarm goes (even in the middle of a panel) I stop and take my meds.  I always thought I was still very bad at this, because occasionally I am so busy I turn off the alarm and forget.

Guess what the average rate of compliance for meds is?  Even for lifesaving meds?  Yep, 20%.

Whoo whoo, I’m not the worse.  But it means there’s a lot of people out there worse than I.

Which means maybe even some of you need this.

Take care of yourself.  If you don’t have yourself, who do you have?  And also, if you neglect yourself enough, you’re only guaranteeing you become a burden to someone in your old age.  We’re better at making people live longer, not better at keeping them healthier while they do so.

Remember that.  Take care of yourself as though you were someone you loved.

 

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike & ONE Book Promo

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: quaint.

ONE Book Promo aka: why aren’t you slackers writing and promoting?

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.

Pam Uphoff: Last Merge.

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Thirty-fourth book in the Wine of the Gods series.

Xen and friends are trying to prevent a cross-dimensional disaster that could kill billions.

Eldon is getting tired of gold mining and really misses being on a world where he can just drink beer and watch football.

It’s going to take both of them to save the Empire of the One from the Helios Cannibals.

There Is No Australia

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We’d better take off the fur suits and run fast, Joey. The rubes are onto us.

As you guys know — or not, though those of you who read the Dyce Dare series probably know — I have a very odd sense of humor.

Sure, it overlays other people’s sense of humor to an extent, or Dyce’s series wouldn’t make me so much.  But mostly it’s off on its own little island, dancing around and mooning bewildered passerbyes.

It will help you understand my sense of humor if you realize I almost died when older son started doing an history of the “lost seven states” of America, starting with the great state of Nwadna who moved to Italy, in embarrassment over the civil war.  It now lives in a third floor walkup, with a window box, and takes in wash to make ends meet.

I know for most people that’s too weird to be funny, because I tried it on you guys once and you were worried for my sanity.  But for me, the out-there nature of the insanity made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe.  (And yes, older son knows how to get to my funny bone.  It amuses him.)

So of course, when this hit my newsfeed This Student Failed Her Assignment Because Her Professor Said “Australia Isn’t A Country”it was all but guaranteed that I’d have to do a post about why there is no Australia.

Note that this was not the Professor’s contention.  Apparently her madness was of a lesser and distinctly unfunny degree.

From the post:

But the professor still wasn’t convinced. In her lecturing reply, which Arnold provided to BuzzFeed News, the professor doubled down on her Australia-denialism:

I will gladly re-examine your week 2 milestone project report.

But before I do I want you to understand that any error in a project can invalidate the entire research project.

Research is like dominoes, if you accidentally knock over one piece the entire set will also fall.

Australia is a continent; it is not a country. That error made it nearly impossible for you to accurately complete your week 2 research outline correctly.

As I mentioned above I will look over your week two paper once again and see if you earned more credits than I gave you.

The problem with the kind of insight the professor demonstrated is, of course, that like lifting the corner of the veil, it gives us a tantalizing glimpse that makes us want to see under it altogether.

And in this case, the problem is that it started me thinking.

Think about it, a continent where everything wants to kill you, and which nonetheless has inhabitants?  What sense does that make?  Oh, and their best known animal is a photogenic giant rat who is …. a marsupial?  And can box?  Right.  And people who live there are like uninhibited Britishers who continuously brag about their big knives?  Yeah, that’s likely.  Couldn’t they at least have chosen the French?  I mean, they’re more likely to brag about their phallic objects.

You’ll say, but Sarah, surely you have friends from Australia or who immigrated to Australia and naturalized.

Sure.  But I wasn’t there to see them grow up in Australia, was I?  Or there to see them live in Australia now?

I’m not sure where Kate Paulk actually grew up, though given her sense of humor is even odder than mine, perhaps a Mars colony they just never told us about.

And Dave Freer has clearly found a little piece of Eden and since he doesn’t want us all to tramp in and destroy it, he pretends he’s in Australia, which is a creation of novelists and movie makers and never existed.  Heck, the kangaroo (And what name is that?) was probably made up by Disney in the same spirit they “filmed” the “suicide” of the lemmings.

Seriously, think through the series of improbabilities that is Australia, and the answer will be plain to you.  Like the great state of Nwadna and its disappearance, the fact Australia is an hoax is one of those things that them who control history have tried to hide from you.

But that’s okay.  Your eyes have been opened, and your tinfoil hat set at a jaunty angle.

