Monday, February 23, 2009

The Horror of Horror as Holiness

All horror stories, whether fictional or real, have one theme in common: "attack." Stephen King wrote an entire book, Danse Macabre, about the concept.

Specifically, all horror stories are about Evil attacking Good. It can be described different ways: the monstrous attacking the non-monstrous, the unholy attacking the holy, chaos attacking order. All are different ways of describing the same thing.

Since fiction reflects life, it means this horror-story archetype exists in life. Unfortunately, it appears to be inherent in life. I have come to the conclusion that 90% of all horror in real life is caused by those usurpers and berserkers known as "people," specifically when they form that criminal and disorganized (to use Madeleine L'Engle's term) Black Thing known as the State.

That horror-story archetype exists in the most unlikely of places. Unbowdlerized children's fairy-tales are often blood-thirsty horror stories. My opinion is that fairy-tales, so little known these days, have migrated to the movies.

You'd be surprised where you find the horror archetype in movies. Is not The Sound of Music, of all things, partly a horror story about the sanctity and holiness of the family being attacked by the Nazis? Isn't Ferris Buehler's Day Off, the well-known story about a high school student fending off his Terminator-type principal (who will not stop), in some ways a horror story? What about the wonderful and magical A Christmas Story, a film about a kid dealing with bullies and the other traumas of growing up? Don't all of them contain elements of horror?

Do not all of Disney's immensely popular children's animated films contain some horror -- Bambi's mom being shot by the hunter, or Snow White under assault by the envious wicked witch?

Try this for a thought experiment. Imagine if all the horror elements were sucked out of all fiction, whether filmed or written. The stories would be boring, wouldn't they? Perhaps these horror stories are how we deal with bad things in the safety of our minds. Bruno Bettleheim, in The Uses of Enchantment, claimed that was the reason fairy-tales shouldn't be prettified. Children used them to deal with their fears -- like the terror of being deserted by their parents, in Hansel and Gretel, or having a loveless home, like The Little Match Girl. Adults, who are in many ways just kids writ large, do the same thing. If they didn't, Stephen King and Tom Clancy wouldn't be so popular.

Paradoxically, part of the horror in life is denying that it exists. I don't mean trying to remain innocent of horrible things, but instead claiming they're not horrible and are instead good things. Then we end up in Superman's Bizarro World, where not only do the cars have square wheels, but the whole planet is a cube.

More accurately, a lot of horror is not only denying that something is horrible, but instead claiming that it is holy. We're seeing that today with these wars. Some people claim they really aren't horrible; instead they are "holy wars" (and the word "holy" means to make "whole" or "healthy") to bring liberty, peace, democracy and happiness to all those benighted wogs on the other side of the planet. This sounds to me more like Bizarro World than anything else. Raining mass death and mass destruction on people to make them free and happy? Say what?

If we want to reduce the horror in the world, the free market is the best way to do it. It's what prevents war. Frederic Bastiat was right when he wrote, "If goods don't cross borders, armies will." As for the horror of disease, I doubt we would have much today if the State hadn't put the human race behind about 2500 years, if not more. That leaves natural catastrophes. We can't do much about them (except, when it comes to tsunamis, to pay attention to the old saying, "those who know the sea don't live by the sea"), but the amount of people killed by them throughout history is a drop in the bucket compared to people murdered by the State in the 20th century alone. Perhaps, the number of people who died from 1940 to 1945 alone is more than have died in all natural disasters.

What we've got today is something very creepy. When horror is seen as holy, then it is being transformed into a religion. That's why that deluded old fraud Jerry Falwell writes articles titled, "God is Pro-War." I used to wonder why a lot of legitimate spiritual teachers in the past claimed many people couldn't tell the difference between God and the Devil. I no longer do.

Contrary to the delusions of the rabidly secular, humanity will never give up religion. Perhaps everything is religion, including secularism. Don't the most extreme of environmentalists worship the Earth as the goddess Gaia, one that needs to be protected from the swarms of humanity polluting it? Is not "democracy" today being touted as the end to evil in the world? Wouldn't an end to evil and horror in the world actually be the end of the world? To immanentize the Eschaton?

