NRA: The Antichrist’s evil plan of evilness

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 125-128

“Now, let us get down to business,” the Antichrist says.

Rayford pulled up the top two sheets on his clipboard and began to take notes, as Carpathia outlined immediate plans.

At last. The Rapture occurred more than a year and a half ago and Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist, seized power soon afterwards, ruling over the entire world (except Israel) as a global dictator with unchecked power and no one to stand in his way as he set about demonstrating his wickedness as the all-time epitome of evil.

Well, that’s what it said on the package anyway. The actual Antichrist here in our story hasn’t done a whole lot during his first 500 days on the throne.

Does TurboTax come with the new GNP-EZ form?

I don’t mean to diminish his accomplishments. He’s built a brand new global capital — and entire city — in the middle of a desert. And he’s consolidated the entire globe under one world government, one world religion, one world currency and one world language. That’s all quite impressive — probably even impossible. But we still haven’t seen anything much like a plan. Nicolae has been putting all his pieces in place, but nothing we’ve seen suggests he has any idea what to do with them.

It seems like he’s just drifting along — an evil mastermind without an evil master plan. The sudden burst of arbitrary mass-murder in the early part of this book shows a newfound enthusiasm for the evil part of that equation, but there still hasn’t been any sign of the plan part.

But now Nicolae promises to “get down to business.” Now, at last, he’s ready to outline his evil scheme of evilness:

“We must act swiftly,” he was saying, “while the people are most vulnerable and open. They will look to the Global Community for help and aid, and we will give it to them.”

That is, I suppose, a plan. But now I’m confused about the evil part. Providing help and aid to vulnerable people makes the Antichrist’s OWG seem kind of like the International Red Cross, and most of us don’t usually think of the Red Cross as a global supervillain and/or the embodiment of Satan.

“However …”

Aha, there’s a catch. Excellent. Maybe Nicolae will reveal that this help and aid is conditional. He will rebuild their shattered cities, feeding and sheltering the millions of nuclear refugees, but in exchange for this assistance he will demand that the afflicted sacrifice their children.

Hold on, no, wait. Scratch that. There are no children anymore in the world of this novel. I keep forgetting.

That’s an important point to keep in mind, too, when we’re evaluating Nicolae’s work as an Antichrist. It puts him at a rather large disadvantage in the monstrous evil department. Sure, he’s still able to do things like bomb a hospital, killing Bruce Barnes and hundreds of other sick people, but that would have been so much more evil if the pediatric ward hadn’t already been empty. This whole world-without-children thing really does handicap Nicolae’s ability to do the sort of thing we’d expect from an epitome of evil. He’s supposed to surpass all the monsters of history, but it’s hard to compete with guys like Genghis Khan or Joshua when there are no children available to put to the sword.

So, OK, demanding that his subjects sacrifice their children is out, but he could still maybe require some kind of Shirley-Jackson “The Lottery” situation, where, say, food and shelter from the Global Community only goes to cities who offer a random 1 percent of their residents as a human sacrifice.

But no. Nicolae doesn’t have anything that evil in mind. What he intends to do, instead, is to rebuild all the cities he just finished nuking, ensuring that everyone is housed, fed and spared from hardship. But in return he will levy taxes to pay for it.

“However, they will give it to us first. We had an enormous storehouse of income before the rebuilding of Babylon. We will need much more to effect our plan of raising the level of Third World countries so that the entire globe is on equal footing.”

That oxymoronic phrase “storehouse of income” gives a hint of Nicolae’s shaky grasp on economics — a subject about which he and the authors are deeply confused.

The authors also tip their hand here when you consider what they have just provided. This is intended to be a threat — a wicked threat of dire immorality. The Antichrist is the worst person in the history of the world and here he threatens to do the worst thing he can imagine doing. And that, in the authors’ words, is “raising the level of Third World countries.”

What does “countries” even mean in the context of a one-world government? Weren’t all countries abolished and absorbed into the monolithic “Global Community” ruled over by the global potentate?

Yes. And no. Both. And neither.

Every time I think I have a firm grasp on this, the authors turn around and contradict themselves. Chapter after chapter, book after book, they provide occasional conclusive statements definitively stating that Nicolae is the head of a single government over the entire world. And then two pages later they introduce some local political leader or official — an American president or a Chicago police officer who shouldn’t exist in this world, but does.

This section flips back and forth on this point so much that I wound up almost as confused as Nicolae seems to be.

Later in this speech, Nicolae refers to the now-deceased “President Fitzhugh,” whose rebellion he says, “confirmed my earlier decision to virtually strip him of executive power.” That doesn’t clear up my questions about whether this OWG is really a OWG. Nor does the bit a few pages from now in which Nicolae says:

“I will soon be appointing leaders to replace the three ambassadors to the regions that turned against us. That will bring the Global Community administration back to its full complement of ten regions. While you are now known as ambassadors to the Global Community, forthwith I will begin referring to you as sovereign heads of your own kingdoms. You will each continue to report directly to me.”

