The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Thank you for the suggestions about Jason--they are currently being implemented...
My thoughts about "we all have racist tendencies" is pretty close to what I think. A better way to put it is that "the average person has strong tribal tendencies" and that the easiest way to distinguish tribe is visual. The intensity of this will be distributed on a Bell Curve. Identification with skills or attributes can override this. For instance, white kids love Michael Jordan. But by my theory, a white player with the same skills would have been even MORE popular with this group--his extradordinary physical skills and likeability overcame that "10% disconnect" I've talked about so often.
We have a tendency also to be unconscious about our perceptual flaws. I've said this before: in order to see through the Matrix, you need to have had some aspect of your existence already in conflict with it. My comments about race are almost always better understood by someone who is gay, older, obese, poor, extremely short, disfigured, of a minority religion, female, etc. If you are white, male, straight, Christian, tall, middle-class, etc., the "Matrix" was made almost precisely for you, and you can devote your attention to achievement within in, never realizing the deck has been stacked. I remember my astonishment, and dark amusement (tinged with genuine empathy) when a white guy came up to me at a convention in Texas, and began babbling about how "a White Man doesn' t have a chance in America." I'm sure he was very serious. I can barely comprehend the level of entitlement one would have to feel and look out at America and feel that non-whites have greater opportunity. All I can figure is that he feels that we shouldn't have ANYTHING, and that ANYTHING we have was taken from worthy white guys. Bizarre--but it makes perfect sense. Children feel that MINE MINE MINE thing intheir heads like crazy, and have to be socialized out of it. If they aren't,'s not pretty.
I have to admit that it's fun watching people talk about where the "center" of America is. To me, this says more about them than the center, since there is no objective definition of same to my notice. What we have is a cluster of perspectives that crowd under two basic tents. Some share many of them. Some share none. Really, really, roughly, it looks to me like the following polarities exist, creating a 4-dimensional grid that gets squeezed down to 2 dimensions for the purpose of easy discussion.
1) There's a Far Right that thinks Business can be trusted more than Government, and a Left that thinks Government can be trusted more than business.
2) There's a religious Far Right that thinks the Bible, specifically Christianity, should control our lives and policy, and a Far Left anti-religious sector that thinks it should be driven from public life.
3) There's a Right that believes America is the only determinant of right and wrong, and a Left that thinks America is horrific.
4)There's a Right that believes there was some golden era, usually in the past, where everything was good in America. A Left that thinks that America is built on blood and lies alone.

There are more, of course. Reasonable people are some distribution of Right to Left in each of these, and other, categories, creating the aforementioned 4-dimensional grid.
Right now, as I've said, I think the Right has had far too much power, and plays to the bigotry within their tent in some ways that most will be ashamed of in a generation. The demonization of Gays makes me absolutely sick, and reminds me very much of the race-baiting the Right engaged in a generation ago...and often seems to be lurking just below the surface now. But the real question is whither now? The Democrats, being more to the Left, cannot help but want to share power and gain consensus--to do otherwise would betray their principles. Just as those who truely believe in the more hierarchical view would HAVE to grip at that power like drowning sailers. Each side must behave in these ways to be true to themselves--it ain't gonna change, unless they drift toward each other. Which will probably happen. But remember that there will always be forces that "sound reasonable" but are actually venomous, and encourage us to hatred.
I also have to admit that the current behavior of the guy in the White House reminds me of a compulsive gambler who has already lost the mortgage and is now ready to bet the kid's college funds. Even the new term "double down" for the favored Iraq policy, reinforces this. I have a sense that those who supported Iraq are absolutely stunned, disbelieving, somewhat in shock that they could have been so wrong. One more hand. One more pull at the slot machine, God, please. It will all turn out right. We'll wake up, and history will vendicate us...

Or would the abused wife returning to the dominating husband be a better example? Not sure.

This is why I think the only answers worth a damn will come out of a completely new group. So far, everything we've done in Iraq, by my vote, has made us less safe. I'm not willing to just accept that our leaving will create some horrific terrorist-filled void just because the same people who wanted us to go in say so. It might be true, but those guys have been wrong about so much, for so long, that I just don't buy it. When people who were AGAINST the war say we have to stay (and there are a few of those) I listen much, much more closely. I could be wrong in my approach, but over the course of my life, I've just found that people's brains get stuck in a particular position under pressure, and until that pressure is released, they babble. And what they say makes perfect sense to them, but sometimes if you haul them out of the casino and sober them up, they'll realize they were out of their freaking minds.

No comments: