Saturday, September 5, 2009

Killer Ants from Space

The Greeks had a myth about what the State considered the perfect soldier – an ant. These ant soldiers were called Myrmidons. They didn't question orders, they didn't think, they just fought and died.

Every portrayal of soldiers I have read in all those dystopian science-fiction novels I read all the time are just updated versions of that old myth. Portrayals of the military didn't used to be this way.

We can use as an example Robert Heinlein's novel, Starship Troopers, which was made into a movie that, although it has the same name, has little in common with the novel. In fact, it is a degenerated version of the book.

The late Heinlein was strongly libertarian in his writings, although his support of the military has caused some to label him fascist. They're wrong. Heinlein was far from a pure libertarian, but he was in no way a fascist.

In his novel he supported a purely voluntary military, easy to get out of, but very hard to stay in. Why? He only wanted the most motivated soldiers. The book supports the old military virtues of honor, pride, loyalty and patriotism.

In some ways it is a silly book, with depictions of terribly wounded soldiers who aren't supposed to make a sound, but overall, Heinlein's world is one in which I could live.

Then there's the movie. It shows the difference between Heinlein's 1950's idealized view of the military, and Paul Verhoeven's mocking, satirical 1990's one. The society in the movie is what I call "soft" fascist – the world is starting to become politicized and militarized. As a result, the military has started to degenerate.

I suspect the more politicized and militarized a society, the more fascistic it becomes, and the more its military will degenerate, because of the loss of the true military virtues, which are contrary to fascism. Heinlein's strongly libertarian novel was some 40 years later turned into a fascistic movie. Such is the change in the view of artists toward the military, in a short time.

Most artists are, in a way, prophets. They have a sensitivity, and an imagination, that oftentimes allows them to predict the future, not specifically, but in a general way. Science fiction is specifically about predicting the future. In its history it's done a pretty good job. It's usually about 50 years ahead of society.

I think another reason is that most writers, and especially science fiction writers, are somewhat anarchistic. The imagination, the sensitivity, and the anarchism together gives them a leg up on everyone else, because they have a pretty clear view of the State and the damage it causes to whatever it gets its tentacles into.

Currently, science fiction's depiction of the military is very disturbing. There are three trends in modern science fiction that all should pay attention to: nanotechnology, designer drugs, and genetic engineering. Especially when the military-industrial complex gets its paws on them, because it will try to use them to produce Myrmidon supersoldiers – killer ants from space.

The first example that comes to my mind is the movie Blade Runner, which was about artificial, genetically engineered humans called replicants. The movie, which is very subtle in many ways, suggests the replicants have animal DNA inserted into them. One is part turtle, one raccoon, one wolf, one snake, and one fish, probably shark.

Could such DNA insertions be done? I have no idea. I do know that unholy mutant that is the marriage of Big Business and the State will try, in order to create supersoldiers. You can take that one to the bank.

What comes after Verhoeven's view? The Borg, a futuristic group of Myrmidons that use genetic engineering, nanotechnology and probably designer drugs. I consider them to be the scariest soldiers ever.

The Borg comprises humans (and aliens) who are kidnapped and, through nanotechnology and genetic engineering (and I suspect drugs), turned into Borg soldiers. The soldiers are true Myrmidons – they are without fear of anything (including death), without anxiety, without mercy or conscience, indeed without self-consciousness. They follow orders without questions and die without hesitation. They have no honor, no pride, no dignity. They don't even really have loyalty or patriotism, because they have no choice in the matter, no more than an ant does.

Any degenerated military in the world would love them. They'll all trying to create them. And the essence of a degenerated military culture is to treat soldiers as expendable things – although the upper echelons are always taken care of.

As a personal example, my last year in college a smirking Army officer tried to get us to join, telling the class we would be made officers and "taken care of." The enlisted men, on the hand other, he said, "We don't care about." I didn't join.

I also received offers through the mail from every branch. All of them, except the Marines, were interested in certain degrees such as computer science or engineering. Every other degree was listed as "other," except for the Marines, which only wanted to know if I had a degree. And from what I've been able to gather, it is only the Marines that still have some understanding of a true military culture. The other branches, obviously, are starting to degenerate.

The Borg also show something rare in fiction, but which always exists in the real world – the welfare/warfare state. Writers in general are very good at protraying warfare. Few understand the other side of that coin is welfare. One never exists, in the long run, without the other.

The Borg are on perfect welfare. They're literally babies in the Borg cube. Every need is taken care of. Unfortunately, to protect that welfare, they are always at war with whatever comes their way. Welfare at home, warfare abroad. It's a law of fascism, no matter what name fascism is called.

The Borg are also always trying to absorb whatever race they encounter. Obviously, they consider themselves so superior to all other races they believe it gives them the right to "civilize" them by force. They certainly do sound familiar.

Good fiction is always a cautionary tale, usually jammed right up the reader's nose. It says, "This is what can happen unless you stop it." Currently it's saying, "A fascist society can be recognized by the attempts of its degenerated military, along with State-supported degenerated Big Business, to use science and technology to create expendable Myrmidon supersoldiers, even if it costs them their humanity."

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