Quotes from DARKNESS AND LIGHT by Olaf Stapledon
First, a word of background. I was clearing out old files, and came across this oddity: my own annotations and comments on a manuscript.
DARKNESS AND LIGHT by Olaf Stapledon was a novel I enjoyed, at least somewhat, in my youth, and I was favorably impressed with Olaf Stapledon’s breadth of imagination.
Rereading it with adult eyes, I am appalled.
This book was written in 1942, during the Second World War. It consists of a tale with no characters and no plot: or, rather, all mankind is the character, and all future history to the end of man or the abolition of man is the plot. With his characteristic Stapledonian gigantism and grandeur, the author escorts us down immensities, centuries and millennia flying past in a paragraph.
This is instead a history book of two fictional histories of the future, two branches of the time stream, one leading to darkness, and the other to light. As best I know, it is the first science fictional presentation of the theme of parallel and alternate timelines.
To my mind, Olaf Stapledon is nearly as inventive as HG Wells: galactic empires, dirigible planets, cosmic evolution, superhumanity, artificial elements, disembodied brains, and other basic science fiction tropes are his inventions. And yet he is rarely brought to mind as one of the founding giants of science fiction: Perhaps that is because his ideas were rarely brought to the public through radio or motion picture. There is no Orson Wells or George Pal that dramatized LAST AND FIRST MEN, or ODD JOHN, or SIRIUS before the ears and eyes of the general public.
The Narrator is an unidentified man of our era perceiving these things in a vision, perhaps the same man who performs a similar ‘framing sequence’ function in STARMAKER by the same author.
For the purposes of savaging him in this commentary, I called him ‘Olaf.’ Whether the opinions of Olaf the Narrator are the same as those of Olaf Stapledon the Author, I leave to wiser heads than mine.
Second, a word of explanation:
Any reader taken aback by the venom of my comments must understand that mine is akin to the fury of a fanboy scorned, of whom it is said Hell hath no Fury. Olaf Stapledon, if I may use the embarrassing metaphor, was a childhood crush of mine, an author beloved of my imagination.
But when I read him back then, in the innocence of youth, the political references sailed lightly over my head. Now that I am taller, they slap me in the face.
Any reader alarmed at the Brobdingnagian length of these annotations is warned that I originally wrote all these as notes in the margins in nearly every chapter, something reading an electronic document makes painless. I could have summarized the various raspberries for publication, but time does not permit.
Any reader alarmed at the Lilliputian stature of these comments, equal parts scenery-chewing ranting, drivel, and calling down maledictions, I can offer no excuse: I thought my one adoring fan (Hi, Mom!) and my many other readers (Get off my yard, Hooligans!) might be interested to see that I write comments to myself just as obscure, and in the same orotund language, as what I write for publication. Let me not be accused of putting up a facade as a public persona.
Also, the document may be of use if interested parties who wish an insight into the inner workings of what I no doubt presumptuously call my thinking, such as if I ever need enter a plea of not-guilty by reason of insanity.
Third, a word of clarification. Since I originally wrote this for my own admittedly easily-won amusement, some references might be obscure.
First, I make much use of that useful but obscure word Nephelococcygia, from Aristophanes, translated Cloudcuckooland; as a working synonym I also use that toponym from Thomas Moore Nephelogetes, who are the cloud-born peoples allied to the polity of Utopia, famed for being the finest and most virtuous of all good places, the only drawback being that it exists nowhere.
Take Cloudcuckooland and Nephelogetes as my politest term for the gaggle of Useful Idiots among the lettered class who seek to increase the liberty and happiness of man by applauding, aiding and abetting tyranny and misery.
Second, I refer to Walter S. Delany, who is the founder of the Weapon Shops of Isher in the novel by A.E. van Vogt of the same name. The political theory of the Weapon Shops holds that an populous tacitly consents even to oppressive and corrupt governments, but so long as the people go armed, tyranny dare not contemplate the final step of reducing the subjects to abject slavery. Of course, it helps if the weapons being sold are telepathic, able to determine when they are being used in self defense, and superior to the finest hand weapons of the stormtroopers and Imperial secret police.
Third, John Galt from Ayn Ran’s ATLAS SHRUGGED is the engineer and messiah of a world in which all the capitalists go into hiding when the communists and collectivists take over, and they stand aside disdainfully and watch the world self-destruct in East German style economic apocalypse. Ragnar Danneskjold is a pirate who seizes relief ships. He does not have a telepathic energy pistol, however, but he might as well have.
Fourth, Diyan, Kolla, and Divine Rad are gods and goddesses from TWO HUNDRED MILLION AD by A.E. van Vogt, also published as THE BOOK OF PTATH. Since these divinities will not yet exist for millennia, even the pious can take their names in vain without being accused of idolatry. Those who swear in the names of Frith and Segoy and Tash and Rao, not to mention Noshabkeming and Klono, are on more uncertain ground, theologically speaking.
Fifth, Rich Uncle Pennybags is the name of the top-hatted and mustachioed mascot on the Monopoly game. Colonel Blimp is a cartoon figure from the London Evening Standard, used by George Orwell and many others to heap disdain on British patriotism and military service.
* * *
Here follows quotes from DARKNESS AND LIGHT, with my annotations and eructations. All emphasis below is added by me, to be imagined spoken in high-pitched tones of sneering disbelief.
From Chapter 2, the Modern Age
In the new world, made one by trains, ships, aeroplanes and radio there was room for one society only. But a world-wide society must inevitably be planned and organized in every detail. Not otherwise can freedom and fulfilment be secured for all individuals.
No, I think the only thing that was inevitable was the downfall of the Soviet Union, with its abundant planning. In reality an economy cannot be planned. The only thing the Soviets successfully planned and carried out were mass deaths.
From Chapter 3, Mankind at the Crossroads
Not till the remnant of the British forces had been driven into Scotland, and were desperately holding a line roughly equivalent to the Roman Wall, did the American power begin to make itself felt, and then only for a while; for in America, as elsewhere, the old order was failing, its leaders had neither the imagination nor the courage to adjust themselves to the new world-conditions. Consequently, when at last their turn came they were quite incapable of organizing their haphazard capitalism for war.
Written before the United States entered the Second World War, and kicked Nazis ass from here to eternity, so, perhaps, excusable: But in hindsight a bad, comically bad, prediction.
The American people began to realize that they were the victims of incompetence and treachery, and the population of the Atlantic seaboard demanded a new regime. In this state of affairs resistance became impossible. Britain was abandoned, and North America reverted to a precarious isolationism knowing that the struggle would very soon begin again.
Written before the United States emerged as a global superpower, and the only hope of civilization to stave off the threat of communism so, perhaps, excusable: But another bad, comically bad, prediction.
The Russians, whose initial revolutionary passion had long since been corrupted by the constant danger of attack and a consequent reversion to nationalism, now sacrificed all their hard-won social achievements for a desperate defence against the attempt of the German ruling class to dominate the planet.
This was not written in Lenin’s day, but in Stalin’s, where the abundant evil of the soviet system was clear to all who were not deliberately and desperately self-blinded. Olaf is a Soviet butt-monkey, merely parroting their talking points. The stupidity of the excuse is breathtaking: the reason why the Soviets failed to achieve utopia was the danger of foreign attack! Nothing could be wrong with the theory, comrade. Never question the theory.
Contraception had produced not only a decline of population but also a tendency of the more intelligent strains in the population to breed less than the dullards and half-wits.
That old chestnut again: The old contempt of socialists for the dullards (most of whom are no doubt better men than the self-anointed intellectual elite). Maybe it was a new idea in Olaf’s day, but to folk who read CM Kornbluth’s disgusting THE MARCHING MORONS, or saw IDIOCRACY, its old hat.
These days it seems more like a neurosis: Moronophobia.
In spite of the grave perversion of the original generous revolutionary impulse, so much of solid worth had been achieved that the Soviet system of states was never in serious danger of disintegration.
Heh. Heh. And again I say heh.
The Hammer and Sickle, formerly the most heartening emblem of the will for the light, but now sadly debased, was displayed on the Capitol.
Heartening symbol of what, again? Debased from what, exactly?
Pardon my disgust at the sick Cloudcuckooland fantasy image of the Hammer and Sickle overtopping in triumph the Capitol of the nation that birthed and saved Democracy; pardon also my schadenfreude and glee to live in a Post-Berlin-Wall world. Commie World stories are gone from the genre of science fiction, and now live only in the genre of an alternate history, next to steampunk-zeppelin stories or tales of elves in Manhattan.
The first Russian revolution, under Lenin, had been mainly a groping but sincere expression of the will for true community, and also an act of vengeance against a cruel and inefficient master class. When the leaders of the Revolution had established their power, they proceeded to remake the whole economy of Russia for the benefit of the workers. Foreign hostility, however, forced them to sacrifice much to military necessity.
Olaf is a useful idiot. No matter how useful, however, the idiot is still an idiot.
From Chapter 4, the Rise of Tibet
They preached a sort of religious communism, and demanded the abdication of the ruling class, the wealthy monastic orders. The crisis came when the new Lamas renounced the celibacy which for centuries had been accepted by the monastic class. The motive of this change was a thoroughly modernistic motive. It was realized in the new monasteries that the two most precious innate social capacities were the disposition for genuine community and the capacity for intelligent action. It was realized also that, although the average level of intelligence had not sunk so far in Tibet as in more advanced countries, there was a steady drain of the more intelligent into the celibate monastic orders. This, said the servants of the light, must stop. Recognizing the importance of self-denial for spiritual discipline, they recognized also the importance of propagating intelligence. They therefore boldly affirmed their intention of striving for complete spiritual discipline and insight though ‘unsupported by the prop of celibacy’. Biological responsibility, they said, must not be shirked by the servants of the light, even though they must assume other weighty responsibilities. Not only so, but the experience of family life, with all its trials and all its mental enrichment, must not be shirked by those who undertook to lead and govern the people. They recognized that family life must not be allowed to absorb too much attention, but to avoid this they advocated that the state should assume the final responsibility for the upbringing of all children.
Let the point here not be lost in the gabble of words. In a sad perversion of G.K. Chesterton, Olaf is here predicts (and approves) of the Scientifically Managed state, which in this case includes the departure from celibacy on the grounds of pure eugenics. Apparently Olaf, like Mike the Martian, has never once in his life met a real human being, and so he expects the zealous religious communists of the future to actually be animated by eugenic desires to improve the breeding stock of man, rather than, say, the poignant desire to boink nubile Oriental maidens, or even the more elevated desire to have a family to cherish. To read is to howl with laughter. What a maroon.
While modest economic development was continued, the main work of the new government was to educate the people in citizenship and in the new, purged version of the ancient culture.
Because it is always Year Zero in Cloudcuckooland!
Current legislation, however, was carried out not by the general assembly but by a body elected by a section of the population known as the Active Citizens. These were men and women who had qualified by undertaking certain kinds of social service and by passing certain intelligence tests and academic examinations. The Active Citizens elected representatives from among themselves, but only those who had completed a rigorous political training, practical and theoretical, could stand for election. Parallel with this system there was a kind of Soviet system, based on occupation. All important legislation had to be sanctioned both by the representatives of the Active Citizens and by the body which formed the elected apex of this occupational system. This constitution could never have been put into action had there not already existed throughout the country a high standard of political education and a body of trusted leaders, proved in the revolution.
What a maroon. Olaf must be well educated enough to recognize the Confucian Bureaucracy of ancient China, which he here describes in futuristic terminology, was perhaps the most ossified and rigidly inhuman political system ever devised by Man.
<sarcasm> Hey—I.Q. tests for the elected officials! THAT can never go wrong! And since they were enlightened enough to take up arms and kill their leaders and fellow citizens, that proves, scientifically and beyond doubt that these guy are skilled in the art political economy. So they immediately establish a universal unicameral parliament, and a committee of Public Safety. </sarcasm>
And this is what he proposes as enlightened? O Diyan, O Kolla, and Divine Rad!
In every land the servants of the light were heartened. The servants of darkness were bewildered and anxious. Here and there throughout the two great empires brave attempts were made to copy the Tibetan experiment. Here and there, notably in Britain, the party of the light organized an armed rebellion.
Because, in Cloudcuckooland, armed rebellion is always enlightened. Display the peacock tail of your spiritual superiority by butchering the hated today! Ghandi?! Jesus?! Pffftht!
