We Played The Pipe For You, And You Did Not Dance – A Blast From The Past From February 2014

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*I no longer remember this clash. I gather a young ‘un tried to lecture us on how to write non-binary gender. (Rolls eyes.) Under the impression no one had ever done that, ever, ever until the 2000s.  It’s still relevant, as is the rest of the post. Perhaps more relevant. – SAH*

We Played The Pipe For You, And You Did Not Dance – A Blast From The Past From February 2014

So, apparently the non-binary gender chick (no, it’s not sexist.  I’m very non-binary in that.  Any wimpy, over-educated hot house flower with tender feelings and its head up its own yaya is a chickie.  The ones who happen to have a penis are the worst) wimped out of her crusade and entertained herself with reviewing an eighties book that is about a character with non-standard gender presentation.

As someone who despite DD cups and a face not even her own father would call chiseled or rugged routinely gets addressed as “sir” and was more than once addressed as “sir” and/or treated as a guy even when she was 17 and in a red dress and pumps (no, I don’t get it either.  I’ve encountered people like that, though, when I was working retail.  When I looked away from them to do something I remembered them as the opposite gender. Perhaps I camouflage well) I wish that character should cry me a river.

No, for the record, I don’t want to become a guy. (Nor do I think I’m “really” a guy.) I’m happily, not to say enthusiastically, heterosexual so becoming a guy to go after guys would be stupid.  Also, frankly, some of us have seen the binary categories for what they are.  I.e. some of us have caught on to the fact that “the contents don’t always correspond to label.  Some settling might have occurred during shipping.”  Or in adult terms, there’s the binary polar opposites, and then there is the real world presentation where on average most women have mostly stereotypical girly characteristics (you bastages can have my collection of snazzy shoes when you pry them out of my cold dead hands.  Also, the house must be clean to GIRL standards.  Also, seriously, I throw like a girl.  And my collection of lipstick is second only to my collection of shoes.  Yes, people still call me “sir” while I’m in red high heels and lipstick. [And other clothes, before you ask.  Have some carp!] No, I don’t want to probe that.  Yes, it pisses me off.) and most men still have mostly stereotypical manly characteristics, but in any real world individual distribution is “human and imperfect” not “human stamped pink or human stamped blue.”  This does not mean the classifications are invalid.  The classifications are opposite poles of the statistic distribution of gender characteristics.

IOW only someone who has done most of her growing up in books would mistake “archetype” for “the only ones allowed to exist,” and think that in the real world or in any good books gender is ever “binary” which I assume she thinks means two categories and nothing outside them, in between them or blended from them.  (There are only ten types of people in the world.  The ones who understand binary, and the ones who don’t.)  When in fact, in the real world and in good books the opposite is almost the exact truth.  (Everyone is an individual and some people are more feminine/masculine than others, but no one is “pure” anything — least of all pure stereotype.)

And I don’t know what books she did her growing up in, but it wasn’t the chronicles of our sci-fictional kind.  No, seriously.  For instance, in this particularly book that she’s so impressed with, apparently the final conclusion is that the character is neither male or nor female.  (Rolls eyes so hard they roll on the floor.  Would someone find them please?  I’ll touch type in the meantime.) I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how it’s done.  There was a book – Waiting for the Mahdi, the name of the author evades me – where it was done very well and the character was truly between the genders.  However, the startled wonder and amazement of the Non Binary Gender Chickie who is convinced this is the first time this was done in SF – Darling, really, Google The World Well Lost by Theodore Sturgeon.  Sheesh, you kids are so cute —  makes me think that she’s not read much sf/f, really. (And hasn’t lived much either.)

Now, I’m not going to say that this is a triumph of education over real life, or that this poor chickie must have led a very sheltered existence, because I don’t know her.  After all, the Aspergers spectrum is rife in our field, and even people who are not technically Aspergers have acquired some of the modes of the spectrum through contact – and one of the characteristics of my Aspergers friends is believing what they’ve been told or read (even the fiction!) over what they see with their lying eyes.  This is part of the whole needing to put things in categories and classify them, something that the real world is notoriously averse to.

It’s entirely possible, if she’s of the kind who’d rather believe classifications and classes than their eyes, that she simply took a degree in one of the various Marxist disciplines that are so good at the classifications and stratification.  Women’s Studies, for instance.  Or Post Modern Involute Reasoning of some description.  In that case, she might have been a perfectly normal human being who has become a “no obvious gender definitions” chickie, hopefully temporarily.

This is, of course, neither here nor there – though if she’s in any way redeemable, we wish her a speedy cure, because going through life confused about the meanings of BOTH “gender” and “binary” is a sad way to exist and also because I suspect she’s very uncomfortable over not EXACTLY fitting what she views as “female” and thinks is mandatory (Darling, it’s like your mother’s shoes.  Even when you grow to the right size, they won’t fit right, because it’s not you.  It’s her.  In the end, growing up is about becoming YOURSELF.  And none of us are archetypes or stereotypes.  This is why we’re individual human beings.  Familiarize yourself with this idea.  Did you know that our Constitution is supposed to maximize INDIVIDUAL liberty?  You don’t have to fit any dead communist’s idea of classes, either) – because what I find amusing about all this incident, including the attempt to Correiarize Correia by a gentleman who brought a knife to an intellectual machine gun fight, is not that she’s limited herself now to writing book reviews, instead of trying to shame people who write… you know… men who are mostly men and women who are mostly women, like what happens in what we mostly call the real world.

No, what I find interesting and amusing is that it has confirmed something I’ve long suspected( as well as my impression that reports of our cultural demise are greatly exaggerated).  I’ve long suspected that the maintenance of the ever-more-divorced-from-reality-victim-classifying- and-rewarding-culture (that is … post-communist, or at least what communism became after it was proven nonviable as an economic system) depends on a monolithic information/entertainment system.  But the monolithic information/entertainment system seeds its own demise.

They fully conquered the system at least two/three decades ago and had it pretty much staffed it with fellow-travelers fifty years ago.  They disseminated truth from above. People who disagreed with them were culturally isolated and shunned.  Meanwhile, the opinion makers lived in the original echo chamber as they spun further and further away from reality.

This is how we come by the spectacle of a very young writer lecturing the rest of us on the need to write non-standard sexual personae and CLEARLY imagining that SF exists circa, oh, the thirties or forties (even in the fifties there were, if you knew how to read, very many non-standard sexual personae in SF/F.)

You see, SF/F is a literature of the weird, the strange and the far fetched.  Even those of us who, should we be more heterosexual would have to be tied down (those who’ve had the first book of Star Cat Chronicles inflicted on them at workshops KNOW what I mean),  are fascinated with non standard identities, which, by definition, extend to sexual personae and feminine/masculine non-standard distribution.  (And which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what the person or character is attracted to.  … In my case, for instance, I’m attracted to mathematicians.  Okay, Mathematician.  I’m deathly monogamous.)

Again, the strangeness is not that she presumes to lecture us to “write fewer standard males and females, ya’ll” which would, at best, cause us to smile and pat her on the head.  No, the true bizarreness which has caused us to do a double take, swallow our tongue and not even know how to answer, is that she seems to think she just discovered this.

(Frankly it is as funny and sad as when my boys – and both hit this at around 14 or 15 would make jokes about some sex act they’d just heard of, all you know, implication and nudge nudge, and get shocked half out of their socks when Dan and I caught it, picked it up and took it to the next level.  The priceless look on each of their faces as they realized that their generation did not IN FACT invent sex, not even particularly dirty sex, will warm the cockles of my heart forever. We only had to do this ONCE, too.  After that the untrained puppies realized there were bigger dogs in the pack.)

That strangeness – I am a science fiction writer – has caused me to wonder if she is an alien.  An alien would, of course, believe what it says on the label about “what males are” and “what females are” and then — realizing the discrepancy with real world people — would agitate for us to have other labels.

It would never occur to the alien that the other labels are there all along, not as prescriptive absolutes, but in the form of realistic characters in novels and movies (and yes, yes, plays — Has this sheltered flower of Academia ever watched Twelfth Night, one wonders?  Never mind. “My father had a daughter loved a man, As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman, I should your lordship.”…… “I am all the daughters of my father’s house, And all the brothers too: and yet I know not.”)

The thing is that she IS an alien, you know?

The system in which she’s been raised, the authorities she respects, the people who have informed her precarious culture all have told her that we live in a world of binary choices, that capitalism is essentially about making you fit in a mold (Darling, they sold you a bill of goods.  It’s the top down systems that do this.  Think about China, or for that matter Russia.  Out here, in businessman’s land, we don’t care what you think you are.  If you think you’re a fish, we’ll sell you the gills to cosplay.) And that she needs to speak truth to power (Darling, child, oh, sweet innocent one, to find out if you really are speaking (unpleasant) truth to power observe what gets rewarded.  Note that no one has ever gone broke praising Marxism, and think carefully about who “the man” in power really is) against this oppressive system, that exists ONLY in her mentor’s mind.

She’s a good girl.  She’s trying hard to obey the precepts she was taught and the voices in her TV from all the “opinion makers.”  She’s trying to be the voice of the voiceless.  She’s trying to carry aloft the banner against capitalist repression (Darling, we’ll sell you a better banner.  At half price.) She’s trying to give back to the community that exists only in her own mind.

She has no idea why all these evil Haters McHateys came out to yell at her, because she’s only doing what she was taught to make the world a better place.

The world is full of these injustices.  And since the information/entertainment complex is no longer a unified top down voice, we’re going to see a lot more of these moments, these bizarre public confrontations.

You see, until about five years ago, we who laughed behind our hands at this exquisite divorce from reality, would have stayed quiet.  Had to.  Our only hope of publication once we were out politically was Baen and nothing outside it, and we had meals to buy and baby needed shoes.  Now?

Ah!  Outside Baen I wouldn’t CONSENT to work with one of the publishing houses.  I don’t trust them.  They’re aliens.  And not friendly aliens.  And I never hankered for awards beyond the one I won (Prometheus) and I couldn’t be bothered with the accolades of the alien system.

All I ever hoped for out of writing was to make a living, and that’s happening more and more with a lot of work (but I never expected not to work, either.)

They have nothing I want.  They certainly have nothing I need.  And I’m not alone.

To make things worse, for all these years, they’ve been able to go off more and more on their insanity, drinking their own ink (Darling, that’s unhealthy!) and spinning more and more out of contact with reality till to be a “real radical” you had to say completely insane things and demand that everyone follow them. (“PIV is unnatural, because first time hurts!  “PIV” is totally a thing, because I can’t say heterosexual sex, because that would be like hatey mchatey and stuff! Women have mental communication with plants! My head is made of cabbage and I mainlined an entire DVD of Avatar!”)  And we didn’t say anything, because we wanted to eat.

Then suddenly… suddenly it’s all changed, and when they say what is – I want you to understand this – in their circles completely unexceptionable and sensible, the world explodes around them.

They have no explanation for it.  They try to mau-mau those double-plus-ungood thinkers (it works in colleges still!) and call us names, and we laugh in their faces.

We’re seeing that happen more and more.  And it will only accelerate as the preference cascade unrolls.  You can only keep a completely unrealistic system of beliefs in place if you can make sure no one publicly laughs at it.  Not just that most people don’t laugh at it, but that no one laughs at it.  Because once someone shows up laughing at it in public, other would-be-mockers know they’re not alone.  More coherent systems than this and older and more dignified too, have fallen to the pointing finger and the horse laugh.

