The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Not My Friend

One of the reasons that Deep Space Nine was my favorite of the post Original Series Star Trek is that the writers got to make some pretty bold moves. One of the boldest and most insightful, I feel, was their choice of what to do with the Mirrorverse from one of the Original Series’ strongest episodes.

In the Mirrorverse, the Federation was the Terran Empire: a bloodthirsty, dictatorial and ruthless state. And Vulcans were pretty much Romulans. During their brief sojourn in the Mirrorverse, our own universe’s Kirk tried to convince the Mirrorverse’s Spock to try overthrowing the Terran Empire in favor of a Federation. In DS9, we got to see the results.

Turns out that Mirror Spock had been quite successful at the overthrowing the Empire part. Unfortunately, that merely left the Empire in enough trouble that its subject peoples plus the Klingons and Romulans had easily conquered Earth and made humanity into a slave race. And they were still enslaved about a century later.

The Original Series had made an unwarranted assumption, and it is one that uneducated “revolutionaries” make to this day: that when an oppressive system is toppled, freedom and justice will naturally follow. They do not. To establish them requires hard work, and it is not often hard work that the “revolutionaries” are equipped to do. To take a few examples, it must have seemed to the Aztecs’ subject races that the Spaniards — whose God, notably did not demand human sacrifice — were their liberators. The French believed that toppling the nobles, and later the king, would bring them equality, liberty and brotherhood. What they got was the Committee Of Public Safety, the Reign of Terror, and Napoleon. Aleksandr Kerensky had a chance to establish a Russian Republic when the Czar’s oppression was overthrown, as did Yeltsin when the Soviet Union fell apart. They were succeeded by Lenin and Putin respectively, and the only thing better about Putin is that he isn’t using starvation as a tool for mass murder, as far as I know.

Overthrowing oppressive systems isn’t very hard, even when it isn’t easy. Not replacing it with an enemy that’s even worse is the trick.

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Dear Stabby: The Politics of Gratitude

Dear Stabby: I’m in the process of molding my patient’s political views. He’s fifteen and just waking up to the idea that politics are interesting. But which political viewpoint should I strive to instill in him. I know that the best way is usually to simply make him rebel hard against his parents’ political positions, but they hardly pay attention to politics. Haven’t voted in years, in fact. So I have little to help me there.
I can see little in America’s political situation to help me either. On the one hand, steering him toward the Democratic Party has the advantage of making him hostile to Christianity, and would put him strongly in the camp of a majority that generally despises the Church.
On the other hand, the Republican Party has the advantage of alienating him from most of his peers, and being just as hostile to the spirit of the Gospel while hypocritically claiming to support it. Which is better for making sure the vile little creature never comes to Christ?

Sincerely,
Wondering In Wichita

Dear Wondering,

What I’m wondering is whether you haven’t spent so much time among humans that you’re starting to be as dull and taken in by appearances as they are. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that you are beginning with the wrong question entirely.

For over a hundred years now, one of the grand strategies we have been pursuing is the division of humanity into two great warring camps. In fact, the beginnings of this struggle can be seen as far back as human history goes, right into their earliest codes of written law. And like all of our greatest attacks on their virtue, it has its genesis in the fundamental contradictions of their very creation.

As we and the humans share the distinction of being spiritual beings, we know that we are unequal to each other. The fact that the Enemy insists, in the face of every bit of evidence, that spirits are somehow “equal before Him” is the most ridiculous piece of propaganda He has ever spouted. But spiritual inequalities can be, and usually are, concealed by lies of our own. But humans are also animals, and they are, of course unequal in that plane of existence as well. And the absurdity of any pretense that they really are equal in strength, health, intelligence or cunning, let alone possessions and wealth, is what drives their separation into two camps: what humans often call the haves and the have-nots.

Now the human response, and ours, seeing that the worlds are unequal, is the same: war for conquest. What I have, I propose to keep. What you have, I propose to take. It is the only rational response. The Enemy, of course, calls these obvious truths Sin, as he always does when His irrationality is challenged, naming them respectively Greed and Envy. But whereas we disdain to conceal the truth, the humans, who never stop pretending to love “justice” and “virtue,” must conceal with any number of justifications, coming up with reasons that they are “allowed” to keep what they have and take what they want. Being an American, your patient will probably soon encounter the terms “the politics of greed” and “the politics of envy.” The fact that they are being discussed in such bald-faced terms is actually a setback for us: we would much prefer to cloak their natures in politically-obscure terms such as “conservativism” and “liberalism,” or “capitalism” and “socialism/communism,” or whatever fatuity the humans are espousing and denouncing today.

But so long as the humans are taught to refer to the other side as “the politics of sin” and taught to embrace their own sin as righteousness, we have already won. In America we are closer every day to the time that the humans in each camp will clutch their own sin to their breasts as they would their children (even tighter than their children. Their children, after all, might join the other camp) and fight for its triumph over the sins of their fellow humans. And therefore, whoever wins, we do as well. We have exactly what we want: two groups of people living in a house that is burning down, fighting each other over whether gasoline or kerosene will best extinguish the blaze.

The humans never even consider the Enemy’s way: that there might be a politics of gratitude. That there might be a politics of humility. It is, of course, written in that wretched book of theirs that they should take no thought for what they should eat, or what they should wear, and trust the Enemy to provide “daily bread.” But it is no more in their nature to obey such ridiculous commands than it is in ours. And if anyone ever does suggest that such qualities might be the bedrock upon which a strong state could be founded, as some Americans did two centuries ago (Yes, Americans!) then it is a simple task (which has taken far longer than it ought to have) to point out the hypocrisy of it, and to bring in those who will make others’ “gratitude” an excuse for their own hoarding, and others’ “generosity” an excuse for their own theft.

