Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Sunday with Philip K. Dick

Young Dave over in Lexifab is reading Philip K. Dick novels as part of his preparations for a bout of the flu, populating his subconscious with appropriate scenarios for some world-class fever dreams. It didn’t seem right to let this blog bleed into that one, so I didn’t make the comment I first thought of, which is that Dick wrote the most overtly propagandist anti-abortion short story I have ever read, ‘The Pre-Persons.’ Unfortunately, like Aleister Crowley and William Burroughs, the two literary figures I have previously cited as abortion opponents, Philip K. Dick was apparently also wildly misogynistic. I shall have to find some better exemplars.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Sheri S. Tepper- who in real life was a big wheel in the abortion industry. Curiously enough, her pseudo-science fictiony fantasy novels are the other things that immediately leap to mind when I think of good stuff for inducing horrible dreams in the bedridden.

Who should I find quoted in the Jerusalem Post today but Philip K. Dick? Something like: ‘Reality is that thing that if you stop believing in it, it is still there.’ We need a word for that subset of ‘reality’ that would continue to exist if you or I or any particular person ceased to believe in it, and would only stop existing once nobody believed in it.

Also in the Jerusalem Post, Amir Taheri makes something like my cro-magnon metaphysics point with reference to the celebrated land war in Asia. There seems to be this idea among the ‘anti-war’ community that because there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in April 2003 the Ba’athist regime was no more dangerous than Belgium or Costa Rica, and Bush and Blair et al. owe us some sort of apology in sackcloth and ashes. But Iraq had had weapons of mass destruction; it had the capabilities to make them again; it had deliberately muddied the waters to make it impossible to tell whether it had them or not. It is not rational to make judgments merely on the properties an entity has at the present time: the probable future properties of the entity, projected forward from the recorded past properties of the entity, must also be taken into account.

Does it matter when a winning lottery ticket turns into a million dollars?
Does it matter when an irreplaceable handwritten manuscript turns into a Booker-Prize-winning novel?
Does it matter when a patent turns into a multimillion dollar product?
You wouldn’t steal any of those things, because, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer says: ‘You can’t do that. It’s wrong.’

And I ought to say something about the Pope being dead. I will not enter the arena of ‘What is the greatest evil, suffering or failing to realise your potential by, e.g., sitting around playing World of Warcraft all day?’ but instead will talk very briefly about something else. Everyone has mentioned Pope John Paul II’s greatest triumph, in the fall of communism, but I haven’t yet read one word about what I think he must have seen as his biggest failure. It is the same thing Bill Clinton thought was his greatest failure. I don’t think there has been a time and place since Croatia in the Second World War when so many Catholic clergy were personally involved in genocide. The whole country was nominally Catholic. Then one day half of them wake up and start killing the other half with machetes. I know I asked myself: What the hell is the good of this religion? Is it achieving anything at all? Is it just a paper-thin veneer of empty words? It would have really really bugged me, if I had been Pope. Most of those people in the eastern Congo who are still killing each other are nominally Catholic, too. I shouldn’t forget them.

Across the border from those two places is Uganda, with its abstinence and fidelity program, which they are currently arguing about in the medical journals, as to whether it has been better or worse than the anti-AIDS programs in neighbouring countries. Dave thinks I going too far in my Cephalopd Masters analogy by saying pregnancy is a ‘well-known and easily avoidable’ hazard, because human sexual behaviour is, like, I don’t know, basically the behaviour of idiots. Controlling this problem is easy. There are lots of good libido-destroying drugs that we could put in the water. I don’t think this is inconsistent with Humanae Vitae or an affront to the dignity of mankind. Freedom from unwanted sexual desire should be an inalienable human right, like freedom from unwanted fear, unwanted want, and unwanted having to hear John Laws on the radio. If you want to be afraid, you can move to one of those countries that still has a secret police; if you want to be hungry, don’t eat; if you decide that you really want to suffer sexual desire, buy the blocking medication- heavily taxed in order to cover the social costs of sexuality, naturally. I’ll vote for the first politician who suggests something like this. Secure in the knowledge that my household is totally dependent on rainwater, of course...


Austin said...

Pope John Paul II’s reign started after WW2 you fool so you can't hold him culpable for so called Catholic atrocities any more than you can hold Martin Luther responsible for the Protestant Nazi's of which there was a lot more than Catholics:)

Dr. Clam said...

Woot, I haven't been called 'you fool' for the longest time! The post is about atrocities in *Rwanda*, and I'm not holding John Paul responsible for them, I am just saying that they must have been a very great source of sorrow to him. Please read it again, slowly, from the beginning.