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[From posts to Starship Forum, Oct 2001 - Oct 2002]
The news today [June 19, 2002] reported another bombing massacre in Israel: a suicide bus-bombing, "the worst bomb attack seen in Jerusalem for six years", killing at least 19 Israelis and injuring 50....
I am outraged and horrified that these massacres have continued, seemingly on a weekly basis, with no end in sight. I fear that one of these days, the two Israeli members that I know of in this Forum will be unsubscribed by being victims, too, of yet another bombing (although they have assured me that, where they live and work, they are more at risk from being in traffic than from bombings, which I find hard to believe.)
I remember that, last fall, a thread "Starship Zion?" discussed the feasibility of creating an Israeli nation in Space as a solution to the current crisis in the Middle East. With all the lives lost, with little hope of peace, with the rugged, desert-like geography limiting the growth and prosperity -- and with the billions spent and lost in maintaining a wartime-like state -- the possibility of a "Starship Zion" is too attractive (to me) to be dismissed easily.
(Years ago, before the impending takeover of Hongkong by communist China, I was imagining the people of Hongkong -- the Chinese, British, Americans, and others -- building a space colony, taking all their wealth with them, and just leaving the bare rocks for the commies.)
In revisiting the idea of the viability of a starship Zion becoming the new "promised land", I wonder what new (or previous) issues could be examined now? Could the Israelis, as a nation, be capable -- financially, technologically, and philosophically -- of creating and sustaining a starship Zion? How much would their religious-cultural attachment to their Holy Land detract from their motivation to build such a Zionist civilization in space? Would any of Israel's allies be willing to help build it? Would such a starship Zion welcome non-Zionist, but friendly immigrants?
[The following are from the previous, initial discussion during last Fall 2001 on this topic of a "Starship Zion", after which will be resumed the revisited discussion from this past summer-fall 2002.]
Raphael (9/30) and Ram (10/1) have offered Hebrew expressions for conveying an attitude of how to face difficult situations that are difficult to prepare for.
Ram also suggested parenthetically and jokingly: "how about changing the forum's name to "Starships and three-word old Hebrew sayings?"
If the postings become predominantly to consist of three-word old Hebrew sayings, we might have to change the forum's name.
But even if that doesn't come about, I would like to ask Ram and Raphael this:
Is there a Hebrew expression that refers to the integrated totality, material and spiritual, of all that which a human being creates to achieve meaning, purpose, and happiness? The expression should refer to something more inspiring than "home", more concretized and symbolic than "life", closer to such words like "(e)utopia", "eldorado", "shangri-la", "paradise" (I'm reluctant to add "heaven"). The expression should have emphasis on the structure that anyone, as a human being, can build to provide for one's happiness, using one's natural, rational abilities of thought and feeling.
I would also like to extend the question even further: Is there an expression in any other language that would be synonymous with "starship"?
In answer to my query (10/1) for a Hebrew expression that might mean something like "starship", Ram suggested (10/2):
"An approximate word in Hebrew may be 'tzi'yon' (Zion). The original, narrower sense of 'tzi'yon' (Zion) is the city Jerusalem. The broader sense is the land of Israel. The word 'tzi'yon' (Zion) is associated with the two-thousand-years aspirations of Jews to return to a land of their own, to be free from subordination to alien law and whim. On the other hand, it is associated with the modern, rational, secular plan to re-establish the land of Israel as a means for the self-preservation of Jews, within a free and just society. Hence, Zionism."
Ram, I wonder if anyone in Israel, or anywhere else, has thought of building a Starship Zion, that is, a settlement in space "for the self-preservation of Jews, within a free and just society"?
The construction of such a starship is not far-fetched. Plans have been devised, and continue to be developed, since the early 70's with O'Neill's High Frontier settlements. These settlements can house several million people within earth-like environments of customized climates and landscapes, tapping the limitless energy and bountiful material available in space. I've mentioned elsewhere details and sources of the technologically feasible designs and economically amortizable costs of such settlements.
The Jewish people both in and outside of Israel are intelligent, resourceful, and financially adept, to accomplish this lofty goal -- such that, after they build their own space country, their own starships, they can build more to sell to other groups who also seek their own free and just society.
