Or, Rummel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!

Welcome back, everyone. Now let’s dig in to Chapter 2, shall we?

The chapter begins with John talking about Joy. You know, the character who was mentioned in the first sentence of the first chapter and has not made an appearance thus far? Apparently, Joy is a student attending his lectures.

GOD DAMN IT, RUMMEL!

Moving on…

John keeps talking about how much his life has changed since the events he is narrating, and how young and naive he was, and blah blah blah. Really, nobody cares. All it does is make the reader want Rummel to just get on with the plot. John ends up talking about the last lecture he ever gave.

I worried over the same questions I’d asked myself when I began the class: How can I make my students feel in their gut what ten million or one hundred million bodies mean in human terms—that people died in agony, often for nothing but their ethnicity, religion, or political views, or to meet a death quota enforced by their rulers?

This frustrated me. I didn’t know how to convey the true horrors without making the students ill and turning them off. (pages 19-20)

Trust me, Rummel can’t convey these horrors any better than John can. Which is just evidence for my theory that John is Rummel. He has no personality and is basically a vehicle for Rummel to talk about his viewpoints. I’d even say that he’s about as blatant of a self-insert as Bella Swan. But more on that later.

Now, here comes a very controversial part of the story. Rummel puts the plot on hold so that his character can literally give a lecture about the horrors of dictatorship. For the next three pages, he talks about a Chinese girl during the Cultural Revolution. This is very bad practice, and not just because the sequence is really disgusting. The author is literally halting the plot so that his self-insert can lecture to the readers. This contributes nothing to the story, it holds us back, and really, it’s intended to give an important message, but seriously, pretty much everyone knows that dictatorship is bad. In fact, the people who would read this story already know that and don’t want to read about people getting tortured. Because that’s what this scene is. Torture porn, pure and simple. I will not go into it further.

Naturally, the students are stunned into silence. All except Joy, anyway. This is the first time she is actually seen in person. Apparently Joy is the only student in the class to be reduced to tears by the lecture. I should note that this is inconsistent with her later characterization.

Might I remind you that in Part 1, I said that Joy was John’s love interest. She is also a student in his class.

John continues his lecture, and we learn that he is apparently a Large Ham, gesticulating wildly and pounding his fist on the podium. Strange, considering how he’s narrating this, I’d think his lectures would be as boring as those of an old professor with tenure who doesn’t even want to show up. But what do I know about John’s awesomeness? After all, I didn’t write the book.

John says that 174 million people were killed by their governments during the 20th century, and that an additional 40 million were killed in combat during that same span. Rummel himself later revised that upward, and yes, that will be important later. As for those hundreds of millions of people? This book is spitting on their memories.

“This need not be. There is hope and a solution. Democracies do not make war on each other and, as a historian, I say bluntly . . .” and now I wagged my finger as though each word was at the end of it “. . . they . . . never . . . have.” (page 23)

Now, this is somewhat disputed. The democratic peace theory, which Rummel himself formulated as a political scientist, states that no war has ever been fought in which both sides were democratic countries. Other political scientists were quick to provide counterexamples, such as the Falklands War, for instance. Rummel and his supporters have answered their critics by saying that none of those cases actually count (in other words, special pleading), and that either one or more of the democracies were not “real” democracies. (Either the country was only democratic for a few years and the people were not used to having rights, though how that would affect their going to war is unknown, or a war was formally declared but there were no actual casualties, or one or more of those countries were not democracies at all, but oligarchies, though the dividing line between the two is actually somewhat subjective.) I’m no political scientist, and ordinarily I wouldn’t go into this, and a weak form of the democratic peace theory is probably plausible (after all, you don’t see members of the European Union going to war with one another), but the reality is not at all as cut-and-dried as Rummel makes it out to be.

I should point out that the democratic peace theory is an extremely idealistic theory of geopolitical relations. Since it is completely true in-story, you would expect this to be a very idealistic story, right? Well, the characters do not behave in a very idealistic manner, as will be seen later. Inconsistency, yay!

After more preaching to the choir about how great democracy is, we get this sentence.

“Democratization is practical and in fact is being aided by many current democracies.” (Ibid.)

HA HA HA HA HA!