#thereisnoaustralia #wakeuppeople  #educateyourself

Sex, Gender, and Marx, Oh My

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Yesterday I almost linked this post at instapundit.  I didn’t, not because there’s anything wrong with the post, but because the writer who is a friend went just a little too far.  He went just a little too far in a way that particularly irks me: that of ascribing something transitory and of the time to #yesallwomen.  And yes, I’m aware he exempted me by name in his post and other women by implication.  But that’s not the point.

As I keep telling the author, he’s a very bright man, and in general a good thinker, but he’s young.  So he’s very much a creature of his times, and some of the attitudes he has and the conclusions he takes are captive of their time, and if he were a little older or younger, he would have a different view.  (This starts with the name of his blog.  Only a very limited view allows you to see the West declining.  We’ve done that before, and we recovered, and unless I’m very wrong, the declining started 100 years ago and we’re now on the great rebuilding, the great re-learning.  Yeah, sure, it’s just the first stirrings, and you and I won’t see the West fully resurgent again, but our grandkids have a good chance to.  So I laugh at it and make duck noises.  He’s a good sport about it.)

In the same way he’s a creature of his place.  So he views #yesallwomen as American women of the late 20th century, who are, sorry, creatures different from most women throughout most of the history of humanity.

Oh, I’m not saying that “gender” is a social construction.  I spent the week with two toddlers, one male, one female (practice grandchildren) who are being raised, for various reasons, in a VERY non-traditional situation.  And yet you look at them, and yep, even if you put the boy in a dress, you’d know which one is the girl and which is the boy.  Their way of showing they’re tired, their preferred mode of play, even their way to obtain something are all exactly what you’d expect of their sex.  (The little girl is also obsessed with pink, which is funny.  Maybe that’s chromosome coded?  As Pratchett put it, if built by a little girl, it will be pink.  Now, I was never fond of pink, favorite colors were yellow, then red.  But you know, exceptions and statistics are neither of them the only valid way to reason.)  There are plenty of reasons for our brains to function differently according to the sex-hormones infused into us from gestation onward.  That’s because it makes our brains different in structure and operation.  And yeah, some of us are for various and probably gestation-hormones (you try to get a straight medical history out of my mom!) less stereotypical female.  But hell, even I have no sense of direction, can’t imagine in three dimensions, and frankly plot from the character out.  Other women are EVEN LESS stereotypical female and can reason visually in three dimension, can find their way blindfolded through the Minotaur’s labyrinth, and plot from “what happens” out.  The fact that statistically those are male characteristics doesn’t mean no woman can do it, and the fact that statistically most women can’t find their way out of a wet paperbag, can’t do visual stuff in their heads, and have novels full of long meaningful conversations signifying nothing doesn’t invalidate the exceptions.  That’s not how statistical distribution works.)

So, sure, male and female brains are different.  But the differences that my young friend pointed out are culturally coded.  There is no reason that women would be more averse to exploration, less interested in space, or more interested in using the government as a sort of super-daddy.

In fact, judging from ancestresses, in a country of immigrants, and from correspondence I got to see, I can tell you women were often the ones going “Let’s try x y or z country.  Let’s lift up and travel with nothing and no guarantees, because it might be a better life for my kids.”

In my own family, my mom is the one always willing to try the next thing, and dad is the one who would rather stay put, with his network of connections, his professional credentials, etc.

And I was born where I didn’t belong and went in search of my homeland.

But yeah, okay, we could be exceptions.  Except that… back at the time of the moon shots, my little friends, in an all girl school, were as excited as I was.

Sure.  Sure.  Mom — who is the least distributionist of my parents, will use that “Why do x when we could use the money to do so much good” thing.  I’ve heard it verbatim.  But do you know what she uses it for?  To justify not having pets.  The truth is mom doesn’t like animals (while dad does) and hates anything like cats that she can’t control.  So instead she dresses her hatred of animals (not socially acceptable) in a pious “We can do charity with that money.” (Much more socially acceptable.)  Keep that in mind as we go forward.

I’m going to ask you to engage in a thought experiment.  Imagine that for whatever reason, our state decided to combat discrimination against redheads.

Redheads are historically a discriminated-against group.  In Europe children who were red-headed were often assumed to have the devil in them.  They were often ill treated and one suspects in early times either killed or neglected/beaten to the point it amounted to the same.  They were, at least according to some crazy legends, the children of Lilith, and so not exactly of the same seed of Adam and Eve as the rest of us.  (The rest of us notionally.  Back when my hair had color it was a dark mahogany brown that turned dark red in the sun.  Guys engaging in the lean-against-the-wall-and-call-out-to-girls Portuguese male national past time would yell out “Oh Ruiva” to me, and ruiva in Portuguese means redhead — in Spanish the equivalent means blond.)

