Saturday, December 30, 2023

Pale Blue Dot Revisited

One of humanity’s greatest faults is the belief that the universe is centered around them. This delusion was once all encompassing but we live in an age where our place is better understood. But there are subtle but damaging remnants of this arrogance still believed by most of the people on this planet.

Many still hold onto the ignorant misconception that their particular belief system makes them special or chosen. That some plot of land on this beautiful but abused planet has been given to them by their personal deity and any other group encroaching on their divinely ordained possession is less than human.

Then there are the mighty men and women of the corporate world whose sole purpose is the pursuit of more wealth and power. That every old growth forest, untouched marsh, and undisturbed mountain is just another resource to be consumed in the effort to keep the shareholders fat and happy.

And of course I can’t leave out all the mighty leaders of some empire, nation, or ethnic group that believed they are above everyone else and should lead the world. The blood of untold millions has been spilled to satisfy these horrific dreams only for those empires, nations, or ethnic groups to quickly fade and disappear.

One of the gifts of the universe that can dash any human delusions of power is the night sky. All it takes is a few milligrams of self awareness and a night sky free from the lights of civilization and urban sprawl. I was lucky enough to see such a sky during my teenage years.

This was back in the 1980s before the woods around my neighborhood were bulldozed to spread more strip malls and parking lots. I could gaze up and easily see the majesty of the Milky Way and the planets slowly wander across the sky. Such a sight made me feel both infinitesimal but part of something greater. I was part of a process that has been going on for over thirteen billions years.

Of course as the years passed opportunities for such a connection became rarer. Mainly from the vast increase in nighttime illumination. Why suburban assholes feel the need to illuminate their front yard shrubbery is a mystery to me.

One of the few things that can renew my sense of grandeur of the universe and remind me that I float on a single moat of dust lost in a black emptiness is the Voyager probe’s picture of our Pale Blue Dot. It immediately connects me to the same feeling I had as a teenager looking up at the Milky Way. Call it pride or even arrogance, if more people had a similar awareness of the universe beyond their narrow assumptions about existence we would be a lot better off.


Saturday, December 23, 2023

My Take on the Gaza War


One of the few lessons I seem to have learned in life is that I do not have to comment on a social media post. That the world will continue along its path without me throwing my semi-educated two-cents into a pile of already existing tarnished and lame opinions. There are more than enough ‘experts’ on every subject and situation to guide our misbegotten species away from some nightmarish tyranny and towards their personal idea on enlightenment. 

The exception to this hard learned rule slapped me in the face the other day. It was on Facebook when some of my usual liberal allies had gotten into a pretty horrendous verbal civil war over the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The animosity reached a level on par with the usual exchanges between Trump supporters(cultists) and anyone who dare oppose the orange wannabe dictator.

The argument centered around the death of children. Pro-Palestinian types were gnashing their teeth over all the dead kids on their side. And of course the Pro-Israeli types were foaming at the mouth over all the dead from the October seventh raid into various Jewish settlements along with the hostages that had been rounded up and brought back into Gaza. 

Along the way things like Israeli oppression and Hama rocket attacks were thrown in whenever there was an opening. Neither side for a second seemed to have one milligram of empathy for the dead and abused on the other side. Sure, there were maybe a few weak platitudes about how this conflict was just bad, but the people involved with this discussion always jumped back over to their narrow viewpoint. Absolutely no one even vaguely hinted that the side they supported could be at fault in some way.

It was then that I felt an overwhelming urge to state what to me was obvious. That both sides were guilty of war crimes and terrorism spanning decades. Shit, dig deep enough and I could make a plausible case that a certain British politician from the nineteenth century started the ball rolling on this conflict. 

My response to all the accusations and hand-wringing was that neither side saw the other as human. It doesn’t really matter now when this viewpoint was formed or who kicked off this eternal and self-defeating struggle. 

It’s laughable that Israel’s stated goal is the defeat and elimination of Hamas. Sorry, decades of active oppression against Palestinians cannot be washed away with precision guided bombs, tanks, and soldiers. The only conceivable way Israel could eliminate Hamas would be to commit genocide on par with Hitler. Now I will say that Israeli governments for years have actively played with ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. That isn’t genocide but I’d have to say the two are closely related. As for the Gaza Strip, well comparisons to the region being a prison are accurate in my opinion. 

On the other hand Hamas, the governing entity for Gaza can legitimately be said to have done next to nothing for the well-being of the people. Yes, Israel keeps a tight grip on what items enter, but some aid does get through but is mostly lost to incompetence at best with corruption the most likely explanation. Then there is the fanatical desperation of Hamas for pursuing a war they cannot possibly win. The attacks on Israel on October seventh were not military operations, they were textbook cases of terrorism with nearly all the violence directed at civilians. This irrational desperation is typified by a video that I caught a few weeks after the attacks in October showed Hamas fighters cutting up water pipes to use for their homemade rockets. Their desire to kill Israelis outweighs the need for fresh water to the Gaza inhabitants.

It goes beyond the obvious to say this conflict is just about hate and power. It is an impossible situation brought on by silly religious and ethnic beliefs, the usual short-sighted politicians, and geo-political considerations that endanger the entire world. 

I started this post about two weeks ago but was unable to finish it until today. At last count it is estimated that eight-thousand children have been killed since Israel started bombing Gaza. I understand the need to defend one's nation but Israel has become even more of a monster than Hamas. 

I despair for the lives lost and for the fate of us all. We cannot go on this way.