Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Secret Origin of Zombies-Part Five

Why Zombies?

I can't say that I have answered the question of when zombies as we know them today came into American popular culture, but it seems like the Internet has it right: it was in the period 1929-1932 (actually 1928-1932). One alternative to that conclusion is that there were zombi(e)s in pulp magazines before 1928, specifically in the period 1910 or 1915 to 1927. If there were, I think Weird Tales in the years 1923 to 1927 is the place to begin looking. Unfortunately, I don't have any issues of Weird Tales from the 1920s, nor do I have reprints of most of the potential zombi(e) stories. (1) I would add that if zombies came from Haiti in the 1920s, and if they represent anything in the real world, then they almost certainly represent slavery--not that the slaves themselves are zombies but that zombie-ism represents the institution of slavery and--to Haitians--the fear of being enslaved. I think that's an important distinction to make.

Everything about which I have written in this series raises other questions: Why zombies? Why are zombies so popular? Why do they seem to have some meaning deeper than that of mere monsters? Why are they so widely studied and interpreted, especially by academics? Why have they become politicized? And why do discussions of zombies raise the hackles of so many people?

I'll start with what I think is the most basic question: What might zombies represent? (An echo of the question--What is a zombie?--posed to so many Caribbean people from the 1800s into the 1900s.) The simplest explanation seems to be that zombies represent the fear of death, perhaps also the fear of the unknown, the unexplained, and whatever it is that lurks beyond the edge of the firelight. These are elemental fears. In the end, maybe all of them are apprehensions of a single mystery, that of life, death, our purpose on earth, and our place in the universe. 

On the next level, the fear of zombies may represent the fear that the dead are restless and that they will come back. That fear places zombies in the same category as ghosts, vampires, and ambulatory mummies, revenants all. It is an atavistic fear and a fear of the supernatural: I Am LegendNight of the Living DeadWorld War Z, and The Walking Dead, despite their science-fictional veneer, are fantasies that tap into ancient fears. That may help to explain their power and popularity.

The idea that the dead will come back resonates. Christianity is based on a defeat of death: Jesus Christ came back to rescue us from death, and His promise is that He will come back yet again. Pagans, too, believe in the coming-back of the dead. The pyramids and tombs of Egypt are storehouses for their return to life in some form. Even atheists must imagine a coming-back or some kind of survival beyond death. The mummified remains of their masters--Lenin and Mao--attest to the hope that they have not died. As for the people who lived under them: theirs is the selfsame fear. Religion . . . atheism . . . communism . . . politics is beginning to rear its head.

Zombies were once caused by magic. We don't have to fear magic anymore because the supernatural has been defeated by science. However, science can also cause zombies, and the fear of them today coincides with a fear of contagion, disease, plague, and pandemic. Those, too, are ancient--and reasonable--fears, and they are alive in us despite our advanced medicine. As for the political angle: science as a replacement for the supernatural can become a political idea. However, I don't think it's enough to tip the discussion of zombies into the realm of politics. I think it takes something more than that. I think it takes seeing zombies not as spirits, monsters, revenants, or people stricken with some hypothetical disease. Instead, I think it takes seeing them, the human beings who oppose them, and their collective milieu as real people in the real world of today. Now we're getting closer to the politicized zombie.

A pandemic is of course a disaster. A large enough pandemic threatens a collapse of civilization. A fear of zombies may represent a fear of the great masses of people who would be on the loose if civilization were to collapse or in the event of a global disaster or apocalypse. (A post-apocalyptic world is a positive fantasy for some and something to fear for others.) This may be the political heart of the matter, for in the event of an apocalypse, some few people will have, while great masses of people will have not, a situation approximating how some people see the real world of today. If some people have, then they can be interpreted as the so-called winners in the lottery of life. They are the few. They are the slaveholders, capitalists, fascists, first-worlders, and one-percenters, in short, the oppressors. And if some people have not, then they are the slaves, the proletariat, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the deprived, and the forgotten. More to the point, they are the many. (2)

