Overarching Themes in Dune

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gurensan
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Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby gurensan » 01 May 2012 12:44

The obvious idea Herbert gets across about the dangers of blindly following charismatic leaders is pretty well summed up in the old adages of "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" and "too much TV will rot ur brainz," but I'm seeing an even bigger theme after having read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and the 2 novels he wrote following it that I don't think Herbert had in mind.

That theme is difficult to put into an easy metaphorical phrases like the above. It's a commentary about civilization as a whole and how following a single structure is a recipe for disaster. Quinn gives examples of primitive peoples in the form of parables; Herbert gets this across with his story of the degeneration of the Imperium in the early books and continues it with the Scattering. It's the driving purpose behind Leto II's Golden Path - he'd run humankind into the ground and given it such a case of cabin fever that when the Famine Times came after, it was only the straw that broke the camel's back with respect to mankind's need to get out and explore and find new places to live.

This sounds like a commentary on Western Civilization to me, when coupled with the ideas presented in Quinn's work - that we've glued ourselves to only one way of doing things and it's going to eventually wipe us out, just as we have wiped out nearly all other cultures that existed before, if we don't realize that there is in fact no one right way to live. Just like in the universal faufreluches system governing 100% of mankind, the global system we have now also causes us to stagnate and become restless.

Anyone else come up with anything similar, or sniff similar glue?
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby gurensan » 18 May 2012 17:02

Not a single response in 17 days? Wow. Stumper I guess.

I'd at least expected a "ura retArd" or something...
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby Freakzilla » 18 May 2012 18:41

gurensan wrote:Not a single response in 17 days? Wow. Stumper I guess.

I'd at least expected a "ura retArd" or something...


We don't attack ideas. Now, if you BEHAVE like a retard, that's a different story.

I haven't read Ishmael, so I can't really comment.
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby gurensan » 18 May 2012 20:01

Bummer
Freakzilla wrote:
gurensan wrote:Not a single response in 17 days? Wow. Stumper I guess.

I'd at least expected a "ura retArd" or something...


We don't attack ideas. Now, if you BEHAVE like a retard, that's a different story.

I haven't read Ishmael, so I can't really comment.


Bummer. Probably should, it put a lot of things into a different perspective. FH's themes in particular took on a completely different color after reading it.
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby Lundse » 22 May 2012 06:51

In short, I think you are right, but I think these themes were deliberately there by Herberts design. No other reading required. Except maybe Listening to the left hand...? http://www.aeriagloris.com/Resources/FrankHerbertEssay/ListeningToTheLeftHand.htm

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby Sandwurm88 » 22 May 2012 19:45

I've read Ishmael, and, although its an interesting book, I don't think it really has the same scope of ideas that Dune has, and covers. Ishmael is basically focused around the idea that civilization as a whole is corrupt and will run itself into the ground, and that we should go back to being primitive nomads...Quinn likens this "revolution" against civilization that he apparently actually actively promoting to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, basically saying that anything is possible and that we go just go back to being nomads if we really wanted to, just like nobody would've thought that the USSR would fall apart so quickly, but it did.

So yeah, Ishmael is kind of pretentious (both the character of the telepathic gorilla named Ishmael and the book itself), but I can see the parallels with the Scattering. That being said, Leto II is a much more effective and convincing sponsor of the Golden Path than Ishmael and Daniel Quinn are for whatever the hell they are pushing...Which basically boils down to a book that appeals primarily to anti-social people who hate society...Let's face it...

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby Freakzilla » 22 May 2012 21:32

Obviously being a nomad is better than communism. :roll:
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby lotek » 23 May 2012 05:09

Spice is the worm's gonads.

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby gurensan » 31 May 2012 13:27

Sandwurm88 wrote:I've read Ishmael, and, although its an interesting book, I don't think it really has the same scope of ideas that Dune has, and covers. Ishmael is basically focused around the idea that civilization as a whole is corrupt and will run itself into the ground, and that we should go back to being primitive nomads...Quinn likens this "revolution" against civilization that he apparently actually actively promoting to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, basically saying that anything is possible and that we go just go back to being nomads if we really wanted to, just like nobody would've thought that the USSR would fall apart so quickly, but it did.

So yeah, Ishmael is kind of pretentious (both the character of the telepathic gorilla named Ishmael and the book itself), but I can see the parallels with the Scattering. That being said, Leto II is a much more effective and convincing sponsor of the Golden Path than Ishmael and Daniel Quinn are for whatever the hell they are pushing...Which basically boils down to a book that appeals primarily to anti-social people who hate society...Let's face it...