The Media is hitting the same wall – their attempts to talk up the Summer of Recovery 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and… what is it now? Six? – fall on their faces.  The only power they retain is the power to demonize and I’m going to go out on a limb and say even that will fail them before the end of this year. Because once you see it’s only a painted devil, you’re not afraid anymore.

And then?  And then they run around in circles, confused about why it’s not working.  They pressed the button.  Why didn’t the lever fall?  The racist/sexist capitalists aren’t crying in shame?  Why not?  Dang it.  Is this thing broken?

Hello, hello?  Who is out there?

If any writer had ever written about non standard gender/sexual personae before the mid-eighties, which OF COURSE never happened, we could even quote him to echo their disconsolate and confused cries.  They know who they are, with their little clique, out there in the dark – but who are all you zombies? 😉

Nobody Knows Nothin’

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When I’m faced with some big choice, particularly one with many alternatives, I tend to become desperately unhappy, end up with analysis paralysis, and ultimately and almost invariably make the worst choice possible.

The prototype for this was when I was in ninth grade and was faced with choosing the “branch” of studies I wanted to go into. For most people this was an easy decision, since they usually were failing either sciences or humanities, but I had about the same grades each side of the tree of knowledge (ah.)  So I cried myself goofy for a summer and then chose humanities on the basis that one of the math teachers in the school had it in for me and if I had her after 9th grade I’d never have the grades to enter college. Of course she had quit (or was fired. She really was dismal) over the summer, but I didn’t know that.  So I spent the next few years being miserable.

Incidentally if have to make a choice on something like what to work at, the best way to do it is to go and try hanging out with people who do that.  I found most of the people studying languages and literature got on my nerves to the point I wanted to set them on fire.  Turns out this was probably an artifact of the place and time. I actually do get pretty well along with people who do translation for a living and their minds are not dissimilar to mine. But most of the people taking my degree were going into high school teaching, which in that place and that time attracted a certain type of mind, which surely wasn’t a thing like mine.

Anyway, this turned out to be a sort of prototype. If you leave me to make a decision on which mover to pick, I’ll invariably pick the one that staffs entirely from recent prison releases and get half of our stuff stolen. If I have to pick from ten roofers, I’ll pick the one that leaves the job half done and disappears.  Etc.

All of this leading to: I’m not unusual.

Okay, I might be unusual in hating to choose so badly that I end up not being able to and then randomly deciding on the first thing and running with it.  Or doing inny minny miney moe.

Note also this only on decisions affecting the rest of my life, or something really important, for which there is a set date, and which I can’t do over.  I’m fine with things like choosing toothpaste, though I’ve been known to set up trials and go through one at a time and make notes. Heck, before kids and a low-carb diet, Dan and I used to move into town, buy sample doughnuts from each shop, then spend a Saturday taste testing to find our favorite for Saturday morning breakfasts.

But I’m not unusual because people like to have a general idea of how their life is going to go. We like a sort of narrative that allows us to see the future. Given a choice we’d rather have that and a rather limited and crappy future than a wide open one, so that we don’t know what will happen in a year, or ten or twenty.

So, recently I’ve been hearing people all over the right pining for the good old days.  The good old days are anything from the 20s to the 50s.

Idiots on the left interpret that as white supremacy because they think people are pining for a time when America was all white, which means… yeah, the white supremacists are on the left. They imagine, you see, that America was once “all white” and “much better” so phrases like “Make America Great Again” MUST mean that the people uttering them want to go back to that all-white-America.

I hate to break leftist hearts (okay, I really don’t) but they’re failing at history, linguistics, (and life, except for the leftist privilege that means they’ll be promoted way beyond any competence.) AGAIN.

America was never all white. It might have been majority white, depending on how you define “white” but that doesn’t mean much.  And the MAGA that the slogan refers to could be as recent as the nineties or as far back as the eighties, which were hotbeds of segregation only in the minds of people for whom history started yesterday.

As for the greatness imagined for the 10s 20s or 30s or 50s… yeah.  Well, it’s like this: it always makes me twitch to hear people on the right speak of that, because in the end what it boils down to for those years was “a unified narrative.”  And the unified narrative was either all left, or “things people who love freedom hate.”

Seriously. Dig beyond the surface you’ve been taught. The things that Woodrow Wilson got away with in terms of destroying personal freedom! The number of people arrested or just lynched with official wink-nod on vague suspicions of their being German (it could be something as stupid as having Mozart sheet music.)  As for the 50s, sure, very prosperous, but I can read print, or in this case old movies.  The veterans of WWII came home and created an extremely conformist, top-down society.

Sure, the suburbs were only prisons in heated boomer minds, but the companies after WWII were run on much more conformist “company man” type of lines than anything since.  My MIL who made her life in the echo of this time, couldn’t understand why when Dan went to interviews the company didn’t want to meet me and approve of me.  Well, because it was no longer that big a deal to conform and fit in to that extent.  In that, at least, the boomers were right, and the looser company structures did help make US business flexible for innovation.  (Of course it also led to companies that create vapor wear, etc. And then came around again, in the name of freedom and diversity to companies like Google wanting to control their employees every thought. Because humans are like that.)

What people are feeling and what’s distressing most people, right and left, is that we can’t see ahead.  We’re metaphorically speaking, driving a twisty mountain road at night, in pissing rain, and we can’t see more than a few feet ahead.  We can’t even guess where we’ll be in a year or two or ten, much less where our kids will be and where all this will end up.

At least, when we had the unified narrative — terrible as it was, since everyone thought the entire world would end up communist, faster or slower — we “knew” where we were headed and could see the road.  And before that, thought the occasional massive turmoil of the Middle ages, people knew their “eternal destiny” after death, and that eventually there was to be an end times and a resurrection.

It is a feature of our brain to make stories out of disparate events.  The human brain might as well be designed to create story out of chaos.  This confers an evolutionary ability since several incidents of big cats jumping from trees on people generate stories about how going berry gathering in the deep forest is dangerous. And more people survive, because stories are internally coherent and make sense and are remembered.  (Things reality fails at. Often.)

The downside is that we want stories of the future too. We want to know where we’re going.

Right now, we’re probably at a uniquely “blind” turning.  No. Let’s revise that to “it feels like we’re in a uniquely blind turning.

Most of us were raised with the old bad certainties, and now nothing is the way we expected.

Which is a glorious thing. But makes everyone feel anxious and afraid.

This is stupid. In all these “models” of the future, usually ideologically driven, no one really knew what was coming. They were as blind as we are, they just made up stuff.

It’s amazed me for some time that the sf/f generation that grew up with the “everything is sh*t in the future” that was the reaction to leftists in sf/f freaking out at Reagan’s election (they usually dated the collapse to his presidency) are now frantically trying to create just that future, usually through ridiculous crap like “let people poo in public” and “let the homeless camp everywhere.”  But they’d rather have “known” the future than not known, even if the “not known” could be wonderful.

They’re also — not aware the crap they were fed was ideologically prompted — cranking out miles and miles of post apocalyptic. This is a problem, guys, because I can’t stand the stuff. I’ve never come close to living in it, but I’ve lived with shortages and street fights. I don’t LIKE to read that.  And 90% of new releases in sf are post apocalyptic. (Also keep in mind you’re programing ANOTHER generation to recreate those conditions.)

People prefer anticipating a really bad future to not knowing the story ahead.

But the fact is, no one ever knew.  We’re no worse off than any other generation.

Now get out thee and dream futures worth having. And then work, so that if we only get 1/10th of it, it’s still worth having.

Go.

 

 

We, Not Us by Bill Reader

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We, Not Us

by

Bill Reader

 

As I believe I’ve said before in various ways, I’m a big believer in the idea that a problem can’t be solved if you don’t properly understand it. I’ve thought a lot about the current political situation in the United States, because it feels like a perilous time in history, and I don’t think merely acting on instinct or taking our best guess is a good move. Trump’s election changed the calculus significantly. In so many ways, in fact, that many things I thought I understood well about the Republican party I know and—well, certainly know at any rate— changed with them. There’s a sense that the party itself has changed, and even for me—and I am a bit stodgy, and was more sympathetic to the GOP establishment than perhaps they frankly deserved— it strikes me as for the better. The GOP establishment had, at best, a case of terminal depression. They weren’t playing to win, nor were they playing not to lose, but playing to lose slowly. There is a different flavor to the GOP now, and I think the base is enjoying that. I certainly am.

At the same time, I’ve had to have a good think about things I took for granted. I didn’t see 2016 coming, putting me in the exclusive club of virtually everybody. Nevertheless I’ve been a political cynic for a very long time. Just from those two words—”political cynic”—you can guess, likely accurately, what my old model therefore predicted regarding events in France, Britain, and Australia. Namely, I saw Le Pen’s loss coming, but I did not see the yellow vests coming, even though on reflection, I think that A indirectly begat B. I certainly didn’t see her list coming back to cream Macron’s in the EU election. I didn’t see Brexit coming. I did see the eventual attempted murder of same by a thousand bureaucratic cuts coming—but then didn’t see the BREXIT party coming. Congratulations to Farage on now having the largest number of MPs from a single party, and I hope he gives the EU Parliament Hell. At the same time, the story of whether Britain will indeed find the gumption to leave is still partially untold, and I don’t have the confidence to venture an opinion on it. I hear starkly conflicting and well-argued positions on why Brexit as an issue can still go various ways. I’d prefer to see what happens and learn from it. And finally, I didn’t see Australia’s recent election coming.

If your interest is finding a way to defeat the Left without us ending up in a civil war on the way, as is mine, this is all simultaneously encouraging and frightening. Under Obama I had a model of the world that worked very well for what was mostly the post-war order and certainly seems to have been the post-Reagan GOP. To put it succinctly, it was a system that did not work in our favor, but at least did so by grimly well-tabulated mechanics. Despite the cold war, too many people on our own side felt the socialists had the moral high ground and ought eventually to win. Given the horrors of the USSR, that’s impressive. It borders on humorous— in the same way that a man having his beheading scheduled for a day he had previously reserved on his calendar for a haircut is humorous.

Just recently we’ve had a system that works more in our favor, but by extremely unpredictable if not mostly unknown mechanics. Most commentators I read haven’t got a solid explanation for these. A lot of the pseudo-explanations are more poetic than practical—”we’ve finally woken up”, etc. Maybe that’s partially been because solid evidence of anything has been so difficult to get. Indeed, a feature of this political moment is that we are flying by instruments, and they aren’t very good instruments, as Sarah and I have both noted. But I think I have at least a minor insight into one mechanic. It doesn’t explain everything, but it is my attempt at a more complete explanation for why polls are suddenly so very unreliable. In explaining this, I have to account for two things—one is that people’s behavior has not merely changed, but done so suddenly, because otherwise polls would have adapted to it in their old baseline. And the other is that it seems inescapable that people are lying to pollsters to some degree, which I had previously discarded out of hand. But why? And why now?

Well, I’ve been incubating a lot of thoughts on the subject, and I’m at last ready to at least venture an opinion on what I think is going on.  Paradoxically, I think that to do the question justice, I need to start by recontextualizing the Left in term of a strategy that’s been so omnipresent, it’s been invisible to me up until now. I’m adapting some of my old frameworks and I’m doing it imperfectly, but I think this is necessary work.  There are hints here, which I will close with, as to how larger and more important questions can be answered. After all, what we don’t understand, we cannot reliably ask to keep working. What we cannot reliably keep working—given the precarious position of civilization just now—may well be the very thing we rely on to peacefully resolve our current situation.