An apocalyptic future is a political idea, too, because in the current age every future is a political idea. That's because people of certain political persuasions see the future as theirs. Here I think is their thinking: History is a science. Therefore the future is predictable, and not just predictable but foreordained. It is an extension of history and will prove a simple unwinding of history (once the opposition is removed). Because history is necessarily a history of progress, the future will be a culmination of the pageant of historical progress. It will be a grand and glorious Utopia (again, once the opposition is removed). And because of all that, the future belongs exclusively to those who believe in history. (3, 4) An apocalyptic future--especially a future in which only a few people have anything and the masses are somehow deprived--is an affront to people who believe in history and progress and who make exclusive claims to the future. It's also, of course, an affront to those who believe in material equality. That's another way that the zombie story can be--and has become--politicized, I think.

The zombie apocalypse may represent a fear of or resistance to oppression or to a loss of freedom. Leftists fear the oppression of a ruling economic class or of what they call "fascists." (We're seeing a lot of that right now.) And because leftists tend to see "freedom" as "freedom from," then material want (or envy)--the fact that one person has something and other people don't--stokes in them not fear so much as outrage. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to fear the oppression of political tyranny, whatever form that might take. They especially fear it in the form of a mob or of governments that come to power because of mobs (as in the French Revolution) or mass movements (as in the Russian Revolution). Mobs and mass movements are destroyers. Before the world can be remade and thrust into the glorious future, it--meaning civilization, its traditions, and its institutions--must be destroyed. Because conservatives see "freedom" as "freedom to," they fear mobs, the majority, and mass movements because of the offenses against order, tradition, natural rights, etc., those forces represent. Once again, these fears--from both sides of the spectrum--are represented in the zombie story, thus making it more readily politicized.

Finally, the fear of zombies may represent the fear of a loss of humanity. If you're a human being alive after the zombie apocalypse, you actually have three fears of this kind. First, obviously, is the fear of death. Second is the fear that you will become a zombie. That's a fear worse than the fear of death, because you will still live, yet you will be a mindless and soulless monster. (5) Third, you fear that the conditions of your existence will ultimately dehumanize you: that you might still be a person with a mind and a soul, and at the same time an amoral monster, just so you might live. (My sister, who loves The Walking Dead, tells me that the title of the show can actually be interpreted as referring to the human beings in the story.) Fears of dehumanization and of recruitment into a mass of men are fears that easily become political. In fact, political movements of the most monstrous kind--especially mass movements--seek those two things: to recruit everyone they can into their movement and to dehumanize and ultimately destroy everyone who resists. The institution of slavery is similar: it dehumanizes the enslaved people and always seeks more slaves.

I don't have to tell you: There is much to fear when it comes to zombies.

To be continued . . .

