Sorting through some books the other day, I came across three old paperback books each purchased for the princely sum of 40 pence. They were the three books of the late Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. They were read immediately upon purchase – as you do – in 1976. Remember that long hot summer?
Thus it was I decided to re-read these after four decades. Having got to the start of Part V “the Merchant Princes” in “Foundation” I’m not so sure that I’ll bother with the other two books. A lot has changed in the forty years that have elapsed and not withstanding that the late Professor Asimov was a scientist in his own right, there are glaring incongruities in the text. I will pick on two.
Firstly the irritating one; without entering into a long winded explanation of the novel’s plot, there is an scientifically advanced planet (Terminus) that is a technology provider to less advanced planets. Control is maintained by the providers through the establishment of a religion with the priest hood being the technical experts. Thus when the autocratic ruler of one of the militarily powerful group of planets (with a population of 19 billion) attempts an attack on Terminus the High Priest is able to take control of the situation and order a coup d’etat. The text makes clear that the entire priest hood (the denizens of Terminus) know that the religion is bunkum and find the exercise of their ecclesiastical duties as tiresome and childish.
This clearly reflects the upbringing and views of the author, the atheist Asimov was of Orthodox Jewish parents.
What the reader of this text now finds tiresome and childish is the notion that such could possibly take place. You see, the simple fact is that whilst there are indeed fraudsters in this area it is always very small scale and short term. The facts are that the major religions of the world survive only because people actually do believe their teachings. This is especially and most crucially the case with the clergy. They could not carry out their roles if they did not sincerely and honestly believe what they were saying. Professor Asimov and such as Professor Dawkins may believe these clerics to be preaching cods-wallop but these clerics and their congregations do not.
Then we come to the second of the incongruities: smoking. Asimov wrote “Foundation” in 1951. An era when most adults smoked. “Foundation” is set thousands of years in the future. And as in the USA of 1951 most of the adults smoke. The idea that humans will still be inhaling the toxic fumes of burnt rolled up and chopped dried leaves and giving themselves cancer and cardiac problems is risible.
This leads us to the major flaw in most works of science fiction: that the technology is advanced but the social attitudes, mores and prejudices reflect or are of the time in which they are written. One can see this most clearly in the US “Star Trek” sc-fi series.
The original series starring William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock was broadcast in the USA between 1966 and 1969 and the social attitudes, mores and prejudices reflected progressive attitudes in the USA of that time. Feminists will immediately remark that the short skirts worn by the female characters do not reflect a progressive attitude towards women – but in saying this they make the mistake of applying their 21st Century progressive viewpoint on “gender issues” to the 1960s. “Star Trek” was ground-breaking in that it had a high profile role for a black actress, Nichelle Nichols who played the USS Enterprise’s communications officer, Lieutenant Uhura.
There is however a reason why such as CBS (an initialism of the network’s former name, the Columbia Broadcasting System) the US commercial broadcast television network that aired “Star Trek” put up with this glaring inconsistency: profit.
Now whilst some of the artistic supporters of Comrade Corbyn may deem “profit” a dirty word and something that should not be associated with “art” the plain simple fact of the matter is this: businesses like CBS have to make a profit. Creating a sci-fi series in which the social attitudes, mores and prejudice was pushed into the far future along with the technology would be an instant failure as the audience would not accept it.
Allow us to concoct an example.
Last night, on BBC 1’s main 10:00PM news hosted by Fiona Bruce, there was a report on the fact that this year sees the centenary of conscription in mainland Great Britain (Ireland was excluded for political reasons). This gave rise to the persecution of conscientious objectors or “conscies” as they were derisively known. The BBC showed some period (Great War) footage of a mob besieging and attacking a church where a meeting of conscientious objectors was taking place. Today many will denounce the mob as bloodthirsty, jingoistic, warmongering bigots. That however would fail to appreciate that many if not all in that mob will have lost a brother, a son or a father and that their hatred is born of grief as well as patriotism. The crucial point which causes us to make mention of this news report was that Fiona Bruce reported the comments of one of the persecuted conscientious objectors possibly one of Richmond Sixteen (a group of “absolutist” English conscientious objectors during the Great War) who commenting on the opprobrium they were subjected to immediately following the conflict suggested that a fair and proper judgement of their actions could be obtained in 2016.
This statement wisely draws attention to the change of attitudes over time.
So let us concoct this example based on an example of persecution today.
As many British Gazette readers will know, in May 2015, Ashers Bakery, a Christian-run bakery which refused to make a cake bearing a pro-gay marriage slogan was found guilty of discrimination after a landmark legal action at Belfast County Court. Herewith:There is an appeal process underway.
Let us suppose that a playwright in 1915 wrote a play (a black comedy) set in Belfast in 2015 about a bakery which refused to make a cake bearing a slogan advocating marriage of homosexual men. The play described a future a century hence where homosexuality and homosexual acts was considered socially acceptable and had legislation that criminalised any person who discriminated against such persons. The play included a scene that mirrored in consumes and content a “Gay Pride” march with men kissing men and women kissing women on the stage.
The fact is that such a play would not and indeed could not be performed on the London stage. At the time the Lord Chamberlain acted in the role of censor and would undoubtedly have stopped it. Were the playwright to write the idea as a novel the book would not be allowed to be published.
In yesterday’s article we light-heartedly pulled the leg of Carolyn Fairbairn the CBI’s director-general alluding to the character “Senna the Soothsayer” in the 1970 sit-com, “Up Pompeii!” this was about the CBI’s report on Brexit being a harbinger of doom for the British economy.
Well it now the turn of the British Gazette to play the role of “Senna the Soothsayer” and be a harbinger of doom itself.
Carolyn Fairbairn and her colleagues at the CBI fear Brexit. We would suggest that their fears are misplaced. We would also go on to suggest that whether Brexit occurs or not grave difficulties, economic and social turmoil will occur in the United Kingdom and elsewhere across the continent of Europe. It is a turmoil that will destroy the European Union – whether or not the UK is a part of it. Therefore we can predict with near certainty that Brexit will occur whatever the electorate decide on Thursday 23rd June 2016. What we cannot predict is to put a date on events.
The reasons are two fold: Mass Muslim migration into Europe and to change being a part of life.
The fact is this: the millions of Muslims from the middle east entering Europe now enter a continent whose present population can be described as “predominantly Christian and Secular” has like every single human society is following it’s own particular path of development. It is also a fact that the millions of Muslims from the middle east entering Europe are following their own particular path of development. This path however is not only moving at a different pace. It is moving in a different direction!
It is of course the fatal combination of inter communal tensions and isolated and increasing acts of terrorism which will break the European Union and tear Europe apart.
Depressingly we can see already the probable direction of travel for the UK. The present Tory government’s policy of “every school and academy” is more or less an abdication of responsibility for directing the education of the nation’s children. What we will see is that as Muslim centres of population expand (such as Luton) such areas will increasingly taken on an Islamic identity. The government’s answer again will be a policy of abdication: this time through devolution. Such areas as Luton will become semi-autonomous Islamic city-states run largely on the basis of Sharia Law.
For those people who consider stoning for adultery as unimaginable in Britain, many in the 1950s would have considered what is known as “Gay marriage” today unimaginable.
Such developments will have their actions mirrored elsewhere. The western secular non Muslim population will seek their own solutions as they struggle to preserve their cultural and religious freedoms.
What would really be funny were it not so pathetically tragic is such as President Barack Obama being of the opinion that CO2 is more of a threat than Muslim expansion and militancy!