The problem is when religion is perverted. That's when it goes from the holy to the horrible. Unfortunately, it's pretty darn easy for the human race to do this. Way too easy, in fact.

C.S. Lewis noticed this perversion when he described evil as "bent" good. Satan, after all, was the head angel until he got bent. Perhaps "evil" really is nothing more than just bent good. The holy made horrible by being twisted into horror. Isn't that what the word "blasphemy" really means?

Emile Durkheim, who is most famous for writing about religion, is best-known for the terms, "secular" and "profane." The profane is the everyday world in which we all live. In this context, the term is not a pejorative one. That everyday world can sometimes be boring, sometimes somewhat meaningless. To some people. But not to everyone.

The "sacred" is that realm of awe and reverence that lies beyond the work-a-day world of the profane. Durkheim saw seven main characteristics of what people perceive as the sacred:

1. a recognition of a belief, or a power.
2. seeing there is an ambiguity to that power. Sacred things are positive and negative, helpful and dangerous.
3. the sacred is non-utilitarian -- everyday work is utilitarian, but the sacred is beyond the everyday.
4. the sacred is non-empirical - it is beyond empirical nature.
5. the sacred does not involve knowledge -- it is not based on knowledge from the five senses.
6. the sacred is "supportive and strength giving" -- it raises the individual above himself/herself.
7. the sacred imposes moral obligations on humans and elicits great respect.

In other words, anything can be a religion, whether for good or evil, whether it is true or false. Durkheim thought that God was society deified. He claimed religion is "the sacrilisation of society's requirements for human behaviour." To him society was greater than the individual. From it, people drew strength and support and meaningfulness. He saw the worship of God as the disguised worship of society, the entity upon which the individual depended.

I, on the other hand, disagree with his view and see the idea of God as society as idolatrous. Also, the idea of the State as God is idolatrous.

Still, Durkheim had a point. Many people conflate religion, society, and the State. They seem to think they're all the same thing, or that God supports their society and their State whole-heartedly, to the exclusion of other States and societies. This belief is not holy; it is a horror.

History backs up the idea that conflating religion, society and States is a horror. Both the Nazis and Communists thought they had God on their side (or what they perceived as "God." The Communists saw it as history, powered by the force of dialectical materialism. Still, it was their religion, and their god). More people were lost at the battle of Stalingrad during WWII -- the bloodiest battle in history -- than the US has lost in all its wars combined. No one is quite sure how many casualties there were, but it's estimated at between one and two million.

People are indeed "fallen." But they cannot be fixed by looking to such idols as the State. The State's main tool -- indeed its only tool -- is force: coercion and violence. Breaking some more, what is already broken, will never fix it.

When we take Durkheim's characteristics of the sacred, and apply them to the conflation of God, society and State, that perverted concept becomes more clear:

Some people believe in the power of the false trinity of God, State and society, they see an ambiguity to it (but many deny the bad, instead seeing only the good), it is supportive and health-giving to them (war can give meaning to people's "profane" lives), and they respect it and see it as imposing moral obligations -- sometimes ones they think they should force on other people by violence.

What we have then, today (and we've had it in the past) is the sacred and holy being perverted into the horrible -- but some people still claim it's sacred and holy. Instead of realistically assessing war as murder and destruction, they instead warp it into something they believe is holy and sacred and good. Perhaps some wars are inevitable, but at least see them for what they are. As far as I'm concerned, idealization is idolization--and all idols require murder. Don't say that God supports your leader, your country, your society, your State and your wars, while the Devil supports your opponents. That is idolatry.

There should be a name for that conflation of God, society and State. As far as I know, there isn't one. But I do know that when you name something, you have some power over it -- that is the one thing all stories about magic agree upon. Once you know something's True Name, you've got some power over it. Until you name something, it's just a fuzzy concept. People know something's there, but they're not quite sure what.

