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quote of the day – h. beam piper

For words written in 1963, they surely do resonate poignantly today:

You were there; you saw what’s happening. The barbarians are rising; they have a leader, and they’re uniting. Every society rests on a barbarian base. The people who don’t understand civilization, and wouldn’t like it if they did. The hitchhikers. The people who create nothing, and who don’t appreciate what others have created for them, and who think civilization is something that just exists and that all they need to do is enjoy what they can understand of it—luxuries, a high living standard, and easy work for high pay. Responsibilities? Phooey! What do they have a government for?

Tell me the situation Mr. Piper describes above is not happening around us right now. Oh, sure, the hitchhikers – or looters, to use another terminology – do not have one, single, individual leader, aside from Our Glorious President himself, but the rest of it… tell me that is not what you see going on around the edges right now? Crap on a crutch; there is a distressingly non-zero percentage of people in "modern" society who do not understand, at all, how the water in their sink came to be there, and all of the necessary steps, technology, and technicians necessary for it to arrive… but you can bet your bottom dollar that if it were to ever stop arriving, they would be up in arms, demanding that Someone Fix It. Those people may not be barbarians in the wearing-fur-skins-and-beating-down-the-gates, traditional sense of the word, but how long do you think it would take them to reach that level if the lights really were to go out?

I need to stop reading old-school science fiction. The prognostication abilities of these writers is a bit too uncanny for the engineer in me to accept.

9 comments to quote of the day – h. beam piper

  • Rolf

    Piper, one of my all-time favorite authors. his stuff is great. But it’s not so much predicting the future and being a student of history, and knowing that it repeats itself in cycles, and what was old will be new again in another generation. He just wrote about it in a future setting. To bad he offed himself, rather than accept help from friends of family when he was struggling.

  • Ooo, free on kindle. Added to my ever growing queue of books to read.

  • I once suffered a slight 5 day water main break in a city, where it was cobbled together between say 6pm and 8am and off during the day. I came to work and stated ‘Civilization balances on a knife edge’. No one got it. Glad i don’t live in the city no more.

  • MAJMike

    We must also be wary of the Cult of Personality. It ties right in with what Piper was saying. We witness it every day since 2008.

  • David M. Schmidt

    Wow, another Piper fan. I was beginning to think I was the only person alive who had read his books. He was a great storyteller and an astute observer of history and human nature.

    I went to college in the locale where Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen is set. It was great seeing some of the places he mentioned in the story.

  • Mark@Sea

    He had another good line – about having a handgun – along the lines of some people believing that if you don’t prepare for something, it won’t happen.

  • Rolf

    @ Mark@Sea:
    Gunner Cade. A great read.

  • @ Rolf: Cannot say as though I know a great deal about Piper as a person… guess I should dig into him at some point.

    And, yeah, I know, “this has all happened before and this will all happen again” writ on the large scale… but it is still somewhat perturbing to see it all happening around you as you speak.

    @ Awelowynt: One of these days I will catch up with my list :).

    @ dave w: Hell, we saw that in the aftermath of Sandy and Katrina, in the LA riots, and in countless other examples, big and small, throughout recent history. Should the gos-se every actually hit the vectored air-moving apparatus, the very last place I would want to be is a major metropolitan area.

    @ MAJMike: I wince every time that song comes on the radio…

    @ John Hardin: They seem to have a goodly collection of his works stored away there.

    @ David M. Schmidt: I am not sure I would describe myself as a fan quite yet, but the man definitely has a compelling take on the world around us.

    @ Mark@Sea: I love the whole “if you prepare for something you want it to happen” idiocy that crops up from the “gun control” extremists from time to time… That kind of backwards-assed thinking perfectly exposes the kind of person who would strip us of our rights.



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