So rest easy and pick a side. It doesn’t matter how your wretched patient goes to Hell, just that he gets here in the end, believing that he is blazing a trail to heaven.

Your sincere well-wisher

Stabby

An Open Letter To Lori Loughlin, Mossimo Giannulli, Felicity Huffman, Manuel Henriquez, et al. and Their Children

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You don’t know me, and you never will. That, I suppose, is what this whole issue comes down to, really: who will get to be “known” for their work and education, and who will remain in obscurity. So I suppose an introduction is in order.

My name is Scott Huggins. In 1992, I graduated from Wichita High School South. I was born into a middle-class family, where both my parents worked. My father was an aerospace engineer and my mother was an elementary school teacher.

I graduated with National Merit Scholarship, which I had earned by virtue of scoring something like 224 (I don’t remember exactly) out of the then-perfect 240 points on the PSAT. My SAT score was 1510 (a perfect score was 1600 in 1992) and my ACT score was 33. These scores were mine. I earned them fairly, and by dint of much study, practice, and the aid of some half-dozen books and the coaching efforts of my public school’s college counselor.

You see, I had been told that study and hard work, coupled with intelligence, could get me into any school in the nation. And I believed that. I went through the process of applying to Georgetown, which was my dream school because of its academy of Foreign Service. I wanted to be a diplomat. I wrote, as I recall, at least six separate essays.

And I got in. I want you to understand that, because I’m not quite sure that any of you grasp what that means: I got in on my own merit. I did what you had to pretend to the world that your children are capable of.

But the problem, you see, is that the National Merit Scholarship that I won was only $2000 per semester. $2000, matched against the cost of a Georgetown education which was, at that time, $20,000 per year for tuition alone. I called Georgetown and asked what merit scholarships were available there. And I listened as they explained that no such things existed. Only need-based scholarships would be offered, and the only people considered to have genuine “need” were those in abject poverty. I remember being taken through the formulas and having it explained to me that, according to Georgetown, my parents should have no problem expending over a third of their combined salaries on my education.

I remember my father sitting me down and explaining – and he hardly needed to: as should be evident by now, I was not stupid – that this was impossible. And of course it was. I remember him bitterly saying that perhaps the best thing he could do for his children would be to quit his job and begin drinking himself to death. That would have established “need,” after all. Or I could have taken on about $100,000 in student debt.

So I did not go to Georgetown. Instead, someone like your children went to Georgetown. Someone whose scores were paid for, whose essays were paid for, and whose tuition was paid for, so that they could be our country’s leaders. I wonder if that person is a Congressman, or a Senator, or a bestselling author because of the connections they made. And I wonder if, without people like you, there might have been merit scholarships for me. Because the qualified pool of students would assuredly have been much smaller. I will, of course, never know. Because I went to Kansas State University. Both it and the University of Kansas offered me full rides because of the National Merit Scholarship I had earned.

At Kansas State University I received excellent opportunities and a good education. I got to know some brilliant professors. I was able to do two years abroad, studying for one year in Russia and for another year in Germany. I ended up graduating with only about $6000 of debt, which put me ahead of the game. I went on to get a Master of Arts at Michigan State University, where I earned another fellowship. That education cost me nothing but my efforts.

In time, I came to see that the opportunities and lessons that I learned at Kansas State were at least the equal of those that I would have learned at Georgetown. There, I could never have taken two years to explore the world. I would have been locked into that course of study. I suppose the power and credentials I missed at Georgetown are also gone, and they will never come again. Even so, I would not trade them for the experiences I did forge in my travels. No, not for the world.

I wonder if you understand yet what this is about. You see, it’s not about me being cheated out of what I earned, though you and those like you surely did that.  It’s about the fact that you have cheated, not me, but your own children, out of the knowledge and experiences that are now mine. They will never know that they could have won admission to Georgetown on their own. They will never know what it is like to explore the world by their own power and merits. They will never really have an education. Because you have ensured that they will never really need one. You have bought your children credentials, and you have sold their self-knowledge, their earned merit, and their true experience of the world they live in. Socrates would have said that you only damage their souls and yours by your behavior, but then, neither you nor they will ever have read Socrates. And for that I pity them. For that, they should curse you. Unfortunately, neither you nor they are likely ever to understand why.

So I do not curse you for depriving me and those like me of our educations. You cannot take education from those truly determined to have it. Because we educate ourselves wherever we are – or we fail to – every day. And your incomprehension of that earns not my anger, but my contempt. No, what earns my anger is that you have taken those credentials from young men and women who would have earned them, and placed the power that comes with them in the hands of little minds. Minds forever stunted and shrunken because you would not allow them the failure and the effort needed to grow them. Much like the “athletic” scholarships you also bought, given in the name of bodies that never needed to grow as strong as the athletes they pretended to be would have. And the power that you have given, unearned, unwept for, untrained for, will determine the course of our nation. You will influence what you do not understand in place of all of us who understand what we will never influence. This nation, for whom generations of my ancestors toiled, sweated, and bled: for this nation you and your children not only show contempt, you will contemptuously direct it until either you or it – or, God help us, both – will come to ruin. Because they will not have the education or the experience to do otherwise. For that, unless you repent, may you be damned.

