Not the Monthly Post

Adrift In An Airship

The collective confusions we’ve been exploring since I returned from January’s break form a tangled web, and no one loose end leads straight to the heart of it. It so happens that in recent months I’ve had the chance to explore it from yet another angle, by way of the research I’ve been doing for an unexpected project of mine.

Readers of my Dreamwidth journal will be aware of this, but those who simply follow this blog may not yet have heard that I’ve been asked by a game publisher to create a roleplaying game based on my fantasy series with tentacles, The Weird of Hali. I’m pleased to report that the game’s squamous and rugose bulk is slithering toward you—yes, you!—with uncanny speed, reaching out hungry pseudopods…well, you get the idea. The working draft is already in the hands of the publisher; editorial feedback, playtesting to destruction, and frantic editing will follow, and with any luck it’ll be unleashed on a world trembling with dread in early 2020.

One of the things I’ve been doing to try to make the game as good as possible is to read a bunch of current RPGs, in the hopes of getting a sense of where roleplaying games have gone in the years since I played regularly, admiring (and drawing inspiration from) the things that work, and wincing at (and being warned by) the things that don’t. I’ve had plenty of both experiences, though by and large the admiration has been the more common of the two—there are a lot of really good games out there these days.

I didn’t expect any of this research to cast light on the cultural politics of our era, much less to explain at long last why the Left can’t meme and why Hollywood has churned out so many politically correct flops since Donald Trump’s election. Still, that’s what happened, courtesy of one of the RPGs I picked up in the course of my research. I have no desire whatsoever to upset the designer or the publisher of the game in question, nor to do anything that might deprive it of so much as a single sale, so I’ll call it Airship Heroes (not its real name), pretend that it’s a steampunk-themed game (which it isn’t), and swap out other details as needed to provide everyone involved with as much plausible deniability as they could wish. The points I hope to make ought to be just as clear that way as any other.

What makes Airship Heroes an unintentional commentary on the cultural politics of our era isn’t the game itself – it uses a good workmanlike set of game mechanics and stats – but the setting, which is discussed at great length in the rulebook. Like a lot of RPGs these days, it takes place in an alternative history; in this case, it’s one where the great European and transatlantic wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries didn’t happen, because those sinister arachnids, the Spider Lords of Shambhala, burst out of their warrens deep under Central Asia’s mountains in 1751 and attempted to conquer the world. Fortunately, Colonel George Washington ambushed a Spider Lord detachment in the forests of western Pennsylvania, capturing their weapons and gear, and Benjamin Franklin was able to reverse-engineer the Spider Lords’ lightning guns. Once human warriors were equipped with high-tech weapons, the war turned in humanity’s favor, and by 1786 the Spider Lords had been driven back into their Central Asian refuges.

In the aftermath of the war, access to captured Spider Lord technology drove a rapid expansion of human scientific and technical knowledge, leading to your common or boiler-room variety steampunk setting:  airships cruising the skies, Victorian technology going for baroque all over the place, and so on. That much is pretty straightforward. In the aftermath of the war, though, the rulebook has it that people in all the good countries—we’ll get to the others in a bit—up and discarded all their ethnic and gender prejudices, freed the slaves, gave women equal rights, and embraced liberal socially progressive democracy.  Not only that, the good countries all stopped fighting each other and sent delegates to the League of Good Countries, based in Lisbon, which settled all disputes peacefully. Not only that, but nearly everyone in the good countries have adopted all the values of early 21st century upper middle class European liberal culture. So by 1845, the year in which the game is set, there are happy, peaceful, socially progressive industrial democracies in all the good countries of the world.

The bad countries? Well, the number one bad country is the Russian Empire, and the Russian Empire in 1845 is an evil capitalist plutocracy. And why has the deeply religious, agrarian, and still largely medieval Russia of 1845 up and morphed into a capitalist plutocracy? Because the rulebook says so, that’s why. (My guess is that what’s behind it is the sort of thinking that Alfred Korzybski used to critique so trenchantly:  if capitalist plutocrats are all evil people, then all evil people must be capitalist plutocrats. QED!) The Russians fought alongside the good countries in the war against the Spider Lords, to be sure, but since they’re evil capitalist plutocrats we can assume that when Colonel Sodoff of the Imperial Russian Guard shows up in happy, peaceful, socially progressive industrial democracies like Ruritania and Paphlagonia and South Absurdistan, he’s Up To No Good.

So there are the Russians. There are the Spider Lords, who are still down there in their caverns under the mountains of central Asia, plotting Conquest of the World 2.0. There are dinosaurs—Baron Cuvier’s famous airship expedition to the Matto Grosso in 1832 discovered a whole ecosystem of big saurians there, and since then they’ve been exported to various other tropical regions because diplodocus steaks are just too good to pass up. And there are the captains and crews of classic steampunk-style airships, who go toddling around the planet looking for wrongs to right, nations that haven’t quite gotten around to joining the League of Good Countries yet, dinosaurs to lunch on, the sinister machinations of Colonel Sodoff to foil, or the even more sinister machinations of the Spider Lords of Shambhala to contend with. These captains and crews are the Airship Heroes of the game, and you get to play one of them.

And this is where the net draws tight. The Airship Heroes rulebook has some highly specific suggestions about how adventures ought to be handled. The game, it says, is based on the kind of lighthearted Victorian adventure novels in which the protagonists single-handedly liberate whole nations, defeat sinister conspiracies, solve insoluble problems while you wait, achieve the impossible and unscrew the inscrutable. That’s the way the game is designed to be played:  the tone positive, the characters triumphant, complex moral issues and gritty realities banished from sight so that the good people can go their merry way saving the world from the bad people.

If that’s the kind of thing you want from a roleplaying game, dear reader, then Airship Heroes will probably be right up your alley. Even if that’s not the kind of thing you want, it’s a good solid game, and you won’t have to work too hard to tweak things to your liking. I suspect, in fact, that a lot of people who pick up Airship Heroes will either tinker with the setting or replace it with one that provides opportunities for more interesting play. The difficulty with the kind of upbeat, triumphant, morally-one-dimensional-to-the-point-of-cartoonishness setting that Airship Heroes provides, after all, can be summed up easily: it doesn’t take too many games before “Oh, look, there’s Colonel Sodoff again, how will we triumph heroically over him this time?” gives way to “Ho hum, there’s Colonel Sodoff again, I’m not sure I care how we will triumph heroically over him this time.”

That is to say, for most people, that sort of thing very soon becomes dull.

In an important sense, it’s not Victorian adventure fiction that Airship Heroes resembles most, but a different branch of the literature of that era:  the vast profusion of improving stories of virtue rewarded and vice rebuked, which were churned out in such profusion while Victoria sat on Britain’s throne and fell into such richly deserved oblivion thereafter. By page five or so, you know which characters are good people and which are bad people, and from there on the story unfolds mechanically; the incidents may vary but the plot never does.  The fine details of the moral preachments have changed from that time to this, but the basic tone—upbeat, triumphant, morally one-dimensional, and rather dreary—is the same as you’ll get when you climb aboard with Captain Goody Twoshoes and her stereotypically diverse crew to become an Airship Hero.

It’s also the same tone you’ll get from a flurry of recent Hollywood movies that were supposed to be blockbusters and turned into world-class flops. All of them have the same basic structure as Airship Heroes, or for that matter of any improving Victorian tale of virtue rewarded and vice rebuked.  You’ve got the good people being good because they’re good people, you’ve got the bad people being bad because they’re bad people, the bad people try to do something bad to the good people, and the good people win because they’re the good people, that’s why.

Throw in lavish cinematography and way too many special effects, get the paid reviewers to cough up the usual fulsome praise, and (ahem) you’re good – well, except that you may just find out that you had everyone on board but the audience, who yawned and stayed home. This is why the phrase “get woke, go broke” has become so well known among moviegoers and the less politically correct critics.  It’s also why I expect any day now to hear that a group of young, brash, politically conservative venture capitalists have funded a new moviemaking studio which will be located just outside Branson, Missouri, which will produce films that won’t be subject to the rigid social-justice dogmatism that rules Hollywood these days, and which in ten years or so will be where all the hot young talent is headed because the Hollywood studios just keep doubling down on a series of failed formulae.

This is basically what happened, after all, to the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton. For that matter, there’s something eerily appropriate in the image of Clinton as the captain of a dirigible in Airship Heroes, chugging through the skies high above one flyover state after another, in a state of serene and almost schizophrenic detachment from the gritty, morally complex realities down there on the ground, with her stereotypically diverse crew striking suitably triumphant poses around her and the clouds drifting lazily by. Her campaign was all about the good people being good because they’re good people, and the deplorables being deplorable because they’re deplorable—and there, too, the audience yawned and stayed home.

At this point, let’s fire up the engines on our own airship and head for the grim mountains of Central Asia where the Spider Lords lurk, because there’s a lesson to be learned from their really rather impressive dullness. Our pilot on this journey will be Arthur Koestler, a brilliant Hungarian writer who died in 1983. Among Koestler’s most influential books was The Act of Creation, which presented a theory of creativity that casts an important ray of light on the odd psychology we’ve been exploring for the last several months.

We can begin making sense of Koestler’s insights by considering jokes. The basic structure of humor is a collision between incompatible meanings; the setup prepares the listener to take what’s happening in one way, and then the punch line redefines it in a different way. The shock of the sudden change is what makes it funny. Puns show this in a particularly clear form, but it’s present in every kind of humor. Think of the confrontation between King Arthur and the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Arthur approaches the fight with one set of meanings in mind, the Black Knight does so with a completely different set, and the collision between them generates the high absurdity and hilarity of the scene.

The same thing on a more serious plane is the underlying structure of scientific discovery. At the heart of Isaac Newton’s magisterial work on gravity was a simple insight born of just such a collision. Throw a stone and it arcs downward until it hits the ground. What if the stone is the size of the Moon, and it’s high enough and moving fast enough that as it falls toward the ground, the ground falls away just as quickly due to the curvature of the Earth? That’s an orbit. The moon is a falling rock:  that’s the insight, a dizzying realization that connected two worlds of meaning and made new sense of both of them.

The same thing, finally, is also what makes good literature. Let’s take Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as an example. You’ve got Elizabeth Bennett, the female lead, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the male lead. They meet, he behaves rudely, she takes an understandable dislike to him; they keep on running into each other, he notices that she’s considerably more than the dull country girl he thought she was and he starts to fall for her, but by then her opinion of him is set and she won’t give him the time of day; around we go, until eventually his pride and her prejudice break down in the face of their mutual attraction, and they live happily ever after.

Notice what’s going on here: each of the main characters is contending with a collision between meanings. Is Mr. Darcy a conceited snob, or is he the man she’s been waiting for?  That’s what Elizabeth has to figure out. Is Elizabeth just one more dull country girl, or is she the woman he’s been waiting for? That’s what Darcy has to figure out—and those aren’t the only meanings that collide, of course, or the only two characters who are caught up in their complexities, because Austen is far too good a writer to leave it at that. In her books, contending meanings dance and flirt and talk and snub one another like characters at the assembly ball in Meryton.

In order to have a collision between meanings, though, you’ve got to have more than one possible meaning. That’s where Airship Heroes, and those recent Hollywood flops, and the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton all land with an audible thud, because none of them permit more than a single meaning for anything in their world. In Airship Heroes, the good people are good people, full stop, end of sentence; they all share the same attitudes and values because those are the right attitudes and values, full stop, end of sentence; the member states of the League of Good Countries all get along, despite occasional misunderstandings and the sinister machinations of Russian capitalist plutocrats and the Spider Lords of Shambhala, because they’re good countries, full stop, end of sentence.

And the problem with Colonel Sodoff and the Spider Lords—well, besides the fact that they sound like a British acid rock band from the Seventies—is that they don’t even have their own meanings. They exist solely because the good people and the good countries and the good Airship Heroes need someone to triumph heroically over, again and again and again. The Russian Empire isn’t a capitalist plutocracy for any reason rooted in Russia’s long and rich history; no, it’s a capitalist plutocracy because that’s the horns and tail and red long johns in which this game tricks out some of its devils. For their part, the Spider Lords of Shambhala don’t even achieve the two-dimensionality of a cardboard cutout. They lurch mindlessly through their mechanical conquer-the-world routine because that’s the meaning they’ve been assigned.

And that, my children, is why the words “That’s not funny!” in an angry and censorious tone have been the punch line of any number of jokes at the expense of the far left since before I was born. It’s why, as the merry pranksters of the alt-Right like to say, the Left can’t meme, and why the alt-Right itself seems to be turning into the nucleus of the next radical youth counterculture just now. It’s why Hollywood keeps on throwing away tens of millions of dollars on dreary little morality plays, because the studios have lost track of the fact that effective storytelling depends on moral complexity and the collision of equally potent meanings, and they thought they could make up for it by larding the product with enough special effects and admiring themselves for parading their social-justice wokeness.

It’s also why Hillary Clinton isn’t President of the United States right now, and why her former supporters are gearing up to make all the same mistakes in 2020 that she and they made in 2016. One of the reasons I was able to predict in January of 2016 that Donald Trump would win the upcoming election was that the Clinton campaign, then just beginning to hit its stride, was very nearly a carbon copy of the campaign she’d run so unsuccessfully in 2008. Learning from your mistakes is perhaps the most basic form of the collision of meanings Arthur Koestler talked about: here’s the meaning you thought your actions had, here’s the meaning your failure has just revealed to you, and by comparing them you might be able to do better next time. That doesn’t seem to be something Hillary Clinton knows how to do, and a great many people on her side of the political landscape apparently don’t know how to do it either.

There’s good reason for that.  If your worldview only allows things to have a single meaning, then the shock that comes from the collision between incompatible meanings isn’t something you will ever get to experience – and it’s out of that shock, as Koestler showed, that creativity and insight are born. Every time some member of the liberal establishment insists at the top of her well-exercised lungs that anyone who disagrees with [insert liberal establishment dogma here] is a [insert insult here], rather than listening to the people who disagree with it and finding out why, a chance for that collision of meanings goes away, and takes another electoral vote with it. We’ll see a little over a year and a half from now just how much that matters.

243 Comments

  1. A lot of interesting stuff to break down here. First of all, Weird of Hali is on my perennial to-read list, and I can’t wait to go through the RPG (still being one of those who spends a great deal of their time helping their friends pretend to be wizards).

    Second point: If Airship Captains is your idea of a left-leaning RPG, you need to find some better RPGs. Most of the RPGs I’ve played that the community considers the ‘SJW ones’ are absolutely dripping with sex, violence, drama, and psychological horror. Bluebeard’s Bride is the top contender for this sort of thing (as I see it), and Monster Hearts and Urban Shadows have shades of this as well.

    Final point, if ‘get woke, go broke’ were an actual thing than a lot less corporations would be putting on the trappings of fake, corporate woke-ism. Every movie that gets Twitter-protested by the alt-right still makes billions of dollars. Nobody went broke betting on Black Panther, Captain Marvel, or The Last Jedi. Corps don’t care about anything woke, but they will make efforts to appear that way as long as the money keeps pouring in.

    Vague left-of-center-but-not-really politics may be on it’s way out, but there is a ton of cultural energy on the left that is starting to mobilize, disgusted with both the half-measured buffoonery of modern liberalism and lies and bigotry of the alt-right.

  2. The April meeting of the Green Wizards Association of Auckland will be held on the 27th of April 2019 at 13:00.

    Our inaugural meeting was a huge success with a bigger than expected turnout.

    We are still on the lookout for a permanent venue but for now we will meet up near Aotea Square, 303 Queen St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand.

    Please RSVP, or send queries and comments to GWAA[at]wormlamp.com or better still sign up for e-mail reminders at https://wormlamp.com/gwaa/.

    We look forward to meeting you.

  3. The colliding meanings of “left” are of course, funny, because the incongruous picture it provokes in me of Clinton going on strike for the $15, or of Biden laying down tools in solidarity with groundskeepers suffering from pesticide induced cancers, is actually hilarious.

    Meanwhile, it is not coincidental that the brand of “left” that can’t meme, and that asserts its class interests via policing “correctness” [under the banner of “political manners”], shares a great deal with the Victorian class which asserted its class interests via the policing of “correctness” [under the banner of “respectability” and also, ha ha, of “manners”].

    Best of luck with the game launch, as and when.

  4. Describing WWII British films at the end of Quartered Safe Out Here, George MacDonald Fraser said: ‘of course it was propaganda. The audience would have been outraged if it wasn’t propaganda.’ Some good movies, some bad, all propaganda. Heinlein’s juveniles were the D party line of the fifties, but he went through the formality of writing good science fiction. Today’s Hugo winners skip the second part, and so do a lot of movies.

    As the standards for college have gone down, and colleges have become majority-female, we see a lot of banning and shunning by dim schoolgirlish hen parties, often all males. A grown man who still gets in fist fights or a grown woman who still forms hen parties to ban and shun the other girls may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you assume they’ve been at it long enough to know the up side, the down side, how this goes sideways. A woman who watches slender Buffy bat 200 pound men around while flashing some leg, and takes a self-defense course? Or a man who sees girls pull off banning and shunning in college, and figures anything a dumb girl can do he can do better?

  5. I really click with what you’re saying, JMG, as far as planet Earth is concerned, but I had to check whether your critique works universally, including on Barsoom. I want Barsoom to fit in with the requirements of good literature, so I approach the topic with trepidation: shouldn’t the mad jeddaks (like Tul Axtar, with his plans to conquer Barsoom, his hundreds of women and his lethal economic policies) be dull, since they’re so obviously just bad for the sake of being bad? And yet they fit nicely into the stories. I therefore tinker with the theory and decide that the mad jeddaks, though bad, are good insofar as they are good at being bad… I’m just thinking aloud, burbling on about what is a different moral universe anyway, I guess.

  6. Does anyone else have an almost unnatural love for Airships?
    I just love them. I think they are the most elegant way to travel.
    A big, slow, quiet, flying machine is just such a wild combination.
    If Bezos or Musk would give up on the space ships and instead focus on building solar powered airships shaped like flying whales, koi fish, or penguins the future would be way cooler.

    I would vote for anyone who redirects NASA away from space ships and towards airships.

    Is anybody with me? Or am I just an airship weirdo?

  7. Mr. Greer, you forgot to mention The Dragon Lady. Airship Heroes sounds very like the long ago comic strip, Terry and the Pirates.

    In other news, a single, black woman, a former prosecutor, was just elected mayor of Chicago, and from what I can gather, the SJW contingent is staging a bit of a tantrum because, I think, she is threatening perks and swag. Move city services into dispersed neighborhoods (away from Downtown where the fancy restaurants are) and encourage professional apprenticeships as opposed to the everybody can go to college mantra are not quite what they wanted to hear.

  8. It’s always fascinating the timing of some of these posts, or just how something else viewed through the perspective you give has a lot in common. This week I was revisiting the Norse creation myth and was struck by realizing Odin and Loki actually have quite a bit in common: they both even were half giant! Each up-ended the world they were born into, Odin through the killing of Ymir and Loki by helping lead to the battle of Ragnarok.

    The commonly accepted thought on the two is that Odin is good and Loki is evil. There fortunately are many writings suggesting otherwise to give different perspectives. In light of the perspective presented in this Airship Heroes paradigm, it’s actually really easy to recognize that the Norse myths presented the two characters of Odin and Loki as being similar as a lesson: that you can have two seemingly diametrically opposed people who are really quite alike but because one is labeled as “good” and the other is labeled as “bad”, many become emotionally blind and act on faith. The resulting conflict doesn’t result in the triumph of good, but instead results in a transformation of the current worldview into another which usually is a combination of both good and bad labels.

    We’ll definitely have an interesting 2020 as we watch the world we knew, the stories and perspectives which made sense begin to make less sense of things. I certainly hope we’ll see more people willing to look at the middle ground but history does seem to show that many people like to continuing being delusional right until the end.

  9. @Andrew001:

    OK, but you’re demonstrating exactly the behavior that JMG is talking about. The liberals are buffoons, those to the right of them are full of lies and bigotry, and can be lumped together as “alt-right” and thereby dismissed. But thank God for the saviors of the Left, who are bursting with cultural energy and are ready to mobilize! I’m sorry, but JMG is correct – this story does not end well.

  10. Andrew001, a spirited reply! It won’t wash, though. First, thank you! I hope you enjoy them. Second, I didn’t say that Airship Heroes was a typical PC game, I said that it revealed something crucial about the current mindset of the establishment Left. Sex, violence, drama, and psychological horror, by the way, don’t address my point, which has to do with moral complexity — for example, whether all sides in a conflict have their own (to them, valid) reasons for engaging in the conflict, or whether some of them are there purely because they’ve been assigned the status of “bad people.”

    Third, well, even Wikipedia admits that the painfully woke 2016 remake of Ghostbusters was a box office bomb — their exact words; due to high marketing costs, the producers stated that it would need to gross $300 million to break even, and it grossed $229 million. 2018’s Solo, another painfully woke film, made only about half what it would have needed to break even — this, again, from Wikipedia. I could go on. “Get woke, go broke” was iirc coined in the video game industry, where there are far more examples, but it’s a real phenomenon in movies as well.

    Fourth, yes, I know, it’s part of the Left’s sense of identity that it’s got a ton of cultural energy and will mobilize any day now, That used to be true, too. One of the problems with being stuck in a single meaning is that it becomes hard to notice changes when they happen, or to realize that (in the present case) the Left has long since settled into a rut, frantically trying to replay its mid-20th century triumphs — thus the perpetual use of imagery and rhetoric from the Civil Rights movement and the fight against fascism. The Left can regain the kind of cultural energy it once had, but not until it realizes that it’s lost it — and that realization hasn’t happened yet and may be a while off.

    Marcu, have a great meeting!

    Scotlyn, hmm! That’s true, and an excellent point. Thank you.

    Engleberg, I suspect the gap between Buffy and the real world is among the major factors at work here.

  11. Dear JMG,

    I am an avid RPG player (have been for all of my adult life) and I’m not familiar with the game you described but I see a rising counterculture to the black and white “good vs. evil” themes in modern RPGs in the “Old School Renaissance/Revival” movement. OSR goes back to the origins of the hobby where the “heroes” are labelled for what they truly are: tomb raiders and grave robbers who want to get rich. Whether morality plays a role in that or not is up to the players, but the older style of play gets out of the way of making that decision for them. The emphasis for the adjudicator at the table is to present a realistic world that responds to player decisions, and judge impartially. I’ve embraced these OSR concepts and find it a very refreshing and creative outlet.

    Tim

  12. I saw references to “the woke” in the most recent open post and, of course, this post. I’m curious if anyone knows the origin of the term as it is used in reference to the privileged left? Was it assigned to them mockingly by the alt-right or someone else, or was it embraced by the left in their crusade to wake everyone else up? I’m not on any social media platform which may account for my ignorance of the term. Thanks for any insight.

  13. @Nastarana: “In other news, a single, black woman, a former prosecutor, was just elected mayor of Chicago”

    Minor correction: she is married; she and her wife have a daughter. 🙂

  14. Esteemed and ever-industrious Archdruid, when I saw Airships in your blog title I thought “Aha, something I actually have some personal knowledge of.” Reading the posting, I realized that my very minimal experience with RPGs makes me mostly a spectator in the upcoming discussion. But because of my prior airship experience (I helped to build and test-fly a small one back in the 1980s, and even now have current world records on the books that resulted from a flight back then) I realized while reading your posting that Airships, as a class, bear a striking resemblance to the topic afoot in your posting: they seem like a good idea, but no matter how many times and ways they are tried, they always disappoint, underperform, and if pushed too far fail in disastrous fashion. Airships turn out to be devilishly difficult to fly, and the only way to fly them safely is to be very picky about the conditions you fly them in, to ask very little of them regarding performance, payload, or utility, and to obsessively attend to micro-meterorological and operational details that are quite frankly arcane. Fragility is a core characteristic of airships. They are, and will always remain, Not Practical.

    You have previously pointed out the stark difference between a device or practice being possible versus being practical/durable/affordable/sustainable. So as with airships, thus also it seems with our current instantiations of The Left and Hollywood: looks nice and seems to many like a good idea, but no matter how many design tweaks you apply, they are maladapted, and fail the gritty tests of usability in the world we actually live in.

    Best regards!

  15. Pardon my naivete, I’m about to sound like a talking fossil. Are these role playing games videogames or the old fashioned type that were played with decks of illustrated cards?

  16. Ever-indulgent Archdruid, I had a couple of additional observations but didn’t put them in my first comment so as to not clutter it. Here’s the clutter. 🙂

    The first is a contemplation on the “stereotypically diverse crew” you mention in Hillary’s airship. It seems we’ve really lost our way as to what the value of diversity is. Diversity has little value in how you Look, but rather with how you Think and what skills you have. We’re using “Looks” in our society as an unsatisfactory proxy. Our present view of diversity isn’t diverse in any way that really matters. It’s as if you decided to undertake a major construction project and hired people based on what they wore to the interview. So for instance, the guy in the red plaid shirt is hired as the bulldozer operator, the person wearing glasses becomes the accountant, the person in the suit becomes the boss, and the person wearing sandals and a tee-shirt does all the computing infrastructure. That ain’t gonna work, except by chance…

    The second is a quote I am very fond of, from The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

    Best regards, and cheers!

  17. Well, spiders are obviously inherently evil. 🙂 I sort of get your point, but largely disagree. First, most classical role-playing games are centered around combat simulations. D&D (my lifelong favorite) should be more than “open the door, kill the monster, take the treasure”, but you must provide regular monster-killing opportunities to keep most parties happy. Is it not then morally less problematic to say “Goblins in this world are inherently evil and dangerous” than to say “Actually goblins are just trying to live, but you’re gonna slaughter them like the villagers of My Lai because they have some gold and magic items”?

    Many years ago I started a campaign by letting the party massacre kobolds in a mine that nearby villagers wanted to reopen. However, the kobolds had moved in after the mine had been abandoned long ago, were supporting themselves by hard work, and should have had rights to the place. My long-term plan was for the survivors to seek payback by obtaining means of turning a party leader into a kobold and enslaving her in the fungus farms (where she would have learned more about them). Alas, due to geographic separation the campaign fell apart before the scheme could come to fruition. I am not sure my players would’ve been thrilled with my introduction of moral complexity anyway.

    As for alternate-world games set on an Earth in which there is no severe institutionalized sexual or racial discrimination – again, we play games for escapist fun. Women who know history look back with horror on the millennia of women’s talent almost completely lost, and the abuse and condescension women within living memory had to endure to enter science. Nobody (female, anyway) would want to play a steampunk game in which you were told “Now, if your character is male, you can be a genius inventor, but if your character is female, you will be denied the prerequisite education, and you’ll be socially ostracized if you put intellectual pursuits above fashion and breeding. You may work as a lab assistant; let me roll percentile dice to see whether your boss will try to rape you.” Whee.

  18. The last month or two I have been in a nostalgic phase, revisiting lots of the media of my youth. This involves the video games I played as a teen, and more topical to this post the tv shows that littered my imagination. Airship Heros reminds me very vividly of Star Trek of course, and Star Trek has very much been at the top of my mind recently.

    While I was herding sheep last winter I liked to day dream. One that came up was a series meant to spoof Star Trek, trying to take the basic story structure to tell post petrol stories. Space flight won’t do, but air ships just might! So I dreamt up the Global Air Ship Hector, traveling the world with a crew from the alliance cities struggling in a losing battle to maintain the technological infrastructure that was the only life support for the five remaining mega cities on a planet mostly reverted to inhospitable wilderness or feuding tribal cultures, barely reforming for the trauma of two harsh centuries. A trick I found was that with out the progressive assumption of Star Trek making the characers of the ship morally sympathetic was really hard. So once I was done herding I came home I turned to my favorite Star Trek to meditate on this canard.

    Rewatching the first two series of Trek does little for me, excepting a couple episodes that got lucky on some good plot points, but the third Deep Space Nine has, for me, aged fantastically, precisely because it jumps head first in to the deep end of the moral humor you speak of in this post.

    Many of the conflicts are between characters whose morality are perpendicular to our present cultures moral compass. And while the alien cultures and founded on crude cliches (Romulans are secretive, Cardasians are xenophobic, Feringi are greedy) individual characters are able to take those cliches in genuanly surprising directions; some times by learning from the morality of the Progressive Federation, and also at times getting to call the ‘good guys’ out for being full of shale. The nastiest villian of the series flirts with redemption for most of the show run, some times being geniounly helpful and sympathetic, and in other episodes giving way to certain vile tendancies.

    After watching it I am very impressed because there are so many characters who can do things I find highly disturbing, and yet remain sympathetic, and after day dreaming of the voyages of the G.A.S. Hector I can respect how hard that is to pull off well.

  19. Before we go on, a note to all — I’ve just deleted an otherwise interesting comment because of profanity. Please read the text above the comment window before posting, because I do enforce those rules.

    Okay, now back to the comments…

    Robert, fair enough! The thing is, of course, that mad jeddaks exist; we’ve had quite a number of them right here on Jasoom. They’re one of the things that people can become, given means, motive, and opportunity. What makes Airship Heroes dull isn’t that it has villains — a good, well-rounded, convincingly nasty villain is a great asset for a story. It’s that the villains exist solely to give the Good People someone to beat up on. Tul Axtar is there for his own reasons, the way Stalin and Pol Pot were. And of course John Carter was a hero but not a politically correct plaster saint…

    Skyrider, there are a lot of airship fans out there — the whole Steampunk scene is crawling with them. So you’ve got plenty of company!

    Nastarana, I don’t recall any particular display of virtue signaling in “Terry and the Pirates”!

    Prizm, that makes a great deal of sense.

    Tim, I’ve studied a number of OSR games of late — Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess among them — and found them much closer to what I used to enjoy in RPGs. WoH: the RPG isn’t quite the same sort of thing, since it’s got the underlying conflict of the novels as its basis — the Great Old Ones and their human and nonhuman servants vs. the Radiance — but I’ve tried to structure the game, like the books, so that the Radiance isn’t evilly evil for the sake of evilness. Rather, its members are convinced that they’re warriors for the future of humanity, doing battle against unspeakable evils so that our species can achieve its rightful destiny as masters of the cosmos, and that’s not just propaganda to them — they believe it wholeheartedly, and believe that it justifies their actions.

    Ryan, I believe that it started out as a term used by social justice activists themselves, but I’m prepared to be corrected.

    Bryan, thank you for this! So it was an even better metaphor than I thought. 😉

    Kimberly, a long time ago, before those colored cards, before video games, there was a thing called Dungeons and Dragons, which was played around a tabletop by eager geeks using dice, pencils, sheets of paper, and a rulebook. The RPGs we’re talking about are that kind of thing.

    Bryan, it’s par for the course these days that the establishment Left celebrates every kind of diversity except for diversity of opinion. Thanks for the Solzhenitsyn quote — that’s spot on.

    Dewey, in that case, you might be one of the people for whom Airship Heroes (or rather the actual game I’ve concealed behind that label) was written. As for monster-killing, well, in the D&D games of my insufficiently misspent youth, the characters weren’t trying to act out some kind of virtue-signaling activity; they were amoral tomb raiders out for plunder, and usually had differing alignments and agendas to add spice to the mix.

  20. Apologies I was hasty in writing, and I forgot to mention the one observation I was building towards in the Trek I have been rewatching, how many times main characters disagree, and then change their opinions by talking to each other, or work out their allowances for just how far they are willing to tolerate and where they will have to draw a line, and what crossing such a line would really mean in terms of stakes. It made me vividly aware how lacking that stuff is in much of the fiction I have seen recently. Sure it happens, at the climax of a story someone might be persuaded, but in DS9 it happens all the time, even in throw off b plots and none plot driven banter scenes.

    I cherish the few friends I have made who can do as much in the real world.

