Hope and Change

I was very confused, back in 08 to hear the mindless chants of “hope, change.”  They sounded so gleeful.  Also hope and change are not two things you normally put together.

Yes, yes, I KNOW what they thought they meant.  In the media narrative, the GWB times were hopeless and with no jobs and (and we hadn’t seen anything yet!) so change would bring us hope.

They were out of their rocking minds, obviously.

Look, I’m a libertarian. That means, compared to our current system of having the government play helicopter parent to you from cradle to grave, I advocate change.  DRASTIC change.  To get where I want to be, there would be massive dislocation of money and human resources.  Think of the unemployment crisis as bureaucrats without number got run off their jobs. (Okay, now wipe that grin off your face.)  Think of all the genuine scientific research that would have to find a new way to fund itself.  Think of the children.  No, really, think of the children.  I think what we have for a department of Children Services is inefficient, stupid and possibly harmful, but we’d still need to retool and find another way to perform the job of making sure most kids are mostly safe, without giving it all to the government.  That means some truly horrible things would happen on the way there.  (Whether they’d be better or worse than the horrible things happening now is something else again.)  Ditto when it comes to schooling.  Most of our schools are rather inefficient day cares, but without even that, some kids would fall through the cracks, until local government steps up.  (Yes, for those following along at home, libertarians aren’t necessarily AGAINST government, they just believe on keeping most things small, local, and as close to individual as possible.  The guys who want no government?  That’s Anarchists.  And no, Somalia is not a Libertarian society.  Or an anarchist one.  Somalia is a tribal war with borders.  Its dysfunction has much to do with where and what it is, not with the system of its government, which is “totalitarians trained in left wing politics in western universities trying to speak insanity to tribes who are trying to stay alive.” I swear to fricken bob the next idiot who tells me “Libertarianism would cause Somalia” gets hit on the head with the nearest object.  Do these people swallow whole whatever some progressive twit says, without the slightest effort at verification? Without a modicum of thought.)

The point I’m trying to make is that change hurts.  It always hurts, whether it’s an individual or a society; whether it’s ULTIMATELY change for better or for worse.  Whom it hurts and how much is directly proportional to what systems are being changed and how many people they involve.

Truly massive technological change that affects the whole human race takes millenia to process through.  Some anthropologists, seriously, think we’re not through processing all the consequences of the switch between hunting-gathering and agriculture.  It’s undeniable (no, seriously) that it was good for the species as a whole, over time.  I mean, our sheer numbers and populations prove that.  But it was neither painless nor cost free, and right when it happened it was wrenching, the wrench being recorded in our oldest legends and racial memories.  War between those who had settled and those who hadn’t, changes in ways of life (this idea of working every day, instead of when the meat runs out is still painful and still hasn’t worked itself into the way the species as a whole works.)

There is considerable and plausible evidence we’re still too close to the industrial revolution and the French revolution to process it.

At the rate we’re accelerating the changes to our own environment, it is quite possible we won’t (as a whole) be done processing the change to mass production before small-run individual production becomes the norm.

Which brings us to: the most normal result of change is the opposite of hope: it is destruction, blood, often the burning of a generation’s patrimony, as what they learned and what they’ve spent a lifetime becoming no longer has any application to the new reality.

Take the twentieth century.  (Please.  Almost as bad as the fourteenth.)  It was a time of massive, unrelenting change.  And we have the piles of corpses to prove it.

But as an individual — even as president of the US — you really don’t get to “create change.”  Every time I hear “be the change you want to see” or its equivalent, I want to beat someone over the head with a wet sock until I brain them.  (It’s slow and satisfying.)

I think I know what they’re trying to say, but that is not what they’re saying.  I think what they’re trying to say is that you can only change yourself.  And that’s correct.  What they’re actually saying is something on a par with “be a thought leader.”  I.e. be someone who changes society around you by just being a certain way.

Does that ever happen.  Oh, sure.  Most founders of major religions, some kings and rulers, a few other powerful men and women changed society at least for a time (mostly for the bad, taken in whole, though of course there are exceptions.)

But for most human beings, modeling the change you want to see in society can get you either marginalized or killed, depending on how severe that change is. (Major religious figures aren’t exempt on either, btw.)

Is it worth it to buck society?  Sometimes.  It also sometimes — if you judge the moment right — joins with a lot of other people to create a preference cascade.  If I didn’t believe in that, I’d not be writing this.

On the other hand, that’s in matters of principle, and urgent matters.  If the change you want to see is being allowed to wear white after labor day, is it really worth it getting strange stares, or having to continually clean your white clothes that got muddy and dirty in winter?  Or if the matter you’re bucking, if you fail will destroy you and if you win will… make no big difference to most people?

This is when the “change” needed is mostly internal, in yourself.

It still hurts.  It hurts like hell.  But without changing yourself, you’ll never achieve anything.

Look, I remember — and I found while unpacking, a sheaf of these — when I sent out for magazines, ranging from fanzines to Analog, and read them to know what I should be aiming for.  My most immediate reaction was “OMG, these are nothing like what I write.”  And by that I don’t mean political bend.  I mean I hadn’t figured out writing in scenes, yet, so what I wrote bore a strange resemblance to “disembodied ramblings from a world you never saw.”

You’d think changing that wouldn’t hurt, right?

Bah.  You’d be wrong.  Changing that involved changing my habits of mind, the way of working I’d gotten used to, “breaking” the way I thought of story, and endless hours of practicing the new way, till it stopped “hurting.”  It felt a little like going insane.

And what’s more, everytime I “tool up” I go through this again.  Having identified something I do wrong in writing, I have to “break my head” and then fall into a new pattern.

This involves a lot of work (A LOT OF WORK) and forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do.  90% of the people who approach me as fledgelings (or as colleagues seeking help for stalled careers) and to whom I tell stuff like “Okay, so you need to write in a different world, or come up with three new worlds, then write proposals and–”  OR “You need to write four  books a year” or “You need to learn to plot” or “you need to learn characters” go away saying “BUT I CAN’T DO THAT.”  Some of my favorite people in the world do that rather than try it.  I remember a friend telling me she couldn’t possibly write four new proposals in a year, when I’d just written 17 over summer.  (2003, career stopped, and a bitch of a year all around.)

It’s not fun, it’s not comfortable, it’s a lot of work, but if where you want to go is worth it, you do it.

And almost always, unless you were born to a comfortable fortune and your life is pottering ONLY with what pleases you, you need to change to get ANYWHERE, much less where you want to go.  You need to get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to do things that feel unnatural or that you despise.

This is whether or not the world is “right”.  A lot of the way I had to learn to write wasn’t “right” for selling.  It was the more literary way that shorts had been going.  In fact, I later had to unlearn some of it, to sell more in novels.  BUT it was the way it was and if I wanted to publish in shorts (heaven knows why) I had to learn it.

And because we’re extra special lucky, we do live in interesting times.  Times of intense change.  That means we need to work hard as hell to stay standing in the changing maelstrom, and to hopefully achieve something, anything, in the time we’re given.

A lot of this involves changing ourselves: the way we work, and mostly the way we think.

My entire field is turning upside down and inside out, and I NEED to figure out new ways of working, new ways of thinking.

I’m not alone in my field.  Some of you might not have noticed the change in your profession but I guarantee it’s coming for you.

