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 Space: AAB

ON SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND

Section Index


  1. Frequency of Life
  2. Creation of an Enemy
  3. The Mechanics of War

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caveat: As can be inferred from the date of publication, this article may no longer represent my current views and style. It remains here for archival purposes to provide a sense of documentation and should be treated as such.

1. Frequency of Life

An aspect that's seen differently in Space: Above and Beyond than in other sf series like Star Trek or Babylon 5 is the frequency of life in the universe - an issue important concerning expansion into space and confrontations with extraterrestrial species. While there is even doubt that there might be any kind of extraterrestrial life, this thesis, once accepted, doesn't have to lead to the conclusion that life in space would be 'everywhere' - that's a completely different thing.

Frequency is also a matter of perspective. Population density - if one could call it this way - is also a matter of comparison: The average density of population is quite large in the North American West, compared to the Sahara or Antarctica, but compared to Central Europe the opposite would be true. To speak of a population density concerning to outer space, one would have to take into account various factors: The first would be the availability of planets (or other celestial bodies) suitable for supporting life on it. Not every star will have planets, not every planets circling a star will be supporting life. So there would be natural limitations regarding to population of space.

But then, there would not only be species around us dealing with the same kind of technology we do; there would be much more advanced species out there, too (see Extraterrestrial Life, Pts 9ff). For those species, terraforming and construction of space stations would expand their ability to populate space. There could very well be quite ancient pieces of technology around in space (like the communications relay network used by Voyager and the Hirogen in VGR's 4.14 'Message in a Bottle' or the ancient transportation system of the Iconians seen in TNG's 2.11 'Contagion').

The approach Space uses focusses just on two species with very much the same kind of technology. Two younger species who have just begun to claim space for themselves, two species originating from the planet Earth. The distances and technology used to cross these distances are not explicitly made clear, but it seems that the Earth ships somehow use wormholes to get access to farther regions of space. But then, this is not Star Trek - the show is not really a science fiction show. This is a military show, a dark show of the type of The X-Files - so one shouldn't expect any explanations.

The approach Star Trek uses seems a bit more realistic to me concerning the handling and explanation of technology and to the density of population in space. But Star Trek is a completely different show. The appeal of Space is that it is different; that another perspective is used - a perspective that is much more frightening and which reveals how complicated it could very well be to deal with an unknown species for the first time. They have completely messed up first contact (see Extraterrestrial Life, Pt 5), and both sides are fighting an enemy which is ruthless, brutal, unforgiving and basically unknown. A situation best to avoid.

PJK
September 4th, 1998







2. Creation of an Enemy

What reasons are there to start a war? And if there are indeed reasons for that, how valid would they be? Would they hold true and prove 'right' in the face of destruction, pillage, terror, killing and even genocide? Reasons for leading wars are often constructions; constructed for certain purposes and under certain conditions. Jurisdiction can be an effective way to create such a cause which would incite war. Also peacekeeping actions are such constructions; but they are based upon removing a threat to global and national security and aimed towards freedom of the population. Peacekeeping is a valuable option against an oppressor, aggressor or dictator - it was peacekeeping that ended World War II; without the effort of the Allies, the people living in Nazi Germany would have had no or just a minimal chance to overcome their oppressors. Peacekeeping doesn't mean to pacify - this term describes the ancient Roman way to eliminate conflicts: By eliminating opponents, often by aggressing them first, by making use of preemptive strikes. The destruction of Carthage, Corinth (both in 146 BC) or Numantia (133 BC) are such examples. This kind of 'pacifying' is no peacekeeping; it is nothing else than a euphemism for war.

The construction of a cause for war needs a construction of conflicts of interests - a necessity to spend the people's resources and troups and hope for a business that's called war; war has always been a business, an enterprise, and it will always be this way - there would be no reasons to start a war if there were no chances for gaining profit; profit gained both through production and selling of weapons and through assimilation of another culture, of that culture's industry and manpower. Conquest knows no rules, no laws, for laws are always peace laws. There might be conventions and concessions made to lessen the horror war produces, but those agreements will fall once they prove hindering from victory. Another example is the French Revolution: Great ideas and ideals were fought for, but when they found resistance the new rulers knew no mercy; the tyranny of the Jacobines counts among the cruelest intitutions in history; and Napoleon Bonaparte's following conquest of Europe was not really an indication of the noble ideas once fought for. War has always been an option of business and politics, that's why efforts towards a unified Europe and a global community as well as towards ending poverty and misery are so important. Once there are no social and economic borders anymore, once all share the same benefits the need for war and aggression will disappear.

