Monday, 17 October 2016

Gaining Stars And Losing Soul?

The promoters of the Festival of Man argue that:

"Humankind, gaining the stars, is in grave danger of losing its soul." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 180)

An earlier generation could gain the world and lose its soul but future generations will have a longer reach. "Soul" means culture and identity? How might mankind lose it?

"Our extraterrestrial colonies are fragmenting into new nations, whole new cultures, to which Earth is scarcely a memory." (ibid.)

So those parts of mankind are gaining new identities, not just losing old ones - although some will also preserve languages, religions etc. Poul Anderson shows us these things happening on Aeneas, Hermes, Dennitza etc.

"Our traders, our explorers push ever outward, ever further away; and no missionary spirit drives them, nothing but lust for profit and adventure." (ibid.)

"Lust" is an absurd word here. Adventure at least cannot be reprehensible. In fact, it is part of our culture. Traders and explorers are distinct though connected. Traders either send explorers or follow in their wake. Economic motives are primary. First people eat, then they build culture and identity. Should spacefarers go forth neither to profit nor to explore but to evangelize Terrestrial cultures? In "Esau," van Rijn's company is able to staff a remote trading post only with those who see it as a career stepping stone or who go there to conduct scientific research.

"Meanwhile the Solar Commonwealth is deluged with alien - nonhuman - influence, not only diplomats, entrepreneurs, students, and visitors, but the false glamor of ideas never born on man's true home -" (ibid.)

Need I comment?

"We grant we have learned much of value from these outsiders." (ibid.)

This is damning with faint praise and also contradicts the previous statement.

"But much has been unassimilable or has had a disastrously distorting effects, especially in the arts." (ibid.)

The unassimilable need not be assimilated but can continue to be studied. Artists must be free to express themselves and sometimes follow strange paths.

"Besides they are learning more from us." (ibid.)

OK. Fact. Among oxygen-breathers, mankind was first in space in its immediate galactic region - in this particular future history - so Ythrians, Wodenites, Merseians etc learn from mankind. I am not sure about Cynthians?

"Let us proudly affirm that fact." (ibid.)

The fact can be acknowledged but need not be chauvinistically asserted.

"Let us hark back to our own origins, our own variousness. Let us strike new roots in the soil from which our forebears sprang." (ibid.)

Our soul is in the soil! The Terrestrial past can be celebrated without denigrating other cultures.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I say it was GOOD that human extra-Solar colonies were developing into new nations and cultures. True, some might evolve into monstrosities like Stirling's Domination of the Draka (I speculated in one essay how that might have happened in Technic times). But that is no reason for not colonizing at all! And we see PA showing how some colonies might develop in the examples you listed. And another colony, Altai, preserved a burning reverence for Terra in one of its cultures.

Like you, I disagree with the contempt the Promoters of the Festival of Man had for explorers and merchants. Moreover, by accepting non human converts the Catholic Church was showing it had not abandoned the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all nations laid on her by Christ (as I discussed in my "God And Alien In Anderson's Technic Civilization).

And it makes sense that some MARGINAL trading posts would be staffed by scientists willing to live austerely and by others treating it as a step up the career ladder. Such as what we see in "Esau."

While I grant some non humans influences are likely to be bad (as we see in the non Technic story "The Word To Space") much of it will be good. And what can't be used or assimilated by humans could simply be ignored. As for art, we don't HAVE to buy or patronize bad/ugly art.

And I do think the Cynthians learned from mankind, if only by updating their knowledge of the sciences and learning how to use the hyperdrive. To say nothing of how willing they were to join the Terran Empire and serve it loyally.

We certainly should not denigrate other races and cultures. Unless some develop into Draka like monstrosities. But I hope such things will be rare!