Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 778, July 6, 2014

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the
land unto all the inhabitants thereof.

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Escapist Literature and The Great Escape
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Been quite a week.

Between working hard on the job and projects at home plus the never ending exploration and discovery that life always ought to be. In addition to the usual revelations and epiphanies, I just found out the shadow government has a top secret space fleet. Based on a moon of Saturn. Latest word of mouth from a guy I talked to last week— probably second hand from Tinfoil Theater.

Had to say something funny to take the edge off the less amusing stories in the news.

Speaking of those who believe urban legends—I had an interesting brush with We the Sheeple this past week and at times it was really getting me down. It was sort of the usual righteous indignation (aka jealousy with a halo) populism to be expected in a blue state spiced with the rubber stamp of approval of anything coming from the guy supplying the Free Lunch. With a little grumbling about how the weather has never been so bad which was an obvious setup for the argument that the free enterprise system and modern technology are destroying the planet and government must step in and run everything. That on the heels of a conversation about the border crisis and why we should let them all stay. Anything to increase the size of the flock of loyal partisans. No matter the bad consequences which will just be blamed on the other party anyways.

It's the ultimate Heads I Win, Tails You Loose argument. It's the Democratic Party in a nutshell. Like the "public educator" I once talked to; who thought we ought to study the potential impacts of Marcellus shale gas to death—Big Surprise! And the bugaboo about particulate pollution is a wedge issue to make going off grid untennable. You will have to go back to the city and pay your fair share of high living cost and endurance of social problems like everyone else. It's Collective Damantion!

To hell with that! Personally I prefer to stiff Sheeple like that in the fashion of a character in Ann McCaffrey's "Decision at Doona" who near the beginning of the novel blew off this indignant plebe who demanded "Your number!" Over a minor complaint—which on this overcrowded future Earth could cause the protagonist a lot of legal trouble—which he needed to stay out of—being he and his family had been selected to be space colonists!
He told the man beautifully that he didn't care because he was going off world before steeling away into the crowd.

They: The Sheeple: my new pet term for those who are not really moochers because they actually work for a living and pull their weight. But have chosen to cast their lot with the looters—you know; those who trade freedom for security. As said above: this current cohort has really been getting me down.

Yes, some of my best friends and relatives are Sheeple! Most of you know a few too.

In regard to the central planners; everyone ought to ask themselves the question: do you really want to put your life in their hands? The same people who are promising you a cradle to grave utopia are also the same people who argue that there are too many people on Earth and also reserve the right to do some very draconian things in the name of the common good. Do you fancy yourself among the elect who will be considered useful to the system and those in charge?

In charge of that future world where stepping on someone's heel is a serious offense and you have to reserve a year in advance just to take a walk in your local park? [Link]

While on this thread I must mention some of the memorable objections.

First and foremost is the argument with Big Bob which nearly destroyed our friendship one evening back in the day over space colonies and solar power satellites.
Despite his belief in UFOs he did not care much for the idea of us going into space in a big way. I tired to argue about the benefits to be had in the way of abundant clean energy and economic growth but he scoffed : "those are all high tech jobs. They wont help ordinary working people like you and me"!

Ordinary working people?
I kind of get it. In times like then and now—a good many "working people" do not believe that rising tides lift all boats. And in a way they are right. A big part of the problem lays in the lack of freedom inherent in our current system. And some of it has a lot to do with the lack of skill sets on the part of many potential job applicants. These are the forces of mediocrity that any would be space colonist or enthusiast must defy in the fashion of Ayn Rand's Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead" or the people who like to carp about Science Fiction as "escapist literature". The Danes as in mundane. The people who couldn't imagine space travel even after it happened—like in Fallen Angels. I remember a really laughable rant by some guy— probably a liberal on talk radio who was lambasting the series "Space Above & Beyond" because it was an irrelevant fantasy in a world plagued by social problems that people ought to be paying more attention to. If only space colonization were a reality—as it should have been by now—if not for the Danes as in mundane who did their best to keep it from happening. Then someone could have called the show and told him they were getting off the planet and away from it all. And rub it in real good too.

I like this short movie made back in the 70s when O'Neill's ideas were slightly vogue. It's actually set in our day and age with a semi authoritarian European Union style world government. And an agent of that government sent to investigate the free booting capitalist society in orbit—and decides to go native.

[Link] Could have been in our time.
Oh well. They have been saying the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
Next best time is of course today!

As a young man I was very astonished by the way some space scientists like Carl Sagan were so skeptical about the prospect of human colonization of space. For the most part a timid hands off—let's explore the cosmos from a safe distance. And even worst was Robert Burnham Jr. : author of the renowned Burnham's Celestial Handbook— the three volume set I got years ago to expand my knowledge of the nearby stars above and beyond basic high school astronomy. [Link[

And worse yet in an interview with either Astronomy or Omni Magazine he was utterly horrified by the idea of people wanting to live in artificial habitats with man made ecology. Not sure it it was the same source or another—but I also have memory of someone complaining about the wannabe space colonists aspiring to spend billions to crate exclusive communities "for their kind of people ".

