Monday, February 19, 2018

Reader's Diary #1738- Philip K. Dick: The Gun

I'll be honest, I went looking for a short story with "gun" in the title due to the tragedy in Florida last week. I came upon Philip K. Dick's "The Gun" and it wound up, for me at least, bearing more relevance to Colten Boushie's murder, another gun tragedy that hits a lot closer to home.

The plot of "The Gun," in a nutshell, is that a group of space travelers are shot down on a planet that they believed to be dead. It turns out that the "gun" was set up to guard a treasure even if/when their people had all been eliminated.

"Don't you see? This was the only way they knew, building a gun and setting it up to shoot anything that came along. They were so certain that everything was hostile, the enemy, coming to take their possessions away from them. Well, they can keep them."

At this point, I found myself thinking of Gerald Stanley. It would seem then that Philip K. Dick would, like the majority of us, weigh in against Stanley and his obvious prejudice and mistrust.

However, the treasure turned out to be cultural artifacts. The space travelers are easily able to dismantle the gun and access said treasures.

"[...]their possessions, their music, books, their pictures, all of that will survive. We'll take them home and study them, and they'll change us. We won't be the same afterwards. Their sculpturing, especially. Did you see the one of the great winged creature, without a head or arms? Broken off, I suppose. But those wings— It looked very old. It will change us a great deal."

But now I'm seeing another side of things and considering cultural appropriation of indigenous peoples. Sure in this story the gun was wrong, but as we've seen with cultural appropriation, clearly the previous society on that planet were in their right to want to protect their ideas and collected knowledge. Dick, however, seems to suggest that such protection would be wrong and that they should eagerly want to give up their treasures to outsiders. But we're not talking farm equipment, we're talking a people's very identity!

In the end then I found the piece very provocative.

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