Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Liberals and anarchists and post scarcity oh My!

Well I’ve read waaaay too much of the culture to keep everything straight, so this post will probably veer into the very general. Anyway I think the culture novels are a fascinating kind of window into a world of post scarcity. The message seems to be, post scarcity economies breed anarchists with extreme boredom, which must be satisfied by liberal doo gooder interventions to help others. I think this is a really interesting end result. In “Player of Games” one of the characters remarks that “we don’t live in an age of heroes anymore.” With sufficiently advanced technology what are we to do with ourselves? Are we to descend into a complete Dionysian hedonism? Or will that ultimately fall short of what we want? The culture feels the need to justify and support its own hedonism and as a result they engage in countless interventions through their contact consortium.

The beauty of it all is that Ian M Banks is not a heavy handed moralizer like Rodenberry and his ilk. Banks keeps everything rather crazy by switching POVs in insane ways and by creating massive, tragic conflagrations. Basically it’s a good thing he’s a brit otherwise these novels wouldn’t work. He has a sick sense of irony and he just works it to utterly depressing proportions. Chris noticed how he uses a vignette format to just drive the reader crazy and man is that awesome.

Last but not least I think the culture novels provide a very odd answer to Camus. Why do we not commit suicide? The Culture says “Well you can have a whole lot of fun, or fight a war, but if you’re bored you can always use the euthanasia gland to kill yourself,” An answer properly fit for Mr. Banks.

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