Let us hear a word from the great Theodore Dalrymple:
Although I am not an historian, it has long seemed to me that some acquaintance with the history of Nineteenth Century Russia is absolutely crucial to understanding the modern world, for it was there that the various forms of modern revolutionary terrorism, and politics as the pursuit of an ideological end, first developed. And the first terrorists were certainly not downtrodden peasants brainwashed by religious or other leaders: they were either aristocrats suffering angst at their own privilege in the midst of poverty, or members of the newly-emerged middle classes, angry that their education had not resulted in the influence in society to which they thought themselves entitled by virtue of their intelligence, idealism and knowledge.
THAT is why they are always angry in Cloudcuckooland. THAT is why they are always telling themselves how much smarter they are than the rest of us. THAT is why they are always preening themselves on their own self-anointed self-righteousness. It is because Rich Uncle Pennybags & Colonial Blimp would not invite them to join the Country Club, and the Queen did not have them by for tea.
A sense of deprived entitlement informs their every action. Until you understand this sense of outrage at the social order that refuses to recognize their intelligence, idealism, and knowledge, you will not understand the Fabians, the Greens, the Reds, the Brownshirts, the Anarchists and all other children of Prometheus.
These are all people suffering an intense psychological need to be told they are Better Than Us, and they will cling to any symbol—whether that symbol represents anything in the real world or not—which soothes their unadmitted fear that they are not Better Than Us. The pyramid of heads at the foot of the guillotine, for them, is just symbol, not a reality, something done for reasons they cannot even admit to themselves, based in a narcissistic neurosis. They are idiots and moral retards and ignoramuses suffering an overweening pride in their intelligence, idealism, and knowledge.
There was only one hope, namely that the servants of the light in all countries would be able to carry out so great a campaign of passive resistance and active sabotage that the attack would never be launched. The Tibetan renaissance had been strongly pacifist in temper, though never pledged to absolute non-violence.
Olaf here is torn between the evident moral superiority (in Cloudcuckooland) of pacifism and “passive resistance” and the love the Nephelogetes have for violent revolution. The Christian concept of chivalry, that is, hellish violence tamed for heavenly cause, is of course not available.
Violence in Cloudcuckooland must always be halfhearted, since unrealistic self-regard is the goal of the psychopseudophilosopy, and since disapproval for necessary violence offers an excuse for moral preening (the Nephelogete can always claim he would not have descended to such distasteful measures), hence necessary violence is always accompanied by a guilty evasiveness, as here.
Ironically, approval for unnecessary violence is also an excuse for moral preening, as when the ‘dark gods of the blood’ urge the Aryans to slaughter Jews, or Reds to slaughter Kulaks, among them. The bourgeoisie love of peace can be dismissed with a sneer in times of peace in much the same way that the hardihood of the soldier can be dismissed with a sneer in times of war. The important thing for the true Cloudcuckoolander is the sneer.
In the new crisis a vociferous party urged that, since resistance was anyhow hopeless, the time had come for heroic non-resistance to invasion; and that sabotage in the two empires must not be encouraged. Against this view it was pointed out that non-resistance was doomed to fail against invaders schooled to despise gentleness, and that no policy could succeed but one which combined total revolutionary action in the imperial territories, desperate resistance to invasion, and absolute loyalty to the spirit.
As if to confirm my words, in the next sentence Olaf displays with admirable precision the stance of moral preening on both sides: heroic non-resistance and total revolutionary action. Sigh. One has to give him credit for at least seeing the problem. But in a heavenless world, where only worldly acts have meaning, martyrdom is pointless and foolish: the undefined talk of an undefined spiritualism is merely the chivalry of the Christian knight and the lamb-meekness of the Christian martyr robbed of its point and logic and significance.
But the main defence against invasion, though not against attack from the air, was a device recently invented by geneticists and biochemists in one of the great reformed Lamasseries. The character of this invention shows how strangely science was developing under the influence of will for the light. … a micro-organism which … had a startling effect on the higher brain centres. It produced a complete but temporary loss of memory … But the most striking aspect of the virus was that its influence could be almost completely resisted by minds of high intelligence and integrity that had undergone a thorough spiritual discipline. Many Tibetans, therefore, could cross the defence belt in safety so long as they kept their minds occupied with meditation, while on the journey and resisted the oppressive drowsiness which was the first symptom of disintegration.
When at last the dull-witted armies of Russia and China with their irresistible war machines attempted to cross the belt, their personnel was mysteriously reduced to infantilism.
Note that the defining characteristic of the Nephelogetes is their anger that their intelligence and moral superiority is not properly worshiped by the true elites, and so they fantasize about creating an independent elite based, not on wealth and valor (as Plutocrats and Aristocrats historically have done) but on intelligence and moral superiority. Here, as in most Cloudcuckooutlandish writings, Eastern mysticism, represented by Tibetan Buddhism, is the signal exemplar of moral superiority. The weapon that smites the stupid people (read, Conservatives) and leaves the smart people standing (read Radicals) is the expression of their fondest visions.
Oh, my. It is almost embarrassing to read the private fantasies of the Cloudcuckoolanders. Much like finding a teen in the bathroom with his trousers down and a girlie magazine open, we cannot help but see what provokes their wet-dreams.
They were shepherded back into their own territory by Tibetan police. Many were then slaughtered by their Russian or Chinese compatriots as worthless goods.
When you think it cannot get any more stupid or more smug, it does. Note the peaceful moral superiority of the Tibetans, unwilling to kill or capture helpless enemies in time of war. How awe-inspiring! How like Ghandi! But then the captives are sent back to be killed anyway, merely at second hand.
Of course, my reaction is to say: Why would any state in wartime so conduct herself? What is the point of martyrdom if there is no heaven to award you a palm branch?
The state they oppose acts equally without point. Note also the ee-eevil Imperialists killing their own minions: Because they are ee-eevil. Like Casanova Frankenstein! There are no repercussions from the families of the military clans to worry about, I suppose, because ee-eevil Empires have countless Janissary legions to spare (faceless as the stormtroopers in Star Wars) .
The Tibetans had a small but brilliant air force. It had been assumed that in any attack by one of the two empires the other would be eager to check aggression by its rival. In such circumstances such an air force as Tibet possessed might prove invaluable. But against the combined air forces of Russia and China, it must surely (thought the leaders of those empires) prove impotent. This calculation omitted the spiritual factor.
Oh my. This is even a wetter wet dream than the fantasy about a germ warfare that only attacks stupid people. The narcissist dreams that his moral superiority will translate into military acumen.
Those Christian martyrs when winning the palm leaf were not also granted the oak leaf crown of the conqueror: their moral superiority did not save them from physical danger. If anything, it provoked it.
Not only had the Tibetan airmen been trained to the highest technical proficiency. They were also, one and all, conscious servants of the light. Boys though they were, and therefore as yet incapable of the deeper spiritual insight, they had been brought up to experience without perversion the fundamental values for which Tibet was standing…
The children of spiritually enlightened people (even if not capable of deeper spiritual insight) just so happen to have the fairy-princess-sparkly magic ability to win aerial dogfights. Go, Commies!
… they were convinced that for themselves fulfilment must lie in perfect service in the air. With a calm and absolute courage more formidable than any fanaticism these young men soared against the invading bombers, and brought them down in thousands.
Because, of course, the Red Pants, they ARE France! Esprit de Corps is worth ten brigades!
How someone writing this after the generation that witnessed the ghastly horror of trench warfare in the Great War could be so insolent as to pen this paean to morale triumphing over armament, numbers, and logistical superiority is beyond me.
I just do not see why or how, in a world without God, or, at least, a fairy godmother, spiritual superiority combined with worldly weakness suddenly translates into having the strength of thousands because your heart is pure.
I note with disdain that the pulp writer E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith handles this same theme much more realistically, when he maintains that the janissaries of Boskone, toiling under the lash in their space-battleships, fight without energy or enthusiasm, and are therefore overmatched by free men. The words of Francis Scott Key mocking the ‘hireling and slave’ are similar. But notice the difference. Saying that fighting-slaves are subhuman is not as unrealistic as saying Holy Crusaders are superhuman.
In passing I record one unusual qualification which the Tibetan government exacted of its young airmen. They must be married men. Further, none might go into action against the enemy unless he had a child, or his wife was pregnant. It even became a point of honour with these strange ‘aces’ not to take extreme risks until they had at least three children to their credit.
I am not sure what to make of this. I suppose it is another tip of the hat to eugenics. It is, however, as starkly unrealistic and unbelievable as everything else from Cloudcuckooland. Read Kipling on the difference in bachelor versus married men in combat.
After a horrific description of the suffering of the defeated under carpet-bombings, we read:
The Tibetans did not give way to self- pity. The prevailing temper was a devoted patriotism, which, like so many earlier patriotisms, but this time with justice, regarded the preservation of this nation and its culture as urgent for the well-being of humanity.
This is merely repellent. Try to picture that poisonous mixture of smugness and moral retardation which forms the self-regard of Olaf aloft in Cloudcuckooland, sneering down his supercilious nose at the earth below, condemning all previous patriotism as unjust, on the grounds that love of homeland not grounded in a concern for the well-being of humanity is invalid.
O Diyan, O Kolla, and Divine Rad! The love of Romans for Rome therefore must be based not on the ashes of their fathers and the altars of their gods, but on their beneficial achievements in civic engineering, aqueducts and efficient sewer systems. As if a man cannot kiss and adore his wife unless she wins a Nobel Peace Prize for benefiting that meaningless humanity which is the alleged beneficiary of all the efforts of every reformer everywhere (for ‘Reformer’ read, ‘Wesley Mouch’ or better yet, read ‘Stalin’).
Moreover the Tibetan community had manifested strange powers which the imperialists in their own hearts knew to be the powers of light, but which consciously they condemned as diabolical.
So the Tibetans have miraculous powers, eh? Here is the sad longing of those who reject God for the signs and wonders of God.
The old feudal ruling class, wisely refusing to allow European finance to exploit the country, had itself undertaken the westernization of Japan.
Because we all know lending someone money so he can start a business is ee-eevil. Olaf, you pinko sack of worms, Why in the world did I ever like you?
The new Tibetan state had been aware of deeper and vaster gold deposits, but had not troubled to exploit them.
Because the Tibetans were just too damn spiritual and enlightened to want filthy lucre, dontchano. In Cloudcuckooland, we don’t use money! Or we use it, but we don’t like it. Or, we like it, but only for some spiritual reasons, like helping the poor, but not unspiritual reasons, like filling a war coffers when Tibet is at war, in order to buy much needed ordnance, ammunition, and materiel. In Cloudcuckooland, apparently the wartime economy produces ex nihilo, by fiat, like God.
These were the active servants of darkness, and increasingly the rulers of the planet. Of many psychological types and all social classes, they had at least one thing in common. All were frustrated spirits. Many were innately of low-grade sensibility, incapable of appreciating any values but physical gratification…
Here we see, undisguised, Olaf’s contempt for the common man. What made a person a creature of Darkness? Being of low-grade sensibility. The proles cannot appreciate Picasso and Sartre, they do not drink Absinthe and listen to Scriabin! How low! How odious! The common men are as mud on my bootheel!
Like all wars it was of absorbing, even obsessive, interest to those whom it directly affected, but to the developed mind its battles and campaigns and ultimate massacre are more depressing than significant.
Oh, Olaf! I am sure the Hilterian War simply bored you to tears! Poor baby. Your developed mind is so superior to ours!
In the decisive campaign the Chinese used two new inventions against which the orthodox methods of Russia were powerless. One was the giant tank, the other the legged aeroplane. The new Chinese tank was so large that to call it a land-battleship was to disparage it. This new engine was indeed a moving fortified town, complete with its own workshops, and food stores for its thousand men for three weeks. It could crush and trample modern sky-scraper cities. On good ground it moved at a hundred miles an hour. It could travel over mountainous country by using its great clawed mechanical arms or legs. The legged aeroplane had the great advantage that it could land anywhere and take off anywhere. It was indeed a giant mechanical fly which could cling to precipitous places or suddenly leap from the ground by kicking with its prodigious thighs. Some hundreds of the new tanks, each attended by its own swarm of the new aeroplanes, advanced through central Asia. Russian bombers attacked in successive waves of a thousand planes, but their bombs could not harm these armour-plated monsters, whose artillery swept them from the sky. Unchecked, these greatest of all man’s engines streamed across the prairies and deserts of Outer Mongolia, flattened out the forest, crossed the mountain barriers, turned aside here and there to grind a town to rubble, took the Urals in their stride, and headed for Moscow. The Russian government fled. The city surrendered. But the enemy, obsessed with the worship of cruelty and ecstatic with slaughter, hurried on to catch the city before it could be evacuated. Arrived, the monsters steam-rollered the whole urban area into a flat waste of rubble. The sacred mummy of Lenin was pulverized in the general ruin. The invaders then amused themselves by overtaking and squashing the hosts of refugees as a man may crush a swarm of ants under his boot. Leningrad and other cities were similarly treated.
