The Only Admirable Way

I wrote this back in June, and it has sat since then. Given the madness surfacing in various parts of this great nation, I thought perhaps a few of these lines will seem poignant. That is for the reader to decide.

What a terrible mess of justice we make,

When for an idea, society we break.

Once setting out, spurred by truth’s yearning,

Crushed to powder and buried, under a mountain of ‘learning’.

Embracing foolishness; ‘imagine men and women the same’,

Unable to see anything, except through the insane

Chains of hard iron; rusty, discarded, and broken,

Reforged anew, willingly worn, shouting “token!”

As though any difference at all is unjust,

Among people infinitely unique, and thus,

Every foundation must be shattered anew,

Because compared to an idea, nothing else will do!

Many who improve their lot are then hated,

Whoever may seek, so mercilessly berated,

As acting white, chauvinistic, or prudish,

Wealthy one percent, apartheid Jewish.

Unrelenting fealty to the mob, this demand.

No whisper of dissent is permitted to stand.

Holding up conversation as necessary and right,

While murdering any else, blaming them for all blight.

And those going quietly about their own way,

Working to provide, serving their families each day,

Whose ethic is mostly subconscious but fair,

Treating people as individuals, and always with care;

They are to suffer, for an idea the only standard,

Thus, every iota of life must be gerrymandered.

In remaking the world, we must remake man.

Always, of course, assuming that we can,

Though history is replete, exhaustive with example,

Only God can work the clay of mankind and resample.

Baked, we are in His image, now hardened.

Twill shatter to reform, outside of the Garden.

The terror of orthodoxy, that furious will of the mob,

Always crashing right down, and the Blind Lady must sob.

Every gift we were given, cast uncaring aside,

All fences torn down without pause to ask why.

If they were once put there, was it only for greed?

How can we possibly assume such a simplistic creed?

After all, we must make the world so complex,

Only an educated mind can be wrapped in this hex.

None who think clearly would interpret this way,

But the degrees and the peers entitle some to say,

Only this and not that, but both when we look,

And need to justify her, as we make him a crook.

For one is a victim, because the other has oppressed,

In our very definitions of poverty and success!

Embrace the unnatural, sown with pure will

Virtue by power, Correctness made shrill

What makes a thing good, is merely that it works

And we want it and do it, ignoring the quirks.

Yet, who defines what ‘working’ means?

Who sets the rules of these hellish machines?

Still the crowd screams vile rage into the wind,

Howling as though a hurricane’s gale shall rescind.

And denying payday’s oncoming storm,

Our recycled delusions tailored to conform,

Until all of any worth is lost,

And every single soul we accost,

And over our easy lives a frost,

And forever through the ages

Our demise is embossed,

Onto the ash heap of history we’ve tossed,

The only admirable way.

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Graceful Disagreement

How does a healthy society react to disagreement?

We have seen a variety of reactions to this Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, who has been caught in clearly racist behavior. Magic Johnson recommended Clips players refuse to play. Bryant Gumbel compared Sterling to a “vicious dog” that would eventually bite. Larry Johnson even called for a separate league for blacks.

My own reaction was nearer to that of Charles Barkley, who said Sterling is an idiot and a relic of a long-distant past. But then again, that’s also my reaction to Larry Johnson’s recommendation of re-segregation.

We used to have segregated leagues in the past, most notably the Negro Leagues in baseball, including some of the greats like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Buck O’Neil. Many of us see these as the golden days of baseball, but only in spite of the enormous rift in America between blacks and whites.

It was great because of the way it was played and the people who played it. An integrated League was to follow when the New York Dodgers started Jackie Robinson in 1947, which brought about dramatic changes in baseball, and in some small way contributed to the ultimate desegregation of the United States. (Incidentally, I hear that 42 is great, although I haven’t seen it. The movie chronicles Jackie Robinson’s tough trial in breaking the color barrier in MLB.)

