Saturday, June 13, 2009

Scorched Earth

There are some programs I enjoy watching again and again, finding something new among the old. Babylon 5 is one of those shows.

While watchingAnd the Sky Full of Stars this morning, the show seemed suddenly so timely despite having been off the air for years. Commander Sinclair is captured, drugged, hooked up to a cybernet and forced to remember what happened during the 24 hours he was missing at the Battle of the Line, the last battle between Earth and the Minbari during a war that would ultimately end with the genocide of the entire human race. Suddenly, with the destruction of Earth and the entire human race within their grasp, the Minbari surrendered. The war was over. Why did a superior force on the eve of victory surrender to a beaten enemy?

During the cyber-torture, the torturer tells Sinclair that many influential people back on Earth believe that Sinclair and others were recruited for a fifth column to destroy Earth and humanity from within, that Sinclair agreed to collaborate with the enemy to bring his own race down. The torturer points to aliens buying up land, investing in businesses and immigrating in ever larger numbers, pushing out humanity and taking over. Sound familiar? Like I said, old shows touched on the hot issues during their initial run and are seemingly prophetic. Or are they?

Do shows like Babylon 5 predict the future or do we just not learn the first time around and continue to repeat history? There is another possibility, that some shows act like barometers to point to the first hint of trouble, shining a light on a problem that, if unchecked, will continue to grow and get worse.

Near the end of the Shadow War when the Earth President (the VP who killed the President in order to take over) is trapped and Earth is being bombarded by the rebel forces gathered by the crew of Babylon 5, the President is in his office and he pushes a button that begins the process of what he calls Scorched Earth, turning the Shadow technology on Earth and its people. He knows he's trapped. He has weakened the planet and its people from within, but since he can no longer rule he is going to destroy the planet rather than face justice. Scorched Earth.

The men who vowed to protect Earth against all enemies, foreign and domestic, had been corrupted, not by the Minbari, but by the dark forces of the Shadow, wooed by power and control and dark technology that counted human life as a commodity and the truth as malleable and elastic. They were co-opted by greed and the need to be seen as saviors, messiahs of truth and justice and everything that humanity held dear. It was a small concession at first to protect themselves against the covert invasion by the Minbari who helped to fund and build Babylon 5 and the four Babylon stations that were sabotaged, destroyed and went missing before the final Babylon 5 project successfully came on line to give form to the idea that alien races could all live and work together for the common good. While the powers that be were focused on the Minbari, they made a devil's pact with the Shadows and sealed their doom, sealed the doom of Earth and of all peoples living on the planet.

Beware those that work in the shadows and wear pleasant faces calling for peace and spouting peaceful platitudes and bromides, laying the blame on their opponents. That way lies danger and scorched earth.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. Surely so
revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

— WB Yeats's "Second Coming"as first printed in 1920

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