The two most canonical science fiction works when I started high school in the mid nineteen seventies were Dune, which around then was still a trilogy, and the Foundation series, also a trilogy. Dune was written by Frank Herbert, and Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Both authors were born in 1920. Herbert died in 1986, Asimov in 1992.
In both trilogies, humans have established themselves on planets all over the galaxy. In both trilogies, the organizing model of the galaxy is The Empire. Empire is, in fact, the name of the cloned multigenerational triumvirate ruler in Foundation. The head of the galactic empire in the Dune universe is The Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV of House Corrino.
I wonder how much those seminal science fiction trilogies – the Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia of science fiction – influenced the galactically imperial daydreams of today’s crop of eugenicist utilitarians calling themselves “long-termists.” I love the quotation from Vonnegut I keep seeing on social media that may or may not be a rebuttal to these would-be space edge-lord conquistadors: “To me, wanting every habitable planet to be inhabited is like wanting everybody to have athlete's foot.”
“Why do you find it necessary to call them edge lords,” you might ask. I didn’t. I called them Space Edge Lords. Because all three of the highest profile examples of over-privileged jerks only went to the edge of space. Richard Branson is the third, in case you forgot. They’re lords of the edge of space. Space edge lords. Also, ultimately the edge lord’s signature activities eventually end in ejaculation. This alludes to my earlier labeling of Foundation and Dune as perhaps seminal influences on these space edge lords and their lusting after planetary colonization. It’s all conjecture at this point, though, I admit.
You might not know this, but Vonnegut wrote a humorous story on the subject of inseminating the Andromeda galaxy. He wrote it for an anthology Harlan Ellison, the bad boy of science fiction, was putting together called Again, Dangerous Visions, an appropriate title for a follow up to his first such anthology, Dangerous Visions. Vonnegut’s story was called “The Big Space Fuck.” Read it and then see “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I guarantee you’ll laugh when you first see the ship, Discovery One. Or just look at Bezos’s edge-lord rocket. There’s a visual joke for you.
In Vonnegut’s story, Earth is going to launch a rocket ship full of semen into space to spread the seed of humanity. The rocket is called The Arthur C. Clarke, named after the author of the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey and the co-author with Kubrick of the screenplay. It’s very, very short. The Vonnegut story, not Arthur C. Clarke’s “rocket.”
Here’s the link: https://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/big-space-fuck-kurt-vonnegut/
It's only fitting that our three paragons of space edge lordship should be supremely vain and neurotically worried about the way the public perceives them. They are the most obscenely obnoxious clown mascots of capitalist overreach. They represent everything wrong with the way our species is being piloted toward its destiny. They are drunk drivers of a third-millennium falcon squirting from their joysticks as they zap into hyperspace.
It's the utterly wrong thinking and behavior they themselves exemplify so comically that dooms us humans never to fulfill their asinine ambition. We’ll be lucky to survive to the end of the twenty-first century, let alone continue our turgid rush toward the unreachable limits of knowledge and endeavor.
I see us, assuming we survive, ten thousand years in the future. Our numbers have been whittled to maybe a dozen small tribes. We strive to maintain our languages, but it’s a losing effort. We as a species are on our way out. Whenever they can bring themselves to look upon our disgrace, the neighboring polar gorillas, who have mastered the art of making fire, eye us with pity.
But one or more of us happen to salvage copies of The Foundation Trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation; and Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune. We strain to read them to each other in the eternally cloudy dusk of the last temperate forests at the South Pole, but we are successful in spite of the waning of the light and of our intellectual powers.
Do we laugh at the hubris of imperial speculation? Do we snicker: how funny these people were to believe that their worst impulses would somehow lead them to spread themselves across the Milky Way where they would thrive, rather than drown in an ocean of their own filth on the tiny, parochial planet they barely strayed a few million miles from. Isn’t it rich?
Is that what we’ll cackle?
Or will we believe those books are ancient historical texts describing the once glorious history of our decayed species? Will we weep and rend our garments like the people of Israel by the rivers of Babylon remembering Zion? Will we flagellate ourselves in penance? Will we cry out in atonement for the failure of a once great galactic civilization, a failure of which we are the last, evaporating stains of evidence?
