Saturday, 21 July 2007

Does Kara Thrace wear a corset?

I've noticed this about the Battlestar Galactica series - it's interestingly retro in the technology. Not the big "gee whizz" stuff - they have fighters that can go from the surface to space *and* jump FTL - but in the little things. The telephones are clunky landlines. The bunks are spartan and uncomfortable. There don't appear to be any computers save of the gesblinkenflashinlights variety. And so forth.

Futurismic, in fact. See this article by Cory Doctorow.

But also note these points Doctorow makes:


Lapsarianism — the idea of a paradise lost, a fall from grace that makes each year worse than the last — is the predominant future feeling for many people. It's easy to see why: an imperfectly remembered golden childhood gives way to the worries of adulthood and physical senescence.

[...]

Running counter to Lapsarianism is progressivism: the Enlightenment ideal of a world of great people standing on the shoulders of giants. Each of us contributes to improving the world's storehouse of knowledge (and thus its capacity for bringing joy to all of us), and our descendants and proteges take our work and improve on it.


There's a thought here - these are the ur-myths of conservatism and progressivism. Now, I'm engaging heavily in my own prejudices here (and more than a little from TV and pop culture rather than memories), but in my very limited experience, there is a correlation between the conditions of childhood and later political belief.

If you were bought up in an idyllic world where you were a special little prince or princess and everybody catered to you, in my experience, you hit high school and become an asshole. A jock. A frat boy. A heather. And if you don't grow out of that, you wind up as a conservative. Everything has gone to shit since people expect you to take responsibility and perform, and nobody seems to understand that you're a Special Little Snowflake AS OF RIGHT. You're mad because somehow, someone has taken away your place in the world.

If you were bought up with a low grade shitty childhood (and I was, as were far too many of my friends) then you realise quickly that the world is unfair. I'm not talking about the real nightmares of abuse, I'm talking about the fat kids. The geeks. Those who didn't fit in, who stuttered, who had weird hobbies, who moved at the wrong time and never quite clicked into place in their new social jigsaw. And so you develop empathy. And when you start getting into high school and then the real world, you realise that you can change. People can change. By taking responsibility, by growing, you can become better. Things can become better. That people have the ability to overcome, and that one of the best things in the world is helping people realise that ability.

So I'm speculating that the ur-myth we accept might be based on the trajectory of our lives - whether we find ourselves thrust out of some Eden to get by as an adult in a cold hard world and mad as hell about it, or whether we find ourselves reaching for our potential by overcoming our pasts.

Or perhaps I'm just masturbating in public again. Kara Thrace does that to me.

6 comments:

grendelkhan said...

You know, that's a comforting myth for nerds, for whom the formative years were generally unpleasant. I wonder if our opposite numbers have a similar tale they tell themselves, but from the other side.

I think it would have something to do with nerds taking out all their frustration and rage by becoming incredibly selfish libertarians, by becoming tiny fascist dictators of their own little realms, furiously masturbating their rage into RealDolls if they can afford them, internet porn if not. I don't know what the converse story is for jocks and their kin, but maybe they don't need one--they're assumed to be good and normal and whatever.

Here, the nerd-kind seek to destroy all that's right and good in society, to topple the people they've nursed grudges against for so long and bring their depraved dreams to fruition. The jock-kind seek to protect it from those goddamn scary longhairs, to seek a return to the golden age when things were in their proper orders.

Phoenician in a Time of Romans said...

Here, the nerd-kind seek to destroy all that's right and good in society, to topple the people they've nursed grudges against for so long and bring their depraved dreams to fruition. The jock-kind seek to protect it from those goddamn scary longhairs, to seek a return to the golden age when things were in their proper orders.

We're going to have to kill you now, you know.

grendelkhan said...

We're going to have to kill you now, you know.

Because I made the jock clan out to be moderately heroic, or because I revealed the secret dork conspiracy?

I don't know how well any of this really matches up to peoples' experiences, in any case; it's interesting to hand-wave these opposing chains of causation into existence, but whether or not the implicit moral superiority of the nerd clan holds true or not, who can say?

There's a dark side to the type of mentality that leads one to read SF, born of alienation and that weird superiority/inferiority complex. It shows up in Slan and The Marching Morons; its foundational myths underlie every work it produces. A bit from this review stuck with me:

Readers of hard sf want to hear that science and technology will solve even the most apparently intractable problems if only we stop pestering the technologists with our carping criticisms and baseless negativity. A book in which reliance on advanced technology was portrayed as suicidal stupidity might sell to a different audience, but it couldn't be marketed as hard sf.

It's dangerous to imagine that one is immune to the foibles and failings of one's fellows. Oh, I do think that in plenty of ways the nerd clan is morally superior to the jock clan; otherwise I'd hardly be a member. But it's terribly dangerous to fluff up that distinction to the point where a few super-powered ├╝berdorks are going to save the world from the mindless, hulking mundane masses who we resent.

bjacques said...

I'm with Grendelkhan on this. Slashdot and The Register are full of geeks who've managed to escape whatever jock-ridden suburb they grew up in but carried their jock tormentors in their heads through life.

I was reading some old sc-fi short stories recently and it just reeks of "and then they'll be sorry." I mean, that's pretty much the whole plot of Atlas Shrugged. I sure as hell pissed away some good dating years in highschool thanks to Ayn Rand and Rush. But, life goes on.

What you're proposing is just another version of the Catholic idea that suffering ennobles, which it doesn't, necessarily. People who get dumped on may get a perspective that the local top dogs or even the merely comfortable don't, but it doesn't always stop them from being miserable bastards anyway.

But anyway, aw, yeah, corsets. It's a good era that's got steampunk babes in it.

grendelkhan said...

Slashdot and The Register are full of geeks who've managed to escape whatever jock-ridden suburb they grew up in but carried their jock tormentors in their heads through life.

I have a UID below 50k on Slashdot, you insensitive clod!

grendelkhan said...

This post is quite old now, but I just saw this today and felt it should be added to the comments.

From the comments at Vox Day's fever swamp:

The source of much of the America-hating left is the experience of the aboved described sensitive nerds who were bullied and picked on unmercifully in public screwl.

The anger they feel toward those who did this to them manifests itself in an anger of everything normal, decent and American.


Of course, the trope of painting your opponents as emotionally stunted creeps still reliving high school is hardly confined to conservatives, but I must admit to being stunned at the sheer accuracy of my earlier portrayal. (The quoted fellow goes on to refer to "Conservatives and other normal Americans".)