I cherish no illusion that you will. I cherish no illusion that you will ever read this letter. You pay people to keep you and your children safe from the truth. God, how sad is that? You do not believe in damnation, you do not believe in God, and most importantly for the purposes of this discussion, you do not believe in people like me. You do not believe we are people at all. Not real people. We are only your audience. The unwashed masses whose very purpose is to cheer you on and buy what you sell us. This letter is, in the final analysis, not really for you, unless you by some miracle really do choose to change. It’s for those like me who will recognize themselves in this. It is for those of us who earned their own way, whether or not we ever got to travel it. Those of us who worked our own jobs. Those who read their own books. Those who wrote their own papers. Those who really learned. Those of us who did must remember that we will always have what you have taken from your own children: ability and knowledge of what is real.

One last word, and this to you children, who have found yourselves in college by such means: I do not blame you, especially you poor souls who were told that you had won your places by your own merits. You are not to blame for your parents’ sins. I don’t even particularly blame you children who knew what was going on, and cheated anyway. I can at least say that I know I would not have cheated – at least, not as I am. But if I had been raised by your parents, and had these things explained to me as being just what was my due and how the world works, I might well have done so. You are not as innocent, but you are even more to be pitied. At least those who were ignorant were not told that cheating and lies were what education was all about.

No, the blame lies with your parents. Make no mistake: you and they have taken the education that people like me earned fairly. Neither I nor they will never know what the cost of that was. But justice will come to you. It always does. In the most profound sense, it already has.

What do I want you to do? I sincerely doubt that anyone who should be asking that question has read this far. But in case you have, I ask only this:

Parents, repent. I mean that. Confess your guilt. Admit it without excuse or bargaining. Accept the consequences freely. And then, when that is over, spend the same money you spent to get your own children into a top-ranked college to give someone in my position a scholarship. A merit scholarship. A scholarship that can be earned by anyone – ANYONE – who applies. And see that it is given fairly. That is what you should do.

Students, repent. Go to your deans and confess what happened. Admit it without excuse or bargaining. Accept the consequences freely. Go to a different school if you have to. One you can earn your way into. If your parents can still pay for that, by all means let them. There’s no shame in that: it’s what honest parents do for their children if they can.
And if you can stay in the school you’re in? Then learn. Make the most of those opportunities. Don’t slack off. Don’t pay others to do the work you have been trusted to do. We’re all counting on you. Be worthy of it.

And I hope you enjoy our education.

Sincerely,
Scott Huggins

White Supremacist Milk (A Fisking)

Gosh, I haven’t used the “politics” category in some time. But then PETA. So here goes. Original article in italics, my responses in bold.

Why Cow’s Milk Is the Perfect Drink for Supremacists

As when Christoph Waltz’s character in Inglorious Bastards drinks a glass of milk and a character in a pivotal scene of Get Out sips the cow secretion, dairy milk has long been embraced as a symbol of white supremacy.

If by “long” you mean “since the ancient days of 2017,” then okay.

Geneticists are alarmed that white nationalists—who are now using milk emojis and sharing photos of themselves chugging milk to celebrate their “whiteness”—are contorting science and using it as an excuse to hate.

“Contorting,” says the person trying to make the argument that if white supremacists like something, then you liking that thing makes you a white supremacist. And who is blissfully unaware that 4chan and reddit do this regularly just to screw with people: “Let’s all say we like this so people have to think it’s racist!”

In a recent article in The New York Times, evolutionary biologists state that because of a genetic mutation among Europeans, white people are more likely to be able to digest lactose. White nationalists are arguing that being able to drink another animal’s breast milk somehow indicates that they’re of the “master race”—good grief!

Well, any group of people who can use a food source another group can’t will certainly have an evolutionary advantage. But master race status seems a stretch. But they’re not so much arguing as trolling.

Of course, it was found that the genetic mutation that allows some humans to digest milk also occurs in black African cattle farmers. That should make racists think twice.

Thinking twice would make them not racist. But, then, thinking twice would have averted this article, for those very reasons, so you can’t exactly point fingers, can you?

All we can say is this: Human supremacists need to start thinking about other species’ interests in not being exploited.

Exploited: you mean like by people who kill animals so they can feel morally superior? Yeah, PETA: that would suck.

Aside from “lactose-tolerant” white supremacists, cow’s milk really is the perfect drink of choice for all (even unwitting) supremacists, since the dairy industry inflicts extreme violence on other living beings. PETA is trying to wake people up to the implications of choosing this white beverage and suggesting that they choose something else pronto.

Control Over Their Bodies

Rape is perhaps the single most heinous crime involving both power and violence.

Not murder. Murder is less heinous than rape. Just want to make sure I understand that. Gotcha.

But it’s standard procedure in the dairy industry. Like all mammals, cows produce milk only during and after pregnancy, so roughly every nine months, cows on dairy farms are forcibly impregnated so that their milk production will continue. They’re restrained on what the farmers themselves call “rape racks” while insemination instruments are shoved into their vaginas.

As opposed to in the wild, where bulls always ask consent before copulating with cows. Yes. I believe that.

Their babies are taken away immediately after birth, and the mothers are re-impregnated as soon as possible. Male calves typically end up chained inside crates so that their flesh becomes diseased for the veal industry, while female calves will eventually end up trapped in the same cycle of abuse as their mothers were.