This is why I like Olaf. You can see where Michael Moorcock gets his ideas (cf the Land Leviathan, the Warlord of the Air, the Steel Tsar).
Thus ended the Second Russian Empire, the evil offspring of man’s first great though ill-starred attempt to organize society for the well-being of the many rather than for the power of the few.
The ‘power of the few’ means those few like Henry Ford and Standard Oil granting, as if by a magic wand, wealth undreamed to millions unnumbered. The ‘well-being of the many’ means a pile of skulls.
So bugger you, Olaf. This sentence was written while Stalin was alive and perpetrating his atrocities. City streets swam with blood and fields were strewn with the bones of the families of farmers, slain by the malice of a government-orchestrated famine. This is the kind of praise heaped upon that diabolical bloodshed-addicted lunatic regime of psychopaths, neurotics, sadists, cowards, and gangsters.
Olaf Stapledon, like so many intellectuals of his day, and of mine, should be pictured on their knees kissing the buttocks of Stalin, if not of Baphomet.
Still more numerous were the independent but futile intellectual ostriches who shut their eyes to the horror of their time and won adulation and power by spinning fantasies of self- aggrandizement and sexual delight, distracting men’s attention from contemporary evils with seductive romances of other ages and other worlds, or with exalted and meaningless jargon about a life after death.
Oh, so Romance novels, science fiction, and all religious aspiration shall be condemned.
I am happy that I expressed my withering contempt for Olaf one paragraph before he reciprocated. I would hate to think that someone would believe I filled with revulsion for him and his type only because of his evident revulsion for me and my type. No, my hatred of this small small-souled vermin of the intellect is sincere and unprompted.
Unchristian? If so, may the Lord forgive me. But I think not. We are engaged in war with principalities: spiritual warfare, psy war. The weapons of Hell are ideas and attitudes and psychological complexes that appeal to sin, heresies that lure in the proud Sons of Narcissus. It is not Olaf I hate: it is the Prince of The World whispering in Olaf’s ear.
There were also large numbers of progressive intellectuals.
Bugger you, Olaf.
These saw clearly enough that contemporary society was mortally sick, and in a dream-like, unearnest way they expounded their tenuous Utopias,
Like the one that occupies the second half of this book? Your own self-deprecation returns to you some of my esteem you lost. I am glad you recognize your own irrelevance compared to the great issues of the day in which you wrote…
in which there was often much common sense and even wisdom
…. Er. I spoke too soon. Don’t dislocate your arm patting yourself on the back, there, Olaf.
… but they preached without that fury of conviction which alone can rouse men to desperate action.
Bugger you, Olaf. Progressive intellectuals—oh my—being condemned for not having enough fury of conviction! We have seen this heresy-hunting aforetime, for likewise did Marxian Scientific Socialism so scornfully condemn the socialism of earlier writers as being insufficiently violent. The wine of self-righteous anger is never far from the hand of the Lords of Cloudcuckooland. Even the reserved English are never quite sober, are they?
From Chapter 6, the Triumph of the Rats
(and no, the Rats here are not the Reds. If only.)
I CANNOT BE sure how long the Celestial World Empire endured. Its life must certainly be counted in centuries, and possibly it lasted for a couple of thousand years. Though the world empire was at heart a diseased society and bound to disintegrate, it inherited from earlier societies a certain toughness of fibre, and its structure was such that it could carry on in a sort of living death so long as conditions remained unchanged. While its material resources were unimpaired it functioned automatically and without change.
Unwittingly, Olaf betrays his ignorance of and contempt for the economics that underpin industrial civilization. Like Stalin, he assumes that any half-competent accountant clerk could run an industrial concern.
Ignorance: It is really hard for me to believe that the Nephelogetes really honestly know nothing of economics. What do they think happens when supply and demand changes? Suppose more babies are born in District One, or more factory hands retire in District Two, or suppose the tobacco smokers in District Three, as one generation gives way to the next, decrease this habit, but instead increase their intake of whiskey or beer? Will there actually be so little of an effect on tobacco farmers, cigarette factories, potato farmers, brewers, bottlers, and shippers that the whole process from end to end can be run automatically?
Contempt: I am not sure what the psychological motive here might be. I assume it is mere parasite’s contempt for industrial activities that their hated hosts, Uncle Pennybags, Colonel Blimp and Joe the Plumber, routinely perform, but which the parasites are too stupid or too lazy and untalented to do themselves. Something in their brain must make them refuse to recognize the difficulties and complexities of the work, and so they dismiss it as being no more difficult than what an accountant could do.
But the Cloudcuckoolanders actually talk as if they think the economy runs this way: an automatic wealth-producing machine restricted only by the natural resource limits of Malthus. The machine is not only a black box to them, for some obscure reason, they seem to want it to remain a black box, something never to be understood.
Hence, for an odd and backward reason, is explained their continual Green panic over the eventual Malthusian exhaustion of resources. Perhaps if they did not panic over the exhaustion of resources, they would have to admit the role of human labor and human genius in producing wealth from worthless raw materials in nature, and this would require them to admit that wealth-creation is not automatic: that capitalists, managers, and planners actually perform a crucial role in economic growth, as do publicists and intermediaries bringing goods to remote markets. One glance inside the black box, one moment of understanding about the simplest rules of economics, and their entire system of neurotic excuses, delusions, and rationalizations would crumble.
Its whole economy had been worked out in intricate detail by the technicians of an earlier age through a period of many decades, and had at last become absolutely stereotyped. Raw materials, produced in appropriate regions and in regular annual quantities, were assigned to manufacturing districts according to a time-honoured plan, to be distributed in time-honoured proportions to the various nations and social classes. The whole industrial technique had acquired a kind of religious sanctity. No variations were to be tolerated, except the seasonal variations which were themselves sanctified.
See? Olaf is an idiot. It must be a deliberate self-imposed idiocy on this one topic, because he is clearly a man of letters. Even in a science fiction story, how are you going to maintain population numbers absolutely static, and the distribution of ages and sexes within the population absolutely static, and the tastes, desires and needs of the populations participating in the economy as absolutely static?
I suppose one could abort or murder births above the government-controlled maximum—but how can you undo the economic results of births below the government-controlled minimum, even in a slave-state as rigid as that of the Pharaohs? What, ship people from one area to another? And if the new slaves are not as skilled, or are too skilled, in the labor required, what then? What if the slaves of China know more about rice-planting than the slaves of Georgia, but less about cotton-picking?
What if there is a bad harvest? What if a flood knocks out a bridge, and the goods must be shipped by a new route?
Will you move resources and slaves from one area to another in reaction to the changing needs and priorities of the market, or, rather (since there is no market), of the district managers?
Does not deciding when to distribute and redistribute slaves and materials require economizing scarce goods, and comparatively valuing goods, as if putting a price on them, so that alternate possible uses of resources can be estimated? How can that process, which is the market process, be made automatic?
Any process that can be reduced to an algorithm is an automatic one, one that requires no particular effort to perform, merely an effort to prevent others from hindering it. I can only assume Olaf believes the Marxian theory that goods and services are abundant in nature and free as air, and do not need to be economized or prioritized, but that the malice of the rich somehow creates artificial want.
The whole idea is so stupid I can find no words to express it. In Cloudcuckooland, or, to be honest, in Cockaigne, meat pies and showers of red wine would fall out of the sky into our open mouths, or fish on Fridays, were it not for the rich shutting up the windows to heaven: kill the rich, and all economic activity is optional.
This is Cargo Cult economics: if only the White Man would stop stealing the Cargo from the Gods, it would come to us freely and without effort.
In spite of everything, population continued to decline. I was not able to discover the cause of this universal process. Perhaps the root of the trouble was physiological. Some chemical deficiency may have affected the germ cells. Or again some subtle mutation of the human stock may have rendered conception less ready. Or perhaps the neurotic condition of the population had produced hormones unfavourable to conception. I am inclined to believe that the real cause, through whatever physical mechanism it took effect, was the profound disheartenment and spiritual desolation which oppressed the whole race.
Again, these so called materialists return to the idea of spiritual causes for things, albeit, without any mechanism or metaphysic to explain such things, it is reduced to mere mumbo-jumbo. Olaf here is saying the spirit-world is angered at the evil of man, and have dried up the wombs: but he cannot name which spirits or gods have done this thing. Intellectually, he is reduced, not to the level of a pagan, but below.
From Chapter 7, The Spark Survives
In the one mood the leaders of the new society faced their task with sober fortitude and a clear understanding that only by a miracle could they preserve the new order against the hostility of the two great empires. In the other mood these same leaders, though they fully realized the difficulties and dangers, were buoyed up by a seemingly irrational and almost boisterous hopefulness, nay a certainty of victory.
This is, of course, the Christian virtue of Hope, where, even when surrounded by the armies of Pharaoh or Sennacherib, the faithful pray for God to deliver them, and expect in glad hope that God will. In a world without God and without prayer, it is merely an embarrassment, and an illogical one, to have or to admire this hope: but this in effect is Olaf’s whole point, both here and in LAST AND FIRST MEN— to put forward a hopeless version of Christianity, a Deism without a Deity.
Though they recognized that only a miracle could save Tibet and perhaps the whole species, they also knew, so long as the mood of exaltation was on them, that the miracle had already happened in themselves, and that it could be made to happen in the whole Tibetan people.
Miracles without God.
The progressive minority in all lands was dominated and was not dominated by a new, defiant, and gay confidence.
In other words, faith. Faith without miracles, and miracles without God.
But when dervishes who had been specially chosen and handsomely paid for their ability to endure pain undertook to prove their faith under torture, it soon appeared that the missionaries could draw upon some source of strength inaccessible to hired martyrs.
Martyrdom without faith, faith without miracles, miracles without God.
Olaf, will the stream of stupidity never end? You cannot come to Christian conclusions without a Christian axiom.
The source of the courage of the missionaries was, of course, their faith in the spirit.
WHAT?! What faith? What spirit? How do you have spiritualism without spirits?
Their method combined that of the religious missionary with that of the social revolutionary.
Ah, once again the beloved social revolutionary of Cloudcuckooland is mentioned.
This sentence was written while Great Britain was fighting, tooth and claw, for survival against the social revolutionaries of socialist Germany, and while the social revolutionaries of socialist Russia were brutalizing and butchering men, women and children in astronomical, unimaginable numbers, and with a scientifically cold cruelty unknown in history.
Pathetic. The Cloudcuckoolanders want to have the dignity of the Christian religion while at the same time mocking and contravening all its precepts.
Olaf takes it one step further by undermining the logic of the Christian position: he wants Heaven to help the Righteous with all the dignity and supernatural paraphernalia of the supernatural, but he does not want to believe in the supernatural itself.
He is an Ayn Rand villain of the mental realm: Wesley Mouch wants the money of the productive but refuses to acknowledge whence that money comes. Olaf wants Christian virtues and miracles and comfort but refuses to acknowledge whence those things come.
On the one hand, though they showed no insistence on any metaphysical doctrine, they preached the inner light, and manifested it in action.
Oh, my aching eyes. I have read these sentiments before, endless times, and found them shopworn, trite, and tired even back when they were fresh.
Triteness #1: No metaphysics. The Cloud-cuckoos think the way to avoid religious wars is to avoid doctrine. It is a doctrine of theirs.
Triteness #2: The inner light. G.K. Chesterton long ago explained how worshiping the inner light leads to inner darkness. It is the religion of Narcissus, whose altar is a looking glass.
On the other, though they avoided the subtle Machiavellian intrigues which had been used by so many revolutionaries in the past, they entered into political disputes and declared, often at the cost of their lives, that the time had come to withhold from Caesar the things that were Caesar’s.
Triteness #3: The Cloudcuckoolanders see politics as a substitute for religion, or vice versa, and so the old Christian notion of separating Church and State, of deference to worldly leaders, goes by the wayside.
Of the universe, as a whole, they said, man knows next to nothing; but in our hearts we find that in right personal relation man fulfils himself.
