1. Julie Dick says:

    My first thought at that picture: “In the Discworld, black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.” DS9 might show a society without human racism, but prejudice and species bias are alive and well, especially on the Bajorian question.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Julie, it’s certainly true that racism still existed in the world of DS9…and very interestingly Major Kira goes through a long process of getting over her racism about Cardassians…

  2. notleia says:

    Have you gotten around to the White Trash book I recommended, Travis? Isenberg talks about some of the same stuff you have in here, like the Homestead Acts as government handouts to white people.

    Government handouts is a pretty timely topic, what with the unemployment rate still being jacked up from the COVID stuff. A lot of my thinking involves a book that I’ve also plugged here, Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber, which asks a lot of questions about the relationship between how many hours are worked versus how productive they are (spoilers they are not actually all that productive).
    Apparently by the end of WWII we could have had only 25-ish-hour work weeks yet still been paid a living wage, and still produced everything we need to have a modern society. And our capacity for efficiently has only gone up, but our work hours are the same while wages have stagnated.

    How much do people actually need to work to survive? Why should it be 40 hours a week? What about rural communities that have no jobs? That topic is a bit nearer to me because that’s the main justification I had for moving halfway across the country from my family, because there are no feckin’ jobs in the country and non-giant agribusiness farming is basically gambling with your entire income. What if small farmers got a universal basic income? Heck, what if they just got what little more stability that guaranteed health insurance would give them? [shameless plug about my peeps in the Land Stewardship Project]

    • Travis Perry says:

      Personally I think Universal Basic Income is optimistic dreaming that won’t really work. There is a moralistic element to my objection–I think in general work is good for people and being required to work is character-building. Giving money to anyone without requiring anything from them in exchange might be nice under certain exceptional circumstances, but in general, it causes moral corruption.

      I know you’re either shaking your head or laughing at my old-fashioned insistence that hard work is good for a person, but I speak from the experience of being in a family that received unhelpful government aid.

      On the other hand, I do not hold to a Libertarian view or strong anti-Socialist view that government has no business in intervention in the economy (that bridge was crossed long ago). I am in favor of government sponsoring jobs when appropriate. So instead of UBI, why not bring back something like the Civilian Conservation Corps of FDR days?

      Why couldn’t this corps provide re-construction of the American infrastructure? There’s a massive amount of roads, bridges, and waterworks in the USA that need upgrading. Politically why not is because Republicans don’t want to use government power in that way and Democrats don’t want to because labor unions want to ensure infrastructure jobs are reserved for unions. But if we are going to pay people, why don’t we get a societal benefit out of what they get paid for?

      Note the various Homestead Acts required someone to inhabit a piece of land and work it for years (like 5) before they could turn sell it for cash. So as a giveaway, it was linked to work before someone could get a direct benefit from it.

      Why shouldn’t a modern “giveaway” have a linked work element as well? It should. I can think of a lot of other important tasks that can be completed in addition to infrastructure… (yes, I know some people would gripe about an anti-poverty program requiring work mirroring slavery–but it would not).

      • notleia says:

        Ha, Graeber talks about that in his book, too, about the terms and conditions people want to put on aid and how we feel about people “deserving” aid. He frames a lot of it in terms of the people in power being afraid of what the masses might get up to if they weren’t put to responsible work, but he also questions what constitutes a reasonable work ethic vs the weird Puritanical thing that’s a relic of a specific societal setup with apprenticeships that hasn’t been relevant since before the Industrial Revolution.
        He also talks about how it is perfectly possible to support a noncontributing percentage of the population even up to, IIRC, 25-30 percent, if only because that’s a similar percentage of jobs that functionally contribute nothing of value to society, like stock brokers.

        Gov’t guaranteed jobs is also brought up in lefty circles, belieb it or not, but there’s probably even more moving parts in that one. How are jobs assigned? Are they salaried or hourly? How many hours would be expected as reasonable (related to the concerns about a 40-hour workweek being unreasonable/outdated)? What about people with disabilities who can’t work/can’t work very much? What about artists or handicrafting people who do weird crap that is more valuable in a cultural than economic sense?

        And there’s also arguments that it’s literally cheaper to just hand out free apartments to the homeless than the homeless currently cost us in social services as-is. I think Finland(?) literally just ended homelessness with that method. So my compatriot lefty anarcho-catgirls just extend that logic further and say, why not give people a UBI of at least (dang what’s the poverty threshold?) 15,000 a year, which might be more effective and possibly sustainable than patchwork social programs. It’s a lot of the same logic as M4A. (Granted, when my peeps talk about UBI they usually have an income of about 75,000/year in mind, which is based on studies about the point at which increasing income stops contributing to stats on well-being.)

