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  • Enduring Insights from Fiction

    It took me a while (mid-twenties) to realize that one could gain insights/lessons from fiction. I have dog-eared fictions with a highlighted passage, and it would take me a while to consolidate them. But recently, I had a double passage in Eliot Pattison's The Skull Mantra (an Edgar award mystery novel) which takes place in Tibet with a police inspector who is a prisoner deported to Tibet for offending a high ranking Beijing power figure. The author creates the situation of Tibet under Chinese rule.

    The author makes the narrative point, "The ultimate weapon wielded by Beijing had always been population. As in the western province of Xinjiang, the home of millions of Moslems belonging to central Asian cultures, Beijing was turning the native population of Tibet into a minority in their own lands. half of Tibet had been annexed to neighboring Chinese provinces. Populations centers in the rest of Tiber had been flooded with immigrants. Endless truck convoys over thirty years had turned Lhasa into a Han Chinese city."

    So, here were two examples of Chinese population diluting Islamists and Buddhists populations. I read in the economist a couple of years ago, that the Chinese were increasing their influence in sub-sahara Africa my moving Chinese in to work the lands of a couple of countries--since they would find it hard to have arable lands in China.
    Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 14 Jan 15, 13:42.
    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

  • #2
    The second insight from the same book, has the investigator/prisoner talking about classified data for use by investigators in a communist society. "Now I am talking about the socialist dialectic. Prosecution of murder is usually a public phenomenon. You must be ready to explain the basis for prosecution here. There is always a political explanation. That will be the concern. That is the evidence you need."

    A few paragraphs later, he continues, "It's the socialist context that's important. Find the reactionary thread and build from there. A murder investigation is pointless unless it can become a parable for the people."

    It struck me that this is exactly what happened in Ferguson, MO!

    I would be interested in reading your enduring insights from fiction.
    Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 14 Jan 15, 13:45.
    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
      The author makes the narrative point, "The ultimate weapon wielded by Beijing had always been population. As in the western province of Xinjiang, the home of millions of Moslems belonging to central Asian cultures, Beijing was turning the native population of Tibet into a minority in their own lands. half of Tibet had been annexed to neighboring Chinese provinces. Populations centers in the rest of Tiber had been flooded with immigrants. Endless truck convoys over thirty years had turned Lhasa into a Han Chinese city."

      So, here were two examples of Chinese population diluting Islamists and Buddhists populations. I read in the economist a couple of years ago, that the Chinese were increasing their influence in sub-sahara Africa my moving Chinese in to work the lands of a couple of count-since they would find it hard to have arable lands in China.
      I have been following the Chinese infiltration/invasion of Africa for years, recognizing that they are taking their whack at the Dark Continent after failure by Europeans and disinterest from Americans. My slant was to realize it's one way they are using their "bare branches" --- the excess males they have from their population control problem.

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      • #4
        I had some early insights that never left me ---

        --the horror of torture from Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Twain is so dangerous. A ten-year old did not belong to be reading an unedited copy of that book.

        Also at ten Aslan saying to Lucy, you will not fight in the battle. War is ugly when women fight.

        And I looked up and thought, but isn't war ugly when anyone fights? A question which has never left me.

        A little older, Heinlein's protagonist in Door Into Summer saying, how do you tell an eight-year-old girl that sometimes in life you have to abandon your baggage? And not too long after, I did, but I knew it was all right, because sometimes in life, you have to.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
          It took me a while (mid-twenties) to realize that one could gain insights/lessons from fiction.
          I've got some very good insight from the Science Fiction show "The Twilight Zone" episodes. I think Rod Serling was a genuis. In my opinion the show was way ahead of it's time. Some of the episodes that really stick out are "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" where freaky things start happening in a small neighborhood and all the neighbors start turning on each other accusing each of them of causing the problems, only to find out that space aliens are conducting an experiment and they conclude that they get the same results again and again.
          Another great episode is "Obsolete Man" and this is the quote from the end of the episode.
          "The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He *was* obsolete. But so is the State, the entity he worshiped. Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man, that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under "M" for Mankind - in The Twilight Zone. " Rod Serling.