Such a naming can be a start in breaking the spell something has over people. Until that day comes -- and people believe in it -- there will always be those who will enthusiastically claim that what is horrible is really sacred and holy, and then be shocked when the results they seek aren't as they intended.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Want my Flying Car!

I have no use for the State, if State is defined as the Political Means of death, coercion, violence and theft. What good can come from the State? None.

It's been estimated States killed up to 200 million people in the 20th Century.

Think about all those lost in all of history, due to what States has done. How far behind are we? Two thousand years, maybe? Think of all the inventions lost, all the advances in all fields delayed.

It is the year 2005. I swear, when I saw “2001,” I honestly thought we'd have space stations and men on the moon and maybe Mars by 2001. Hah! Was I fooled! Where's my flying car? I should have a flying car by now, so I could go to the moon on weekends and hit golf balls!

It should actually be the year 4005! There should be cures for all diseases, we should be pulling energy straight out of the fabric of space, and I SHOULD HAVE A FLYING CAR! I want a robot vacuum cleaner! And maybe it should wash my clothes, too! That's what the State has done to the human race -- put us behind 2000 years!

And do not get me started on Star Trek! Transporter, phasers, starships zooming across the galaxy, medical scanners the size of salt shakers! Ack! I couldn't stand it, not when doctors were still sticking needles in me!

Richard Maybury, in his book Ancient Rome, notes there is a Roman grist mill near Arles , France that has 16 water wheels operating in tandem and a system of gears and grinders so complex it could produce enough flour for 80,000 people.

Roman buildings had central heating, plumbing, baths, glass windows, mosaic tile floors, and plastered and painted walls. Roman civilization had advanced engineering, math, literature and philosophy. They were right on the verge of the Industrial Revolution. But it all collapsed because of war and empire and inflation and everything else States always do.

After the Roman Empire collapsed (as all empires collapse), Europe entered the Dark Ages for 500 years. It went backwards a thousand years. The majority of the population didn't live any better in 500 A.D. than they did in 500 B.C.

And what has created all the wonderful things we have today? Not the State. The free market, that's what.

The last time a culture succeeded in establishing economic and political freedom was in 1776. If you look around you, you'll find that almost everything that has been invented, has been invented in the last 200 years, because of that freedom.

Planes, trains and automobiles. Surgery with anesthesia. Computers and video games. Dentistry where you don't have to get drunk and have your friends hold you down. TV, movies, CDs. Cheap, plentiful food and clean, free water. An eight-hour workday with weekends off, instead of back-breaking labor 12 hours a day, six days a week, so you could live in a too-hot or too-cold hovel, barely have enough to eat, and die in your early 40s. Vacations. RVs. Air conditioning. Retirement. Dentures. The list unrolls and unrolls.

And what has the State given us? War, inflation, deficits, recessions, depressions, conscription, slavery, genocide. Widows and orphans. Fathers burying their sons instead of the other way around. The few times the State has done something right, it's the same reason a stopped clock is occasionally right. If the State was a private business, it would always be fired.

Where would we be now if early attempts at freedom and capitalism had succeeded permanently? If wars hadn't slaughtered hundreds of millions of people and delayed the inventions they would have created? Maybe it should really be the year 5000!

And what do we have today? The Mommy State taking away our freedoms at home, and the Daddy State starting wars abroad. That certainly isn't conducive to the advancement of society. It's going to be like it's always been -- two steps forward, one step back.

With the State opposed to Civilization (as it is always opposed to Civilization), maybe it's not just two steps forward, one step back -- it's 500 years forward, a thousand years back, then 500 years forward again. If the State is anything, it's Sisyphus, the greedy king condemned forever to Hades, where he rolls a rock up a hill so it can roll right back down again.

Today, every time I look at the Moon, I wonder what it would be like to hop in my car, travel there for the weekend and hit golf balls.

Sometimes I just can't stand it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What the War God Needs

Court intellectuals amuse me. The ignorant masquerading as the wise always do. Let's take Thomas Friedman's recent comment, "I have no problem with a war for oil..." Of course he doesn't. He's not going to fight it. If he had to fight, you'd never hear a word out of him.

