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Thursday, December 17

A Rant, Preparatory to the Closing of the Year

"The inadequate and biased transmission of news, and the profitable dissemination of nonsense, barred the general public from any intelligent or concerted participation in politics, and made democracy impossible."

This little pearl of wisdom is from the historian-philosopher William Durant in his book The Age of Reason Begins (Simon and Schuster, 1961, p. 578). He's describing the burden faced by the newspaper-reading public ... in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

That's about three hundred years ago, folks.

Proof that there is truly nothing new under the sun. The media will always skew things, and people must have the critical thinking skills to weed through the maze of stupidity and contradictions in order to arrive at an informed decision.

This was Thomas Jefferson's dream, an informed electorate.

But now we have Fox News, AM radio and stupidity-spewing websites like Drudge, New Republic and others. All are cleverly designed to stop people from thinking - how else can you see a summer filled with people who protest higher taxes ... on the rich? How else can you get otherwise sane people to believe in complete absurdities?

Sometimes I despair for my nation's future.

I recently saw a picture of the Apollo 11 landing site, taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. You can see the tracks Armstrong and Aldrin made in the lunar soil, and you realize with a swelling heart that a scant forty years ago we were giants.

Giants, I tell you.

Despite the wars we were fighting and the domestic troubles we faced, we had the vision to explore, to reach out and plant a footprint on our nearest neighbor in the Solar System. Although an American flag was planted there, we didn't do it solely for national pride. For that reason the plaque on Eagle's leg says "We came in peace for all mankind."

(I shall now speak in generalities. Anyone offended by this, well, mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.)

We don't have that vision any longer. We don't have the will to forestall environmental catastrophe; we don't have the will to take care of our sick or our poor; a growing number of our citizens no longer have the capacity to think critically enough to look past the bright shiny things dangled before their eyes.

We have mistaken technology for science.

We have decided that our children can get along without education.

We have decided to leave our poor and sick behind.

We have decided to be ruled by Fear, rather than by Intellect, because thinking is too difficult.

That's all I have so far. I'll think of worse things to say before the New Year.

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