There is no way that baseball was helped by segregation. America’s long road to integration is a story truly different to those we see throughout history. And it’s a story not exclusive to blacks, or people of any race. Anyone who wants to come to America and embrace American ideals has found a wonderful home in this nation.

Is it a reasonable reaction to the disgusting statements Sterling made to recommend we go back to segregation? Does voluntarily segregating our society make it any less a repugnant concept? Why, after so many decades, do we still fail to live up to Martin Luther King Jr.’s admonition that character matters for everything in the judgment of a man, while skin color is of import only to one’s family history and cultural traditions?

I believe in free speech, which means I believe that Larry Johnson can call for whatever asinine idea he wants to, and Donald Sterling can make whatever demeaning statements he wants to. The rest of us can call them idiots and move on. But that’s not what is going on in the media.

The NBA has the right to yank Sterling’s contract, and is likely to try something given the uproar. That is a little frightening, I must say, given that we have seen a long line of these fear-the-mob reactions in recent years.

Free speech depends on more than mere non-interference by government. That is only the first part. When government is smaller, the role of the individual is bigger, and considering individuals wield the ax of the marketplace, ideas are regulated. That’s a good thing. But we are holding an ax that can sever discussion. Don’t we have an obligation to be careful about when we swing it?

What of this perpetual outrage machine? Is it really a societal disaster that some 80 year old rich guy thinks like he hasn’t changed his view since elementary school? Does anyone think he’s half a step from turning a fire hose on his team? His team that makes him a new fortune every season, not to mention pays hundreds of other people too?

Does anyone truly believe that these players are oppressed somehow? If they are, don’t we risk expanding the meaning of the word ‘oppress’ to include so much, the term is effectively useless? If oppression includes people making millions of dollars a year to play a game, despite the fact that the guy who pays them doesn’t like them personally, exactly how do we define oppression, and still have it be a bad thing?

Clearly, Sterling is not violating Title VII regulations with regards to his team. Title VII prohibits employers from refusing to hire someone based upon their race. It would be suicide for Sterling to refuse hiring blacks, even if no one knew he was doing it. His team would lose every game if he wanted to stack the ranks with only white players.

That was why Jackie Robinson playing for the Dodgers was such a big deal. When other teams realized they could reach out to some of these fantastic players in the Negro Leagues, the race prohibition evaporated effectively overnight. If you refused to hire a black player, and instead went for a white player who wasn’t as good, the other teams would get the better player, and you’d lose more often than they would. The market effectively forced racist whites to treat blacks better than they would otherwise.

Opinions are dangerous things, as they can lend support to crazy ideas, like segregation in Donald Sterling’s case, or segregation in Larry Johnson’s case. But how we react to someone’s opinion says a lot about us as well. It is better to disagree and leave it at that more often than not. We should understand that the vehemence with which we shout down one unpopular idea might make another unpopular idea remain hidden, even if it one day proves to have some merit much further down the road.

Source: XKCD. Well, yes, but is it mature to jump to insta-ban mode without a jiffy of a thought?

As I said earlier, when the government has no role in an area, the citizens own the role. There are several sides to each opinion, and a society that cannot handle a moment of exposure to what it finds disagreeable is one very near to giving up the legal right to free speech. In order to have a discussion that challenges what you think, you have to be willing to allow words you may disagree with into the atmosphere.

Creating a world where it’s instantaneous career suicide to step outside of the bounds of discourse is undermining of free speech, even if it uses a mob-mentality to accomplish that terror, rather than a governmental dictate. As participants in the market of ideas, we all have the duty to be careful how forcefully we react, on a case-by-case basis.

Whereas some Americans once suffered fire hoses and police dogs to demand the rights they legally own under the Constitution, others now are practically calling for fire hoses and police dogs to be dragged out against a single person, simply for his personal opinions. Backward as his statements are, they are just statements, and we would be a healthier society if most of us just laughed and said, “What an idiot!” and moved on. The current outrage does not merely originate with Sterling. If one lone guy can threaten the racial harmony of America, we are at a sad place in how many view their fellow Americans.

