My clearest first memory of a Mad Scientist was in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Fighting Man of Mars.” I think I was about 11 when I read it, and I must have read it 20 times. I never got tired of it for at least two years.
The Mad Scientist went by the name of Phor Tak, and when he wasn’t cackling (and in the novel he really did cackle) he was inventing a weapon that would disintegrate metal but not flesh.
I sometimes can’t remember what I had for breakfast but I will always remember Phor Tak cackling “Heigh ho” and shrieking about getting revenge with his disintegrator ray gun.
The day came when I realized that all countries that become strong enough turn into empires – which the United has done – and they spend inordinate sums on developing weapons that some people just might consider insane. Heigh-ho!
Depleted uranium? Cluster bombs? What sort of fiendish intelligence came up with such things? They’re worse than what Phor Tak ever conceived.
Phor Tak was sane compared to what I see now. He just wanted revenge, something not so hard to understand. But bombing countries back to the Stone Age to improve them? Now that’s insane, if you define insane as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Phor Tak just wanted to attack and destroy the few people who did him wrong. But since WWII here is a partial list of the U.S. has done to the world, and what did any of these countries do to us?
Attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments.
Invaded some 20 nations.
Helped crush more than 30 populist movements which were fighting against oppressive regimes.
Provided support to brutal dictatorships in Iraq and Afghanistan, Zaire, Chile, Haiti, Nicaragua, Greece ,the Philippines, South Korea, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and, of course, others.
I know why the U.S. has done the things it did, and still does – to “stabilize” the world,
to make it “safe,” to “put an end to evil.” Both Jesus and Aesop saw though that nonsense – both pointed out all tyrants call themselves benefactors.
What’s fun in fiction is often a horror in real life. I sure wouldn’t want to live on Mars – or as Burroughs called it, Barsoom. I wouldn’t want to live in Middle Earth, either.
The problem with being insane and not knowing you’re insane is that when you do horrible things to innocent people, and they get their revenge on you – these days called “blowback” – you never see it coming and don’t understand why it happened. You’re reduced to babbling nonsense about how they’re evil and attacked us for our goodness.
Now that I think about it, maybe I would rather live on Barsoom.