Monday, May 28, 2012

Making it Official

It's taken me some time and reflection, but I am no longer a fan, or reader, of one Dan Simmons, visionary SF author and right-wing crank.

Oh sure, I still think the Hyperion Cantos is a good set of books, and I do still like the Olympos books, and I did enjoy The Terror.  But I have no use for their creator, and no, it's not the right-wing politics, per se.  I continue to believe that right wing politics has a legitimate place in our culture, and as long as it's intelligent, coherent, and of good intention, I generally have no problem with it.  (Unfortunately, I think the right wing circa 2012 is neither intelligent, coherent, or of good intention, but that's another post for another day.)

The problem with Dan Simmons the Political Commentator (and probably the reason he makes his living as a novelist) is that he's as dogmatic as he is incoherent.

Example from his forum (no link, sorry):

The first three Great Awakenings in American culture, since 1800, tended to be religious ones (although the third one was centered on abolition of slavery) -- the Fourth Great Awakening was in the 1950's and '60's with the REAL Civil Rights movement at its core (i.e. the guarantee of actual equal civil rights for people of all races and for women.) Since then, we've had a hundred ginned-up faux "civil rights movements" -- including the current gay marriage effort, since portraying one's opponents as bigots is a sure-fire way to gain at least verbal public ("I don't want to be called a bigot") support -- but each of these fake-rights efforts has opened the wound in the "coming apart" rift in our culture even wider.

Murray feels that a "Great Awakening" aimed toward re-creating the health of the family -- the real family, a man and a woman as parents both dedicated to raising and educating children properly (as opposed to the scores of faux-family "alternatives")-- could be the salvation of a culture that has been torn apart and made largely dependent upon government give-aways by half a century's misstaken idea of what actually constitutes both "rights" and "family".

Murray isn't deeply hopeful that such a fifth "Great Awakening" will occur -- given our ever-increasing factiousness and selfishness and glass-teat-enhanced solitude in our current culture -- but he is certain that only such a culture-wide awakening and change (or, in truth, return) to an attitude and obligation to both reality and responsibility in our society can put it back on solid tracks to social sanity.
Man, this is just bad writing.'s a throwaway on a forum, not meant to be a "publishable" piece of polished writing, but Jesus Christ, that's bad. And it would be even if Charles Murray's ideas had any merit.

Listen to him talk about the Great Awakenings as if they were actual historical occurrences as opposed to academic classifications of various historical trends.

Listen to him separate the Civil Rights movement into the "Real" and "Faux" camps without offering a single clue as to where he draws the distinction.  (And hey, the distinction may not actually be as arbitrary as I think it is, but how am I to know?)

Listen to him talk about the "rift in our culture," as if preferring Fox News over CNN means you participate in a totally different culture.

Listen to him talk about how "Murray feels," giving the reader the impression he's summarizing Murray's "feelings" rather than describing his own.

Listen to him offer a definition of "family" (sorry, the REAL family) that is so conveniently specific that it doesn't describe family life as it's actually lived by millions of people.  (Seriously.  "A man and a woman as parents both dedicated to raising and educating children properly," that's a "real" family?  No, Dan, that's a nuclear family, distinguished as such because that's only one type among many.)

And that last paragraph really rankles.  It's poorly worded, almost a parody of what a "smart" person is supposed to sound like, but what does it say?

A)  Our culture sucks.  (It's factious, selfish, and that glass teat?  That's a TV, the most culturally homogenizing invention ever.)  

B)  Only a Great Awakening will save it.  And I stress...ONLY.  Yes, there may be more than one way to skin a cat, but there's only ONE way to save the culture.....return (I'd like to stress that word as much as Simmons did) to the the good old days of "social sanity," whatever that means.

In a later post in the thread, Simmons has the gall to write:
The logic of the government creating all these new categories to divide and reify (and get rid of) the simple, 10,000-yr.-old idea of "marriage" between a man and a woman is irrefutable.
Now it must be understood that he's being sarcastic here.  As a commentator, Simmons is afflicted with a stubborn refusal to say what he means.  It must be sussed out and interpreted, and I suspect the reason is that he's scared.  He wants to be seen as a reasonable fellow, and yet he's not...not he couches it in clever language meant to obscure rather than illuminate.  (Writers who do this drive me bugfuck insane.  But then again, I'm an unusually blunt and upfront person, which is no virtue...lemme tell ya.)

What is Simmons trying to tell us in this sentence?  The "10,000 years" provides the biggest clue.  It's a rough and inexact shorthand for "the Dawn of Man," or to be scientific about it, the neolithic revolution.  Simmons seems to be arguing that his preferred concept of "marriage" (using his quotes) goes all the way back.  It predates agriculture, animal domestication, organized religion, hierarchical societies, all of that, and not only is it old, but it's universal and unchanging.

And yet anyone who knows anything about history knows that's complete and utter bullshit.  If one appeals to history, it's important --no, necessary-- to get the history right. If not, it's garbage in, garbage out.

Which would explain this garbage.

So if you want your intelligence to be insulted by a cowardly, arrogant Dan Simmons.

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