Saturday, March 21, 2009

Readiness for Violent Acts and Suspension of Basic Empathy

I'm reading Thirte3n by Richard K. Morgan. I loved Morgan's first book, Altered Carbon. I've felt his other books weren't up to the same level of quality, but his current book, Thirteen, puts him back in top form. If you were disappointed with Market Forces (as I was) and were reluctant to pick him up again, check out Thirteen. By the way, both Altered Carbon and Market Forces are soon to be Major Motion Pictures. I actually think that they will both do well if they get the right director and screenplay author for the type of books they are.

Market Forces read like the video game/graphic novel/movie script that it started out as, so I wasn't surprised that it got picked up by the studios. It has everything the 14-34 year old demo wants, Car races! Money! Wars! Hot women! Guns! Financial Ruin! Macho posturing! Did I say Car crashes? Car Crashes! VO: "In a world were wars are run for profit and executives advance by race car assassination, one man stands up to the system, and wins the ultimate race for survival."

I'll bet it was pitched as "Road Warrior meets Wall Street via Saving Private Ryan. " If Jason Statham can be attached they are golden.

Altered Carbon, on the other hand, has the potential to be great if the actor chosen for the lead can pull off the emotional heft of someone who has seen tragic combat. We need to see someone giving up on the human race. I hope they pick an older man who has seen combat or has had many real life tragedies and can act. This is the kind of role given to Harrison Ford seven years
ago. We will need to see a sadness in his eyes like Bogart in Casablanca.

William Holden would have been great. ( link on William Holden). Of course someone with a Chinese background might be great too. Altered Carbon could be the best film noir of the decade if they get the right actor and they spend money on the WRITING and not on the flying car special effects. If they don't, and miss the emotional center of the character it could go like Jumper and become one of the worst adaptions in recent years.

In Thirteen, a group of genetic scientists breed a couple of variants. One is basically a sex toy/love slave for men, the "perfect" woman--at least from the point of view of some men. The other is bred for war, the "perfect" soldier--again, at least from the point of view of some men. Of course things go horribly wrong, now the world needs to deal with the mess. Doesn't this sound like what neocons would do with genetics?

I think great science fiction talks about how we handle new ethical situations and puts those situations in front of us and says, "Now what?". Like Battlestar Galactica, it sets up a world that is really ours and throws in questions to us like, "What does it mean to be human? How do you treat people who are different from you? Who are your leaders? What does it say about you as a group, a race, or a species when you choose one leader over another? What is the difference between military, political and spiritual? Which kind of leader is most powerful? What is the definition of "most powerful"?

When I was growing up on Vulcan I realized that there were different kinds of leaders with different qualities. Intellectual leaders were highly prized as were ethical leaders. Charismatic leaders were somewhat suspect. There was also a respect for leaders who were either famous because of some talent and leaders who were rich. It did make some difference HOW they got rich, but not as much as you would think.

Thirte3n deals with "alpha males" and how people respond to them. It also deals with family dynamics between two brothers. I really enjoy writers that deal with family dynamics in science fiction. The passages in the book between brothers are some of Morgan's best. In the future we will almost surely still have families. Their nature might change, but siblings, parents and relatives have a huge influence on us that can transcend what some people believe is nature. (Personally I find most stories about what our genes "require" us to do kind of silly. My friend Echidne of the Snakes has refuted and shown how silly most of these studies are).

We are more than just smart animals, which makes us capably of acts both horrific and great.

I've often said that one thing that can distinguish a Modern Conservative is their lack of empathy for others who they do not see as part of their immediate family. Another is the sense that violence is the solution to the problem first and foremost.

When Obama made a stupid joke on Jay Leno we got the standard conservative hissy fit response. I could go into a response here about it, but I want to ask a question first.

"Do you think that Obama lacks empathy?" Was his joke a slip into something that showed just how he really feels about people with mental difficulties? Is that something that he has been holding back?

Personally I don't think so. You could look at his actions and see is he the kind of guy who has empathy for others. Now compare that with another President. Bill Clinton. Remember, "I feel your pain."? He was empathetic and was mocked for it by the right.

