Friday, September 14, 2007

Even more of less?

"The reformer has enemies in all
those who profit by the old order
and only lukewarm defenders in all those
who would profit by the new order...."

Machiavelli


Ahh, yes, good old Mac. He is much maligned in popular lore, being usually associated with the dictum that 'the end justifies the means'. But he really was all about injecting a healthy dose of reality into ideological-political discussions. Sometimes he sounds like a Japanese politician of eras long gone; and a lot of what he says, with only slight massaging of the terminology, would serve to avoid much of the political messes we're faced with.

But I wasn't going to talk about Mac at all. I just happened across that quote above, and I thought I'd share it; in the hope that my esteemed readers would ponder it for more than a jiffy and, upon realizing the stark and ever-demonstrated truth of it, would be prompted to ponder further why—apart from pure quixotic foolishness or a desire to make the world a better place for those one cares about—anybody should give a damn about making the world a better place, only to have everybody else and sundry profit from it.

Why, to continue this train of thought, go beyond primitive Rand-ian selfish-ism? And, by the way, that photo currently on the Rand Wikipedia page reminds me of the current NZ PM—who, by the way, actually looks like this (and, no children, don't be frightened! the creature isn't going to bite you; if mummy and daddy keep you at a distance!) and not like that retouched PR piccie on the Wiki page!

Could it be that the resemblance is more than just a trifle of existential irony? Or maybe said irony has to be enough. Why not?

Ahh, yes: life.

Back to the train of thought:

Why go beyond primitive Rand-ian selfish-ism? Why, to continue on with my posts (1 2) on the plight of indigenous peoples and what to do to preserve at least some of their heritage, should anyone bother?

Well, if the argument that it's just 'nicer' doesn't hold sway with you, then maybe 'because we have to' will do the job. Because otherwise the world will end up with ever more of less than it already has. Isn't that enough reason? What more do you need?

And as to those who would argue—as 'primitive Rand-ians' probably will—that people should help themselves and that assistance will only make people less self-reliant and all that bullshit. Well, it's true, of course, but that assumes, as primitive Rand-ians invariably do—have I said that often enough now?—that the playing field is sufficiently level for some folks to have a chance to even get started. Ultimately the Rand-ian argument—yes, that's the 'primitive' one; and maybe we should add 'simplistic', 'hypocritical' and 'self-serving'—is always advanced by people who are somewhere on the better and more advantageous levels of the playing field of human endeavor. Else they have major hangups because they originated in totalitarian systems.

To help a conquered culture (and cultures will continue to be 'conquered'!) to survive—in the sense of having its important and significant elements survive, whatever these 'elements' may be—is, if nothing else, a matter of fairness. Of applying our sense of cosmic or existential equipoise. And it's also a matter of 'because we can'. Because the conquering culture becomes a better culture for it. Because it will be enriched—spiritually, psychologically and, as it will invariably turn out, practically.

That's why. Isn't that enough reason?

On a completely different note—or maybe it isn't, because there is a connection— look here—just to make you while away some time considering scenarios relating to ocean-level rises and how truly dumb it is to build new structures at or only slightly above current seal levels—is a resource that every science-fiction writer interested in near-future scenarios should be aware of.

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