L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 147, November 12, 2001
1 + 2 = FREE
Thirty-two Stupid Years
by L. Neil Smith
Special to TLE
For many years, I've been saying that the overarching tragedy of our species is that our best attributes -- courage, integrity, most of all intelligence -- are not additive in character. Two people aren't braver than one person, nor more principled under pressure, nor are they any smarter. On the other hand, our worst attributes -- chiefly brute force -- are additive. Two people are inarguably stronger than one.
Another attribute human beings possess is a regrettable propensity to react to sufficiently shocking events by allowing themselves to be stampeded like buffalo straight over the nearest cliff. This attribute is called stupidity. It may be the most additive human attribute of all.
Thirty-two years ago, as a result of the voluntary cooperation of tens of thousands of human beings (admittedly and deplorably at the involuntary expense of taxpayers) attempting to add their intelligence together, three men climbed into something like a very large conical dumpster and allowed themselves to be blasted into space toward the single large natural satellite of humanity's native planet. Once there, two of them descended from orbit, walked around, planted a flag, took some samples, then climbed back into lunar orbit and came home.
A great deal has been said, in the three decades that have passed since that event, about that mission and its meaning. Three pretty stupid decades, thirty-two stupid years, in the view of those who'd hoped that landing on the Moon might somehow change the destiny of humanity.
In some ways, it is the noblest thing that human beings have ever accomplished. In some ways it is the silliest and most futile. We all supposed that it was a first step -- for all of humanity -- toward the stars. That part turned out to be a very ugly, painful lie. What NASA's Apollo XI mission has come to represent instead, historically and psychologically, is a not-so-cheap publicity stunt, commemorating not the purposefulness and the power of the unfettered human mind, but the purposelessness -- and the power -- of the modern managerial state.
Others have said it better than me. Victor Koman's great Kings of the High Frontier identified and forced us to confront a reality many were loathe to acknowledge: any rational analysis of the government's "space program" reveals that its principal commission is to prevent ordinary, non-government-approved human beings from ever leaving the Earth. I don't recall that Koman ever offered a coherent reason for this, beyond a reluctance we know too well, on the part of those who believe they own us, to let go of our lives. As Freeman K. Dyson put it, once we get out there among the asteroids, the IRS will never find us.
But there's another reason, one I don't remember if I've written publicly about (I've mentioned it in private correspondence), but which I think represents a more compelling motivation to keep all of humanity penned up on this mudball than mere power. Unless something very difficult to change, changes nonetheless, we'll be penned up here forever, and our children, and their children, until the sun burns out.
Remember Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, one of the cornerstones of the libertarian movement? If I'm right, it's also one of the cornerstones of the government's effort to keep us trapped here on Earth. The other cornerstone, as it were, is the epoch-making work of Walter Alvarez, who discovered that the dinosaurs were probably wiped out by a giant rock falling on this planet from space.
Alvarez showed us what falling rocks can do.
Heinlein showed us how to make them fall.
You and I read books like Heinlein's to inspire us in our struggle for freedom, but there are dweebs who work for the government who read books like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to feed the paranoia of a new parasitic class. Remember those geeky kids you run into at science fiction conventions, usually unkempt and overweight, wearing makeshift uniforms and armbands or badges that say "security"? Eventually, some of them grow up to populate the NSA, NASA, and the Office of Homeland Security.
They are the Security Class; they will be the death of the human race, or at least of its dreams, which amounts to pretty much the same thing.
You and I will never be allowed into space because we might launch a rock from the Moon (or simply nudge a handy meteoroid) and do to Chicago or Beijing what nineteen murderous fanatics did to the World Trade Center. And now that it's actually happened, the Security Class has all the "proof" any paranoid requires to believe that you and I can never, ever be trusted. Earth is forever to become one enormous, high-walled, unescapable sanitarium, run by its sickest, most pathetic patients.
And we will never get to the Moon again. We will never get to Mars. We will never get to Pallas or Ceres or 5023 Eris or to the stars.
The place to begin, I think, is at the nation's airports, where the Security Class was born. I'm going to say again -- until one of the culprits twitches or burps or screams in protest (I accept that none of them will ever apologize or admit that I was right) -- that I tried as hard as I could to warn the 1977 Libertarian Party national platform committee of the danger to liberty that the then new airport security measures posed. I was sneered at and shouted down by the same LP morons who now approve the insane, immoral bombing of Afghanistan. A popular war is all the proof anyone needs that intelligence is not additive.
Everyone who ardently hopes that he or she -- or maybe just our species in general -- has some kind of future Out There beyond Earth's increasingly stuffy atmosphere needs to begin right now to exert every bit of political pressure possible to accomplish three tightly-braided objectives.
First, all 25,000-odd gun laws in this country must be repealed, nullified, or otherwise disposed of. Second only to this country's psychotic foreign policy, they are what make America vulnerable to terrorism.
Second, as a subset of the first objective, universal reciprocal Vermont Carry must become the rule in this country. Laws suppressing the unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right -- of every man, woman, and responsible child to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon, rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything, any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission -- led directly to what happened on September 11. Those savage attacks could never have occurred without victim disarmament to make them possible.
Third, as a subset of the second objective, both the government and the airlines must be prevented from keeping people from carrying their weapons with them in flight. Contrary to the opinion of many, airlines are corporations, and as such, simply an extension of the government. They have no rights. They do have a positive obligation, on the other hand, to enforce the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment.
Ending victim disarmament is only the first step. The abysmal political events that have followed September 11 are a clear signal that it's time to dismantle the security state totally and forever. Every time some idiot suggests that you give up any part of your liberty for the sake of "safety", remind him that the most famous advocates of that philosophy ended up being tried and hanged at Nuremburg.
All of this will be difficult at first. It will be embarrassing and quite possibly dangerous. But September 11 is a remarkably vivid demonstration of the "clear and present danger" victim disarmament poses. And the alternative is giving up, allowing this poor battered planet of ours to become a dark, dreary futureless prison from this day until the end of time. Personally, the prospect of never getting to see the rings of Saturn from one of its inner moons is too sad to contemplate.
I want that future for my child.
Hell, I still want it for myself.
What was it you always wanted to see ... Out There?
Order HOPE (with Aaron Zelman), get free stuff and a special offer: click on: http://www.jpfo.org/hope.htm or read about MAKING A MOVIE of The Mitzvah the action-adventure thriller by Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith -- and maybe even help get it done! -- click on http://www.lneilsmith.org//mitzvahmovie.html
PRE-ORDER L. Neil Smith's long-awaited THE AMERICAN ZONE plus a new trade paperback edition of The Probability Broach from Tor Books, coming in November and December, 2001, respectively, by clicking on: http://www.lneilsmith.org//americanzone.html http://www.lneilsmith.org//lns_tpb-3.html
AUTOGRAPHED COPIES of Lever Action, Hope, Forge of the Elders, Henry Martyn, The Mitzvah, and a few others are available from the author. For details, write to him at email@example.com