Friday, February 17, 2017

Illegal immigration: Eater or Eaten

I'll bet you never watched Babylon 5 or realized you watched contestants playing the Game of Life. Forget that B5 hung in space over a dead world. Forget the gate technology that allowed ships to traverse the darkness from civilization to civilization. See the episodes as ripped from the headlines depicting current events. The two players in the Universe were the Shadows, the Great Evil, and the Vorlons, the Light. They were more than Evil and Good. They were warring siblings fighting their battles through the people of the Universe, the younger races that looked up to the Shadows and the Light as we look to our political parties. The Shadows and the Vorlons were the two sides of a coin, separated by perspective, the two sides of the Galactic Mirror. No different, except in our perception of them. Ultimately, Shadows and Vorlons enslaved the younger races. The Shadows and the Vorlons were the masters and the younger races their slaves, puppets playing out the end game, choosing which side of the mirror reflected what they saw, the image of their deepest desires.

Mr. Mordon was the human face of the Shadows whose only question was: What do you want? The answer bound the person to the Darkness or the Light, reflections of siblings, remnants of the Old Race, brothers or sisters depending on your point of view, destroying worlds and systems in their seemingly eternal tug-of-war. The Shadows preferred kicking over an ant hill to stir up the ants to battle other ants so the winner emerged as a stronger, smarter, and better ant while the Vorlons nurtured the races, tampering with their DNA to make them stronger, better, and smarter than the ants that preceded the ants the Vorlons reshaped to create better ants. It didn't matter which species died as long as the winning side was their side. The Vorlons cared that their nurturing would win and the Shadows preferred their aggression would be the winning side.

How is the illegal immigrant question different? You may think it's a matter of degree, but essentially it is the same. It is always the same. The only thing that has changed is the label we put on it to make what has become immature, irresponsible, and wrong acceptable and palatable. It is the same thing it always was and the new label changes nothing but our perception of the problem. Labeling garbage as art or social justice. It is still garbage. The Conservatives are the Shadows and Liberals are the Vorlons. The methods vary, but the end is the same. Slaves are slaves whether they are nurtured or forced to action. Illegal immigration is just another label for slavery. All the arguments for the rights of illegal immigrants and the liberal calls for social justice change nothing. White washing manure doesn't change manure. It may look better painted white, but it is still manure.

When we discuss illegal immigration we are still discussing slavery. Let's get that straight from the outset. Give us your poor, your starving, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. They are people willing to give up everything so their children have food, shelter, and clothing, a reason to get up in the morning to earn a few pesetas or pennies or dollars to buy food, shelter, and clothing to make the future less frightening and more comfortable. Centuries ago the system was called feudalism. A lord claimed title over the land and the serfs who inhabited the land and took what they wanted from the serfs: their daughters' virginity, the food from their mouths, and their freedom to choose their own lives. Though the resources were the Lord's due (determined by the Lord and taken from the people who had no say), those resources were stolen.

Feudalism became colonialism and serfs became slaves, conquered tribes, the losers in tribal warfare or stolen to be sold as slaves for money and goods that could be sold or traded for more food, shelter, and clothing. The serfs were slaves to their Masters as surely as the tribesmen, women, and children were slaves to be chained, bound, and packed like sardines in the holds of ships and given just enough to eat to keep them alive until they could be hosed down and sold at auction. Tribes preyed on their neighbors as predators prey on the old, the sick, the weak and vulnerable, and the young to be brought down and killed to feed themselves and their offspring. It has always been thus: the larger and more powerful prey on the weaker and their continuation was assured. Big fish prey on little fish and the bottom feeders get the scraps, but every species wins as they prey on weaker species, and sometimes on each other, in the never ending struggle to continue. Might makes right. Vegetarians point to the grass eaters as harmless because grass eaters consume only grass. What about the grass? Does grass not live? Does grass not grow, procreate, and live? So you choose not to eat animals, make a point of eating nothing with a face; you eat plants. You are harmless, as harmless as a cow, sheep, or buffalo. What if plants don't want to be eaten? What if plants have feelings? Are you not destroying another species for food, to quiet the rumbling in your belly? You kill to eat. Plant or animal, you end their life to continue your own. That is the cycle of life on this planet and in this time. That is also the reality of slavery. Illegal immigrants are the slaves who choose to walk through any danger, endure any hardship so they can feed, clothe, and house themselves by any means necessary. Those means in this time and in this country mean breaking this country's laws, the United States of America's laws to sell their labor, their time, and themselves for food so they can continue another day, another hour, another minute as long as they continue to exist. When this country was a colony belonging to Great Britain, an extension of the Great British Empire, people sold themselves and their children for a specified period so they too could come to this unexplored land to make their fortune, but really to ensure they would have a place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat. These indentured slaves were guaranteed a certain quality of life and they were fed, usually with the scraps from their Master's table, but they were fed. Captured enemies were sold to enterprising men and sent across the vast oceans in the bellies of ships where they might die, but they might also live to be sold as slaves. Slaves were cheaper than indentured servants and there were no contracts. Masters paid more for indentured servants than slaves and that cut into profits. It is a simple equation. Cost must never equal or exceed profits. Smart Masters spent less in producing a crop in order to reap great rewards. Indentured servants cost more than slaves. Indentured servants worked only for the term of the contract. Slaves worked until they were traded, sold, or died. Pay one price and slaves will work, breed more slaves who will breed even more slaves. Slaves were an investment for the future that continued paying dividends for generations to come. Illegal immigrants are the latest label for slaves. These slaves provide the labor to pick the crops that will be sold at the market and cost less than hiring documented workers. That means more profit after the crops are sold. Call them resources, undocumented workers, illegal immigrants, whatever label you choose to salve your conscience and give slavery a makeover. In the end, these poor huddled masses are still slaves, resources that will make more money for their employers. These resources with faces and names are the latest on the list to be plundered, raped, and pillaged. Yes, there are good employers (masters) and bad employers, but ultimately they are Masters and the people are slaves. You are either the big fish that eats or the smaller fish that is eaten. No matter the perspective and no matter how you agonize over the rights of the fish that ends up as food, the fish is still eaten and nourishes another. Why else would the wealthy and powerful hire illegal immigrants? It is not to save them from poverty and ignorance. It is to cut the cost of the labor so that there is more money to buy bigger and better comfort. It's economics. The best economy is one where the cost never exceeds the profits and comfort at a cheaper price is much more comfortable. It all comes down to degree. Will you sell yourself for enough food to live another minute, another hour, another day or will you sell someone else for your comfort to someone who is buying so they will have more money to buy more comfort? It is always one species preying on a smaller, weaker, more vulnerable species. Have no doubts about that. Whether you eat meat or plants, you prey on life. What do you want? When you play the Game of Life, you eat or are eaten.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: Dark Eden

