The Man in the High Castle Season Three: October 5, 2018

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Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61souSkwDk4

 

Well that took a while.  I have eagerly anticipated Season Three of the Amazon Prime Series The Man in the High Castle, and it will finally premiere on October 5, 2018.

The late Philip K. Dick, paranoid, left-leaning, mentally ill and drug abuser, was nevertheless a science fiction writer of pure genius.  His book The Man in the High Castle (1962) introduced me as a boy to the genre of alternate history, with his unforgettable evocation of a United States divided by the victorious Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  One of the main plot devices in the book is a novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which posits an alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II.  Like most of Dick’s work, the book suggests that the dividing line between alternate realities can be very thin.

“The Nazis have no sense of humor, so why should they want television? Anyhow, they killed most of the really great comedians. Because most of them were Jewish. In fact, she realized, they killed off most of the entertainment field. I wonder how Hope gets away with what he says. Of course, he has to broadcast from Canada. And it’s a little freer up there. But Hope really says things. Like the joke about Goring . . . the one where Goring buys Rome and has it shipped to his mountain retreat and then set up again. And revives Christianity so his pet lions will have something to—”

 

 

Dick’s novel brings out the contingency of history, a factor overlooked by many people.  History is what has occurred.  While we are living it, making our contribution to what will be the history of our times, we understand that what will be is the result of many factors and predicting the future is a fool’s game.  The past seems rock solid by comparison.  Understanding however the events and circumstances that shaped the past, and also comprehending that different paths could easily have been followed, gives us a different view of the past and the present.    It is one thing to go through life with the philosophy that “what will be, will be” and quite another to appreciate that the future depends upon what we and our contemporaries do now.

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17 Comments

  1. It is one thing to go through life with the philosophy that “what will be, will be” and quite another to appreciate that the future depends upon what we and our contemporaries do now.

    Reminds me of an observation of a difference between Islam and Christianity; Islam says “Allah’s will” after a thing happens*; Christianity says what they plan to do and then adds “God willing.”

    * it can be very odd to listen to recordings of military observation offices, the phrase is dropped in as meaningfully as the f-bomb among 20 year old Army guys with no superior in view. This can make for some odd conspiracy theories that observers are on the same side as the attackers.

  2. Tell me: why is it that lurid fantasies of Nazi take-overs appear with regular frequency (like B-movies of conquering Martians in the 1950s), but if anyone makes a book or movie about a Soviet or Chinese take-over it’s immediately decried as “right wing wacko fantasy”? Are dead Nazis scarier than live Reds? Soviet Russia and modern China had and have the actual numbers to attempt an invasion of this country. Germany and Japan never did.

  3. Both Nazi and Communist takeover scenarios are somewhere close to Alien Space Bat territory. North America is a giant island, and the Nazi and Communist empires have been land beasts lacking massive sealift capacity or even solid naval traditions.

    Plus, there is no handy Great Britain right off our shores for a potential invader to use.

    That said, you can almost piece together a semi-plausible Nazi invasion *if* they get ahold of the Royal Navy and/or nukes. But that still requires a long chain of lucky breaks.

    Likewise with the Soviets: winning a nuclear exchange that doesn’t turn the planet into a cinder allows for a Red invasion or subverting Mexico (which would probably prompt an invasion on our part first) and turning it into a Soviet Airstrip One. But either is also so lucky that it’s quite unlikely.

  4. As Abraham Lincoln noted long ago:

    “How then shall we perform it?–At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.”

    A more plausible event would be a devastating nuclear strike on the US with an invading power controlling a few coastal enclaves, but even that isn’t much more plausible. However, it does make for interesting alternate history.

  5. “Tell me: why is it that lurid fantasies of Nazi take-overs appear with regular frequency”

    This may be starting to wane. We saw more of it in the Sixties and the Seventies with such classics as “They Stole Hitler’s Brain!” The Dick novel came out in 1962. Hollywood leftism is a factor of course, but I do think that the Nazis do better box office than the Commies, with the notable exception of Red Dawn (1984) which performed decently at the box office:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qc8jJ0TjSY

  6. Donald:
    A history teacher friend and I once argued over a few drinks what the real difference was between Nazis and Communists. After a few more, we decided to use the model of play: Nazis had better set and costume designers, but Communists had better script writers.
    By the way: Whoever drew the eagle in the opening frame has the head turned the wrong way. Heraldic eagles always look to the viewer’s left (“dexter”). That’s the one used as an emblem of the Nazi government. The right-facing eagle (looking to the heraldic “sinister”) was used only on NSDAP documents and in fact was called the Parteiadler.

