Or at least some days there are no answers. There are, however, lots and lots of questions.
Everyone tells us that if we aspire to write well we must understand people. Sometimes I wonder if that’s true, or even if it’s possible for us to understand other people. I pretty much treat them like enigmas animated by their own purpose, and oftentimes can predict what they will do next or what they’re pursuing from the evidence present. it doesn’t mean I can understand why they do the things they do. That is often still and always a mystery.
This is actually important, btw, because there is a tendency for writers to try to over-understand and empathize with their villains, because “they are the heroes of their own stories.” Sure, they are. But sometimes those stories are incredibly stupid by the standards of any person with a functioning brain.
Take the “brain trust” around FDR.
Okay, you don’t consider them villains. I do enjoin you with all possible speed to read The Forgotten Man by Amity Schlaes. Do. Then come back and let’s talk about it. Besides the fact that if this great republic collapses under the weight of centralization and the shredding of its constitution, the fingerprints on the knife on its back will be FDRs with some latents from Woodrow Wilson.
But do read the book, which I started reading at the instigation of a friend who said “you think today’s specimens are dumber than their forbears. That’s because you don’t remember in the Forgotten man, FDR choosing the price of gold according to lucky numbers.”
If that were all…. Oh, if that were all.
The brain trust — those brains were all in jars labeled Abby Normal, and I wouldn’t trust them further than I could throw them — had a number of members who had gone to Moscow years before, on pilgrimage, to learn from Stalin. A lot of such people wrote books that influenced what FDR did in the depression. Which btw, was more about “never let a crisis go to waste and prolong it if you can” than anything with helping anyone.
But it was that trip to the USSR that keeps turning on and on in my mind and going “The heck is wrong with people, actually?”
These were not stupid people. Or at least many ended up with law degrees and professorships. Then what in heck possessed them to go on an obviously controlled tour, and think they were getting the whole thing? Or the true thing? Or to believe a word of it?
And what excited them so about the five-year-plans that they thought it was more wonderful than anything in America? A plan is a plan. It doesn’t mean it will work.
And what on Earth, even if you don’t know what Stalin was actually up to, made them think that “the Russians are having all the fun and we should have some?”
In fact, what convinces people they have the key to the future and should therefore tell everyone how to structure all of society and change it, and change how everyone lives, because this will bring about utopia?
I’m looking at the Green New Dealers, chips off the old block. I’m looking at all the crazy people who run around saying absolutely everyone must be vaccinated against an illness with at worst a 99.7% survival rate, regardless of how untried the vaccine is (no, approval doesn’t mean squat in these circumstances. Human populations have massive variations. We haven’t yet encountered half the side effects this thing will have.) Is the fear of the great Atchoo so great that everyone must drop everything and stop this person from catching what in most cases is a bad cold? Do they think if they don’t catch it, they’ll live forever?
What in heck is wrong with their heads?
I’m reading a decent book (kind of) about strange phenomena written in the 70s and the author just floated that maybe all these atlanteans and extra terrestrials coming to warn us that we’re on the wrong path are the ghosts of our civilization “destroyed by nuclear war”.
Brother, if someone came back from the future to warn us of what destroyed us, it wouldn’t be that old Soviet agit prop boogaboo. It would be “Beware of collectivism, and of giving a single man too much power.” THAT has the ability to destroy entire civilizations.
But what I still can’t understand is why people WANT to have that power. I don’t get it.
What combination of hubris and blindness makes them think they should control people’s lives down to the most minute actions, because it’s not what they’d, personally do?
Why particularly do they want to stop other people talking? There is someone serially denouncing me on Facebook, so that I’m in perpetual jail. This is …. interesting.
I mean, I see things on Facebook I disagree with all the time. Do I denounce people and get them taken down? no. I ignore them, and read something else. To my mind that’s the only thing to do. So why do people feel a need to silence others?
Which also applies to writing. I might laugh at or turn my nose up at a lot of books, but I have never felt a need to say “people shouldn’t be allowed to write this.”
I mean…. who cares? They write it, and some people claim to like reading it. That’s fine. I don’t care so long as they don’t try to enforce it as “the only thing you should read and write, and if you read and write something else you’re a bad person.”
I mean, heck, my husband reads books I couldn’t stand for three pages. If he enjoys them, that’s great.
So, you see, I have questions. What is this sickness that impels people to try to control what other people do that doesn’t affect them — really — in any way, shape or form?
Why are they so convinced there must be a “right” way to live that only they know and can impose on everyone?
And can we get a vaccine for THAT?
I wish there were a vaccine. But apparently somewhere around 3-5% of the population at any given time is narcissists and sociopaths, and controlling other people is their drug – literally. Gives their brains a shot of pure endorphins, stronger than morphine or cocaine. And they’re LOUD about what they want. To the point most people who just want to go along and get along stare right at their bleeding targets and demand, “You, give them what they want so they stop bothering us.”
