The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, December 28, 2009

You Only Need One

Just finished reading "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" the book upon which the Showtime series is based. There are some fascinating differences, but basically Showtime expanded this book out into an entire series of serial killer angst. The changes were, in my opinion, all to the good. There's a bit at the end of the book that influences Dex's relationship with his sister, and I don't like it as much.

I was just stunned and happy with the last season of the show, and the last episode was something close to perfect. Wonder what they'll do next season.

I also wonder how "24" will be this season. Starts in about two weeks. Will they soften it? I would expect fewer torture sequences, now that chuckleheads have actually quoted the damned show as if Jack Bauer is a real human being. THAT was depressing. And I'm not sure whether it was "mere" political theater or not...


Speaking of that, my recent experiences trying to get feedback on the downside of allowing anyone to buy into Medicare at "cost plus ten" has convinced me I've discovered another quasi-hidden rule of politics, one doubtless used by both sides of the spectrum.

1) If someone makes a sound and sane proposal, ignore it.

2) If you cannot ignore it, misquote it, and then attack the misquote.

3) Force the reasonable proposal off the table, and force your opponents to try to accomplish the same things through a series of clumsy, cludgy patchworks.

4) Attack the patchworks as if they were your opponent's original intent, blaming them for the inelegance.


It has been fascinating to watch. Who was it that compared the political process to making sausage?


Today is a Dream Park day. I have to get in there and work on my characters. There's a ton of work to be done, and I figure my best bet is working on a print copy, rather than on the computer. Odd how much of a difference that makes.


A friend of a frequent poster on this board wrote me, disputing my contention that black men don't get laid in movies if the filmmakers want to find an audience. He was wrong, of course, but I guess his intentions were good. I guess. What interests me is that Liberals tend to "get" what I'm saying rather rapidly, while Conservatives dispute it. I'm not sure why--whether it's the chicken or the egg. In other words, did their selective perception lead to BOTH a Conservative world view, AND a resistance to believing tribal preferences influence market forces? Or did a Conservative belief system necessitate believing in, for instance, a level playing field? Or do they just have a higher threshold for evidence of social issues? I would guess that that last might be true. But it does strike me as curious.

My guess: if the average person on either side of the political line is approximately equal in basic humanity, then Conservatives must view the unequal performance or status as indicative of things that were not caused by, and cannot be changed by social engineering, while Liberals tend to see such things as end-products of social forces, and therefore amenable to social programs. A fascinating exception is, of course, when Liberal social programs are said to be to blame (for instance, Welfare) in which case suddenly Conservatives are happy to assume that social programs or situations can be devastating, while Liberals refuse to look at it. Personally, I think it shall I say this? Non-optimal thinking to suggest that two generations of Welfare could do more damage to a group than ten generations of slavery and deprivation. That's just political theater, in my mind.

It is interesting to believe that there is equal but different asininity on both sides (with some variations for current social events and pressures). Makes it kind of hard to have certain kinds of conversations with either side. Everyone is just SO convinced that folks on their side are morally and mentally superior.


Of course, that takes things back to the personal level. In coaching, I have a couple of clients who have recently had a devastating romantic break-up. And their first tendency is to blame the partner, of course. "How could she...?" But the instant they turn that around to: "why didn't I see what kind of person she was...?" it becomes different. Instead of wishing they could trust their lover, they have to take responsibility for being blind to their flaws. And THAT is purely their own responsibility. Here are some questions to ask oneself about lost love, from the perspective of balance:

1) What didn't I see about my lover? Why didn't I let myself see it?

2) Where in my life have I made analogous mistakes before? How can I stop them?

3) What was the central wound in my beloved? How does it match one of my own wounds? If I had been healed on that level, would I have been so attracted to him/her?


The trick in healing emotionally is to take responsibility, and have faith. In other words, YOU made the decision to trust this person. If you were not able to understand them deeply enough to see their values and potential weaknesses, this is YOUR fault, not his or hers. Easiest solution? Ask their past partners. If not available? Be suspicious. Go slow.

And have Faith that there are good people in the world, healthy enough to sustain a relationship. All you have to be is one of them. So you also need Faith that if you look realistically at your own flaws, you will find a way to heal them. I think that people are terrified that if they really looked deeply into their hearts, they'd find an evil, twisted thing. So they paper it over, and look for other papered-over hearts, relating to each other on the superficial level, "surprised" when the old, neglected wounds fester and boil over.

That's a shame. Love is available to any human being willing to actually dump their egos and express their true essence. There are six billion souls on this planet--you only need one.