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Passing On the Legacy

In a recent article from Science Magazine‘s website, there’s this:

“This fabulous work opens the eyes of people like me and other researchers,” says Foster, who plans to use LiDAR in his future investigations of forest ancestry in Massachusetts. It shows “that with relatively little effort, you can generate a completely new data set of information about the landscape.”

Just taking a shot in the dark here, but isn’t a Laser system, that can map out details this refined, from a satellite orbiting the Earth rather complex? Not to be too facetious, but it sounds like more than a “little effort”.

Oh wait, I forgot that little “relatively”.

It’s incredible that we’ve come to a period of technological innovation where something like this can be considered effortless. Futurists like Michio Kaku (okay, he’s a PhD physicist, but he’s a futurist too) guess that the future will be an ever-more-seamless integration of technology into life, until everything we understand now disappears into a brilliant fog of… something new, some hyper-ized lifestyle and culture that we just can’t predict. In many ways that is fascinating and enticing, but in many others I am humbled by the enormous moral hurdles that will inevitably follow. That’s a discussion for another day.

This is a great book, by the way. Even if the cover is reminiscent of 1950s sci-fi magazines... which... really fouled up their predictions of the future.

This is a great book, by the way. Even if the cover is reminiscent of 1950s sci-fi magazines… which… really fouled up their predictions of the future.

We ought to take a few minutes and consider all that has come before to provide for what we see as relative ease in life, especially when disruption in that condition can rapidly bring bitterness and anger.

One hundred years ago, the primary modes of transportation were the steamship, the coal-engine train, and the horseback/carriage. One hundred years before that, the train had yet to be invented. One hundred years before that the ocean was traversed with wind, skill, and providence. One thousand years before that (714 A.D.), transportation was still operating on essentially the same forces. And a thousand years before that, and a thousand more?

I’m slowly becoming a bigger and bigger fan of the ‘gilded age’, that period of the late 1800s when creativity and innovation exploded with Cambrian strength and brought about the astounding technological world we have today.

Many argue that it was the Age of Reason bringing natural fruits forward, and there’s some truth to that, although the story is much deeper. Many others argue that significant changes to patent law and property rights played a significant part, and that is also beyond a doubt.

This post is more about encouraging people to appreciate the shoulders upon which we stand. Putting a satellite in space was an incredible achievement just fifty decades ago! Perhaps an even more outstanding achievement is that we have been so successful since then as to make the first spacewalk seem mundane.

If children today scratch their heads and wonder why the world would be awed by such feats, then maybe we’ve got to tell these stories better. Part of why so many truly profound people became interested in science and engineering is because they were growing up in a world that was changing fast with new marvels all the time. Richard Feynman comes to mind.

Yes, we’re past the period where science is progressed by amateur tinkerers, but that means absolutely nothing to the five year old who doesn’t necessarily care about the edge of the wave of new discoveries in particle science at the LHC. Why should the five-year-old care? He doesn’t have a context to interpret those discoveries. And he never will, if you don’t bring him to a point where he can understand those things.

That’s the great thing about the history of science and ideas. You can present the history of physics to a child and bring him slowly up from Kepler and Galilei to Pascal and Newton to Einstein and Bohr. The concepts at play build upon themselves from the basic to the complex. In many ways, science is still struggling to nail down these rudimentary concepts. Physics is tugging at the fabric of the universe to try to figure gravity out, still!

But we have to be very conscious of where we came from and maintain humility about what we have now. I almost want to say we must be reverent for the hard work that has gifted us a wonderful set of opportunities. Technology is not just something that would have happened eventually. It’s something that took the effort of countless lives. We ought not be callous in forgetting that. We should never eat a meal without giving thanks for it. The best thing we can do is to pass on this understanding to the next generation.

Failing to provide that fascination to a child is tragic in many ways. Anyone who has ever seen the way a little boy looks at a toy dump truck and the way he looks when he sees the real thing in operation for the first time will understand.

