1. I’ve been getting a good number of strange emails complaining about my neocon, warmongering pseudo-realism, as well as about my hyper-technological love of cosmic conquest— of THE FINAL FRONTIER, as some say.


2. So here are some personal observations: I didn’t say and don’t believe that war with China is inevitable, and I’m not provoking the Chinese. But war is always likely eventually, and free and powerful nations have the duty always to be ready for it. The Chinese, of course, are getting more and more ready. That doesn’t mean they have a plan for invading us, but great powers, they assume, will collide. Thinking in terms of nations and wars and all that is part of getting over the postpolitical fantasy characteristic of contemporary elites, especially in Europe. A variant of that fantasy seems present in the resurgence of Midwestern isolationism on the “American conservative” right. Wars, that isolationist thought is, is caused by greedy capitalists, and so no more greedy capitalism, no more war. There’s also the libertarian (Ron Paul) variant of that theory: War is caused by people who want to be more than greedy capitalists by intervening politically in the affairs of others. As long as we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us.

But we postmodern conservatives who think politically—although not only politically—believe that it’s always prudent to be ready for war.


3. I personally have very little interest in space travel or in science fiction. I was bored by the moon walk (the real one—although also by Michael’s). A guy gets all dressed up in a huge, ugly, incredibly cumbersome suit to climb around on godforsaken rocks. Although some political theorists—such as Paul Cantor and Diana Schaub— find deep meaning in STAR TREK and SPOCK and KIRK, I always thought the show was pretty one-dimensional. I may be a nerd, but I’m not at all a TREKKIE nerd. I once went to a conference all about the discussion of Heinlein novels, and I was mostly pretty underwhelmed. I did appreciate the curious mixture of libertarianism and militarism of STARSHIP TROOPERS, with the distinction between citizen-warriors and apolitical or disenfranchised hedonists (our bourgeois bohemian libertarians). Heinlein: You can do what you want, but you can’t be a political actor without taking real or fighting responsibility for your country’s future. The shower scene in the movie version (which is mostly pretty bad) illustrates the core egalitarian teaching of Book V of Plato’s REPUBLIC. In general, almost all science fiction that’s about human life in space or on other planets seems dysutopian to me. THE REPUBLIC, Strauss says, is the leading example of dysutopian literature.


4. It seems to me that most people who are enthralled with the wonderful adventure that is space travel and planet hopping have “issues” with their merely human lives. Walker Percy, for instance, noted that Carl Sagan searched the cosmos for ETIs because he had theoretically reduced the actual people he knew to insignificance—to beings unworthy of knowing and loving. Percy asked and answered the question: “Why is Carl Sagan so lonely?”


5. Percy also asked why it makes sense to search the cosmos for “aliens” when the most strange and wonderful alienated beings imaginable—beings lost in the cosmos—already live right here on this planet. The big issue: What or who is more wonderful? Planets and stars and physics and such or people? I’m not saying there aren’t “aliens” somewhere else in the cosmos. I am saying we already know—more or less—what they’ll be like.


Articles by Peter Lawler

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