Starships and Devils

FairmanSpeechby Glenn Fairman   3/25/14
An Address to the Mountain View Republican Club – 3/24/14  •  Good evening! Let me say that I am honored and frankly astonished to be standing here before you. Invitations to address groups are generally the result of some accomplishment of sorts, and my life as a blogger has proceeded quietly and outside of any live public forum — except for the two essays I have gathered together for you tonight. For the greater part of my life I worked as an Engineering Technician hunting Industrial Waste violators via the maze of L.A.’s sewer system. I am well acquainted with sewers and their contents, and so at least indirectly I suppose I am qualified to speak on politics: since in these latter days the union between human excrement and political life seems to dovetail so elegantly.[pullquote]I am well acquainted with sewers and their contents, and so at least indirectly I suppose I am qualified to speak on politics…[/pullquote]

I am the eldest of seven children who were raised for the most part in the East San Gabriel Valley in a little burgh called Rowland Heights. Before the 60 freeway cut its way east, it was billed as “Country Living,” and it still has this appeal, albeit its country flavor is now East Asian. Rowland Heights has become a metaphor of sorts for America’s global contraction — and the economic retribution that comes when a nation exchanges its inheritance for a mess of cheap Wal-Mart pottage.

I grew up in America during the time of its greatest prosperity; that peak is said to have been 1964. My father, Fred Fairman, along with my stay-at-home mother, Carole, could then raise a large family and own a home on Blue Collar wages. My father taught me the greatest lesson — that a man’s family was paramount and they were his abiding treasure. So my real accomplishments and legacy, as I reckon them, are my wife of 31 years, Darla, and my children. But I suppose that if I were to be totally honest, these are not accomplishments, but gifts from the one true God. And when I look upon life from this perspective, I am happy.

I retired after 29 years of public service in 2010, and in addition to my newly found vocation as a writer, serve as a substitute teacher for a hard city’s struggling school district about 35 miles east of here. And if I were a Catholic, I might conclude that serving such penance in the autumn of one’s life was an iron theological proof for the existence of purgatory. As they say, let the punishment fit the crime!

Plato understood that for the many, the power of poets and story tellers in a society exceeded that of the Philosopher’s, and so care should be taken in what the citizenry drank in as entertainments. Once set into motion, our passions and desires inform our moral choices, and those choices seamlessly shape our politics. This dance of the moral-political determines who we are, what we value, and how then we shall live. The manner in which we arrange and conduct our lives “can make heaven a hell, or a hell of Heaven.” Humanity often dreams of building the Earthly City of Paradise, but that dream has quite often resulted in cattle cars and grey warehouses where mounds of human hair and children’s shoes are piled ceiling high. These images stand as unholy testaments to the labyrinth of the unredeemed soul – and the monstrous Politics of Utopia

(The Politics of Utopia)

For a wide-eye boy growing up on the cusp of the Space Age, rockets and time travel were the stuff that filled daydreams and stoked romanticized possibilities of daunting discovery. Optimism was in vogue in America then, and it seemed that even a world spinning beneath the shadow of atomic annihilation could be more than balanced by the energies of an upbeat people who would one day fly men to the Moon and back. And why shouldn’t that same two-edged sword of technology – that could transplant hearts and target ICBMs – also allow us to cultivate those warm fuzzy feelings that arise when young idealists are bound and determined to buy the world a Coke? – But the question remained, how might men reconcile their political differences? To accomplish so worthy a goal, a bridge would then be required to span the chasm between Cold War realities and Disney’s Tomorrow Land. In service to this noble end, perhaps those great visionaries of science fiction could help prime the human imagination for the quantum leap necessary to build both monorails and mutual understanding. However, in light of man’s track record…… perhaps not.

All well-written science fiction is wrapped up in the human condition; which is to say that it is at its core concerned with the moral/political. By having at the center of its art the moral “ought,” it rhetorically seeks to praise or blame. Sci-Fi, as it stands, cuts across man’s continuum of actions; and the only limitations that constrain its authors are their capacities to articulate the good that men are capable of attaining or the depths to which they might descend. Of the former, Ray Bradbury’s “I Sing the Body Electric” is replete with the unvarnished optimism of how a robot grandmother can fill the tragic void in a family’s life through inexhaustible service and love. For the latter, one might consider the nightmare revelations of extermination by rogue machines or the solipsistic dream slavery offered by both the “Terminator” and “The Matrix” series of films, respectively. Often, humanity’s nature is the cause for a deep socio-psychological introspection, as when we consider Klaatu’s scathing assessment of us in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or the dark and mysterious “ Id” of Walter Pidgeon’s psyche that threatens to destroy Leslie Nielsen and Co., in the 1956 film “Forbidden Planet.”[pullquote]Plato understood that for the many, the power of poets and story tellers in a society exceeded that of the Philosopher’s, and so care should be taken in what the citizenry drank in as entertainments.[/pullquote]

