No Laboratories For The Purpose of Experimentation

[WARNING: Herein lies opinion (more so than normal) + SciFi. If you’ve never seen at least the pilot of Stargate Atlantis, the premise of this post will make very little sense to you.]

A friend of mine said to me tonight, in reference to a gubernatorial race, “they both suck, but that one sucks less, so that’s who I’m voting for.” I asked him how he determined who sucked less and he replied with, “I flipped a coin. Tails won.” Literally, the first thing that came to mind was this: and now we’ve resorted to the John Sheppard school of decision making…flip a coin, because both options are equally as bad. 

In the SciFi world, particularly Stargate, the Sheppardian school of decision making works great (or the O’Neill school of ‘it doesn’t matter, Daniel! Just pick one!): because let’s face it, no matter which address you choose, they’re gonna be equally as horrible once you step through the ‘gate. Wraith, or Jaffa, or a pissed off crazy tribe of renegade Asgard…something bad always awaits. The difference between the world of Stargate and the real world is, well, the real part. In actuality, flipping a coin shouldn’t be how you make decisions—especially not political decisions. Lately, however, the political decisions really have been the equivalent of spending the rest of your (short lived) military career stationed at McMurdo, or taking an assumed one way trip through the ‘gate. 

Anyone who’s ever taken a polisci class has the phrase “politics is perception” drummed into their head…and it’s because it’s true. In America there really are only two political parties…others run, and you’ll see them on the ticket, but they won’t win. Voting for someone not a democrat or republican is, basically, a protest vote. And in reality, it’s not gonna do anything (unless you live in Vermont). When you’re options come down to (as Leo would say) “the lesser of who cares,” you enter a political world that’s more unstable than a network television show. Because, much like network television, the mood in politics changes almost daily. One bad episode can lead to a ratings descent from which you may never recover. The problem is that politics, much like Hollywood (Definition: where they make things you see on TV or in a movie theatre), has become all about the money. 

The thing about Hollywood is that it used to be really did. I’m not saying Hollywood was ever anything except a business, but it certainly used to be more about what went on film and less about how much money a studio could make. Now, however, the bottom line is studio revenue. Movies and television shows which may, in reality, be incredible (Cloud Atlas, anyone?) are considered flops if they don’t bring in the revenue the studio thinks it should (or in the case of Stargate, something darker and ‘hipper’)The problem with money is that money=power…and as the very old saying says “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” (trivia time: who said it? Answer at the bottom). 

What do Hollywood producers and politicians have in common? Both need lots of power to survive in their own world…and both need lots of money to get there. As the cast of Stargate Atlantis has intimate knowledge of, sometimes you get axed for no reason other than they think they can get more money out of something new and shiny. However, that new and shiny thing? It doesn’t always work out.  

Politics is much the same: there’d never be a challenged political seat if party not holding the seat didn’t think they’d get more power by holding the seat. To win a seat you need money…and the people who give you money are going to demand things once you win, and if you don’t do what they want, next election they’ll give money to the thing that’s new and shiny and will do what they want. Winnings expensive, but not as expensive as losing…and every 2 years the cycle repeats. 

And so the options dwindle…both on your television screen and at the voting booth…and the American public is left with lessons learned from Stargate: just choose one and commit, because the likelihood is that the other’s going to be equally as terrible and you’re gonna end up getting shot at regardless of which planet you pick.

[ANSWER: NOT John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1st Baron Acton (which is probably what you answered)…Lord Acton wrote in a letter to Bishop Creighton in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Lord Acton probably ‘borrowed’ the idea from both William Pitt the Younger when he said “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it” in 1770 OR more probably an English translation of a French essay by Lamartine entitled France and England: A Vision of the Future, which was published in London in 1848… the translation says: “… for absolute power corrupts the best natures.” Since I don’t speak French, I’ve no idea if that’s an interpretive or direct translation. I’d suggest NOT reading the translation of Lamartine’s essay, however, unless you need a cure for insomnia.]

[I don’t usually write THIS late (early?), so if this made zero sense, I apologise. Leave a comment and I’ll edit when I wake up.]


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