Susan Cooper

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Nov 4 17:22:25 EST 2003


Deborah wrote:

>On Mon, 3 Nov 2003, Robyn Starkey wrote:
>|
>|>Being PC is "wrong" when it leads to pretence, I think. I do believe that
>|>some kinds of pretence are positively dangerous and lead to huge
>|>disappointment when people discover they've been effectively lied to.
>|
>|This is exactly the experience of some of our students. The attitude of
>|some schools here is that any negative comments are harmful to a student's
>|self esteem.
>
>Yes, but the label "PC" has become an umbrella term covering this
>attitude (which is definitely silly and counter-productive) but also a
>host of other attitudes, such as, say, "teachers shouldn't go out of
>their ways to make students feel stupid for no reason", or "racism is
>probably not good for our community".  By tarring all such attitudes
>with the same brush, and then using over-the-top examples, many pundits
>have managed to ridicule many important ideas by association.

I have a feeling that as soon as something is too much of an umbrella, it
just becomes an all-purpose boo-word and is to all intents and purposes
meaningless unless it is carefully redefined within a particular argument.
With a bit of luck the process of defining it makes everyone forget what
the argument was about in the first place.  (Like a splendid definition
produced once by Langford at a convention, when somebody refered to a pig
sharing another pig's sty: "Sty-mate.  Hmmmm.  Isn't that the position in
chess when it's been so long since anything happened that *everyone* has
forgotten whose move it is?")

>I'm trying to (a) make this on-topic since it's so overtly political,
>and (b) not assume that everyone here shares my politics, or I'll have
>to remove myself from the list for bad behaviour.  Umm.
>..
>Spellcoats: Blondes are heathens, heathens invade, invaders are evil, so
>blondes are evil.  Or something like that.  It's late.

DWJ books are in general written about elites, aren't they?  I mean, all
her major characters tend to have all their limbs and faculties (though one
or two, as in Time City, have visual impairments) and mostly they are
either magic-users or at the very least the sort of people who *do* things
about things rather than sitting around waiting for an undefined "them" to
sort everything out for them.  If they weren't the books would be fairly
pointless and boring: Magids without magic, Own-Back Limited stopping in
and reading a book because they have no pocket-money....  Doesn't quite
work, does it?

In fact isn't it the efforts of the ordinary to emulate an elite that are
at the base of most interesting fiction?  Sometimes it's obvious, but often
enough it's just that the people in the books, the Very Ordinary Hobbits,
when dumped in over their heads and expected to go off and fight the Dark
Lord, do their best rather than not doing anything, and end up somewhat to
their surprise and embarrassment having songs about them sung at banquets
("Nine-Fingered Frodo and the Ring of Doom").

Some people (see Spellcoats) *think* they are ordinary and turn out to be
gods.  Very disconcerting for them it must be, too.  They don't really get
time to notice how very elite they are being, either, which seems a great
shame for their self-esteem not being boosted.

(How's that for going round a series of curves and ending up at the
beginning of the post again?)

Minnow


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