A couple of years ago if you heard someone describe a movie starring a princess in conflict with her mother whilst facing devastating transformation magic and another moving starring video game characters come to life which of these movies would you think was made by Pixar and which would you think was a Disney movie?
I finished volumes 1 and 2 of The Walking Dead graphic novel… ummm… why do people like this series? I find myself reading only out of morbid curiosity wondering when these complete idiots are all going to die. That’s the only allure.
I prefer Highschool of the Dead.
There are only two kinds of threats in stories. Just two. A threat is either a Zombie threat or a Vampire threat. Period.
Zombie threats are those where the monsters are numerous but CAN be defeated. The heroes are not powerless against zombies, just overwhelmed. The threat lies in the sheer numbers, the destruction of social norms people rely on, and the sense of endless draining struggle.
On the other hand a Vampire, in the classic sense represents the big bad. It is a force so powerful the protagonists have little power against it. In order to defeat it you have to go through some ginormous quest or employ very obscure tools and special weapons and even then your chances of victory are slim to non-existent. The vampire is just sooo POWERFUL. The conflict comes from a sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, and despair.
The zombie style threats tend to be everywhere bugging the heroes, destroying society, unavoidable. Whereas the vampire threats honestly tend to be minding their own business except when they find someone they want to kill, or someone messes up their usual life. The vampire threats tend to represent a personal demon for the hero, haunting him in particular, whereas the zombie threat represents generic life suckitude.
Of course there are rampaging vampires like in Buffy the Vampire slayer who are more of a zombie threat than a vampire threat. And there are super dangerous unbeatable zombies in some stories that are more vampiristic. But for the most part it holds.
The alien invasion trope is a Zombie threat because the humans fight back and kick their zombie/alien-ass ala Star Gate. But the Alien Terraforming or Alien-as-God stories tend to be flat out Vampiric. Basically the aliens are so far beyond humans it’s not really a fight. Think something like Q from Star Trek.
Serial killers tend to be Vampires. Whereas mobster types tend to Zombie. And so on and so forth.
You can also think of this a Dragon threats versus Goblin/Orc threats if you like. But I’m pretty sure that’s all that there is.
Is there anywhere popular that people do generic community blogging these days? Not just microblogging or tweeting or journalism or fandom but actual blogging.
Rather than simply, as has become the norm, pointing and laughing or alternatively screaming at the rising “social justice bloggers” I think it’s important to understand where this phenomenon is coming from and why it is particularly persuasive in this exact moment in history.
The reason these bloggers are obsessed with throwing “privilege” in everyone’s faces is an exact counter reaction to a social elite class that has for the last few decades discounted privilege entirely. What I mean by that our society has trained people to present a story of themselves that is fundamentally me-centric to the point of narcissism. Is essence we have been been taught and conditioned to believe all of our successes are entirely of our own doing and all of our failures due to our own lack of ability. We see ourselves as having achieved our exact step on the rung of the meritocratic ladder through industriousness and hard work, never doubting that we are special and we deserve our status and all we’ve achieved. We earned it. Meanwhile we are conditioned also to look ever upward at the next rung above us with envy and yearning and strive to work just a little bit harder to reach it and so enjoy the perks and glory of success that will bring. Of course, no sooner have we killed ourselves to pull ourselves up another rung that we see still another more glorious rung above that to strive for.
Our ever upward vision blinds us to the path we’ve taken. It makes the very idea that we might have only reached the rung we are through a combination of luck and privilege unthinkable. We cannot acknowledge that that we took advantage of opportunities others never see. Even in the presence of our own failure we simply assert that we were the best person in the best position to make the best possible decision at the time and anyone lower on the status totem poll would surely have failed even worse. We have generations of people who have been taught to tell their stories as one of overcoming adversity at all odds and achieving greatness. How dare the masses of “lesser” accomplished people question them?
It is in this context that a deep anger and cynicism is developing. There are people who, correctly, assert that there is such a thing as privilege and that it does influence who achieves what in our society. And they are bumping up against a wall of people who have spent a life time denying its very existence. And it’s pissing people off. So they are taking this notion of “privilege” and the basic language of injustice and turning it into a weapon to beat down this wall of denial.
And all of this is manifesting in a miss directed hatred and rage toward anyone who will not acknowledge or does not understand their privilege and a willingness to blame, shame, silence, and judge any and all peoples who have benefited from privilege. It’s becoming a pretty harsh sort of anti-self-esteem philosophy. A kind of world view that asserts that we are all pathetic products of our privilege with little to no value outside of it. Anyone who has achieved anything should take no pleasure or pride in it.
And if hearing that causes more than a bit of trepidation it ought to.
This isn’t the first time in history a world view like this has come about. And it probably won’t be the last. But it’s important to understand that this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is the inequality and elite failure and institutional collapse of our society that is driving it. If you spend years denying the very existence of or injustice of inequality in an age where actual real inequality (both of result AND opportunity) was growing at an astronomical rate, you can’t really be surprised when people start to adopt a kind of radical equality counter revolution. Honestly, I’m glad that so far the worst of it I’ve seen is in just random blogs on tumblr and wordpress throwing around privilege and yelling about being ‘silenced’. It could be a lot worse. It we want to prevent it from growing stronger and more influential (which it almost certainly will) we simply need to do one and only one thing to head it off. Make our society more equal.