Notes
(1) I have nothing by Arthur J. Burks, who might prove to be the father of zombies in America. I have read "Jumbee" by Henry S. Whitehead (1926), though. At most, that story might be called a proto-zombie story. It's interesting to note that it was published in the same year that H.P. Lovecraft wrote "The Call of Cthulhu."
(2) I sense that one of the reasons why people on the left end of the spectrum (Population A) don't like the human beings in The Walking Dead (Population B) is that Population A believe that they, Population A, are being cast or characterized as zombies against their will. I can't blame them for being upset about that. I wouldn't want to be cast as a zombie, either. Maybe Population A's discomfort comes from a sense that there is an imbalance of power at work: That Population B, standing in for the creators of the show, perhaps also for the population at large, have the power to cast Population A in that role and there isn't anything that Population A can do about it. It's like when you're a kid playing a pretend game: the older kids get to be whoever they want to be, and they force the younger kids to be the less likable or interesting characters.
So Population A is upset about all of this, hence things like Sean T. Collins' article "The Shameful Fascism of The Walking Dead," posted about halfway between election day and inauguration day. He makes some interesting points about the marketing of Donald Trump to viewers of The Walking Dead. That's evidence. That's what I like to see. But then his argument loses its focus and his article ends up being about gender roles or some other thing. I know he was upset about how things turned out. I have friends who feel that way, too, and I have sympathy for them. I don't like it that they feel so sad or depressed. I would like to offer them some comfort by saying, "It will be okay." I know also that Mr. Collins and people like him see that their little Obamatopia is coming to an end after they were told that it would go on forever. They are upset and angry, and many of them throw fits, as we have seen since inauguration day. They also call names, as Mr. Collins does, not realizing that the word fascist is old. Old and worn out. They have used that word so often for so many things that it doesn't mean anything anymore. My advice: find better words, sharpen your arguments, and act like adults.
(3) One of my favorite moments in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold [1965] is when Richard Burton laughs derisively at Claire Bloom, a communist, for her belief in "history."
(4) How many times have we heard that so-and-so is "on the wrong side of history"? How is there a "wrong side of history"? How does anyone know what is "the right side" and what is "the wrong side"? What kind of arrogance does that take to say that anyone at all knows the direction history will take or what its inevitable result will be? And what is the implication, that history will reach an end point? That, as in the book We, there will be no more revolutions? That human society will reach stasis? If so, isn't stasis ultimately conservative, if not reactionary? Isn't it actually beyond conservative or reactionary? Who then is the true revolutionary in human history? Isn't it the person who believes in freedom over stasis?
(5) This seems to be the fear of the Haitian people, who have zombies in their folklore. For Haitians, added to the fear of becoming a zombie is the fear that they will remain zombies and that they will never be released into the afterlife. They will instead be chained to their bodies-in-slavery forever. One of the ways to be released from zombie-slavery is for the zombie-slave to eat salt. Once he eats salt, he remembers that he is dead and returns to his grave.
In reference to that and the caption of the image below: If you want to find a direct link between zombies and the Haitian Revolution, read "Salt Is Not for Slaves" by G.W. Hutter, a pseudonym of Garnett Weston (1894-1948), who wrote the screenplay for White Zombie (1932). (Hutter's/Weston's story was originally in Ghost Stories for August 1931, making it one of the first zombie--zombie with an -e--stories in the pulps.) Admittedly, Hutter/Weston was a twentieth-century writer and presumably white. His story may not have been taken from life. But it has power, I think, and truth in it. It still lives eighty-five years after its first publication.
In her book The Transatlantic Zombie: Slavery, Rebellion, and Living Death (2015), author Sarah J. Lauro interprets the outcome of "Salt Is Not for Slaves" as a perceived failure of the Haitian Revolution and ties it to the American occupation of 1915-1934. Fair enough. I think you can interpret the story in a different way, namely as a kind of Garden of Eden story in which the zombie-slaves are forbidden salt (equivalent to the knowledge of good and evil), and that when they rebel and partake of it, they become aware of their situation and are freed from their condition of servitude. The irony here is that, unlike Adam and Eve, they are released from earthly toil and returned to Paradise. 

A zombie horde ripping apart a human being? No, a mob of revolutionaries in an illustration from Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities (1859). If you're looking for coincidence and associations in the history of zombi(e)s, why not look at the French Revolution and its Haitian counterpart? Zombies as we know them today seem to have come from Haitian folklore. Between 1791 and 1803, Haitian slaves revolted against their French colonial masters. But wasn't the French Revolution in place by 1791 or so? Wasn't feudalism abolished in 1789? Was there not a Declaration of the Rights of Man in that same year? Was not the king deposed, then executed in 1793? If so, why were Haitian slaves not freed? Why did the French revolutionaries and after them Napoleon try to suppress the Haitian Revolution and keep black people in slavery? Why did the French, good leftists that they were, try to keep Haitians as metaphorical zombies? If the Haitian fear of becoming a zombie or of being kept as a zombie is a fear of slavery, isn't it then a fear of either a leftist/statist regime or the fear of ancient and feudal institutions of servitude? If you're going to lay zombies at the feet of a political idea or a political party in America, just whose feet are they? Would they not be those of the leftist/statist party or the party of slavery? Are those parties in America not the same party? And which party is that?

