Friday, September 30, 2011

How to Assemble a World Domination Kit

According to the 1990 movie, Spaced Invaders, you insert Tab A into Slot B. If that doesn't work, you can look at the archetypes in the movie. They give instructions that, in the Western world, run back to the Bible, and before that, the Greeks.

People used to educate children with classical myths, fables and fairy tales. They still do, but not as much as they should. If they did, everyone in boot camp would know what a Myrmidon is.

Today, what has for the most part taken the place of the aforementioned trio are movies, books, cartoons and comics. The same archetypes, themes, plots and wisdom that existed thousands of years ago in an oral tradition still exist today in cartoons, comic books and other entertainments. This is why I rarely say anything bad about them. A few thousand years ago he was called Ulysses; today he's called Luke Skywalker. Both are the archetype of the Hero on a Quest.

For an example of ancient wisdom that has made its way into cartoons, the Greeks noticed the sequence of koros (stability) to hubris (grandiosity) to ate (madness) to nemesis (destruction). Hubris, the god of arrogance, lack of restraint, and insolence, was followed by Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance.

The Hebrews wrote something similar: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Then we have the comment Jesus made in Luke: "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled..." (He also made a telling comment about "the narrow path to life" and "the broad path to destruction.") Later, foolish pride became one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Pride, or more correctly, hubris, was the sin of Satan. He started out as an angel (stability), then became afflicted with hubris (thought he could be God), then became insane (wished to destroy everyone). The story should ultimately end with either nemesis or metanoia (to change the heart; to turn around and go the other way).

In real life, the archetype of Satan is illustrated by people like Mao Tse-Tung, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. In Shakespeare, it would be someone like Richard III. In movies, it would be (as humor) Dr. Evil, or any number of James Bond's villains -- Goldfinger, or Dr. No. In comic books, it would be Lex Luthor. In cartoons, it would be Brain (of Pinky fame) or Simon bar Sinister.

All of these villains are the same -- grandiose, hubristic, satanic. And ultimately, incompetent. Looked at this way, those who created Pinky and the Brain are just as wise as the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare. What was in Shakespeare then (who in his day was pop culture, as movies are today) is now in cartoons today. Brain, for example, started out as a lab mouse (stability), was afflicted with hubris (thinks he can conquer the world, becomes insane (keeps trying to conquer the world), then is whacked by nemesis (conks his head). This sequence also applies to all the villains mentioned above, which is why SPECTRE (or for that matter, KAOS) never Conquered Over the World.

I've had teachers tell me children should be forced to read "classic" literature. I tell them the kids should watch Pinky and the Brain and then have it explained to them how it relates to ancient Greek myths. They don't believe me, which is why I would tear down the public schools, then salt the ground. Then I'd pepper the teachers, since a lot of them are pretty bland.

How does all of this relate to the movie, Spaced Invaders? In this comedy, we have five loony dwarf Martians, soldiers for the aggressive and expansive Martian empire, who land in the idyllic, Ray Bradburyesque town of Big Bean, Illinois. (And being originally from Illinois -- as is Bradbury -- I had to smile at the small-town life portrayed in this movie.)

Our intrepid but goofy warriors believe they are joining an invasion force of Martians. In reality, they are responding to a Halloween night broadcast of "War of the Worlds." They don't have a clue. Actually, neither does anyone in the town. And that's before the Martians show up.

Our Martian friends turn out to be soldiers who really don't want to fight. To make sure they do, all Martian ships have an enforcer drone, a very sinister spiderish-looking thing, that appears to be wearing a shower cap, and which can powderize those who might take exception to poorly-thought-out invasion plans.

Predictably, all sorts of comedic mayhem breaks loose. The children think the Martians are in costume, and take them trick-or-treating. The farmer, Old Man Wrenchmuller, along with his trusty and remarkably intelligent dog Jim (who can change the film in a camera -- offscreen, of course) attacks the Martians in his barn with the time-tested cartoon tools of dynamite and mousetraps. Now that I think about, the dog was the brains of the duo.