These cows have no choice about what’s done to them.

They never did. They’re cows. In the wild, they’d have no choice about getting parasites and being eaten by mountain lions and wolves.

Their horns are burned or gouged out of their heads,

By veterinarians so they won’t gouge other cows with them. 

part of their tails may be cut off, and holes are punched through their ears.

Said the member of the species who does this for aesthetic reasons.

Suffering inside cramped, filthy enclosures, they’re forced to produce nearly 10 times as much milk as they would naturally.

Some people might be surprised to learn that cows used by the dairy industry are slaughtered after about five years because their bodies are so spent from being kept constantly pregnant.

I would be surprised. Because the dairy industry knows that cows are at their most productive after their sixth year of life and take pains to keep them that way. Actually, “surprised” is just a cool way of saying, “that’s bullshit.”

At the slaughterhouse, their throats are slit while they’re still conscious and some are skinned or dismembered while still alive.

Control Over Your Mind

It’s not “natural” for people to drink cow’s milk, which is meant for newborn calves. Humans are the only animals who drink the milk of another species and who drink milk beyond infancy.

Also the only species to build and use the internet to post bullshit. Thanks, cow’s milk!

The dairy industry spends millions funding misleading ad campaigns that urge people to drink cow’s milk, when medical studies show that dairy products are a health hazard. Unlike soy or almond milk, for instance, cow’s milk contains no fiber or complex carbohydrates and is full of saturated animal fat and cholesterol.

Also unlike almond milk, it doesn’t contain trace amounts of cyanide. But thanks for playing.

Consuming dairy products is also linked to developing heart disease as well as prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer.

Not consuming them is liked to malnutrition. Because also unlike almond and soy milk, dairy milk doesn’t cost $8.00 a gallon. You know how many gallons of almond milk it takes to kill a child in poverty?

None.

Might Doesn’t Make Right

Before you pour a glass of the “white stuff,” please remember that it isn’t the “right stuff,” unless it’s almond, soy, oat, coconut, or another vegan milk option.

You actually think you made a point by rhyming, don’t you?

If you feel that all life should be free of violent control, choose soy, almond, rice, cashew, or coconut milk the next time that you go shopping or order coffee.

Nope, in fact, I’m 100% in favor of certain life being subject to violent control. Some criminal is breaking into my house? They’re alive, and I’d prefer they not be. Large animal charges at me? Same thing. The animals are pretty much cool with this, too. That’s why cows have horns. In fact, even YOU, PETA, are completely okay with life being subject to violent control, when you think it best.

With so many different types of cruelty-free, delicious milks on the market, opposing supremacists has never been easier.

Or more hypocritical!

 

The LEGO Movie: How To Build A Bridge

My last post got me thinking about why I liked The LEGO Movie so much, and it occurred to me that along with the more cliche tripe the movie spouted (The Wise Child, Everyone Is Special)* there was a more subtle point that was made, which really is a good thing for children to learn, and a wise thing even for adults to consider.

In what might be considered the turning point of the film, Emmet, our putative hero, is disrespected by everyone on his own side. He doesn’t have the talents and skills they do to build whatever he imagines. If it weren’t for the prophecy, they wouldn’t even let him near them.

But then Emmet does a fascinating thing. Without ever conceding the rightness of their cause (freeing LEGOland from the tyranny and perfectionism of the evil Lord Business and stopping his plan to Krazy Glue all the sets in place), Emmet points out the inherent weaknesses of the Master Builders: Firstly, they are all such individualists that they cannot formulate and stick to a coherent plan of action as a group. Secondly, they are so dedicated to looking iconic, all their activities are easily tracked and recognized.

The strengths of Lord Business’s robot collective follow from that: he doesn’t need to rely on Master Builders (admittedly, that’s partly because he imprisons and mind-controls them) to be powerful: the instructions allow even people like Emmet to be part of building awesome things. Moreover, he can get things done consistently.

And Emmet then proceeds to use the lessons he learned following instructions to sneak through Lord Business’s security and harness the Master Builders together as an effective team. He acknowledges the strengths of his opponent, and uses them.

It is a valuable lesson to teach our children that opposing someone does not mean denying that they possess any worthwhile attributes. We must teach them that any person, any system, including themselves and including systems that they must defend to the death — like a representative democratic republic, just to name one — has its own strengths and weaknesses to be celebrated and compensated for. They have their admirable qualities, and their despicable qualities. This is a lesson for adults to bear in mind as well. Obviously, it would be a terrible thing if, within our own nation, we descended into such distrust and antipathy for one another that we started treating one another as vermin to be destroyed (ahem!)

I could go on, but I feel that my readers are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions from here. He that hath an ear, and all.

*Although given the comments about “stuff you might find on cat posters” it’s a safe bet the writers knew exactly how cheesy they were being, and were more than willing to poke fun at their own theme.

The Politics Of The Future

This may be a dangerous post to write, but what the hell.

The old saying goes that you shouldn’t talk politics or religion on mixed company. Of course, lots of science-fiction deals with politics and religion, but most of the time, they are utopias or dystopias that extol the virtues or expose the dangers of whatever systems the author feels like dealing with. And so the political systems of the future are full of Empires, as in The Mote In God’s Eye, or Star Wars. For democratic socialists we have Star Trek‘s Federation, and for libertarians we have Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold.

Historically, though, we see that “new” political systems tend to be 1) surprising and 2) not all that new. The two examples in recent history that have achieved success in spreading throughout the world may be worth looking at, here, which are the American-style constitutional republic and the Soviet-style one-party socialist state.

