Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Frank Herbert redux

A couple more kind-of prescient quotes from those old Frank Herbert interviews I discussed the other day:

I don't think that the mere writing of such a book as Brave New World or 1984 prevents those things which are portrayed in those books from happening. But I do think they alert us to that possibility and make that possibility less likely. They make us aware that we may be going in that direction. We may be contriving a strictly controlled police culture. B. F. Skinner worries the hell out of me. He is right out of Huxley. He is standing there like a small boy saying, "Please let me have a world like this because I feel safe in it!" He is saying, "I want to control it." He may be very accurate in his assessment that our total society is going in that direction and that maybe he is opting for the lesser of numerous evils, in his view. But what kind of a society would that produce?
I think that sums up the attitude perfectly, and Herbert's analysis is great. This is just the kind of personality liberals are striving against.

Here's another one:

I have this theory that heroes are bad for society, human society. And that superheroes are super bad. Some of the stuff that Kennedy did, for example, is just coming out. The problem with heroes and superheroes is that we don't question their decisions.
I kind of balked at this one at first, but I thought about it a little and now I get it. Bush and Giuliani- they're the heroes of our society nowadays. They're the guys who have been lionized. But, along with that, we don't question their actions. Sure, some of us do- informed liberals do. But a lot of people are very hard pressed to really listen to the liberals' criticism and understand its meaning, once they've heard the story-line that Bush and Giuliani are supposed to be the heroes. I think the polls are encouraging, but the influence of the "hero" tendency is still strong, and as we've seen it can take way too long to wake up from.

Speaking about how he handled his success in the context of working as a university professor, Herbert said,

The role patterns are very fixed in our society. I taught at the University of Washington for awhile. And the first to two classes I had to shatter all of those illusions. Say "shit" four or five times, you know? And sometimes even worse. You really have to do things that break up the patterns.
I tend to doubt liberals' gut instinct that those social roles always need to be challenged, and that they're always doing us more harm than good. But as Herbert is pointing out, it's empowering and can be important to recognize that those roles are, to an extent, illusions. And of course, if a particular person (like Herbert) is uncomfortable with what the paradigm thrusts upon him/her, he or she has to know how to bust out of it-- how to say to people, "Hey, I'm not a hero, I'm just a regular guy." And that may take saying "shit" 3 or 4 times, or whatever- whatever it takes to make people not see you as a superman. Literally saying "Hey, I'm not a hero, I'm just a regular guy" probably just sounds like false modesty-- even deeper buying into the hero paradigm-- nowadays. And we may discover that for acts of "heroism" that become increasingly necessary for our continuing betterment as a society and our collective survival-- resisting the B.F. Skinners-- it may be important to break down that hero image, and make those acts not seem like tremendous ordeals, so more people will feel inclined to engage in them. What starts as a big act of resistance, with one person, becomes thousands and tens of thousands of little acts of resistance. And that's the real heroism in a society.