Why, I wonder, should anyone care what a court intellectual thinks about anything? They're almost always wrong. About the only time they're right is by accident. They're such buffoons every time I think of one I imagine a court jester in cap and bells and those funny shoes with the curled toes.

What Friedman's talking about is stealing Iraqi gold – their Black Gold, as the title song in The Beverly Hillbillies calls oil. That's what Vandals and other barbarians have traditionally done in the past. They came swooping in on their horses – I guess today what we would call tanks and hummers – and grabbed all the gold.

However, there is one other thing they always snatched. The women! They grabbed all the babes. Those are the two things that barbarians lived for: gold and babes. It makes me wonder: did Genghis Khan have court intellectuals that he took with him on his rampages? (Imagine William Bennett and Jonah Goldberg in the desert, pirouetting like ballerinas with one hand above their heads, while fetchingly dressed in their tight little jester outfits: "Genghis Khan, you're the best/You're so great, we feel blest/You're so cool and neat/No, sir, you can't be beat..."). Nah, I doubt Genghis needed to rationalize his actions, although I'd bet he'd enjoy watching neocon wimps suck up to him. It's what they do to those in power today.

Aren't stealing gold and babes always what happens during war? American troops left a lot of half-breed kids in Vietnam. Heck, one of my friends, who is a Filipina still living in the Philippines, said there are all kinds of half- breed children over there.

Read William Bradford Huie's The Americanization of Emily to find out what happens to poor foreign woman when richer soldiers show up. I'll give you a hint: "Americanization" is not a compliment. It was a word for deprived women, made poor by war, who attached themselves to soldiers so they could survive.

Let's see...what else happens during war? Oh, yeah – drugs! Armies have traditionally used drugs to quell terror before battles. Even today the US military uses amphetamines to keep our troops awake for long periods. It contributed to US pilots accidently bombing and killing those four Canadian soldiers. Our pilots were wired.

I've got pictures in a book of drunken Russian troops charging German machine guns during World War I. They didn't make it, but they died pretty happy. I guess. At least they didn't feel much pain, not after being in a stupor from guzzling vodka all night.

Afghanistan is a major grower of poppy plants. And one of my Iranian friends said there is a lot of marijuana cultivated in Iran. Our troops will find out, just like they always have in the past.

How come the court intellectuals never talk about these other things? All you ever hear about is the gold. Never about the babes and the drugs. I wonder why? Why don't they ever talk about a soldier's boredom and fear and anger, the kind that comes from being an unwanted stranger in a strange – and hostile – land? Could it be they have a rather poor understanding of history and human nature? Could it be that neocons are fake conservatives and have no understanding of wisdom? If that's true, then they wouldn't understand the moral degradation that comes with being an Empire. George Orwell understood it, from his time in India.

Haven't any of these wussy Max Boot/William Kristol girlie-boy types ever seen the movie Platoon? I've always remembered that scene where the guys are stoned and dancing with each other. American troops did the same thing during the War Between the States. Some of the guys even put on dresses. Goodness. The things that war does to men. Or is it to almost everyone involved?

These men – the Kristols, the Friedmans, the Clintons (and, yes, Hillary is not a woman) – are the older trying to give advice to the younger. That's the way it's supposed to be, if the older have knowledge and wisdom and clear vision. These men have none of those things. They're not purposely lying with what they say. They just don't know what they're talking about. Partly they're cowards, but mostly they are unfinished men, ones who never quite grew up.

At first the coming war with Iraq will be Goldberg against a teacup Chihuahua. But what about the long-term occupation? Empires never survive. There may a time may come in the future when the younger, now grown older, will say to those who misled them, "You lied." Ask people who grew up during Vietnam what they think of LBJ or Robert McNamara. They were naive youngsters believing – trusting? – in fools as "fathers." And the young turned on the elders in a flash, when they realized they had been conned. It was true then, as it is true now, and will remain true in the future.