Triteness #4: It is all about you, baby. All you need is love. It is in your hearts.
The Cloud-cuckoos are More Deeply Spiritual than the rest of us, remember.
Love, they said, and wisdom are right absolutely.
Triteness #5: The Cloudcuckoos are More Deeply Emotional and More Deeply Wise than the rest of us, remember. This gives them the Inner Certainty to be able always to look down on us for being wrong. If they cannot articulate any plan for being right, that is because their Deep Wisdom cannot be labeled.
True community of mutually respecting individuals, and also fearless free intelligence and imagination, are right absolutely.
Triteness #6: More Deeply Intelligent the rest of us, too. Oh, and freethinkers. Fearless freethinkers. Fearlessly unfearful freethinkers of fearless imagination! We conservatives only believe what we believe because we are afeared to think otherwise, dontchano.
Never forget the superiority of freethinkers mutually respecting fearless free intelligence and imagination, because, as we all know, the Christians are unintelligent and unimaginative. Just ask St. Thomas Aquinas, Sir Isaac Newton, and J.R.R. Tolkien. The Cloudcuckoos are more imaginative than the rest of us.
And we all knew it.
Wow. Humility is a virtue, too, I guess. But if nothing is known about the universe, how is this known to any, much less to all of us? Via our hearts? Via our feelings? Via pure mysticism?
There is one intrinsic good, they said, and one only, the awakened life, the life of love and wisdom. This is the sacred thing which all developed beings throughout the universe cannot but will, unless they have been blinded.
Triteness #7: The sole good, in other words, as Us and our culminant wonderful-terrifickness. Don’t strain your arm patting yourself on the back, there, Cloudcuckoolander.
This spirit, they said, is in the long run all-powerful in the affairs of conscious beings. But the run may be very long.
Triteness #8: More of this spiritualism without a Spirit, Holy or otherwise.
Does he mean spirit as in ‘esprit de corps’ merely meaning morale? Or does he mean God, merely not a Christian God, but something like his sadistic Starmaker in another book?
And what the scope of that spirit is in the whole of things no man can know, nor needs to know.
Triteness #9: a convenient agnosticism to evade discussion of what constitutes true doctrine for this new undefined non-religion of enlightened non-religious non-sense. Christians debate nuances of doctrine because they believe their doctrine true, including hairsplitting distinctions about the humanity and divinity of Christ or the relation of the persons of the Trinity, an other technical matter incomprehensible and absurd in the eyes of outsiders. But the debate, intrigues, and even the violence accompanying the Arian heresy or the Albigensian was precisely because Christians actually believe their doctrines are truth itself, not merely a convenient excuse for moral preening.
The Nephelogetes do not believe anything is true, and so they wear their agnostic know-nothingism as a badge of honor: the spiritualists of this futuristic Humbugistan Olaf places in Tibet acclaim that man knows next to nothing about the universe, and the scope of the spirit, no man knows or needs to know. Then how do you know there is a spirit at all, Futuro-Tibetans?
Here is the fruit of a doctrine with no doctrine, a metaphysic of no metaphysics: namely, total rot and rubbish, meaningless in this life, promising nothing in the next, a spiritualism that makes no demands, and inspires no reforms, and says nothing.
At last war came. I have told how, in the theme of darkness it resulted in the destruction of man’s most promising society. In the theme of light the issue was far otherwise. Not only had the empires been effectively undermined by the missionaries, so that rebellions were frequent; more important was the fact that the servants of the light in all countries, and specially in Tibet, were armed with an inner certainty of victory.
Ah, but the synthetic faith still has faith, or, as it is called here, inner certainty. Faith without anyone to have faith in: are they non-praying that non-God will answer their non-prayers that non-providence might rescue them? Oh, what bosh.
This, by the bye, is the exact term Olaf uses to describe an artificial religion concocted by the forces of ee-eevil to deceive the unwary: Synthetic faith—a bit of Freudian slippish self betrayal on Olaf’s part, that bit, eh, what?
Against all probability, the small but highly trained and highly mechanized Tibetan army, supported by its small but well-appointed air force, pushed forward into the imperial territory of Kashmir.
Because a rag-tag group of rebels cannot defeat the evil empire of evil evilness unless they are smarter than everyone else—which is the sine qua non of being an official cuckoo from Cloudcuckooland.
There it attacked before the Russians had had time to recover from the effects of the microbe, and it gained a surprising victory. The Russian imperialists hastily concentrated vast new armies and air forces upon the invaders; but owing to a combination of inefficiency, corruption, and above all half-heartedness and positive disloyalty the imperial armies put up a feeble resistance, and were presently retreating in disorder … The moral effect of this surprising victory was immense…. An army which was ordered to proceed to the recovery of the lost territory, was incapacitated by mutiny. Meanwhile the whole mountainous tract stretching from Kashmir through Afghanistan, Persia, and Turkey to the Aegean Sea rose against the oppressors. In Greece, in Britain, and in Scandinavia isolated rebellions were started. To the north of Tibet, Sinkiang and the more mountainous part of Outer Mongolia overcame the local imperial forces.
Get this. In the Future of Light, when the Tibetans release mind-destroying Germ Warfare (it only affects stupid people, dontchano!) into Russia, the cowed and enslaved Russian peons do not react with horror and alarm to GERM WARFARE, but surge to their feet from their knees in rebellion, which causes a chain reaction of similar rebellions of the proles in other continents against their Imperialist oppressors! This is a pinko wet dream. I am embarrassed to read it. No real wars go this way. When the enemy comes to nerve gas you, you close ranks.
After much discussion the Tibetan leaders decided that there was nothing for it but to court disaster and hope for a miracle. Or rather, divinely confident of victory, they saw that the only way to it was the way of inspired foolhardiness.
Miracle from whom? Oy. I need some Ayn Rand to wash down the taste of this mysticism of muscle. At least she is an honest atheist, straightforward, and one who hates God rather than a hater who still secretly has a fetish for the various outer manifestations of godliness, faith, miracles, providence, and so on.
When a sudden rebellion broke out in the remote British Isles, and was supported by an attack by the Mountain Peoples against Russian forces in Iran, the Chinese government refrained from helping Russia by attacking Tibet from the east. This was a grave error, for Britain gained its independence, and Iran, Iraq, and Turkey joined the Federation. The economic resources of the Federation were still ridiculously small compared with those of the empires, whose sway covered all the rest of the earth save isolated Britain.
Britain, not America, breaks free first, despite that Britain is tiny and close to the Eurasian landmass of the futuristic Soviet Empire. In reality, Britain now has more government run cameras per square foot than any nation on Earth. Big Nanny is Watching You.
Well, I cannot fault Olaf for his home-love. If I had written this book, I would have had the Commonwealth of Virginia break free first from the Evil World Empire of Evil, because I am a Virginian. Sic Semper Tyrannis!
The Russian Empire’s territories were now constantly in revolt. Chief offenders were India, so near to Tibet, and America, so remote from Moscow. … the whole Russian Empire was gradually annexed to China. The world now consisted of a mighty imperial system and a small federation of free peoples occupying a tract which was very largely mountain. Britain had failed to maintain itself against the more efficient imperial power.
Whoops! Spoke too soon. Olaf correctly notes the location advantage of America, and he does not single out Britain for special treatment. I stand corrected.
It might have been expected that the need for watchfulness and unity would have forced the Tibetans to sacrifice freedom to military dictatorship, and would set up the kind of deterioration which external danger had long ago caused in revolutionary Russia.
The titanic and thoroughgoing mental dishonesty required for Olaf to believe that the failure of the Bolsheviks to achieve Utopia was due to foreign threats to Mother Russia, rather than to the folly and evil of their own program from the get-go, is merely staggering—on the level of a Flat-Earther or a Moonshots-On-A-Soundstage level of self-deception.
Olaf! Read the damned literature (and here I do mean damned). Marx and Engels and Lenin craved a violent totalitarian dictatorship, a dictatorship of the proletarian. No one honestly thinks you can control the total economic life of man and not control the man. Thought Police were always in the works. The iron boot trampling the human face forever, that was always the goal. The talk of the state withering away was mere Millenarianism, daydream-chat, not what Marx and Lenin were seriously concerned about.
But once more the Tibetans rose to strange irrational and almost hilarious confidence.
Faith. Again, Olaf is praising the Christian virtue of faith. This irrational confidence is not in keeping with the quietism and submission of fatalistic Oriental religions. It is the posture of a Crusader.
Olaf is merely a strange chimera, half fish and half fowl. He wants to be a modern progressive materialist in the fashion of HG Wells, but his restless heart will not allow him to dismiss Christian ideals and themes, albeit he must disguise them to himself to make them palatable.
The Mountain Federation was at once re-formed, and the Federal Government issued an appeal to the peoples of the world, urging a world-wide federation. The forces of the light in every country worked strongly for the new order.
Our old friend, the world-wide Federation! Well, this time the League of Nations will work FOR SURE!
All sarcasm aside, this was a new notion, a properly scientifictional notion, at its time. (Albeit, I notice that Robert Heinlein, in a 1950 article called PANDORA’S BOX, less than nine years later, correctly predicted that there would be no worldwide government, Federal or otherwise, by 2000 AD.)
World-wide commissions for transport, health, postal services, the regulation of industrial disputes, and so on, were gradually forming into a vast network of cosmopolitan organization.
Oh, my aching anus. Where is L Neil Smith when you need him? Where is that anarchist Alan Moore, or whatever the hell he is? Does no one see how unrealistic and ugly this idolatry of government is? Olaf is salivating over the labor unions, socialized medicine, and government-run train system of Futurotopia.
The preamble to the constitution of the new world organization became one of the most cherished scriptures of the human race. It was based on the appeal which the Tibetans had issued after the downfall of the world empire, and it had been developed little by little in subsequent years by the best minds of all countries; so that in its final form it was truly co-operative and anonymous.
Anonymous, because giving someone like Jefferson the credit for penning a brilliant document, or giving St. John credit for penning a cherished scripture, defies the Marxist notion that all works are collective and mutual, the outpouring of the human spirit as a whole. I seem to recall in Ayn Rand’s ANTHEM that the candle was invented by a committee also.
Co-operative and anonymous! As if the works of individual genius are somehow uncooperative.
Stare into the eyes of the seven-headed ten-horned Beast of socialism. The word of blasphemy written proudly on its collective brow, written in the blood of the martyrs of liberty, is this one: anonymous.
‘We, inhabitants of every land, intelligences of the planet Earth, having overthrown a world-wide tyranny, having abolished a world-wide darkness of the spirit, now, through our chosen representatives, pledge ourselves to the light. We acknowledge that the high goal of all the lives of men is to awaken themselves and one another to love and wisdom and creative power, in service of the spirit. Of the universe we know very little; but in our hearts we know certainly that for all beings of human stature this is the way of life. In service of the spirit, therefore, we the human inhabitants of this planet, unite in a new order, in which every human being, no matter how lowly his nature, shall be treated with respect as a vessel of the spirit, shall be given every possible aid from infancy onwards to express whatever power is in him for bodily and mental prowess, for his own delight and for service of the common life. We resolve that in future none shall be crippled in body or perverted in mind by unwholesome conditions. For this end we declare that in future no powerful individual or class or nation shall have the means, economic or military, to control the lives of men for private gain.’
Of the universe they know very little. Apparently they know enough to overthrow the progress of the Enlightenment, the wisdom of the medieval separation of secular and ecclesiastic authority, not to mention the warnings of the Prophet Samuel about the woes of serving a king. Such progress? Such regress.
Limited government and liberty are done away with. We return to a form of government, reminiscent of the Holy Roman Empire, where every aspect of life was controlled in the name of the spirit. And usury laws are sure to reappear—if that wisecrack about private gain has any meaning.
It is the sheer meaninglessness of the new order that astounds me, that vows every human being every possible aid to express his bodily and mental prowess, for his own delight, etc.
In that gobbledygook is a positive obligation (imposed on every taxpayer and public servant) that every waif with a talent for football be given a pigskin and a coach, and every orphan with an ear for music be given a violin and a tutor, every urchin with a longing for dirt-bike racing be given motorcycle (why restrict the cornucopia output to the talented?).
Wonderful. What do you do when the Omnipotent Nanny State only has funds for one or the other? How do you make the decision whether to buy a new brass band for the people of River City, Iowa, against buying a new boxcar for the Trans-Siberian Railway? How do you square all this with the freedom of expression and liberty that is so prominently praised in the earlier paragraphs? How do you do it without awarding to a powerful individual, class or nation control over the lives of men?
