Are any of these part of most political actions, lately?

Wouldn’t you like to believe, as my Mom said in the previous post, that our leaders cared about us? That we could trust them to do the right thing? Liberal or conservative? Because, when confronted with facts and thoughtful analysis rather than fear-mongering and insane threats, what’s right is usually not all that obscure.

Here’s a quote from the latest column by Paul Krugman:

On climate change, influential conservatives have for years clung to what is basically a crazy conspiracy theory — that the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions is a hoax, somehow coordinated by thousands of researchers around the world. And at this point this is effectively the mainstream Republican position.

Do G.O.P. leaders really think this conspiracy theory is true? The answer, surely, is that they don’t care.

The title of the piece is “Making Ignorance Great Again.”

The last sentence inspired me to blog: The answer, surely, is that they don’t care.

I believe Krugman’s right, that they don’t care.  So how on earth did we get to a point where our elected leaders do not care about the future we hand over to their children and grandchildren?

Not caring about the future and doing only what pays benefits in the present and the next election cycle has become all that matters. That is a heinous attitude for our leaders to adopt; almost as heinous as dismissing all who disagree by calling them names. (What an awful behavior to have to defend. Sometimes I really feel sorry for Trump adherents.)

And again, how did we get here?

My opinion: The economic excesses of the 1980s played a big part. We became tolerant of avarice, and sat by as big companies gobbled up small ones. Reagan deregulated; safeguards that had been enacted during the Depression were either done away with, or undermined by underfunding. (Sleepwalking Through History by Haynes Johnson described it well.) Dividends and the bottom line justified everything, and still does.

Ironically, everyone now looks to Reagan as a paragon of decency. I’m not saying he was or was not. But he was convinced that removing rules and oversight would free businesses to soar, ignoring historical lessons that he should have known well, since he experienced them in the Depression.

Businesses that invest people’s money need rules. Otherwise, money isn’t real to them. The people whose life savings are invested disappear. All that exists is a big pile of money to play with–whoppee! Make it rain!

Reagan and some (not all) other Republicans, then and now, admired Ayn Rand and pointed to her philosophy as something to be championed. Hey, I loved Atlas Shrugged too! But it’s science fiction. Please remember that. Rand engaged in world-building to play out a scary future. Using her theories as an economic model makes as much sense as searching for an addictive spice that will turn the whites of your eyes blue, and building an empire on that.

Well, I’m getting side-tracked. The point is that Paul Krugman nailed it, once again. Here’s one more paragraph:

But does any of it matter? The president, backed by his party, is talking nonsense, destroying American credibility day by day. But hey, stocks are up, so what’s the problem?

Around three weeks ago, I put up my list of the classics of Science Fiction that all fans of the genre should read. I promised a Part II.

Was I nuts? It’s easy to look back a century or more, because time has winnowed the list of novels to something manageable. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells; anyone would have come up with those guys! Then there’s Heinlein the Great,Neuromancer and Dune. Simple.

Gazillions of other SF books have been published. How on earth do I build a Part II?

WIth great trepidation and a bucket full of caveats. I haven’t read everything. I wasn’t always paying attention when I read. And what makes classic or great SF is hardly a settled definition; everyone’s got their own opinions.

This is not a list of my favorites, but rather the books that I think had the biggest impact on the world. These novels expanded our minds and pushed our self-imposed boundaries of what might be a little further.

  • 11984coversega8984 by George Orwell introduced us to Big Brother and the idea of mind control by a less-than-benevolent government. Orwell wrote it in 1949 when the title year seemed far away. As 1984 approached, post Viet Nam and post Watergate cover-up, the novel’s warnings began to look less crazy and more plausible. 1984  gave us concepts like newspeak, Big Brother, and thought police, and showed us how our horizons can be controlled, our history rewritten by media, and our lives shrunken to fit the boundaries set out for us.
  • 41ALV5fomnL._AA160_Atlas Shrugged is science fiction, a fact that many of Ayn Rand’s fans forget. Published in 1957 (though it took years to write) it’s set in a dystopian world, with this twist: instead of beginning her story after a cataclysmic, world-destroying event as most novels do, we are plunged into a the middle of the world’s destruction, following heroes that are trying to save it, one way or another. Rand’s world does not seem futuristic to us; Atlas Shrugged was written when trains, rather than planes, were the preferred method of travel, when smoking was fun, and when most women aspired to hook themselves to a strong, protective male, rather than strike out on their own. So it’s a period piece as well as an expression of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy — and a rollicking, imaginative story.
  • found1asIsaac Asimov’s Foundation, the first novel of a series, stands like a glimmering gateway into mounds of mid-century SF, where men are men and women are perky. Can the future be foretold based on the mathematical reading of trends? What can upset those readings? I was debating whether to include the Foundation Series in this book, wondering how to measure its influence, and then I read this 2012 quote by Nobel-prize-winner Paul Krugman:  “I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.” The fictional Seldon, of course, is the founding father of psychohistory, the science which guides the worlds in the Foundation Trilogy to survive the collapse of their empire and the ensuing Dark Ages.
  • left-hand-of-darknessUrsula LeGuin’s gender-bending The Left Hand of Darkness implied that physical sexuality might be expressed differently on other planets and that male and female were not the only categories. Released in 1969, when men and women were beginning to question what gender actually had to do with their choices and lives, and books were beginning to switch from using masculine pronouns for everyone (remember that?) The only explosions in LeGuin’s books were our stereotypes going “boom!” This book won the Nebula and Hugo and has always been highly praised.
  • 1125325The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy showed us that SF could be more than fun, it could be downright hilarious. It could be irreverent and satirical. We could laugh over the earth’s demolition for an intergalactic superhighway and the ridiculousness of life. Would we have been ready for the Disc World books by Terry Pratchett without the Hitchhiker series? Or any of Jasper Fforde’s wild tales? Dunno, and don’t want to find out. SF that makes me laugh out loud in a restaurant and not care how crazy I look is to be treasured as a giant step forward for all.

Shall I continue? I’m debating the inclusion of alternate history, but is that really science fiction? Probably not. How could I leave out Ray Bradbury? Andre Norton? Anne McAffrey? and on and on — but this list is for the books with the biggest impact, not the bodies of work by incredible authors.

If you want more (and why shouldn’t you?) just google “most influential science fiction.” I did, several times, and ended up with a huge to-read list. So maybe next year there will be a Part III.