1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Eleven: Personal Politics

In the past twenty years, I’m not sure my personal set of politics have changed all that much. I’m pretty sure what has changed is how people view them.

And what would I say my politics are? Well, at the base of everything I believe that the goal of society should be to develop independently acting and thinking individuals who see as their “highest life crisis” — their overall philosophical and ethical guiding star, basically — service to their community. Or to put it simply and even more inexactly: Society creates individuals; individuals return the favor.

In simple US (and I suspect generally Western) political terms, this emphasis on the development of the individual skews generally “right” — individualism, independence, the need and desire to chart one’s own course regardless of how others may think, and whether they approve. Conversely, the emphasis on the individual realizing that their service, participation and actions should improve the community in which they live (and that “community” being more than the immediate 150 people they know personally) skews generally “left.” In a way, and to the extent that we insist on everything being plotted on a “right -left” spectrum, I suppose it’s accurate to say I’m to the right when you’re up close and go to the left the further you go out.

But of course that’s not actually very accurate either. There is not just a “right – left” axis; political tendencies and leanings exist in a multidimensional space and include a range of factors. We are politically shaped by the communities we are born and raised in. Our political positions are influenced by current events (a fact obvious on 9/11 more than most days). They are dictated by one’s personal belief in exceptionalism (best negatively exemplified by the observation that “rules are for little people”). The impact of the law on the people we love makes a difference. There are people whose politics are expressly based on the momentary joy of arguing with someone and making them upset. And so on.

The current political era makes a difference as well. I’m fond of noting that 40 years ago I might be seen as a “Rockefeller Republican,” someone who is socially liberal and who also might ask “well, okay, but how are we going to pay for that all?” These days we live in an era where Lou Dobbs just rather ridiculously attempted to brand George W. Bush as a “radical liberal,” so a “Rockefeller Republican” is even further to the left of that, a fact I find rather weird and troublesome.

Aside from the overall philosophy above, my personal politics generally follow a few overarching maxims. I won’t go into them in detail at the moment, but here are a couple of big ones:

1. Everyone should have the rights, benefits and privileges I would arrogate to myself.

2. Politics that don’t understand the world exists downstream of one’s own actions are bad politics.

Seems simple enough! And the more I live, the more I realize how much is encompassed by these maxims.

Also, here’s a thing which has general application to life, but especially to politics, and it’s a thing that did in fact take me time to understand more than just intellectually:

There’s more to life than your own life. 

Which is a statement that works on many different levels, doesn’t it. And on each of those levels it has something useful to say.

I have been writing for public consumption for 30 years, and I’ve been writing about politics since the beginning, so it’s not accurate to say that my politics were ever really private. It is accurate to say that in 1998, I was not as publicly notable as I am now, and there was not as much discussion about who I am as a political being. Most of that has happened in the last few years, both with the rise of my profile as a writer, and because of the machinations of a group of right-wing folks, largely in the science fiction and fantasy genre, who decided for their own purposes that I was a convenient whipping boy for politics they couldn’t stand, and that was (they argued) taking over science fiction. So for a while there and to some extent even now I’m lofted about as a marxist “Social Justice Warrior” type.

This confused and continues to confuse a number of people on the left, who look at me and see me as, at best, a mildly capitalistic centrist who doesn’t go out of his way to be a dick. Why you? I have been asked, quite a lot. In SF/F, at least, the short answer is twofold: one, I annoyed a couple of the ringmasters of the Sad/Rabid Puppy movement at various points in their lives, and their personal antipathy made them decide to roll up on me. So with me it wasn’t ever really about politics, it was junior high school-grade revenge tactics, with politics as a cover. Two, others decided to opportunistically jump on the bandwagon because they were under the impression that performatively being a dickhead to me and others and using “politics” as an excuse for that was somehow a useful career move. Turns out it wasn’t, oddly.

(Mind you, the Puppy movement in SF/F was about politics exactly to the extent that GamerGate was about ethics in video game journalism, which is to say it wasn’t at all, but the people doing it used it as an excuse. It was started because a dude was mad he didn’t get an award, and then was taken over by a toxic racist who that same dude foolishly invited to the party, who just wanted to shit on everything because he’s an awful person, and convinced other trolls to go along. They will tell you differently, of course; like GamerGaters, the former Puppy partisans are frustrated that no one aside from them ever bought their cover story. But here in the real world we don’t have to pretend. I’m glad it’s dead!)