(Oh, excuse me. The Declaration of Incoherence only condemns control over the lives of men by the powerful when done for the sake of private gain. Control by the powerful over the lives of men in the name of the public good is copacetic. My bad.)
This dedication to the secular version of holiness just looks like a shabby make-believe make-shift to me.
Frankly, I am more impressed with the vow of the atheist John Galt, never to live for another man nor let another man life for him: at least Galt, like a proper Lucifer or Albrecht, vows himself to perpetual selfishness and forswears love in a fashion that at least shows some backbone. In its own way, it strikes me as more Christian than Olaf’s anonymous communal vow of the Federation of the Light to nanny every child, because at least Galt recognizes the Christian ideal of the worth of the individual. Phfaugh.
(You don’t think Galt forswears love? What exactly is love, if not living for another?)
From Chapter 8 PRECARIOUS ADVANCE
THE TROUBLES of mankind were by no means over. Nor will they ever be.
Well, just when you think Olaf is utterly blind, he utters some simple truth that makes you want to forgive him. He is not the simplistic socialist idiot he sounds like; he has a sense for the true tragedy of history, the uncertainty of success, the brevity of peace.
Olaf is a difficult man to dislike, no matter how richly he deserves it.
Imperial tyranny had never impinged on the peoples of America, Australia, and New Zealand with quite the same searching brutality as on the rest of the world. And so, confident in their own spirit of responsible individualism, they did not easily recognize the urgency of bringing the private enterprise of individuals, social classes and nations under the control of a common world authority.
Then he says something stupid like this, and you recall how richly he deserves it, and you return to retching.
Trouble arose over the disposal of American tidal power. The World Federal Government declared that all the great resources of production must henceforth be controlled exclusively by the World Government, which alone could organize them effectively for the immense task of raising the standard of life of all peoples to the level needed for full psychological development.
The dishonesty of this piffle never ceases to astound. It is for psychological reasons, mind you, that wealth must be extorted from the productive and given to the wards of the state, because (as we all somehow know, we who know little of the universe) it is bad for your mental health, maybe bad for your self-esteem, to have to work humbly for a living and be content with your own earnings. Real psychological wellbeing comes from coveting your neighbor’s goods, Bolshevik-wise, and having the ‘gatherers’ and ‘sharers’ come gather and share it. For Sharkey.
The American capitalists replied that, having constructed their great tidal system by their own enterprise, having watched it for so long being exploited and misused by the late imperial government of the world, they intended to retain control of it themselves.
No pretense is made in this book that the imaginary leaders of the imaginary future commonwealth have any natural right to the power industry of the Americans. There is no Fifth Amendment in the constitution of those who know little of the universe, no compensation for immanent domain. The builders of the power industry are simply being told their lifeworks now belongs to the state.
Moreover the American social system, though it had usefully built up American prosperity … was quite unsuited to the new world-order, in which there must be fully co-ordinated planning of the world as a whole.
Just the unmitigated, smirking, vile evil inherent in Cloudcuckooland never loses its power to astonish and disgust.
The Americans, of course, like all other peoples, had agreed to the abolition of national armaments. They had their own unarmed police; and a contingent of the armed World Police, drawn from all peoples, was stationed at key points throughout the two continents.
Disarmament: the unmistakable and undisguised mating-cry of the Cloud Cuckoo, as he comes ever nearer, eager to bugger you.
At last the President of the World, at this time a Zulu…whose race was still distasteful to the Americans…
The Euro-weenies never tire of scolding the Americans for their racism. Olaf predicted an American distaste for Negroes extending indefinitely into the future. I assume the popularity and adulation showered upon, say Michael Jackson, Tyra Banks, Thomas Sowell, or Barry Obama could not have been predicted by Olaf.
[The world president] recognized that in the world’s present transitional state, a state of rapid and bewildering economic enrichment, there was much to be said for allowing a good deal of scope to private enterprise in industry. He recognized also that the motives of most of the American capitalists were generous social motives, and that the American peoples on the whole supported them. On the other hand the World Government could not tolerate any attempt to flout its authority…
Ah! It is all peace and enlightenment until the serfs ask to be allowed to keep their own property.
The World Government reserved the power of constant inspection of American industry and would not permit any infringement of the rights of the workers, as laid down in the preamble to the constitution of the Federation.
See? Big Nanny does not want to control you! She just wants to regulate you in situations where your self-control does not match state-mandated dictates!
Certain kinds of industry were excluded from capitalist enterprise entirely, such as armaments and the great means of expression. These, and education, were to be nationalized under the American state, subject to final control by the World Government.
In other words, schools and the media will serve the State. Points for accuracy to Olaf. The Cloud Cuckoos are cunning enough to recognize that the intellectual means of transmitting learning and thought are the reproductive organs of the society: if you have the means to prevent the society from passing its messages along to the next generation, you have society by the balls.
Guns no longer manufactured. Oh, Walter S. Delany, where is the Weapons Shops when we need them?
It also reserved a power of veto on any industry which it regarded as undesirable from the point of view of the world, and it might order American industry to produce some particular kind of goods needed by the world. Such work might be subsidized by the World Government. The American capitalists, then, must regard themselves as civil servants under the World Government, liable to dismissal and confiscation of their property if they broke the agreement, though paid for their services through the open market.
Agreement? The agreement was what, again, exactly? The American industrialists could remain the leaders in name only of their various industries, provided that the Glorious Collective Leader told them exactly what to produce, when and where, at the Glorious Collective Leader’s sole discretion and judgment?
Time for John Galt to organize a strike of the Men of the Mind against the Spirits of the Light, I’d say. He can join Walter S. Delany in smuggling in energy weapons.
In South America, however, it lasted only for a decade. There the worse elements of the capitalist class gained power and indulged in secret violations of the agreements.
The peoples of South America came to realize that they were being exploited, not flagrantly, as in former times, but at least annoyingly.
Oho. The freedom of the free market annoyed them! Well, rob the rich, then!
The movement for socialism rapidly gained ground. … Without trouble the South Americans went over to socialism. A few years later Australia and New Zealand followed suit. And within a couple of decades the North Americans themselves, not without heated discussion, decided to enter fully into the world economic system.
It is like seeing a cute little girl dressed in a Nazi uniform. All this sweetness and light combined with a devotion to absolute evil is hard to fathom. (But see endnote, below.)
In the masturbatory power fantasies of Cloudcuckooland, it is merely assumed that all right thinking people will become socialists once they are given a chance to think about it. Of course, I should not mock: Britain slid into her degrading socialism accompanied by nothing more than a heated discussion after WWII.
But the peoples of the earth were by now far too spirited to accept dictatorship, even a dictatorship which was manifestly benevolent according to its lights….For these hosts of civil servants and politicians were very conscious of their own integrity and fundamental human loyalty. They were not Nazis or ‘wicked capitalists’ but conscientious servants of mankind, and, moreover, demonstrably superior members of it.
Because Nazis and Capitalists are ee-eevil, whereas, according to Olaf, socialists are the servants of the Spiritual Light. Not just superior, but demonstrably superior, because they did so well on futuristic LSAT’s and quizzes about the classical Confucian texts.
I am not saying Olaf is suggesting rule by enlightened Bureaucrats is preferable. I am saying Olaf is putting forward as a serious speculation of future conditions, or, at least, a parable meant not to be laughed away in scorn, that the future socialism will be run by a body of bureaucrats noticeably able and intelligent, all selected by psychological tests, of course, of course, because science can solve everything.
I am mocking the idea that such a corporate body of unfallen men could be found on earth at all by some deliberate testing system put in place by fallen men.
Even the Games Machine could be corrupted by the Distorter: Olaf here is being less realistic than the dreamlike space opera by A.E. van Vogt.
The World Government resigned, and many national governments followed its example. In Japan the ministers committed hara-kiri.
OK, the hari-kiri is cute local color, though whether this custom will survive to the 24th ½ Century remains to be seen.
For a whole month there was scarcely any public authority anywhere in the world except the local governments of Tibet, Britain, and Iceland. There was no world government. The police and the civil services were without their administrative heads. Yet there was no disorder. Everything functioned normally, in the spirit of benevolent anarchy. This condition could not last indefinitely, but no one had any authority to alter it.
The part I think is stupid is the idea that the World Government, when it goes into a sulk, leaves a situation behind that no one has the authority to alter. You see, in a top-down, command society, when the top is gone, there can be no spontaneous gathering of the local colonies to form a continental congress. There can be no grassroots movements in a top-down world. Maybe there is no grass in Cloudcuckooland.
All this production must be done in such a way that ‘sub-human’ work could be carried on solely by machines. Of course, so long as the standard of human capacity remained what it was, many world-citizens would be content with low-grade work; but no human being must ever have to spend his life on work below his capacity, and none must ever be tied to a kind of work for which his special aptitudes were unsuited. There must be a great advance in vocational psychology, and therefore much research.
Here are traces of Olaf’s class-conscious mind surfacing. Some people are naturally lower orders and do lower work. I seem to recall a similar attitude in BRAVE NEW WORLD. A world of Alphas would have no one to drive the buses, hew wood, and draw water.
Arrogant prat, ain’t he? Compare that to Ayn Rand sternly insisting that there was no work that was too low or too unworthy to do, there was only work done well or done badly. Even a philosopher could do a good job as a fry cook, if he put his mind to it, in Ayn Rand’s world.
Olaf disdains it as ‘service to the darkness’ to permit to exist the free market which allows each freely to decide where in the marketplace he best can serve, a market that naturally rewards those who have not chosen a job either below their skills or above them—but for some reason having the Glorious Collective Leader choosing your job for you from his offices in the World Capitol in Brussels (or wherever), is perfectly moral, enlightened, rational and good.
The psychopathology of Cloudcuckooland is here on undisguised display. Remember, the core of the Cloud Cuckoos mind is that they are self-styled intellectuals, stupid people pretending to be smart, and their core resentment is that the society around them, Colonel Blimp and Rich Uncle Pennybags, does not worship and adore their superior intelligence, and snubbed them.
The sense of superiority combine with a lack of any real superiority is why the Cloud Cuckoos look down their noses at honest labor.
The sense of superiority combined with a lack of any real superiority is why the Cloud Cuckoos think the free market and all world affairs could be better run by them (or their imaginary stand-ins with whom they identify, Stalin and Pol Pot and Castro and Mao and other Glorious Leaders).
Psychology, indeed, now came into its own….Crippling neuroses gradually disappeared. A composite photograph of mankind would have shown an expression of frankness, confidence, and friendliness such as in an earlier age was to be seen only in those who were outstandingly fortunate in their genes and their nurture.
Riiight. Psychology solves the curse of Adam, and frees us from sin.
A rather sharp distinction was made in the new order between articles of mere luxury and articles needed for the development of body or mind. Industry was planned so as to make the former difficult to procure, the latter easy. Luxury was by no means condemned, but the unlimited power of the world-society to produce luxury articles was deliberately restricted, so that though every one could procure a certain amount of pure luxury with his ‘luxury allowance’, no one could gather to himself masses of choice articles which it was beyond his power to use or appreciate.
I don’t know what to make of this. It seems like a recurrence of Puritanism, Buddhist renunciation of luxury, but of a more perhaps Aristotelian kind—a pagan insistence on moderation. Why the Spirit of Light does not like luxury, I don’t know.
I assume the wisecrack about luxuries beyond one’s power to appreciate is the Cloud Cuckoo jealousy again: Cuckoo sees a fine painting or a fine wine in the house of Rich Uncle Pennybags, and he knows the Rich Uncle does not have the wit or sensitivity to appreciate the nuances of the bouquet or brushstrokes or what-have-you, so he dreams of murdering the uncle and plundering his stuff, but he conscientiously vows that no one in Cloudcuckooland, once the Glorious Leader seizes power, will ever own objects too fine for his intellect.
In any case, as with other things, the attitude of Christians toward luxuries, namely, that they are to be enjoyed in moderation as blessings from God, but are better used to help the poor, is a paradox that can be embraced only by a mystical world view, that is, a world view holding the material world to be not central to either to this life, nor to the life to come.
The same paradox upheld by a materialistic world view or an agnostic spiritualism is merely a self-contradiction. If this life is all there is, why not eat, drink and be merry? If the socialist world government could provide luxury in abundance for all who crave it, why not indulge the craving?
