The Chimaera Regiment Trailer

Check out the trailer for The Chimaera Regiment, due to be released this Friday, April 18!

You may recognize the images of the book cover and the map, as well as another that has not yet made an appearance (but when you’ve read the book, it will make sense). The music in the book is an original composition by Art Turner, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s excellent.

Please share this video with your friends in anticipation of the release on Friday!

Novels, Announcements, and Manhood

This is the front.

This is the front.

First, you’re probably hoping for an update about something I’ve written. The Chimaera Regiment is pretty much finished. It’s all written. It’s all edited. Except for a few typos, the book is done. It even has a tentative cover (right), and a map, too (below). It has not, however, been published.

I'm a map!

I’m a map!

I know, I know, it’s terribly frustrating, watching me work. “When will it be finished?” you ask, “When can I read it?” Well, as you may recall, almost two years ago I began an ill-advised and sorely underfunded Kickstarter project, about which I am definitely not bitter. The goal of this project was to produce The Chimaera Regiment as an audio-book (I believe the kids these days call them “audio weblogs” or perhaps “pod-casts”), for which I myself would be voice and guide.

The long and short of it is that this plan forges onward, without the help of crowd-funding. I have less than half the book recorded, none of it edited, and completing all of that will take some time. (Frankly, it should take less time than will pass in its pursuit, but my time is at a premium, and some things take precedence.) It promises to be a grand adventure in roaring fun with a musical soundtrack specially composed to match. Look forward to it.

When the audio-book is complete (not only completed in terms of production, but completed also in terms of performance for the masses), then the book will be published, at which time, you can buy it and read it (in your own, boring voice). Since there are 19 episodes for the audio-book, that means that it will be (A) the rest of production time, plus (B) 19 weeks of release before the printed version (or Kindle version, for that matter) is available.

Certain contests may be result in certain contest-winners receiving signed copies early. Pretend you still have an analog radio, and that anything I produce will actually be on the radio, and then remain attentive to my station by avoiding the rotating knob on the front of your hypothetical radio-wave device. (“Stay tuned!” and “Don’t touch that dial!”)

With that out of the way, I come to my second bit of happy news: my wife is with child, and after the circuit of the days, she will bring forth a son. The joy of these times seems renewed every morning, and cannot be touched by the shadows of despair. I am ecstatic. And so, with my vast array of parenting experience (I have managed to keep the child alive for about sixteen weeks, which is more than a lot of fathers can say these days), I am endeavoring to comment on an issue that stands before our culture in a way that is very poignant:

Masculinity.

There have been a lot of books written about masculinity (especially in relation to Christianity). I’ve read plenty of them. There was Wild at Heart by Eldredge, A Young Man After God’s Own Heart by George, The Samson Syndrome by Atteberry, and probably a dozen others that I don’t remember now. You see, when I was a boy, I desperately wanted to be a man. That’s the dream, after all, of all boys: manhood. Whether we idolize our fathers or despise them, we want to be real men. And almost all of us differ on what it means to be a man. Most often, I hear two sides of this argument: “We have to stop feminizing men and attacking masculinity in this country!” versus, “The masculinity presented by society is too violent, and boys need to know that emotions are okay!”

In truth, these two positions are not opposed. As men, and as fathers, we must stand against the effeminacy of the modern man; but as men, and especially as fathers, we must stand against the violent tendencies that our high-spirited wildness seeks to engender. I recently saw a video posted on social media decrying the violence encouraged among the boys of society.

It was not terribly long ago that I was a boy, and – mostly from my peers – I kept hearing about how I should behave, especially around women. Most of their advice was, of course, terrible, and I saw that even then. I heard a lot of the comments echoed in the video above, and when I was teaching high school, I heard even more. The fact of the matter is that these comments are pervasive and perpetual, and they don’t only come from fathers. Perhaps they once did, but now, they are spread by peer groups, father-figures like teachers and principals, even mothers whose husbands and baby-daddies left them for less fertile pastures, so to speak. Society as a whole perpetuates the notion of the violently authoritative man. Only the violent man gains respect, because respect and fear are seen as one and the same.

But to be respected, a man must be loved; to be respected, fear must never enter the equation, because perfect love casts out all fear. You cannot beat respect out of another man; violence only elicits fear, and fear only resembles respect among the cowardly. No amount of violence can create respect in a man who is not cowed by his fear. A man like this has courage, and stands for himself – but more importantly, he stands for others. A man who deserves respect is not the one with the biggest stick, but the one with the strongest shield.