I don’t want to be overly political here, but this is a gross misreading of history. There have been many times in history, especially in recent history, where democratic countries have supported dictatorships, and even gotten them into power, in the belief that the dictatorship would help them fight another, even worse dictatorship. That’s not really “spreading democracy”, considering that said dictatorships do not appreciate it when the people demand they leave power. Rummel is a political scientist and should know this. He is being overly naive for the sake of a political point.

John finishes off his speech by giving some platitudes along the lines of “if we work together, we can solve any problem” and apparently gets so emotional that his suit is drenched in his own sweat. I am not making this up, folks. Is this normal for people who give speeches, or should John go see a doctor? Even worse for John, some of his students didn’t even care.

At the end of class, Joy Phim goes up to meet John. Apparently she got straight A’s on all her assignments and John had kept an eye on her because of her beauty. Both my Sue-dometer and my paedo alarm are going off right now.1

By the way, we finally learn John’s last name. It’s Banks.

There is some very disturbing narration while Joy invites her professor over to meet her mother.

It is at this point that Rummel switches from a rather beige and detached writing style to something more descriptive. Only, however, when describing Joy. Nobody else has gotten any description, not even John, which is why I assume that he is Rummel’s avatar.

Joy looked at me reflectively for a moment with her remarkable black eyes. They were large, almond-shaped, fringed with long black eyelashes, and tipped up at the corners. Her eyes and her voice . . . I could never just observe her voice and her eyes. They always attacked me with their declaration, “I am woman. I am feminine.” I melt now, thinking of them. (page 25)

Dude, John, this is your STUDENT you’re talking about here! Do you not see anything wrong with this? At least he rejects her offer to go to her house, since he’s still her professor until he grades her final exam or something. (But if he can show restraint like that, then how come he still fantasizes about her? Argh.)

As a matter of fact, what is John’s very next narration after Joy leaves?

I couldn’t help noticing how well her denims outlined her sexy rear end. Clever of her to wear those tight jeans. With them, she laid the cornerstone for my lust—lust that she soon would build into a towering edifice. (Ibid.)

ARGH. AGKFBDNVA AV DFVJNSKJADB VCKHB

…Sorry about that. Let’s get back to the spork, shall we?

Anyway, it turns out that Joy’s final exam was a term paper about the Vietnamese boat people. THIS IS FORESHADOWING. Joy is Asian; you do the math.

Well, Joy’s mother calls John after the semester is over. Apparently Ms. Phim has an unspecified Asian accent even though, as we will later learn, she has been living in the United States for at least twenty-five years. Rummel is apparently unaware that people will naturally start to lose their foreign accents if they remain around native English-speakers for decades, such that people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan actually have to see language coaches in order to keep their accents as foreign as possible. In any case, it’s no surprise that John, both now and later, thinks that all Asians are alike. Asians are not portrayed very well in this series. It isn’t intentional racism on Rummel’s part, I don’t think, but it’s still glaring.

Naturally, Joy’s mother, Tor, rather rudely pressures John into going to their house. She even offers him FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. As if John wasn’t waiting for the opportunity to get in Joy’s pants already. Tor is a horrible parent in my opinion, and not just because of this scene.

John says that if he accepts the money, then Joy can never attend another of his classes, and Tor says that Joy has quit school. In fact, it turns out that John’s course was the only course she took.

DUN DUN DUUN!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering if John could go a full scene without imagining Joy in an inappropriate manner, you’re wrong.

It turns out that Tor is the president of a major corporation known as Nguon Industries. I have no idea how that is pronounced. If anyone here is Vietnamese, please tell me how it is pronounced, though I suspect that Rummel has gotten the language wrong. And yes, THIS IS FORESHADOWING.

Over winter break, Joy shows up in John’s office to tell him when he should go meet them. Joy smiles at him “coquettishly” and the following paragraphs ensue:

Joy’s shiny black hair cascaded down over both her shoulders and brushed her waist. Her bangs fell across her forehead like a curtain drawn aside to reveal large, bright eyes and a flawless complexion. Gone were the student’s backpack and jeans. Now she wore a tight blouse, open at the collar to expose a golden choker, and a taupe skirt complemented her light olive-colored skin and showed off her long legs. She carried a light, fur lined coat over one arm.