So, forthwith, he’s going to replace the current structure with an exact replica in which the ambassadors will continue to be “sovereign” and “kings” except not, as they will also be reporting directly to the potentate. Got it? If so, could you explain it to me? Because I’m lost here.

The one thing that’s clear here is that these ambassadors are terrified of Nicolae. Because if they weren’t completely intimidated and paralyzed with fear of the potentate, they would be laughing at him, or at least asking questions about his very strange plan for diabolical taxation.

And it turns out this is the core, the skeleton, the foundation for all of the Antichrist’s evil master plan: taxes.

In theory, you could make that work. You could impose unbearably harsh taxes, following the example of Joseph in the book of Genesis, burying the people under such a heavy burden of taxes that eventually all of their property, their vocations, their bodies were the possession of the central government and the entire world was enslaved by the potentate.

That sort of thing would certainly seem to qualify as wicked (although, inexplicably, Joseph is rarely criticized for enslaving an entire nation), but it still seems a bit too abstract and detached. The Antichrist should be beastly, after all — ruling with an iron fist and an iron boot and not just with an iron spreadsheet.

Even the worst-case scenario for oppressive taxation only gets you something like North Korea. The Antichrist is supposed to be worse than North Korea. Plus, even North Korea doesn’t lean entirely on oppressive taxation for its evilness. They mix in a big dose of secret police, perpetual re-education and an absurd, Kafka-esque cult of personality.

It just doesn’t seem likely that Nicolae is going to succeed as an undisputed Antichrist if his evil master plan is going to lean so heavily on the evils of taxation.

The bigger problem, though, is that Nicolae’s tax plan just doesn’t make sense. Here he is outlining the first piece of it:

“You all have been doing a wonderful job of moving to the one-world currency. We are close to a cashless society, which can only help the Global Community administration. Upon your return to your respective areas, I would like you to announce, simultaneously, the initiation of a ten-cent tax on all electronic money transfers. When we get to the totally cashless system, you can imagine that every transaction will be electronic. I estimate that this will generate more than one and a half trillion dollars annually.”

So now we know that the one-world currency is, in fact, US dollars. Convenient. Almost as convenient as Nicolae’s decision to make English the one-world language. Those two factors should help make the Great Tribulation a little less tribulation-y for residents of the former United States.

This business about a cashless, one-world currency is of course meant to set the table for the whole Mark of the Beast system to come. This bit of premillennial dispensationalist “Bible prophecy” has entered popular culture to the extent that most people in our world (but no one in the world of the novel) are familiar with the idea taken from Revelation 13:

He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

That passage is why “prophecy” obsessed fundies freaked out over the introduction of bar codes, and credit cards, and PayPal. This is why America will never have a national ID card. And why you have to carry your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance as three separate documents instead of those latter two just coming up when your license is scanned or swiped.

Anyway, you get the idea here of what Nicolae Carpathia is supposed to be steering toward. He wants a global system in which nothing can be bought or sold without his say-so.

Unfortunately, his bungled version of a financial transaction tax will likely make sure that never happens.

Consider the proposed Robin Hood Tax (which will probably never happen, but which I think is an interesting idea and could be an effective way of limiting speculation and shifting our economy away from our present imbalance toward the FIRE, or finance insurance real estate, sector). That’s a financial transaction tax of about 0.05 percent — or 1/20 of 1 percent. Nicolae’s tax doesn’t charge a percentage, but instead charges a flat 10 cents for every transaction. Under Nicolae’s tax, the cost doesn’t increase for a larger transaction, but it increases a great deal when you make a greater number of transactions. In other words, the Antichrist has just created a worldwide incentive for every business, investor and consumer to make fewer, less frequent financial transactions.*

So now everyone from investment banks to the coffee shop on the corner starts billing differently. You don’t pay for your cup of coffee every day anymore, you pay a monthly coffee bill. Transactions get bundled, pay periods get larger and longer. Everyone, everywhere starts running a tab for everything.

That, in turn, creates a cash-flow problem. Running a tab essentially means paying with IOUs instead of cash. So now everyone is piling up IOUs, but they’re short on cash. The obvious next step is to make IOUs transferable. There’s a well-established model for just exactly that, for a system of universally exchangeable IOUs. It’s called currency.

Nicolae’s flat-rate transaction tax would almost certainly undo everything he’s done to create a single global currency. It would encourage the rapid creation of a black-market currency system (which would likely make use of all the former national currencies he tried to abolish). Once he gets around to requiring everyone to take the Mark of the Beast, this black-market currency system will already be well-established and the Mark isn’t going to make much difference one way or another buying-and-selling-wise.

