Saturday, April 7, 2012
Tomorrow has been canceled due to lack of interest
Unlike most people that regularly haunt and espouse a position on the strange computer-driven ether called the internet, I pray that the opinions I hold are very wrong. In many ways I have the same attitude about my observations that the great Groucho Marx did about a club that would accept him as a member in that I frankly would not associate with a person who believes my often depressing notions. Now you good readers might be wondering what in the hell I am talking about and for the most part since I am without any beer at the moment to lubricate the rusty wheels that constitute the inner workings of my brain so do I, but I will attempt to sum it as neatly as possible.
In short, when I look at the current societal, cultural, and intellectual structure that makes up the United States of America today I see no evidence that our people or government have a clue about how we are to be successful in the twenty-first century. Now, as always, exceptions do exist in the form of isolated private citizens, businesses, and politicians who see the flaws in how we conduct ourselves but they can be compared to the mythological Cassandra who despite the gift of prophesy is condemned to be ignored by an oblivious majority.
In general, those of us who do not like the way the country is operating see the American mindset as a dulled and closed thing that is comfortably secure in its own mighty awesomeness and that no other nation or people cannot touch us. Any nation foolish enough to try will see a rain of death and destruction strong enough to kill off the leaders and cower the rest of the population into dark corners seeking to forever hide from our wrath. It’s a neat delusion and at this moment largely correct but it has a lot in common with similar notions held by the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Spartans, and Romans, along with other empires who are now nothing but footnotes in some dusty history book.
Now this sense of American global entitlement and outright arrogance just did not pop out of nothingness. Much to the detriment of the Native American population, our section of the North American continent was taken and settled allowing the construction of a nation that honored science and innovation and was not scared to try new things even though they did not work very well at first. This brings me to the tipping point of what caused this seditious rant.
As always, I was minding my own business this morning listening to the radio as I drove home from work, surfing the airwaves when I happened upon the Mike Church conservative talk radio show. Feeling slightly masochistic for some reason I decided to listen to what the man had to say. While it has been an overwhelmingly futile endeavor for many years, I do search for reasonable people who promote a different political view than mine so I can try to understand where they are coming from.
This morning Church was making the case that American oil companies are abused entities only thinking of purely patriotic ways to serve the nation. Even worse, despite their altruistic intentions Church made the case that they are regularly assaulted by nasty communistic leaning liberals and radical environmentalists out to force everyone to abandon their SUV’s for unmanly itty-bitty cars designed by the envious French out to emasculate American manhood. Frankly, the case he was making was so insane I thought it was satire for several minutes. Of course, they traced the nefarious conspiracy back to President Obama, who with his Islamic/atheistic/socialistic minions are out to corrupt the Jesus believing folks of the United States turning them into NPR listening, rainbow worshipping, tofu eating vegans.
To Church and his less than technically advanced callers, all research into alternate forms of power are utterly stupid and doomed to failure since mighty oil will continue to be the primary energy source for all properly God fearing and capitalistic peoples. Their ridicule was aimed at the usual suspects of wind and solar power, electric cars, and the new favorite for those without any science education, fuels derived from algae. I find this last one outrageously funny since ExxonMobil recently invested 600 million dollars to develop bio-fuels. For the other sources of alternate energy, the Chinese are madly rushing to dominate the technology in a blatant attempt to control the industry.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see the that most conservative-based opposition to alternate energy comes from both an instinctive knee-jerk reaction to oppose anything the liberals support and the desire to protect the sugar daddy relationship they have with some corporations. I would be delinquent not to add that Taliban-like Christians who believe the Rapture is imminent and that all science is just something Satan created to confuse people makes the situation far more difficult. The one exception to this rule is when it comes to killing and blowing things up. A lot of good Christians change their minds and love science when it comes to things like advanced cruise missiles, faster jet fighters, and increased firing rates on assault rifles and machine guns. It surreal to hear a believer in the teachings of Jesus joke about “kill them all and let God sort them out” and “turn the other cheek so you can aim with your good eye.”
