Not My Dominion, Monkey-boys

Kage Baker was a person of ferociously held convictions. Nor did she change her mind easily or readily. In fact, the best way to force her into a relentless entrenchment was to try to change her mind. The mere fact of opposition set up a defensive stiffening and hardening of her attitude – like emotional Kevlar.

Nonetheless, one could leave out morsels and tidbits of information, and she very likely would come out to taste eventually. Suspicious, glitter-eyed, with avoidance reflexes like a squirrel on caffeine – but when she stopped that levitating and jetting off in the opposite direction behaviour, Kage could be convinced to sample a new fact. And since she was pretty logical, once the reflexive denial wore off, she’d adjust her stance if the new data was convincing.

One of the things she taught me, though, was that not everyone can be convinced to share your viewpoint. Another thing was that most such disagreements can be dealt with in courtesy and peace; but that carried the dark corollary that most people don’t want you to acknowledge their opinion while you disagree: they want you to capitulate and admit defeat. And in those cases, Kage taught me,  never, ever  do that.

Be silent, if you must. Withdraw from the argument, decline to be drawn. Turn – if not the other cheek – at least away. The veracity of your beliefs does not require that they be the loudest, nor the most shared, nor the least tolerant of others. Your own most important beliefs don’t require a single freaking thing except you and your own courage to hold fast.

I’ve seen her debate various topics at many conventions, bright-eyed and involved and as cheerfully fierce as a cartoon pirate: it was all in good fun. I also remember seeing her withdraw subtly from people who could not contain their anger at being opposed. When one such lady demanded of Kage, partway through a panel, why she was being so quiet, Kage leaned into the microphone and said, “We can’t talk to each other. We don’t speak the same language. I’ll be glad to wait while you yell everything you have to say.”

Kage got applause. The lady fell into fulminating silence. The relieved moderator returned the panel from Buffy the Vampire scripts (which the angry lady had unsuccessfully tried to sell) to the importance of research in alternate history stories … thus reversing the left turn into the Twilight Zone engineered by anger.

My sister Kage was shy. She hated conflict. She was afraid of yellers and angry people. But she showed me how to quietly stand up to them, how to depart the field of battle when you didn’t want to fight but would not surrender. Important lessons.

I am brought to these ruminations by two unrelated, unpleasant experiences last night.

First, idly following links online, I discovered something called “Dominionism”, a shade of colour in the fundamentalist politico-Christian community of which I was previously unaware. I’d like to think it’s up there with death panels, the aliens who keep visiting the White House, the ghosts in the Lincoln bedroom and other such myths of American politics – but apparently it’s not. Scary stuff. And its devotees don’t subscribe to the Marquis of Queensbury rules; I  got into a late night comments war that was positively psychotic – only as a bystander, but the acid burns kept me awake a while.

Then I foolishly got into an actual argument, elsewhere and on another topic, that degenerated into name-calling and similar vitriol. With an utter stranger, who evidently had somehow acquired secret knowledge of me that entitled him to wax furious on several aspects of my private life … all over a fight in which, as they say, neither of us actually had a dog.  After a couple of astonished gasps, I took my fish-out-of-water self back to my little dark pond, and read a work on evolutionary development until I could sleep.

I think I am going to stay quietly in my private pool  for a while, and repeat Kage’s lessons to myself. The water out there in the abyssal plain is full of crazy fish.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Not My Dominion, Monkey-boys

  1. Whoa! Now I understand the Facebook post. Way back in AOL days, I used to poke around the boards for conversations on writing and history and stuff. Almost every one turned into this kind of thing. The ones that didn’t I was happy to hang out in, but this sort of thing was way too typical. Learning to retire the field is a valuable lesson.


  2. Kate says:

    I don’t oten turn this blog into a daily diary. But I thought documenting the new things out there to ambush incautious scholars might be worth it.


  3. Patrick says:

    There are people in the world who I consider to be of low quality. I know that sounds judgemental, and certainly it is. If I can tell when someone is a high quality human being, then I can certainly tell when someone lacks the qualities that to me, denote quality. That’s good judgement. By low quality, I mean that rather than wanting to build the world up, they want to tear things down. Often they will take positions they don’t even hold to tear you down. Instead of love, they profess hatred.

    Sometimes they even do this in the name of Christianity. Christ, the man who said that loving God and loving your neighbour is all the law and the prophets would not recognise their strange religion.

    I try to love them at arms length. I feel real compassion for them, but I put down boundaries to keep them far away, and don’t get into arguments with them. They’re disingenuous. They’re energy and truth vampires. I don’t know why someone would be like that, but I must put down hard boundaries to keep them away. I’ve previously in my younger life been a fair bit victimised and I am no longer willing. I will be my advocate, and protect myself. That’s my job.

    It’s your job too. Give yourself a hug, and tell yourself that you will be there for you, that you will keep you safe, and that you will keep people like that away.

    Hopefully many of them will find healing someday but it’s not my job to be their victim.


  4. Will says:

    One of my favourite song lyrics – from ‘The Gambler’ I believe –
    ‘Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run’.
    In the end it’s all about choosing your battles.


  5. Margaret says:

    Yes, sadly, there are a lot of attack-loons out there. On the internet, one doesn’t even have the face-to-face visual clues that are helpful in normal social situations. Have another of those Magnum Double Caramel bars, do.


  6. Medrith says:

    I used to participate in a “fine art” newsgroup- quotes because it was a yelling and name-calling newsgroup. So I left. I tried, reluctantly, networking with other artists on Facebook, and found it to be a great, supportive, helpful bunch of really nice people. Point being, you’re right to avoid the screamers, but we aren’t all like that. Or even mostly.


  7. So very true. I am also amazed how people really do expect you to surrender you position/opinion in the face of their “superior position” and are offended when you won’t. Even if it may be a lone voice in the wilderness, My principles, character and sacred honor are mine and I refuse to run from any street corner bully. Just because I can turn my back, ignore the insanity or refuse to play is not the same as recanting. Sad. Hope the heartburn wasn’t too bad.


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