Behold, Mars: site of future discoveries adventures microaggressions.

Yes, really. Happy Sunday, everyone.

Every once in a while, the social justice warrior set cracks a window and shines light on what’s really bugging them about the world. Racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, life-phobia—if they can’t find a problem, they’ll use one of these handy buzzwords to invent one. Last week, Martin Robbins at The Guardian (presumably) gazed up into the firmament and saw what only a social justice warrior could see when presented with such breathtaking splendor: potential. For discrimination.

Martin presents a simple question: How can our future Mars colonies be free of sexism and racism? (Anyone with a brain reading this just did a spit take.) In his essay, he questions the idea that “[w]hen we go into space, we will all magically become nice,” and makes an exquisitely flawed case for why future off-planet settlements will look a less like a Picard-era Enterprise, and more like an Earp-era gambling outpost.

From The Guardian:

We see this in coverage of the space programme, with its endless propaganda about “cooperation” between nations, and promotion of the idea that clever people in tough situations produce the best humanity has to offer. It’s rampant in fiction, where shows like Star Trek assume that three centuries of civil rights progress will inevitably turn us all into morally-centered middle-class rationalists.

And it’s there, unspoken and unchallenged, at the heart of our current aspirations for space. There’s no room for discussion about social justice or equality when it comes to planning our future Mars colonies because we all just assume that decent educated scientists and engineers – the “right kind” of people – won’t have any problem with that sort of thing.

Except every available single scrap of historical experience tells us that this is an incredibly naive and dangerous assumption to make. Colonies and outposts are portrayed as lights in the darkness; hot spots of progress, ingenuity and adventure. That may be true to some extent, but they’ve also been places of crime, vigilante justice, tyrants, rape, pillaging, abuse and war. It’s true that when things get hard we can see the best in people, but oftentimes we see the worst too.

It’s real. Here’s the headline:

Guardian Discrimination Mars

What Robbins says about the juxtaposition of violence and pioneering is mostly true, except for the part about how there’s “no room for discussion” about equality in space travel; we constantly discuss equality as it relates to community progress, societal structures, education, and opportunities in STEM careers.

I have no doubt that the first colony on Mars will play host to the first trash talking on Mars, which will be followed closely by the first sucker punch on Mars, the first scuffle on Mars, and the formation of the first territorial gangs on Mars. Robbins believes that racial, original, and gendered differences will lead to the inevitable introduction of violence. He points to an article by DL Lee in which Lee challenges the status quo of thinkers and doers currently occupying a seat at the table.

Whose destiny is manifest in the mission to Mars? Unless you’re a white male of Euro descent, probably not yours:

To paraphrase Douglas Adams: “Space is white. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly white it is.” It’s also very male and European. Women in space-colony fiction have generally been presented as sexy walking vaginas, whose main purpose is to provide the male astronauts with a place to dock their penis at night. This being necessary in order to “ensure the survival of the species”.

If you think that attitude doesn’t exist in the real world, it’s worth recalling the comments of Prof Anatoly Grigoryev, a doctor and key figure in the Russian space programme. “Women are fragile and delicate creatures; that is why men should lead the way to distant planets and carry women there in their strong hands.”

(Grigoryev really did say that, for what it’s worth.)

The problem here isn’t Robbins’ assertions that our future Mars colony will be a wretched den of thieves and serial killers (it will be—admit it) but his belief that bringing more diverse voices into the conversation—he uses Elon Musk an the SpaceX program as an example—will somehow mitigate the risk of things turning into a complete cluster the moment the transport shuttles head back to Earth.

I think Lee is absolutely right though when she says:

“When we look around and see a homogenous group of individuals discussing these issues – issues that command insane budgets, we should pause. Why aren’t other voices and perspectives at the table? How much is this conversation being controlled (framed, initiated, directed, routed) by capitalist and political interests of the (few) people at the table?”

It’s early days, but if we really want to create a progressive new world then issues like these should be at the hearts of our efforts from the very start. I hope Musk and his peers open up that discussion sooner rather than later, and I hope that people like Lee can take part in it. The last thing we need is to wake up in 50 years and find that a bunch of #gamergate nobheads are running Mars.

He adds this slice of pernicious sanctimony:

The first woman to be raped in space has probably already been born. And if that last sentence makes you howl with protest or insist that such a thing just wouldn’t happen, then I’d stop a second and ask yourself why.

This is a seriously clever straw man, because it places the reader face to face with the premise Robbins has spent his entire article constructing: the Mars colony will actually be a patriarchal rape colony, and it’s all your fault because of X, Y, and Z social issues.

My response to this, and response to critical theory-based arguments in general, is this:

X, Y, and Z social issues are not the problem. You are the problem.

By “you,” I of course mean humanity itself: flawed, sinful, selfish, scared, ambitious, stupid humanity will turn the Mars colony into a mirror of what lies in the hearts and minds of the people that occupy it, much like individual communities reflect the values of those who live within their borders.

The social justice movement doesn’t seek to improve humanity; it seeks to cure it. This is a thousand times more arrogant than the breathtaking arrogance that put men across the Atlantic, beyond the Mississippi, into airplanes and skyscrapers, and onto the moon. Diversity of thought has existed since the dawn of man, and we still haven’t managed to use its mystical power to cure the rapists, thieves, murderers, and people who talk on speakerphone in public of their incessantly and aggressively flawed natures.

Our own darkness is beyond us.

How can our future Mars colonies be free of sexism and racism, then? They can’t be; but don’t discount the influence of those who have the strength to fight their most base impulses. They’re the ones who have kept the world turning, and they’re the ones who will prevent the pieces of the next great colonies from flying apart.