Outside of the antics that happened in science fiction and fantasy fandom, my political notability comes from Twitter and this blog, and in both cases a) when I do write about politics it’s very often critical of the right, b) I don’t tolerate the infantile posturing that passes for argumentation for so many right-leaning Internet users, and will mute/block/Mallet them at will, and that makes them pissy. I’m critical of the right because in the last 20 years in particular the “right” is increasingly bigoted, intolerant, anti-democratic and authoritarian, and I don’t tolerate infantile posturing because my time here on the planet is short. I choose not to spend any more of it than absolutely necessary dealing with mentally adolescent edgelords who think that their shitty, pre-fab opinions merit anything more than a punting.

(“But your unwillingness to engage is how you got Trump!” Oh, hell, no, my sweet summer child. On the list of Things Responsible For Trump’s Election, “Not tolerating shitty trolls wasting your time” is maybe number 513, just below “The Cut of Hillary Clinton’s Pantsuits” and just above “Squirrels eating automobile ignition wires keeping people from the polls.”)

(And also, while we’re continuing the parentheticals, yes, there are terrible people and policies on the left, too, but if you think that the ratio for either approaches anything close to 50/50 at the moment, lol no, and you’re also willfully ignoring that in the US at least one party is in power at the moment, and it’s the one that’s spent the last 40 years cultivating a political philosophy that boils down to “Let’s trade sensible gun laws and womens’ right to control their own body in exchange for giving rich people all the money ever.” I’m pretty content aiming my fire in the direction it’s going. I am sorry for the conservatives/Republicans who are not awful in this awful moment; it’s not a great time to be them.)

So you’re not a Social Justice Warrior, Scalzi? I mean, it’s not a label I would give myself, no. But I’m not uncomfortable with it. I’m reasonably social! I like justice! I’m not generally considered a “warrior” but I’m pretty stubborn about the things I think are important. And also, as far as I can see, “Social Justice Warrior” also essentially means that you are comfortable standing up for other people having the same rights you get to have, and you know what? I am! So, sure, call me an SJW all you want, if that’s a thing you want to do. The fact there are people who somehow think being being called that is an insult gives one a little bit of insight into their soul. Here’s a hot tip: If you think calling someone a social justice warrior is an insult, you might be a horrible person. And before you get there, yes, I’m aware of the argument that the insult started on the left, to identify people who are performatively “woke.” Even if that’s accurate however, that’s not how it is currently used.

I’m comfortable being public about my politics, but I’m also aware that some people will use my public statements to shove me into the boxes that make sense to them, and I’m also aware that my personal politics — and how I chose to show and act upon them — will inevitably disappoint people, whoever they are. Right now I draw a whole bunch of fire from the right, in part because the “right” these days is awfully extreme. But I have before and will again draw fire from the left, and from other directions as well. My politics are my own, and sometimes they will diverge from yours, and sometimes even if they don’t, how I chose to act on them will. From a political point of view, I will inevitably disappoint you one day. This is not a promise, mind you; just an observation.

Be that as it may, my general philosophy of politics has worked well for me for most of my adult life: Be an individual. Serve your community. Get for others the rights you want for yourself. Remember the world is affected by the things you do. There’s more to your life than your own life. These are relatively simple things, but building a political life around them is not always the easiest way to do things. At the end of the day, though, you have to live with yourself and your choices. Most of these last 20 years, I have been content with my political choices. There are places I could have done better, of course, and places I still have to work to do. But I’m getting there.

51 thoughts on “1998/2018: Whatever 20/20, Day Eleven: Personal Politics

  1. Quick notes:

    1. Politics post! Play nice with each other.

    2. I bring up the whole Puppies nonsense as a historical note, not as an ongoing thing. Be aware that although I have very certain opinions about what brought about the Puppy nonsense, I am perfectly content to have it in the past, and largely wish the people who identified as Sad Puppies all the success they can have as writers (the Rabid Puppies, on the other hand, can go fuck themselves because they’re toxic racist shitbirds). I would suggest that we try not to relitigate that whole mess any further, and will probably Mallet any attempts to do so.

    3. Uuhhhhh, I’ll probably think of more later.

  2. I wouldn’t have thought myself as a “social justice warrior” (or see the need for such)–until the rise of the “social injustice warriors”, such as the people who insist “there’s a war against white men”.