Nevertheless, the future can be a place of great liberation; and the formidable Robert Heinlein’s libertarian (and some might say “libertine” philosophy) allowed him to stretch the bounds of sexuality and social propriety with “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “I Will Fear No Evil.” Heinlein’s gender bending and communal love went hand in hand with what some might call his neo-fascist sympathies – particularly the non-PC notion that the obligatory virtues of citizenry must be tied to military service. In a similar fashion, Frank Herbert’s “Dune” novels wove a cosmology of intrigue and religious imagery where the militant spirit of his spice-saturated desert Fremen conformed heavily to the Arab and Muslim zeitgeist. As such, their Messiah fated them to traverse throughout the known Universe to carry out his great jihad: the enigmatic Golden Path.

Science fiction issues its Janus-faced warnings to inform us just how far we should proceed in marching towards our goal of managed temporal paradise – and the unintended effects that the hive mentality might have upon Man writ large. Thus, we find that idyllic utopias such as “Logan’s Run” or “Brave New World:” while perhaps alluring to our sensibilities early on, are in fact shriveled dystopias of the soul. And more fully, that men and women of conservative characters and transcendent hopes might just prefer death to a disenchanted existence that serves only the young and shallow who revel in drugs, recreational sex and indiscriminate pleasures. Think undergraduate dorm life.

But if one were to inquire which Science Fiction vehicle best approximates the essence of liberalism, then Star Trek: The Next Generation does so hands down. What began in its first 1960’s incarnation as a species of Space Cops, eventually morphed into Gene Roddenberry’s statement of the Progressive worldview par excellence. Set in the technological wonder that is the Twenty-fourth Century, earth has reconciled her martial differences by tossing aside her claims to obsolete deities and uniting under the glistening banner of Science and Technology. Having learned that an entire galaxy of life forms were populating the cosmos, the myth of Special Creation dissolved away into the paradise of the Universal Homogenous State. Soon, the Earth came to be managed by a United Nations-like entity and joined the Federation of Planets: an ordered macrocosm of galactic tolerance balanced by a respect for the autonomy of individual worlds – all guaranteed by The Prime Directive. But in spite of this Milky Way Love fest, there were still plenty of chances to fire phasers and photon torpedoes (at least once a week) because there are still: Romulans, Cardassians, Ferengis, The Borg; and depending upon which day of the week- Klingons – who refuse to make nice. Although war has grown extinct on the pacified Earth, it’s still High Noon in the Delta Quadrant – so keep your shields up Number One, and engage!

As is the fantasy of all good Progressives, a feel-good socialism holds sway on the socially conscious Enterprise. Most everyone is fit and trim with gleaming white teeth: especially the ship’s engineer with the Lee air filter over his eyes. In Space Utopia, there is no need for money and everyone works for the sheer enjoyment of it. In fact, only the Ferengi, an ugly troll-like race of crafty space Capitalists (who resemble the way Jews were characterized by the Protocols of Zion,) are interested in filthy lucre. And as in all liberal daydreams, there is no killing of animals for food or any want for anything of substance – because the Humanoid Man has become the Promethean Savior. His technology has thus revolutionized economics and extinguished the concept of finite goods and material scarcity. Anything from a roast turkey to a pint of Romulan Ale can be created instantaneously from atoms in their fantastic replicators. As such, men can then be free to race around the Universe at Warp 9 in starships that get a billion miles to the gallon so they can stick their noses in the business of peoples who did just fine without the future’s equivalent of NATO. It truly is a brave new world and it all runs as if by magic—and economic magic is the summum bonum of the liberal mind.

And true to their Progressive roots, the idea of God is but a bitter primitive memory for a savvy people who can create their own computerized reality on a holo-deck. Furthermore, these people need only succumb to death if they are really, really old –or are the uncredited actors on an Away Team in the first five minutes of the script. And if my memory serves me, the idea of God is only referred to in the series disparagingly or as quaint folklore in celebrating a race’s treasured diversity. Truth be told, the closest the Enterprise comes to dealing with omnipotent beings is when those pests from the “Q” Continuum come a callin’, And like all shallow deities, they are by nature vain and capricious — and torment Picard and the Enterprise as playthings of the “gods.” And it goes without saying; Science fiction is nothing if it’s not about the idea of playing God.

