Skip to comments."Author of bin Laden's "Mein Kampf" Russian-born?" (Asimov Novel Series Inspired Terrorist?)
Posted on 10/15/2001 9:01:32 PM PDT by anymouse
A couple of weeks ago I asked a friend of mine, Russian writer and Afghan war veteran Vladimir Grigoriev to find out if "The Foundation", a 1951 sci-fi bestseller by Isaac Asimov, a well-known American author and scientist, was translated and published in Arabic, and if so, under what title? Yesterday, I learned that my friend contacted his former professor Olga Frolova, currently the Chair of the Arab Philology Department, School of Oriental Languages, St. Petersburg State University, and she confirmed that the book was published in Arabic as "Al Qaeda", the title matching the name of the international terrorist network founded and headed by Osama bin Laden. (The Western media usually translates "Al Qaeda" back as "The Base", as if a base of terrorists were been referred to.)
This peculiar coincidence would be of little interest if not for abundant parallels between the plot of Asimov's book and the events unfolding now. The central character of "The Foundation" named Seldon, the pioneer of a new scientific discipline called "psychohistory", predicts that the Galactic Empire is about to fall. While the process of disintegration cannot not be stopped, Seldon decides to send an expedition to a remote place on the outskirts of the Galaxy and establish The Foundation, which is to become the nucleus of the next Empire. Even though the Old Empire tries to destroy The Foundation with its superior military might, Seldon's plan eventually works despite many predicted difficulties and occasional random hiccups. Seldon does not live long enough to see the triumph of his cause, but he leaves videotaped messages at a machine timed to broadcast them to his followers and instruct them at the turning points of The Foundation's history, as his forecasts are coming true.
I think the public would be relieved to realize that the internationally feared Terrorist No. 1 is trying to mimic a scenario from his favorite science fiction novel. I also believe that the study of "The Foundation" (along with its sequels and prequels) can help the decision makers around the globe to better understand what they're up against and what the ultimate objectives of Osama bin Laden are, much in the same way a study of "Mein Kampf" would have benefited Adolf Hitler's counterparts a great deal if they bothered to read the book and paid attention to what it said.
Isaac Asimov, a famous Jewish-American author and researcher, was born January 2, 1920, in Petrovichi, Russia, on the territory of the present day Belarus. He died April 6, 1992, in New York, New York, several months before the first attack struck the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.
All enthusiasts think they are helping to build a new world.
I recall that Seldon's Foundation was a benevolent organization, which did not attempt to rule, but only to gently make an influential nudge here and there in a way that would cause the inevitable Dark Ages after the collapse of the Empire to be as short and mild as possible before the next civilization arose. They looked only to safeguard humanity, not run it or dictate to it.
That doesn't sound at all like bin Laden's goals *or* methods.
Great old movie. For those who have never seen it, rush out and rent a copy.
Without giving away too much, Robert Redford works for the CIA, but only as a researcher. His job is to read everything he can get his hands on, scouring books almost at random in search of any tidbits that might be somehow useful or relevant to the work of the CIA.
One day he steps out for coffee, and the CIA office where he works explodes, killing everyone there. Then he finds that he is being hunted by people who wish to make it a clean sweep. He has no "field" experience as a spy, but his decades of reading books gives him a lot of practical knowledge of all sorts of things, and he uses this to 1) evade being killed, 2) investigate who is after him and why, and 3) attempt to win out over them.
Lots of fun. Sample quote: Higgins: "Oh, you... you poor dumb son of a bitch. You've done more harm than you'll ever know." Turner: "I hope so..."
Another couple of fun "spooks on the loose" movies are "Sneakers" (again with Robert Redford) and "Hopscotch" (with the wonderful Walter Matthau).
"Sneakers" is the story of a bunch of talented misfits (including Redford as a retired government agent) working as a freelance security company. They are hired to obtain something from a hotel room, which they do, only to find that it is something so valuable that, as one line in the movie puts it, "there's not a government on the planet that wouldn't kill everyone in this room for this box..." Sample quote: "You know I could have been in the NSA, but they found out my parents were married."
"Hopscotch" is the delightful tale of an elderly CIA agent (Walter Matthau) who is insultingly demoted to a desk job by a snotty new manager (Ned Beatty). Disgusted, Matthau decides to retire and write a "tell-all" book about the agency's screwups. He disappears, and Beatty and Matthau's former co-workers go looking for him to try to stop him. The old fox (Matthau) proves too slippery for them and makes fools of them at every turn. Glenda Jackson is also great as his old girlfriend. Fun quote: Kendig: "Yours was gin and ginger ale, right?" Isobel von Schonenberg: "Mine was NEVER gin and ginger ale. Montrochet '69, right next to the beer."
In his first Foundation novel, the Foundationeers created a bogus religion to subjugate the Anacreons, a gulliable and warlike people. The purpose was to incite a revolt and overthrow the government. The viewpoint was completely cynical, where the religion was used simply a means to a political end.
Humm, on second thought...
I actually think this is very interesting idea. It takes a little getting used to, because we are so used to thinking of the Arabs as a bunch of ignorant, jabbering savages. But, remember, from their point of view it's they who are the "keepers of the flame," not us.
Two quotes from that film seem relevant:
Spock: He is intelligent, but not experienced. His pattern indicates 2 dimensional thinking.And:
Kirk [transmitting to Khan]: Stand by to receive our transmission. [covers the microphone and whispers] Mr. Sulu, lock phasers on target.
He was an atheist but I never saw anything from him in either his two-volume autobiography, nor his Treasury of Humor (in which he discussed a great number of topics and a lot about his own philosophies) that would indicate "nothing but contempt" for religion.