  21. My favorite part is that one of the most common reasons the good people have for going to war against the bad people is that the bad people are “undermining their sacred democracy”. This despite the fact that airship captain Hillary and her crew did their level best to be sure there was no democracy in the Democratic Primaries. So I think in addition to this 2 dimensional view of the world it is this incredible hypocricy that will do in the Dems in the next election.

  22. Hey Bryan Allen,
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    I have studied the history of technology quite a bit and sometimes you find that designs for a technology can exist for a long time but the technology doesn’t get developed or used because of the materials available at that time are not good enough for the application.

    For airships I was thinking that new materials like graphene might solve some of the problems of airships. A graphene gas envelope has the potential to be extremely light weight, very strong and impenetrable to hydrogen and helium. That combination should allow you to do a simple type of active buoyancy control, just squeeze (roll up?) the gas envelope – increase the density/ pressure of the gas in the envelope and decrease the buoyancy of the airship. And it is my understanding that dirigibles with their rigid outer shell are more controllable than blips with a soft outer layer.

    So is there any hope for an airship fan boy or should I just stick to loving them as a cool but unworkable?

  23. @LMG and @Andrew001 – Regarding the Left having a lot of energy: This reminds me of JMG’s comment (probably over on Magic Monday) that while the rituals of the Catholic Church likely still have much power and “raise” energy, the “modernized” clergy don’t know how to direct this energy, which then earths itself in things like sex scandals. I wonder if there’s a useful analogy here: maybe the energy is there, but the ability to effectively organize and the political literacy just isn’t there, thus such energy will most likely fizzle out, or earth itself in a disturbing and unhelpful way. (This coming from someone on the Left – begrudgingly, when I must think of a political label for myself, I consider myself essentially a libertarian socialist/libertarian municipalist/democratic confederalist, but with a peppering of Burkean philosophy, thanks to JMG. “Burkean Libertarian Socialist”?? BUT I don’t do go for the “social justice firing squad” stuff, and I’m a gay white male, which apparently now qualifies me for “degenerate-ship”?)

    @jim “Skyrider” – LOVE airships!!

    -Mesosylvania

  24. The thought that comes to me is that in many ways we are slipping into more authoritarianism, and such regimes do not allow for humor, or really interesting art (just watched a film about some amazing suppressed/hidden paintings from the early Soviet era and the one man who saved them) or interesting plays and movies. Everything shown to the public has to be approved, everything is just jolly, everyone is gloriously happy, and the music is a rousing march.

  25. JMG – The Spider Lords thing actually sounded like a game I would enjoy. Your mileage may vary. I have never been willing to put up with amoral or “evil” parties. For one thing, characters who don’t care about killing innocent NPCs will also screw fellow PCs when they get the chance, and when the players of the latter get angry, the players of the former smirk and say “Just playing my alignment….” How is that stress-relieving?

    I also don’t view most efforts to behave virtuously, either in real life or in a game, as “virtue signaling”, an overused phrase these days. If RPGs, like other forms of play, are preparation for real life, I see no advantage to practicing antisocial behavior, callousness, or cruelty, even if nobody is watching. My husband plays video games frequently and owns a really impressively lovely one-player fantasy RPG, Elder Scrolls Skyrim. Your hero can be a noble warrior, mage, etc. He/she can also join the Thieves’ Guild and spend the game burglarizing houses, join an assassin’s guild and kill NPCs for pay, or even become a servant of evil powers and gain strength from eating human flesh. Yummy! If I were playing that game, I would not have my character do that, period.

    This is not to say that I think anyone who aspires to a virtuous character – which I unapologetically regard as among the best of goods – should only play paladin types. My last PC was a druid and true neutral, and I tried to play her that way. But she was supportive of fellow party members and tried not to be a jerk.

  26. “Tul Axtar is there for his own reasons, the way Stalin and Pol Pot were.”

    And of course Stalin and Pol Pot, along with Hitler, Genghis Khan, Shaka, Hernan Cortes and all of the other great tyrants and ruthless conquerors of history, believed they were the Good Guys and that their actions were justified.

  27. John–

    Your observations re the inability for the “proper” liberal left (or whatever term one might use, I’m having a hard time finding a good descriptor) to see the reality on the ground came to mind when I saw this post

    https://politicalwire.com/2019/04/03/sanders-will-take-part-in-fox-news-town-hall/#disqus_thread

    and (as is my habit) scrolled through the comments, which generally centered in 1) Sanders’ continued “undermining” of the Democrats and 2) his foolishness for engaging with the evil Fox News (which I’m unsure would better play the role of the Russians or the arachnids in your story). As much as I disagree with the man on any number of policy issues (as well as implementation issues in many areas where we do agree), he seems to be one of the few prominent players on the leftward side who has at least some understanding of the lay of the land. Perhaps *because* he’s not a Democrat.

    P.S. I haven’t seen a film since The Force Awakens, which I found horribly trite with unmotivated and uninteresting characters, a story that was a poor copy of A New Hope, and writers who obviously had no concept of the arc that an epic is supposed to traverse. One has to proceed from the established story. This was part 7 for crying out loud. You can’t just go: Look! Bad Guys, Bigger Death Star, Evil Dude, and a girl Luke who amazingly knows how to do everything with no training whatsoever. I was terribly disappointed. From what I’ve heard, I haven’t been missing much.

  28. And there’s the money shot, worth the set-up for the punch line – ”Every time some member of the liberal establishment insists at the top of her well-exercised lungs that anyone who disagrees with [insert liberal establishment dogma here] is a [insert insult here], rather than listening to the people who disagree with it and finding out why, a chance for that collision of meanings goes away, and takes another electoral vote with it. We’ll see a little over a year and a half from now just how much that matters.”

    Over much of the past two years I have tried to engage the Left half of my acquaintance circle to avoid that particular intellectual and emotional trap, and try to understand in more depth why people voted for Donald Trump. But in general, I have been told in ever strident voices that they are all to a man, woman, and child, deplorable, mysoginists, racists, bigots, and proto-fascists, and therefore their issues and concerns are beneath notice and to be dismissed out of hand.

    I am a bit of an old-school Leftist, that whole “equality before the law” thing from the 60s… but I am also solidly working class, despite professional training and aspirations. So I do take exception. And seriously the Democratic Party has not exactly had a particularly inspiring record for the wage class since the 80’s either. As a NYC ex-pat, I do not care for Mr Trump. He’s a a corrupt, self-involved shyster and has always been that guy. But that description could be applied to the Clintons, who don’t impress me. But I am enough of a grown-up to know gorram well that “less worse” does NOT equal “good”. “Not as bad” is a crappy campaign slogan.

    There is a reason why more people stayed home in 2016 than voted for either Presidential Candidate.

    The 2020 pack is running about in tiny circles over a narrow set of policy discussions, to various degrees of abstraction from on-the-ground reality. I complained on that other platform that “Despite a field of candidates of some variable, and some actual appeal… Not one of them has reached the threshold of convincingly “selling it” to pry a single cent out of this household this election season…. I suspect it has as much to do with my grumpiness and discouragement than the merits of any particular candidate or cause.”

    And I wearily see the D pack steadfastly ignore the lessons of the their limited successes in the midterms – candidates that bucked the Party and Leftist line and actually campaigned on ACTUALLY REPRESENTING the peoples in their districts by running on issues those voters actually cared about. Anti-Trump is NOT ENOUGH, and it’s a trap. Give people something to vote FOR, if you want to get them off the couch and down to the polls. Something utterly missing from the Clinton Campaign, and – most of the current hopefuls. The President has a good a shot at staying in office as he did to win 2016 in the first place.

  29. First I’m glad to know the rpg world is alive and well – I always appreciated how much creativity each participant can bring to a good game.

    As for the utter boredom that mainstream film and other creative endeavors inspire – can the lack of moral complexity be attributed to political alignment? The ‘70s produced a treasure of morally complicated films that were produced for mainstream release – The Conversation for example or way too many others to mention. Yet these were usually considered left-ish if anything. There’s no doubt we’ve plunged deep into vapidity but there are many reasons for that – I think the kneejerk mainstream politics – which happen to be vaguely culturally left provided it doesn’t hurt anyone’s pocket – is a symptom and not a cause.

  30. How does it fit into your “the audience stayed at home” narrative of the US election that Clinton actually got more votes than Trump? Sure, she still didn’t win the election, but surely your country doesn’t have more big city SJW liberals from the upper middle class than down-to-earth working class people who realize how hollow the worldview of the upper classes is? The way you describe it, by comparing her campaign to a film that no one wants to see, one would assume she got maybe 30% at most. I even just looked it up, she got only 100.000 fewer votes than Obama got in 2012.

    Similarly, I also think your response to Andrew001 evades one of his central points – there are plenty of films that are “woke” and did very well at the box office. Black Panther: a budget of 200 million, box office 1,3 billion. Ocean’s 8: budget 70 million, box office 297 million. Wonder Woman: budget 150 million, box office 821 million. Now, if you think those are exceptions from the rule and you stick by your argument we’ll just have to agree to disagree (after all, social rules aren’t like the laws of physics, they always have exceptions), I just don’t see the end of the left-liberal dominance of the entertainment industry yet. The alt-right outrage probably *increased* their revenue because a lot of left liberals started seeing going to the cinema as a political act after their favourite enemies bashed the films – in fact, I have long assumed that the marketing departments of big studios count on the internet outrage machine and are intentionally trying to make it worse. I even think the Ghostbusters remake was _intentionally bad_ to make the alt right rage even more.

    Also, on a related note, kinda irksome that you (along with a lot of other Americans, so this is not meant personally, it’s probably because you have almost no one further to the left as part of your public discourse) call the likes of Clinton and her supporters “leftists” or millionaire Hollywood producers “radical leftists”. They’re left-liberals, in other words centrists, people who fully support the status quo but want to give it a superficial whitewashing so they don’t have to think about the atrocities that are being committed every day to keep it going. That’s also why they’re so intend on policing language. That’s not a True Scotsman argument, they’re simply a completely different political camp.

    (The leftist nightmare: you spend all your spare time trying to overthrow capitalism and fighting corporate power and then you get lumped in with some warmonger who thinks anti-fracking activists are Russian spies and having more female CEOs is what feminism is all about…)

  31. A 19th century capitalist Russia in “Airship Heroes“ is an example of my increasing suspicions that the socialist-minded among the liberals* yearn for a return of the Soviet Union which, though violent and authoritarian in its 20th century reality, could be continually tweaked until “true socialism” prevails.

    *Not all liberals are socialists, despite what some pundits of the right believe, no more than all conservatives are racists/fascists, as many of the left tend to promote.

    “…Colonel Sodoff and the Spider Lords…they sound like a British acid rock band from the Seventies…”
    LOL! Yes! I want tickets!

    Joy Marie

  32. I can practically guarantee that if Hollywood were to make a movie based on Airship Heroes, the intrepid diverse crew would discover in due course that the League of Good Countries was actually thoroughly corrupt, and has deliberately sent them on some suicide mission (pursued by hired assassins, just for good measure) to cover up a clue to the corruptness that they’d accidentally discovered on their previous mission but had yet to realize its significance. They would end up having to be rescued and aided by a distrustful but good-hearted Russian Imperial Centurion who’s part of the resistance to the ongoing covert LoGC aggression. The dangerous secret, most likely, is that the Arachno Crystals the airships all run on are actually made of the ruthlessly harvested brains of Spider Lord hatchlings (no one knows Latin so that obvious clue went unnoticed), which is the real reason they invaded back in 1751. It would end with a coalition of the airship crew, an Imperial squadron, and some Spider Lords teaming up to blow up the main LoGC Arachno Crystal factory, and then vowing to lead a general rebellion as soon as a sequel gets green-lit.

    Such twists don’t add real moral complexity, but they do add plain old complexity. Hollywood loves the “your own ‘good-guys’ side is evil (or at least, controlled by an evil faction) and working against you” trope and has used it since the 90s in practically every spy thriller (excepting only James Bond, and one or two of those movies came very close to it), most adventures, most cop dramas, a lot of science fiction, even some Star Trek (some of the recent reboot films), Star Wars (in the prequel trilogies), and recent Marvel superhero movies (unspecified, to avoid untimely spoilers).

    That, to me, is how Hollywood has been metaphorically representing and promoting woke-ness. “You are on the wrong side.” From the Developing Planets’ point of view, the Federation’s Prime Directive is an excuse for oppression. Fighting terrorists just plays into their hands. Going to the moon was a wasteful aggrandizing imperialist stunt. The job you work hard at is probably helping some large corporation ruin the environment and exploit people.

    In that context, are you sure Airship Heroes (played straight, without my Hollywood twist) is really pushing woke-ness? It could just as easily be part of the reaction to it. “Let’s, for a change, face some challenges and actually see successful results and appreciation for it, instead of betrayal and backlash and moral second-guessing.” Or in other words: “Good Country airship crew, hell yeah!”

  33. With the theme of one dimensional good people vs bad people in Hollywood movies it can be fascinating to watch one or both of the big Chinese Made Action Blockbusters that can be found on common streaming services. These are “Red Sea” and “Wolf Warrior 2” As one would expect, the Chinese are the Hero’s and the Americans play swarmy Mercenaries who are dastardly and bad. In Wolf Warrior 2 , which takes place in Africa, the Chinese are beloved by the population because they build hospitals and factories while the Americans are there for exploitation. None of this is unusual or unexpected but it can be a bit jarring to American Sensibilities to see our own tropes turned around on us, (even for the most skeptical of us.)

  34. For Kimberly Steele: you aren’t the only one. I’m clueless about RPGs. Three books, however, came to mind in reading this post: Wm Gibson’s “The Difference Engine,” Thomas Pynchon’s “Against the Day” (which I hated, all 1100 pages of it), and Richardson’s “Pamela,” which I hated. “Fraid I don’t connect with RPGs, either. So I’m just a grouch.

  35. Somewhat related to today’s topic…TERF’s. Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. That is, Feminist women (presumably Progressive) who refuse to date and sleep with someone who self-identifies as female while still sporting a complete male package in the nether regions.

    I had to look the term up because female Magic-the-Gathering card artist Terese Nielsen is now a newly minted “bad TERF” for the crime of clicking Follow on some Trump Tweets. This despite never herself mentioning politics (hers or anyone else’s). Guilt by association I guess. Or an example of The Rescue Game.

    It makes me wonder when did the Left begin to go to seed? This is so odd but I don’t associate the average Left-leaner as being joyful anymore. Of course the Right and Alt-Right have their share of mean-spirited mongers too and I definitely don’t like anything remotely NeoCon but I seem to recall a time from my younger days when the Left seemed more upbeat and joyful – or at least that’s the public face I used to recall. I wonder how many people want to listen or pay attention to much less follow the advice of any Party that’s so filled with bitter, judgmental moralizers. I can’t imagine that as way to attract people to the benefits of a Progressive way to live. Is it any wonder they can’t meme. Meme-ing takes wittiness which is an off-shoot of humor and humor doesn’t play well with bitterness and moralizing.

  36. @Skyrider, Bryan Allen, & JMG
    Airship serendipity! Bloomberg recently published an article heralding the coming era of airships for cargo delivery. Large amounts of money are being thrown at the usual suspects for the promise of a low polluting way to deliver cargo anywhere. Of course, there is the usual propaganda promising that airships will be operational in a few years. Meanwhile, the first test flight keeps being pushed back…. Why do I get reminded of all the hype around autonomous cars?

    On the larger subject of the post, most of my friends and family can’t understand why I keep up friendships with the “other side”, or why I think Russiagate is horsepucky. I was really happy that the discussion at a recent dinner with friends landed on the subject of transx. Most of us at dinner were mature enough to remember when “The Christine Jorgensen Story” was in the theaters. We had opinions, but none of us were so committed to one point of view or another that we would throw away friendships of 20 years.

    There were plenty of obvious ways to pursue Trump for the corruption he surrounds himself with, but by going after RussiaRussiaRussia, the Democrats have ensured that any pursuit of the real corruption will be dismissed as sour grapes. Meanwhile, what did anyone think a lifelong Republican servant of the ruling class would find against another servant of the ruling class? They had to throw a few overboard, of course, (sorry, Paul Manafort) for public consumption, but most escaped with only large legal bills (whatever became of Manafort’s partner in Ukraine, Tony Podesta?).

    Thanks, Bryan, for that quote from Solzhenitsyn. If we cannot recognize the evil which we are capable of, we are truly lost.

  37. Ray, you’ve touched on something very important here: the crucial role of faith in progress — the established religion of our time — in justifying a lot of behavior that otherwise is very hard to justify. If you can convince yourself that you’re on the right side of history, and that future generations will think warm fuzzy thoughts about you, you can justify just about any atrocity to yourself and your fellow, er, heroes.

    Clay, I get the impression very often these days that Americans on both sides of our divided political landscape define “democracy” as “a system of government in which everyone votes the way I want them to.”

    Mesosylvania, nah, it means you’re officially not oppressed enough and therefore are one of the Bad People. I’m pretty sure that what’s actually going on is that gay men did a disproportionate share of the heavy lifting that got the right of same-sex marriage established, and the establishment Left is still incensed about that — one of the rules of the game is that you aren’t supposed to do anything to improve whatever situation you’re in, you’re just supposed to keep voting meekly for Democratic candidates and wait for that endlessly receding day when they’ll actually do something for you.

    Onething, I ain’t arguing. There’s something very Stalinist about the far end of the Left these days.

    Dewey, then I think you’re definitely part of the market for Airship Heroes!

    Baboonery, exactly. Mad jeddaks, to use the Barsoomian term, don’t think of themselves as mad jeddaks; they see themselves as the heroes. The flip side of this is that if you spend all your time basking in the thought that you’re a hero, you may just be a mad jeddak…

    David, I’m using the term “the establishment Left” these days, as I think it fits better than any of the alternatives, but it’s far from perfect.

    Samurai, could you please put that last paragraph of yours onto the business end of a branding iron and burn it brutally into the backside of the entire Democratic party? Thank you. There was a time when I used to vote for Democratic candidates tolerably often; that was when they ran on meaningful platforms that focused on specific, worthwhile policies they intended to enact.

    Aron, it’s not hardwired into any political alignment. The flight into cartoonish one-dimensional moralizing is a specific problem with the contemporary establishment Left, not a general problem with the whole movement, and I hope they get over it and start trying to do something to fix the messes they’ve helped to create.

    Lari, I read in a number of media sources after the election that Democratic turnout was unusually low in the 2016 election while Republican turnout was unusually high; that’s what fed into my comment about the audience staying home. As for the proper meaning of the word “left,” we basically don’t have actual leftists on the European model over here. We have people who mouth slogans borrowed from the European left, and then follow meekly along after whatever corrupt political stooge — e.g., Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton — the Democratic party machine happens to cough up. That’s what “Left” means over here.

    Joy Marie, that makes an uncomfortable amount of sense. I’d happily get tickets to a Captain Sodoff and the Spider Lords concert too!

    Walt, fair enough. I don’t watch a lot of movies, and it doubtless shows.

    Clay, funny! I’ll have to see if the publisher of the new edition of Twilight’s Last Gleaming can arrange to have it translated into Chinese…

    HappyPandaTao, yeah, I’ve been watching that with a kind of fascinated horror. From one perspective, there’s a very rich irony in the fact that social justice rhetoric is now being used as yet another way by which (biological) men are pressuring women to have sex with them…

  38. It’s fascinating to see the shift of Left and Right happening in the US. I remember a time not too long ago (ten years tops. my college days!) when it was the Right that couldn’t meme and the Left was running circles around the Right’s inability to have a sense of humor. It’s mind blowing to think about how much things have changed.

    A few months ago, I told a friend of mine that the new Rebellious Youth Counter-Culture was going to come from the Alt-Right scene and she scoffed at the notion. Those kids aren’t rebellious or counter-cultural, she said. There’s a difference between bad behavior and going through a rebellious phase, she continued, and they’ll all wake up twenty years from now ashamed at how hurtful they were toward others. I countered that everyone goes through phases they aren’t proud of as youths and she said that wasn’t the same thing. She couldn’t tell me why.

    Glad to see JMG, Renaissance Man that he is, branching into the table top RPG world; a place I frequent often. Can’t wait to see what you cook up!

  39. Did you have a chance to look at Pathfinder, the fork of D&D 3.5e? While the game system is too complex and high-magic for me (and I suspect you’d find it the same), I think you might like some aspects of its default setting, Golarian.

    The background of the setting is a failed prophecy: a human who had ascended to godhood and was supposed to return to lead humanity to a great destiny… didn’t. As far as anyone can tell, he’s dead.

    The empire he was supposed to lead fell into civil war, and several new nations arose out of it. The infighting in Cheliax got so bad that one of the houses finally made a deal with Asmodeus, so now devil-worship is the official religion of Cheliax.

    As bad as Cheliax is, it’s at least not Galt, which is probably best described as “What if the Reign of Terror never ended?” Galt beheaded its nobility and now is constantly on the lookout for even the smallest evidence of treasonous sympathies.

    Literally between the two is Andoran, which is kind of fantasy version of post-colonial America if slavery had been violently rejected from the start. (It’s a major point of contention between them and Cheliax, which approves of the practice and sends its Hellknights to hunt escaped slaves.)

    Here’s what I think you’ll like: Andoran is sort of treated as the Good Guys, but Cheliax is not really the Bad Guys: Asmodeus may be the god of oppression, but he’s grudgingly-respected: he wrote the contract for the creation of the world, and the forces of Hell are also the main bulwark against the demons of the Abyss, who want to rip reality itself apart. (Those, too, are inescapable: they’re an expression of existence’s tendency to return to chaos and nothingness, balancing its tendency toward order and life.)

    Of all the RPG characters I’ve ever made, my favorite is probably Evander, my Lawful Neutral demon-hunter dedicated to Asmodeus. He didn’t care for the more evil aspects of his creed, but he had lost his parents to a riot instigated by demon-worshipers and was willing to let the ends justify the means.

  40. @ Mesosylvania

    Greetings from a leftward libertarian eco-minded small-government social democrat. I think there might be three or four of us here now who orbit similar stars. Perhaps we should start a party. I have no clue what we’d all it, though. Perhaps SPRH? (Square peg, round hole.)

    @ JMG

    The “good people” narrative reminds me of (yet another) debate I had back on PoliticalWire. There was a story about an effort of some at a UW campus, I believe Madison, to have the College Republican chapter declared a hate-group, disbanded, and its (former) members required to complete sensitivity training. I was aghast and voiced my aghastness in the thread. Disagreeing with someone, even vehemently, is one thing, but using political force to silence one’s opposition goes against everything embodied in the First Amendment and the basic principles on which this country was founded. But it was to fight “mysogynists and racists,” I was told, and so the effort should be applauded. Back when I was in college, in the late Neolithic age of the 90s, there were many disagreements between the College Republicans and their Democratic student counterpart on my alma mater’s campus in the Deep South, but they at least could talk to each other and respect each other’s right to exist. These days, a kid wears a MAGA hat on a campus and gets accosted by a complete stranger:

    https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/college-student-confronts-teen-wearing-maga-hat-symbol-white-supremacy-194241904.html

    We don’t have to agree with what another says, but we do have to respect their right to say it. And many on both sides of the political divide are forgetting that basic fact.

  41. For those who were wondering where the term “woke” came from:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woke

    JMG, love the term “stereotypically diverse”. I might have to steal that… 😉

    Oh BTW, any advice on how best to share these ideas with loved ones who are still locked in to the leftist/post-modernist/perpetual progress paradigm? My wife and I are deeply in love and agree on just about everything, but when it comes to politics, history, current events, and the decline of the West, we speak a different language. Have you ever considered writing a post about dealing with the Decline in our interpersonal relationships. Honestly, I love your sense of humor about this stuff, and your posts make me laugh, but these are serious issues and they affect our relationships with those we love. If I discussed this stuff openly with friends and family with your sense of humor I could alienate a lot of people I care very deeply about. How does one adapt to the current changes in their own life and apply the principles you talk about, but do it in a harmonious way that sets an example for those around them without coming across as arrogant or judgmental?

    All the best brother….

  42. @happypandatao

    Your definition of TERF is inaccurate. TERFs deny that trans women are women, and generally seek to humiliate and stigmatize them. It has nothing to do with trans women pressuring cis women for sex.

    ContraPoints, a trans-women YouTuber of great humour and skill, has made some wonderful videos about trans-ness. Her most recent and relevant video on this is “Gender Critical”, is a good watch if you are genuinely curious. It answers alot of questions.

  43. Hey JMG,

    An interesting take on a video game. My first impression is that it sounds very much like the globalist propaganda that saturates all mediums today – groupthink meant to stamp out individual opinions, build critical mass in numbers, and promote trust in a “good” government to do what’s best.

    Our present (and future) sure appears to be rhyming with 1920s Germany.

  44. @Engleberg, I just got an insight from your comment that I thought I would share. I never before realized just how much Japan has been run by its ladies in the background all throughout its history. The means of enforcing moral standards has been by banning and shunning: murahachibu,(literally, “eight-tenths of the village”). Ask anyone here and they’ve experienced it. On the other hand, I’ve seen guys recommend it. The whole society acts like a hen party.

  45. Dear Joy Marie, I think that socialist (and fantasy) minded leftists don’t so much yearn for a return of the USSR as they like imagine themselves as the reincarnation of Vladimir Lenin himself.

    Fair enough, Mr. Greer, but you still forgot the Dragon Lady: If you want female viewers, players or readers, I suggest the creation of a deliciously wicked femme fatale, who always escapes the righteous hero.

    Could someone please give a definition of the term ‘virtue signaling’? If I take my own bag to the store instead of using their plastic, because I seriously hate plastic in most applications, is that VS? In my mind it is simply I don’t like plastic. How about shopping at the Farmer’s Market instead of yuuge supermarket I can’t find my away around in? Is that VS? To me ii is supporting the local economy–more VS?–and a lot more fun than getting lost and cold in Fakeway. Not to mention I don’t need a car at the FM.

    OTOH, I have had uncomfortable conversations with RW self proclaimed defenders of traditional morality in which I found myself having to explain that, yes, I truly was married to the fathers of both my kids. Homemade clothing and no cosmetics seemed to be signaling something horribly depraved to these true believers.

  46. Jim Skywriter: I have been fascinated with airships all my life. Also, ornithopters. Years ago I spent years building radio controlled things that flapped (read flopped), but much has been learned since then. Google ornithopter.
    My dream and current project is to combine the two and come up with a design that combines low speed, low altitude, low cost, low complexity, high flexibility high DIY capability so that anyone could build one. Think of the need in Puerto Rico or about anywhere to move anything most anywhere on a DIY localized basis without having to depend on outside help. OK, so it is a wild dream, but, hey if your dreams aren’t big enough to raise your friend’s eyebrows, they aren’t big enough.
    Currently this thing is shaping up to be a radio controlled inflatable flying wing, heavier than air for the time being. Time will tell.
    Two good books: Dirigible Dreams by Hiam and Zeppelins of WW I by Cross.
    JMG, if you put this through, and if I get something to fly, I will put tentacles on it in your honor.

  47. What a wonderful post John, Airship! Lets have airships for all.

    (If you remember, my story in “After Oil” had them too)

    Speaking of retro tech, one of the things John used to speak about on the ADR was the relearning and reintroduction of “retro tech” that is perfectly good and hardy technology that we used to use before the so called computer revolution and vulture capitalism made planned obsolescence a good thing. That’s why I’m thrilled to tell everyone, this week’s blog post is a guest one from Green Wizard and Ecosophia commentator jlg4880, who has spent the past few months acquiring and learning how to run an old mimeograph/spirit duplicator. He gives us a detailed (an picture heavy) tutorial of how everyone used to create copies.

    Please check it out here:

    Retro Tech – Heyer Model 76 Spirit Duplicator

    Remember please, if you have signed up to Green Wizards and did not see a email saying you were approved, YOU WERE, cause I haven’t not approved anyone yet. Please try and log in. If you forgot your password, email me and I’ll give you a first time log in password to get you on.

    My email is green wizard dtrammel at gmail dot come

    I tend to aggravate people who registered but never logged in, so please do.

    A reminder, you only have a month left on the Romance and Peak Oil contest. Get your stories finished and submitted.

    Announcing Not One BUT Two New Short Story Contests!

    And finally, a comment about comments from last week’s post about a the desire for a “Magical College” somewhere out there that readers her could join.

    Can I just recommend you consider Green Wizards. We are probably the closest thing you’ll find and we love new members. Come explore your potential with us. We’ll even give you a pointie hat and wand if you want.

    Though it comes with a 50 pound bag of seed starting soil and a shovel, lol.

  48. JMG, sorry you found my usual verbal ebullience “profane,” even if also interesting. Yup, I’m “earthy” in my language – have been pretty much all my life. Been in trouble for it many times! I reread what I wrote – and while I consider it pretty bland – in fact I was surprised you found it beyond the pale – it’s your blog and your comments section, so so be it.

  49. Ryan S, I’m pretty sure it’s a neologism coined in the intersectionalist community and used as a slur by their rivals. One of the things I find fascinating to watch is how social media’s filter effect is accelerating the divergence of language, not by geography but by ideology. ‘Woke’ and ‘redpilled’ are clearly words for the same concept in what are now rapidly diverging versions of English. By a funny coincidence, the first attempt I know of to name the concept appeared in a role playing game – Steve Jackson’s “Illuminati!” Series defines “dark enlightenment” as “revelation of the truth that does not bring joy” .

    That’s quite a dark enlightenment Bryan Allen dropped on Jim and I with his knowledge of airships! I suppose you’d need copious amounts of spider lord silk to get the right toughness to weight ratio. One wonders whether the spider lord slave trade has aught to do with why they’re so ornery.😉

  50. I got a real kick out of an RPG once when I was in Canada. Here in Japan, though, they never seemed to take hold and I have not heard of anyone playing them. I was thinking of my class when you first mentioned “game,” but it wouldn’t work out there. Anything that might reveal the students’ individuality is out. I’ve developed a few games for them, which they seem to enjoy and really ought to get serious about publishing them. For English grammar, if I put up a template sentence on the board and try soliciting examples they can think of, they sit there in frozen silence, but if I put out a board with one or more templates and stacks of cards with verbs, nouns, etc. of various sorts, and they draw appropriate cards and stick them together, really a random generator of sentences, a lively discussion ensues of how plausible each sentence is, and they can trade cards to get something better, and they forget their bashfulness and start creating examples. Board games imitating life are great too.
    But I have enough foreign friends and a few Japanese fluent enough in English to give your game a try for a kick.
    A couple of weeks back I posted my entry for “Love in the Ruins,” but it was very late in the week, and I don’t know whether you saw it (though a few elements in today’s post suggest you may have). Just in case, and for anyone interested, here it is: https://patriciaormsby.wordpress.com/she-lahs-summons/
    I’d take more time going through it again, but with the Emperor’s abdication there is lots of translation and other work and I might not have the time at all. But I’ll note, it is intended to be mysterious, leave many questions unanswered, and take a look at a completely different society with all its assumptions of normality presented without question.

  51. Lari, I’m probably more familiar with the arguments against the ‘woke media’ phenomenon than our host, and the medium of film in general, so I’ll chime in: people who criticise ‘woke’ films tend to go out of their way to also praise movies like Wonder Woman, Black Panther and Into the Spiderverse. There is a distinct difference between films made to tell a story well and films made to send a message, and ‘get woke, go broke’ is made in reference to the latter.

  52. HappyPandaTao–terf ( which I have come to regard as a sexist slur and refuse to dignify with capital letters) was earlier applied to separatist feminists who did not wish to admit transwomen to rituals planned for women. Z. Budapest was one long time Goddess spirituality leader attacked for this position at the large pagan gathering Pantheacon several years ago (2012?). Pagan songwriter and performer Ruth Barrett has also been labeled a terf. This year the victim was Max Dashu, who has spent a lifetime gathering historical material about women and presenting at conferences, etc. She had been accepted for 2019 Pantheacon but the gender activists on the program committee got their friends to protest and basically blackmailed the organizer into deplatforming Max and slandering her as dangerous to the trans community on the con website. Really a 70+ woman ‘dangerous.’ ? The slander was removed shortly before the con, but AFAIK no public apology has been made. IMO it is perfectly possible to support the civil rights of transwomen without accepting the position that they have a right to enter every female space. I fully understand that expense and other considerations keep many transwomen from having reassignment surgery–but to say “I am a girl, therefore this penis is a girl penis” defies any sense, common or otherwise. I hate to be conspiracy minded, but the way this issue is being used to spit the feminist community is disturbing. OTH I greatly fear that the extreme positions of the gender warriors will lead to a backlash against transpeople who just want to live a quiet life, not bully a lesbian into bed or stand in a girl’s locker room with an obvious genital bulge.