        • Travis Perry says:

          First, Finland and the Scandinavian nations rarely offer a good model for work for the United States. Why? They have a culturally ingrained belief that it is shameful not to work and they will shame people, culturally speaking, who do not work who can. Is the USA like that? Barely.

          In the USA, work has been linked to reward. Blame the Puritans if it makes you feel better, but the real issue is individualism. The USA is much more individualistic than Northern Europeans or the Japanese (or lots of other people). Other societies have norms built into the culture, but our fellow citizens tend to be, “I don’t care what you morons think, I’m gonna do what I want!” (Remember, this is the land of Jerry Springer.)

          Such an attitude actually benefits us in some ways. A lot of very creative ideas come from the United States–and I think that’s tied to our individualism (yeah, plenty of shame-based cultures have brilliant ideas too, such as the Japanese, but the overall cultural output of the USA outweighs Japan by a long shot). But a consequence of individualism is we must individually work to receive benefits as individuals, because otherwise, far too many people will collect the check and sit around and watch TV. (Our nation is much more shameless than most other places.)

          As for the 40 hour work week being obsolete, I don’t agree. Only 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. That’s barely working at all. I think 10 hours a day, 6 days a week is more what people can realistically do without getting too stressed out. Plus, the 40 hour work week hurts the working poor, because they’d gladly work 60 hours, but the boss won’t pay overtime. So they go get a second job and work 30 hours per week at one and 30 hours per week at the other, working harder with two jobs because neither gives healthcare and the poor sap has to juggle schedules not designed to be compatible. There are lots of people like that, killing themselves with overwork–and they should be at the top of the list of people our society helps get better paying jobs. But we don’t even think along those lines–neither right nor left.

          By the way, as soon as Graeber or people like him start talking about work being the way it is because people in power wanting to maintain power blah blah blah I know he has no idea what he’s talking about because I’m not in power and never have been very significantly, but I know what is a smart idea and what isn’t. Giveaways are not smart in general (with certain exceptions). Really not anywhere in absolute terms, but especially not in the USA.

          Especially in regard to racial reparations–I’ve heard some self-appointed genius on NPR say the reparation for slavery ought to be cash payments with the intent of making black wages equal white wages. Pfft! That would have the effect of making the majority of black Americans forever dependent on the government and never able to get out of poverty on their own. Compare with payments to enrolled American Indians.

          The best anti-poverty program the United States has ever had is the US military, even though that was not the intent of the military. But, to bring in enough people into the service the post-draft era, the military recruits a lot of folks below the poverty line. The military offers home loans, health benefits, education benefits, teaches physical fitness, in exchange for hard work, taking personal risk, and being responsible for yourself an others. Practically everyone who enrolls in military service for 20 years leaves poverty behind permanently–and not just for themselves, for their children as well. And even some with shorter enlistments tend to leave poverty behind.

          All anti-poverty programs in the USA should be along the same lines–thinking how to get people to work, to value education, to produce something valuable, in exchange for home ownership and healthcare and education benefits.

          Such programs may indeed cost more in the short term and would have difficulties with certain particular individuals with various kinds of disabilities. But it would make our entire society more productive in the end–which would in the end put more wealth in the government coffers.

          • notleia says:

            Uhhh, I wouldn’t really call the poverty draft a good thing. Do you watch Starship Troopers as played straight or as being satirical?

            Most people like having something meaningful to do with their time. But there are questions we ought to ask about what work our culture rewards.

            Just go read the Bullshit Jobs book. I guarantee it is less squishy than you’re imagining it. Go hit up the library.

            • Travis Perry says:

              The movie Starship Troopers was satirical. The book was not. However, while Heinlein has a few ideas I actually like, his enthusiasm for war was so over the top in Starship Troopers that Paul Verhoeven wasn’t all that much off in his satirical film version.

              And I’m not proposing a poverty draft. Just a work requirement for most government aid. I actually realize it’s impossible to apply a work requirement to all government aid, but it should be arranged that way as much as possible.

              By the way, you didn’t seem to mind the CCC echo from FDR days I voiced until now. It wasn’t a draft, but it was like a poverty army. It had ranks, taught skills, demanded work. The pay wasn’t all that great from what I recall, but I’d pay better and have benefits. So an all-volunteer poverty army.

