The Minority Speaks
Previous parts in this Theme-Archetype Integration series
Part 1 - The Nature of Art
Part 2 - How to Tell Hero From Villain
Part 3 - Showing Character Without Telling
Part 4 - Ownership and Marriage
And previously on Marriage:
Here are some posts on Theme.
This post is of use to Fantasy writers creating Kings, Princes, Dukes and other marriageable scions of high society. It is the kind of thinking necessary to create original Fantasy, not derivative Fantasy.
We'll consider the plight of the minority. and how that plight is now changing fast.
So Theme is a statement (or question) derived from the Artist's view of the universe, from the Vision of Reality the Artist sees that others may easily miss.
Husband and Wife might usefully be viewed as an Archetype - The Couple.
The King, The Warrior, The Warrior-King, The Priest, The Hero, The Villain, and are classic Character Archetypes.
Just because you don't have a Kingdom doesn't mean you aren't a King.
We have the "Man is the King of his Castle" idea enshrined in law. Even if you are just renting, you are King -- you get to kill robbers who break in and threaten your life.
THEME: Humans are territorial animals.
ARCHETYPE: King of his Castle.
Lord of the Manor: Baron.
Even in the U.S.A., we have established a Peerage, a Hierarchy of "importance" -- often based on wealth, as in any Aristocracy, but also very much based on "Rights" and "Privileges."
Privileges are not rights -- they are earned.
One must qualify for a privilege. The theory in the U.S.A. is that anyone can qualify for any privilege, but you don't get the privilege unless you qualify.
That theory is being altered by the adamant support for the idea of "White Privilege" -- that only "white" humans can qualify for, and that they qualify for it without actually doing anything but being born.
In an Aristocracy, certain individuals are chosen by a King to be elevated to the Peerage.
In the U.S.A., you are entitled to trial by a jury of your peers.
I've seen many juries empaneled who did not seem, to me, to be the peer of the person on trial. For example, O.J. Simpson. Nobody on his jury was a celebrity of such renown, so not one person on that jury was his "peer." So in what way do we get trial by our peers?
Note the relationship between the word Peer, and the word Peerage. A Peerage is a hierarchy of aristocrats, a list of successors, a hereditary position.
Peerage - Wikipedia
A peerage is a legal system historically comprising hereditary titles in various countries, comprising various noble ranks. Peerages include: ...
Peerage | Define Peerage at Dictionary.com
Peerage definition, the body of peers of a country or state. See more.
Peerages - definition of Peerages by The Free Dictionary
The rank, title, or jurisdiction of a peer or peeress; a duchy, marquisate, county, viscountcy, or barony. 2. Peers and peeresses considered as a group. 3. A book ...
A Peer is your equal, someone born at the same "level" as you were.
To have a society arranged by Peers is to imply that not everyone is "equal" to everyone else. We are not all the same.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the U.S.A. were written by Aristocrats steeped in British culture as well as a pioneering culture. They came up with a blend of Democracy (mob rule: two lions and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch), and a Republic (the Roman Empire model). Well educated men (all men) decided to invent an entirely new form of social organization.
Never before, not even in Biblical times, was such a free hand invention promulgated -- and it has worked (sort of) for more than 2 centuries (baby on the World Stage).
They had lived under British Rule, and so they understood the concept Peerage in ways you and I do not. When they wrote "jury of peers," they knew what they meant. We do not know. Even modern day Brits do not really know.
But we, Fantasy writers, can imagine or invent new meanings and create worlds inhabited by humans alongside non-humans (Fairies, Elves, Trolls, Zombies, Vampires, Gnomes, Griffins, Furies).
Last week, we discussed the TV Series, Lucifer, and the way Fantasy handles the archetype The Immortal. And we delved into how your Self-Image (personally, as the writer) is visible to readers in your Theme, even when you can't see it yourself.
There we referred to an article on bbc.com about scientific studies of Eastern and Western civilizations and how they think in profoundly different ways -- Collectivism vs Individualism.
Think now about whether Immortals form a Group - or a "level" -- a Peerage?
What exactly is a Peerage? What differentiates King from Duke from Baron?
Basically, it is wealth -- the amount of Land each level commands. All Barons are peers as they control about the same amount of land (and number of peasants to work that land). Dukes command (not own, as the King owns all) a number of Baronies. And Kings command all the Dukes, Counts, every level.
Kings get to command them all by virtue of owning all the land, and then handing command of the various segments to the various levels.
Originally, (as far back as Biblical times) Kings got to be King by leading armies to conquer and just TAKE the land. And then they would appoint men who had fought well and loyally for them during that campaign to command sections of land.
