avevale_intelligencer: (Default)
Thoughts arising from comments to one of [livejournal.com profile] telynor’s posts, about the attitude of people whose lives revolve around their day jobs to those who pursue their creative dreams:

Everyone’s heard (or used) the phrase, of anyone who for whatever reason doesn’t have a regular job: “They think the world owes them a living.” This phrase (yes, I know it’s a sentence, and quite a severe one as well, with no time off for good behaviour) bothers the hell out of me. Partly this is because I am by nature idle and hate being made to feel guilty for not loving to work, partly because I have a knee-jerk adverse reaction to the hardline-Heinlein life-is-real-life-is-Algernon work-or-starve gung-ho worldview. Neither of these reactions is significant, both being flaws in my character that I probably won’t succeed in shifting at this late stage.

Partly, though, it bothers me because I dislike the idea of seeing life as a matter of debts and obligations. Clearly, to people who say this, it is a fact that, if the world doesn’t owe me a living, then obviously I must owe it one. I must pay back my life, in daily increments, to strangers who already get the benefit of the lives of many others. There is no element of choice. It’s what you do. Taking time out to be creative, especially unpaid, or even worse simply to play, is wasting something that doesn’t actually belong to me, that was mortgaged when I was born. And there’s no upper limit to the repayments. Even when I get too old to work for a living (however that will be defined by the time it happens) there will be this sense of indebtedness. I should be grateful for whatever microscopic amount of pension I get, because it’s really charity and I should be doing something in return.

This is a rich planet, as John Brunner said many years ago, and I live in one of the richest societies on it, and we are all bowed down by this culture of debt. But life is a gift. It’s not owed; it’s given. Talents are gifts. Strength and wit and even beauty are gifts, with no price tag. And I wonder how it would be if ours were a culture of giving, rather than owing: if we were brought up to believe that we are all immensely rich in ourselves, and that the way to make the best of our riches is to give them to the world, as the world gives to us. Give our time and our energy to help others, as we are given the means to live. Give of our talent to make the world even more beautiful, as others make it more beautiful for us. Give our lives, not because we owe them, but because we have them.

Stupidly idealistic, yes, probably. But do we begrudge our efforts and our time because we feel them being demanded of us, as of right, and that less than the equitable value is being tendered in return? Have we learned to look at the world as a marketplace, where everything has to be haggled over, bought cheap and sold dear, as if there were some scarcity? Can this view be changed, and would the world grind to a shuddering halt if it were?
avevale_intelligencer: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] soren_nyrond made a comment to my last post which started me thinking, something he is always good at doing.

He postulated a Doctor Who story in which there are two non-human sides involved (okay, he said “non-humna,” but I don’t see why those humnas should be left out: besides, I think the same question would apply if both sides were human, or indeed humna) and they were “both evil.” WWDWD? So I started thinking about evil, and about the numerous ways fans have tried, sometimes with some success, to justify the ways of Sauron or Voldemort or the Daleks or you name it to men, and also to expose without mercy, if possible, the slightest fraction of a toenail of clay on those who are presented to us as heroes. We don’t, as a subculture, seem to be entirely easy with the concept of absolute evil or absolute good. Evil deeds, yes, but evil people?

Stracynski managed sequential evil with the Centauri and the Narns in B5, showing exactly parallel accounts of an attack by each side on a peaceful outpost of the other, but I don’t think either race was supposed to be “evil” as a race: they each had their own justification for their actions, and I think most people and most races do. The extremists who blow stuff up are not on the whole doing it for the sheer pleasure of killing and maiming innocents: they have a very clear sense of grievance and an end in view which they see as good for their people. (There will doubtless be some individuals who just enjoy the power, or the bloodshed, but we’re talking about “sides” here.) The troops who are currently getting killed in a foreign country may in fact be serving the interests of evil individuals, but they see themselves as fighting to free their own country from the threat of global terrorism: no-one could call them evil, as a whole.

Then there are the virtues such as courage, loyalty, perseverance, honour and so on. If a race displays those characteristics while waging a bloodthirsty war of extermination against an enemy, can we call them evil?

What do people think? Is it possible to imagine a conflict between two sides, both of which we could only call “evil”? Would it make a good story?

Truly, all humna life is here...
avevale_intelligencer: (Default)
I am in a world of squee just at the moment.

Not only did the song go down amazingly well (and thank you [livejournal.com profile] cadhla for inspiring it and everyone who responded!) but when I went to MVC this lunchtime they had a box full of CDs and DVDs whose cases had been damaged in their recent flood, all going for 99p. So now I have thirteen episodes of Raffles, a couple of half-series of Xena, the entire final season of X-Files, the second half of Sapphire and Steel (which we have on tape but I'm trying to clear some shelf space) and several other goodies for a total outlay of 9.90. Which, even at this end of the month, for that lot, I could manage.

Etymological note: can anyone help me with a derivation, or any info at all, on the word (sp?) "thoyle"? It's a transitive verb, and seems to mean "feel one can afford," and Jan uses it a lot so it is probably either Fenlandish or Yorkshire. I've been curious about it for a long time but never got round to checking before.


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