So with that in mind, I want to approach two things. First, how does the Left think now? That question deserves re-analysis, because the Left now is not the Left I was analyzing half a decade ago. For one thing, they have gone from quietly, grindingly, passively malevolent, to rather aggressively domineering and insane. Actually, it’s something of an improvement, by my lights. They still tell me they’re going to ruin my life for my own good, but now they do it with such poor credibility that it borders on refreshing. And yet I think you will find, after this journey with me, that they didn’t really change so very much—they just took new opportunities.

Second, rather obviously, how does the Right think now? Is it the same? The results certainly aren’t. You can tell the Left gets that something has changed, because when the left is in pain, instead of shouting “ouch”, or swear words like normal people, they shout “Nazi” and various words ending in “-ism”. It would be endearing, if they weren’t trying to destroy western civilization.

Let’s go back to basics. I started, in my thinking, from the premise that the Left is more generally communitarian in their approach than the right. That’s not really a shock to anyone here, I would guess. The Left focuses on groups, the Right generally focuses on individuals. I suppose I’ve never really asked myself before, though—why is the Left more interested in groups? And does that have anything to do with their marked decrease in sanity? Well, yes, I think it does.

I think that Leftists tend to defer to groups, and operate by preference in groups as much for strategic as ideological reasons. Indeed, once I realized how they tend to address things, I began to wonder if maybe the ideology came as an excuse for the strategy. I’m still undecided on that point. As you’ll see there are many practical synergies between the method by which a rank-and-file Leftist operates and their larger strategy, so arguments for development in either order could be formulated. It is therefore a chicken-or-egg problem I will lay aside for the moment.

Let us round back briefly to ensure our terms are clearly defined. What do I mean by saying they defer to groups? In essence, if you are arguing with a Leftist, they will—as quickly as they are able—try to involve additional people in the argument beyond the arguers. More specifically that takes two forms. They will either bring in a more powerful friendly entity with power over a large group—the equivalent of running to Mommy when overwhelmed—or they will directly appeal to the group, or both.     And this is not merely a one-on-one phenomenon. At virtually every level of society, you can find examples where the Left appeals to the crowd at least one level of scale immediately above the scope of the current argument. This strategy is effective because it operates semi-independently of the argument being made. You could argue anything at all—including patently untrue and easily observed falsehoods, such as that the sky is entirely pink and green zigzags— and by strategically expanding the number of people in the argument to include more people than yourself, you can at the very least prevent yourself from being outright disproven.

“Strategically” deserves emphasis here. Yes, the Left prefers to appeal specifically to either like-minded crowds or friendly authorities in lieu of an argument. In the main they will try to do so. However, it is not strictly necessary that they have clear advantage in either case, merely that the number of arguers grows, and there are cases where the more subtle benefits of this approach are exploited. I will lay out the broad strokes— what it essentially does is transform things into a rhetorical ratchet. Even in a one-on-one debate, the opinion on who won usually varies, but outright loss is a lot more possible, especially if you’re walking around with the kind of beliefs and arguments the Left uses. But as soon as you involve a large group of people, the outcome of virtually any argument becomes impossible to tabulate. And even for the most clear-cut losses, because large numbers of people are involved who don’t want to “let the side down”, people will still support each other and refuse to admit it. An acknowledged loss is next to impossible.
You might think that this effect would be symmetrically true, but there’s a simple reason it isn’t. The Right historically is not willing to use groups in the dangerous, forceful, or aggressive ways that the Left does. The Left can always force a tie if they would otherwise lose. The right is spotty even about elevating arguments from small to large, and doing the same— although it has gotten much, much better under Trump, who I think understands all of this on some level. One dividend of a president who personally tweets about newsworthy things is that he drags the rest of the party into the fight. Even if large numbers of establishment members then turn around and bash him for doing so, as the midterms showed, that can provide helpful info to Republican voters—and meanwhile people who aren’t diehard establishment Republicans having a definite reason to get involved in the fight is to the good. But anything more than expanding the scale of an argument, Republicans tend to treat as strictly off-limits. There are excellent reasons for that, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the profound downside— namely, there are many situations where the groups invoked by the Left can force a “win” for them by destroying the target’s life, over-riding their opinion with improper use of power, et cetera. This is the mechanism of the ratchet. They have set it up such that they can’t really lose arguments—at worst they can have a bitter tie— and the tactic often opens opportunities to win in ways other than the boring traditional way of making a solid argument. Allow me to dive into some examples. In each of these I will attempt to highlight the two key elements—the escalation of the argument to the “crowd”, by which I mean at least the next-largest entity beyond the core arguers, and the strategic advantage of doing it in one particular way or another.

As is probably self-obvious, arguing with a Leftist one-on-one has become a dicey proposition. Now, certainly, the sides have relative parity as regards friends to pile on, and I acknowledge that most people on the Left and Right will use this relatively mild form of appeal to the crowd. What the Right almost uniformly will not do is adopt other, nastier, forms of escalation to parties beyond the immediate argument. At present these take on three different forms, which I have ranked in order of the level of personal threat they are to the individual. All of them should be familiar, but we will consider them from the perspective of the escalation-to-the-crowd framework.

  • This is simple enough. You appeal to a larger external group, in this case the website or host institution, to enter the argument on your behalf. This institution is the proverbial “Mommy”. The institution or website then simply disallows your opponent from continuing the argument. Deeply intellectually dishonest? Certainly. But that doesn’t matter. You “win”.
  • 2- The Ragemob, which is a sort of extension of a mere pile on, where you denounce someone to as wide a portion of your ideological comrades as possible. It’s differentiated from a mere pile-on because you don’t personally know many—if not the majority—of the people you are calling into the fight. The tactic actually does have some unique synergistic benefits with current Leftist ideology. Leftist arguments tend to be very emotion-forward—to the New Left especially, the mere perception that something is wrong is a self-encapsulated argument (I might discuss this in detail soon, but it’s beyond the scope of this article). And, in general, seeing someone you side with ideologically attacked tends to make you feel something is wrong. The New Left also emphasizes “activism”, “education” and “raising awareness” as a sort of holy trinity of political activities, all of which manifest as being on a hair trigger to intervene when they perceive something is wrong. Consequently large, ideologically uniform groups can be invoked with virtually no effort, and with much less internal dissention and discussion than would happen if conservatives were to try the same thing. As Nick Sandmann can attest, it also has far more serious results than a simple internet pile-on. It can result in a permanently destroyed reputation, end professional careers if the person is a big enough lightning rod, and get them death-threats (including from enemy-of-the-people journalists!). If you destroy the life of your opponent, you “win”. 3- Doxxing, where one involves the entire internet in your argument, but this time instead of asking for direct help, you’re putting out a casting call specifically for the few unstable, dangerous, and similarly aligned nutballs who will attack your opponent in person for disagreeing with you. As far as I’m concerned legal accuracy would dictate that doxxing carry a penalty on par with attempted murder, and be counted as accessory to assault or manslaughter if it results in harm or death. It’s fairly obvious why this is effective at protecting a Leftist from serious argument—their opponent is fearing for their life and their family. If your opponent cannot argue anymore because they are busy hiring a private security firm or moving, you “win”. If your opponent actually ends up dead, maimed, or permanently scarred, you “win”. All told, three ways to “win” an argument on the personal level by forcing your opponent to withdraw from the argument, and none of them required a functional or even an existing counter-argument to execute.

Initially I was going to gloss over the city level. While the domineering attitude of the Left is on display in numerous states, over-riding the opinions of various cities to some extent (In California, for example), it’s hard to demonstrate when it is an escalation from the city level. The reasons are twofold. First, in my experience at least, most cities have some level of political self-segregation and are usually a stronghold for one side or the other, most commonly the Left. While I have seen occasional contentious issues in cities I’ve lived in, they’ve been much less frequent and less reliably divided on party lines than national or state issues. Secondly, the logistics of appealing things from the city to the state level inherently mask the activity. If you’re a Leftist mayor who wants to supersede a local discussion by addressing it at the state level—the city equivalent of running to Mommy— you need a Leftist governor and/or legislature to be able to have a place to kick things up to. Conservative legislatures aren’t usually big enough patsies to help you. Moreover, any arguable advantages of having the battle anyway simply to have the advantage of the talking point—an approach sometimes employed at the national level—are neutered in direct proportion to how local the issue truly is (though there are exceptions, as I’ll mention). To whit, often nobody else cares. But let’s say for the sake of argument that the state government does intervene, only we in this example are not experts on the local politics of the state and are watching from the outside. In that case, it may well be that a Leftist governor or legislature would act in a similar manner regardless of whether someone appealed to them from a city, or whether they took notice of the issue themselves. Indeed, even the people who were part of the initial argument may not know, since it’s hard to tell the difference between certain local issues that expand and state-level issues that are argued within cities of that state. Thus it’s broadly hard to differentiate the escalation of city-level politics from primary leftist policy-making at the state level. And even when general expansion of the issue—in a direct appeal to the crowd— is tenable, it’s not usually very helpful. For an example, take New York’s soda ban as an example of how that goes. Sure, initially the press did pick up and amplify this issue to the masses as a (primarily in the role of “educating” on the subject), and as a result, people who aren’t from the city did have one-on-one political arguments, in and out of New York state, about another city’s policies. But as they aren’t personally effected by the outcome those are simply personal political arguments, and likely be resolved by the methods laid out above.

One thing deserves dishonorable mention before I move on, and has been brought to my attention by Sarah. This is more a case of bypassing the people of the state entirely in something that concerns them. There wasn’t even a discussion that this was an escalation from, except possibly exclusively by swamp-things on the far Left. Governor Jared Polis, without bothering to consult the people of Colorado first, signed a national popular vote compact which will give Colorado’s votes to the winner of the national popular vote if states with a total of 270 electoral votes join it. Because he is, and let me try to be diplomatic here, a craven self-styled-aristocratic coward who is just so very committed to the Democratic principles that I remind you his party is actually named after, that he couldn’t even be bothered to actually allow Coloradans a democratic vote on whether they wanted to sign an accord that may lead to their disenfranchisement, is why. I understand Coloradans are now having to petition for the opportunity to fix this. Most of the tactics I describe here are for the plebeians who actually wait for an argument to start before flagrantly abusing power to end it. As Mr. Polis would tell you— if he wasn’t busy screwing Colorado over— he is no plebian. Plebeians have consciences.

Moving to the subject of state-level escalation, the most obvious manifestation is something my previous readers will be well familiar with: debate of things that should be state level issues at a national level. I am referring here to winner-take-all policy battles over things like abortion, drug legislation, health care legislation, et cetera, noted by both sides for the fact that they are bitter and polarizing. Now, this abuse in particular has been happening for so long I think it’s invisible to the average person. I myself had always assumed up until now that its occurrence resulted from a very poor understanding of civics on the part of the left. I am forced to revise that opinion, as I believe I was mistaken. Under this framework it’s a strategic choice. It’s the execution of an escalate-to-the-crowd strategy, and both of the manifestations we are coming to be familiar with are played out as a result of it.

On the one hand is a state level issue being raised to the level of a national issue and resulting in a successfully passed bill in the federal government. As the federal government then imposes it on the states one level of power down, this is a particularly in-your-face example of the run-to-Mommy variant of escalating-to-the-crowd. And while the power of the passed bill itself is obvious, it should be noted that even the drafting of a bill has benefits, and better still, is easier for Democrats.

