The Wisdom of Dune

Dune is one of the most well known science fiction series in existence. There is good reason for this, the series is incredibly complex and covers numerous ideas including ecology, philosophy, and the dangers of leadership:

How did it evolve? I conceived of a long novel, the whole trilogy as one book about the messianic convulsions that periodically overtake us. Demagogues, fanatics, con-game artists, the innocent and the not-so-innocent bystanders-all were to have a part in the drama. This grows from my theory that superheroes are disastrous for humankind. Even if we find a real hero (whatever-or whoever-that may be), eventually fallible mortals take over the power structure that always comes into being around such a leader.

Personal observation has convinced me that in the power area of politics/economics and in their logical consequence, war, people tend to give over every decision-making capacity to any leader who can wrap himself in the myth fabric of the society. Hitler did it. Churchill did it. Franklin Roosevelt did it. Stalin did it. Mussolini did it.

I would be very interested in reading any political theory paper put out by Frank Herbert (if such papers exist). He really hit the nail on the head with this statement. Our history seems litered with untold examples of powerful leaders reigning death and destruction down upon their subjects. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

One of the main threads running through libertarian philosophy is the idea of self-rulers. That is to say the idea that you are the only person who can rightfully rule yourself. Nobody else has any right to force you into actions you do not wish to follow and nobody else can possibly known what is best for you. Often we forget this fact and rely on others to make decisions for us or demand others force our beliefs onto others.

The Dune series does a great job of demonstrating the evils of power. While Muad’Dib frees the planet of Arrakis from the tyrannical control of House Harkonnen he only manages to replace it with the tyrannical rule of religion. Through control of the spice Maad’Dib is able to take control over the entirety of the Landsraad and is eventually succeeded by his son who ends up being even worse. I think the Dune series can be summarized as a vicious power cycle played out through the ages.

I very much like the conclusion of the article:

Of course there are other themes and fugal interplays in Dune and throughout the trilogy. Dune Messiah performs a classic inversion of the theme. Children of Dune expands the number of themes interplaying. I refuse, however, to provide further answers to this complex mixture. That fits the pattern of the fugue. You find your own solutions. Don’t look to me as your leader.

Caution is indeed indicated, but not the terror that prevents all movement. Hang loose. And when someone asks whether you’re starting a new cult, do what I do: Run like hell.

Power corrupts so it is best to run from people trying to hand you power. Sadly not enough people believe this and instead seek power to wield over fellow humans, often in the name of “the greater good.” Ends do not justify means and the greater good generally isn’t great or good. We all need to step back and realize forcing our beliefs and ideas onto others is a terrible thing.