No longer would the Zionists be surrounded by "alien law and whim", constantly defending themselves in a constricted land like Israel, where the high living cost and high death toll is inexorably sapping the will and energy of a proud people.
How about a Starship Zion?
Ram asked (10/05):
"I admit I haven't followed your work closely. Do you mean that space colonies are applicable now? Or within several decades? Centuries?"
The plans and designs for settlements in space have been available since the early 70's, spearheaded by Gerard K. O'Neill and his colleagues, as first presented in his book, The High Frontier. (I posted a guide to online sources in "Planetary Chauvinism", 9/29.) The plans were based on engineering already known at the time, without requiring any new breakthroughs, and scheduled, in a "bootstrap" method, for eventual completion of a first 10,000-people- size settlement by around now -- if the financial investment were available to initiate the project in 1975.
One major economic goal was to construct solar power satellites to convert the 24-hour sunlight to electricity and sell it to Earth. Included in this economy was the sale of products and services that could only be manufactured or best located in space.
So, Ram, your question of whether space settlements are applicable now is: Yes, the idea is technologically applicable and feasible since the early 70's and would be even easier now with the advances made since then. But, until more and more people (not governmental agencies like NASA), from all walks of life -- businessmen, engineers, architects, all the professions that make up an economy, including ordinary people -- see the value and invest their career and money to that venture, it could take many more decades before the first space settlement is completed. The more focussed and organized the effort could be, and the more the major corporations of the world adopt the long range view, the sooner the achievement.
Imagine a global consortium of companies that each already provide the products and services for Earth, but expanding to provide space versions of the same: General Foods, General Motors, Intel, Microsoft, Disney, Sony, thousands of productive companies, and millions of ordinary people who are willing to work for the higher standard of living possible in space. This is possible if there were a combined, coordinated effort based on a free-market, libertarian framework.
" ...there are other reasons why Starship Zion will not be an attractive idea in the foreseeable future:
If this is the case, and even accepting that Israel can persist in its present location, and that the people can continue to tolerate the relatively cramped spaces, what are the Israeli plans for growth? How will the small land area sustain new Israelis being born? Would not a Starship Zion be a solution, and still let those who feel attached to Israel, stay?
"- Although life in Israel is not the safest in the world, most Israelis consider Israel a big success, are proud in it, and are content to stay in Israel, and to fight over it, until peace is reached.
Are most Israelis optimistic about peace being achievable? When? At what costs?
"- If we do have to flee from the middle east one day, perhaps the US will accept us? (Or Canada? Australia?) After all, we're just five million, and quite productive..."
Personally, I would welcome having more rational and productive people, including Israelis, move here to Alberta, the economically freest province in Canada. There are only about 5 million Albertans living in a fertile resource-rich province that's probably at least 20 times the size of Israel. The government of Canada would accept Israeli immigrants one at a time, but I'm not sure about a mass fleeing.
"- For the secular, rational Jews, to establish a state of Jews hasn't been an ideal, but the best viable solution for self-preservation. It is not our dream to surrounded only by Jews. So to be secluded in space with only Jews is not particularly attractive for us..."
I wouldn't say that "secluded in space" would be the case --"liberated in space" would be more correct. And a Starship Zion wouldn't necessarily consists of only Jews.
Monart wrote (10/7), concerning my comment about the tie between Jews and Israel:
"If this is the case, and even accepting that Israel can persist in its present location, and that the people can continue to tolerate the relatively cramped spaces, what are the Israeli plans for growth? How will the small land area sustain new Israelis being born? Would not a Starship Zion be a solution, and still let those who feel attached to Israel stay?"
This is an interesting question, about which I'm currently uninformed. I've never heard the general population growth in Israel discussed as a problem in this sense. When population growth in discussed, it is usually in the context of the future proportion between Jews and non-Jews in Israel, or the future proportion between secular and religious Jews.
Anyway, population growth, if it is a problem, is hardly special to Israel. And because of the relatively small population of Israel, we can assume that population growth will cause larger rates of immigration out of Israel.
Monart continues, concerning my comment about the willingness of Israelis to stay in Israel and protect it until peace is reached:
"Are most Israelis optimistic about peace being achievable? When? At what costs?"
These questions haven't got simple answers. These are probably the most debated questions among Israelis (and we use to say that among two Jews you'll find three opinions).