George H. W. Bush tried hard to avoid the label of wimp and overcompensated, the good news is he was man enough to know when he was in over his head in Gulf War I. For that awareness he became a better President than his son.

George W. Bush showed his lack of empathy again and again as well as his readiness for violent acts. Remember his fly over in New Orleans after the poorly engineered and constructed levees burst, causing flooding that killed hundreds? Remember his bluster "we'll get him dead or alive" about Osama bin Laden? Seven YEARS and he couldn't catch one man. A simple goal and he failed to met it. No wonder the people on the right in Movement conservatism would rather look to their success in killing Saddam and not their failure in getting Osama.

Yet, unlike the idealized fictional character Jack Bauer, Bush never actually participates in the violence himself, if he did it might make him include soldiers in his immediate family and that might have given him some empathy for the people he was sending off to the war he started with Iraq.

Rush Limbaugh might want to be Jack Bauer, he likes the ideas of those traits, but as Morgan talks about in Thirteen, Rush and Bush represent the kleptocrats. Someone who hires others to carry out their violent acts and has suspended empathy for people not like them or their immediate family.

You can't fight kleptocrats with violence. I mean you could, but it doesn't really destroy their power. They need to be defanged in multiple ways. Legal, financial, in the media. One of the best ways is to get them to forfeit their ill gotten gains. To defeat them in the real marketplace, not the rigged marketplace they control. It is also useful to get their own base to start to find them disgusting. What is interesting is that the things that their own base would find disgusting we might find as a sign of their humanity.

We've seen how the powerful use government to change the law so that they can get away with torture. They have worked to change the words, so that torture is "harsh interrogation". We have seen how the rich, when they see that the money is disappearing have changed the rules so that they still get their money.

The rich modern conservatives will first act like they are above it all, but once they start realizing that they aren't in their bubble anymore they will move to elicit empathy. The PR firms, composed of lots of empathic people who are not ready for violent acts, will be unleashed by the kleptocrats. They will work to buy sympathy. Burson-Marsteller is one of the firms engaged by AIG in this process. I expect to see stories about their acts of charity and how they are just regular people. More stories about the lucky "regular" people not the high flying kleptocrats who gamed the system they created.

Kleptocrats (and a handful of real believers) will start throwing themselves on the mercy of the public. What is interesting is that Modern Conservatives will HATE THEM FOR IT. They would much rather that they own up to their money stealing and laugh in the face of the people with empathy. They will see any admission of guilt as weak.

Of COURSE the modern conservatives on talk radio will support the execs who made a lot of money. Until they start apologizing. That will betray "The Code" the "I've got mine, screw you" code. At THAT point they will get on the bandwagon for attacking them.

The reason that personal information on AIG execs will not be given out is that the modern conservatives know what THEY would expect people to do to them if they ripped people off. They would go out and kill them, or direct others to do it. They would follow the Mafia code. "You rip off Vito, he'll put you in the ground." They admire that world.
For a long time I've talked about the violent rhetoric of talk radio. It has been not taken seriously. "They are just joking!" It has been ignored because talking about killing liberals and Muslims is considered unserious threats.

If I hear from the talk radio hosts suggestions of violence toward the rich I will make it clear that I am just as upset at that as I was with violence toward, Muslims, journalists, democrats and liberals. I'm not upset because the rich are paying me. (Help me George Soros! I haven't got my monthly check!) I'm doing it because I DO have empathy for others and I'm not ready for violent acts.

Maybe the rich will thank me and pay me like they pay their police and security guard. I'll happily take their money, and I'll use it defend others who don't have the same defenders.

I take suggestions of violence toward the rich as seriously as I took suggestions of violence toward others. I think that I've proved over the years that my offense at violent rhetoric is wide and deep.



Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

Spot on about Modern Conservatives. Never admit guilt, never admit being wrong. Laugh and show utter contempt when questioned. Invoke the David Addington! Be the John Yoo.

Revel in your Cheney...

12:50 PM  

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