Tag Archives: history

Remembering (And Learning From) The Cuban Missile Crisis In 2020

I know 2020 has been historically awful.

I know this year will leave an unmistakable scar on countless many for multiple generations.

I know it seems like the world, as we once knew and took for granted, is ending and is never coming back.

I’m living this year-long nightmare with the rest of you. I’m experiencing all the bleak news, life disruptions, and major cancellations. For the rest of my life, no matter how it unfolds, I’ll remember 2020 and how it felt like the world was falling apart. While I don’t deny it will recover, albeit slowly, we will move forward.

At the same time, I think it helps to offer a little perspective. As bad as this year has been and as dire as things seem, you can’t definitively say this is the worst it’s ever been. That’s hyperbole and hyperbole is rarely accurate or helpful. To help make this point, I’d like to remind everyone of a real historical event in which the world almost did actually end.

That event is the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s also a wholly relevant event because, as of this writing, we’re entering the third week of October. That puts us right within that critical timeframe between October 15th and October 27th, 1962. During those fateful days, the crisis unfolded. You don’t need to be an expert in history to appreciate how close we came to nuclear war.

The specifics of the crisis are well-known. The USSR had shipped missiles with nuclear warheads into communist Cuba. The United States, feeling threatened, demanded those missiles be withdrawn. Tensions ensued. Diplomatic and military preparations were made. Every hour counted. Every decision was critical. One wrong move and millions would die in nuclear hellfire.

At one point, it came down to the decision of a single human being on a Russian sub. His name is Vasili Arkhipov and I’ve mentioned him before. It’s not an exaggeration to say that his decision not to fire nuclear-armed torpedoes in response to depth charges prevented nuclear war. We really were that close. This video nicely explains the situation.

Personally, I probably owe that man my life. My father was just kid at the time, but he, my grandmother, and grandfather lived just outside of Washington DC at the time. To offer some perspective, they were less than a 30-minute drive from National Mall and that’s accounting for traffic.

If nuclear war broke out, it’s a given that DC would be among the first targets hit. Had the missiles started flying, my entire family would’ve been among those millions of dead. I wouldn’t be here and it’s doubtful that most of the people reading this wouldn’t be here. Unlike a deadly pandemic, it wouldn’t have been a natural disease. Our destruction would’ve been our own doing.

It all unfolded in the span of two weeks. Think about that, relative how skewed our concepts of time have become in 2020. In just two weeks in 58 years, we almost destroyed ourselves and our entire civilization. We were that close to the brink, but we got through it.

It was tense. It took some key decisions from men like Vasili Arkhipov, John F. Kennedy, and Nikita Kruzchev to make it through in one peace, but we made it. There were plenty of opportunities to mess up or make the wrong decisions, but we didn’t. That’s why we’re here in 2020, alive and complaining about having to wear a mask in a restaurant.

Take a moment to appreciate that context.

Take another to appreciate how we moved forward from that event.

After the crisis, both sides of the Iron Curtain went to great lengths to avoid a situation like that. The world shrunk in the sense that communication became more critical. Countries and communities needed to communicate with one another to make sure nothing got overlooked, lost in translation, or mistook.

When there are nuclear weapons in play, you literally cannot afford to make mistakes.

Those were hard lessons for everyone. That’s why I have some sliver of hope that the scars from 2020 will teach us similar lessons. This pandemic has shown just how fragile our civilization still is. It also shows that the deadly forces of nature are apolitical. They don’t care about your ideology, race, or beliefs. They’ll hit us just as hard. They’ll hurt us just as much.

Pandemics don’t give a damn about borders. They don’t give a damn about divisions. They’re as chaotic as a nuclear explosion. They’ll burn and scar anything that gets in their path. We can’t negotiate or bullshit our way out of it. The only way we get through it is by cooperation, compassion, and understanding.

It’s been 58 years since the Cuban Missile Crisis. It left scars on a generation, but those scars ensured we worked harder to avoid nuclear war. I sincerely hope that the scars left by this pandemic will teach a new generation how to cooperate and how to get through a global crisis like this.

Those hopes may seem overly ambitious, given how divided we still are. I believe our desire to not live in a world ravaged by disease or nuclear war will motivate us to unite in the long run.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, politics

Remembering (And Celebrating) Your First Email Address

People of a certain age still remember what life was like before the internet. Trying to describe that age to someone under the age of 21 is like trying to describe a lost civilization. Some just can’t wrap their head around the idea that getting information involved using books, asking a professional, or just giving up entirely.

I consider myself lucky. I do remember the pre-internet days, but for the vast majority of my life, I’ve had access to it. I also came from a family that embraced it fairly early. I had access to a computer long before some of my friends. We didn’t entirely know what to do with it, but I loved exploring it and the digital world it offered.

