First a few culture notes: Like will someone please report back here about the sci fi time travel satire “Command-Z“?
And here’s a fun web page running through 25 great tropes in science fiction.
And maybe I’ll see some of you next week at Comicon! At the Thursday evening tribute to Greg Bear and then Friday night’s “mental powers of superheroes!” Suggestions about both are welcome, down in comments.
== Do we choose progress? ==
Now a much more serious quandary for those on the activist wing of the Union side in this pivotal phase of the ongoing, 250 year American Civil War. Want to both win and prevent this phase from going-hot?
Then I’m afraid you are gonna have to choose – as did Martin Luther King and almost every accomplished reformer – whether you seek a broad coalition to achieve pragmatic progress – or instead insist on ‘performative allyship,’ which almost always means bullying allies over matters of sanctimony and symbolism.
The former path – chosen by MLK and so many others – requires that the reformer accept a bitter truth, that progress will be faster and better if it is insistent… but also incremental. Frustrating, perhaps. But each new plateau becomes the assumed base for a still-intact coalition to stand upon, while fighting-for the next next.
We are seeing the calamitive effects of the other approach – utter dogmatic purity-bullying, in the continued strength of a Mad Right that should have collapsed a decade ago, or more.
The cost of intransigence is most visible across Europe, as voters turn toward ‘populist-right’ parties, exactly as Putin, Edogan and others intended when they deliberately sent floods of refugees into Greece, Poland, Hungary and even liberal Sweden. Those who demand across-the-board generosity-purity are not helpful to the world’s poor… not if liberal governments are thereupon replaced by quasi-fascist ones.
Often, in this real world, you must choose tactics that prioritize. And the priority that makes the biggest long term difference is called … power.
Choose your fights in order to maintain a coalition that has the power to keep progress happening.
== And maybe even READ a little? To know what you are talking about? ==
Alas, we think we moderns are educated. And in many ways we are. While ignoring basics. For example…
…my parents’ generation – who actually actually read both Adam Smith and Karl Marx – were able to come up with innovations that canceled ol’ Karl’s beloved, violently simplistic but seductive teleological scenarios. (I deem KM to be among the greatest authors of all dire-warning, self-preventing science fiction novels.) As well as demolishing the insipid, crypto-marxist screeds of Ayn Rand.
They achieved this by doing something that no Marxist thought possible… actually thinking it through. And then by reforming class in America in rapid increments, without class revolution, under FDR/Truman/Eisenhower.
A deeply-flawed and partial achievement that we then built-upon with subsequent reforms that (admittedly WAY too slowly!) broke (or at least diminished) one bad habit after another. Addictive human habits (e.g. racism/sexism) that all previous cultures (not just Europeans) clutched to their bosoms as basic assumptions.
Livid over that assertion? That paragraph? Well, control yourself. No we haven’t cured those things, compared to what we oughta be.
But we’ve come quite some way compared to ALL the rest of human history. And you are invited to refute that, in comments. (Hint, you can’t.)
In fact, we’ve been growing a bit wiser and more tolerant, grinding step-by-step till the job almost seems halfway done and the planet might (perhaps barely) be saved! If the momentum can be kept up. Built up.
Alas, that campaign of justice and growth may never be completed, ironically, because almost no one alive today has actually read or understood Marx! And thus, bastardized, crude ‘versions’ are flooding the globe, especially in reflexive response to the current blatant, worldwide attempted oligarchic putsch.
== WE are not guilt-free ==
While the Mad Right – waging open war against all fact-using professions – is clearly the main existential threat to our planet and children, that doesn’t make our side’s loudest voices automatically right about all things! Especially their most sanctimoniously-shouted prescriptions.
Proof of this can be seen in the pure fact that they never hold conferences to actually and adversarially argue out and criticize and improve those prescriptions!
If they did show the guts to hold argumentative conferences to thrash out alternatives, before issuing grand proclamations – then we might have (for example) discussed far better innovative ‘pronouns’ – like those that were developed across 50 years of sci fi thought experiments about expanded human sexuality – e.g. by far-thinking pioneers like Varley, LeGuin, Farmer, Zelazny, Cherryh – maybe picking a much better set. Far better than today’s spectacularly silly effort to bully everyone into using “they” in ways that only confuse and rankle the folks you need, badly, as allies in this struggle.
Now show me anyone who had the patience to parse the sentences above! If any of you did, great. Now graduate to Marx and Adam Smith. To Eleanor Roosevelt and Paine and Popper and Hrdy and Morgan and Konner.
“It’s easy to be right about what’s wrong, while being wrong about what would be right.” – loosely attributed to Karl Popper.