Ernessa, author of 32 Candles said...

I completely agree. It's very interesting being a black woman right now, b/c the media is always trying to tell us that we're in dire straits as far as dating is concerned. But to me the solution is simple, ignore the MSM, don't worry that every single guy on this earth doesn't believe you're beautiful b/c of the color of your skin or some other trait. You didn't want those guys anyway. The odds are on our side. Someone's going to think you're the bees knees. You just have to find him.

Often, I think the regular stuff in life is easier for artists, just because we've learned to process rejection in move on and in comparison dating is WAY easier than dealing with a million road blocks as you try to get your career off the ground.

Steve Perry said...

Years ago, in DeRopp's Master Game, I recall reading about the search for equals. I related to it completely. I wanted somebody I could run with and who could keep up with me (and vice-versa).

I think a lot of what Barnes offers here is to that end, and I think a lot of what he says about how get a partner you want is simple, but elegant:

Be the kind of person you want. Be willing to offer real value to somebody looking for it.

Some things you can't change -- if you want tall and blond and you are short and swart, that's how it is. But you can be a fit, educated, and well-turned out short 'n' swart person, because there are things you can control.

The more you have going in your favor, the more likely it is that will attract somebody you will value.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

AS A GENERAL RULE ... If you're a man and you want someone interesting, competent, talented, and good looking ... make money. If you're a woman, be hot.

Is this fair? No, not even a little. But it's what is. The thing I like best about Barnes's blog, particularly in this area, is that he addresses ways to work with this fundamental reality, rather than to pretend it doesn't exist or to moan over how it's unfair.

Plenty of people don't fit this binary male/female model, and have found ways to be happy and healthy despite it. It's just (statistically, anyway) a harder thing to accomplish; most divorces center around finances and infidelity. Of course, you have to get into a relationship before you can blow it up ....

Dark Eden said...

You make some inferences about conservatives that don't bear out at least with those I've known and my own beliefs. You seem to fall into a trap a lot of liberals get into: if you disagree with my solution to problem X, you must not think it is a problem or you want the problem for some nefarious reason probably involving Karl Rove. Usually we agree on the problem but we don't think your solution does much to fix it, and may in fact make it worse. This hit me a few years ago when I was rooming with a fairly liberal guy. We decided to go over that year's California propositions and in the middle of it, he looked up at me with this look of spiritual enlightenment and said, quote, “So its not that Republicans hate poor people, its that you don't think these programs will help them!” The way he said it, it had never occurred to him that Republicans don't hate poor people and want them to die.

The example you use is the unequal performance or status of individuals in society. Since conservatives tend to disagree with liberal solutions to fix these imbalances, are conservatives blind to the differences between races, genders, etc? No. What is the track record of social programs improving social issues? Pretty poor. You ask if conservatives think that welfare is more damaging than slavery to black communities. We don't. Anyone with a functioning brainstem doesn't think welfare is worse than slavery. That is really a pretty bad standard or view of the world though.

Does welfare bring us closer to a level playing field or further away? The evidence is pretty conclusive it's a toxic influence wrapped in the noblest of intentions. I've known families on welfare. Two (white, if it matters) girls trying to find work and get married. In both cases, if they had done so, they would have lost their welfare benefits. They couldn't, because the jobs they could get didn't provide the same level of income. Once you take it, its hard to get out. Its like reaching escape velocity to get out of a planet's gravity well.

I say Republicans tend to mistrust government, Democrats tend to mistrust business. Personally I like businesses because I've heard of well run companies but I've never heard of a well run government program. Its not that conservatives don't care. More that some program run by faceless bureaucrats in a far off capital are not likely to balance the scales. Life is never going to fair.

There are certain things that successful people do, whether they're from the US, Africa, Asia, or wherever. Learning what they are and applying them to your own life to overcome whatever obstacles your background put in front front you is a far better way to go than hoping that the government will give you the same chance that rich white kid had. I grew up in the trailer park dirt poor going to the same school as those rich white kids, I know what its like to not have the same chance. But that doesn't mean you have no chance.

White kids like me had a strange benefit. It was expected that white kids did well. Its expected that asian kids do well. Its normal. So if you're poor, regardless of why, its your fault. Your dad's a bum, you're a bum, your family is trash so get up and do something about it or shut the hell up. No one has a drop of sympathy for the poor white family and in a strange way that's such a gift.