It culminated, so to speak, when I finally got to make my first email account. That might not seem like a big deal now, but you have to understand that this was a time when few people had access to the internet, let alone an email address. We still called each other on the phone. I’ll give teenagers a moment to stop cringing.

That first email address was mostly a novelty for me. It was also kind of tedious to set up. It was an AOL address, back during an era when AOL ruled the internet. I didn’t know what I’d use it for. This was around 1997. The internet was still such a novelty. We didn’t realize at the time how revolutionary it would be.

Hindsight has revealed plenty, but I can still say with pride that I have that old email address. It’s still active. I still use it regularly. It’s not the center of my internet world anymore, but I kind of take comfort that I’m still using this email address that I set up before high school.

That’s not the case for most of the people I know. Aside from email that was set up exclusively for work, most say they don’t use that first email address they created. For some, it has long since been deactivated. I can’t say I blame them. Some of those early email addresses were clunky and hard to remember.

Those that still have their first email address, and regularly use it, tend to have a unique perspective on the internet. Even those younger than me treat it differently from all the other email addresses they have. Considering how some people have dozens, that’s quite a feat.

With that in mind, I’d like you to take a moment to recount your first internet experiences. It might just help you appreciate how far you’ve come in this digital world we’ve all come to know so well.

What was the first email address you ever created? What did you use it for?

Did you realize at the time why it was so important?

Do you still use that first email address?

How many email addresses do you have in total?

How many have you abandoned or closed?

How much does email impact your day-to-day life?

For young people, these questions may be a bit harder to answer. There’s an entire generation coming of age that has always lived in a world that has the internet. For them, having an internet connection is akin to having clothes. It’s a necessity to function in the current world.

For those in my age range or older, it’s easier to take a broader view of how the internet has impacted your life. They’re still difficult questions to answer, albeit in a unique way. We can remember what life was like without it. Whether you remember that period fondly or not is entirely personal, but there’s no denying the extent of the impact.

I encourage anyone reading this to appreciate this perspective. Take a moment, if you can, to think about that first email address you had and how it impacted your life. Regardless of your age, it helps you see just how far you’ve come and that’s worth celebrating.

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Filed under philosophy, Thought Experiment

Happy Columbus Day (And My Honest Thoughts On It)

First off, Happy Columbus Day!

I know that’s a somewhat political statement these days, but I’ll say it anyways, just to get it out of the way.

I’m not saying it to be political. These days, I try to be very careful about statements that can be even partially construed as political. That’s just the nature of the times we’re living in. We’re so divided, defensive, and tribal that it’s hard to see anything we don’t agree with as a politically-motivated attack.

As a result, Columbus Day has taken on some very political overtones in recent years and not in a good way. It used to just be a day to celebrate the landmark voyage of a famous explorer from the 15th century. That voyage, regardless of the politics surrounding it, opened the door to a new age of exploration between the Americas and Europe. Some believe that is worth celebrating.

On the other side, there are those who rightly highlight the negative impacts and outright atrocities that Columbus’ voyage incurred. If you were a native living in the Americas at the time of his arrival, you had no reason to celebrate. The man ushered in an era that saw the utter decimation of the entire native population.

He was also, even by the standards of his time, quite the asshole. He took slaves. He wasn’t exactly popular with his crew. He might not have been the worst offender of his time, but he certainly didn’t raise the bar.

Like many historical figures from the distant past, Christopher Columbus was a complex figure. There’s a lot we’ve come to know about him, especially in recent years as the less savory parts of his story have become more accessible. With that knowledge and the benefit of hindsight, a critical question remains.

Should Columbus Day still be celebrated as a holiday?

I admit freely that, for most of my life, I saw Columbus Day as little more than an extra day off school. I didn’t know or care much about the man or his story, beyond what I was told in school. Since then, I’ve tried to keep a balanced perspective on him.

If you want a fairly comprehensive assessment on who Columbus was and how we should judge him in the modern era, I recommend the rundown from the YouTube channel, Knowing Better. He does make his biases and opinions very clear, but he still gets the point across.

If there’s one take-away worth gleaning from this video, it’s that we can appreciate the achievements of Christopher Columbus. We can even acknowledge the impact he had on world history, for better or for worse. However, celebrating him as a holiday at this point has connotations and implications that just don’t work in the modern era.

Columbus isn’t history’s greatest monster, but he’s not someone who deserves a state-sanctioned holiday in a country that has a diverse population, including groups that suffered greatly due to Columbus’ legacy. For that reason, I think at the very least, the name of the day should be changed.