Those new ways of thinking, those clever tricks to stay afloat, are nasty.  They break your comfortable idea of how things ought to work and be.

But no one asked our opinion.  And internal change is our only chance at hope.

 

 

Sunday Morning Follies

Or why the cat ate my post.

We woke up to the dulcet beep, beep, beep of the computer power supplies warning us electricity was out. Seems to have been a small outage, involving just two or three houses.  Which meant not a big priority.

I was going to write a post, I was.  But I couldn’t get on the computer (by the time I was functional, power was completely out) so instead I started doing the final unpacking on my bedroom.

And now my mind is not in a word sort of mood.

Since it’s been that sort of day, let me tell you some things I’ve found out, courtesy of our packers:

-F. Paul Wilson and Kevin J. Anderson write how-to art books.  (I’d been wondering where the signed books went!)

-Party hats and new year’s decoration ARE “art supplies.”  (I don’t DO performance art)

-A bunch of miscellaneous unsorted laundry is “Sarah’s bedside table.”

-ALL stuff marked for donation MUST be packed in one gigantic box, instead of left behind, where I’d put it, for the thrift store to pick up.

-Other things that must go into a gigantic box include (but aren’t limited to) a disparate series of things ranging from office supplies to books for projects currently under way which had been packed in small boxes and marked “Open ASAP.”  The gigantic box will then be marked “storage” and put in the basement.

-Trash cans will be collected and put in a giant box marked “books”(And not MY books, as that could be you know, a review.)

Things movers think are logical:

-The box marked “Tea set, dining room” SHOULD of course go to the files and financial stuff room.  OF COURSE.

-box marked “library” should go to my bedroom.

-Box marked “office supplies” should go to my bedroom.

-Box marked “Wall art” should go to my bedroom.

-box marked “storage/basement” should go to my bedroom.

But this is okay because boxes marked “Sarah, winter clothes” should go to basement storage, as should boxes marked “bed clothes”, “pillows” and “catfood.”

One wonders what would happen if a RATIONAL moving company appeared.  And yeah, this is the best we’ve ever had…  Imagine the worst.

 

A Short And Sweet Promo Post – Free Range Oyster

A Short And Sweet Promo Post – Free Range Oyster

J.M. Ney-Grimm

The Troll’s Belt

Young deceit sprouts timeless trouble.

Motherless Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble. Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage… and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.

A twist on a classic, THE TROLL’S BELT builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.

John Van Stry

Wolf Killer

The Hammer Commission

With having to leave the Commission for a year while things cool off politically, Mark finds that the Church has loaned him out to the FBI, who have been trying for years now to get an experienced monster and demon expert in their newest division, to help train and educate the agents there on just what they will be facing. Finding out that Mark actually is one of those very monsters has made them want him even more; not just for what he can bring to the table, but because they do need to check off that newest minority checkbox, even if no one knows they exist.

Mark doesn’t mind the new assignment, being closer to home, it means it will be easier to visit with family, and the agents all seem nice enough. Plus the FBI has a bigger budget and gets a lot nicer toys than Mark is used to. However, while Mark knows how to deal with devils, demons, and even the nastier monsters out there, he doesn’t know anything about how to deal with a sociopath werewolf who has gone full psycho and started to murder co-eds.

That’s more of a ‘human’ problem, after all.

Centrists

So this post — Fish And Water — got echoed by a friend on FB.  This is a person whose books I’ve read, though I only know him on FB, and also a person who normally doesn’t echo blog posts.

Over the next day I watched people comment and wondered if I wanted to get involved.  There was the utter crazycakes “USSR’s Agit prop was a huge failure.”  Really, tovarish?  Did you live in an European country (A WESTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRY) and watch people take the glossy photos of “Soviet Life” seriously?  Did you have people tell you face to face that the USSR was only as evil as the US and that there was nothing to choose between them — despite the fact that the USSR was stuck at about the 1930s and had long lines for every normal staple, while the US had long lines for… black Friday.  Despite the fact that every country that fell in the Western sphere of influence was living pretty affluently while the ones gobbled up as a shield by the USSR were living miserably?  Despite the fact that you could see the difference between east and west Berlin from the AIR?  Despite all this people thought that a USSR win and a USA win were “about the same.”  AND THAT was a failure of Agit Prop?  May G-d send me many failures like that.

But then there was the “centrist.”  Oh, you know the centrist.  He shows up in every political discussion to show how mature and well informed he is.

He started by critiquing my blog post — A BLOG POST — by saying I’d provided no examples or citations and that my blog was “emotive writing” and what proof did I have that soviet agit prop had shaped western opinion.

Of course I had provided no examples or citations.  THIS IS A BLOG NOT A FUCKING ACADEMIC JOURNAL.  I didn’t spend six months researching for the post, so I could cite “just the right sources” to convince our “centrist” gentleman. For one because I need no sources.  No, really.  Look at the examples above.  Are any of you going to dispute that life in the sphere of USSR influence was worse than in the west?  Are you going to tell me that the US helping west Germany rebuild was the same as the USSR bleeding East Germany dry?  (And yet, in the US itself kids are taught that Communism is a great way of life and/or it’s never been tried, and that the “good guys lost the cold war.”)

Academics will try that.  Because what they don’t understand about the economy would fill several encyclopedias, they think buying and selling from a country is “economic oppression” on a part with sending your troops to loot it.  And that too is an example of the success of Soviet Agit Prop, albeit Soviet Agit Prop that slotted into a flaw in Western thinking that “smart people” should also be rich, which allows every man jack with a college degree to feel hard done by capitalism.  But the entire explanation of “economic imperialism?”  Well, that came from the USSR tovarish.  It was right there, in books, magazines and pamphlets they put out.

And then the centrist gentleman expounded on his thesis.  I was, he said, just like the SJWs.  When they claim that things are the result of patriarchy and white privilege.  That’s what I was doing claiming that things were the result of agitprop.  Yep.  He was centrist, well informed, the adult in the room, and look how he was hitting both sides.  Don’t you admire him?

I’ve been bizarrely busy.  No, seriously.  Beyond trying to finish a book, brainstorm a collaboration and getting another started, my duties for instapundit, my work here, my work as publisher for the entire family, I have been trying to get Robert’s basement apartment ready for class start on Monday.  This is because at that time he MUST be independent, able to cook/eat on his own, and having the living space fixed as it will be till his Christmas break.  Because he simply won’t have time to tinker with it while studying.

So I considered several times answering the “centrist” but I didn’t, mostly because I got called away.  I do have an answer, besides “you want citations?  Come to the comments, my commenters will provide plenty.”

The answer is: Sure the SJWs say there is “institutional” stuff we don’t even notice, just as I say there is institutional stuff distorting your thinking.  There are two differences: I’m not calling for silencing those repeating crazy Marxism.  Let them talk.  BY ALL MEANS, we WANT them to talk.  Because once things are out in the open, it becomes obvious how crazy cakes they are.  I’m simply calling for us to be aware of and expose the narrative.

The other thing is: Okay. So, where are the courses in “The benefits of Patriarchal Thinking” or “Exploring what White Supremacy can do for our nation” or…?  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Meanwhile, in every college, even in conservative parts of the country there is at least ONE course on Marxist analysis of this or that.   And courses on how Marxism can help you with everything from hair growth to the heart break of psoriasis.  Meanwhile for “cases of patriarchy” the left has now descended to hunting micro aggressions, on their way to pico aggressions.

