I found your post on Galactica right on, and highly reflective of the vocal culture that exists around us…. The overall mood is very much...that the humans really aren’t any good any more and are not even capable of redemption to say nothing of whether they even deserve it. I think this is a manifestation of the hate America/the west first attitude of many people in the country now. Ron D. Moore seems pretty consistent in terms of his personal beliefs and his Star Trek training prepared him for thin allegory.
I find in my daily interactions with [some acquaintances] the same kind of self-loathing; them mostly being parlor pink liberals…. They speak of their country with the same disdain, anyone who returns from an overseas trip is first asked “did they tell you how much they hate America?” almost with glee. They prattle on about hybrids and climate change with no seemingly unique thought or even evidence of having independently thought through their opinions on anything. Inevitably when the talk of politics comes up they long for the days of Clinton when everything was great and America was loved by everyone before the stupid evil George Bush singlehandedly created the War on Terror with no provocation and alienated all of our steadfast allies personally. I mention this partly as a rant and partly because it is not unlike the humans attitudes on Battlestar: we are wrong, we are evil, we are decadent, there is no nobility in the world only our misunderstood benevolent enemies and the warmongering savages bent on repressing these peace natured enlightened souls untainted by the stain of western civilization….
These feelings are not unlike the pleasures of enjoying a work of art whose aesthetic values have appeal despite their philosophical underpinnings. As a an admirer of modern architecture I am used to this dichotomy: how the architecture of socialist reform, through capitalist benefaction produced works of art that stir my soul and transcend the disappointing characteristics of their creators. Even being a Star Trek fan requires some degree of submission to this as time after time I hear people go on about its socialist idealism sorely needed in the “dark times” we now live in. Art, mainstream art is no longer about heroics or aspiration it is about self “reflection” which is really just self hatred. This among other things is another sad casualty of the 20th Century.
Oh and I found Dune boring too, although I enjoyed the Sci Fi Channel miniseries. One of the things I appreciate about it is the world in which to poke my head in and see; even if the plot or characterizations are trying I will stick around for the setting, and I enjoyed the David Lynch movie enough to plough through the novel and the recent Sci-Fi miniseries, it did though remain in many ways boring.
I finally got a chance to watch the Battlestar Galactica movie Razor. And I’m saddened to say that my older qualms about Battlestar were well borne out. It’s frustrating that Battlestar is so well acted and well presented as to be compelling—only to “reward” the viewer with the worst sort of values, and particularly its hostility to heroism. In the world of Battlestar Galactica, there are only rare moments of heroism punctuating a life of cowardice, bullying, and violence—a life in which being admirable is impossible and admiring is based on delusion. Thus a woman who has become a brutal murderer because of her cowardice and confusion in the service of a tyrant, is given a commendation in order to fool later generations into thinking she was a hero. And Adama, the closest thing to a hero in the show, thinks of Admiral Cain, “there but for the grace of the gods go I.”
One thing I find telling is the “so say we all” trope. This phrase never appeared on the original Battlestar Galactica. Instead, on that show, the Cylons would generally say, in response to an order, “by your command.” Corny as this no doubt was, the phrase captured well the element about the Cylons that was supposed to make them so disturbing: they were soulless automatons with no individualism. Like many such enemies in science fiction (the Borg, for instance) the Cylons were represented as evil because they lived the lives of ants, contributing mindlessly to the collective without any room for individual variety and happiness. Obviously, I found this philosophically congenial, since I do indeed regard soulless collectivism as evil. But in the modern Battlestar, it is the humans who recite a collectivist phrase to blot out individual thought or dissent. In one scene in Razor, particularly, the humans use the chant of “so say we all” to bring peer pressure against those who might otherwise have qualms with Admiral Cain’s policies. This is yet more evidence of the bottom line about the modern Battlestar: humans are the bad guys, who have no answer to Adama’s challenge. Humanity doesn’t deserve to survive the Cylon attack.
Finally, a technical quibble. Repeatedly on BSG, we’ve heard how dangerous it is for a battlestar to make an above-light speed jump without carefully plotting a course. Otherwise one might “materialize inside a star” or something. But isn’t that a rather unrealistic fear? Space is so extremely vast with so extremely little in it, that I would think jumping blind is generally a pretty safe thing to do. Unless they’re worried about objects smaller than a star, and then the question is, how small? Is a single particle of dust too much? In that case, how do they detect that from such a distance? Anyway, all this muttering about “jumping blind” is somewhat unrealistic to me.
I still enjoy Battlestar Galactica, believe it or not. I think it is a masterpiece of naturalism, rendered beautifully and wonderfully well acted. But if only the show could be written by the people who do The Unit, or someone else who is unembarrassed by heroism.
This discussion of risk brought to mind an idea I had some time ago: what if states adopted “acceptable risk statutes,” which would specify a certain number as the standard acceptable risk for purposes of assessing tort liability? The statute would not be a binding rule, but just a guideline from which deviations would be allowed (though perhaps under only specified exceptional conditions); it would be used to determine whether the risk of a given activity was or was not “unreasonable” in terms of negligence. The standard would be based on the annual average rate of risk of driving an automobile, which society evidently accepts as an acceptable risk of life.
In theory, the “unreasonableness” element in tort law is supposed to do just this, but without an actual number specified in the law, it doesn’t seem that juries are really much good at measuring whether a risk is acceptable or unreasonable.
I wonder whether it would do any good, or whether there would be any down side.
I'm representing Homer and Julie Tourkakis, two Missouri property owners and targets of eminent domain abuse, in a case before the Missouri Supreme Court. You can read the brief I filed today over at PLF on Eminent Domain.
The manipulative use, by Paul and too many libertarians, of vague, undefined smear terms such as “interventionist” and “neocon” permits them to blame the U.S. government for virtually anything it does in our legitimate, long-term self-defense, anywhere in the world. Actions to thwart coercive threats, such as forging defensive alliances, are “interventionism.” Helping other nations counter a growing peril from a declared U.S. enemy nation (Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Iran, etc.) is “interventionism.” Sometimes, even trading with adversaries of dictatorial regimes (e.g., trading with Taiwan, an enemy of China) is “interventionism.”
The only “moral” alternative they imply, therefore, is a de facto, hunkered-down pacifism: a steady retreat by the U.S. from any interactions in the world—lest we diss some backwater bully, cross his arbitrarily declared boundary lines, offend him for his subjective notions of religious or cultural blasphemy, or thwart his laughable claims of “national sovereignty.”
Part of the sloppy thinking at the root of “noninterventionist” lunacy is the tacit equation of individual rights with “national sovereignty”—and also the equation of “economic interventionism” (against peaceful individuals) with “political interventionism” (against despotic regimes). Philosophically, these twin equations are completely bogus.
Only individuals have rights or “sovereignty”; and only those governments that recognize the individual rights of their own people have any legitimate claims to exist. Dictatorships thus have no “rights” or “sovereignty.” Likewise, the concept of economic “interventionism”—developed by the Austrian school of economics to describe coercive governmental interference with free individuals in the marketplace—cannot be equated with political “interventionism” against governments, especially against dictatorships.