Monday, March 22, 2010

"The unanimous Declaration..."

I'd like to share a bit of our nation's founding with you today. I do this to reflect on what has become an ignorance of the nature of our fine country and the way it was meant to operate by the Founding Fathers. I will be quoting extensively from the Declaration of Independence, described as "the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America," which can be found in public domain in many forms. I have provided a link to the complete text at the end of this article.

Let us begin, shall we?

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The congress of the day has decided, rightly so, that when two bodies must sever political ties, it's only fair to let one know exactly why. In fact, this is something I believe stretches to every relationship, from social to formal.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We're all with them so far, right? Good. Moving on.

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

This is where we silly Americans get the notion that our government works for us—because that's the way we bloody designed it.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The right of the people. Hear that. Say it to yourself for a moment. The right of the people. This is one of those they spoke of earlier, one of those "inalienables." This isn't a Republican right, or a Democratic right. This isn't an English right or an American right. This is a right of the people. Which people? ALL of them. All over. Our super-progressive founders have just brought out, into the public court, the idea that everyone has the right to be governed in the best way possible for themselves.

This is something Americans are very passionate about. This is what President Wilson meant when he said "The world must be made safe for democracy," before we entered The Great War. This is why we joined hands with the English, the Canadians, the Soviets, the Australians, and many others to stop the rampant growth of Hitler's Nazi regime and the unchecked expansion of the Empire of Japan in the second World War. It is why we have opposed communism the world over—in Korea and Vietnam, against Cuba and China and the U.S.S.R. It is why we went into Afghanistan and Iraq and made a bit stinking mess of everything. Because we, in our heart of hearts, believe that everyone should be free to choose the government that works for the people, and wherever this right is threatened, the United States of God-Blessed America is polishing its guns and looking angrily in a Clint Eastwood smile at the oppressive regime responsible.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

This is the part where they remind us that we shouldn't undertake any of these things lightly. Old governments that work shouldn't be abolished for causes that can fix themselves, or can be righted within the system. There's no sense scuttling your ship if you can just replace the sail, so to speak. This is very sound advice we've always heeded. It's why such a volatile, rebellious, violent, passionate people have kept a stable system of government for two-hundred and thirty-four years.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Are you reading the same page I am? When a "long train of abuses and usurpations" lead toward "absolute Despotism", it is not a right anymore. It becomes a duty. It is a right and a responsibility. It isn't something that a people should tolerate. One must rise up and cast off the shackles of oppression. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a form of government. Because you should shout, "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" You should have the courage to tell others to see the violence inherent in the system, to continue the comedic metaphor. It is your right. Your responsibility. If you choose not to take it up, you are remaining silent to the plight of thousands and millions of others who lack the voice to speak for themselves.

The enumeration of grievances attributed to the King of England reads like a bulleted list of accomplishments by the last few presidents, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Refusing to Assent to Laws "most wholesome and necessary for the public good."
  • Forbidding Governors to pass Laws "of immediate and pressing importance" until Assent could be obtained.
  • Obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners
  • Obstructing the Administration of Justice
  • Erecting mulitudes of new offices
  • Sending "swarms of Officers to harass our people"
  • Rendering the Military independent of and superior to "the Civil power."
  • Mock trials
  • Imposing taxes without consent of the people
  • Depriving citizens of the benefits of trial by jury
  • "Taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments."
  • "Suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever."
  • Plundering the seas, ravaging the coasts, burning towns, and "destroying the lives of our people"

Sounds vaguely familiar, does it not? Especially in the last two administrations. Democrat of Republican, Right or Left, you cannot deny that list of grievances doesn't feel fresh in your mind after the last three elections. Recent Executive policy seems to be giving the American public a play-by-play recount of these issues with each passing day.

How did the Founding Fathers handle this?

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Oh. That's right. I nearly forgot. These fuckers invented the phrase "Tea Party."

Think about it for just a minute—the last time this many Americans got this pissed about the way their government treated them, they gave it the finger and started a new one. Then we fought a war, and put the ass-kickin'est war hero we had in our top slot on the new slate. Wise up, Congress. If this shit happens again, you'll be going up against "President Chuck Fucking Norris" commanding regiments of angry, rabid bear cavalry with robot laser eyes ridden by gun-toting Southerners and air support from flying sharks piloted by gangsta G-thugs blinding you with bling. And that's a battle I'm not sure even Bill Brasky could win.

History—learn it, or repeat it. Or get a penguin army marching on your tailpipe.

