Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Failure in Prime Directive

Do we humans have such low self-esteem that we cannot imagine future contact w/ aliens w/o our screwing it up by the impositions of capitalism and/or religious fervor? Well, of course we can, b/c we have Star Trek. But it does seem that sci-fi set in the very near future has a cynical view of mankind. I am sure this only bothers me b/c I am a pessimist, and I want the literature I read to prove me wrong about my own species rather than reinforce my deepest fears.

Nevertheless, I think that both religion and science are at fault in the story of Fr. Mark and Garth. Both forgot a key policy in dealings w/ alien peoples--the prime directive. Fr. Mark obviously sought to share a specific worldview/universeview w/ the people of Ashkelon, but in so doing, failed to explain the workings of his theology beyond a literal reading and also introduced the concept of a painful death to the Weskerians. Garth, however, is as much at fault for intruding on the lives of the Weskerians. In Garth's exchange w/ Singh, we learn that he has "been in more jails than cathouses...exploiting this aboriginal pesthole" (179). First of all, Garth clearly associates with people who look down upon the Weskerians (perhaps non-humans in general) and furthermore know that he is a dishonest person prone to law-breaking. With these things in mind, Garth has just as much potential to introduce harmful knowledge to the Weskerians as Fr. Mark. Conveniently for Garth, the cleric just happened to get there first. After all, Garth slams a door in the faces of the Weskerians and snaps unkindly at Itin for his childlike, literal way of interpreting his statements.

Father Mark may be misguided, but at least he is kind to the Weskerians. His mistake, of course, is a failure to engage in more logical-process dialogue w/ the Weskerians and failing to take their literal approach to texts into account (let alone the ethical problem of evangelism in itself). I did not feel that Fr. Mark deserved his unhappy end in the story, but nor did I feel that Garth deserved to escape the planet scott-free. Both were very much at fault.

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