I could not do justice to the genre were I to omit what is to me the greatest triumph of Science fiction cinema: Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner.” Based on a story by the master Phillip K. Dick, Blade Runner has just the right balance of technology and decay to make a grim dystopia both arresting and believable. As the earth’s science of 2019 has spawned colonization to other worlds, man has progressed to the point in his genetic engineering where biological androids, or Replicants, are commensurate with their human counterparts. The plot revolves around a band of highly advanced Nexus 6 creations fighting their way back from the colonies (where they served as slaves) to demand from their maker a lifespan longer than the fail-safe four years they were engineered with. What emerges is perhaps Sci-Fi’s greatest treatment on what it means to be human, now that the lines have blurred to the point where even the hired hunter Dekker questions the morality of his trade—especially upon falling in love with Rachel Tyrell, a stunningly beautiful Nexus 7 with an unlimited shelf life.

At the film’s great climax, Dekker, who has slain all except the leader Roy Batty, now becomes the hunted by a being mentally and physically superior to himself. Upon trapping Dekker firmly at his mercy on a dilapidated rooftop in the pouring rain, Batty, going against all form, spares Dekker’s life and utters his famous soliloquy that reveals to us both the preciousness and absurdity of his life:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Ultimately, as I alluded to in the beginning, all good fiction holds a mirror up to us and allows us to judge our humanity and existence. We are shown our failings, our strivings, and what we value above all else. We may be the Prodigal Son returning home to ask forgiveness, or in fact, to murder that selfsame father with a crushing kiss. As in all things moral, we are offered two roads. Orwell’s “1984 “taught us that mankind’s future was a terminal “boot in the face forever” by a government whose power could extinguish even the possibility of love. But to balance it out, Andrew Niccol’s “Gattaca“ can hearten us with the message that even genetic engineering’s deterministic iron-hand is no match for the motivated human spirit. And that, as a much beloved and taciturn Vulcan would dryly remark, (with upraised eyebrow)….. is “Fascinating.” (End)

ScrewtapeCoverSometimes satire, if it is done with the right touch, can score a knockout where a thousand facts or opinions would inflict only glancing blows. It is with a satirical but serious intent that I composed the following piece as a means to both enlighten and ridicule. And this is essentially turning the tables on Saul Alinsky, who preached the art of ridicule to assail not only things conservative, but things eternal. And so I submit to you (With all apologies to C.S. Lewis) “The Art of Subversion: Screwtape Discourses on America.”

To that Progressive Vanguard: The Democratic National Committee!

Allow me to thank you for your recent request for my counsel. Even though I have long since retired from Subterranean Public Service, I still remain quite active in the Terrestrial Political Wing: dispensing tidbits of knowledge I have gleaned from a long career of fomenting revolutions, instigating Holy wars, and evangelizing towards our Dark Utopia. Without further ado, allow me to offer you a little guidance – a bit of “devil’s advocacy,” if you will.

For the diligent and subversive mind, the act of destroying America must appear at once to be a daunting task. Indeed, the annals of men are bursting with tales of cities that fell in one day due to force or treachery. But if we looked much deeper we would find that, as with the case of many of those wretched and fallen peoples, their violent ends were merely the last link in a long chain of indignities. As Whittaker Chambers, one of America’s most deluded but astute minds once wrote, “Human societies, like human beings, live by faith and die when faith dies.” In order to bring down a super-state of America’s magnitude, it will be necessary first to break that faith. And although ten million guns trained upon its shores could not begin to accomplish the task at hand, a slow suicidal sickness unto death can topple a tower that is thought too great to be thrown down. To quote an unassailable truth from our enemy’s odious Book: “Without a vision, a people perish.”

But first, it is necessary to create in the collective American soul a wasteland: one where the government actively contributes to the moral and psychological decay of what were once a free and sovereign people. Through surreptitious and concerted efforts, men and women must be enticed to despise their historical heritage – and you in authority must subtly weave foreign beliefs into their heads to war down those patriotic ideals that were forged at America’s founding.