One trick-or-treater, Brian, is not only dressed like a duck, but sounds exactly like Daffy when he talks. Then we have Vern "Zorro" Pillsbury, who ends up with a Martian brain-zapper stuck on his head. Oddly, this is not such a bad thing for him.

Fortunately, in the end, everything turns out well for everyone. It's a zany and unbelievable movie, full of silly quotes such as, "How can they not know we're Martians? We're little green men with antennae!" and "Prepare to die, earth scum!" There is a also a lot of fancy advanced Martian technology, never seen but often referred to, such as "Doughnuts of Destruction."

This lunatic movie also contains wisdom that is thousands of years old.

The first universal truth it teaches is that people are imperfect. Martians, definitely so. If there is life on other planets, they're not aliens billions of years advanced over us, as Carl Sagan postulated in Contact. They'd be knuckleheads, just like us. Lovable ones, to be sure, but knuckleheads nonetheless. Everyone in the town is imperfect, from the idiot sheriff who catches the alien craft doing 3000 mph and yells at it, "you might get the chair for this" to Wrenchmuller having a dog smarter than he is.

The second truth is that some people, however imperfect, are smarter and wiser than others. Only one Martian has any sense, and that is Blaznee, who wears a bomber jacket, aviator glasses, and sounds like a Barsoomian version of Jack Nicholson.

As always, the State is no one's friend. An example:

Martian Political Officer: "I have assumed command. This battlegroup has consistently suffered the greatest casualties of any attack force in the fleet. For this reason, His Majesty has sent me to take direct control of our attack on the Arcturus system. To ensure our complete success, all ships throughout the galaxy have been equipped with enforcer drones, to remove any weak links in the command chain. Any deviation from the Master Invasion Plan will result in immediate disciplinary review. "

Martian Fleet Commander 3: "This is outrageous! The tide of battle can change in seconds, making battle plans useless. I'll not sent my boys out to Arcturus with an Enforcer Drone breathing down my neck."

[Enforcer Drone vaporizes Martian Fleet Commander 3.]

Martian Fleet Commander 2: "I will."

Martian Fleet Commander 1: "Me too, no problem."

All States are not only based on the threat of violence and violence itself, they are also always handicapped by bureaucracy.

The eternal archetype of the horror story is Order invaded by Chaos. That's what exists in this movie. Big Bean, for all its wacky inhabitants, is essentially a civilized town. The Martians, however accidentally, initially bring mayhem to the place. The humor, however, transforms the horror into something funny. Still, the archetype is there: civilized society is just a thin veneer, easily damaged by war and destruction.

Some more wisdom from the movie: empires are not good things. The Martian empire is sinister. Ultimately, all are.

I am not familiar with any old story, no matter what the shape it takes, that has anything good to say about empires, Martian or otherwise. The old poem that springs to mind about this is Shelley's "Ozymandias":

I met a traveler from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

How does this movie teach us to Assemble a World Domination Kit? First, gain control of the State. Second, threaten everyone with death, and rub out some people as an example. Third, start wars and become an empire. Dang, that sounds just like Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung!

Unfortunately, one eternal truth that doesn't exist in this movie is that all empires fall. They all withdraw.

What am I supposed to make of all of this? How about: true artists are wiser than Ph.Ds from Yale and Harvard? It was those "the Brightest and Best" boys from such colleges who started the Vietnam War. Now, they're doing it again, only this time a lot worse. Now they've started War III, and plan on turning the United States into an empire!

Good Lord, have these morons no understanding of history? They certainly have no understanding of wisdom. Maybe I should send all of them a copy of Spaced Invaders, along with a detailed explanation of what it means. I'd even use small words, so they can understand it.

Nah, I'd be wasting my time. To quote Oscar Wilde, "The truth cannot be told so as to be understood but not believed." They'll never understand, so they'll never believe.

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