That black-market currency will also get a big boost from another piece of Nicolae’s odd tax plan:

“You knew the time would come for a tax to the Global Community on each area’s Gross National Product. That time has come. While the insurrectionists from Egypt, Great Britain, and North America have been devastated militarily, they must also be disciplined with a 50 percent tax on their GNP. The rest of you will pay 30 percent.

“Now do not give me those looks, gentlemen. You understand that everything you pay in will be returned to you in multiplied benefits. We are building a new global community. Pain is part of the process. …”

He misunderstands the looks he’s getting from the ambassadors. They’re not reacting to the “pain” of this proposed 30-percent “tax on their GNP,” they’re just trying to figure out what such a thing could possibly mean.

First off, there’s no longer any such thing as GNP under the OWG. It only makes sense to speak of “gross national product” if there are nations.

But nevermind that, the bigger question is how is such a tax “on GNP/GRP” supposed to be calculated and collected? I suppose since GNP is meant to total the price of all goods and services produced within a nation, then a 30-percent tax on GNP just means that nation would have to collect a 30 percent tax on everything in order to pay its national bill at the end of the year. In 2011, the U.S. GNP was about $15.23 trillion. So if the U.S. had owed a 30-percent “tax on GNP” to some global federation, would it have had to write a check for $4.57 trillion on Jan. 1, 2012, or could it just have $176 billion withheld from its national paycheck every two weeks?

Let’s just pretend for the sake of argument that there were some way to make sense of this idea of a “tax on GNP/GRP.” What this means is that most of the world will suddenly owe a 30-percent tax on every good and service that’s on the books. (The war-ravaged regions will owe an even higher tax, because that makes sense.)

The key words in that paragraph are “on the books.” This is yet another huge push in the direction of an off-the-books black-market currency. Anything that can be done off the books or under the table will be. Nicolae’s dream of one-world currency and a cashless society will be replaced by a cash-only, underground, under-the-table economy that avoids his OWC whenever possible.

But we’ve only scratched the surface so far of Nicolae Carpathia’s economic dreams. Next week we’ll look at more of his evil master plan, including his bewildering ideas for making sure that his one-world government is no longer dependent on foreign oil. (Yes, really.)

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* Nicolae’s estimate of $1.5 trillion in revenue works out to something like 10 transactions a day for every person, assuming a post-Rapture population of around 4 billion people. But that doesn’t count corporations, retailers, stock exchanges, investors, casinos, etc. Factor all those in and that $1.5 trillion figure looks really low.

  • The_L1985

     Yikes.

  • aunursa

    Alas, Nicolas Cage is set to play Rayford.

  • The_L1985

     There’s an ancient Greek riddle mentioned in Plato’s Republic, which relies equally on untranslatable wordplay.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I’ve read the original “When HARLIE Was One” – written in 1972 about the first computer AI, and it’s interesting to work backwards from the “future” computer to what computers were like in 1972. It was revised in 1988; I should look it up and see if the reverse-extrapolation still applies.

  • Trixie_Belden

    Whoa – I read it and let me just say I am very impressed!  Even though you say you were a fan of L&J when you wrote it, what is particularly striking is that you, at your age, and working under the constraints of a short story format, had already put much more thought and care into imagining what a post-rapture world would be like.  Also, there’s much more psychological realism, as Ruth tries, as best she can, to find reasons for what is happening around her.  Aliens, of course would be a natural thing for your character to speculate about. 

    The atmosphere of your story is quite evocative, as well.  I quite liked the description of  how the graves were opened as if by small explosions.

    I think you can take justifiable pride in what Young You created.

  • Jenny Islander

    I didn’t like the ending of The Incredibles.  We’re presented with spouses who need to work toward a meeting of the minds, the battle in which they work together and triumph, and their happy life afterward involves . . . teaching one of their kids to lie and invalidate the other children’s attempts to excel?  Why not let Dash run around for fun and have him take up a sport that actually would challenge him,  like archery or golf?

  • Worthless Beast

    Thanks.

    Young Me was 20 when I wrote it.  Not a child, but still pretty young.  And, hey, I was also a fan of The X-Files.

  • Carstonio

    That didn’t sit well with me either, and I like your proposed solution. Smallville tackled (ahem) the issue with more depth, with teenaged Clark wanting to play football despite his father’s objections.

    Does the outcome for Dash sound like more of Rand’s objectivism? From what others have written here about her books, I can imagine the outcome being an act of libertarian resignation, where the exceptional person has to live a lie in order to be part of society. I’ve never read Rand’s books.

  • aunursa

    I should point out that The Incredibles is considered by a number of conservatives to be one of the top recent movies with a conservative message…

    #2: The Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years
    The Edge’s Conservative Movie of the Week

  • http://www.facebook.com/j.alex.harman John Alexander Harman

    My first thought, too.  “…And they have a plan.”  It never said the plan was a good one.  (And if you watch The Plan, it turns out that One/Cavil/John was essentially improvising the whole time, and getting progressively more frustrated that the others kept botching his attempts to cripple the fleet.)