Some have proposed calling it Indiginous Peoples Day to celebrate the legacy, as well as acknowledge the hardships, of the Native American populations of the Americas. I would certainly be on board with that.

Perhaps we can call it something more generic like World Exploreres Day or Unity Day. While Christopher Columbus may have been an asshole, he did succeed in one critical area. He took a major step towards connecting the world. Whether they called it the old world or the new world, the result was the same. We are now one world because we dared to explore and connect.

That, in my opinion, is worth celebrating and we can do it without glorifying Christopher Columbus.

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Filed under Current Events, political correctness, politics, rants

How Much Of What We Know Will Be Wrong Years From Now?

Take a moment to consider all the things you think are right, true, and valid. Please note, I’m not referring to opinions. I’m talking about things that are, in your mind, unassailable fact. These are things like certain laws of physics, certain assumptions of politics, and a general understanding of how the world works. To us, they’re both common knowledge and common sense.

Historically speaking, it’s a guarantee that at least some of what you believe to be completely true will one day be proven completely wrong or at least only partially true. It won’t happen to everything you think you know. You may not even live to see it. However, that day will come and you’ll have to consider the painful possibility that you were wrong about something.

I pose this little thought experiment as a means of refining perspective. We like to believe that we live in a time when the great mysteries of the universe are either known, unknowable, or within our grasp within our lifetime. Every generation likes to believe they have a firm grasp of everything they need to know, more so than any generation before them. The idea that another generation might be better than them is untenable.

Again, history says we’re destined to look foolish to the vast majority of people 100 years from now. It’s not just from changing social attitudes. It’s not just in the workplace, either. Rest assured, there are things you accept today that will be wrong, rejected, or scorned in the future.

It’s hard to know what those things are. From a societal standpoint, our current attitudes regarding wealth disparity, the treatment of animals, and how we care for the elderly could be subject to categorical scorn. In some cases, it might just be a product of circumstances, but that wouldn’t make it any less wrong.

In terms of science, it gets even trickier. Over the centuries, there have been a multitude of well-accepted theories that were subsequently proven wrong. If you’re a creationist, don’t get too excited. Those theories were wrong because we uncovered new information that helped us craft better theories that nobody even thought of. It’s how we got things like germ theory, the big bang theory, and quantum theory.

Many of these revelations began with us looking for evidence that we were right. Even though confirmation bias is a powerful force, it can only do so much against an unforgiving reality. Even the likes of Albert Einstein got a number of key issues wrong when seeking to understand the universe.

Years from now, our smartest scientist will seem like a mediocre college student. It’s just a matter of time, effort, and discovery. Every time we think we understand something completely, we uncover information that reminds us just how little we know in the grand scheme of things. It can be frustrating, but it also is what helps us progress as a species.

That doesn’t even begin to factor in the impact of tools like advanced artificial intelligence. Everything humanity knows is limited by how much humanity can collectively understand. Our primate brains are driven by primate instincts. That limits our ability to understand things beyond a certain point. In theory, an advanced artificial intelligence could understand things in ways our brains literally cannot process.

That’s why it’s such an important perspective to maintain. You are going to be wrong about something at some point in your life. Years after you’ve passed away, your children and grandchildren will find out that you were wrong about much more than you thought. It’s inevitable. It’s also humbling and worth embracing.

We’ll never know everything about everything, but knowing more than we used to is always valuable. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also pretty useless in the grand scheme of things.

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Filed under human nature, philosophy, psychology, technology, Thought Experiment

An Uplifting Story About A Man Who Saved Thousands Of Jews From The Holocaust (In Defiance Of Orders)

If you watch the news or follow social media in any capacity, it’s easy to think that the world is going to Hell and we’re all just waiting for our turn to get burned. It’s not hard to find a terrible news story that seriously dents your faith in humanity. Sometimes, it’s not even headline news. There are plenty of stories of people just being assholes.

As I’ve noted before, these types of stories can skew your perspective. In the grand scheme of things, the world is getting better. You don’t have to look that hard for evidence of that, either. The problem is few people bother looking.

To help with that, I’d like to share a brief, but uplifting story from one of history’s darkest time periods. It occurred in the early years of World War II, just as some of the worst atrocities in human history were starting to unfold. In such a time, it’s easy to see the worst in people come out.

At the same time, it can also bring out the best in people. One of those people was a man named Chiune Sugihara. Chances are you haven’t heard of him and that’s a shame because what he did was incredible. At a time when thousands of Jews were fleeing Germany and seeking refuge, Chiune used his position as a vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania to issue visas to refugees.

