Monday, January 26, 2015

What Can Philip K. Dick Teach Us About Republicans in the Age of Neoliberalism and Cruelty?

"The Word ‘Android’ is a Metaphor for People Who are Physiologically Human But Psychologically Behaving in a Non-human Way"

Are you good folks in the northeastern United States ready for Snowmageddon? Are you hunkered down? Have you purchased the victuals you will need for the upcoming days of ice and hell, i.e. did you buy enough beer and other liquor to tide you over?

During these times of weather tumult my mom feigns a lack of worry with a flippant "it's all media hype designed to make money..."

Because of my mother's addiction to driving her car everyday and in all environments--however perilous--for mobility is a symbol of her vitality and not being "an old senile lady", I had to give her the obligatory "stay inside and be careful because I am not fixing your car if you wreck it" lecture. 

I will be watching some online weather video camera feeds of Snowmaggeddon 2015 to satisfy my envy of those folks who will have all that snowy goodness to enjoy.

And please, if you are in the crosshairs of this supposed to be epic weather event do be careful, make sure that pets are brought inside, call the cops on those people who neglect their animal friends in such weather, and do try to make sure that our homeless brothers and sisters have supplies.

In keeping with the previous "ghetto nerd" themed post, I would like to share this gem of an interview by Paul M. Samson with the legendary science fiction writer and philosopher Philip K. Dick from 1981.

I often shake my metaphorical (and digital) old man's walking stick at the youngsters of today because of their unhealthy Facebook, Twitter, selfie, social media addictions, and other related narcissistic behavior. After such gesticulations, I surrender to the fun finds made possible by these Internets.

Philip K. Dick had mixed feelings about the movie Blade Runner (he disliked early versions of the work in progress). In his talk with Samson, Dick also shares his disgust and contempt for Hollywood.

[I doubt that he would be pleased with the TV adaptation of his book The Man in the High Castle.]

He is not alone in that sentiment: many artists are aghast at how the Culture Industry distorts, misrepresents, and ruins their work, repackaging it for the lowest common denominator that is profit seeking from the masses' approval.

Dick's upsetness is not a surprise

It is his observation about the public, ethics, and human behavior that I find so moving and incisive.

Philip K. Dick suggests that the replicants/synthetic people in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? represent defective people:
I was studying the Nazi mentality...I discovered that although these people were highly intelligent they were definitely deficient in some manner in appropriate affect and appropriate emotion that would accompany the intellectual processes...I became conscious of the possibility of a very highly intelligent human who was emotionally so defective that the word human could not be applied to him. And I use this in my writing in such terms as android and robot. I am really referring to someone who is psychologically defective, malfunctioning, or pathological human being...For me the word ‘android’ is a metaphor for people who are physiologically human but psychologically behaving in a non-human way.

In a United States that has lost (if it ever had one) its collective ethics and morality after 9/11, embraces and cheers on torture of the innocent as national policy, offers up media and popular culture that fetes sociopaths such as Chris Kyle in American Sniper, wants to kill the "useless eaters", has an institutional political party in the Tea Party GOP that is white supremacist, detached from reality and possessed by a hallucinatory ideology, thug cops kill black and brown people for sport and with impunity, and where human empathy and decency across the colorline (and on both sides of it) is treated as something exceptional--as opposed to the governing rule for our behavior--Philip K. Dick's vision of the future-now is damning and prescient.

Science fiction is a genre that through speculation and dreaming engages questions about the nature of "the political" and human society. Philip K. Dick was a master of the craft. American dystopia is the present. It is not some undiscovered country or imagined future as dreamed and built by science fictions writers of decades-past.

Description should not preclude action and corrective. How do we repair the now?


kokanee said...

I have tonight and all of tomorrow off due to Snowmageddon. Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow...

Coincidentally, my wife is currently going through Phillip K. Dick stories. Science fiction and dystopias are allegories for current events. Good sci-fi writers successfully connect the dots and predict the future.

Re: "Description should not preclude action and corrective. How do we repair the now?"

Maybe the Syriza party in Greece will set the precedent for countries around the world — including us here in the US.

Hedges' article linked from the previous post is very relevant to this discussion as well.

chauncey devega said...

Dick was a fascinating man. I didn't know he had a breakdown of sorts after his wife ran off with a Black Panther! The things we learn.

Who are some of your favorite sci-fi writers?

kokanee said...

Interesting. Reminds me of my dad, actually.

I read Ben Bova as a kid and the novel adaptations of the first three Star Wars movies. As an adult I read the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. I've only read short stories since.

I'm bogged down with non-fiction these days. I do know that I should mix it up.

Scopedog said...

A quick correction, Chauncey, on what is an otherwise excellent article: Dick died before the release of BLADE RUNNER. While you are correct that he was critical of the film during its production, he changed his mind after meeting Ridley Scott and seeing some completed footage and VFX shots from the film.

My favorite SF writers include Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov, Ellison, Hogan, and Japanese writers Komatsu, Kikuchi (the creator of Vampire Hunter D), Kambayashi, Nojiri, and Sakurazaka (author of ALL YOU NEED IS KILL, basis for EDGE OF TOMORROW). Of course for the Japanese writers, I'm referring to the English translations of their works, since my Japanese is limited!

Black Sci-Fi said...

If not now then when..??
If not us then who..??
As a teenage baby boomer I was looking forward to the dream of humans moving past tribalism. Clearly, the social problems we share can be blamed on the economics of overpopulation. Clearly, we are a deadly and unfeeling virus in the universe. I fear for the universe as we make plans to spread into the cosmos and "exploit" it's resources. We have all we need to exist and thrive right here on earth. The balance nature requires will be derived by wisdom or force. The cruelty you describe that is a part of our daily lives "is" that balance.

Dan Kasteray said...

We should fear the universe, with one good radiation spike from a quasar all life on earth is gone

Dan Kasteray said...

I love Ben bova:) recently I've been embracing my inner nerd and was afraid nobody else read the man. Pretty stupid of me in hindsight

chauncey devega said...

I learned something new. I thought that he didn't like the earlier shots and they may have changed some of the film to accommodate him. Great correction.

Black Sci-Fi said...

I have no doubt that the universe will survive. Despite our nature, we are a part of the forever and our physical substance is after all recycleable. The parts of our sum can are immortal.

Paula Hay said...

Dick's description of the defective human matches the Native American description of someone infected by the wendigo mind virus, which in turn matches the description of a psychopath.

In some "uncivilized" indigenous cultures, psychopaths are killed off as a matter of self-defense. A psychopath threatens the survival of the whole group. This interview sheds a whole new light on DADOES for me -- it's the tribal solution writ dystopian. "How can it not know what it is?" might be what we should be asking ourselves about our own psychopaths before they have their World War Terminus at our expense. Do the indigenous versions of Deckard lose their humanity as he did? Man Phil Dick was a genius.

Great blog btw, my husband turned me on to it recently. The Isis fireworks have been pretty spectacular.