  3. Sometimes it’s better to observe than comment. As a friend once said to me, opinions are like a**holes, we all have one.

  4. My view as a long time blog reader is that while your politics may not have changed, you have developed a vocabulary on talking about the “SJW issues” that you did not originally have. This may have resulted from a crystallization of existing views through addressing/responding to similar issues multiple times. To be a bit critical, the vocabulary may partially be a form of virtue signaling on a topics where I have started to see a large number of people virtue signal over the past 5 years (to give an example: straight white men feeling the need to preface comments on certain topics with the fact they don’t have as strong a right to an opinion on those topics because they are straight white men has become a very popular thing to do in the past 5 years).

  5. As a lefty, I will testify that there are indeed flaming rectums, infantile screamers, conspiracy paranoids, dogmatic bullies, and all that other nasty effluent generally associated with the Right, on the Left and probably on all parts of the “political spectrum” as well. These dismal personalities have not taken over the political culture on the Left, usually, though it could happen. It has in the past, and it is, after all, a human condition.

    We all have hearts. We all have assholes. There’s a time and a place for each, but some can’t distinguish either from a hole in the ground.

  6. This mirrors what I’ve been feeling for many years. I think these dual ways of looking at things—globally AND locally, individually AND societally—can confuse people. It certainly makes explaining my beliefs difficult.

    The most shocking thing to me is that I went from being a true Centrist to now finding myself somewhere left of center (with a few of those straggling “conservative” ideals like balancing budgets).

    But…I didn’t move. Sure, some of my ideas have evolved, but I’m pretty much where I was two decades ago. However, the right has, over time, shifted dramatically and toxically.

    I believe the reason is that too many people in the middle have left the parties (especially the GOP) to become “Independent” or were newer voters who never claimed one of the two majors.

    Pick a side. GOP or DEM. It will, eventually, bring whatever party you join back to the middle the tiniest fraction. And you can always vote in the general how you always have.

  7. Dan 23:

    “Virtue signaling,” mind you, a phrase itself largely used as code for “This person is saying things for the cookies, not because they mean it.” There is some dramatic irony about this, regarding me, as I suspect people will soon find out.

    That said, I agree that my language usage has changed over the last 20 years, but I don’t see it as “virtue signalling” in the way I see the phrase generally being used. I do see it as recognition that there was an argument made involving language that I was convinced was correct, so I have incorporated that knowledge moving forward.

  8. Very nice.

    We probably agree on 90%+.

    It struck me as a first time commenter asking you to write about the Hugo Awards and the two new Heinlein Hugo s in particular that you may have thought I was gaming you.

    What a world. While the dems have their problems, too p.c., too Scandinavian, I’ve watched the other party slide from mostly conservative to reactionary to authoritarian/evangelical to proto-fascist.

    Now we have a classic Know-Nothing presidnt, slowest ever to name a science advisor, pushing all out for a PRO-global warming agenda, now even removing caps on methane emission.

    There is one nation that benefits much more than any other from an altered planet …

    Privyet, Gospodin Putin!

  9. These retrospectives are great. Before going off the road by defining virtue signalling as “things that lots of people say”, Dan23 made a good point about your development of better language to describe your views.
    And thanks for giving service a shoutout. It’s time we think and speak about it in terms that extend beyond the armed forces.
    Amen! Let’s let deceased puppies lie. Anybody who hasn’t heard about them can find lots of resources on File770, and a handy timeline, plus witty commentary, on Camestros Felapton’s blog, as well as some fine (accurate and amusing) writing by our gracious host.

  10. what is your take on the latest meme* that is saying you cannot be socially progressive if you are fiscally conservative? Is it just semantics or is there something more to it?

    * for lack of better term

  11. Service is key. In all forms. The folks I’ve most strongly supported were for national service and I was in the Navy and VISTA. This is why I always defend Starship Troopers.

    As militaristic as it was — strange how the military is militaristic — the franchise went to all who served society, in uniform or not.

  12. Perhaps not entirely on topic, but you cleared up a very curious conversation I had with a dubious “alt right” type on twitter recently:

    “And before you get there, yes, I’m aware of the argument that the insult [SJW] started on the left, to identify people who are performatively “woke.” Even if that’s accurate however, that’s not how it is currently used.”

