Acceptance

Just as important as practicing forgiveness is practicing acceptance.

Case in point: You have to accept that everything is run by idiots. You have to accept that our decline is by design. And you have to accept that the vast majority of human beings will never change their mind despite being shown time and again that something is a lie and that everything we’re told isn’t going to happen is actually the plan, or vice versa (“What camps? There are no camps. Those? Oh yeah, they’re camps. But pay them no mind . . .”).

People hear what we want to hear, and believe what we want to believe. What actually happened isn’t important; what you think and feel happened is all that matters. This is bitter medicine to people who like to think they belong to the “reality-based community,” but the truth of the matter is that nobody belongs to the reality-based community. But all is not yet lost:

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You have to use alternative means of helping others see truths that may seem self-evident to you. Fiction is one way. Strangely, you have to make your made-up stories more believable than actual reality.

In real life, human beings do incredibly dumb things that are against their interest despite a forest’s worth of red flags flapping in their face. Imagine, if you will, a guy driving to his girlfriend’s house in a horrible thunderstorm one night on his way to get a little. He’s been going through a bit of a dry spell, you see, and so he’s feeling a little hot and bothered. The wipers of his little Honda Accord are barely enough to whisk away the rain, but he doesn’t care. He’s on the boner express. Full steam ahead!

So this guy drive down a hill and, what’s that? The road is flooded! The water has to be like a foot and a half high. But his car is taller than that, right? And he really needs to get laid. So whatever. As thunder booms overhead and the heavens continue to gush forth their torrent, the man puts the pedal to the metal, thinking if he goes really fast, he’ll plow through the water and come out the other side.

He doesn’t. He gets stuck. And then the zombies come. Or the terrorists. Or robots. Or highway pirates. Take your pick.

If you’re reading this book or watching this movie, you’d be like “Oh come on, how stupid does this guy have to be? Nobody would be that dumb.” And yet . . .

“How could someone be so stupid as to fall for that email phishing scam?” And yet . . .

“How could these people be so ignorant as to keep voting for the political party that not only does anything for them, but actively does things that harm them?” And yet . . .

In 2016, we were given perfect grist for the fiction mill. A flamboyant, buffoonish, arrogant, billionaire real estate developer-slash-reality TV star riding his golden escalator all the way to the Presidency? Come on! How could this happen? Hollywood and all other parts of the industrial/entertainment complex took great advantage of this for their stories, as they should have. “Look at those rubes who actually voted for this guy? How can you trust this shyster?

Their fiction became reality. The stories and messages they put forth are the truth for millions of people.

Lest you become demoralized, though, remember that these people are no better than you. These same people, after all, to this day, believe that Russia hacked voting machines and otherwise influenced that election. There’s evidence somewhere of Trump having prostitutes pee on a bed that means he’s an agent of the Kremlin!

If things don’t change, and change radically, this will be the official line in your children’s history books. Stories win, reality loses. The truth exists. It can be found. It’s conveying the truth that becomes difficult.

Stories become reality. Good stories at least point to the truth. Remember: Jesus Christ taught through parables.

*     *     *

If I were to write a story about a corrupt Washington mediocrity of no particular ability or skill who, in his dementia-addled old age, was made President despite nobody really liking him (or his running mate!), mumbles and stumbles through speeches, falls asleep and allegedly soiled himself at the Vatican, you’d laugh hysterically at the people in my story who love the guy and think he’s working tirelessly FOR THEM, despite all of his actions—or those of his puppeteers—making your life worse.

“This is a comedy!” you’d say. “It has to be! Nobody would vote for this guy. It’s too unbelievable. What a joke!”

And yet . . .

*     *     *

There has to be a name for this phenomenon. The Dunning-Krueger Effect comes close, but that is more the idea that people of low ability tend overestimate their ability, and people of high ability tend to underestimate theirs. So it’s not exactly on point.

Maybe the name for this phenomenon is “human nature.”

The important thing to note is that even reality follows the structure of a story. There is the call to action, the inciting incident, tragedy, a rise in the action, things look bad for our hero (a hero appointed by the media) and then . . . when all hope seems lost . . . victory!

This is what is supposed to happen in these narratives. Sometimes the will of the storytellers is thwarted, no matter how much money and how many violent armed thugs they add as extras. Every once in a while, another narrative crashes the party and results in a sad ending (for them) and a happy ending (for the bad guys).

Pay attention to news arcs. You will see that they are literally following a script. All the elements are there, and this story affects your life in real-time. The only difference between a media narrative (“Russian collusion!”) and a book or a movie (“This is literally The Handmaid’s Tale Voldemort Harry Potter Hunger Games!”) is that successful examples of the latter take more time to percolate into the public consciousness than the former.

*     *     *

You will need to take a softer approach to human stupidity in your writing. Maybe make your fictional President less prone to having an accident while meeting with the Pope. Lay off the gaffes and the random, incoherent babbling. Perhaps one or two things he does actually benefit the citizens of the country he runs. People can only take so much ridiculousness in their fiction.

As you write, don’t be afraid to make characters do dumb things, or miscommunicate, or deliberately only hear what they want to hear and act on this information. Think dramatic irony. Or horror movies.  

Another key is that evil and good each have their own proclivities, and while they are generalizations you should feel free to play with as you wish, there are certain observable trends worth keeping in mind.

For example, evil is dumb, and sin makes you stupid. This is a fact. Take advantage of it. Use it as a spice to season your writing . . . but don’t rely on it too heavily. Stupid though evil may be, it is smart and cunning and mean enough to take power and ruthlessly enforce it. It’s just prone to making really dumb mistakes and overplaying its hand.

The problem with good isn’t that it’s dumb, though it can be. It’s that the modern iteration of good is cowardly and lazy. This is a huge difference. Use it in your writing as well.

So take a deep breath, focus yourself, accept that stories are more real to most people than reality, and get ready to use this knowledge in your own writing.

Thank you for coming to my talk.

– Alexander

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Xavier Basora
Xavier Basora(@xavierbasora)
1 month ago

Alexander

Your Ted talk transcript was fun to read. You should do a video parody to showcase knowitallism as a subset of human stupidity (aka pride)
A good example of evil as stupidity for humour is Confederacy of dunces. The good and bad are exaggerated archtypes for humourous effect.

Another one is the Road to Rome and the Road to Omaha both by Fredrick Fortsyth(!) Seriously he was a great humour writer. I really enjoyed the second and laughed out loud.
I find the best way to disarm evil is to laugh at its keystone cop competency. Sure in good hands the back and force between doofus and street smart ruthless can be quite effective. Same with the good.

xavier

Hardwicke Benthow
Hardwicke Benthow(@hbenthow_2)
28 days ago

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” – Mark Twain

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