In return, the appointed ones got to keep profits from their lands, but had to be able to muster troops for the King when battle might loom.
So a King is peer only to another King, Counts and Dukes are at about the same level, one step below the King, and Barons etc are peer to other Barons etc. Who is heir to whom, and who inherits what depends a lot on who marries whom.
So we get to the "arranged" marriage -- and the social rules about marrying someone who is not your peer.
It is all an imaginary way to create "levels" or "classes" or "castes" in human society.
Can you imagine a society of humans, a state or country, where all humans are entirely and completely equal to, the peer of, absolutely identical to, every other human? All have the same amount of money, the same square feet of apartment, the same clothes?
It is easy to imagine such a situation among Aliens from Outer Space, harder to see it among Fantasy creatures. Most of our classical mythology depicts the society of the gods in a heirarchy under a King.
I don't know any myth system that has more than One God that depicts all the supernatural beings as identical or in any way equal.
There is always a contest, a competition, to see which is more powerful than the other. We see that in the story of the Exodus where there is a contest (of sorts) between the Egyptian gods and the Creator of the Universe.
So even our Heavens are created in a hierarchy of non-equals.
The framers said "All Men Are Created Equal" -- but they didn't say that men had to stay that way (and of course never mentioned women -- boy, did they get blindsided or what?)
THEME: there is something in human nature that requires social hierarchy for health, but how hierarchy is created differs vastly.
Concurrently with the Framers of the Constitution being born and growing up, being educated and founding fortunes, France was brewing the ouster of its Peerage and science was gathering steam as mathematics and data handling became possible.
Change moves so fast now that we forget it took a century to accomplish what we have done in the last few decades.
Population is exploding, and with it the task of governing so many people has become nearly impossible.
Therefore, we have resorted to dividing human population into neat little compartments containing humans who are all equal to each other. But the inhabitants of a compartment are not equal to the inhabitants of another compartment. The science of this is called Statistics.
Creating and defining "compartments" must precede "getting organized" or creating a government. A government can't govern if it does not know what exactly it is governing and to what end it is shaping the behavior of that population.
Dukes needed farmers and ranchers to work the land, artisans to manufacture things (such as weapons) and soldiers and Knights to answer the King's muster. Dukes might enjoy or just tolerate minstrels to keep the peasants entertained. That was the mob they had to govern, and it was pretty simple as they knew almost everyone by name or surname.
Here is an article that traces the development of the information that government needed to govern as the Middle Class developed, nations conquered more territory, and Kings confronted other Kings further and further away. It delves back to the 15th Century and shows what kind of change we are in the middle of now.
This article from The Guardian presents the thesis that Statistics has lost the confidence of the public because it is impossible to take small, local communities into account when measuring national level statistics such as unemployment and GDP. It is a great article, long and complicated, but Fantasy Writers inventing Kingdoms and Wars (with Elves, Goblins, or whatever) need to read this article and understand what it says and why it says it. In short, it says statistics is regarded as vulgar.
But at the same time as you read in The Guardian, keep in mind this item on statistics failing to capture cervical cancer rates, and why reports indicated the cervical cancer rates were lower than they really are. I think THIS is the real reason people distrust statistics these days.
It is from a newsletter called The Skimm January 24, 2017.
--------quote The Skimm----
WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU FINALLY GET AROUND TO MAKING YOUR ANNUAL APPOINTMENT...
Important. A new study found that cervical cancer is a bigger threat to US women than people realized. For years, the mortality rate for the disease was based on data that included women who’ve had hysterectomies. Hysterectomy: the procedure that typically removes a woman’s cervix, and - yup - the risk of cervical cancer. Once the data excluded those ladies, it showed a different picture. Even worse, the death rate is much higher for black women than white women. Some doctors say that could be because black women don’t have equal access to screenings or health coverage. Big problem.
And here is an excerpt from the article in The Guardian about why statistics has lost public confidence. Convey this information to your reader using dialogue in short, snappy sentences fraught with subtext.
There was initially only one client for this type of expertise, and the clue is in the word “statistics”. Only centralised nation states had the capacity to collect data across large populations in a standardised fashion and only states had any need for such data in the first place. Over the second half of the 18th century, European states began to collect more statistics of the sort that would appear familiar to us today. Casting an eye over national populations, states became focused upon a range of quantities: births, deaths, baptisms, marriages, harvests, imports, exports, price fluctuations. Things that would previously have been registered locally and variously at parish level became aggregated at a national level.