You can fight the 3-5%. Fighting the rest of the accomplices is darn near impossible.
If it’s that consistent… it sounds like the other examples of where something that has a vital survival value goes haywire, is too strong.
Maybe this is the sickle cell of preventing the “it didn’t hurt me in specific, so who cares” type not controlling people?
(IE, the ones who are very prone to tell someone else “oh, just shut up and do what they want so they don’t bother ME anymore.)
Having a functioning theory (functioning in terms of “has a good predictive value”, not “sounds pretty”) is very useful in preventing damage from stuff, generally. (Compared to the other value of “run very quickly the other way.”)
How dare you expect me to do my job to protect you?
Story of my life, yes.
And to put the cherry on top, they are both too dull and too implausibly evil to make good fictional villains.
If you try to tell someone what’s going on, the reaction is not, “OMG must stop them,” it’s usually, “Eww, why are you even bringing this up, you must be a horrible person for someone to be doing this to you.”
It used to make me angry. Now I’m just too tired.
Me, too. Honestly, I just wish that testing for Covid antibodies was as freely-offered as the vaccines – so that those of us who suspect we had the damned Commie Crud could just tell the vax-pushing busy-bodies to f__k off, and when they got there, to f__k off to an even farther destination.
Pretty sure I have had it, twice. First time end of Feb 2020, scary-bad, but I rested and roasted it out as much as possible. Was sick most of a month, took months to recover. Second time was January this year (roommate tested positive, if we can trust the tests) and that was no fun but not nearly as bad. So I figure my immunity’s as good as it’ll get.
The fact that people are going around spouting about parents’ rights over their children’s health and in the same breath saying that’s why they need mask mandates in school astounds me. People, DeSantis put in a ban against mask mandates, not masks. You want to mask your kids, you can.
But no. They want everyone else to be responsible for their health. We have too many people who are legally adults yet never grew up!
My pet theory is that the need to control others is a perversion of the parenting instinct. When you’re a parent, keeping your kid from running in the street, teaching them to read, tricking them into piano practice, those are all good things. In many people, the instinct leaps its bounds, spills over, gets warped, and runs wild. It starts as a compulsion to give unsolicited advice under the guise of being helpful. Then it turns to disapproval of people you know. When you start disapproving of the behavior of strangers who aren’t affecting you, you’re lost.
Everything’s on a continuum.
Ahhhh… All those deeply-frustrated single cat ladies? Huh.
I am reminded of the stock Heyer* female busybody: One whose children were non-existent or utterly dismal.
*And since Heyers characters are 1930s people in pristine Regency dress up, yes. Modern women.
*musing* Or women who have kids…that they didn’t raise. Because they were Doing The Right Thing, and six weeks after birth, were back at the office.
Working over-time, too, because the company couldn’t run without them.
(Yes, I have been on the catching end for some frustrated guilt, some less self-aware than others. I don’t think there’s ANY woman who doesn’t feel some guilt no matter WHAT she chose, and part of that is deliberate manipulation by women who chose the opposite– and feel guilty. Humans!)
“And can we get a vaccine for THAT?”
We have one. It’s dosed in grains and calibers. Unfortunately, it has a path to herd immunity that’s called a Revolution if successful and a Civil War if it fails.
And it’s REALLY hard to convince anyone otherwise until “bring out your dead” is the only alternative. Ounce of prevention never seems to apply.
Oh no, there are words-just words that would get us in a lot of trouble if we posted them.
There’s something inherent in the human mind that want leadership, either to follow or be a leader. Like all generalities, this is in varying degrees, from “must control/be controlled in everything” to “I don’t want to have you all following me/won’t follow you” and in varying kinds of leadership types. You can argue the mechanisms (one of my favorites is cognitive shorthand-we can’t do every single thing all the time, so we use various cognitive shorthands to off-load the work somewhere else), but they’re there.
Leadership is often like air-when it’s good, you don’t even notice it. When it’s bad, it’s horrible-and often when it’s the worst, you won’t know until it’s too late unless you have good detectors. You can see where the New Dealers and the Watermelon Children (green on the outside, red on the inside) are going, but they also know how to get inside that cognitive shorthand and convince people to off-load a little more to them, then a little more, then a little more…
It’s discouraging. If I have a hope, it is that there will be some very shocking developments in a number of technologies that make it harder for these kinds of idiots to bother us on a regular basis.
“There’s something inherent in the human mind that want leadership, either to follow or be a leader. Like all generalities, this is in varying degrees”
This. Yes. It comes, I think, from our evolutionary history as social apes with a social hierarchy: we all have a desire to be Troop Leader and a desire to go along with the Tribe. Obviously the two desires conflict. Most individuals reach some sort of uneasy balance between the two. A (relative) few don’t. Some of those want to be always and only a follower. Others want to be always and only a leader. And they will do anything and everything they can to avoid having that leadership role taken away from them.