    I participate in a weekly discussion of the New Yorker–which gives an opportunity to discuss various political and social issues. This week the Green New Deal came up. Several participants expressed concern that no reasoned discussion of the costs of such programs was taking place. However, I brought up the practical matter of material limits. I used electric cars as my example and said “If you say we should have everyone driving an electric car by the year whatever, I want to know if there is enough of the mineral used in the batteries for that to be a possibility.” Oh sure, we’ll get it from China.” was the response. Absolutely no recognition of a possible limit, that there simply may not be enough unobtainium on Earth to manufacture a Tesla for everyone. Sigh.

    Members of the same group seemed confused that they have heard younger people say that there will be no Social Security by the time they retire. I don’t know if this is genuine confusion over why the young people lack faith in the system, or a bit of whistling past the graveyard, i.e. the possibility that it could fall apart in our lifetime. BTW the members of this group are mostly retired–so ages 65 and up.

  53. My partner DMs Monster of the Week and he is a Lovecraft fan (he has even programmed a Lovecraft style video game), so we will definitely be playing that!

    I grew up watching my older brothers play D&D, one still plays with some of the same friends (40+ years!). Sometime my brother even writes verse for his stories. When I was little they would never let me play. I finally got my own group going about 5 years ago and it has become a wonderful part of my life. The quality of a good game has a lot to do with the DM creating a good story, but also moving things along so you don’t get bogged down on a tangent. Monster of the Week is very fun because it is character focused. Most people don’t know how to develop much of a personality for their character (myself included) so it can be pretty dull.

  54. Peter, gosh! I remember identical articles about the imminent arrival of cargo dirigibles from the 1970s and 1990s…

    StarNinja, I also remember when it was the Right that had no sense of humor and the Left that was full of clever snark and creativity. It would be great to have humor and creativity on both sides at once, but that’s probably too much to ask.

    James, no, I never saw that one! AD&D was as far as I went in the D&D end of things — I was more into Chivalry & Sorcery by the time the later versions started to come out. The world sounds very rich and interesting, though.

    David, I ain’t arguing.

    Ethan, I wish I had something to say in response. As someone with Aspergers syndrome, I’m far from expert in interpersonal relationships.

    Drhooves, no, it’s not a video game, it’s a tabletop RPG — thus my comments about the rulebook. Your broader point stands, though.

    Nastarana, I’ll keep that in mind! As for virtue signaling, it’s the act of parading around a culturally defined marker of virtue as a substitute for generally virtuous behavior — for example, a person who has a gigantic carbon footprint but talks about her vegan diet all the time and denounces omnivores in heated terms for destroying the planet.

    Michael, I’ll look forward to its maiden flight!

    David, I do indeed remember the airships in your story. Delighted to see the spirit duplicator article — though my perverse imagination immediately suggests that a spirit duplicator should be a device that allows you to summon a spirit and then make more of them… 😉

    Corvus, you know what the words are. If you want your posts to go through, remember that “frack” and “shale” are acceptable euphemisms!

    Patricia O, I managed to miss it, so thank you! You’re in the contest.

    Radha, fascinating. I haven’t looked at Monster of the Week yet, but it sounds fun.

  55. Huh, I didn’t realize Solo was supposed to be woke. What I saw was a movie in which a young Han Solo pulls a heist job in space. There was a droid character that acted like a revolutionary feminist, but she(?) was the comic relief, more or less. It wasn’t high art, by any means, but I felt like it was a reasonably fun movie that managed to cover the basics of storytelling.

    Anyway, I was mulling over your long-ago post on the Ahrimanic and Luciferian capitals of America, and it struck me that these terms might well be applied to our political parties as well. The Dems currently seem to have the spiritual pride for our grubby world, and the self-defined superiority. The Republicans certainly have a strong streak of “get rich quick,” and as for wallowing in the material world, well, just look at Trump.

    But in our strange, dislocated modern day, everything’s mixed up. One of the current pillars of Lefty dogma is sex positivity, but all the hedonism is strangely joyless. (Consider happypandatao’s comment – who decided sexual predilections ought to be ruled by political committees?)

    And the Right has large doses of world-scorning Christianity and Puritanism – look at Mike Pence, or consider Erick Erickson’s way of refuting environmentalism by saying he worships the creator, not the creation.

    It seems like an unstable mess, and if any of it survives into the next decade, I expect the parties to swap their prevailing sensibilities at least once.

  56. Before anything, i must admit that the feeling of disagreeing with people I admire is very uncomfortable, but i guess it’s time for me put my big boy pants here.

    Regarding your response to Lari, i can understand why you wouldn’t be aware of them, but on the youtube scene there’s on one side, what’s called the “manosphere”. A collection of interrelated content creators who claim to defend freedom of speech, from the SJW’s who want to take it away, but who talk in subtly racist or sexist rhetoric (at first. Go deep enough down that rabbit hole and you end up watching videos advocating for a white ethnostate). There are many straight white men who due to a lack of much critical thought adopt these views without questioning them much, and little by little end up agreeing to the more radical viewpoints of these creators. I myself was going down that pipeline.

    That is, until I found about another web of interrelated channels, called Leftube, who have taken it upon themselves to deconstruct the rhetoric of the Manosphere. Contrapoints (my personal favorite), Hbomberguy, Shaun, the Serfs, Big Joel, (for anyone who would like to check them out) among others create videos where they engage with the arguments that creators on the right are using, and show us straight white males who are confused about where on these issues we should stand, and make an honestly way better case. At least to me, and other testimonies of people who were going down the alt-right pipeline but changed their mind thanks to them.

    If you ask me, (who watches all these discussions through the internet, in mexico, i acknowledge that) that is where the left is alive.

    Gomenasai, JMG-Sama! I thank you deeply for all you do for us who want to learn the ways of the occult! But i had to share my own experience, in the hopes that it is valuable for this discussion 🙂

  57. @Ethan – I’m in something of the same boat. I agree with my parents on a great many things, but they’re more or less fully on board with the MSNBC programming.

    I think the topic of decline is too large for my mom to handle; she’s content to watch movies, read books and putter in her garden.

    Dad’s more of a firecracker, and I’ve engaged him a couple of times about the end of the modern era. It goes well for a bit, and then I start going into territory he finds uncomfortable (for example, saying that the United States will almost certainly schism apart, or saying that the scientific worldview could easily go extinct, because it could never account for its flaws). His out, the conversation stopper, is that humanity is just a strain of bacteria in a petri dish, and once we grow to the edges of the dish we’ll go extinct.

    I haven’t been able to get him to see the whiplash going on there. It’s precisely the worldview JMG has pointed out so many times – either infinite progress in the form of Clinton-style globalism, or immediate extinction. He’s very reductionist about the human condition, and I don’t know how to push through that.

  58. @Jim, any aerostatic device is subject to basic physics. And the basic physics is that one cubic foot of helium (hydrogen is only ~10% better) provides about one ounce of lift. So any airship is going to be HUGE and to have a lot of frontal area, thus a lot of drag. Materials science hasn’t actually gotten that much better in 40 years, and even if you made your airship of Unobtanium it would still be big and draggy, and very susceptible to weather. Turns out that airships reached diminishing returns in the 1930s; compare the Graf Zeppelin to a modern Zeppelin NT (see Wikipedia) and you’ll see very little difference in how they have to be operated, and how they perform. Arguably the Zeppelins of the 1930s were superior: greater range and payload, higher sustainable speed. When you see that something from ~90 years ago is comparable to the state of the art today, you know you have a classic case of diminishing returns!

    BTW, aviation is littered with diminishing returns examples: Taylor Aerocar, U-2, SR-71, Concorde, Bell Jet Ranger, Space Shuttle – all of those are OLD technology but no one and no country has been able to come up with anything noticeably better. Physics…

  59. Sounds like you’ve found the RPG equivalent of Calvinism. (My apologies in advance to any actual Calvinists in the room; I’m talking about a secular perversion of your faith.)

    You have the Elect, the good people who do good things and get good results. Then you have Unsaved, the bad people who do bad things and get bad results. Finally, there are the masses, those whose status hasn’t yet been demonstrated. Or, more charitably, perhaps it hasn’t actually been established yet, and could still go either way (you might call this the “Copenhagen interpretation” of political Calvinism).

    The important part is that once you know whether someone is Unsaved, there’s no take-backsies. And once you know they’re Unsaved, they have to be denied any success in this life, lest the will of God (read: “Progress”) be frustrated. Hence the flustered clucks that sound when someone assumed to be one of the Elect is found out to be one of the Unsaved for something they said or did in the past that is no longer acceptable. (Obviously, I’m not talking about when someone is revealed to have committed an actual crime.)

    They even have their own theory of Total Depravity: their perverted version of privilege theory. The Unsaved, due to their privilege, cannot understand what is good or evil, and any defense they mount for themselves or their bad deeds only condemns them further. (NB: “privilege” is a perfectly good concept that deserves rehabilitation once we’ve agreed it’s not to be used as kafkatrap.)

  60. @Joy Marie

    I wasn’t aware of the background on the use of the term woke, thank you!

    @ JMG

    Unrelated, but my copy of “A Magical Education” just arrived this week. I’ve read a chapter and the talks look very interesting. Thank you!

  61. From Andrew001: “TERFs deny that trans women are women, and generally seek to humiliate and stigmatize them. ”

    This is a good example of why I find myself distancing myself from liberals even though I used to think I was one. “TERF” is used as an insult against feminists that disagree with the notion that MTF trans people are truly female. That doesn’t mean that they seek to humiliate or stigmatize them. They just disagree on what “female” is.

    I guess I am super duper evilly evil because I believe that trans people are actually a third category and can never be the gender they want to be. If you were born male and try to become female through hormones and surgery, you are now something in between and will never really be female. So what? The only time this is an issue is when somebody is trying to divide us into groups and when that happens, there’s always somebody left out. Identity politics is the poison that will destroy the American liberal cause.

    The American liberal left has really lost its mind on this trans thing. It’s been bugging the heck out of me lately. They tell you that gender is a social construct and then insist that it’s a vitally important biological reality that you can easily choose to modify through surgery. Then they do wacky things like create nonsense words like “Latinx” to imply inclusiveness that already existed in the original word “Latino”.

    This post really hit home with me because lately I’ve noticed that the nicest people that I know happen to be conservatives. I disagree with a lot of their political views but they still treat me like a human being. Something the supposedly warn and fuzzy liberals might try if they want to further their cause.

  62. Hello JMG, great post! I chuckled quite bit.

    Morality plays made by and for the ruling class are never popular. But I would argue that “A Christmas Carol” is a morality play in the form of a novella. And it’s an enduring classic. So morality plays don’t HAVE to be bad, it’s all up to the author of the play.

    Now the question that boggles my mind. Why is it always Russia that is the nemesis of the West? I don’t understand especially because the Russians really adore the West in many ways since Peter I, the Great and have been part of the western culture for a long time.

    While we’re on the topic of Russia, I wonder if the Russian colonel Sod-off is a distant relative of another Russian ex-colonel Put-in? 🙂

  63. All–

    As I am very much not plugged into the social justice world, I find myself puzzled. I understand the offense John mentioned above (violating the rules of the Rescue Game by improving their lot) but from the SJW perspective, what thoughtcrime are gay men supposed to have committed exactly?

  64. This discussion fascinates me because I’m in the midst of writing a trilogy of plays which were inspired by Marvel Studio’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” My takeaway from this superhero story is that the villain (Thanos) has a point, and also some urgency. There are some problems that “The Establishment” isn’t facing. What was interesting is that the horrible fate that took place at the end of the film wasn’t one that left me going “huh, that’s really sad;” on the contrary, I was more like “sign me up to disappear, thank you Goddess!” (Now that I have a partner, I’m not really in this boat at present.) In fact, I came away from the movie very curious as to where this series would go, and if they bring back the deceased characters, I’ll just assume that the bottom line is more important than contemplating the real issues facing us all. Thanos, even as ham-fisted and evil as he’s made out to be, was at least doing something. And interestingly, he has been referred to as a “woke villain.” (It’s true in these films that your story is only as good as your villain; Alan Rickman is the reason “Die Hard” worked so well. Whatever–it can be a way in to describe some of the difficulties that face us, and with a “hopepunk” aesthetic, even find ways to find joy amidst the soon-to-be ruins. I am ever the “Apocaloptomist.”) The next installment opens later in May and I’m quite curious.

    I won’t bore you all with the details of my script, though my tentative title for the trilogy is “Worshipping at TEOTWAWKI’s Altar.” One challenge for me: I’m respectful that theaters want to limit the cast to between 2 and 6, due to having to pay actors a living wage. (I have preferred big cast epics in the past. Not an easy fit.) I have 4 stage characters, plus one character who appears in videos. He becomes more central in Part II, and I’ll figure out which character gets to sit that one out. The script will receive a free live reading in Cheyenne, Wyoming on either May 10th or May 12th. FYI. If anyone’s nearby and/or interested. I wrote one of the parts to be played by myself, with another fellow local actress, who made the comment that we hadn’t yet acted together onstage. Whether I’m in the reading or not, I’ll definitely be on hand to field questions and comments.

  65. John–

    One data point and one personal observation.

    First, as is my go-to for watching the liberal establishment scene (I do like that term), PoliticalWire had a post re a prediction model for 2020 suggesting a very close election:

    https://politicalwire.com/2019/04/04/model-forecasts-a-very-close-election/

    The comments, as I expected, have been fairly dismissive of either the model or the voters who put Trump into office in 2016. One fairly typical exchange:

    nomoinut
    Surprisingly close given the corrupt unethical nature of the incumbent.

    EurBetter
    Not surprising when one considers the tens of millions of moronic, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, Nazi-wannabe Republican cult voters there are…

    Much self-righteous posturing indeed.

    On the more personal side, we in WI recently had our Spring Election. Mostly local affairs (my city had three candidates running for three council seats again–sigh) but there was a state supreme court justice seat on the ballot. As I hadn’t been tracking the issues too terribly closely, my normal practice would have been to have left the section blank rather than cast an uniformed vote. I didn’t this time.

    Officially, this race is non-partisan, but the election always ends up being between a more conservative candidate and a more liberal candidate. The election was extremely close, but barring a shift in a recount, it appears the conservative candidate won.

    As I’ve mentioned, I lean leftward libertarian with all kinds of contradictory flavors mixed in. I voted for the conservative candidate for two reasons, one substantive and one less so. On the less substantive side, I happened to catch part of a negative ad run by his opponent’s supporters accusing him of helping a hate group. Knowing what gets labelled one labelled as a hate group these days, I was rather peeved. But that wasn’t what ultimately drove my decision.

    The more substantive issue was the WI Democrats’ recent argument that legislation signed by a lame-duck governor is somehow null and void when it accomplishes things they don’t like. I’m sorry, that isn’t how the process works. If a legislature passes a bill and the governor signs that bill, that bill becomes law. If the law overreaches state authority, that’s a separate argument. But the process is the process. We have constitutions for a reason. You don’t get to cry foul just because you don’t like the result. So I decided to cast my ballot in favor of putting the cabosh on that whole strategy to undo those final acts of the Walker administration.

    This is no less foolish an argument than at the federal level where the Democrats are arguing that Obama’s executive orders re DACA are somehow binding on Trump. What was constructed by EO can be deconstructed by EO. If you want something more permanent, pass legislation next time. But that can, of course, be undone by later legislation, as a legislature cannot bind future legislatures.

    Process, people. Constitutional governments are about abiding by the agreed-upon processes, regardless of who happens to be in power at the time. If we want to send this country into self-destruct mode, arguing that the rules change depending on whether or not “your guy/gal” is in charge is an excellent way of eroding what remains of our system’s legitimacy.

    My apologies to everyone for the mini-rant. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  66. @ Rita, if I may; I’ve long admired your comments, in general, and felt concord with your discomfort with trans-activists more specifically. For whatever it’s worth, I think the hysteria regarding so called ‘terfs’ is utterly horrific. More importantly, as a “trans” person I feel the whole fight around the existential nature of transgenderism is utterly pointless. There’s no way to get consensus around these slippery notational concepts, and then there is biological actuality and there’s really no arguing with that.

    So in my own life I think of myself as a male named ‘Violet’ who uses female pronouns for myself because they ‘make sense’. In addition to this, I don’t interest myself in how others perceive me or, indeed, care what pronouns people use! The entire head trip of demanding others conform their vision to another person’s dogma is inherently totalitarian! And so the transgender ideology has a rather nasty totalitarian streak which manifests itself in a lot of mean-spirited bullying.

    In addition to this, the whole grasping for every female-space is very unethical to my mind. This is especially true with religious spaces in which the idea appears to be currently fashionable gender politics trumps an entire community’s relationship with a deity! I’ve read Walter Burkert’s _Greek Religion_ several times and have a sense of the qualifications for priesthood in the Greek world and the many rules around piety. So there was a Demeter festival only women could participate in, and other sex segregated spaces. And that strikes me as not only okay, but indeed, extremely important for certain religious activities. Of course, I’d never dare to willfully sneak into a female-only religious space under false pretenses! I’ve read way too much Greek Myth for that ever to be in the least way appealing!

    I share your concerns with backlash against transpeople, since I am one and there’s so much bad behavior on the part of trans-activists. That said, the transgender gestalt strikes me as something that has become profoundly and rather obviously evil. Of course I’m not trying to make the argument that all or even most trans-folks are evil, but the ideology that demands the bullying of so-called ‘terfs’ and other abuses clearly is. The egregore appears to me to have corrupted over the past decade or so. Of course, evil things self-destruct which is what makes them evil, at least according to Dion Fortune. So I’ve cut my ties with almost all of the trans folks and allies who were at one point in my life and let them follow their own trajectory wherever it may lead and focus my energy on spiritual practices and religious devotion rather than participating in any way whatsoever in ‘queer community’.

  67. @David, btl: I would be glad to sign up for your leftward libertarian eco-minded small-government social democrat party. I know that it is possible for government to accomplish things more efficiently than individuals (roads, health insurance, national defense), but there are so many things that get screwed up by its ever increasing scope (roads, health insurance, national defense, to name a few. Also, what I can raise in my back yard (chickens, after about 5 years of work!))

    @Ethan: I am also struggling how to discuss politics and history with my friends and family. Many seem locked into the perpetual progress paradigm, and I got into a violent argument at a party several weeks ago over the saintliness vs. demonstrated bad acts of (a losing presidential candidate). The humor seems drained out of everyone. it’s a puzzlement how we will live through it.

    @David Trammel: Thanks for extending the potluck invite to the Green Wizards forum. I think that Green Wizardry is obviously a great part of Ecosophia.

    @ Nastarana: Virtue signaling is showing your values by your words, instead of your actions. Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” A current example of Virtue Signaling: the SUV with a Sierra Club bumper sticker.

    AIRSHIPS: My mother (born in 1911 in the Netherlands) told me of watching the Zeppelins crossing the sky at dusk to go bomb London during the Great War.

  68. Bringing my past up again: even when fully a faithful Christian, my most constant annoyance was just how absolutely dull the religion is. I’d read a book with far more interesting characters … a “good guy” with, for example, the habit of stealing for fun just to see how good he is at The Game … and sigh bitterly and repress my dissatisfaction as evil. Of course, I’m not part of that religion anymore.

  69. Happypandatao, you’re strawmanning. TERFs refers to feminists who deny the existence of gender dysphoria or don’t feel that trans women should be included in the feminist movement – hence “trans-exclusionary”. It’s not used to describe people’s dating preferences, at least in the mainstream definition of the term. Presumably the MtG artist is being criticized for supporting a president who has actively promoted policies like the military ban that exclude trans people.

    This kind of rhetorically satisfying disingenuousness is a surefire way to wind up as clueless about your opponents as they are about Trump supporters.

  70. From the above, it seems like Erick Erickson should be called Error Errorson. This sort of belief or statement (allowing that he may not actually believe things he claims to believe) indicates the point at which a sometimes-useful myth becomes pernicious.

  71. I am excited about the RPG. Don’t know if you know this but for history’s sake Mythras used to be called Runequest 6 (I own the hardcover) until Chaosium pulled their license for reasons that had zero to do with the Mythras people and everything to do with mismanagement of a Kickstarter campaign by Chaosium’s management of that time. So the ruleset used for your RPG joins a venerable lineage. Not quite as long as D&D itself but still dating back to 1978. So all you Runequest veterans – rejoice! 🙂

    P.S. I am *seriously* considering taking you up on your offer of playtesting your game as I’ve been a GM and player off and on for many decades (though sadly not as a GM for Runequest games but do have the GM chops for several other systems) and have a free account for playing tabletop RPGs at Roll20.

  72. I always felt that TERF had within it the idea that certain effects of Testosterone just could not be ignored by dint of wishful thinking. Interesting that I started hearing about TERFs at the same time that the idea of a female penis and male vagina started getting bandied about…

  73. Cliff: don’t know about Solo, but I know The Last Jedi was definitely Woke; and while it made money (and the concept of “women trying to set the men straight” made sense to my mind) it definitely split the Star Wars universe and probably helped make Solo lose money.

    As for Wonder Women and Black Panther, they were Canon that was handled as such. Nothing more, nothing less.

  74. Christopher, but if good woke films do well and bad woke films do badly I think it’s just that people don’t like bad movies, and (as you say) they don’t like being preached to, regardless which direction the preaching is coming from. The conservative film studio of the future that John talks about would have to resist the urge to preach, then. I’m still a big fan of True Blood (the early seasons at least), which was in its own way pretty subversive and progressive but where the diversity seemed natural and didn’t feel tacked on. There was no preaching because it wasn’t necessary. As a consequence, no one talked about this aspect of the show, only about “the gratuitous sex and violence”… damned if you do, damned if you don’t, people only seem to notice diversity when it’s done badly.

    But this talk of stereotypical diversity also fits well into what I’ve been thinking about this week… I finally got around to watching the much-praised “The Shape of Water” (2017 film in which a woman in the 1960s falls in love with a kind of intelligent, humanoid amphibian monster who is being held in a military facility where she works). I found the film pretty disappointing because the “monster” was, as Bryan says above in a different context, “only different in terms of looks”. It didn’t challenge any part of the human characters’ thinking, it didn’t bring any alien cultural traits with it – in fact it barely communicated. It just looks different (pretty cute, even) and joins forces with the marginalized humans (hence the 1960s framing – if the film took place today, the marginalized groups might have been pretty different ones but the film would probably not be as widely praised). The monster is more like a monster plush toy. It’s reduced to its cuteness and animal instincts throughout the film (even though it’s mentioned that its race used to be worshipped as gods), which, ugh, totally monsterphobic!

    By the way, and to continue my defense of actual leftism, Slavoj Zizek has talked about this same concept and he calls this kind of fake diversity “the decaffeinated other” – the stranger who is only strange in a way that does not irritate us and that we can tolerate, i.e. reach a truce with in which no one will bother the other too much or cause the other to maybe question their own convictions. So it’s okay to be a amphibian god-monster from South America that communicates in clicks and gestures, as long as all you do is look cute and be a generic love interest.

  75. Cliff, that distribution of Luciferic and Ahrimanic alignments seems quite reasonable to me — and here again, I remember when the Republicans were the ones who were into moral posturing and better-than-thou, and the Democrats were into shameless wallowing in whatever-thou-wilt. It does seem to flop from side to side at intervals.

    Juan Pablo, good heavens, I should hope you would disagree with me from time to time, if not more often! I don’t write these essays or make these comments because I think everyone ought to have the same take on things I do; I write these essays and make these comments because I like to express my take on things and watch, enjoy, and learn from the conversations that result.

    SlithyToves, fascinating. You’re quite correct, of course — there are very close parallels between classic Calvinism and modern secular wokeness — and I’m not at all sure why I didn’t catch onto that. Thank you.

    Ryan, you’re welcome and thank you!

    Pogonip, hah! Thank you. This is a fine list, and the comments are even better. (I am suddenly considering putting together a collection of suitably blistering oaths for this blog, not limited to science fiction sources but certainly including them, and linking to it on the comments rules…)

    Ben, thanks for the reminder. You can find the original announcement at the bottom of this post, and now that I’ve gotten caught up on some things I should be able to make time to get that and the second Vintage Worlds contest up on the relevant page.

    Aspirant, it’s not always Russia — back in the day it was more often Germany or one of the East Asian countries — but right now, as the boomers sink into their second childhood, finding evil Russians under the bed has become the latest sport among establishment liberals. As for Colonel Sodoff, funny! I actually got him from Salman Rushdie’s first (and not very good) novel Grimus, where one character, drunk, greets another “in the names of the four Russian noblemen:” Sodoff, Pissoff, Buggeroff, and I’ll let you guess the fourth one…

    David, it’s specifically gay white men, and a lot of social justice types seem to have decided that being gay is not enough to absolve them from the mortal sin of being white men.

    Richard, it’s a little far for me, but I hope it goes well!

    David, well, how well did Political Wire manage to predict the outcome of the 2016 election?

    Jess, I’ve seen the same thing as an outsider to that faith, and been baffled by it. C.S. Lewis is one of many authors who showed that you can write fiction from a wholly Christian perspective and make it far from boring — but yeah, there’s a vast amount of Christian literature that’s as dull as Airship Heroes, and for the same reason: cheap morality plays full of plaster saints are dreary.

    Phutatorius, I won’t argue.

    Happypandatao, I do indeed know the lineage of Mythras — I played Runequest back in the day, though much more occasionally than some other games — and yeah, Chaosium’s handling of RQ 6 was, well, unimpressive. The great thing is that now that it’s an independent system, it’s being used for all kinds of RPG gaming; there are supplements already out that cover territory from ancient Byzantium to the multiverse of the 80s British comic book series Luther Arkwright — and, of course, Weird of Hali.

    As for playtesting, by all means. I’ll be posting an announcement on my Dreamwidth journal as soon as the rules are ready for testing.

    Godozo, I heard about it before then, but that’s because it was a hot issue in the San Francisco-area Pagan scene back when I was still attending Pagan events.

  76. Thank you for the definition, Peter van Erp. I admit to ownership of an ancient Honda, which came to me when my father passed away. I loath lumbering SUV road hogs because I can’t see around them. My preference in bumper stickers is for the ones which say something like This Is a Mafia Staff Car, Hands Off!! That was back in the day when cops still had senses of humor.

    ‘Opinionated’ is the preferred RW term for folks living their values, in other words, not being plugged into our wonderful mass consumption economy.

  77. Don’t airships require helium? A lady came into my office the other day and mentioned that she couldn’t get balloons to mark her grandson’s headstone at the cemetery, to make it easier for out of town relatives to spot, because there is now a helium shortage, and preference is being given to hospitals for the supply.

  78. *David, it’s specifically gay white men, and a lot of social justice types seem to have decided that being gay is not enough to absolve them from the mortal sin of being white men.*- I have often wondered if there was a chart somewhere that I could look up where I am between being evilly evil [I’m white, male, employed, upper middle class] and being among the bless’ed. I’m gay [which doesn’t get me as much credit as it used to…] but I do have neurological problems and have three cats-does that count? I usually vote Democratic, if that helps…

  79. John–

    Re PoliticalWire and election predictions

    Oh, granted. These folks are triumphantly posed in their airships floating loftily above the unwashed masses below them. It’s just that I find it frustrating because I’d still like to see the Democratic Party become the vehicle for the needed changes, perhaps because of what it once represented, but it appears that the vehicle is instead going to be the Republican Party (or the successor party that emerges from the transformation kicked off by the catalyst that is Donald Trump). And the errors these people are making are just so blindingly obvious.

    In the end, however, the origin of the vehicle is less important than its functionality. So whatever works.

  80. Is it bad that I can think of a dozen or so RP settings for sale that precisely match the parameters of Airship Heroes? As someone who always DMs homebrew campaigns and settings (to match the characters people want to play), I’m usually only interested in the specific rule-sets, but I see a lot of that kind of nonsense in even more generic systems.

    The other day on a Cyberpunk 2020 forum, someone posted a profile for an official character – an ‘underground’ comedienne who is a lesbian whose claim to fame was that she participated in a pride rally in the 00’s. Now, to me, that sounds like a profile for an establishment daytime television with the offensiveness of tapioca pudding host rather than anything approaching counter-culture. Since I was a teenager, Gay pride rallies are state-sponsored and promoted affairs. Unless that comedienne was also as alt-right as Milo Yiannopoulos, I couldn’t RP that character being ‘underground’ or ‘punk’ with a straight face. Maybe in 1979 that would have been countercultural, but to me it’s pure establishment.

    “Go woke, go broke” applies pretty well to both RP and comics, both industries that have skewed left for a solid three decades, at least. Rainbow tokenism has been omnipresent in those media for as long as I can remember, and these days the token roster has expanded so far that it crowds out any originality that a work of fiction might have. There certainly aren’t any right-leaning comics available for purchase at my local comic store. There’s several dozen reflections on being some combination of not-white/LGBTQ, but I can’t find any featuring characters who even vaguely reflect right wing values or experiences. (Why doesn’t a superhero struggle with guilt after accidentally saving an abortionist? Or what about a clean-cut teenager who joins the military but their parents are antiwar hippies? No lack of story potential, here)

    You’re definitely spot on on the worthless villains who are just evil for the sake of being evil. The First Order, for instance, has a Nazi aesthetic, but otherwise it’s a professional, gender- and racially-diverse organization that doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary in-universe. The only thing on-film that makes them bad is that they stand in the way of the Heroines, who are only virtuous in that they have more alien friends and stand alone against the Evil Ones, in a conflict that apparently nobody in the galaxy at large can be bothered to care about.

  81. I just finished reading the Illiad and the Odyssey with my kids (well, the short versions!), both of which strike me as the opposite of the kind of one-dimensional storytelling you’ve described here. In both tales, we found we had a hard time figuring out who to root for. Almost every main character, including the Gods, at times behaves in ways which range from the heroic to the deplorable. It would be really difficult to classify anyone as only purely ‘good’ or purely ‘evil.’ Instead the characters come across as decidedly real, vivid, imperfect and fallible – struggling to come to terms with different facets of their own natures. That is likely what makes the stories so good and timeless.

    As you’ve described, in today’s political forum, the characters have a tendency to try to portray themselves as purely ‘good,’ and incapable of error, leaving the other side to take up the ‘evil’ role. Of course in real life, or in a good story, this can never be the case. People are decidedly not perfect. I think what is happening, at least in part, has to do with the projection of the shadow. All the parts of oneself that are dark and gritty and difficult to deal with get packaged up and shoved into the lap of the other side, then labeled as evilly evil and forgotten about. That way, one can go on one’s merry way, pretending everything is fine, conveniently avoiding having to deal with any of one’s own inner suffering.

    Admittedly, facing up to one’s own inner shale is not fun – more like incredibly painful and difficult, so I can see the appeal of trying to pretend it’s not there, or that the bad guy is really the cause of it all. Ultimately, that’s an inauthentic position to try to hold, and will lead nowhere worth going.