More fun than that, will we perhaps celebrate a holiday during which we revile the errors of old? Will we maybe invent three hundred sixty-five such holidays, one for every day of the year? We’ll sing songs about not going down that road of poisoning ourselves and the world this time, siblings. We’ll not allow lords to lord it over us. We’ll not merely exclude ambitious warriors from our peaceful societies, but anathematize their overweening desires for domination.
We will cut every egoist down in their prime by drumming into them their own humble humanity. Every winner will be taught they are not better than any loser. The value of every human, every animal, every plant, every mushroom, every slime mold, every river, every rock, every breath of air will be drummed into these wannabe Alexanders, Picassos, Genghises, Buckleys, Shakespeares, Edisons, Leonardos and Einsteins. Oh, what you create is beautiful, Picasso, and your equations sublimely elegant, Einstein, but look at the opalescent drool of the legless, brain-damaged twisted human born of fetal alcohol syndrome. Are you better than this?
Is your life worth more? No, we’ll admonish them, a thousand times No. The beauty you create is as the drool of human gargoyles, and their drool as sublime as your most treasured masterpiece.
And I know this sounds, superficially, like the story “Harrison Bergeron” from Vonnegut’s collection, Welcome to the Monkey House, but it’s not. Non-rights-depriving achievement contributing to the common good and joy will not be hindered, just put in its proper perspective.
And then we’ll end the year by burning in effigy the three space edge lords, and dance around the flames chanting, “Not this time. Not this time. Not this time you naked emperors of nothing!”
But why wait? Why oughtn’t we try this out right now, before the worship of overfed wealth-hording self-pleasuring chew-pizzles takes us all the way down to ignominy and ruin. Burn them in effigy. Although, as long as they’re contemporaneous with us, why waste effigy stuffing? The better future loves a good human sacrifice. The better future loves the smell of burning imperial flesh.
Do we dare dream of a better, non-imperial future? Let’s. Let’s dare.
The philosophy of my obscure political party, The Socialist Leisure Party, is being proven right again. It’s been proven righter and righter with each passing day. The Socialist Leisure Party must become the dominant political party in the world, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to get off my ass to do anything to make that happen.
You might ask, “What is The Socialist Leisure Party’s philosophy?” Jesus Christ, really? Can’t you just figure it out? Do I really have to – ?
Oh, all right. The SLP’s philosophy of history is that history’s real winners are the ones who achieved the least. The ones who got the most sleep. The ones who somehow worked it out to secure the most time to do nothing but stare off into space or make brownies with the kids. The ones who stopped to listen while the grasshopper fiddled. The goldbrickers down at the poolhall.
“But what about the SLP’s platform of universal luxury communism?” you might ask. “How can luxury be produced or maintained if no one’s willing to work? And how is the abundance in the economy of abundance visualized by the Socialist Leisure Party supposed to come about if no one’s going to work to grow and accumulate the surplus for the public?”
These are great questions, but I’m tired. The easy answer – and the SLP is all about easy answers – is that to create luxury requires time, which is itself a luxury. A luxurious building made for the public to enjoy displays the time required to create every part of it. It is not created under the whip of the efficiency supervisor screaming “time is money, you lazy drones.” It’s created by artists and craftspeople who eat healthy, good food. They live comfortable, dignified lives. When they look in the mirror they can respect themselves.
We currently grow and process more food than we eat because of our emphasis on getting the most material out of every action we take. The über-wealthy pay a little extra for higher quality goods but even they waste about half of their over-sized portion of global food wealth.
It’s not a secret that unequal distribution of everything – whether necessities or luxuries – is the lingering issue creating most of the intra-species problems among human beings. Our inability to divide our living and agricultural spaces fairly or wisely also causes problems between species. It’s not that efficiency shouldn’t be a high priority, it’s that misplaced efficiency shouldn’t be a higher priority than alleviating hunger and misery and environmental destruction and the uglification of the world.
A lot of our objection to work is that it seems pointless. The work available to most of us benefits those who want to control us more than it benefits us or the people in need of our help – even if it’s our job to help those people.
Have you heard about these “long-termists” who are supposedly taking the long view of humanity’s future in a kind of steroid-enhanced utilitarianism? Elon Musk, our favorite tech dingleberry, is one of them. Long-termists have this vision that the utopian end goal for humanity is to populate with human intelligence-bearing entities in sustainable living situations all the stars in the galaxy. This they call “humanity’s full potential” or “greatest potential” or “ultimate potential” or some BS.
