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What 'Dune' Teaches Us About Scarcity and Social Equity

Published:
December 14, 2023
October 23, 2023
Have you been wondering, "What is 'Dune' about?" If so, read this article to find out what it teaches us about finding hope through community.|Read "Garden Party", a St. Francis poem.|Have you been wondering, "What is 'Dune' about?" If so, read this article to find out what it teaches us about finding hope through community.|Have you been wondering, "What is 'Dune' about?" If so, read this article to find out what it teaches us about finding hope through community.

As so much great science fiction has shown us, predicting an idealistic future is a really fun thing to do — sometimes everything works out in the end. But imagining a realistic future, that comes with intense consequences. Sci-fi emerges from a deeply imaginative place. It’s a unique genre that illustrates how far our value systems and ideologies can go. We can imagine amazing things when we push ourselves to the limits of our understanding. Sci-fi expands our imaginations and supports the shaping of our desired future. 

Frank Herbert's Dune was published in 1965, almost 60 years ago. Even if you’re not an avid sci-fi reader, you likely recognize the name from the recent re-release of the film adaption, starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, among other notable names. Part two will be released in March of 2024, and those eagerly awaiting its release extend far beyond the circle of people who have actually read the book. So what is it about this story that’s so captivating?

Like an hourglass cast long ago, Herbert laid the groundwork for a planet, Arrakis, that is not unlike the world we see today. Scarcity and a lack of social balance create political problems for the new leaders of the desert planet. Duke Leto Atriedes and his son, Paul Atriedes, inherit a sand-covered desolate planet from the dreadful and murderous group of Harkonnens. But what this planet lacks in water, it makes up for in the abundance of a highly valuable substance called spice. Spice — like oil, like gold, like anything with a trace of value — leads to many political conflicts that overshadow the deepest dreams for Arrakis of a thriving ecosystem to support the native Fremen. 

Dune, at its core, is a political story. Forged from the internal musings of many key characters, the plot of the book is a game of cat and mouse. The movie lays it all on the table through the building of exceptional tension between characters and tribes. 

Here on Earth and there on Arrakis, the main political rulers have dominion over creation. A vast and wild power to wield, the lack of balance creates great ethical and moral dilemmas. Is it better to build something new, or maintain something old? Will some places always be lacking in water, while other places have too much? When the Harkonnens ruled Arrakis, they capitalized on the desperation of those they governed. Like a warning message to the greedy walking our Earth, there was no happiness in ruling with complete control. 

And yet, the first part of Dune concludes with us holding on to hope. Paul Atriedes, the future ruler of Arrakis shows incredible promise as a well-educated leader. He is fluent in a diversity of cultures like his mother’s Bene Gesserit order or the cultures of his many talented mentors. He has immediate rapport with the local Fremen, knowing their ways as if he was born to them. His visions, his ideas, and his hope demonstrate a different path. When we take the time to build inclusive communities, we too can carry the hope of a better world.

Dune shows us another way; we can awaken from fear and find rest, safety, and hope through community. We can hold what is scarce with great reverence and fight for justice. We can dream of a new world, where all can enjoy the natural wonders. The communities we choose should support equity for all people, access to basic needs, and great joy in the sharing of autonomy over our future. It is an essential resolution to carry from each moment to the next — it is non-negotiable. As a wise voice in the original Frank Herbert Dune text reminds us, “I have little to do with how you’ll meet tomorrow… I can only help you meet today.”

Creators:
Hanna Van Elk
Published:
December 14, 2023
October 23, 2023
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