Russia, no. What are you doing, Russia? You’re fucking everything up, Russia. Things were going so well, Russia!
When I’m studying history, as I sometimes do, nothing fascinates me more than to see an in-depth analysis of what went wrong for a ruler or a regime or what have you. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20, and even through the somewhat warped lens of historical record a careful observer can see patterns of thought and action in a culture that clearly had some effect on that culture’s decline from prominence. From the historian’s privileged perspective, looking back on the past and secure in the knowledge that it’s not going to come and get them, they can zero in on all the key facts that every politician at the time would have killed to know.
But I think that if we look very closely at ourselves and cast a wide enough net in our information gathering, we can form similar conclusions about the here and now. Perhaps we couldn’t have twenty, or even ten years ago, but as interconnected as we are right now, it might not be hubristic to think that we really can do it. Maybe, just maybe, we can figure out the causes of everything, underneath the mountain of effects. And I think that if we can tackle those causes, the effects will slowly but surely melt away.
This morning, I read an article in the New York Times titled “Quiet Night in Ferguson turns Confrontational.” It’s title does adequately describe what happened there last night, but it’s content leaves something to be desired.
The earlier paragraphs are simply a recap of what we already know: Michael Brown was shot six times by a police officer named Darren Wilson, and protests happened. It leaves out a lot of detail and doesn’t mention the words “shocking brutality by a militarized police force” anywhere, which every article on Ferguson ought to.
It goes on to say that Captain Ronald Johnson declared Tuesday a “turning point” for Ferguson, which may be true. There was no tear gas used, “only” pepper spray. That is better, yes. I don’t know about a turning point, but it’s an improvement.
But the real kicker is is when it completely fails to mention the time when that quiet night in Ferguson turned all confrontational-like. I was watching Rebelutionary_Z’s livestream of events. I have to say I don’t normally flock to names like that; I find them needlessly provocative. However, I must commend his work. He managed to stay with protesters right up until the very end, unlike most of the media, which was quickly corralled and split off when everything went down…
…at 11:55 PM CDT. That’s when police began to mobilize. That’s when “Officer Go-Fuck-Yourself” with his brandished AR-15 reared his ugly head, screaming an explicit death threat at an unarmed black man named Josiah whose silhouette looked about as threatening as mine. Ten frantic minutes later, at around 12:05 AM CDT, the order came out over loudspeaker for all protesters to disperse, and all “credentialled media” to move to the “designated media areas.”
Nothing spurred this police reaction. This was the enforcement of a curfew that someone in the crazy amalgamated force that might be called the Ferguson Police Department decided is still on. It is, at best, gross insubordination to the governor of Missouri. At worst, it’s a gross violation of the right to peacefully assemble. In reality, it’s both.
This is by far my favorite lecture of all time, which is an odd thing to say. Every now and then, I rewatch it, just because it’s funny to listen to. The other day, I rewatched it and left a comment that it had occurred to me to bring up.
Here is my comment:
“I was reading a book by one of Mr. Adams’ good friends, Sir Terry Prachett. The Science of Discworld. In it, he and his co-authors suggested that if you want to reduce the amount of carbon in the air, what you really should do is build a very big library.
This was almost a joke. Sir Prachett is, as Mr. Adams was, very good at almost-a-joke’s. Trees take carbon dioxide out of the air, not just to turn it into oxygen for us to breathe, but to make themselves. Therefore, the ultimate solution to climate change may be in cutting down lots of trees.
In the United States of America, the logging industry is now very well-regulated. You can’t harvest a tree unless you’ve planted enough baby trees that you will definitely get a new tree in its place, given enough time. Paper bags are now the most ethical choice, because paper is harvested responsibly, is heavily recycled, and is biodegradable.
But if we let it biodegrade, we’re releasing carbon back into the carbon cycle, when at the moment we want to be taking it out because of all the other carbon we’re putting into the environment from fossil fuels. So instead, let’s burn it for energy. Burn it down to the purest possible charcoal. We can then take that charcoal, pure carbon, and put it somewhere where it will never interact with the biosphere again. Like, say, the bottom of a spent coal mine.
With enough sustainable harvesting, paper production, building construction/demolition, burning of waste cellulose product, and burying of charcoal, we can restore balance to the carbon cycle, and hopefully everything will go back to the way it’s supposed to be.
Also, we need to switch over to sustainable energy sources so we can do all of that.”
Sometimes, some of the coolest things in fiction come from trying to come up with explanations for plot holes and weird inconsistencies that get into works of fiction due to necessity or negligence, like transporters in Star Trek or the Doctor’s regeneration ability. When I see something that doesn’t make sense in a series, I see an opportunity to come up with a cool new detail. (Most of the time.)