=Further Reading=

Thursday, March 4, 2010

TESTIFY!

I will admit it: I have a soft spot for musicals.

As such, I am a huuuuge fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera, because it also has healthy doses of sci-fi, horror, and humor cobbled in. It is a cult classic, and I will stand up any day of the week to testify that it is utterly amazing.

That being said, the fan base is pissing me off.

They are lashing out uncontrollably and frothing over the release of Repo Men, a completely unrelated film based on the same premise: that if you fall behind on your organ payments, a repo man will hunt you down and reclaim the "property."

The films diverge, from what I can tell, at that point. In addition to the not-being-an-opera thing, Repo Men tells a completely different story than Repo!, according to the trailers. Repo Men is made on a larger budget, and is based on a novel that was being written by the author of the screenplay, since published in 2009. Repo! is, however, over a decade old in its earliest incarnations, having been developed from a "ten-minute opera" called The Necromerchant's Debt. The Repo! film was released in 2008, I believe, before the novel on which Repo Men was based was published.

Is Repo Men a ripoff?

No.

Yet, the fans of The Genetic Opera seem to think it is, going so far as to publicly bash Repo Men before its release and boycott the film. While this is perfectly within their rights, I don't believe they really understand what is going on here.

By bad-mouthing a film they've never seen, even after they've been asked by Terrance Zdunich (co-creator of Repo! The Genetic Opera, and subsequently co-author of their collective fandom) to "kill 'em with kindness" in regards to this new film, they are making themselves look very, very bad. It makes them look rabid and intolerant and utterly incapable of coherent thought, as their mouths are moving without lease from their minds. By speaking out of emotion and hurt rather than taking a moment to think out their displeasures and put them into a logical framework, it makes them look rather silly. As a Repo! fan myself, I don't want to be labeled as such, unless it's the good kind of silly. The kind you'd find at the Ministry of Silly Walks, for example.

In his posts on the subject, entitled "Idea Repossession?" pts 1 & 2, Zdunich explains the events that lead both to Repo! and Repo Men as he understands them, and expresses his wishes to his fandom. "Sweetly recommend that they check out REPO! Opera," Zdunich requests, "because the film, and the community surrounding the film, is awesome."

In my opinion (for this is a blog of opinions, and not one of newscasting), the community isn't showing their awesome at this very moment. I fully understand that they feel hurt, as they are so deeply emotionally tied to Repo! as a fan-base, but I believe that by lashing out against this new film in anger, they do little to show their greatness. Instead, I believe it is a show of ignorance.

The fans pine and wail about how "unique" Repo! is, and how the very idea of Repo Men is stolen from Zdunich's hands, like an apple plucked from a neighbor's tree. They rail against Repo Men, some going so far as to say that one should be allowed by law to copyright an idea.

As a writer, I feel these statements are the same as saying "It should be federal law that only George Romero may make zombie movies." Or "Every robot movie ever made is just a rip-off of Capek's R.U.R.." Or that "The Chronicles of Narnia shouldn't exist, as it's merely a re-telling of the New Testament."

I do hope you see the fallacy in these claims.

Many stories start as other stories. Good tales are retold time and again. The Lion King is merely a retelling of Hamlet, mixed with a local African epic of a similar nature. Star Wars is basically a combination of Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" and every epic, mythic tale of a young journeyer with a wizened hermit archetype to guide him. Nearly all of Kurosawa's films had plots based in stories around the world, and just as many of them were remade as westerns for the enjoyment of Americans.

Hellfire, even the idea of organ repossession wasn't originated with Repo! In '97 or '98, I wrote a short story for a class project that dealt with the same idea: two young lovers were in a car accident, and ran away from the hospital. They were chased by an agent of the hospital to "reclaim" the work done to save their lives. I mentioned it to a friend of mine, and we began playing a Shadowrun campaign based on the notion. I hadn't even heard of Repo! until it's theatrical release in a nearby town, sometime in late '08 or early '09.

Stories are retold. Ideas are reused. It happens. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery. So long as there is no plagarism afoot, enjoy what you enjoy for the reasons you enjoy it. Repo! is unique, and will continue to be so, no matter how many other "dystopian organ repossession" stories there are floating about. Talking trash, however, is never a good way to get anything done.

In closing, I strongly suggest you check out both films and draw your own conclusions. I am a huge fan of Repo! The Genetic Opera, and plan to see Repo Men as soon as finances permit. I also heartily entreat you to check out the "Further Reading" section of this post for more information on everything I have mentioned here. Thank you, and goodnight.

= Further Reading =