On top of that, he did this in defiance of orders from the Japanese government. He broke rules and protocol to help thousands of desperate families escape Europe. He was even punished for it after the war. Even so, there are thousands of people alive today because of what he did.

His story is remarkable and one I encourage everyone to learn about. The Holocaust Museum has a nice summation of his actions, but there are so many more. Here is a small excerpt.

Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 hundreds of thousands of Jews and other Polish citizens fled eastward ahead of the advancing German army; many refugees found at least temporary safety in Lithuania. Options for escape were limited and required diplomatic visas to cross international borders. One route was through Asia using a combination of permits issued by foreign envoys responding to the refugee crisis: a bogus visa for entrance to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao and a visa for transit through Japan.

One such diplomat was Japanese Imperial Consul Chiune Sugihara, the first Japanese diplomat posted in Lithuania. In the absence of clear instructions from his government in Tokyo, Sugihara granted 10-day visas to Japan to hundreds of refugees who held Curaçao destination visas. After issuing some 1800 visas, Sugihara finally received a response to his cables alerting the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo of the situation in Lithuania. The Foreign Ministry reported that individuals with visas headed for the United States and Canada had arrived in Japan without money or final destination visas. In his response, Sugihara admitted to issuing visas to people who had not completed all arrangements for destination visas explaining that Japan was the only transit country available for going in the direction of the United States, and his visas were needed to leave the Soviet Union. By the time the Soviets ordered all diplomatic consulates closed, in late August 1940, Sugihara had saved thousands of Jews over the course of just a few weeks. Because of his efforts, Yad Vashem awarded him the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” in 1984.

The story of Chiune Sugihara may not completely restore your faith in humanity, but it should serve as a strong reminder. Even in our darkest hours, people can still do great things for the right reasons.

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Filed under Uplifting Stories

Vasili Arkhipov: Another Man Who Saved The World

It’s amazing and sobering to think that there was a point in human history where one person held the fate of the entire world in their hands. We’re a species that can barely be trusted with fireworks. How can we possibly be trusted with weapons so deadly they can end all life on this planet?

Whether we can be trusted or not, these weapons cannot be uninvented. They’re here and they’re a part of the human condition. I’ve made the argument that in some ways, they have benefited the human race. That doesn’t make all the times we’ve come distressingly close to nuclear annihilation any less distressing.

Last month, I highlighted a man who, at one point, held the lives of every person on this planet in his hand. His name was Stanislav Petrov and this year, he passed away shortly before the 34th anniversary of the 1983 nuclear false alarm that almost triggered nuclear war.

That incident was horrifying in that it came so distressingly close to unleashing a nuclear war and due to a computer malfunction, no less. However, there was another incident two decades before that, one that was also disturbingly close in terms of unleashing a nuclear holocaust. Today, October 27th, happens to mark the anniversary of that terrifying, yet sobering event.

Unlike the 1983 incident, though, this is not one of those lesser-known incidents that got swept under the rug for several decades. This involved something called the Cuban Missile Crisis, a terrifying event that most kids learn about in school.

The official story is fairly well-documented. Cuba becomes a communist state, the Soviet Union tries to base mid-ranged ballistic missiles there, the United States is not okay with that, tensions escalate, and eventually, the situation diffuses when both sides realize that negotiating is a lot easier than nuclear war.

Most kids probably know names like Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro. They’re the main players who get the credit/blame for bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. However, there’s one name that few in America or Russia know about. Like Stanislav Petrov, his name is largely an afterthought in history, but at one point, he literally held the fate of humanity in his hand.

His name is Vasili Arkhipov. He was a high-ranking officer in the Soviet navy. What he did on October 27th, 1962, may very well have saved the world, as we know it. The fact that he did this at a time during one of the most tense standoffs in history makes his accomplishment all the more remarkable.

To appreciate what he did, it’s important to understand just how close the Cuban Missile Crisis came to going nuclear. At one point, a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine was stationed in international waters near Cuba. It was then detected by US destroyers and, in a message that seems pretty mixed in hindsight, began dropping depth charges to force it to surface.

Keep in mind, this sub is armed with nuclear weapons. They also had the authority from Moscow to launch those nuclear weapons if they suspected that war had already started. Once those depth charges started dropping, it’s easy to understand why the officers on board thought that the bombs were already dropping.

That’s where Vasili Arkhipov enters the picture. On that sub, every ranking officer believed that they had to launch. Their sub was running out of air and as far as they knew, if they surfaced, they would only be inhaling radioactive fallout. Everyone on that sub voted to launch. The only one who didn’t was Vasili Arkhipov and because of that, the launch never happened.

Why did Arkhipov’s vote carry so much weight? Well, before he had the fate of the world in his hands, he’d already distinguished himself in an incident involving an ill-fated Soviet submariner called K-19. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis, it resulted in a sub-par movie.

