• Vyrmis

    To be honest it felt like anti-immunity propaganda from Dick’s original story. “All we want is a normal life, honest! A normal life spent rifling through your private thoughts…”

    Dick’s original story was about surveillance by the state, in the form of the ultimate possible invasion into a person’s life and privacy. This adaptation seems to twist it around – to pervert it, even – into some extremist parable that the state’s (either state: the Free Union or the probable imminent one run by teeps, considering the original story) surveillance and control is a good thing. The ‘slight greying’ of the morality you mention was fairly well spoiled by the fact that the interrogated (tortured) man was made to look like an inadequate, childlike, sexual deviant; and that Cutter’s argument for the sanctity of one’s own thoughts was reduced to a few words of dialogue, rapidly swept aside as the action caught up with the characters; among other things. But the biggest mental pommel horse routine with a pirouette and somersault dismount had to be that, if you don’t want your mind to be read, you’re denying the basic human rights of a minority group. (A review on another site labelled the hoods as the ultimate rejection of the teeps – it’s like saying the bars on shark cages deny said selachians the freedom to swim among people) It’s as if the crowd at the beginning of the original, shouting ‘no-one’s got a right to hide’, has won out!

    The world Philip K. Dick lived and wrote in was largely divided between McCarthyism rooting out ‘un-american activities’ on one hand, and soviet totalitarianism on the other. That state of affairs (no pun intended) may have faded somewhat and made the original ‘The Hood Maker’ a little dated, but the writer here seems to have replaced it with a more modern preoccupation – the treatment of minority groups. And boy is he not subtle about it. The terms ‘soapbox’ and ‘bully pulpit’ spring to mind.
    But as I’ve long thought (thanks to the ironies and clunky analogies in Marvel’s X-Men franchise) addressing prejudice and human rights in sci-fi by giving one group of people special powers doesn’t really work. No black person has ever punched down a building. No gay person has ever shot ray-beams from their fingertips. No muslim has ever directly read a person’s mind, or controlled it against that person’s wishes, or fried it by pressing their hands against a car… The usual sayings ‘what you do in the privacy of your own home’, ‘as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone’ etc. can hardly be applied to the situation of this story, because the teeps’ inherent, uncontrollable ability is to render privacy meaningless, which has a lot more scope for hurt than aid.

    Which is perhaps apparent in the TV show, and perhaps against the writer’s intent, for all the oohing and aahing about ‘grey areas’. The teeps in the show suffer horribly, and the uprising is presented as almost inevitable, but do you have much doubt how it might end, considering that Ross seems to be the only unhooded normal who can shield his thoughts? There are a few reassurances that teeps just want a normal life, but that’s practically an impossibility, considering everything from being unable to block out stray thoughts, to the massive advantage that an average teep has over an average normal. Not a difference – not skin colour, not orientation, not creed – an advantage. A superiority. And there’s a kind of worldview that seems inevitable with that.

    All of which brings me back to Dick’s era, and before: the teep uprising seems more likely to have similar results to the bolshevik revolution than to the civil rights movement, setting up a different, rights-abusing class system rather than abolishing it. That reminds me of another Philip K. Dick story featuring mutants and his views on them – ‘The Golden Man’. Have you read his notes on it? There’s a part on wikipedia. Here:

    “Here I am saying that mutants are dangerous to us ordinaries, a view which John W. Campbell, Jr. deplored. We were supposed to view them as our leaders. But I always felt uneasy as to how they would view us. I mean, maybe they wouldn’t want to lead us. Maybe from their superevolved lofty level we wouldn’t seem worth leading. Anyhow, even if they agreed to lead us, I felt uneasy as where we would wind up going. It might have something to do with buildings marked SHOWERS but which really weren’t.”