Sunday, September 1, 2013

Way of the Pilgrim

This was a book I voluntarily read in 7th grade I believe, so over 12 years ago or "half a lifetime ago" as one might poetically say. I recently wrote an email in response to the question "What would aliens do to us?" and it follows:

"A classic question no doubt. The assumption is that if Aliens took all the time to travel here to find us primitives they'd either enslave us or destroy us. Eating us is sort of a mixture of those; maybe we'd be kept in pastures and work as slaves until someone wanted to eat some good ol' human pizza. Coexist doesn't really make sense unless we were already space-faring. There is some slight hope that these Aliens are religious folk or just conveniently alienane (as opposed to humane) like the Federation in Star Trek. For a race to be space faring there has to be total control of public opinion; there might be slight power struggles on the power council or what have you but in gneeral a race would act as a cohesive whole, there can be no time for public dissent if half of your resources are spent off world. Colonies might rise up occasionally but the actual core planet(s) is probably invincible to derision. Since there's no public opinion a lot of the weird sensational media type things that go on at present in our world simply don't exist. Soldiers die because that's what soldiers do as a point of fact, tears may be shed by close family members but there isn't any weird sense of "bring our boys home" and all that gibberish. Thus, the Aliens probably wouldn't care if they commit various genocides on new races or enslave them or make them subservient, unless we had some sort of technological rivalry with the invaders.

This book was all about an alien takeover of Earth, essentially 1 warrior from the opposing side was completely unharmable even by our nuclear weapons and thus all they had to do was have a few soldiers across the entire planet to keep us subservient. They basically manipulated our entire way of life so that we would live to support the aliens. They commit to no grand atrocities in this and are relatively alienane/humane with regards to the servants, but we are basically stripped of all power in the process. The book is almost entirely philosophical I suppose; it's all about talking your way out of the problem, convincing the "Aalag" overseers that the planet isn't worth the trouble because they'll eventually rise up MLK Jr. style. It's sort of a weird cris-cross of USSR criticism combined with the pacifist resistance of the civil rights era. At the time when I read it I still enjoyed reading shitty Sci Fi so reading something vaguely high-brow was a bit odd but still interesting. For instance the main character of the book is a talented linguist and he keeps that trait from birth. Young children learn languages at an extremely fast rate and apparently some small percentage of people are still able to learn at that rate for their entire lives; the protagonist is simply one of those. This is an interesting thing, I'd definitely seek out one of these people were I in a position of power just for their overall usefulness in regard to communication. Because of his capacities as a linguist the leader is able to serve the aliense well and work from the inside out to gradually lead a peaceful revolution. This book doesn't have the brow-beating absurdly pro capitalist notions of something like The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged so I don't find it despicable. Even if it was anti-communist/socialist I still found it generally interesting.

In terms of "Humane-ness" something like socialism can not be argued against; equal income for all people leads to equality in every other area over time. It is simply a matter of not having incompetent leaders like Stalin destroy the system before that happens. Now it can be suggested that Socialism is too idealistic, it's too impossible to actually implement. However this argument doesn't stipulate an alternative that functions better. Essentially something like socialism is what all governments should strive to achieve as long as there are governments. If there were no governments and the world was literally pure capitalism wherein everyone murdered each other than so be it. But to simultaneously try to regulate society while still collecting wealth in the hands of a few you're creating an inherently unstable system which is in the process of collapsing. If you look at China's system they have total control of public opinion and even a massive event that happened shortly after the writing of the aforementioned novel (1987, Tian an Men square was 1989) that says pretty plainly "Don't fuck with us." Since China already has ethnic homogeneity they much more receptive to the idea of equal subservience to a government and don't have to deal with various dissenting parties. While uniculture is a frightening thing and I personally would much rather live in a diverse society it still gradually leads to the great empowerment of whichever large society has it. This combined with the absolutely atrocious handling of the United States' economy and foreign policy since WW2 has led to our gradual decay and the utterly unstoppable rise of China. The assumption is that China too will eventually decay and that seems somewhat likely; however our stay of power at the top was merely 75-90 years which is one of the shortest reigns in history as the pre-eminent world power. Even the Golden Horde's swift decline after Genghis and Kublai Khan still led to mongol control of much of Europe and the Middle East for centuries. At best we'll have movies and professional sports as our legacy; there have been no great military commanders or public leaders other than Martin Luther King and a handful of others who didn't have de jure power. Nothing really to remember us by except incompetence."

I would like to point out my random inclusion of a vaguely political topic at the end whilst only having some small amount to do with the book is not intended to be seen as political in any regard. It is simply a set of observations about what will happen over the next 20-25 years and how America will be seen in the history books, barring some miraculous reversal of fortunes and methodologies.