To aim at the goal of this ultimate destiny there might come a time when triage has to be performed on humanity, especially in the decades immediately to come. If predictions about the climate crisis causing sea level rise and mass migrations come true, rather than pause the output of our technical ingenuity to save aspects of the world necessary to human civilization in, say, the global South, we might have to allow the people who can’t get out of the way of disaster to simply be sacrificed. I mean, in order to keep progress toward our optimal future of comfortably miraculous interstellar transportation and accommodations on track, we may just have to drown or even more efficiently exterminate half of humanity.
It's unpleasantly obvious who the theorists behind such a social engineering vision assume will be making the tough logical, mathematical decisions that must be made. It’ll be fragile, childish, vain egos like our doofus of the decade Elon Musk who imagine themselves superior to run-of-the-mill humans. What other kind of a-hole would arrogate to themselves the godlike fiat power not only to envision the preferred destiny of the human species from now until the heat death of the universe but to decide which lives are obstructing such progress to the point that they must be allowed to perish or be jettisoned as ballast.
It is for this reason that one of the main planks in the Socialist Leisure Party platform is disobeying the dictates of finance efficiency and visionary capitalism. Capitalism is institutional unfairness when it’s not simply institutional cruelty. That the so-called Captains of Industry are so swollen-headed as to demand that the public recognize and acknowledge them is a great advantage to the SLP and like-minded citizens of the world. We can use the whims of these dung-for-brains self-appointed Thought Leaders as a metric. We use our consciences as weathervanes when Elon’s or Thiel’s or Bezos’s winds start blowing. Whichever way they’re blowing, we chart a course in the opposite direction.
Yes, there’s a lot of blowing. World Leadership wants to blow us all in the direction of obedience to the market or prevailing social judgements of the über-wealthy and über-vain under penalty of homelessness and starvation. The winds of hard authoritarianism, like the kind advocated by, say, Erdogan or Orban or General Mike Flynn, or the winds of softer authoritarianism like the ones sweeping in from Davos or the White House or the World Bank or the Federal Reserve must be defied. It’s all a big old wind. Going against the big wind sounds difficult and it is. That’s why it’s called “resistance.”
If the Covid-19 plague and lockdown taught the SLP anything, it’s that the rightwing unempathetic Captains of Extraction and their mouth-flapping toadies were fine sacrificing the lives of millions of vulnerable people in favor of the needs of capital. Those who complained most about taking the virus seriously whined about being inconvenienced or uncomfortable when “forced” to take measures to be careful. Some complained about their small businesses being hurt but were infuriated by any suggestion that the government might make their or anyone’s lives easier by providing material support. Many threatened violence and brought weapons into legislatures to intimidate, claiming they had the Constitutional right to do so, and the rightwing mouth-flappers egged them on with torrents of demagogic vocal slurry.
And this for the relatively minor economic and behavioral inconveniences of trying to keep the elderly, the working poor, and ultimately everyone from contracting an unknown but sometimes fatal virus. Imagine what horrifically violent tantrums will be thrown when food and shelter must be meted out to climate refugees.
We don’t even have to imagine. We’ve seen it happen already. We saw the violence visited on the migrants – yes, even the white ones – during the Great Depression. We saw the vicious ungenerousness of those with calculated interests in profit.
But, contrarily, we also saw resistance to the selfish utilitarianism of the age. We need that resistance now.
We need to say, no, our time and our motivations are our own. It’s our communities that deserve our loyalty, not the owners of the worldwide franchises commandeering housing and businesses and public space. We need a general strike for the good of the air and water and wildlife and domestic life. We need to put our feet down or up and say, “Not today. We’re taking a global health day. Or week. Or month. Or year. Or decade. This land is ours and the food that we’ll grow on it will be ours. It won’t be made into corn syrup or corn plastic or corn flakes to sell 5,000 or 12,000 miles away. We’re not making your stupid hyper-loop or working in your fulfillment gulags or your whitewashed history indoctrination camps. Whatever you’re selling, we ain’t buying it and we sure as hell ain’t helping you manufacture, sell, or transport it.”
A message from the Socialist Leisure Party.