  • Carstonio

     High achievement? The family members were born with their powers. Nothing particularly partisan about the principles of courage and responsibility, despite the decades of Southern Strategy spin on the latter. While Helen/Elastigirl was a laudably strong character, there was something bothersome about her heroics as almost exclusively for protecting her children, as of motherhood was the only natural role even for female superheroes.

    The conservative praise is ironic, given how Bob Parr’s boss at the insurance company wants him to screw over policyholders to make the company wealthier. That’s how for-profit insurers operate in real life, and as I mentioned in another thread, the concept of insurance isn’t supposed to be about enriching shareholders.

  • http://www.facebook.com/j.alex.harman John Alexander Harman

    Haven’t you heard?  We’re all frackin’ Cylons.  http://youtu.be/m8Q2EsB63rg

  • AnonaMiss

    I hadn’t thought of it before, but the Incredibles really is conservative in its worldview.

    To start with, the premise is that some people are inherently better than others; and these better people are the primary agents of change in the world, until spurious lawsuits and accompanying regulation suppress them into hiding their talents. We’re shown how frustrating and miserable this is to the talented people, and we’re never asked to sympathize with the common people, or shown any case in which supers have caused harm worse than the common people would have suffered if they hadn’t intervened. (My dad pointed out to me at the time that the lawsuits in question should have been thrown out under good samaritan laws). As far as the audience is shown, the regulations are government interference that does 0 good, and just get in the way of all the good the Talented People could be doing if only they weren’t fettered by regulation and the threat of lawsuits.

    The primary villain of the movie is a normal who dares to aspire to super status, and his eeevil agenda is to level the playing field between supers and normals by giving the normals technological equivalents of superpowers. Rather than presenting this as well-intentioned, the movie presents this as spiteful: as trying to make the supers not “special” anymore.

    Then there’s the whole ‘heteronormative traditional family’ thing, including a deleted scene in which Helen dresses down a straw feminist for sneering at her for being a stay at home mom.

    …Extreme tangent, but Helen must have had the easiest time giving birth ever.

  • aunursa

    High achievement? The family members were born with their powers, so using that term implies a just world.

    Many people were born with uncommon skills and talents.  What they do or don’t do with their abilities determines whether they are high achievers.

    of motherhood was the only natural role even for female superheroes.

    Or pershaps that motherhood is a natural and laudable role for female superheroes.

    the concept of insurance isn’t supposed to be about enriching shareholders.

    Huh?  The concept of just about any corporation is supposed to be about enriching shareholders.  The concept of for-profit insurance corporations is to enrich shareholders by generating a profit from a business that protects insureds from large, unexpected financial losses.  The concepts of providing insurance and generating profits are not mutually exclusive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    I kinda thought that, unless their powers are psychic mindreading or the like, maybe they should be in chess club.  This would be especially true if they’re in training to be, you know, super heroes who will commonly need to be able to outthink villains.

  • Carstonio

    What they do or don’t do with their abilities determines whether they are high achievers.

    In real life, even people with natural aptitude for certain endeavors must still hone these abilities. Achievement is about facing and overcoming challenges. The Parr family didn’t have to do anything to achieve super powers, although they might learn to use them more effectively. There’s no challenge for Dash to run against kids who lack superpowers so it’s not really achievement. A true athletic challenge would be learning a sport that has nothing to do with his powers, as Jenny said. Or else racing someone who’s on his level like DC’s Impulse.

    Or pershaps that motherhood is a natural and laudable role for female superheroes.

    That wrongly implies that not choosing motherhood is wrong or bad. Motherhood isn’t inherently laudable. Society has no business deciding what roles the sexes should play. If a woman chooses to be a parent or chooses not to be, that’s her business and not anyone else’s.

    The concepts of
    providing insurance and generating profits are not mutually exclusive.

    They’re at cross-purposes, because producing dividends is the primary goal of any shareholder-owned corporation. Dividends from a for-profit insurance company can increase only by increasing premiums, and/or decreasing benefits, and/or dropping high-risk policyholders. In another thread I advocated the principle of non-profit membership corporations for insurers, and it’s also a good one for banking.

  • Carstonio

     Is that conservatism or libertarianism, or is that a distinction without a difference? Either way, I wonder what Brad Bird thinks of Superman, who sees his role as helping others and inspiring them. Taken to its logical conclusion, Bird’s ideology would have Superman as benevolent dictator. Red Son much?

  • P J Evans

     The problems come when providing profits to the shareholders becomes the major focus of the corporation, instead of whatever-it-was that they were organized to do.
    It’s why I don’t approve of having finance people running non-finance businesses.

  • Worthless Beast

    I enjoyed “The Incredibles” but that’s before/without thinking too hard about it.  I read somewhere that the filmakers didn’t register all of the unfortunate messages people were finding in it. They seemed to have wanted to make a family-friendly “Watchmen.”  The film strikes me as playing with the idea of superheroism in the real world – all that collateral damage that Superman got away with that he wouldn’t in real life.  I think they were trying to put in a “be yourself” message, too… but it really winds up being the darkest thing Pixar’s ever released. 

