There is much pontificating among science fiction media fans about how damned moral we are, because we watched these TV shows and movies that taught a moral lesson. Oh my God, we are so moral! Star Trek taught us not to be racist. Star Trek taught us not to be homophobic. Star Trek taught us that people who are different should be celebrated.
Oh, the cleverness of us!
Most of us have only learned, from Star Trek and other shows, the cleverness reinforced by the news media, our HR departments, and public policy enacted by certain politicians.
What I learned from Star Trek, and many other shows, was a lesson I don’t see evidenced in the attitudes or behaviors of a lot of people, not even fans. Maybe especially not fans.
I learned that people who disagree with me are not therefore evil.
As with all of my blog series, the FIAWOL blogs are written weeks in advance. But I was a day late posting this week because the online science fiction world was exploding with news about Chris Hardwick and Chloe Dykstra. I have thoughts about that news, and about the #MeToo movement at large. So I took a day out and tried to write about them. This was the second time in recent months I’ve tried to do so. And, just as with my first attempt, I wrote about 2500 words, re-wrote a second draft… and then decided I wasn’t ready to share my very personal thoughts on the subject with the world. Maybe I’m a coward, and maybe I have good reason to be. You see, my morality doesn’t work like most peoples’.
Which is a good segue for this piece that wasready for publication yesterday…
This was Robert A. Heinlein’s final book, moodily (and prophetically) titled with a quote from Tennyson’s “Ulysses” about old age and death. But this book is not at all about old age or death, it’s about life, about living it wisely and passionately, about defying death, and about maintaining youth.
“Shame is an unhappy emotion invented by pietists in order to exploit the human race.”
These words were uttered by down-on-his-luck cabaret singer Carol Todd (Robert Preston) in Blake Edwards’s immortal film Victor/Victoria, one of my all-time favorites. I recently posted this quote on Facebook, amidst other words of rancor not so clever as those penned by the late Mr. Edwards, because someone had told my wife and son they should be ashamed of their behavior.
“Why?” you asked. (Well, some of you did.) “What did they do?”
It doesn’t matter why, because my wife and son had done nothing to be ashamed of. In all of human history, nobody ever did anything worth being ashamed of. That doesn’t mean nobody in history ever did anything immoral, unethical, or downright awful. We know they did. We established public education and TV news so that everyone would remember that they did. It just means that there’s no reason for those people who did wrong to feel ashamed, because feeling ashamed doesn’t accomplish anything.
In fact, I don’t think shame is a feeling. Not a natural one. It’s a dirty, useless, stupid pseudo-feeling that hurts people and ruins lives, without ever righting a wrong or salving a hurt feeling.