          Another good episode I've used in Sunday School teaching was "He's Alive" starring Dennis Hopper. It's about a young Nazi who no one takes seriously, until he starts getting visited by a dark shadowy Hitler character who tells him how to build up his movement.
          Here's the closing quote from Rod Serling.

          "Where will he go next, this phantom from another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare - Chicago? Los Angeles? Miami, Florida? Vincennes, Indiana Syracuse, New York? Anyplace, everyplace, where there's hate, where there's prejudice, where there's bigotry. He's alive. He's alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He's alive because through these things we keep him alive."

          There were many others but these Science Fiction episodes really spoke to me.

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          • #6
            From Tolkien; "Those who have not swords may still die upon them." I joined ROTC that same year.

            One does have to be cautious with fiction just as with any work. Sometimes the plot turns out the way it does only because it was constructed that way. In the real world, 'your results may vary.'
            Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

            Questions about our site? See the FAQ.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by GCoyote View Post
              From Tolkien; "Those who have not swords may still die upon them." I joined ROTC that same year.

              One does have to be cautious with fiction just as with any work. Sometimes the plot turns out the way it does only because it was constructed that way. In the real world, 'your results may vary.'
              Sounds like a variation on Trotsky's "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."
              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                Sounds like a variation on Trotsky's "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."
                True but I had not yet read any Trotsky at that point.
                Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

                Questions about our site? See the FAQ.

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                • #9
                  Steven Vincent Benet's "By the Waters of Babylon"

                  Truth is a hard deer to hunt. If you eat to much truth at once, you may die of the truth.
                  My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

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                  • #10
                    Mario Puzo's The Godfather is one of my favourite works. It is full of insights, especially about politics, left /right, conservative progressive, they're all the same...


                    I don't trust society to protect us, I have no intention of placing my fate in the hands of men whose only qualification is that they managed to con a block of people to vote for them.”

                    “Tom, don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of **** every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That's what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes? Right? And you know something? Accidents don't happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult.”

                    “There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them. You don't try to justify them. They can't be justified. You just do them. Then you forget it.”

                    “there was no greater natural advantage in life than having an enemy overestimate your faults, unless it was to have a friend underestimate your virtues

                    “Luca Brasi was such a man. But he was such an extraordinary man that for a long time nobody could kill him. Most of these people are of no concern to ourselves but a Brasi is a powerful weapon to be used. The trick is that since he does not fear death and indeed looks for it, then the trick is to make yourself the only person in the world that he truly desires not to kill him. He has only that one fear, not of death, but that you may be the one to kill him. He is yours then.” I don't think I'll ever need a Luca Brasilia but I have known a few men who went around saying to the world "kill me".

                    “A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.

                    “Time erodes gratitude more quickly than it does beauty

                    “You cannot say 'no' to the people you love, not often. That's the secret. And then when you do, it has to sound like a 'yes'. Or you have to make them say 'no.' You have to take time and trouble.”

                    And as Michael reflects on the dons death

                    “He smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, "Life is so beautiful."
                    ...
                    Yes, he thought, if I can die saying, "Life is so beautiful," then nothing else is important.”
                    Last edited by Chukka; 16 Jan 15, 04:31.
                    One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions - Admiral Grace Hopper

                    "The eunuch should not take pride in his chastity."
                    Wu Cheng'en Monkey

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                    • #11
                      The whole quote is amazing, and relevant for our times.

                      “It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two, Master Warden, and those who have not swords can still die upon them.” – Eowyn Chapter V: The Steward and the King (The Return of the King, Book Six) LOTR

                      I had thought the original quote was the Steward of Gondor talking to the hobbit, but not so --- it was the physician and Eowyn at Gondor in the Garden of Healing before the forces of Mordor move in.


                      The doctor (Warden) speaks first:

                      'But for long years, we healers have sought to patch the rents made by the men of swords. Though we should still have enough to do without them: the world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.'

                      'It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two, Master Warden,' answered Eowyn. 'And those who have no swords can still die upon them. Would you have the folk of Gondor gather herbs only, when the Dark Lord gathers armies? And it is not always good to be healed in body. Nor is it always evil to die in battle, even in bitter pain. Were I permitted, in this dark hour I would choose the latter'."