And of course you have those who are steadfast in their convictions that it is an impossible dream.

[Link] This guy is probably right about one thing—that some significant fraction of Earth gravity is necessary for the long term health and successful reproduction of humans and other complex animals beyond Earth. But he totally ignores the work of O'Neill, Cole and others who created designs for spinning habitats that would provide the necessary gravitational pull to keep bones and muscles strong in the form of centrifugal force. Actually it might be prudent to put off sending live humans to Mars and other destinations in deep space until some form of mobile spinning habitat can be developed. As for the author of the above link—I cannot help but wonder if his conclusion is nothing more than the latest incarnation of a wish vaguely disguised as a fear—a common phenomenon in leftist thought -- environmentalism in particular—and so many scientists. What's with these people!

Over time I sort of figured it out. With a little help from the politically incorrect teachings of my turncoat sociology professor -- Doc Gibson. "Science is ok, only as long as it remains speculative" in the way of contemplating the mysteries of nature and the universe and not the applications of science like engineering or high technology. In Progress & Privilege—one of the main books of the course study material it is noted that John Muir—deep ecology mystic and founder of the Sierra Club is the hero of environmental thought as opposed to Daniel Boone—being that the latter is more of a villain being that he not only went into the wilderness to cut down trees and make a home for himself and family—but also encouraged and led lots of other people out to the frontier to do the same.

Oh and there was Arthur C. Clarke's dark and pessimistic handwringing fomented in his novel Childhood's End by Karellen the alien Overlord who laid out the ultimatum that put the stars off limits to humanity and put up a holographic display of the Milky Way Galaxy with its billions and billions of stars*. And he posed the question to humanity much like the one that the Q Entity posed to Picard in Star Trek TNG—just before the bounced the USS Enterprise far across space and introduced them to the Borg (for shits and giggles)—"Are you truly ready for what awaits you out there"? In the case of Karellen the Overlord—it was the futility of being able to govern a civilization spread over hundreds or thousands of light years. From a libertarian perspective that is actually a good thing***—which is why so many so called Progressives are stuck in their time warp of early 20th Century thinking do not think much of the promise of space or science fiction—and some absolutely fear and loathe it. They are essentially the people described by one of the characters in the pages of Fallen Angels as the people who couldn't imagine space travel even after it happened. They are the Danes. As in mundane.

Their idea of progress and a perfect society is protection of the status quo and a free lunch.

Progress became a dirty word back in the day—the 1970s— when they were beating the drums to kill space exploration so we could solve our problems on Earth First! Now in 2014—$16 Trillion with a capital T deeper in debt, even more problems and no space colonies to show for it—we now know what a great decision that turned out to be. Some of those Old Democrats who turned into deficit hawks because they didn't like space and whined how it would bankrupt us into oblivion ought to be laughing stocks by now. But I'd love to dig up the late Wisconsin Senator and infamous space critic William Proxmire** and bring him back to life because now in the Age of Obama we could actually use someone to hand out Golden Fleece Awards for the astronomical amounts of wasteful government spending!

In the words of Dr. Zachary Smith—(the New Dr Smith from the 1998 Lost in Space remake)—it truly is 'Astronomical'!

And in closing I can think of one more important benefit to be had in escaping to this new frontier:

In Space no one can hear a tyrant scream!

End Notes:

* Doc Gibson said "More than Carl Sagan can count"! He did not think much of that sense of awe in regard to the majesty of the Cosmos— comparing it to rejoicing in the reduction of the significance of the Earth and humanity to a tiny pimple on the ass of an elephant. Of course I must confess that I have been guilty of rejoicing at the reduction of the significance of the Earth and all it's problems that the radical Left is always howling about—which is probably a big reason for why they hate space and science fiction. Star Trek fans and those who revel in dystopian eco doom / end of the world scenarios excluded.

You could use that to describe the numbers of the national debt— which are also truly Astronomical!

** "Not a penny for this nutty fantasy", was Proxmire's most historically infamous quote in the collective memories of space enthusiasts who were around back in the days of the post Apollo malaise of the late 1970s. It was in response to Gerard K. O'Neill's proposal for orbital space colonies to support lunar mining and construction of solar power satellites.

*** Marshall T. Savage: the only thing more frightening than the grandeur of space is that Humanity might one day grow to match it!

One thing that is obvious in SF—especially the Hollywood version--—are the highly evolved and benevolent aliens who are much older and wiser culturally than us primitive savage Earthlings. Essentially the projections of condescending Progressive ideologues of how us Neanderthals of the backwoods and Flyover Country fall short of the ideal society they want to force us to become.

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