  82. Speaking of shortages, or soon to be shortages, a headline on my internet feed this morning was a story on Bloomberg stating that the great Saudi oilfield Ghawar is declining. Last week I read that as of 2018, Mexico became an oil importer, NOT AN EXPORTER. Is anyone out there WOKE to this? To me, all of this social justice posturing is going to be a minimal concern soon. Tuesday I went to vote on a school bond issue. We as taxpayers were asked to approve a bond (raising our property taxes, of course) to finance roof replacement, HVAC, lockers, ect.. Anyway the kicker is that the school system was short of money for routine maintenance because they spent millions of dollars on ASTROTURF for the football field and a bunch of soccer fields! So soccer moms in SUVs can now drive all over the state of Missouri nights and weekends taking their kids to sports events! Our town is not the only one doing this. Columbia MO has plans for a huge astroturfed sports complex with several dozen soccer fields, as does a town down near The Lake of the Ozarks. BAU baby!

  83. This metaphor of the RPG game to help explain the current political climate in the USA is brilliant! One of the features of RPG games which I think makes them more than just a game but a useful tool is the opportunity to get differing perspectives on situations which you do through playing a role. The game Airship Heroes doesn’t seem to allow for a lot of different perspectives unfortunately, and that does seem to be exactly the situation with the Democratic party. I’ve been eating a lot of popcorn as the Democratic candidates for 2020 keep entering and find nothing really separates any of them. One of the candidates who according to polls, which we know aren’t that accurate anymore, had one of the best chances of defeating Trump, Joe Biden, has just fallen victim to the Left’s favorite tool against white men, sexual harassment. Many American’s are finally seeing through these charades but it doesn’t seem the Democratic party has realized this just yet. I am pretty convinced that having career politicians is one of the factors helping to create a class of people who are out of touch with the realities of the every day life of the average American. Perhaps politicians should be required to RPG, because they’d definitely benefit from it!

  84. We try again using “frack” and “shale” as euphemisms. Neither seems an appropriate euphemism for “fetish,” but that is a particular word with a particular, clinical rather than vernacular, meaning, which is the meaning I attach to it regarding steam punk and its preferred supposed era along with the general habit of looking back to that period as apparently simpler times. Myself, I prefer to imagine going all the way back to pre-agricultural days of hunting and gathering rather than simply to the time of steam and coal, the time in which our bad and ruinous habits began to be enshrined as essential convenience. Original euphemised comment now follows.

    “We are not amused!” Except that we are. Rather an entertaining commentary, although its implications provoke the usual dissonance of anything serious. Personally, I think that the setbacks we humans face in these extreme times are due to the machinations of the Giant Vampire Squid attempting to extort ever more wealth from the hapless humans, which fracks off the Shape-Shifting Alien Space Lizards, who, as everyone should know by now, have been in charge of things here in this sector of the Universe since time almost, but not quite, immemorial. The Spider Lords are just bit players, but we are the true collateral damage. Also, our own worst enemies. Particularly those with a Victorian fetish.

    Really, all these things live in our heads. It’s just that some people are greedy, power-crazed frackers with only the narrowest self-interest as motivation and some have a wider idea of the world being a somewhat nicer place. As you point out, no one is entirely simple and the more appealing story wins. That’s how we got where we are today with all the “holy” books. Life would be awfully boring without drama, but then I have been called a “drama queen” more than once.

    But, I don’t like being in other people’s lame-shale stories. Psychic life is hard enough as it is.

  85. Dear JMG,

    Thank you for the reply. I have read some of LotFP and incorporated some of their ideas into my own custom game. I will definitely keep my eyes open for the WoH! I can’t believe my favourite contemporary author’s going to have an RPG published. I presume there will be an announcement when it becomes available?

    Tim

  86. Some notes here: “Stereotypical diversity” dates back to those beloved World War II movies, where every platoon has its (insert every white ethnic stereotype of the period here) and every one of them proved useful in the end for what he was. I remember those! Found them uplifting at the time. (Hey. I was in grade school.)

    The “snowflakes” who freak at the thought of a woman in a hijab, a transgender student in the locker room, etc are, going by the letters to the editor in our mildly center-right local newspaper, all from the conservative side of the fence; liberals freak out about other things.

    In my experience, arguing with a liberal about Trump, or with a Boomer feminist about Hillary, is like teaching a pig to sing. You only get covered with mud, and annoy the pig.

  87. @Godozo: Oh, The Last Jedi was absolutely Woke. I didn’t mind it, though – I suppose I don’t ask much of Star Wars movies any more. I just want some good swordfights, some good space battles, and it’s nice to see more than one female character at a time.

    Maybe that’s part of the problem with all of this: People seem to want their big dumb movies to serve as pillars of their philosophical outlook. So if a Star Wars movie sucks, it’s the end of the world, and if it’s good, it’s a proclamation of all that’s good and true. Likewise with the Marvel movies.

    But they’re just big dumb movies. They’re fun once in a while, but if a person makes them a central part of their lifestyle, problems start to arise.

  88. Does the one dimensional Russian villain or deplorable correspond with the one dimensional machines we have at our disposal and that we are addicted to? Do you become like a machine if you spend the majority of your day looking at one? Is that why the “Left” create such boring movies, games etc and can’t meme because they don’t understand the nuance necessary to make things interesting?

    Why aren’t the alt Right similarly afflicted? That said, Right wing Bible-thumpers are very similar to the ‘woke’ in their black and white version of the world. Bores of the world have united and taken over..

  89. Over the past two years, I’ve spent considerable time watching political youtube. Something that I find quite interesting is that on Team Left you have mostly a materialist, atheist and socialist script. Although many of these brilliant creators on youtube have interesting cinematography, direction, lighting, characters, etc, the subtext of these highly edited videos tend to always spout the same basic world feeling. At least Contrapoints and Hbomberguy are open atheists. Team Left, to my sensibility, cheerleads for the status quo at least in terms of Reality Wars. They uphold science, reason, and and the human intellect.

    Team Right though brags about practicing meme magic and worshipping an ancient Egyptian frog deity! They not only break from the script in terms of politics but also in terms of basic worldfeeling. Sure there are angry atheists on Team Right, but that’s not all there is on that Team, whereas it appears to me that Team Left more largely shares the same basic reality template

    So to my mind politics are one part of this conflict, but not the only part. There’s also a conflict perhaps between the scientific, atheist, and Calvinist derived Woke Mentality and an Occult Fueled Band of Pranksters who meaningfully break from the Protestant tradition! Can anyone imagine the SJW crowd breaking from their history of Liberal Christianity and Marxism and suddenly openly worshipping ancient pagan gods? The closest that I can imagine is demonolatory given that and Contrapoints seems to flirt with it in some of her work, and certain things that former friends of mine on the social justice left said and left unsaid. But embracing constructive relationships with pagan divinities? Why, that may just be cultural appropriation!

    So yes, narratives — both played out and otherwise — indeed, and they appear to me to go quite deep.

  90. @ David, by the Lake

    You make a good point, here:

    “We don’t have to agree with what another says, but we do have to respect their right to say it.”

    But I’d see you and raise you, with this:

    “No one has to agree with what we say, but we may only demand their respect for our right to say it if we are prepared to respect their right to say different. The rights we want respected are OUR rights.”

    That is to say, when we are defending rights, they are ALWAYS our own rights that we are ultimately defending.

    And I’d like to point out that the earliest memory I have of “seeing” this point clearly, was when I heard someone in my family railing about “criminals” getting all these “criminal rights” which he was against. And what he was on about were things that I’d want for myself – fair trial, due process, the right to a defense, the right to see what you are accused of, the presumption of innocence, etc, etc. Because he already thought of a suspect as a “criminal” he seemed to think dispensing with their “rights” was fine and dandy, and if they got shot and killed by a policeman while being arrested (long before actually getting a trial), that was just going to make the world a better place.

    For some reason, I simply could not get him to see that that “criminal” (who had not yet been formally accused, fairly tried, or received any due process) could be me. And that if I were to agree with him that “criminals” shouldn’t have rights, it would be tantamount to agreeing that I myself had no right to due process, fair trials, etc, should I ever be accused of anything.

    Anyway, that particular “they” shouldn’t get “our” rights blind spot was demonstrated to me from the conservative rightward end of the political spectrum in the 1970’s. But the SHAPE of the argument, which is that “they” shouldn’t get “our” rights, exists in exactly the same way, no matter who utters it. If someone is saying “they” don’t get the right to politically organise and.or vote in accordance with their interests and values, (because I don’t approve of their interests/values), such a person is inadvertently undermining their own claim to the right to do those things.

    The secret being that if it is a right (and especially if it is a right that *I* want defended for *myself*), then it has to apply to everyone.

    Otherwise it is a prerogative, and you are basically relying on the strength of your “might” to make “right.”

  91. We had a brief break from Russians as bad guys in the 80s when everything bad seemed to trace back to a Colombian Drug Lord. Then Middle Eastern terrorists became the bad guys of the era. But maybe nation states require other nation states as enemies–even well armed and organized gangs just don’t cut it.

    Just finished reading _Behind Putin’s Curtain: Friendships and Misadventures Inside Russia_ by Stephan Orth. Will be issued in May by Greystone Books. Orth is a German journalist, author of _Couchsurfing in Iran_. He travels through Russia by couchsurfing using an app by that name that matches travelers with people ready to offer a couch, air mattress, or fully equipped house to visitors. Most seem to be motivated by a desire to meet new people. Orth meets people nostalgic for Communism, people busy getting rich, people who admire Putin and others who don’t. We learn about the ethnic diversity and divisions (mainly Slavic/Christian vs Asian/Muslim). There are regions whose entire populations were uprooted by Stalin, then allowed to return under later governments. Orth visits a a location nicknamed “the a**hole of the world” by locals; a huge open pit diamond mine in Mirny in Sakha Republic in the far east of Russia. There are Russian gun nuts, Russian religious nuts (reincarnation of Jesus living in Siberian commune), conspiracy theorists and dedicated drinkers of vodka. Also fish biologists, cab drivers, IT engineers–you get the idea. Probably not a cross section since the author meets mainly people involved in travel–busdrivers, guides, etc. and the type of people who will open their homes to a strange, foreign man. If nothing else, the book helps one become aware of just how big the country is–7 time zones. I must admit amusement at his quotation of Putin’s response to accusations of meddling in US election “Is America a banana republic? America is a superpower. Correct me if I’m wrong”. I recommend this if you enjoy travel books in general or are particularly interested in Russia.

  92. @Violet – I understand your discomfort with people who are, to all outward appearances, men occupying female-exclusive spaces. I feel much the same. But as our host likes to say, the opposite of one bad idea us usually another bad idea.

    As another trans person, what spaces *do* I belong in? I wear skirts/dresses, I have breasts, my voice is feminine (I get called Ma’am on the phone by people who don’t know me). My body doesn’t produce testosterone. I don’t have a penis thanks to some aggressive (and welcome) surgery, but I was born with one.

    I’d be utterly out of place in a male-only sacred space. Would I still be ‘sneaking in under false pretences’ if I went to a female one?

    I’d say there is, in all things, a balance. How female do I have to be before I’m welcome in a specific place ought to be up to that specific community, but generalized “trans people aren’t women” is just as harmful as “if I say I’m a woman then I am.” I prefer to think of gender as a spectrum instead of a binary.

  93. I’m still waiting for a truly inclusive movie plot, and will probably be disappointed–
    How about this– An Iranian lesbian woman who was forcibly married to an Iranian clergyman turns up in Lancaster PA and is taken in by a family of Old Order Amish. When it becomes apparent that the US Gov will turn her over to Iran for an international political deal, the Amish use their networks to get her to Russia.
    Along the way she teaches them to make almond cookies for Eid and lets them know that al-la condemns them. They teach her cross stitch and tell her she is doubly condemned for bring a lesbian and rejecting the triune God. But by the end of the movie they have gone out of their way to save each others’ hides while not changing each others beliefs and of course are family.

  94. JMG, I wouldn’t say Solo was a particularly woke film – the main character was a straight white male, after all. But I do think it bombed because of wokeness, since a lot of people boycotted it because of The Last Jedi.

    “It’s also why I expect any day now to hear that a group of young, brash, politically conservative venture capitalists have funded a new moviemaking studio which will be located just outside Branson, Missouri, which will produce films that won’t be subject to the rigid social-justice dogmatism that rules Hollywood these days, and which in ten years or so will be where all the hot young talent is headed because the Hollywood studios just keep doubling down on a series of failed formulae.”

    Hollywood grew up because there was a high barrier to entry to get into the movie industry, given the equipment expense and the need to distribute movies. Those constraints have been massively relaxed thanks to inexpensive computers and the internet, and other such technology (for example using drones to shoot footage that would have required helicopters in the past). We’ll probably still see clusters of film industry, but I don’t think it will be one big cluster, which will be for the better.

  95. I think that sums it up fairly well Lari, and I’d just underscore that exploring complex issues and seeking to lecture your audience are pretty much incompatible. Trueblood is perhaps an awkward example since it never really lectured. I’d say it began by genuinely exploring complex issues, the main character was clearly extremely good, but that virtuousness made her much more conflicted than the less morally pure people around her. When it stopped exploring those issues it didn’t so much lecture as become more and more about the werewolf porn. That turns some people off, but I don’t think anyone felt disrespected. If the future conservative movie studio tried to gain free publicity by making some sections of the population feel disrespected, I expect they might get some free publicity for their efforts in the short term but ultimately it would be a losing strategy.

  96. I enjoy Dungeons and Dragons and associated role-playing games very much (computer game versions, as well, though the pen and paper variety have a future even in a low energy world). I prefer the paladin and am playing one in an ongoing game, as the the noble knight is the ideal to which I aspire. In real life I am probably more of a bard: lots of random knowledge and a decent singing voice, but not the first choice if you need someone for a good brawl.

    I like clear distinctions between good and evil in games, as they are a bit of an escape from a more muddled reality. I don’t particularly want to cut my way through an army of goblins only to discover I’m just clearing land for an oil company.

    I believe you have said before that evilly evil dark lords are boring and overdone, and I agree. Still, sometimes it’s nice to smite unambiguous evil.

  97. Up here in Canada, the general legal consensus is that anyone who says that she is a woman – regardless of the size of her penis – is a woman, and any woman who doesn’t want women with penises in her changing room, spa, or waxing studio is a bigot and a criminal.

    Of course, a few brave individuals have used this new legal reality to obtain cheaper car insurance, and before long I expect some former men – who have penises and mostly prefer the company of women – to use their new status as trans women to get privileged access to lucrative and secure government jobs. Alt-right provocateur Lauren Southern has done the opposite, and legally become a man after a short consultation with a doctor in Ontario.

    Of course, the abolition of the concept of woman, except as ‘person who is morally superior to men, for reasons’ may have some unwelcome consequences for those with two X chromosomes and an orifice rather than a protuberance between their legs, but you can’t stop progress, eh?

  98. I love Pathfinder, which is informally known among Dungeons & Dragons fans as “D&D 3.75”.

    An invaluable research tool for RPG’s and other games is a web archive known as
    The Trove. If you are looking for rulebooks, supplements, game play aids and other resources on gaming systems ranging from D&D to BattleTech (another favorite from my misspent youth along with D&D) to Lamentations of the Flame Princess, they’ve probably got it.

  99. For what it’s worth, I have seen the phrase “Get woke, go broke” attributed to John Ringo. I can believe it; he’s no mean wordsmith, and no fan of the authoritarian left.

    When it comes to the once and future airship — how many have been built? Total, worldwide, is probably few hundred if we include blimps. Excluding blimps, focusing on rigid airships, we’re at perhaps one hundred. Ever. How seaworthy do you think the hundredth-ever boat was?

    Admittedly, they will never handle weather as well as a heavier-than-air craft. That said, when heavier than air craft aren’t available, history shows airships can be used profitably for paying passenger service (see DELAG, pre-WWI) and cargo delivery (mostly explosive cargo, to London– but I consider the point made). Airships are slower than airplanes, flimsier than airplanes, and harder to operate than airplanes.

    So why won’t they just go away? In theory and practice, they require much less engine power than airplanes. The LZ127 Graf Zeppelin could carry “a usable payload of 15,000 kg (33,000 lb) on a 10,000 km (6,200 mi; 5,400 nmi) flight”, cruising at “117 km/h (33 m/s; 73 mph; 63 kn) at a power of 1,600 kW (2,150 hp)” .(Source Wiki.)

    Fishing for a comparison, I found that, a DC-3 took about the same horsepower to haul a useful payload of only 2700kg (6000lb) a mere 2,575km (1,600 mi 1,391 nmi). The DC-3 could do all this at more than twice the speed, did not need a ground crew to haul it in for landing, and could be left parked out in a field– advantages the airships simply could not match.

    If you don’t have the big engines needed for heavier-than-air service (due to metallurgy, perhaps) or cannot run them (due to fuel constraints, for example) — well, then one might think again of airships. Otherwise it seems like the impracticality makes them rather a pipe dream, something every generation of engineers discovers for itself. (That’s my personal explanation of the approximately 20 year cycle of airship resurgence. It isn’t that we aren’t producing workable airships. Each generation produces perfectly workable airships that would sell like hotcakes if they were the only things flying… and absolutely cannot compete with 1930s aircraft, nevermind contemporary ones.)

    Is there a point where rising fuel costs make airships a worthwhile investment? I haven’t the foggiest idea! I rather hope so, though.

  100. What I’ve been thinking about recently is, why do the social justice left’s narratives about race and gender differ so much from each other? Both have elements of biology and cultural constructs, but I’d say gender has much more of a biological basis. The vast majority of people are born clearly one gender or the other, while race rests much more loosely on biological characteristics. Yet, the people most into gender fluidity tend to think of race as more fixed. Imagine the reaction from the social justice left if a lily-white celebrity publicly announced that they were now identifying as black and would consider comments about their whiteness very offensive.

    An alternate history that I’ve been thinking about is a situation that’s much like our own, but the thinking about race and gender is reversed. In this alternate situation that seems plausible enough to me, “racial fluidity” is the rage among the social justice left. Wearing blackface is considered liberation, as is whiteface, the equivalent for those of other races who want to appear white. Some even get medical treatments to change their skin color and other features to make them look like the race they identify as. Some don’t bother changing their appearance much at all, they just identify as another race.

    Meanwhile, the social justice left in this scenario advocates much more rigidity regarding gender. Trans people are very few and not out of the closet. It’s a scandal if photos are found of a male politician or celebrity dressed up as a woman decades ago, and the condemnation is done in the name of feminism. Right-wing men in this scenario sometimes cross-dress just for the reaction they get from the left, even if they generally advocate more traditional gender roles. Even men who simply play more traditionally feminine roles such as in the kitchen get accused of “gender appropriation”, and told to back off and let women fill those roles.

    Strange that scenario may be, I don’t think it’s any stranger than the one we’re actually in.

  101. Hi John,
    Re Aspirant’s noting that a Christmas Carol is an enduring morality play. I think there are several reasons. 1) Scrooge is treated sympathetically. We see that he was abandoned and unloved as a child, with only his sister being truly caring. (Recent studies show that someone put in boarding school from a very early age suffer emotional trauma.) In the time and place into which Scrooge was born, he did not have the benefit of aristocratic privilege. Being middle class was precarious. Fezziwig nothwithstanding, Scrooge basically saw himself as all alone in a hostile world. People could be counted on to do commercial transactions in their self interest and that’s about it. So he decided to do build a fortress of money. So its hard for him to see Christmas joy as anything but humbug. His lonely childhood makes it difficult for him to see the elements of solidarity that also exist. 2) It anticipates psychoanalysis. After an intervention (ghost of Marley) Scrooge confonta his past and how it’s shaped him, he comes to understand how it’s affecting his present and, in the time remaining to him, how it can blight his future. One night of intense therapy completely tuns him around because it was so searingly honest. 3) It highlights the perennial moral choice. If your well off, do you say “I’ve got mine, to heck with you,” or do you decise to share your good fortune?

  102. Hi John, Congratulations! I didn’t know about Dreamwidth (I’ll look it up). I’ve never done a role play game, except for some opfor back in the army days, but I really enjoy your insights, wit, and sense of humor. I look forward to watching you make this happen. All the best, best, best!!!

  103. @Nastarana Virtue Signaling is fawning about Greta Thunberg on Facebook, then immediately posting your annual tropical vacation pics. A friend of mine totally lost it and went on a delete purge about it calling everyone hypocrites. When people got upset at his literal mindedness, he was like I HAVE ASPERGER’S LIKE GRETA WHAT DO YOU THINK SHE WOULD SAY TO YOU?? Sigh.

    @JMG, David BTL the history of gay men being pushed out of social justice spaces is slightly more complicated. In the extreme ridiculousness of it (the same bleed from the original academic TERF definition Andrew uses to the rigid double-think binary-enforcement practices Violet describes) it is because they’re men – or white men, worse. But there was a very valid bad blood between lesbian communities, particularly women of colour and white gay men, for much the same reason lots of women of colour mistrust white feminists: we’ve historically always been happy to throw them under the bus if it would get us what we wanted. In the feminist world of Canada in the 70’s, that meant refusing to help with reforms to labour laws for nannies and child care workers that would have helped primarily non-white poor women out of the poverty of caring for rich white feminists kids while they broke the glass ceiling. Our abandonment of indigenous women to fighting alone in the Missing and Murdered Women inquiry was even worse.

    White gay men were similarly frequently hostile to civil rights issues that specifically impacted lesbians, or worse, the violence that black queer people or trans people disproportionately faced. They’d rather not be murdered than get to marry, you know? In Vancouver, this boiled over recently about the pride parade, when they white gay men – nearly the entire board – refused to uninvite the police to march. Given that Vancouver had had some high profile problems with two officers routinely raping trans prostitutes and some of the usual problems with the Black community, one could see why the rest of the LGBTQ community didn’t feel safe with cops there, or want them to you know, virtue signal.

    I’ve known a few gay men (they’re a common species of boss in white collar office space for some reason) who also used their gayness to justify horrific misogyny – they didn’t need to be nice to inferior women, because they didn’t need to pretend they didn’t hate us just to get laid like those poor straight sods. I once heard Dan Savage epically take down a man like that on his podcast, one of Dan’s saving graces.

    The reasonable part stems from the lack of trust we all have due to the pile of evidence that a lot of people won’t even consider whether other people might have legitimate other views stemming from their different life experience. It is worse with people who like to think they’re woke because they have A Dimension of Oppression(tm)! and refuse to entertain the idea that it still doesn’t give them omnipotent vision into other people’s marginalization (e.g. around class, education status – omg doesn’t he know we don’t use the phrase anymore since so and so’s paper/twitter story?!).
    The unreasonable part is the collapse of all things to duality of all the time good, all the time bad (all the way man, all the way woman!)

  104. Thor (and Violett, and really anyone else in the transgender/”terf” discussion)

    They tell you that gender is a social construct and then insist that it’s a vitally important biological reality that you can easily choose to modify through surgery.

    It’s funny because it’s true! My own leanings are pretty strongly trans-inclusive, but when the movement for trans-acceptance began, one of the things I noticed was the utter lack of anything resembling consensus on what it meant to be transgender. Without that, there’s no way to form a consensus on what exactly is being sought or form a plan on how to get it.

    I’ve said it here before, but I’ll say it again: had the Right not taken the bait on the bathroom issue and overreacted by immediately resorting to force of law, I suspect the trans-acceptance movement would have stalled out under its own incoherence.

  105. In 1983 the modern version of Scarface was released. That movie inverted tragedy where the main character, a villain, is undone in the end by the little bit of goodness left in him when he was unwilling to blow up a car with children in it. Nothing in Shakespeare is that innovative and frankly immoral. Is that just the way the underworld works? or are the bad guys the real winners in life, and is there is no Good and Evil in this world, only those with Cojones, and those without. (What I call the un-just world hypothesis) I don’t think the rise of the virtuous Left and the vacuousness of popular culture over the last thirty-five years is a coincidence.

  106. Yes – A. Koestler – The Ghost in the Machine, Darkness at Noon, The Thirteenth Tribe, etc. helped during my struggles with the range of possible self transcendence outcomes.

  107. Jeff, one mayoral election does not a blue wave make. I remain skeptical that the Left will do anything other than they’ve done in the last dozen elections, that is, make some noise and then fall meekly in line behind whatever corrupt political hack the Democratic Party and the mass media insist is better than those awful Republicans. Do you disagree? I’m glad to hear it; now go prove me wrong.

    Dana, in the real world, sure. In roleplaying games, you can always come up with some handwavium gas to keep your dirigibles flying!

    KMB, I’ve seen some charts but never got around to bookmarking them. Me, as a straight white guy from a middle class background, I got used a long time ago to being evilly evil with a double helping of evil sauce on the side, since the only roles the social justice scene offers me are that, on the one hand, and on the other, the role of cringing whipping boy who thanks the bullies for kicking him — and you know, that latter just doesn’t have any appeal to me.

    (I was bullied quite a bit when I was a child, and one of the reasons the social justice movement raises my hackles so effectively is that its behavior and rhetoric remind me all too well of what pavement feels like when your face is slammed repeatedly into it.)

    David, yeah, I get that.

    John, oh, I know. I based Airship Heroes on a specific game, but I know there are plenty of other games out there that have equally cartoonish themes.

    Stefania, delighted to hear it! It’s precisely because the characters in Homer are complex, and can’t be sorted out into “good people” and “bad people,” that people are still reading him two and a half millennia after he wrote. I can promise you the current crop of woke literature won’t last much more than 0.1% of that…

    Dana, excellent. You get tonight’s gold star for paying attention. While most people are stumbling mindlessly toward a future they’ve convinced themselves can’t happen, you’ve just spotted the first stirrings of the next energy crisis.

    Prizm, popcorn is definitely called for. I do hope that the Democrats can get their heads out from between their nether cheeks in time to do something useful; so many of them have become rage junkies who seem to care about nothing but getting their next fix!

    Corvus, thank you. Why do the poor lizards and cephalopods get all the bad press, though? One of these days I’d like to see a paranoid rant about evil space puppies — sure, they’re adorable, but infinite malignity lurks behind those big soulful eyes… 😉

    Tim, you’re welcome and thank you. There will indeed be an announcement; in the meantime, you might want to keep an eye on my Dreamwidth journal, where various updates have been and will be posted.

    Patricia, wasn’t that a Twain quote? Either way, it’s quite true.

    Bridge, you’re right about the Bible thumpers — they’re just as humorless and one-dimensional as the social justice types — so that argues it probably isn’t the machines that are central to the process. More on this as we proceed.

    Violet, true, and fascinating. One more way in which the Left has become the conservative end of modern politics!

    Turning Point, last I heard, making blockbuster (or would-be blockbuster) films usually still requires lots of money. That’s where I see a single studio or cluster of studios emerging — not around technology, but around money.

    Christopher K, it may be a matter of taste, then. I find stories about good people being good and bad people being bad really quite dreary.

  108. Baboonery, no, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Is it just me, or does anyone else notice the searing jealousy in all these tirades by social justice types who can’t write well, at writers of the past who could and did?

    Justin, that’s one of the obvious issues — as currently interpreted, transgender status is easy to game, and if all you have to do is say “I identify as a woman” and you’re legally a woman, there will be plenty of guys who are willing to game the system that way. For that matter, I wonder how many people on the left realize that Donald Trump could get up tomorrow morning and announce that he now identifies as a woman? The Democrats would then by their own logic be forced to celebrate her as the first woman president, the first transgender president, and the first lesbian president — and thus, because Donna Trump belongs to all these categories of Good People, any criticism against her would by definition be sexist, transphobic, and homophobic…

    Baboonery, many thanks for this.

    Kashtan, fascinating. Yes, that’s just as plausible — and the inversion really does show up how bizarre current attitudes have gotten.

    Greg, the other thing that makes “A Christmas Carol” richer than your standard morality play is that it’s not bad people being bad and good people being good; it’s about a morally complex person who has some seriously bad traits, figures out what’s bad about them, and changes the way he lives in response to that realization. That’s one standard frame of good or even great literature. In Pride and Prejudice, the novel I mentioned in my post, Darcy and Elizabeth both start out as very mixed bags — he’s got an ego the size of Hampshire, she loves to think badly of people she doesn’t like — and their encounters result in each of them becoming better people, and not incidentally in falling in love.

    Coboarts, thank you.

    SaraDee, thanks for this — very useful background information, which I will take into account.

    Jason, I’m by no means sure you’re wrong. Unless the Dems get a clue really soon, they may just be facing a world-class bruising.

    Nathan, fascinating. You may well have a point there.

    Robert, Koestler deserves a lot more attention than he usually gets these days.

  109. @ David BTL

    Sensitivity training for the hateful campus Republicans? Rest assured, Colonel Sodoff is already waiting for them at his Re-Education Camp. 😉

    @ All

    Thanks for your input on the source and meaning of “woke.” Now I’ve seen “Latinx” for the first time. I figure it’s an x and o thing and I’m willing to leave it there.

  110. I have been following Tulsi Gabbard rather closely during the election because here stanch anti-regime change stance is one of the few things that makes any political figure stand out to me. The Establishment L is going to do everything they can to stop her, so I fin’d in vanishingly unlikely she will make it through the primaries. But I saw something that might be of interest here.

    A few days a go she was giving interviews with several of the anti establishment left youtube news groups. Good interviews. The interesting bit is after the interview. Three independent journalists was talking about the interview in a small group and going over this and that, and speaking very freely and casually, as one might with a new friend. One made a joke about astrology. Another started talking about his own chart in modest detail, then the third started talking about the method of astrology she learned from here Vietnamese family members, complete with stories from college about shocking folks by guessing the circumstances of their birth from small talk. These journalists who described themselves as progressives did these things. I thought it was a good omen, or at very least one endearing to my tastes.

  111. The Evil Russian Capitalists, with the Central Asian spiders and the Western progressive good guys, has even deeper meaning than you assign to it. The spiders, the tech, and the capitalists, are a shadow.

    Not only is progressivism a capitalist oligarchic enterprise, with the entire value system being a creation of the bourgoisie in order to legitimize the current power structure; but the entire edifice of western society has it’s roots in that very place. The birthplace of the indo-european culture is those central-asian plains, from where the Indo-European (or as they called themselves, the Aryan) expanded, til they hit the pacific in California. The very same technological mastery that fueled this expansion, being our barbarian inheritance.

    See this very interesting ribbonfarm post:
    https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2011/03/10/the-return-of-the-barbarian/

    The Evil, and very most Evil, are a classic shadow. The heroes are meant to fight their own denounced socio-economic structure, as well as their own denounced history. This is Luke going into the cave to meet his father, but without the necessary resolution of the inner conflict. Without the acceptance.
    The heroes never transcend beyond their own inner conflict, and thus never become heroic.

    The double plus good citizenry of the perfect utopia of tomorrow require this moral dilemma to stay forever unresolved, and the posturing is the result of a castration. When heroes are needed the most, we get shrieking infants throwing tantrums.

  112. @ Scotlyn

    Re rights, etc.

    I agree wholeheartedly. This is one of the reasons I place such a significant weight on supporting the processes of constitutional government, even when “the other side” is in power. (Of course, Im also realizing there are far more than two sides…). Quid pro quo: if I want my rights respected by those who disagree with me, I must respect the rights of others of those with whom I disagree. And this goes double for the different factions moving in and out of power. People forget about the fact that “their side” isn’t going to be in power indefinitely. The good/evil framing is a terrible impediment to basic politeness and respect.

  113. JMG, this article is on Nakedcapitalism,com’s list of links today. You’re the last one on the list.

  114. @ Scotlyn

    Re rights, etc.

    To follow up with one more, these points we’ve been making are also a reason I strongly favor *limited* government as a basic system. But that requires all of us to be reasonable when encountering and talking with those who see things differently than we do.

  115. @ Ray W

    Re Tulsi Gabbard

    I agree with pretty much everything you said. I’m hoping that her visible presence and speaking of the unspeakable will be a catalyst for change, opening the way for others even if she is unlikely to advance terribly far in the 2020 process. She is one for whom I’d be willing to cast my primary ballot though I don’t think she’s going to make it to next April, particularly given where she is in the rankings. A point in her favor, however, is that she is one of the Democratic candidates thoroughly despised by the commentariat on PoliticalWire 😉

  116. Re; Dawn Treader (@Baboonery)

    I liked to read that “tirade”, even though I didn’t agree with the writer much of the time – at least the “tirade” shows a lot of intimacy with the book. I did almost laugh out at the mention of Informed Consent – after all, Lewis repeatedly stresses that Aslan is not a tame lion!

