Thursday, September 9, 2010

Science Fiction Says: Park 51

My idea here is that well-crafted science fiction can sometimes be used to examine current events. Good literature – the really good stuff – illuminates the human condition and helps sew all of us together. Literature helps us understand how we work, in pairs, alone, as a group or as a thriving mass. A better understanding of us, people, gives things perspective. And because I hate to use words like “things” in some limp amorphous way, let’s pluck an item from the news and see if literature has anything to add.

One of the central pieces of George Orwell’s 1984 set is the grand, never ending war between Eastasia, Eurasia, and Oceania. This world has settled into just three meganations, in perpetual conflict – an ersatz perpetual conflict. It is a phony war, staged and stoked to keep citizens alert, united and afraid.

All of which puts me in the mind of the Park 51 project in Manhattan. That the dream of an Islamic community center, two blocks from Ground Zero, with a prayer room inside should garner international attention is as fake as the wars of 1984. And for the same reasons.

They’re aren’t too many Nazis around any more and the Communists seem to have lost their mojo. Besides, we can’t fight China. They’re covering a good part of our tab. Turning 1.5 billion people into enemies, based on the beliefs of the nastiest one percent is great way to create a fresh and fearsome threat. You get all of the awfulness of radical few, without the real world-shattering power 1.5 billion people strewn across the globe could really wield.

All you have to do is make things up. It’s Orwellian.

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