Sunday, March 16, 2008

This Was Supposed to be Our Future, It Is...

Clans of the Alphane Moon (or the State of Our Nation, 2008).

Psychiatrist Dr. Mary Rittersdorf gives the android Dan Mageboom her prognosis for the various clans that rule the former hospital moon...

"The Paranoids--actually the paranoiac schizophrenics --would function as the statesman class; they'd be in charge of developing political ideology and social programs--they'd have the overall worldview. The simple schizophrenics. . ." She pondered. "They'd correspond to the poet class, although some of them would be religious visionaries--as would be some of the Heebs. The Heebs, however, would be inclined to produce ascetic saints, whereas the schizophrenics would produce dogmatists. Those with polymorphic schizophrenia simplex would be the creative members of the society, producing the new ideas. . . {Those with} obsessive-compulsive neurosis. . . would be the clerks and office holders of the society, the ritualistic functionaries, with no original ideas. Their conservatism would balance the radical quality of the polymorphic schizophrenics and give the society stability."

Mageboom said, "So one would think the whole affair would work." He gestured. "How would it differ from our society on Terra?"

For a time she considered the question; it was a good one.

"No answer?" Mageboom said.

"I have an answer. Leadership in this society would naturally fall to the paranoids, they'd be superior individuals in terms of initiative, intelligence, and just plain innate ability. Of course they'd have trouble keeping the manics from staging a coup. . . there'd always be tension between the two classes. But you see, with the paranoids establishing the ideology, the dominant emotional theme would be hate. Actually hate going in two directions; the leadership would hate everyone outside its enclave and also would take for granted that everyone hated it in return. Therefore their entire so-called foreign policy would be to establish mechanisms  by which this supposed hatred directed at them could be fought. And this would involve the entire society in an illusory struggle, a battle against foes that didn't exist for a victory over nothing."

A valiant attempt by Dr. Rittersdorf to respond to Mageboom, but I don't think she really does a good job of distinguishing the politics of the Alphane moon from those here on Earth, especially here in the U.S. Her description of the "so-called foreign policy" of the Alphane's sounds a lot like the one currently employed by the powers that be.

On top of being a prescient look at political culture, Clans of the Alphane Moon also really captures some of PKD's meta-themes nicely. Characters and society involved in illusory struggles against foes that may or may not exist. 

Clans is one of PKD's underrated classics. Hit up your local library and find out for yourself if you haven't yet had the chance.

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