Speaking in the name of the vague Israeli mainstream, I could say this: Expectations for peace were relatively high since the Oslo agreement (in 1993, I think). For a lasting peace, the Israeli Jews would probably be ready:
- To allow the establishment of a Palestinian state, but only with high assurances for the security of Israel, e.g. severe restrictions on the Palestinian's military forces.
- To give to the Palestinian State almost all the so-called "occupied territories" from the 1967 war; which implies dismantling of most settlements.
- To have some kind of joint ownership over the holy places in Jerusalem (the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the mosques).
- To participate in the compensation of the 1948 war Palestinian refugees, but without allowing them to return to Israel, except for isolated cases of uniting families. That is because the Jews being a significant majority in Israel is perhaps the single most important factor for Israel's continuing survival.
After the unexpected Palestinian eruption in October 2000 (the second Intifada in the Occupied Territories and the unprecedented riots by Israeli Palestinians) the hopes for near peace dropped dramatically. I remember a girl at work at that time asking about the chances for peace, and me answering: "Probably not the next thirty years".
Monart continued, concerning the possibility of immigration of all five million Israeli Jews at some future time:
"Personally, I would welcome having more rational and productive people, including Israelis, move here to Alberta, the economically freest province in Canada. There are only about 5 million Albertans living in a fertile resource-rich province that's probably at least 20 times the size of Israel. The government of Canada would accept Israeli immigrants one at a time, but I'm not sure about a mass fleeing."
Alberta sounds fine! How about confidentially asking the Canadian authorities about this possibility? Just in case ;-)
[The following are from discussions when the topic was revisited Summer-Fall 2002.]
"... While the possibilities of space are exhilarating, it seems to me the Israelis will lose by making such a move--in effect they would allow terrorism to literally banish them from the earth. In my opinion, this would be a huge victory for terrorism--it would send the message that if you blow up enough people, you can launch the enemy into space."
"Starship Zion" is like a thought-experiment to examine how easy it might be for a small, capable, and unique nation like Israel to build their own settlement in space -- and consequently, to be free from the debilitating situation that they're in now, and likely for years to come, including an all-out war.
If Israel would and could migrate into space (and I predict that they eventually will, anyway), and leave behind them the terrorism and threat of war, it would not be a surrender to the terrorists, but, instead, be a triumphant achievement for fostering their way of life.
If a family moves out of a dangerous, crime-ridden neighborhood orcity, or out of a tyrannical country, this would not be a surrender to the criminals or tyrants, but a victory of seeking a better life.
Earlier I wrote (6/19):
"In revisiting the idea of the viability of a starship Zion becoming the new "promised land", I wonder what new (or previous) issues could be examined now? Could the Israelis, as a nation, be capable -- financially, technologically, and philosophically -- of creating and sustaining a starship Zion? How much would their religious-cultural attachment to their Holy Land detract from their motivation to build such a Zionist civilization in space? Would any of Israel's allies be willing to help build it? Would such a starship Zion welcome non-Zionist, but friendly immigrants?"
In response, Michelle wrote (7/19):
"I am very touched by Monart's concern for the safety of all Israelis. Nevertheless, physical survival is not sufficient for flourishing, and the Jewish people cannot flourish outside Israel."
Thank you, Michelle. I assume that you, too, live in Israel -- and that you and your children are in a relatively safe area? Do you, yourself, feel like other Israelis -- that you "cannot flourish outside Israel"?
You mentioned "Jewish people" having this deep attachment to Israel. You don't mean *all* Jewish people, do you? There have been millions of Jewish people flourishing all over the world since the Diaspora. Or, do you refer only to Israeli Jews? If the latter, what is the root difference between Israeli Jews and the more cosmopolitan Jews, such that the former feel they *cannot* flourish outside Israel? (I ask these, and later, questions with kindness and concern for understanding, and not with any trace of ill-will.)
Michelle continued with examples of other past attempts at creating a Zionist state in places like the Amazon, Ethiopia, and Siberia, where it was "considered remote and safe", but "did not attract enough Jews", because "physical safety cannot be a substitute for civilization" or for "the historical, cultural and religious attachment of the Jews to the Holy Land". "Zion" is for "a specific geographic location", and "there cannot be a Zionist civilization anywhere else".
