My two favorite authors, both in the end came to the conclusion that the universe is not what we thought. Robert A. Heinlein said the universe was not logical, but whimsical. And Terry Pratchett claimed the world was bound together with narrativium.
Don’t dismiss it as a flip-turn of plot/phrase.
In a way, they were both seeing something that most people determinedly ignore. Or perhaps, of course, they were being flippant, both of them, and it’s only by coincidence that it clicked with something that is happening.
But I think not. Writing this from within the mind of a primarily fiction writer, I can tell you that when we drop those things in we’re responding to something our subconscious has added up without asking permission of the conscious. And while it might not be the full picture, there’s usually something in it.
Which – I promise this is neither about writing nor science fiction – I want to talk to you about the singularity.
The singularity is something that a particular faction of my colleagues – mostly those who go on endlessly about cyber-enhancements and such – is obsessed with. But the concept does not, primarily, relate to cyber enhancements. It is rather the idea that once we cross a certain historic point on some technology, we can’t understand the time before. And the time before can’t understand the time after.
I have bad news.
We crossed the singularity on “technologies for the dissemination of narrative” sometime in the twentieth century. People before can’t possibly understand how people now are formed/live. And people now cannot in fact understand how people before the narrative explosion lived/worked/formed their identities.
What do I mean by narrative?
Any story, delivered by any means, whether or not it has a factual basis. (It’s often impossible to trace the factual basis of a narrative you consume. Not always, not now, but often. What’s more important, people don’t try.)
I didn’t live before the explosion of narrative via radio/TV/cheaply printed books.
However, I did live in a place where radios were rare, TVs almost non-existent, and music in a foreign language (which meant songs didn’t add to the narrative load) for all of my pre-teen years. Also, partly because I was very young and a voracious reader, but partly for various reasons that made books expensive, new books were hard to come by.
Even then, I was soaked with narrative, from stories in the daily paper to books scrounged or borrowed. But nowhere near how we live now.
For instance, books got read and re-read, thought about and then re-read some more. And I read an awful lot of things that, had I lived in more narrative-rich environments, I’d never have bothered doing: Greek mythology; dry-as-dust history books; sagas of long-vanished civilizations; narrative poetry.
Humans like narrative. We probably crave it.
Evolutionarily, at a time when humans mostly made up stories either about important features in their environment, behaviors they wanted to discourage/encourage (the whole, “don’t go into the woods” subgenre), and tribal lore that encouraged unity, narrative gave humans an edge in survival.
The problem is that since the early twentieth century, not only have we been soaked in narrative by every available means, and in the U.S. almost unavoidably, but so much of that narrative is either falsified or counterfactual, to the point that the behaviors and beliefs it encourages are anti-survival.
No, I’m not clutching my pearls about the prevalence of novels. Yes, I am aware that some branches of the left think that we who are to the right of Lenin disapprove of all fictional narrative as immoral. I never figured out how I’m supposed to do that, as a fiction writer by trade, but hey, the left doesn’t make much sense these days. Which is part of the problem.
That was because for a while there was a more or less unified narrative. And channels that are supposed to bring us nonfiction have long since – unknown to most consumers – crossed over to fully fictional narrative.
For instance, newspapers and magazines have long since become about the narrative. As have TV news programs. Witness both the debacle of the “60 Minutes” “interview” with Trump, or the insanity of NPR ignoring the “laptop from hell” because … well, because it doesn’t fit their narrative.
During most of the twentieth century, what’s more, that narrative was absolutely unified. You got told the Marxist story (a low-grade Christian heresy, really, with its own story of a pre-private-possessions garden of Eden and an eventual and inevitable triumph of the elect) via the news, entertainment (including most music), and most arts, including fiction.
In fact, it was so utterly inescapable that those of us who started seeing the holes and contradictory places in the narrative stayed quiet, not just because we feared reprisal, but because we could not be sure we hadn’t gone completely insane.
Then the USSR fell, and most of the left – bizarrely, almost delusionally – completely ignored this in favor of the narrative. For a while, the phrase “the good guys lost” was heard everywhere. I suspect our last president believed it wholeheartedly, which is why he loved signaling that he’d undo everything Reagan did. You know, like take the USSR down.