However, the movie did get one thing right. Vasili Arkhipov was a badass who knew how to make hard decisions. Why else would he have been played by Harrison Ford? That incident established Arkhipov as someone whose voice carried more weight than most in the Soviet navy. Even when he was outvoted and outranked, he could make decisions and other people would follow them.

That’s a big part of what sets someone like Vasili Arkhipov apart from Stanislav Petrov. You could argue that Petrov was just in the right place at the right time to make the right decision. That alone makes him a hero.

With Arkhipov, the decision wasn’t as clear-cut. He was an officer in the navy. He had a rank, a responsibility, and a role in one of the most tense geopolitical situations in the history of mankind. He was in a floating coffin surrounded by enemy ships with every other officer wanting to launch a nuclear strike.

He could’ve easily chosen to go along with his fellow officers. Given how badly humans respond to peer pressure, that would’ve been the easiest thing for Arkhipov to do. The fact he chose otherwise is a testament to his ability to do the right thing in a moment where the right thing is hard to grasp.

To appreciate just how hard that decision was, Arkhipov wasn’t even praised for his decision. In fact, he and his crew were disgraced for surfacing in the first place. Sure, he averted a nuclear holocaust, but he didn’t follow the proper protocol that he should’ve after being discovered by the Americans.

Granted, that protocol didn’t involve starting a nuclear war, but it showed weakness during a geopolitical shit storm. This wasn’t like the the 1983 incident in that it could be swept under the rug. This was the Cuban Missile Crisis. You don’t call something a crisis unless it’s that big a deal.

That’s what makes Vasili Arkhipov’s actions on that day all the more remarkable. He was not praised, commended, or even celebrated for his decision that day. He might not have even realized that he had the fate of the human race in his hands at that moment. Remember, he made that decision at a time when, for all he new, nuclear war had already started. Despite that, he did the right thing.

Unlike Stanislav PetrovVasili Arkhipov didn’t live long enough to see his accomplishments acknowledged. He died in 1988 in relative obscurity. He may not have a holiday or a monument named after him, but like Stanislav Petrov, he made a decision that saved the world.

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It’s still scary to think that any one person was in a position to make such a decision to begin with. However, the fact that both he and Petrov were able to do it says more about humanity than any weapon ever will.

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Filed under Current Events

The Horrific Consequences Of Human Stupidity

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We all make mistakes. We’ve all done or said things that make us feel stupid. I certainly have. One time, I tried to impress a girl by claiming I’d eaten a live caterpillar. She just took two steps back, gave me that repulsed look, and made it clear that she did not find that sort of thing attractive. Needless to say, I never got a date with that girl.

Mistakes are a part of life. They’re an understandable part of the human experience. We’re bound to make mistakes because the world is chaotic. Our decisions are bound to be erratic, misguided, or just downright wrong at some point. Even the smartest among us is prone to making mistakes. Just ask a certain high-ranking general who got busted having an affair because he foolishly used unsecured emails.

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Mistakes are one inescapable element of life. Stupidity, however, is the 800-pound, machine-gun toting gorilla in the room that we can’t stop poking with a stick. I’ve spent all week preaching the importance of education. I did so despite all those times I belabored how much I hated high school. I still don’t think I can overstated just how much it matters.

More than anything else, education matters because stupidity comes at a cost. In fact, it can become very costly very fast if you let it. Stupidity, by definition, ensures that we’ll do more than make mistakes. We’ll actually find ways to turn a bad situation worse.

Remember that little story about me trying to impress that girl? Well, I’m lucky I’m not that stupid because if I were, I would’ve doubled down on my claim. Even after she’d been repulsed by the caterpillar story, a stupider version of me would’ve taken it a step further. He would’ve gotten on the floor, found the first bug he could find, and licked it up as though it were the last piece of chocolate fudge. That’s the power of stupidity.

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It doesn’t just hinder our ability to impress the opposite sex either. Stupidity can have huge, world-shaking consequences. I’m not just talking about the brilliant scientists at NASA losing a probe because someone didn’t know the difference between feet and meters. I’m talking about real events that shaped our history due to spectacular acts of stupidity.

It does happen. We humans are capable of that level of stupidity. For better or for worse, a part of why our history and our civilization has manifested like it has is due to some ridiculous acts of stupidity. Some of it is just an honest mistake that just snowballed. Some of it is just stupidity in the highest degree.

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The number of events incurred by human stupidity are too vast and voluminous to list. I could probably start a whole new blog with the sole purpose of discussing how stupidity shaped our world. For now, I’ll keep it to only nine, thanks to the fine folks at Listerverse.