    Lewis wrote an essay on the “Inner Circle”, the wish to be part of the intimate, the selected few at school, at the army, at the university or wherever. It clearly was a strong temptation for him to put down the people outside his Inner Circle, and that shows at several places in the Narnia books. In my opinion the worst example is in Prince Caspian, where the “fat, ugly school girls” are left behind by Silen’s romp, but Eustace also comes in for some of the same treatment. I do like to think that if some friend had pointed out this defect to Lewis, he might have agreed it was a defect.

    I think the reason for this is that the Narnia books were written in an almost automatic fashion, without much editing. They contain tons of pastiche from Plato (the enchantment by the Green Witch, those last lines of the Last Battle…), the Divine Comedy (Caspian’s speech to the mutineers, the giants in the ravine, flowers of living gold…) and certainly many other sources I haven’t identified, they contain many striking original images that might not have appeared in books written in a more normal way – and a lot of things that could and should have been improved by editing.

  117. @ JMG – Thanks for the link, I had serious trouble finding the original announcement. You wrote that the characters should live happily ever after, so I assume your not interested in any ‘Romeo and Juliet’ style endings for this contest?

  118. This world sounds pretty cool, if we make the following changes: The League of Good Countries engages in all sorts of dubious habits to get members to join, and they’ll excuse anything from their members, as long as they are anti-Russia. Meanwhile they have military bases in Alaska, Korea, and Poland, which threaten Russia.

    Despite the propaganda, Russia is actually a reasonably egalitarian state. It’s just one with no civil liberties whatsoever. The Russian government is justifiably worried about actions from the League of Good Countries, and so is taking action to protect themselves. At what point is becomes offensive action is hard to tell, and so everyone disagrees over whether Russia is defending herself, or violently attacking the League of Good Countries. This is true even in the few cases where everyone agrees on what really happened.

    Finally, the Spider Lords have a weird biology that sees them sleep for tens thousands of years at a time, before waking up for a few centuries and going about their lives, before returning to sleep. Just like many people, they spend the first little while extremely groggy, and so tragedy occurred: people in Central Asia saw them, and spiders bigger than people are terrifying, so they reacted in what they thought was self defense, killing many of the Spider Lords before they were fully awake.

    The war that followed, and the uneasy cold war since, is the result of both humans and spider lords remembering the terrible atrocities committed by the other, and a firm determination to make sure that it never happens (to them) again. There is, meanwhile, a small movement towards peace and reconciliation on both sides, recognizing that horrible atrocities were committed by everyone, but they tend to be viewed with skepticism by most “good” people and spider lords.

    Justin/JMG,

    It’s already started with gay people, but I’ve had people behave as though someone’s gender orientation is unquestionable unless they’re conservative, in which case you’re morally required to doubt, because there are no gay/bisexual conservatives, so it’s clear they’re lying to make it harder to criticize them. I’ve had one person present that logic to me when I presented her a list of notable gay conservatives to try to argue against her claim they don’t exist.

    SaraDee/JMG,

    I think the point about white gay men happily throwing other groups under the bus is entirely accurate. The fact that the end result of the current trajectory is the complete implosion of the LGBT movement is something people haven’t seemed to grasp yet.

    Something else I’m keeping an eye on is what seems to be a schism forming between bisexuals and the broader LGBT community. I know quite a few bisexuals, myself included, who aren’t attracted to trans people post hormone treatment (there’s something off about their appearance). This gets us a lot of shale from some who think we’re bigots for it. The irony of the LGBT community trying to tell us what to find attractive is not lost on us, and so we have little patience for it.

    Additionally, a lot of us are sick and tired of this sentiment in the community that if someone dates someone of the opposite gender they lose all rights to identify as LGBT.

  119. There seems to be an assumption that Liberals and Conservatives are unwilling to listen to the opposing side’s views. And that if, for example, the Democrats who have been running Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, would only listen to their opponents, then at least they would know what to do to change their message and make it a bit more palatable.

    I believe that both sides know very well what their opponents think and want and that this is the problem. Not that they misunderstand, but the opposite, because they DO understand each other.
    It seems to me that we are at an impasse over fundamental beliefs and values. And thinking that we can negotiate our way out of this is probably futile.

    If I recall correctly from my high school anthropological studies, the Hopi understand this problem very well. They are a peaceful tribe, ruled by a matriarchy. The Hopi solution has been that when there is a complete and irresolvable breakdown of agreement between two factions of their tribe they hold a tug of war contest. The losers must leave the tribe and set up an encampment somewhere else. But because every tribe member knows fully well that being a desert people, suitable real estate is very, very scarce, everyone does everything humanly possible to see to it that this tug of war contest never happens except in extremis.

    We are not so wise. Nor are very many people historically. The more usual solution is civil war.

  120. @Pogonip’s lovely list – well, dangnabbit! Curses and rats! Let me add one I found in a novel whose title and genre are long forgotten, whose character swore “Botulism and bureaucrats!” Also, David Brin’s EARTH – which starts off well until it gets into the unobtanium-saves-the-day – has some rather clumsy cussing which centers around his view of ecological issues. I remember one term, “dumpit!” used a lot.

    And need I say, I love the collection of Russian Colonels who now join Boris Badenoff in all their scatological glory.

  121. Greetings JMG – long time since I posted here, even though I’m still an avid reader. Your talk of RPGs and wokeness, er, woke me. I used to roll the old D4,6,8, 12 and 20s pretty frequently in the 1980s, being quite big on AD&D back then. This fizzled out in my teenage years when my preferred objects of fantasy metamorphosed into something less squamous or rugose. Still, I have returned to it of late and have been playing a campaign with my own kids – me taking on the role of dungeon master/accidentally on-trend dad (paper and dice based RPGs are all the rage now with the kids). It’s interesting to see how the somewhat over-complex rules have been streamlined over time – there’s even a generic Basic fantasy RPG out there.

    Thanks for the reminder about Arthur Koestler and the way he clearly defined how good comedy works. I was thinking of this early where I saw an old Fawlty Towers clip where the hotel health inspector is offered a biscuit and instead a rat pops up. It’s precisely the collision between expected and actual results in the real world that makes life interesting.

    I seem to remember you writing a while back about us living in the dog-years of an age of abstraction. With all the abstractions offered by economics and politics – identity or otherwise – foisted on our maladapted brains, it’s little wonder that there’s so much bafflement appearing in everyday life. Here in the UK, for example, it was reported in the news today that 60% of the population is suffering from ‘Brexit stress’ – a lot of it brought on by the sheer mental exhaustion of trying/hoping that your favoured outcome will come to pass.

    Anyway, thanks again for a great post – not many people can sit H.P. Lovecraft and Jane Austen side by side and get away with it.

  122. Ray, good heavens. Progressives talking about astrology? In public? It’s as though they’re beginning to drift back toward the days when they were actually open to ideas that weren’t part of the official mass-media paradigm! Heavens to Betsy, what will they do next? 😉

    Quift, nicely done. I’ve noted here in an earlier post that there’s a huge amount of projection of a very specific shadow onto Donald Trump; a lot of Americans on the left like to think that they’re not really Americans, even though anyone from any other part of the world could tell them otherwise, and Donald Trump is the epitome of everything about Americans (i.e., themselves) that they can’t stand and want to wish out of existence.

    Pogonip, glad to hear it. It’s been a while since I’ve had an article there!

    Ben, that’s correct. I’m looking for genre romance — characters meet, are attracted to one another, various things get in the way, the various things are overcome in various ways, and they kiss (etc.) as the credits roll.

    Will, it’s actually not hard to mess with it in ways that make it much more interesting, and you’ve shown one way in which that could be done. I’d also want to see the various member nations of the League of Good Countries pursuing their own competing agendas, and a constant uneasy awareness that the League could break apart at any moment and back we go to the bad old days of near-constant warfare somewhere. At that point you’ve got some really rich sources of conflict — the League has major problems and behaves in ways that are harmful to a lot of people, but is it worth defending anyway as the alternative to war? And so on.

    As for the schisms in the LGBT(etc.) scene, that’s normal in a movement that achieves one or more of its major goals, especially if the groups involved achieve some level of public respectability previously denied them. Interesting to hear about the marginalization of bisexuality; I know that’s been a thing in the lesbian community for a very long time (I got to hear a lot about it from my lesbian sister-in-law), but I didn’t know that had crossed from the distaff side to the spear side, so to speak.

    Fred, I’m quite sure there are massive differences in fundamental beliefs and values, but the Democrats are also — in addition to that — behaving in ways that unnecessarily alienate people who share many of their values and used to vote for them. That latter is the thing I’ve been mostly talking about.

  123. P.S. I still say the term “Orange Julius,” while irresistible, gives the president too much credit. He’s not Caesar. He’s one of Caesar’s famous-in-his-day contemporaries and one-time allies, a guy named Crassus. Whose name, because of his crude manners and relentless money-grubbing, came into our language as the adjective “crass.”

    There’s a story about Crassus, that he was stalking the head Vestal Virgin until nasty rumors started to spread about his behavior and motives. Then he explained he was only pressuring her to sell him her villa at a lowballed price. All of Rome laughed and accepted that on the spot.

    In fact, he was the Donald Trump of the last days of the Roman Republic.

  124. @ JMG, if I may, in 2009 while living in a gay male community I got thrown extensive shade for dating not one but two women after breaking up with my boyfriend. This is while I was regarded as a twink rather than trans. For months, every single night I dreamt that I stood before a tribunal of the gay elders of the community and every night they found me guilty of being straight and pronounced a sentence of exile! Indeed, I left pretty soon after, but that’s a different, and extremely involved story. My take away is that bisexuality has long been unpopular in gay male community. Indeed, the coercive elements of the whole QUILTBAG scene are — unsurprisingly — not that different from the mainstream heterosexual culture down to the fine details. Carl Jung, if he were alive, would probably note that the social dynamics of the two scenes serve handily as each other’s shadow.

  125. I’ve been thinking about how the difficultings in the social justice Left (note, I’m Canadian, and worse(!) Cascadian 😉 – while Americans may see Trudeau as an example of SJW politics, people Leftward hereabouts see him as centrist, lol -Clinton is practically in orbit to the Right) resemble awfully much a successful outcome of the bad spell discussed on the dreamwidth blog re: canadian politics.

    Let Us Obtain Equality with the Oppressors (whom are all Bigoted and Mediocre and yet have obtained undeserved success due to structural causes. Their insensitivity prevents them from empathising with others Not Them. Their Social Role is Rigid, Rabidly Policed and Unyielding to cover Secret Feelings of Unworthiness and Restriction that Cannot be Expressed Except through the only Acceptable Public Emotion: Anger or Tears, Depending on Their Gender).

    Let the Oppressors Know What if Feels Like to Be In Our Shoes! (for We are Always to Feel Unwelcome and Excluded, through Measures Most Overt or Agressions Micro. We Are Always to Be Pre-Judged as a Type by the Colour of Our Skin, Our Gender, our Gender Conformity; Never As Individuals by Our Actions or Character.)

    My husband was just at his union AGM. It was four 12 hour days, and they got through about a dozen of the score of resolutions, because to have time limits on speakers to a resolution was oppression (well actually, the motion was made to keep limits for white men, but the Chair was to visually profile everyone who wanted to speak, and then waive limits if they deemed them An Opppressed. The horror of this was pointed out, but voted down using the same logic described below); everyone was allowed to cry and tell their life story, no matter how tangential to the motion on the table, because otherwise oppression; random people insisted they should be allowed to take the Chair’s seat to speak because they were of the Oppressed, instead of to stand at the mic like everyone else from the floor. 700 people in attendance, one of the province’s largest unions, and this is what went on. There were “Safety Allies” who had special vests, whose job it was to stand or sit with a person who was distraught about the discussion on a motion and console them. An example of a discussion that probably did more to radicalise the white men there than any alt-right video was a motion to create diversity on a committee, by allocating seats to specific Oppressed Groups, which had to be filled by that specific Group, or REMAIN VACANT. Obviously, there are a zillion flaws with this (but there are a million combinations of race, sexual orientation, ability status, gender that could sit there – how is this LESS exclusive? it’s ridiculously hard to get people to volunteer for any committee let alone a precise mix of genitals and skin tones – why make it that much harder? what about political orientation, or income – those create hugely diverse opinions?) when a white man said, literally – that he was in favour of a measure like blinding or even points system in committee selection to obtain diversity, that was good! But then challenged the motion as phrased using the list of arguments above, several men and women stood up to cry -literally, cry – about how racist and sexist everyone was, that they would allow that question to stand. So it went through, because who wants to be the racist who didn’t want diversity?

    So a spell to make everyone feel terrified of judgement and irredeemable all the time unless they cannot conceive of anyone having a better arrangement on the kyriarchy than them? Check.

    A spell to raise everyone to the status of barely sentient bully against anyone they decide has a better arrangement on the kyriarchy than them? Check.

    Checkmate. No move possible.

  126. JMG

    “…I remain skeptical that the Left will do anything other than they’ve done in the last dozen elections, that is, make some noise and then fall meekly in line behind whatever corrupt political hack the Democratic Party and the mass media insist is better than those awful Republicans….”

    I agree.

    Watching how my “liberal” friends and family vote I can’t help noticing that they are on the left during the primaries then in the general election will come to the center and vote for anyone on Team Blue. They obviously care more about Team Blue winning than about any progressive policies. Politics has become team sport.

    For the Dem leadership, the left wing of the party needs to be defeated in the primaries. After that, it doesn’t matter who gets the nomination. So long as they are centrists they’ll go along with the bipartisan consensus on war, trade, health care, etc.

    My friends and family ask why we are perpetually at war, and I reply because you voted for it. They wonder why the working class is turning it’s back on the Dems and I reply, they’ve been harmed by the policies you voted for and put off by your attitude towards them. They wonder why we still don’t have single payer and I reply, because you voted against it by voting for RomneyCare or for a woman who says single payer is “asking for ponies”. Their reaction is mostly incomprehension – after all, they voted for the good guys. Occasionally they’ll admit that Obama/Hillary/Biden etc are not really representing their progressive ideals, but they insist that things would be so much worse if the Republicans won that they had no choice but to vote blue, no matter who.

    So, I agree that they’ll just fall in line behind some hack the party and MSM pushes. I’ve watched it over and over again.

  127. @ Will J

    oh yes, the bisexuality wars… it’s another flashpoint of the need for Duality. You can subdivide any category into two as much as you want. Man/Woman -> Cisman/Transman, Gay man/Straight man, White man/Anything-but-white man… but you can’t admit of blend or spectrum. If you peek into the anti-racist-activist-o-sphere, there is the same problem popping with biracial and mixed race people. Oh lord, you are not allowed to say mixed! But what if like, you have at least three different ethnic origins from your grandparents? What if, what if… And it is very hard for people to be able to say “no, I’m still actually proud/love my white side of the family, but yes, I’m also black” and be able to share the nuance of the frackery that identity wreaks on their life and relationships.

  128. John—

    Your response to Fred re shared values sparked a notion, not necessarily original to me, but an idea by which we might clear some of the confusion surrounding our cultural discussion of values.

    In addition to the differentiation of fact versus values, of which you’ve spoke previously, we might also differentiate between values and what we could call, for lack of a better term, meta-values. By this I would mean things like the ideas that Scotlyn and I have referenced, such as the notion that while various segments in our society may disagree on particular values (pre-marital sex, for example, or food choices, or gender roles, or the various manifestations of marriage), it is our collective interest to have a society which alllows space for that disagreement (by means of limited government authority over these areas) rather than one in which there does exist that central lever of power over which each faction fights for control in order to dominate all the other factions. So the contrasting meta-values in this case would be that of (perhaps begrudging) tolerance on the one hand and a winner-take-all battle for dominance on the other. But these meta-values are of a different kind than the underlying values over which folks disagree.

  129. In relation to SJW issues, many moral minefields appear to me to arise out of the pitfall of essentialism. Which was the original thing we were butting up against, in the days when “consciousness-raising” was a thing in feminism. That WHO you were was what was being held against you, what you needed liberation from, so that you could experiment with what you might do.

    Being female, you looked around, found yourself disadvantaged in law (marital rape, for example was only made illegal in many countries in the 1980’s and 1990’s), in employment (there were still professions with a marriage bar, and various professions with gender bars when I was a teenager), and various more subtle impediments to your stretching of your own wings.

    And so you, and others, talked these things over and wondered about them. Could it be true, as the cultural norms told you, that, your wish to fly, or to discover, or to dance til all hours, or to earn and take home some pay, or to lead an expedition into the wilderness, was “unnatural”? Could it be that a fellow’s inclination to tell you what to do, to hem you in, to set your walls so narrowly that your wings could not open, was a “natural” and necessary thing to him? Or was there, somewhere, something, some kind of wrongness that you could not put your finger on without thinking and reflecting and discussing?

    I can see how some of these ruminations may have set seeds that sprouted some of the themes that other people, today, are finding confining them, when they want to open their wings.

    For example, the idea of “gender fluidity”. The seed-thought is simply that there is nothing natural about gender oppression. That is to say, it may be natural to find ourselves in bodies that are shaped in various ways by biological sex, but there is nothing natural about the accompanying ideas that a body of a certain sex is “naturally” the kind that put you in charge, and that a body of a different sex is “naturally” the kind that makes you crave, or be best fulfilled, being under someone else’s charge.

    That is to say, that the cultural construct is oppression, not gender. And yet, it continues to be true when you experience someone explaining to you that you are the wrong gender to open *those* wings (while you are busy opening them) it is the “gender” part of the message that feels like the cage that constricts you.

    And so on for every arbitrary marker (gender, race, education, income, ethnicity, religion, abode, accent, etc, etc) that is whimsically chosen as a way to divide people into those who are in charge, and those who are under someone’s charge, into those whose drama is centre stage, and those who are the backdrop, into those to whom all good things “naturally” flow, and those from whom all things “naturally” recede. The oppression is not shaped by the arbitrary marker – it is shaped by the process that sets up some (arbitrarily defined) group as “naturally” entitled to benefits belonging to and produced by the other (arbitrarily defined) group. Which then gets reverse engineered into the struts and beams that make the world work the way it does, and seem to be the most natural way for it to do so.

    Well, obviously, if you do manage to discover that being oppressed, having only limited space in which to spread your own wings, is not a natural part of who you are, then it follows that being oppressive, and needing to keep you in your cage, is not a natural part of who they are, and that becoming free of the cultural construct should free both parties from a relationship that demeans and lessens both, to the relief of many of the arbitrarily divided on both sides of the divide. That is to say that there is no moral goodness attached to being on the oppressed side of whatever arbitrary divide, nor moral evilness attached to being on the oppressor side of whatever arbitrary divide, you both just got caught in a mutually demeaning relationship that somehow got built into the world you both found yourselves in – a predicament which you now have to figure out how to respond to.

    If it is the case that women’s liberation, say, does not actually mean liberating everyone from being demeaned and lessened as a human being, then, it has lost its way, somewhere. For myself, I still see liberation as the key concept. And who is entitled to that liberation? In my view, everyone is. Every single human being. It is our human birthright – to be free, each and every one of us, to spread our own wings and to test the winds of the world, and to fly.

  130. @ Ethan – I work in a very “establishment left” industry – higher ed – and I’ve taken the easy way out; I no longer talk politics at work, and I smile and nod when they come up every hour or so in every single office conversation. I’ve considered myself a card-carrying member of the Left for most of my adult life, but the stark authoritarianism of today’s campus Maoists makes me shudder, not just for what they want to do but what they’ll conjure up in response. Suffice it to say I do a LOT of writing in my journal when I get home at the end of the workday.

    Thanks John, per usual, for your efforts to help us stay sane!

  131. I read that article on Vogage of the Dawn Treader and didn’t see any spittle flying, except near the end when the author went off on “insufficient masculinity,” better known to us commonfolk as “Eustace was a wimp.” As someone physically weak and ill-coordinated myself, I found myself sympathizing, though nobody on earth ever condemns an old woman for being weak. Merely, rather, compares the wimp du jour to an old woman, as Genly Ai did in Left Hand of Darkness. But I agree the author’s PC terminology set my teeth on edge there.

    What I did see in most of it was exactly what JMG wrote in this post: someone singled out as being evilly evil with evil sauce on top – because the author said he was. “He’s a bully,” said Lewis flatly, right off the bat. Well, this is not the first book, but as a sequel, maybe it needs no evidence, just a reminder. Even so, flat assertion is not the best way to present it outside of the sort of morality fable JMG was mocking.

    Her argument that Eustace was a lonely outsider with no people skills sounded honestly made to me, though from my vague memory of the start of the series, he was certainly not the best-behaved child of the lot. (I do remember he pigged out on sweets and was sick. Name me a child who hasn’t, at least once.) And the charge that Prince Caspian was not kind to a boy who was suffering a nasty bout of seasickness certainly engaged my sympathies.

    In short, she did for Eustace what Gregory Maguire did for the Wicked Witch of the West, and JMG with our favorite sea monsters and creepy Old Ones. (A comparison, BTW, I intend to make when I review Weird of Hali: Innsmouth for AsFacts, our s/f club’s newsletter. With Maguire, not with the article mentioned above.)

  132. This was a fun post to read.

    Best of luck with your game. I do not play RPGs (or LARPs) any more because years ago, I got bored with them, but mostly because at one point, I looked around me and realized I was in a room with people who are wildly successful in an imaginary game world, but who were actually living at the bottom end of the socio-economic ladder, and have since wondered if there is a correlation. That perhaps a mania for success in a pretend world is compensation for a lack in the world which we currently inhabit. Perhaps a yearning for success because what we are good at isn’t rewarded. In any case, I decided that if I can ‘succeed’ in a game, I should be able to ‘succeed’ in life, if I can figure out the actual rule-book, and so, for much the same reasons that I largely abandoned TV and movies, I have done so. I don’t play because I’m too busy actually doing things. I watch very little because I’m too busy living, rather than living vicariously. I still watch, though, but what I watch is pretty good fare; complex with interwoven agendas that sometimes collude and sometimes compete. There are good, entertaining, and complex stories in every medium. I was puzzled at your observation about blockbuster failures because the ones I’ve seen lately were pretty good, until I realized those failures were the ones I hadn’t bothered to go see… because they were obviously just social-justice lectures. And apparently nor did anyone else. Probably for the same reasons.

    Years ago, you made a trenchant critique of Harry Potter, and a good part of fantasy literature, that the bad people were bad because they were bad without any deeper exploration. Aside from demurring on the points that Voldemort craved power, which is often a quite sufficient motivation in the real world in an of itself, and that many of his followers were simply bugnuts crazy, and that the books were, after all, written for pre-teens who do not require villains with complex rationales, I’d agree with you: most of the baddies in so many books, movies, and other media stories are, to paraphrase a Great War song, evil because they are evil because they are evil.
    (As an aside, Rowlands more recently produced satisfying stories of conflict between complex villains whose motives are understandable, even as we disagree with them, and fallible heroes whose moral compasses are tested to the limit.)
    I also (sort-of) recall your writing about multiple causes jumping on bandwagons and bringing them all to a grinding halt, in particular the loading onto the ecological movement all sorts of barely-relevant, social-justice issues that left none of them satisfied and led to the general failure of the ecology movement. I experienced that one first hand. Apparently, if one is not entirely prepared to devote hours of effort to, say, improving the social status of indigenous women in the Andes, then one is not really welcome to work on the problem of clear-cutting old-growth forests in Ontario.

    Now, when I read this current essay, putting those two thoughts together, it clarified something, I hope, about the “Woke” Left.

    So my hypothesis is this: that the Woke-Left has not only grouped together and conflated multiple assorted issues, some of which are turning out to be incompatible if not actually antithetical, but in each case, they have reduced the complexities of those issues to the simplest, most uni-dimensional Manichean definition of good vs. evil, and lumped everyone not wholly in agreement as absolutely, unquestionably evil. There is no nuance. So if everyone else who questions a premise is derided as a “Fascist Nazi,” then this gives legitimacy over to actual Fascists and actual Nazis who can claim ownership of reasonable concerns and thus have a way to ooze out from the cracks and crevasses into which they were relegated decades ago.
    This is the flip-side of the assumption of the mantle of Conservatism by Evangelical Christians who are absolutely socially restrictive and inflexible in their attitudes and utterly unwilling to compromise on any point, and who define everyone not entirely part of their group as Marxist Socialists.

    e.g. immigration. I think this started to become an issue of social concern when the percentage of immigrants from very specific places North West Europe decreased and immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe increased, then particularly when immigration from even more alien cultures of Asia began to become the principal source of newcomers. Fear of cultural loss and valid questions around which aspects of foreign cultures are compatible with existing values and how much change a society can safely tolerate have become conflated with racism, and “racism=bad” is the reductionist simplification that has prompted so many social justice activists to twist themselves into knots trying to justify support for people who have essentially broken the law. The Woke-Left reduced a complex discussion to a spectacularly overly-simplified black-and-white (no pun intended) moral choice (these poor wretches deserve your pity and therefore must be uncritically welcomed) and defined everyone not wholeheartedly on their end as being equivalent to mass-murderers. It is one thing to have human sympathy for someone desperate enough to pick up all their belongings and make an arduous trek in the hope of succor and a better life, it’s entirely something else to dismiss out of hand any concerns about preserving the very way of life that attracted numbers of immigrants in the first place, as inherently evil. This has given the Alt-Right all the oxygen it needed to come crawling out of their dank holes, to become the standard-bearers against illegal immigration and cultural loss through mass-migration.

    Ultimately, though, and as you have pointed out before, this intransigent incivility is a typical phase of the general pattern of decline of an Empire and a Civilization. And the statement in the post with which you started the Archdruid Report that “a single story is death” has never been more true. The Left has reduced itself to a single story, and they are dying.

    Bruce

  133. Seems there are a few ways to become uninteresting. Simplistic religious moralism often becomes this. Much of the decline in church attendance is related to this phenomena. You very effectively point out the way simplistic politically correct moralism functions the same way. But it is also very easy to become uninteresting by including too much complexity. Humans seem to enjoy those discovery moments when they see things from a new angle that seems to explain many parts of the situation. But reality often doesn’t simplify that way. I fear the real problem isn’t oversimplified moralism. The real problem is that people can’t cope with the complexity of their world. In response they often create oversimplified moral systems or they become overwhelmed by their world’s complexity.

  134. Patricia, I think sometime soon — maybe on this month’s open post — I’m going to encourage readers to share their favorite bits of non-profane blistering language, and use that to make a page to go on this website to which I can send those unimaginative souls who are stuck on those same dozen or so swear words. By Jiminy, it’s time to get some more imaginative oaths back in circulation!

    Jason, yes, it’s been a while — welcome back! It occurs to me that sitting Jane Austen and H.P. Lovecraft together might produce something truly funny — there are some great Lovecraft/P.G. Wodehouse mashups out there already. I can see it now: Pride and Pseudopods, maybe, or Shoggothsfield Park

    Dashui, another sign of the approach of the next energy crisis is the return of interest in such things. Yes, we’ll be talking more about that in a bit.

    Patricia, I ain’t arguing. It’s just that “Orange Julius” is so funny.

    Violet, fair enough! I hadn’t heard anything along those lines from those of my gay friends who talk about what’s going on in their community, so many thanks for the data point.

    SaraDee, all of this is utterly reminiscent of the death spiral I watched in my late teens as an amused bystander in the Seattle New Left scene. When people start using meetings as an opportunity to act out their emotions in front of an audience, rather than (say) getting something useful done, the organization in question and the movement to which it belongs are both doomed. It’s not just us evilly evil straight white guys who get bored with it, after all; it doesn’t take too many repetitions before everyone but the pathological narcissists whose feeeeeeeeeeeeeelings take center stage all the time, every time, gets bored and wanders away.

    Christopher, that’s exactly what I’ve been seeing among most of my liberal friends for years. Prediction is easy when people just keep making the same mistakes over and over!

    David, hmm! That’s a very good point, and worth brooding over.

    Scotlyn, no argument there. I’ve been baffled by the ease with which feminism moved from denouncing essentialism to embracing it wholeheartedly, and even buying into the specifically Victorian essentialism that insists that women, all women, are naturally peaceful and loving and good, while all men are naturally violent and brutal and evil. There was a book that came out a while back, and I believe sold very well, entitled All Women Are Healers; doubtless that was very flattering to the egos of the intended audience, but I heard nobody saying “No, some women are murderers” — which is of course quite literally true…

    Patricia, I’d like to see the review when it comes out!

    Renaissance, that strikes me as a good crisp summary. Thank you!

  135. John—

    Another sideways thought, which I promise to tie in with this week’s post.

    I’ve been puzzling over Trump, much like everyone I’d guess, for a while now. His seemingly-haphazard actions, his do-this-no-wait-do-that kind of whiplash policy-making, his apparent lack of any coherent governing philosophy. Most recently, this whole Herman Cain for the Fed idea.

    Trump is by no measure a Deep Thinker. But at the same time, he is clearly Not An Idiot. No one who did what he did, systematically taking out every Republican front runner until he secured the nomination and then pulling off the biggest electoral upset since Truman defeated Dewey can be called an idiot. I’m increasingly convinced that the man possesses some kind of instinctual cunning lets him find creases in the fabric of things that others can’t see.

    In any event, back to Cain for the Fed. I’m looking at this and thinking, how idiotic a thing is this, but then coming back to “but Trump is Not An Idiot, so what gives?” And a hypothesis emerged from the apparent conflict.

    The post this week discusses, among other things, the pretentiousness of the Elite Left Establishment. Trump is, I continue to suggest, a modern Andrew Jackson type, standard bearer of the “common man,” an elite despised by other elites as crass and vulgar. So the question to myself was: “how does one best combat pretentious elitism?”

    Why, you ridicule it, of course.

    So, is Trump, consciously or unconsciously, lampooning our Oh So Serious Institutions by design? Holding them up to masses for ridicule? Saying, look what I can do to these haughty people who’ve looked down their noses at you all these years?

    Suddenly, things make a lot more sense to me…

  136. @Dana:

    Yes… the oil age has given us the luxury of casting off traditional roles and power structures. On our way down the long decline, SJWs will go, feminism will go, universal human rights will go, traditional forms of religion will strengthen and science will be weakened considerably if it hasn’t already been discredited by the failure of technology to arrest our decline, at some point slavery will become a thing again when we can no longer pawn off much of our grunt work to modern machinery. LOL we act all righteous about slavery and forget it took the industrial revolution to give the rich and powerful an excuse to not have them anymore. (They still engage in slavery but of a different type.)

  137. John Beasley:
    “Or what about a clean-cut teenager who joins the military but their parents are antiwar hippies?” = The plot to Flashback (1990) starring Kiefer Sutherland and Dennis Hopper

    JMG:
    “Evil Space Puppies”
    That was a series of cartoons in Bloom County (1987) satirizing Col. Oliver North and the Iran/Iraq scandal in the 1980s. The Zygorthian Space Aliens look like adorable puppies who wreak havoc on earth until called before a Congressional Sub-committee.

  138. JMG wrote

    “The other thing that makes “A Christmas Carol” richer than your standard morality play is that it’s not bad people being bad and good people being good; it’s about a morally complex person who has some seriously bad traits, figures out what’s bad about them, and changes the way he lives in response to that realization. That’s one standard frame of good or even great literature.”

    That is where the author of the tirade about CS Lewis and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader really misses the boat. The story isn’t about making fun of Eustace Scrubbs. It’s about a little boy who starts out as an obnoxious, spoiled brat with an oversized entitlement mentality that almost no one wants to be around because of the way he treats other people. As a result of the mistakes he makes and the lessons he learns in Narnia, he goes on to become a much better person, which we see in the next story, The Silver Chair, where he’s the only one in his school to reach out to a girl who is being picked on by the schoolyard bullies.

