A need for understanding

Revisiting the children of Trantor and what we can learn from that lesson

The Children of Trantor

One of the first things I wrote here was about the Children of Trantor from Isaac Asimov's novel Foundation. During the first section of the book we follow a young man named Gaal when he travels to the planet Trantor for the first time. Gaal grew up in a rural area of a planet that was at the outer parts of the galaxy and Trantor was the capitol of the galactic empire and its entire surface was covered in buildings as it was one giant city. (Trantor was likely the inspiration for Coruscant from Star Wars)

Gaal was not permitted to look out the windows of the spaceship as it approached the planet so Gaal's first real look at the planet was from the inside of some receiving bay for passenger spacecraft. From there Gaal took a taxi which took him through what seemed to him an endless maze of tunnels until he was dropped off at the hotel that he would stay the night. This entire time that Gaal was disoriented because he hadn't seen the sky the whole time.

The part of Trantor that Gaal was most curious about was its surface, Gaal grew up around endless landscapes and open skies, this was the way he always viewed the world. He asked everyone on his journey there about what the surface was like and everyone he talked to, the crew on the spaceship, the taxi driver, and the hotel staff, all said that it would be underwhelming, despite this Gaal took a tour of the surface the moment he had free time to do so, he was not satisfied with the maze of tunnels and massive rooms that was what most people got out of Trantor.

The surface was quite underwhelming, just like everyone told Gaal it would be, there was nothing there but a massive roof that contained the labyrinth of tunnels below. Despite this Gaal was satisfied with his trip there because he was able to look at the planet from the place he was used to looking at them.

While he was up there a man approached him and started talking to him. He could easily see that Gaal wasn't from Trantor so he told Gaal about the typical reaction locals have their first trip to the surface. The children of Trantor were required to travel to the surface at least once a year once they hit a certain age, this was so that they could gain an understanding of what it was like to be at the surface of a planet rather than within its core. The children were typically incredibly uncomfortable whenever they were up there because that was not the way they were accustomed to viewing the world, they much preferred being surrounded in walls and artificial light, they didn't like being in a place where there weren't any facades to protect them from what lie behind them. Most of the children of Trantor never returned to the surface once they were no longer required to go, and most would never travel to a planet where people lived differently. These people would be uncomfortable on Gaal's planet just like he was uncomfortable on theirs.

Back to our planet

While we're not traveling between different planets it is important to acknowledge the fact that people live and thnk differently than we do, especially when we are trying to make policies that will affect people living in different kinds of areas. City and country people fundamentally think and live differently from each other, as do people living in different countries. It does not make sense to govern different groups of people in vastly different environments the same way.

Think about the issue of gun control. If you are living in a small apartment in New York City and someone broke in, most of the time it would be a bad idea to fire a gun at them because there is a real possibility that the bullet will go through your walls and damage your neighbor's property or worse, hit a member of their family. In contrast if you lived on the outskirts of a small town like Elko Nevada with a few acres and one night you woke up to see an unfamiliar car on your property and the lights on in your tool shed you'd probably want to walk out there with a gun in your hand, (especially since the nearest police officer could be over a half hour away) even if this conflict can be settled without any shots being fired it is always a good idea to have that option if the situation would require it. The rules of New York don't work in Elko just like the rules of Elko don't work in New York.

Joel Salatin's book Everything I Want to do is Illegal is meant to show how frustrating it is to have to follow regulations written by people who don't have any understanding of what they are regulating, and things like the movement for a Greater Idaho or a State of Jefferson show that there are a lot of country people who are tired of letting city people tell them how to live when these city people don't understand them, and I'm sure that city people would feel the same way if it were the country folk who controlled most of the government. It is important for us to recognize the fact that in most cases we don't understand how others view the world and that they know how to live their lives within their own environments better than we would, so it rarely makes sense for us to tell them what they can and can't do. And demonizing people who don't see the world the same way you do is something none of us should be doing.