Understanding Bigotry with Science Fiction

It’s generally pretty hard for liberally-minded folk to understand bigotry based on sexual orientation, nationality, or skin colour. We tend to think we should be able to reason with bigots and convnice them that their fears are unjustified. I think that’s largely wrong.

I think one of the best ways to understand bigotry is to  imagine you’re talking about consensual incest or bestiality, things which I don’t think are morally wrong, but find viscerally disgusting, rather than homosexuality and interracial marriage, things towards which I have neither moral objections nor visceral disgust.

Another way, which is was reminded of while watching the (fucking excellent) District 9, is to actually think of reviled groups as non-human and consider how you’d react to them. For my money, D-9 does the best job of this I’ve seen.

Here’s the 2005 short film on which D-9 is based:

There is other science fiction and fantasy does the same thing. Battlestar Galactica and True Blood spring to mind, as do The Second Renaissance shorts from The Animatrix:

Whenever you wonder how Nazis could treat Jews as badly as they did, imaginatively replace Jews with Cthulu-like tentacled things and think again.

A Lesson in Comparative Advantage and Liberal Tolerance from Star Trek: TNG

In S01E21 – Symbiosis, we are introduced to a planet which specializes completely in the manufacture of a single drug, all of which is exported to a neighbouring planet. The relevant part is about 6 minutes into this video:

The lesson continues in the following video. There is then a discussion of liberal tolerance. Dr Crusher finds the relationship distasteful and exploitative. Captain Picard reminds her that it’s not the Federation’s place to impose human values on other societies.

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode is a Saved by the Bell-quality sermon about the dangers of addictive drugs, ending with Picard cynically going against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Prime Directive in order to rid the planet of the scourge of narcotics.

The Philosophy and Economics of Dollhouse

I’ve just finished watching the first season of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. Overall, I really like the show and think it deserves a second season. If it doesn’t get one, though, I won’t be nearly as bitter as I remain about the cancellation of Firefly. Dollhouse raises some interesting questions of moral philosophy and economics. My thoughts, containing spoilers, below the fold.

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