    Come to think of it, obnoxious, spoiled brat with an oversized entitlement mentality describes an awful lot of affluent, privileged liberals these days, including many who are ostensibly adults. Perhaps that is why the author of the rant took such umbrage at Lewis: his description of Eustace Scrubbs in the early part of the book hit just a little too close to home for her and many other “social justice” activists. Sartre’s concept of bad faith comes rather forcibly to mind as I write this.

    Also note that the bullies in The Silver Chair were able to get away with picking on classmates like Jill Pole* because the school administrators subscribe to the same sorts of fashionable nostrums that are popular with the academic Left these days and they won’t hold the bullies accountable for their actions. Sort of like how we see so many university administrations allowing campus activists from the far left get away with bullying behavior against people they don’t like. And since the public school system is by and large dominated by the academic Left and run by people with the same mindset and underlying assumptions, it’s not at all surprising that bullying is a huge problem in American public schools.

    * Eustace is described by Jill as having been one of the bullies during his previous year at the school, but he changed his ways as a result of the lessons he learned in Narnia. This of course goes against the notion that the Good People are inherently Good, while those nasty Deplorables are inherently and irredeemably Bad, an idea the contemporary Left seems to have picked up from Calvinist theology.

  139. Quift wrote

    “The Evil Russian Capitalists, with the Central Asian spiders and the Western progressive good guys, has even deeper meaning than you assign to it. The spiders, the tech, and the capitalists, are a shadow.

    Not only is progressivism a capitalist oligarchic enterprise, with the entire value system being a creation of the bourgoisie in order to legitimize the current power structure; but the entire edifice of western society has it’s roots in that very place. The birthplace of the indo-european culture is those central-asian plains, from where the Indo-European (or as they called themselves, the Aryan) expanded, til they hit the pacific in California. The very same technological mastery that fueled this expansion, being our barbarian inheritance.”

    Oswald Spengler, in the notes for a book he was working on but never finished as a follow-on to The Decline of the West, pointed this out too. He argued that the Indo-European peoples as well as the nomadic warriors who founded the Chou Dynasty and classical China, as well as its satellite civilizations in Korea, Japan and Indochina, all originated in the same area of Central Asia and still have many common cultural traits, in spite of thousands of years of cultural divergence. The environment of the Central Asian steppe tended to produce people who were tough, hardy, warlike and had an unsentimental approach to life. In addition, these ancient warrior cultures of the Great Eurasian Steppe are generally credited with having invented the chariot, horse breeding and later cavalry warfare. Spengler maintains this produced a style of warfare that was technically and tactically complex and was difficult to master. In a sense, the chariot was the first high tech weapons system. That in turn fostered the rise of a professional caste of warriors who could train and fight as a full time occupation, as well as a caste of skilled craftsmen who could produce and maintain the complicated technologies required. It’s worth pointing out that the two High Cultures that are best known for technological innovation, the Far Eastern and the Faustian West, are descendants of this prehistoric culture.

    The Central Asian steppe has long been known as a cradle of warrior cultures, empires and empire builders, from the Yamnaya people (the earliest known Indo-European culture) to the Russians themselves. No doubt there are some deeply rooted primordial fears at work in the minds of “progressive” liberals. Moreover, as Spengler observes in The Hour of Decision, those barbarian instincts never really went away inside the recesses of the Faustian mind, in spite of the best efforts of liberal politicians, social services bureaucrats, the educational establishment, corporate executives, the mainstream media and all the rest to turn the Western masses into good little domesticated herd animals. Perhaps that is part of why the Left goes crazy about tiny subcultures on the margins of society like the Alt-Right, the skinheads and groups on the extremist fringe of Heathenry such as the Wolves of Vinland and the Soldiers of Odin.

    As the Age of Rationalism sputters to an end and gives way to Caesarism, the Second Religiousness and a new wave of Volkerwanderungs; the Late Faustian Culture fades away due to the failure of mimesis; hard times become a daily fact of life for more and more people; and people are faced with the ugly reality of competing for diminishing resources with other groups of people on a badly overpopulated and ecologically damaged planet, the utopian fantasies of the liberal left will be exposed for what they are: utopian fantasies. The great fear of liberals is that those atavistic forces they thought they had banished in the wake of 1945 will come back to haunt them and end up prevailing in the end.

  140. JMG wrote “Is it just me, or does anyone else notice the searing jealousy in all these tirades by social justice types who can’t write well, at writers of the past who could and did?”

    A good example of this is British fantasy writer Philip Pullman, who has gained some notoriety for his heated denunciations of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. It’s not just that Pullman is a proverbial “angry atheist”, while Lewis and Tolkien were both devout Christians and what’s more, Lewis was a former atheist who converted to Christianity. It’s that Tolkien and Lewis were both better writers* and both greatly outsell Pullman’s fiction even though they are long dead. Pullman’s comments about both men have a strong and unmistakable undercurrent of jealous resentment.

    * I liked The Golden Compass, the first book in Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” fantasy trilogy, which was his answer to the Narnia stories, but the sequels quickly turned into dreary and tiresome rants and I ended up skimming through both.

  141. Hi Blue Winds,

    While I am one who thinks that those who change gender cannot every be fully a ‘real’ man or woman as the case may be, I wouldn’t have much problem with you entering female spaces. Certainly, it would be unfair to expect you to go to certain male spaces, as you would be vulnerable there.

    My reason is that, as you say, you do not have the testosterone factory nor a penis. I do have a problem with trans women with male genitalia, and especially as many are and have always been attracted to the female form, coming into those spaces. To be very concise, female spaces such as restrooms and locker rooms are female for a very cut and dried reason: so that females can relax and be sheltered from male attention from males with appendages and testosterone. And for privacy.

    If gender is a spectrum, at what point do we protect women and girls? I’d say the appendages are the defining factor.
    Of course, if someone regularly passes as a woman, they can’t very well show up in the men’s room, even if they do have appendages. I suppose in that case it’s better to have a don’t ask and don’t tell policy.
    It does make me feel a bit violated (or would have when I was young and sensitive) to think of trans women with appendages and who identify as lesbian, i.e., are attracted to females and have a penis and testosterone coming into a restroom with girls and women. But I don’t have an answer for it.
    What do you think of the arising problem in sports competition?

  142. JMG – you will. I have a deadline on writing it, and I’ll cc you when I send it in. The rough outline is in my March notebook and only needs to be polished. Alas, between a very serious allergy season which includes several teeth hurting at once after dark (sinus pressure, I’m sure) and a very stuffy head – and herding two different sets of cats right now, when nobody in their right mind would ever ask me to organize *anything* – it has sort of taken last place. But I will, I will.

  143. One RPG that I played a lot back in the day was Rifts, produced by Palladium. Rifts, like many of their games, had plenty of Lovecraftian monsters and horrors, including detailed rules for Sanity checks and the different kinds of insanity a character could be subject to if he or she failed a roll. Among the more famous Lovecraftian monsters in Rifts were the Splugorth, the tentacled overlords of risen Atlantis.

    Splugorth Slaver Barge on the hunt for fresh victims:

    https://images.app.goo.gl/NqqFUkbk3McVtCxBA

  144. Re: hot language. Not sure if this counts as profanity, but from one of the 1632 novels, “you scrofulous son of a syphilitic sow.”

  145. Ganv, of course there are many ways to be dull. Since this was a blog post and not the Encyclopedia of Ways to be Dull, I focused on the one that was relevant to the point I was trying to make!

    David, that makes a great deal of sense. The business with Cain seems very straightforward to me, for whatever that’s worth; instead of yet another economist (i.e., true believer in the quack nostrums of the pseudoscience of economics), he’s considering a businessman, i.e., someone who’s actually had to deal with the real world that economics tries to analyze. Cain’s not someone I’d choose for the position, to be sure, but it’s very much in keeping with Trump’s entire agenda that he’d be interested in someone with practical experience in place of yet another expert with the approved opinions.

    Renaissance, now there’s a blast from the past! I’d forgotten about that; thank you.

    Baboonery, exactly. As for Pullman, the less said the better. It’s really a tragedy when someone who had the makings of a competent writer gets dragged down by his own dogma and ends up simply becoming dull.

    Patricia, I’ll look forward to it! I hope the change in climate helps your sinuses.

    Baboonery, I’ll check out Rifts as circumstances permit. Just at the moment I’m working on methods of eldritch space travel, but I’ve already got some ideas about edits for Weird of Hali: The RPG once it finishes its first pass by the publisher.

    Patricia, that’s a fine example! I have somewhere a Shakespearian insult generator which strings together two adjectives and a noun, none of them profanities, but the results are invariably fine: “Thou unmuzzled prattling gudgeon!” “Thou ruttish fly-bitten malthorse!” “Thou sheep-biting unwashed pumpion!”

  146. I have a prediction about who the next president of the US will be (after 2024 I mean)…

    Arnold Schwarzenegger!!!

    Why? Well He’s replaced Trump on ‘The Apprentice’, and most crucially The Simpsons Movie (2007) had him as president (the show that of course correctly predicted Trump would become president). Also he certainly fits the Bill for an American Caesar strongman etc.

    The only slight difficulty of course is that He was born in Austria, You need to be born in the US to be president? Could that change between now and 2022?

    Anyway just my two cents…

  147. Hi John Michael,

    I like the idea of dirigibles, unfortunately the reality is rather gritty. Many years ago I read a book written by a person deeply involved in the fossil fuel industry, and mate he stomped the daylights out of the hydrogen economy due to basic technical issues that had not been resolved. And I’ve seen very little in the way of much promised technical advances with hydrogen to convince me that the author was incorrect.

    Speaking of dirigibles, everyone recalls the Hindenburg disaster, but did you know that the English were early leaders in that act (in all of the acts of that disastrous play). The story even included a pig farmer who lived not too far distant from my part of the world. Anywhere here is the story in all its fiery glory: ‘Titanic of the skies’: The story of London’s ill-fated luxury airship service to Melbourne. Take especial note of the words ‘ill-fated’ before reading the story and looking at the photographs.

    The final lines of the article include a statement of faith from a local Member of Parliament (member for Kooyong) down here at the time about the future of the technology. A sobering thing to read, almost a hundred years later.

    Pretty bonkers! Oh well, at least they gave it a go and failed.

    Cheers

    Chris

  148. One of the reasons that I love this space is it allows for really rich disagreements. Something that I’ve come to terms with to my dismay is that my former leftists friends could not entertain notions different than their own. They only had one story and so make exceedingly dull conversation partners. When I’d mischievously stray into some unexplored territory, they’d give me this look and plead in childish tones, “but remember that we can only think along the tracks of the prescribed dogma! Remember that, Violet!! We might think a wrong thought if we’re not in the parking lot,” and I’d sigh and indulge and walk back to the parking lot of approved discourse because it seemed like it was better than nothing.

    But disagreements are actually really enlivening, debates are vital, and differences of opinion fascinating! I’m not so much interested in being right or wrong, but rather I want to open up the hood and see how the engine works! I want to travel to foreign lands of logic and see how different narrative create different destinies! I want to kick the tires and ask how the wheels were crafted in this chariot of self? Can it go off road? Can it float? Can it fly?!

    Perhaps this is one of the major drawbacks when politics starts to flirt with the totalitarian. People replace their own capacity to think with a prescribed dogma, and so it becomes very difficult to really know anyone who subscribes to that dogma, when people stop looking for individual salvation and instead cleave to collective, they are reduced from a living person into nothing more than a statistical unit. A number, or even worse, a cipher. People think of themselves as cartoonish equations, as surface phenomenon. The entire language of “the White Supremacist Patriarchal Capitalist System” etc is really sketching out the mathematical terms for an equation of self.

    These formulations derive from a basic assumption of values, say; Z>Y>X>W>V>U>T>S…etc coupled with a frightened insistence that this comprises the only mathematic that exists, along side various absurd equations such as Z ≠ (X + T – U). So a “trans woman of color,” almost certainly has more oppression points than “A white cis male disabled gay veteran” and thus — mathematically — is free to bully him, that is oppress him because the numbers add up. This dreary arithmetic replaces the daring unknown variables of algebra, the soaring insights of calculus, supreme logic of geometry and the music of trigonometry. Not only narratives, but different calculations become suspect, since the numbers don’t seem to add up when using other systems.

    Point being, I wonder what future historians will think of the Political Left of the past decade or so as it totally abandoned its old time Wobblies and Woody Guthrie commitment to workers and instead became totally obsessed with the arithmetic of oppression and utterly committed to a single, narrow story.

  149. I am reminded of this quote by C.G, Jung: “One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games and it cannot be done by men out of touch with their instinctive selves.”

  150. @BlueWinds

    You prefer to see gender as a spectrum, but if I prefer to see something as whatever I want, I also
    am not granted acceptance solely because of how I feel.

    The core of female vs male is to science the chromosomes, and anyways the sexual organs as primary central factor, accompanied by outward appearance, average voice and height and figure, and other SECONDARY factors.
    The seed of a human unfolds into man or woman when this has been determined in a very early stage, and the initial point is exclusively binary.

    This unfolding of the sex intertwines with the unfolding of other factors that are not exclusive to man or woman: that usually we have 2 arms and 2 legs, most internal organs and so forth.

    The dividing line indicating which is specific and which is not in this sense is not so sharp to our present possible knowledge.
    (I.e. where distinct differences between man and woman start and stop remains unclear to an extent)

    But the central most factor in between man and women is procreation, of course, and procreation in turn gets accompanied with other factors eg
    being on a period, being vulnerable when pregnant, men having a sexual drive, the drive of competitiveness in sexuality and so on.

    Since sex is for humans obviously not solely relevant to procreation we in our modern society tend to see procreation less seriously as opposed to traditional societies, as it is less an immediately existential thing for us.

    However, you say you want to be accepted as a female though you were born as clearly a male to anyone’s eyes.

    Here is your premise, that by necessity surgically changing aspects of yourself that visually give others the cue of a woman will also make you a woman on a level with the entirely non-ambiguous identification of man and women in almost all living people,
    from when they are born.

    Your woman-hood is a syllogism: aspects of what indicates being “female” for people vs the core and initial point that usually produces these indications of what is man and what is woman and sets the standards for what it encompasses.
    There’s a difference.

    Sexual dimorphisms in humans as in other species are prevalent and grant the procreation of our kind
    ie the reason we exist, while the “feeling” of being a woman born with a male sexual organ is an absolute minority
    feeling that is not necessary for our existence, nor necessary for the individual well being of almost all of people.

    So if you want to enter woman toilets, the thing is that woman seem to have a very widespread concern in some places at some
    times to be amongst each other, especially when it is about their intimate sphere where also the sexual organs are.
    Therefore, this is up to women if they want it or not, and the interest of women whom want it has to be weighed against the interest of
    women who do not agree.

    You can contest this wish of intimicacy, but IF there are real and strong reasons why self definition
    does not trump objective definition here, expect backlash, and a backlash that cannot be entirely explained by arbitrary moral causes,
    but genuine biological ones.

    Where do you see a dividing line between something being “objective” and something being not?

    If there is an absolute condition, then one can not merely turn an absolute in an arbitrary category
    and claim that by renaming and deconstructing the subject of a rule semantically (‘gender’), you must be granted your semantics to be understood physically
    and therefore every rule can be broken by redefining the descriptive words it contains.

    The world does not work that way. Of course the situation might arrive that it IS fine for you and all other trans-people to enter women’s toilets.
    This however means you’ll also depend on the consent of the others, whether your categories are seen as equal to their categories that
    define their lives strongly in many of the most existential ways, and have since dawn of our kind.

    What would then otherwise, prevent redefining a real action such as murder semantically (‘ I call it not murder’, ‘ I do not identify with this decision I took’,
    ‘ my own feeling is that murder is not death related, it has aspects of dance and poetry therefore I chose to define it as such’)?

    It is the internal and initial morphology of sex that defines its following secondary atrributes (the face or figur that is typically “female”), not the other way
    around. I can’t put on a lab coat either and demand I be defined a “chemist” because of that.

  151. Re “Trump is by no measure a Deep Thinker. But at the same time, he is clearly Not An Idiot….. ”

    Just my $0.02, but from the end of a murder mystery* I have in my bookcase ” [If he’s such a fool] then how did he manage [to pull it off]? “With low cunning, which he has in plenty.”

    *The Apostate’s Tale” by Margaret Frazer. The perp in question hadn’t the common sense God gave a goose and everybody knew it. But….

  152. I’ll definitely pick up the Hali RPG when it comes out. I got back into in person, tabletop, role playing about eight years ago when I read an article on Salon about how middle aged men such as myself have gotten back into Dungeons and Dragons. Then I saw some old D&D books on a friend’s shelf and a new gaming group came together. I am not a fan of D&D however. Its the game I started with, but once I discovered Call of Cthulhu and Cyberpunk 2020 I played those through college.

    These days I use either the GURPS or Fate system. GURPS if I want a game where violence leaves permanent injury and is regularly lethal (i.e. once the guns get pulled out, there is no telling how it ends until you play the consequences through). I use Fate if I want a more cinematic/anime feel.

    Over the past eight years, my only lament is that the eclipse of in person tabletop RPGs by video games has been a great loss. The tabletop experience is a social experience of mutual storytelling. The dice (or cards or other method for determining outcomes) guide the story you tell together. A good game master can generate a world of moral ambiguity, that allows for ethical reflection that beats out any academic philosophy exercise. I recommend everyone try out the world of tabletop RPGs.

  153. Dear David by the Lake, A woman I know told me that she couldn’t stand Trump but she liked what he was doing. My opinion is that he is indeed as clever as his fans say and he has a better notion of what the country needs than do his lefty opponents. No, we do not need more immigration and more programs. I would suggest that his great weakness is that he is shallow, intellectually and emotionally, as witness his attitudes about women. Most families who have been in the USA for a few generations have stories to tell about the hard work and heroism of our foremothers; Trump understands nothing of this; in his mind apparently, pulchritude equals virtue where women are concerned. I think he might win another term but will likely be faced with a hostile Democratic Congress.

    I ID three factors which could end up costing Trump and the Dem. establishment votes in 2020. One is Venezuela and Yemen, the other is the Kushner ménage, and another is the ongoing Monsanto trials. I have always believed that a large part of the vote for Trump was in fact an anti-war vote, by people who reckoned that the candidate, while not a peacenik, at least understood the costs of continuing foreign interventions. Books are coming out which detail ongoing misbehavior by the Kushners, and that is being viewed with some dismay by those portions of the Deep State apparatus which have been backing Trump. As for Monsanto, Trump, lifetime resident of NYC who is all about Big, simply doesn’t understand rural life and rural issues, and the need to decentralize and revive local rural economies. He seems to be attempting some sort of deal with the Hispanic organizations along the lines of I get my wall and you can keep the factory farm entry level jobs program. I think he is about a generation too late to try that one, because younger Hispanics are seeing the effect that years of unrelenting hard work for minimal wages and exposure to ag chemicals have had on their elders.

    A welcome unintended consequence of the Trump phenomenon may be that we will have finally seen the last of the Dale Carnegie school of rhetoric, in which everything is great, huge, marvelous, beautiful, ad nauseum.

  154. JMG, actually I would not care for the game you describe, because of the simplistic Our Countries Good Your Countries Bad mindset you describe. I see enough of that in real-world media … some more than others, we all know which … and don’t want to find it in my escapist entertainment.

  155. A snapshot of our Airship Heroes colliding with Mount Reality (or perhaps, Populist anti-airship fire…)

    Certainly, popcorn-munching fodder:

    https://politicalwire.com/2019/04/06/some-sanders-supporters-still-upset-over-2016/

    [Usual disclaimer: I disagree with Sanders on any number of issues, particularly his over-centralized solutions, but I will likely be voting for him in the primary as he is the strongest anti-establishment candidate of the Democratic field.]

    Not so much the story itself, but the comment thread is fascinating in a slow train wreck kind of way. Here we have the Good People completely trashing the supporters of a candidate on their own side. Not only that, but holding them accountable for Trump’s win in 2016 and condemning them on that basis. To my mind, these supporters are some of the people you need to win back in order to win the election in 2020. Kicking them to the curb and heaping insults on them seems to me to be a good way to guarantee that they will not help you come next November. “Get with the program!” is a common refrain here.

    One particular commenter said that Trump and Sanders are essentially the same: “ a populist demagogue is a populist demagogue.” Of course, the fact that a populist is needed right now is apparently lost on them…

    How dare the masses not do as they’re told. Outrageous! 😉

  156. “I write these essays and make these comments because I like to express my take on things and watch, enjoy, and learn from the conversations that result.” JMG comment to Juan Pablo

    I want to thank you for for this site and all the work you put on the internet including the comment moderation/facilitation. I don’t know of anyone or site that has made me examine then reexamine my beliefs from so many differing points of view.

    I would like to express my take on things as well but my writing is very weak. Thus I have started to comment in this community to slowly exercise my writing ability. So apologies to everyone here, if everyone has 1 million bad words of writing in them, these may be mine.

  157. @ David BTL and @Scotlyn
    Re : UBI
    I agree with much of what @Scotlyn says but let me take it further. Slavery, mass illegal immigration, and robots all have their roots in lowering the cost of labor. We could legislate each of these away and so far we have 2 of them (note the illegal in illegal immigration) 1 of which is enforced the other wasn’t legislated until the dawn of oil threatened to make it uneconomical anyway. So we can spend a lot of time and effort to get laws against it, then you would still have to make sure it was enforced, more time and effort. Meanwhile while you are doing this the current citizens in the labor pool are experiencing lower wages or outright unemployment.

    Let me pause to define my take on UBI. A body which controls it’s currency gives every citizen X dollars (pounds, yen, etc) every week (month, year, etc). This takes advantage of inflation as taxation*. Thus every pilot study that can’t print its own money can’t get the full benefit of UBI. This is starting to go too deep into the weeds for a single reason of the usefulness of UBI like system.

    If instead you said feel free to buy slaves, or bring over lots of immigrants but now you still have to pay the citizens as well. People would have never bought slaves unless the slaves were so efficient that it was cheaper to pay all citizens and house and feed the slaves(not likely). Same with immigrants, robots, androids, clones what ever else someone can come up with to make labor cheaper.

    *This is very dangerous because it is 100% effective to everyone using your currency

  158. Thanks for the link to surplus energy, Dashui!

    From what I can see, it seems Tim Morgan has done exactly what JMG asked for several years ago: calculate the percentage of energy spent on extracting energy, calculate the total debt incurred and subtract these from the nominal GDP to see if people are actually getting richer or poorer. It’s just a pity that apparently not all data are available for free, though I certainly think he has earned some remuneration for his work.

  159. JMG, sorry about the confusion over table top games versus computer games. I’m not much of a gamer. When I see RPG, Rocket Propelled Grenade comes to mind.

    In that vein, this post reminds me of the influence games I did play as a kid. Many kids played Cowboys and Indians in the late 1960s, and Westerns were still big on TV. But my friends and I played Army, at the height of the Vietnam War, riding our bicycles up and down the hills and narrow streets of Duluth, shooting up the houses, cars, bystanders, and of course the team we were playing against. I had a plastic Mattel M-16 machine gun that I had received for my 7th birthday after much pleading – saw the ad on TV where the kid was spraying “rounds” back and forth after cocking it up seven times – the burst of noise would last about 10-12 seconds.

    It was not until much later I realized I was just being indoctrinated for the war industry, since that’s good business (and a racket). I did have a brief career in the military, and the propaganda continues at a fever pitch today – lately including paying tribute to the veterans on the Big Screen during the NHL game I attended the other night. Many of the games today are still intended with recruitment and support of the military in mind.

    As for Hollywood and boring scripts, the same applies. Movies are not intended for entertainment or profits, at least the major ones. Consider the messages in them that are intended to distract, misdirect, confuse, polarize and label groups, and it becomes clear they are incredibly sophisticated tools of 4th generation warfare.

    @ganv – agree with your post about complexity, and it’s my opinion that part of the inability of people to cope with issues of today is the constant stream of confusion introduced from the media. This blog and others by folks like JMG provide a welcome breath of clarity – in large part due to avoiding TV….IMHO.

  160. @ Matt & @ Scotlyn

    Re UBI, labor, etc.

    I don’t want to wander too far afield from this week’s topic, but a few thoughts.

    We have a daunting transition ahead of us, without doubt. Our entire economy is going to have to transform, whether by conscious design or by forced adaptation to physical reality. One of the things that has to change is that our levels of production and consumption will have to drop dramatically. Why? Because the resource constraints we’ve been ignoring will truly begin to bite. This is one of many reasons that I continue to argue for a decentralization and localization of our economy.

    The present mindset, which I’d argue that proponents of UBI adopt unconsciously, is that the economy is the primal element around which all revolves. I suggest the opposite: it is not the citizens who serve the economy, but the economy which serves the citizens. That is, the economy is a tool, a means, and not an end. So “growth” is irrelevant, “efficiency” is irrelevant, “productivity” is irrelevant. What *is* relevant is human (and in the context of the nation-state, citizen) well-being, which has nothing to do with growth, efficiency, or productivity. I’d also argue that labor is not an undifferentiated commodity, but an expression of individual skill.

    Moreover, UBI is, as I see it, an offshoot of MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) which is little more than the well-worn trick of currency devaluation dressed up in philosophical-mathematical drag. Money doesn’t exist in the abstract. It is ultimately tied to physical goods and services which are tied to physical resources. Yes, you can print all the money you want. What you get is hyper-inflation. We in the US haven’t hit that wall yet b/c of the dollar’s dominant status and b/c of the US global hegemony. Both of those are in the process of ending and the consequences of that fact will make themselves felt, believe me.

    So I’d continue to argue that we need to be looking at the conditions we are moving into—constrained resources, less available net energy, reduced production/consumption—and work to make that transition more palatable by building the necessary skill sets we are going to need to navigate that very difficult terrain. Handing out free tokens and pretending those problems don’t exist, to my mind, does precisely the opposite.

  161. The very hard rock on which all these discussions of trans- vs. cis- (and similar issues of sex and gender) seems to founder (IMHO) is a simple question that has no easy answer at all.

    We also know that there are a fairly large number of people out there who are neither XX or XY in their chromosomes, and others who are otherwise biologically anomalous: some have both penis and vagina, others have neither; others develop female physical markers as they mature while remaining able to impregnate women, or male markers while remaining able to be impregnated — and so forth. Some few, I gather, are able both to impregnate and to be impregnated; also, some few have no clear visible markers for either of the two standard sexes.

    On the most fundamental level of them all, when such people are out and about in the world, which bathrooms can they safely use when there are no one-person unisex facilities available? If sent to prison, to which prison–for men or for women–can they be sent consistent with whatever duty of care the state has for its prisoners, and with whatever inalienable human rights they may possess?

    Until a commentator can provide well-reasoned answers to these questions, all their other arguments are just so much wind through the trees of real life.

    I an curious, particularly, how people would respond who argue that there has to be some biological factor that unambiguously determines to which of just two sexes every single person in the world must belong. What bathroom can these “both-or-neither” people use safely? To which prison can they be sent? Or do you simply deny the real existence of “both-or-neither” people in the real world, however rare they may be? Or, possibly, do you feel that if such people exist, they should be isolated, segregated or even killed off before they grow up to present the rest of us with fundamental problems that we feel unable to solve? Curt? Anyone? I’m genuinely curious about how people propose to deal with these anomalies.

  162. When you were doing your rpg research did you run across rpgpundit and his Dark Albion setting or Lion and Dragon rule book? Dark Albion is set during the War of the Rose’s and he deliberately made the magic system to mimic medieval beliefs about it. The magisterial class in Lion and Dragon is not Vatican at all.

    Other Dave

  163. The problem with the idea of virtue signalling is that it’s used by people who know they should be doing something better to dismiss those who do. People often call virtue signalling on people who reuse grocery bags, for example. I don’t personally care whether you drove to the grocery store or not, reusing bags is really, really easy and beneficial.

    I own a car, but unless I’m driving out of town I always walk, cycle or take transit. Thankfully most people don’t have the phrase ‘virtue signalling’, but I feel the sentiment a LOT from the people I interact with. As a rule I never preach or make a big deal about not driving-in fact I downplay it as much as possible-but the people who do drive very often make a big deal about it. It’s like they are trying to force me to play the holier-than-thou environmentalist.

  164. Onething – Then for your consideration I present one of my friends. She has testicles, but, like most trans women, takes drugs to suppress testosterone, and estrogen supplements. According to the latest blood-work, she’s within the testosterone and estrogen ranges for cis-women. Your two criteria – male genetalia and testosterone body chemistry – aren’t actually connected, thanks to HRT.

    She also has breasts (good-sized ones!). Wears skirts. Her voice is recognizably female. Does not have a beard (laser hair removal). You wouldn’t know she’s trans unless she takes her underwear off. Do you want her to go to mens locker rooms as well where she would be, as you say of me, at risk?

    Is she female enough for some purposes but not others? I’d say yes – thus, a spectrum rather than “genatalia determine everything”.

    (HRT is frequently the first step, actually, even before telling friends and family – most people who call themselves trans women have no more testosterone in their blood than cis-women)

  165. Hi JMG.

    Have you ever considered doing a speaking tour in Europe? Transport won’t be a problem, since a good train network exists here.

  166. HI Robert,

    I would think true hermaphrodites would do what they have always done—pick one sex or the other to be in public. Fortunately the conditions causing hermaphroditism are all rare, so I don’t see where it’s necessary to shake up an entire society to accommodate the small number of people so afflicted. The ADA act would seem adequate to cover them.

    And that’s my view of the matter, by Jove! 😊

  167. Blue Winds,

    Sigh. Well, if you reread my post, I did say that people like your friend cannot really go into a mens’ room. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s the best we can do. But I don’t think s/he can go into a women’s shower and locker room. Although it might work if she can be entirely discreet. Since I’ve had a mastectomy, I was very discreet last summer at just such a place, whereas most women and girls were exposed. You didn’t state her sexual attraction preference.

    By the way, are these people able to take bio-identical hormones in their replacement therapies? Artificial hormones are problematic for long term health. I also wonder about what the drugs that suppress testosterone do.

    I find it very strange indeed and uncomfortable to call someone with a penis ‘she’ because the word she means ‘she who can give birth and be impregnated’ and the word he means ‘he who can impregnate.’ It seems someone is going to be uncomfortable no matter what, which is why I’m against using force and pressure on people.

  168. Re: Hot Language

    A Few more suggestions:

    “Spooty” – A verb, used often in a derogatory way on the children’s cartoon “Angry Beavers.”

    “Furshlugginer” – A verb, probably of Yiddish origin, used frequently in “Mad” magazine.

  169. @ Robert, my honest consideration is that, to use the Spenglerian model, the whole gender conversation tends towards a systemization when a physiognomic approach is what is used on the ground Does it make sense to systemize something that is almost always assessed with a mere glance? Of course, people who can’t be taken in with a mere glance are marginal, and people at the margins suffer, but them’s the breaks.

    So I am one of those people who is, functionally, “both-or-neither” and so I do my best to avoid gendered bathrooms and sex-segregated spaces. If stuck in a situation where this avoidance is not possible, I muddle through it to the best of my ability, just like everyone else. Functionally, I’m neither male or female, and can feel a limited amount of comfort in either male or female spaces, since I have an intuitive sense of the ‘rules’ that govern male and female spaces. Indeed, enough of the sense to know that I don’t have the ability to fully participate in either.

    Of course, this means there are limitations on my life. Now makes two years since I’ve even tried to date and about six since I seriously dated. My liminal and uncanny status makes a lot of people uncomfortable and frightened, and so there are sharp social limitations as well. That said, I’m certainly not complaining. I have an active religious life, I get to read a lot of books and write everyday and think my own thoughts. While I experience limitations that many other people would doubtlessly find horrifying, I basically enjoy my life and hold myself — rather than others — accountable for the suffering that I experience, figuring that even if it appears unjust there is likely karma involved and undoubtedly I have done the same things in a prior incarnations.