There was a huge Chinese internment camp in the North of the Midwest. Many of them actually ended up ghoulified before the war because the Americans basically dumped radioactive waste on them. They weren’t really recognized as nigh-immortal or anything, just seen as diseased. Naturally, the assholes running the internment camp didn’t give a shit that the faces of some of the “Chinamen” were melting off, but the joke was on them when the bombs fell. The captors died of radiation poisoning while the Chinese-American ghouls left that place of death, wandering into the wilderness. There they came upon great bears with peeling skin not dissimilar to their own, the walking spirits of noble beasts whose flesh had been battered and abused by the callous hand of humanity. They named them yao guai, from myths and legends passed down from their grandfathers.
Eventually, many of them forged a bond with these beasts, and they became their bodyguards as they walked the wilderness and wastelands.
Now, normal humans distrusted them for their necrotic features and the giant mutant bears that walked beside them, rather than their ethnicity. However, other ghouls who would have distrusted them for their ethnicity before the war had long since realized that they really don’t give a shit anymore, and they appreciated well-protected caravans to ferry goods between their cloistered settlements.
Thus, the Ghoul Road of the Midwest was formed. If you ever see a copy of Tales of a Junktown Jerky Vendor on the East Coast, or a copy of The Wasteland Survival Guide in the West, it is because it has passed through several ghoul towns by way of many clans of Yao Guai People.
They’re also why ghoul bears are called yao guai in both the East and the West.
Bear with me on this one, because it’s kind of weird. I got the idea from how useful the Cannibal perk in Fallout3 and New Vegas is without even trying to hunt people down for food. Also, don’t read if you’re Catholic and you’re easily upset. Really, you may as well just leave now if that’s the case.
A small town of French Canadians with a Catholic majority managed to become a polytheistic city-state that happens to be one of the first stable societies in history to practice cannibalism.
They believe that the One God died when humanity killed itself, and the Angels and Saints rose up to fill the void. They honor a certain Saint (canonized locally post-war) who acted as prophet for this new religion, with worship focused on the Angel who “not in lust or in hunger, but out of necessity, was the first to devour the ethereal Flesh of the One God after he fell.”
He also taught the people of the town to eat the flesh of anyone they have killed in self-defense, but only if there’s nothing else to eat. They forbid the practice of hunting or slaughtering humans like animals, even if they’re starving.
Like his mythical Angel-turned-god, however, he was only the first to put forward this idea; it was inevitable in this case. While they were not inbred hicks exactly, much of the town was closely related, sharing the dormant gene that leads to cannibalism in humans in the Fallout universe.
They do not actually take communion, because God died in the war, so it’s kind of an empty gesture. They’d do it with bread if they did, not human flesh. Transubstantiation is plausible enough to them, but the idea that some raider’s flesh can turn into Jesus’ is just too much.
As French Canadians in an insular post-apocalyptic community, they do not speak the same language as many of their neighbors, leading to much misunderstanding and mistrust, but they’re actually quite reasonable and mostly peaceful. Just don’t accept a dinner invitation from them unless you know exactly what’s going to be on the menu.
Sometimes I write these things from an in-character perspective without a specific character attached. It’s sort of the path of least resistance for getting certain ideas out.
There’s a sub-group of people in Canada called the Aborigins. Educated people say they’re called that because they have a different origin from everyone else. The Aborigins themselves say that this land was all theirs even before it belonged to our ancestors. Very, very occasionally there’s a little bit of fighting on this, but almost everyone has an Aborigin grandma or grandpa, so pretty much everyone just accepts that they lived here first. This seems particularly likely because, as the oldest people recall, they seemed to know exactly how to survive right after the bombs fell, almost like it had happened before and they remembered.
If you hadn’t guessed, the Aborigin are the descendants of aboriginal peoples of Canada. While a lot of them didn’t practice traditional lifestyles when the bombs fell, a few of them did, and that gave them a serious advantage when the supermarkets ran out of food.
This is a concept for a group somewhere in the Fallout universe.
The concept of Beastlords meets the concept of A Boy and His Dog, with a twist. A certain strain of humans and a certain strain of dogs co-evolve such that their minds sort of synchronize if they’re born at around the same time. It’s not as simple as the humans being able to command the dogs, no; the link goes both ways, and the dog essentially gets processing time in the human’s mind. They appear very intelligent, though their brains are no larger than that of ordinary dogs. To the human, it seems that they are talking to the dog in their head, but it’s a little more like they’re schizophrenic and hallucinating that the dog is communicating with them. This “hallucination” of consciousness and linguistic comprehension is projected back into the dog, while sensory information from the dog is relayed back to it. The dog’s independent personality and sapience are quite real, they just happen to sit in the human’s skull.