Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Science Fiction, the Seldon Plan, The Mule and American Politics

 (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Well, sort of. I mean, the most recent of the books I'm talking about was published over twenty years ago and the oldest was published over seventy years ago, but there's some stuff in here from the books that you won't know about if you haven't read them.)

I'm not sure why, but Isaac Asimov seems to be the least respected of the grandmasters of science fiction. He's been one of my favorite writers since I picked up a used copy of Foundation and Earth at a rummage sale in the gym of a local high school. The gentleman who sold it to me warned me that it was heavy reading. Easy for him to say. It wasn't his budget that had to expand to try to get the Foundation series or the Robots series. I enjoyed FAE for what it was but it took a lot of reading other things to make it make sense in many ways. I'll never get why a man that could conceive a world so rich in history (granted, all of it made up) with characters so vibrant wasn't seen as a master. I think I get it now though.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that most of the people I talk books with are conservative. I have to wonder if the opinions of Asimov are less based on his writing and more on his political leanings. It makes sense that a rightist would be a little annoyed by ideas he didn't agree with. We're not leftists who want to ban everything we disagree with as "hate speech" but some things are out of our comfort zone. They're just not as entertaining to us. Probably the biggest reason I love Asimov when a lot of others like me don't is because I read the books before I was really old enough to make the comparisons a lot of others make. I was eleven or twelve when I got the first one and not much older when I'd worked my way through all of them. I see what they think now, but I'll always remember the joy of reading through those books the first time. Somewhere out there, someone isn't getting this. Let me break it down a bit.

The Foundation in the novels was a product of Hari Seldon and his science of Psychohistory. Seldon, and those who came after him, were the shapers and molders of all of human history from that point on. Their purpose was a better life for all humanity. This was to be achieved by following "The Seldon Plan." The plan adapted to changes in humanity but at the end of the day it was all about following the teachings of one man and his scientific model of humanity. There's more to it overall, the idea filled several novels, but that's it in a nutshell.

The Seldon Plan then, is essentially Marxism writ on a galactic scale. It is the so-called "scientific" way of achieving utopia for all humanity. A way of managing all people so that the greatest outcome is achieved for everyone. A goal worth striving for regardless of the cost because it will benefit all in the end. It is a philosophy of trusting the government to solve all of society's problems, Yes, Asimov was a Marxist and so was Seldon. I have to wonder how many modern-day social scientists, politicians and historians have read his work. I really do.

Part of what irks so many conservatives about  Asimov's work is the (unspoken in the books) assumption that there are right and wrong sides of history. To the left, their march to triumph is inevitable. All who oppose it are evil and will be crushed underfoot. History will remember anyone who spoke out against them as racist, evil Capitalists. Anyone who does not conform will be left behind on the ash heap of history and reviled throughout eternity by all right thinking people and, after the triumph of the Left, all will agree what proper thought is. In the books, no one seriously opposes the plan. The whole galaxy lines up behind Seldon and his Foundation and marches forward into the future fighting to maintain his plan. Well, until the Mule shows up and ruins everything anyway.

The Mule, you see, is from outside the system. What's worse, he stands in opposition to it. He has powers of mind control that he uses to cause others to deviate from the plan. He causes the entire Seldon Plan to begin unraveling. Everything begins to come apart at the seams. Human civilization goes completely off the rails and misses a war they were supposed to fight to correct some problems in their society. The people only find this out because of a recording left by Hari Seldon that details what was supposed to happen. The world is saved through the romantic tendencies of Arkady Darell and her love of intrigue, along with some help from a few others who follow her advice. Here's the thing though: To the Left, Trump is the Mule and they don't have an Arkady Darell lined up to save things after Trump destroys "progress."

Looked at from this point of view it's no wonder that they're all crapping their pants. Trump represents the abolition of all they hold dear, the upset of all of their plans. They've gone from a black president back to a Straight White Male who is also a CAPITALIST!!! The chosen one was not anointed  president. We've moved backwards. The Plan is off the rails and we're all headed for destruction. Doom and destruction are assured if we step off the path that was laid out for us by Karl Marx. The world is ending. Trumps evil mind-control rays made us all racist and misogynist and probably some other kind of -ist as well.  I guess they could be right, but let's just say I'm not convinced.

I didn't support Trump. I told everyone I knew that I was going to lose my shit regardless of which asshole won the election. I delivered. I've voted in every election I've been eligible to vote in since the day I turned eighteen. I voted for myself in 2012, not because I thought I'd make a GOOD president but because I thought I'd make a better president than either one of the candidates that year. Having said that, I'd still vote for Romney before I'd vote for Trump or Clinton.  At the end of the day though, Trump will be the president come Friday and I'll give him a chance even if I do expect him to blow it. The only really qualification Trump has shown so far is an ability to talk shit. We'll see if there's anything underneath.

For what it's worth though, I don't think Trump is The Mule. I never subscribed to the Seldon Plan but I don't think he is deliberately out to destroy anything or to become a dictator. He has enough money that he could have bought himself and island and ruled it if that's what he wanted. I'm not convinced he'll be a good president but I don't see him as the next Obama or Carter so he probably won't be the worst. We'll see. In the meantime I'll be watching them all freak out endlessly. It's going to be a fun four years watching them, even if Trump is as bad as I think he'll be.

Some Foundation books are available at the links below:

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