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Author Topic: Intention v. Result
rcmann
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Anyone remember the movie "Serenity"? It was based on the series "Firefly".

The premise of the movie came back into my mind while I was considering the current uproar over gun control.

Before I go further, I am NOT starting a political thread. I will not discuss the pros or cons of gun control here with anyone. That's not my purpose.

What is my purpose is the interesting parallel between art and life. In "Serenity", a strong central government used unethical methods to tighten its grip on power. Instead of increasing their authority over the target planet, it all blew up in their collective face and they ended up creating the Reapers.

Today, people in the USA on both sides of the political spectrum are resorting to misinformation, distortion, selective presentation of facts taken out of context, and all manner of other unethical methods in order to tighten their power.

The result? The Republican party is losing loyalty among the rank and file, and facing an internal rebellion among its "non-elite" members. Meanwhile the Democratic push for, at the present time, stronger gun control laws is resulting in a massive increase in gun purchases all over the country, as well as provoking anger to the point of rage in many people.

I think General Gage faced a similar reaction when he tried to disarm the colonists as Lexington.

This happens over and over and over again in history. Doesn't ANYONE in power read history?

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LDWriter2
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I think the answer to os two fold. One is No they don't. Or related to that they think it won't happen to them. That last influences a lot of bad behavior among the young but also among older people who have big goals.

Or they think they-whover they are--have a mission to save the country and everything that hinders that is wrong. So it will work for them even though it didn't for someone else if they think of it at all.

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wise
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I hate to be cynical, but human beings haven't changed their nature since they became "domesticated". We think we are civilized and more advanced than more "primitive" forms of Man, but we are still just one nano particle away from being reactionary, animalistic barbarians.

So far we (collectively) have never learned from our past. We think our parents are old-fashioned and stupid, so why should we think generations farther removed knew better or have something to teach us?

Maybe it's because our lives are so short-lived. We can't (or don't wish to) extrapolate into the future because we won't be there. Why be accountable when life moves so quickly? We seem to have more faith in our children figuring it all out than in stepping up to the plate ourselves. Instead, we just replay the same old, same old and end up spinning our wheels.

Will we ever evolve? Probably not. Arthur C. Clarke was thinking/writing wishfully when he wrote "Childhood's End". I think our future will look more like "Alien" - greed trumping common sense. We reap what we sow. Happy New Year.

-----
After 10 minutes of reflection, I realize the above is quite harsh. We do have enlightened individuals, like Ghandi and Mother Teresa, who offer themselves as examples of the way we could be, which of course inspires the rest of us to at least attempt to be better. (I purposefully didn't mention religious leaders so as to attempt to be neutral.) But they are, unfortunately, still in the minority.

[ January 08, 2013, 11:06 PM: Message edited by: wise ]

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MattLeo
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Oh, we know President Obama reads Doris Kearns Goodwin, at least.

Everything has two sides. For plans it is intended and unintended consequences. When we are committed to some course of action, it is a universal human tendency to ascribe greater concreteness and certainty to the intended consequences than to the unintended ones. Observe two people arguing over what to do about something (which as a writer you ought to do) and you'll see they don't so much disagree about consequences as talk past each other...

In any case, beware of taking lessons from works of fiction. As you are well aware, as author you can contrive any outcome you wish in a story. You can lead the reader to any lesson you want him to draw from it. Had Josh Whedon desired, he could have made the authoritarian government's actions create a paradise. Some authors have done this. In fact many have.

Fiction is a lousy instrument of philosophical inquiry, although it is a dandy propaganda tool. At its best, fiction raises questions. At its worst it tries to answer questions with the author's thumb inevitably resting on the scales. Take any great issue and you'll find authors on both sides doing this. The people on the other side of the issue rightly consider those authors' fans contemptible for being led astray by so obvious manipulation.

I have greater respect for a story that has its admirers arguing with each other than one whose fans get together and agree about it.

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rcmann
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
Oh, we know President Obama reads Doris Kearns Goodwin, at least.

Everything has two sides. For plans it is intended and unintended consequences. When we are committed to some course of action, it is a universal human tendency to ascribe greater concreteness and certainty to the intended consequences than to the unintended ones. Observe two people arguing over what to do about something (which as a writer you ought to do) and you'll see they don't so much disagree about consequences as talk past each other...

In any case, beware of taking lessons from works of fiction. As you are well aware, as author you can contrive any outcome you wish in a story. You can lead the reader to any lesson you want him to draw from it. Had Josh Whedon desired, he could have made the authoritarian government's actions create a paradise. Some authors have done this. In fact many have.

