So I thought it might be best to switch to some popular fiction for a little while. After all, conservatives already keep up with current events better than liberals so while this title or that might have been missed, in terms of non-fiction, conservatives (at least in my experience) seem to be more well-read in terms of non-fiction historical or current events texts. But fiction is another issue entirely. Keeping up with Brown or Patterson or Sparks or Myers or whoever else has become popular to a level exceeding their skill is never a problem for most Americans. I have no problem with that. I read fluff and I write it. It serves an important psychological function, like sorbet between courses, and as long as it isn’t your only form of reading there is nothing wrong with reading even the worst trash piece of pulp. But this week (and a lot of weeks to follow) we’re going to deal with one of my favorite series: The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
Now like most fantasy writers Goodkind can’t just write a one off book. The inherent problem for most fantasy writers is that after you’ve created a new universe with new rules and a new history you feel compelled to delve into every aspect of this new universe. (As a fantasy novelist myself I have to admit that I am just as guilty of this). The Sword of Truth is no different; it currently stands at 14 books. Now, I will admit that the series has its ups and downs (I had to skim book 7 it got so damn tedious) but as a whole the series is by far one of the most well written pieces of literature I have ever read.
Now in this series I’m going to discuss most of the books of the series (at least tangentially) but I am only going to give you a major description of the plot and characters of the first book because there is no point in spoiling everything for you.
(Oh, by the way if you’re unfortunate enough to have watched the TV show Legend of the Seeker which was supposedly based on these books, don’t worry, the books have nothing to do with that excuse of a show).
The story surrounds Richard Cypher, a man who had never sought adventure or greatness, but who, while investigating the death of his father, finds himself quickly running for his life from the warlord Darken Rahl. But more unexpected for Richard, a man who never knew about magic while growing up, is that he has the potential to be a wizard, and is declared the Seeker of Truth, the only person who can stop Rahl’s attempt to conquer the entire world (and the stakes are raised even further with each new volume in the series). I could go into more detail, but the fact is that like all great literature, plot is a secondary detail to theme and characterization. And unlike Tolkien’s works, the Sword of Truth, in addition to a rich secondary cast, gives us two characters, Richard and Kahlan, who are not only paragons of what heroes should be, but very human in their flaws and their ability to grow and learn over the course of the book (unlike the cast of most fantasy novels who are static from moment one—damn you Tolkien for making that a trope of the genre!)
But the true genius of each book is that each book is centered around a Wizard’s Rule–An idea that can be seen through actions of the book and applies not only to the book, but to our own lives in the real world. It is these Wizard’s Rules which make the Sword of Truth much more than an enjoyable piece of fluff that most fantasy is, or even good character drama which some of the better works of the genre are (although Wizard’s First Rule is enjoyable, and has spectacular character drama). And here is what I want to talk about for all the books, how what are called the Wizard’s Rules in the books are some of the most explicit insightful observations and guidelines for life I have ever run across in literature. Which brings us to Wizard’s First Rule:
“Wizard’s First Rule: people are stupid.” Richard and Kahlan frowned even more. “People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”
—Chapter 36, p.560
So what does that mean and why is this important?
It means that everyone is an idiot. I mean everyone. Even the best of us, even you, even me, have our moments of stupidity. We act on beliefs we want to believe in rather than facts we have worked out and proven to be true. Sometime this stupidity is forgivable—after all not every decision on Earth can be preceded by forethought, study and reflection…however, unless your name is Jack Bauer you probably aren’t being required to make 200 immediate life or death choices every day based on limited information (and if your name is Jack Bauer then you are infallible so it really doesn’t matter). Thus, most of the time our acts of stupidity are not forgivable because we had the opportunity to think, to reflect on our past acts of stupidity and not repeat them, to consider facts, information and reason…and in those moments we choose not to think. People are stupid.
The easiest way to fall victim to this rule is to think you’re above it.
“Given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything.”
Nowhere is this better seen than in politics. People like to think they’re qualified to participate in politics. People vote in every election. Because stupidly they believe it’s their civic duty. Actually it’s their civic duty to educate themselves on the issues, the candidates, the consequences of their choices. If you don’t do that it’s actually your civic duty to NOT vote in any given election. Let’s be honest here, if we were very, very lucky maybe 40% of those who vote have even the first clue about what they’re voting for beyond meaningless platitudes and voting party line. People like to feel good about themselves for voting, even though what they’re actually doing is ruining the republic by not doing the right thing and educating themselves.
Need more proof that people will believe anything? There’s no proof that man has caused any measurable change in global temperatures, yet people are freaking out about global cooling, I mean global warming, I mean climate change (the fact that they can’t even agree if it’s getting hotter or warmer, or my favorite is that global warming is causing it to get colder, should tell you there isn’t any hard proof and weather is just chaotic and unpredictable, always has been, always will be and that man is so insignificant that he will have little to no impact). And to hell if no computer model that shows global warming has ever been able to predict things like the past or match up with reality on any level. Little facts like that don’t matter. We have a computer model that shows global warming; it doesn’t matter if it’s based on logic that makes an acid trip seem rational. Or, how about the stupidity of the fringe of the Tea Party. The fringe (and I may add loudest part of the Tea Party) seems to hold two basic rules (1) If you do, say, or even think anything that might be construed as a deviation from conservative purity then you are a RINO and must be destroyed (2) Sarah Palin is the second coming and can do no wrong (to hell if it’s Sarah’s fault we still have one of the few people who actually deserve to be called a RINO, John McCain). The fact that these are glaring contradictions holds no value to this fringe. Why?
