Viewing posts tagged progress

Random Thing #3


And one more.  Please bear in mind, this is a fragment.


Marx saw creativity as essential to human nature.  He famously once said that “Milton produced Paradise Lost in the way that a silkworm produces silk, as the expression of his own nature”.  The difference is that Marx saw such creativity as a potential in all people, and believed that class society stunted such potentials in the majority by forcing them to do work that was alien to their natures. 

Yet there is some truth to the idea of progress in the history of class society.  Marx is quite comfortable – sometimes a little too comfortable – with the idea that the accumulation of capital can also be the accumulation of progress, that even the imperialistic development of class society can push people ‘forwards’.  It’s just that he also sees horror in the process, eventually calling the ‘progress’ that British imperialism and capitalism brought to India as resembling a “hideous, pagan idol, who would not drink the nectar but from the skulls of the slain.”  This is far from an unproblematic way of putting it, but the point stands. 

It is a point ...

43

In an opulent throne room, the Doctor and Romana are being entertained by Zargo and Camilla, two of the Three Who Rule.  Plates are loaded with meat.  Glasses are filled with dark red wine.  The Lords are draped in fine fabrics and smeared in make-up to mask their strangely pallid faces.

"Well, you certainly do very well for yourselves here," observes the Doctor.

"We struggle to retain some remnants of civilisation," says Zargo, who evidently considers himself civilised.

"Well, you do better than the peasants," remarks the Doctor.  He and Romana have recently been in a peasant hovel, where the half-starved, over-worked, rag-clad people reacted in terror at their aristocratic confidence.

"The peasants are simple folk," observes Camilla drily, "Richer fare would only distress them."

"Quite right," says the Doctor.  (His pronunciation makes it sound more like 'Quite trite.')  "Probably give them indigestion," he continues, "There's nothing worse than a peasant with indigestion. Makes them quite rebellious. I hear you've been having trouble that way."

"There are always a few ungrateful ones who do not appreciate all that we do for them," agrees Camilla, without a trace of irony.

"And what do ...

Independence Day

This is a slightly-expanded/tweaked version of something originally published in the January 2011 edition of Panic Moon.  Back issues of this excellent fanzine (now, sadly, on hiatus) are still available, here.


In 'The Mutants', Earth’s empire is the British Empire in decline, as it disassembles itself out of economic necessity (true in general terms but misleading in particular; the British were usually savage in their resistance to independence). The Marshall echoes Ian Smith, who ran the racist apartheid state of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and tried to hang on after the British cut him loose.

We get a positive view of a national liberation movement. Ky is clearly the figurehead of a powerful anti-Overlord groundswell; they’re called “terrorists” naturally, and maybe they are, but they’re fighting for their freedom. We get no patronising sermons to oppressed people about non-violence.

The system is depicted as inherently racist, featuring a version of apartheid. The Solonians are not black, but then neither were the Irish… and they were the first to come under the British heel. 'The Mutants' shows racism, quite rightly, as the ideology of empire, not the cause.

There is an apologia for empire that stresses the “progress” it can bring to its subjects. The concept of “progress” is ...

Opposite Reaction

The TARDIS Eruditorum blog recently took the opportunity to connect 'The Caves of Androzani' with the 1984-85 Miner's Strike.  In the process, Philip Sandifer (the author of the blog) writes:

...Arthur Scargill, head of the NUM, made an egregious political miscalculation. Faced with an accelerated schedule for closing the pits and afraid that he’d lose the vote, Scargill declined to submit the strike to a national vote. This was against NUM rules and allowed Thatcher to delegitimize the strike, which she wasted no time doing, comparing striking miners to Argentina in the Falklands. 
and...

The propaganda war, combined with Scargill’s inept politicking, kept the strike from gaining broad support with the public, and it ended in failure a year later, leaving the mining industry and union a shadow of its former self. 

Sandifer mentions police savagery and also the wholesale media propaganda assault against the NUM (though he talks about the 'redtops', as though it was a purely tabloid phenomenon).  Ultimately, however, he seems to imply a plague upon both Thatcher's and Scargill's houses.

In the various permutations that this view takes, the heroic resistance of 150,000 workers and their families over ...

Reithian Values Meet 'The 60s'...

The old show was frequently highly reactionary but it also did better than most shows when it came to challenging establishment, bourgeois ideology and/or imperialist assumptions.

This division is the 'ethos'. Frequently reactionary but with a proportionately greater tendency to buck this trend.

The hero of the show is a white male with a professional title, a line in Edwardian clothing (which retains a formality despite veering between scruffy, dandified, bohemian, etc.) and who travels around in a symbol of the British state. The odd Jacobite aside, his companions are usually thoroughly respectable types.

So, even when he takes a moral line against exploitation, it can seem like the civilized Englishman taking it upon himself to explain ethics to the barbarians.

However, while it may be possible to characterise this as an "overall or originating ethos" (as a poster at Gallibase put it) it's one that has also been challenged from within.

At the start of the classic series, the Doctor is adamant that he cannot and must not intervene in history... including the religious practices of the Aztecs, a people destroyed by imperialism.

Then again, in that very same story, we also get a dose of condescension ...

Binro Was Right

This is a rejigged new version of something originally posted at the old site.  I've snipped a few irrelevancies and amplified some conclusions.  Oh, and it's dedicated to Iain Cuthbertson and Timothy Bateson, both of whom died last year.



'The Ribos Operation' seems, at first glance, to present the cosmic conflict between Good and Evil, spiralling downwards from a meeting with a quasi-God in a surreal conceptual landscape, downwards into a story about the vast conquest plans of an interplanetary warlord, further downwards into a heist caper about two semi-comic con-men, and then further downwards into a short meeting between and old man and a young man in a little flea-ridden hovel... yet it's in the hovel that we find the real message of the story.  But is Binro right?

Well, he's right about the stars being suns circled by inhabited worlds (just like his somewhat-more mystical and flamboyant progenitor Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake by the Church for, effectively, founding science-fiction... fair enough, some would say). But, in the wider sense, isn't the story's most moving and thematically vital scene compromised by what goes on around it ...

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