There were euphemisms for the hair color: ginger, foxy, strawberry blond.  But all those eventually became tainted because of what they referred to.

Let’s suppose that when our government started to expand into social engineering, they decided redheads were traditionally discriminated against, and thus must be protected against discrimination.  There would be mandatory (proportional to population) numbers of redheads hired.  There would be a prohibition de facto if not de jure against using terms like “ginger” because using them would be “racist” and you’d find yourself ostracised and unemployed.

These would be the least harmful of the provisions.  Yes, I did say least harmful.

The most harmful would be that little redheads would be told in words and more importantly in deeds, from a very early age that they’re a class set apart and that something is not quite right with them.  I mean, if everything were right with them, why would people need to be restrained, by law, from mistreating them?  Obviously there’s something inherently annoying/hateful about them which caused all the historical discrimination and that discrimination is ONLY not happening today because the powerful government stands between them and their would-be abusers.

Now, little redheads would, of course, know there was nothing wrong with them as humans.  They’d look into themselves and know they were no better or worse than other people.  So they were the victims of injustice and only the government kept them safe.

You’d find that redheads under that regime were some of the most in American terms “progressive” people around, always ready to throw in with the government against the individual and always ready to attribute anything bad in their lives to “oppression.”

They would be an interest class, interested in redistribution (surely there’s still some discrimination going on where the government can’t see, and they don’t have everything that’s due them) and strict enforcement of the preferential rules applying to them.  They would also see discrimination in every look, every sneer, every use of the word “red” around them and other micro aggressions.

Now in our world this wasn’t done to redheads.  But if there are parallel worlds, this wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.  They were after all very badly treated, historically.

We do however have various groups that were treated this way, considered historically oppressed and set aside by government as protected classes.  This by the way is all according to Gramsci’s neo-Marxist theory.  (Marx expected the proletarian to “rise up” and be the instrument of communist revolution, but by Gramsci’s time it was obvious the proletariat was rising indeed, not in revolution, but to middle class.  So a new theory of “oppressed classes” was needed and Gramsci came up with the oppressed classes as the third world, basically.  And yes, he’s the twatwaffle you have to thank — ultimately — for the stupid “white privilege” theory.)

Our government, in many ways is has created a Gramscian society, by trying to protect people from “discrimination” (visible and invisible, in thought, word, deed, in what we’ve done and have failed to do.)

It is de-facto impossible to protect people from ALL discrimination.  All humans discriminate, and often on stupid things.  I, for instance, hate all willowy blondes on sight.  Most of them I’ve known have proven despicable human beings.

And yet, my best friend from childhood fell under that classification (for a Portuguese idea of blond) and I’ve been friends with many of them.  It just means I recoil on meeting them, but I’m open to being proven wrong.  Now of course, that means if I were hiring, willowy blonds would start at a disadvantage.

Sure, the government could protect willowy blondes against my heinous discrimination, but here’s the thing, I’m one of 300 million, and everyone else has things they discriminate against.

Even if race is a more widespread form of discrimination, it’s not the only one, and protection against it will be imperfect, and MUCH WORSE will feel the protected people think there’s something wrong with them or at least with the way they present, and wish protection forever.  Regardless of whether there’s any reason to expect discrimination or not.

But then the US government (and most governments of the civilized world, in imitation of the US as usual) decided to make #yeseverywoman a protected class.  Yep, we, women, who stand at 51% of the population, became a “minority” for purposes of hiring, firing, protecting against offense, etc.  (And more injurious things like divorce and child custody laws, even.)

But Sarah, you say, women have traditionally been discriminated against.  Yeah and?  So have redheads.  Is there a reason to enshrine that in legislation that perpetuates both discrimination and self-loathing and dependency?

I don’t think so, and last I checked (just looked again) I am a woman.

I also believe most of the reasons women have been discriminated against IN BUSINESS historically have been valid.  As have been the reasons to keep most women subordinate and in the house.

Listen, dummy, before contraceptives and the ability to do genetic tests, there were good reasons women under-performed men, and why most men would want to keep women confined and under strict rules.

Kids are the future.  Men can’t have them.  Women can.  And historically, women couldn’t AVOID having them.  And men had no way of knowing if the kid was his (part of the discrimination against redheads is because redheads are a recessive gene and can show up unannounced in a dark haired family, thereby leading to suspect the mother of infidelity.  Hence “redheaded stepchild.”)  Part of the civilizational contract, due to how difficult and expensive humans are to bring to adulthood is that men provide for the woman and their offspring.  BUT of course that means the men had to make sure the offspring was theirs.  Which meant social restrictions and a subordinate state for women.

