devi: (bookish)
Thing One: Who else watched Margaret, the feature-length drama about the last days of Margaret Thatcher with flashbacks from her career, last week? It was great - if very slow - but the focus was weird. It was all on the pecking-order upheavals and the personalities of the people involved. Every so often someone would make an oblique reference to some policy or other - congratulating her on her economic programme or saying "you're tearing the country apart for a theory!" - or there'd be two seconds of poll tax protesters on a TV in the background, but that was it. And I was like, wot no miners' strike? Wot no Falklands? Etc.

Someone who didn't know any recent history would have been at a loss to say anything she stood for, on the basis of the drama. The zoom was always tight on her - the brilliant Lindsay Duncan, swinging from chilly to neurotic to vulnerable to sometimes actually kind of awesome. But I wanted to wrestle the camera away from the crew and swing it around, zoom it out, to point at all the stuff going on off-screen, and I was left confused as to how we were meant to feel. Scared or sympathetic? I wondered if it was part of a rehabilitation - a swing back towards thinking she was all right really, in preparation for the next election. (Which seems weird to me, that we should be looking more positively at her right now. Didn't her free market policies do a lot to get us in this current mess?) Dan and I mused that it felt as if there had been more about her policies which had been edited out.

And look! We were right! The script did have more specific, critical stuff, including an anti-war speech by hubby Denis, and it was defanged in the final draft. Hmmmm.

Thing Two is Three Worlds Collide, a thought experiment in the guise of an old-fashioned SF story about first contact between future humans and two different alien species (thanks [livejournal.com profile] amuchmoreexotic). It's not very well written - hackwork at best - but it's full of interesting concepts and moral dilemmas. One of the species has based their whole system of goodness and morality around eating their own babies. The others are telepathic, regard the happiness of all as the most important thing (because what hurts one hurts them all, through the freaky and squishy communal psychic sex thing they refer to as untranslatable 2), and thus think not doing one's utmost to eliminate unhappiness is evil. It has a lot of thought-provoking stuff about how difficult it is to conceive of things outside of our evolutionary and cultural worldview. I liked that the baby-eating aliens had science fiction in which all their imaginary other races, however bizarre, also ate their own babies.

(Edit: hey [livejournal.com profile] gothwalk, you might enjoy it, given that economics is one of your Fannish Things. The ship uses a model economic system, with things and ideas constantly rising and falling in value, to help make decisions.)

So that's the good kind of hmmmmm, with one exception. The writer says in the comments that he wanted to include some shocking things in his future human society, since the future will almost certainly include things which are normal for the future people but would be appalling and disgusting to us. Fair enough. Unfortunately, his example of this is that in the future, rape is legal.

warning: icky future-society rape stuff )

This is occupying my mind because it's something I've been wondering about in general for years. When you come up against people of former generations who seem to be closed-minded and set in their ways and suspicious of anything new, it's easy to declare that will never happen to you. You'll always keep up with the new stuff and move with the times. But I suspect everyone thinks that when they're young, then encounters new things they can't cope with. I had been trying to come up with changes that would make me uncomfortable, make me want to huddle up with people my age and complain about the young folks. But "rape is the new socially acceptable fun thing!" isn't the sort of thing I mean. It wouldn't be the shock of the new and inconceivable, it would be the gloom of same-shit-different-century.

I bet between us we can come up with some genuinely shocking possible future developments. Ones that, if they came about when we were all old fogeys, would make us feel the ground had melted away under our feet and we no longer had any place in this crazy new world. Ones which were unknown in recent history and challenged things we had always taken for granted as part of the basic rules of being human.

Just off the top of my head, perhaps medical technology advances - to the point where you can regenerate from almost any damage like Claire in Heroes - have made grievous bodily harm a normal way of expressing annoyance at someone the way swearing at them would be today. Lovers and friends routinely stab and mutilate each other for fun, because internal organs are just so interesting to examine, and it's a different kind of intimacy. Duels to the death, person-hunts and jumping out of planes without parachutes are popular extreme sports.