I want to be left alone.
So do I. But then, we’re both Odd.
Why are they so convinced there must be a “right” way to live that only they know and can impose on everyone?
Because they believe SOMEBODY is going to impose their choices on the rest of society, and they prefer it to be them. Same reason that Arab countries don’t split into more homogenous principalities, and foragers is stateless societies cultivate a reputation for violence.
No. Just fucking no. Sorry. The constitutional republic is not controlling everything. But THEY want to.
The constitutional republic is not controlling everything
I think they consider that a temporary, untenable situation. After all, there’s a bunch of them out there trying to control everything.
I agree they are wrong, but I’m trying to reverse engineer to find vulnerabilities.
Except I get the feeling that a lot of these people don’t believe in a constitutional republic–and not in the same sense that I don’t believe in communism, but in the sense that I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. It’s not that they don’t think that it’s a good way to organize society, it’s that they don’t think it exists or could possibly exist.
Is that idea bat-guano crazy? Of course, but as you pointed out, these people ARE bat-guano crazy.
Their world view is a top-down pecking order. It’s all they’ve seen, from parents to preschool to college to any kind of employment they might have had; those who give orders, and those who obey.
An “association of equals” isn’t a concept they can see. The closest would probably be “class” in the Marxist sense.
My internal monologue poses this question every day.
The “lead/follow” emanates from Ego, my sworn enemy. I have always avoided non-family forms of authority — I don’t like being told what to do, or telling anyone else what they must do without being asked.
Lord Acton got it backwards — corruption seeks power.
Humans also seek self-transcendence in multitudes of activities (summary: drugs, sex, rock n’ roll) that release them from being “them.” (You fiction writers earn your living feeding this need.) I first noticed it comparing Sunday Pentecostal church services to the roadhouse where I performed nightly. (Marjoe Gortner admitted to mimicking Mick Jagger while he was teaching his accomplices to “speak in tongues”)
Ego — feed it or lose it.
FWIW, Lord Acton’s quote was about people *excusing* bad behavior on the part of the powerful.
Never mind what Acton wrote – the Train is fine-!
Corruption seeks power is true. Usrful insight.
Of course it is– by definition, those who want power for a use it wasn’t given for are corrupting that power.
But Acton’s actual point is also important; people excuse behavior in the powerful that they’d smack in anyone else.
The world is full of self-important, self-righteous, obsessed assholes, tormented by the conviction that Somebody, Somewhere is Doing Something they don’t approve of, and driven by a compulsion to Do Something About It at any cost.
If you don’t want to read the book, here’s a review:
With the possible exception of Al Capone’s Chicago gang, 1930s America saw no greater pile of buccaneering stickup men and rogues than those with whom FDR surrounded himself. As one of the book’s central themes, Amity Shlaes condemns them for introducing “regime uncertainty” into the economy, thereby exacerbating the Great Depression. Keep in mind that “regime uncertainty” is but a euphemism for “utter lawlessness.”
This “regime uncertainty” was a direct result of the ideological underpinnings of FDR and his Brain Trust. In one of the book’s most devastating chapters (“The Junket”) Mrs. Shlaes gives a brief intellectual history of those men and their ideas. Suffice to say that during the 1920s and 1930s, the chatterers at Ivy League cocktail parties — and around FDR’s dinner table — were decidedly smitten with Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini.
Ouch. And they certainly sound familiar….
PS. second.sale on eBay has a whole pile of ’em for $3.55 shipped.
One less, now.
It’s interesting to note how many accounts describe how Harry Hopkins was frozen out of the “Brain Trust”, yet his Wikipedia page says the opposite.
I suspect Hopkins, being Roosevelt’s personal envoy to Stalin (among other things) finally saw too much to be a trustworthy tool.
Two less. You people are not doing my as-yet-unshelved library any good. 😀
If you have a child (or someone who is still childish), the graphic edition is also available in ebook. Amazon, as usual, has the best price ($7.99).
Coincidentally, the last couple days I spent a few hours re-reading parts of The Gulag Archipelago.
One part is that really resonates now is how much the communists (especially Stalin) favored the “socially friendly” (aka thieves and such criminals), both in the prison camps, and outside them.
In Anne Applebaum’s book about the gulag, she goes into a lot of detail about that, and a great many other things that will enlighten and horrify you. I think she’s done one of the better recent books on the subject. Heck all of her books on the old Soviet Union are well-researched and great reading.
Leadership requires accepting that you leave you date in the ha DA of people you do not control, and cannot even monitor.
That is a terrifying thing. So many people put in a position of leadership attempt to make meat puppets out of everyone within their domain. And once you’ve made one person into a meat puppet, it is that much easier to simply keep making more meat puppets to the point where you never need to hear or experience anything bad or unexpected. That’s the meat puppet’s job.