Archive for May, 2017

“OK. Let’s go”

May 30, 2017

It’s been a while.

I’ve had writer’s block for most of the last decade, which was a challenge for a freelance writer and MBA student.

Alcoholics Anonymous has an invitation read out at the beginning of every meeting, which includes this sentence:

“We have learned that the reasons for the illness are unimportant.”

In the original text, it stands alone, to emphasise the point.

A problem of atheistic humanism is that, if one recognises free will, one tends to search for causes to our problems where they cannot be found (determinist theists have the same problem, but with a lazy or wicked God as the culprit). A perfectionist has it worst of all: everything has to be meticulously analysed BEFORE any positive action can begin.

Looking for the cause of a problem is usually a good way to start finding a solution. For instance, an allergy to peanuts explains the swelling of the oesophagus, so stay away from them in future. 

But ignoring a patient thrashing around on the floor who is suffocating whilst looking at allergy test results isn’t medicine (except in the NHS, yes I’ve seen this sort of thing, more than once).

So about a year ago, I decided to write some book reviews, here and/or on Amazon, to get back into writing.

What could possibly go wrong?

What happened was this SUPERB review of David Fischer’s 900-page history of English migration to the USA Albion’s Seed by Scott Alexander.

I may sometimes have problems accurately estimating the quality of my writing (over- and under-estimating my skill). But in this case I know when I’m a Polish torpedo boat up against the Bismarck.

I used to play Alpha Centauri, a computer game about the colonization of its namesake star system. One of the dynamics that made it so interesting was its backstory, where a Puerto Rican survivalist, an African plutocrat, and other colorful characters organized their own colonial expeditions and competed to seize territory and resources. You got to explore not only the settlement of a new world, but the settlement of a new world by societies dominated by extreme founder effects. What kind of weird pathologies and wonderful innovations do you get when a group of overly romantic Scottish environmentalists is allowed to develop on its own trajectory free of all non-overly-romantic-Scottish-environmentalist influences? Albion’s Seed argues that this is basically the process that formed several early US states.

Mr Alexander proceeds to give an exhaustive analysis of four waves of migration, explaining almost everything about American society and politics, including the Donald Trump presidency. Which would be amazing enough, even if it didn’t tip me into predicting a Trump victory.

Whatever. Instead of (over)anlysing, I’m going to give it a go.