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Technomage Trilogy and Marxism

  • Thread starter **DONOTDELETE**
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This may have some spoilers considering the technomage trilogy:
We all know that JMS has on more than one occasion used Babylon 5 as social commentary or has modeled it after significant historical events. I have recently been studying Karl Marx and have noticed a definite, well maybe abstract, similarity between the two. Marx of courrse is most famous for the influence he had on the communist revolution and the Soviet Union. He actually though wrote significantly more on the Capitolism and the flaws that he saw in it. Here is a very amatuer and quick overview of some of his beliefs
1)He saw the world as a struggle between those who controled the means of production and the workers.
2) He referred to workers as the "cogs in a machine" and believed that they were being exploited by the capitolists
3) He believed what made people human was their desire to produce things, and by seperating them from the things they produce, the capitolists robbed the workers of their humanity.
4) Eventually the workers would have enough and will join together to rise up against the capitolists.
Now, lets compare to Bablyon 5 and the technomage trilogy:
1) It may not be as much of a struggle so to say, but it's not too hard to see the first ones as the capitolists controlling the means of production and the younger races being of the working class
2) Workers as cogs in the machine? That sounds very similar to me, the machine people from the technomage trilogy? And no one can argue that the younger races weren't exploited by the first ones.
3) Keeping with the machine people analogy, what was done to them by the shadows certainly took their humanity or whatever race they used to be. Also the same for the people that the Shadows used for their ships and other machines. It could also be argued that by creating telepaths the vorlons stole from them their humanity.
4) In season 4 we witness the younger races finally coming together and rising up and casting aside the first ones.

It may not have been what JMS intented, but their are some striking similarities. Anyone see anything else I'm missing or want to just add their two cents?
There are definitely parallels, but they remind me of *many* phenomena.

Exploitation for instance (no matter if economical or other) occurs in countless different forms. People are exploiting the environment, wasting resources which future generations might need. People are exploiting each other in "games" which range from economic to political and include everything in between. To sum it up, people too often place their own benefit above others. Pursue what they want without considering if they *really* want this. Without considering the cost.

The Shadow way of creating competition and conflict involved asking people what they wanted, and giving them exactly that, no matter the cost. Without the individuals involved even knowing the cost, because it was hushed down at some "organisational layer".

How many technomages would have accepted their implants, had they known that it meant the death of another being? Would Londo have accepted Morden's offer, had he known it will cause the death of millions? I very much doubt.

The Shadow way of promoting competition involved playing people against each other. Their question was a provocative one. But can you blame them for asking? If answered differently, their question could have achieved much good. If the beings who answered had defined their goals with less regard for personal benefit, if answers would have excluded harm.

The crime of the Shadows was not exploitation. Neither was it asking an important question. Of their relevant crimes, exploitation was the least. They did not exploit the younger races for personal benefit. Ironically, they considered themselves above that, as did the Vorlons. What the ancient enemies did was supporting competition/cooperation... at the cost of great losses, at the cost of free will and diversity. Both achieved the same, but I would focus my analysis on the Shadows.

<font color=yellow>1. Helping everyone exploit others...</font color=yellow>

...for personal benefit. Turning healthy competition into merciless conflict by artificially removing natural inhibitions: consideration and price. By offering immediate gratification with no apparent price tag, they easily brought out the worst in sentient beings.

Most people who answered their question did not consider. Yet natural processes of decision-making involve consideration. If some did consider and form their answer in a beneficial manner, they were vastly outnumbered. Partly because the Shadows did not accept all answers.

<font color=yellow>2. Not accepting all answers...</font color=yellow>

They chose who to ask, chose which answers to accept. They were not objective. They did not treat people as equal, instead preferring those whose ambitions *seemed* greater. I am stressing the word "seemed", because you cannot immediately evaluate the impact of events.

They would have favoured the request "help me restore the Republic to greatness" to "tell me a story". Yet after many years, the result of telling a child an interesting and true story may outweigh helping an ambassador restore his republic to apparent greatness. So the second crime of the Shadows was not limiting their own subjectivity.

<font color=yellow>3. First of all, do no harm...</font color=yellow>

Never do to others which you would not wish done to yourself. This was certainly something which the Shadows missed. Perhaps because they failed to imagine themselves as the younger races. Being among the first sentients in the galaxy, they had missed a unique perspective. The perspective of seeing beings whose power and complexity vastly exceeds your own. Seeing such beings commit utter and unforgivable errors. Or perhaps they knew this perspective, and had simply forgotten.

They should have remembered that on some level, every life is equal. Especially sentient lives of some resemblance to their own. That the younger races were temporary and the First Ones eternal... was just a matter of technology. Both were sentient, capable of thought, feeling and great errors. That the First Ones had forgotten how to properly feel anything was their own problem.