It’s worth remembering that in 1787, there were no functioning large republics or democracies in the world. It was widely believed that such a thing could not work. And yet not only did the American system thrive, its Enlightenment ideals spread through the European states, encouraging their liberalization over the next centuries into functioning republics themselves.

In 1917, the chaos of World War I led to the Soviets seizing control of the Russian Empire. While this system did not thrive in the same way, it certainly spread, and resentment against imperialism and colonialism and the inequalities found in capitalism ensures that it continues to have its supporters despite its disastrous legacy of approximately 100 million directly killed.

Of course, it’s quite possible to argue that neither of these things are precisely “new” forms of government (and that communism isn’t a government, but an economic system, which is both true and stupid, since it’s an economic system that necessitates and advocates a certain style of government), but if that’s the case we might as well go all the way and cite the Iron Law Of Oligarchy: All governments inevitably devolve into oligarchy. But that ends the discussion I’m interested in, which is this:

Is there any room for, and are we capable of imagining, a truly future system of government, one that has never been attempted, or has been attempted only on a very small scale? Honestly, there are only two examples I can think of, one of which has become cliche and the other that’s unclear. In the first, we have Government By Computer. This is almost always a dystopia, as the idea of being ruled by a hypercapable God-machine is rather frightening on its face. The other is Dan Simmons’s hyperdemocratic All Thing in his Hyperion novels, in which there is a fairly direct democracy mediated by the equivalent of the Web. However, this government does elect an Executive that runs humans space, so it’s not really as direct a democracy as all that.

Edited To Add: I can’t believe I forgot to include Ursula LeGuin’s excellent The Dispossessed, which is unique for me in that it a) imagines a form of anarcho-socialism that I actually find semi-plausible, and b) admits to flaws in such a society that significantly hurt the protagonist without being c) dystopian socialism. 

I’d be interested in hearing people’s thoughts on this, as well as being directed to any works that explore this that I’m not conscious of.

I Have No Enemies…

There’s an old story about Josef Stalin that alleges that the Communist leader and mass murderer called for a priest on his deathbed. Seeing as Stalin had been a terror to the Church, the priest tasked with this duty was frightened, but determined to tell the truth. In a shaking voice, he told Stalin that he must forgive his enemies. To his surprise, the dictator smiled and said, “That will be quite unnecessary, Father. I have no enemies.” Finding this impossible to believe, the priest summoned his courage and asked how that was possible. Stalin replied, “I’ve had them all executed.”

I watched the James Bond film, SPECTRE last night. It was pretty much a uniformly awful movie, with a predictable plot and nothing in it that hasn’t been done before and better by earlier Bond movies, notably the superb From Russia With Love, which the screenwriter had obviously seen approximately 472 times, but had failed to understand.

One of the worst features of the film was its depressing predictability: James comes home to find that “C,” a new politician, is considering dropping the 00 program entirely in favor of electronic assets. It is clear within 5 minutes of his appearance that C is either the ultimate bad guy of the film, or in direct cahoots with him, and C is indeed unmasked as a traitor in the service of Blofeld (whose motivation was apparently to dominate the world because he was jealous that he had to share a few hours of his daddy’s attention with James when they were both teenagers, which makes him the most ridiculous temper-tantrum thrower of a world-dominating villain since Anakin Skywalker in Episode II, but I digress).

The reason I bring it up is because it really highlights the feature of what seems like a lot of movies these days: anyone troubling the hero must be the worst villain imaginable. It seems as if it is no longer possible for the hero to be saddled with someone who is (even temporarily) perhaps an asshole, but on the same side. For C to consider dismantling the 00 program, he does not have to be a traitor. He can still be a problem James has to solve, of course. In fact, he’s a much more challenging problem if he is loyal, because then James can’t simply kill him.

Movies weren’t always this way. As recently as Pirates of the Caribbean it was perfectly possible for the heroes to have opponents, such as, Captain Norrington, who are kind of assholes and who have to be circumvented, but who are, when it comes down to it, on the same side against the pirate-zombies and who are reasonably brave and not traitors.

One of the most extreme examples of the decline in this sort of thing is the mockumentary CSA: The Confederate States of America. A much better film than SPECTRE, it imagines a Ken Burns-style alternate history in which the United States was defeated and wholly assimilated into the Confederate States in a short Civil War, after which slavery was legal up to the present day. That this is a dystopia is obvious, but the screenwriters take it to such extremes as to imagine the United States being sympathetic to Hitler in the 1930s while at the same time going to war with Japan in the 1940s. How this bit of political gymnastics works out is never explained. The film even goes so far as to have the Confederate States sneak attack the Imperial Japanese Navy in Tokyo Bay on December 7th, 1941.

You can see what they have done here: the Confederate States of 1941 must not only be evil, (as, granted, they surely would have been), they must be so evil that they cannot experience the injustice of a sneak attack themselves. They are literally incapable of being wronged. If the Japanese had launched the war as they did historically, and bombed a Confederate fleet at Pearl Harbor, then we might, horror of horrors, be forced to imagine that something even worse than a Confederacy might exist. Like people who might, say, perpetrate the Rape of Nanking, which of course, the Japanese did.

I see in these films a symptom of something I find to be ugly and dangerous. The idea that being challenged in our preconceptions and beliefs about what is best (or worst) is equivalent to an attack that must be met with lethal force and no shred of mercy. And that is indeed frightening.