People are stupid.
“Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true,”
Some very stupid people heard the words “Hope” and “Change” and somehow thought that what they hoped for and what they wanted changed was what Obama hoped for and wanted changed. As he made very few actual policy statements in either election (and even fewer ones that weren’t contradicted by other statements) there was no logical reason to believe this. But people believe what they wanted to believe because they’re morons. Because of this Obama who has never been anything but a liberal was able to say he was a moderate and people stupidly believed him, and then were even more shocked when he turned out to be a liberal.
“or because they’re afraid it might be true.”
If we don’t bailout all the banks that got us into this mess the economy will collapse! To hell with real economic theory and practice that says a few banks will collapse, we’ll have a bad short recession and the system will then stabilize and grow. No let’s act out of fear of what might happen, to hell with facts, and cause a near-never ending jobless recession that borders on stagflation and true economic depression.
“Peoples’ heads are full of knowledge, facts and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true.”
Liberals believe that the rich do nothing for their money. A good portion of the country seems to think Rick Santorum is conservative. Liberals believe that people have a duty to help the poor who do nothing for themselves. Fringe Tea Partyers seem to think that controlling one half of one branch of Congress gives us the power to dictate terms. Liberals believe everyone who practices Islam is practicing a religion of peace. The religious right…oh lord no blog is long enough to catalog how many stupid, and often contradictory, things they believe. People are stupid and don’t bother to check or reason through what they believe to see if it’s true.
“people are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”
The fact that people can’t tell the difference between truth and lies has always been a given. The Big Lie theory of politics has been around for nearly a century. But if people aren’t stupid how do you explain support for Obama in this respect.
Liberals screw up here because they believe what they want to believe. They believe what makes them happy. Here let me take trillions of dollars from people who earned money and give it the poor because it makes me feel better. To hell if there are economic repercussions. It makes me feel better. Let’s keep spending like drunken sailors and not cut entitlement programs that led us to bankruptcy, because that would feel bad. To hell if we’re going to destroy ourselves in the process. Don’t worry about facts; believe what makes you feel good. Why? Because people are stupid.
And here is where conservatives really screw up.
Because they can’t tell the difference we try to reason with them by throwing every possible fact we can think of at the people we are trying to convince. This turns them off because of how boring we sound.
Republicans are stupid because at this point they fail to distinguish between not standing on principle and the compromises that are needed in any legislature or the necessity of pragmatics (this from just a few years ago when the problem was not standing for anything…we can’t seem to find a balance, but prefer to go from one stupid extreme to the other).
Conservatives unwilling to admit that people are stupid and very easy to be swayed make deals with groups to get votes. We court the religious right because they are open to some of our arguments, but don’t care that this provides the Democrats with ammunition against us in winning the center. The center doesn’t care that true conservatives are courting the wacky religious fringe not because we agree with their inability to admit that evolution is a fact, but because we agree with them on economic and foreign policy issues. This in turn costs us two votes for every religious wackjob we get. Conservatives fail to realize that stupid people on one side can’t tell that we don’t necessarily agree with the stupid people on the other side. This is rather stupid of us.
Or we nominate twits like McCain because we believe that the American public is so stupid they won’t realize he’s a waste of space and volume and will just think he’s a moderate. This is also stupid of us. (Or worse when we seem to be courting idiots like Christie, Bush, Paul, or Cruz…either because we’re looking for a “moderate” or because we think crazy somehow means “ideologically pure”).
If we realized people are stupid, we might not try to keep courting their votes and actually begin to just act on real principles (not going to the fringe at the first sign a candidate understands pragmatics). This would mean we wouldn’t look like idiots. Will we win every time if we did this? No. After all, people are stupid. But stupid or not they can more often than not recognize conviction and quality of character because with the exception of Obama and his staff no one is stupid 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
It’s important to understanding why liberals do so well with the public despite the fact they have next to no facts and truth on their side. Think about it. A good portion of the country voted for Obama and then suddenly was very unhappy that he was liberal (twice!)…and then they voted for the Republicans to solve the problems that the liberals created and are suddenly unhappy when the Republicans are doing just that and doing things like trying to break the power of the unions which got us into this mess or cutting the budget. People are stupid. They believe that somehow there are solutions that allow them to eat and still have their cake. They hear the words “hope” and “change” and fill in what they hope for and what they want changed…not asking what the person speaking those words hopes for or plans to change.
People are stupid. We need to recognize this about others and ourselves. If we don’t, we risk always being stupid.