Friday, October 21, 2005




The movie Serenity sports a character, a secret operative for the united kleptocracies of interstellar space, who says, Moses-like, that there's no place for him in his Utopia. He's evil. He knows it. But all the eggs he breaks for his still-never-made omelette are necessary.
Cast for the part is the appealing Chiwetel Ejiofor. (Go Amistad!) The dude could give elocution lessons to the queen, but from a mile away any racist can see that his blood line is neither Lancaster, nor Rose, nor Hanoverian; but Nigerian!

The Stalinist pragmatics (what a joke, that humans could tell what's practical) is pure White Man. (It is at least in "our" European-dominant cultures, ruled recently far more by England ... America than by any Ruskies.)

In I forget which novel of my relatively recent D. H. Lawrence reading, there's an English capitalist who runs his mine by unrelenting business principles. He goes to church: at least he sends the ladies and kiddies to church. Titularly, and in actual superstition, he's a Christian. But, he's unusual in his certainty that he and his kind are destined for hell. He believes he is going to hell, that hell is what he deserves (in the next life, riches in this one), but he does what he does: willingly, with a zest: for civilization! For Empire!

The form in which poverty and lack of feedback ground my third novel to a halt was just getting started with the question of what is it that each individual believes that would cause her to violate her most sacred principles for some other competing principle. (Would not any aerobic bacterium man the barricades against dominance by the anaerobes? Would not any Homo break the rules to defend upright posture?) (But with social man, it gets tricky: Would you take one for the team?) (Would you commit murder to promote democracy? Would you commit incest to back equality of gender? Would you cannibalize for the good of General Motors? ...)

But others have done parallel things. A favorite of mine occurs in James Clavell's Shogun. Blackthorn and his shipmates wash up in Japan. They're thrown in a hole, pissed on, chopped up for kendo practice. But Blackthorn finds himself subtracted, promoted, protected ... (He has geographical, maritime MAPs!) So Blackthorn suddenly has a big house, money, servants. He shoots a pheasant and orders it hung: to ripen. But the Japanese don't prepare fowl that way. The rotting bird is an offense to the community of peons. Master has ordered it not to be touched. The ancient gardener cuts it down, fully prepared, and willing, to be executed: maybe tortured first. Still, he does it: for his community.

If the double bind is deep enough anyone will willingly go to the cross.

Nice to see that what Chiwetel Ejiofo's Operative sacrifices himself for is kleptocratic coercion, deception, slaughter ...

Stalin used the saw about needing to break eggs to make an omelette. Which smart Commie was it who told him, "I see the broken eggs; where's the omelette"? [Lenin, not Stalin, bk corrects: and anarchist, not Commie.]

PS Apropos of Serenity, apropos of the science fiction most generally known through high tech media such as TV and movies, bk just emailed me remembering his bewilderment at my objection to Star Trek as too damn militaristic. I think it was in writing my first novel that I voiced the objection: I was finding myself imagining a near future where every character had some rank, wore a uniform, worked for some damn army, government, UN ... was centralized, hierarchical.
bk, in 1982, hadn't yet seen any other kind! I in contrast had steeped myself in science fiction in 1950, 1951 ... when it wasn't all big budget, big kleptocracy. [bk says I made my comment in the 1970s.]

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