So certainly, we must teach our sons not to respond with violence when they are emotionally slighted. Such behavior is inherently unmanly; it is an expression of the fear that someone else could humiliate you, the fear that you have no control – but the truth is that adherence to this behavior, like all sin, is to cede control. In allowing violence to take over, you place your will beneath the fire in your heart.

Ironically, effeminacy is caused by the same thing – except the feelings in charge are seen as feminine, such as tenderness and sorrow. From the perspective of the modern man, there are three emotions: happiness, sadness, and anger. Happiness is what people would have if the world were perfect; sadness is feminine; and anger is masculine. From this perspective, when a boy is sad, he is seen as effeminate; when he is angry, he is seen as masculine; when he is happy, he is seen as naïve. Since he is a boy, the modern man sees feminine as bad, masculine as good, and naïve as foolish; the only emotion encouraged is anger, and uncontrolled anger begets violence.

That is not to say that effeminacy is a figment of the gangster’s imagination. On the contrary, many of those opposed to violence make the same assumptions, only they call sadness “tenderness.” Tenderness is feminine, anger is masculine, and happiness is foolish, because the world is a hard place. Since anger leads to violence, then masculinity is bad, so femininity must be good, and all boys should be encouraged to let their tenderness control them. And it’s true – when you make your will subject to your tender emotions, you will not be violent. But you will also not be manly. Instead, you will cower when threatened, and when someone attacks you or your friends, you will be defeated without contest. And every time a teacher punishes a boy for fighting back against a bully, s/he perpetuates this problem – after all, the bully still hears about how he must be masculine, angry, and violent at home, but now the bullied learn that even self-defense will be punished.

We see here two sides of the same coin: allow your anger to control you, and you will be “masculine,” which means violent; allow your tenderness to control you, and you will be “gentle,” which means effeminate. The real solution is to attack the root of the problem: we’re still flipping the same damn coin.

Violence is not the answer; neither is pacifism. The right answer is the victory of the will. Do not let baser things rule that which was designed to rule. When your urges command your decisions, you have already lost – regardless of which urges are in command. If your violent urges rule, then you will be violent; if your tender urges rule, then you will be effeminate.

But if your will rules, you will be a man.

Our violent tendencies can be dangerous, but when tamed, they can protect the ones we love from harm. Our tenderness can weaken us if left uncontrolled, but when harnessed, it can lead us to lay down our lives for those we love – both literally and figuratively. It is not enough to die for your family; first, you must live for them.

I pray that these are the lessons I will teach my son about masculinity.

Work, Money, and Financial Distribution

The above video focuses on one point: there is an unequal distribution of wealth in these United States of America. Now, granted, it disguises that point as three separate graphs (the ideal, the perceived, and the actual distributions of wealth), but the primary point is to spread awareness about the situation.

I will grant a few important concessions to the above video: First, it tries very hard to remain politically neutral. It emphasizes that Republicans and Democrats alike think that the ideal distribution of wealth would spread the dollars a little more evenly than they are now. It does not use terms like “unfair,” which immediately smack of entitlement issues. It admits the economic shortcomings of socialism. It does not push a particular legislation, example, or ideology as the solution to this issue, but merely highlights the issue’s existence.

But there are a few shortcomings in this video, too. Even in its attempts to remain neutral, biases still slide through. There are quotation marks around “dreaded” in describing socialism; this disassociation with the original quote (supposing there were one) implies disagreement with the original speaker, suggesting a left-leaning political view. A right-leaning political view would have left the quotation marks out, implying agreement with the sentiment that socialism is “dreaded.” A truly neutral view would have left the adjective out altogether.

Furthermore, there is a certain amount of emphasis on the term “Republican,” by both word order and verbal accent, that suggests the maker of the video found it important to emphasize Republican agreement with the ideal distribution; this tends to happen when the maker of a video knows s/he is opposed to a group that s/he must convince, and this awareness drives a wedge even as it attempts to build a bridge. A truly neutral view would have said, “Remember: 92% of people agreed with this ideal distribution, regardless of their political perspective.” At least, that’s about as neutral as you can get while making a video about wealth distribution.

There is a hint of agreement with the Occupy Wall Street movement, when the video discusses the enormous wealth of the 1%, and that, too, will drive a wedge between the video’s message and its intended audience. The people who don’t already agree with wealth redistribution also don’t like the Occupy Wall Street movement, and associating yourself with it – even tangentially – is not going to do you any favors. Democrats, in general, support higher taxation and higher entitlements, which is precisely what the Occupiers sought, whereas Republicans tend to oppose that sort of budget, and thereby oppose the Occupiers. If you start suggesting that the Occupiers were right, you’re going to lose most of your audience right there. Better not to mention them at all.

