"Muppets in Space" was the initial working title of the film "Muppets from Space." It was released thirty-eight years after the first human flight to space. A thousand years earlier, the theatrical art of water puppetry, pictured in this month's photo, was being developed by the indigenous rice farmers of northern Vietnam. The film and the space flight may seem to have no connection to water puppetry; until last month they didn't.
Yuri Gagarin's 1961 orbital flight was a major milestone in the Space Race. During the ensuing eight years it took to land on the moon the United States and the Soviet Union often traded political barbs. But the politics did not end in 1969. In the past few years the Russian space agency Roscosmos has been particularly active in criticizing — even threatening — NASA and other western space organizations.
Last month those politics entered a new era. Roscosmos announced the pending end of its participation in the International Space Station. The three Russian cosmonauts currently on board were photographed displaying the "flags" of both the Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics (countries officially recognized only by Russia, Syria and North Korea). Vladimir Putin now has puppets in space.
The Doctrine of Discovery became the legal framework, in 1823 in the US, by which that country's indigenous people no longer had claim to their ancestral land — that land having been first "discovered" by Europeans. That legal precedent was a direct consequence of Vatican-issued decrees from 400 years previously. Those decrees legitimized European colonization and ownership of any non-Christian territory anywhere in the world. Indigenous people became puppets.
The Vatican has recently suggested that these decrees no longer apply. Nonetheless, only non-Catholic denominations (and many secular organizations) have formally rescinded them. Despite pressure during his "penance" in Canada last week, Pope Francis did not rescind them. He only apologized for the Catholic Church's abuse of its puppets (abuse of children was his focus).
Besides Quebec (which Francis visited last week), France colonized Vietnam under the rubric of the original Vatican decrees. On arriving there it knew that water puppetry was not devised by Christians. Still, it did not ban the practice. Instead it allowed its new puppets to keep their old puppets. A recurrent theme in water puppetry is political satire. It would be banned in today's Russia.
We've known for the past few months that Putin is pursuing his own doctrine in Ukraine where he has already "discovered" two new countries. He is now expanding that doctrine into space. With society on the brink of collapse (in Sri Lanka, Haiti and elsewhere) and (according to University College London professor Bill McGuire), our climate on the brink of collapse, the world needs a doctrine of recovery. Last month we got one. Premiered just before Francis' visit, this film should be watched by everyone (links below). Sadly, it will be watched less than "Muppets from Space."
Doctrine of Recovery (documentary film released in July 2022).