Stray Thoughts (2019Jan10)

Thursday, January 10, 2019                                              1:15 PM

Stray Thoughts   (2019Jan10)

We are not the top. We are not the end. We are children without experience or context. This universe was near-infinitely ancient, prior to the appearance of the first strand of DNA that allowed the first mite of scum to reproduce. Life was less-infinitely ancient, prior to the appearance of recorded civilization—which, itself, lasted tens of thousands of years before the appearance of our ‘planetarily-carcinogenic’ addiction to fossil-fuel technology.

Yet we go on preparing ourselves to be literally boiled in our own waste. Worse—not even ourselves, but our grandchildren. We will all die in air-conditioned comfort—our heirs will be slowly tortured to death on a poisoned planet.

If it is a tragedy to be without wisdom, how much greater the tragedy, when we have wisdom and refuse to acknowledge it?

People debate the existence of extra-terrestrial life—like much media, this is infantile fodder for debating the obvious—a convenient Rorschach-card of a conversation topic. Of course there is life out there. There are only three real questions.

One: Is astronomical distance an impenetrable barrier? If so, ‘life’ is a parochial affair, insulated from us and from each other by distances that defy comprehension.  Two: If ET’s could visit Earth, would they want to? And Three: If ET’s visited Earth, would they deign to communicate with humanity?

Outside of these three questions, debate is not just useless—it is an excuse to use UFOs as an analogy for xenophobia.

Humanity tends to conflate its present knowledge-base for the entirety of knowledge. We can laugh at ancient people who made this mistake—but we should remember not to make jokes of ourselves.

I miss the pre-Internet days—people like me (bookworms) were a thing. If anyone wanted to know how to spell a word, or how to calculate a percentage, or whether Bach came before Beethoven, or how to test the pool for pH levels—someone would say, “Ask Chris.” It was nice—being the know-it-all. It made up, a little, for being a nerd.

Back then, information wasn’t everywhere—you had to know where to look (which is still true, but not as literally). My name got passed around, just like a good car-mechanic’s, or a reliable pot-dealer’s. Of course, no one considered it my profession—because this was back when information was still ‘free’. People considered asking-me-a-question payment enough for the answer.

When I got carried away and started spouting more information than they wanted to hear, they’d say, “Stop. I don’t want to hear it.” And they’d walk away. I was the information-source—they’d turn me off, if they didn’t like the information. Nothing surprising there.

But they wouldn’t contradict me. They didn’t curate my information to suit their personal preferences—like trolls do now. Don’t take trolls personally, by the way—they are simply young people, glorying in the freedom to deny reality and social mores and common sense. It’s like a drug—taking away the constraints of gravity, for as long as one can stay at the keyboard.

But most of all, back when information still mattered, a madman like our current president—and the Senate goons supporting him—would have been justifiably laughed out-of-office. Hearings would have been unnecessary.

Somehow, the Right has taken ‘two sides to every story’ (which makes sense) and twisted it into ‘legitimacy for the self-serving side of a story’ (which is the opposite of sense). It sounds a lot like religion—something the secular do well to avoid in their business and government practices—hence the wise division between Church and State.

The Right has embraced the fact that propaganda works on a sizable percent of the governed—just as Fascists did in the Nineteen-Thirties—and chosen to abuse that knowledge, using today’s communications tools, rather than running “The More You Know” PSAs or some other, less malignant, more helpful, interaction with the people of the nation.

The most religion-like aspect of Trump-supporters is their eagerness to reject science, fact, evidence, and truth. This is where the tide of madness has risen highest. And the commercial media must share the indictment of their success—since the sensationalism-value of bat-shit-crazy gathers eyeballs better than a severed head rolling down the street, and executives are too greedy to factor in mental health concerns (or concerns for mass hysteria, come to that).

This eagerness to contradict school-book facts and sober science, though—we should probably take a look at where that comes from. We used to be one bad harvest from animals—we’ve evolved (like it or not) to live a simple life.

Yes we are clever apes, no doubt. But are we, as a species, adept enough to use the rules-of-the-road, our remote controls, our ATM cards, our on-line bill-paying, and our Twitter app? Police Blotters worldwide say no, not all of us, not every day. And that’s just the bare bones of modern life-skills.

If a Masters Degree becomes the default educational ‘job requirement’—where it used to be only for the unusually scholarly or dedicated—does that mean we are asking too much of ourselves, as a group? The trouble with Progress-as-defined-by-Capitalism is that we are hostages to it.

Progress doesn’t serve us—it conscripts us. And should we fall out of step, we get ripped to shreds by the cleverer apes, the greedier apes. Progress-as-defined–by-Liberals is less savage—we see a future where the robots take our jobs, yes, but we still get paid. Silly, I know—to a Capitalist. Those people can’t just take the Win and turn to a better way—and that’s going to bite us all in the ass.

The world is changing faster as technology explodes from yesterday’s successes to a thousand-times more successes tomorrow. But, as tech becomes more powerful, its failures become more dangerous. In fact, we should just pay everybody a nice salary, with benefits—and change our paradigm to shepherding our technology along safe pathways.

That is our new job, as a civilization. We have all earned a permanent retirement from hard labor—nobody does any large-scale farming or large-scale manufacturing by hand anymore. Our job now is to co-exist with each other, and maintain the global machinery of our economy, without a profit motive to screw things up.

If you still use the phrase ‘earning a living’, as if you were splitting fence-rails with Honest Abe, you’ve never seen a Dilbert cartoon. If you are more concerned with other peoples’ behavior than you are with examining yourself, you should be in politics (I’m not saying you’ll be good at—but your kind seem happy there).

And, yes, obviously, the underserved are far more eager to give up the current paradigm than the rich and powerful—and the rich and powerful are so damned selfish, they’d blow it all up in a war, rather than share any of it. So there’s that. I keep saying—it’s all about mental health.

Capitalism isolates people—discouraging cooperation—prioritizing individual ownership over use or fairness. As a nineteenth- and twentieth-century engine for change, Capitalism did its job. But its job is over. All done. But do we celebrate? No. It’s funny.

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