Ishmael is basically focused around the idea that civilization as a whole is corrupt and will run itself into the ground, and that we should go back to being primitive nomads...


The whole point of Ishmael was to show you the bars of your cage, not to tell you that you and all forms of technological civ are evil. It was to show that you're doing evil things but that you are not evil yourself. It was also to illustrate that there have been many ways of living that worked for hundreds of thousands of years and that forcing this one particular way, the agricultural/industrial way that we live now, on others does not work for all others, because it is destructive to ourselves and everything / everyone else around us, including the dirt under your feet, and that you can't see the bars of your cage because your gaze is being directed elsewhere.

All of these themes have corollaries in OH sextuplet, including Leto II's Golden Path, which could be boiled down to "if we keep going the way we are, we won't make it." The major difference there is that Leto knows the way out but Ishmael doesn't, and he says so repeatedly. Quinn even has Ishmael actually say, "You're a creative species, go create." That's a pretty far cry from Leto thinking "I'm going to hold you all down until you're ready to explode to kickstart you into survival mode."

The styles of writing couldn't be more different, with one being presented as fictional story and the other as fictional lecture, but Leto does the work for us and Ishmael can't. As far as explaining what we're looking at, Quinn does the work for us and FH wouldn't. Both have just as many people completely confused as to what exactly they were writing about.

That's how I see it. I could be just as confused as anyone else, but there are a growing number of people coming back from illnesses by not eating things that are factory-farmed. I think there's something to that and I see currents under both Dune and more blatantly Ishmael that point in those general directions.

Just as an example:

Large-scale monocropping (our current factory-farming method) relies heavily on several things, including:

    -Industrial pesticides: The vast majority of these are made from petroleum and petroleum by-products. The analogies to the spice are fairly obvious. If one compares the Duniverse's addiction to spice to our addiction to oil, which FH knew well, then what happens when the spice is removed also is analogous to what happens when petroleum is removed. Transportation shuts down. Millions die. Quinn also covers this ground thoroughly, adding that food production also falls to pre-industrial levels since you not only can't run a combine without oil, you can't make one, either. I think on this forum it's well known what happens to the Imperium if the spice is destroyed.

    What Quinn and FH both didn't spend much time on is what eventually happens to the weeds when they get used to the herbicides. You get weeds that are immune to herbicides. Cotton farmers in South Carolina already have issues with some serious weeds with woody stems that destroy their harvesting equipment. The weeds are totally immune to round-up. Monsanto doesn't like that publicity on this so it's kept from the mainstream media (mother culture whispering in your ear) . This last point doesn't have much in common with Dune since these ideas weren't in underground rotation at the time FH wrote them, but I'm not so sure he didn't think of it and just decided that it was something too difficult to weave in - after all, what would have happened to Leto had he grown too tolerant of the spice his own body produced?

    -Cleared land: Nearly all farmland in the US used to be forest. The entire east cost of the US up to the Mississippi - a land mass equal to at least half of Europe - used to be almost solid woodlands. That forest used to be habitat for wildlife (and people!). Should the wildlife disappear, as the worms disappear, come the Famine Times we won't have anywhere to scatter to. Here Quinn (and others) and FH diverge somewhat in mechanics, as spice = oil (more or less), and worms/sandtrout/sandplankton/desert = the natural environment (more or less). FH didn't write that spice takes millions of years to ferment, but he does make the same environmental case that nearly all environmental writers do, Quinn included. He just chose to take a different tack with it.

These are just two cases in point, but it seems the theme is the same between the two series - they're both trying to show you the bars of your cage, and while they might show different bars in places, they're both still showing the same cage.

Frank Herbert in COD wrote:Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly
toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has
been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy
develops, government tends more and more to act exclu-
sively in the interests of the ruling class - whether that class
be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or
entrenched bureaucracy.
-Politics as Repeat Phenomenon:
Bene Gesserit Training Manual


Who is the ruling class here, now? Quinn advocates an egalitarian way of doing things, which Tea Partiers will undoubtedly think smells like socialism (though it isn't.. it has an odor much more like "responsible anarchy" than socialism).

To me, Quinn and Herbert both have the same message just delivered in wildly different ways.

*I hope I didn't move around too much. I think in pictures, not in words, and the pictures move!

