Posted on Tue 06 October 2015

Scarcely Credible Stupidity

I just finished another book in the excellent Culture series. It contains this little gem of a speech given by a member of the Culture (a utopian society with very advanced technology, best described by the phrase money is a sign of poverty) on the topic of planet Earth:

'Now, on Earth things are not quite the same. On Earth one of the things that a large proportion of the locals is most proud of is this wonderful economic system which, with a sureness and certainty so comprehensive one could almost imagine the process bears some relation to their limited and limiting notions of either thermodynamics or God, all food, comfort, energy, shelter, space, fuel and sustenance gravitates naturally and easily away from those who need it most and towards those who need it least. Indeed, those on the receiving end of such largesse are often harmed unto death by its arrival, though the effects may take years and generations to manifest themselves.

'To combat this insidious and disgusting travesty of sensible human relationships on a truly fundamental level was patently impossible on an infested dunghill like Earth, so deprived as it obviously was of meaningful genetic choice at a fundamental level and therefore philosophical options on a more accessible scale, and it became obvious - through the perverse logic inherent in the species and the process they had entailed - that the only way to react to such a system that had any chance of making it worse, and conditions that much less bearable, was to accept it on its own terms; go into competition with it!

'Now, quite apart from the fact that, from the point of view of the Earther, socialism suffers the devastating liability of only exhibiting internal contradictions when you are trying to use it as an adjunct to your own stupidity (unlike capitalism, which again, from the point of view of the Earther, happily has them built in from the start), it is the case that because Free Enterprise got there first and set up the house rules, it will always stay at least one kick ahead of its rivals. Thus, while it takes Soviet Russia a vast amount of time and hard work to produce one inspired lunatic like Lysenko, the West can so arrange things that even the dullest farmer can see it makes more sense to burn his grain, melt his butter and wash way the remains of his pulped vegetables with his tanks of unused wine than it does to actually sell the stuff to be consumed.

'And note that even if this mythical yokel did decide to sell the stuff, or even give it away - the Earthers have an even more devastating trick they can perform; they show you that those foods aren't even needed anyway! They wouldn't feed the least productive, most unimportant untouchable from Pradesh, tribesperson from Darfur or peon from Rio Branco! The Earth has more than enough to feed all its inhabitants every day already! A truth so seemingly world-shattering one wonders that the oppressed of Earth don't rise up in flames and anger yesterday! But they don't, because they are so infected with the myth of self-interested advancement, or the poison of religious acceptance, they either only want to make their own way up the pile so they can shit upon everybody else, or actually feel grateful for the attention when their so-called betters shit on them!

'It is my contention that this is either an example of the most formidable and blissfully arrogant use of power and existing advantage ... or scarcely credible stupidity.

from The State of the Art, Ian M. Banks

Category: misc

Tags: life, philosophy, scifi

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