              Those who don’t join don’t get nothing. But joining has such obvious advantages and would be set up to bend over backwards to accommodate disabilities etc, that most people would /want/ to join.

              That plus some targeted, intelligent scholarships and talent developing programs. Plus more emphasis on fitness and eating healthy–I’d change food stamps to be more like WIC, if you’re familiar with that. (Food stamps lets you get whatever you want for food–and lots of poor people buy Little Debbie and similar snacks; WIC requires selections from off a list of healthy food.) Oh, yeah, plus a government program to help by cars for hard-working poor people. And a program making most rental housing into rent-to-own. And government backed low-interest loans and mandatory savings programs for people who get loans and scholarships.

              Not bleeding-heart liberalism. Not let ’em make it on their own conservativism. Actual, no-kidding help out of poverty that would make for a richer and more prosperous country in the long term.

              • notleia says:

                I keep rolling over what you said about the working poor wanting to go 60 hrs a week, and that’s most likely just another symptom of the problem.
                Do they want the work for the work’s sake, or do they want it for the extra money? The most benign motive would be wanting to get a specific project done, but most other motives seem unhealthy.
                Have they wrapped up their ideas of self worth into paid labor? Pretty unhealthy. Do they have nothing to do with themselves outside of work, no hobbies or social life? Pretty unhealthy.
                But most likely it’s because of stagnant wages, which is a different kind of unhealthy.

              • Travis Perry says:

                Yes, people who really want out of poverty very much are willing to work extra hours for the money. Though some people do enjoy working and would put in long hours in any case.

                Many working poor people already DO work 60 hours a week or more, without overtime, because they juggle multiple jobs. That was what I actually focused on, not enjoyment or non-enjoyment. That you apparently don’t know that is a pretty strong indicator to me that you don’t know very much about the working poor–or poverty. For many of them, being able to work 60 hours at one job would be a relief.

                As far as the health argument goes, it’s an interesting approach but stress is worse on a job than long hours worked. Stress is increased by having to game a system in effect designed to protect middle class workers, but which is not beneficial to poor people in all cases. By the way, lots of wealthy people in certain kinds of jobs work long hours, too. (Yet overall, for multiple reasons, wealthy people tend to have better health.)

                Yeah, it’s true that certain nations work fewer hours than the USA with more productivity, such as Germany. But Germans work hard when on the job–they aren’t surfing the Internet or doing anything else other than working during work hours. Germans also do a number of other things Americans don’t do–observing them is fascinating.

                You need to travel the world a bit. I know you consume a good deal of foreign media, especially Japanese, but that’s not the same as actually observing a country like Germany in person. Germans, almost without exception, work hard. That’s why they are an economic powerhouse. And why their brand of Socialism-lite functions.

                Americans indeed might be able to work less hours overall–but we’d need to be more effective on the job if we were to succeed at that (which would require a cultural transformation). But your calls for less hours kind of miss that–it seems you actually have don’t know how nations are or are not economically successful.

              • Brennan McPherson says:

                Copying another country’s social structure/political structure doesn’t work. Just ask Toyota. Western countries tried Toyota’s structure, and it failed because the culture is different. Europe is not America, and there are many different functional economies/structures, but they interact with the culture, and are formed in part by that culture, and the same in reverse, rinse and repeat. A certain amount of trust needs to be put in that process. Rather than reform American structure completely (like the crazy lefties or psycho right-wingers want), I think it’s better to try to solve the issues within the current structure. Again, I think non-profits and non-governmental, citizen-run initiatives are key to solving issues of homelessness, crime, etc. If we organized more as citizens, we could solve these issues. It doesn’t HAVE to be the gov. Although the gov. is obv an important part, and there does need to be changes.

                Honestly, I think a lot of the social-media-full-time-job-fetish ala Twitch-streaming and YouTube-ing, along with online course gurus, pyramid scheme beauty gurus, etc., has done a lot of damage. I’m in a group with other full-time creatives (I normally don’t join this kind of thing, and only did so reluctantly), and they talk a lot about 80/20 stuff, and spending one hour per week on a $1,000 per hour, or $10,000 per hour activity, and honestly, it grosses me out and is completely unattainable and unsustainable on a societal level. It’s bogus. Some people can do it, but they’re literally just standing on the shoulders of other people doing the hard work. And that’s exactly the kind of thing that contributes to poverty, unless the person at the top truly cares for those beneath them and treats them fairly/gives them raises first. Which is almost never the case.

