“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. And when it has passed I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ~ Paul Atredies in Dune
The other morning as I was in that nether world between sleep and waking I heard a voice say, “Evil always kills itself.” I opened my eyes and thought back to all my favorite novels, movies, and events in history and confirmed the truth of what I’d heard. It may take a long time, but people who lust for power are eventually crushed under the weight of all they try to control.
Later that week several things happened, too numerous to relate here, in which various people expressed fear over current events. These two ideas converged in my head and I thought that I’d write about the book and movie/mini-series, Dune, which is one of the great examples of what I heard in my head that morning.
One of the things I love about the fantasy/sci-fi genres is that they can take the things we struggle with everyday and show them in a new way. The authors and movie makers put their stories of human experience on a distant planet, in space, in a parallel universe, or in the struggles of superheroes so we can examine ourselves at a safe distance.
Frank Herbert’s Dune, is such a story. The power struggles in his story are not confined to one planet, but to an entire universe. Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV is trying, desperately, to hold on to his power, but there are many forces against him, The Baron Harkkonnen, the Spacing Guild, and the Bene Gesserits, an all female order, all want to control the spice melange on the planet of Arrakis. This spice extends life and enhances certain psychic powers. Whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.
In the middle of this struggle is Duke Leto Atreides and his family. The Duke has no taste for power other than to rule his own home planet of Caladan. He’s a benevolent ruler and his people love him. His humility and humanity makes him popular with the lesser nobles in the universe as well and a threat to the balance of power. This makes him a target. The Emperor and the Baron, commanded by the Spacing Guild, join forces to destroy not only the Duke but his entire family.
Meanwhile, extended use of the spice has caused the Spicing Guild leader to become something other than human. He can see the future and knows that the precarious balance that exists will be upset by the unexpected coming of a super being created by ninety years of genetic manipulation of the Bene Gesserits. This being is called the Kwisatz Haderach. The Spicing Guild wants to kill this being to maintain their power, the Bene Gesserits want to control him to gain theirs. Their plans are upset, however, when Duke Leto’s concubine, the Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit who was to have had only daughters, disobeys because the Duke wanted a son. This makes her son, Paul, a dark horse, and a target for all those struggling for ultimate power.
The Fremen, the native inhabitants of Arrakis, are another dark horse element in the struggle. Everyone assumes that the Harkkonnens, who have governed spice production on the planet for centuries, have killed off most of them. When the Emperor orders Duke Leto to become the new governor of Arrakis, the Duke sends out a trusted ambassador and discovers that the Fremen have been living in hiding in the deep desert. Their numbers are vast, and they want their planet back. Duke Leto vows to help them do that, but before he can put his plan into motion, he’s betrayed and killed. Jessica and Paul escape, unbeknownst to the four groups struggling to gain the upper hand.
In the end, Paul, Jessica and his young sister Alia, become Fremen. It is revealed that Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach. When he announces himself after the Fremen win the final battle on Arrakis, all power shifts to them. All the maneuvering, to gain power by the four main combatants falls apart and balance is restored to their universe.
I love all versions of this story because it shows that the lust for power destroys those who attempt to control everything. It also shows that “the powerful” really aren’t. They live in fear for their safety far more than those they dominate. They think that what they have accumulated will protect them. It won’t. It’s like mist and can dissolve in a moment. What the power hungry don’t understand is that there are larger forces that work to maintain true balance.
Frank Herbert and the movie/mini-series makers did a fantastic job of weaving an intricate story to show that real power is embodied by the humble, intelligent, loving and fair rather than the arrogant and cruel. It may take a very long time to restore the balance of power, but it always happens.
And I believe what our good friend John Berger used to say, “There are no victims, only volunteers.” So, going back to our current political situation in this world, though it appears that people’s lives are ruined, or they die as a result of cruel leaders, those “victims” have volunteered on some cosmic level, to help us choose which master we’re going to serve. The stories I love the most all have characters who choose to stand up to cruel tyrants and claim their personal power. I want to do the same.
I just occurred to me that, though it doesn’t look like it, this is an appropriate post for The Fourth of July.
Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. For those in the United States, happy Fourth of July. I hope you remember why we celebrate this day.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.