I can understand the deep love that a person or a people may have for their country or homeland, such that in some cases they will fight and die to defend it. I can also understand the deep love one may have, for the philosophy and culture of one's country, to risk one's life for it. But what is the true object of the love? The actual, physical land -- or the principles, values, and ideals that define one's beloved country?
Even if that love reaches a religious or holy, (i.e., wholly) level of significance, still, is it not the *ideas* that underlie the meaning of one's religion, and not any particular embodiment, that is the object of one's devotion? Is it not some kind of idolatry to have a higher regard for a physical thing, symbol, or place, than for the abstract ideals?
Is "Zion" only the name of a specific, geographical place, or is it more importantly the name of a type of ideal society, a "just and free society" that Ram defined? (in an earlier post http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Starship_Forum/message/91 )
What makes a Zionist country less religious, civilized, or flourishing, if it were situated elsewhere than (or as well as) in Israel? If Zion can only be Israel, is it an Israel of a specific size? How many square miles? Even if on those square miles, it could finally be made at peace, how much growth in population and development would they support? If annexation or emigration will be needed, would the new land and emigrants consequently be less Zionist?
It seems to me that strictly equating Zion with Israel leads to a static and stifling, not dynamic and prosperous culture.
Michelle ended her post with this comment:
"A Starship may work for the strikers of Galt's Gulch, who follow the motto of ...:' 'And the world began when I was born, and the world is mine to win.' It will not work for the Israelis, for whom the world began 3000 years ago, if not earlier."
By analogy, this statement would also mean that starships "will not work" for the human race, for whom the world began millions of years ago.
[Michelle's reply to Monart's questions.]
"I assume that you, too, live in Israel -- and that you and your children are in a relatively safe area? Do you, yourself, feel like other Israelis -- that you 'cannot flourish outside Israel?"
As a matter of fact, I left Israel because I felt I could not flourish there as an individual. Nevertheless, I realize that the Israelis who prefer to live there regard Israeli culture and ethnicity as essential for their flourishing, enough to risk their lives.
"You don't mean *all* Jewish people, do you? There have been millions of Jewish people flourishing all over the world since the Diaspora."
They did not flourish all over the world in the last 100 years. The Dreifus Affair in France was the catalyst of the Zionist movement. The first Zionist settlers escaped the Russian pogroms. The holocaust was the incentive for the U.N. resolution in 1948 to establish a Jewish state in Israel - to solve the refugee problem of the holocaust. Yes, it would have been great if the history of the last 100 years was different, but as Objectivists, we have to face the reality of things as they actually were and not the way the ought to have been.
"What is the root difference between Israeli Jews and the more cosmopolitan Jews, such that the former feel they *cannot* flourish outside Israel?"
The cosmopolitan Jews believe in the enlightenment of the 18th and 19th Centuries, when the Jews gradually gained civil rights in Europe. They regard the holocaust as an aberration. For Zionists, the holocaust invalidated the possibility of this enlightenment. It is the difference between a benevolent but perhaps unrealistic world view and a malevolent but perhaps realistic world view. Zionism is different from Objectivism in its malevolent view of human nature as incurably and hopelessly Collectivist.
"But what is the true object of the love? The actual, physical land -- or the principles, values, and ideals that define one's beloved country?... Is 'Zion' only the name of a specific, geographical place, or is it more importantly the name of a type of ideal society, a 'just and free society' that Ram defined?"
Zion is not meant to be Objectivist society - it is defined as a Jewish society in the land of Israel. Jewish history goes back 3000 years to the Biblical land of Israel. (That's what I meant that for many Israelis the world began 3000 years ago, not when they were born.) It will be a just and free society because non-Jews will be treated well due to the tolerant nature of Jewish law. In fact, Israeli Arabs have been treated better under Israeli law than the Palestinians under the Palestinian Authority.
"Is it not the *ideas* that underlie the meaning of one's religion, and not any particular embodiment, that is the object of one's devotion?"
Judaism is not just a faith but a nationality associated with a country of origin. I certainly don't claim that it is rational, but these are the facts.
"Is it not some kind of idolatry to have a higher regard for a physical thing, symbol, or place, than for the abstract ideals?"