Let us begin with the narrative that their inheritance was anchored upon wicked privilege and unquenchable greed. Drum into their heads that the Founders of the American regime were self-interested pirates who were concerned solely with their own purse strings. Through the Deconstructive Marxian lens, (a true visionary, that man Marx!) tell them that the Founding’s sacred documents in their true form are nothing but the thinly camouflaged window dressing of conquerors: glib words composed to render their servitude more comfortable. At every opportunity, you must crucify the meme of American Exceptionalism. Additionally, never relent in your scathing historical indictment against the republic’s maltreatment of its aboriginals and its complicit assent to racial slavery. And furthermore, never allow those festering wounds to heal. By stoking the seething rage of historical victimhood with the cultural paralysis of grievance, you can accomplish much in perpetuating any aggrieved group’s “eternal sense of martyrdom.”
Now, you cannot know how much it pains me to quote “Him” (tail) here, but you must still remember what our great enemy has said: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” Exploit these bottled-up hatreds to ignite a relentless cycle of injustice amongst your citizenry; and then stand back and watch how the fireworks play out!

Next, regurgitate the lie, over and again, that the prevailing economic system is a rigged wheel that guarantees failure and yields only inequality. Since the Art of Economics has been forever muddled with the introduction of pseudo-scientific Keynesian flim-flam, urge the population and the government to consume their own and their children’s seed corn with gusto! With a bit of cleverness (you will be surprised how little it takes) it is possible to instill into people the belief that national bankruptcy is in actuality a moral virtue! Remember, with the fanatical pursuit of vague social justice, you can eventually bring about a total institutional collapse. For your further enlightenment, I advise you to seek more technical advice in these matters from my trusted protégées: Cloward and Piven.

Make it a point, whenever possible, to steer the dull and credulous masses away from all traditional religious beliefs, even as you replace them with the secular creeds of the burgeoning State. By all means, turn the hearts of the young away from the classical virtues of: hard work, thrift, the forswearing of illicit pleasure, vile chastity, and every species of sickening piety. Instead, brew in them the pernicious venom of: entitlement, ingratitude, impatience, hedonism and self-worship. Reinforce progressively poisonous governmental dependence with the lethargic mental comfort of lowered aspirations. Pepper the people’s entertainments with twisted images that glorify: illegitimacy and family decay, all manner of lusts, and the celebration of mindless and unbridled violence. Through addicting the population to a host of wanton shadows designed to breed in them the shallow tastes of the barbarous soul, you may more easily control those who can no longer rein in their own natures. Moreover, you will find that such control will be infinitely more secure if you twist your educational institutions into Temples of Propaganda. The game is half won if you can suppress free human inquiry for what is soothingly orthodox and trivial. Never underestimate the value of self-righteous mediocrity. After all, what else would you use for your television programming?

Once you have wiped clean the moral and spiritual mindscapes of a few generations of brats and these domestic time bombs have breached the nation’s psychological outer ramparts, declare that the ancient and timeworn assumptions that undergird the laws themselves can no longer be trusted to serve such a depraved people. And as men helplessly lose the capability to exert even the most elementary control over their squalid appetites and inflamed passions, you may – under the promise of the greater common good -then begin the systematic “re-interpretation” of their hallowed natural and political rights of speech, assembly, and self-preservation. As the citizenry are slowly reduced to mere subjects and begin devouring themselves as pitiless beasts, decry America’s constitutional covenant and its attending checks and balances as obsolete, ponderous, and even dangerous. By broadcasting at a fevered pitch the endless litany of man-made atrocities that you have labored so deftly to bring about, you may then utilize their degradation as political justification for a more “centralized” control and for the further eradication of their now arcane and useless liberties – all in the service of public tranquility and equal outcomes.

Finally, and you must trust me here: While some may yet howl for the freedoms that are snatched from them, the Great Unwashed Multitudes who are content with their meager materialist swill will fortunately pay no mind to the soothing embrace of the boiling cauldron. And remember the words of one of my finest students: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” If you continuously apply the noxious irons of fear to their shrinking hearts, you will not believe what a debased population will trade away for the sake of their miserable skins.

Do all of this, and eventually you will demolish that constitutional stronghold to the ground: allowing you to pave the foundations of “our”— er, I mean “your,” New World atop the bleached bones of America’s once formidable political legacy. Then, and only then, can you begin to mold the cowed and pliant into the service of utopian abstraction. Only then can you set about bringing to fruition your glorious (and delicious) City of Man.