New techniques were developed to represent these indicators, which exploited both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the page, laying out data in matrices and tables, just as merchants had done with the development of standardised book-keeping techniques in the late 15th century. Organising numbers into rows and columns offered a powerful new way of displaying the attributes of a given society. Large, complex issues could now be surveyed simply by scanning the data laid out geometrically across a single page.
The thesis of this long document is that Statistics is now distrusted because it captures the aggregate behavior of large populations but does not address the experience of the individual. Here's how the article puts it:
Blindness to local cultural variability is precisely what makes statistics vulgar and potentially offensive
Note this article is in THE GUARDIAN, so use of the word "vulgar" is possibly misleading to Americans.
The writer of Fantasy Romance may gain a lot by being skeptical of the idea that blindness to local cultural variability has anything to do with why the general population of the 21st century "distrusts" statistics. Again, consider the "scientists" and "mathematicians" who decided to lump women who had their cervix surgically removed with those who had not, to create a low-incidence statistic.
Would you choose to include women who had their breasts removed in statistics of the incidence of breast cancer?
Science is now and always has been under pressure by politics and religion to get the results that are most profitable or beneficial to those in political or religious power positions. Science has fought against this, but we never know which topic will fail to resist pressure. That trait is the source of wonderful plot twists.
One alternative idea to explore is innate in the mathematics behind statistics -- statistics only yields useful information when analyzed in one direction, but not ever in the other direction.
Prejudice, (ethnocentrism, racism, bigotry) are cognitive errors based on trying to work a statistical equation backwards.
1. Most Terrorists are Muslim
2. This person is a Muslim
3. Therefore this person is a Terrorist
Or another example:
1. White races have unique unearned privileges
2. This person is of a white race
3. Therefore this person has had advantages of privilege unearned
Statistics, plain math, counting, multiplying, dividing -- very simple stuff -- can determine that most individuals of a category of human share a certain trait. But statistics can not determine if any given member of that category of human actually has that common trait.
Statistics can not work backwards.
In talking of society as a whole, in seeking to govern the economy as a whole, both politicians and technocrats are believed to have “lost touch” with how it feels to be a single citizen in particular.
Yet most media outlets, even school textbooks these days, and general conversational English assumes that statistics does indeed work backwards -- what math can reveal about a Group can tell you something about any individual member of that group.
Hillary Clinton became famous for the phrase, "Basket of Deplorables" - lumping all supporters of Donald Trump together as a category (basket) and assigning them all the quality "deplorable."
You had only to have a certain Presidential Preference to get into the basket -- so if you were in the basket, you also necessarily shared an unrelated trait, deplorable.
Statistically, that may be accurate, but faced with an individual supporter of Donald Trump, you dare not assume that individual is a "deplorable." That individual may in fact have non-deplorable reasons for preferring Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, or they might just be wholly ignorant of Trump's misdeeds.
Statistics can't tell you anything about an individual. But it is a powerful tool for analyzing large bodies of data.
This article from The Guardian shows you the historical link between Liberal Democracy and Statistics via the history of government.
Then it shows you the way Statistics as a science is being disrupted or rendered useless by the whirlwind of technological change.
For roughly 450 years, the great achievement of statisticians has been to reduce the complexity and fluidity of national populations into manageable, comprehensible facts and figures. Yet in recent decades, the world has changed dramatically, thanks to the cultural politics that emerged in the 1960s and the reshaping of the global economy that began soon after. It is not clear that the statisticians have always kept pace with these changes. Traditional forms of statistical classification and definition are coming under strain from more fluid identities, attitudes and economic pathways. Efforts to represent demographic, social and economic changes in terms of simple, well-recognised indicators are losing legitimacy.
As we've discussed many times, the entire science of Public Relations (PR) and thus the big business of Advertising (getting people to do something against their own best interests and for your profit), is based on the mathematics and science of Statistics.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_relationsJump to Definition - "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics." Public relations can also be defined as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.
Note that definition says "mutually beneficial." If it requires "strategy" to make someone do something, then that something is not beneficial to the one strategized against.
You use "strategy" to get people to do things that benefit you, and you tell yourself it is "for their own good."
You don't need strategy to make people do things beneficial to themselves. Strategy is a form of aggression and there's nothing micro about it. Hobson's Choice is a strategy to make someone take an unacceptable option to the benefit of Hobson.
The essence of Story is Conflict.
Conflict illustrates or symbolizes Theme.
So the problem is to govern a large and growing population of Individualists who don't know what's good for them (but you do).
It takes centuries, but you finally get a handle on it via Statistics so you can predict how sub-groups of the population will react.