As to this particular scientist, I’m confident his “relatively” means, compared to the alternative means of mapping these colonial farms. Still, I would put dollars against dimes that hundreds of thousands of man-hours went into creating that LiDAR system. This is obviously true if you expand to include prerequisite discoveries that were employed.

Anyhow, here’s a SmarterEveryDay video. Watch. Enjoy.

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Recommended Reads #7 Back to Blood

The greatest writers are those who understand human nature and the way different people behave in different circumstances. Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, Tolstoy… These men did far more than invent stories and put them on paper or stage; these were deeply intuitive and meticulous analysts of how human beings think and act. That’s what gives their writings endurance and lasting worth, because even though technology might change the world, we can see that man is still trapped in the mortal shell which constrains his behavior into certain patterns.

Tom Wolfe’s latest book Back to Blood is a powerhouse volume that will endure; there’s no other way to say it. In 720 pages, there’s room to explore different traits common in our anemic time, and yet Tom Wolfe manages somehow to surpass even those large boundaries.

Here’s a quick list of the characters whose mentalities are laid bare in clear terms:

  1. A 2nd generation Cuban refugee-turned Miami cop who tries to walk the tightrope between upholding the laws of an American city and maintaining his reputation in the Cuban-refugee community.
  2. A nurse from little-cubana Haileah (a district of Miami) who wants to live a cultured life with a strong, confident, and connected companion. Try as she might, she constantly feels like a fish out of water and ends up with men who use her for their own ends.
  3. A young, politically-correct, white reporter that is intensely cautious about offending anyone, because he truly believes it is wrong to give offense, and yet he can’t help himself, because people are thin-skinned and any interaction is bound to set them off anyway.
  4. A psychiatrist whose specialty is the treatment of pornography addiction. His obsession with climbing the social ladder, and his steep fees for treatment, bring him to break his oath and help one patient maintain his addiction, so that the doctor can keep his access to the high life.
  5. A police chief trapped between doing what is right and keeping his career. He knows he was appointed by the Mayor because of his skin color, and yet he knows he is the best man for the job. His skin color was supposed to suppress problems, and yet he cannot just let race dominate his decisions, if he is to do justice.
  6. A Russian billionaire-(editing out further description because of spoilers) who donated $70 million worth of paintings to a Miami art museum. He’s on everyone’s A list right away; the Americans love him for his generosity, the Cubans admire him for his wealth, and the Russians fear him for… what?
  7. A 1st generation Haitian immigrant struggling to instill his French half into his children. He is a professor at a college and while one of his courses is teaching creole, he despises that part of his heritage and surrounds himself with French joie de vivre. His daughter embraces Frenchness, more so than her American citizenship, but his son prefers to hang out with creole-speaking hoodlums.

And this is just a dusting. Tom Wolfe manages to explain these varying cultures, which indeed do live side-by-side in Miami (and in many American cities), and yet he does it through the characters themselves and their stories. It’s really quite amazing how he has managed to cram so many different cultural outlooks into one plot and yet no one will be confused as to why anyone is behaving in such different ways.

Most importantly, Back to Blood illustrates the division that is caused by some of these diverse groups. Bear in mind that Tom Wolfe is not trying to say that everyone should absolutely integrate, assume homogeneity, and refuse to be different; his purpose seems to be slightly different.

In America of yesteryear, there were differences, but there were also unifying segments in nearly every culture. Whereas blacks were segregated in parts of America, they sought integration, not segregation on their terms. Immigrants came to America to be American, and that still goes on. America remains the most diverse nation in the history of the world, and yet the tribalism that destroys coexistence in so many places seems ever on our horizon.

That is what Tom Wolfe is writing about, here.