From Somewhere In Orbit

A Report on the Curious Culture and Religion of the Acirema

As we approach the anniversary of a certain election, I have chosen another column to reprint.

A Report on the Curious Culture and Religion of the Acirema

by

An Alien Visitor

As told to

G. Scott Huggins

Dear Sirs, Mesdames, Glooquot[1],and  Mechaniqa[2]:

I submit herewith my xenological report on the most curious culture to inhabit planet 73SXB1089, called in the major local language, Dirt. The most powerful economic and military culture on the planet is that of the Acirema, who have evolved a religio-political system that I believe to be unprecedented in the known galaxy.

The institution of the God-King is, of course, well documented and known to us all, the hallmark of a thousand primitive cultures. What sets the Acirema apart is their particular variant upon this theme: in their common religion, the central ceremony is the election, every four years, of a God-President. This is a very complicated process, and affects every aspect of Acirema life. The Acirema religion is atypical in many ways, the chief being: 1) The religion has aspects of both monism and dualism. 2) The religion relies on both faith and magic. 3) They deny that they share the same religion. 4) They deny that it is a religion at all.

Overview:

The Acirema overwhelmingly belong to one of two sects. They have many names among themselves, and among each other, both self-glorifying (for their own sect) and pejorative (for the other). However, the two names that seem to be most in use are the Tarcomed and the Pog. The two sects claim to be as different from one another as possible, but for at least the past few decades their actions have grown more and more indistinguishable, to the point that only experts can tell them apart. The two sects themselves, however, vehemently deny this, so it is instructive to look at the major similarities.

Dualism:

Both sides, every four Dirt years, throw all of the efforts of their disciples into electing the next God-President, which is always one of two Chosen Prophets, one from each sect. Yet both sides have agreed that no God-President shall be elected more than twice, regardless of how well he performs the office. It is an article of faith that this would lead to corruption, as if eight years were not long enough a time to be corrupted. The disciples preach to the masses, who are at least nominal followers of the sects themselves, in order to encourage them to participate in the voting ceremony. The devotion of the masses does lie in some doubt, as it has been many years, if ever, that even half have participated in the actual ceremony. Yet even those who decline to participate in the ceremony itself (which is surprisingly prosaic and unmystical, being simply a matter of counting votes and then multiplying them by a formula based on place of habitation) devote quite a bit of time to watching and listening to the disciples, and chanting formulas in support or dissent of the two sects’ Chosen Prophets. Each side is certain that only their Chosen Prophet, as God-President, can save Acirema from poverty, war, corruption, and tyranny, while the election of the other Chosen Prophet will bring about all these things. So in this sense, the religion is dualistic, with the true believers of each sect certain that the other’s Chosen Prophet will be a God-President of Evil and Darkness.

Monism:

However, once in office, the current God-President is praised (by the disciples of his own sect) for all good things that may happen within the realm of Acirema, while he is universally reviled (by the disciples of the other sect) for all possible bad things. Even those who claim to follow neither sect generally attribute the good or the bad to the decisions and the character of the God-President, whoever he may be. In this sense, therefore, the religion of the Acirema is monistic, as everything that takes place is an aspect of his rule. The chief priests, who go about instilling this belief in the worshippers, are called the “media,” not because they mediate between the people and their God-President, but because they are the only mediators of His decisions and statements to them.

Faith and Magic:

It would be natural to assume that the Acirema might fear and revere their God-President’s power simply because it is vast and unlimited like that of any tyrant, but a short review of their Law (which is indeed fairly well-enforced, though not commonly well-understood or thoroughly read) reveals that this is not so, and that the power attributed to him is entirely based on superstition and faith. The best example of such faith is the miraculous control that they attribute to the God-President over the economy. Yet a cursory review of their Law will show that the God-President has very little power over their sprawling economy, not even the power to make laws. That power is vested in a temple which, every two years they fill with what appears to be a college of wizards (also divided into Tarcomed and Pog sects), who try to influence the economy by what I can only describe as legislemancy: a series of written spells designed to make those who have elected them richer, and those who support their opponents poorer. The spells are so arcane that even many of the wizards no longer know their contents, let alone their eventual consequences. The practice does have this advantage for them, however: since no consequence of the legislemancy can ever be known for sure, there is no effect that cannot be successfully claimed as a triumph for one sect or the other. It is therefore understandable (and one of the last remaining signs of sanity in Acirema culture) that the people’s distrust of these wizards is such that the Acirema have given their temple a name that can mean both the opposite of progress and indiscriminate sexual intercourse (proving that for all their other faults, the Acirema are skilled wordsmiths and ironists). In recent years, the sectarian wizardry has grown more and more oppositional, and the result, of course is that very little gets accomplished. This seems to have been designed into the system by the authors of the Law, who were quite obviously wiser than the current Acirema. This congress, as they call it, however, serves only to reinforce their faith in the power of the God-President.

Identity of Practice:

Both sects have therefore given to the God-President more and more power, seemingly unaware of the fact that the power they give to the God-President that they support carries over to the one they oppose. Both sects encourage their God-President to fight the other sect to the uttermost, both beseech him to wield the full force of the Law without mercy over the other sect, and both call upon him to see that he extends the force of the Law and his powers of government so that more and more of their money will be taken and spent by the government.  So in this way, we may see that the religion they practice is truly the same.