This is another example of a unique synergy between Leftist ideology and this strategy. Leftists, being much, much more comfortable with violating the structure of the Republic to draft wholly inappropriate bills that commission centralized plans, also gain the advantage that national bills function very differently from state bills. People elected to be state representatives can actually largely free themselves from representing the interests of their states and focus on the interests of the party generally by doing so. This is because in national-level bills, and this is specifically true of those inappropriately drafted to interfere with the affairs of states for no compelling constitutional reason, it is assumed that the bill is a compromise between the state any one person lives in and the other forty-nine states. Any given representative has an airtight alibi for supporting such bills unless the violations of the state’s interests are truly egregious. Of course, such bills are reliably non-functional, the complexity of handling the special cases for each state being well beyond the practical abilities of any bill drafter whether they admit it or not. But interestingly, that sheer complexity hints at the other political advantage of drafting national bills for state issues—opacity. Even if the bills are single issue bills, once all the complexities have been grappled with, or an attempt has been made to do so at any rate, they have sprawled into dense, impenetrable monsters full of legalese. And this is not only necessary, it is expected. Nobody reasonably thinks that an omnibus bill could be written in a way that’s readable. In fact, to the extent that length and technicality will be equated with thoroughness in approaching the issue, transparency, clarity, or brevity would likely be regarded as naiveté or incompetence by the electorate. The result is bills that virtually nobody, including the congressmen whose job it is to do so, has the time or inclination to actually read it—and voters themselves enforce this. So, instead, drafters provide their heavily politically biased summary of what the bill does, uninformed by important issues like potential unintended consequences or sheer feasibility. Moreover, your opponent will have a difficult time refuting it. Even if we posit that he is an absolute savant, and can deconstruct and point out all the logical flaws in your bill in a reasonable period of time, it is likely that he, and he alone, will have the patience or attention span to understand it. Complex bills require complex debunking. The odds are, the electorate will not listen to it. Your summary, therefore, will be the only functional explanation of the bill on the field, and that puts your opponent in the uncomfortable position not of opposing your bill, but of opposing – in effect— your canned, slanted summary of the bill. The result, if you have any ability at writing canned summaries, is that he will look like the devil incarnate. These things both work to the advantage of people drafting these omnibus bills.

But suppose optimistically that the issue in question is so egregious that you will never get a bill passed on it. What has a state representative gotten by taking what was supposed to be a dialogue between him and his constituents, and expanding it out to the crowd of all the other representatives in congress? The answer is, they get an irresolvable argument. What benefit does that have? Well, we highlighted some of the most prominent in the introduction. He functionally can no longer lose. But additionally, it allows the politician in question to be constantly fighting against Republicans, and during this fight they get to pretend that the issue is the bill itself rather than the fact they’re trying to pass it in an inappropriate context. Republicans are famously bad at countering this gambit without sounding evasive. These bills are especially useful in draft form, because it means in addition to the traditional merits of an omnibus bill, any provisions that Republicans manage to gain traction on “could be changed, if only Republicans would just compromise”. Lost entirely in the discussion is the fact that the omnibus bill shouldn’t be considered at all. If you get lucky you might actually wheedle the Republicans into being stupid enough to take you up on it helping change it. Better yet, they might draft their own competing legislation. Either way, the perversion of the power structure in the United States is codified by mutual agreement, but in the latter case, they’ll also take the blame if the inevitably non-functional omnibus bill passes. And if they stand firm, you have solid evidence Republicans are not just heartless monsters, they are stubborn heartless monsters.

You might look at this and say—”but surely, if they can pass it at home, they should just do that”. The argument has benefits, but not ones that outweigh passed legislation (to the extent they consider the legislation intrinsically desirable). And you are correct—if they can pass it at home. But all that really says is, if there is no argument there’s no reason to escalate. Consider more contentious situations— this strategy is particularly good for bills that might be unpopular if passed just within the state. Omnibus bills are, in a sense, nothing personal. Also, as with large internet arguments, it’s harder to lose an issue in a serious way in congress. Sure, you can lose repeatedly. If you lose very publically you might even start having to put the things you want as part of the pork on other bills, or focus on other things for a decade or so. But even that might not be necessary. So your personal bill went down—there are lots of other people who could introduce a similar one in a few news cycles. If anyone catches onto the similarity, you can always say “at least we’re doing something”. Nobody needs to know it’s something you should never have been doing at all. There are a few times Republicans have managed to roll back sweeping legislation supported by the Democrats—prohibition, slavery— but those are landmark moments in a sea of statutes. For comparison, look how fast we went from the failure of Hillarycare, to a fully armed and operational Obamacare. As for your constituents, you don’t need to do anything to your home district except wait for them to stop paying attention. No costly campaigns, just patience.

And what about national level disputes? Well, if this wasn’t already clear from the open borders zeitgeist of the New Left, and from the fact that the nascent one-world-government types in the EU would rather see Britain destroyed than let it govern itself again, even at the national level, Leftists reflexively find a larger entity or party to try to bully the nation with. These strategies are perhaps the most sickening. It’s transparently obvious at this point that the Democrats oppose border control out of an entirely personal interest in importing voters from outside the country. There’s no coherent way to sell it as good for the national interest given the harm unchecked immigration has done abroad and is doing here. You could think of this as appealing to the undifferentiated crowd abroad—it is harder for Germany, England, or US to put up an argument on issues regarding their sovereignty or national identity while being overrun by “migrants” who are fleeing poverty first and foremost. Grinding and horrible as that poverty surely is, the dysfunctional cultures these people live in, perpetuate, and now try to propagate, are its source and sustenance— not some vague theory of colonial exploitation or inappropriate intervention.

As for the EU, I suspect no institution has ever earned the title of “globalist” more transparently than them. I add further that Britain’s Remainers have shamed themselves and their forebearers deeply by quietly acquiescing to be bullied by them. Given how little they care for their nation’s sovereignty, I can’t understand why they even bother calling themselves Brits, frankly. They see themselves as citizens of Europe, they should at least be honest and say so. While I would hesitate to refer to the EU as a tool of a strategy— since at this point it’s acting more like an empire than a trade union— Remainers are still using it as one. They are leveraging the fact that the rest of Europe has been swallowed by globalist progressivism to try to force that ideology—which they themselves agree with—on their fellow countrymen, rather than have an honest debate with them over it. It is just another variant of Run to Mommy, by people who are, by any reasonable definition, traitors, and traitors for the same reason traitors have always been traitors—because it was, in their minds, in their country’s ultimate interest to be sold out.

Okay. So that’s what the Democrats and their Leftist compatriots abroad are up to. But what are we on the Right up to? How have we been beating them and how will we keep beating them?

Well, there are two major weaknesses in the endemic Democratic strategy. The most obvious one is that it is socially repressive, which naturally leads to a backlash. And if that backlash is not allowed publically, it will happen privately, in the form of preference falsification. That is, people will keep saying they agree with you, but will start to vote differently. That’s a familiar theory, but it has a critical flaw that I’ve been stuck on for a while. I’ve always been a bit hazy for me is why people would suddenly, en masse, begin to lie to anonymous pollsters, as their main form of protest. Sure, I personally do, because I want to throw off their poll numbers and every little bit helps. But this societal shift was comparatively fast. And for most large group analysis, if your explanation even involves the words “suddenly, en masse”, you need a solid explanation to back it up.

The 2016 elections in the US were not enough to convince me preference falsification was happening at appreciable rates. There were far too many variables in play, but most prominently, overall vote turnout was low and the Democrats spent most of the year presenting Hillary as inevitable. That seemed a reasonable enough explanation to serve as Occam’s Razor. For this reason, I still didn’t quite believe it was a prominent social phenomenon until Australia happened. But Australia is harder for me to explain away, because they have mandatory voting. For the polls to be significantly wrong in a society where there is enforced voting, either A) the pollsters have to be incompetent or B) they have to be intentionally doing push-polling, or C) people have to be providing them inaccurate information. I have no reason to believe the competence of pollsters has decreased significantly and suddenly, nor have I seen anything to suggest they’ve changed their methodology much. That leaves preference falsification. I think that lends the theory some of its more solid recent evidence. And, yes, you can still say that Australia is a different country, and caution against equating our politics too closely, and fair enough, but the resonance with 2016 is hard to ignore. Call it, if you want to be completely fair, merely the best evidence we have.

(I’m not as moved by the EU elections, since you ask. I’m most familiar with England, and while from closely following I know that the BREXIT party overall mildly outperformed expectations by a seat or two, leading up to the elections it was little in doubt that BREXIT would do very well. I’m less familiar with how poorly predicted other EU elections that went to nationalist parties were, in part because I haven’t had much time or inclination to review foreign language press for these countries. I welcome comment on it.)

So if we take the theory seriously, how large a portion of the population do we have to assume is engaging in this behavior? Well, the election results were “merely” flipped from what pollsters expected—that is, the Liberal party took 51%, Labor took 49%. That is a huge difference statistically, but it isn’t a landslide victory. That might be a clue. It doesn’t take a large number of people lying to pollsters to cause this change, just a large enough number to throw off statistics in a big way. A simplistic way to look at it (and not entirely accurate, but good enough for the general point), is that out of the full 100% of voters, only about 2%, or 1/50 people have to lie to pollsters for that to make a change. Already, that’s a lot more plausible. In most contexts, if only 1/50 people do something, that makes them outliers.

Outliers, but outliers in significant quantities. Why would 1/50 people, relatively suddenly, change their behavior in this way? Well, go back and look at the tactics the Left uses, and in particular, note which ones are relatively new. While I think that the Left’s escalate-to-the-crowd strategy is very old, so old it’s part of their political DNA in a fundamental way, it wasn’t until recently that rank-and-file party members had the power to use it on an interpersonal basis so easily. Something all three of the dishonest ways to “win” an argument have in common is that social media was to their execution what railroads were to cross-continental logistics.

The suddenness could very well be accounted for by that. The speed of the two social movements mirror each other relatively well. I propose that average Democrats brought the party’s repressive tendencies down to the level of the personal. When individual consequences for thinking the wrong thing become dramatically more widespread, it makes perfect sense that individuals become much more paranoid about revealing their true beliefs, while simultaneously being presented with some very good, in-your-face reasons to change your beliefs if you’d previously aligned with the current witch-hunters. From that perspective it’s startling that it’s only 1/50.

The unilaterality of the shift is probably because the use of these tactics overwhelmingly favors one side, so the backlash cleanly favors the other. It’s enough to make me suspect that it’s one of the fundamental party divides, because beyond mere pile-ons, it doesn’t seem to me that Republicans responded in a similar way to the potential malignant power of social media. That of know of, we have no Covington-like victims of our own. AOC cosplayed as a ragemob victim over an old dance video to the absolutely uniform confusion and utterly nonexistent outrage of any conservatives I know or follow. I know of no doxxings, which actually surprises me because I expected the first one from the Democrats to absolutely open the floodgates. We certainly haven’t managed to get anyone banned from anything, not that we realistically could. I suspect part of why the response is so different is that Democrats re-adapted a pattern they were used to using for thinking about politics, but had only just been freed to apply in their own lives in a noticeable way—the same pattern we have just analyzed in depth. I genuinely don’t think the vast majority of conservatives had a similar thought pattern in their brain predisposing them to force people to comply— the thought of which makes me a bit proud of my own side. (Still unexplored but implied in that idea—I wonder what these people are like in offices. If a person complains to your boss or spreads rumors about you over a personal argument, rather than confront you about it, are those people more likely to be Leftist? My partisan heart says yes, but I doubt anyone would have the chutzpa to actually have done a large formal study of it.)