We can’t have a world that obsesses over privilege any more than we can have one that obsesses over merit and expect to have any kind of a Just society. We have to look downward and upward, to see where we’ve come from and where we are going, if we are to have a hope of creating something new and better than we’ve had before.
I always hesitate to dig into the “congress sucks” rhetoric that is so popular precisely because it is popular. It is popular within anarchists and conservatives and tea partiers and social justicers and centrists and liberals. The problem is they all don’t mean the same thing when they say it. If we just look at the base divide of Democrats and Republicans in politics we can see quite clearly the difference. When the Democrats say that “congress sucks” they mean that they want to make congress function better, just as the generally want all government to function better. However, it seems to me that when Republicans argue that Congress sucks they mean something more fundamental. It is to them a sort of law of nature that Congress will suck, cannot help but suck, and truly ought to suck in all things except in so far as it acts to weaken itself. And so too with all forms of government save, perhaps, those that deal directly with the defense of the nation.
This is an ideological thing. There is a view that government is always and will always be a bad thing. This is a different thing then the belief that government should act slowly or not make rash decisions like our founders believed. This is the belief that whenever government does anything, no matter how well researched or well intentioned, it will inevitably be a bad thing, and whatever is the product of government must of necessity be inherently bad. How else can you explain that their criticism has ranged from public schools to post offices to social security? How else can you explain an unwillingness even to pass a bill to provide health care to 911 first responders or a bill to give relief to the victims of hurricane Sandy without extraordinary pressure being brought to bare? How else can you explain the unwillingness to even look seriously at climate change?
Unfortunately this world view has become very powerful. Extremist practitioners of this philosophy dominate the ranks of the Republican party obviously, but it’s also true that many many influential Democrats have been raised and trained surrounded by this indoctrination and have internalized many of its tenants. This is why we see so little accountability for private industry and so little regulation of corporate behavior. Make no mistake that even most democrats in congress believe that if government were to dare to try to make a fair competitive environment that they would inevitably screw it up and make things worse and make people less free.
This is why I don’t believe that in the end we just need brilliant negotiators to bring us all together so we can pass lots of laws again and bring things forward. That won’t happen and if it did it would probably be disastrous since the laws we would pass would be cementing the your on your own, government is useless ideology that is currently dominant. I’m happy for gridlock when I think of it that way. Though I’d be a lot happier with a productive congress that actually believed in its own power to do good.
Really a destructive ideology is only beaten by the rise of a new ideology. The old frameworks have to be replaced in people’s brains with new frameworks. And that’s not going to be a pretty and nice process but an ugly destructive war full of ranting and stubbornness and rage and maybe worse and we don’t even know what will come out of it.
I’m seeing the stirrings of new persuasive ideological frames growing in the bowls of the internet that look like they might even have the power to unseat the dominant ideology of the present. But what terrifies me the most is that many of these new views seem in no way better than what they are aiming to replace and may even turn out to be worse.
One thing I’m certain of though is telling people who fundamentally hate government and think it’s the root of evil that any part of government is “too broken” isn’t going to get them to rethink their current path.
I’ve been thinking about why I consider myself to be a liberal and why my particular brand of liberalism means so much to me and how it differs fundamentally to some of the newer (and perhaps truly older) types of liberalism that are arising in the world. And I think it really all boils down to one simple little concept.
My liberalism is about guaranteeing that people ALWAYS have the freedom to leave.
That’s it. If you’re in a job you hate where you feel your life is wasting away you should be able to leave it. Not eventually. Not six years from now or six months from now. But right now. Leave. Quit. Go. You ought to be able to do that at any time and not fear that you or your children might starve or that you might have to go rooting through garbage cans for scraps in order to maybe survive if you’re lucky.
Likewise, if you live in a city or a town surrounded by people who make your life miserable you ought to be able to leave it. If you are in a relationship or a marriage with someone you no longer love or despise or are outright afraid of you ought to be able to just leave and make a new life for yourself with someone else or with no one else or with lots of someone else’s if that’s what you want. If you’re living with your parents or relatives who are driving you up the wall you ought to be able to leave them to go travel the world and take a break from them and come back if you choose when you feel you are better able to tolerate their nagging or pestering or domineering or whatever else they were doing that was making you a wreck inside. You ought to be able to leave to go anywhere, do anything, be anyone else you want in order to find a situation that makes you feel like you’re living a life worth living and feel at peace with yourself.
If you’re a member of a church or an organization or a union or a blogging community or a social network that doesn’t fulfill you or that you judge not worth your time you ought to be able to leave that too, start your own, or renounce it entirely and even go on a crusade against it if you want. If you’re attending a school where you are feeling bullied or feel overwhelmed at or just plain are bored with it or you think it’s not teaching you anything, you ought to be able to leave that and find a new school or a new something that is more to your liking. Something that you feel is preparing you for the life you want to have not just what others plan or expect from you.
