Friday Free-for-All #71: Colony, nuke, roommate

Friday Free for All

Here’s the next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers or ask your own questions in the comments.

What should the first colony on another planet be called?

First, I would say that it shouldn’t be called a colony at all, because that concept has become so loaded with negative connotations that we need to jettison it. Colonialism is what allowed European culture to seep into other parts of the world and destroy indigenous cultures by valuing them as “less than.”

The Americas, Africa, Oceania, and parts of Asia and Southeast Asia all suffered from Western Imperial colonization and its self-righteous air of superiority. We do not need to take that into space with us, which is why the round of “Billionaire Blast-offs” we’re currently seeing is such a bad idea that’s not going to end until they experience their own personal Apollo 1.

So let’s call it a settlement, or outpost, or station. Or, even better, experimental expeditionary base. Yes, it’s true that we’re most likely to start by setting up on Mars, which may or may not harbor life, although as far as we can tell, it’s nothing that’s advanced to a very complex stage yet.

But… our approach has to be that we are visitors, and we have to follow the Scouting rule: Leave the campsite in better condition than it was when you found it.

Ah. There’s the term. “Mars Camp 1” as a scientific designation. But we also need a reminder of how it works once we get there, so it should not be named after any human, country, state, city, or indeed anything tied to any existing division on the planet.

So, let’s call it “Mars Camp 1: Equitopia.” Each successive one can spell out another ideal of exploration and of realizing that we all come from one planet and are all descended from the same two proto-human ancestors we call Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosomal Adam.

The former is the direct matrilineal descendent of everyone’s mother, and mother’s mother, and so on. The latter is the direct ancestor of every man’s father’s father’s father, etc. The exclusivity there is pure biology. Generally, but not always, people identified as female at birth do not have a Y chromosome.

But the buck stops at them, and my father’s father’s father’s ancestor traced back multiple tens of thousands of years was an early hominid living near the central east coast of Africa, around what eventually became Ethiopia.

Shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but that’s the point.

So what we name the next camps is up for debate by the Human Next Step Committee, but things like Unitaria, Humanitas, and even terms in other languages would fit the bill nicely.

But FFS, the first person who suggests calling it “New Earth” gets shot out the airlock.

Has the invention of the atomic bomb made the world a more peaceful place?

Only indirectly. What did the U.S. do after their first successful test of the A-Bomb? That’s right… they dropped the next two on civilian populations, making WW II the first and, to date, only nuclear war.

Repeat that to yourselves a few times if it sounds weird. WW II was the first and only nuclear war.

And then they went on to develop more powerful weapons even as the USSR managed to obtain the secrets to the American bomb, and even as the first hydrogen bomb — which used fusion instead of fission — was successfully tested, other countries started to join the nuclear club, with the UK being next in 1952.

From the end of WW II throughout the 1950s, the nuclear club countries were testing nukes left and right, general in above-ground or air-burst tests. A lot of it was just a giant pissing contest between the U.S. and USSR, but then a funny thing happened.

The countries, led by the U.S., started to look at what these tests were doing to their own people and, in fact, kids were turning up with radioactive baby teeth. One immediate result of this was to lead to treaties that limited tests to underground explosions only. But, at the same time, a really scary political policy emerged.

The concept was called MAD, or Mutual Assured Destruction, most likely spurred on by the U.S. and USSR coming within a few bad decisions of nuking each other during the Cuban Missile Crisis, with public awareness being raised by the (now largely forgotten) dramatic film Fail Safe and the (revered classic) black comedy/satire Dr. Strangelove or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. They both came out in the same year, right after the missile crisis, and basically told the same story.

The U.S. accidentally drops a nuke on the USSR, and the only way to avoid nuclear apocalypse is to let the USSR fire back — although the Dr. Strangelove version of the same involves a weapon that wipes out all life on the planet. Because, black comedy.

But this fear is what led to the concept of MAD which, perversely, also led to a massive arms race until the 1970s, the idea seemingly being that if you had enough bombs to kill everyone on their side 20 times over and they had enough times to kill everyone on your side 25 times over, then no one would ever be stupid enough to call for a launch.

Decades later, John Woo would turn this into his favorite trope: Two dudes holding a gun in each other’s faces. I think, in some places, they call it a Mexican stand-off.

Then, eventually, the Cold War ended. So to answer the original question… did the invention of the atomic bomb make the world a safer place? Oh, fuck no. It almost immediately killed several hundred thousand people. And, for a while, especially after it led to the development of the hydrogen bomb, it didn’t help either because it irradiated people far away from testing sites. But, eventually, it led to weapons so scary that, in fact, it did ultimately lead to a safer planet because everyone realized that if anyone ever fired any of them off in an aggressive act, the response would end life on the planet.

Oh. The question was “is it a more peaceful place?”

Of course not. Earth has always been a violent place. But I guess we wouldn’t be human if it didn’t happen otherwise, right? Because we’re just assholes descended from monkeys. Just not far enough.


Which protagonist from a book or movie would make the worst roommate?

Holden Goddamn Caulfield, especially since he’d be about the right age to get hooked up with as a college freshman roommate. For one, he’s an insufferable, whiny, self-centered little asshole who thinks he’s above everyone else. And I don’t give a damn what trauma he’s suffered in his life if he isn’t going to talk about it.

As soon as he decided he only wanted to communicate with me via little passive aggressive notes, that’s it. I’m asking Resident Housing for a swap. But I probably would have before that, because the useless little failure of a adouchebag also smokes. And screw that.

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