Fiction is a lousy instrument of philosophical inquiry, although it is a dandy propaganda tool. At its best, fiction raises questions. At its worst it tries to answer questions with the author's thumb inevitably resting on the scales. Take any great issue and you'll find authors on both sides doing this. The people on the other side of the issue rightly consider those authors' fans contemptible for being led astray by so obvious manipulation.

I have greater respect for a story that has its admirers arguing with each other than one whose fans get together and agree about it.

Actually I wasn't trying to take any lessons from it. Merely observing an interesting (to me) parallel with real life. I could cite case after case in real life where authoritarian governments tried to tighten their grip, only to provoke the opposite of their intentions. Going back to Pharonic times... actually going back to Gilgamesh if you read the legend carefully.

Then of course we have Nero-Caligula-a long list of other Roman emperors, and you can skip gleefully across Chinese history and find many leaders who subscribed to the loose leaf notebook school of historical reporting.

Then western Europe... ah, good old western Europe. How doth power corrupt thee, Europe? Let me count the ways... From King John of England to Dear old Louis in France, to... I am getting tired typing. Everyone already got the idea quite a ways back anyway.

I just thought it was interesting that fiction writers often notice things like this, when politicians who are supposed to be responsible for real world lives and property ignore them.

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rcmann
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Come to think of it, one fo the most extreme cases in history was Jesus of Nazareth. Whether you regard him as special or not, the fact remains that his execution, far from snuffing out the trouble as it was intended to do, spawned a worldwide religion that today numbers in the billions. I would call that unintended consequences, indeed.
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MAP
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Honestly I wonder if the instances you site here in history are really the norm. A rebellion is a big historical event, so when a government tightens its control and the people fight back that would be a more historically significant moment than when the people cow down. But just because history is more likely to site and study those moments doesn't mean they are more likely to happen.

So I'm not sure if we can say that based on history that a government trying to control its citizens is more likely to cause them to rebel. We'd need a better statistical study than just a few key moments throughout our history. Maybe it has been done. I'm not as well-studied in history as I'd like to be.

But on a more personal note, I think the problem with US politics is that the two parties are too busy fighting each other and trying to make the other party look bad that they are not doing their jobs. I think we need a new party that is more middle ground and more willing to cooperate.

I hope that wasn't too political. I'll be happy to delete it if I crossed a line.

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rcmann
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I don't know what others think, but i personally agree with what you said. I didn't mean to imply that trying to control a population always backfires. I simply meant that there are many examples in history where it has backfired. Especially when the government in question uses methods that the people they are trying to control perceive to be unjust-dishonorable-just plain foul.

I also agree about American politics. The thing is, our two parties originated as regional parties, representing regional interests.

Immediately following the American civil war, The Republicans, if memory serves, were based in the north and tended to favor more industrialized "progressive" ways of life. They were the ones moved into the south and who targeted large numbers of freed slaves as recruits, registering them as new voters to the deep chagrin of the existing southern establishment.

Democrats concentrated in the south and emphasized preservation of the existing rural and agrarian ways of life. They were the ones who objected to what they perceived as capitalism run amok, and the progress at any price attitude shown by the carpetbaggers.

Back then, both parties had liberal wings and conservative wings. But the bulk of both parties were relatively moderate, with their main points of disagreement being economic.

Now... things have changed a lot.

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Grumpy old guy
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Feel free to decry me as an outsider, but I have always been confused by American politics. As I understand it, the American constitution is based upon the notion that laws are passed for the greater good of the whole, not special interests. Or, am I mistaken?

What is the greater good? I've used firearms, I've fired weapons and found a vicarious thrill in the act. But, do I need a gun to define me, define my manhood (whatever that is) or to validate my existence?

NO! A coward pulls a gun, a hero faces his death with calm dignity. And a fighter will take the bastard down with him.

I find this argument that the right to bear arms is to enable citizens to constrain a Government bent on trampling its people to be fallacious and the last resort of the incompetent. A government is the result of the will of the people in a democracy. Unfortunately, in the good ol' USA, the government is elected by about 12% of the population. Hey, it's no surprise that you get what you paid for.