Her lipstick seemed brighter; redder, I noticed. And what a perfume she wore! Light; not overdone; just a hint of gardenia. Must have been a hundred dollars an ounce.

Joy exuded a heady mixture of Asian femininity and sexuality. If she’d been a photo in some fashion magazine, I’d have scissored it out and hung it in constant view. Weeks later I realized that she had selected her clothes and had made herself up to make me lust for her.

Perfectly done. Perfectly achieved. (page 28)

You mean to tell me, Rummel, that Joy is dressing provocatively for her professor? What are you smoking?

Those of you who wanted a time travel story, I apologize. Rummel felt the need to derail it into a disturbing romance between a college professor and one of his students. After some more idiocy by our protagonist, the chapter ends. Thank God, that was really awful.

Footnotes

1 Yeah, I know they’re in college. That doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

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Comment

  1. Taku on 4 November 2012, 15:18 said:

    Thank the Gods he isn’t a high school teacher.

    John continues his lecture, and we learn that he is apparently a Large Ham, gesticulating wildly and pounding his fist on the podium.

    If this were a movie I suspect he would be milking the giant cow through this entire scene. Not to mention chewing the scenery.

  2. Mark on 4 November 2012, 16:08 said:

    I couldn’t help noticing how well her denims outlined her sexy rear end. Clever of her to wear those tight jeans. With them, she laid the cornerstone for my lust—lust that she soon would build into a towering edifice. (Ibid.)

    ….

    That wasn’t what I thought it was, was it?

    Please tell me this guy isn’t going there.

    He’s totally going there, isn’t he?

  3. Danielle on 4 November 2012, 16:19 said:

    That was the creepiest thing I’ve ever read.

    And it’s not just the (probably sizable) age difference that bothers me. I mean, really—what does Joy see in this guy?

    ….

    Gah.

    This is just gross.

  4. IcycoldHand on 4 November 2012, 16:46 said:

    And the author is actually a college professor…. G

  5. Danielle on 4 November 2012, 16:59 said:

    And the author is actually a college professor….

    THE IMPLICATIONS!!!! THEY BUUUUURRRRRNNNNNN!

  6. Lone Wolf on 4 November 2012, 17:46 said:

    In fact, the people who would read this story already know that and don’t want to read about people getting tortured.

    I don’t think that writing and showing Bad Things is necessarily bad. Stopping the plot so that your self-insert can lecture about them, however, is.

    Other political scientists were quick to provide counterexamples, such as the Falklands War, for instance.

    To be fair, the Falklands War is a bad example. Argentinian junta, which started the war, was unambiguously a non-democracy. Spanish-American war of 1890’s, or the Boer War are better examples. Yeah, in the Boer Republics black population didn’t have any electoral rights, but they black Africans of the Boer states were basically an internal colony, so if 1940’ies colonialist Britain counts a democracy, Transvaal and the Orange Free State count too.

    More examples here: http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/demowar.htm (this is the last time I link to that page, I promise – I just like its arguments).

    I agree with your other points on that theory.

  7. OrganicLead on 4 November 2012, 17:54 said:

    Rummel should do us all a favor and go write that porno he’s itching to write. He’s got it all set up, all he needs to do is get the two in a car or a closet or whatever. We can all tell that’s what he wants to write at this point, he might as well just get it out of his system.

    … Or does he think people actually behave this way? The way he’s writing John is making him come off as a creeper and a pervert. That’s passable in porn or if he were the villain, but any other situation it’s stomach turning.

  8. Lone Wolf on 4 November 2012, 18:03 said:

    We can all tell that’s what he wants to write at this point, he might as well just get it out of his system.

    No, Rummel wants his self-insert to be both in softcore-ish porn and in Glorious Democratic Peaceful Adventures. And what Rummel wants, Rummel gets.

  9. Mark on 4 November 2012, 18:20 said:

    Or did Rummel create an entirely new genre: The Softcore Time-Traveling Pedo Professor History Changing Porno?

    ….

    That sounded even creepier than I thought it would.

  10. Apep on 4 November 2012, 19:39 said:

    “This need not be. There is hope and a solution. Democracies do not make war on each other and, as a historian, I say bluntly . . .” and now I wagged my finger as though each word was at the end of it “. . . they . . . never . . . have.”