As a thin piece of anecdotal evidence: There were violent and destructive protests at UC Berkeley earlier this month. They were carried out by a leftist mob in a successful attempt to suppress free (and dissenting) speech. Among the mob was a man who said: "The cops shot me with pepper balls," adding, "It hurt." (Now there's a guy with a college education.) The people in the mob hid their identities, using instead pseudonyms--noms de protest, I guess. This man called himself Zombie.

You can read the story, "UC Berkeley Cancels Right-Wing Provocateur’s Talk Amid Violent Protest" by Michael Bodley and Nanette Asimov, dated February 2, 2017, on the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, here. While you're there, take an especially long, hard look at the chicken-s--t headline that suggests that the protest was somehow caused by a "right-wing provocateur" and not by a leftwing mob and their ideology of intolerance, hatred, violence, and suppression of dissent.

Text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

13 comments:

  1. I think that you are pretty accurate in the observation that conservatives are generally motivated by fear while Leftist are more motivated by outrage, but the source of that outrage is somewhat different from what you claim. Typically, Liberals consider material success as having enough, whereas the Conservative seem to always want more. One of the measures of economic success for many Conservatives is not just the size of their bank accounts, but also the breadth of the division between themselves and others. They tend to feel more successful if there are more people who are much poorer than themselves.
    There is nothing wrong with honestly achieved wealth or financial security.
    But when billionaire business people complain about the personal hardship of having to pay an increase in the minimum wage, when the wealthy are opposed to others being able to even earn a living wage, well, yeah, that generates outrage. It is not, as you suggest, driven by a mentality of "You've got something I want," but rather by "Your greed is keeping others from earning what they need."

    I personally believe that the fearsome aspect of the zombie arrises from two premises; from fear of the loss of humanity and of the implacable power of an unreasoning opponent.
    Hmmm... perhaps The Invasion of the Body Snatchers was at least peripherally a zombie story....

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    1. Mike,

      Some people call Invasion of the Body Snatchers a zombie story. I don't, but maybe my definition is too narrow. I would say instead that Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I Am Legend, Night of the Living Dead, Star Trek: First Contact, and similar stories are all the same kind of story, and they all have a common ancestor. All of them have the features you describe: 1) the threat of the loss of humanity; and b) the implacable power of an opponent, whether it's unreasoning (as with zombies) or reasoning (as with the Borg). The real terror comes with the realization that these forces just can't be stopped. There isn't anything you can do. You will be assimilated.

      If I had to make a list of the differences between conservatives and progressives, this would go on the list: conservatives tend to be motivated by fear; progressives tend to be motivated by anger, outrage, or hatred. That makes sense if you think that conservatives are oriented towards the past: they tend naturally to fear the future. Progressives are oriented towards the future: they are outraged by or hateful towards the things that happened in the past or that have grown out of the past and are happening now. The thing to do for both sides is to overcome their fear, anger, and hatred and to hear the appeal of the better angels of our nature. We don't have to fear the future and we don't have to hate the past. All of the world's wisdom enjoins us against these feelings.

      I agree with you that progressives think in terms of what is or should be "enough." But who is to decide what is "enough"? To progressives, limits should be placed by an arbitrary government: the State decides what is "enough." To conservatives, "enough" is governed by a person's own limits of energy, initiative, work, desire, etc. The limits are internal, are not arbitrary, and are simply exercises in the unalienable right for each person to pursue his or her own happiness. As long as you're not infringing on my unalienable rights, you're not hurting me by working hard and earning your wealth, whether it's a dollar or ten million dollars. You haven't taken anything away from me.

      One more difference between progressives and conservatives: progressives believe that wealth is like a pie, that the size of the pie is fixed, and that if you get a piece of it, I don't. Further, they believe that everybody has a right to a piece of the pie, whether they work for it or not, whether they contributed to the making of it or not. Conservatives understand that wealth is like the universe in that it continues to expand. We have seen the effects of that expansion in the last twenty years, as nearly one billion people have been raised out of poverty worldwide, not by socialism but by capitalism, i.e., by exercises of human economic freedom and the unalienable right of every person to pursue his or her own happiness.