A couple years ago, they did an article that discussed some tiny acts of stupidity that had huge consequences on society, civilization, and the course of history. Granted, there’s no way these people could’ve known at the time the sheer breadth of their stupidity. Hindsight being what it is, though, there’s just no getting around the results.

Listverse: 9 Tiny Mistakes With Monumental Historical Consequences

Read the article and then dare to have a high opinion of the human species. If you’re not much for reading, here’s a few highlights that are worth mentioning.

  • The event that sparked World War I, and World War II by default, hinged on some idiot driver making the wrong turn in Sarajevo.

  • The failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 was an unmitigated disaster because someone in the American military stupidly forgot about the existence of time zones.

  • The fall of Constantinople, one of the most important cities of the Medieval Europe, was almost entirely due to some idiot forgetting to lock the gate.

Some of these mistakes have had huge consequences on our world, even today. There’s no denying the impact of events like World War I or the fall of Constantinople. Without these events, history and society as we know it today just doesn’t exist. How odd/frustrating is it that so many of them hinged on acts of gross stupidity?

Again, hindsight being what it is, it’s impossible to know what could’ve happened had certain people not been so stupid. It’s also important to maintain some sense of perspective when it comes to the stupidity of the past compared to what we deal with in the present.

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We’re actually in the midst of an unprecedented time in human history. As recently as 1820, only 12 percent of the population could read and write. Today, around 83 percent of the world’s seven billion people are literate. That is not a trivial shift. A world with this many educated people is unheard of and nobody really knows what kind of impact that will have on the course of history.

Despite the progress we’ve made, though, there’s still plenty of room for stupidity. Thanks to the internet and social media, we can expect our various mistakes, spectacular or otherwise, to be documented for all to see until the end of time. It’s part of being human, making mistakes and never living them down. Let’s, at least, acknowledge the extent to which some of those mistakes have affected our species.

 

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights

How To Make Sense Of The World In One Easy Step

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When it comes to politics, the news, or general advice, I try to avoid it as best I can on this blog. I want this blog to be a refuge and reprieve from the vast, stinky ass crack that is the real world and the parts of the internet that amplify the smell. That’s why I prefer talking about less dire subjects like sex robots and sex-positive comic book characters.

If I do talk about something that’s in the news or controversial, I usually try to put a humorous and/or sexy spin on it. I don’t want to push an agenda, start a movement, or leader a rally. That’s just too much time and effort that could be better spent talking about hot teachers and bionic penises.

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I know that I sometimes give the impression that I have an agenda beyond selling my novels. I try to minimize that, but sometimes it’ll slip through. I try to avoid it, but I’m not going to apologize either. I’m only human. Every now and then, something I write or say will have some sort of connotation to real world news, events, etc. At the end of the day, I want to make this blog as sexy and fun as my novels.

That being said, I’d like to do something a little different today. No, I’m not going on some sort of political rant. I’m not going to get on a soap box, hold up a sign, and start talking about shape-shifting lizard people. I’ll leave that sort of thing to Alex Jones or the character/troll he allegedly plays.

Instead, I’d like to offer a bit of insight to those still struggling to make sense of the world, the news, and the people claiming that fluoride is an elaborate mind control scheme. It’s not necessarily advice. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I’m as qualified to give advice as I am to build a star ship.

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What I’m offering here is perspective, a precious commodity in a world where everyone has the means of muting messages they don’t want to hear. Anyone who watches the news for more than ten minutes or spends more than five searching for it on their Facebook feed is sure to be overwhelmed, upset, and confused.

It’s just too easy to filter out the news and facts you don’t like. It’s too easy to mold your own agenda into a neat little package that makes you feel content to some extent. Sometimes we do too good a job. Sometimes our agenda is so nice and neat that it does everything other than give us oral sex.

That’s why we need perspective. That’s why we need to step back, see the bigger picture, and understand that we all embrace our own particular brand of fake news, alternative facts, and elaborate excuses. It’s the only way to truly make sense of the world, at least as much as our caveman brains will allow us.

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So here’s how you do it. There’s only one step. It’s free. It’s simple. There’s no complicated instruction manual. It can all be boiled down into three simple words. Brace yourself because this is going to either rock your world, break your heart, or make you yawn. Take a moment if you need to. If not, read along because here it is. Here is the secret to making sense of a chaotic world full of crazy people.

Nobody Knows ANYTHING

Go on. Roll your eyes and laugh. Start calling me names in the comments.  Call me a cuck, a troll, or an agent of the Illuminati. I don’t expect this to blow anyone’s mind or soak anyone’s panties beyond a certain extent. It is, however, as true and honest insight as you’ll ever find in the era of fake news.