Thus the more flamboyant kinds of clothing, though not banned, were produced in very small quantities; while simpler materials and patterns were plentiful and various.
I am picturing them all dressed in Chairman Mao jumpsuits. How did they decide who got the flamboyant clothing? By quota? By lottery? Who gets the kimonos and tuxedos, not to mention nylons and high heels?
In real life, the fine clothing purchased in Western shops would go to adorn the mistresses of the Nomenklatura. How such a society operates without a West, I cannot fathom.
Serviceable motor cars and aeroplanes were available for every citizen. Luxury cars and planes were to be obtained only by the fanatic who was willing to stint himself in all other respects. Choice jewellery was almost unobtainable, and was used mainly for communal rather than individual display, but simple trinkets, hand-made by craftsmen steeped in some local tradition or venturing upon new forms, were available for all who wanted them.
The condescension makes me sick. Enthusiasts who like fine motorcars are fanatics, but cheap jewelry seeped in some local ethnic tradition is blessed, as is innovation for innovations’ sake.
Jewels are used for communal rather than individual display. What the hell does that mean? Emeralds studded the public buildings as in Oz? Only the World President could wear a crown?
In general the aim was to use the vast mechanical resources of the race not to complicate but to simplify life, and to bring all that was needed within the reach of all.
I rejoice that the Collective Glorious Leader has decided to simplify my life! Back to nature! Fa-la-la-lallala Live for today-yay!
In the old days the needs of ordinary people were catered for incidentally by enterprises undertaken for private profit. The result was a constant appeal to the more primitive and more insistent impulses of men, and a gross degradation of sensibility and integrity. But now that public need was the first claim it was necessary to decide what the public need really was, and which needs were most to be fostered. Industry had to be planned accordingly.
Olaf does not know any real men in business, does he? Or real people? No, he lives in Cloudcuckooland, totally disconnected from reality.
The fact that the needs of people were catered for incidentally by profit seeking enterprises, a la Adam Smith, is what ruffles his Cloud Cuckoo feathers. He wants the butcher, baker and vintner to provide you with meat and bread and wine out of the purity of pure altruism. Otherwise the baker makes you fat by urging you to buy bread and the vintner makes you drunk by luring you to buy wine, and this degrades (for some reason) your sensibility and integrity.
Or rather, no, not at all. This is not being presented as a realist program for political economy, nor even as a serious parable of futurism meant to be taken at face value as entertainment. This document is a psychological confession: an intellectual is voicing his contempt and condescension for a social order that does not worship his wonderful-terrifickness and superior intellect in the form of wish-fulfillment daydreams where the laws of supply and demand have been suspended.
All that this passage means is that Olaf sniffs in disapproval at adverts for lipstick and whiskey, and wants to have Comrade Glorious Leader tell us what we really need and really should desire, not what we think we desire.
No longer did the bulk of the population work for long hours and for insufficient pay, living more or less in squalor, and failing to secure that small amount of self- expression without which mental health is impossible.
Maybe self-expression means Art. Do artists actually think that artists are more sane than everyone else? The general consensus runs the other way. In any case, I do not see why painting a portrait in necessary for mental health, whereas doing something useful, like cobbling a shoe or carpentering a chair, is degrading.
Maybe by self-expression here is meant whining and carrying on, rather than doing your duty in manly silence.
Maybe the phrase ‘self-expression’ is vague enough to mean anything and nothing, merely having a sort of vaguely good connotation. Cloudcuckooland is floating full of words that mean nothing. It is their main export and trade good.
Communism, which at one time had made so great a contribution to thought and feeling and institutions,
Um. Contributions like the holocaust? Like the Ukraine famine? Like the total disintegration of the academic institutions in the West? Like the one-child policy in China? Like the killing fields in Cambodia? Like that wonderful new art form, the Giant Poster?
The contribution in feeling, of course, is that the pathetic hate and resentment of pseudo intellectuals for people smarter and more successful and obviously braver and more virtuous than they could for once be expressed (and without shame!) under a thin disguise of self-righteousness.
… was no longer a fanatical creed. In a sense all sane men were communists, since all accepted much of the Marxian social analysis; but the militant Communist Party had long since vanished, and the Marxian attempt to do without the primacy of the fundamental values, love and wisdom, was recognized as a perversity due to the poisonous atmosphere of the machine age.
Olaf is merely expressing a preference for Fabianism, which is the nonviolent form of communism popular in England.
Or maybe he is excusing the soul-destroying gut-boiling hatred of Marx and Engels by blaming the collective abstraction of the Machine Age for their individual sins, neuroses, and malignancies. James Watt is to blame, or Robert Fulton.
This would at least be in keeping with the Marxist dogma that you blame everything on the material circumstances of the era and economic conditions around you, somehow at once excusing your own sins and redoubling the condemnation of the sins of enemies.
Communism is as dead as the dodo, Olaf, and I spit on its grave.
Instead of the ‘working class’ there were increasing millions of people whose standard of life we should call ‘comfortable middle-class’, but whose minds were very different from our middle-class minds, since they were no longer moulded by the desperate necessity of trying to get the better of their neighbours in the commercial dog-fight.
Wow. If there is an award for having the least possible insight into a social institution, Olaf wins it here. Mutual cooperation for mutual gain, which diminishes conflicts of interest to the point of invisibility, here is dismissed as a dog-fight. The desire of the lower orders to better themselves is dismissed as keeping up with the Joneses.
Being able to choose jobs to work and goods to buy is dismissed as desperation. You want to see real desperation? People standing in lines in gray communist streets, badly dressed, underfed, waiting for their turn to beg from a petty commissar for some necessity.
Bugger you, Olaf. You are one sick puke.
Most men were now salaried servants of the world state or some national state or local or vocational authority.
Everyone works for Big Nanny! We are all one union, one factory! Yippie!
Three classes alone received no salary, but drew, when necessary, the liberal maintenance allowance to which every citizen was entitled when he needed it.
The small and curious class of private capitalists, whose function it was to provide society with the benefits of daring private enterprise in industrial pioneering, lived on profits, but were prevented by sumptuary laws and taxation from attaining more than the tolerated degree of affluence.
There is a reason why envy is called a deadly sin. People like Olaf are damned to hell, unless they can be forgiven their gnawing envy of their betters. You did not earn their wealth, Olaf, so you cannot take it from them.
Of course I am befuddled what Olaf thinks should happen, what punishments befall the scofflaw, in his imaginary commonwealth of communist Servants of the Light, if one capitalist sold another a nice suit of clothing above and beyond what the sumptuary laws allowed: the stocks, the whip, the stake, the branding iron? I mean, he wants a return of the medieval laws governing clothing and adornment, why not a return of the Renaissance tools of law enforcement?
And here we also see a depravity more total than the doctrinaire Marxist who insists that capitalists are merely thieves. Olaf knows enough to recognize that capitalists take risks and invest in new ventures and bring new products to market. He merely wishes for the Glorious Leader, not the grateful customers spending their own money, to limit the reward for the risk. Olaf wants Henry Ford to invent the mass production of automobiles, but not to get to buy a limousine for himself if the venture is remarkably successful, or a mink for Mrs. Ford.
That this would result in discouragement of investment, an increase in the caution of capital, economic malinvestment leading to depressions and, in general, be counterproductive of the ends sought, one would need to have a high school level understanding of Economics 101 to grasp. How Olaf can be a lettered man and end up knowing less than a schoolboy, getting more ignorant as he gets more educated, I cannot fathom.
The second class of unsalaried persons were the artists and writers who started professional life in complete dependence on the maintenance allowance and such extra help as they could obtain from their parents or friends. They might also gain state ‘subsidies of merit’; but in the main they hoped to live on the sale of their works, since in the new world the demand for books, pictures, musical performances, and so on, was far greater than in our own day.
Sweet Jehoshaphat, Olaf! This narcissistic fantasy is embarrassing. Why don’t you just pretend the people of the future put up a huge statue to you personally, OLAF STAPLEDON, a million miles high, made of solid Unobtainium, and circled with wreaths and skyrockets and ringed planets and dancing maidens— and be done with it?
The third unsalaried class was made up of the born idlers and tramps. These, a small minority, either supplemented their maintenance allowance with an occasional day’s labour, or frankly depended wholly on the ‘dole’. Although the great majority of these people were socially quite useless, the world society could easily afford to keep them in idleness for the sake of the few outstandingly creative or critical minds that now and then emerged from among them.
Note again the mere ugliness of the Collective. It is not that the tramps are individuals with a right to live as they please: it is that the wise Glorious Leader sees some long term benefit from keeping them around. Quick, name one famous artwork or scientific discovery made by a hobo? No? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
Many of these inveterate tramps were people with strong anti-social impulses…. The fact that they were nevertheless tolerated and even fostered is a measure of the stability and the wisdom of the leaders of the new world. …Some were individualistic to such an extent that they refused to avail themselves of the dole, and lived almost entirely by pilfering, sometimes by audacious highway robbery. To me it seemed at first incredible that this sort of thing should be permitted in this almost Utopian society.
It does not seem incredible to me, Olaf. The psychology of the Cloud Cuckoos explains all. Cloud Cuckoos are people who are stupider and less morally awake than other men, who want to be seen as smarter and more morally awake. They notice smart people say things other people do not understand, or take stances on moral issues, such as turning the other cheek, most people cannot perform. The Cloud Cuckoos try to do the same, but, to make it easier on themselves, they will say some incredibly stupid thing pretending it is a product of indecipherable wisdom, and they advocate an evil, such as highway robbery, pretending it is a product of indecipherable moral elevation.
Let us hear once more from Theodore Dalrymple:
Intellectuals need to say things that are not immediately obvious or do not occur to the man in the street. The man in the street instinctively sympathizes with the victim of crime; therefore, to distinguish himself from the man in the street, the intellectual has to sympathize with the criminal, by turning him into a victim of forces which only he, the intellectual, has sufficient sophistication to see.
Cloudcuckoos like to forgive the criminal because they are not the victims of crime. It gives them a cheap sense of moral superiority.
But these ‘outlaws’ were a minute section of the individualist class, and anyone who suffered from their attentions could claim compensation from the state.
The State allows robbers to wander around unpunished, but the victims are repaid out of the taxpayer’s pocketbook. Yup. That is one realistic science fictional speculation there for you.
Here is my suggestion for a more realistic science fictional speculation.
The World State maintains a number of violent homeless bums who commit petty crimes, and when one of them tries to pilfer the homes of free men from Virginia, the gentlemen whip out their Delamiter Rayguns purchased (in gold) from Walter S. Delany’s Weapon Shop, and burn the offender into a smoking spot of grease in a nano-second. The inefficient and clumsy Imperial World Government sends its stormtroopers to arrest them, but by that time, they have joined with the pirate chief Rangnar Danneskjold on his warship made of a radar-invisible alloy called Reardon Metal, and under cover of screen of rays, escape to the high seas.
Then Captain James T. Kirk violates the Prime Directive, seduces the attractive young Empress, and makes the World Computer blow itself up by repeating paradoxes to it. Everyone is set free, and Williamsburg becomes the new capitol of the world Republic, and ‘Mind Your Own Business’ the motto on the new Great Seal.
On second thought, this sciffy fantasy is no more realistic than Olaf’s, but I can tell you which world I would rather live in.
There was therefore no attempt to eradicate them. When they were caught they were very leniently punished, except when they had done bodily hurt to their victims.
The Cloud Cuckoos, of course, get much sense of moral superiority from being lenient to criminals. Being materialists, however, they only pay attention to gross bodily functions, and so only emphasize the physical and material aspects either of crime or of social institutions that have to do with bodily pleasure and bodily harm. A vagrant in Futurtopia who defiles an altar or trespasses on a child’s party or exposes himself to a shocked maiden would be punished lightly or not at all, because churches and children and virgins mean nothing to the Cloud Cuckoos. A vagrant in a fistfight with a stout Irishman, however, would be chastised severely, because a punch in the nose is something to get excited about.
I am not sure what causes this strange inversion of norms among the Cloudies. Part is that they—for the most part— are physically weak and cowardly, and are intimidated by soldiers and teamsters and men who work with their hands. Part is that, having abandoned not only the Christian religion, but right reason, their skepticism can only agree upon gross and crass things, like a punch in the nose causing physical pain. They do not know for certain that blasphemy, trespass or indecency is wrong—for who can say for certain what right and wrong mean?—but they can be sure physical damage is wrong because it is something a doctor can see and measure.