    I had someone claim to me the same about a specific German term that is used to deride people trying to be continuously open to refugees and their needs, and general human rights issues – the word is “Gutmensch”, which would translate as “Good human”, but is meant sarcastically. The thing is, to my knowledge, the German left never used the term to call out the “bourgoisie”, and you naming it as a right-wing claim puts that person in a somewhat different – even more dubious – light. I am aware that there are concerted efforts to sort of talk people with humanist arguments down from the right, but it didn’t occur to me that it would be this internationalized.

  13. “In simple US (and I suspect generally Western) political terms, this emphasis on the development of the individual skews generally “right” -”

    I think that is historically dead wrong.

    The right skews authoritarian and always has done so. What you are describing is the classical liberal position that grew in reaction to authoritarian uniformity as early modern Europe emerged out of the middle ages.

    Certainly there are precious few people in today’s right wing who think you have any business minding your own body without interference, not being afraid of police, or marrying whomever you want to.

  14. I’m really enjoying your 20/20 segments! I’ve been a lurker until now, but I feel like I’m really getting to know you now. And you seem like a cool guy. And you’re good at blog-writing among other things. Keep it up!

  15. William: “This is why I always defend Starship Troopers. As militaristic as it was”

    Fascist. It was fascist.

    “the franchise went to all who served society, in uniform or not”

    Look, giving back is a great idea. Community is a great idea. Doing something for others is a great idea. But that idea, as packaged in Starship Troopers is based entirely on one fucked up and provably wrong premise: that anyone who serves in the military has society’s best interests at heart.

    Heinlein preaches that sermon several times in the novel: if you serve in the military, you must be doing so for purely selfless reasons.

    That the US military was allowing skinheads to join being the simple counter example.

    Yes, many serve in the military as a way to serve their country as a whole and everyone in it. But many also serve for entirely not-altruistic reasons. Some want to kill muslims. Some want weapons training for the race war they are sure is coming.

    There are noble people who join the military for noble reasons. But Heinlein turned military service into its own religion, saying anyone who served could only ever have the interest of the nation as a whole at heart, and thats just nonsense. Heinleins ST argues that people who never served in the military can never be trusted to vote or run for office. And thats ridiculous. Heinlein is arguing that not only is a military junta the best government, he argues that a military junta is the moral superior to all alternatives.

    Heinlein imagined a system run by perfect people that produced a perfect outcome. But systems are designed BECAUSE people arent perfect. Nixon was an O6. W Bush was an O2. Imagine Starship Troopers rewritten with those two knuckleheads running the federation and you get a shitty outcome.

    Giving back is a great idea. There are many ways to talk about that without embracing the utopian call for military junta that is starship troopers.

  16. Re the language of social and political discourse, I’d like to note that it’s really hard to discuss something when you don’t have the language to describe it. I believe that a lot of the terms currently derided as “liberal virtue signaling” are actually definitional for concepts or actions that were hard to discuss for many years because there wasn’t a good way to describe them. As an example, “mansplaining” — which does not mean “any attempt by a man to explain something”, but started out as shorthand for “a man determinedly explaining something to a woman who knows more about it than he does, and refusing to hear her credentials” and has now generalized out to “the automatic assumption by a man that nobody else in the conversation knows anything about the topic”. It’s behavior we’ve all seen, but until Rebecca Solnit put that word out there, we didn’t have a good way to describe it.

    Furthermore, once we had that word, the concept could then be generalized, so now we have words like “whitesplaining” (white people trying to tell non-white people what racism is) and “richsplaining” (people who have never had to make a choice between rent and food, or food and medication, telling those who have to make those choices on a regular basis that all they need to do is budget better). Notice that all of these terms include a factor of “punching down”, which is an important part of the concept; “splaining” is something that those higher on the privilege ladder do to those who are lower, not vice versa.

  17. Twenty years ago I thought Libertarians were sorta cute, if a little bit unrealistic. And certainly preferable to the stick-up-everyone’s-butt virtue-enforcement conservatives I’d learned to despise in my youth.

    What a difference twenty years makes. You nailed it with Scalzi’s General Principle of Politics II: “Politics that don’t understand the world exists downstream of one’s own actions are bad politics.” Libertarianism seems to feel that “downstream”, if it exists at all, is relevant only to whiny liberal SJW types trying to prevent anyone else from a) getting rich; b) having fun and/or c) being left alone.