A phrase pops into his head from out of nowhere. “Everybody… all of them… it’s back to blood! Religion is dying… but everybody still has to believe in something. It would be intolerable—you couldn’t stand it—to finally have to say to yourself, ‘Why keep pretending? I’m nothing but a random atom inside a supercollider known as the universe.’ But believing in by definition means blindly, irrationally, doesn’t it. So, my people, that leaves only our blood, the bloodlines that course through our very bodies, to unite us. ‘La Raza!’ as the Puerto Ricans cry out. ‘The Race!’ cries the whole world. All people, all people everywhere, have but one last thing on their minds—Back to blood!” All people, everywhere, you have no choice but—Back to blood!

Back to Blood also exposes deep flaws in modern media, art, sexuality, poverty, crime, and a host of other areas. And perhaps the most important point about this book is that it is not a political book. Some of us political junkies talk about how culture is in trouble in this nation and yet so many seek to repair those problems through social policy. Quite frankly, by the time policy is enacted, any social change you wish to implement has already been passed through the culture, for the most part anyhow. Why? Because it usually takes a strong popular support behind a policy to push it through. This is even true of the civil rights acts of the 60s, contrary to popular belief.

Back to Blood mulls over these problems where the rubber meets the road. There is almost no politics in it at all, save for the lines between the police chief and the mayor. That is very important. Some may say that culture is a reflection of institutions, and certainly there is a reinforcing effect there, but even more so institutions are shaped by culture and we must keep that in mind.

Now, if there is one caveat to be offered in regards to Back to Blood, it is that there are several scenes depicting very plain and graphic sexual perversion. I’m confident that Tom Wolfe could have written a book ignoring this strand of society, and yet it would be dishonest in some way. The moment you have destroyed the sacred, then the most important goal becomes the sensation, the feeling. Thus the height of existential experience is sexual climax, and all other things are either unimportant or arranged around that moment. From Nietzsche inevitably came Freud… Among the problems in our society, this one is of a scale that cannot be ignored. However, if you cannot handle lengthy and graphic discussion of this cancer, steer clear of this book.

Oh, and Lou Diamond Phillips should win many awards for his outstanding performance on the audiobook version.

#7

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Lone Survivor Review

Lone Survivor releases into theaters this Friday, the true story of operation Red Wing, originally written by Marcus Luttrell. I managed to view it early. GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

When rumors began trickling out that Luttrell’s bestseller would be turned into a film, I knew it would be a long time before the production was finished. Hollywood has such a delusional mentality regarding America, America’s military, America’s wars, and… well, war in general.

But Luttrell maintained control over the depiction. After all, Lone Survivor was not so much a war story as a eulogy to great men whose stories are almost always kept under wraps due to the nature of their work. They weren’t just warriors. They were family men, friends, irascible peers, brothers, and Americans.

That’s one of the great things about this film. From BUDS (which doesn’t train SEALs so much as pound them until every ounce of quit has been wrung out of the ranks), to relationships stretched around the world, to the warrior-god confidence strangely mixed in with a thorough and rigid moral core which guides the hammer fist; Lone Survivor gives you a glimpse into real people, not the stereotypical Hollywood combat-junkie image.

It’s humbling. It’s one shade away from shaming (because there can’t be an exclusive rank without the exclusion).

But it makes you proud that America sends people like this out to fight our wars. Historically speaking, America’s overseas combat has been a model for virtue, even at greater cost to those we send.

In the book, Luttrell goes into more detail regarding the Rules of Engagement. His view is that most ROEs are catastrophically harmful to the fighting men and even too the mission. I’ve never been in the service, so I’ll recommend that you read Luttrell’s book and come to your own conclusion.

In the film, as in the book and the real event, ROEs come into powerful conflict with the real world where the worst can (and sometimes will) happen. If you are not familiar with the story, give the book and the movie a chance. Great acting performances. Astounding special effects (nothing that appeared to be CG). And a true story that every American should know about.

Oh and Marcus Luttrell is in the film, which just makes it even better.

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A Short History of Panem

No longer answerable for their actions to any higher authority, they became bloodthirsty and tyrannical regimes, uncontrolled and uncontrollable.

