Saturday, January 20, 2018

Aiming To Misbehave

     If you enjoyed the greatly loved and much lamented television series Firefly, you probably saw the movie spinoff, Serenity, in which protagonist / tramp freighter captain Mal Reynolds utters the piercing line that I cribbed for the title of this tirade:

     Y'all got on this boat for different reasons, but y'all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people...better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave.

     Owing to the conditions Reynolds alludes to – i.e., the attempt by the system government to create a mind-control therapy that would expunge all aggression from the human psyche – he has elected to make the fateful transition from “mouse in the walls” to “open rebel.” It’s not the first time Reynolds has chosen to rebel. What makes his decision momentous is that this time around he, his ship, and his little crew will be utterly alone.

     It’s a striking cinematic depiction of courage placed in service to an ideal. But the viewer can’t easily imagine himself in Reynolds’s place; the odds against him and the Serenity are too great. We might like to imagine ourselves as heroes, but most of us, if compelled to face the reality, would probably opt out. Moral courage just isn’t that common.

     But when one has, in Kris Kristofferson’s words, “nothing left to lose,” the dynamic changes dramatically.

     Sarah Hoyt’s most recent piece is a stunner:

     In the last few decades, in certain industries and certain fields of endeavor, it would slowly (or fast, in my case, since I’d seen the movie before) dawn on you that you weren’t going to get anywhere if your political opinions weren’t left. It became clear, hearing say editors talk, that the furthest to the left, the better — which is why some bright lads and lassies formed the “young communists club” for science fiction writers, AFTER the wall fell, and by the time it was formed not one of them under 30 — but if you believed in the free market, individual freedom, and despised the idea of benes for protected classes (even if — particularly if — you fit at least two of them) you’d better keep your opinions to yourself and pretend you were too stupid to understand politics. Because the moment you revealed your politics your career was done....

     This meant the minute you outed yourself as [not left-aligned,] as in fact, having too many principles for your own good, you were considered stupid, uncaring (racist/sexist/homophobic) AND insane. So it was easy enough to exclude you “per cause.” “Yeah, so and so is a good writer/worker, but he/she is insane.” “Difficult to work with.” “Couldn’t be part of the team.” “Isn’t googly.” (Follow that link if you have a strong stomach.)

     I’ll never forget — pre twitter — the day I voiced a mildly non-conformist opinion in an email list for female writers. I don’t know which was crazier: the public pile on, inferring things about me that my worst enemy couldn’t say, or the private panicked emails, saying “I agree with you, but…”

     There is a term for this. It’s preference falsification. And in totalitarian societies it can be so total that each individual can’t figure out that his opinions are in fact the majority and only a small minority at the top actually believes the opinions they enforce. It’s what explains Ceausescu and his equally brutal wife being beloved figures in the morning, and cooling piles of bullet-riddled meat by the afternoon. It’s also what gave us Trump’s victory.

     The above, most especially the concept of preference falsification, is important prefatory material. Virtually the entire point of the Left’s “long march through the institutions” of communication and education was to create a state of affairs in which it could keep small-government / pro-freedom individuals from knowing about one another. When every organ of thought and knowledge dissemination simultaneously screams at you that “Everybody knows / believes X,” it takes a fair degree of self-assertion to say “Well, I don’t”...even to oneself.

     But Sarah has a point to make. She tells us, first of all, that for many years she suppressed the expression of her political views. Before the Indie Revolution, it was that or go unpublished. But conditions changed – and not just in the rise of the eBook:

     It was only two things that allowed me [to] come out of the political closet — besides something that was either my subconscious or perhaps the divine applying iron-clad boot to my behind — a) the existence of indie. b) the fact that the left had gone so far they were demanding vocal endorsement. And that I couldn’t give.

     Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

     The Left’s command of the mechanisms for preference falsification made all the pre-election polls report that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in. The voters had other ideas.

     Rebellion against the norms trumpeted by the elite doesn’t require a great deal of courage when the cost of conformity becomes the surrender of your core conceptions about right and wrong...your identity as a moral agent...your soul. The protests of agnostics and atheists notwithstanding, Man is demonstrably a spiritual being: i.e., one who prioritizes particular abstractions highly enough to pledge his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor to their defense. Once his back is against the wall, even a case-hardened atheist would defend his ideals as of more importance than his personal well-being.

     In the political combat of our time, the Left’s central error was to think that it could raise the price of “going along” to that ultimate level. Yet it was an easy mistake to make. They’d probed with the bayonet for thirty years and had encountered nothing but mush. They were certain that what remained ahead of them was more of the same. It may have cost them any stake in American governance for decades to come; perhaps the 2018 midterms will tell us.

     By electing to rebel, we’ve made it possible to find one another. Ironically, the very mechanisms the Left has sought to dominate were the conduits that have brought and are bringing us together. And the masters of those conduits are discovering, albeit slowly, that the price of kowtowing to the Left’s demands that we be ostracized and isolated is steadily rising. It may already be greater than they’re willing to pay.

     In politics and social dealings, nothing can be guaranteed. Things will change. Some of the changes will surely diverge from our expectations. Nevertheless, at this moment the tide is favorable to the Right and to freedom generally. You know what Shakespeare said about that:

     There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures. [From Julius Caesar]

     And please read Sarah’s piece in its entirety. It’ll put a smile on your face.

No comments: