Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Old Days Machine

This semester has found me enrolled in a class called Special Themes in Literature. I honestly didn't know what the theme was...but somehow, I managed not to actualize this truth until I walked through the door. But I wasn't expecting what I got when I opened the door: a smiling young professor, a smiling bunch of students, and a course centered on...science fiction!!! I have no objection whatsoever to science fiction. But it's never been one of my things. Despite the geekery I've always associated with most intimately (and I do mean this in a kind and loving way), I had managed to remain free from the overpowering, life-altering chains of the stereotypical genre of intellectuals.



Anyway, we're to read H.G. Wells The Time Machine before class this coming Tuesday. I've finished it, and I have become more aware of just how grateful I am to live in this day. Not because of any feat that humankind will eventually dwindle down to an organism comparable to today's rodents. Rather, I am extremely overjoyed to be alive now because of a statement made in the book that took me by utter surprise and took me on my own time-travel adventure.

The Time Traveler who is telling of his time adventures to the story's unnamed narrator makes a comment about the gap that exists between the Negro and the White Man. In the context of the story, the gap to which he refers is that of intellectual ability. The author, through his characters, also implies that the ways of indigenous people are inferior to that of the West. But in fact, they are simply different. Much of the scaffolding of Western thought places most of its emphasis on monetary gain. In fact this is often how we measure success. But other cultures place more value on the treatment of elders than on finances. Some place more of a focus on communal unity than the market value of the houses on their street. Such thought leads to the degeneracy of humankind, ironically towards the same end implied by Wells. While the West does have some very great ideals, it should not be considered the best by any means.

I'd love for the Time Traveler to set his dials to January 20th, 2009. I'd love to see the look on his face as a gentleman too dark to have entertained the Time Traveler's company assumes what is perhaps the most powerful position in the world.

I know that this book was written before the 20th century. But that does not mean that I cannot be outraged by its suggestions, especially when its author is to have been such a intelligent man. But literary racism is no new thing and is just as prevalent today, albeit not always prominent.

I suppose that all of this reinforces what I've recently actualized: neither intellectual ability, nor fluid use of cognitive capacity is an accurate representation of true intelligence.

From my observations, I would assume that most of the people in the class are of significantly-above-average intelligence. And up until a few weeks ago, this would have really meant a lot to me. But the longer I live, the more humility I am being blessed with; and I realize that intellectual capacity, especially in the way I had previously seen it, it not nearly as important as I used to think. But that's another post entirely.

4 comments:

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

Haven't read the time traveller, but I do know for a fact that common sense is definitely not common, so the brightest of us can be dumb as rocks.

Anyway, your class sounds very interesting. Right up my ally. I one of those sci fi geeks you are talking about. lol. Most of us are just giddy that battlestar Galactica is back on the air for its final season. You should see how geeky I get when that show is on and for oh, 3-5 hours afterwards. lol!

Anyway, take care!

Retinna Bell said...

Thank! I'm a geek too...and I love sci-fi. I was just very outraged by my findings. I love your blog, by the way!

myundiary@gmail.com said...

Speaking as an X-files fan, I love this post. I also agree that common sense is definitely not common.

Afronuts said...

Wow! Thats a deep insight Retinna!
And very true too.

Its like the 20th of january has totally made rubbish out of HG Wells analogy in that book.

In fact, its turned almost every form of literary racism to crap by proving that color doesnt determine intelligence nor capability