Why did I call this Mars Needs Women? The title is more than a lousy 1964 film starring Tommy Kirk. Mars is the mythological God of War. He always needs Women – he was a chronic adulterer. And he needs Gold. And Drugs. And most especially, Murder. He was, not surprisingly, a coward. Just like our court intellectuals. And his parents despised him. That doesn't surprise me, either.

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it," wrote George Santayana. This is true. There are other quotes than come to mind: "There is nothing new under the sun," and, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

I couldn't be a court intellectual. There are truths that apply to them, and I certainly fear their being applied to me. One is, "As you sow, so you reap." The scariest one, though, is "What does it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?" It applies not only to people, but nations.

Naw, I'm wasting my time. They'll never listen. They're too busy admiring their cute little outfits in the mirror. It's just about all they can see.

Gazing into the Abyss

John Quincy Adams wrote this in 1821: "Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will be America's heart, her benedictions and prayers, but she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator of her own."

Has the US government even paid just the littlest attention to that quote? Noooo. Those geezers who founded this country didn't know what they were talking about, did they? Their views are passé, 200 years out of date. It's like the people I meet who think Dubya's MBA is worth more than 2000 years of philosophy and theology. whom am I supposed to listen? An ex-drunk and spoiled rich boy with sporadic military attendance, one who thinks God talks to him and has directed him to start Holy World War I, or a man who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God"?

Are the incompetents who always seem to gravitate towards politics even familiar with that Adams quote? ("Adams? Isn't that a beer?") If they had known it, and paid some mind to it, we would have avoided every war in which we've been involved. In our history I can only remember two times we've been attacked: Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Every other time we attacked them, always, of course, claiming it was because they were about ready to attack us. But (for one example out of many) I certainly don't remember the Philippines ever readying itself for an across-the-Pacific assault on America.

And each time we were attacked, contrary to the "there's no bag over my head" delusions of those who believe it was because We are Good and They are Evil! Evil! Evil!, it was blowback because of the US government's (not the innocent citizens') search abroad for monsters to destroy. But since human nature is imperfect, this war against monsters will be never-ending. (Those who do not understand the cost of fighting monsters are advised to read Beowulf, in which the monster Grendel used as chicken-wings those he slaughtered, when he munched on their "bone-joints.")

A quote by Nietzsche can (and should) be added to Adams' comment: "Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."

I'm sure that Paul Fussell, author of at least 13 books, including The Great War and Modern Memory, which in 1976 won the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Award and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, would understand both quotes – most especially the second.

Fussell, who fought in World War II, was wounded in Europe, and even though judged 40% disabled, still ended up fighting in the Pacific theater. He was all of 21 years old. His war memoirs, in which he writes about the "unspeakable savagery of the Pacific war," should be read by all who think that fighting monsters is a purely noble undertaking (remember those crunchy bone-joints!).

The savagery, he writes in Thank God for the Atom Bomb, was on both sides – Japanese and American. Ah, now here we go – here's the explanation for these atrocities, in a sentence: When soldiers go in search of monsters to destroy, sooner or later many will gaze into the abyss, and find the abyss gazing back into them. Is that observation in the Bible? Probably, just in different words. If it isn't, it should be.

"And of course the brutality was just not on one side," writes Fussell. "There was much sadism and cruelty...on ours." Long-term war, when it becomes intense (as opposed to "non-intense war," I ironically suppose), robs many soldiers of their humanity. It's the only way they can survive the horrors. Wearily, unendingly, it has happened this way in every war in history.

In his book Fussell quotes from Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny as to the main reason for the brutality: "The obliviousness of both sides to the fact that the opponents were human beings may perhaps be cited as the key to the many massacres of the Pacific war." Well, duh. Things would be so much easier if our opponents were always really icky giant spiders, like those in the movie Starship Troopers. But they don't exist.

"...Soldiers," Fussell writes, "experience terror and madness, and relieve those frustrations by crazy brutality and sadism...[I]t would be not just stupid but would betray a lamentable want of human experience to expect soldiers to be very sensitive humanitarians."