The professed aim of the World Government was to secure a right balance of specialization and all-roundness. Thus the more specialized a man’s trade, the more he was encouraged to take up outside activities.
Boy, just when you think you have hit the bottom level of the evil of socialism, another and deeper level suddenly breaks open beneath your spade. Every floor of hell is the roof of a deeper hell.
Olaf here is talking about the world government breeding and training men the way a kindly master breed and trains dogs.
Olaf here is talking about the world government being like a pushy Nanny with half-wit children under her charge, who, if the children get too absorbed in one interest, for the sake of their education, must be forced into some other hobby or sport to broaden their minds. It is a hell where the devils wear pretty dresses and insincere smiles, and tell you the torment is for your own good.
Not only as between individuals but also as between peoples specialization was carefully restricted. Inevitably at first some countries were predominantly industrial, others agricultural, but it was deliberately designed that this specialization should be based on an underlying self-sufficiency. … The aim of the world government was the development of the world as a whole, not of any one people. Local cultural differences were therefore to be fostered, since it was realized that mental diversity was the breath of life.
There is a long section here I won’t quote which talks about the benefits of economic autarky, emphasizing the psychological benefits of knowing men from all walks of life. It is merely rubbish. Specialization in an economic sense is mutually beneficial.
In a psychological sense, I suggest Olaf himself is the one who needs to get out more and talk to some real people from all walks of life. As I recall, Marx, whom Olaf worships as a god, never actually set foot inside a factory, talked to a workingman, or knew anything about business. Pauline Kael is remembered for being astonished at the landslide victory of Nixon, as she knew no one who voted for him.
Examples could be multiplied endlessly. It is not for their realism or knowledge of politics, economics or history the denizens of Cloudcuckooland are known, but for their airy disconnection from any but their own absurd ideas.
The World Government jealously exercised its right to supervise all national educational systems so as to ensure that the essential principles of education for citizenship in the new world should not be violated; should in fact be vigorously practised.
Of course. The Cloudcuckoolanders jest looves dem der edducashun. This is an idea as old as Plato: control the youth, and you control the state: control the education of the youth, and you control the youth.
Why the government could be trusted not to turn the schools merely into pro-gov indoctrination centers is not clear. Presumably the Servants of the Light are gifted by the non-God with a special non-Chrism to make them incorruptible.
Incorruptible like King Saul, no doubt? Or like Saint Peter, who vowed never to betray his master, no doubt?
You can see why I think Christianity is more mature and realistic than Cloudcuckooland. The Clouds think they can simply by fiat or a wave of the magic wand of eugenics, and create Gray Lensmen, morally perfect super-Boy-Scouts, to rule them. The Church does not even regard her own leaders as assured of salvation, much less assured of incorruptibility. None is good, save God only.
Thus the British, never a highly cultured race in the intellectual sense, claimed with some justice that they could still teach the world through the example of their political life, with its anomalous but effective institutions and its temperate and forbearing spirit.
Olaf is French, then, is he? That temperate spirit and forbearance did not endure even for a single generation under the Fabian socialism for which you prayed. Englishmen are swamped with hooligans, now. It only took a generation or so, 1950 to 2000.
While numbers were declining, the average level of intelligence was declining also. The more intelligent were more reluctant than the dullards to burden themselves with children in a hostile world
That old chestnut again. Intelligence = infertility. Maybe no smart people are Catholics? I am sure Thomas Aquinas has some reasoning on the score, if only the modern reader could actually, you know, follow a logical reasoning.
Weird that Olaf thinks underpopulation would be the great problem in the future, since every book I ever read in my youth screamed itself hoarse about overpopulation.
Since, in real life, we are suffering an underpopulation shift, which may indeed have disastrous consequences (especially in those modern Western nations, like American, who already borrowed and wasted the next generation’s wealth, and are in dire straights when the next generation arrives in far too few numbers to bear the debt), kudos to Olaf for making an accurate prediction here.
One of the first acts of the World Federal Government was to set up a Ministry of Parenthood, charged not only with stemming the general decline of population but also with securing that intelligent stocks should not dwindle while dull stocks increased.
So enlightened! Set up a Ministry! Breed those humans like dogs, Olaf!
The first task was to make parenthood attractive to people of average and superior intelligence. This was done partly by heavy subsidies.
WOW! What brilliant supersmart things the smart smarties from smartfuturotipia can come up with! Pay the moms to have children!
Oh, no, sorry, my mistake. This is moronic. As if people do things like have children for monetary gain.
Every intelligent child, far from being a burden to its parents, became a financial asset. Great efforts were made to free childbirth of its distress and danger, and to ensure that the upbringing of children should not demand the enslavement of the mother during the best years of her life.
Because we all know motherhood is unrewarding! Those women will find much more self-satisfaction doing the things enlightened Utopians do, like, um, fashioning handmade jewelry, being a public servant on the dole, or being a tramp criminal, lady novelist, or despised capitalist whose purchases are monitored by sumptuary laws.
Bugger you, Olaf. Your smarmy condescension toward motherhood is not only puerile, it is downright satanic.
With the aid of communal meals, communal nurseries and labour-saving devices within the home the mothers were freed and yet the home was preserved as the fundamental unit of social life.
Communal meals and communal nurseries! The home was both abolished and at the same time preserved!
All girls were trained in mothercraft. The Ministry also undertook careful propaganda to persuade all young people that parenthood was at once their supreme privilege and their first obligation.
Boy, just when you think you have hit the bottom level of the evil of socialism, another and level even deeper suddenly breaks open beneath your spade.
Here, Olaf simply thinks like a slave-owner daydreaming about the reforms he will one day make, when his ship comes in, to improve the lot of his slaves. He will teach the young matrons how to be mothers! Advanced propaganda techniques will make sex and romance, mating and family life to seem attractive!
This whole section has an air of unreality about it. Either Olaf thinks prophylactics will be universal in the future, or he has no sex drive himself and does not trust in natural impulses to reproduce the species.
Maybe he just thinks everything is better, including sex, if a state Ministry runs it.
Much was done in order to foster intelligence and integrity in the rising generation. Lavish research produced at last very reliable mental tests. Defectives and certain types prone to criminality were sterilized. Dullards were severely discouraged from having children. Parents of good average intelligence were of course helped to have large families. Those of exceptionally high intelligence were handsomely subsidized.
Some ideas are so impudent, so evil, that the only proper response is to bayonet their advocates in the gut. That is the proper reply to Nazism. That is the proper reply to Eugenics.
Defectives and certain types prone to criminality were sterilized.
Negroes? Do you mean Negroes, maybe, Olaf? This idea was very common in 1942, after all.
Hatred and fear of races they think inferior—and the Nephelogetes think everyone inferior— is very common among cloud-born intellectuals, as you can tell by how often they project those feelings onto innocent bystanders.
Outstanding children were treated as the world’s most precious possession, and trained with the utmost care and skill to enable them to make full use of their powers.
And they grew up to be insufferable brats, and had to be put down like mad dogs.
Within a few generations this policy of fostering intelligence and integrity began to have surprising results.
Yeah! Breeding program successful! Eugenics of course works just as planned!
Society began to be stratified in ranks of ability. People tended to confine their mating within their own rank of capacity. Consequently the first signs of a new caste system appeared. Serious problems were thus raised, and two world-wide political parties, opposed to one another with increasing emphasis, advocated opposite policies.
One party, the Aristocrats, favoured the acceptance of the caste tendency, and even the deliberate breeding of specialized human types for specialized functions, including a caste of world-organizers or rulers. The other party, the Democrats, insisted that, though inevitably there must be great differences between men in respect of mental and spiritual developments, and some differences were no doubt desirable, it was important to prevent such divergences from broadening into unbridgeable gulfs.
We have to listen to this moral retard fretting over a simple ethical puzzle as if it is a serious conundrum to him. Perhaps from his philosophy, it is a serious puzzle, because the Cloud Cuckoo’s claim to mental superiority is high intelligence, and his claim to moral superiority is egalitarianism.
I notice that capitalism, which merely allows each man to sink or rise to his own level, due to ability, not genetics, is severely condemned by the Sacred Constitution of the World Federation of Light on the grounds that it allows for a variation of income. An income gap is an insuperable problem for the World Ministry, but whether an IQ gap should be allowed to let the Aryans rule over the dusky Negroes is a puzzler they have to think through carefully.
Little by little, however, it became clear even to members of the Aristocratic Party that the world was once more falling sick, and that the source of trouble was the caste system.
Olaf is rare among socialists—he recognizes the evil inherent in a genetic caste system.
On the other hand, hatred of Aristocracy is common among socialists. It is perhaps their only redeeming characteristic, and one they share with republicans (small ‘r’).
Certain principles of policy were laid down for the guidance of the World Government. … Intermarriage between castes must be encouraged. Social segregation of castes must be prevented. Individuals with extreme specialized characters must be forbidden to marry individuals of the same type. And so on.
But Olaf is still one sick, sick puke.
So if Romeo is a Alpha, and loves Juliette, the Glorious Leader commands Romeo to marry Juliette’s nurse: and Frodo, as a member of the squirarchy, must marry Rose Cotton, his gardener’s girlfriend. Really? This makes everyone happier?
I guess Professor Higgins can marry Eliza Doolittle, so he gets a happier ending than Shaw gave him. But it reminds me of the concept of busing in America, where activists judges started telling families to which schools they must send their tykes, in order to promote some abstract and imponderable social good. This is busing, but not for schools, for wedding chapels.
Two conditions, it seemed to me, assured this new sanity of the race. The first was a social order in which every individual who was not gravely sub-normal could count on a life of self-expression and co- operation.
Again with the self-expression. I can only assume the wonderful-terrifickness of the Cloud Cuckoos is so great that they assume everyone want to hear their opinions about everything. No strong and silent types in Cloudcuckooland! Everyone is a talker.
The second was the widespread, heartfelt, and not merely verbal acceptance of the fundamental religious aim of social life, namely the development of man’s capacity for personality in service of the spirit.
As best I can tell, Olaf is now giving us the secular version of the communion of saints. I am not sure what a fundamental religious aim might mean, in a fundamentally agnostic or atheistic universe. It just seems stupid to me, deliberately vague.
Christianity has the practical goal of saving men from death, the wages of sin; Buddhism has the practical goal of winning escape from suffering through detachment; Hinduism has the practical goal of earning Karma to be reincarnated at a higher level of caste or being; Norse paganism has the practical goal of earning a place in war at the side of Odin, to fall with him and his heroes in glory at the Last Battle.
Real religions are about something. This touchy-feely self-expression self-actualization crap is not really religion.
From Chapter 9, New World
THE AGE that now dawned was one of almost explosive progress, explosive, yet controlled. Unlike the industrial revolution, which is familiar to readers of this book, it was not dependent on licentious economic individualism.
Bugger you, Olaf.
Its energy was derived, of course, very largely from the self-assertive itch of able individuals, but the means of satisfying this craving were now in the main centrally planned and socially useful.
Bugger you, you sick puke. You daydream about your weenie little socialist futurotopia, you know nothing of economics, politics, or real human life, and you lust for the destruction of human freedom, and you prop onto the top of this Frankenstein of stitched up dead parts a fair head of spiritualism, but it is a spiritualism meaningless to atheist and theist alike: a spiritualism without a spirit world, a godliness without God.
The liberty that flows into human history from the pierced hands of Christ you revile and mock, but history has had its revenge: socialism is dead, dead and I spit on its grave.
A new and fierce competition arose between peoples that vied with each other to produce the very best articles of some particular type, such as optical instruments, textiles, furniture, and so on. This competition was not of the capitalist sort. Its motive was sheer pride of workmanship and enlightened patriotism.
So pride of workmanship is admirable, provided no one makes a profit. Patriotism is admirable, provided it is of the enlightened sort, that is, mere affection for one’s home and not a self-sacrificing love.
How, praytell, does the Collective Glorious Leader know how to allocate these goods better than the innumerable self-interested participants in the market? Maybe this is one of the supernatural and inexplicable miracles that the Tibetans somehow managed to perform, back in the day.
Oh, never mind. You are a sick puke, Olaf, and I rejoice that socialism, as an intellectual construct, is dead.
The poob …
Pub. Get it?