Has this become political? Yes, I've probably crossed that line. Feel free to delete this post if I have. But, I'm exploring a mindset here. Let me quote rcmann here

quote:
What is my purpose is the interesting parallel between art and life. In "Serenity", a strong central government used unethical methods to tighten its grip on power. Instead of increasing their authority over the target planet, it all blew up in their collective face and they ended up creating the Reapers.
For some reason, the American populace believes that they are in some sort of struggle against the bureaucracy of their Government. Why? I'll tell you the reason. Most Americans don't get out of bed to vote, so the Government isn't their Government, it's been 'imposed' on them by 'vested' interests.

Please, let's have a reality check here. As I said earlier, you gets what you paid for -- deal with it. Get out and make a difference: vote!

Phil.

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Robert Nowall
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Well, first off, and mainly, I do think this discussion is about politics.

But as for all the arguments cpncerning gun control, there are those among us who see owning a gun as a right, a right that's spelled out in our Constitution, and any effort by the government---questionably effective efforts, too, for the claimed purposes---as infringing on our rights.

Therefore, those that argue for gun control are arguing into the wind, in effect---there is no meeting of the minds to be had.

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extrinsic
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Only 12 percent of U.S. citizens vote? 21 percent of eligible early adults vote, 18 to 24 year-olds. 61 percent of citizens 61 and older vote. 45 percent of eligible U.S. voters vote. Boycotting voting is as much a right as voting. I know Australia fines citizens who don't vote. Is voting a right when financial coercion madates voting?

Yes, this is a political thread, albeit tending toward bipartisanship but still political in the sense of governmental processes. The stated intent not to be political is at odds with the result.

The underlying question of whether politicians recognize the addage "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it," (Edmund Burke), its influence on decision-making, asks whether civil unrest is avoidable. Yet history shows unrest leads to compromise. Favorable outcomes of the U.S. seccession from Great Britain are legend. Statespersons are aware of their history to a degree, what favors their agendas anyway. More significantly, they are aware of potential, preferable outcomes, and will engage in brinksmanship at the expense of a populace.

Lives will be ruined, blood shed, heads roled, trade disrupted for the greater good of a few and the misery of the masses. The masses will rise up.

It's a perfect world; perfectly messed up. Life is hazardous. Without hazard there would be no risk. Without risk life would be meaningless. We'd all be stuck in bathtubs contemplating our navels and eating lotus blossoms. The pushmi-pullyas of influxing and outfluxing forces are driven by need, want, desire. Accomplishing them comes at personal risk and hazard.

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rcmann
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Actually, most of us vote. Sometimes. I personally vote in every national election, unless I am sick. Or a member of the family is sick ()which often happens). Or unless I am simply too disgusted. For instance, in the last presidential election I voted. But I voted none of the above. Does that count? I also voted on all the proposed tax increases and law changes. For the rest, some of the offices I voted on, some I left blank. Either because I did not care, or because I knew nothing about either candidate, or because I despised both of them. But as far as their particular race goes, I would no doubt be counted among those who did not vote.

I had, and have, no intention of starting a flame war. If the rest of you want to fight, feel free to do so. I will bow out. I was talking about the connection between fiction writing and the real world, with respect to the way fiction writers are sometimes more perceptive than real world leaders in terms of historical perspective.

Grumpy old guy? As a non-American, here are some episodes that you are most likely not aware of. In fact, most American citizens are not aware of them. Our established power structure does not encourage the teaching of things like this in history class, for reasons that will become obvious if you read them.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Athens_%281946%29

Battle of Athens - 1946
Essentially, a single family ran the county like a European fiefdom in the middle ages. After WW2, a bunch of vets came back and decided to field an opposition candidate. The existing "nobility" took exception and stole the ballot boxes. The vets attacked and took them back.


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_blair_mountain

Battle of Blair Mountain
A coal mining company bought the state and local governments for a song. When the miners attempted to organize, the coal company recruited national guard aircraft (state militia) to drop bombs on them.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_syphilis_experiment

Tuskegee syphilis experiment
A group of black patients were deliberately allowed to suffer untreated VD in a government sponsored study to find out what would happen to them.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Dakota_State_Hospital
"Along with many other states, North Dakota practiced forced sterilization of its patients. The practice began in 1914, and continued until the 1950s."

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_Integrity_Act_of_1924
-More sanctioned Eugenics in America

There are many, many more examples. And many, many more examples of Americans in recent decades, certainly throughout the twentieth century, who felt compelled to offer armed resistance to their government. Whether or not they were actually justified in doing so is not for me to say.

Of my own personal experience, when I lived in KY during one election year there was a small county located in the area approximately 50 miles east of Lexington. It was so corrupt that federal election officials routinely monitored elections there. But of course, they had no way of monitoring what went on behind the scenes, and the same corrupt people kept getting re-elected. But this particular year, the sheriff was found inside his van at the bottom of a cliff. There were approximately 43 bullet holes in the vehicle (and almost that many in him) from a variety of weapons.

