September 11th, 2005

bear by san

President Herbert Hoover on the Mississippi flood of 1927:

"I suppose I could have called out the whole of the army, but it turned out, all I had to do was call out Main Street itself."

I probably misquoted that somehow, but that gets down the gist of it.



It's biochemically wired into us, she said, mixing her metaphors, to cooperate during disasters. It's the same response that has bunny rabbits and cougars fleeing forest fires side by side. Game theory--we hang together or we hang separately, and it's in the genes to recognize that there are threats that do not recognize the difference between fit and unfit, predator and prey. It's the source of a great deal of the nobility of human spirit, that urge, and it's also exploitable. Exploitable for good--because charity donations surge massively in the aftermath of disaster, and in the aftermath of attack, people band together, pull together, do great and heroic things--or for ill--people in that mood are easy to guide and quick to bite if they think an outside enemy can be identified (and in some ways this makes a crisis which appears to involve agency more complex than one that simply follows on the wrath of morning), and they'll do things they may wake up in the cold light of morning and shudder at.

They need to do something. It's not a desire. It's a need. It is biological.

The arguably positive things that get done range from airmen rescuing infant kittens from drowned New Orleans and the construction of Hoover Dam (a response to another national crisis) to American involvement in WWII.

I hesitate to call a war positive, mind you, but WWII is kind of a special case. And yet in the cold light of morning, we have to look at things like Dresden, and Hiroshima, and if we are human, we need to wish we could have found a better way. Sometimes you can't find a better way, of course. Sometimes, a C.J. Cherryh noted, any decision, even a bad one, is better than no decision.

And then there are the scammers, those who take advantage of a crisis situation to press their agenda, the people who have somehow escaped the wiring, or whose wiring is to freeze and wait for the storm to blow over, or whose idea of what might be the best response to a situation complicates the situation. The false charities, the would-be warlords--the successful warlords, for that matter.

Because people need to do something. Anything. No matter is it's wrong.

On this anniversary day, I think it's appropriate to remember the greatness of the human spirit, and the behavior of ordinary Americans in a time of crisis, and to acknowledge and honor both our own citizens and the solidarity offered by other nations in our current time of need.

And to pause and think very carefully about the directions our responses to crises take us in. To remember Dresden while we're remembering 9/11.

We're a remarkable species. Let's remember that, too.
  • Current Music
    Marianne Faithfull - Electra
bear by san

Either your ring, or green mantle, or else your maidenhood.

I realized something this morning. In addition to all of my books being outsider stories, they're also all about post-traumatic stress. There's this whole thread running through the Faerie books that boils down to this: anybody who walks into Faerie doesn't walk out unscathed.



Today's www.askoxford.com word of the day is a useful word:

middelmannetjie

noun (pl. middelmannetjies) S. African a ridge between the wheel ruts of an unsurfaced road. origin Afrikaans, literally "little man in the middle".



katallen: "It's very much easier to believe all men are created equal if you don't meet too many of them."


Progress notes for 11 September 2005:

last night, I spent fifteen minutes trying to find a way to say "fresh agony" that wasn't a cliché.

Mr. de Mille, I'm ready for my lobotomy now.

On the other hand, there's something really wonderfully genre-convention-undermining about letting the gay boy rescue the damsel in distress, and thus winding up with a rescue and hurt-comfort scene with completely and utterly no sexual tension in it. That made me feel really good about this book, all of a sudden.

Carnival

New Words: 4,020
Total Words: 89,203 / 105,250
Pages: 421. I'm up to midpoint in Chapter 23. Basically, all I have left is the Big Climactic Decision, the various bits or resolution, the denouement... and a telegram. I really am nearly done.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
105,250 / 110,000
(95.0%)
Reason for stopping: sanity break
Mammalian Assistance:  Paladin, after having his cookies and going out, apparently decided he needed more cookies, as he came in to serenade me until I gave in and gave him another breakfast. Silly dog.
Stimulants: lemon spice tea
Exercise: none
Mail: nomail
Today's words Word don't know: serosanguinous, weaponized, insectile, abseiling, ornithopter 
Words I'm surprised Word do know: epidermis
Tyop du jour: He heard a faint licking now when he rocked it against the wood. (or) Jointed insectile limps
Darling du jour: ...as long as he had his wits, he wasn't completely helpless. And a weaponized utility fog didn't hurt, either.
Books in progress, but not at all quickly: Richard Overy, Russia's War: A History of the Soviet War Effort, 1941-1945;  Ladislas Farago, The Game of the Foxes; Leigh Richards, Califia's Daughters;
Mean things: peeling sunburn, fire ants, crucifixion
Other writing-related work: n/a
Interesting tidbits: Kurt Vonnegut spoke on NPR this morning about humor, New Orleans, jazz, and so forth. The text in the link is from his new book, not the interview, but the sound link should get you there.
bear by san

Memo:

When you haven't eaten since breakfast, drink the ouzo after the appetizer, not before.
  • Current Music
    Emmylou Harris - All My Tears