Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra

Baseball trade deadline came and went when July turned to August; following the news and analysis (more than I should) meant going to that part of the internet, Saberland, where woke AF spergies reign and good writing is considered the ultimate in bad taste.[1]

I found this at Fangraphs:

Because of the superhuman circumference of his biceps and his generally muscular physique, Frazier is most often body-comped to Popeye the Sailor Man, a reference I hope doesn’t elude the youngest of our readers.

FFS. I hope there is a bit of sarcasm here but I doubt it (usually their sarcasm is aimed — and most vituperatively — at traditionalists who are the New Deal liberals to statheads’ neocons). More likely this is a straightforward, virtue signalling attempt to show inclusiveness but comes across as infantilizing – and more than a little paranoid that the reader will think the author old or possibly smug in the obscure reference-dropping hipster sense[2]. That statheads are the among the most insufferably smug people on earth is a nice irony; their arrogance plainly varies depending on which theater the culture war is being fought in. Anyway, Popeye’s pop culture heyday was several generations before the birth of the piece’s author (and my own; the Robin Williams bomb of a movie doesn’t count) but he knows it because — Popeye is not obscure.

The Fangraphs post above wouldn’t be worth bitching about on its own but at about the same time I came across this post titled ‘Crop Rotation’ at Viva El Birdos, which took my breath away:

My preference to sell, though, is actually not about the Cardinals’ record, and how they’ve put themselves in a hole with shoddy play thus far in 2016. Rather, it’s a larger matter I’ve had on my mind for a while now, and it relates to agriculture.

I don’t know the backgrounds of most of the readers of this site. I can make some assumptions, based on the fact we’re all fans of a Midwestern baseball team, that the majority are probably from a region similar to that from which I hail, but that’s certainly not a hard and fast rule. We have people from all over the country, a couple of Brits (at least a couple; I can actually think of three offhand, and there may be more for all I know), a couple readers from Asia, people from cities, people from rural areas, men and women, and I hope some decent amount of racial diversity. So I cannot assume common knowledge of things that are not baseball, and I will therefore explain briefly about crop rotation.

It takes another five paragraphs and over 500 words but, by God, he explains what crop rotation – a major component of farming, which is after all only the fucking basis of every civilization ever – is to his readers so they can understand his utterly obvious analogy before he goes back to baseball in the essay. Why use a hyperlink when 500+ words of virtue-signalling inclusiveness and writerly self-love will do?

The author is a purveyor of ever more complicated and specialized alphabet soup stats but assumes that crop rotation is so obscure it needs ploddingly over-explained to ignorant readers who might feel Othered by the reference. Nevermind that the more dark-skinned, more “Third World,” more poor the reader — the sort that woke AF people like the author are ostensibly reaching out to — the more likely they are to instantly understand the analogy and resent the patronizing, verbose explanation — even more so considering its precious tone. Even lifelong (multigenerational, too) urban people either have gardened themselves or knows someone who has; and if not, have the ability to look up such basic information in a book or on the internet — and enrich themselves.

Finish them, David Mitchell:

[1]. I am convinced their antipathy to ‘narrative’ isn’t merely a resistance to media-driven, “agreed-upon” explanations of events but real disgust with and distrust of the components of narratives, words, which of course can be ambiguous and are always under evolutionary pressure.

[2]. cf., the title of this post.


You are a farmer. You live in a hot, arid place, so you grow a crop suited to your environment: a tree crop, probably olives, or possibly citrus like lemons or blood oranges, or perhaps something else like maybe figs or almonds. Like all farmers you feel a connection to the particular plot of soil from which you wring a living, but because you farm a tree crop this feeling is enhanced: you, literally, attend to and profit from the plants your grandfather or great-grandfather or an even more distant ancestor planted.

You own your land; you have the deed and your claim is recognized as legal and binding throughout the world; moreover, you can prove just title to your land without consulting a religious book. Your country was invaded in your grandfather’s day. Many of your kind were killed or kicked out of the country, but you remained; you are by legal definition considered a citizen of your country. And yet, your religion is different from the new majority’s who consider you a second-class citizen even though they promised the world they wouldn’t. This new majority is made of people who have been bullied and abused; they claim your land in the name of a deed their God allegedly signed over to them 3,000 years ago. Like many people who’ve been bullied, they have a huge chip on their shoulder: an abused child suddenly with all the power it ever wanted, looking for a smaller kid to kick around and vent frustration upon. You may or may not be personally very religious yourself but the degree of your belief is irrelevant; that you’re not of the same religious and ethnic background as the majority, is what matters.

Because of this very basic fact of difference, at any given moment the government of your country can and eventually will send a bulldozer, purchased with money donated by the United States taxpayer, to your farm. The bastard who drives it and his armed escort may or may not give you a warning before he levels your farm, your house, your patrimony, all that you own, because of the majority’s desire for lebensraum. Your consent or lack thereof is irrelevant; you are not paid for your loss nor will you be. You simply are a native who owns something the new majority desires, like an American Indian in the 1800s, or a Pole or Jew (irony of ironies) in 1939, except this might be 1985 or 1995 or 2015 and all years between and your country claims to be a representative democracy that respects the rule of law.

The majority has a world class army with the best equipment the world’s only superpower can donate; you, if you’re lucky, have an AK-47 and the ability to MacGyver bigger things. What do you do? Do you fight dirty, as the American Indians did? Probably so. And if you do, in my opinion you’re no more of a terrorist than Geronimo or Crazy Horse, and sadly just as doomed.