Editorial – August 2016 : There’s lies, statistics and politics.
As the opening title displays, this is a variant on ‘there’s lies, statistics and damn statistics’ quote. Now look at my version above again, ‘there’s lies, statistics and politics’. Now, more than ever, it’s harder to tell them apart. Even more so in politics because not only are there are lies between countries but in how much the divide is between those in power and the electorate and how much the latter believe what they are told. Worse, politicians can get away with it until recently. Is it any wonder that the common folk, that’s us in case you forget, are increasingly distrustful of politicians. All right, maybe until the next general election in democratic societies when we get our say and might be able to kick them out, not leaving our American cousins out of this. You have to wonder at what changes when normal people become politicians but I suspect it comes with whatever happens with a taste of power. Any power and how it can either amplify the desire for change, not necessarily for the good or taking in all ramifications, or maintaining the status quo.
It’s an odd situation that politics is one area that is least explored in Science Fiction. Well, that’s not exactly true but it’s not typical of our reality. It’s the basis of the ‘Star Wars’ films, for instance, with the Rebels versus the Empire. Granted, the Empire is a dictatorship on a wide scale but how often have we seen them in Science Fiction. It’s a regular story staple that we invariably take for granted. Even so, it’s still a political regime.
Like with last month’s editorial comment that there is no Cyberlove sub-genre, there is no Politicalpunk sub-genre because elements of it are incorporated into the other sub-genres and can’t claim its own status. Much of the time in fiction, it isn’t political manoeuvring that topples these governing bodies but outright war. Nothing beats a colourful battle after all. Indeed, the template often comes from other fiction genres where rogue governments are toppled. With Science Fiction, it just gets done on a larger scale.
The other alternative is to maintain the status quo in an unquestionable manner. The antithesis is to maintain the status quo unquestionably to whoever or whatever political party is in charge, regardless of whether they are doing a good job or not. Someone pointed out that applies a lot in the super-hero genre, conveniently forgetting the conclusion of the 70s Captain America series with the Secret Empire #169-176. Only one instance in the history of comics, although that doesn’t stop minor countries growing and being stopped.
The problem of dealing with political situations, even in Science Fiction, is that although it’s not very hard to depict political parties or regimes, you’re going to upset at least half of your potential audience in any metaphor. The only way you won’t is if the leader is rogue and then it’s a basic plot to remove and restore the status quo of ‘normality’, whatever or however you want to define it. No one is prepared to offer a better regime, mostly, I suspect because how do you balance out freedom and, say, law and order that deals with criminal or violent behaviour, which is invariably on the top of any politician’s manifesto, even if it can only be beaten for a while. No wonder that’s so ingrained in most national conscious. When we have seen a change in regime, as what happened in Russia twice now, its invariably the normal folk who suffer the most in the changes.
Of course, there is a problem of creating an idealised reality and having all people committing themselves to it. In reality, we know that will never happen. One only has to look at the latest ‘Star Wars’ film to note that there was a hankering for the old Empire, regardless of who was running it. That sounds familiar to something I said earlier, doesn’t it? At the grassroots level, I suspect who was at the top didn’t really matter as nothing would change at the bottom.
These days, in our own reality, its more telling what a change in economic fortunes can do. People are told that there’s a set time for us to get out of our current world-wide recession and it appears that the banks want to hold us to that, irrespective of their profits not going back into interest rates for us savers. What is odd is that a lot of people don’t necessarily make the connection or connect it to something else. We tend to live in our own microcosms until something threatens the way we live. It’s inevitable that it is the common denominator of finance and interest rates that tends to give us something more in common than other things political and often a subject avoided by campaigners.
To do a political story, one has to wonder how you include the elements that would identify it with Science Fiction. If anything, SF could be marginalised and you’re just as likely to get no audience or the wrong audience. Tricky business politics, isn’t it?
As our reality has now taken on much of a Science Reality, we are also seeing how politics plays out in such a situation. Even with the ownership of the Internet, it all boils down to who wants to be in control and that’s a political issue as well.
People believing the old order needs to change and in one voice, now does the least likely for whatever reason but mostly to buck the current system, irrespective of some commonsense or a look at the consequences. Change without a good replacement tends to be a worrying trend. To go in hoping that a plan will reveal itself later tends to come across as pure insanity. Now if that isn’t fodder for an SF plot, I don’t know. It all depends on the reason for the change. Saying that, change alone is not enough. It needs commonsense and fairness, especially to us people at ground level, a real plan dealing with all consequences.
Creating a new political regime is difficult. There are about a dozen basic ones and most people have experienced one or two of them. Most of them have been tried in our reality and radical ones tend to fail eventually without the co-operation of the people who rebel against it. Suppression of the population also fails in the long run or has many rebellions that ultimately win. Oddly, what changed the fortunes of the USSR was finance than rebellion. There are always different factors that will side-swipe when least expected.
The reason why emperors and/or dictators are used so much is that rule can be brought down to one person. In fiction, that makes things a lot easier because it gives a single face you can like or hate, forgetting the underlings who are likely to be far worse in their jobs. Our own reality tends to show this as well. However, ultimately, the faces can change but rarely the regimes. It’s more a yin and yang situation with a balance in years.
Radical change is scary because you never know what you might let in its place. The same might also be said even of faces. These days, it’s more a matter of the better of two evils and hope that it goes away. Even so, votes are something that count. It’s something that always counts (sic) in democratic societies. Maybe that’s why it’s one political system that stands the test of time because there can be a change in which political party is in control for a time. Mind you, you have to wonder what an alien race would bring to Earth if they saw how we govern ourselves. Now that would really put the frightener on things.
Just to end on something more down-to-earth and to answer the para-quote of ‘lies, statistics and politics’. Promises are easily broken so look for truth in anything and practical implementation of something being done and at what cost. It distinguishes pipedreams from reality. After all, truth is what matches reality.
Thank you, take care, good night and let all your words be honest ones.
A Zen thought: Always look for the obvious before the complicated.
Observation: Satan refuses to stand for political leadership because humans tend to worse than anything he could do.
Observation: Has anyone figured out yet how in ‘Aliens’, how Ripley got Newt out of her cubbyhole through the small tunnel voluntarily?
Observation: With ‘2001’, we all know that the centrifuge on the USS Discovery kept at least a half gravity for astronauts Bowman and Poole, yet neither of them wore Velcro-shoes when in the Pod Bay where they would surely have floated.
Then I had another thought, At the velocity the Discovery was travelling, the actual ‘down’ wouldn’t be straight down as in where the normal flooris but the side facing the back of the engines when they weren’t coasting along, which was most of the time except for minute course changes. So, yeah, where were the Velcro-shoes to stop that happening? When you consider how accurate Kubrick wanted to make space travel, it seems an odd omission, especially when Bowman was in the HAL 9000 computer bay and was actually floating.
2 thoughts on “Editorial – August 2016 : There’s lies, statistics and politics.”
The Mark Twain quote is “lies, damned lies and statistics”, not “lies, statistics and damn statistics”.
Before I put my editorial on-line, I found my version was also on-line, so it has been paraphrased with variants over the years as well.
Whatever, the point is the interpretation of these values varies with whoever says them.