If you think there is a parallel and both sides are the same, between trying to defend your country from the leftovers of USSR propaganda which have openly and BLATANTLY infected the entire educational/entertainment/news industrial-complex and hunting for the snipe of patriarchal and racial aggression in things people might not phrase very well, congratulations: You are a useful idiot.

The Agit prop of the USSR succeeded and continues to foster oikophobia and hate of the west in the west because it infected the minds of people like you.  Not that there was that much there to infect.

You’re the sort of people who thinks that “both sides are equally guilty/bad/etc” is ALWAYS the appropriate answer.  Virtue is always in the middle, right.  If someone wants to bayonet babies and someone wants to keep them alive, virtue must be in the middle: let’s shoot babies in the head.

Extreme?  Of course it’s extreme.  And seeing no different between SJWs wanting to silence people, and the non-Marxist side wanting to EXPRESS DIFFERENT OPINIONS UNMOLESTED while still letting the SJWs talk all they want to isn’t extreme?  Funny definition of extreme.

It is in fact “another easy trick to avoid thinking.”  So long as you can say “both sides are wrong” you don’t need to consider any facts, even blatant ones.  A certain number of people will assume you must be right because you’re not an “extremist” and you can peacock about as the adult in the room.

The fact that your nonsense leads by default to the most aggressive and totalitarian view point winning (the middle between “we just want to talk” and “we want to silence them” is not “both sides talk.”  It’s “We’ll restrict some talk” OR more likely “we’ll restrict the side that’s not calling for restrictions, because the OTHER side is really loud.”) and that you are fostering the destruction of western civilization in the name of a long-dead but strangely still stirring imperialism should cause you no qualms.

After all, you’re centrist and an adult.

You may wipe your hands to the wall.  Toilet paper isn’t going to take care of your magnificent works all by itself.

 

Dark Fate

*FIRST AND VERY IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS NOT CANON.  THIS IS COMPLETELY UNSANCTIONED (okay, not completely.  Larry said I could do this for you guys without his ripping my head off) MHI FANFIC.
Good, now that we got that out of the way, why am I doing this?  Both Grant and Fado Negro (Portuguese Monster Hunters) have minuscule parts in Guardian, the MHI book I’m collaborating with Larry Correia on.  However, obviously the Portugal of Monster Hunter is not the real Portugal (Really, no arcane creatures come stumbling out of the undergrowth there.  If there were arcane creatures, the country would be chock-a-block in them, when you take in account the continuous human occupation since… well, forever.)  And this story gives me more of an opportunity to firm the worldbuilding.  (Yes, it would be MUCH easier to do this with a notebook and noting things down, but that’s not how my mind works, d*mn it.)
Okay, that’s the rational excuse.  The real reason is that d*mn Grant Jefferson won’t leave me alone.  (Always had a thing for men from Patrician New England families.  Ask my husband.)  So I’m torturing him.  Also Guardian won’t come out until I do this more or less at same time (I’ll be sending first chapter of that to Larry soon.)
Will this ever be a book?  Don’t know.  First Guardian will get delivered.  Then, this being finished, I throw it at Larry.  And then it’s his SOLE DECISION. (Which means, don’t you monkeys hassle him.)  It’s his world and his character.  I’m just grateful he lets me play in it in Guardian and here for your amusement.*

I

There are all sorts of rules on foreign travel when you’re a federal agent.  When you’re my kind of federal agent, working for an agency no government would admit to, battling things far more dangerous than terrorists, and more slippery than communism, there are even more rules for foreign travel.

In the end, they all boil down to “If we want you to go abroad, we’ll send you there.”

Which is why I was several kinds of dead.  My first and most likely cause of death would be that my partner, Agent Franks, would rip my head off and beat me to death with it.

I thought I was prepared for it.  But when I took my phone off airplane mode, as we taxied under the rain in the airport of Sa Carneiro in, of all places, Porto, Portugal, it beeped with a text: Jefferson, where in hell are you?  and I realized my entire body clenched.

My name is Grant Jefferson, and I’m many things, starting with a damn fool, but I’m not a coward.  For many years I made my living fighting werewolves, vampires, zombies, and the eldritch horrors of a million deranged nightmares.  And now I did the same for the feds.

But Franks, technically my partner, actually my boss, was something else.  Something that gave the eldritch horrors nightmares.

I tried to compose an answer in my head, as we filed out of the plane and out the jetway.  But none of them would work.  Called to Portugal because of monsters was kind of sort of true, but if I told Franks that, he would know I was lying.  If I’d been sent to Portugal because of monster attacks and some cooperation agreement he’d be right here with me.  I briefly considered Going to grandma’s funeral, only Franks would know that I didn’t have a grandma in Portugal.  Lists of my actual relations were all on file in federal archives.  I briefly considered My grandmother turned into a monster in Portugal, but the thing is, even before typing it in, I could hear Franks’ growl in response.  That was one of his most unnerving habits.  The way he growled.  Made worse if you’d ever seen him fight.

The one thing I couldn’t tell him was the simple truth.  I’m in Portugal because Julie Schakleford is in Portugal and might need my help.  Frankly, that didn’t even convince me as a reason. Julie was a grownup, and she was perfectly able to take care of herself.  Plus she was married, and the last thing she wanted was her old boyfriend meddling in her affairs.

More important, from Franks perspective, Julie was part-owner of Monster Hunter International a monster hunting organization that had given the feds headaches for years by hunting monsters and sticking to just the edge of the law.  Monster hunting was no business for civilians.  That’s what Frank would say.  Before or after levitating across the ocean in a wave of fury to beat me to death with his bare hands was the only question.

So I didn’t say anything as I took the escalator, facing a banner saying “Welcome to Portugal” in a dozen languages.  Big tourist area.

Going through passport control was boring but uneventful, which means my bosses hadn’t figured out where I was, yet.  Of course, I wasn’t travelling in my official capacity.  Which meant I felt naked without a protective vest, and without a gun.  I did have a knife set, in my checked luggage.  Which meant I half expected to be asked but about those.  But I wasn’t.  The middle aged lady in passport control just smiled at me and said, “Welcome to Portugal.”  The guy leaning against a wall, scanning the new arrivals as they filed past in the “nothing to declare” line did single me out, to the extent he grunted at me something I could interpret as “Reason for visit?” in English.  But when I blurted “Tourism” he let me through.

Baggage claim was a mess, thronged with people, a babel of what seemed like every language on Earth, and confused to boot.  Part of the confusion came because no one seemed to know what luggage was coming out where. The central board had no carousel numbers.  I decided I’d be methodical, and walked back, reading the signs on every carousel.  I knew mine would be all the way at the back before I got there, though, because I could see a white cowboy hat near it, and that cowboy hat had been on my flight from Denver, about eight seats ahead.

Up close, the guy wearing it was probably in his thirties, with a well trimmed beard, wearing a t-shirt with a picture of the Gipper on a red, white and blue background and under it, in big white letters I❤ Reagan.  “Denver?” I asked him, because the sign wasn’t on.  “That’s what information told me,” he said.  I was a little shocked he didn’t have a deep Texas accent.  “Oh, look, the carousel is starting.”

It was indeed, and as it lurched into movement, a bunch of people approached, including a family with four little girls ranging from about 6 to one, all chattering at each other in Portuguese, which sounds sort of like Spanish but with a Russian accent.