And ultimately and perhaps most importantly if you are in a government that you find destructive to your well being or even manifestly against your deepest beliefs you ought to be able to “alter or abolish it” or just get to hell out and go to Australia or Canada or Somalia or anywhere else where you feel the wind blows you or even yes make your own island full of only the rich people. Even if you’re in a prison with an abusive guard you out to be able to transfer to a new cell or a new prison entirely. It’s your right to leave. I think government’s greatest roll and duty is in ensuring that the most people have the most freedom to leave, to start anew, to begin again as is possible.
That is why I think social “safety nets” are not some minor experiment that it doesn’t matter if they fail. And I don’t think they are just for poor people and dumb people or insane people or the rejects that society can’t find out what to do with. I think they are absolutely essential. I think it’s having that backup, that insurance that makes sure you have at the bare minimum the money to survive that gives many people the courage and the very ability to leave when they get into a situation that is truly terrible. If your two choices are possible death and continued misery not all of us have the courage to choose possible death however remote that possibility may be, especially since chances are good it may be accompanied by a good dose of misery along side it. Many of us will stick it out and suffer, truly suffer for years out of their precious short lives just hoping and dreaming that things will magically “get better”. Well why should they? Why can’t they say “screw this shit, I’m leaving”. I think it’s our obligation to humanity to make it so they CAN say that. Each and every time. And in any and every situation where we can. Having a safety net helps us get closer to that. Making it so that people don’t have to worry about basic things like food, shelter, an health care make it possible for millions more people to leave horrors than otherwise could.
This is ultimately why I believe in democracy, birth control, abortion, the right to vote, equality, mental health programs, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, anonymity, the right to privacy, unions, and minimum wage laws. It’s why I’m against the surveillance state and war and bullying and every person with two brain cells able to get a gun and totalitarian companies and restrictive EULAs, and 2-year cell phone service contracts, and environmental destruction and real name policies and all manner of other policies that directly or indirectly threaten to restrict the ability of many to leave organizations and groups they are attached to. It’s why I am annoyed and maybe even angered by the idea that some people can’t get married to the person of their choice but horrified by the thought that someone might not be able to get DIVORCED from the person of their choice. It’s why I think DADT is grotesque policy even for an organization that is particularly bad at giving people the right to leave and why I think the fact that we don’t yet have firm certainties that people won’t be discriminated against in terms of pay on account of gender or sexual orientation or gender identity ought to be seen as a crime against humanity. And it’s why I think some of our destructive policies around the world in the name of the “war against terror” or to promote our companies abroad that destroy the environment and crush whole societies under our boot ought to be considered crimes against existence.
It’s also why I hesitate also to support some standard liberal positions like being against school choice and against so-called “right to work” legislation, even though I know the consequences of school choice in practice is to propagate the wealthy into the wealthier schools and letting the poor schools decline trapping their children in them for all that much longer. And even though I know the consequence of ”right to work” in practice is the elimination of unions ensuring many more millions of people being trapped in low wage jobs with no prospects of improving. Even so a part of me feels that we really OUGHT to find a way to make it so people can choose whatever school they want (with or without parental consent really) or whether or not to be in a union. We just have to find a way to do it sanely..
It’s so simple but it’s so very essential and we are so very far from being to the point where that’s actually true of anyone. Talk to people here in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and you’ll find thousands, millions of people feeling trapped. Stuck. People living in a world of despair so deep that it’s driving them slowly toward madness or suicide. And it’s a horrible thing. A terribly wrong thing. It doesn’t have to be that way. It could easily be different for these people if we wanted it to.
Now don’t get me wrong this doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s any value in focusing on things that make people WANT to stay places. I know full well that a society where everyone was leaving all the time would be nearly as dystopic as a total prison society. Loyalty, patriotism, traditions, a feeling of belonging, a sense of obligation, a sense of responsibility, a sense of duty, a sense of family, a sense of pride in one’s work, a concern for others well being, nostalgia, friendship, and of course love. These things DO matter and we should cultivate them in places where it is good to do so. But not if doing so is ever at the expense of that freedom to leave. The freedom to leave ought to be the bedrock unbreakable principle upon which all else is built upon. Without it then the staying means a lot less. If people are only staying because they feel they have no other choice how much does the staying really matter? How meaningful is it?
That we don’t truly have a society with freedom to leave is the foundation of everything makes me feel as if we are still in many ways indentured to a fate not entirely of our own choosing. It means we can be manipulated, controlled, and forced into lives we don’t want to lead. It makes us less productive, less fulfilled and less truly ourselves than we otherwise could be. And that I think is a tragedy. And it’s holding our species back.
So I let other people handle the staying stuff. Millions of people are willing to try to get you stay where they want you to stay. I want to focus all my effort on guaranteeing the leaving. I think there’s far too little of that in the world and far too few people protecting that right. But life is too short to make anyone spend even a second more of it stuck than you absolutely have to.