      Part Two below.

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    2. My questions are these:

      Nancy Pelosi has a net worth in excess of $80 million. Elizabeth Warren has a net worth in the range of $8-$14 million. Our most recent ex-president and his wife have a combined net worth of about $25 million. Even Bernie Sanders is worth in excess of $500,000. He recently bought a $500,000 house. So is that enough for each one of those people? Is it not yet enough? If it's not enough, when will each one of them know that it's enough and stop? Further, if $25 million is enough, doesn't that make Nancy Pelosi greedy? Shouldn't she have stopped already? Why is she such an oppressor? Why won't she listen to the 99 percent?

      And what if it IS more than enough for each one of those people? If it's more than enough, why didn't they stop when they had enough? Why don't they give their wealth away so that they can have enough and other people can have enough as well? Why should Bernie Sanders have a half-million dollar house when I don't have any house at all? Why is he so greedy? Why is he depriving me of my right to have a house? Why doesn't he share, like a good socialist? Why shouldn't he open his door to me and everybody else who has a right to his wealth?

      The larger question is this: Who gets to decide what is enough for any other person? Do I get to decide for you? Do you get to decide for me? If so, how is it that the way I live my life is subject to your belief system and vice versa? How is it that I can use force against you and you can use force against me in order to keep us each at the level of what the other has decided is "enough"? Isn't it better for us to just leave each other alone so that we can live our own lives, freely and in exercise of our own unalienable rights? Does it really matter that you have one hundred dollars and I only have five?

      I have advice for every progressive: drop the word "greed" from your vocabulary. It makes you sound silly.

      TH

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    3. Once again, you and I seem to have reached an impasse and my meaning is not clear to you. At no time did I say that I or anyone should decide what is enough for you. And if you reread my earlier statement, you may note that I said there is nothing wrong with wealth per se. The problem is when wealth becomes more important than people, when the working class is perceived as commodities who exist solely to further fatten the wallets of the wealthy. The term "human resources" is the shining embodiment of this philosophy.

      I will drop "greed" from my vocabulary when greed ceases to exist.
      Until then, get used to it.

      As to the premise that all Populists who claim to care about the rights of the working class are somehow disingenuous if they don't themselves live in poverty...now THAT'S silly.

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    4. Mike,

      Maybe I don't understand what you're saying, but so much of what you're saying seems to me cloaked in Marxist rhetoric: this casting of the "wealthy" as people who perceive "the working class" as "commodities who exist solely to further fatten [their] wallets" seems to me a boogeyman, a figment in the imagination of a nineteenth-century louse and layabout who tried to intellectualize his way into a position where the lives of everyone on earth would be controlled by his ideas and his system.

      Maybe I should stick with my examples: Is Nancy Pelosi wealthy? If so, is she using the "working class" as "commodities" "to further fatten" her wallet? If she isn't, who is? Is it only people in the private sector who do these things, even though Nancy Pelosi and people like her have enriched themselves at the expense of the working people--i.e., the taxpayers--of this country?

      If people in the private sector are the only people who do these things, who exactly is doing them? Where is the cutoff point between the person who uses "the working class" for purposes of fattening his wallet and the person who doesn't? If a man owns a plumbing business and has one employee, is he exploiting that employee, or is that an acceptable relationship? What if he has two employees? Five? Seventy? Where is the cutoff? Who decides? Maybe it's how much income the plumbing business brings in. Again, where is the cutoff? Who decides?

      Maybe it has less to do with how many employees the plumbing business owner has or how much his business makes and more to do with what he pays them. So then, what if he pays them minimum wage? Is he exploiting them? Let's say that he is. Are his employees bound to him? Or are they free people who can seek more remunerative work elsewhere? And what is stopping them from increasing the value of their labor by improving themselves through education, certification, etc., or a switch in fields? What's to stop them from opening their own businesses? Aren't those options open to them? Are they not free people capable of navigating through a free economy and a free society?

