British science fiction author Charles Stross has published an extraordinary attack on American political culture on his blog, describing it as bereft of mercy and suffering from a taint across every area of public discussion.
Using the examples of the protests of the USA administration about the release from Scottish prison of terrorist Abdelbaset Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds because of his terminal cancer, and the ongoing debate about healthcare reform, Stross attacked the entire American political establishment in a blog entry posted yesterday:
There is a cancer in the collective American soul — a mercy deficit that has in recent years grown as alarmingly as the budget deficit. Nor is it as simple as a left/right thing: no political party has a monopoly on merciless behaviour. Rather, a creeping draconian absolutism has cast its penumbra across the entire arena of public discourse, tainting every debate, poisoning and hardening attitudes across the board.
In a side note, Stross tells members of the far-right British Nationalist Party to just “fuck off right now”, noting there are “some folks I can do without”.
It’s not the first time that Stross has aired his political views in public; just days ago the author wrote a lengthy piece about privacy issues surrounding the United Kingdom’s National DNA Database, describing one of the practices around it as “merely a steaming turd in the punchbowl of the right to privacy”.
Interestingly, sci-fi blog io9 directly questioned Stross in January 2008 on the topic of when science fiction itself becomes a form of political intervention.
Stross answered that fiction is usually used as an entertainment medium; as such, political fiction is “at its best precisely when it doesn’t preach, but restricts itself to showing the reader a different way of life or thought, and merely makes it clear that this is an end-point or outcome for some kind of political creed.”
Sorry Charles, but I’m going to call bullshit on this one. You’re way out of line with your attacks on American society, which paint all participants in the political process, even the self-sacrificing ones with everyone’s interests at heart, as cynical, cold-hearted and without mercy.
If you spend any time in America or with Americans, I think you’ll find plenty of people who believe that Texas’ record on capital punishment is appalling, that the healthcare system needs to be basically rebuilt from scratch, and even that the Second Amendment should be repealed so that everyone and their dog can’t just go around carrying an Uzi.
Sure, there are a stack of problems with the US political establishment. But there are just as many dedicated and hardworking people who are devoting their lives to fixing those problems, and to have any sort of credibility as a political pundit, you need to acknowledge that. The landslide election of the inspirational figure of Barack Obama – for all his flaws – is the tip of the iceberg consisting of a revolution going on right now in American political thought.
Frankly, your attack on the US political establishment comes across as just the sort of crass and arrogant generalisation and preaching from the pulpit that many accuse Americans of.
I’m an Australian, and I know plenty of great people on both sides of the Atlantic. So let’s get this pissing contest over and just get on with the job of creating great science fiction; maybe even science fiction that will inspire people to think outside the box and make fundamental changes in the way so many human societies desperately need.
Jeez. Looks like I’m not going to be interviewing Charles Stross any time soon!