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Beta Colony as a model of totalitarian socialism

Cyril Slobin

forwarded from conference FidoNet Ru.Sf.News

Translated by Maxim Poddoubnyi

The first time I read Bujold's scene of Cordelia's first acquaintance Barrayar level of poverty (" Absence of communicator is a lowest standard of living you can imagine? " and later " we had somehow stopped on middle class "), I had thought in this order:

1) The heroine is a naive little fool who had not seen the bottom of Betan society. But this opinion of mine is contradicted by the scene of Miles's acquaintance with Jesek (who tried to live the way, in his opinion, scum of society should live, and the local municipality had diligently tried to raise him upward). This means that in described by Bujold Colony Beta the poverty really does not exist.

2) The author is a the naive little fool who assumes, that it is possible to build a society, " stopping on middle class ", that is a society without poverty. Small naive utopia.

3) And then I had thought once again. And had understood, that the world of Colony Beta is tremendously plausible. The thing is that with us (in a European-type civilization) ethics were initially formed on a background of low population density and not too hostile nature (in Ellade - better, in Scandinavia - worse, but it is livable everywhere). And consequently the basic its (ethics) principle - " leave and do not meddle(prevent) ". There are interdictions on active intervention ("do not kill ", "do not steal"), but nobody is obliged to interfere positively (except for hospitality) - that is to feed, dress and so on. If you are hungry - go to a forest, get meat and skins. You are not obliged to socialize all the while. Antisocial types are simply expelled and there, being expelled, with good chances live by themselves.

4) So, what was I about? The thing is that we here and now are still using these ethics even though we don't live in the forest any more. We didn't have a physical opportunity to live outside the socium for a long time. And our traditional ethical system still means it its basis.

5) Dammit, got distracted again. So, Colony Beta. It, actually, not a planet. That is it is a planet as a cosmic body, but it doesn't have "forests, fields and rivers" (Note: this is a quote from a Russian/Soviet classic song.. The full quote would be "My country is so very wide; It has lots of forests, fields and rivers"). From the point of view of the inhabitants it is one big space station. Meaning that it is completely artificial ecosystem, designed for joint residing of strictly certain amount of people. There are no freebie resources like fish in the river (those in the fountains are counted and belong to a zoo) and even water in the sink and air in corridors. But, on the other hand, not to give you the resources already counted up and allocated for you as the inhabitant number 31415926 makes no sense. Regardless whether you can pay for or not. Basically, it is cheaper to allocate for you a bed in a hostel (which had been built bearing you in mind), than to misstep over you sleeping in a corridor time and time again. From here comes all way of life in Colony Beta - a guaranteed high enough level of life (I want there!), rigid discipline in the questions concerning functioning of a life-support system, the compulsory psychiatric help. This is a socium which from the very beginning realizes, that there is no place to expel asocial elements. Hence, with them it is necessary to do something else. To kill? Yes, and certainly, - how could I forget about it? - the most severe control of birth rate.

6) Finally I want to once again underline - our traditional concept of freedom is based on an at least a thousand-year old ecologo-economical situation. Beta Colony has managed to depart from this tradition, and some consequences of this departure seem to us extremely rigid, breaking freedoms habitual to us. But, actually, we already live in the conditions close to Beta, for quite some time, and the longer we pull ourselves our century old traditions, the worse it will be worse to us. For a long time it is time to proceed to a highly organized (AKA totalitarian) society.

June, 2000