Denial of Faith:

One must be careful, however, when traveling among them, never to refer to their religion as such, for both sects will violently deny that it is a religion at all. While much variance on the matter exists within each sect, the Tarcomed are most likely to deny that such a thing as God exists, which may account for their devotion to (or hatred for) the current God-President, as they have no other deity in which to repose their trust. However, even more curious are the Pog, who generally profess to worship another, and far older god. A review of the local literature revealed that this alleged god supposedly came to Earth as a man, and preached love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, all of which are markedly absent from Acirema religious debate, aside from the fact that both sects do claim to possess these qualities, while believing their opponents lack them entirely. However, as neither the Pog nor the Tarcomed spend even a quarter of the time discussing or practicing the tenets of this minor “religion” as they do their major one, we may safely discount this quaint folkway as having any real effect upon their actions or beliefs.

Conclusion:

The Acirema are, for now, in a very strange and possibly dangerous religious phase of their culture. There is some evidence that in the past, a saner approach to politics, and we may assume, religion, took place, in which the Acirema recognized that policies rather than superstition and sectarian purity were more likely to affect their economic and diplomatic fortunes, but few, if any of that generation survive today, and since age is not well-respected among the Acirema, any testimony from them can be dismissed as “reactionary” and “out-of-touch.” We may only hope that their children may be as much wiser than the current Acirema as their ancestors were, and hope for more fruitful contact at a later time.

[1] Untranslatable gender

[2] Intelligent machines

One Last Hopeless Plea: The College

Dear Electors:

Well, here you are. You have the chance, some of you, the ones who live in states where your faithlessness will matter, to change the outcome of this election. To take it away from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and boot it to the House of Representatives, where perhaps someone more qualified might be considered. And you, by casting your electoral vote for someone other than either of these two horrendous choices, you can allow the House to consider that person for President.

Much has been made of the idea that the Electoral College violates the will of the people. It of course does no such damn thing. It is meant, as Hamilton wrote in Federalist 39, to make certain that the election of the President is determined both by the people AND by the states, so that the President is chosen both Nationally and Federally (and if you don’t grasp this distinction and why it matters, please don’t bother commenting).

But of course, as stated in Federalist 68, the function of the College is also to prevent “foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

It’s rather plain that Russia has done this. Oh, not that Trump is a willing puppet in their pay, as such, but certainly he is their candidate of choice. I can only ask if we really feel that it is prudent to elect a man that Russia so ardently desires to see in the Oval Office? You are the safeguard against that:

“But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment. … Thus without corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election will at least enter upon the task free from any sinister bias.”

That’s YOU!

And if we must discuss the will of the people, I would point out that the primary election proved that neither Trump nor Clinton is the choice of the people of Kansas (where I live). That would be Sanders and Cruz. And Kansas electors are NOT BOUND by the state to vote for anyone but who they think is the best choice. So, Kansas Republicans, why NOT vote for Ted Cruz. I mean, what have you got to lose? It’s not as though the Republican-controlled House is going to elect Clinton, right? If you vote for Cruz and DON’T throw it to the House, we get Trump. And that’s almost certainly what’s going to happen. Never in history have rogue electors decided an election. But then again, never in history have we elected a man as unqualified as Donald Trump. But hey, at least you won’t have been to blame for him. But if enough of you go rogue then maybe — MAYBE — we get Cruz. Or Kasich. Who for all their faults are at least semi-sane.

Come on, Kansas. And all you other good Republicans and Conservatives out there. Let’s make history  in a good way.

From Somewhere In Orbit

Fear Itself: Why I Wear The Safety Pin. A Promise.

When Franklin Roosevelt said that the people of the United States had nothing to fear but fear itself, he was speaking of the fear of failure that had locked the United States into the Great Depression. Because people were afraid that all businesses would fail, they would invest no money, and without investors, no businesses could succeed.

Today, in the wake of last month’s election, we have many fearful people. Truth be told, we had many fearful people before the results of the election. The fear has not changed, for the most part. But the quality of the fear, and how it is being expressed, has changed immeasurably.

I was wrong about the way this election would turn out. The only consolation I have about that is that I was in very good company. But the reasons for my error are a topic for another time. It is apparent to me, and, I think, to many others, that one of the reasons the election played out as it did was the fear that permeates our society: the fear that caused us to be so very nearly evenly divided, and the fear that caused us to back two such hugely unpopular candidates.

It is my belief that this election turned out the way it did for two closely related reasons: that many people are afraid, and that we do not care that other people are afraid. I cannot tell you how many of my friends who chose to support Donald Trump did so because they believed that the government of the past eight years has actively scorned their fears.  And they were told by supporters of that government that if they were afraid, it was because they were stupid or because they deserved it. And now those people voted for Donald Trump, and the result is that we have a whole other set of people who are afraid of what will happen to them. And already I am hearing Trump supporters, and others, disparage those fears, as if they are not worth having. I greatly sympathize with the people who do have those fears, because as I said before the election, Donald Trump has said things that, I believe, any person who cares for Constitutional government should be afraid of.

Now, I think it is plain that many of these people have already experienced cause to be afraid. My friend, Jim Hines, wrote an eloquent request to those of you who chose to support Donald Trump in this election. I think it is well worth reading. There are many people out there who have been emboldened by this man to do and say terrible things. I can add some. On election day, a friend of mine, who is black, had his tires slashed while he voted. I don’t know if that was politically or racially motivated (he himself did not say), but if I were him, I would think so. At church two weeks ago, a friend told me that his adopted cousin, from Colombia, who has been a citizen since childhood, was told by no less than four people this week that she could “go home now.”