      Part Two below.

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    5. The idea that workers are bound to their employers and that they are not free to alter or escape from their condition is an Old World idea. I think it derives from the same ancient and medieval institutions of servitude that I have been writing about. Marx lacked imagination. He must have seen the master-slave or feudal lord-serf relationship as the only possible economic relationship between any two men. What a numbskull. He was totally blind to the possibility that human beings are free and that under a government established by the people, as in the United States, those institutions of servitude would be broken and that people would form free economic relationships with each other: I freely enter into your employ, you freely agree to employ me, I provide to you my time and labor, and you pay me for it in the amounts to which we have agreed. If conditions change, then we can either renegotiate our agreement or we can sever it. I am not bound to you and you have no noblesse oblige towards me because our relationship is free and equal.

      People in Europe are still stuck in that mindset that they are serfs, that they must bind themselves to a lord who then has certain obligations to them. They have simply traded the modern socialist State for the feudal lord. Only in America is there a new man, a man freed from ancient and feudal institutions and able to enjoy the fruits of his freedom under a Constitution of guaranteed rights and limited government. Some people don't want that freedom and will do anything to escape from it, but how is anyone else obligated to play the role of the slave master or feudal lord just because he wants to make of himself a slave or a serf?

      Lastly, nowhere did I say that "Populists" (Donald Trump can be considered a Populist by the way) should live in poverty, but isn't that the logical conclusion to the idea that all people should be materially equal? And isn't material equality the whole point of a liberalism that has cut itself loose from its original non-materialist liberal values and has wandered into the country of Marxist-style materialism?

      So you're right, I don't really understand what you're saying.

      TH

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    6. I feel like I'm speaking to a deaf man. So since you are apparently more concerned with your preconceived notions of my views than with what I am actually saying, and as a result are now resorting to name calling and misleading misrepresentation, I think this is a good place to roll my eyes and just walk away from a lost cause.

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    7. Mike,

      This is getting bad again, and I'd rather it not get bad again.

      First, where have I called names? Is it my reference to Marxism? Please read what I wrote: "so much of what you're saying seems to me cloaked in Marxist rhetoric." I did not say that you're a Marxist. I was talking about your words (and I used the word "seems"). Is that name-calling? If so, then I did not mean to call names and I apologize. If you took offense, it shows me that you and I would both agree that "Marxist" is a pejorative.

      In my defense, I ask: Isn't this talk about "the working class," evocations of a struggle between classes, and the supposed greedy exploitation and commodification of "the working class" by "billionaire business people" simply a rehashing of Marxist rhetoric? Is it inaccurate for me to write something like that? If so, please let me know how. I would like to understand your views better, and I definitely don't want to put words in your mouth or tell you what you believe. I have had people do that to me, and it's not a good feeling. If you would like to separate yourself from Marxism, I would also like to give you that opportunity here. I don't want anybody, let alone one of my friends, to cozy up with Marxism. That's not because I want to keep people from believing one thing or another. It's because I don't want people to go down an intellectual hole with little hope of coming back out again.

      Second, you say that I have preconceived notions of what you believe. Like I said, I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of things like that. I don't want to do it to anyone else. I'll quote from your opening comment in this series of comments:

      "[T]he Conservative seem to always want more. One of the measures of economic success for many Conservatives is not just the size of their bank accounts, but also the breadth of the division between themselves and others. They tend to feel more successful if there are more people who are much poorer than themselves."

      I think you know that I am a conservative. If you don't know that already, I'll tell you now. So do I, as a conservative, "always want more" as you wrote? (You used the word "seem" also--I think we both used it for the same reason.) Couldn't I interpret that as a preconceived notion on your part of what I believe? Couldn't I interpret the rest of what you wrote as a misrepresentation of my beliefs as a conservative? It's true that you were writing in general, whereas I was writing in the particular, but generalizations can cause just as much harm as particularizations. I wear conservative values very closely, as I believe they reflect our true nature as free human beings. In any case, I didn't take any offense at what you wrote. I know that's how a lot of people think of conservatives. I can tell you, it's not the truth. Conservatism is not about money. If it were, how could I be a conservative? (In a two-week period last year, I made a grand total of $5.) Anyway, if I were writing what you wrote, I would just take out the word "conservative(s)" and replace it with "people."