Now, I can’t claim to have come up with this on my own. This little bit of insight is actually something one of my old college professors told me on the first day of his class. Before you roll your eyes again, know that this professor could easily have been mistaken for a hobo who just robbed a fancy clothing store. Imagine every pipe-smoking professor you’ve ever had. Now imagine the exact opposite. That’s this guy.

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He dropped this incredible truth bomb on us the first day because he wanted to make clear that he would not be giving us the politically correct version of his class. He was going to be honest in as brutal a way he could without getting fired. The fact he was tenured and admitted to working drunk in the past kind of added to his credibility.

So what exactly did he mean when he said those words? How do they relate to what I mean by it? In the grand scheme of things, it has to do with the certainty we all seek. Our caveman brains, for better and for worse, crave certainty and abhor stress. When we have a gap in our knowledge and understanding, we naturally jump at anything to fill it.

Sometimes it’s a certain news source. Sometimes it’s a certain religion. Sometimes it’s a particular political ideology, social club, or even a TV show. Talk to anyone who was a big fan of “Lost.” They’ll put any charismatic preacher to shame.

Since our brains are so crude and aren’t equipped with a google connection (yet), it doesn’t matter whether or not the source we seek is true. It doesn’t even matter of it’s debunked. Our brains still cling to it because changing our minds causes too much stress and we’ll make any excuse to avoid that stress.

That creates an unavoidable paradox of sorts and I’m not talking about the ones Doc Brown worried about in “Back To The Future.” Our caveman brains are so limited, but they’re wired to seek certainty. However, because of those limits, our ability to achieve certainty on complex issues is next to impossible. In most cases, it is impossible.

Nobody knows for sure what the economy will do today, tomorrow, or even two hours from now.

Nobody knows for sure whether a new product will sell or be a flop.

Nobody knows for sure whether a rookie athlete will be a bust or a hall of famer.

Nobody knows for sure whether a particular movie will be a big box office success like “Deadpool” or an unmitigated disaster like “John Carter.”

Nobody knows for sure whether a law, court decision, or executive order will do more harm than good.

Nobody knows for sure how a new piece of technology will affect society.

Nobody knows for sure whether their theories about life, the universe, and everything in between are accurate.

In the end, nobody knows anything. It’s just that simple.

That’s not to say that we should be inherently doubtful of everything. At most, those who make bold proclamations can only make best guesses. It’s not always accurate, but sometimes it’s fairly close. Other times, it’s just dumb luck. Ask the guy who predicted the Chicago Cubs world series victory in 1993.

We can surmise, speculate, and reason all we want. In the end, nobody really knows anything. Nobody can really be certain. Nobody can have all the facts. That’s why people gravitate towards others who express such certainty. It’s akin to having a superpower. In our minds, having that kind of certainty is right up there with Superman, the X-men, or the Avengers.

Unlike superheroes, though, that certainty is self-delusion at best and a scam at worst. Those who at least try to be reasonable, offering facts and best guesses in extrapolating those facts, deserve a chance and some credibility. If they’re honest, they’ll admit they don’t know everything with absolute certainty. They can be fairly confident, but they can never be completely certain.

Keep this in mind the next time you see a news story, an article, a book, a self-help guru, or a religious zealot. They can only claim certainty, but they don’t know any more than you do. They don’t know anything for certain. That doesn’t make them inherently bad. It just makes them misguided.

I hope this perspective helps. I hope the world makes a bit more sense now. I can only do so much as an aspiring erotica/romance writer. Like everyone else, I don’t know anything with certainty. I know only that I want this blog to be both helpful and sexy. This is just another part of that effort.

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Alternate History Fiction: The Potential And Limits

Contrary to the sentiment I convey on this blog, there are other genres of fiction that tickle my fancy and not in the way that makes my pants feel tighter. It’s true. It is possible for someone to appreciate multiple genres of fiction, even those that are exceedingly different. I’ll give everyone a moment to get over the shock.

While I do consider erotica/romance my specialty as a writer, there is another genre I often contemplate in my quiet moments. It’s a genre that doesn’t make anyone who isn’t an ardent fan of The History Channel horny, but it has a unique appeal and one day, I do hope to explore that appeal in my own writings.

It’s called alternative history. No, I’m not talking about the history of BDSM or alternative relationships that involve multiple partners and/or aliens. I’m talking about elaborate, sometimes exceedingly detailed, scenarios that craft a whole new timeline of our history. From these scenarios, all sorts of stories can emerge. Some are pretty damn successful.