                I felt lied to when I finished college and found out an electrician in the first year of work, or an auto-repair mechanic, could make more than me with less than half the schooling. And honestly, so much of an economy, including the weight of currency, is tied inextricably to GDP, which is value-adding, substantive jobs where people do/make real things. All the get-rich-quick schemes have a similar allure to selling drugs in poor-income areas.

                I do think individualism is an issue. Selfishness ruins everything. If we worked 30 hrs a week, lived at a lower income level rather than chasing a comfy house, and spent 10 hrs a week helping other people rebuild their homes, get access to food, get haircuts, get medical advice/financial advice, tutor kids with no access to good schooling, the world would change massively overnight. That’s why, to this date, I’ve resisted debt/buying a house/etc., because it strangles you/keeps you from being flexible in this arena. Perhaps some sort of gov. incentive could trigger that sort of mass movement. Idk. But it seems clear that it would be helpful.

  3. Hm…well, unfortunately being a melting pot is probably part of the US’s problem with racial and other tensions. The diversity of our nation is GOOD, I’m not saying otherwise. But when there’s a ton of people from many different groups interacting in the same nation over a long, dark and complex history, it’s really not surprising to have conflict. Obviously we need to tackle the issue regardless, but it’s important to realize that’s a contributing factor.

    I agree that interracial marriages can help, and I’m the product of one myself. But at the same time I don’t think interracial marriages should be forced. I know you’re not saying they should be, but some people might think it’s a good idea to at least force it through social pressure. But if someone doesn’t like/want to be with their spouse for whatever reason, it increases the chances of abuse, so that’s certainly a potential downside of making people feel pressured to date/marry outside their own race if they don’t want to.

    Sci fi and fantasy really do normalize interracial marriages by a lot, though, both directly and indirectly. A lot of people are fascinated by characters that are interracial, interspecies, or some other cross between groups featured in the story. Like, even if the story didn’t have much time to delve into couples like that, people will make all kinds of OCs (original characters) or fanfics that feature such unions. And much of that interest is genuine, rather than stemming primarily from SJWness. So scifi and fantasy really do seem like great ways to show that interracial marriage is a good thing.

    As far as using fiction to battle racism, grappling with conflict and hardship have always been big themes in my writing, which means that prejudices, both racial and otherwise, get tackled often in my story worlds. I’ve always wanted to figure out the intricacies of human interaction in an effort to make the world a better place.

    But over the last few years, watching the more rabid SJWs and cancel culture honestly kind of discouraged and scared me from wanting to address racial issues much. Like, 99.9% of my stories are set in universes where our world doesn’t exist, which means our real life races don’t exist in my stories either. Not really even in the sense of being ‘coded’ as such. But that’s not necessarily enough to keep people from taking things out of context, and it was sort of frustrating to realize that a severe cancellation could crop up no matter how careful I was. Even if I adhered to their list of dos and don’ts well enough to avoid cancellation, there’s still the fact that my writing would start to revolve around avoiding the woke crowd’s wrath, and even just trying to do that while planning some of my stories took the life out of them.

    Lately that’s been frustrating enough for me to reach a tipping point, though. I’m still going to employ a reasonable amount of caution, but if I love a story and feel like it could make a positive impact, I don’t want to hide it from the world just because a subset of people online might hate it. I’ll take people’s criticism into consideration, but I don’t have much patience for those that demand immediate agreement and obedience.

    To me it’s not just about growing a spine, though. It’s also been figuring out some strategies that will help me draw healthy boundaries with readers while also addressing their concerns. A lot of cancel culture is really shooting itself in the foot, though. I mean, I’ve always actually enjoyed discussing social issues and how to solve them. But in spite of the fact that they’re trying to get people to speak out more for ‘social justice’, they’re making people like me want to say less. That’s a pretty big red flag in terms of their approach.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Yeah, I can fairly say I’m not an expert in how to combat cancel culture. I essentially ignore cancel culture–but also am a small fish that the cancel culture types don’t pay much attention to. It’s easy for me to say “ignore cancel culture” because overall, few people care what I have to say. That would certainly change if I were better-known.

      If I come up with better answers on cancel culture, I’ll let you know…

      Thanks for sharing your other thoughts, by the way.

What do you think?