Miscellanea, plus The Handmaid’s Tale and Women’s Rights

A roundup of the weird, the interesting, and whatever else has caught my attention.

Stories

Richard C. Dellinger’s debut novel Dr. Mosquito was released on March 27th. It’s billed as a cross between “Michael Crichton’s clever techno-thrillers and Stephen King’s nerve-shredding horror novels.” Hmm. Interesting.

Has anyone seen Ghost in the Shell or is everyone boycotting it?

I saw Life not long back. Alien it ain’t. Nope, not even close.

Science & Technology

Boom Technology is reintroducing supersonic flight, at 1/10th the price of NASA’s planned return to the industry. Yes, private industry does it better, faster, and cheaper than the government. Who’s still surprised by this?

MIT Professor Tim Berners-Lee was honored with the A.M. Turing Award for his work conceiving of and developing the World Wide Web.

On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Some people, at least, are celebrating his achievement.

John Glenn, the first American in space, was interred in Arlington National Cemetery on April 6th. May he rest in peace.

Astronomers have detected an atmosphere around a nearby, not-quite Earth-sized planet. Since the planet probably has a very high surface temperature, we may not want to visit it anytime soon.

For Authors

Self-published Science Fiction and Fantasy author Chris Fox continues his “12 Weeks to a Trilogy” video series with Week 7: Dealing with Setbacks. I particularly like these since Chris talks about what he’s doing in the moment as a writer.

Focus: The Handmaid’s Tale and Women’s Rights

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I read Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale in high school, and later watched the television adaptation. The story has lingered in my mind since then and spurred (or perhaps inspired) my own forays into the Speculative Fiction realm, particularly because of its power to challenge the way people think of and perceive society and their roles within it.

Hulu chose a perfect time to produce and release a newly envisioned television remake of The Handmaid’s Tale, as the old wanker Obama and his paternalistic policies were replaced by the new wanker Trump and his perceived anti-woman policies. The progressive left collapsed into rounds of election-induced hysteria amid fears of the forfeiture of civil liberties for women and minorities, thus boosting the interest in Atwood’s theocratic dystopian vision.

In fact, it’s a great time to write and publish a dystopian novel, especially one spotlighting Trump’s economy-busting “Make America Great Again” platform, but that’s a subject for another post.

Atwood drew her inspiration for The Handmaid’s Tale from America’s puritanical roots and from the “social, political, and religious trends of 1980s United States.” (Never mind that she’s Canadian; maybe she felt the story wouldn’t have nearly as much oomph if it were set in her native country.) Many feminists and others felt the deep government spending cuts of the era focused entirely too much on programs affecting primarily women, and that women’s roles in the workforce were rolled back in detrimental ways during the ’80s economic boom.

Maybe so, maybe not so.

What everyone seems to be forgetting, even Atwood herself, is that government, regardless of its kind and depth, has a limiting power on individual rights, not a creative one. Women hold the same rights as men simply because we are human and therefore, one hopes, thinking, sentient creatures. This does not change when or if we marry (although at one time, it did in the eyes of the law**), when we enter the workforce, or when we have children (or don’t). A woman’s fundamental rights do not change with shifting political winds (although her rights may be legally curtailed, as are a man’s) simply because government is not the originator of fundamental rights; yet we have (wrongly) relied on it to guarantee those rights.

Take, for example, the legal constraints placed on speech (protected by the 1st Amendment), self-defense (protected by the 2nd Amendment), and privacy (protected by the 4th Amendment) which have pervaded the legal landscape in recent years. These constraints erode everyone’s freedom, regardless of the good intentions behind the restrictions (to curtail “hate” speech, for example). I’ll come back to that in a moment.

The fear of losing fundamental rights is, of course, understandable. Trump’s supporters are largely conservative and religious, and have been quite vocal in their determination to enforce “traditional” marriage, end a woman’s freedom of reproductive choice, and otherwise cram through a bevy of legislation that would trample the gains made in civil liberties since the 1960s. In the eyes of those on the left, President Trump, et al. will force society to revert to an era when women’s identities were subsumed by a man’s, thus creating an atmosphere hostile to the natural equality most rational citizens hope we can achieve.

To counter this erosion from equality into subservience, progressives and their allies turn to government. Government, however, is not the proper avenue for societal change, as government is not the originator of fundamental rights; it can only protect them, and in protecting them, it often creates a legal quagmire in which the rights themselves are restricted or forced into judicial review that pits governmental authority against individual rights. Such action also breeds resentment among conservatives hoping to win governmental support of their own societal ideals.

Everyone turns to government, all the while forgetting that government and society are two different entities. Real change cannot be forced by law; it should not be appropriated by the political elite and reduced to a campaign slogan.

It must instead be spread through grass roots educational efforts. It must be demonstrated through day to day contact with those holding differing opinions and outlooks. It must be earned through tolerance and patience and the refusal to withhold respect of and courtesy to one’s ideological opponents. Change must be rational, thoughtful, and humble, and it must never, ever be approached with the intention of infringing upon someone else’s fundamental rights.

Real change is achieved by one individual reaching out to another. It is spread from individual to family and friends in rippling waves affecting entire communities. It’s slow and messy and difficult, but it’s far more effective than any law will ever be.

Laws can be ignored. The fate of someone we love cannot.

While my progressive liberal friends were bemoaning the plight of the American woman in the Trump era, I quietly began doing what all good libertarians do: I began speaking out for individual rights, as I did during the entirety of President Obama’s reign. I don’t shout or argue. I am not emotional or confrontational. I merely speak the truth, that we are all inherently equal, and I keep repeating that truth until people listen and understand and absorb it into their outlook.

I know, deep down, that America will not slide into the theocratic dystopia portrayed in Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Government be damned; it’s part of the problem anyway. Society is what We, the People, make it to be, and We, the People, are by golly a tremendous powerhouse for change.

** I recommend Marilyn Salmon’s Women and the Law of Property in Early America as a starting point for the study of women’s historic rights in the US.

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