That, at last, is what lead me to the title of the post. “We” and “Us” are both ways of referring to a group that you are part of. The difference is, “We” is a subject. “Us” is an object. “We” act, and they act upon “Us”. It seems to me that we, conservatives, act directly and as our own agents, even when we act as groups. Leftists by predisposition seek an “Us” to act as their agent and on their behalf. They hide behind a mob, a legislature, or a multinational committee that they invoke. They can’t simply face you on your own level. If we on the right speak up, it is not we, but a huge, faceless “us” on the Left who will be called in to silence you; if we in the US protect our national interest it is an us in the UN who will be invoked to denounce you; if a we in Britain stands up for the country’s sovereign rights it is an us in the EU that is conjured to put them in your place—everywhere and always, there is a mob called up at the behest of the person who rightfully should have the argument, a group that they use to bully and dominate, seemingly at every level and in every place. Moreso as the years roll by.

Now, I do not think this is the be-all and end-all, just a critical differentiating factor between the sides. For example, I would say that while the above might be helping the Right fox the Left in the polls—which in turn helps make it difficult for the Left to allocate their campaign resources (and cheating) correctly—I think that the real staying power of the Right is in the Left’s destruction of its own credibility. Because sure, people on both sides can be wrong, but the Left has a lot more to lose as the dominant force in the news media. And thanks to a toxic mixture of rampant, unacknowledged bias, nonexistent journalistic ethics, and huge bets on stupid stories, they’re doing exactly that. A friend joked to me that for many people the Game of Thrones finale was the second most disappointing finale to a long-running series this year—the most disappointing finale was to the Meuller investigation (I have to disagree, I found it highly entertaining). Good on AG Barr for standing firm even as Meuller tries to convince people that he totally would have made a call on obstruction but those darned rules prevented it—and all the best as he tries to keep Mueller from getting the spin-off show the Democrats desperately want. At all events, there is something much, much more serious under the surface there.

I mentioned the Left had two critical weaknesses from this strategy. What’s the other? Well, something you’ll have noticed, and that I have highlighted about this strategy, is that in it’s general form (ignoring morals, and when not exercised at levels that depend on a centralized view of government), it does not immediately require a particular ideology. It certainly does not require any particular skill at argumentation. And this is because this is a system evolved, like the shell on a sea-creature, to insulate the user. And with good reason. I suppose I’ve always realized how fragile the Leftist viewpoint is, but the degree and thoroughness (down to rank and file members) with which they have adapted and adopted a strategy designed, at its core, to “win” without actually engaging in an argument reinforces the fragility of the Democratic party in a way I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated. Moreover it’s immediately obvious that this is a feed-forward system—the more effectively Democrats insulate themselves, the weaker and the worse for wear they become when the insulation cracks.

Years ago—and I won’t get the quote exactly right—I watched a video by a commentator, I think it was Bill Whittle, where the commentator said of speaking on college campuses that it didn’t actually take much to change the minds of college students. He went on to say it was like taking a candle into a pitch black auditorium—certainly, a light may be tiny, but it can light some of the darkness, whereas there will never be so much darkness that the light will fail to shine.

Here’s why I make that little digression. Fundamentally, it strikes me that the Democrats are working frantically to protect themselves from even the smallest amount of real knowledge. If an animal has evolved a thick shell, I have a good idea what happens to it in its environment without one. If a party has evolved to carefully block all aspects of non-approved reality, it gives me a pretty good idea what even a small amount of real knowledge can do to their ideological integrity, if you can slip it past their defenses. Moreover, the strategy is dependent on an iron grip on the institutions. They need to have a mommy to run to. They need a media, and friendly social media platforms, to use as a megaphone to the masses. Take that away from them and—as long as you can keep their mobs out of your hair— they’re just scared, ignorant children, crying because they’ve run out of ways to bully you.

So don’t give up. They’re not an impregnable juggernaut. They’re a kraken made of glass—dangerous to anyone who gets in their jaws, seemingly harbingers of the apocalypse, even— but fragile, ripe to be torn apart by the mechanics of the sandpile. The moment even a little bit of reality seeps in, a crack forms in that shell, and once it’s lost its integrity, it’s all downhill for it. So keep lying to them. Keep making them miss their estimates and projections. More importantly, stay out of the way of their jaws. Your opposition is needed too much. We need you, to help us slowly lop off the tentacles they use to bully and force those around them into compliance. Cut them down until they are once again just a we, with no “us” to hide behind, standing face to face with the Right.

And on a level playing field, we will win, and they will lose, for one simple reason— we who have faced the world as just ourselves know that it takes quite a lot of practice.

Writing Challenge

It’s one of those weekends.  My keyword for the vignette either wasn’t sent, or it was eaten by internet hamsters.

On top of that, there don’t seem to be any books to promo.

So…

I’m going to put a picture (from pixabay) below as a writing challenge and let you guys have fun shall I?

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This is not a post

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Running around like a chicken with its head cut off today — say, Mike the headless chicken — and I’m already late.

So I just want to point out this is not a post.

Oh, also, we’re having Hoyt’s Huns monthly dinner today fiveish at Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax.

I have no clue who will be there, and it’s likely it will be only Dan and I, since the boys are otherwise busy as is lovely DIL.  But we’ll be there.  If anyone shows up, we’ll probably stay as normal till it gets really busy and we feel guilty taking up two tables.  If no one shows up, we’ll have dinner and stay till 6:30 or so.

Art and Revolution

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The weekend before last, Dan and I went to the Denver Botanic gardens for a walk, at sunset.  In retrospect, this was both a good and bad idea.

It was a good idea because we had fun and it was a lovely afternoon.  Of note, there were three weddings in the gardens that afternoon and I was amused at how ethnically mixed all three parties were.  (Ethnically because it was beyond racial.  In a party with blond bride and groom there were three Indian women in saris, for instance.  Probably work acquaintances or inlaws.)  It amused me because of the myth of growing white supremacy and racism.  It was in fact, pretty much one of those things you only see in America, even while our media is busy convincing far more segregationist Europe of how segregated and hateful we are. (PFUI.)

One of the parties was rigorous steam-punk and the guests had fanned out all over the garden, making it both very interesting and making me go “Yes, the geeks have won.”

It was a bad idea because the botanic gardens were holding a sculpture exhibit, called “human nature” with statues from various times and places.

And why was this a bad idea, Sarah?

Mostly because I’m married to a mathematician. There is a certain… ah… compulsiveness that comes with it. If there’s something that’s numbered and has a route, we OF COURSE have to follow the route and see every single statue, even if that’s not what we set out to do.

This made things very interesting, since the wedding parties were blocking some of the statues, and others we could see from a distance were the sort of modern art that your kids could do with a backyard forge, meaning the actual level of artistry was about the level of a kindergartner, only they used metal instead of playdough.

This leads us to Sarah’s first rule of art: if people viewing it have trouble telling it from accidental formations, it’s probably not art.

The second corollary of this is: if you need an elaborate card pointing out to you that it’s art, it’s probably not art.

The third would be that if you need a placard explaining to you how daring and courageous this art is, and how it defied some tyrannical regime at great peril to the artist’s life, it’s not only not art, you’re in the presence of a self-aggrandizing conman.

This always annoys me because you find this in every branch of the arts, and frankly these people are given way more credit than they should be, partly because born and bred Americans, even those who claim vaunted knowledge of the world have no actual knowledge of what life under a dictatorship that silences dissent is like.  (I remember for instance a friend who thought my mom might disapprove of my being a writer because “she thought dictators would stop you.”)

Look, unless a writer or an artist is pretty explicit in his/her opposition to a tyrannical regime there is a good chance they’ll be left unmolested.  Frankly, explicit or not the overwhelming chance is they’ll be UNNOTICED unless someone denounces them.  And even then, the ones that end up arrested have EXPLICITLY spoken out against the regime, in ways that can’t be ignored.

An East German poet I met in the eighties said that mostly the regime had contented itself in saying he was mad.  And while his poems could be read as very explicitly anti-communist, he never mentioned any of the figures of the regime at the time, and was therefore largely ignored.

Yes, tyrannies sometimes step, with disproportionate force, on normal citizens who just “said something” but those instances are usually fairly isolated and the principle of it is “unpredictable.”  (Which means they might step on you for something you never anticipated, too) Yes, this silences a lot of people who then think that it could happen to them (we are seeing some of this right now with social media banning and silencing) and moderate themselves before they speak.

BUT again, this is rarely — I would say “never” except that I don’t actually know all the outrages perpetrated by evil regimes — visited upon people who are allegorical or allude to or simply make some sculpture or painting they say “means” something.

What brought this mind particularly was this sculpture which had its own self-lauding description about the courage of the artists who made this to “oppose the Franco regime.”  The sculpture apes the image of the little princess Margarita, infanta of Spain.

Apparently, according to the card, the Franco regime made this painting a symbol of Spain or something (look, I grew up nearby and NEVER HEARD OF ANY OF THIS.) So, by turning it into a grotesque monolith the artist was “defying” Franco.

And I’m sure he felt warm ALL OVER.

Seriously.  If you’re defying an actual dictator, you name the dictator and say you’re defying him.  You don’t create a sort of 3-D silhouette of a famous painting.

I could be wrong, of course.  Maybe the artist was horribly persecuted for this sculpture and Franco talked about how much it irked him or whatever.  Frankly, I don’t feel interested enough to look it up, because the sculpture itself did not in any way engage me or make me think.

Yeah, I do get that art is a personal experience.

I’m also fairly sure if the artist had been thrown into a dungeon for the sculpture this would be mentioned that in that adulatory card.

Also, I’m starting to get sick, tired and a little nauseated after reading this sort of thing.  It’s like people patting themselves on the back for fighting the “tyrannical” Bush or Trump.  Kindly tell me about your heroism when you suffer anything from it.  Yes, okay, having certain prizes and accolades inflicted upon you  IS a form of punishment.  But since I’m fairly sure people who do this don’t think of them that way, it doesn’t count.

Bad art is bad art.  Telling me you’re so courageous for creating it doesn’t make it any better.

If you need a little card to tell me you’re so important, you’re not important.

Also, pfui.

 

The End of History

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I was not deceived by the proclamations of the end of history in the 90s, though I wished I could be.

Of course, part of the reason I wasn’t convinced was in no way rational, merely a knee jerk reaction to having been pumped chockfull of Marxism six days a week (we had school on Saturday) for most of my schooling and having learned to recognize it as not just bad cess, but bad cess that inevitably fell on its face.

In fact, my 11th grade history book was explicit about it.  The last chapter was called Socialism, the perfect society and expounded on how once you got there, history would have ended, since Heglian interpretation of history specified that all the wars and struggle came SOLELY from internal contradictions in society.  Once those contradictions were eliminated (one must understand here that they called it socialism because by that time already communism had a bad smell, but they actually meant that imaginary state of communism, where not just classes but all monetary transactions would have come to an end, there would be no property, and everything would be held in common, from each according to his ability and to each according to his need. It strikes me now on reading it that this is a weird way to treat envy, since envy by definition can never be satiated. Never mind. Government would then wither away and there would be no more force of need for force, and no one would covet what his neighbor had, forever. The end of history.  And if you’re visualizing a vast plane of mass graves covering all the Earth, you’ve come to the only state that would achieve that.)