This angers me beyond my capacity to express. The Republican Party was the party that freed slaves. It was the party of Abraham Lincoln. If conservatives stand for anything good in this nation, and we had damn well better, it means that we stand up for the rule of law. It means that we stand up for the rights of our citizens. It means that we protect them from anyone who would dare to harass them based on their religion, their skin color, their ethnicity, or their expressed political views. Conservatives follow and uphold the laws. We do not break them, and we do not support, by action or inaction, those who would break the law because they are on our “side.” Such an attitude is the betrayal and antithesis of ethical conservative  principles.

I did not support Donald Trump in this election. If I have not made that plain over the past few months, I do not know how to make it plainer. I did not vote for him. I do hope, desperately, that I am wrong about the kind of President he will be. Nothing would make me happier, in four years, if I could say here, on this blog, “I was wrong. Donald Trump was a wise and just President, and I am happy to cast my vote for him in the 2020 election.” I didn’t think Hillary Clinton would make a good President. Had she been elected, I would be saying the same thing about her.

Nevertheless, I am a conservative. And because I am, I am less likely to feel the negative effects of this election personally than my fellow-citizens of other races, genders, religions and orientations. And it is vital that we stand up for them. It is vital that we stand up and say: “You are Americans. You have God-given rights, enumerated in our Constitution, and we will defend you from all of those who would seek to violate those rights.” We absolutely must do this, for two reasons: Firstly, it is the right and moral thing to do. If you supported Trump, do you remember how it felt, just weeks ago, when certain Clinton supporters called you evil and breezily expressed their hopes that a liberal Supreme Court would make you suffer simply for voicing your beliefs? Liberals are afraid that a conservative Supreme Court will do the same, and much more, to them. They are afraid that they will be rounded up and imprisoned based on their religious beliefs or their sexual preferences.
If you’re happy that what you feared won’t come to pass, that’s natural: no one sane should blame you. But if you’re glad that they are afraid? God help us all. Because we can’t have society, let alone government, when half the nation is scared to death of the other half. Secondly, if you fail to protect the opposition when you are in power, you are just asking to be shown no mercy when they are in power. And they will be in power again. Not in 2016, and maybe not in 2020. but someday. There is no permanent conservative majority, here. The liberals made the mistake of thinking history was on their side: that was one of the reasons they lost. Conservative Trump-supporters had better not make the same mistake!

We will never move away from this terrible election until our nation learns to reject fear. And we can never reject fear if we refuse to take each other’s fears seriously. And this is the moment for conservatives to do this, because we are in power (or at least people THINK we are, which is the only thing worse than actually BEING in power). Because the Trump voting was largely motivated by fear, this is the time for conservative Americans to stand up for something better. We must stand, at all costs, for protecting our fellow Americans. And that is why I will wear a safety pin. It says, specifically to those who fear, that I will stand for their safety against any who would harm them. No, it’s not much. No, it doesn’t make me a wonderful person; I don’t expect any damned applause for it; it’s the least I can do. It is only the beginning of all I am willing to do.

The limits of what I am willing to do, I can’t know. I don’t think anyone knows until they are tested. But for now, please understand that I am willing to do what I can to help you feel safe. If you need my expertise on history and politics, I will share it. If you need to tell someone you are afraid, I will listen. If you need help because someone is threatening you or violating your rights, please call on me and I will do whatever I can. Whatever you need me to, to the limits of my ability.

I do not think that now is the time to panic and leave the country. If I did, I would be making arrangements to move, right now. I do think that it is time to be watching our government very closely. I do not think that we are about to go down one of history’s darkest roads, but I think we are closer to that than we have yet been, and it concerns me deeply. So know this: no one takes my fellow Americans off to prison or throws them out of the country in violation of the Constitution without getting past me and my family. That’s what this country is about. If it should come to that, we will shelter you, we will hide you, and we will shield you. To this we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. We would consider it, as Corrie ten Boom’s father once said in WWII Holland, “the greatest honor that could come to our family” if we were to lay down our lives for you. And I believe the vast majority of my fellow conservatives are with me on that point.

Fortunately, such extremes as concentration camps are not yet happening. I hope they will not happen and will do whatever I can to prevent them from happening. But what concerns me more immediately is the disdain I see from some conservatives about even expressing concern for those who are frightened. Tell me: since when did not giving a shit about people become a conservative value? I mean, I get that a lot of conservatives are tired of being undeservedly called bigoted racist misogynists (I sure am), but surely the answer isn’t to BE all those things? Even if it were not morally wrong (which we know it is), it’s not in our interest. Andrew Carnegie said that keeping people loyal to capitalism required providing “ladders on which the aspiring can rise.” And if Donald Trump’s election shows us anything, it’s that WE NEED MORE DAMNED LADDERS! How on Earth can we conservatives surrender concern for people to the left, as “their” issue? Friends, that’s as stupid as when the left decided that “patriotism” was somehow a thing that right-wingers did. I’m unbelievably frustrated by this idea that caring about people makes us wimps. It’s what would make us worth voting for, dammit!

Bobby Jindal once said that the Republican Party had to “stop being the stupid party.” Whatever you think of him, he was right to say that. And conservatives have to stop being the party of not caring what people are afraid of. It stops here. It stops with me.

Call on me, Somewhere In Orbit.