    Tell me you didn’t cringe at the people with capes being sucked into airplane engines?  *shudder.* 

    The thing in that movie that strikes me as being very overlooked as far as darkness is the suicidal man that Mr. Incredible saves that kicks off the superheroes in hiding thing.  I relate to him.  He is portrayed as this ungrateful little weasel, but think about it: A lot of suicides in our world are trigged by finanical pressure and the idea that without money, you are made of fail. I keep thinking “the poor guy probably felt the rejection of losing his job” or couldn’t make enough to support his family or himself… and what does Mr. Incredible do? Thwart his suicide, leaving him with injuries he probably has no insurance for.  He gets a lawyer on his side, and suddenly, there’s a chance for him to correct the thing (financial) that drove him to suicide in the first place.  Sure he has to hurt the man who saved him in order to “stay saved,” but such is the way of our complicated world. 

    If I had that stretchy-woman’s powers, I wouldn’t be nearly as terrified of pregnancy as I am.  I’m still afraid of how much I’d mess up any kid I’d be raising, but still…  

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Syndrome was ALSO killing super-people.

    ….Just throwing that out there.

  • aunursa

    That wrongly implies that not choosing motherhood is wrong or bad.

    No, it doesn’t.  One can consider the occupation of police officer to be a laudable choice without the implication that not choosing to be a police officer is wrong or bad.  Same with firefighter, soldier, medic, scientist, or any other profession.  Similarly one can consider motherhood to be a laudable role without the implication that not choosing motherhood is a wrong choice.

    They’re at cross-purposes, because producing dividends is the primary goal of any shareholder-owned corporation. Dividends from a for-profit insurance company can increase only by increasing premiums, and/or decreasing benefits, and/or dropping high-risk policyholders.

    Or dividends can increase by attracting additional business from preferred customers.  The concepts of insurance and profits are not at cross-purposes … because an insurance company that denies benefits that were promised under the terms of its policies will be liable in court.  And because the company will get a bad reputation, resulting in policyholders leaving for a rival company that honors the terms of its policies.  And companies that provide good service and appear to care about their policyholders will also attract business.  All of which will result in increased profits for companies that deliver the best service and and product or range of products.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’d say if you want to classify it more specifically, it’s closest to Objectivist, especially the stuff with the villain being jealous of how Special the main characters are, and vowing to destroy that Special class by bringing everyone up to their level – Objectivists tend to be obsessed with how a few Super Awesome Ubermenschen deserve all the wealth they can get, and the rest of us should just hope we can ride on their coattails to glory. The kleptocratic right of kings. Though Objectivists tend to think they deserve this because they’re so much smarter than everyone else, and no matter what one’s circumstances of birth, someone Good Enough to Deserve Success would be able to bootstrap themselves up; so having the Ubermenschen be born that way is almost a throwback to the actual divine right of kings idea, with the Ubermenschen being inherently more deserving because if they weren’t, then they wouldn’t be Ubermenschen.

    But then, I’m one of the shrinking camp of strongly anti-Objectivist libertarians, so I’m a little bit bitter about Objectivists claiming the name ‘libertarian’ and then drowning out the rest of us.

  • Carstonio

    The police officer analogy is wrong on a few levels. The person hypothetically has a choice of any number of professions besides that one. Plus, that job is a type of public service, choosing to put one’s life on the line to protect others.  Motherhood is partly about the woman’s decision about what to do with her  body, and the only alternative is not to become a mother. Neither one is inherently laudable because neither one should be judged by others.

    And because the company will get a bad reputation, resulting in
    policyholders leaving for a rival company that honors the terms of its
    policies…

    That’s more Just World thinking. Competition doesn’t work like that for health insurance because health care isn’t a typical market. The pseudo-theistic concept of the invisible hand is silly enough for most markets, but downright cruel for health care. In that market the insurers hold all the power, squeezing both policyholders and providers.

  • AnonaMiss

    You might as well say that the black people in Birth of a Nation were killing/abducting/whatever they were doing to white women, and the heroes were just fending them off.

    Of course Syndrome was killing super-people. He was the villain. The writers would have had to be downright stupid to write a superhero movie in which the villain did not kill super-people. They didn’t have to make him a norm whose sole motivation in pursuing technological progress for the human race is to make super-people feel bad. I mean, wtf is that shit?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Similarly one can consider motherhood to be a laudable role without the implication that not choosing motherhood is a wrong choice.

    One can. But does one? Because the attitude you describe is one I have only encountered from liberal feminists, and not all of those. Unless it is an attitude you yourself hold, aunursa, in which case the conservatives I know of who hold it number, in total, one.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    That wrongly implies that not choosing motherhood is wrong or bad. .