But as something on the carousel pushed through the curtain of rubber strips at one end, it wasn’t luggage.

They looked like…  Well, they looked sort of like elves, if elves had been sculpted entirely of stone.  And if you’re from the US I don’t mean the sort of tame elves who take welfare and live in trailer parks.  I mean those things the Celts feared and worshiped long before Tolkien made them pretty-pretty celebrities.

Take Tolkien’s elves and squish them down.  Then add about 200 pounds to each of them, mostly slabbed muscle.  Then make their pallor something distinctly greenish and unhealthy, that looks like corpses in the early stages of decomposition.  And make sure their clothes and bodies look… not so much dirty but partway calcified.

Then get a group of about fifty of them on an airport baggage carousel.  Now you have the right idea. And the right idea should make you run for your life.  Except I couldn’t.

Other people did, trampling each other on the way to the doors, not only from our carousel but from every carousel near it.

But I couldn’t, because the creatures had leaped from the moving belt, and were chasing people.  And because, near me, with four little girls standing on a luggage cart, were the Portuguese family I’d noticed before.

One of the brutes made for the, grinning.  I swear its massive, sharp teeth glistened with blood and that it had bits of flesh stuck between them.

I didn’t have anything I could fight with.  No guns.  No knives.  The only thing I had was my carry on and my toiletries.

The creature made to grab one of the little girls, all of which were screaming.  The mother got in the way and was swatted by a massive paw, which sent her careening across the area.  I’d not been noticed, probably because I’d stood still and silent.  Now, as the monster lurched towards the little girl, I grabbed my shoulder bag by the handle.  It was only the allowed 16 lbs, so I had to twirl it with some force, before I could hit the massive skull of the creature and scream, “Pick on someone your own size, ugly.”

It turned and growled at me.  Yeah.  Okay.  He wasn’t half as scary as Franks.  And I’d had time to think.  You know what I had in my hand luggage?  I had a several metal tooth picks of the sort that dentists use to determine if you have cavities.  It’s a thing with me.  I like to stay on top of these things.  While ugly was spending time growling, I’d unzipped my bag, and had got the picks, leaving half of my toiletries strewn all over the fake marble floor.  If they were fairies — and I suspected they were the kind identified as “giants” or “trolls” throughout most European legends, which were neither giant nor trolls, who were something quite different — steel should hurt them.

I got to test my theory as the beast came towards me, at a run, and grabbed at my arm, probably intending to spin me around and throw me.  Before he could do so, I’d stuck a pick in his arm, bull matador style.  He made a sound between a growl and a shriek, and a puff of flame, like when oil falls on fire, surged.  He let me go as he tried to pull the pick out of his arm.

I had momentum and went some ways before I could stand, and turn around.  And damn it if there weren’t another two critters trying to get at the little girls.  What is it with monsters and innocence?  I get very tired of the cliched obsession.

I started to run towards them, but Reagan-lover was there.  He’d found his own weapons, seemingly having broken apart one of the chairs.  The connectors were plastic and my guess is he’d smashed it over the head of one of the monsters and it had come apart in component parts.  I was glad it had, as I grabbed one of the tubes, and used it to club one of the critters, while Reagan-lover clobbered the other.  The little girl’s father had grabbed a piece of chair, too, and stood behind us, ready to die heroically, if something got near his daughters.

There was an alarm going on over head, but I didn’t understand it, partly because it was babbled in at least ten languages.  From the few words I got, it might have been something about terrorists.  I could smell fresh blood, and something that was almost like swamp gas and that I imagined was the smell of these creatures.

But I didn’t have time for anything, as a seemingly unending tide of them came out of the hole on the wall at us.

Reagan-lover fell at some point.  I don’t know when.  I don’t think he was dead, just wounded and probably exhausted.  I wasn’t doing so well myself. I didn’t remember my right arm being bitten, but it was a useless mass of ripped flesh, with white bone protruding.

The mother of the family must have got back because some woman was praying loudly in Portuguese between me and the kids.

And yet the monsters kept coming.  My left arm was getting tired of swinging that iron, tired of the smell of singed flesh when it hit.  And I suspected they were coming back to the battle, because I wasn’t leaving the metal stuck in them.

The floor was slick with blood.  I just wanted to pass out.

This is when the jokers in black cloaks arrived.  Yelling at each other in Portuguese, they surged in.  They looked like kids.  I turned to tell them to get away. The thing I’d been fighting grabbed me.  I screamed, as I flailed with the iron.  The thing dropped me.

I must have fallen on my head.  Next thing I knew, someone was pouring water over me, and someone else was saying, “Why did it have to be a damn tourist/”

As I managed to get one eye open, I realized I was in a stone cell of some sort.  Wait, had I checked to make sure they’d disbanded the inquisition?

 

 

Death of Chocolate Chips — a blast from the past from May 2012

Death of Chocolate Chips — a blast from the past from May 2012

As writers, particularly writers dealing in the shady side of “literature” where we can employ magic or magical “future science” we are told over and over and over “there must be a price” and “there must be a cost.”

It is amazing to me, now and always, how many of us forget that in real life.  And how many of us forget it in books, too, when we’re not dealing with magic or magical future science.

I made a post thanking those who served for Memorial Day.  And of course, right on cue, like something rehearsed – which it is, since it’s the response drilled into most of us who attended any school system in Europe, the US or possibly most of the world – someone came in to say that war doesn’t secure peace.

I will confess this is true.  No war, as yet, has managed to secure ever lasting peace.  Fortunately or unfortunately, though, I live in the real world and I study real history.  Oh, yeah, also I’m human and I live among humans and know (and rather like) the breed.  The only way to secure lasting peace is to kill all of humanity.  We managed to avoid this during the cold war, and I hope will continue to avoid it in these our fraught times.

But we’ve been taught Word War I was the war to end all wars.  We’ve been taught it didn’t work and therefore all war is futile, all war should be avoided and also that because we can’t secure lasting peace from the smallest kindergarten to the largest nation state, we are a worthless species and should go voluntarily extinct and leave the Earth to the peaceful species who don’t kill each other, don’t kill their own members and don’t engage in cannibalism.

There might be a species or two that follow those rules.  Possibly leaf molds.  But it’s entirely possible we ONLY think that because we don’t know enough about leaf molds.  Desmond Morris made a lot of sales out of his thesis that only humans were “the killer ape” and that, in fact, that was our edge over other primates, let alone all other animals.  Turns out the thesis was beautiful, cogent, and what people wanted to hear.  (Waggles hand.)  It was also completely and thoroughly wrong.

War – and fighting – does not (and won’t if we’re lucky) bring about eternal peace.  But it does, for a time, secure peace in a part of the world, or a corner of kindergarten.  Do the right people always win?  Oh, please.  SOMEONE wins, and that is usually enough for peace to last a little while, and for humans to go about lawful occasions and improve their lot.  One thing is sure, though, if your tribe won’t fight; if your tribe won’t stand its ground; if your tribe won’t defend itself, you will not last.  It doesn’t take two sides to engage in a war, just as it doesn’t take two sides to get in a fight in kindergarten.  If you think that it’s because your delusional kindergarten teachers drilled it into you.  And they were wrong.  A war is still a war if it’s a massacre and one side kills the other.  And a fight is still a fight if one of the kids is beating the other or breaking the other’s stuff.  It’s still not peace.