    The territory of “stuff I do just for me that doesn’t affect anyone else” is inversely proportional to the complexity and population size of the community you live in. America is north of 350 million people and incredibly complex, so the bona-fide territory of “it shouldn’t matter to anyone else so don’t regulate it” is pretty much limited to the color socks you pull out of the drawer, at this point.

    Which isn’t to say that every action of every individual has to be the subject of infinite iterations of calculation about gratification to self versus harm to others- there are always priorities. And all life exists at the expense of other life.

    But for those whining about attempts by various jurisdictions to ban single-use plastic straws (and even, in some places, single-use plastic flatware) as being the ne plus ultra in liberal prescriptive oppression, please run the numbers again. While I agree that there are certainly many “more important things to worry about”, have you SEEN the constantly-growing islands of plastic waste in our oceans and landfills?

    Balance the costs, in convenience and cash, of such a ban, against the offsetting gains in new economic development as entrepreneurs tool up to provide renewable straws, nifty portable eating sets, etc. And against the ultimate costs- human and cash- of corraling and disposing of waste plastics (again, offset by possible economic development as clever inventors figure out a way to recapture the carbon and maybe even create power sources from it, we’re an awfully inventive species.)

    And the soda straw debate politicization is only one in a vast myriad of “look downstream before you decide your personal convenience and/or freedom overrides the need for changing how we do something” issues. These things should not be emblematic left/right spectrum dogwhistles, they should be the nuts and bolts of self-governance.

    In my experience, conservatism is a great thing when it means “preserve what’s worthwhile, be sure the benefits of any change offset the costs; and don’t let immediate priorities and desires overrule sound planning for a healthy future.” When it means “Don’t change anything that will make demands of me or reduce the privileges and benefits I feel entitled to,” conservatism sucks. When it means “Don’t do any of that plus keep any of those bad, different, not-like-me people from getting any benefits I’m sure they don’t deserve”, it becomes unbearably toxic.

    The problem with American politics during my lifetime has been that the vast majority of us seem to think of the critical responsibility of self-governance as a damn’ nuisance that someone else should be taking care of for us. At least until we don’t like how it’s being taken care of and then throw the bums out and get some new bums.

    The cost of educating ourselves from childhood about stuff that won’t help us get a job but will help us understand and participate responsibly in self-governance is just too much for most voters. The time it takes to study issues, apply critical thinking skills, look at “downstream,” balance difficult priorities and choices, actually communicate with our neighbors about priorities (including, oh, horrors! LISTENING to each other!), attend meetings, grasp what a mil levy is, show up at town halls, and all that is time away from playing our favorite video game or watching the latest cool Netflix series or, sadly, working the three jobs we need to survive and feed our kids.

    We let go of the wheel. We bought into the “representative means all you have to do is show up at a voting booth every coupla years” myth, and this is where it’s gotten us.

  18. Just to comment on the phrase “sweet, summer child” and its ubiquitous use these days to patronize people in a gently annoying fashion: I think you, Scalzi (and me for that matter) would be the summer child. It’s the young ones who were born as the autumn winds whipped up. Either that or the Baby Boomers are the Summer Children. (Making us Indian Summer? Early Autumn?)

  19. @uleaguehub
    This:
    “The cost of educating ourselves from childhood about stuff that won’t help us get a job but will help us understand and participate responsibly in self-governance is just too much for most voters.
    The time it takes to study issues, apply critical thinking skills, look at “downstream,” balance difficult priorities and choices, actually communicate with our neighbors about priorities (including, oh, horrors! LISTENING to each other!), attend meetings, grasp what a mil levy is, show up at town halls, and all that is time away from playing our favorite video game or watching the latest cool Netflix series or, sadly, working the three jobs we need to survive and feed our kids.”

    I see this all the time. I’m from a swing county in a swing state, which went for Obama in ’08 and ’12 and Trump in ’16.

    Very few former Obama voters in my county voted for Trump. But, a lot of them stayed home.

    School is exhausting. It’s hard. Most people here left school feeling stupid, except for the, oh, 17% chosen who got to go to college. The rest of us got the loud-and-clear message that we aren’t smart enough to handle real academics, but we also weren’t worth investing in by giving us an education that’ll lead to a good job without college, which, again, we’re too stupid for.

    Who makes you feel good? Obama made us feel good. He talked about hope.

