Thursday, June 4, 2009

Man Vs Machine

On the Anomaly Podcast, Angela and I often discuss the underlying themes of our favorite Science Fiction television shows and movies in a lighthearted, hopefully entertaining fashion. One of the things we enjoy the most about this genre, is its ability to deliver a message on a level that people, no matter their background or viewpoint, are able to digest and learn from.

A common theme in Science Fiction is man verses machine. Sometimes the machine is just that, a machine, and sometimes it’s an oppressive government. There are many examples of this topic in novels, comics and movies. A few that come to mind are: 1984, Brave New World, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek (The Borg and Cardassian occupation for ex), The Terminator, Blade Runner, Firefly, Chronicles of Riddick, Dune, The Matrix, Planet Of The Apes, Independence Day and yes...even Galaxy Quest. I’ll stop there, but the list is pretty darn long.

Though the plots in the above novels, movies and television shows differ from one another, the themes are analogous. At their core, they each address the fight for freedom and they are inspired by real world struggles. As a citizen of a free nation, I can list at least seven battles for freedom that are directly related to my country and state: the American Revolution, the Battle Of The Alamo, the Civil War, World War I, Women’s Suffrage, War II and the Civil Rights movement. If you’re not an American, and you’re reading this blog, chances are you are enjoying the freedom that you or your countrymen earned. Where am I going with this? Let me elaborate...

Today is the twentieth anniversary of another battle for freedom; one that, like the Battle Of The Alamo, ended without victory yet the sacrifice made during that ‘conflict’ inspired a people. I’m referring to the Tiananmen Square Protest/Massacre that occurred in Beijing, China on June 4, 1989; the one that the Chinese refer to as ‘the June 4th Incident’.

As a high school freshman I watched news footage of a single, unarmed man, stepping before a line of massive war machines that were advancing toward Tiananmen Square. The war machines I’m speaking of were tanks belonging to another machine known as the People’s Republic Of China—the tyrannical entity that inspired the protests. The people gathered in the square consisted of students and other intellectuals who were disillusioned by the Communist Party and calling for democratic and economic reformation. They congregated in the square and all over China, but their protests were peaceful. The response from their government resulted in the injury and death of many Chinese citizens. No one knows for sure exactly how many casualties resulted from the military action, because the “machine” that the people dared to stand against, buried the information. The nameless man who has become a symbol, by momentarily stopping the machine, died for the cause he believed in...the cause of freedom. There is no record of his death, but I have no doubt the Communist government believed that his defiance demanded it, and they carried it out like cowards in the shadows of their oppressive rule. Ironically, in contrast to the government's dark deeds, the nameless man demonstrated the boldness of his fellow citizens before the eyes of the world. I remember the goosebumps forming as I witnessed his bravery. I still get them every time I watch the old videos of that event. See the video I've posted below if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Today, the People’s Republic of China is taking no chances. They have surrounded Tiananmen Square in an attempt to prevent a reoccurrence and silence the voices of those who would denounce the tyranny they suffer under, and demand the freedom they deserve. Unfortunately, this cold reality belongs to many people who share our planet. And it is a common story communicated through the apparatus of Science Fiction: man against machine.

The People of China are not free to sample the ideas that you and I share via the books and movies I've mentioned or the internet...but if I could relay one thing to them through this blog post, it would be this: “never give up...never surrender!” It was a comedian who said that line in “Galaxy Quest”, but I believe the sentence is worthy of an impassioned cry.

My message to you, fellow sci-fi fans, is don’t take your freedom for granted. Don’t forget the sacrifices that were made for you. Try to analyze the themes of these Science Fiction books, television shows and movies that I’ve mentioned. Don’t graze the surface—take from them the deeper meanings and be inspired by them.

Finally, and most importantly, be inspired by the nameless man who stopped the machine for a few minutes twenty years ago. On this day, as his government is working to silence his countrymen, honor the nameless man’s audacity. Remember his bravery and apply it to your own life. If you’re a person of faith then pray for the freedom of the Chinese people. If you’re not a believer in any higher power, hope for freedom for the people of China because they are not allowed to pray or hope for it themselves. Never give up... Never surrender!

Co-host of Anomaly
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Tiananmen Square Massacre - Click here for the funniest movie of the week

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