Probably the most recent examples involve Stephen King’s “11/22/63” and Philip K. Dick’s “The Man In The High Castle.” Both of these stories take a seminal event in recent history, namely World War II and the Kennedy assassination, and put a new twist on it. That twist can be pretty intriguing, even if some details would make a historian’s head explode.

Now I like alternative history. It’s one of those guilty pleasures I can enjoy with my pants on. However, there is a recurring theme in these stories and one that tends to undermine the narrative.

It’s an inescapable byproduct of the genre itself. In order to craft stories about alternative history, it’s necessary to make a few too many assumptions that can’t possibly be understood. Until we create a functioning time machine, we just don’t know how changing one detail or another would affect history. There’s a reason why Doc Brown was so uptight about that sort of thing in “Back To The Future.”

What bothers me most when I read historical fiction is how these assumptions tend to fuel certain biases. Those who speculate on the tweaks and alterations on the timelines tend to have an agenda. More often than not, that agenda requires that a good chunk of reality be ignored or, in some cases, spat upon.

By far, the most popular assumptions come from the various “What If” scenarios surrounding World War II. In many respects, World War II is to alternate history what “50 Shades of Grey” has become to BDSM erotica. It is essentially the standard by which all others are measured.

There are already so many flawed assumptions about this period in history and I say this as someone who had relatives fight in this war. Movies, TV, documentaries, and conspiracy bloggers like to craft this flawed image of World War II, as though it was a real battle against an evil force bent on world domination. That makes for great, iconic comic book stories, but it’s about as historically accurate as a Zack Snyder movie.

There are any number of stories that make the same claim. If Hitler had only done this or that, then we’d all be saluting a Nazi flag today and tiny mustaches would never have gone out of style. That’s a tempting and terrifying thought, but thankfully it’s about as valid as a physics lecture by Homer Simpson.

The truth is that the Nazis were never close to winning World War II, America’s involvement had little to no impact on the outcome of the war, and Hitler was an inept basket case who just had more luck than brains. History is rarely that frail because in general, people aren’t nearly as diabolical or heroic as the fiction we craft around them.

The same goes for the JFK assassination. There’s a whole cottage industry around the crazy conspiracy theories surrounding this assassination (see the non-Dan Brown version of the Illuminati). Oliver Stone even made a movie about it, which took so many liberties with proven facts that it would take multiple blog posts for me to list them.

Now I’m not saying these narratives don’t make for great stories. They do succeed in creating a world that’s much more interesting than the one we live in now. Unfortunately, it assumes too much of mankind’s ability to keep secrets, conduct wars, and document their various screw-ups.

For me, personally, I prefer alternative history that just doesn’t give a flying fuck about sticking to the facts. There are some stories that basically just give a big middle finger to history books and craft a less elaborate, but more colorful form of alternative history. For me, the one that really got me into the genre wasn’t a book. It was a video game, specifically this one.

That’s a header for Wolfenstein: The New Order, a video game that came out a few years ago. It’s a bloody, brutal, historically inaccurate shoot-em-up that gives everyone a chance to kill hordes of evil Nazis. It’s as much fun as it sounds.

It also has a powerful story that is, again, exceedingly inaccurate. However, it doesn’t try to be accurate. That’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes it engaging. Nobody outside Alex Jones fans are going to argue the plausibility of the events of this game.

It’s in that overtly implausible spirit that I feel inspired to craft my own alternative history story. However, I don’t want it to be one of those stories that preventing JFK’s assassination will lead to a hippie utopia or that Hitler sleeping in would somehow change the course of World War II. For my alternate history scenario, it needs to be more ambitious. It also needs to be much sexier.

Yes, history tends to be pretty repressive when it comes to sex, but it can still be pretty damn sexy. If you don’t believe me, do some research on the antics of Cleopatra, Theadora, and Catherine the Great. Hell, look up some of the massive amounts of erotica produced during the Victoria era. I promise your pants will be tight for a week. It’s no wonder they needed chastity belts back then.

History is full of horny men, horny women, and people trying to thwart horny men and horny women. Most of the time, those trying to thwart horniess are shoveling sand against the tide. In the long run, the desire to hump, hug, and orgasm wins out.

So with that dirty, sexy thought in mind, I feel like there’s potential to craft a different course of history, one where that potential can manifest into something an erotica/romance writer can appreciate. If done right, I can make history the sexiest topic we all slept through in high school.

How would I do that? When in the timeline would it take place? How much will I upset historians with the liberties I take? Well, these are the kinds of detailed questions that I’m still fleshing out. If and when I complete this process, I’d like to build upon this narrative and possibly set the standard for a sexier brand of alternate history. Between our collective fascination with alternative timelines and BDSM erotica, I think there’s an audience for it.

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