    I doubt any real historian would make that claim. And if they did, I’d question their credentials. Also, I call accident fallacy.)

    There is some very disturbing narration while Joy invites her professor over to meet her mother.

    Am I the only one who thought it was more likely that she’s trying to set her professor up with her mom? Oh, wait, that might make sense, and the author self-insert Stu wouldn’t be a confirmed sex god.

    And I really have to call into question the author character being a college professor. While I don’t doubt that some college teachers end up involved with their students, that behavior would probably get said teacher in serious trouble. How has this guy avoided getting fired? Tenure?

  11. Pryotra on 4 November 2012, 21:46 said:

    Joy was John’s love interest. She is also a student in his class.

    This is disgusting. I know that where I attend, there are some pretty strict rules about how a professor can act with students. If he’s going to do this while she’s in his class and he has complete power over her, then there’s nothing to say that she’s not just going along with him so she can get a good grade.

    Democracies do not make war on each other and, as a historian, I say bluntly . . .” and now I wagged my finger as though each word was at the end of it “. . . they . . . never . . . have.

    My first thought is that the American Civil War was, technically two democracies having it out, since the Confederacy considered itself a country. I’m not a history major though, so I’d have to research it.

    Joy exuded a heady mixture of Asian femininity and sexuality.

    You racist, sexist pig.

    The fact that this man is a professor makes me uncomfortable. I’ll make sure to remember his name.

  12. swenson on 4 November 2012, 23:48 said:

    The whole sexy Asian girl, that’s a trope, isn’t it? One of the particularly racist ones, seeing as he seems to attribute her attractiveness to her being Asian (I mean that he thinks she’s sexy by default because she’s Asian, not that she’s an attractive woman who happens to be Asian).

    And what was up with the mom offering him $5000? Why did she do that? That makes… no sense at all.

  13. Asahel on 5 November 2012, 00:49 said:

    My first thought is that the American Civil War was, technically two democracies having it out, since the Confederacy considered itself a country. I’m not a history major though, so I’d have to research it.

    I’d say that probably counts as a good counterexample. Now, someone remind me: I recall that Athens was a democracy. Were any of the other Greek city-states with which they were regularly at war also democracies? (If so, those would be great examples, too.)

  14. Epke on 5 November 2012, 04:23 said:

    Were any of the other Greek city-states with which they were regularly at war also democracies? (If so, those would be great examples, too.)

    Not quite like Athens – I mean, most had a council of elders/advisers for the king (or kings, in the case of Sparta), but Athens was rather unique with its voting.

    She even offers him FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

    Wait, what? Five grand for just entering the house or going out with Joy? And how old is this John Banks? I don’t know the average age of a college professor, but Joy would have to be in her early twenties… man, this is disturbing. I bet the next chapter is simply named “Bow chicka bow wow”.

    Joy exuded a heady mixture of Asian femininity and sexuality. If she’d been a photo in some fashion magazine, I’d have scissored it out and hung it in constant view. Weeks later I realized that she had selected her clothes and had made herself up to make me lust for her.

    So… aside from the racism (or at least the stereotype), Professor Banks here strikes me as a drooling lecher. “Hung it in constant view” makes me think he’s chronically masturbating to pictures of young women. And what’s with the “lust” thing? Who writes like that?

  15. Taku on 5 November 2012, 04:52 said:

    Or did Rummel create an entirely new genre: The Softcore Time-Traveling Pedo Professor History Changing Porno?

    I actually just remembered it now, Cracked.com has already done that.

    “The Time Traveling Sex Offenders” was a mock script made up for an article/story about working with corporate sponsors.

    Epke, Was Athens the only city-state with tyrants? I thought other city-states had them as well. The whole concept of tyrants was sort of demi-democratic, wasn’t it? An elected leader who rules for a set period before stepping down.

    In the true ideal of democracy, though, could any society claim itself democratic while classes like servants/slaves, blacks, or women were denied the ability to vote?

  16. LoneWolf on 5 November 2012, 07:16 said:

    In the true ideal of democracy, though, could any society claim itself democratic while classes like servants/slaves, blacks, or women were denied the ability to vote?

