CHOAM poster by Giant Ideas
I just finished reading Dune. It’s pretty good. Very good actually. I’m coming off of Ender’s Game (all tension and build-up) and the constant violence and suspense of Dune was a thrill. Dune is also a very deep book, drawing on a holy book that combines the three monotheistic faiths plus plus. It also plays like a modern political parable, what with the people addicted to a natural resource and being dicks about it. I won’t review the book, it’s worth a read, I think it’s the best selling sci-fi, so just give it a read if you so interest [sic]. These are a few thoughts I had.
Seriously, why swords? It’s like every future fiction wants to go back to sword fighting. It is somehow the most elegant form of fighting, even though it gets quite bloody and stabby and mess. The idea of stabbing someone I find shockingly inelegant, but maybe that’s just me. Maybe it’s a phallic thing.
Paul Atriedes sees a looming global jihad in the religion that builds up around him. But he does nothing to really stop it. Everyone accepts violence as a way of sorting things and right is seen just as the most might. While it makes for a compelling tale, there are no valuable life lessons there. Paul does a lot of bad shit on the way to overthrowing a bad guy. The people he has around him are quite murderous and dubious. At no point does he use his power for compassion or non-violent resistance, and at no point does he change a fucked up system. He just fucks with everybody else harder.
Book, fine, but I can just imagine the intergalactic presses spinning him as a terrorist. Which he kinda was. He used nuclear weapons (not on humans) and threatened to blow up all the spice (equivalent to torching the world’s oil). Sounds pretty terroristy. And it’s not like he replaced the earlier, shitty order. He just married into it, in the end.
Why Are We Always Addicted To Stuff?
At various points, some random substance has roiled the world. Be it salt or gold or opium or oil, some natural element tends guide our history. Right now economic growth basically is oil, in the sense that no oil = no growth. Growth is obviously more complex and flowery, but no oil, no vine. At other times England was fucking up the orient via the Opium Wars, or stretching themselves for tea, or the Romans were paying people in salt.
Dune is cool because they make that substance the melange spice, some hallucinogenic thing that makes your eyes go all blue and enables certain well bred individuals to see through space and time to guide interstellar navigation. But they’re addicted to it. The spice leads to all manner of unsavory alliances and bullshit, lessons very relevant to today.
What Happened To Drugs?
I think that drugs are good but drug culture is bad. Throughout history, every major religion and many major ideas involved some altered state – from Hindu Soma to Native American Shaman (plural?). Drugs can be very, very good. It’s just that the culture is very bad.
Because they’ve become illegal, people have to associate with criminals to get them. They’ve also been co-opted by people just trying to have sex and being popped and snorted with no reverence by idiots without adult guidance.
A friend recently said that drugs should be only accessible through certain religions. Which I think is an interesting idea. In Dune drug use is basically the backbone of their information economy, since they got rid of computers. Everything from the priesthood (feminine) to space travel to communion is based on ritualized drug use.
And that’s pretty much all I learned, or all I feel like writing about.