Outside of sitcoms, certain – largely unbelievable – books and the more tendentious type of movies, the word for “pacifist” is “dead” and the word for “peaceful” is “leaves no descendants” and no one, no one EVER managed to secure their side by bathing the enemy in loving kindness.  The first person to mention Gandhi in this context will get kicked around the block until they can’t sit for a week.  Gandhi engaged in psychological warfare, turning British morals and beliefs about themselves ON themselves.  If he’d tried to use that on any other enemy, or even on the British of a hundred years earlier, he’d have been a smear on the pavement.  This is exemplified by his belief that the Jews should have marched into the ovens to “deprive the Nazis of this victory.”  This shows either he was a dirty anti-Semite, or a fool, completely unaware of what made his strategy work or that it wasn’t so much he’d chosen to be peaceful but that the British Empire had chosen to go quietly into that good night.  Which is what happens when a civilization chooses “peace”

World War I might have been the last huzzah of Western aggression – or not – and it might have been largely a waste of time and young men.  Or not.  These things take place in response to mechanisms we, as mere individuals aren’t fully conscious of.  WWI was as much a response to changing technology and upheavals in culture as to territorial aggression.  We don’t know the truth about WWI.  We won’t for centuries, if then.

Meanwhile, even if you accept it was the “war of the defeated” and that there was nothing good come of it, taking from it the absolute pacifist vision made WWII far more lethal than it should have been and the “War never solved anything” crowd has blood on their hands from the many flares up in the cold war.  The Soviet Union used your guilt and your vision of peace to do as they would.  And if you think that is good, then you have not ever studied what happened under Soviet rule.

See, the thing is, we are in the end mammals, not archangels.  We evolved to be aggressive – to be the most aggressive, to survive.  But – you say – must it always be that way?  Will things not get better?

Things have got better.  I always laugh at the idiots who think taking us back to rural times will make us nicer, or that “noble savages” are  peaceful.  While the Nation State has made possible the large-scale abattoir in the valley of the Somme, higher civilization (defined as more prosperous and less tribal and land-dependent) translates into less war for each individual in their locale.   In small rural and tribal societies, war was pervasive and “distributed”.  War was what happened when boys from a village went courting a girl from another village.  War was what happened when a village’s gods wanted victims.  War was what happened when you wanted the crop the other village just brought in.  And while it might involve only half a dozen men on either side, war could devastate both villages – and did.  Peace was by far the exception.

It took big bad sons of b– babies with large weapons and the ability to quiet most of these little conflicts (not all.  In insular societies, some still go on.  It did when I was little.)  There is a reason Pax Romana is part of the vocabulary.  Romans didn’t achieve that peace with aqueducts, law or schools – though they had all those – but because they had bigger lances and a better organized army.

And that is because we are animals, not archangels.  Even good people – genuinely good people, with the best intentions – can convince themselves it would be best for everyone if only that wheat field weren’t in the hands of bad people, but in the hands of good people.  To be human is to be flawed. To be human is to be able to lie to yourself.  To be human is to crave power, even when you tell yourself that it’s not power but what’s best for everyone, and that you’re doing it for the hungry, and really, you’re the good guy.

Will there come a time when we study war no more?  I don’t know.  My religion requires me to believe so, but it will take a miracle, and miracles are the prerogative of the divine and nothing the human mind can understand.

Until then we’re stuck in this here world, where the choice is NEVER between death or chocolate chips.  The choice is always between the least of two evils.  And sometimes, yes, you have to fight for the least of two evils.

There is no perfect state and no perfect peace short of heaven.  We humans must always fight – and often die – for the best we can get.  Fools think this makes us a terrible species.  I think it makes us admirable and it makes those who give their lives for their tribe and their homeland admirable – and it makes even more admirable those who put their lives on the line for principle: for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Because if that miracle is ever to occur and make war really rare, I”m sure those principles will be at the bottom or it.

Thank you again to all who risk their lives and their peace that we might enjoy peace.  And those who think that peace can be bought with pretty words and no effort, think shame on yourselves.  Those who are kind to the cruel always, inevitably, are cruel to the kind.  Those who aren’t willing to defend the ones being attacked always end up with blood on their hands.  And those who think that fighting isn’t worth it because no peace is eternal have consigned themselves to the moral nursery, where it’s possible to purchase something for nothing.

And those who write about the world that way are propagating lies and worsening suffering.  If there’s ever a choice between death or chocolate chips, of course I’ll pick chocolate chips.  Unfortunately that choice has yet to happen even once in the history of the world.  But maybe you’ll get lucky.  Maybe tomorrow it will rain ice cream.  In the meantime, keep your weapons sharp and stop telling lies to the young.

Fish And Water

A few days ago we had a commenter here who claimed to speak for all Europeans.  We’ll leave aside for a moment his/her vaunting hubris, since you know, speaking for everyone from Russia to Portugal is a bit of a stretch.  I mean their cultures are almost as different as between our states.  (Yes, I’m joking.  Mostly.  Though they’re not much more different, they just have more history. Imagine the civil war… er war of northern aggression… er… late unpleasantness multiplied by 100 or so.  Those people are still arguing about what our Mary said to their Brenda 2000 years ago at the potluck celebrating the fall of the Roman empire.)

But his/her/its/gerbil claims weren’t totally insane.  What I mean is, I don’t know if most Europeans believe these things (I haven’t even talked to a minority of Europeans.  Other than my family) but I know it’s the “reality” their press pushes.

That “reality” (No real realities were harmed in the making of this reality.  Void or restricted according to local laws.) goes something like this: Obama is a moderate right winger, as is Hillary Clinton.  Donald Trump is an extreme right winger.

For us Americans this feels somewhat like having the world suddenly shifted sideways 95 degrees.  We go something like “Excuse me, but what part of bringing 1/3 of the economy under government control sounds like ‘right wing’ to you?  And since when is someone who says ‘at some point you’ve made enough money?’ right wing?  Are you out of your ever-loving mind, tovarish?”  And as for Hilary and Trump “What in hell do you mean someone who wants single payer and thinks they can rule by executive order is right wing?”

First you must adjust your receptor.  Go to it and turn it sideways, to the left.  Look, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: AMERICAN RIGHT AND EUROPEAN RIGHT ARE NOT THE SAME.  In many ways they’re not in the same planet.

Start by assuming you grew up with the idea that the country owns everything, and lets citizens (in most languages they never adjusted from its meaning subjects.  Most places in Europe would function better with a properly brought up king.  Never mind.) hold some of it.  Country/state just slotted in place of king.  No conceptual difference.  (England has some conceptual differences, but seems to have gone a little nuts last 100 years.)  This made a really neat framework for socialism as a base line.  Or at least authoritarianism, with the State run by “those who know better and taking care of the needy.”

This leaves us a choice of authoritarian internationalism (left) and authoritarian nationalism (right.)  Note the closest to “right wing” most countries in Europe have is social democracy.  This is not, as most of them think (because their press is worse than ours) equivalent to our democrats (who over the last 50 years have gone sliding further and further left) but it is equivalent to George H W Bush.  His son, George W Bush was another flavor of European Right “Christian Democrat.”  Both are light flavors of socialism.  Both assume the state knows better, dear, and the elites that run it know better than you what you need, don’t worry your pretty head about it.

At this point you’re stuck in that paragraph above, going “Obama, even under that definition is not right wing!  Obama went around the world apologizing for America!  Obama is a fourth generation red diaper baby and internationalist as they come.”