War needs justification; and if there is no justification it creates one. One of the oldest and most effective means to achieve that has been propaganda - an effective manipulation of the opinions of the audience; not by telling the truth but by usinig a sophisticated mixture of truth and lies, of making an appeal to the fears and anxietes and xenophobia of the people. Propaganda is a tool of politics used for war; politics being both master and servant of war: War, once started, creates justifications for itself, diverting from the truth by again creating new causes. Pride and revenge are servants of war, too, betraying the soldiers on both sides.

What has been said, was said about starting a war. There is a difference between starting and continuing and resisting it. Self-defense as well as assisting others in self-defense are valuable causes to enter a war; not because one would be defending oneself but because one would be protecting innocents - on both sides. But self-defense shall never lead to turning the tables around; there can be no justifications for that. There has to be a visible difference between aggressing and defending party, which means that morality and ethics should always be uphold. Of course, military strategy would demand for an aggressive defense - there is no way of winning a war by just reacting to enemy approaches. Anyone who has played 'Civilization' or 'Age of Empires' or similar games would know that.

The worst thing which could happen is to really create an enemy, to create hatred among the prople themselves. The consequences of that are shown in Space: Above and Beyond: Two civilizations desperately spending all their resources on a war which neither side would be able to win. Apart from the ethical consequences, this is a waste of lives, a waste of energy, of efforts, of time. Armament might be pushing the technological revolution, but war is destruction of everything accomplished before. To start again and to develop a new relationship between former adversaries isn't quite easy; that holds true for both political wars and disputes between friends or family members.

PJK
September 9th, 1998







3. The Mechanics of War

Space: Above and Beyond is not basically a science fiction show, it is mainly a show about war; about the nature of war, about its cruelities, about its consequences, about the ones fighting in it, about the emotions causing war and aroused by war. The mechanics of war are being dictated by a level of necessity - conventions are a very nice and necessary thing, but at the end war knows no rules. War is ruthless, war is organized killing. But who is to be made responsible for it? Which side is to blame?

War is about the responsibility of command. There are decisions to make, risks to take, justifications needed. But what then is a justi-fication? Can anything be made just, made to be right? Isn't a justification (by the very etymological definition of the word) always a construction, serving a pragmatic agenda? Everything can be justified - but that doesn't make it right, doesn't make it just. The product of justification is not something which is just but something which has been justified, has been given a mask of righteousness. This holds true for any kind of war, performed with weapons or in any other way. War is a fight of aggression and defense; it need not be fought with what is usually understood as weapons. The most effective weapons then are propaganda and economy; and the truth - which would but have to speak for itself for we do not know it entirely.

There is nothing like a "neat" and "tidy" war - for war is aimed at producing casualties, aimed at creating a victorious and a defeated party. War is the most direct and most obvious creation of artificial structures; it is most obviously an act of force, a violation of truth, a manipulation of reality under a certain premise. The justification needed will be created according to the nature of the party organizing its war, which will also determine its range of options. A dictatorial or totalitarian regime will always be much more ruthless and aggressive than a liberal democratic state; for a totalitarian state is already a construction working against diversity. Despotism is much more difficult to justify; a war led by such a regime would have to be fought at two fronts and its aim would always be to justify itself, to defend its barbaric nature. Liberal states then would in reality be much more stable, their economy much stronger. It might take a while to arrive at decisions, but in the long run a democracy will always be the superior system.

War, as soon as it is started, develops a dynamic of its own, arising from the fact that - apart from the leadership behind - a military unit and a military commander will always have to adapt to the circumstances. At the lowest level, there are human beings, basically trying to survive. Shows like Space: AAB or North and South and movies like 'Saving Private Ryan' show those situations quite extensively; they also show the tragegy of killing; the burden of killing. But soldiers are not murderers; their function is to defend the people against an enemy; whatever intentions their commanders might have. The single individual is forced to act as a weapon; a single soldier would not be able to make a difference. Responsibility only becomes an issue when there is a possibility.

The victims of war are both civilians and soldiers. Whatever side effects war might have, might it be that armament increase the speed of technological progress or support the economy; - those positive effects are not there because of war but in spite of it - war means destruction; after destruction creation will (or should) follow. But this can never be a justification for war. The pain, the sorrow, the crime, the hatred, the desire for revenge, the ensuing political instability cause more trouble than can be dealt with. The catastrophic conditions in former European colonies, the conflicts in Israel, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and wherever else are to a great extent resulting from power plays of former colonial empires or of the Cold War. The inheritance of war lasts longer than the event itself - just as Vietnam is still present in its survivors, in the entire nation even; just as the Holocaust and the terrors of the Nazi regime are still present in those who had to suffer from it or have in some way dealt with it. The terror of religious zealotry is still visible, still a dark chapter of all denominations and religions. The legacy of slavery is still dividing society. The sins of the past are still demanding attention - is that what original sin would be about? Here comes the question of guilt again - but blaming someone responsible does never restore the lives of the victims.

PJK
November 1st, 1998





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