Yeah sure, the guys should just have trusted their women.  Because, what? You’re willing to stand by #allwomen in the matter of fidelity?  If you are, you have some issues we should talk about. Like illusions of omnipotence.  Or raging sexism that considers women less/more than human.

Those historical reasons no longer apply, and as women started pouring into the workforce, those “anti discrimination” laws were no longer necessary.

(But Sarah, some guys really consider women less capable.  Yes.  Possess your soul in patience, we’ll get to that.)

Sure, women still generally make less than men, but that’s because of those brain differences.  Women, individually, prefer different kinds of work.  My son’s starting engineering class was 80% female, and no wonder, considering his engineering club in high school had 8 publications for “women engineers” and none for male.  He’s now in his final year in one specialty and the year before last in the other, and guess what?  It’s all male.  I mean all.  (What part of this is because idiots who tried to encourage the little girls NEVER gave them bad grades in STEM or told them they had to study harder which left young women maleducated, I leave to your judgement.  It’s another of those watchmacallit, unintended consequences of intervention.)  Even those women who excelled at engineering decided they didn’t like it and went instead into business or art.  (Yes, younger son IS disgruntled.)

And the truth is the more abundant “soft sciences” and “arts” pay — because more people qualified — less than hard STEM professions.  DUH.  When you separate avocations by what they actually do for work, the difference between male and female pay disappears, or female are slightly higher.

There is also, alas, social style.  My career has suffered from a very female issue: I’m less assertive than my male colleagues.  I know I am, but it’s such a back-brain thing, it’s hard to overcome.

Anyway, my belief is that we should do away with ALL protected classes, race and gender both.  Yeah, sure, there will be jerks who discriminate against you.  But there will be jerks (hi, y’all) who discriminate against willowy blondes, too.  THERE IS NO WAY TO PREVENT DISCRIMINATION.

Besides in the long run, the free market takes care of discrimination.  The jerk who won’t hire or serve willowy blonds will lose their work and business to the jerk who preferentially hires them.  If they’re a big enough demographic in the area, the first jerk goes out of business.  As for the willowy blondes, they can leave a job where they’re discriminated against and find one where they aren’t.

I walked out of a job when I found the boss was discriminating against me for being Latin (he thought I was Mexican, but that’s something else.  Also, stupid and ignorant.) I found a better one, paying twice as much, where the store was much better run, too.  I’ve walked off other jobs for the same reason.  It never meant being unemployed forever.

There is no UNIVERSAL discrimination.  And if you think there is, you ought to get out more, and take Gramsci off repeat on your ipod.

And the creation of “protected classes” by law has too high a price.

Are women raised in the late 20th century and early 21st in the US in general “progressive” and in love with daddy government?

Well, how not?  They believe everyone would mistreat them and discriminate against them, if government didn’t protect them.  They believe this, despite the fact that men in their lives are (like #yesallmen) by and large decent and fair, because they’ve been told from earliest age how hated/discriminated against they are.

And they’ve seen evidence, too.  If they weren’t hateful, why would there be a whole apparatus against discriminating against them?  And look how men are so mad at that apparatus (of course they are.  It amounts to discrimination AGAINST THEM, but never mind) it means they want to hate and beat on women!

Hence, “no space exploration we need that money.” “Daddy government, look, they’re taking stuff they stole from us and playing at space shots!”

This is transitory.  It has to be, because a species divided against itself cannot stand.  I just wish the failure mode of this insanity not to be a return to outmoded female oppression, ala Islam.  Our science if better now.  There is no reason to keep women under sofa covers, ignorant, and confined to the house.

However, right now, the future is looking uncommonly burka-y, because of the way women have been trained to behave and the horrible consequences to society.

Me?  I want a world where men and women are equal under the law.  Sure, same pay for same work (the free market enforces that anyway, more or less.)  Sure, equal legal rights in marriage.

Other than that, let people sort themselves out, and stop breaking them into protected and aggressor, privileged and mistreated.  It doesn’t do anyone any good, and does much harm.

Let individuals be individuals and you’ll be amazed how soon the Marxist shackles are thrown off.

It’s impossible to enslave a free individual. The most you can do is kill him/her.  But shackles on their minds and convince them that they need protection forever, and not only are they slaves, but they’ll help enslave others.

Don’t let them.  Teach your children well.  Reason yourself out of fear.  Work, live, do well.  The statists can’t control you then.