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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/20/04 -- Vol. 23, No. 8
Table of Contents
Trip Logs Available:
The logs for our driving trip from New Jersey to Arizona and back are available at http://www.geocities.com/markleeper/NJ2AZ.htm and http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper/western.htm. Evelyn's Westercon (ConKopelli) convention report will be announced separately when it is finished.
Just a Thought . . . (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Wouldn't it be a great joke on the American public if it turned out that the terrorists REALLY wanted to influence American foreign policy and limit American influence abroad, and that they didn't really CARE how many American flags we fly? [-mrl]
PHASE IV in Australia (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Those who have seen (the underrated) PHASE IV (1974) may find this article of interest: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3561352.stm
There are a lot of echoes of that film's plot in this news story. A huge colony of ants is changing the ecology by cooperating against common enemies. We may be next.
Incidentally, if you have never seen the 1974 science fiction PHASE IV, I do recommend it. I don't think any other film ever did such a good job of showing what it would be like if two really alien cultures fought each other. For years I tried to convince people that QUATERMASS AND THE PIT was this great science fiction film worth seeking out. Now that film is easily available on DVD so I think I have to switch over to recommending PHASE IV which has become very hard to find. [-mrl]
Come the Revolution . . . (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I saw a mother carrying a cute little kid of about two years old today. Lots of kids you see of that age do not know how to act in public. This kid was at least being very nicely behaved and was enjoying the admiration of other people passing by who appreciated how nicely behaved the child was. Well-behaved is not so much a virtue as a lack of a not unexpected fault. But an odd thought hit me. This pleasant child would grow up to dress and think in some way that would be shocking to a generation that considers tattoos and orange Mohawk haircuts and tongue piercings to be normal (or at least not tremendously abnormal). What the heck would THAT be? I don't know. But it happens in every generation. Every generation revolts against the previous generation and tries to shock it. My generation reacted with long hair and facial hair and talk of the Coming Revolution.
Yes, when I was in college there was a lot of talk about The Revolution. These are kids who were two and three years old when Senator Joseph McCarthy was seeing subversive Communist elements all over government and spread the fear that the Commies were going to try to bring their revolution to the US. It occurs to me that all the talk of the coming revolution we had then may have been consciously or unconsciously the same sort of reaction against the previous generation, the thing that generation found the most shocking. The parents were terrified of Communists so the next generation rebels by advocating overthrowing the government.
But the kids of that time really had little idea of what a revolution actually is. Many of us still don't know. Lets try a little pop quiz and see if you can tell which of the following historic events were revolutions.
The answer may surprise you. They are all revolutions except the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Now how do I make that judgement? First a revolution does not have to be successful or even complete, like a presidential impeachment. We certainly all grew up believing there was an American Revolution, but it was only a conflict innacurately called a "revolution." Some of us were told that the American Civil War could be considered a "second American Revolution." That is wrong on two counts. It wasn't a revolution and even if it were it would not be the second one.
So what am I talking about? What is a revolution? It is an attempt, successful or not, to remove a government, to reduce its members to a status of no more than ordinary citizens, and substitute a new government.
In the English Civil War King Charles and his court were removed from power. That was a revolution. The American Revolution was not an attempt to depose King George III. It was a war for independence from a King George III whose rule over England was not in question. It was a rebellion certainly, but not a revolution.
Similarly the American Civil War was not an attempt to remove the Federal Government (except possibly as a tactic during the war). It also was a rebellion for independence, though one that was less successful than the so-called American Revolution.
On the other hand the 1996 elections were definitely an attempt to remove Bill Clinton from governing and replace him with a Republican, albeit in a peaceful and constitutional way. The (not so-called) Revolution of 1996 failed, of course, but that really is the principle of democracy. Free elections are our own method of non-violent revolution. Every four years we take a public opinion poll of who the people want to rule them and then the Electoral College acts on the results of that poll, possibly removing a President from power, reducing him (or her) to the status of private citizen. It is a moot point if this is a real revolution or not. One might want to limit the term "revolution" to something a little stronger than a peaceful election. But like little earthquakes periodically will prevent a big earthquake, theoretically little revolutions every four years make it unnecessary to have a big revolution.