    The day-to-day reality of life here is keeping your household and raising your kids, or alleviating your pain with escapism into netflix, books, video games or drugs. I went to college despite getting side-eye. I graduated, but it took six years. Most of my friends who tried to give it a shot failed and ended up in debt.

    Trump made some people feel good– made them feel like winners in a place where we tend to all feel like losers. He made people feel like heroes who could vanquish the villains bringing us down. He said it wasn’t our fault that we live like this.

    The people who knew he was against us, that we were the “villains” in the story well, most of us just felt overwhelmed. I voted for Hillary, but I felt numb doing it.

    I don’t know what the solution is, honestly. How can I make others focus more on their own education and less on the immediate things that relieve their pain?
    How can I make people look past how a politician’s speech makes them feel, and actually think of what the effects of their plans might be?
    And that it ultimately doesn’t matter if a candidate reminds you of one of the sneering mean girls in the 1%, who not only was assumed to be smart enough to go to college but guaranteed to go somewhere “elite”?

    Sometimes when I’m in pain, it’s as if that’s the only real thing in the world. I know that’s not true, but I think it a lot. I think sometimes that killing myself will solve all the problems. Really, it will only end my pain, not anyone else’s. “Downstream” effects would be bad; I have to stay alive to solve things. People would be sad if I died. But I imagine a lot, sometimes, not killing myself, but just dying through something that’s nobody’s fault. A death with no one to blame. The pain stops, but it seems reasonable. It’s so hard to think, sometimes. I just want someone to make me feel good.

  20. william, don’t confuse the moral of what we are talking about here (“the individual realizing that their service, participation and actions should improve the community”), with the moral of Starship Troopers. The moral of ST is “Military people are intrinsically better than anyone else and deserve to rule over everyone else”. That’s inherently undemocratic, antithetical to any notion of “community”, and has nothing to do with “contributing” anything to anyone. What ST is, rather is fascist, tribal (military is tribe, anyone else is “other”), and all about one class of people grabbing power from everyone else.

    The government of Starship Troopers is the PR version of every military junta in history. And not one of those real-world junta’s ever turned out like Starship Troopers’ utopia. It’s pro military propaganda, written by a libertarian crank who was upset at SANE running a full page ad calling for an end to nuclear testing in the 50’s.

    Heinlein wasn’t writing a story about “giving back to the community”. Heinlein was writing a story where he and the military knew better than those pinko commie-loving peacenik hippies and he was trying to make “military service required to vote or hold office” as his way of writing the long-hairs out of his perfect world..

  21. I have two nits:

    I think you’re an order of magnitude off on where failure to engage trolls falls on the Trump blame scale, more like reason 5,013, far, far below squirrels eating ignition wires.

    Maybe my definition of politics is wrong, but I think disagreements about which persons/class of people are entitled to power/recognition/resources is central to politics, and clearly the melancholy canines and such clearly believe that certain people, by dent of their race/gender/sexual orientation/et cetera didn’t deserve to be winning those awards. So very much about politics.

  22. I’ve definitely moved more to the left over the past 20 years, but not as far left as the conservatives have moved to the right. The two big issues that moved me left were the endless war in the middle east, which put a heavy toll on people around my age and younger, and the response to the 2008 crisis, which also put a heavy toll on people around my age and younger.

    All this crying about “creeping socialism” seemed pretty pathetic when you’re looking at a real crisis, with people who have to make alot of hard choices, and suddenly all that stuff people went through during the 30s seems very real and the changes they pushed for make alot more sense. This goes doubly for all the pro-military cheerleading that mainly seems to come from the politicians who never served, even when the draft was a real thing.

    What bothers me the most about the view of military service is that, while it can be noble, it is often something that people do because they don’t have alot of other good options. And that’s on us and our government and especially on the party that seems to have unlimited dollars available for guns, but not one cent for job training or higher education. Also, we seem to be asking alot from our troops as far as sticking them in the longest war in history and never even considering how to end it. If we want our military to be something that is a force for good, we have to figure out how to pull the plug on our mistakes and give it a chance to heal up, and not enough people running this country seem to even be considering this a problem.

  23. Well, Greg, you are conflating two rather different yet not unaligned things.

    So a certain confusion may be inevitable.

    No question, I can tell you from experience, that Heinlein romanticized the military. So his p.o.v. Character – in that book – felt that vets were the best. Others, who dislike the military, are quick to talk about pockets of skinheads.

