Dispatches From The Bunker

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I’m hunkered down at home, sheltering in place, like so many of you. At this rate I don’t expect to be going out like normal until the end of May. I’d like to blog more writing stuff, but it’s a bit challenging as my focus is different – getting through this.

The problem with “getting through this” is there is no going back to normal. Normal is gone and good riddance.

Normal led us to this mess. Poor planning, poor awareness, poor practice in too many areas led to suffering. Some countries have done well, but we’re seeing a lot haven’t.

Normal wasn’t as great as it seemed. We’re seeing these events rip the mask off of many flaws in America and other countries – underpaid but critical jobs, understaffed medical care and more.

Normal kept us from seeing better. How many of us realize we can work from home? That we could connect more efficiently? That delivery services could make life much easier (and save time, money, and maybe even pollution).

Normal can’t come back anyway. People will be dead, systems broken, new ideas present, problems revealed. There is no going back anyway.

The question is what we want to do next.

Look, we’ve found who we can rely on and who we can’t. We’ve seen the value of science over bullshit. We’ve seen that people really can rally to help out – and who will exploit the situation. We’re going to have a different world like it or not so damn well shape it.

And that’s overwhelming. It’s hard. It’s painful. We’re stressed, fearful, disrupted, and tired.

But know what? We might as well take what control that we can. We might as well take action when we can. We might as well do what we can. We can take our power ourselves and do something.

So here’s some thoughts for you – on an escalating scale.

  • Take a break. If you’re tired, take a break and rest. Recover your strength – that’s OK.
  • Check in with people regularly. Find out how they’re doing so you can rally.
  • Do something to help people – give a gift, make a meal, give a kind word. Even a minor action changes the world. One of my neighbors has a fruit tree and sets out the fruit for free.
  • Donate to a cause. Look there’s plenty of things out there to help with – your local city or state probably has some organizations to go to. Find one and give money. Its safe and remote.
  • Rally people. Introduce friends to each other. Connect people. Team people up.
  • Connect to a cause. Find a local or national org you can get involved in and DO IT. Start getting active now – and become empowered.

But through all of this? Keep up your creative work. Keep writing and drawing and cosplaying. Because that’s you, and you need to stay yourself.

We’ll get out of this bunker. Let’s make the world better.

Steven Savage

Civic Geek: When The Gods Speak

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

A bit of a change from my usual monthly civic geek posts, in this one I want to talk about religion and politics. It just won’t be in the way you expect.

My latest novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet is set in a a post-post apocalyptic techno-fantasy setting/ This was a world that suffered genocidal war, disagreeing gods, and unleashed weapons fusing science and sorcery. However, in the current setting, it seemed shockingly “together,” with a very stable society – and I began analyzing just why my imagination had made it such.

What I narrowed in on surprised me – and taught me a lesson.

In this setting, the gods are real and communicate with people. Now it’s a good three hundred gods, each of them an eccentric by human standards. However when someone speaks for a god, you’re pretty sure they’re actually speaking for that god – and if someone lies about a god’s intention, there’s a good chance said god is going to clear it up.

So you have a planet intertwined with oddball superintelligences, but at least everyone is pretty sure what they want and mean, or if they don’t everyone is equally confused. When there are conflicting messages, no one assumes that any one is right, but they ask the gods themselves.

That made me realize what had happened with our politics in America and in other countries and other histories; people who claimed to speak for the gods or gods cause a lot of issues.

When you believe someone has divine authority, that they speak for a powerful supernatural entity that controls your fate, you listen to them. You assume that person has some kind of direct communication to that god – which is probably a terrible assumption.

But it’s apparent on our world that a lot of people are saying damned different things about what their gods say. This disagreement should lead people to ask “hey, why are we getting different signals here?” This disagreement should lead us to ask various theological questions, from “how to talk to X god” to “hey is anyone here actually speaking for a god or is this bullshit.”

Caught up in tribalism, assuming all the time , too many humans think they have a direct line to a god or gods and everyone else is wrong. Not enough ask “well, where is this god to show up and clear up this shit?” People don’t want that – they want tribalism.

In theory if you thought a god was really out there, and you wished to know it’s will, you should embark on a spiritual journey yourself. You should try to be open to it telling you what’s going on – treat it like a person and assume that it will tell you. The last thing you should do is assume someone yelling about things is some direct conduit to the divine.

How many of our problems are caused by A) assuming that someone is speaking for a god, and B) not asking questions or even giving the god the respect to ask them.

This kind of tells me how many people really don’t take their god or gods seriously. They’ll gladly listen t someone say what they want to hear, but don’t deal with the theological discomfort of reconciling conflicting messages. They don’t really respect their god or gods enough to treat them as people and ask them.

It’s a peculiar kind of blasphemy, not giving your god credit enough to clear things up. It leads to blasphemous actions as people uncritically carry out the orders of men thinking they’re from a god. It leads to a kind of disrespect to attribute the voice of a great supernatural being to be reflected in the rantings of many grifters and criminals.

Our problem isn’t that we listen to gods – it’s that we listen to humans.

– Steve

Civic Diary: Everyday Stuff

First up, my monthly civic geek roundup. Where am I?

  • First, still doing the local political group. Trying to do more, frankly, but we’ve had trouble coordinating. I do have my posting down to a system.
  • My usual calling and annoying my elected officials of course. Been a bit off on that, but overall keeping at it.
  • I’ve vaguely scheduled a plan to get more into doing Op-Eds and writing newspapers/news sites. There’s a class I can take and a book I found.

Now this month’s thought is on the fact that one big contribution you can make beyond your activism is keeping Shit Running.

This is a massive, MASSIVE, missed part of politics and society in general. Society requires the actions of so many of us, every day, to keep going. It requires driving your kid to school, helping a friend with a resume, cleaning up at your apartment complex, giving a friend a ride. A huge amount of a functional society is Everyday Stuff.

Do not shit on everyday stuff. Everyday stuff keeps things running. Everyday stuff creates ties between people. Everyday stuff is the foundation of so much that we can forget it. Doing it can remind us as well as keeping the whole shebang of society running.

One of the greatest failures in America, of our current crazy, conspiracy-theory-soaked, hating-our-fellow-Americans politics is people forget everday stuff. People are disconnected from action and reaction, from their neighbors, from real human concerns – and their politics are often a mixture of paranoia and abstraction and unawareness. There’s no visceral element except, perhaps, anger.

Ever have one of those friends or family members that seems spun off into their own world? You get the idea. They’re not only lost, they’re often not Getting Stuff Done (or as a much Stuff). They’re abstracted, disconnected – and easily manipulated.

One of my recent experiences – among many – has been having a friend in Puerto Rico. Trying to figure how to help them. Trying to keep in touch. You want hard reality, it’s right there.

So it’s up to all of us to Get Shit Done and keep society going. On top of all our other involvements.

  • Steve