Infernal Tidings in 2014
Comrade Screwtape

I would like to thank you for coming and enduring the ramblings of a crazy man who was given a soapbox and an audience for just one evening.

But before I close, and since we are in the Lenten season shortly before Easter, and in the House of our Lord, will you indulge me if I offer up a short poem I composed a while back that speaks intimately to my life, and perhaps it will to yours—-Emmaus Road

(Emmaus Road)

On Emmaus Road I set my steps
A Burning City left behind
A Citadel collapsed in ruin
The victim of my Grand Designs

Fallen hard in rank affliction
Crashing dreams now marked my way
A brutal sun bore down upon me
Circling like a bird of prey

And suddenly He was beside me
Matching cadence with my pace
A cooling breeze within His shadow
A hooded coat obscured His face

I told Him how it all had broken
Keeping nothing from His ears
Tears streamed down my dusty furrows
Etched so cruelly by the years

But when He spoke my fears subsided
He told me I would find the way
He told me every sacred prayer
I’d uttered ‘ere I went astray

And then he placed his arm around me
My broken heart then leapt inside
No man had ever spoken words
That stormed the strongholds of my pride

And as we reached the highway’s crest
A verdant valley loomed below
I found I was alone once more
A gentle breeze began to blow

I don’t know if I dreamed the One
Who released me from that heavy load
But life has never been the same
Since walking up Emmaus Road

Thank you and God Bless you All!
__________________________________________________
Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at arete5000@dslextreme.com. • (1976 views)

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8 Responses to Starships and Devils

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I certainly can’t see anything to criticize in your Screwtape pastiche. As for your comments on science fiction, I do have a few observations. Heinlein was opposed to mandatory military service in general; in Starship Troopers only those who completed such service could vote or serve in certain government offices (perhaps in any of them). Note that in his unpublished For Us the Living war can only be declared by popular referendum, with those who vote for it being drafted. When it comes to libertarianism (mixed with strong libertine elements, as usual), I would mention The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as his masterpiece.

    Herbert in Dune seemed to have a liking for weird combinations, such as the Zensunni philosophers and the Orange Catholic Bible. (A friend of mine is Orange by way of his father, of Ulster Protestant ancestry, but his mother was a Ukrainian Catholic — the family came from the Tarnopol area — and that was how he was raised, to the extent that he had any religious upbringing.)

    And ST:TNG was very definitely a model of progressivism, though one can see much the same thing in some of the movies (such as the fourth one, or the later one — I think the sixth — in which some explosion wipes out the Klingon ozone layer). I gave up on the series after the first year, partly because of too many “Wesley Crusher saves the world” stories and even more so because of their use of “late twentieth-century technology” for heavy-handed political satires.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      “Note that in his unpublished For Us the Living war can only be declared by popular referendum, with those who vote for it being drafted.”

      I am not a big SciFi fan so don’t know who Heinlein is. If he thought that by making the people who vote for war serve in the military would somehow cut down on fighting, I am dubious.

      We have had such systems quite often in history, the early Middle Ages and particularly the ninth century and Norsemen come to mind.What too often happens is the fighters end up with virtually all the power. Little good follows.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Plato understood that for the many, the power of poets and story tellers in a society exceeded that of the Philosopher’s, and so care should be taken in what the citizenry drank in as entertainments. Once set into motion, our passions and desires inform our moral choices, and those choices seamlessly shape our politics. This dance of the moral-political determines who we are, what we value, and how then we shall live.

    I just have not had time yet today to read the entire speech. But I’m very impressed that Glenn has the gumption to get up and make such an eloquent one. As a friend of mine said the other day, making public speeches is one of the most challenging things we can do. It’s like standing in front of people naked.

    But I did read that paragraph quoted above. And this is a dagger in the heart of not only the “sex, drugs, and rock n roll” generation who learned that any kind of restraint was “oppression” but it’s a thorough and complete refutation of the libertarian idea that we humans are no more than atomized particles in a market culture, and need no other guidance or restraint than mere “choice.”

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    Thinking of culture and society, HotAir today has just posted a video of a British song writer about his wife’s pregnancy and (eventually) new baby. I think a lot of people here would appreciate it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      That would be this one here. Let me know if you need help posting links, Timothy. The code isn’t too nasty.

      Is that a same-sex marriage, by the way? (Okay, that was a cheap shot at the girly-voice, but am so tired of the girly-voiced man.)

  4. Kender says:

    Another phenomenal essay by the inimitable Mr. Fairman.

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