Friday, May 8, 2015

Will Mars Be A Perfect World?

You know we're in trouble when you can't tell the difference between a real headline and something you would read in The Onion. Here's an example:

So is this from The Onion? Or from The Guardian, "Winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2014"? If you think that there are still some things too ridiculous for people to believe, you probably failed this quiz. Yes, it's a real headline and a real story in The Guardian. I won't go into it. You can be transported into another realm by clicking here.

The writer of the article, Martin Robbins, sounds like the marketing girl from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams:
"And the wheel," said the Captain, "what about this wheel thingy? It sounds a terribly interesting project."
"Ah," said the marketing girl, "well, we're having a little difficulty there."
"Difficulty?" exclaimed Ford. "Difficulty? What do you mean, difficulty? It's the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!"
The marketing girl soured him with a look.
"All right, Mr. Wiseguy," she said, "you're so clever, you tell us what color it should be."
So the most important question involving the colonization of Mars is not how to get there or how people will survive there but how to make it a proper exercise in diversity. Those poor, benighted astronauts. They have hopelessly outdated ideas of what constitutes a safe place, you know, a place where you're not being pelted by cosmic rays or micrometeoroids, or scalded or frozen, or strangled or your blood boiled by an inhospitable atmosphere. No, a safe place is where your little feelings are protected from an oppressive overclass of fellow colonists.

The question is moot of course. It takes a vigorous and self-confident people to go into outer space. We are not that people. Or at least most of us aren't. Further, people like Mr. Robbins are too distracted by political considerations to accomplish anything as complex as establishing a colony on Mars, as he demonstrates in his article. They are Douglas Adams' marketing girl, more interested in the color (and sex) of the colony's people than its functionality. (I don't know about you, but I would not want to go to Mars with anyone other than a crew chosen only for their individual merits.) Further still, they are not especially interested in space exploration. Why should we turn outward when we can stay here and more closely examine our own navels? Why spend money out there when there are so many horrible, gaping problems here into which we can throw it like an out-of-control spacecraft hurtling into a black hole? If science fiction is dying, this is why.

My real point in writing today is this: In his article, Mr. Robbins refers to what he calls "the most pernicious space myth in existence . . . .
You can sum it up like this: "When we go into space, we will all magically become nice."
I agree with him that there is such a myth. It's one of the reasons why I never liked Star Trek: The Next Generation, for it seemed that the people in that show were scrubbed of their humanity, that in the future everyone would be nice to the point of blandness. But Mr. Robbins, evidently leftist in his orientation, is, like his fellow travelers, apparently lacking in irony or self-reflection. All you have to do is to take the Spacist (my new word) myth:
"When we go into space, we will all magically become nice."
Reduce it:
"When we __________, we will all magically become nice."
Then replace it with any number of progressive, leftist, or statist clich├ęs:
"When we destroy the past and progress into the glorious future, we will all magically become nice."
"When we create a perfect society, we will all magically become nice."
"When we eliminate religion, we will all magically become nice."
"When we are all made equal by an equality enforced by limitless government, we will all magically become nice."
"When we band together as a homogenized mass of humanity ruled over by an all-powerful state with all things separating the individual from the state removed, we will all magically become nice."
See how easy that is? If the first statement is a myth, why would not all other statements taking that form be myths? If you think I'm exaggerating, here are Mr. Robbins' exact words:
It’s early days, but if we really want to create a progressive new world then issues like these should be at the heart of our efforts from the very start.
No, this really isn't The Onion. (At least I don't think it is). This is a real person completely oblivious to human history and human nature. His words remind me of the mission assigned to the spaceship Integral in We by Yevgeny Zamyatin:
You will subjugate the unknown beings on other planets, who may still be living in the primitive condition of freedom, to the beneficent yoke of reason.
Time will tell if we choose the yoke or not--if we throw off the yoke or not.

Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

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