Red Mars Part 2: Slience is Worth 1,000 Words?

So I’m about 30 pages from completely finishing Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, and a thought occured to me. (I hope the ultimate ending of the book doesn’t contradict this, but here it is anyway…)

I wonder if one of the many aims of the book isn’t to point out the ultimate fruitlessness of speech. Frank, the great negotiator and political wheeler and dealer, the man who spends 16 hours a day nearly every day in meetings, ends up paralyzed by the revolution, which happens (much like the breaking of the UNOMA treaty) despite all of his efforts to stop it. And his efforts consist of talking at people, trying to reason with them and school them in the art of high level negotiations. In contrast to this, the “hidden colony” of settlers ends up making amazing progress simply by silencing themselves and quite literally withdrawing from the conversation. Although they are backed by the articulated ideology of Arkady, the colonists themselves are not present for the “official” talks which end up shaping mainstream Martian policy.

Before coming to the planet, many had notions of what the world would end up being like. True, Arkady was as vocal as John and, to a lesser extent, Frank, about the direction of the settlement’s political efforts, but it was Hiroko’s group–the silent few–who ended up having much success in terms of peace and prosperity. John would probably have been the one to bring mainstream Mars into Hiroko’s mindset, since he seemed to be able to attenuate her message and make it palatable, but he was taken out of the picture relatively early on. So, in the absence of his eloquent and charismatic oratory efforts, the planet flounders, and capitalist interests take over.

Is this, then, the failure or the triumph of rhetoric??


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