    But the fact remains that none of Heinlein’s characters were skinheads and all believed that anyone who performed any sort of national service should both vote and contest for office. So it is very easy to refute the usual charges about the book.

    I don’t view Starship Troopers as a civic model. Not do I view it as fascist, a word i very seldom apply in American politics. Prior to the last few years, that is.

    But the martial virtues are an absolute necessity for any advanced industrial society. They simply are not the sole necessary virtues.

  24. … Naturally, my real civic model stems from Stranger In A Strange Land. A utopian free love small c communism which helped inspire the counter-culture of the 1960s.

    And it was Heinlein’s very next book after Starship Troopers. There were no hippies, dirty, greasy or otherwise at the time of Starship Troopers. But there were after Stranger.

    To be sure, I’m kidding a bit.

    I’m actually more enamored with the Future History society built on ubiquitous solar power, high speed public transit, and space exploration…

  25. How has life in Darke County shaped your political views? Perhaps some of the local political culture has rubbed off?

  26. Y’all know that sometimes writers write about ideas, politics, and concepts to explore them, not to proselytize them, eh?

    John, I’m going to steal that “downstream” concept, it’s a good/useful one: original? or from somebody else?

  27. @uleaguehub, you are ignorant of a crucial part of the whole straw thing.
    “But for those whining about attempts by various jurisdictions to ban single-use plastic straws (and even, in some places, single-use plastic flatware) as being the ne plus ultra in liberal prescriptive oppression, please run the numbers again. While I agree that there are certainly many “more important things to worry about”, have you SEEN the constantly-growing islands of plastic waste in our oceans and landfills?”

    I have a disability and am active in the disability community. For many people with physical disabilities (particularly those that affect the hands, wrists, mouth, throat, or general coordination), straws are the difference between being able to drink and not being able to drink. For many of those people, none of the re-usable straws will work. (Either they’re hard enough to cause injury in case of a fall or seizure, or they disintegrate if you don’t drink your drink fast enough, or they’re a choking hazard, or they’re an allergen, or they can’t be positioned, or they can’t be used with hot liquids, or …. you get the picture.)

    Plastic in our oceans and landfills is a big thing we need to reduce. Absolutely. Straws are an incredibly tiny part of that, and banning straws throws many disabled people under the bus. There are lots of things we could do to reduce our plastics consumption that would not do that. For example, something like 40% of debris floating in the ocean is stuff from fishing trawlers that they abandoned when it got caught or damaged. Require large-scale fishing operations to put their name/ID number on every part of their gear and fine them if it turns up on a beach or floating somewhere, and I guarantee you they would stop doing that, or at least reduce how often. That would make a big dent in the problem, and not throw anybody under the bus to do so.

  28. So the obvious thing needed wrt the plastic straws in some basic common sense – most people shouldn’t use them and thus make a small reduction in the problem, but they should be decently available for people that actually need them. And of course , since common sense is
    A) rarely either common, or indeed really sense
    B) so rare it’s practically a goddam superpower
    we’re well screwed.

    As for the fishing gear – I’m currently CTO for a company hoping to get a contract to do some work on exactly that kind of problem. Maybe we’ll get to do something useful.

  29. I’m thankful Massachusetts lets me register as ‘Independent’. I despise the parties – *all* of them – and I hate what partisanship has done to this country. We are still suffering from Newt Gingrich-ism, only now it has become the norm.

  30. One of the ways in which you serve the community is by such lucid public exposition of your own positions that it helps clarify one’s own thoughts and sheds fresh light on important debates. Thank you!

  31. @IndoorCat – a sad and perceptive analysis. I hope for you that you can find others around you who can support you in your struggles.

  32. The political right looks to have pilfered its best ad hominem epithets from other sources. From the political left: social justice warrior, champagne/chardonnay socialist, political correctness. From the study of evolutionary biology: virtue signalling.

    The phrase “sweet summer child” may have been used in spoken English before Game of Thrones popularized it. Its use in the written corpus, however, is not attested before 2009, according to this Google Ngram result.

    https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=sweet+summer+child&case_insensitive=on&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=

  33. william: “But the fact remains that none of Heinlein’s characters were skinheads and all believed that anyone who performed any sort of national service should both vote and contest for office. So it is very easy to refute the usual charges about the book”

    Sure, and in Birth of a Nation, the writer makes clear that the protagonists aren’t white supremicists. We see clearly in the movie that they are merely responding to defend themselves against blacks stuffing the ballots and raping their women. And since the writer portrays the protagonists as merely responding in self defense, it is impossible to declare it a racist movie. So it is very easy to refute the usual charges of racism against “Birth of a Nation”.