    That’s what adherents of Absolute Democratic Peace argue. But they usually engage in double standards by which colonialist powers like late XIX – first half of XX century Britain (which denied the Indian people’s right to vote in the British Government that was ultimately responsible for governing India) do count as democracies.

  17. Epke on 5 November 2012, 08:10 said:

    Hmm… let’s see. I’ll skip the old ones like Minoan, Mycenae and Troy. Sparta, while ruled jointly by two kings (who were chosen from two families) and a council of elders, were still sitting there as long as they wanted. Athens however had direct democracy and if the people wanted you out, you were out. I know that all the city-states had great freedom for its citizens (excluding women, slaves, foreigners and the like), and some even reached Athens’ level (Syracuse, Meg, Corinth) but some never even reached the democratic stage (and then Philip and Alexander came bashing down the doors with their big sandals and boom, it’s an empire). So I am not really sure, Taku, sorry :(

  18. Fireshark on 5 November 2012, 11:19 said:

    My mom and my dad first met while she was his teacher. He’s actually older than her though, and they didn’t have a relationship until a while later.

  19. swenson on 5 November 2012, 11:32 said:

    Yeah, it’s not so much the teacher-student thing that gets me as it is the lecherous way he keeps ogling her… and that she’s actually in his class at the time.

  20. Fell Blade on 5 November 2012, 11:43 said:

    Rummel is apparently unaware that people will naturally start to lose their foreign accents if they remain around native English-speakers for decades, such that people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan actually have to see language coaches in order to keep their accents as foreign as possible.

    That would probably depend on the individual, how old they were when they immigrated, what their native language was, etc. I know a German couple that has lived in the US for 40-50 years. When they immigrated they made a decision to use English regularly in their home rather than German, and yet they still have a very distinct German accent. They can be understood very easily, but the accent is still there, particularly with the reverse pronunciation of “v” and “w”. So people can lose some part of their accent after prolonged use of English, but some part of that accent will likely still be present.

  21. Pryotra on 5 November 2012, 17:53 said:

    My mom and my dad first met while she was his teacher. He’s actually older than her though, and they didn’t have a relationship until a while later.

    That’s different. Because they had the relationship after she was his student, it didn’t have the creepy vibes.

    After all, since Joy is John’s student, he could give her a hard time, and there’s always the question of if she’s willingly doing this or if she’s just afraid that if she doesn’t, he’ll fail her.

  22. Rhyson on 24 November 2012, 01:52 said:

    Ew. At the college I went to, there was a housing ad on one of the bulletin boards, looking for hot, young, female roommates who would be willing to exchange free rent for ‘favours.’ The staff kept taking it down, and someone kept putting it back up, so they turned the security camera to see who it was.

    A professor.

    He got fired.

  23. Fair on 24 November 2012, 23:24 said:

    Wow. That’s… really gross, and creepy, and… squick!

  24. Juracan on 6 June 2013, 08:24 said:

    So I decided to sit down and get caught up on this, so that I can read future parts of the sporking and… wow, you really found yourself a doozie here, haven’t you?

    I have a relative in political science— I think I’ll ask him about the democracies thing. In terms of characterization, though… this really doesn’t make me feel good. I know that it’s not out of the question for a professor to look at his or her students that way, but here it’s incredibly creepy, because the protagonist continues to leer at one of his students, and it’s just… sketchy beyond belief.

  25. A Real Libertarian on 16 July 2013, 22:51 said:

    Why is everybody calling Banks a pedo? Joy is the pedo since all the evidence makes it obvious that John Banks is an eight year old with that condition Robin Williams had in “Jack”.

    Unless Banks is thinking along the lines of “Big sisters friend likes me the way mommy likes daddy! We’re going to get married and hold hands every day!”…

    Know what, I’m going to assume that second one, not for the sake of my sanity or anything but because it really is the most logical conclusion.

    But of course this answers a lot of questions, for example Joy tried to introduce Banks to her mother because she wants to see the kid who thinks he’s a “smart professor-man” and Joy’s Mother offered him $5000 because it’s not like they’re using that old Monopoly set and anyway what does it matter if ten bills go missing?

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