Yeah.  But wait.

To that European spectrum you must now add one thing: Soviet Agitprop.

Most people were not really aware of it, kind of like most people here aren’t aware of how far Marx’s crazy cakes ideas have penetrated academia, the press and entertainment.  This is because if you take Marx’s ideas out and look at them objectively, after you take a bottle or so of ibuprofen, and wash it down with vodka, you’re still going “OMG, that’s insane.”  But because those ideas were ported into teaching and reporting and the arts, with no explanation, no grounded, and applied to highly situational occasions, you never notice.  It’s the assumption behind the assumptions.  Kind of like water to a fish.  Remember that.

In the same way, the Soviet Union spent millions (or trillions.  eh.  Who knows?  It was stolen money, wielded by authoritarians) corrupting the mind of Europeans for decades.  It had an entry point in the fact that Europe was so horrified by WWI it really didn’t want to fight any more (which is why WWII was allowed to boil till it got really bad.)

And then the Soviet Union, who had ambitions to owning all of Europe, took time to spread certain ideas.  One of them was that you should not allow independent economies (i.e. “greedy bankers.”) and that all business and individual achievement were wrong.  The other was that you should never, ever, ever make war.  Survival, the future, all good things, came from pacifism.

Not only are these ideas insane because neither of those — historically — leads to survival of a family, a nation or a people — but they are exactly counter what the Soviet Union DID.  (Just like Soviet internationalism was actually Soviet Nationalism.  The world should be one nation and that nation should be the Soviet Union.)

Never mind.  Their agit prop and psychological warfare were the only front in which the Soviet Union was better than us.  Partly because early 20th century “intelligentsia” thought that Communism was “idealism” and it became a positional good.

Anyway, using these they’ve managed to slip in “pacifism is the only non-right wing position to have.”

If you’re stunned that Europe failed to notice things like the Soviet Union’s expansion-and-robbing path to prosperity (the most kleptocratic empire since the Arabs, and the most militaristic since Rome.  Maybe more than Rome.) don’t be.  You see, I said their press is worse than ours.  And most were afraid of criticizing propaganda with reality, because that would get them branded as “right wing.”

Because this was never explicit but, like here “leftism as a positional good causing a cohesion of opinions in media and mass communications, and teaching” it was also never debunked, when the soviet union fell.  So they still think “pacifism” is the only not-rightwing philosophy.

Obama didn’t actually stop all the wars (yes, these infants actually believe you can stop wars by throwing a switch and that the enemy doesn’t get a vote) so he’s “right wing.”

Oh, yeah, and he also didn’t put all our businessmen in jail.  Because, you know, they fail to notice any communist regime mutates to crony capitalist as a way to survive and “great leaders” on the left around the world end up obscenely rich.

Anyway — that’s their pathetic excuse for calling all of our politicians “right wing.”

What is both amusing (if you have dark sense of humor) and funny here is that they don’t realize that by corrupting our intelligentsia (government — remember how much they LOVED Obama — and education and culture) with their soviet-propaganda-infected fantasies, they have removed the last barrier keeping the wolf from eating them.

Look, it’s like Derpfish, my betta.  (He’s better, thank you.  An aggressive new filter and part water changes are getting rid of his face fungus, slowly.)  He’s not aware of everything I have to do to keep his aquarium at right temperature, filtration, salt content, etc. to keep him alive.  He’s not aware I buy water so his acidity level doesn’t change.  To him, that’s how life is, is all.  And it’s natural, of course.

Now suppose Derpy were a little derpier and thought to start a war on “people who change water in aquariums at least part way every day” because he doesn’t like the agitation and changes in temperature (though I try to keep it pretty close.)

Well!

If he succeeded in that campaign, he’d be doing the back stroke in no time at all.

Europe is sort of like derpfish.  It never got that “pacifism” and “internationalism” were ideas propagated by the soviet union, to make it easier for them to invade with no resistance.  They also never noticed that the ONLY thing keeping the Soviet Union from marching across Europe was …. the US.  The US whose “militarism” they reviled.

The good (?) thing is that they’re on a collision course with reality.  Their corruption of OUR system is such, they won’t have guardians much longer.  And though the Soviet Union THEORETICALLY no longer exists, Putin is doing his best to bring it back from the coffin.

Which brings us to the next point: Are they smarter than derpfish?  Do they realize that as the water vanishes they WILL die?  Or is this the last great gasp of their civilization.

As for right wing/left wing, RES said it best: Our system was not designed for them, and they’ll never get it.  And that’s fine by us.  The question is if we can remove the infection of European-thought out of our culture fast enough. Or if it will take us down with them.

I’m betting on the former, of course.  I think our “intelligentsia” are a small and derpy minority.  And the people, by and large, are still all right.

And now, in the post mass-media age, we have the means to fight back.

Get to it.

 

 

STOP Helping Me

Sorry this is so late.  Part of the issue is that windows`10 continues its reign of derp on my computer.  Among other things, it’s decided it’s a great idea to not run JASC paintshop 9, which is what I use to make covers.

Yeah, I know it’s an old and obsolete program, but it does exactly what I want it to without dropping me in the claws of Adobe.  Yeah, yeah.  You’re going to suggest GIMP.  Would you believe GIMP is not intuitive?  And that I’ve not had the time to conquer the learning curve? While I’m completely proficient with JASC from using it for years for other stuff, like posters and thank you cards?

So, Dan installed the Anniversary Upgrade (WTF?  Why are they doing… never mind.)  And it completely did away with Pidgin.  I mean, did away with it to the point of not showing it under installed programs, even though I’ve been using it for two months.  And then when I find it in downloads, as Pidgin.exe it tells me it can’t install because it can’t remove old program.

This is not a big deal, as I re-installed AIM.  It’s only a big deal as it clearly went trumping through my file system doing crazy sh*t without any warning it was going to do it.  And definitely sh*t I didn’t want it doing.

Same applies to “easy access” supposedly programs I use most, which showed Skype (never use on this computer, which has a sound issue) and Corel Word Perfect which I not only haven’t used in 7 years, but am FAIRLY SURE I have uninstalled (or only severely crippled to bring up files word can’t handle.)

Yes, I am in a state of high rant, and about ready to uninstall 10 with a sledge hammer, except I love my husband, and he’s a tech-head and wants me to continue trying it.  (Even though he promised me he’d reverse it if I hated it.  Hey, Dan, I hate it. And no, it’s not just new-program annoyance.  It’s changing files it didn’t ask to change.)

I’m not a ludite.  I was very excited when my computer was upgraded and I could use my computer with an internal drive.  Or when I could make files big enough that I didn’t have to save each chapter separately.  I love my spell checker.  I’ have an unrequited love affair with filter forge.

What I don’t like, what drives me nuts, is of another order.

The best way to explain this is to tell a story: when I was a young newly wed, I made our bread by hand.  Part of this is that I was used to freshly made bread every day (what we’d call artisan bread, I suppose) and wonder bread tasted like slightly less appealing pillow stuffing.  Part was that we had a warehouse membership and I could buy 50 lbs of flour for pennies on the pound.

So a part of my morning was kneading the bread.  Problem was two small children, and wanting to speed up process.  I told Dan I wanted a kitchen aid mixer, the almost top of the line, so it could do the kneading. It was, of course, beyond our reach.