*EDIT: In my original post I stated that I didn't think Herbert had these same themes in mind., I now amend that opinion to say that I don't think that there's any chance he didn't!
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby gurensan » 31 May 2012 13:38

Lundse wrote:In short, I think you are right, but I think these themes were deliberately there by Herberts design. No other reading required. Except maybe Listening to the left hand...? http://www.aeriagloris.com/Resources/FrankHerbertEssay/ListeningToTheLeftHand.htm


Lundse that is AWESOME. I've never seen that before... or the other essays, either.
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby jakoye » 30 Jun 2012 11:15

gurensan wrote:The whole point of Ishmael was to show you the bars of your cage,


Thanks, but this "cage" has produced the richest, best-fed (in fact, overfed), most successful society the world has ever seen. Problems? Of course. Problems are part of life and part of any system of economic or political organization. But just because there're problems doesn't mean you need to throw the whole thing out the window and start from scratch again.

gurensan wrote:Large-scale monocropping (our current factory-farming method) relies heavily on several things, including:

    -Industrial pesticides: The vast majority of these are made from petroleum and petroleum by-products. The analogies to the spice are fairly obvious. If one compares the Duniverse's addiction to spice to our addiction to oil, which FH knew well, then what happens when the spice is removed also is analogous to what happens when petroleum is removed. Transportation shuts down. Millions die. Quinn also covers this ground thoroughly, adding that food production also falls to pre-industrial levels since you not only can't run a combine without oil, you can't make one, either. I think on this forum it's well known what happens to the Imperium if the spice is destroyed.


Yes, the world is dependent on oil. Yes, it would really suck if all of the oil suddenly disappeared. Luckily, that's not going to happen, so I'm not sure what there is to be worried about here?

gurensan wrote:What Quinn and FH both didn't spend much time on is what eventually happens to the weeds when they get used to the herbicides. You get weeds that are immune to herbicides. Cotton farmers in South Carolina already have issues with some serious weeds with woody stems that destroy their harvesting equipment. The weeds are totally immune to round-up. Monsanto doesn't like that publicity on this so it's kept from the mainstream media (mother culture whispering in your ear) . This last point doesn't have much in common with Dune since these ideas weren't in underground rotation at the time FH wrote them, but I'm not so sure he didn't think of it and just decided that it was something too difficult to weave in - after all, what would have happened to Leto had he grown too tolerant of the spice his own body produced?


So what's the alternative? Go back to pulling out the hoe to dig out individual weeds? No thanks. Yes, plants evolve in order to survive against our herbicides. Our herbicides will evolve too. It's a constant dance and I see no reason that recommends putting on scientific blinders in order to go back to some sort of overly-nostalgialized "perfect" age.

gurensan wrote:-Cleared land: Nearly all farmland in the US used to be forest. The entire east cost of the US up to the Mississippi - a land mass equal to at least half of Europe - used to be almost solid woodlands. That forest used to be habitat for wildlife (and people!). Should the wildlife disappear, as the worms disappear, come the Famine Times we won't have anywhere to scatter to. Here Quinn (and others) and FH diverge somewhat in mechanics, as spice = oil (more or less), and worms/sandtrout/sandplankton/desert = the natural environment (more or less). FH didn't write that spice takes millions of years to ferment, but he does make the same environmental case that nearly all environmental writers do, Quinn included. He just chose to take a different tack with it.


Do you live on the East Coast? It pretty much *is* forest from Maine to the Mississippi. Farming has largely moved on from those areas to the Great Plains and California, where the soil, climate and environment are more efficient for farming. The great unknown story of the last century is the RE-greening of the Eastern United States.

gurensan wrote:
Frank Herbert in COD wrote:Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly
toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has
been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy
develops, government tends more and more to act exclu-
sively in the interests of the ruling class - whether that class
be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or
entrenched bureaucracy.
-Politics as Repeat Phenomenon:
Bene Gesserit Training Manual



Now *this* I fully believe, especially as it came from the pen of the master. ;) Governments and societies do often evolve as Herbert describes, IMO. Can the US avoid this fate? Probably not, but it may or may not have more time than other empires have had because of its democratic basis.

gurensan wrote:Who is the ruling class here, now? Quinn advocates an egalitarian way of doing things, which Tea Partiers will undoubtedly think smells like socialism (though it isn't.. it has an odor much more like "responsible anarchy" than socialism).


"Responsible anarchy"? You pretty much lose me at "anarchy". I see no place for that in a civil society because, at the end of the day, "anarchy" to me just means "he who has the most power will win".