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                      • #12
                        There seems to be a bit of interest in my Benet quote, so I will add this.
                        By the Waters of Babylon Is a short story Benet wrote in 1937. It's a quick easy read and can be found on line here.

                        http://www.tkinter.smig.net/outings/...ts/babylon.htm

                        Enjoy
                        My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

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                        • #13
                          This extended, descriptive paragraph from Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 in 1972 prepared me for hard times in the military. It is about General N. N. Martos, cdr XV Corps, in the Second Army at the Battle of Tannenberg.

                          "Yet Martos failed to detect any sign of a major victory resulting from his own unbroken series of local successes. All his gains seemed somehow to be won in vain.

                          "But he continued fighting hard, just as an experienced actor goes on playing despite the fact that his partners are missing their cues and fluffing their lines, that the heroine's wig has come unstuck, that one of the scenery flats has fallen over, that there is an intolerable draft backstage, that the audience is whispering loudly and seems to be jostling for the exits. So, like the professional that he was, Martos went on playing his role: at least the show was not going to flop if he could help it, and he might even succeed in pulling the rest of the company through."
                          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                            This extended, descriptive paragraph from Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 in 1972 prepared me for hard times in the military. It is about General N. N. Martos, cdr XV Corps, in the Second Army at the Battle of Tannenberg.

                            "Yet Martos failed to detect any sign of a major victory resulting from his own unbroken series of local successes. All his gains seemed somehow to be won in vain.

                            "But he continued fighting hard, just as an experienced actor goes on playing despite the fact that his partners are missing their cues and fluffing their lines, that the heroine's wig has come unstuck, that one of the scenery flats has fallen over, that there is an intolerable draft backstage, that the audience is whispering loudly and seems to be jostling for the exits. So, like the professional that he was, Martos went on playing his role: at least the show was not going to flop if he could help it, and he might even succeed in pulling the rest of the company through."
                            That was an impressive book.
                            One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions - Admiral Grace Hopper

                            "The eunuch should not take pride in his chastity."
                            Wu Cheng'en Monkey

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                              This extended, descriptive paragraph from Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 in 1972 prepared me for hard times in the military. It is about General N. N. Martos, cdr XV Corps, in the Second Army at the Battle of Tannenberg.

                              "Yet Martos failed to detect any sign of a major victory resulting from his own unbroken series of local successes. All his gains seemed somehow to be won in vain.

                              "But he continued fighting hard, just as an experienced actor goes on playing despite the fact that his partners are missing their cues and fluffing their lines, that the heroine's wig has come unstuck, that one of the scenery flats has fallen over, that there is an intolerable draft backstage, that the audience is whispering loudly and seems to be jostling for the exits. So, like the professional that he was, Martos went on playing his role: at least the show was not going to flop if he could help it, and he might even succeed in pulling the rest of the company through."
                              I think the original thrust of this thread was fictional comments on war itself that people remember and learn from. I may have bent it out of shape a little, but I was thinking about the original point, which the above also expresses, and here is my fictional enlightening about war:

                              Turtledove's "Guns of the South" is IMO an excellent alternative history of what-if the Confederates had AK-47s? There is a time machine invented and South Africans come through to give Lee a lot of these weapons. And the soldiers like them, sure they do, but they all notice that the trainer South Africans have brought their own food. Lee calls in their commander. Oh, yes, Lee says, we can certainly use the guns. Very nice, quite interesting rate of fire, it gives one to think.

                              However, Lee says firmly, what we REALLY need, if you want us to win this war, and it seems you do want that for your own purposes, are a lot of those little lightweight boxes of food you have that you just pour hot water in and they reconstitute in the field. Can you get us enough of those for several days supply for each of the troops?

                              The South African commander is amazed --- they had never thought of that --- but they make it happen. We see a much better fed Confederate soldier reconstituting his favorite MRE later, a sort of noodles with a red sauce. He loves it: it seems that liking Beefaroni is in the American genome, South or North.

                              This is an illustration of logistics being more important than tactics, I suppose, but it was a good illustration and it's one reason I read the book a second time.

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