The Judgment of Freaks

This past week Jeffro Johnson sent me a copy of his new book Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons. It is a compilation of a series of blog posts he wrote on each of the authors listed in the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon’s Master Guide. He didn’t ask for a review, or my thoughts on it. It was just a gift…I think because we once exchanged some pleasant emails. Tonight I cracked it open (as much as one can crack in a Nook) and so I can say a strange thing: That I am glad I did not read a blog which I would have liked; if you follow. His words are new to me. It’s not a mere rehash of an earlier pleasure. So far I enjoy it, but I will postpone my judgment until I’ve finished the book.

Judgment is what I want to write about tonight. It’s what I’ve written about in the previous two posts, and its lack is what stokes my internal fires right now.

In the third chapter of Appendix N, Johnson makes a statement of a truth which has so often put me at odds with fans. He wrote:

“Fans of science fiction and fantasy too often embrace just the surface elements of their respective genres. Whether it’s aliens in rubber suits or historical characters that have barely disguised twentieth-century world-views, there is a tendency to dumb things down to a level where it becomes glorified dress up.

[…]

It doesn’t have to be this way.”[1]

When Johnson says “it doesn’t have to be this way”, he means that the collective body of science fiction and fantasy works (books, movies, TV shows, comics, etc.) doesn’t have to be enamored of the superficial and dumbed-down. He’s right, it doesn’t.

But if we talk about the collective of fans, a great many of whom are strange and ill-formed, then I must say that it does have to be this way. What these strange and ill-formed SF&F fans want is a structure of the superficial. The less substantive the better, for under it they can do a couple things.

  1. Transform their crippling weirdness into a minor flaw which is subsumed under the temporarily-irrelevant category of real life.
  2. Practice a wide assortment of perversions disguised as make believe.

That’s why there are so many freaks in the comicbook store. That’s why there are so many freaks at the Star Trek conventions. That’s why there are so many freaks at Renaissance festivals, comic conventions, anime conventions…there are a lot of freak conventions.

Sellers of SF&F products also profit from the structure of superficials. Well-adjusted working class people (the great majority of us) can’t support something like the spectacle of San Diego ComicCon. We have to go to work, feed the kids, and volunteer at church. A person with such a civilizational-building schedule doesn’t have much time to create a cosplay outfit. If he does–that’s all his spare time.

There’s also the market angle: If companies put forth substantive works, then they have to wait for some freak to come along and hollow it out before they can expand their markets beyond those to whom a substantive work appeals. It’s the nature of substance to take up space, and therefore exclude things from that space. But if a company can sell products devoid of any meaning–any guts–then they can sell to anyone willing to try on the superficial. A merchant doesn’t care if some queer at Marvel emasculates Thor, but he does appreciate the opportunity to sell a line of tee shirts to a new untapped market of ill-mannered fat girls.


[1] Jeffro Johnson, Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons, p. 32

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A Fact About Women

In the post before last I wrote that Harvey Mansfield introduced me to this idea, or argument, called the Fact-Value Distinction. I haven’t yet read about it because reading about it is going to take some time. There are several old authors to have read on the subject before I can claim to say anything informed about the Fact-Value Distinction; David Hume for example. (Right now I’m reading Antifragile…finally.) Regardless of my ignorance, I keep thinking about the fact-value distinction because there are some deep implications. I mean: There are fundamental pre-thought assumptions that influence my thoughts before I consciously think about anything!

Basically, if I understand it from Mansfield’s brief explanation, whenever we observe (see, hear, touch, etc.) something, we either accept it as a brute, naked fact (This is the Fact side of the F-VD) or we make a judgement what we observe (This is the value side.). The Fact side is the realm of mathematics and science. The best example I can think of at the moment is “2+2=4”. No judgement can or should be made about that. (Mostly. More in a bit.) The Value side is the realm of religion and philosophy: What ought to be, and what ought to be observed.

Our worldview, modernity, is possessed with an obsession of the Fact view of life, and deeply discounts Values–judgements. When Science! (the collective institutions of politically influential scientists) declares on a subject it is declared in a way that we are to accept it like we should accept 2+2=4. Any divergence or dispute from what Science! has decreed is taken as an expression of insanity as looney as disputing that 2+2≠4.

But if you think about it for a moment, Science! is hiding the ball. Even if they do not mean to deceive they have because before they present an observation as Fact, they’ve already made a judgement that the observation has Value as a Fact, and that the Fact is good for them (and us) to know, and to make decisions based upon them. In other words: The way of Science! and of the whole modern world is to make one Value distinction to say that every thing and every observation is a Fact. Since every Fact is True like 2+2=4, and since every observation becomes a thought, then every thought is True. But we observe different things; even contradictory things. Collectively, then, we moderns observe that 2+2=∞, and go about making Fact of it.