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby Outis » 03 Jul 2012 07:29

I don't think one ought to use Quinn to understand Herbert since Quinn wrote later.
It's possible both drew from the same well of course. But in that case, one ought to look for the source.

Lundse wrote:In short, I think you are right, but I think these themes were deliberately there by Herberts design. No other reading required. Except maybe Listening to the left hand...? http://www.aeriagloris.com/Resources/FrankHerbertEssay/ListeningToTheLeftHand.htm

I thank you for the link. I hadn't read that before and I'm pleased to see many of my guesses confirmed. I don't agree with Herbert but I was nevertheless able to get much of this.
I agree that one could in principle guess at the thinking behind much of that essay by using no more than the text of the first Dune books. But I also think some additional reading might be helpful for some. My interpretive hypothesis reagarding Dune is that the cultural references aren't just there for color...

jakoye wrote:You pretty much lose me at "anarchy". I see no place for that in a civil society because, at the end of the day, "anarchy" to me just means "he who has the most power will win".

In politics, anarchy typically doesn't mean what you think it does.
Most of those who have been called anarchists were actually non-Marxist communists who favor direct democracy and decentralized decision-making. It's basically a slur that stuck. Even socialists like Chomsky are often called anarchists.

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby ULFsurfer » 03 Jul 2012 09:32

jakoye wrote:Yes, the world is dependent on oil. Yes, it would really suck if all of the oil suddenly disappeared. Luckily, that's not going to happen, so I'm not sure what there is to be worried about here?


There are no worms here that can produce oil for us.

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby Outis » 03 Jul 2012 09:43

But there are many small deposits which make the resource sort-of-renewable on human timescales. If you take the long view (something we obviously fail at) on the other hand...

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby jakoye » 04 Jul 2012 17:08

Outis wrote:
jakoye wrote:You pretty much lose me at "anarchy". I see no place for that in a civil society because, at the end of the day, "anarchy" to me just means "he who has the most power will win".

In politics, anarchy typically doesn't mean what you think it does.
Most of those who have been called anarchists were actually non-Marxist communists who favor direct democracy and decentralized decision-making. It's basically a slur that stuck. Even socialists like Chomsky are often called anarchists.


Yes, I've heard this many times, but if anarchy were a viable system, then it would have been implemented somewhere and have been shown to be successful. I'm not aware of any such example.

And the reason is, IMO (always!), is that its basic thrust is against the human need to band together in large groupings for protection from other groupings of people. An anarchist society would be crushed by societies with central organization because more resources for war-making could be requisitioned and utilized by the entities with central-planning.

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby Outis » 05 Jul 2012 12:47

Revolutions trigger civil wars, not wars between "societies". The historical experience is more along the lines of democratic principles being discarded during the conflict. The most libertarian side doesn't always lose but it tends to look more like a tyranny by the time peace returns.
During the history of warfare, centralized organization was not always favoured. But power and prestige are incurred by the victors anyway.

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby Freakzilla » 05 Jul 2012 14:25

Safaris through ancestral memories teach me many things. The patterns, ahhh, the
patterns Liberal bigots are the ones who trouble me most. I distrust the
extremes. Scratch a conservative and you find someone who prefers the past over
any future. Scratch a liberal and find a closet aristocrat. It's true! Liberal
governments always develop into aristocracies The bureaucracies betray the true
intent of people who form such governments. Right from the first, the little
people who formed the governments which promised to equalize the social burdens
found themselves suddenly in the hands of bureaucratic aristocracies. Of course,
all bureaucracies follow this pattern. but what a hypocrisy to find this even
under a communized banner Ahhh, well, if patterns teach me anything it's that
patterns are repeated. My oppressions. by and large, are no worse than any of
the others and, at least. I teach a new lesson.


-The Stolen Journals
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby gurensan » 09 Jul 2012 23:05

jakoye wrote:Yes, I've heard this many times, but if anarchy were a viable system, ... [snip]

And the reason is, IMO (always!), is that its basic thrust is against the human need to band together in large groupings for protection from other groupings of people. An anarchist society would be crushed by societies with central organization because more resources for war-making could be requisitioned and utilized by the entities with central-planning.


Anarchy isn't the term I intended to throw out there, it was merely put out as a sort of flavoring-term. That was a mistake on my part. Anarchy doesn't last even short term, but then military technocracies like ours don't work long term, either.