Many people in American still believe that our government is made up of fallible people who are quite corruptible, and tend to abuse power if given half a chance. Hence their reluctance to disarm themselves and permit those people to have unfettered power over them.

I make no value judgments on the issue of gun control either way.

[ January 09, 2013, 08:56 PM: Message edited by: rcmann ]

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History
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Anyone remember the movie "Serenity"? It was based on the series "Firefly".

I'm a Browncoat. That series and movie struck a chord with me. Still does. In my opinion, it is one of the best created sf 'verses, storylines, and character ensembles in science fiction.
quote:
What is my purpose is the interesting parallel between art and life. In "Serenity", a strong central government used unethical methods to tighten its grip on power. Instead of increasing their authority over the target planet, it all blew up in their collective face and they ended up creating the Reapers.
"Reavers", actually.
The unexpected and undesired result of governmental authority's desire to have a pacified and compliant citizenship on the distant colony world of Miranda through pharmacological additives to their air supply was: 90% lost all volition, and let themselves die; 10% became involuntarily hyper-aggressive and now roamed and terrorized nearby words and space travel lanes.

quote:
Today, people in the USA on both sides of the political spectrum are resorting to misinformation, distortion, selective presentation of facts taken out of context, and all manner of other unethical methods in order to tighten their power.
"Today"? Mankind has been doing this since we came down from the trees. As you note:
quote:
This happens over and over and over again in history. Doesn't ANYONE in power read history?
Proponents of Big Government (more typically Democrats) feel they know better than the general public, and their arrogance and subsequent misuse of power "for the common good" inevitably leads to conflict, suffering, and worse.

Joss Whedon's hero Captain Mal Reynolds capsulizes this in the movie Serenity after he and his crew discover the tragedy on Miranda and how and who created the Reavers:

"This record here's about twelve years old. Parliament buried it and it stayed buried until River here dug it up. This is what they were afraid she knew. And they were right to fear. There's a universe of folk who're gonna know it, too. Someone *has to* speak for these people. (Pause.)

Y'all got on this boat for different reasons, but y'all have come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that.

So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave."



Still gives me chills. Great tv series (despite only 15 episodes); great movie.

Respectfully,
History

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MattLeo
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You know, I've always thought that quote about knowing history was just a tad self-serving. Burke was a great man, but he was historian of a particular stripe whose work had much in common with ours. We make up events to illustrate a theme. They don't make up events, they *select* them.

The ability to select events is practically as powerful as the ability to create them in shaping the lessons of the narrative. Consider the image we have of the early United States as a model society built on ideals of liberty and respect for property. Yet about 16% of the population, up to nearly a half in some states, were slaves. As for property, the government had no compunction about conspiring with private individuals in stealing Indian lands, not stopping even at genocide.

We of course all know about these things, but we're conditioned to think of them as minor, temporary aberrations. But they weren't minor to people holding the short end of the stick, and they went on for generations -- about eighty years in the case of slavery, and well over a century in the case of stealing land from the Indians. It isn't hard to select details from American history so as to tell ta story of national success through systematic, government-backed deprivation of private liberty and property.

It's true that those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it, but that's just a trivial truth: we're *all* condemned to repeat the particular history that we don't know -- or don't care to acknowledge. We've edited out so much of our historical heritage, I think it best not to be too cocky about drawing lessons "from history".

Don't get me wrong, I rather like those old philosopher historians. But I don't trust them. I like Herodotus and Plutarch even better, and they were even further into the fiction camp, making things up freely when it'd improve the story.

Now as for gun control, I think the whole 2nd Amendment thing is a red herring. We'll never prevent gun crimes, but we could take a dent out of them by cracking down on ways criminals obtain firearms while protecting the *9th* Amendment rights of sportsmen to enjoy their hobby. The problem with arguing entirely in terms of catastrophes is that it takes all reasonable and moderate measures off the table as being not enough for one side and too much for the other. If you limit the debate to the extremes, sooner or later one side will win and it might not be the one you favor.

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rcmann
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You raise valid points. Like the Amerindian robberies. Several of my ancestors were Cherokee. But they never had to march down the Trail of Tears. By the time that particular bit of large scale larceny was underway, the Cherokee members of my family were surrounded by heavily armed hillbilly kinfolk. So they didn't have to go anywhere.
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