Then, suddenly, they don't react as expected (Brexit, Trump).
Why? What happened?
Twitter. Facebook. Big Data.
Read this article from The Guardian we've been discussing.
The rise of identity politics since the 1960s has put additional strain on such systems of classification. Statistical data is only credible if people will accept the limited range of demographic categories that are on offer, which are selected by the expert not the respondent. But where identity becomes a political issue, people demand to define themselves on their own terms, where gender, sexuality, race or class is concerned.
"Basket of Deplorables" is a demographic category chosen by someone other than a denizen of that basket.
The denizens of the basket, now living in a customizable world thanks to Microsoft, want to define their own basket.
In recent years, a new way of quantifying and visualising populations has emerged that potentially pushes statistics to the margins, ushering in a different era altogether. Statistics, collected and compiled by technical experts, are giving way to data that accumulates by default, as a consequence of sweeping digitisation. Traditionally, statisticians have known which questions they wanted to ask regarding which population, then set out to answer them. By contrast, data is automatically produced whenever we swipe a loyalty card, comment on Facebook or search for something on Google. As our cities, cars, homes and household objects become digitally connected, the amount of data we leave in our trail will grow even greater. In this new world, data is captured first and research questions come later.
In the long term, the implications of this will probably be as profound as the invention of statistics was in the late 17th century. The rise of “big data” provides far greater opportunities for quantitative analysis than any amount of polling or statistical modelling. But it is not just the quantity of data that is different. It represents an entirely different type of knowledge, accompanied by a new mode of expertise.
So suddenly the goal is no longer to predict the behavior of large groups of humans -- but rather to predict and prompt/guide the behavior of individuals. (Facebook ads; Google Adwords).
Facebook and Google show you ads for products you've been browsing, or related items others like you might have bought. ("like you" is rapidly becoming much more accurate.)
THEME: This application of technology, Data Mining, is going to render the Character Motivations you use in your novels that you are writing, incomprehensible to readers 20 or 40 years from now.
Think about that. If you wrote a novel today that used Character Motivations rooted in the culture that will grow out of being governed not by a government of statistics (GDP) but of Big Data, customized government, personally customized LAWS??? -- today's readers would not understand that Character.
The Regency Romances being written today depict the women as 21st Century, individually strong, independently minded humans. They were not any such thing. Even those with a character pre-disposed to independent thinking were emotionally crippled compared to today's woman.
Think about a writer 40 years from now depicting you, today, without understanding the statistics driven world?
What is the looming statistical horror of today? Income Inequality -- the extreme difference between the 1% and the lower 50% of the population.
What is the biggest issue driving our collective concerns? Women's health? Minority Rights? Women aren't quite a "minority" these days, but at times and in places we have been.
We have had our first "minority" President in Barak Obama, and almost had the first woman President in Hillary Clinton.
There is a yearning in the U.S.A. to place "minorities" in government, in "power" (though U.S.A. government officials have no power; only voters have power).
How would someone born and raised in a world where government uses Big Data to manage policies view our driving will to see Minorities rise in the Peerage?
Raised in such a world of the future, would they even know what a "Minority" is? Or would they care?
From the perspective of that (not so far) future, your readers would be sorely puzzled by the antipathy to Donald Trump and his millionaire riddled cabinet.
The media is brim full of articles decrying the absurd and insane wealth of the 1%.
The reader raised in our Big Data Governed future will look at those articles and then at all the articles about the unfair treatment of minorities, and be unable to understand why we admire a President from one minority (Blacks) and decry a President from another minority (1%).
The Super Rich are a very tiny minority, so if we want minorities to take turns governing, then why would we object to the rich getting a turn?
THEME: All Minorities Should Get a Turn Governing
Explain, using symbolism and conflict, why certain minorities (Kings, Dukes) should govern and other minorities should not.
Remember, you are explaining this to a readership that has no concept of "statistics" and thus can not encompass the idea of a "1%" as a category, or a "basket," -- as a homogeneous group. What do the Super Rich have in common with each other besides money? Nothing. So those used to a government guided by Big Data and Deep Diving into Big Data simply have no referent for the concept "the" Super Rich. They don't have a concept for "Hispanics" or "Blacks" or "Asians" or "Muslims" or "Jews." These words do no summon to mind a visual of a Group.
Grouping the way we think of it just makes no sense if you are managing individuals by knowing everything about that individual.
Differences matter more than Similarities.
As this article points out, attributes defining groups become "fluid."
Writers who live in that world will put Characters into our world who do not think the way we do. So what will they think? How can you explain us to them?