July 17, 2006
When it comes to authors, Isaac Asimov is in a class by himself. During his life he wrote no less than 470 books (most of them non-fiction), and literally thousands of essays and short stories. He is most famous, of course, for his science fiction. In 1949 he was declared one of the Big Three in the world of science fiction, along with his friends Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, and he would retain that distinction for the next four decades. That's right: four decades! He was, in short, a genius, with a Ph.D in chemistry, and a membership in Mensa, an organization comprised of the top two percent of humanity, as determined by I.Q.
Like Bob Dylan, Isaac Asimov was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants of modest means. A family outing was a trip to the library, and it was there he discovered his destiny. I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that wasn't enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
On Ronald Reagan: Ronald Reagan I have always viewed as a brainless fellow who echos the opinions of anyone who gets close to him. And eventually we came to the Reagan era, when it became de rigueur to spend money not on social services but on armaments. Rich Americans grew richer in an atmosphere of deregulation and greed, and poor Americans - but who worries about poor Americans...
On Zionism: The Earth should not be cut up into hundreds of different sections, each inhabited by a self defined segment of humanity that considers its own welfare and its own "national security" to be paramount above all other considerations. I am all for cultural diversity... this sort of thing, however, should remain cultural and benign. I'm against it if it means that each group despises others and lusts to wipe them out. I'm against arming each little self defined group with weapons with which to enforce its own prides and prejudices.
The Earth faces environmental problems right now that threaten the imminent destruction of civilization and the end of the planet as a livable world. Humanity cannot afford to waste its financial and emotional resources on endless, meaningless quarrels between each group and all others. There must be a sense of globalization in which the world unites to solve the real problems that face all groups alike.
Can that be done? The question is equivalent to: Can humanity survive?
I am not a Zionist, then, because I don't believe in nations, and because Zionism merely sets up one more nation to trouble the world. It sets up one more nation to have "rights" and "demands" and "national security" and to feel it must guard itself against its neighbours.
There are no nations! There is only humanity. And if we don't come to understand that right soon, there will be no more nations, because there will be no more humanity.
The above quotes are from I. Asimov, A Memoir completed by Asimov in May, 1990, two years before he died of heart and kidney failure at the age of 72.