This post began life as a comment over at Sarah Hoyt’s place. Yet, the concept appeared to so perfectly define the divide between SJWs (of any political stripe) and the reasonably sane that I could not resist expanding on the topic.
At its core, the difference between Left and Right can be summed up as Fatalism versus Free will. The Fatalist believes that life is immutable, that everything you are and everything you do is proscribed at birth. Free will is irrelevant to the Fatalist because they view it as illusory. Barack Obama famously said “you didn’t build that” because, in his mind, the individual categorically cannot do anything they weren’t fated to do, that society didn’t drive them to do. Somebody built the roads, somebody invented the mousetrap, and a long time ago there was a Big Bang that created the universe. All of these things led to the opening of your widget factory. You didn’t do anything at all, you are merely the product of a Capitalist-Imperialist System.
The advocate of Free will, on the other hand, believes that his actions have a measurable effect, that he can change the universe through his choices. It may not be easy to do so, of course, but ultimately free will exists and is non-illusory.
To Fatalists, the notion that Whites are privileged is Gospel. Same with men, heterosexuals, cis-genders, etc… The universe, they say, has granted them their success unfairly. Ironically, they propose to exercise free will in order to change this gross unfairness. But, that internal contradiction aside, it reveals an interesting tenet of the modern Progressive Left: you are what you are, and you cannot change it. Even so-called allies, enlightened Whites, men, straight people, etc… are repeatedly castigated for microaggressions, and are told that no matter what they do, they are still privileged, racist, sexist, etc…
To the Leftist, you are the sum of your attributes, your identities. If you are a Black man, for instance, it is a given that you are being held down by the man and there is nothing you can do about it. If you are a woman, it is a given that the Patriarchy has oppressed you, and will always oppress you in ever more subtle ways. So if you say you are a Black woman, your identity is an intersection of these values, something that the Cultural Marxists have termed “intersectionalism.” The individual is thus merely a laundry list of intersectional identities. Your only hope is that Fate will step in, and the universe will cleanse itself of whiteness, or something to that effect.
This is why Leftists are repeatedly tripped up by individuals who break with their enforced identities. Sarah Hoyt has repeatedly denied that she is a victim of the Patriarchy and has been at the forefront of the Sad Puppies affair. To the Fatalist this is utterly alien. An individual is saying that they categorically refuse to be a victim. Sarah exercised free will, which is supposed to be illusory, right? This confuses the SJWs, and enrages them. You aren’t where you are supposed to be, you see. I’m supposed to be engaging in Self-flagellation because of my Whiteness. Brad Torgersen is supposed to castigate himself because of his racism, despite his family being pretty conclusive evidence that the racist label cannot possibly apply to him. And Sarah is supposed to do anything except write books where Libertarian thought is celebrated.
The Fatalist doesn’t understand the Free will advocate. History is fated to go a certain direction, you see. Everything was preordained by chance and random probability because Atheism and vague statements of “spirituality” predominate among them. Marxist dialectic is loaded with this fatalistic claptrap. Society is fated to go through various stages, ending by necessity at Communism, the so-called end of history. Of course Marx had to be revised somewhat when it turned out that he was no Nostradamus.
Sad Puppies decried the decline in fiction quality, and the awarding of Hugos to idiotic, poorly written rape fantasy. The group also took issue with the rampant favoritism and cliquish behavior on the part of WorldCon and Tor Books, in particular. But one of the fascinating things about all of this blatantly Left-leaning fiction is that the protagonists are powerless victims, and it just makes for shitty story-telling. That, too, is a feature of Fatalism. You were meant to be a victim, and there is nothing you can do about it. You might as well bow your head, accept your victimhood (to the death, if need be), and give up to the inevitable.
Who wants to read that shit?
I say this because in the literary world of the Left, the lone hero who defeats the Dark Lord is an impossibility. Individuals cannot do anything in the mind of the Fatalist. Frodo cannot take the ring to Mordor, for, like Obama says, he didn’t do that. He was the product of a mass of probabilities and the inevitable course of history. He was Fated to bring the ring there, and his personal strength had absolutely nothing to do with anything. Luke Skywalker cannot turn Lord Vader, for prophecy tells us that Anakin was fated to bring balance to the force. Star Wars prophecy and Marxist pseudo-dialectic are similar, in this respect.
I can almost hear the Bernie Sanders fans chanting “he will bring balance to the dialectic.”
Even Asimov, a literary Fatalist if there ever was one, conceded that one man sufficiently armed with mental powers (the Mule), could overthrow Second Empire in its infancy. That the Mule was a villain doesn’t take away from the fact that he, in effect, overthrew psychohistory, the agent of Fate, all by himself. But today’s Left-wing fiction writers cannot even grant that extraordinary figures might have an effect on history. In essence, they believe that Marxism, of both the Cultural and Economic varieties, is alone sufficient to predict the future, explain the past, and bring relevance to the present. Hari Seldon would have laughed at them. His notion of psychohistory was the synthesis of 20,000 years of human thought by a mad genius being prodded along by a 15,000 year old robot (at least according to the prequel books, anyway).