When Christmas came around and his parents asked what I wanted, he mentioned mixer.

They sent me a bread machine.  (This was early days of bread machines.  They later became FAR more flexible, and when I could eat carbs, I owned two I used every day to keep family in fresh (small loaf) bread.)

Early bread machines were DUMB and designed for dumb.  They had a set program (which btw, wasn’t very good high altitude, and involved buying special bread mixes, which we really couldn’t afford) and if you wanted to do anything else, too bad.  Sweet bread?  Never mind.  Challa?  You’ve got to be kidding.  And what do you mean you want it to knead dough for pretzels?

To me this was far worse than not having the mixer.  It was something that forced me to do things ITS way and expected me to be grateful for it.  Fortunately it dove off the counter in a poltergeist incident (I’m actually not joking.  I didn’t do it.  I was across the room.  It wasn’t dancing on counter.  It was unplugged.  We were eating dinner, and suddenly it jumped up, pirouetted mid air, and dove to floor. No, I don’t have an explanation.  Do you?) Five years later I bought a mixer.

More and more, with computer upgrades, particularly windows 10 (8 I got around by refusing to use the computer on which it was) I feel like I’ve been given a brand new bread machine.

From the things it keeps pushing as very important, I gather that Microsoft thinks I want a gaming, tv/movie/music system.  I DO.  I have one of those.  DOWNSTAIRS.  This is my work computer.  I want it to work with the things I use every day to do my job.  It’s not a complex job.  I use email, word processing, chrome (which I also hate, but not as much as all others) to do this and facebook, Jasc paintshop, filter forge, and oh, yeah, a chat program to ask for help/run something by friends who are closest thing to a work group I have.

Windows 7 did that fine.  I don’t object to Windows 10 having a new look.  I find that annoying, mostly because I didn’t choose it, but I’d get used to it.

The thing is that other than new look and my stuff stopping working I have yet to find something it does differently/better than windows 7.  I mean, just ONE thing.  ONE.  So far nothing.  It’s like “but you have cortana, and you can ask it questions.”  Uh, okay, but I can navigate file system by hand without that.  And I DO know how to use a browser’s search engine.  Or “you have all these gaming things right here”  “don’t game.”

It’s like those birthday gifts you get that you look at and go “Why on Earth did you think I wanted THIS?”

What worries me about all this — besides my being in a state of high snit at the computer right now — is that it seems to be the way things are going.

I’ve talked here before about how I think new technology frees us from the tyranny of mass everything, and gives options to the INDIVIDUAL.

At the same time there seems to be a reaction from not just our politicians but from our tech companies, and yeah, our book companies, too.  And that is to create something standard for the “standard voter/user/reader” and then demand you fit their parameters, instead of their fitting what you want and need. This is the result of MBA programs (and others) that treat people as “classes” and “widgets.”  This thought was outmoded in the 20th century, but to an extent the technology demanded it.  There was only so much we could do, and it worked better if done en masse.

Those days are gone, but the thinking remains, and the thinking is trying to force the tech back into forms the intelligentsia are comfortable with.

I don’t think it will work.  As I said, it’s a reaction by people who are afraid of freedom: for themselves and more importantly for others.  I think in the end, like the bread machines, they’ll have to give us more options.

I just wonder what it will take to get there.

 

Work from the inside out, AKA Everything is local. – Free Range Oyster

Work from the inside out, AKA Everything is local. – Free Range Oyster

The first thing to note is that no one is without influence, and those who have very little have either never tried to extend it or have never been taught how. Consider this a crash course for the front line grunt in the culture war. Please note, you’ll never get any of these perfectly, and you shouldn’t try to polish all the edges before moving outward, just make sure you have a solid foothold. Metaphors may blend during shipment.

Start with yourself. Know what your principles are, and why. Be able to express them, in written or verbal form (preferably both). You don’t have to be a great rhetorician, but being able to explain yourself clearly and concisely is invaluable. As a side bonus, it’s handy for everything else. Get familiar with history, with basic political philosophy, with common issues and general facts. You don’t have to be a wonk, just be conversant with the basics. If you’re religiously inclined (or even if you’re not), be sure to spend some time with holy writ, both reading and pondering. Above all, work on living your principles. Don’t make a show of it, just do it.

Now reach out a little. This can be a challenge for introverts and the socially unskilled, but not as much as you might think. Strengthen the connections you have first. Do you have family you’re on good terms with? Close friends? When was the last time you talked to them or spent time with them? There’s a great deal that has been said and written on interpersonal relations, so I won’t reproduce it all here. Just build trust and camaraderie with people as you’re able. Discretely and politely share your values with those around you. Set an example, encourage them, help them in ways that will make them more independent. For fundamentals I’d recommend How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; they’re both excellent, and my efforts in life have been much more successful as I’ve followed them. They may come across as cliched, but it’s the same way Casablanca is cliched.

Then the trickier part: how about neighbors? How many do you know, and how well do you know them? Get to know the people in your area. Online communities are wonderful – this one in particular has gotten me through some brutally difficult times – but they have their limits. As much as I love Hoyt’s Huns, when I need to strip a roof or haul a truckload of rubbish or build a fence, it’s my neighbors I turn to. Not every person is worth building a relationship with, but you never know until you meet them. The good ones you can move into that first circle around you, and share with and influence them. The others do your best to be on polite terms with; you never know when or how simple politeness will pay off.

If you’re a creative type, make things that reflect your values. Our Beloved Hostess has written a great deal on this over the years, so I’ll just summarize: Put quality first. Don’t preach. Don’t give in to what someone else tells you to create. Keep making. Keep improving.

There are other opportunities in the creative sphere besides making things yourself. Patronize creators whose art you appreciate (this applies to craftsmen and other skilled workers too) and spread the word to others you know. Don’t be afraid to share things you’re excited about. Request good books at your local library, or donate them there if you can. If you are an attendee at conventions, consider getting involved or at least offering suggestions for material to cover or guests to invite. Do you go to museums or concerts? Find out if there’s a way to give input on what they’re showing. Heck, put together a concert or dinner or art show: it’s not easy, but it’s not as hard as you might imagine. One of my brothers planned, prepared, rehearsed, advertised, and directed a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue while still in high school. A church group I knew in California put together a show of local visual artists together with a concert of fabulous classical instrumentalists and vocalists on a shoestring budget.

Whatever your profession, trade, calling, or job, do it well. If you’re not employed and want to be, then finding a job is your full time job. Whatever you have to do, work hard at it. I cannot say enough of how important example is. People you work for will see it, people you work with will see it, people who work for you will see it, people you want to work for will see it, and you may plant a seed there. Again, this will serve you well regardless of culture wars.

Organizations are next. There are various opportunities online – open source projects, special interest forums – but most have a geographical component. At the local level is where everything starts. Professional and networking groups, religious organizations, conventions, HOAs, town councils, school boards, fraternal orders, band boosters, writers’ groups, sewing circles, guilds and trade groups, makerspaces, clubs of all kinds… get involved in what interests or affects you. Some of those get into politics, which I’ve largely tried to avoid here, but the same processes and principles apply there. Know who your local political and governmental people are, your mayor, city councilcritter, state legislator, party rep, precinct captain, etc. Get to know them; make sure they know you. Bring those people and those organizations into your circle of influence. Look for opportunities to advance those principles you identified at the beginning, even if just a little. Maybe especially if it’s just a little.