    That in no way shape or form implies that.  WHat it sounds like to me is that you’ve decided that motherhood is too lowly or unworthy for a woman with super-powers.

  • Carstonio

    Not all. That’s the same straw woman that’s been used against feminists for decades. Condemning the social norm against non-motherhood is not the same as condemning motherhood. I was addressing Aunursa’s claim that motherhood specifically is a laudable role, and my answer is that no role for either sex is inherently laudable or not laudable.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

    Regarding The Incredibles.

    Speaking as a flaming liberal, there was a line in the Incredibles that did kind of hit me as true.  In response to the old cliche “Everybody is special” Dash responds “that’s just another way of saying nobody is.”

    It just didn’t hit me the way the movie wanted it to.  As a child, I struggled with being the target of harassment (a bit of that discussed in the “I do, in fact, care who started it” thread).  I also struggled with distinguishing myself on some other level than “designated victim”.  And, the constant stream of telling me I’m special because everybody’s special created a special kind of special that left me feeling like I still really wasn’t all that special.

    That’s what made me sympathize with Syndrome just a bit.  Of course, I didn’t side with him killing supers or staging a robot-rampage so he could be a hero*.  But, taking the people who were born special down a peg by raising everybody else up, yeah, that I was all for.

    And, that’s what made the movie for me.  I must not have gotten what they were going for but, to me, this was the story of someone who, for at least that part of their motivation, was in the moral right, but they followed it down to a dark place.

    BTW, his Syndrome’s willingness to let Mirage die in order to get what he wants, or bluff that out… that was more Objectivist to me than anything Mr. Incredible or Craig T. “I was on welfare and food stamps.  Nobody helped me.” Nelson did.  Those were Rand’s heroes, weren’t they?  The ones that didn’t let little things like other people’s lives get in the way of what they wanted?

    *What?  There aren’t natural disasters and crimes already?  There aren’t police forces and fire departments that would gladly make you a hero just for selling them useful tools like a flight-suit and stasis ray?  Seriously, if he wants to be a hero and make special people seem less special because their powers are effectively purchaseable, the murderbot isn’t necessary.

  • aunursa

    Motherhood is partly about the woman’s decision about what to do with her body, and the only alternative is not to become a mother.

    Only one alternative?  I can think of a number off the top of my head…

    1. Bear and raise a child/children
    2. Adopt and raise a child/children
    3. Serve as a foster parent
    4. Work at a non-profit that benefits children/families
    5. Volunteer in a role that benefits children/families

    Motherhood and fatherhood benefit society when parents raise children who become responsible, productive members of society.  Without responsible parents, society would soon collapse.

    Competition doesn’t work like that for health insurance because health care isn’t a typical market.

    You’re moving the goalposts.  We were discussing for-profit insurance companies in general, not just for-profit health insurance companies.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Are all of those options–and number six, teach children, and number seven, have nothing whatsoever to do with children–considered equal in the eyes of society? There’s never been a person, however well-meaning, who asked their infertile or childfree adult child when there’d be grandchildren?

  • aunursa

    Really?  Because I’ve encountered the exact opposite attitude.  I’m not going to make the error, as you have with respect to conservatives, of suggesting that all or even most liberals who have demeand motherhood as unworthy.  But I’ve seen that attitude.

    The “straw-feminist” from the previously mentioned deleted scene doesn’t represent all feminists … but she does represent some.

    As for conservatives, I have little doubt there are some who believe that motherhood is the only laudable role for a woman, and that any woman who is not primarily a mother is a failure.  But my experience is that that opinion is held by only a small sliver of conservatives.  The vast majority seem to agree that motherhood is not for every woman.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    I find myself thinking that Syndrome would be fun to rewrite for a supers setting where he’s a borderline villain with truly idealistic motives (as opposed to the movie version, where he’s more about the spite) and questionable (at best) choice of methods. Preserve the idea of him wanting to bring everyone up to super level, provide technology that makes the world better. But in a world where super-scale threats happen all the time, he needs to stress-test that technology to make sure it works out.

    So he doesn’t just throw his robots at earthquakes and floods, but into super-fights, potentially causing all kinds of trouble through his interference. He hires down-on-their-luck supers for dangerous tests, and while he’s up front about the tests’ potential lethality, he’s still exploiting (a specific subset of) the poor. Yet at the same time the benefits of his work (some sold for profit, some donated in acts of charity) are so great that various world powers and most other heroes must take a pragmatic view that, in this one case, the ends do justify the means.

    I don’t know, I just think that would make for some great plot hooks to explore. But given the genre’s tendency to drop the ball on moral gray areas, a writer would need a deft hand to avoid having “Syndrome’s” problematic issues either written out or magnified into outright villainy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Was I not careful enough to specify that the conservatives I personally know are the ones I’m talking about, and they may not be a representative sample? I know of no reason to think they’re not, but I know damn well they might not be.