    So I think that you are right that shoving everyone into a procrustean bed of the two sexes is impossible. But those who don’t fit are going to suffer greatly for it — even under the best conditions — and I think that is utterly inevitable. Again, for whatever it’s worth as a “both-or-neither” person who has had to live under the conditions you elaborate, looking back over my life I’m grateful for all of the suffering that I’ve experienced for it gave me strength, taught me mercy, and deepened my character.

    Of course I don’t think that people “should” suffer on account of their gender, but then also I am a mere mortal and so do not pretend to understand the inner side of Justice. I’ve accepted long ago that I may be murdered at an early age because of my “both-or-neither” actuality, which has certainly added keen sense of urgency in how I live my life. Of course personally, I tend strongly towards a “live and let live” philosophy since while I can certainly form an opinion I don’t credit myself with the ability to apprehend Truth. So I don’t see any easy answers and think everyone is alone to a real extent to pick their way through the woods. Human societies clearly do lots of barbaric things and murdering people because they look different and don’t fit into categories is certainly one of them. I’m not personally into it, but here I am, an individual picking my way through the woods!

  170. Berserker, thanks for this.

    BB, I’m not going to put that completely outside the realm of possibility…

    Chris, oh, granted. Airships, like nuclear power, space travel, and Barack Obama, belong to that category of things that can never live up to the shiny image created for them.

    Violet, I’m going to guess that what historians of the future will say is that the left was coopted by the privileged classes, and was used by the latter to divide everyone else against one another so nobody would mount an effective challenge to the kleptocratic rule of the salary class.

    Brazzart, fascinating. Do you recall which of Jung’s writings that’s from?

    Patricia, I tend to think instead that Trump is very, very good at convincing people he’s an idiot, and then using that conviction to take them to the cleaners…

    Chris, thank you for this! I’ve never had the least interest in video games, but tabletop RPGs are enormous fun precisely because they exercise the imagination.

    Dewey, fair enough. To be frank, I’m glad to hear that, as it seems to me that the last thing we need is more people being nostalgic for a universe divided strictly into Good Guys and Bad Guys.

    David, too funny. Let the circular firing squad open fire!

    Matt, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Drhooves, I had G.I. Joe dolls when I was a kid, complete with the full kit of US military hardware (or cheap plastic imitations of same), so yeah, I get that.

    Robert, a valid point. Do you happen to know offhand the prevalence of these conditions in, say, the US population?

    David, no — I’ll check him and his rulebooks out. Thank you!

    Wooler, fascinating. That’s not a reaction I get from the people I know, but I can see how people might use such accusations to distract attention from the gap between what they claim to value and how they live their lives.

    Simo, no, I haven’t. I try to keep my carbon footprint down, so tend to avoid flying, and speaking tours generally haven’t benefited my career at all — I get much more of a boost in book sales and the like from blogging, podcases, et al. But thanks for asking!

    Waffles, hold onto those. I’m planning on having a general discussion of creative alternatives to profanity in an upcoming post, by cracky!

  171. Patricia, https://www.orangejulius.com/us-en/?localechange=1&

    This fast food chain is the reason why Orange Julius is such a funny nickname for the current president. The signature drink is quite tasty but probably only a little better for you than a milkshake.

    On the subject of trans, in the moderately short term, as in much of the rest of the world today, what difference is a person’s desire to be a different sex going to make? It is only through modern medicine that one can change anything-hormone replacements, cosmetic surgery, etc, so, like many things, it seems to me to be an urgent problem of our civilization but non-existent in a couple hundred years. Instead, folks will make do in the various ways they always have done, because those will be the only options remaining. Given that, what is the wisest way to address trans right now? I would think some level of cultural acceptance that bodies and spirits need not match fully would be helpful: that one can feel female yet be biologicly male, and vice versa. Your thoughts?

  172. @Violet: “The entire language of ‘the White Supremacist Patriarchal Capitalist System’ etc is really sketching out the mathematical terms for an equation of self.”

    You keep finding the exact right words to describe what I’ve been seeing. It’s very frustrating because I want all of those words for myself.

    Anyway, your comment reminds me of something: The activist group I hung out with in Phoenix handed out copies of Towards Collective Liberation, by a San Francisco anarchist named Chris Crass. It is hands down one of the three worst books I’ve ever read, but it gave me insight into why that activist group went buglunch insane.

    The book is filled with formulations like, “We want to build powerful, dynamic, visionary movements against imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Or: “We want women and gender-oppressed people to bring leadership alongside feminist men, antiracist whites, and class-conscious middle and upper-class people.” And I mean filled – those sorts of lists occur a good eight times on most pages of the book. Over the course of three hundred pages, it becomes a soul-killing rhythm, drowning out anything else Crass is trying to say.

    My feeling is that Crass and people like him are so obsessed with being Perfectly Correct that they’ve killed off their imaginations. (At one point, he includes passages from several other activist writers, and they all sound exactly like him, which gave me a real Stepford Wives feeling.) They seem to think that by chanting “visionary” over and over again, that makes them visionary – as opposed to, you know, having visions. Actual visions might lead to messy and incorrect ideas. Far better to reduce them to nice clean adjectives.

    And it’s exactly as you say, there’s a real brutalist construction going on here, where everyone is reduced to a list of adjectives and society is reduced to algorithms. The Left has become so busy running around trying to create Utopia, that they’re blind to the darker currents welling up within themselves.

  173. Jmg, didn’t you once say that airships are likely to be one of the main forms of air travel in the ecotechnic future? Or did I misremember?

  174. @David BTL
    Re: UBI
    First thank you for your time in responding to my comments. I think frank discussions about issues are hard enough when they deal with only one subject. UBI deals with economics, welfare, labor rights, monetary policy, taxation and more. I may have bit off more than I can chew for my first topic to start commenting on. Even so I’ll give it a shot.

    I completely agree with almost everything you are saying.

    “Decentralization and localization of our economy” is a worthy goal. I don’t know how to get more decentralized than doling out money equally to everyone. Localization is a matter for people to decide unburdened by artificial constraints such as minimum wages or tax subsidies to large corporations.

    Constitutionally the Federal govt has very limited powers. I suppose they can create a Bureau of Decentralization and Localization but I don’t think this is what you have in mind. State and local govt would be better suited to this job but they don’t have the funding. They can raise taxes but people can just move or a choose a variety of legal/illegal shenanigans to lower their taxes.

    One thing the federal govt can do is print money and all currencies have to do this. The question is what forces are trying to spin the presses? Those people who work in tertiary economy. Why, because the more money there is the more opportunities they have to sell it. These are also the hardest people to tax. Get someone to build a $1B factory and you have a pretty reliable tax base. Not so much leverage with a $50B hedge fund. It is win win for the tertiary economy guys because they make money on the front end and have the ability to route it into the lowest tax state/country.

    When the presses spin do you want the spigot to flow out to everyone or only to those with political clout? If it flows to all why print extra money.

    Your seeing UBI as reason to spin the presses and I see it as reason not to.

    If you don’t mind my asking where do the revenues for city come from? And how much have they been hurt by the likes of Amazon?

  175. @Robert Mathiesen

    What you mention, people with both sexual organs and other extremely rare occurrences, does not concern 99.9% of people.

    Yes, it is an interesting question what to do in that case – if BOTH sexual organs are truly present, then well, I guess an arbitrary category is O.K. or at least debate worthy.

    But this in turn does not at all apply to 99.9% of those who claim they want to be defined as something they are clearly not by biological standard and to everyone’s uninstructed, unbiased eyes.

    So for those who have no two functioning sexual organs but merely pretend to be the respective opposite, I see no reason to cater to their demands, to value their mental image and preference more than everyone else’s actual reality.

    And for those who have two sexual organs, well there will always be cases that deviate from our expectation, no law, or guideline, or concept can cover 100% of reality, there will always be some case when society has to ask itself “what now?” – such is the fuzziness of reality and the world we live in!

    That however does not really make way for anyone to coerce everyone else into their own fantasy up to a point.

    I mean, of course the attempt happens, civilization is a hierarchical power structure.
    You can coerce people alright, but if you expect that there be no limit of how you can coerce other’s innate preferences and cognitive abilities, Good Luck with that.

  176. @David, by the Lake and @Matt the Slaker. Re UBI, so long as our host permits…

    David, like I said, I am not a campaigner for UBI, since the problems you mention are also much in my mind. (To enact UBI as conceived requires a polity to have both good control of its borders and good control of its currency).

    However, what interests me are the ideas that are circulated in the process of articulating it as a concept. Ideas which I LIKE to see being played with and entering into circulation. And I think that if you dove into what the quiet, background proponents are saying to one another, you would hear a large number of versions of what you say here (and which I, personally am 100% on board with) “it is not the citizens who serve the economy, but the economy which serves the citizens. That is, the economy is a tool, a means, and not an end. So “growth” is irrelevant, “efficiency” is irrelevant, “productivity” is irrelevant. What *is* relevant is human (and in the context of the nation-state, citizen) well-being, which has nothing to do with growth, efficiency, or productivity. I’d also argue that labor is not an undifferentiated commodity, but an expression of individual skill.”

    That is to say, the proponents of UBI that I find most articulate about WHY they like the idea are those who are attracted to turning the economy into a tool to serve the project of human freedom. And the reason that its proponents come from the freedom-loving end of both left and right, is that equality is not one of its objectives. Reduction of bureaucracy is, freeing people to dedicate their own time to their own creative pursuits is, and preventing basic levels of preventable deprivation is, but equality isn’t.

    When I’ve made a comparison between the kind of phenomenon UBI is proposed to be, and the kind of human phenomenon subsistence farming/hunting/gathering once was, I am much informed by James C Scott’s* “The moral economy of the peasant”. What he described was a moral ethic that developed from living close to the edge of subsistence, and there was always somebody bigger and stronger who could turn up to take a share. The peasant outlook on this turned out to be not about equality, at all, but on a carefully refined distinction between surplus, which can be spared and non-surplus, which cannot be spared for optimum survival.

    Scott’s discovery was that in such conditions, a patron or local warlord or baron who took 60 or 80% of your produce in a good year, was not seen as “bad” if in bad years they left you 100% or even contributed an extra 20 or 30% from their stores that would allow you to keep enough non-surplus produce to survive in that year. If even a bit of non-surplus is taken you will have immediate unrest and rebellion, while the taking of even quite large amounts of surplus is seemingly quite tolerateable to peasants who live by their own skill and strength, particularly in cases where the “lord” is effective at being a protector. That is to say, the moral economy of the peasant is not focussed on the size of the surplus that is taken, but extremely focussed on the absolute necessity of protecting the non-surplus (ie absolute necessity) that remains.

    What I think technocrats who focus on achieving “equality” (a lovely project of opportunity for managerial bureaucrats) do not appreciate, is that most people CAN tolerate dispensing with quite large slices of their surplus going away to whoever has the strength and power to take it (especially if they also provide assistance in other ways – security, general problem-solving, etc), but as soon as a portion of what is non-surplus, and really cannot be spared, is claimed, they are going to feel threatened and uneasy and if they are able, will rebel.

    It is this that (it seems to me) the theorists behind UBI are trying to address. The economy they envision is not necessarily equal. They envision certain entrepreneurs using the reduction in bureaucracy and rules (no minimum wage, no welfare, a flat tax on all earnings, etc), to make fortunes, but given that no one is threatened with loss of what they cannot spare, those fortunes will be built up on both employment contracts and sales contracts that people feel freer to refuse.

    Meanwhile, unnecessary production for the sake of production would be disincentivised.

    I think these are ideas worth circulating and discussing. They are a huge improvement on throwing shade and feeling morally superior. And what actually happens will doubtlessly be something entirely different, but maybe not uninformed by what has been said and thought about.

    *Scott is also the author of “The art of not being governed” and is sometimes known as an anarchist historian. His histories are very much “bottom up” centred.

  177. @JMG – in your response to Violet, you say: “I’m going to guess that what historians of the future will say is that the left was coopted by the privileged classes, and was used by the latter to divide everyone else against one another so nobody would mount an effective challenge to the kleptocratic rule of the salary class.”

    (Which, is a very fair approximation of how I have long viewed our situation, already)

    And, while I know that this is not how you see yourself AT ALL, I’ve long appreciated your sensible and clear-headed writings on matters of class, which qualify you, in the privacy of my own head, as an honourary member of the un-co-optable part of the left, who continues to effectively challenge the kleptocratic rule of the [ruling classes, which include the] salary class”…

    Of course, I realise my own sense of what “left” means comes from, roughly, the same stable as your old-fashioned Burkean conservativism, so maybe our “left” and “right” are still the two wings of the one bird, and might, therefore, be able to fly. 😉

  178. John—

    Re circular firing squads and charges of “purity”

    I do find rather interesting that the definition of “purity” seems to always consist of those elements with which the Establishment disagrees…

    https://politicalwire.com/2019/04/06/quote-of-the-day-2222/

    After Sanders’ surprisingly (even shockingly) strong showing in the 2016 primary, I think the Democratic Party is going to have a difficult time convincing the non-establishment voters that they have no alternative except supporting the establishment candidate. It will indeed be interesting t observe these next cycles to see how things evolve. I’m wondering if/when the Democratic Establishment cuts a deal with the Republican Establishment to combine forces in order to squelch this populist rebellion (and bring order to the Galaxy, as it were). If that were to occur, I’d guess it would be a few cycles away yet—the Republicans (well, both party establishments, really) would need to see that the Trump-phenomenon is not just a one-time thing, but an actual populist uprising with staying-power.

  179. I love the moniker ‘CTRL-left’, but think that ‘establishment left’ leaves a lot to be desired. There is no establishment left in the US nor has there been since FDR co-opted the last populist leftist movement (and actually implemented some really good reforms).

    As JMG has been saying for years, in a two party system both parties are strongly incentivized to position themselves right next to each other where they can each dog-whistle out to their captive constituencies on their respective sides. To the extent that left and right mean anything at all in such a system, they mean only left or right of the thin sliver of daylight between the two parties.

    The right side of the spectrum has had its schism thanks to the Tea Party and all the far right bloggers and talk show hosts, who showed Trump how to mobilize the discontented right.

    The CTRL left has been much better at bullying their captive constituencies into focusing on non-economic issues and keeping them from challenging the neo-liberal status quo. I lean hard left myself, and I can testify to the dangers of holding any dissenting opinions, especially re: identity politics. I am sympathetic to most of these issues, and would like to see an inclusive society as much as anyone, but focusing exclusively on gender politics right now is like hanging curtains in the window while the city burns.

    The most dismaying thing I have seen since Trump was elected was how the left, and I mean most people who are really left, have forgotten all about how much they hated free trade. How many of the people who marched in Seattle are willing to grant even that renegotiating trade deals might be a good idea?

    It seems to me there is one real and viable alternative right now to reinvigorate the actual left, and that’s Bernie Sanders. I’m not in any way pretending he’s perfect, any more than JMG is pretending Trump is perfect, but let’s set him up as a candidate and sort the rest out later. But it’s so very easy to get the left arguing about whether he’s exactly the right sort of person to fix everything about everything. I say, if you’re heading towards a brick wall and that’s the only lever you have, pull that lever and see what happens.

    The smart money is riding on the brick wall.

  180. I woke up this morning thinking about something, and a quick scan of recent comments suggests that I’m not the only one.

    I haven’t been able to keep up with all the comments this week so please forgive me if I’m beating on an already well-worn drum. (For the last few years I’ve been getting a kick out of watching the participation of certain commenters who maybe live a little closer to the soil wax and wane with the seasons – e.g. Chris from Oz starts to comment more right about the time my participation slides, and vice versa, and for obvious reasons.)

    What I woke up thinking about though is that faith in Progress, or a lack thereof, has everything to do with how one approaches the predicaments of our society.

    If you believe that the future is just going to get bigger, faster, more just, whatever you happen to see in your Progressive crystal ball, then you see problems all around you that must be solved in order to reach our potential among the stars. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that we already live among the stars?)

    You see evil polluting fossil fuels that must be replaced with supposedly cleaner energy. Maybe you think plastics should be outlawed altogether. Or perhaps your mind gets stuck on how to power personal vehicles with presumably cleaner fuel.

    I don’t care about any of that, and for the same reason plenty of you don’t care: these things are temporary. They have a shelf life, and therefore so does my irritation with them.

    We don’t need another way to power cars because cars aren’t going to be around much longer. When I drive home and see litter everywhere, instead of getting bent about it I just think, you know, as soon as the fast food culture can’t be sustained any longer, and people start walking again, this won’t be a problem. Then I grab a garbage bag and take a walk. No need for self-righteous posturing about it, I just don’t want the approach to my house to be so ugly.

    By contrast, if all you see is idiots getting in the way of Progress, a bigger, faster, and (somehow) cleaner future being pushed out by the “backwards” and “nostalgic” behavior of the troglodytes living around you, then you’re going to be pretty irritated pretty much all the time. No wonder the Left can’t meme. They can’t even allow themselves a good night’s sleep.

    What’s more, you might end up dwelling on the idea that life might in fact be better without “those” people. (Yikes.)

    Extrapolate that out to every issue in the news and around the water cooler and I think you get a fairly clear snapshot of modern American life.

    But that’s just my .02
    Tripp

  181. @BlueWinds – I just have to call you out on your made up statistics. It’s a pet peeve of mine, because IMO it simply stops any discussion if someone just decides to make things up to support their argument. It’s not true that “most people who call themselves trans women have no more testosterone in their blood than cis-women” The fact, as far as I can tell from doing research on medical sites, is that 25% of males who take testosterone suppressing medication have testosterone levels the same as the average female, which would mean significantly less than 25% of people “calling themselves” trans women have testosterone levels at the level of females. And of course that is with significant medical intervention. And as Onething has brought up, not without possible dangerous side effects.

    btw @Onething, thanks for your comments, they express my sentiments exactly.

    And @Violet, thanks for existing. The funny thing is I have felt many of the same ways as you, but for very different reasons. It doesn’t take one being transgender to feel completely out of sorts with their interior vs their exterior…and be bullied for for it. And experience years of trauma and confusion because of it.

  182. My very Christian baby sister and her husband were visiting from Virginia this past week and at one point we happened to get on the subject of religion (go figure). I made the point that good can’t in fact exist without evil, that you wouldn’t know it was sunny if it was never cloudy, and therefore I couldn’t buy the concept of the eternal separation of good and evil via heaven and hell. I used English transportation as an example: look, for over a century England exported its”criminal class” first to America, then to Australia, and yet you still have criminals in England. Why? Because you can’t have one without the other!

    Didn’t ring true for them though. Why? Because doctrine. Their religion insists on the idea as a matter of basic faith. Doesn’t matter one iota that history doesnt offer one single example of the concept in action. That seems to be a fairly extensive problem across the board these days…

    Here’s how it’s supposed to work so that’s how it works! Endo story.

  183. I would like to thank everyone for clearly describing their point of view and logic related to gender and social things like dating and access to public bathrooms. There are many aspects to the problem.

    I don’t understand gender dysphoria, but I am convinced of the reality based on the amount of trouble, harassment, and danger people are willing to accept in order to transition.

    Considering the absolute numbers of “born male, identify as male” compared to “born male, identify as female,” the “born female identify as female” are probably in the most danger of sexual assault from “born male, identify as male.”

  184. Hi John

    Fascinating post as always! I rarely go to the movies these days as most of the junk coming out of Hollywood is not worth paying over £7 to pay! In fact, me and the wife have increasingly turned to relatively old tv series (usually the 80’s) which was the golden era of tv.

    In regard to the trans movement, I’m wondering what on earth will happen to these individuals once our industrial healthcare system collapses and they won’t be able to get their drugs to maintain their change of gender. Has any of these people even considered that before transitioning gender?

    I was also wondering, John, if you are following the latest twists and turns of the Brexit saga. Growing signs that Labour will vote to revoke Article 50 rather than end up with a no-deal/hard Brexit.

    I know you are optimistic about the prospects of that but many Leave voting Labour voters will be horrified. Nigel Farage is back in business with his new Brexit Party.

    https://www.doncasterfreepress.co.uk/news/people/nigel-farage-s-brexit-party-would-get-most-votes-in-doncaster-general-election-poll-1-9684568

    Doncaster is a solid Labour seat but Farage is polling very well there with working class Leave voting Labour voters.

    It is also a fact that Labour know that they need to win key marginals, which voted Leave, and this is why Corbyn has been so opposed to a 2nd referendum unlike many within the party. He knows that a 2nd referendum is widely considered an attempt to reverse Brexit to most Leave voters.

    Now, Labour has semi-endorsed a 2nd referendum, and it is losing Leave voters.

    Of course, the Tories are also in a total mess.

    My recommendation is watch the Brexit Party closely. Many Tory voters are planning to vote for the Brexit Party if we end up voting in European elections in May 2019.

  185. About the way that race and sexuality issues have been mostly co-opted by the privileged:

    Big banks:
    https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/the-line-that-may-have-won-hillary-clinton-the-nomination-40504/
    “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow, would that end racism?” – Hillary Clinton

    Killing brown people 8000 miles away from an air conditioned office as feminist praxis:
    https://www.thedailybeast.com/she-kills-people-from-7850-miles-away?ref=home
    “I use it to emasculate the enemy in the afterlife,” Sparkle said.

    Presented without comment:
    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D2RuyziX0AA-rEp.jpg:large

    I believe the term for this is ‘Woke Capital’. There’s a Twitter account by that name, which, while leaning too alt-right for most people’s tastes, is a pretty good archive of this stuff.

    The old game of shipping in black, Asian, Hispanic or eastern European workers (whatever group was available that the WASP working class wouldn’t unionize with) as class warfare is clearly being replaced with a new game: blame the cis white man (white women are next, when demographics allow), forged by Melkor in the fires of Mount Privilege, collectively for the problems of late stage kleptocapitalism.

  186. John—

    Tying in to the “single story” them you mentioned this week, something I’ve increasingly noticed in the PW comment threads is that the electorate is divided between Democrats and Trump-supporters and seemingly no one else. Either you are a Trumpista or else you are a Democrat (on-board or not, but a Democrat). “We lose when Democrats stay home” is a comment I’ve seen frequently. The idea that there are other people, with other priorities and values, is completely lost. The disaffected Sanders voters, for exampl, are seen as “purist” Democrats who are backdoor Trump-supporters. There is no middle ground, no grey zone, no ambiguity, and therefore no compromise. You are Good or you are not (in which case, you are Evil).

    Also, I am increasingly convinced that the shock of Trump’s win hasn’t been fully processed and that the Democrats are still in reactive mode, which would explain why they apparently haven’t learned anything from that loss yet. I think that reaction is going to carry them along in a great wave of nostalgia for the status quo ante, before the cataclysm that was Trump, and to my mind that means a Biden-Harris ticket: he representing the Obama golden age and she representing the minority female future as the heir-apparent. (Of course, that is precisely a Democratic ticket I won’t vote for, but then I’m one of those benighted lost souls.)

    I find myself less frustrated as I’m able to distance myself emotionally from this unfolding of the forces of history and as I’m able to more dispassionately observe things that just are (or are very, very likely). I suppose we have to accept such things so that we can work from the starting points we are going to actually have, rather than the ones we wish we did.

    @ Nastarana

    Re Trump

    I can’t disagree with your overall assessment of the man. I find it an ironic twist of fate that he, of all people, would be the historical catalyst for change, rather than a leftward visionary. It is a great failure of the Democratic Party that its leaders cannot see what is happening. And while I cannot say that I like Trump—I very much do not—I must admit that I admire his audacity, his accomplishments in the 2016 primaries and general election, and his single-handed alteration of the political landscape (again, rather like Jackson). Intellectual? Definitely not. Wily and cunning? Very much so. And his opponents underestimate him to their peril.

  187. Amusingly, I saw that Obama used the term “Circular Firing Squad” for the behavior of some of the progressives in the Democratic party. The term rated getting into the headline in the Guardian

  188. John—

    Re an Establishment Left RPG

    It occurred to me that someone might make a buck or two designing a low-complexity farcical RPG lampooning the worldview of said Establishment Left and marketing it to a rightward audience. One could have characters advancing, for example, by collecting Oppression Points and navigating the labyrinths of lbgtqia+ power struggles as each faction seeks to claim power by proclaiming itself the Most Oppessed Population Ever.

    Just a thought 😉

  189. Hi John,
    Please consider doing a post on the difference between a late-stage corrupt republic and a full-blown fascist state. I believe precision of thought is more important than ever, and you have been especially good at making valuable distinctions. If you’ve already covered this topic, please refer me to the past article, and I’ll catch up. Thanks.

  190. To all the folks here discussing the trans-gender phenomenon….

    Since this is a blog where basic esoteric philosophy is discussed openly I would like to propose a few questions:

    1) How does karma play into this? If we incarnate into the bodies we do for a reason, isn’t fighting the gender we were born with kind of a failure to pursue our karmic destiny? Of course I realize there are those who are born with certain genetic anomalies (once again, karma), but I’m primarily referring here to people who are born as a man or woman and arbitrarily decide that that they “feel like a woman in a man’s body” or vise versa. I.e….the Catelyn Jenners of the world… you get my drift. It seems there are some deeply unresolved issues and unbalanced astral energies here with these folks. Please understand that I’m not making a moral value judgment here. Every single one of has has unresolved issues in our own way, but we all have to face them.

    2) Doesn’t the phrase “man in a women’s body” or “woman in a man’s body” imply a kind of philosophical dualism? I find it interesting that you have people who probably don’t really necessarily believe in the existence of a soul framing the discussion around “I” in “my body”.

    3) Since this is also a blog about Decline and Fall I would like to propose that perhaps the recent attempts by so-called post-modernist intellectuals to redefine gender as some kind of “social construct” are motivated less by compassion for the oppressed and more by a false belief in the Myth of Progress. When you look at history, it seems that gender and sexual ambiguity are characteristics of the upper classes in late-stage civilizations. I wonder if Spengler would back me up on this. Perhaps there is a bit of a technocratic motivation for this as well. If you think we are all going to somehow merge with machines and become gender-fluid bio-robots who colonize Mars it might be in your interest to break down family and national identities and to convince the masses that sex and gender have no real meaning (especially if you stand to make gazillions of dollars off the AI industry).

    This seems like a first-world luxury too. Considering the fact that the modern medical industry runs off oil as does everything else, I doubt there will be many doctors performing sex changes or prescribing hormone replacement therapy in a post-industrial world.

  191. Re: virtue signaling

    My observation is that the public display aspect is of utmost importance.

    Here in Vermont, awash with Birkenstocks, canvas shopping bags, and Public Radio stickers on Subarus right next to the ‘Co-exist’ bumper stickers, it’s pretty easy to pick out the signalers. In general they are usually (almost always?) folks relocated from seriously ‘progressive’ places like New York City, Connecticut, and urban New Jersey who, after retirement, take up residence in their former second or third home. They are joined by a battalion of younger do-gooders who have mostly moved here from Progressiveland too. They all become relentless evangelists for the cause.

    Among the natives I see no virtue signaling; I’m not sure our older neighbors even know what that is. What the wet spring means for pasture and the state of the fencing that keeps sheep and cows off the not-very-busy main road are the important topics of conversation. The N-th generations of farming Vermonters are quite frugal and practical; they may take the single-use plastic bags from the store, but in most everything else they are far less wasteful than the self-proclaimed Virtuous. This may change in the future as the public schools have become the main driver of environmental correctness for the younger set, a duty they take as seriously as the proverbial heart attack.

    I used to bring reusable bags with me to the store, but now I have two good-sized, heavy-duty cardboard cartons with the nice cut-outs for my hands that I’ve been taking along for years. Most people think it’s a great idea and I say, absolutely truthfully, that I got tired of bags rolling around in the back of the car dumping contents all over the seat, that the boxes keep everything better organized and are easier to carry to the house.

  192. @ Matt & @ Scotlyn

    Re UBI, etc.

    My thanks to both of you for your considered replies, and to our host for allowing this conversation to continue even though not directly germane to this week’s post.

    I concur that the three of us are perhaps more in agreement than not, though coming at the issue from differing perspectives. I am aware of the traps I frequently tumble into and I am perhaps tangled in one here. As a mathematician and engineer, I have a penchant for longer-term planning (it is a substantial part of my job, in fact) and so I tend to focus on long-term solutions. In this case, that longer term involves a radically localized, demonetized, simplified, and concrete economy focused on human well-being and direct human needs. (This goes to Scotlyn’s references to the peasant economy, to a great degree.)

    I keep coming back to the idea of the controlled descent, likely an unattainable goal, and my idealized political and economic platform of resource taxation, economic nationalism, and self-reliance is centered on that premise. Likewise, internally, I see the need to fractally replicate that approach in regional and local layers of self-reliance, both out of desire to have a robust national system as well as in recognition of the resource constraints we will be working within as this century unfolds.

    On of my blindspots, as it were, is my extended planning horizon. I see the next several decades, for example, as “short term”. The next two centuries which will see the gradual fall of modern industrial civilization is “medium term” and the following centuries of the ensuing dark age preceding the next flowering of civilization is “long term.” So, the next few years hardly even exist and I consequently tend to discount issues of immediate nature as transitory and less relevant.

    Yet, we must go through “here” to get “there.”

    I think we can support the goals of UBI through means other than those which the current proponents of UBI (AOC included) offer. In fact, I would argue such is a necessity, as the centralized bureaucracy, the resource levels, the amount of available net energy on which those proposals inherently rely simply will not exist.

    My suggestion of resource taxes, particularly on fossil fuels, is premised on this. By taxing these resources at the source, the point of extraction or at the border in the case of imports, we can then utilize the markets as a tool while also simplifying th overall system. Rather than metering CO2 at each tailpipe and smokestack, we add the tax in as upstream as possible and allow the market to do its thing. The goal of the tax is not to create a revenue stream for the State, but rather to throttle the use of the resource in the first place. Transportation costs rise, the economy slows down and localizes out of necessity. We utilize riverboats and build canals because it then makes economic sense to do so. In effect, we alter the conditions of the test, as Kirk might have said (ok, nerdy Star Trek reference—I couldn’t help it).

    But any solution is going to have to deal with where we are presently, and that is a problem I haven’t solved yet: how to we manage the transition from this point to where we are going in the most palatable manner? To bring in our host’s fictional scenario of the Lakeland Republic, that nation had the “advantage” of rebuilding itself from ground zero in the aftermath of a devistating civil war. Can we bridge the gap from here to there without that particularly dark passage? Such is my hope.

    Finally, to answer your question, Matt, Wisconsin municipalities are highly dependent on property taxes for revenue. This is one of the reasons my “go to” solution is to create a utility for services (road maintenance, for example) and shift the burden to user fees rather than taxes. It is a tough nut to crack, regardless. We were once a manufacturing town, which I’d like to revive on a smaller, more local scale, but Amazon is a reason we don’t have a local bookstore in the area, certainly.

    Thanks again, both of you, for this discussion.

  193. Hello all!

    I cannot say much aboiut American politics, but the whole Brexit saga looks to me like a Monty Python version of the exit of Great Britain out of the EU. And the same about Venezuela: the attempts at regime change in Venezuela look like a Monty Python version of “Twilight’s Last Gleaming”.

    And regarding UBI, I can well imagine that somewhere, it will be tried as a response to the current crisis of the West, but it won’t be a longer-term solution.

  194. JMG, I’ve read that Trump has implemented a first step program for prison reform, as you called a few months back in your new year prediction post. Well done!

  195. Sylvia said,

    “Considering the absolute numbers of “born male, identify as male” compared to “born male, identify as female,” the “born female identify as female” are probably in the most danger of sexual assault from “born male, identify as male.”

    That is probably true. But that is also why it has never been considered okay to have females share a restroom or locker room with regular males. And again, I’m not extremely opposed to transwomen in female restrooms, but a significant number, about 30%, are in fact heterosexual in that they are attracted to females. I do find sharing a restroom with such people a bit creepy and a bit unfair.

