Friday, February 7, 2014

Man, Myth and Magic

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Forbidden Planet is a classic Sci-Fi tour de force staring Leslie Nielson, Walter Pidgeon, and Anne Francis. Released in 1956, it holds up surprisingly well against Star Wars, the Star Trek series and even the most recent digital entries into the genre.

The story of Dr. Morbius, re-discovering the technological marvels of a lost race of Krell on the distant planet Altair, is updated Shakespeare: The Tempest. Forbidden Planet excels in special effects, but it's enduring fascination is to be found in it story --a parable of technology vs its inventor, the monster vs Dr. Frankenstein, the enemy of our own making.

Forbidden Planet shows us the dark side of human kind, a forbidding gestalt of uncontrollable urges that lies within all of us --a monster from the ID! Even intelligence —seemingly papered over the more powerful id —cannot negate our darkest, deepest reservoirs. Just as Lord of the Rings depicts the absolute corruption of absolute power,

Forbidden Planet confronts us with a question we would rather not answer: what are we to do with the physical manifestations of our inmost monsters?

Far fetched? Consider this: what are nuclear weapons if not the "physical manifestations" of our darkest, unconscious impulses?

Is "Terrorism" a Monster From the ID?

It was stated on the internet that the U.S. is hated by 100% of terrorists. Aside from being an amusing tautology, it misses the point. FBI statistics, for example, published by the Brookings Institution, utterly repudiate the political exploitation of terror.

The FBI's own numbers are conclusive: while Ronald Reagan waged his famous "War on Terrorism", terrorist attacks against the United States increased. Terrorist attacks were many times greater under Reagan than Clinton. Yet Clinton is criticized for not having waged such a war, if war it is. It raises the question: is it preferable to wage a war and fail than not wage a war and succeed?

Like Morbius of Forbidden Planet, we may be too late to recognize that the only demons that howl are of our own making. Shakespeare's The Tempest deals with the same question: what does it mean to be human? The traditions of the enlightenment, and more recently, of Existentialism, come down heavily on the side of the fully realized individual --free to be human within the context of a free society.

How oddly quaint and surrealistically naive that seems after a mere two years of debacle and the unleashed madness of the monsters from the Id.