They considered themselves superior and the younger races inferior. Less worthy of consideration. Yet for the universe, is there any difference between a Shadow and a Spoo? One lasts a week, another billions of years. But in the large picture, they are strikingly similar. Both try to find a direction and move in that direction. Their means are of vast difference. But both consider their purpose, decide what they want, and try getting it.

Ending one life just because another wants... is something one should not assist. Beings who greatly valued the question of "what do you want" and would personally never obey an order... they should have realized the error in forcing one being to do what another wants.

Yet the Shadows did exactly that. By not being objective, they refused to balance their impact. By not choosing their means, they refused to limit the suffering they caused. Yes, some loss would have been caused anyway. Genocidal wars can start with absolutely no Shadow assiatance. But "assistance" raised the stakes into tenfold.

<font color=yellow>4. Diversity is just as precious as competition</font color=yellow>

One could say that their approach to evolution was flawed. Competition is only one attribute needed for evolution. Diversity is the other. The Shadow way of "accelerating" evolution destroyed diversity by artificially fueling extreme forms of competition. In the end, it didn't accelerate evolution by the slightest bit.


Sorry for drifting completely off topic. To bring it back to Marx - there were definitely parallels. None was directed at Marx in particular, but many touched topics similar to what he wrote about.

Economic theories require careful analysis of cost and benefit. Deciding what you want requires the same. Forgetting the cost and placing your benefit above others is quite common to our kind. It can lead to much harm, anything from war to economic exploitation.

In a certain way, the Shadow war was about exploitation. Partly it was the Shadows and Vorlons exploiting others to achieve chaos and order. But more often than that, it was the Shadows helping the younger races to exploit each other (destroying diversity in the process) or the Vorlons forcing them to cooperate (destroying diversity in the process).


As for my personal opinion about Marx, it is rather limited. Not knowing his work, I cannot form a well-based opinion. But this much I know: his research into capitalism was quite priceless. Many consider it an important step in the beginnig of modern economic theory.

His concern for socio-economic balance has influenced many processes. Some of his ideas were used for great benefit, some got exploited for harm. But in the end he definitely contributed to understanding. Perhaps it is partly due to his observations that we have learned to balance the effects of capitalism.
Howdy. read your posting, it was very interesting, but there was one thing I reacted over, it was the last sentence.

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Lennier:
<font color=yellow> Perhaps it is partly due to his observations that we have learned to balance the effects of capitalism.</font color=yellow><hr></blockquote>

Have we!?!?

Our individualised, capitalistic, consuming driven society is destroying our world with an incredible speed. I read a reports last year that really shaked me up. Some scientist had done an overall calculation of how much of the earths non recyclable assets we have managed to consume during the last 25 years. The figure they reached was about 1/3. So according to them in about 50 years, if we continue with the same speed, our civilization as we know it will crumble.

Perhaps the lifespan will get prolonged through new technologies, but if we don’t change our capitalistic consuming way of thinking and living…

And the really impressive part here is that we in the western world today are about 20% of the worlds population. And we own and consume about 80% of the earths resources. The other 80% have to share the 20% left.

The press handled this in its typical fascion. (At least as it usualy handle uncomforing here in Sweden, and I guess it works just the same in all of the western world.) I saw that the research report got a tiny 5 lines note in the corner of one of Swedens greatest newspaper. The same paper had four or five full pages with large pictures about the latest celebrity rumours. Sometimes I think that mankind is so stupid that we deserve what we get.

Our thinking has too change. But It wont. I’m very pessimistic about that. Because people don’t want to be bothered about taking responsibility for and changing the direction of the way the world is going. Most are satisfied if they can get pizza and watch TV. And even if we feel we should do something we often feel completely powerless. What could we do? The big shots are handled by presidents and ministers. But the presidents and ministers of the world doesn’t dare to change the way of the world either. Because it would be political suicide to tell the public that they would have to lower their accustomed standard of living! The consument thinking is such an integrated part of our culture that a change of direction seems totally impossible. It is just like Rome, divulging into bread and gladiator plays for the public when the barbarians stood at the border.

But this time, 2000 years later, it is much more dire. If this sience report was correct and we in 50 years will have depleted the resources. We will have doomed not only our own civilization but perhaps the possibility for any future civilization to reach the same heights that we have achieved.

So sometimes when I watch Jeremiah I actually think, “Maybe that was for the best. With the virus the earth and humanity got a new chance. Perhaps they will learn not to do the same mistake that our culture did.”

Oups.. that got a bit long. Didn’t have much to do with the teknomages either. But hey..
I only said we have <font color=yellow>learned how to balance it</font color=yellow>.
Not that we are applying that knowledge in reasonable extent.
Applying something requires determination and motivation.

Regarding the general state of human environmental and economic affairs - don't worry, the worst is yet to come. But it may not be hopeless. We must simply do our part, and hope that others will do theirs. In the end, we may fail. Humanity may become extinct.