Now, let’s move on to the meat of this issue: the fairness of current wealth distribution. The above video acknowledges that some of the top 20% work harder, and therefore earn more, than lower brackets, but questions whether the CEO works over 300 times as hard as his/her average employee. This highlights precisely why so many Americans are uncomfortable with the current distribution of wealth in these United States: there is an extremely common belief that there is a direct relationship between hard work and money.

Why is that? Well, in the industrial era, it was completely true. The harder you worked, the more you earned, and the more people noticed you, so the more you got promoted. When you got promoted, you got more work and more money. Plus, it’s part of the standard “American dream.” You show up, you work hard, maybe 60-80+ hours of work each week, and sooner or later, you’re going to get rewarded with a cush, highly paid position, like the CEO or the Chairman of the Board. Classic movies and TV shows and books talk constantly about how the wealthy worked hard to get where they are, and you’ve got to work hard, too. (Although, really, we should have seen through that one, because that’s always indicated to be at least a little false through the course of the story – even as far back as Dickens’ Hard Times, in which Josiah Bounderby is shown a fraud for all his claims of being a self-made man.)

Whatever the source, this notion runs rampant among the working class. Perhaps it was an invention of the ruling class to keep the working class working and the ruling class ruling – but I suspect it was less devious than that. It’s not exactly a false notion, after all – if you work harder, you tend to get paid more and get more promotions. But even if you’re the hardest worker in your company, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll become CEO – and even if you become CEO, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be in the top 10%, much less the top 1%, of American earners and owners. Why? Because work does not equal wealth.

Somewhere along the line, somebody figured out that economic principles can be manipulated. It’s not illegal, despite the connotations of the word “manipulate,” and it’s debatably not even wrong. Instead of working hard, as they say, some people started working smart. They know economics, and they use economics to get money into their own pockets instead of someone else’s. This is where trading on the stock market, managing hedge funds, and controlling investment portfolios becomes far more important than “working hard.” By using economic principles to predict where money will be, you can get your hand into that cookie jar before the cookies even show up; that’s an overly simplistic expression of it, but it’s effectively accurate.

The above video made an important point on this topic, but I’m not sure they realized it: the bottom 50% of Americans own less than 0.5% of all investments, which means that they’re not investing. The reason the top 1% owns 50% of the investments? They’re investing. They did that “hard work makes money” thing for a while, and when they had a little capital saved up, they invested it, and they invested it well. That made them more money, which they invested some more, until suddenly, they own everything and they look like jerks for not giving it away for free.

There’s another reason the rich are rich and the poor are not. Why do you suppose the poor and middle classes are “working hard” but not making money? Is it because the rich are evil? Those dastardly villains, twirling their handlebar mustaches ‘neath their top hats while they smack street urchins with diamond-topped canes! Right?

Wrong. The poor and middle classes are not making money because they’re spending the vast majority of their money paying off debts. Credit card debt, new car debt, new house debt, student loan debt – you name the debt, they’ve got it. Because there’s one other thing that the rich do with their money: they offer it to people who don’t have any. Now, consider for a moment that rich people are rich, so they know how to make money, and they generally don’t do things that don’t provide any return on investment. Loans always make more money in the long run. Not sometimes, not only if you make minimum payments, but always. And poor and middle class people are borrowing for everything from a new lawnmower to a new car to a house they couldn’t afford if they worked for the next eighty years, much less only twenty or thirty. And they’re paying through the nose to keep it that way.

Most folks, by the time they finish a car payment, decide to upgrade to a new car, so they get a new car payment. They finish paying off their house, so they do a little remodeling and put in a room over the garage. And I would comment about what they do when they finish paying off their credit cards if any of them ever did that.

“But– but– but!” you will say, “Everyone knows you need to have good credit!” Maybe. Maybe you need to have good credit. But you can have good credit for a lot less than $10,000 of credit card debt earning interest every month.

But at the end of the day, when you get a loan, you lose money. Loans are for when you need money today to set up something that will be worth more tomorrow, like an education or a house in a good community. A car loses value; certainly other, smaller products do, too. It never makes sense to borrow money to lose it. And yet the poor and middle classes do that every day.

And then they complain that the people they’re losing money to have their money.

The distribution of wealth in America is very unequal. Inequitable. But unfair? Hardly. People are poor because of the choices they make; by making different choices, by saving and spending rather than borrowing and losing, they could develop the capital they need to start investing. And by investing well, they can redistribute the wealth in America legally, equitably–and fairly.