Battlestar Galactica and science fiction liberates us into another world but sadly man brings with him into space, violence and death as that is his nature. He will never learn. He has not advanced with time. We are the same and always will be the same. That is our nemesis. There have been more people killed in wars since WW2 than during the conflict and despite the best intentions of the UN.
Let us consider those naive optimists on Earth who send radio waves into the cosmos in search of extra-terrestrials. Do they ever consider there may be beings like us out there, destructive, virally-infected or worse with prions with our natures or worse? They may want to exterminate us all and the planet too. Alternatively, these aliens may have been watching our belligerence over the millennia and been warned off like a boy who crosses to the other side of the road when passing a house with a feral dog?
Battlestar Galactica is a metaphor. It is H.sapiens venturing out into the godless void of secular liberalism with our stem cells, in vitro hatchlings, surrogate mothers and cryo-preserved humans lying dormant while Hal (the computer on 2001 Space Odyssey), paternalistically manages our voyage into abysmal galactic depths of cosmic optimism. We have passed 2001 on our left and glide silently by asteroids and other rocky hazards, beyond ourselves and our own grasp, travelling silently on to an unknown destination called the future.
“Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move”. (Ulysses by Tennyson).
We have left behind the certainties of the Olympian gods, and our current world of the two main neo-religions which also subscribe to a certainty in life’s uncertainty. For me the world of Homer in the past, like sailing in the extreme present, is a transient and pleasant escape into another world, a bit like science fiction. How lucky were people of those times past to see life through a more perfect frame, to understand hubris, the wisdom of fearing the gods, and of the inviolate bond of a man’s word. The wisdom literature of the Bible says that “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life’. (Proverbs 14:27). The Greeks understood the principle of nemesis and even worshipped the goddess, Nemesis, who along with the Fates and the Furies was the silent overseer of life, the umpire in the two and fro of life’s eternal tennis match, the final wicket keeper who caught the ball.
In the West, we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. We have replaced form with formlessness, like modern poetry which has to its detriment, dispensed with rhyme, rhythm and meter. We are lost in our freedom. We drown in self. Our lives are governed by the formless political correctness, our children by educational “niceness”, with a dearth of absolutes, or the concept of cause and effect, or a concept of crime and punishment. Formlessness has become the new form like modern art. My patients demand a cure for all ills and are indignant when I tell them I don’t have one. We have opened Pandora’s Box and don’t like what flies forth from within.
As result our schools are now moral wastelands where feral students with their equally feral parents rule beleaguered teachers with the rod of unrealistic expectations, cheek and lack of respect worse than any cane and aided and abetted by new-age politicians and educational “Yes, Ministers” who are scripted by neo-liberal apparatchiks to speak in neologisms and not simple English. Method has become “methodology”, function, “functionality” crisis is a “crisis situation”, “quantitative easing” for reduction and so on ad nauseam. It’s a literary Meccano set of gobbledygook for enterprising do-gooders. Make a new word more palatable and pompous by adding “-situation”, ”-ize” or “-ology” to any adjective or noun in an age where no one knows an adjective from a noun anyway as they no longer belong to that old educational order which was exterminated by secular neoliberals in the 1970′s.
The rot has set in for good. We are wading in it up to our necks and there’s no going back. Our kids can’t play on a jungle gym without a lawyer being present. The cane has been locked in the closet along with good manners. To take it to the ultimate absurdity, teachers in my state of Queensland can now no longer use red pens to mark students’ work as it is seen as “unkind” and “authoritarian”.
The certainties, security and dignity of the marriage band have now been replaced by the ringless vagaries of a de facto relationship, whilst a woman is still chained to a toddler with a snotty nose, and bearing the matrimonial tattoo of indelible stretchmarks and a mortgage and a “partner” doing two jobs. There is no escape from the immutable chains of life’s script. Only death and taxes are surer.
With regards our current obsession, the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, any twelve year old boy used to playing war games on his computer could tell you it is unwinnable. Since Alexander the Great tried his luck there, it has been a black hole for invading armies. It is not a clash over its barren landscape, oil or poppies. It is not even really to rid the world of “terrorism”. It was not long ago that the CIA was arming the Taliban “freedom fighters” with stinger missiles, billions of dollars and lashings of acceptability against the then foe, the Red Russians. The Taliban were known then as the Mujahedeen but what’s in a name; the poppy by any other name would smell as sweet. They are now the shadowy bearded devils in black we fight and lose our men to on a daily basis. Unlike in the Vietnam War where we sprayed Agent Orange with reckless abandon, the richest poppy fields in the world remain untouched. Why not? Everybody knows.
This war is really a clash of cultures and to a much lesser extent, ideologies, and as result there will be no winners other than those supplying matériel for the war effort. But isn’t that always the case? As there are no parliamentarians with sons in the conflict either in the USA or Australia, there are few personal reasons to stop. Australia has not one Member of Parliament who has been in the armed forces let alone on Active Service. No one has written an “All quiet on the Western Front” for this war and Hollywood is still extracting some juice from the last one.
The Taliban side is like an old patriarchal order of Water Buffaloes welded to an “outmoded” belief in an ordered universe run by one true god, namely Allah where woman have their place and are not to be liberated from it. On the other side is a conglomerate, like the disparate Greek city states, whose credo is based on free-market forces, secular neoliberalism, feminism, political correctness with its “quantitative easing”, supported by corporate pillars such as AIG and other corporate Goths and Vandals laced together with unbridled capitalism. These liberal democracies espouse, as all liberal democracies do, “human rights” while dropping anti-personnel mines on villages and inflicting unintentional collateral damage” on innocent men, women and children, often by cyber-drones flying like harpies with their payload of TNT, directed by some cyber-soldier with a can of Coke in a swivel chair in Tennessee. We have our mullahs; the chaplains who in their cassocks preside over the next flag-draped coffin heading back home by C130, but in reality, the Christianity doesn’t hold much sway in allied ranks. This is no army of Crusaders fighting a holy war against the Saracens. The only cross here is the Red Cross.
To say anything but lies about this war is tantamount to treason for some, which reminds me of Neil Sheehan’s superb Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the Vietnam War called ”The bright shining lie”. As in that murderous conflict, there must be more blood spilled here, more cases of PTSD and more maimed people before we realise that it was not a good idea. It’s all a matter of balancing scales; blood and dollars on one side versus noble ideals on the other. There is now a Pakistan instead of Cambodia and Laos, and the bad guys still wear black but the good guys always win. The fire in the belly of the Taliban is still fuelled by the nuclear reactor of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We are not at war. None has been declared but the cordite smells just as pungent.
This latest world financial meltdown shows us that we have not progressed since the 1930′s and that the main lesson of history is that the lessons of history are forgotten. We have forgotten the lessons of Vietnam and how it bled dry Vietnam, humiliated a proud America and disillusioned a generation. I still see men from that conflict on a daily basis and few sleep well and my name came up in that conscription ballot too. As a doctor all this concerns me. I feel compelled to say something. I have served on Active Service in uniform, seen battle casualties and know the rub.
The Battlestar Galactica is not finished. It travels on. We have not yet wiped out ourselves or the planet yet but things are coming along nicely and time is not our friend. But I could be wrong.