I picture it like a beautiful siren whispering in your ear, “Its not your fault. The system is rigged against you. There's nothing you can do. This is beyond your control. Lay down and sleep... No matter how hard you try you won't get any better so just lay down and die in the righteousness of victimhood...” This is definitely not saying that all the problems of the black and other minority communities are illusory. Its saying that it becomes a feedback loop. The system IS rigged against you so you may find it hard to push yourself as hard as you might if it wasn't rigged against you in the first place.

Marty S said...

Dark Eden has hit the nail on the head. For myself and most of my conservative friends and relatives its not the goals that we differ with liberals on but the path. Why is it that some Blacks, don't try to fit in and make the effort to get ahead. Its because they feel the deck is stacked against them and so they don't have the incentive. Incentive is a very important factor in motivating people, so I favor solutions, which I believe are incentive based. Just because
I'm against affirmative action programs, as they currently work, doesn't mean I'm against minorities, it just means I don't think its the best way to a society where ethnicity doesn't matter.
And by the way a Black guy getting laid in a movie wouldn't bother me personally at all.

Dark Eden said...

Affirmative action is a good example to me, especially test based points systems.

The logic goes like this, "this test is rigged against me but rather than try to fix the biases in it, I want you to give me free points."

Now to me that don't make a lick of sense. If there are biases, point them out and try to make a test that's fair to everyone, but just accepting the bias and wanting freebies is... well... it doesn't sit well with me at all.

That mentality is woven around a lot of things that Republicans disagree with. Life is unfair so give me free things.

Steven Barnes said...

There is not a single attitude I have about Conservatives that is not based in things actual, living Conservatives said to me, many many times. None of this is hallucination, or based merely on what Liberals say about Conservatives. I have lost count of the number of times white Conservatives, and I mean intelligent, educated folks, have suggested that Welfare was more damaging to blacks than Slavery. I kid you not. If you don't like that, or disagree, I can understand and appreciate that. But don't for a moment think I'm making it up.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"The logic goes like this, "this test is rigged against me but rather than try to fix the biases in it, I want you to give me free points.""

Ideally, such rigging should be routed out and the playing field leveled. Practically, as regards racially or sexually charged environments, the rigging's rooted in long standing biases that serve as bulwarks for entrenched oppression. While concerted effort may lower or dismantle such barriers in the long haul, for those struggling against discrimination in the here and now, the rigging often seems intractable. Rather than have otherwise qualified aspirants tilt at windmills or be shammed with cosmetic social changes, it's seems fair and reasonable to implement mechanisms to compensate for intractable bias.

Unknown said...

I actually think some degree of willingness to dump most of the blame on your ex or soon to be ex can be useful, at least in the short term. It helps in getting out of relationships that are genuinely bad or abusive (later, when you're well and safely out, it can be worth asking what you may have missed and why, but until you're out it's more worth remembering that, whatever your faults, no one has the right to treat you that way), and it can help in not kicking yourself too much over the occasional mistaken choice that practically everyone makes when young and learning.

But too much blaming the other person for all your romantic failures can get you stuck making the same mistakes over and over, and not making the changes you need to make.

In fact, when I look back at my actual exes, I see at least one who I think was more at fault than I was, at least one who was less at fault than I was, and at least one case where we were maybe both equally at fault. So over the long haul, it evens out.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

No. What is the track record of social programs improving social issues? Pretty poor.

Well, except for Medicare. And Social Security. The GI Bill. Guaranteed student loans. Head Start. Food stamps. Rural Electrification. The National Institute of Health. Youth Summer Jobs Program. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Public Libraries.

... That's not me talking. These are programs that various conservatives identified as working well, among them George Will, John Kasich, Arianna Huffington (back when she was still considered a conservative) ... Ben Stein and Richard Viguerie.

My list would be longer.

Marty S said...

The welfare does more harm than slavery notion is obviously ridiculous. But a welfare system that provides a disincentive to work by taking away those benefits as soon as those on welfare are employed and earning a certain minimum just as obviously does harm. So I favor a system where welfare benefits are gradually reduced so there is an incentive to work one's way off. Look at Steve's situation with respect to the individual who has blacklisted him. This individual by blacklisting Steve has provided a disincentive for Steve to remain a professional writer and an incentive to move towards coaching. We need to prevent such disincentives, due to discrimination towards Blacks and other minorities and provide positive incentives as well. My problem with affirmative action as such an incentive is that it produces victims which ends up exacerbating the us/them mentality. We need something like affirmative action, but which doesn't hurt one group to help another. This is what I mean when I say as a conservative I don't necessarily have different goals, but prefer a different path.