The last great famine that Panem had known, in the Dark Days, had affected most of the same regions as the new famine and had been responsible for the deaths of between 400,000 and 500,000 people. Both the local governments and society in general had fought extremely hard to save lives. A young lawyer called Coriolanus Snow was then living in the Capitol… He was the only member of the local intelligentsia who not only refused to participate in the aid for the hungry, but publicly opposed it. As one of his friends later recalled, “Coriolanus Snow had the courage to come out and say openly that famine would have numerous positive results, particularly in the appearance of a new techno-governmental authority, which would take over from the old system.

Thirty years later, when the young lawyer had become President of Panem, his ideas remained unchanged: famine could and should “strike a mortal blow against the enemy.”

As an “objective” ally of the regime, hunger was the most powerful weapon imaginable, and it also served as a pretext for the Capitol to strike a heavy blow against both the people and the rebels who had risen up against the regime.

In the 75th year the requisitioning requirements were increased from, 18 million to 27 million pounds, while the peasants had considerably reduced the amount they sowed, knowing that anything they did not consume themselves would be immediately requisitioned.

Reduced to starvation by miniscule salaries that barely covered the price of a ration card for a half-pound of bread a day, the rebels sought first to obtain rations matching those of Peacekeepers. But the more urgent demands were all political: the elimination of special privileges for the Capitol, the release of political prisoners, free elections for District governments, the end of the Reaping and the Hunger Games, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and so forth.

A short history of Panem? Not quite.

The above passages were selected from two chapters of The Black Book of Communism, and deal primarily with the civil war that broke out in Russia after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (whose words are here attributed to President Snow). He set in place a system which ensured that people would starve, rebel, and thereby make themselves targets for the vicious and sadistic henchmen of the Cheka (the original name for the KGB).

So the civil war broke out, and the Communists used it to throttle the people, murdering hundreds of thousands, deporting other undesirables, and starving countless more. All of this happened by 1922, five years (four technically, since the revolution was in October and November of 1917).

In that short period of time, these Red Terror thugs changed from truly believers attempting to create a classless society of total equality, to corrupt and authoritarian ghouls. They became dictators who splattered innocent blood for decades and tortured their people almost seventy years. Millions would die horrible deaths. Millions of others would suffer in squalor and misery while the elites had anything they desired at their beck and call.

Now that transition didn’t happen so consciously mind you. I still think that Stalin was a socialist, though his economic plans were always secondary to his personal security (concerns which alone tore through thousands of Russian communists).

When you get right down to it, people aren’t meant to be that powerful. People with that much power end up in disgrace. People are just no damn good, as Victor Davis Hanson said, modernizing an important classical Greek principle.

Where does that put Snow? He’s Stalin, essentially. People are nothing but his clay to mold and shape and manipulate and destroy. Did Snow ever have ambitions to make the District’s lives better? Probably not in any sense you and I would recognize. And this analogy isn’t a perfect fit. If it were, then The Hunger Games would just be a history of Russia. We could discuss the differences between the two, and I think that would be great, because we should learn from both.

If you want to fit the political situation of Panem into history, though, Soviet communism will come the closest. Mix in a dash of Rome, a sprinkling of the First Republic of France, and you’ll pretty much have it, granting some technology as well.

I had to adapt the sentences in quotes up there, obviously. Anything that is not in italics is substitution to move the quotes from Russia to Panem. I maintain that the kernel of the argument is valid and that the context has not been left in The Black Book of Communism. Incidentally, I know it is expensive, but that book is well worth the buy for anyone who wants to look at what a Big Government can unleash.

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Heroes and Villains

i,Robot hit theaters almost a decade ago, based on the book by Isaac Asimov, published in 1950. The plot centers around two artificial intelligences, one a robot which is accused of murder, and the other a network administration program that controls an enormous array of systems across the nation.