If the opposition to science and technology only came from folks who love to wallow in ignorance or those out to protect their pockets books at all costs things would not be so bad. Except that here in America there is a pervasive apathy about the future and our place in it that crosses all boundaries. Science education in this country lags so far behind other industrial countries that we have become a laughing stock to many of our commercial and military adversaries. The news media and late night comedians will occasionally conduct random surveys with people on the street in which very simple science questions are asked with answers that are at best nonsensical to outright embarrassing. Consistency is a minor talent but similar surveys, which ask questions of history and current events usually produces the same results. This coming from a country that prides itself on being the most advanced.
Culturally it is even worse, cable channels originally developed to provide an intelligent alternative to the broadcast networks have largely devolved into airing reality shows devoted to the lowest common dominator of human behavior. The bizarre spectrum of reality shows that examines such things as “Real Housewives”, desperate failed celebrities, paranormal activities, to talk shows featuring human scum make the national broadcast channels look like a bastions of intelligence and sophistication.
If reality shows were not bad enough, some of the fanatical video gamers I have had the misfortune to talk with seem to live in a far more delusional world than any nerdy Trekkie could ever hope to match. After attending a Star Trek convention several years ago I was stunned at how fanatically serious some of the people there took the show. It is one thing not to miss an episode of one of the Star Trek series which on occasion can be quite good. However, when you walk around in a 400-dollar Starfleet costume and introduce yourself as an admiral with years of experience exploring space it is time to reassess your grip on the real world. Hey, I know the very concept of reality can be an extreme bummer but there is such a thing as going too far.
Anyway, Trekkies are nothing to how some gamers live their lives through their gaming systems. When I learned some gamers actually spend significant amounts of real money to purchase items that exist only as part of the “World of Warcraft” online universe and others like it I felt a sudden urge to apologize to those silly high-ranking Trekkies I silently laughed at during that convention.
Overarching all these developments is a general worldview expressed by far too many Americans that say everything of significance has been created and that our way of life will go on forever. I am not just picking on addled conservatives who are perfectly happy as long as the 52-inch widescreen television in front of them is showing a NASCAR race and they have cold beer in the fridge. Hell, I like to sit back and watch one from time to time myself and drink a few.
But I have to include many liberals and independents who cannot think beyond immediate concerns inside their comfy suburban residences. In a weird counter to conservatives who love to play ostrich and ignore the world by sticking their heads in the sand, liberals do have an unsettling tendency to think utopia can not just be be achieved but done overnight. As for many middle and working class families struggling to keep their heads above financial waters in this current socio-economic era making ends meet from day to day is bad enough. So there isn't any time to worry about what tomorrow might bring, which only makes things that much worse in the long run.
Simply put our lack of contemplating any type of future is an amazingly narrow minded perspective that is corrosive and ultimately self-destructive. Because no matter how much Americans may want to sit back and believe we are the pinnacle of human civilization, much of the world in the twenty-first century has already matched our nation and surpassed it.
Unless we pull our heads out of asses and recognize the world is rapidly changing we will join the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and others who could not adapt to that fact. Once comfortably on top they did not think about tomorrow or plan for the changes the future brings and look what happened to them. Like I said at the beginning, I do not enjoy these sober thoughts and have a habit of discounting them, until someone with real credentials like Neil deGrasse Tyson comes along saying something very similar:
Popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on Monday lamented that American culture no longer had a culture of innovation that prized scientific and technological discoveries. Tyson noted on MSNBC that space exploration no longer captured American’s attention like it previously had. He blamed the lack of public interest on the lack of advances in the space frontier.
“You don’t have to be the scientist or engineer,” he explained. “You could be a journalist, an artist, but you start doing more stories about the frontier and all of a sudden everybody participates in inventing a tomorrow.”
“It’s the invention of tomorrow that is absent in today’s modern American culture,” Tyson continued.
“Tomorrow was everywhere in the 1960s, wasn’t it? The World’s Fair was all about tomorrow. And who enables that tomorrow? It is the scientific and technological literacy of a nation that does it. It is those innovations that are the engines of the 21st century economy.”
He added that private companies could not lead the space frontier, because of unknown risks and other factors that were detrimental to business.