Applying it to the end of the cold war was particularly and strangely boneheaded since though a long struggle, it wasn’t the longest in humanity’s history, and it would be like announcing the end of the French-English rivalry that took up most of pre-modern history signified that we shall not “learn war no more.”

Of course I wanted it to be true.  Not the end of history, as such — consider history is the doing of humans. The only way history ends is when humans end — but the peace. I hoped at least that we’d enter one of those halcion periods that have graced humanity now and then when there are no major struggles for a century or so.

I had small sons, and I figured it would be nice to grow old and see sons and grandchildren grow up, and if/when strife returned in a hundred years or so, it would affect my great grandkids whom I wished the best upon, but really, I’d never even meet.

Yeah… 9/11 was a rude wakening.  All the more so since that struggle has been going on for centuries, just shoved to the back and accreted by the other wars.  Heck, if a book I just read is correct all our itch in the middle East is the result of the Roman Empire falling, not to mention being sloppy about paying their mercenaries.  Because history is like that.  There are stones continually thrown forward, to disturb the clear lake of the future.

Which means we need to know history. We need to be aware of all that has gone before. People who aspire to lead the country — any country — either need to have an idea of history, or have counselors who do.

And it must not be a counterfeit, bizarre, just-so idea of history, as has been taught in our best universities for the last century at least.  Obama’s apology tour was based on Marxist just-so stories, under which the West, and particularly America, were to blame for everything wrong that ever happened in the world. (Just as humans are to blame for the extinction of the T-rex according to the Colorado Springs zoo when my kids were little — hopefully they’ve taken that piece of nonsense exhibit down with all the species that have gone extinct and a mirror so the little kids could contemplate “the only species that drives others to extinction.” (which is an appalling ignorance of natural history.) — I think in the left’s minds the west and the US are to blame for neolithic struggles, before either entity existed.) He also believed those twin devils “Capitalism” and “Colonialism” were not the basic impulses of mankind, but evils, uniquely, of the west and America.  So his conscious program to diminish us economically, to convince us to live with less (oh, yeah, he also fails to understand economics, because he was taught things that just ain’t so.) were done with the best intentions, and intended to lead to to peace and prosperity the world over.

Which of us wouldn’t live in more strained circumstances if that meant the end of famines in the world, or that people in Africa would have a little more.  Which of us would not cut back a bit, if that meant that the Middle East would feel more at ease and cease hating us.

Except of course, that the “history” he was taught was no such thing, rather a long and convoluted farrago of nonsense, strung end on end, starting with Marx’s just-so stories, already out of date in his own time (and never IN rationality) and then paved over by various historians who wanted to explain why the working classes hadn’t risen up, and why none of the vaunted predictions of their “scientific” system had come true.

And so what we got was years of strife and struggle all over the world with fractious countries seeing the US self-diminishment as weakness and taking it as an opportunity to strike, even as the US’s economic head-cold caused the rest of the world to catch financial pneumonia.

This is why knowing history, real history — which at this point necessitates going back to books published in the nineteenth century, save for a handful of authors, some of which are only trustworthy for one subject — is vital for the survival of civilization.

It didn’t much matter what they taught rulers when each kingdom could at most attack its neighbors, but for good or ill, modern technology has linked all our fates (and economies) together and someone with power to wreck or marshal an economy or an army having the utterly wrong story in his head can destroy the whole world.

When an entire generation, and several countries have undergone this kind of brainwashing…

Mind you, it is normal for human civilizations to do this. Utterly normal. But it isn’t healthy.

Part of the reason China screwed itself into a loop of never ending stagnation was the charming habit of burning history books (and at times killing all story telling grandmothers) every so often, and substituting them with doctored history books telling a just-so story.  In that way China could go on forever dreaming itself the center of the universe while once-barbarians caught up with it and then surpassed it.

Then there were the fake histories behind the iron curtains.  And let’s not start talking about the history books of the Middle East.

Thing is our progressives have learned from all this, and added refinements. (The people who dreamed the strategy — I’ve been reading Judgment in Moscow by Vladimir Bukovski, so I can say “in Moscow” and if you don’t think so it’s because you haven’t read it — were brilliant strategists.  The fact their followers are mostly incompetent baboons only makes it incoherent, but because of what it is, not ineffective.)

It starts with taking over the schools and making most people incompetent to read anything more complex than a bill (and even that.)  Actively making people uncomfortable with reading, in fact.  Then there is the indoctrination designed to catch those who somehow still manage to read for pleasure, and making them deathly afraid of reading the wrong message.  There is this concept that ideas are contagious, particularly the WRONG ideas (you know, capitalism, individual freedom, etc.)  Apparently one of our luminaries of sf has fallen for this.  (How could they not? After all they bought the so-compelling narrative of Marxism, and yet people keep fighting against it.  And they know they’re the smart ones, all their teachers/mentors/figures of authority told they so.)  This is why they’re so desperate to make sure no one hears the wrong message. It is also why they are afraid to read — really read — anyone who disagrees with them.  (Hence skim till offended, or just calling people the “exorcism words” of “racist/sexist/homophobic” no matter how out of context. I’ve seen someone arguing for the free market being called racist. Which makes about as much sense as screaming the Our Father at a watchmaker. Arguably less.) And if all else fails there is ostracism.  Think the wrong thoughts (even if they were the right thoughts last month) and we’ll shut you out and un-person you.  And look how we have already destroyed others, better than you.

This means that younger people are terrified of reading/encountering the wrong ideas, much less expressing them. And because ideas change every month, and every time and place will be judged by the concepts of this week, this means not reading anything more than a year or so old, or seeing anything more than a year or so old, or… well, walking past statues to a past they think is tainted and unclean.

This superstitious fear of knowledge of the past is going to undo us all, but on its way it’s destroying the arts.  And reinforcing the idea that there is no history.

I’ve mentioned before my shock when in my thirties we got a twenty something in our writers group (she’s now also a luminary of sf/f. Mostly f.) and her admission story was about a famous female sword fighter.  This woman had gone to the best universities, but when I — in my innocence — told her I liked the story, but was it alternate history, she informed me — primly — that no, there were always famous women fighters, men had just redacted history to hide them. At which point I thought she was uniquely stupid. (If only.)

Now it’s propagated and metastasized.  It’s much, much worse.  Because the conspiracy theory of “men hid women’s accomplishments” wasn’t stupid enough, they’ve now decided there is no history.  History and different ways of living, and different mind sets, and different beliefs, and different struggles (many of them brought about by different technology and living conditions) never happened. It’s not true. None of it is true. And because none of it is true, they’re not reading/taking an interest in any of it.

I’m not absolutely sure if this is predicated on a belief that reality itself is a lie (hey, they told that one to both my kids. Second son’s reaction was priceless, because that one is mine from his horns to the bottom of his hooves) or simply that everyone in the past lied to distress millenials sensitivities.

What I do know is that whenever these ducklings, in their 30s and 40s stray into the past in their movies and books the results are almost always hilariously bad. (Or vomitously bad.)

They seem to be unaware of the PURPOSE of setting, say, a movie in the past, with historical characters, and instead treat the past as a sort of fantasy land upon which today’s latest fads must be imposed. (And I don’t mean in the minor ways every generation does that because the past is a different country.)

Among the many ways in which the latest trip was hell, was the fact that my back of the seat screen, on the way across the Atlantic, would neither shut off, nor stop playing Mary Queen of Scots.

Look, I don’t watch history movies because I know myself, but this one seemed, just on the scenes I caught, to be particularly loony, with a black-Scotsman and a lady in waiting who was Asian. It wasn’t till I came back that I realized the director had done this on purpose and was crowing up and down the block that she (he? Don’t remember) wasn’t about to direct an all-white cast, and therefore had “remodeled” history.

The idea of history as something you remodel, by adding more fashionable ideas and perhaps a bigger bathroom was … never mind.

I have absolutely no problems with multi-race or multi-cultural casts, but if you want to do that, do a fantasy, a science fiction, or even an alternate history.  Make sure people understand that “it’s not always been like this.”  Of course, idiots think that casting the past as the present is USEFUL because honestly, they’ve probably been taught the past was always like the present and xyz lied about it.  And they want to make sure people today understand “it’s always been like this.”

But it hasn’t always been like this.  In fact, the bigotries and small-mindedness of a lot of the past are explained by the fact that travel was difficult and therefore each race and culture relatively isolated and able to indulge their tribalism to their heart content.  Making it all about “they lied” doesn’t prepare one for the tribalism resurfacing in today. It prepares one only to be a brainwashed soldier in a war of ideas for which one is woefully unarmed.

And then there is Robin Hood.  I don’t know why my husband does this, but not only does he watch these movies long after they become obviously crazy, but he watches the director’s commentary afterwards. I happened to have been cooking and the family room is right next to the kitchen.

The number of times I screamed “Because you’re an idiot, you ignorant toddler” at the self-preening idiots explaining why they’d done this or that is dwarfed by the number of snort-giggle “Oh, yeah, that’s new.”

To put this gently, the total idiots who made the latest Robin Hood movie, had actually no clue of the legend or its depth (okay, most liberals think it’s about robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Actually he robbed from the taxman, but never mind.) but they knew they had to make it “relevant” and cram into it as many up to date “issues” as they could think of.  And please, understand, by “think” in this case I mean “regurgitate half digested Marxist pap all over.”

So, you know, the crusades were dreamed up by the church for power. There was no danger from the Saracens. (This at a time when half of Europe was taken over by Moorish imperial ambitions.)  Little John is a moor. (Makes as much sense as tits on a bull) And, of course, a victim.  Maid Marian is — YAWN — a fighter and it’s very important to see her as a fighter, which completely recasts all the — YAWN — past.  And in the end it’s all about fighting these bad times in America under the most oppressive administration EVAH (which is why movies can be made criticizing the administration, just as they were in Germany under Hit–  Oh, wait.)

On top of all, their commentary oozes this assumption that war only exists because someone in the west wants power and makes their countries attack hapless and defenseless natives.

The idea that people who have dark eyes/hair or can tan also have agency, and can also form armies, or strike back in other ways is utterly alien to them, because St. Gramsci made these people the perfect victims, who are never evil.

It’s not just that the whole thing is idiotic, or that they think they’re being startlingly original while at the same time saying and doing only the approved things.

It’s more that despite both these movies having dismal performances, these ideas propagate.  I was quite startled, for instance, when marketing the Musketeer Mysteries, on being told I hadn’t done my research, because — of course — Porthos was a pirate, which I think was a creation of that execrable Disney movie.

And that a bad narration in head renders people unfit to be leaders of anything or even — solely — voters.

The hour is late, the peril grave, and we must rebuild.  Stone by stone — even if they are pebbles — we must rebuild.  While they tear down and fill new generations’ heads with mulch, we must rebuild.

Because it’s the only hope for civilization.

Fifty Shades of Marx – A Blast From The Past From October 2013

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Fifty Shades of Marx – A Blast From The Past From October 2013

Yesterday on Facebook, someone took exception to my saying that Marxist ideas are ascendant in the world.  This shocked me so much I didn’t know how to react, and before I had time to explain – I was trying to finish the novel.  No, it’s not done yet.  Long story, but hey HVAC people this afternoon – people were in a big argument over whether or not we’re living in a police state.

