Editorial – December 2016: Why there is a need for an Establishment.

December 4, 2016 | By | Reply More

Armageddon begins in January.

Maybe we’ll be lucky and have an alien invasion first.

Hello everyone

Y’know, if we wrote what happened in world events this year as fiction a few years back, people would think it would never happen. I think we ought to make a complaint that reality shouldn’t imitate art. At least with fiction, it’s all over when we close the book.

One strong thought that came from Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel ‘Childhood’s End’ was the overlord Rashaverak explaining to Jan Rodricks that the image of the devil was a premonition of the future not an earlier visit by his people to Earth. If we make the same assumption that some SF writers visualise our own future, then things could look equally bleak when there aren’t enough safeguards in place for reckless activity to take place. Are the pessimistic SF writers seeing when our future is going? After all, they out-number the optimistic SF writers in output. Then again, unhappiness sells more, doesn’t it?? We might just be seeing things out of proportion.

Science Fiction is invariably a cut across from pessimism to optimism, showing the good and bad that can come from anything we might do. In many respects, this does mirror the consequences of mythology and fables although these were mostly on the pessimistic side. If anything, this reflects how humans fear the worst before they see the good. The equivalent of not touching the hot hob on the stove a second time. Even if a child is told the dangers, at some point, he or she won’t believe and test it just to be on the safe side and have second or third degree burns if they’re lucky. Ultimately, what we should be doing is balancing the good against the bad so we find some sort of middle ground that we can live with.

As is frequently said, extreme fiction like our genre can be described is rarely like anything reality can offer. With our technology now like a Science Fiction reality, you do have to wonder why we haven’t had any megalomaniacs wanting to demonstrate their authority? I’ll withhold any further comment on that until after a certain inauguration. It’s a traditional trope in not only our genre but the likes of espionage thrillers as well to not trust megalomaniacs. Something to do with self-serving, although evilness does crop up. In fiction, you do have to wonder about the sanity of any megalomaniac who wants to rule the world. After all, it’s a lot of hassle that you can do without because people don’t do as they are told. Ruling a single country is bad enough. A whole world?! That’s probably why we have so many corporations and even they have the power to remove their CEOs.

It’s a consequence that sooner or later, someone will want to take advantage of all the technology and use it at such a wide scale that shakes everyone up. So far, much of that is showing how vulnerable our computer networks can be but anything else is a matter of scale, motivation and being able to do something significant Its also done with criminal intent than world domination. If anything, damaging websites or even the computer networks has far more consequences than, dare I say it, a nuclear bomb because the effects would be felt world-wide. Computer tech is in everything from aircraft to medical equipment to communication. It is the scale that is frightening if it should go wrong because our dependency has grown with little in the way of an alternative to it all, let alone people who remember or who are trained in for non-tech choices.

Oddly, in SF, it is the renaissance man who spots something is wrong with society and out to correct it, at least in fiction. As many people have pointed out, the original ‘Star Trek’ TV series sought to impart American values of its time rather than adopt any potential alternatives. Even so, the overall suggestion underlies that the present society is wrong rather than a utopia that has worked out for the best.

At the foundation of all of this is that the Establishment is at fault rather than the people who are controlled by it. Usually, this tends to follow by revolution and rarely was it not bloody and violent. As we have learnt over the decades, any system can be corrupted, mostly because the weakest link is always the people and there’s always a means to change any of them. The worrying aspect is introducing a potential corruptible catalyst that lacks some sort of control. The world is a complex place as it is and to think other people around the world, like alone country leaders, will respond to you in a similar way takes no notice of cultural changes. Even the Internet doesn’t show that as there is still a lot of language segregation.

Then it comes to what kind of opposition to change. Sometimes, it can be for the right reasons. In others, it can be seen as a means to keep maverick changes or people in check simply because people are afraid to change anything fearing the outcome but, if they do, they want to do it fast without thinking, which isn’t wise. Consequences need to be explained with honesty, which clearly wasn’t the case with the UK Brexit. The Establishment, in its broadest scope, is the means to keep things within a steady perimeter because it knows the consequences when we don’t. Upsetting the wrong country can have dire consequences.

These days, dictators might run small countries but they rarely stray into going to war with other countries, mostly because they would have enough problems keeping their own people in check, let alone winning. It might even be possible to contain a major country maverick but two at the same time on an international front means things become far too unpredictable choices. Think of two children in the playground goading the other one on to do a particular action. Sooner or later something bad is likely to happen. The equivalent of being between a rock and a hard place and no way to back down without loss of face. How we see megalomania in fiction hasn’t really kept up with modern day events, mostly, I suspect, because no one expects things to change so radically all at once.

In many respects, I think it’s getting to the stage where in fiction, we ought to dust off the megalomaniac character and do a wake-up call of what they can do in our current world. If nothing else, it’ll be a reminder that there are some things we really ought to avoid. Seeing things spring up suddenly on a weekly basis is almost making me wish we had an alien invasion. At least we’d know where we stood.


Thank you, take care, good night and maybe I be the first to wish you a happy and safe new year.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk


A Zen thought: Even good fleas will make you itch.


Observation: Actor Michael Caine once commented that America saw itself as being Superman while the rest of the world saw it as the Batman. Taking that one step further, it also means the Joker is now going to walk into the White House.


Observation: With people putting Yuletide decorations outside their houses in mid-November now, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe we should be abiding by that great Narnia ruler, Queen Jadis, who decreed it should always be winter but never Christmas. After all, as with Lewis Carroll’s quoted sage, the Mad Hatter, when it comes to birthdays there is only one but there are many more unbirthdays. Jadis might well have let the odd Christmas day pass or why else did Tumnus the faun have presents in his hands when he met Lucy Penvensie at the lamp-post?

Observation: I’ve said in the past that we live in an SF reality but maybe it needs to be re-qualified as an Sci-Fi reality for poor story content.

 Observation: Something that always puzzles me about vampire and werewolf films. If the hunters are so good, how come these creatures always survive?

Feeling Stressed: Believe it or not a steady dose of the trace element magnesium has benefits. I’ve been eating raspberries, which contain roughly 0.4g of magnesium a berry, although that probably depends on the size but I wouldn’t eat more than 9 a day because your kidneys will wash the excess away. I didn’t know of the benefits when I started eating them in the summer, both my muscles feel a bit more super-charged when out walking and it is also supposed to be good for relieving stress, especially as the stressed don’t appear to carry much magnesium in their bodies. It takes a couple weeks for the benefits to be felt, so best to start now than when you need it. Let me know if it works.

Something I learnt this month: Did you know that the life of the dongle, also called the microprocessor, that you have between your telephone and phone connection and even between your router and telephone connection or both has a limited life of at most a couple years and if you have any problems with nearby TV, DVD recorders or even computers crashing a little or a lot, this might actually be the source?

I was also told that to cut down on interference was also to keep the router on. No wonder the Net gets a little more clogged every day. Of course, if you’re away for more than 12 hours, turn your router off. If your computer or other hardware still freezes, before you do a reboot, move your router a couple inches and see what happens. You might also consider getting it a little further from the wall as a lot of them contain metal ore. Currently, I have a layer of DVDs between the router and wall. I bet it’ll start working again.




Category: Culture, World getting weirder

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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