Saturday, July 1, 2017

Awareness of race is not racism, awareness of abuse doesn't make you an abuser

There is a tendency of people in the present to judge you for what you are entertained by.  I am not
sure that is fair, because I think the reader is well able to discern right from wrong, and not be "recruited" into different world views due to fiction.

I've heard many people say that Robert E. Howard was racist.  They read his stories and see the black man, the yellow man, the white man.  Those are terms for race within the human species.  But Robert E. Howard identified with the barbarian.  He believed that the various races had qualities and talents, and he never made a whole race wrong for an act or beliefs stated by a single person of that race.  He believed that we were different, but he did not say, the one was better than the other.  Only in the area of civilized society versus barbarian society, where he clearly believed that the barbarian was honest if not polite, and the civilized person was polite, but not necessarily honest. 

I've heard similar comments about the women in RE Howard's works.  And I think that is a load of crap as well.  He was a male, and wrote women from a perspective that might not have been true, but it for certain was not one of women are less than men.  Conan's days with Belit of the Black Coast saw him as subordinate to a queen pirate.  The various women his heroes rescued, if they did were not lesser for being rescued, but needing help.  I am not blind to sexism, but most people see it in the case of Robert E. Howard, where it does not exist.

On the other hand... John Norman, author of Gor wrote, and still writes a series of books featuring the counter Earth planet GOR.  The world itself is an analogue for our world, only Gor is trapped in permanent dark ages due to certain intrigues by people in the shadows.  The story begins with an educated man being swept away to this counter Earth.  There, the man of letters and intellect is forced to become a warrior, and encounters a world where the only laws are the survival of the fittest, and men are superior to women.  I am not going to argue that John Norman isn't a sexist or anything of the sort.  But I don't think if a person reads the stories that it means they are in favor of evil or bestial behavior.  And, honestly, and this might not go over well, I think that if John Norman had written the same story with men subservient to women, it wouldn't have sold as well, and it would not have been controversial.   I read the first half of the books of the series.  I get weird looks when I acknowledge that I have read them.  But I am not, by any means a sexist.  My wife is the bread winner, I love women, I treat them with respect, and I think they are awesome.  As a general thing, that is.

But I want to say, beginning the series you are able to carry on innocent fantasy, but by book 10 or 12, the enslavement of the women is so obvious it is hard to deny.  As such, the more it seemed to revel in the darkness and gender inequity, the less I was able to enjoy the imaginary world I was viewing.  By the book 12 of the series I said wow, I just read the last of the books I will read of this series.  John Norman is not known to be a bully or asshole in person.  He had a long marriage and children.  And he taught philosophy in college for a very long time.  In other words, I don't think he necessarily enjoyed the concept, but was using it as the dominant world system.  Or maybe he did.  I don't know, but just by reading it I do not automatically become a sexist, or a racist, or anything.  I'd didn't join the fucking empire after watching Star Wars, damn it.

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