  • aunursa

    Are all of those options… considered equal in the eyes of society?

    They are all considered laudable.  I never suggested that they were considered equally laudable.  But the suggestion that because motherhood is praised, therefore women who choose not to have children are scorned by society, I don’t agree with that view of society.  Is the expectation that women, especially married women, will raise a family?  Yes.  But I don’t agree that such an expectation means that those who choose otherwise are looked down upon.  Of course you’re free to disagree.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t agree that such an expectation means that those who choose otherwise are looked down upon. Of course you’re free to disagree.
    Yeah, when I am made to feel as though I will be violating the social contract by not making babies (no pressure, of course, Ellie, you’re only as old as your father was when you were born, you’ve years yet before you’re as old as your mother was then, get your life in order first, meet a nice man…), I am CLEARLY IMAGINING THINGS.

    For the record: Not making babies. Ever. Possibly raising babies, I haven’t decided, but the sort of bullshit I describe above is not exactly making that a stress-free decision.

  • Carstonio

    No one contests that society benefits when parents raise their children responsibly. My criticism is of the stance that all women have an obligation to society to bear children. That usually unspoken assumption runs through nearly every social norm that deals with women’s roles. Sure, there are a handful of radical feminists who do sneer at motherhood and marriage. The difference between them and the chauvinists who slam single women as selfish for pursuing careers? The latter have thousands of years of sexist social norms backing them, norms that still influence billions of people.

    The point you’re missing about laudable is that it’s not your place, or mine, to make that judgment about a woman who chooses to bear children. Or who chooses not to. It may be defensible to deem it laudable when someone helps children in need through foster care or volunteering. But that applies to both sexes and is about directly helping people in need. Caring for children isn’t inherently or naturally a woman’s role or responsibility.

  • vsm

    I’d say Bob’s heroics had everything to do with his role as a father. His dilemma is how to lead a fulfilling life while also being a father and a husband. His working for Syndrome behind his family’s back was likened to an affair and placed his family in danger, so we probably aren’t meant to consider his attempts to be a superhero free from his role as a father a good thing. Things are only solved when the two roles are combined, making them a family of superheroes.

  • AnonaMiss

     

    BTW, his Syndrome’s willingness to let Mirage die in order to get what
    he wants, or bluff that out… that was more Objectivist to me than
    anything Mr. Incredible or Craig T. “I was on welfare and food stamps. 
    Nobody helped me.” Nelson did.  Those were Rand’s heroes, weren’t they? 
    The ones that didn’t let little things like other people’s lives get in
    the way of what they wanted?

    I just want to clarify that I do not think the Parrs, as characters, were Objectivists. The concept, the worldview, the ‘arc of history,’  pretty much everything that happens off-screen; those strike me as Objectivist. But Pixar is not in the business of promoting the Cult of Ayn Rand, and knows that heartless assholes do not likable protagonists make.

  • AnonaMiss

     

    I’d say Bob’s heroics had everything to do with his role as a father.
    His dilemma is how to lead a fulfilling life while also being a father
    and a husband. His working for Syndrome behind his family’s back was
    likened to an affair and placed his family in danger, so we probably
    aren’t meant to consider his attempts to be a superhero free from his
    role as a father a good thing. Things are only solved when the two roles
    are combined, making them a family of superheroes.

    See here’s the main problem I have with the ‘traditional family’ aspect of The Incredibles:

    Why was Bob the one working outside the home?

    He hates his job, he has a lot harder time adjusting to normal society than Helen does, why isn’t Helen the one bringing home the bacon? Which isn’t to say that she’d have to be and any woman who stays home instead of her husband is a bad woman blah de blah de blah but the problematic part is, can you even imagine Helen and Bob having that conversation? Can you imagine Bob being a stay at home father?

    Bob’s role as a father is very different from Helen’s role as a mother. His role as a father is for his care for his kids to be a personal motivator for him to do great things. They are at his back, propelling him forward. He loves them and wants to protect them, but – he doesn’t have to do the drudgery. He doesn’t have to deal with the hard parts, the work of parenting. Bob Parr is to Helen Parr as Tim LaHaye is to Tim Lahaye’s visitation pastor.

    I think it’s notable that Bob and Violet don’t have a relationship. Sure, they have little in common, but Helen has to have a relationship with both of her kids as an inherent part of her role as a mother. As a ‘traditional father,’ Bob gets to take the parts of parenting that he likes, the sports stuff with Dash, and can basically ignore Violet, and nobody thinks this is worth addressing – even through the happy “Yay our family isn’t dysfunctional now!” ending, Bob never acknowledges or interacts with her as an individual.