  34. “what is your take on the latest meme* that is saying you cannot be socially progressive if you are fiscally conservative?”

    My feelings about this are hard to articulate clearly, but I have a few thoughts:
    – As a nation, we collectively have the resources needed to feed and shelter everyone, and it’s criminal that we don’t; if we can use eminent domain for yet another highway, we ought to be able to have some system that gets everyone fed and housed and the relevant owners and workers reasonably compensated.
    – Running a deficit to invest in things like infrastructure, education, and health care that will make the country more robust and able to innovate is not a bad thing.
    – It’s ridiculous to cut services that disproportionately benefit the poor (medicare, food stamps) and the common good (public education, libraries, environmental protection) in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich and the various forms of corporate and higher-income welfare.
    – Paying for important social goods should impact a very wealthy person’s ability to have a private plane before it impacts my ability to order the occasional pizza, and it should impact my ability to order pizza before it impacts a poor family’s ability to keep the lights on.

  35. ” this emphasis on the development of the individual skews generally “right” — individualism, independence, the need and desire to chart one’s own course regardless of how others may think, and whether they approve. ”
    As someone noted upthread, no. That’s at least as much a liberal thing. A lot of the right (not all) embraces it only in the sense that they think being rude, using derogatory names and punching down are acts of individualism.
    Of course the assumption that freedom=total lack of consideration for anyone else crops up quite outside of politics too.

  36. It seems that philosophically speaking you’re working through Rawls’ “veil of ignorance”. Have you read his book “A Theory of Justice”, or is that just happenstance?

    Will

  37. @ Kaci… I think the “Progressives can’t be conservative” argument comes down to a misconception that progressives want to increase taxes. I think it is more about tax justice.

    I believe that the insane economic welfare that is the military-industrial complex, and now the prison-industrial complex and other industrial-welfare needs to be stopped. That money should go to healthcare, education, and making sure our weakest are helped.

    I would boldly say that if such grossly wasteful spending could be cut and pay ten times what is needed. That making sure corporations pay taxes, and the wealthy pay taxes is more about tax fairness than increasing taxes.

    Yes, there needs to be more taxes on certain people and things. But less on the middle class. The wealthy stole the idea of “conservatism” by fooling us into believing that lowering taxes helping THEM helps us.

    Fair taxation and responsible spending SHOULD be “conservative”. But they’ve labelled it hippie-communist.

  38. @Icarus: The idea that you can’t be fiscally conservative if you’re socially liberal is bullshit intended to discourage the fiscally conservative from being socially liberal. Treating people better does not require spending money.

    Considering the way that the deficit tends to increase more rapidly under social conservatives such as George W. Bush, you could probably make a better case that the socially conservative can’t be fiscally conservative.

  39. On the subject of left – right I see it more as a figure 8. You’ve got your left and right but also up and down: – up is totalitarianism and down is anarchy. A political position can fall anywhere in or on the lines. Hitting the spot where the lines cross in the middle would be perfection (something that would only happen by accident).
    So an evangelical would be right wing / totalitarian leaning but a libertarian would be right wing(ish) tending anarchy.

  40. “There is some dramatic irony about this, regarding me, as I suspect people will soon find out.”

    It is of course none of my business, but I hope you aren’t facing any personal or professional repercussions over your political views. I do know that many people (including myself) have always appreciated the political dimension of this blog, and you’ve helped me clarify my thinking on a number of topics.

    I mean, I’m sure you know this already… but maybe it can’t be said enough: the dedicated haters really are in the minority. Even when I disagree with you, I always respect your perspective.

  41. I think my earlier comment gotten eaten up (or removed, not sure which). Bummer. Was one of the more thoughtful comments I’ve left here I quite some time.

    So, an abbreviated one instead: I’ve found you to be a bit more open-minded than most of the people in the various entertainment fields these days, and to me, that is always a plus.

  42. G.B. Miller@5:50 am 9/12

    There is a post of yours on the “Sunset 9/11/18” thread that really looks like it might have been intended for this thread. Also note there is a response from our host two messages below your post in that thread.

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