Note that George Lucas later retconned Anakin as a product of the “midi-cholorians” and a figure of prophecy, in effect rewriting Anakin and Luke Skywalker as agents of Fate, not heroes and villains who made their own individual choices. As with much of the Star War prequels, that Fatalistic streak sucked the life out of the stories. The characters were as much passengers of the story as the viewers were, and suffered from cardboard cutout-ism as a result. Anakin was fated to fall into the dark side, and all the efforts of all the characters could do nothing about it. What kind of story is that?
The stories I enjoyed were ones in which the characters fought against fate. They stood up and said “I am HUMAN and I can give the finger to fate.” The journey was often bloody and terrible, for one does not lightly take on the agents of Fate. But it was proof that humans were more than the sum of their instincts, that with the application of willpower, they could change the universe. Emperor Leto II in the Dune sequels was much this way, for he accepted a terrible burden and became history’s greatest villain in an effort to break humanity from the control of prophets forever. Indeed, the very greatest of human stories are this way, even in more mundane examples. Somebody probably told the kid with cerebral palsy that he could never run a marathon (it was Fate, you see), and he said “fuck you” and did it anyway.
The stories of Fatalists don’t have heroes in them, because heroes are anathema to who and what they are. They have victims, to be sure, people whom Fate has crapped on. And they have would-be heroes who, in the end, concede they were tools of Fate all along. In fact, coming to terms with their uselessness and lack of control is part-and-parcel of the Leftist worldview. Finally, says the Leftist, you realize that you are worthless.
Luke Skywalker never turned his father back to the light. Rather, his father was fated to turn all along. Han didn’t shoot first, now, because to do so would be to make a conscious decision rather than simply wait for events to unfold as fate has dictated. Paul Atreides certainly didn’t do any of that stuff Frank Herbert wrote about in Dune. In fact, Paul was White and heterosexual, so he was the oppressor of the story, right? The Baron Harkonnen was fat and gay, so Frank Herbert got it all wrong. The Harkonnens were supposed to win.
It’s worth noting that Dune’s exploration of Fate and Prophecy is one of the reasons I am very fond of it. Paul achieved the vengeance he sought, but only by surrendering to his own prophecy. Emperor Leto II spent the next 3,500 years undoing this, separating humanity from the possibility that a prophet could ever control their destiny. It was a tremendously powerful story.
Anyway, this is why Leftists often decry that everything is not their fault. For if you can’t build it, as Obama told us, then is it your fault that it’s ugly and shitty, like Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest? Of course not, it was fated to suck. If an SJW is fat, it’s clearly a thyroid condition because Fate made them fat, not their own actions. This leads to increasingly lunatic positions, like the acceptance of pedophilia because they just “can’t help it.” Right. My 12 gauge says if you touch my son in an inappropriate fashion, you will die. See how fast the potential pedo decides to cut his losses and learn Free Will, then.
Fatalism is an easy excuse to justify poor work.
Sometimes I think there’s a bit of a religious angle to this, as well. For if humans are possessing of a soul, then there is a part of them that is greater than the universe, that is not bound by it. A human being would thus be partly a meat puppet, a product of the universe, bound by its rules, and partly the figure created in the image of God, possessing a piece of the eternal and the some of the will to create and control the universe itself.
Of course, Muslims are fond of saying Insha’Allah or, “God wills it.” They are Fatalists to the core. So this is clearly not a feature of all religious thought. But I like to go back to St. Thomas and his notion of the First Mover. As a proof of God, it was a tremendous failure, but as an insight into how God interacts with the universe, I found it profoundly inspiring. He may have set you in motion, created you, but now you move of your own volition. You have Free Will.
Marxism doesn’t concede this any more than Islam does. In the traditions of the Left, people do not have souls. They are bags of meat, cogs in a machine, agents of the state and paladins of public policy. To them, only the collective has value, because the collective is eternal. If 100 million meat-bags must be “retired” to bring about the eternal utopia, so be it. Remember, the Marxist thinks that history is inevitable, so all he is doing is acting in accordance with Fate. It’s a convenient cop out when you want to murder millions. If people do not have Free Will, then of what use is freedom? Freedom only truly makes sense if you have at least a somewhat positive point of view regarding Free Will.
I refuse to be a victim, and so should you. Intersectionality is bullshit, Fatalism is a load of crap. You may not be able to control everything about your life, but you are not a mere passenger along for the ride, either. Your choices matter. I wrote this article. Nobody wrote it for me, nor was I necessarily fated to write it.
We all have a piece of the eternal within us. And if I’m going to bother reading a story, it better well contain a kernel of this, too. To Hell with the Fatalists.
[UPDATE] I corrected Determinism to “Free Will” to clarify what I meant. Sarah is correct, and the usage was improper.