I wanted to like Dark Eden and I did initially. The repetition didn't put me off at first and then it became monotonous and then expected: good good, bad bad, and so on. Borrowing from George R. R. Martin and other authors who decide to tell their story through various characters by choosing to tell the story from a single point of view and picking up where the previous character left off is getting a bit dated, but did move the story forward, albeit from an often oppositional point of view.

What I found most interesting was the narrative that one man and one woman decided to populate a planet they had chosen to remain on by themselves and the only birth defects were hare lips (bat-faced) and clubfoot (clawfoot) deformities after generations over 163 years of breeding indiscriminately and frequently. The Family must stay together, which is the central theme challenged by one newhair (teenager 15 years old at the beginning of the story) who has deliberately killed a leopard instead of climbing a tree to get out of the leopard's way. John Redlantern is first lauded and awarded one day free of community chores and then hunted as his unorthodox behavior continues and is viewed as disruptive until he is finally hunted by a batfaced older Redlantern who has been denied slipping with any attractive female, especially the female he most desires, a Spiketree female who publicly and often spurns him for Juicy John Redlantern, a handsome newhair who is also the slipping (sexual) favorite of the Redlantern branch of the Family. For a group/branch leader such behavior is frowned upon because she was his surrogate mother, though not John's biological mother, and he was consider too young for slipping (sexual intercourse).

The evolution of Earth speak is charming, if confusing at times: veekle for vehicle, Secret Ree for secretary, and so forth. (I still cannot parse Strornry and any enlightenment is most welcome.)

Eden is dark except for the plant and animal adaptations of producing their own light and heat on this dark and nearly completely undisturbed and unexplored planet and all long for the Earth they have been told about but never seen with its brilliant light from above as bright as a Whitelantern tree's interior. The Family members, the generations of Angela and Tommy's progeny, a black woman and a white man, have stayed where the Landing vehicle (veekle) arrived and took off from with the three men, two fugitives and one policeman sent from Earth to bring them back after they stole the galactic cruiser, Defiant, to go joy riding because one of the thieves was listening to Jesus instructing him to take the Defiant and fly off into the vastness of space to explore and find new worlds, according to the story handed down by the Oldest (blind and infirm oldest of the Family) every Any Virsiry (anniversary) 365 wakings (days) from the previous annual recitation and re-enactment of Tommy and Angela's story.

That generations of Tommy and Angela's offspring have remained in the same vicinity for nearly 200 years is as surprising as it taking that long for some curious youth to ask questions and demand answers as to why they have to stay in that exact spot while the resources dwindle and the Family go hungry when there must be more places to explore and settle down. It is not mentioned, but their continued inbreeding from the same shallow genetic pool would continue breeding the same defects, clubbed feet and hair lips, often with continued and increasing defects until they breed themselves out of existence.

It is unfortunate that it took Chris Beckett 2/3 of the narrative to get to the point and then raced through the last 1/3 of the book to wrap it all up with the ending I suspected at the beginning. That was a bit of a let down in the end, though there is room enough for more, vastly more. An interesting book with too many repetitions and far too little development after seemingly endless insight into John Redlantern's motives and actions. Beckett raced through what should have been the focus of the story instead of the rushed ending. 3/5 stars is the best I can give. Moderate execution of a treasure trove of possibilities. Better luck next time, Chris.