Or perhaps plastic surgery is standard for all. Or the written word disappears and only the most dedicated scholars learn to read. Or (like in The Meme Machine and the end of The Invisibles) the very idea of the individual self disappears. That sort of thing.

Not, y'know, a 'shocking future development' which reverses something which only changed relatively recently and which is still the case in many parts of the world.

What would you be shocked and horrified to find had changed if you woke up in the future?
devi: (sunhead)
It´s funny the effect losing my bag has had on me. I´d spent weeks carefully constructing this travel self, prepared for every eventuality. Scoured shops for clothes that would cover me up against the insects and dry quickly if I hand-washed them. Packed universal bath plug, two kinds of adaptor, earplugs, a mini-pharmacy. Hunted for tiny toiletries so I wouldn´t have to haul about big bottles of shampoo etc. The careful packing was proof against all the dire warnings and something I used to reassure all the people who were worried about me. It was a mental security blanket. And then it got lost, and I had the odd experience of having to re-buy everything haphazardly, having a foreign rucksack full of unfamiliar Peruvian products and an odd assortment of clothes, all the best of a bad lot rather than anything I´d have chosen. The security blanket is gone, and... I kind of like it. Only having a small bag is brilliant. I´d packed light but this little bag is even lighter. When I´ve been travelling before, the transitional bits between one place to stay and another have been an ordeal. Haul the big heavy bag to the new place as quickly as you can, dump it, lie and gasp for a bit and then explore. This way you can check out of somewhere in the morning, wander around all day, arrive at the next place in the evening and not even be tired. The line between essential and desirable things to bring has moved.

Then there´s language. I know a bit of phrasebook Spanish. I can book things and ask directions and stuff. Somehow (arrogantly, it seems now) I thought this would get me by. I was picking it up all the time, after all. But obviously it´s not enough to talk to people, to understand them, to express things beyond the sort of "Mrs Lopez works for Rover. She has a good salary" stuff in my Instant Spanish book. I am saying things are very good, with the genders mixed up half the time, and saying thank you a lot. And like I found in China, when a lot of your coping strategies revolve around language it feels pretty naked to be without it. But I´ve discovered something very interesting. If you haven´t got much language you are forced to be open and straightforward. You meet some little village kid who throws a handful of leaves over you to welcome you to her village and instead of trying to think up something sensitive and appropriate to say, you just ask what her name is. If you want to ask for something you just ask for it, just the words you need, without ringing it round with a maze of caveats, circumlocutions and apologies. You just say what you mean.

So I was lying on my mat on the floor of a wooden house deep in the jungle last night, staring up at the dark rafters of the banana-leaf-thatched roof. There was a crack in it where you could see one star. The room was full of zigzags of cricket noise, punctuated by dripping from the trees. And I realised, suddenly, that everyone in this house thought I was Dutch and none of them knew my name.

The guide/interpreter guy who had set it up for me to come here, the son of the painter (thereby hangs a tale), had gone home, as had the nice English-speaking boy who drove the mototaxi. I had heard the others, all exclusively Spanish-speaking but for a tiny Japanese girl with no English either, saying I was from Holland. It was what they heard no matter how many times I said "Irlanda". And when they´d spoken to me earlier they thought my name was Gloria or Ji-dah or Dray-da, and I´d say it again and they´d look puzzled, then shrug. It was just an impossible collision of consonants. So there I was, in the middle of the forest. I´d lost my stuff, I´d lost my language, and now it was as if I´d even lost my nationality and my name.

And that felt kind of liberating as well, so that I nearly laughed out loud. It was as if all the extraneous nonsense had been stripped off some fundamental thing that was me. But who ´me´ was wasn´t important. I´m Nobody, I thought, so I can be whatever I like.

Unfortunately all I could actually do at that point was go to sleep, but it´s the principle.

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