A Hope of Çatalhöyük

Photo of the excavation of Çatalhöyük, humankind's first city.
“Çatalhöyük after the first excavations.” Photo by Omar hoftun CC BY-SA 3.0

For the past many weeks, I’ve been mulling how simply living our daily lives promotes peace as a counter to war. Especially in this interconnected Information Age.

Though Consumerism can be deadly if we let it run away with us, at its basic level the simple act of buying food, enjoying a movie, traveling to visit friends or as tourists, going to work, and so on are acts of civilization, making the destruction of warfare less and less tolerable.

I’m no Pollyanna. I’m fully aware of how much Consumerism actually drives conflict over natural resources, and the killing that results.

But I also see how, for example, Putin’s war on Ukraine has punished Russia, galvanizing the West, prompting the EU to wean itself from fossil fuels, and how much we as citizens identify with the Ukrainian people.

War is increasingly distasteful to civilization.

That very fact that we are at last beginning to acknowledge PTSD in our veterans, compared to a century or two ago, even a generation ago, is another evidence. Such things begin to affect how we as a public make decisions, not the least of which is how we vote.

Again, I’m no Pollyanna. The progress of civilization is dreadfully, agonizingly slow. We humans didn’t even begin it until Çatalhöyük nearly 9,000 years ago. And it has taken these millennia to reach even a glimpse of “global village,” let alone the hope of beating our swords into plowshares.

But we do progress. And I’m thinking simple day-to-day life is perhaps the most impactful act of peace.

At least that is my hope.

Civil Discourse

Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

I keep hearing, “Americans need to stop treating each other as the enemy and return to reasoned, civil dialog.”

And I keep wondering, “How is it possible to have reasoned, civil dialog with an election denier?”

Look, I totally understand the frustration of feeling like an election has been stolen, and the panic of thinking the country is out of control. It’s wrongheaded, but I can empathize. I have relatives in that camp.

What I can’t empathize with is ignorance of court loss after court loss after court loss on those claims. How are we to have reasoned, civil dialog about things like this? How are we to reason with the belief that all news but Fox News is fake news? How are we to reason with politicians who continue to politicize a pandemic? (I’m looking at you, DeSantis.)

“Stop thinking of each other as the enemy” is a noble goal. It just can’t work one-sided. Ask Ukraine.

Tribes of Mastodon

Cover of Sticks and Stones Microgame
A great old game of Stone Age hunts!

This post has next to nothing to do with the old Sticks and Stones microgame, other than perhaps the tribal aspect, and the image of the great beast on the cover. It has everything to do with Mastodon decentralized social media. 

Like many, I’ve abandoned Twitter under Musk’s management. And like most, I’ve cast about for some sort of Twitter replacement, with new accounts at Hive, Post, and Mastodon.

Hive is the nearest to Twitter in feel, and I love the fact that it’s the personal work of two college students. I wish them huge success. But it’s clear they’re struggling with the surprise influx of Twitter deserters. The platform itself feels unfinished, loose, and rough around the edges. Its only interfaces are Android and Apple apps, and the Android version is extremely buggy. I’m currently unable to do more than log in.

Post Social has a nicely professional feel to it, and I’m encouraged to find Dan Rather posting there, but I just can’t get enthused about diving in and exploring. To be honest, part of that lack of enthusiasm is there’s no integration with WordPress. No hyperlinked icon to display in my sidebar. No Post Social auto-post checkbox on blog entries.

Which brings me to Mastodon, which has both, making it just as easy to integrate with that account as with Facebook. That’s becoming increasingly important for communicating with a widespread community of family, friends, and fans, because not all of those people share any particular platform. The cross-posting efficiency allows more time for a bucket list (ever-lengthening) of writing projects.

So I’ve been settling into this “Decentralized, Open Source, Not for Sale, Interoperable” community. And I have to say it feels pretty good to participate in a neck of the webs again with no ad-driven algorithm pushing stuff across my screen, nor news algorithm funneling me into an increasingly myopic selection of stories.

Mastodon feels something like a party spilling through the many chambers of some community owned palace. People gravitate to different rooms based their own interests and experiences, but you can still hear other people chattering in other rooms and can wander as you like, meet who you like, and hang out with who you like.

It’s different enough from other social media to require some getting used to, but it’s been around for awhile (since 2016), so its structure begins to make sense as you settle in. And for the first time in a long while, this here extrovert forced into an introverted lifestyle by a focal seizure disorder feels like he’s wandering through a crowd again. An honest-to-god, elbow-to-elbow, sea of people with one thing in common: the desire to communicate under their own terms, as “Citizens,” not a crop of “Consumers.”

Open source, community supported technologies like this are the Information Age’s best chance at a more egalitarian future. They’re sort of a barter economy, allowing us to be a global tribe, working toward a common good.

Oh, and if you come across a copy of Sticks and Stones, definitely give it a try. It’s one of my favorites from the early years of tabletop gaming.

Retooling My Post-Musk Bio

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One benefit (seriously) of the shift from Musk’s Twitter has been rethinking my bio on social media.

To this point, that bio has been a pitch for my self-published games, ending with a tongue-in-cheek, boat-rocking “Vegan gun owner.”

And I’ll be honest, the RPG designs in particular have been exceptional. (If that sounds arrogant, remember that I’m in the habit of saying the same about work by other designers.) D6xD6 and Bookmark HP RPG especially have a simplicity on the surface that belies the carefully crafted mechanics beneath. I’m gambling my Origins award for Dragon Dice on that opinion.

But social justice issues, especially the “Black Lives Matter” movement, are more important. To quote Salman Rushdie, “A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.”

I’m trying to capture all of that in the new bio: credentials, then passions, then gratitude.

“I’m a ‘retired,’ award-winning hobby game designer & author. Passionate about social justice, games, & poetry. A one man, best-selling, bucket-list self-publisher. Honored to play any part in other people’s fun!”

Walking the line between passion and arrogance is a difficult task. At times I’ve stumbled and stepped on toes, and I carry that guilt with me. At other times, when it comes to social justice, I step on toes intentionally, in the spirit of Rushdie’s quote.

Every writer’s work requires confidence, a belief in oneself, though few writers enjoy self-promotion. I certainly don’t. Nor do I “enjoy” confrontation.

But I tell you the truth as best I see it. About cruelty. And about human kindness. About suffering. And about joy. At my age, I’m aware that sometimes my efforts have changed lives, just as other writers have changed mine. I’m grateful for both.

And I love you. Here’s wishing you the very best today and always.