It took the progressives, communists, fascists, social justice whiners, and other authoritarians generations of this kind of effort to put us where we are today. It will take a long time – years at least – to put it right, but every step we move forward, every haven we build makes our lives a little easier. Don’t give up. Keep pushing.

Giving It All Away

I woke up with the cry of an eagle, circling in the crisp mountain air, and thought of early fall, of Thanksgiving.  And turned in bed, reaching for my kindle.

I’m reading All The Colors of the Darkness, by Lloyd Biggle Jr (thank you to the book brigade for recommending it, as in the bad old days when finding an out of print paper book took years and a lot of money, I’d only located two of his: The Still Small Voice of Trumpets — one of the best space operas ever written, and also a metaphor for what is going on in publishing right now — and World Menders, which I didn’t particularly care for.)

Right there, a page or two in, in what was if I judge right a pulpish solid mid list book, someone prods a loose board on the floor, and it gives “into Stygian darkness.”  (And apparently I dreamed this.  Post charging the kindle I realized it said subterranean blackness.  I have no explanation for this, except that I might have been in the wrong leg of the pants of time.  OTOH the fact such language was believable for that type of novel at that time, makes my point stand.)

I’m very aware of the level of language I use for writing, because I started out with that too erudite, faintly bookish undertone of everyone who first learned English in a classroom, then practiced it by reading mostly very old books.  (Look, the prices hadn’t been updated, and they didn’t have the ridiculous “culture preserving” tax.  They were forgotten, in a sort of little loft in the bookstore.  I spent happy hours there, selecting from Austen, Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott and a lot of now-forgotten Victorian novelists.)

One thing that has always puzzled me — though I get it less now, after years of working to stop it — is when I get otherwise cultured people telling me that my stories send them to the dictionary.

And then I stopped looking at that word “Stygian.”  Understand, Lloyd Biggle Jr. was in no way trying for literary stylings.  He’s setting up the situation for his characters and being very cadgey about it, and I get a workman sense from it.  (It’s good to read a competent craftsman.)  I don’t get a sense of “impress them with my vocabulary.”

I know what Stygian means of course. I cut my teeth on Greek-Roman myth.  Stygian darkness gave me the feel of a long way underground, in the land of the dead, of a river running through total darkness.  There is a feeling of no return and despair, attaching to that word.

And yet, if I were writing the story today, I’d have cut it on second language pass and replaced it with “cold darkness”or “echoing darkness.”  Why?  Because unless you’re aiming at a “literary fiction reading” public, you don’t want to stop the reader and make him go to the dictionary.  The problem is not only that he might not come back.  The problem is that you’ve popped him out of the story.  Instead of worrying about why these men are doing these things in an abandoned warehouse, he’ll be tracing through references to the river Styx.

The reason Lloyd Biggle Jr. used Stygian, probably unthinkingly, and didn’t cut it on second pass is that back when he wrote All The Colors of The Darkness, the word wouldn’t be unknown to most readers, raised as he had been on classical myth and references.  And because it’s so perfect, freighted with all sorts of meaning in a compact space.

But Latin is no longer routinely taught, not even in our colleges (Trust me, I’ve been looking for a class and gave up.  There are two in the region, but their hours are absurd. Though Great courses now has Latin 101 which I bought just at the beginning of the Great Move and haven’t opened yet.  It’s by my desk right now, and once I’m unpacked — looks like a week or so more — and have time after work, will start on it.)  I was the first in my family to not get it as a matter of course in High School.  Even in Latin countries, it is considered “outmoded” and who reads all those classical works with their references to Latin myth?  Or the Latin myth itself?

So what is wrong with abandoning Latin and Greek, and yes, the study of the Bible too (which CAN be done in a non-religious way.  It remains the basis for most of our culture’s patrimony.)?

A lot.  Part of it is that it separates us from the resonances and lessons of our own civilizational past.  It’s easy to convince people that women have been oppressed by men for six thousand years, due to some giant conspiracy of penis-bearing people, or that war would end if we all just decided it, or even if one side surrenders preemptively (with no bad consequences for the surrendering side.)  These absurdities would be exploded by even a brief dip into the past of our species, by reading the books written a hundred or two hundred years ago.

But the problem is that our children, hell, our middle aged people, no longer can do that.  Minor stumbling blocks like “stygian” send them careening into the recent, “approved” books, into the movies that give tendentious (always left) views of the past, into the pap that has been created on purpose to feed them.  And then they believe absurdities, and don’t realize their bright new ideas have long ago been punished by the gods of the copybook headings, which never sleep.

That is one part of the problem. It’s been a trick of conquerors throughout history.

If you want to control a great civilization, first you have to make it forget that it was once great.  As I said, I have been reading about the Muslim conquest of Europe, and one of the things they did was erase the past: they destroyed all large structures, used the elements to make their own structures (usually with captive design and labor) and then told the new generations that all the glories were Arab and their ancestors had been brutish barbarians.  (Worked too.  Recently read some historian lamenting the Brutish Spaniards taking over and living in the splendors of the Alhambra, not realizing it was built from elements stolen from earlier Visigoth buildings.)

The other problem is that you rob the future artists — writers, poets — of material that could connect their work to their ancestral civilization and make them resonate, enriched, into the future.  Even if you know “Stygian” you can’t use “Stygian” because your audience doesn’t know it, and you’re writing for beer and skittles.

So people no longer get what used to be true “literary” resonance, the mark of a work that is supposed to last more than in the moment, more than for passing entertainment.  (Well, most didn’t, but that was the aim.)  Part of the reason Shakespeare has lasted and projected is that it is full of such resonance some of which we don’t even get anymore.

Instead the intelligentsia has come up with their own “marks of literary” which mostly amount to “making sure you know I’ve gone to college.”  But the problem is that, unlike the older such marks, they don’t give a work deeper resonance.  What colleges are full of now is flawed, just-so Marxist-Leninist tales, and “more exploited than thou” contests.  Neither of which does anything but rip at the culture that originated them.  And neither of which lends a literary work more than a vague, sermonizing tone that makes one want to sleep.

Future historians, looking at before and after works will think that we were invaded and the ruins of our culture salted.  They wouldn’t be wrong.  To prevent our venturing back, even those of us who are willing to read the past, our invaders are gleefully “salting” the ground with “racist, sexist, homophobe” for any work even fifty years old.

Bah.

What they don’t get is that these things have a way of not working in the long run.  Humans live not of bread alone, much less of Marx alone.  And their supposed iron-civilization-that-will-last-forever is a brittle shell built by drooling idiots.  They can rob us of our past, but they can’t give us anything in its place.  And eventually humanity will come back, digging through the cultural ruins, as it always does, for anything useful.

Our work is neither glamorous nor exciting.  We are like Walter Miller Jr’s smugglers, in A Canticle for Leibowitz.  Only what we’re doing is not burying the literal books, because well, no one has thought to burn them, they made them inaccessible in other ways.  Our work — if you should choose to accept it — is to take those tales, those echoing glories of western thought, and bury it in our work.  We can’t simply use Stygian as a throw away work, but we can write the Styx in allegory or in fantasy and use the word there, and open the door a little for past works and new minds.

It’s a lot of work.  It will take a lot of us a lot of time.  What? You thought rebuilding civilization would be easy?

Take up the keyboard and write.  We are all smugglers.