beware, there be spoilers: The Sirens of Titan

I’m sure that I’ve read The Sirens of Titan before but it must have been a long time ago, as I didn’t remember any of it. I didn’t remember, for instance, that the sirens themselves don’t play a significant role in the book.

I don’t remember the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, with its basic creed that we should ‘take care of the people, and God Almighty will take care of himself.’ I have to admit, it’s an attractive creed for a religion, as it’s never been clear how fragile, mortal creatures such as humans should be called up or feel it necessary to defend an omnipotent deity.

And there is an idea at the core of the book that Vonnegut makes good use of, and if I were to ever decide to turn my hand again to formal studentdom, it might be an idea that I would explore in some depth.

The idea is this: the way to unify humankind, to allow us as a collective whole to take care of each other, make sure all are fed and clothed and safe from the world and each other, is to create an external enemy that requires us to come together.

The idea of the external enemy bringing us together is commonly used; the instance that most immediately comes to my mind is the film Independence Day, though I’m suspect that this wouldn’t be the first instance that comes to most peoples’ minds.

But this idea of the internal enemy, of someone amongst humankind creating an enemy to unify humankind, I find to be a remarkably intriguing idea. A variant occurs in an episode of The Outer Limits (I think?), in which a scientists volunteers to be extensively surgically modified to become as an alien, but is then hunted and killed before he can undertake his mission.

There’s also a story I remember reading, title and author unfortunately long forgotten, where a human defects to join an invading alien race, but his true self-appointed mission is to persuade the aliens to undertake sufficiently grotesque actions against humankind that he becomes the monster that humankind comes together to track down and kill. Though in the end, he makes sure there’s no body to find, to keep humankind on their toes.

And this is where the Army of Mars comes in. The Army of Mars, kidnapped humans being remotely controlled by devices implanted in their brains, is the invading force that causes humans to unite and to come together under the banner of the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent.

This idea, of one or more people deciding to unify humanity by creating an enemy that leaves no other option, is an idea that I’m sure I’ll explore further, here or elsewhere.

~ by Jim Anderson on 6 April 2018.

3 Responses to “beware, there be spoilers: The Sirens of Titan”

  1. “unite to face a common enemy” is a well-known political tactic, yes. It’s saddening that what brings us together most easily is FEAR. And our easiest response is ANGER/HATE. There must be ways of encouraging us to run off oxytocin rather than adrenaline…

    • It is saddening and there must be better ways, I agree, but then we hit one of the other old and well-known questions, which is, how do we persuade people to behave better, and that’s also a question we don’t yet have a comprehensive answer to.

  2. […] One coincidence is that Howard W Campbell, Jr, the character from whose point of view the story is told, is one of those characters who deliberately makes themselves the face of the enemy.  This is something that Vonnegut has done before, though in a slightly different way, as we wrote about in beware, there be spoilers: The Sirens of Titan. […]

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