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How Things Have Always Been
by Sarah A. Hoyt

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Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Part of the problem with humans is that we tend to get used to “how things have always been.”

And when those “things” are comfortable for us, it’s hard to imagine them changing.

Sure, the human animal is adaptable, but sometimes it takes us a while to figure out how to work around when things change. For instance, say we move the furniture in the house: if I come downstairs in the middle of the night to get water or deal with screaming cats (it happens) I will walk carefully around where the sofa used to be and then walk right into where it is, or perhaps trip over the coffee table and fall on the cat. (In addition to my being completely night blind, I’m usually without my glasses in these excursions.)

And then there’s the bigger patterns. I mean, you eventually learn to walk around the new place for the sofa.

But if you read fiction—or non-fiction—written around big historical transitions you’ll hear a great lament for “how things used to be.” For instance Agatha Christie’s people often lament the quality of something “post war” (and that the first world war.)

However, I think right now we’re in the middle of such a large and…. strange change, not immediately obvious that most people who were comfortable in the previous conformation are having trouble adapting.

What do I mean by the nature of the change? Take blogs, or ebooks. Same thing really. When they were first considered, talked about, everyone was full of “this is the new thing now.”

Only it wasn’t. I attended and sat at the most panels on how ebooks would change the industry back in the early nineties. And then nothing happened. Because reading ebooks on your computer was cumbersome, and as a friend put it, “Who wants to carry even a laptop (they were bigger then too) to the bathroom to read their novel?”

As for blogs, those of us who were on them right after 9/11 expected them to have this huge impact on the elections and… well, everything. Because this new distributed media was so self-obviously better than the clearly biased and lying newspapers and networks.

Only, nothing happened. Until it did.

I think they call this the mechanics of the sand pile, where the grains of sand are shifting slowly, inside, but the outside looks completely immobile, and steady. And then suddenly the whole pile shifts over.

I understand it’s how a lot of social change occurs. And though in this case the change was partly technological, it was still a social change, a breaking of habits and ways of doing things. For instance, I used to subscribe to three newspapers which I read religiously every morning before getting to work. (The Gazette, the Denver Post and the Wall Street Journal.) And honestly, I dropped them one by one, more because I hadn’t got around to renewing, and then realized I was reading my news on line and didn’t need them.

Kind of like that but society wide.

Ebooks finally started coming into their own in 2010. I’m not 100% sure we’re done with their peak yet. I think there are things to come that will make all this seem like early days.

And the first revolution in which the traditional media showed their impotence was 2016. And even then I’m not going to say it was blogs. Might not have been. Europe seems to be caught in the middle of the same thing, and as far as I can tell, for various social reasons, they don’t have blogs like we have blogs. (Explaining to my mom what’s now a big part of my life is nigh impossible.)

Anyway, I think this is causing some confusion, blindness and otherwise inexplicably stupid behavior in people who never seemed stupid before. This is what I call The Years the Masks Fell off.

Look, take a just-now thing: the DNC says that all precincts in Iowa WERE counted. The app recorded every vote, they say. They just need to tally them.

Turns out that’s probably not precisely true.

As a friend noticed, that’s not precisely a lie, that’s just “making sh*t up.”

We’re seeing that a lot from the other side of the isle suddenly. Unbelievably stupid behavior like the sham wow impeachment.

They keep telling us “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?” and being shocked and appalled when we choose our lying eyes.

In the non-political side, my calling, as it were, writing and publishing, we’re seeing equally unbelievably stupid behavior from publishers: from trying to play the same old “push” games and being shocked and appalled when they don’t work, (even though Barnes and Noble is a spent force, and the traditional reviewers eclipsed by Joe Schmo with a blog.) They heed the once a year (at most three times) schedule, even though indie has changed expectations and people expect at least four to six books in a series a year. But more importantly they do crazy stuff like overprice ebooks because that will SURELY force us to buy hardcovers. Or, my absolute favorite, they will scream at us how ignorant and what terrible people we are for not reading their precious pushed Polly.

And then they’re shocked, nay astonished, when these tactics don’t work. While we who are standing outside this look at them and go “Who would think that would work? Some two year old?”

I mean half of the bizarre behavior of our government and its agencies falls under that heading too. “Who could think that would work/wouldn’t be found out/made any sense?”

But the thing you have to understand is that you’re not dealing with stupid people. Not by half. You’re dealing with people who were very competent and comfortable in—for lack of a better term—the previous paradigm of politics, or publishing or whatever.

The more comfortable they were; the easier it was for them, the harder it is to accept that it’s gone and it’s not coming back

For instance, the dems could trust the media would cover for them absolutely and completely, and that their pettiness, idiocy or outright corruption would never be revealed.

They got used to it, they got comfortable. They got to believing it was their natural right. It was just the way things were. They were the good people. Their hearts were pure. No one would ever look into their behavior outside the limelight.

If some psychological tests are correct, they grew to believe they were entitled to corruption and unethical behavior for all the “good” they did, such as Clinton thinking he was entitled to all the women he wanted for “fighting for women’s rights” (Which for men like him always mean abortion, but never mind.)

They can’t adapt. They can’t believe things have changed.

In the same way editors and publishers in traditional publishing were in a privileged position. They didn’t even have to be nice. Writers would still be nice and subservient to them. Because, well… it was the only game in town. And they didn’t need to be THAT good at their jobs. There were enough super readers out there with an habit to feed, that unless they published dud after dud after dud (some of them managed it) sooner or later, they buy a big hit, and make their reputation.

In their heads this is still the world they live in. They can ignore writers and what writers want, because, well, what are writers going to do? And they can kick you out and your career is over, right? And if they want a book to do well, they just do a lot of publicity and get all the right reviewers to praise it, because what are the readers going to read.

If they could for a moment forget the experience of a life time, and see how things are done now, past the noise of twitter for the left, past the still-fawning authors-who-hope-for-validation for publishers and editors, they’d see not only has the world changed completely, but the old world is not coming back. Not ever.

No matter how many reassuring, whistling past the graveyard articles Publishers Weekly and the other rags write, we’re not all going back to buy our stories in paper bricks, from a limited selection of publishers, and waiting a year for the next opus. Not. Gonna. Happen. Not ever.

But these people can’t move on past their lived experience, their “it’s always been this way.” and “it should be this way.” And the “We deserve it to be this way.”

Like deposed kings in the late nineteenth and twentieth century, they walk through packed rooms wearing their crowns, trailing their robes, and they can’t understand why no one is bowing and scraping, except maybe a few sycophants.

But the rest of the crowd is moving on, creating the future. And if they look at them at all, it’s either with mockery and pity.


Reprinted from for February 5, 2020

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