I have opinions on that too (duh) but it has nothing to do with the incontrovertible fact that we’re soaked in Marxist philosophy on all sides.

It’s entirely possible, in fact, that my commenter isn’t aware of that, because fish aren’t particularly aware of water.  It takes an effort to become aware of the Marxist premises underlying everything because they’re taken for granted.  No one studies Marx himself, because we assume his theories as proven, and the stuff we live in, all over the world, is dictated by his premises.

This would be a little less damaging if the Hairy Grifter (he was once described as an angry, hairy inkspot) weren’t wrong about … everything, really.

You want to look at the decay of Western civilization?  It’s mostly the unexamined absorption of Marxist ideas.

Now, I’m one of those people who live too much in books and theories, and, as such, I can tell you why they’re absorbed and treated as gospel: it’s because they make internal sense.  This is not the same as having even a glimmer of real world application, of course, but they satisfy the minds of intellectuals by dividing everything into categories and presenting a (false but deceptively smooth) system for historical change and, in general, sounding REALLY plausible.

Take the Marxist theory of value.  It is utter nonsense of course. The idea is that what gives value to something is the labor put into it.  You can see how this would appeal to Marx, or, indeed, to any intellectual.  Laboring forever over a book that sells one copy is now a genuine, bonafide “injustice”.  The book is valuable.  Just look how much work you put into it.

The REAL theory of value, is much messier and doesn’t fit nicely within the pages of a book, even if you beat it with a hammer, because then the blood oozes out all over the theory.  The REAL theory of value goes something like this: something is worth what people are willing to pay for it.

This means if caveman Grog just was LUCKY to be near where the thunderbolt struck dry wood, the caveman could then sell the flaming branches for a year’s worth of hunt.  No work involved.  He just was there.

Our monkey brains want things to be “fair” (Dave Freer tells me fairness is wired into simians, part of being a social species that lives in small bands.  It helps survival.)

The fact that the Marxist theory of labor has buggerall to do with real life – you can spend seventy years polishing a dog turd.  It still won’t be worth a million – doesn’t matter.  It has such BEAUTIFUL internal logic.  (By which you should read no logic at all but an appeal to our back brains.)  It allows serious people behind desks to make decisions on what everything is worth.

No?

Well, let’s say that we’ve got out of mandatory prices in every day goods – the crash was that big when we tried that – but what do you think Obamacare will do but set prices for highly specialized knowledge and services.  And what do they set them based on?  Well, they set them based on how much effort they think is involved.  This is where we get that doctors should be paid like teachers.

It’s also part of the trite, ridiculous idea that professional athletes should make less than teachers, because teachers “work harder” or are “More important to society” or whatever.

It’s all bokum, but it’s penetrated through the society to such an extent that people – with a  serious air of much learning – will tell you that books will be better (of course) if they take longer to produce.  They will say the same about any art work, or discovery REGARDLESS OF WHAT HISTORY TELLS THEM ABOUT REAL BOOKS OR ART.

That last about teachers being more important to society than professional athletes?  Marx again.  We’re supposed to prioritize the good of the collective over the good of the individual.

You want to see a good basketball game or a good wrestling match and are willing to pay for it?  Why you selfish capitalist pig.  Don’t you know the children need better teachers?  We should pay more to the teachers, so they’ll be better.  It’s for the good of society.

This has penetrated everything, too, including literary criticism.  It’s now all “is this book socially relevant?”

What in living daylight this has to do with being a good book (or poem or play) is beyond me.  No, seriously. Look, Shakespeare wrote his “socially relevant” works.  They’re the historical plays and by and large we ignore them.  They’re certainly not among the most watched/read.  Those are the ones where he touched humanity on the raw and took us, despite ourselves, on an emotional ride: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night, yes, even Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Scottish Play.

I’m fairly sure if asked about relevance, Jane Austen would think Mansfield Park, having to do with raising kids and the behavior of young women, and the division between classes was the most relevant of her works.  To us it reads turgid and infused with a totally alien morality (unless we belong to particularly strict sects.)  Pride and Prejudice, though, which, again captures humanity in a nutshell?  THAT we have read and watched and dreamed ragged.

BUT publishing is being run according to “relevant” works, which of course means agreeing with the social vision of those in power which is – largely – Marxist.

This is because it is the vision being promoted in college, where they actually DO Marxist literary analysis.  (Even if Marxism had any point of contact with reality, using a political theory to analyze why a book is good or enduring is sort of like using an ax to comb your hair.)

Then we get into sociology/politics/moral/religion, where the idea of collective guilt and collective punishment has taken hold.  And it’s insane.  (It’s particularly insane in Christianity where for the sake of ten righteous men G-d would have spared an entire corrupt city. [He probably would have gone to one, except he could tell the one to skeedadle with his family.])

It’s not just that they assign guilt to people on the basis of what group they belong to.  It’s that they throw people into groups based on characteristics that don’t mean anything.  Take White Males (not mine. Okay, the boys are technically Latin and look it.  But they’re still mine.  You can’t take them.)  I live with three of them, and they’re all very different people.  I have a multitude of male friends, gay and straight (I always got along better with men than with women.  Probably the result of growing up with an older brother and HIS friend group.  In fact, right now I have more women in my inner circle than ever before, and it startles me a little, but I still have more men.) None of them is guilty of slavery, sexism, exploitation.  If  any of them enjoys white male privilege they haven’t done it where I could see it.  Most of them work really hard and don’t get any breaks that they didn’t fight for for years.  In fact, particularly in federal jobs, women are likely to be promoted ahead of them.

Mostly what they get is blamed for the “historical oppression of women” and slavery and stuff that wasn’t happening when they were born, wasn’t happening when their fathers were born, and into which they had absolutely no say.

Now take white women.  Look, do you really think their ancestors didn’t participate in any oppression going among white men?  Why, of course they did.  Good heavens, we had white female queens.  But they’re “victims” because women are in the victim class of Marxism.  And so women now are born without sin and OWED.  No, it doesn’t matter what they’re owed.  Whatever their little heart desires, I guess.  They also always get to claim discrimination when things don’t go their way.

(Were women oppressed?  Some of them, undoubtedly.  Some still are.  Look at Islam and some of the more traditional cultures.  Mostly it has to do with the horrors of biology and the fact women couldn’t control their own reproduction until we had the pill.  But that doesn’t fit in Marxists’ pointy heads, see.)

Entire tribes in Africa subsisted from hunting other tribes and putting them on boats headed for slavery.  But these days anyone born of those slave-selling tribes is considered as much of a victim as the rest, because he’s black and he’s from Africa and therefore he’s a “victim.”  He’s a “victim” even if he was born to one of the Kleptocrats of Africa and his pampered feet never left the limo to touch the ground.

And let’s not get into social classes.  That will make your head hurt.  Is a small businessman, owner of his own business, a worker?  No? Because Marx said the workers didn’t own the means of production?  BUT what if this poor guy paints houses for a living and spends his time schlepping paint and ladder around and working REALLY HARD.  Nope, he’s still not a worker, because you see, Marx’s vision was limited to industrial revolution England and limited is the point.  He wasn’t even very up to date on his reading.

AND if that small business man hires an employee to help schlep the paint cans, he’s suddenly a guilty part and an exploiter.  Even though most small businessmen will make payroll before they pay themselves, and work into the night, while the employee keeps regular hours.

But, you say, Sarah, no one takes the Marxist theory of classes seriously anymore!

Really?  No?  That is why we have people talking about the “one percent” as though they were an homogeneous group?  That’s why we have taxes on people who “make too much.”  (Too much for what?) That’s why our entire tax system is based on redistribution.  Because for a long time it was believed that extreme redistribution was the way to stop communist revolution, which the scientific theory of history said would come otherwise.  This is how the Scandinavian countries got in the trap they’re in, and we too, just later and slower.

And that’s why people can’t be IQ tested the old way, because IQ tests are “inherently racist” – let alone that this theory is based on the idea that every race is alike within itself, and therefore is a racist claim in itself.  That’s why women are given breaks to get into STEM degrees, because even if their performance is inferior to keep them out would be sexist.  Their under performance is because their group are traditional victims!

ALL our society is run according to the theory of classes and designated historical victims.  And our churches.  Don’t get me started on our churches.

There was, circulating on Facebook, the story of this minister, hired by a mainstream congregation, who decided to try a stunt and come to his first service dirty, disheveled and looking like a homeless man.  He then “discovered” that his congregation didn’t “behave like Christians.”  They didn’t eject the man, mind you, but they gave him a seat in the back, and clearly kept an eye on him.

They didn’t ask him to sit up front and treat him as an honored guest, therefore they weren’t Christ-like, and when the minister did his big reveal, he excoriated them, and this got written about and distributed with approval.

Had I had hiring power in that congregation, I’d have called him aside after that stunt, told him that sorry, but the holy book in this church isn’t bound in red, given him his paycheck and a handshake.

But, SARAH, you’ll say. Christ got beggars and…

Yes, indeed.  And Christ’s world was very different.  It was very easy – in fact it was the norm – for hard working people to find themselves starving and destitute.  Without help, without any form of social services, MOST PEOPLE WERE POOR.  Helping the poor, and yes, even the prostitutes (I still wonder what He was up to with tax collectors. Never mind) most people starved or worse.

BUT we don’t live in Christ’s world.  There are layers of government services and private charities.  Most of our homeless are in fact mentally ill, drug addicted or both.

How many of us have NEVER seen a homeless man expose himself/been threatened by a homeless person/been pursued by a beggar yelling curses?  If you haven’t, you must either be very lucky or live in a very small place.

I’m sorry, but people go to church with their families, including small and vulnerable children.  When a dirty, disheveled homeless person shows up, you’re going to wonder what he’s going to do next.  Putting him at the back and watching him isn’t lack of charity.  It’s lack of death wish.  (Not too many years ago, a man shot himself in the bathroom of a church in town.  A homeless, mentally disturbed man.  If they’d watched him and kept an eye, perhaps that wouldn’t have happened.  Before the elections in 2008, two naked men showed up outside the church door of a church in town, supposedly to protest priestly abuse but in fact they were both mentally ill.)

These days, in the world we live in, keeping the homeless at a distance is called “self preservation instinct.”  It doesn’t mean we don’t help them, but we can’t treat any homeless person who shows up, particularly a dirty disheveled one, as an innocent victim who IS NOT going to do something awful suddenly and for no reason.  (Look, the sane homeless aren’t usually dirty and disheveled and you won’t know they’re homeless unless they tell you.  Yes, I’ve seen someone wash AND PUT ON FULL MAKE UP in a public bathroom.  People do that when they care and are trying to find help.)

A priest/minister who doesn’t see that is in fact drinking Marx by the cupful and thinks in terms of classes.  And in the world of classes the homeless are just “victims” and thus entitled to the best treatment REGARLESS of personal safety or the facts of life about most of the homeless today.

I suspect Christ might tell the man a thing or two about causing scandal, in fact.  It was, if nothing else, a piece of self-aggrandizing, showing a lack of respect and priory condemnation of his future congregation based on class.  “They’re comfortable, therefore they must be afflicted.”

SOCIAL justice was never part of the gospel or of any Western religion.  Justice, guilt and sin are individual and expiated as such.  (Yes, ancient Judaism, but it’s different when you’re in a land RULED by G-d.  And even there… ten men would spare a city.)