Anyway, at the time we thought, or at least I did, that they had to come down from their hands-over-ears, eyes-closed screaming snit. Sooner or later.
Uh… I was wrong.
As time went on, further disproving their view of the world, and as more and more of us found alternative media and confirmation of our suspicions, the left got louder and more aggressive in its Marxist narrative, as well as running all dissent from the industries they controlled: Traditional publishing, news, entertainment in general.
Most of you probably know Scott Adams’ adage: “The left and the right have different movies running in their heads.” But the problem is that the “movie” of the left has parted completely with observable facts, and they’re not willing to converge. In fact, they’re giving reality a middle finger and retreating further and further into the comfort of their lies. See, for instance, Bookworm Room’s blog this week, where she explores the theme.
Their control is failing. In fact, they’re losing more and more control every year.
But they still have a lot of it. Partly because one of the things they have a complete lock on is education and through it the HR and publicity departments of big corporations.
I have been watching a mystery series from New Zealand in the evenings, and mostly it’s good. I mean, I’ve given up on several British mysteries because the viewpoint is so skewed as to make the stories unbelievable/unpleasant. I do, like most people born in the sixties, have an ability to ignore leftist cant intrusion. Had to, for so many years, you see.
But sometimes the intrusion is glaring and makes no sense, and it’s obvious that the writers of the show thought it made perfect sense. In this case, it was the detectives deducing that someone must be homophobic because they don’t like people of Aboriginal ancestry.
Where in the world does that make any kind of sense? Well, to those immersed in the leftist narrative, everyone who disagrees with them is “racist/sexist/homophobic” and that’s why they disagree. In other words, it’s a straw man, but those immersed in the narrative don’t realize it.
I thought of that today when reading the story of someone who did break out of the narrative. Note that I differ from this woman in all sorts of ways, including the idea that a safety net should be provided by the government (much less the federal government) or the idea that abortion is a plus-good for women. However, I don’t try to impose a personality on her, or claim to know where her every decision comes from. I just shake my head at the ideas she had about people to the right of Lenin, and understand where she’s coming from. (And for all my disagreements with her, I would be more than willing to discuss them civilly.)
As I said, cracks are appearing in the left’s dominance of the narrative bubble. They have to because their narrative has become actively harmful.
I don’t care how many fuzzy-soft stories you’ve read about the homeless just being people down on their luck. The invasion by the armies of the feral in places like Denver, Portland, and San Francisco are actively civilization-destroying, no matter how much the left screams it’s just “compassionate.” (Because, of course, giving addicts encouragement to self-destroy and harm others is compassionate in their world.)
Or take the mostly peaceful protestors or the bizarre idea that we must all hide in our houses from a virus, forever. Or—
Also, to be fair, the narrative is breaking because the left’s war on the virus (or if you prefer taking civilization down using the virus as an excuse) has broken every industry and field over which they had dominance, many of which, including publishing and Hollywood, were mechanisms of narrative.
Will it break fast enough to save us from shambling into socialism? I don’t know. Will it break fast enough to at least save us from circular firing squads if the left wins by massive fraud? I don’t know.
What I do know is that we might lose this battle, but we can’t lose the war.
Look, they can’t control the narrative anymore. There are too many means of disseminating tales. Sure, okay, we on the right still lag on that, but… we’re still here too.
Remember, the USSR was brought down in large part by faxes and copiers.
Particularly if they manage to put their spokeszombie in power, you must fight the narrative. You must fight it by every means at your disposal. You must fight it with what you see with your lying eyes, and you must fight it with fiction from a not-Marxist POV.
Look, you can’t cage narrativium, not at this point. We’ve passed the singularity of story long before most of us reading (or writing) this were born.
So the only thing to do is to fight the control of the false narrative.
Or as grandma would say, “Tell the truth and shame the devil.”
Be not afraid. In the end, we win and they lose. Any other result is unacceptable. It might take time, but we can do it, and save civilization. Because it’s much easier to save it than to rebuild it, in the dark, with sticks.
Let not the left’s narrative stand. It contains only death.