But does humanity matter in the large perspective? At the very least, we may serve as a warning to others. It would be nice to see our descendants travel the stars, but if our own kind insists on going down together, who can stop us? With determination and good luck, we can...

You asked an interesting question. How? How can I change the direction of my society, and humanity in general? Naturally by choosing. Evolution is based on diversity and choice. Everyone creates part of the diversity, and everyone makes part of the choice.

Which choices can I make?
Which choices am I aware of?
Perhaps I could find a few examples.

1. When the energy company raised prices, I decided to save some electricity. In fact, I cut the bill down by 40 percent with rather simple measures. Considering which devices waste the most and using them carefully (or in case of light bulbs, replacing with low-consumption and long-lasting versions).

2. Sadly enough for oil and car manufacturers, I prefer public transport and biking. I have promised not to get a car which cannot use renewable fuel. That means waiting until fuel-cell versions become available, and they are coming. Only after that will I consider the benefits of a personal car greater than the harm it produces.

3. Sadly enough for politicians and companies whose actions I do not approve of, I try to remember their blunders and boycott them. When the time for buying something or voting for someone, I hope to choose in a manner which will cause minimum harm and maximum benefit. I also hope to remind the company/party involved of <font color=yellow>why I chose them.</font color=yellow>

4. Fortunately enough for those whose policies, economic strategies and initiatives I support, I am sometimes willing to dedicate my time or money for such causes. It may be a contribution to a charity which I believe will fulfill a crucial role. Perhaps an investment into a company which pursues technology which I perceive as important. Perhaps a membership in a political/economic/environmental pressure group if the need arises.

5. In matters of work, I also try choosing. When the time comes to discard old computing equipment, I advocate refurbishing the old things into something useful, or giving them to a waste processor instead of dropping them into a junk container.


The troubles our species is currently experiencing can be attributed to shortcomings in many fields.

1. Our energetics and industry relies heavily on non-renewable resources. To reach a sustainable state, we are going to need several technical break-throughs. We cannot stop. Stopping at such speed is equal to hitting a wall. We will have to move with more speed and more care, until we get over the difficult point. We are in a diffucult point.

Hopefully fuel cells running on alcohol will change transportation. Fusion power will eventually change large-scale energetics. Oil-based plastics can be replaced with grain-based plastics. We cannot slow down before we have some measure of sustainability.

First and foremost, it means efficiently handling energy. Energy has become essential to our existence. With enough environmentally safe energy, other economic wastes can be compensated for.

2. We have plentiful social knowledge about making things work, but very limited willingness to apply that insight. In the current state of affairs, half of the planet is demolishing itself while the other part is repairing. Quite naturally, both parts are fighting for the juicy bits.

The worst is this: you cannot easily tell which part is which, because different societies fail in different fields. While one country manages to restore a fragile peace, another falls into war. While one manages to pull its economy back together, another faces environmental excesses, unemployment, poplulation growth, infectious diseases, climate change, lack of education, what not...


I have come to this conclusion. Unless people start realizing that every damn matter on this planet is our business, things will continue to fall apart. How far will it go? I am unsure. Perhaps until the end. Or perhaps we are dealing with another nasty optimality model. If the situation tilts towards intolerable, more people will notice and react.

I only know what I want, and will try to get it. I am unsure whether my hopes are attainable, and how to attain them. But I will never give up, never surrender. I hope to cause more good than harm.

You know, sometimes I wish there were some Shadows nearby, so I could formulate a careful request. Then again, having Shadows would take the fun out of the game, would it not? It is much more challenging to face depressing odds with no First One assistance.
Com wrote
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr><font color=yellow>
The figure they reached was about 1/3. So according to them in about 50 years, if we continue with the same speed, our civilization as we know it will crumble.
</font color=yellow><hr></blockquote>

The report is a repeat. See "The Limits to Growth" from the 1970s. According to that report we are currently dying from pollution and our industries have run out of raw materials.
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by A_M_Swallow:
<font color=yellow>The report is a repeat. See "The Limits to Growth" from the 1970s. According to that report we are currently dying from pollution and our industries have run out of raw materials.</font color=yellow><hr></blockquote>

Doesn't mean this one is wrong. You can only go that far on limited resources. As Lennier said

<blockquote><font class="small">Quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Lennier:
<font color=yellow>1. Our energetics and industry relies heavily on non-renewable resources. To reach a sustainable state, we are going to need several technical break-throughs. We cannot stop. Stopping at such speed is equal to hitting a wall. We will have to move with more speed and more care, until we get over the difficult point. We are in a diffucult point. </font color=yellow><hr></blockquote>

I agree.

And actually the old one from the 1970's wasn't really wrong about the "fact" just about the "degree". It isn't as bad as they thought it would be. We are only halfway there... yet...


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