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Subject:      Dumb Wannabe Colonists
From:         GroundHog <[email protected]>
Date:         1997/02/13
Message-Id:   <[email protected]>
Newsgroups:   sci.space.policy

Lots of crock on this newsgroups from wannabe space colonists about 
how mankind in general, and Americans in particular, must go out into 
space and multiply.
Dumbasses. I have been around the world, and your average American is 
anything but a pioneer. The US citizen in a third world country: 
complains about the food; drinks only bottled water; can't stand the 
weather; won't learn the local languages; can't stand the locals; 
despises anything not blessed by the touch of mom'n'apple pie;pines 
away if he can't follow Oprah or the Superbowl on satellite TV.
The pioneering type ?!!! 
Forgawssakes, what do you imagine life on a space colony to be like, 
Star Trek? With holodecks, huge open spaces, pleasantly designed 
decors? Get a brain. The first few generations in space will live a 
hard, dangerous, confined life under conditions that will make 
Alcatraz seem like a spa resort. Big, rolling hills in O'Neill 
cylinders? Don't get fooled by the ads. They will come, but the first 
couple of space-borne generations will have to build 'em.
What kind of American, or indeed Westerner, would give up a life on 
humdrum ol' Earth to live the rest of his life in cramped, uncertain,
unpleasant conditions ? 
'Cos believe you me, the romance of pioneering in space will wear off 
real quick once the public realises there are no holodecks, or green 
bountiful parks in moon domes, or exciting battles with fierce alien 
invaders, just 10 cubic meters of cramped quarters, recycling your own 
urine, living in your own sweat, facing the dangers of decompression 
daily, seeing the same goddamn faces every day,knowing that down below 
on Earth people are laughing, and loving, breathing fresh air and 
running in spring sunshine,meeting people and living life.

Who would want to colonise space under such conditions?

That's right: the people we all love to hate and despise:
The poor from the Third World.
Sure you don't see them in Star Trek. Sure the crew of the Enterprise 
is white, male and of American origin. (Noticed how every time the 
Enterprise goes back in time, it goes back to the American past?)
But WASPs are not the people who risk their lives on shaky home-made
rafts on the open sea in search of a better life. They are not the 
ones who leave their homelands in search of opportunity. They have not 
known civil war, or hunger or hardship. They are not the ones with 
nothing to lose.

Cubans. Haitians. Somali's. Phillipino's. Timorese.
They are the immigrants of the 21st century. They are the ones fleeing 
persecution and poverty, seeking a better life. They have far more in 
common with the passengers on the Mayflower than the overfed, 
overweight, self-satisfied, self-righteous, tax-paying, groundhogs 
sitting behind their computers and filling the Net with wannabe 
hogwash, boasting about their ancestor's deeds and imagining 
themselves to be their spiritual heirs.

And no claptrap about "Yeah, but  Cubans can't build spaceships, only 
shaky old rafts". Colonists don't build ships. They colonise. Or die 
trying. And when launchers have been privatised, when the American 
public in 2030 has tired of the short-lived space-colonisation fad, 
and turned to watch Star Trek reruns, who will be the ones who scrape 
up their life's savings, sell off a son or daughter to pimps, and 
travel in dangerous, untrustworthy rockets to face an uncertain future 
in the moon colonies (while American taxpayers whine about all these 
foreign immigrant types living in colonies paid for by THEIR money, 
and isn't it time they did something about it, bla bla bla ..) 

The ones with nothing to lose.

And that means NOT you.

As a white, over-fed American who dreams (or at least dreamt) of someday living in space, I was needless to say somewhat taken aback by this thought-provoking post.  While I agree with most of the points GroundHog makes, I would hope that even as a Westerner of reasonable affluence, I could not be excluded from space settlement.

I actually found great encouragement in the opinions expressed here.  One of the most frequently-heard criticisms from people who have a philosophical dislike of the space settlement concept is that it's "elitist".  They worry about the wealthy emigrating to space, leaving the third planet from the sun behind them to become a global Third World in the economic sense as well as the literal.  But I think the above essay quite correctly disputes this scenario.  After all, it was not the wealthy and landed aristocrats of Europe who settled the American frontier.  It was, as GroundHog would say, the ones with nothing to lose.  The idea that space settlement is indeed relevant to the needs of the poor and down-trodden of this world only makes me more enthusiastic for it, and defuses most of the arguments raised against it.

On the issue of "Yeah, but Cubans can't build spaceships, only shaky old rafts", I like what Isaac Asimov had to say about this.  In his article "Our Future in the Cosmos - Space" [PDF page 80], he addressed the contention that only nations with a "heritage of space flight" would be able to participate in the settlement of space.  Pointing to his immigrant Russian father, Asimov commented that his father didn't have a "heritage of ocean travel".

What he had was a ticket.

Mike Combs
April 1997

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This is the archive version of the Mike Combs Space Settlement web site and is provided as a courtesy of the National Space Society.