Anyone who recognizes this then has a choice:

  1. Degrade all observations, thoughts, and knowledge as insane and random. Then wonder what you, an insane person, means by insane.
  2. Commit an incoherent doublethink by accepting the idea of moral relativism while ignoring the fact that moral relativism is destroyed by the basic value assumption that facts exists.
  3. Recognize that you make Value judgements about every single observation you have, and then wonder in terror what you are to do next.

Let me give a more concrete example of what I believe is an improper Fact-Value Distinction. It is from the very same video of Mansfield where he taught me of the F-VD, and who is in favor of Value distinctions. It’s said clumsily as often happens in conversation, but if you watch the section of the video on Manliness you understand that Mansfield disagrees with the idea that men and women are the same, or even think the same. But then he goes on to make an assertion of Fact when a judgement of Value is more correct. He says:

[W]e reason differently. It just isn’t the case. This is the most important thing that men and women think the same. We have different outlooks. So, to have a different body somehow goes with having a different soul.

And, so for example, women are more pacifistic. Well, they have children, that’s a big investment, nine months – nine months of your life for each one of them. You’re not going to go throwing away human life recklessly.

Well, maybe that’s comical, but I think that’s – that kind of thinking is very common and even wise. There is a kind of wisdom in that correspondence of roles and ways of thinking.

That’s slightly, but importantly, wrong. It would have been right to say because women have to make a huge investment of nine months, they ought to recognize that investment and not throw away human life recklessly. It’s not a fact that women aren’t reckless with human life, or that they are pacifistic because of the term of pregnancy. Women abort their babies. Women kill their children. Women go to war. Women fight and start fights. Women do all kinds of things which are anathema to human life and pacifism.

The importance of this particular error is this: Once we make a Value judgement that women ought not throw away human life recklessly, then we have to make another Value judgement about whether we ought, or ought not, impose that expectation of on them. Modern men don’t want to do that. We’d rather pretend women are Facts, and we’d rather pretend that if we imagine them to be pacifists of factual reason, that too is a Fact.

The Vista’s End

It’s quite possible that the time is coming when we’ll all get subsistence checks from the gov’t.

The radical notion that governments should hand out free money to everyone – rich and poor, those who work and those who don’t – is slowly but surely gaining ground in Europe. Yes, you read that right: a guaranteed monthly living allowance, no strings attached.

[…]

Called “universal income” by some, “universal basic income” or just “basic income” by others, the idea has been floated in various guises since at least the mid-19th century. After decades on the fringes of intellectual debate, it became more mainstream in 2016, with Switzerland holding a referendum – and overwhelmingly rejecting – a proposed basic income of around $2,500 per month.

[…]

WHY THE MOUNTING INTEREST?

In a word, robots. With automated systems and machines increasingly replacing human workers…

Charles Murray is going around saying the same thing. If you follow the link it will take you to the 33 minute mark of a video featuring Charles Murray on Conversations with Bill Kristol.[1] If you’re interested, he has a whole book (which I have not read) on the subject called In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State. Call me be a rubic Flyover American, but Universal Basic Income (UBI) sounds like welfare to me. Automation (robots) is a red herring, though. UBI is just an incarnation of a sluggard’s fantasy to eat but not work.

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

UBI is a social science disaster in the making, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming at us. Then the question will be how to respond to it. Fighting it won’t be in our hands, and will be a waste of time due to its popularity. So perhaps we fathers and husbands ought to start thinking now about how to reform such chaos into a benefit.

My theory is that a UBI would, fundamentally, individuate us further; wives from husbands, children from parents, etc. If we understand that, then we can understand why conservatives/libertarians who oppose welfare on a segregated basis (age, income, handicap, etc.) could be won-over by a comprehensive form of welfare. That means that the way for the average man to fight this is to live and teach cooperation of family members (and perhaps friends) under his leadership. The family which can pool each constituent’s UBI will win.

Until recent human history this was common practice: The family produced together and therefore prospered together, or didn’t. The wealthy still practice it even though children living at home and sharing their profits with the whole family  is anathema to the “American Way of Life”. The “go west young man” attitude of Americans in a land of seemingly endless vistas taught us to ignore this wisdom. Well, we found the vista’s end. We can either return to the ancient wisdom, or spiral into further hellishness of poverty, OoW childbirth, abortion, and disease.

Perhaps such a return seems improbable because of social pressures for kids to move out, and the selfish motivations of the human hearts within those kids. You ought to prepare yourself for that, but I don’t believe it’s hopeless. For one thing we can point to those wealthy families who practice this. We can also point to stories in the entertainment media which, although often the enemies of capable parents, are ultimately servants of eternal story arcs and when they forget themselves, portray family cooperation under a head in a positive light. If only there was a name for such an arrangement…

[1] It’s possible that the name Bill Kristol might send some of my readers right over the edge of reason. (The chances I take!) Those of you who manage to keep yourself righted could do worse than to watch or listen to BK’s Conversations. I often don’t agree with the pundits, but it is an excellent chance to figure out what I think on matters. For example: If you watch the whole video you can hear Murray lament American men’s performance, but never suggest that women have a role to play. For the reading inclined there is a transcript.