Better yet, stand up for sci fi! Those authors I mention above predicted today’s issues (I did too, a bit.) How about pointing that out to raving, come-lately prescribers?
== GOP Goals ==
CORRECTION: A member of this community (“Tacitus”) pointed out that the following attempted idiocy was merely ruminated by some WI republican state legislators and never made it to the floor: Okay, this is getting crazy, e.g. the desperation of Wisconsin cheater-assembly members to preserve gerrymandering by impeaching a landslide-elected justice before she enters office – because an end to gerrymandering will cost half of them their jobs and all of them their power.
(See some much-better, never-discussed fixes for gerrymandering.)
Likewise TN lunatics expelling three Democrat members for shouting, no more than MTG did at the nation’s President.
Or Yang/Lieberman with their blatant-shill, so-called “no-labels” scam – trying the Nader-Stein gambit to once again weaken the Union side in this heating-up phase of civil war. Or Lindsay Graham and McCarthy, blatantly puppetted by blackmail, though each tries to maintain a sliver of credibility by backing Ukraine, unlike many of their KGB-run GOP comrades
And now anti-vaccine nutter-activist Robert Kennedy Jr announces his run for president – a former liberal eco activist and suddenly great-pal of Michael Flynn and Roger Stone – and acorn blown WAY far from his parental tree. Boy, Putin is throwing in all of his assets. Well… almost all…
Next come the McVeighs, as an ever more frantic Putin-Murdoch cabal decides they have nothing more to lose and throw harsh dice.
== Okay, breathe… and focus… ==
Changes at the IRS: “IRS cuts phone waits, promises better service and crackdown on big corporations and hyper-rich tax evaders and no increase in middle class audits.”
The flat out top priority of today’s GOP is to reverse Nancy Pelosi’s greatest accomplishment.
Was that the push for clean energy to save our children?
And genuine shifts in favor of an overheating planet.
The fantastically successful drive to bring manufacturing back to U.S. soil?
Moves back toward fiscal balance?
Finally action (not just talk) about repairing infrastructure?
Greater equity in drug laws and redressing injustices in incarceration?
All great stuff and more… (HAMMER would-be splitters who call Biden-Pelosi-Harris ‘milquetoast’!)… Still, none of those nation-saving measures went to the guts of what the Oligarchy most cares about. What enrages them.
I am talking about the 2022 dems finally reversing three decades of Republican sabotage of the IRS. Sabotage with the specific aim of helping 400,000 uber-overly-rich, tax-avoiding oligarchs to cheat the nation and the future and the middle class.
== And finally… ==
Finally: A newly released book, Arguments over Genocide by Steven Schwartzberg takes a revisionist view of the notion that specifically the Cherokee Nation almost prevailed in its case against expulsion at the bloody hands of Andy Jackson. I’ve argued with the author. But its assertions and evidence do rock such notions. They suggest that religious fundamentalism played a major role in the legal gloss that was laid over such crimes. Visit the publisher’s webpage where you can read more of these reviews.
I’ve seen bunches of sci fi alternate universe tales imagining what-if Native Americans (or Amerinds) ever got it together (with some allies) enough to fight off white colonialist-settlement invasion? Eric Flint, Harry Turtledove, Pamela Sargent and others have woven such tales and they can be stirring. (Too few ponder the even-far-worse calamities imposed on native folks and cultures in Spanish and Portugese occupied areas, to the south.) I wrote, as a major character in EXISTENCE, a fellow who named himself after Tentskwatawa, the charismatic bother of Tecumseh.
The closest that a native people ever came to such success was not achieved by the obstinately macho warriors promoted endlessly by Hollywood, but by lawyers. When the Cherokee Nation took the racist/brutal government of Georgia to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1830s and won their case. If anyone but Andrew Jackson had been president, then, it might have set a great precedent, instead of bringing on the Trail of Tears. (I have a partial screenplay about that almost might-have-been.)
Which makes me wonder. Did anyone try to establish a law firm in DC and other cities that specialized in representing native tribes? It could have been hugely profitable, if they operated on a contingency 10% basis when they permanently saved some vast swathe of native-own lands. At minimum they could have established which councils had signatory rights, ending the practice of putting ‘treaties’ in front of a randomly collected cluster of sodden ‘chiefs.’ (A practice that was more common than outright treaty-breaking.)
Sure, it would have been a palliative, not a solution. But I still throw it out there as a scifi alternate history premise that’s far more plausible than, say, Crazy Horse burning his way to Washington.
And that’s it for the weekend dance through forbidden thoughts. Go thou forth and persevere through the heat. We got a world to save.