Only Marx thinks that on the terrible day of judgment in which he doesn’t believe, people will come before their Lord in classes and ranks of standing, and be condemned or forgiven according to things they could do nothing about.

In fact making the homeless into a Marxist victim-class precludes helping them as individuals.  You can’t say they need to be clean or moderate their behavior, even if you offer them help towards that.  Because they’re discriminated against, see?  And heaven forbid you try to help the mentally ill, because then you’re the Soviet Union, incarcerating “dissenters.”  Yay and verily, ask a college sociology professor and he’ll tell you that by standing on the corner and peeing himself, a homeless man is protesting heartless capitalism.  (The same heartless capitalism that allows him to eat at a soup kitchen and gives him clothes and sundries, no questions asked.  You got it.)

And don’t get me into the Marxist view of history.  Faced with the fact that the proletariat has not risen up as the great master predicted, they keep finding surrogates, mostly in third world countries, and treating THOSE as the international equivalent of homeless people.

You know, Somalia is starving because you’re rich, you bastard!

The fact that the aid western countries sent is pilfered or left to rot, the fact that their – Marxist, most of them educated at the Patrice Lumumba university in Moscow – are kleptocrats who line their pockets over those of their citizens, the fact that our surplus of donated goods destroy local industry has nothing to do with it.

You see, Marx thought that wealth was a finite pie.  That meant that for you to be rich someone else had to be poor.  And colleges still teach it that way.  No, seriously.

Apparently knowing that what kept a tenth of the population in bare subsistence in medieval times now keeps ten times as many beyond the dreams of medieval kings means NOTHING to them.  There’s finite wealth in the world, and if you take more than you “need” (from each according… yeah) then someone else will starve.

And those countries are by the way, always victims, because the “colonialists” took their “raw materials.”

No, I kid you not.  Seriously.  They are poor because people in the eighteenth century got gold or iron or cotton or something from them.  That makes them poor forever.  It’s the evil of Colonialism.  The kid’s college Geography book tried to sell that one.  I pointed out to the kid that Portugal was colony and colonizer and if it were a matter of stealing raw materials, then Portugal should be the richest country on Earth.  (And we won’t go into how fair trade isn’t stealing, even if fair trade for the time was something else.)

I’m sorry, Portuguese culture and the made infatuation with various forms of socialism probably has more to do with the mess the country is in then the fact that the Romans took all our gold.  (Which is why the area beneath the village looks like swiss cheese and sometimes vast portions cave after a heavy rain.)  Or is it Portugal is comfortable (relatively) for reasons having nothing to do with the fact it stole piles of gold from South America.  Which one is it?  It makes my head hurt.

None of Marx’s theories stands up to real world examination or real world scrutiny.  And yet you have people running around declaring themselves Marxist and neo-Marxist.  And, inexplicably, people don’t point and laugh.

His ideas have penetrated how things are done UNEXAMINED.  Which is the only way they could penetrate because if you examine them they crumble into incoherence.

The last time I pounded on Marx some twit informed me that it was very useful for literary analysis by which he (she? I don’t remember) meant that it’s a handy self-contained system that you can apply to books and decide what is good and what isn’t by what conforms and what doesn’t.

It makes me think of that mythical king who cut off the parts of men who didn’t fit into his box.

It might be easy to apply, but it doesn’t touch reality at ANY point.

And this is where Western civilization is.  Admitted (and a lot of is admitted on college campus) or not, we’re bound in fifty shades of Marx.

And no one has given us a safe word.

Reading Portuguese Novels

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Yes, I have other posts burning a hole in my head, so this week might be post-rich.

I also figured out what’s delaying the writing. Until I recover my IP from Baen I’m not continuing my mainline novels in those universes (there might be others, but it seems kind of pointless, since it would be new characters anyway, and so, in a way, starting anew, while in the same universe, which has fans who would be upset at starting anew.  Though there might be a sub-series called USAians, starting in the 22nd century. Haven’t decided yet.)  I have two other worlds, one fantasy-sf (don’t ask) and another a vast overhanging universe that will probably consume all my other future space operas, even if they seem unrelated.

Having started a novel in each, I came to a grinding halt.  Why?  Well, that took me time to figure out.  It boils down to this (beyond weird medicine interactions that made both my ADHD and depression unmanageable, and wedding and other life stuff that I haven’t talked about here): for the last fifteen years, I’ve written in long-established worlds that I knew like the back of my hand (whether my own or others) or historic stuff which has its own worldbuilding.  So, the stutters I’ve been experiencing are when I run up against …. something.  Like “She comes from an expensive, ultra-developed world, named…. named…” And then the ADHD takes over and I go off to clean toilets.

So today, the writing will happen with a Rocket book notebook (you type in it, then take a picture and it does handwriting recognition, even for my horrible handwriting) at my elbow, for notes when I hit an unknown unknown.  It’s a self-generating world bible.  Since I’ll probably spend the rest of my life in this world (with expeditions to DST, should that ever come back to me) at least for space-opera, I might as well build the foundations right.  Yes, it’s a lot like work and I’m lazy (duh, I’m a writer.) But it has to happen.

Anyway, so that’s been the hold up (on top of everything else.)

Now to the topic on hand: how much being born and raised in Portugal influenced my writing.

My fan eventually came back with the “But I want to know what great Portuguese literary works influenced your writing.”

So let’s talk about that.  You see, the problem is not that Americans are ignorant of other countries. Every country is ignorant of other countries.  It is that Americans, born and bred, tend to not realize every country is not the US.  The concept of how foreign and bizarre things can get is not even in the compass.

As I tried to think of one, just one, Portuguese literary work that influenced my work, I came up dry.  Sure, there were some children’s books and fairy tales that influenced me, but they are few and far between compared to foreign ones even there.  I’d say when I discovered fairy tales my favorite were grandma’s editions of the Countess de Segur.  (And I only discovered fairy tales at 16 or so, realizing I had a hole in my upbringing.)  If you’re into fairy tales, google her.  Her stuff is in Guttenberg, and frankly deserves better editions.

It’s not that I didn’t read Portuguese books. I did.  If they came near me, I read them.  It’s more that I don’t remember them/didn’t read them preferentially.

I have a theory for that.

Mostly I read Enid Blyton (all of them, even the boarding school books my brother disapproved of) then graduated to Rex Stout and Agatha Christie, and eventually fell headlong into SF/F.  Other things fell in along the way, including but not limited to Sir Walter Scott and Dumas.  But in general those were my influences.

Portuguese prose writing (more on that later) tends to have a really slow tempo and a weird, kind of flat reminiscent voice.  This is not just 19th century (most of the works kicking around) it’s what allowed me to detect Portuguese writers using English names in US or UK anthologies.

The more recent Portuguese work is all message fic, and the message is very po-mo, very left, and I already got a surfeit of that at school, so literature classes became “How little can I read of this while passing the test.”  For novels, at least.  Most short stories are short-shorts, and usually also message fic, or “done for the shock or twist ending.”  Those often have a decent voice, but the genre is limiting.

The reason for the state of Portuguese literature is this: there is no money in it.

It’s not just that Portugal is TINY (Brazil is bigger, but the language can grate.)  It’s that most Portuguese aspire to write SOMETHING.  So Portuguese publishers are determined not to shell out a cent for the work.

Under such conditions, popular literature doesn’t exist.  Amusing the public is a DISTANT and remote thing.  The publishers are going to make some money off these free books, anyway, and why bother?  They try rather to publish things that schools will put on their reading program.  The results are predictable. These aren’t things (by and large, short-shorts excepted) you read for fun.  They are more for display than for reading for adventure or fun or… anything.

In this day and age, I’ll be a dog if I understand why a bunch of Portuguese would-be writers don’t band together, arrange for having their work translated into English, and start putting out dual-language anthologies.  If I had more time, I’d suggest it/run it myself.

And maybe that would change things.  But maybe like news/opinion blogs it is too weird for the European mind?

Anyway that’s Portuguese prose.  Its fate is what always comes to things that are not monetized: they become display items to the elite and ossify.

I used to be really sad — and my dad is heartbroken, particularly on the mysteries — that none of my books were translated into Portuguese.  Until I found out how few they have of Pratchett (and those only in Brazilian English) and none that I can find of Correia.

Portuguese poetry was always an exception, because the language is suited to it, and Portuguese write poetry like they breathe. So there’s always a ton of Portuguese Poetry that I like, and I own several books.  And it has influenced me to the extent I use rhetorical tricks first learned from memorized poems.  I not only think well of Fernando Pessoa: if I ever have the opportunity I’m going to make him four versions of a time traveler that got lost (those who know his poetry will appreciate that.)

Anyway, this concludes this dive into the origins of my writing.  And now I need to go do some of it. (GROAN.)  I hate the work, but it’s the price I pay to get the stories out of my head and make money to keep a roof over my head.  See you tomorrow.

……. First, coffee.

In Flanders Fields

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In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Europe is dying of a WWI wound. And America is suffering the contagion.

The best of Europe at the time died in Flanders (And France) fields, and all the poppies that grow upon them obscure that in their absence the weasels, the sentimentalists, and most of all the demagogues seized upon their sacrifice to tell future generations what it meant.

Not even World War II, born of new internationalist movements (even though one of them emphasized imagined national identity) convinced people that the problem was not nationalism, instead of, say, crazy prescriptive just-so philosophies, or totalitarianism, or considering humans no more than widgets.

And so the world went careening after “internationalism” and “world government.” Both of which are not just bad ideas, they’re suicidal ideas, where the West is concerned.

Race is of relatively little importance in human affairs.  (Genetics, maybe, but even then it’s iffy.) Culture, however, is of massive, overpowering importance.  And culture is markedly difficult of change.  Archeological anthropologists can trace survivals of culture in places where the normal human pattern before the 20th century prevailed, and all the men were killed by the invading tribe, and all the women impregnated by the invaders.

Words and tales survive of the old culture, because mothers sing lullabies and talk of homely things.  Patterns of behavior survive too, enough to make the new colony not a replica of the motherland.

Since — thank heavens — none of us is talking of invading the whole world and replacing it with western culture by killing everyone over the age of three — thank heavens because even when very mild and relatively successful rule by conquerors has odd effects. Witness Japan’s population crash — talking about a world government or internationalism is insane talk.  Inviting horders of unaccultured (and unacculturable because hordes) less successful (by the only measurement that counts, of decreasing human disease, hunger, misery and mortality) cultures is inviting them to influence your culture till you too can’t survive.  And letting the world tell you how to live results in rule by envy, at least if you’re as rich and powerful as the US.

It’s time to take a deep breath.  Remember the dead of world war I — sacrificed to a web of crazy international alliances and the last reverberations of the industrial revolution disturbing society — remember the dead of world war II — dead over infatuation with a crazy ideology that promised heaven on Earth and the need to stop it — remember the victims of communism, and those who died fighting it — dead over infatuation with a crazy ideology that promised heaven on Earth and the need to stop it — and here, at the eye of the storm take a deep breath and reconsider everything you were taught.

Then refuse to hate your country or your culture.  Refuse to hate the West too.  Sure, we’ve made mistakes historically, but what culture hasn’t.  And at least what resulted is the best society for humans yet, where our poor suffer from obesity and expensive addictive substances.

Square your shoulders.  Those young men, sleeping under Flanders fields, might have died in a misguided clash from the age of empires, in a misguided attempt to end all wars.  The war in which they died is best known as the War of the Two Defeated.

But they were the best of the west.

And we will not let them down.

It’s time to rebuild.