    As to someone above asking how this tiny minority can really matter to society at large, I would almost be on board with that…but I do smell a rat. I have been quite taken aback to find out that the trans (and gay marriage) agenda is being pushed in schools with very young children. I don’t think that is appropriate and I want to know who has that kind of power, to make those kinds of decisions, to decide to give access to children in school without any real public knowledge or debate on the issue. I don’t see a lot of things as being grass roots. Not when they suddenly pop up around the world at the same time and when it’s all positive publicity all the time – knowing our media is completely bought and sold – why do the people with real power to control the narrative want to push this?

  196. A little more on the trans issues. First, I would note that in some cases–I have no idea how many, but personal experience of one–a male to female person taking female hormones who has not had genital surgery can still sustain an erection. Therefore women who fear sexual assault in such cases are not being irrational or showing a hateful discrimination. That said, I think most transwomen wish to live their lives quietly, accessing the same women’s spaces as other women without attracting unwelcome attention. Much of the problem could be solved by a sensible design of bathroom stalls in this country (USA). Why do we put up with stalls that feature a gap around the doors and partitions instead of proper doors that overlap, close properly and have latches that do not warp out of alignment or fall off? A mystery. Anyone who has watched a drag show that featured skin tight leotards will know that it is possible to effectively conceal genitals. I can’t help but feel that anyone who is “detected” in a woman’s locker room isn’t really trying and would question how sincerely that person identifies as female. As a transwoman of my acquaintance puts it ‘if you have a female brain it tells you every minute that it wants rid of that thing.’ Financial or other considerations may, of course prevent surgery from being a choice.

    As for the question of female ritual space. I can’t think of any society that had only male ritual space or female ritual space, with no communal rituals. I suppose one might exist, but I can’t see modern Pagans recreating such. My answer to Blue Winds is that if a ritual is for women in general I would not exclude you since by assuming a female identity you come to share many of the issues that affect woman. However, if a ritual is for a particular subset of women–mothers, menstruating women, women who are entering puberty, women who have been sexually assaulted, etc. why would you want to be there? There are deities sacred to gays, some deities that are sexually ambiguous, some that have both male and female avatars–explore. As for other times and places, many societies have had positions for eunuchs (many given no choice, but some who chose the role). Others have had respected roles for those who dressed as the other gender as part of a religious role or merely as a ‘third sex’. It seems to be mainly the desert war god who only allows two genders and wants people to have sex only to make babies.

    As for whoever claimed that non-reassigned transwomen were not trying to force themselves into lesbian spaces–I suggest that you Google “cotton ceiling”; and for the viciousness of some trans activists vs. those they label terfs, I suggest that you look up the Degenderettes display at the San Francisco Public Library. The library yielded to protest enough to remove the t-shirt with fake blood and the motto “I Punch TERFS” but they left the nail-studded and barb-wire wrapped baseball bats on display. Meanwhile we are expected to accept that a lesbian who questions the medicalization of trans youth, including the use of puberty blockers whose long-term effects are unknown, is a “danger” to trans people.

    JMG — as for gender essentialism in feminism–I think both strands are present–after all, it is hard to reconcile “women are bearers of life and would bring universal peace” with “women have a right to combat roles.” So some feminists have held and promoted the one, while others have held and promoted the other point of view. In addition, some people see the current emphasis on gender as a betrayal of feminism, noting that ‘gender studies’ appear to have edged out ‘women’s studies’ and interest in the marginal gender problems have taken precedence over violence against women and other issues that mainly affect women raised as such.

    On a lighter note–are you aware of an anthology called _Lost Mars: the Golden Age of the Red Planet_ editied by Mike Ashley? Sounds similar to you ‘old solar system’ idea. I think I saw it in on discount in U. Chicago Press catalog.

    Rita

  197. Another quick thought on immigration. How many Americans even know how many legal immigrants are processed each year, without Googling. Okay, make your guess – —– back yet? It is approximately 1,000,000. How many thought it was a lot more? How many thought it was a lot less? How would we go about a conversation about how many is the ‘right number’?

    Rita

  198. It was an an economic attack, better for the Kremlin than pull the troops away and let us be.

  199. @Scotlyn
    Re: UBI

    I was hoping for a more elegant voice and you delivered.

    I have a small quibble, on needing good control of one’s border to implement it. I would think UBI could stem some of the financial incentives to come here illegally. If UBI was high it would be very uneconomical for low wage immigrants to come here whereas if it was low it would be less so. I will have to mull over some bad ways to implement this like leaving bundles of cash on street corners (which would make the person implementing it look way more incompetent than person proposing UBI). There may be some implementations that sound reasonable but incentivize illegal immigration.

    Also good control of your currency what do you mean by this? Why would it be necessary?

    @JMG
    Any opinions? Is this too far off topic?

  200. Slightly off-topic, but related to the absence of dialogue between human groups and to the belief in inert adversaries.

    Our last round of talking about vaccines was started by a paper about Yellow Fever vaccine that I cited as a positive example of how vaccines could be discussed: stating clearly the degree of protection and the known risks, specifying differences between vaccine preparations and investigating the necessity of repeat doses. I think it is not accidental that it was a paper from Brazil about a vaccine produced by a non-profit government lab.

    Today I saw a 2015 Canadian economic study about the desirability of HPV vaccination in boys. The advantages that the authors reported, both financial for the public health system and in improved overall health, were quite slim, since they considered vaccinating 190 000 12-year old boys to avoid about 4 annual cases of oral cancer. What shocked me was that they flatly denied that (commercial) HPV vaccines could have any serious adverse effect ever in anybody. I am rather sure that no treatment in this world is without (rare) adverse effects, and even a single case in 100 000 vaccinated persons would have had a strong impact on their overall balance (not to speak of the actual reported cases of adverse effects after HPV, which I am not prepared to judge).

    So, as a person who has always been very strongly in favour of nudging, even shaming everybody to have their children protected with the core vaccines, I can now understand a bit better why North American readers of this blog are more sceptical.

  201. @Matthias Gralle. I will mention that it was a single case of a young woman whose life was completely blighted by the adverse effects of an HPV vaccine (had to stop sports, had to stop school, was in constant pain, could not sleep, could not concentrate, suffered many bowel and metabolic issues, etc) which made me begin to ask questions like – what IS the benefit cost argument for this vaccine, what DOES the research show about effectiveness and safety, and at first I focussed solely on that vaccine. As you point out, there really is no rationale for the HPV, not if it can cause even a single case like this – but it turns out there are thousands injured by it. Somehow, gradually, I have come to the conclusion that vaccine by vaccine the arguments for safety are nowhere near as strong as touted on any vaccine, and the arguments for effectiveness (in some vaccines) are also highly subject to diminishing returns, which year on year, makes their benefit to cost ratio worsen. This leaves a very small number of vaccines I would personally avail of, although, if travelling, I will once again review the recommendations and take a close look at the research for myself, as I always recommend everyone to do.

  202. PatriciaOrmsby,

    Thanks very much! I’m starting to think that the cult of Progress might be the single most formidable opponent we face in the long descent.

  203. @Matt the Slaker

    UBI and immigration–

    I don’t see it. There are two options: either immigrants are eligible for UBI, or they aren’t.

    Say we restrict UBI to citizens. Now there’s even less incentive for citizens to work unpleasant jobs! You just upped the threshold for “jobs Americans won’t do” by a big margin. Thus increasing the demand for illegal immigrants.

    Assuming, that is, that the selection process for UBI recipiants will be water tight — which you know, and I know, is impossible. It’ll end up in the pockets of many migrants, further incentivizing illegal immigration. AND requiring a bureaucracy to track eligibility, something that UBI is supposed to let us cut.

    Recognizing that UBI bureaucrats in sanctuary cities are going to hand out UBI payments to any and all comers, let’s fire them and just allow anybody in the country to get free money. That couldn’t possibly incentivize illegal immigration, could it? If you’re working like a dog for dollars a day in the third world, and hear all you have to do is make it across the Rio Grande to be taken care of for life?

    If you admit there’s a ‘crisis’ now, it is but a trickle compared to the flood that you’ll get if you start handing out free money.

    … well, except from Venezuela. They’ve got plenty of worthless, hyperinflated money at home, and don’t need to walk a thousand miles for gringo toilet paper. I wonder, once the currency collapses, how many of the new Americans will walk back the other way?

  204. @Boysmom re: trans people et. al. – it helps to read science fiction and anthropology both. In many cultures, the people of fluid gender with all those variations tended to end up in shamanic roles, didn’t they? In science fiction: the preferred pronoun Bujold’s herms is “it,” which I find dehumanizing. In MZB’s Darkover, the “emmasca” was presumed to be and raised as male, just as in Star’s Reach. In Melissa Scott’s Shadow Man, the leading character is a herm, but identifies as male – and a gay male at that. And in Emma Bull’s Bone Dance (in which the local religion is more-or-less voudon) the friends of the leading character, who is “both and neither,” avoid pronouns altogether when the secret is out. Before then, the women thought she was a tall skinny tech-head girl; the men thought he was a boy. The character was 15 years old. (And, as described in Chapter 4, very clearly and visibly “indigenous Western Hemisphere.” So what was shown on the cover of the hardback? A grown man with a very Irish face and pale ginger hair. Who is nowhere in the book. Cue up “There’s a bimbo on the cover of the book……” The pb at least showed a teenaged version of Lou Diamond Phillips! [end rant.])

    Anyway, as they say in famdom, YMMV. “Your Mileage May Vary.”

  205. RE: Tripp’s .02

    Your comment about those with Faith in Progress always looking for opportunities to fix something reminded me of a comment a Russian friend of mine made once. She wondered why most American’s always felt they needed to offer advice or help in some form. I didn’t have an answer at the time except to realize there was a truth to what she said. I’m realizing now it’s a testament to just how deep faith in progress runs in the American psyche. A good many of us can’t help but think everyone needs help and we are in the right place to offer it to them.

  206. RE: Colonizing Mars… not gonna happen. Mars’ soil is chock full of perchlorates, which are toxic in and of themselves, and make plant growth virtually impossible. If your backyard was a patch of Mars, it would be an EPA Superfund site… it gets even worse when you consider the effect of the increased UV radiation that reaches Mars’ surface… the combo of UV and perchlorates effectively obliterates any living bacteria.
    The only solution I’ve seen proposed is to engineer a bacteria to convert perchlorates to oxygen but any bacteria on the surface would be killed within a minute, so that’s no solution.

    RE: Transgender Bathrooms. I’ll just note that I work at a school, and we have bathrooms for staff/adults, and bathrooms for students. Neither is allowed to use the other. Do we think our staff are planning to assault kids in the bathroom? No, of course not, but we recognize the potential for accusation/temptation/whatever. So yes to gendered bathrooms, along the same lines. But also if a transgender woman is female enough to not raise suspicion, then why would anybody care?
    I’ll also point out that all of the all-gender bathrooms I’ve seen have been single occupancy.

    RE: Vaccination. I am for vaccines but as Matthias points out, our medical/academic establishment has effectively blinded themselves to the potential of harm. I know from speaking with other parents that the establishment has also blinded themselves to actual reports of harm. You are supposed to be able to report adverse effects and in at least one case I know of, the doctor has refused to take the report, calling it impossible/extraordinarily unlikely.
    I think it is highly probable that specific gene expressions affect immune response in ways that result in unintended harm from vaccination. But we’ll never know because the establishment is too invested in their own agenda.

    RE: Wokeness. I am increasingly convinced that TPTB don’t care except as a bludgeon against Trump. As recently as 2015 you could be a white male and not worry too much about whether the hiring process was going to actively discriminate against you. Trump wins and now whitey is the enemy. The stirring up of racial divides is intentional, and people are going along for the ride. When Hillary asked if breaking up the big banks would end racism, it was a question intended to wedge and divide and has both yes and no answers. (Hillary Clinton has always been the American Jezebel, and I say that as a center-left Obama & Sanders supporter.) No, it has nothing to do with racism, but yes, it will help end racism by being a strong action towards reducing inequality. The race wars are manufactured, and the problem is not white privilege but wealth privilege. But the 1% now has us off their backs and fruitlessly arguing about race and gender – for now.

    RE: UBI. This needs to be seen against the backdrop of declining EROEI and the resultant breakdown of modern Keynesian economics. Until about 2000, the inability of mainstream economic models to understand the energy basis of the economy didn’t matter because EROEI was so high. Post dot-com crash we reflated with housing then the gig was up in 2008. Governments around the world are compensating for low EROEI through monetary policy (QE, low interest rates (subsidizing fracking, among other things)) but that is reaching its end, the next recession will leave governments with no more firepower along those lines. The response then will be one of fiscal policy – helicopter money. We are being prepared for it now, both politically (AOC and friends) and academically (the rise of Modern Monetary Theory). All the progressive dreams can come true, UBI, Medicare for all, etc., etc… but the only reason it is being done is because the 1% is interested in maintaining BAU.
    The imminent recession we are faced with will tank asset prices but it will be a good time to buy. This use of fiscal policy to directly subsidize the economy means that I expect the 2020s to rival the 70s inflation wise. Watch for housing prices to skyrocket in particular. Modern Monetary Theory claims to respond to inflation but in practice it won’t, as political pressure to spend will overtake restraint.

    RE: EROEI. This is what it all boils down to. There are data which suggest that renewables are actually increasing average world EROEI at this point. The sustainability of this lift hinges on the level of dependence on fossil fuels that the manufacture and maintenance of renewables has. On the other hand if we are at the point that renewables are benefiting overall EROEI that’s not very good… it’s rather like pointing to the coins in your car’s cup holder and saying you aren’t broke. And it points to the fact that BAU increasingly depends on subsidies in the form of monetary and eventually fiscal policy. Arresting the long descent is going to take maintaining an EROEI of 20 or more.

    Geez I’m full of opinions this morning… LOL

  207. @David, by the Lake – long term planning is definitely not my forte. I tend to think more in terms of lots and lots of people working and talking and acting sometimes in concert, and very often at cross purposes, often mucking things up, but mostly bumbling along rightly enough despite it all. And since I don’t try to plan, but just take an interest in what is bubbling up where, and see where that might lead, as I said, UBI interests me, mainly for the conversations taking place around it.

    As a long term planner, though, may I commend that you hold in your mind some room for the lesson from the “Moral Economy of the Peasant” – which is that people will mostly readily dispense with their surpluses if needs be, but will feel existentially threatened very fast once you dip into their necessities. I have long been fond of JMG’s formulation of this principle in the form of his ideal outcome in any political negotiation, which IIRC is something like “the kind in which no one gets everything they want, BUT (equally important to my mind) no one loses anything they really need”.

    As to distinguishing between a need and a want, which some people seem to think is mystifyingly difficult, nothing could be easier. A need can be satisfied. You are hungry, you eat, you get full. A want, on the other hand, has no such inbuilt self-limitation, and, in theory can be insatiable in perpetuity.

    (It strikes me as a sign of the degree to which the Wendigo has infiltrated our culture, that one of our finest innovations is the invention of a form of food that you can want, and eat, and eat, and eat, without ever getting full).

    @Matt the Slaker
    Thank you for your reply – you say “I would think UBI could stem some of the financial incentives to come here illegally.” I think the reasons for illegal immigration do not lie in the illegal migrants – who undoubtedly would be (in their order of preference):
    1. comfortable at home
    2. safe at home
    3. legally migrated to a safer and more comfortable place, and
    4. not so desperate as to have to take anything that is on offer, together with a large helping of personal danger and abuse.

    They lie mostly in the reasons for 1 and 2 becoming impossible for them – wars, that were mostly visited upon them by more powerful forces, economic systems dominated by the same more powerful forces that moved their wealth across borders that were closed to their natural hot pursuit of it; and also in the domestic reasons that making 3 impossible is profitable to local employers.

    That is to say, if you wish to be EFFECTIVE at halting illegal immigration, you will ensure your country:
    1) stops murdering people in other countries, and making them unliveable
    2) stops stealing other people’s stuff
    3) stomps down hard on local employers who will take advantage of vulnerable and dispossessed people, and prefer them illegal so they have no standing to legally vindicate their rights.

    If you do not do these things, then you will be like King Cnut, ordering the tide not to come in.

    In short, absent these other policy changes, I do not see UBI having any particular impact on illegal migration rates, for good or for ill.

    Still, if you are going to award a payment on the basis of polity membership, then you need to control your borders sufficiently to determine who is a qualified member and who is not.

    As to control of currency, I am looking at it from an Irish point of view. Ireland ceded its right to create its own currency to the EU, and as a result, has ceded much economic ground in the succeeding years to the more powerful members of the EU. I do not think Ireland could safely run a UBI system until it recovered its ability to issue its own currency.

  208. Dear Simo P. Who, please, is “us”? Are you writing from Finland? Has not it been a core part of Russian policy for centuries that “We need harbors!”? I am not an expert on the period after WWII, but I gather that Stalin wanted defensible borders, access to harbors and a buffer to protect the USSR from invasion. Churchill, you may recall, did not inform the Russians about the impending German invasion, nor about German troop movements and dispossession after the invasion; Stalin found about those from the spies he had in London.

    About UBI, if I may, I suggest that the window for that notion closed back in the mid-late 70s, along with the idea of reparations for slavery, which IMO, is what we should have done instead of affirmative action. There are simply too many different factions now which have too much to lose if either idea is implemented. I suggest that good results could be obtained from several steps which could be taken right now. Two are rent controls across the country along with establishment of livable minimum wages in every locality. Ideally, I would think, the rent ought to cost no more than 1/3 of full time wages for one adult working at minimum wage. Rent seeking is NOT a productive activity and ought NOT to be privileged by law or custom. Another necessary step I think is that it needs to be established, whether in law or simply opinion, that people have a right of subsistence. For example, you shouldn’t be evicted from your residence for planting vegetables, and should not be fired for wearing homemade garments which do meet the requirements of the company dress code.

    Other things which could happen right now, with minimal disruption, include extension of existing public transport, lines extended a bit further and more runs added earlier and later to existing routes. Another is dispersal of social services, whether public or NGO, into the neighborhoods where the clients actually live. I don’t understand why municipalities don’t simply seize derelict properties, especially from absentee owners, hire some local guys and gals to do cleanup and repair, under the supervision of the public works dept. and get those properties being used again. Naturally, I never hear leftist Tribunes for the Poor suggesting any such ideas.

  209. Re: transgendered persons…I’ve only really met one, male to female gendered, and she seemed to feel as uncomfortable referring to herself as ‘she’ as I would have…I would say she was very early on in the process…does anyone know if that is typical? The setting was a skin care clinic where I worked and it was very private, so we’re not talking about a construction site… as far as persons who have both ‘parts’, I personally know one, he identifies as male, and is straight, so I don’t think the arraignment of your parts necessarily reflects your gender identity. The idea of ‘female penises’ though …I had to google that one. Frankly the idea strikes me as bizarre…that being said I have no problem addressing someone by whatever their gender preference is…

  210. Have you checked out the Lovecraftian transhumanist RPG Eclipse Phase? It’s not Airship Heroes, in fact it’s in many ways worse. It’s got a special place in my heart because working on that settings’ Captain Sodoffs, Spider Lords, and League of Good Nations was a major instigator of my later disillusionment with many of the narratives seen in it and similar works.

  211. Re: UBI

    I’ll prove to you that it will never ever be “Unconditional”. Consider this thought experiment. The state gives me $1000/mo as UBI. I immediately turn around and buy a budget AR-15, some decent vodka and a carton of cigarettes. Maybe I use what’s left to buy some ultra violent video games too. All perfectly legal to get as of this time – but how many people out there would be sperging and spazzing once they found out what I bought? How many would be demanding in loud shrill tones that this is Unacceptable and should be Not Allowed? How quick and accomodating would the government be to implement tracking and controls on what you can and can’t buy?

    Here’s another thought experiment. You are the enterprising head of a trade association with quite a bit of money invested in a stable of politicians and you hold some dirt on others, enough to give you influence. You introduce legislation to provide rebates and discounts if someone uses their UBI money in a way that benefits your trade association. Buy a gallon of milk with your UBI, get another gallon free or something like that.

    My point is, it’ll quickly turn into the same sort of rats’ nest of welfare you see before you now. The government will use the money they give you as a cudgel with which to compel you to do strange and unusual things. And it’ll be so unpleasant that nobody will take it if they have no other choice and if a majority of people are dependent on it, it’ll be midnight for humanity.

  212. @Nastarana – hear, hear! for all of that! especially for general recognition of a basic right to subsistence. That is the soundest basis for the protection of other people’s freedom after all, for whoever can interfere with your subsistence – ie with your absolute necessity – places existential duress upon you, and that renders all decisions you might make under such duress, no matter what they are, “forced”.

  213. Ethan,

    You asked some interesting questions that I have also been thinking about. We are all here no doubt to learn and also to resolve issues, so no judgment. Nonetheless, there is something about the strong gender emphasis that strikes me as, well, kind of the opposite of almost all spiritual advice. Advice like accepting reality for what it is, not identifying with the ego-persona, that sort of thing.
    I do think it is very possible for a person to feel like they are in the wrong type of body because there are differences between womens’ and mens’ brains and the development of those may not match up with the body.
    I don’t think it relates to the soul at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure we can incarnate as either gender. Whether souls prefer one or the other I don’t know, but a well rounded soul is going to try both until lessons are learned. It might be the case that a soul has been the other gender in the previous life or perhaps a few previous lives, and feels jarred at being in the other gender. Again, as you say, fighting it will likely only prolong the need for the lesson. I also think some trans people might be comforted if they believed in a soul and that they will have opportunities to incarnate into the desired gender someday. Wouldn’t it be simpler to wait? This is not the only ride in the park.

  214. Matt

    “If UBI was high it would be very uneconomical for low wage immigrants to come here ”

    How does that follow? I think rather the opposite.

    Matthias,

    Actually, HPV vaccine has one of the highest serious complication rates.

  215. yyRe: UBI
    @Scotlyn

    Ok we are in agreement. The word ‘good’ before ‘control of currency’ had me wondering if you were thinking too much in the black market. Yes without control of your currency the benefits would be minimal. Also thats a great list for being EFFECTIVE at halting illegal immigration.

    @David BTL

    10 yrs ago I would have dismissed UBI as well but I started listening to a lot of history podcasts and heard what happened when the proposals I would have advocated back then turned into utter violent disasters. I felt slightly vindicated when proposals I would have been against turned out the same.

    @All

    Implementation is where UBI can get interesting. I will throw out a few ideas and questions.

    -Every citizen over 18 should automatically get an account
    Should kids get accts? 20% of UBI? more/less?Definitely don’t want people having more kids to get more $

    -We can resurrect Postal Banking and have the Post Office administer accounts. There are POs in every city already. This opinion sums it up nicely.
    https://newrepublic.com/article/116374/postal-service-banking-how-usps-can-save-itself-and-help-poor

    -By administering accts digitally ie no cash withdrawals
    Collect transaction fees
    Remit surplus fees to the locality in which acct holder lives(@DavidBTL more funds for you)
    Enable micropayments architecture (transaction under $.25) Get writers and content producers paid
    Encourage spending ie if UBI is $1200/month and there is still $200 only put in $1000 so that people have to spend it If you can’t be bothered to spend it we won’t bother to fill it back up

  216. Hi John Michael,

    Too true! Mate, I’m old enough to recall the days when serious pundits used to warn of the moral dangers of playing RPG’s with ones nerdy mates! I suspect that the time will come again at some unspecified point in the future. A person can only hope so! I reckon that the serious pundits are boring, and as such were just jealous.

    Hey Tripp,

    You’re heading into a fun season and I wish you all the best for a productive growing season. Mate, you know, I’m nearing the end of the growing season, so the weeks have been full of work. When you know, you know. 🙂

    Cheers

    Chris

  217. I should clarify my earlier post a bit. I like the clear division between good and evil in games, as there is enough moral ambiguity in real life. If a character I am controlling does something evil, I actually feel a bit guilty or uncomfortable about it. In novels and other stories, where I am not the character, a variety is great. I can appreciate both J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, for example. However, I don’t think Lord of the Rings would be improved if Aragorn ran a brothel on the side or Sam fathered multiple children with his sister.

    Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire are almost two different genres (heroic fantasy and realistic fantasy, perhaps). Just as I can appreciate both science fiction and westerns, so also I can appreciate heroic fantasy and realistic fantasy.

  218. John–

    We are, once again, at the tail-end of this week’s cycle, and I hesitated at first to post this comment, but the more I think on it, the more I see it as applicable.

    It regards a not-inexpensive lesson, plus foolishness, fate, and fodder for meditation.

    As I may have mentioned previously, I fly infrequently, over the past decade or so just once a year when my daughter and I would visit my parents down south (FL). My daughter is now 20, starting her own career, and all of us pretty much understand that this will be the final summer for such things, as she isn’t going to have a week’s worth of vacation to burn as she finishes school and starts work. So when I booked our flight, after some thought, I decided to pull out the stops and go first class.

    I’ve never flown first class. I considered that it would be an interesting sociological experiment to experience it. And given the “last hurrah” aspect of the summer’s trip, I figured it was as good a time as any to do it.

    Well, we are not going to be flying first class and I, for all intents and purposes, just tossed $600 out the window.

    First, the foolishness. On the most basic level, it is my own d—- fault. When I was booking the round trip, I was paying attention to the numbers but not the full times (Am versus PM) and our return trip was 12 hours later than I thought it was. Instead of getting back to Milwaukee just before noon, we’d have been getting back just before midnight. I caught this detail when I received an update email from the airline notifying me of a fairly minor change in our schedule. When I looked into adjusting the return flight to the times I’d originally wanted, I was faced with the choice of paying several hundred dollars in change fees on top of the first class tickets I’d purchased, or giving up our first class seats for coach and using the fare difference to absorb the change fees. I chose the latter. (Technically, I have a small credit, but it must be used on that specific airline and is allocated–half each–to my daughter and I specifically. No transfers, no combining, etc. So the money is pretty much gone.)

    Secondly, the fate. I was not meant to fly first class, obviously. The twists in the plot here are too much for coincidence. I’ve done this every summer for something like 12 years. This is the first and only time something like this has occurred. For some reason, I am not to experience the thing I was looking to experience.

    So, fodder for meditation. Why? I will be meditating on this more (believe me!) but as I sat with this $600 lesson–which definitely served to get my attention, I can tell you–one of the things that surfaced was the artificiality of that upper class life as compared to the gritty such-ness of actual existence. To tie in with the post, the rarefied atmosphere of the airship versus the real world down below. I was having my attention called to this, apparently–and even my nose rubbed in it a bit.

    I have no great conclusions or world-shattering insights, but I thought it worthy of sharing with the group here.

  219. I’m not too impressed with this quiz

    https://hiddentribes.us/quiz/

    As it said, twice, that I’m a Passive Liberal whereas I actually fit the description of Politically Disengaged (the largest group). You can try it & see what you get.

  220. The SJW movement has always reminded me the vast “trial of white people” in Doris Lessings’ Shikasta, though n real life imagine things will end much messier and more violently than in the novel. Still, a book I imagine many here would enjoy.

  221. Re title: All this time I thought it was Weird of ‘HALL’ and when JMG typoed it as ‘HALI’ in a comment I was expecting commentary. Then I saw is a second time and did a search … yep I was wro … wro … not right!

    Re Renaissance Man / Harry Potter: Someone on here once made a reference to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (which I read and enjoyed more than the original) – in that on Voldemort and the Death Eaters were created as a strawman evil designed to be easily crushed by the good guy who eventually took on the role and who was dismayed and disgusted by the whole thing working. Giving up on the moral fortitude and intelligence of the ‘good guys’ and being dismayed by the ludicrous nature of his cartoon villains he treated them with the ‘respect’ they deserved as well.

    BB: re Arnie as Julius – Gaius Julius Caesar was but most accounts formidably intelligent, articulate, a great writer, a propagandist, a military strategist and extremely competent (all of which helped account for his wide range of dedicated enemies) … I don’t really know much out Arnold but he doesn’t *seem* to be a comparative…

    JMG: There was a clip of one of the new Democrat candidates who was saying something along the lines of “xx% of people believe their children will have a lower standard of living than they do … xx% … for the first time in history…” I am almost certain I have heard those words before relatively recently and I would be surprised if the folks living through the many declines of various civilisations before us had not uttered similar sentiments. Then again I am forgetting the ever upward course of progress aren’t I.

    RE UBI: Doesn’t that still run up against the same problem of who pays for it or is the expectation that there will be enough automation and enough people who want to work for higher than basic wage whose taxes will be sufficient to cover it?

  222. Pogonip–I wonder whether the outrage against the so-called terfs who point out the downsides of the medicalization of gender variance is partially fueled by some group behind the scenes who do not want a profitable business disrupted. I am old enough to remember when reputable surgeons wanted nothing to do with transexuals, as they were called then. I don’t advocate a return to that time, but some sort of professional safeguards seem in order. While recognizing that some (but not all) transwomen were made very happy by gender reassignment surgery, one can still worry that untested chemicals administered to prepubertal youth may have unfortunate effects, not mention the irreversible effects of surgery on the sexual organs. The dependence on artificial hormones for a lifetime is also a worry. But to question any part of the identification and treatment of trans youth is labeled as ‘violence.’

    On UBI–when my mother, my sister and I were landed immigrants in Canada in the 60s the provinces provided cash payments to all parents for each child. There was no means test. The payment was not enough to survive on, but was helpful. I was only 13 at the time, so not aware of much more than that. I assume there was some system to provide survival level payments for those in need. But the logic of giving payments to all parents was to make it something most people would support.

    On HPV vaccine for boys: the idea is to keep them from transmitting the virus to partners, not just to prevent oral cancers in the boys themselves. Herd immunity.

  223. @Rita:
    You are of course right, but the study I read proposed to justify HPV vaccination in boys based only on the prevention of oral cancer in men. Previous studies they cite had come to the conclusion that it might be better for everybody if vaccination rates in girls increased than to recommend vaccination in boys. I can’t tell, nor can I judge the incidence of adverse reactions which would nullify the benefits. I was simply shocked by the flat-out denial that there are any serious adverse effects.

  224. @David by the Lake,
    Re first class flying, you ‘re not missing anything. I’ve flown first class twice. The first time I slept the whole way on some throne-like highchair, exhausted from actual business. The second time, when my husband and I were awarded first class seats for some snafu, I was seated next to a 30ish child of the rich who proceeded to noisily consume a pizza he’d brought in and then sat with his itchy trigger finger on his cellphone the rest of the way, while my husband was seated next to some exceptionally loud businessmen, whom he ignored. I’d honestly pay extra to go economy, and I do pay extra to get the furthest back row possible. As I walk through first and business class, I feel gratitude to them for financially supporting the company for the rest of us.

  225. RE: UBI, a tangential thought: So I find it very interesting that both my 10 year old son, and my mother when she was child, both think/thought that there would be a pot of money waiting for them when they get to be an adult. It makes me wonder where this idea comes from. I guess I should be happy because my son feels well enough taken care of now that he can make assumptions about being taken care of as an adult. I don’t think it is because he doesn’t think he will have to work; I think it is an idea that you get money so you can be an adult. Inversely, there is a recognition that adulting requires money. My son has no experience with having a job as of yet (other than chores) so perhaps it is just hard for him to conceive of as of yet.
    Taking off from this, I have also thought long and hard about the probability that our youth are being done a serious disservice by not being required to work. In days past, a child might work in a shop or field alongside their parents. It would become immediately obvious from a young age what industry and creativity and buying and selling and earning and such would look like and require. Thus the child is encouraged to serious study in school as available and serious composure towards the things of life as the child begins to slowly conceive of their possible future. In contrast to today’s high schoolers who settle for D’s and focus their attentions on peers and the latest entertainment stars. Then we want them to get out of a high school and be serious and go to college or trade school and instead they flounder around in an extended adolescence for 5-7 more years.

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