How about a break from politics and disaster?
Stefan - with his usual keen eye - spotted this gem of an essay about “stupid utopias.” Of course I agree with much this author says... no wonder. Anyone who disses Plato starts out on my good side! I do think he’s a little unfair to feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman, whose works did have a saving grace of irony and humor.
Likewise, in his goal to be evenhandedly cynical towards all utopias, he may be unfair to Heinlein and some (not all) libertarian dreamers, who dorecognize the predatory-cheater side of human nature. Heinlein, especially, tried to incorporate both accountability and compassion into his prescriptions. In any event, at least in a libertarian utopia/dystopia, you have some chance to walk away. I certainly agree about the loony and disgustingly ungrateful Standard Libertarian SF Rants of L. Neil Smith.
Unfortunately, the author of this paper leaves us hanging. Shall we not dream of better societies at all? Or is this essay a prequel to our own neo-modernist philosophy here. Just make things better. With lots of freedom, diversity, and using an eclectic mix of state/private/corporate. Whatever works. With plenty of Citokate.
MINORITY REPORT last night. A movie that I doubt 1% truly understood. When you watch Spielberg, you have to remember that (unlike George Lucas) he is passionately grateful and devoted to America. Even in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and ET, the government is never outright evil. Nor are the people portrayed as truly disempowered.
According to Spielberg, the government can be overbearing, as it often is in real life. He constantly portrays the patronizing officiousness of well-meaning professional protectors, who are just a bit too contemptuous of the common citizen’s ability to cope. In other words... exactly what we are seeing today in the growing conflict between citizens and the paid professional protective caste (PPPC). (See my discussions of the “Age of Amateurs.”)
But Spielberg shows this friction nearly always resolved in citizens’ favor, as in the three films I just cited. I especially like the “spyders” scene in MINORITY REPORT. Yes, it is creepy and chilling. Good directing for those effects. And yet, under it all, you had a sense that the citizens were not powerless. They had voted the police these powers and generally consented to bear such brief and degradinginconveniences, a bearable indignity. They put up with the momentary official trusion without behaving like oppressed victims of dystopia.
Only Spielberg would have portrayed such a scenario in a future that has retained - possibly even enhanced - citizen freedom. The reflex of almost all other modern directors has been to reflexively portray heavy-handed, Orwellian, over-the-top dystopias. The crudest Idiot Plot. And this reflex has been, I contend, one of the factors propelling today’s rejection of the future.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in dire warnings. I call the best of them self-preventing prophecies! But when the lesson preached tediously by every Hollywood film is always that “citizenship is doomed” - is this a helpful warning? Or a relentless attach upon self-confidence and morale? Cannot we expect this kind of yammering to eventually sink in?
The irony is that I doubt even Spielberg himself understands how different he is. Otherwise he would not defend the works of George Lucas, which relentlessly preach the exact opposite message.
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