Yes, I agree, but the physical country has a meaning as well. Imagine that the U.S. is transported to another planet. The Constitution will remain the same, but something uniquely American will be lost. History will lose its power. The "Star Spangled Banner" will not have the geographic location of Fort McHenry for school children to visit. The Civil War will not have the geographic location of Gettysburg as a reminder. Words like "Yankee" and "Southern States" will lose their meaning. Even locations without historical significance are meaningful. The U.S. without the Grand Canyon, the Appalachian Trail and Niagara Falls will not be the same. I think that even Objectivist Americans will miss the physical landmarks.
Rafael, in reply to Michelle's statement, " Zionism is different from Objectivism in its [the former's] malevolent view of human nature as incurably and hopelessly Collectivist."
" This implies that Zion is valued primarily (if not exclusively) as a place of refuge from the perennial curse of anti-Semitism; but for Israeli Zionists this is seldom the case. [...]"
" For most Israelis, Israel [...] is the land where we were born, where our mother tongue is the official and everyday language, where we grew up, made friends, formed habits, established routines, created real-estate values, etc.; it's _home_. [...]"
I understand this experiential attachment to one's homeland, but I also see many people who leave their homeland or hometown for a new, and hopefully better life in another country or another city especially if one's original home is neither secure nor promising of opportunities for prosperity. Even if the love for one's homeland keeps one there, what of the children? Should they be given or shown the opportunity for moving out to build their home in another land?
Children, especially, are dynamic and adaptable, Wherever they are born and to grow up -- in Israel, Somalia, America or in Space -- they would call that place their home. The progress of civilization is spurred on by outward migration and movement, both physically and intellectually. Children of migrants take root in the new land and make that their homeland.
I still envision that one day, if Zionism continues to survive as a philosophy and a way of life, there will be created a new country in space like a Starship Zion.
"This vision of a free, productive, peaceful and just community within a spaceship -- be it a Jewish community or a completely cosmopolitan one -- is one of the most beautiful visions I know; a great source of inspiration and hope."
This kind of sentiment is what moves one towards the realization of starships as the ideal, final solution to the problems that beset reason-and-freedom loving people, not only in Israel, but in any country that enslaves its citizens (which is so done in every country).
Furthermore, the starship vision inspires hope, not only for deliverance from despotism and despair, but also inspires hope for fulfillment of life's ongoing striving for ever-more happiness. This romance for starships is what has moved me all my life -- guiding and fueling my goals and plans, and keeping me together in one piece, fresh and free.
When I first came to Canada from China as a boy, the marvel that most impressed me was the "Dawn of the Space Age". The science-fiction I then read added to the imagination of life's future wondrous possibilities. At first, it was the technological aspect of the vision that I was primarily aware of, and my goals were headed towards those fields. Then, as a sophomore at university, I became aware of the philosophical aspects, because of Rand's works in objectivism and romanticism, and I put my focus on philosophy and art ever since. Later, I went on to earn (to fight for and win) a master's in "objectivist astronautics".
From the time I first formalized the starship vision (in 1975) and embarked on its realization with my writing it down in an essay, "Project Starship", I haven't relented in following that purpose -- although along the way, I have sometimes felt as if I were crazy in my devotion (and such feelings can be debilitating). But the very nature of the purpose, and the symbolism that it radiates, has always kept me true on course.
I have written about this before (on this list, my website, and elsewhere), and I'll likely continue to write about it: that "starship" is not only a physical thing, but also a philosophical, romantic, and spiritual quest -- an integration of mind and body -- a potent unity that's also an ultimate symbol of human being becoming heroic, creating the values that bring happiness and ecstasy.
I'm aware that many people criticize my enthusiasm for the starship way of life as being religious. But, so what if I were; what's wrong with that? "Enthusiasm" is "the divine theos within". "Religion" is a "binding together of values". "Worship" is "a state of having worth". "Holiness" is "wholeness". I do not let the foolishness of some religions embarrass me into being irreligious, into renouncing the sacred, and thereby forsaking the highest romance that one could have about one's life-purpose and meaning. To do so is to diminish a vital source of energy and ecstasy.
Some people claim that "starship" is not a universal value, that it's just a personal "pet project" or fantasy of fanatics, like something for Trekkies. My answer is: Starships are for everyone, for everyone who wants them. Be aware that starship is more than a ship that flies among the stars. It is the starlight within the ship of one's being. It is the best within. It is the final solution.