I’m an avid reader, as you may have gathered. My favorite reading pastime is science fiction short stories, I came upon a collection edited by Phillip Dick the other day — scifi stories from the 30s through the 60s. One of them, in particular, annoyed the hell out of me.
“The Highest Treason,” by one Randall Garrett, was published in 1961. It’s premise is an America that has grown soft. How, you may ask? Well, it appears that social programs — those aimed to help the poor and needy — were the culprit. That and some idea that “all men are created equal” means that everyone is the same and no one is better than anyone else at anything.
I was only 4 in 1961, so I can’t speak with any authority on what was happening at that particular time to make Randall Garrett think such things. Except maybe for the blazing success of the New Deal. We all know how that pissed off conservatives, so I’m thinking that Randall may have been one of those, at least as far as secular matters are concerned. He was ordained in an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church that was a tad more liberal than those guys, plus he was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which recreates medieval society.
Anyway, Garrett’s story really bugged me. There was a space war going on, and the aliens were winning because they didn’t believe that they were all created equal. Hierarchies existed. On earth, however, the unions had created a system wherein you just stayed in your job and didn’t rock the boat and eventually you became the boss, not because you deserved it, but because you did your time.
Now, I think seniority is a valuable element in promotions and such. But so is merit. The two must be balanced — but not in Garrett’s America. One or the other.
That’s a problem we have now. One or the other, liberal or conservative, progressive or reactionary, Democrat or Republican, socialism or capitalism. There can be no blend, no meeting of the minds. And it’s nearly always the conservative mind that makes this so.
That’s to be expected, of course. It’s the very nature of conservatives to seek the limit or block change, growth or even an expansion of ideas. There’s just no way for them to conceive of allowing any progressive thought to enter the picture.
Look at Congress. Republicans in the House of Representatives now have this idea that they will not vote for anything that Democrats support. House Speaker John Boehner was overheard telling House freshmen to “keep up the rhetoric,” meaning the lies. Bipartisanship? Nah. Don’t need it. The plan is to pass a bill with only their stuff in it and get the Senate to pass it too. They just might.
It’s awfully frustrating, when it’s so very clear the direction we need to go, and the people we keep electing to take us there can’t see it. They fancy themselves leaders, but I’m reminded of something Roslynn Carter once said: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
We have so few great leaders, and those we do have are primarily working on a small scale — why on earth would they want to run for office and be forced to play the idiotic games that politicians play?
At least, I hope so. I’d rather we didn’t get the hero of Randall Garrett’s book, who joined the aliens and waged a brutal campaign against Earth that ended the “softness” and brought all the brutality and violence out again. I’d rather have a hero who can bring people together rather than reinforce the “us vs. them” mentality.
All men (and women) are created equal. It’s the minutiae of their lives that make differences, that create diversity.