    This strikes me particularly hard because my father was always the child-centered one of my parents, and happily worked part time to take care of us while my mom worked 12 hour days. So when I see ‘traditional families’ portrayed in media, it almost hurts to see the “father’s role.” It hurts me in the my-relationship-with-my-father, the man who drove us to school and social events and girl scouts and friends’ houses, met our friends and our friends’ parents, made our lunches and dinners and cut smiley faces into our sandwiches with an apple corer to carve out the eyes, helped us with our homework, read to us at bedtime, and comforted us when we were scared or sick or just out of sorts. The lack of any meaningful Violet/Bob interaction is a hole in that movie that nags at me; and the fact that, in a movie about healing a dysfunctional family, the lack of a Violet/Bob relationship wasn’t even worth addressing disturbs me.

    ***

    When people celebrate ‘motherhood,’ there is so much bullshit tied up with the concept, so many connotations that aren’t present when talking about ‘fatherhood.’ So when someone talks about motherhood being a “laudable pursuit” for a woman, well – women who aren’t interested, and to anyone who grew up with our fathers as our primary caregivers, that phrasing highlights the fact that no one talks about fatherhood being a “pursuit” for a man.

    Which is unfair to women, because it dumps a plate full of connotation and responsibility on their lap which men don’t get; and it’s unfair to men, because those, like my own dad, who would prefer to pursue fatherhood over a traditional “career” have to swim upstream to do so.

  • aunursa

    The point you’re missing about laudable is that it’s not your place, or mine, to make that judgment about a woman who chooses to bear children. Or who chooses not to.

    It absolutely is my place — if I so choose — to call women who choose to raise children in a responsible manner laudable.  In no way does that reflect adversely on those women who choose not to raise children.

    It also is my place — again, if I so choose – to call women who choose to bear and raise children in an irresponsible manner as, well, irresponsible.

    It also is my place to make similar judgments about men who choose to raise children in a responsible (or irresponsible) manner.

    What is not appropriate for me to do is to make any judgment whatsoever about those women and men who choose not to procreate or raise children.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Damn shame ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’ is New Testament, not Tanakh.

  • aunursa

    Many Christians understand that passage to be referring to judging another person’s salvation … not that Christians should never judge any action or decision made by another person.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Many Christians are then wrong. It’s about keeping your nose out of other people’s business when uninvited in order to create a culture in which people don’t stick their uninvited noses in your business.

    Whether a person, especially (given the general sexism of our culture on this point) a uterus person, chooses to have children, that is not any of your business unless you are the person in question or (maybe) that person’s significant other, and your nose needs to stay out.

    Most of our culture doesn’t realize that, so I don’t blame you for not realizing it either. But you need to learn.

  • Carstonio

    While I have no disagreement with any of that, your original claim was that motherhood is a natural and laudable role for women, specifically female superheroes. That’s not about how the children are being raised. “Natural” is even more problematic of a value judgment. If you really see yourself as having no place to judge people’s procreative decisions, then don’t call it laudable when a woman chooses to become a mother.

  • aunursa

    It’s not my business whether someone (other than my wife) chooses to have children.  But I certainly can make and express a judgment about a person’s decisions.  That’s not sticking my nose is someone else’s business, that’s expressing my personal opinion.  Everyone makes judgments about other people’s decisions.  I’ve seen hundreds of comments on this blog in which the host and guests have made judgments (especially negative ones) about the personal decisions of others.  It’s a little late to complain about someone making a supportive judgment.

  • aunursa

    motherhood is a natural and laudable role for women, specifically female superheroes. That’s not about how the children are being raised

    Motherhood absolutely is about how children are raised.  Raising children is a part of motherhood and fatherhood.

    If you really see yourself as having no place to judge people’s procreative decisions, then don’t call it laudable when a woman chooses to become a mother.

    It’s not my place to make a negative judgment about a responsible person’s procreative decisions.  I reserve the right to express positive and negative judgments based on a person’s ability or inability to bear and raise children responsibly.

  • aunursa

    If you’re going to complain about those who “stick their nose into other people’s business, lecture celebrities like Ashley Judd before you lecture people who merely offer praise…

    “It’s unconscionable to breed with the number of children who are starving to death in impoverished countries.” – Ashley Judd

  • Carstonio

     

    Motherhood absolutely is about how children are raised.

    No, the word is simply an acknowledgment that the mother-child relationship exists.  It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the child-raising.

  • Carstonio

    I had never encountered that quote before. While Judd doesn’t appear be telling specific people to refrain from procreating, her comment is simplistic at best, wrongly assuming that hunger would disappear if people stopped having children. A belief in how everyone should live is not quite as personally obnoxious as a belief in how specific people should live, but both amount to a belief in what’s best for others.

    And “merely offer praise” ignores the fact that praise is often selective and conditional, where the praiser defines laudable according to what zie thinks is best for others.

  • Tricksterson

    Note that Bob gets fired for helping the poor and disadvantaged and while he gets a rush from being a superhero he genuinely wants to help.  A more blatant dichotomy to me is that all the villains referenced don’t have super powers but instead are gadgeteers, in other words they use their minds, not their muscles.


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