Column by Bob Wallace.
Exclusive to STR
A few months before I turned 12, I read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. I was never the same. Since at that age I was very susceptible to science-fiction, the novel had a profound effect on my 11-year-old sensibilities (you should have seen what Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Fighting Man of Mars did to me – I read it at least 20 times within two years).
It wasn’t until college that I was taught about one of the main themes in the novel – the Machine State versus the Natural State. The Morlocks represented the Machine State and the Eloi the Natural State. You can see the same theme in “Star Wars,” where Darth Vader (who is half machine) and the Storm Troopers (who are identical interchangeable cogs) represent the Machine State and the Ewoks represent the Natural State.
The Machine State is supposed to represent evil and got its start during the Industrial Revolution, mostly because of the horrid conditions imposed on factory workers in England by law by the owners (the government even took the workers’ land from them in the Clearances, to force them into the cities to work in the factories). The ghastly conditions in these places are why William Blake referred to them as “dark Satanic mills.”
There is nothing inherently wrong with machines. They’re amoral, neither good nor bad, and can be used for both. All they do is amplify our natural abilities, which is why there exists Cooper’s Law: “All machines are amplifiers.”
However, since machines can be used for horrendous evil – depleted uranium, cluster bombs – writers often concentrate on the bad instead of the good. These days, writers have gone beyond seeing the use of machines as bad things and are now concentrating on people being turned into machines, i.e., Darth Vader and the Borg.
It wasn’t until that particular English class in college that I was also taught the Wells portrayed the Morlocks as what the English working classes would evolve into, and the Eloi, what the English upper classes would turn into. In other words, what the poor and the rich would evolve into.
If you apply some free market political and economic theory to Wells’ contention, you’ll find the Morlocks and the Eloi are what happens to those who use what Albert Jay Nock in Our Enemy the State called the Political Means of force and fraud instead of the Economic Means of persuasion and political and economic liberty.
The Political Means are what produces the Morlocks and the Eloi. Or, to use some of the terms of the more Machiavellian of political scientists, the Masses and the Elites. Or, to use some older definitions, the Sheep and the Wolves. Only now, you might call them, paraphrasing James Burnham, the Machines and the Managers.
The evolution Wells wrote about will never happen, but I certainly understand his point, and like all good artists he was, as Ezra Pound wrote, an antenna of the human race. He looked at what he saw in his time and extrapolated into the future. For that matter, if you want to understand the future, look to the past. The farther you can see into the past, the farther you can see into the future.
History is in fact the same old tired story over and over – the Machine keeps growing and growing, just like the Borg, until it takes over everything. Why? “Why do you resist us?” complains the Borg Queen. “We only want to improve the quality of your lives.”
As both Aesop and Jesus noticed, all tyrants call themselves benefactors.
Since Wells’ time, the idea of the Machine State has evolved. The most famous archetype of the Machine State is Darth Vader. Later it was the Borg from “Star Trek.” Vader was a fun villain at first (the first time I saw “Star Wars,” everyone hissed at him) but the Borg were never fun. And they were far more frightening than Vader or anything else in “Star Wars.”
In all the cases above, what we’re dealing with is the idea of the State trying to turn everyone into a machine. It’s not as outlandish as it sounds.
“G.I.” means “government issue” and soldiers are expendable cogs. The military tries to turn them into – what else? – “killing machines.” They even use drugs to achieve this goal. The perfect soldier would be what the Greeks called Myrmidons – ant-soldiers.
Soldiers aren’t even supposed to be conscious. Smedley Butler, author of War Is a Racket, said that when he was a Marine, he never had a thought in his head.
And, not surprisingly, the members of the Borg (all of whom were kidnapped) have little self-consciousness – it’s why they make such good warrior-ants.
Parenthetically, in the movie “Starship Troopers,” I couldn’t figure out whose side I was on. The Bugs represented a very regimented Machine State, but then, so did the humans with their “soft fascism” (some of the people in the theater were yelling, “Kill Doogie Howser!”). It was the same as wondering if you should support the Nazis or Communists in World War II.
Leftists of whatever kind see the public merely as checkers to be moved around as they see fit. The public isn’t exactly human to them, and if you’re not human then you can certainly be considered a machine.
And isn’t the purpose of public schools to turn graduates into working and consuming machines? John Taylor Gatto has documented that extensively in his book, The Underground History of American Education.
Under political and economic liberty, people fall into their natural roles. Under the heel of the State, they are things, cogs in a machine, and are expendable. This is why in the 20th Century up to 200 million people died in State-created wars.
One of the things leftism is dedicated to – indeed one of its main characteristics – is to make people exactly equal. Of course, if people are exactly equal – an impossibility – then they are as interchangeable as parts in a machine.
The human race has only two alternatives: the State, or liberty. The Political Means or the Economic Means. Force and fraud or persuasion. Checkers or people.
As Alfred North Whitehead wrote in his book, Adventures of Ideas, about the difference between persuasion and force: "The creation of the world -- said Plato -- is the victory of persuasion over force . . . . Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative. The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals . . . .
"Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of these two forms: force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force."
As things stand now in the United States, one percent of the people own 40% of the wealth. This did not happen through the free market. It happened by that one percent using the power of the State to appropriate the wealth of the other 99 percent.
You might consider that one percent to be the Eloi and the other 99 percent to be the Morlocks. At least that’s the way things are headed. If the Elites (I use that term neutrally) had their way, the Masses would be working ten to twelve hours a day and be living in North Korean cinderblock apartments and living on oatmeal and potatoes.
In Wells’ novel, the Morlocks turned the tables and used the Eloi as food, just as hundreds of thousands of years before the English upper classes had used the power of the State to feed off of the working classes.
Poetic justice, you might say.
States never last. They self-destruct. As I write this, local and state governments are going bankrupt. No wonder, either.
When things start to collapse, I expect to see some revenge from the proto-Morlocks against their oppressors. Wells certainly predicted that.
Revenge against oppressors is, after all, a natural thing.