“Anything that’s strange is no good to the average American,” -Jeff Spender (Bradbury, 83)
This reading felt like a manifesto opposing imperialism, habitat fragmentation, rude tourists, and littering all at once. Reading “—And the Moon Be Still as Bright” was like looking into a mirror. It aired so many of the complaints I have about the American mentality and about humanity in general.
As a potential conservation biologist and someone interested in cultural diversity, the extinction of any race is a tragedy—a loss felt by entire world. To see a group of (at least somewhat) scientific men receive news on the death of a newly discovered people and to just blow it off like it means nothing makes me sick. Biodiversity is important to the health of the biosphere, as well as the health of human society. Add to that the loss of the wealth of knowledge that the Martians so evidently possessed? How could the extinction of another humanoid species not cause these men to feel at least a smidge of sorrow?
Bigg’s character was an especially disheartening metaphor for humanity. To vomit in a canal as a christening is the ultimate sign of disrespect. And that’s what humans feel for the environment. Every day we vomit into the canals of our Earth, and every day we adamantly assert our right to do it. What would we do if given a brand-new planet? Bradbury is right: we’d muck it up first thing off.
Humans care less about what they do not understand. We have automatic prejudice against the unfamiliar—an evolutionary vestigial fear. We mock cultures that vary from ours. We shoot down new ideas. We fine the wrong-minded. We destroy strange beauties wherever we find them. Only a very few, like Spender, find themselves going against the grain and making decisions based on their own moral compunctions instead of the consensus.
I enjoy science fiction novels that feature the Spenders. Main characters that can travel to new lands and learn about new cultures without feeling threatened give me hope for the future.
Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1977. Print.