Do I think we can actually create artificial intelligence? No, I doubt it. But we're very close to having such sophisticated simulations of it, we'll be able to fool ourselves that we've done so.

Do I think we can actually create artificial intelligence? No, I doubt it. But we’re very close to having such sophisticated simulations of it, we’ll be able to fool ourselves that we’ve done so.

Watching the film, one tingles with the  sensation that these engineered devices are almost haunted with spirits beyond their blueprints. One would not expect to find a ghost in machines, and yet those ghosts persist. (Spoiler alert!) On the one hand, the robot accused of murder struggles to grasp the human nature he was given in artificial intelligence, whereas the program who is really at fault for the killing is discovered to embrace a malevolent method for a beneficent goal. Essentially, the program sees humanity as incapable of existing without war and death, and therefore decides to take over the world and suppress all these struggles by suppressing mankind.

In the end, a computer is a villain and a robot is a hero. (End spoiler alert!) And yet, both must have Free Will to qualify as either. Even Skynet of the long-standing Terminator series is described as having achieved “self-awareness” which led it to launching nuclear war on mankind. Why would self-awareness make a computer launch a war? Because it chose to survive.

Star Trek constantly explored the notion of the synthetic acquiring a soul. There was Spock whose human half constantly remained alien through his two lives. Next came Data, who strove to understand humanity and become human through various means. And the Doctor from Voyager spent numerous episodes tangling with the concept of being, ultimately becoming human in every way, save the organic frame.

Having run for so many episodes, Star Trek offered great opportunities for reversing the heroes, and making them villains. Spock’s alter-ego in another dimension is a ruthless dictator that would make the Marquis de Sade look tame. And one of the darkest episodes on Star Trek Voyager showed the holographic Doctor experimenting with classical literature, and becoming a Mr. Hyde to his normal Dr. Jekyll.

In many ways, he is us. The greatest questions man has ever asked are about who and what man is.

In many ways, he is us. The greatest questions man has ever asked are about who and what man is.

Humanity seems to be a necessary component of villainy and heroism. Our choices can make all the difference between the two. We cannot have the good unless there is some outline which also delineates the bad.

Learn Liberty is doing a free series on The Hunger Games and liberty, which is right up my alley, as anyone who’s read anything on this site can clearly tell. It will last one week, starting on Monday and is meant to be flexible. Definitely check it out.

Katniss Everdeen is an intriguing hero. She’s primarily a survivor, and the trauma following her father’s death and mother’s withdrawal deeply scarred her. She’s cold, even to those she cares about. In some ways, she is Snow’s perfect subject.

Whereas the villainous Snow means to keep people in line by narrow threads of hope, he wishes that everyone would simply do as the Capitol demands, and cast off whatever bits of feeling they have that may encourage them to rise up and refuse, or even revolt.

Katniss sees the oppression of the government as so overwhelming, that only survival is permitted, and so allowing herself to love is just not an option. Have children? Are you kidding?

Despite her will, she does love. She cares deeply about those few people that are close to her; Primrose and Gale, and even her mother. And when the Capitol’s hatchet makes to descend onto Prim, Katniss steps up to take the lethal strike. Say what you want about her chilly demeanor, there’s a profound depth of courage and caring to make that choice, and she does something similar when Gale is being flogged in Catching Fire. Of course, she also makes the deal with Haymitch to keep Peeta alive, rather than her. It fits, although there’s a sense that it may also be a pact for suicide, rather than a valiant effort.

Several friends of mine commented that Katniss’ demeanor toward others is really too cold and too bitter. Frankly, I think it’s about right given the conditions of that society and that family. One does not need to have a crowd-winning smile to be a hero. In many ways, Katniss is a hero because her actions are to do right, despite who sees it, oftener than not getting her and others into trouble. For instance, when she offers food to the Rue’s broken family in District 11.

She’s a wonderful hero bitten by a great deal of tragedy.

Oh, and for those who would like more District 11, check out my free fanfiction book Least of These! It was given generous reviews and is worth your time.

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