Monday, June 26, 2017

Beyond the Finland Station

I finished reading To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson last night. I'm glad to be out from under the shadow of this book, not only because of its excessive length--484 pages in the Doubleday Anchor edition of 1953--and not only for the author's less than engaging prose style. More than anything, I'm glad to have the book behind me because of its subject matter and for Wilson's apparent admiration for the ideas and historical figures--Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, and so on--described therein. Socialism is, as we now know, the ideology of mass murder. It's sickening to read a chronicle of its development, moreover, to follow an otherwise intelligent man in his appreciation of it. Maybe I'm being too sensitive. Maybe Edmund Wilson was not as appreciative as I imagine. But I'm glad to have it behind me. Still, the centennial year of the Russian Revolution of 1917 continues. Still, an awareness of what that has meant is with us: 100 years and as many as 100 million dead at the hands of socialists the world over.

I wrote in yesterday's entry about the Listeners, the men and women who have dedicated themselves to the search for intelligent life in the universe. They listen and listen, certain that we will, at any moment, finally hear from our space brethren. That certainty is, it seems to me, religious in origin and intensity. It carries through many fields of endeavor, though. Even squatchers believe that we are on the verge of discovering definitive proof of the existence of Bigfoot, if not finding the hairy beast himself. As Robert Crumb might say, Keep on Squatchin'.

Anyway, following is a quote to that point from To the Finland Station. The speaker is Lenin himself. The occasion is the beginning of the first Russian Revolution, from the spring of 1917:
Not today, but tomorrow, any day, may see the general collapse of European capitalism. The Russian revolution you have accomplished has dealt it the first blow and has opened a new epoch. . . . (p. 469)
Note the similarity in expression between the breathless Marxist revolutionary and any number of fervent believers of the last century and more as they await the coming of their most hoped-for event.

A century of political murder and mass starvation, imprisonment, and torture has intervened since Lenin spoke those words. Thank God--our God, not his--that "new epoch" is reaching its end, although leftists in the West have invented and put into practice new and far more subtle and insidious permutations in the form of political correctness, critical theory, etc. A second point, though: when and if we hear messages from outer space, they are not likely to be anything we hope for, expect, or predict. Imagine, for example, this bur under the blanket of the atheistic Listener: What if the people from the stars tell us that they believe in God? Better yet, what if they tell us they believe God sent to their planet a representative of Himself who died for their sins? Imagine a real-life Mr. Spock who wants us to know that everything he does is washed in the green blood of the Vulcan Jesus. The Listeners in that case are likely to become Non-Listeners and to begin asking themselves, Where can we find a cotton ball big enough to plug the Arecibo telescope?

We should know by now that predictions based on a priori reasoning and abstruse theorizing about history and human nature are practically useless. The best predictions continue to be those made by conservatives who have some understanding of these things. To that point, another quote from To the Finland Station:
Victor Adler [an Austrian socialist, though apparently more moderate than his Russian counterpart] had once shocked Trotsky by declaring that, as for him, he preferred political predictions based on the Apocalypse to those based on Dialectical Materialism. (p. 429)
Dialectical Materialism, at least in later interpretations, can be taken as an a priori system and is seemingly used by some science fiction writers either as a backdrop for their work or as a means of making predictions in their work. Contrast that with the idea of the Apocalypse, especially as applied in genre fiction. The idea of a leftist or Marxist Apocalypse would seem an affront, a self-contradiction, an impossibility. Although Utopia is his prediction, Dystopia is the Leftist's preferred future. Apocalypse, it seems to me, is more nearly a conservative idea. But, as Robert Frost wrote:

Some say the world will end in fire, 
Some say in ice. 
From what I’ve tasted of desire 
I hold with those who favor fire. 
But if it had to perish twice, 
I think I know enough of hate 
To say that for destruction ice 
Is also great 
And would suffice.

Yes, ice--a freezing of history in the form of Dystopia--would suffice.

Alien Crucifixion (one version) by Frank Frazetta.

Original text copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

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