… housed the village sports trophies, historical relics, and art treasures. It contained also, normally behind curtains, but displayed on great occasions, the village ‘ark’. This was at once a safe where valuable documents were preserved, a mascot, a sacred symbol, and a shrine. The ark was a great carved chest, often surmounted by a symbolic statue or picture. Sometimes it was the work of local craftsmen, sometimes it was a much treasured import from the near-by city or some foreign land. These objects varied greatly in aesthetic value and in symbolic power. A few were visited by pilgrims from every part of the planet. Others, though dear and sacred to the hearts of their own villagers, drew no attention from elsewhere. These symbols sometimes represented in a stylized manner incidents of special significance in the life of the village or the nation or mankind. Sometimes they symbolized love or reason or family, or the unity of the human race, or man’s relation to the cosmos. On any solemn occasion, such as a marriage or one of the regular ‘days of contemplation’, the ark would be unveiled, and the assembled villagers would sit in silence for a few minutes before it.
This is at once repugnant, silly, blasphemous, smug, and childish. It sounds like Ursula K. LeGuin on one of her off days. One is reminded of abortive attempts of French Revolutionaries to institute festivals and ceremonies celebrating Reason and Unity.
The ‘Ark’ heh? No borrowed religious significance there!
Note the absence of prayer or ceremonial. It is just solemn-ness without solemnity, like a child playacting something he does not understand.
Potential artists were also selected. These might either go into residence at one of the great art schools or universities; or else, living on the maintenance grant, they could allow their genius to pursue its own course, eking out their meagre grant by selling their works. Of set purpose, and not through mere niggardliness, the state allowed the young man or woman who chose to avoid all state-organized professions only a bare minimum of help, whether his field of adventure was art or science or philosophy. Thus it was hoped to weed out those who had not actually ‘got it in them’ to produce creative work. On the other hand, no matter how preposterous or shocking to the public his products might be, the adventurer was at least assured of his minimum grant.
Living downstream in time from the years which formed the great sewer plant of preposterous and shocking art, and seeing the floating logs of crap which slowly or rapidly destroyed everything beautiful in the art world, and then everything normal, and then everything remotely sane or wholesome, forgive me if I do not share Olaf’s paternalistic indulgences toward these enemies of heaven maintained at public expense, even a meager expense.
I am bemused by Olaf’s conception that the artists can both sell their works and live in on the dole a communist paradise: as if one would not drive out the other.
Or perhaps the Democratic Dictatorship of Utopia of Light repealed the Law of Non Contradiction when they repealed the Law of Supply and Demand.
One class of persons in the new world-order it is very difficult to describe.
Or not, as we shall see in the next paragraph.
They cannot be fitted into any of our categories. … In the earlier period …they were merely tramps … They were called …’the forwards’.… they were … ‘Servants of the Light’… they were a religious body, but they had no common creed save their common loyalty to the spirit. … they were under a vow of poverty. …they occupied themselves with communal farming and craftsmanship, and also with meditation and discussion. They practised ‘psychic exercise’, a form of self-discipline leading to super-normal clarity and depth of experience …
In other words, this class of persons who cannot fit into any of our categories, are mendicant friars. They are Franciscans, but who meditate like Buddhist monks.
The only difference between Franciscan and Forwards is that, in Olaftopia, religion cannot have any defined purpose or organization, so the ‘Forwards’ are an informal group who do all the things mendicant friars do, but without any reason behind it. This is part and parcel with Olaf’s desire for miracles without faith, faith without God, spirituality without spirits. We now are introduced to churchmen without church.
Well, perhaps they are difficult to describe, because the idea is stupid. Perhaps we will hear next about motorcar mechanics in a world without motorcars.
The celibate sometimes permitted themselves sexual love. Women who bore children from these unions were not disgraced but honoured.
In Cloudcuckooland, you can be a celibate fornicator. Logic is not Olaf’s strong point.
The extramarital sexual relationships of the forwards were mostly passionate and brief. Long before their fire was quenched the consecrated partner would hear the call to pass on. Then in grief but without rancour, and in thankfulness for the past, the lovers would part.
This is vile, as well as being naïve: at some point or another in Cloudcuckooland, the talk always turns to the wisdom and advisability of living like a Bonobo monkey. It would be an interesting psychological study to see how many of these ‘servants of the light’ or members of the ‘reality-based community’ are sexually neurotic.
It is difficult for us, who live in an exceptionally tumultuous age, to conceive of the bland happiness and leisurely progress of this future world. All men were assured of personal expression, and all were blessed with a sense of responsibility within the great common enterprise, the development of the capacity of man, the perfecting of the human race to become an ever finer vessel of the spirit.
Those of us not particularly impressed with Darwin, of course, are not necessarily drooling over the daydream of endless Wellsian improvement. An ambition to grow ever taller, or ever fatter, or ever wealthier runs into certain natural limitations. An ambition to grow ever more ‘good’ with no idea of what (or who) goodness entails does not automatically trigger the laughter as justly greets the ambition to be ever taller, but only because it is vague enough not to mean anything in particular.
I suppose there is nothing wrong, in and of itself, with an ambition to grow ever more spiritually pure and saintly. The ambition merely has no point in a godlessness where no sacred things exist, only profane. But Olaf merely has a sentimental attachment to these spiritual concepts, not a logical one.
[The forwards] had discovered, they said, that the universe of familiar space and time, though no mere illusion or dream, was but the surface of a deeper reality. The familiar natural laws, both physical and psychological, were not fundamental laws at all, but superficial descriptions of the ‘local’ incidence of deeper and hitherto unguessed laws. …The whole universe of stars, of galaxies, though fully actual and no mere figment of man’s mind, was but spindrift caught up by occult winds and driven along the surface of an occult ocean of existence. […]
But the experience, far from being beatific, had been terrible. They had recoiled in horror from the unspeakable facts. Servants of the light, children of the light, they had discovered that the light itself in their own eyes was but a subjective figment, like the retinal lights that a man sees in the dark, or when his eyes are closed. For a moment they had succeeded in opening their eyes, but only to discover a deeper and more formidable darkness. Or was it something worse than darkness?
[…] And now at last the heirs to all this great treasure and greater promise, having gathered all their strength for the final assault on the locked door of mystery, had prized it open only to glimpse an incomprehensible horror, and to fall back in dismay.
[…] At any moment the fundamental physical structure and substance of our own many-galaxied cosmos might be reduced to chaos, so that in a flash all its frail intelligent worlds would vanish. At any moment, they insisted, this might happen. Indeed, that it had not already happened, seemed to be a miracle. […] Overhead there was nothing but the blinding darkness….
This is kind of cool, in a Lovecraftian way. What do you spiritualized humbugs of materialism do, when you awake to the knowledge that the universe is controlled, not by God, but by Azathoth?
This is of a type with the discovery in STARMAKER, that God is a cosmic sadist. The same description here as before: repugnant, silly, blasphemous, smug, and childish.
Hope, they said, might even permit itself a higher though a precarious flight. For some of the most adept forwards had claimed that in their most lucid moments they had seen something more.
No, not God. That something more in the vast spiritual abyss is not God.
They had seen that in spite of the precarious existence of the snowflake universes and of the conscious beings within them, these beings themselves, when they attained mature spiritual stature, acquired very formidable powers. The pioneering forwards claimed that, in terms of the inadequate image, they had sometimes seen a brief but dazzling effulgence blaze up within some snowflake, like the brilliance of a new star. So brilliant might this conflagration be that it illuminated the whole wide snowfield. When this happened, the ‘titans’, seemingly terrified by the sudden light, fled in all directions, away from its source.
Got that? The demon sultan Azathoth and the mindless Other Gods flee away at the shining of enlightened cosmic beings in other universes. But not God. It is something men do.
It is something the Cloudcuckoolanders can manage to do with their own unaided terrifick-wonderfulness.
Hence arose the challenge which the forwards laid before mankind. It was a call to action. It was a call to all individuals throughout the world to live wholly for the common task, to give up everything but the spirit, to discard not only mundane ends but also the vanity of science and art and intellectual exploration, to detach themselves absolutely even from the gentle bondage of personal love, to refrain from procreation, to drain the whole energy of the race to the last drop for the supreme spiritual task.
Everyone has to join a monastic life and pray! I am reminded of Scriabin’s plan to create an ultimate work of art that would overthrow reality itself.
Without the constant influence of the superhuman beings who were my fellow spectators even this would have been utterly impossible. But now even their presence could not sufficiently aid me.
This is also a theme, or rather, a scene, from STARMAKER: the narrator several times makes reference to the superhuman minds accompanying him.
And now for the Grand Finale:
Obscurely it seems to me that the dominant concern of that world was to produce a new human type, capable of greater powers of intelligence and sensibility, and also of spiritual insight. Obscurely I see that the new type was indeed produced; for I have a darkling vision of a prolonged and tense yet temperate divergence of will between the primary human race and the secondary, more developed race which the primaries had so lovingly conceived and patiently actualized. […] But it seemed to me that in the end they were persuaded to accept this re-orientation, humbly acknowledging that if the secondaries willed it, it must be the way of the light. Thenceforth the primary human race gradually withdrew from active control of human destiny. For a while it continued to reproduce itself, though at a steadily decreasing rate, and continued to perform minor functions within the new world economy; but its status was something between that of the aged parent, the pensioned family-nurse, and the conquered ‘aboriginals’. Its young people found themselves unable to keep pace with the young of the new type. They came into a world which could never be their own world, though they obscurely recognized it as a world ruled by the very same light that ruled in their own hearts. In these conditions the primary population inevitably dwindled into extinction. The secondaries possessed the earth and proceeded in the way that seemed good to them.
Beyond this point I see nothing.
The life of those future men is wholly beyond my range. I emerged from my vision in weariness but also in peace and joy, for it seemed that those new men, though I could not keep pace with the movement of their minds, were loyal to the light and well equipped to serve it, loyal to that same light which my own generation so vaguely sees and falteringly serves.
Homo Sapiens is replaced by the Fourth Men, Homo Superior, Slans, Sophotects, or something like unto. Being so enlightened, without complaint the primary race dwindles and goes extinct, and the great Darwinian mechanism of evolution (in this case, aided by the decidedly non-Darwinian even suicidal efforts of the primary humans) grinds to the next step: the supermen take over, and do things in a fashion we cannot comprehend. In some mystical way, that is alleged to be a good thing.
The self-destruction of the primary men by Transhumanism reminds me uncomfortably of certain insects who paralyze and eat alive their own mother after she gives birth to them. The insectoid coldness toward self-preservation is reflected here.
Happy ending, I suppose. Humanity discarded to make room for a better, not-quite-human species. I know what Weston and Devine would say. They would glorify the event. But I wonder what Anson Guthrie or Lazarus Long would say?
Its seems a somewhat disappointing end, as all secular utopias end in. No matter how glorious the achievements and happiness of Nineveh and Tyre and Babylon and Egypt, a time comes when their time is done, and the massive Sphinx is left behind to brood silently over the dust that swallowed their vast palaces and fanes and splendid courtyards.
In the odd, but no less morbid ending of Darwinian science fiction, instead of being the haunt of owls and dragons, the ruins of dead mankind are haunted by the shining and elfin posthumans, strange beings incomprehensible to mere man, and standing to him as man stands to ape.
And of course, the fate of all life, human and superhuman, in the materialist scheme of things is the same. The Second Law of Thermodynamics always has the last laugh.
Even the Eighteenth Men, the ultimate in human evolution, eventually fail and fall. Spiritualism without spirits and miracles without miracle-workers and Godliness without God the Cloudcuckoolanders of Olaf’s persuasion can perhaps encompass in their elliptical brains, but even they shy away from the idea of an eternal life without eternity.
* * *
ENDNOTE: since writing those words — meant to be sarcasm! — about cutie pie girls in Nazi uniform, I have since come across not one but several such images on the Internet, which serves as something of an open sewer for the otherwise hidden private thoughts of our friends and neighbors.
The moral of the story: some sarcasm fails because reality is more sarcastic than anything you can say.
I admit I regard such things with a queasy fascination, wondering at the Mount Everestine bad taste involved. Maybe I should be glad that Nazism has been reduced to a cosplay fetish.
This image is the best on which to end this long commentary on appalling evil dressed up in high-minded science fiction daydreams.
We have all heard of petty tyrants, but I propose the metaphor of a pretty tyrant: a power of diabolic cruelty, lowness, and sadism disguised under a winsome face. Olaf Stapledon’s version of spiritualized atheist communist eugenic regime is exactly that: not enlightenment, but a very deep darkness indeed.