Anarchy is not a might-makes-right system. It's a lack of central authority. When the strong take control, they reimpose central authority and it's not anarchy anymore. It's a lack of social control or law that defines anarchy. Tribal law is not anarchy, which is what Quinn advocates. In effect, a return to this type of governance would represent a Scattering of our own.

Outis wrote:I don't think one ought to use Quinn to understand Herbert since Quinn wrote later.
It's possible both drew from the same well of course. But in that case, one ought to look for the source.


Timelines are irrelevant. The sources are so varied that it does us good to be able to draw from the thoughts of any with the temerity to tackle the subject matter. That we have someone of the calibre of Herbert on this topic is gold, and Quinn is no slouch, either.

Outis wrote:But there are many small deposits which make the resource sort-of-renewable on human timescales. If you take the long view (something we obviously fail at) on the other hand...


The economics of extraction is the issue, not the amount in the ground. "Sort-of-renewable?" :lol:

jakoye wrote:Yes, the world is dependent on oil. Yes, it would really suck if all of the oil suddenly disappeared. Luckily, that's not going to happen, so I'm not sure what there is to be worried about here?


Again, it's the economics of extraction. Have you noticed that gas isn't $0.85 a gallon anymore? Production has increased. Economics will cause the issues with oil, not its quantity yet to be pumped. Hubbert's Curve nailed the US crude extraction peak. Adjustments to the world extraction numbers indicate that we're peaked world-wide now. The industry talking heads say that we won't peak the way it did in the US in 1970, but that we'll get to a plateau and bounce on it for a while before extraction costs rise to the point where it's just not economically feasible to maintain the same levels of production.

Take a look at the numbers; they're right, we're bouncing. (I wonder if they created the bounce in order to stretch the curve?) When that happens, there will be priority users, primarily governmental and military, and some mass transit. Anyone with an SUV will wish they'd sold it when gas was only $8 a gallon. Remember also that a car uses more oil in its production than it ever will burn in fuel, and that it's not just cars, but damned near everything we do that is fully dependent on oil. Agriculture, too.

There's plenty in the ground. It's just going to become too expensive to get at - financially and environmentally. Leto had plenty of spice, but there was no getting more. Luckily there was enough in his hoard to dole out until he died, when the Tleilaxu had a fire lit under their asses to get on with synthesizing it. Do you think we'll have an economically viable replacement before we can't afford to manufacture it anymore?

At what point will you be forced to walk?

FH began Dune right around the time Prof. Hubbert published his famous report in the 50's and there is no reason to suggest he didn't know about it. He was a very observant guy; I find it hard to believe he'd miss that or miss that it would be rising demand that caused supply to fail. He believed growth could continue, but that we'd need more room to do it in, and that we'd eventually have to break our dependence on oil. Quinn reminds us that this is all the room we have, so perpetual growth won't save us, it'll kill us. He believes a balance with our surrounding environment is key, but that we've got to get away from oil. They're two sides of the same coin.

Leto II got the vast majority of the known universe off of spice. Cars, too, but that's more foreshadowing than I'm prepared to deal with! Not all were able to leave spice, just as not all will be able to leave oil. Not at first, anyway.

So what does that leave us with? A Scattering; a fragmentation of mainstream societies into smaller, more autonomous units. Quinn advocates this now; Herbert indicates that by sticking to our guns it's likely to happen anyway.
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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby hannabaal » 11 Sep 2012 17:33

Jakoye wrote: So what's the alternative? Go back to pulling out the hoe to dig out individual weeds? No thanks. Yes, plants evolve in order to survive against our herbicides. Our herbicides will evolve too. It's a constant dance and I see no reason that recommends putting on scientific blinders in order to go back to some sort of overly-nostalgialized "perfect" age.

http://laislafoundation.org/La_Isla/Home.html

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Re: Overarching Themes in Dune

Postby jakoye » 13 Sep 2012 13:51

hannabaal wrote:Jakoye wrote: So what's the alternative? Go back to pulling out the hoe to dig out individual weeds? No thanks. Yes, plants evolve in order to survive against our herbicides. Our herbicides will evolve too. It's a constant dance and I see no reason that recommends putting on scientific blinders in order to go back to some sort of overly-nostalgialized "perfect" age.

http://laislafoundation.org/La_Isla/Home.html

you need to wake up.


What exactly does that add to the discussion? By posting this, all you're really doing is insulting me by indicating that I'm "asleep" and in the darkness of ignorance. A little lesson for you: you'll get more flies with honey than vinegar. Why would I listen to anything you say when you start off with an insult?


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