Iraqi conflict is not a revolution because the coalition of nations removed Saddam Hussein from power. Though there was some support of the people that was something else. It was a foreign power coming in and removing a leader. But there are certainly forces trying to remove the current rulers and that makes it a revolution.
So there was no big American Revolution at the beginning. That was just a successful rebellion. But we probably have been having small bloodless revolutions since and simply not calling them that. So in a sense, the Revolution really did come to the 1960s radicals, they may just not have noticed it. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I was really looking forward to Kim Stanley Robinson's FORTY SIGNS OF RAIN (ISBN 0-553-80311-5). The description I read said (or implied) that the island of Khembalung, which had become the nation that was the new house of the Tibetan government in exile, ended up under water due to global warming, and what was left of the nation was the embassy in Washington. Well, it is *something* like that, sort of. At ConKopelli, John Hertz said, "One of the weaknesses of science fiction is that it is a very tempting disguise for a sermon." And nowhere has this been more evident to me recently than in FORTY SIGNS OF RAIN. Charlie Quibler is a scientist concerned about global warming who cannot get the politicians to listen, and also the care-giving parent in his family. Another character, Frank Vanderwal, thinks of all human actions and interactions in terms of evolutionary characteristics that were beneficial to primitive man on the savannah, but in the course of the novel learns the superiority of the Buddhist approach to science. If I have missed any of Robinson's hot buttons, I would be surprised, because that would mean he had also. To top it off, the plot also comes up with some serendipitous scientific discoveries which make the ending more upbeat than it deserves to be. (But I do think that Robinson has actually found one hard fact that does give me some hope in the real world. I do not want to say more about the ending, because I do not want to give it away.) There is a good book in here, but as with many of his later books, Robinson has gotten too caught up in saving the world to write a novel that doesn't preach. (Note: As with William Ashbless last week, there is fiction presented as fact here--there is not really an island of Khembalung, or a League of Drowning Nations. Since these are given are pre-dating the present, I guess that makes this an alternate history.)
I am sure there is a lot to dispute in Samuel P. Huntington's THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER (ISBN 0- 684-81164-2), but there is also a lot that seems to explain the world today. Huntington's premise is that now that the Cold War between "the West" and "Communism" is gone, the more basic conflicts between civilizations have re-emerged. Huntington sees the major civilizations of the world as Western, Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic (Chinese), Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist, and Japanese, and the conflicts as occurring between those civilizations, particularly at "fault lines" where they border, or in "cleft countries" or "torn countries". Huntington cites Carroll Quigley's seven stages of civilizayion (mixture, gestation, expansion, age of conflict, universal empire, decay, and invasion), and then attempts to demonstrate these with current and past civilizations. He then characterizes "Western civilization" as having the following characteristics: the Classical legacy, Catholicism and Protestantism, European languages, separation of spiritual and temporal authority, rule of law, social pluralism, representative bodies, and individualism. While one might debate some of these (in particular, the separation of authority seems to have varied over time), Huntington does show that these are ways to contrast Western civilization with others. For example, Japanese civilization traditionally devalues rather than values individualism, and Islamic civilization is based on the notion than temporal and spiritual authority are one.
Huntington supports his paradigm by observing how current conflicts play out in places like Yugoslavia, the Central Asian republics, the Ukraine, and so on. In Yugoslavia, Russia and other Orthodox countries sided with the (Orthodox) Serbs, the Islamic countries sides with the (Muslim) Bosnians, and the Catholic/Protestant West sided with the (Catholic) Croats. But in addition to these alignments, Huntington points out that the West preaches "universalism", yet fails to demonstrate it: "Democracy is promoted but not if it brings Islamic fundamentalists to power; nonproliferation is preached for Iran and Iraq but not for Israel; free trade is the elixir of economic growth but not for agriculture; human rights are an issue with China but not with Saudi Arabia; aggression against oil-owning Kuwaitis is massively repulsed but not against non-oil-owning Bosnians." This is a book worth reading even if you do not agree with Huntington's premise. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: I passionately hate the idea of being with it, I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time. --Orson Welles
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