      Part Two below.

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    8. My point in all of this is that we might not like what other people do with their freedom, but it's their freedom. It doesn't bother me one little bit that Bill Gates or George Soros or Warren Buffett (all of whom are liberal or leftist and/or support liberal or leftist causes) is a gazillionaire. None of them has harmed me in any way in collecting his billions. I don't care what any of them does as long as he stays within the law.

      I guess I would add another point: the caricature is that "billionaire business people" are conservative. Did you watch the commercials that played during the Super Bowl? Many, if not most, of them were progressive, liberal, or leftist in orientation. Maybe that's just smart marketing: the companies involved (Audi, 84 Lumber, etc.) are using a ploy rather than showing what they really believe. Maybe they're all really heartless capitalists. The caricature also is that people who oppose an increase in the minimum wage are a bunch of filthy rich exploiters. But how many small businesses--owned by people like you and me--have either had to cut back or have gone out of business because of the costs involved in an increased minimum wage? Here's the URL for just one article:

      http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/nevius/article/S-F-minimum-wage-hike-hits-shop-owners-hard-6115578.php

      Anyway, Mike, I'm not deaf. I really want to understand your views, but can I just ask that you moderate your tone? All this talk of greedy billionaires and exploiters and wealthy people commodifying the poor working class and depriving them of a chance to make a living just sounds overheated and excessive. (I come from the working class, and I can tell you, I don't feel exploited, and no, it's not because of an experience of Stockholm syndrome.) I don't think I have been immoderate in my tone in the things I have written. If I have, I would like to scale it back, as a tone like that doesn't make for a good debate. We all have to be reasonable and moderate. We all have to choose our words wisely, separate fact from opinion, and support our arguments with facts, or at least with sound reasoning. We should also be willing to concede points wherever it's called for. Above all else, we should all be courteous, respectful, and willing to listen. If I did not do those things, I apologize, and I mean that with all sincerity. I will do my best to improve my thinking and writing, which is one of the reasons I write this blog anyway.

      Thanks for writing.

      (Boy, you're really not going to like the next part of this series on the origin of zombies. At least it will be the last . . . except that zombies keep coming back. It's what they do.)

      TH

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  2. On the topic of the wrong side of history: I think of this in terms of the oft paraphrased quote "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Our past experiences are filled with lessons, and to be "on the wrong side of history" is to fail to learn from those lessons, to repeat behavior that has led to negative results in the past.
    Another quote, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," -- a bit harsh, but I agree with the gist -- seems to apply here.

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    1. Mike,

      That's a good interpretation of that phrase "on the wrong side of history." I would consider it to be one possibility as to its meaning. I would add that people tend not to learn by the mistakes of others; we mostly learn by our own mistakes, and some don't learn even then.

      Anyway, that means that every generation has to relearn the lessons of history by making the same mistakes as in the past. Venezuela is a perfect illustration: we know that socialism doesn't work. History has shown that again and again. But we're going to give it one more try because always in the past, it wasn't done right. This time it will work. This time it will be perfect.

      Or maybe next time . . .

      or the time after . . .

      after millions more people have been murdered or starved . . .

      TH

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    2. Sometimes we learn by observing others, but often we do have to make our own mistakes. Still, even while erring on our own it is beneficial to have previous instruction or examples to draw upon in order to figure out what we are doing wrong. In fact, I find this to be the ideal combination for learning; personal first-time effort informed by someone else's past experience.

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    3. Mike,

      I agree with you that the best way to learn is by being guided by the wisdom of others (who have made their mistakes and have learned by them) and by making our own mistakes as we go along. Making mistakes is part of life; if we don't make mistakes, it means we're not living. Not living might be the worst mistake of all.

      TH

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