  7. My late father was an officer in the famed Honolulu “Pineapple Pentagon”, and had Pentagon security clearance as well. “The Man in the High Castle” is not that far from historical basis: My father viewed summarized decoded IJN communications that revealed the Imperial Japanese High Command had a plan for an invasion of the San Francisco Peninsula and the establishment of a military commandancy of San Francisco. After Midway, when our last carriers were to have been wiped out, Japanese sappers were to land just south of the city at Davenport and drive up the Skyline Highway. The aircraft carriers were to clear the sky of opposition, and the IJN battleships, staying out of range of the formidable Golden Gate 14″ batteries were to cut off any transports to Hawaii. Any remaining Pacific Fleet that sallied forth from San Diego or the Panama Canal would have a hard time engaging such a powerful force. The US would have to sue for peace.

  8. Something is wrong in the following statement contained in a comment above because in lingua Latina sinister, sinistra, sinistrum is left and dexter, dextra, dextrum is right. 1st year Latin class in ’72.

    Whoever drew the eagle in the opening frame has the head turned the wrong way. Heraldic eagles always look to the viewer’s left (“dexter”). That’s the one used as an emblem of the Nazi government. The right-facing eagle (looking to the heraldic “sinister”) was used only on NSDAP documents and in fact was called the Parteiadler.

  9. Tell me: why is it that lurid fantasies of Nazi take-overs appear with regular frequency (like B-movies of conquering Martians in the 1950s), but if anyone makes a book or movie about a Soviet or Chinese take-over it’s immediately decried as “right wing wacko fantasy”?

    Because the Nazis lost, utterly and flatly, as an enemy.

    The Soviets collapsed, with active supporters the entire time, and STILL have a cheering section. They could come back— the Nazis, not so much.

    Same reason that Ronald Reagan became useful to the Left as soon as he died. They’re not around to argue.

  10. Dale-
    I hadn’t ever really considered it before, but part of the “then they take over the US” thing is because folks are working off of a notion of “country” that is European.

    It’s a lot more likely you can take over France (two Colorados) than something 18 times bigger, with MULTIPLE mountain ranges, a culture that is more homogenous than Europe but far less so than any individual European country, has a strong tradition of self-defense and the tools to use it, and actively idolizes the telling of unjust authority to go do something rude to itself. To the point that the “unjust” part frequently is insufficiently justified, or flatly assumed.

  11. On the subject of things I hadn’t actually considered, I realized I didn’t know what the biggest country in Europe is; depending on how you define it (with any area in Europe, or entirely in Europe) it’s either Russia or the Ukraine.

    We’re twice the size of “European Russia,” something like 4/7ths the size of all of Russia; we’re 15 times bigger than the Ukraine with Crimea.

    Honestly, if things got REALLY ugly as far as trying to take over the US goes, if Great Britain fell? At least half of Canada would be joining the US. Especially if they got guns. (Well, officially got guns. I know the Canadians who visited our area in Washington were somewhat less gun adverse than, say, Seattlittes, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of firearms were lurking in mysterious canoeing accidents.

  12. LCQ: The viewer’s left is the eagle’s right. The eagle is the symbol for the swiftness of God’s perfect Justice. Nazis got to be stupid to invoke the swiftness of God’s perfect Justice…the communists also.

  13. Mary:
    Thank you for your answer to LQC. In heraldry the directions are from the viewpoint of the one holding the shield, not the one beholding it 🙂

  14. I’ve read the novel and I have to say that the Amazon series is much better and has many more levels. The book just kind of ends with no denouement. Of course that wouldn’t make for a very good series.

    You say that Philip K. Dick was left-leaning but if he was, that did not extend to his views on abortion. In 1974 after the Roe v Wade decision the year before, he wrote a story called “The Pre-Persons.” It is very Pro-Life.

    He said “In this I incurred the absolute hate of [fellow science-fiction writer] Joanna Russ who wrote me the nastiest letter I’ve ever received; at one point she said she usually offered to beat up people (she didn’t use the word people) who expressed opinions such as this…I am sorry to offend those who disagree with me about abortion on demand… But for the pre-person’s sake I am not sorry. I stand where I stand: “Hier steh Ich; Ich kann nicht anders,” as Martin Luther is supposed to have said.”

    Here is a link to the story. It is very powerful. The only criticism I have of it is that unfortunately it couches the abortion debate as a men-versus-women dispute. I know many women who are pro-life so the integrity of the story is mitigated somewhat by making the line of demarcation so sexist.

    http://prolife.org.nz/the-pre-persons-phillip-k-dick/

  15. @STEVE PHOENIX:
    *
    It is my understanding that thanks to the visionary work of Carl Vinson that the US was already in the process of a big build up of a new naval fleet in advance of Pearl Harbor. I also heard that because we had naval shipyards on the east coast that our battleships had to be built to Panamax dimensions to be able to traverse the Panama Canal.

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