He even wrote the two-volume "Asimov's Guide to the Bible", in which I didn't see any "contempt" for religion either.
Asimov was a humanist, (no religion but a value system that displayed the best of mankind's aspirations.) As he evolved the Trilogy in his final days he wrapped the Robot Series into the Foundations Series to complete his "take" on mankind's future history. It was the "prescient Robot who was introduced in his novel, "Caves of Steel" that was the underlying force for good in mankind's universe. The Robot operating under the Three Robotic Laws plus one that he derived as a higher priority then the First Law. This higher law was enunciated ".. to insure that man did not come to harm or create harm for another human. I believe that this Robot would be on our side and would "nudge" O Sama and his ilk out of existence. (you see Asimov didn't believe in a God but could instill such goodness and mercy into a technological being that had been created by man, in man's shape, and contained man's best traits.
Now this starts to make since bin Laden was rich kid, quite westernize, educated and well read.
Not the type to become a throw back Islamic fundamentalist.
He in fact be a lot like Sadam, real not religious just power hungry and using Islamic fundamentalist as a tool.
But he didn't need to created a religion to subjugate the people, he already had one in place to hijack
BTW, for those who haven't read his extensions of the trilogy, the Mule turns out to have been merely a renegade Gaian (pls pardon any misspelling here).
Not satisfied with this, Asimov wrote the fifth novel in the series, 'Foundation and Earth', wherein he portrayed every single instance of individuality (except, of course, his protagonist) as corrosive, destructive, and/or innately evil. He ends this work with the (putative) implied ultimate salvation of the universe left to the kind wishes of his earlier creation in the 'Robot' tales, R. Daneel Olivaw. Curiously, the robot is going senile and can only (putatively...presumably Asimov intended to continue the series, but died in the interim) continue preserving things (a theme throughout is that mankind is utterly incapable of doing so) by absorbing the mental faculties of a child of an UTTERLY xenophobic race -- which, of course, being deus ex machina, said robot had assisted in creating some long time before.
Asimov could certainly tell a tale, but when his sociopolitical views began to obtrude SO intensely upon his writings, the writings became worthless.
I postulate that this is why this entire thread still refers to the Foundation 'trilogy'.
That doesn't completely jibe with my memory of things. The problem with Asimov's saga of course is that the underlying theme was that the ends justify the means, so that no matter what the Foundation did, they always had the excuse that they were doing it to "save humanity from a 30,000 year Dark Ages".
But as I recall the Foundation itself, which was initially located on a faraway planet, rose to prominence first by ruling over its neighbors in a theocracy (basically they hid the secrets of their nuclear power technology, and established a "priesthood" to administer it). Then for a while they were a ragtag loose-knit group of freewheeling traders. At times later in the series the "Foundation" became a fairly sinister presence, as I recall. Going after/trying to eliminate people with special mental powers (who would comprise the "Second Foundation")... It was also often ruled, not always democratically, by "Mayors" of dubious morals/ethics. Wars were fought. Wasn't always "benevolent", like you say....
So I dunno...everything becomes hazy after this, but I'm just saying the picture was not so straightforward.
ddd - Thanks for the link on CJ's thread.
Looks like time to re-read the series. Or maybe all three, this time in the order of galactic history.
(The only problem is time, 14 books, about 5000 pages, I read them before there was FreeRepublic. Oh well, sleep is not all that much fun anyway!;-)
Please elaborate. My unconfirmed intel is that bin Laden speaks Farsi fluently, and also English, and for some time he attended Emery U. in Georgia.
Yeah, but the reason the men of the First Foundation were trying to eliminate the men with mental powers from the Second Foundation was they didn't want their freedom of self determination taken away, which was what the Second Foundation was doing.
Also, I'm trying to remember but I don't think the First Foundation purposefully developed those religions that they promoted. I was more under the impression that the masses on the planets who were not scientists had morphed technology into a religion where they viewed the technicians as priests and the Foundation simply took advantage of that fact to keep peace in the region and guarantee their continued existence.
If you remember, the Galactic Empire had completely fallen and those worlds on the outer reaches of the Galaxy had not enjoyed anything like innovation or advance in thought for centuries. They fell into a dark age much the way Europe did after the collapse of the Roman Empire. But Europe was only a continent- we're talking whole planets cut off from the source of their cutural sustainment for centuries. By the time technology had started making a come back via the traders from the foundation- the people on those worlds had reverted to ignorance and superstition themselves and they viewed science as a form of magic because they couldn't understand it.
What this always made me think about is- we are rapidly approaching a situation like that ourselves. Given the reports we're always reading- fewer and fewer people have even a basic understanding of science. If that trend continues for a couple more generations- the latest techs will be incomprehensible to the average man and will seem more and more like so much mumbo jumbo and hocus pocus. When he goes to the hospital for his operation, he won't be putting his faith in his personal understanding of the technology involved with curing him- he'll instead put total faith in the "healer" (doctor) and he'll be getting better because the doctor performs his odd rituals. When it gets like that- science will be practically the same thing as a religion to a lot of people and I figure that's a theme Asimov was exploring with The Foundation Trilogy.
Frankly, it gives a small amount of joy to say Osama gets his best stuff from a jew ;)
True,but let's not forget that the good doctor was always quick to point out that the place of birth wasn't HIS fault,and that his parents quickly moved to the US. Russia's loss was clearly our gain.
Correct. He was a very intelligent man who saw things clearly. He and Heinlein were both thinkers who can't be praised enough.