Soldiers as "very sensitive humanitarians." It's one of those things that makes me go, hmm. The US government thinks the American military should be a combination of monster-slayer and social worker – half bone-crushing Conan, half smarmy Stuart Smalley. On one hand, it believes that soldiers should, as Fussell wrote, "close with and destroy the enemy," but on the other, thinks they should "win hearts and minds." Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing? I am reminded of Vietnam, in which the right hand was telling the Vietnamese we were there to liberate them while the left hand was setting their huts on fire with Zippo lighters.

Fussell also quotes from the World War II war correspondent Edward L. Jones: "We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off of enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter-openers." ("Darn it, Grandma, why didn't you tell me what Grandpa had in that trunk in the basement before I opened it?")

We pretend only the enemy does these things, and not our side, as if our soldiers have a radically different, more ennobled nature than the enemy. The truth? Every person in the world is united by their frailties and imperfections. And sometimes those frailties and imperfections do really bad things.

"A really successful war," writes Fussell, "a psychologically Good War, requires not only the extirpation of a cruel enemy abroad. It requires as a corollary the apotheosis of the pure of heart at home...[i]f for years you fancy that you are engaged in fighting utter evil, if every element and impulse of society is busy eradicating wickedness, before long you will come to believe that you yourself incarnate pure goodness...[b]ut during the war few cared to perceive that the battle was less between good and evil that between degrees of offensiveness."

Uh oh. It's that old lie about the Children of Light against the Children of Darkness. Which side is which? Oh, heck, it's easy: we have God on our side and they are Spawn of Satan. But wait a minute – our enemies think the same about us! (What? Me the Spawn of the Devil? I'm Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, although I have a frog.) It is this, the Goebbelsian labeling of the Other as non-human and evil, that is the sole purpose of propaganda.

Fussell will have none of this heretical, Manichean "We are Good and They are Evil" nonsense. "...if you can't imagine yourself an SS officer hustling the Jewish women and children to the gas chamber, you need to be more closely in touch with your buried self," he writes. That "buried self" exists in everyone, even people who think the voices in their heads are God talking to them. To deny this self that all have in common is to, for all practical purposes, claim perfection. Which, with total accuracy, has always been considered blasphemy by those who understand the all-too-common tendency to exalt self, tribe and nation, while simultaneously denigrating the enemy as sub-sub-sub-human.

Unfortunately for humanity, but not so unfortunately for the ravening maw of that Satanic entity know as the State, one of the easiest ways to unearth this buried self is to start a war: it comes out not only in soldiers but in non-combatant citizens, many of whom rage for the death of the enemy (even women, children and infants) while they have no intention whatsoever of proceeding to the front themselves. Instead, they go all grr! woof! woof! grr! on TV and AM radio.

Having seen war first-hand, Fussell understands the horrible waste of lives that is its inherent and eternal nature. Here he quotes John Toland: "...Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war."

But think of all the jobs created for companies producing artificial arms and legs! And wheelchairs! And the long-term care facilities for those reduced to mental three-year-olds after getting whacked in the head! Think of all the self-deluded sentimental, mawkish chickenhawk armchair-warriors who can go to military cemeteries, and with a tear in their eye, feel proud over the ultimate sacrifice made – by others.

As for the enemy, once we destroy 'em, then we can rebuild 'em. That way, once they get hooked up with DVD players and all the other goodies, they'll easily forgive us blowing the hands and feet off of their children. And after they watch Monsters, Inc. they'll be enlightened to the truth that monsters are really just big cuddly pushovers.

Each generation forgets what war is like, Fussell tells us. They romanticize it, they cheer it, they clean it up and try and make it honorable and patriotic. He says, "Animals and trees and stones cannot be sanitized, only human beings, and that's the reason it's going to happen again, and again, and again, and again."

What was that Santayana said? "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it"? Something like that.

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 and Hitler. 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 – say, 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 Took 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 boneheads, just like us. Lovable boneheads, to be sure, but boneheads nonetheless. Everyone in the town is imperfect, from the idiot sheriff who catches the alien craft doing 3000 mph and tells them "you might get the chair for this" to Wrenchmuller having a dog smarter than him.

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 World 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.

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."