Note: This is something that kind of rolled off my head the other morning, from some notes I took in church on Christmas Eve. The idea actually occurred to me last year in Church, on Christmas Eve, (I'm not even C&E, just C..), but I didn't remember it until I got to church this year. I guess that's why I look forward to my annual religious-meditation session. It's a different place, inspires different thoughts.
Incidentally, I believe I have finally found my Calling. Ironically enough, it's what I've been doing for a couple months, I just didn't realize it.
Man: Progressive in all things, save culture and politics.
There is an interesting split in this country along class lines. I do not mean economic-class, but rather political, social, cultural, age, and expertise classes. The split is in the answer to the question of whether we have more to gain by looking backward than looking forward.
Think about words like tradition, culture, heritage, history. Think about phrases like "the Golden Days", "the Glory Days", "the time of our forefathers", "the founding fathers". They all seem to conjure up images of the wisdom of ancient ways. There seem to be a great many people in our society, mainly the previous generation, that think that we have more to gain by going backward in time to a simpler age, pastoral ideals, "America's Golden Days". Recall Bob Dole's 1996 Presidential race? That was his theme. He was willing to lead us back to the most glorious of periods in America's history, the 1950s. When segregation ruled, Americans stayed glued to their tiny television sets for news of the impending war with Russia, and school children practiced "Duck and Cover" under their desks to prepare them for the nuclear holocaust. Who in America (at least pre-Dubya) would rather live in that time of fear and institutional racism?
In the last year and a half, it would be a competitive choice with our own current time of fear and institutional racism, which is why the question is so pertinent now. We are being led backward, by the most backward-thinking men that have ever been at the helm of this great country. Vague threats are aired by the Bush Administration to keep the fear level at a constant high, to keep Americans convinced of the need for a strong tyrant on the throne. Our current Administration so closely resembles Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm that we can be certain they have read Orwell; we just can't be certain why they decided to base their Administrative ideals on horrific images of a dystopian future, on the one hand, and raw political satire, on the other.
Do we hear scientists and technologists yearn for the time of their elders? Do they wish that they could roll back the clock of scientific achievement fifty years, that America would be better for it? It sounds ridiculous. Science is always new, always changing. Research is always about discovering new information, constantly improving upon what was known, accepted, and available at every previous time. Science is about never looking back. Technology is about making the possible easy, and making the difficult possible.
So why is there such a broad rift between those who make their life's work the pursuit of knowledge, and those who make theirs the pursuit of tradition; those who embrace the future as the realization of today's potential, and those who see today as the failed outcome of yesterday's dreams?
No idea. But I know how to tell them apart. And that gives me hope, because what I see looming on our country's horizons is a generation of technologists, perhaps an Age of Technologists. Connections are being formed on the Internet. Imagine a way to connect yourself, a progress-embracing youth, to every like-minded person in the world. Everyone who wants to plug in, can plug in. Technology and its progress is changing the way that your kids communicate, work, play, receive their information about the world, listen to music, watch television and movies, and, most importantly, think about the world around them. And the question they are asking is not, "Why were things so much better when I was younger?" The question they are asking is, "How can new technology be applied to old problems to make things better?"
When I say "old problems", I don't mean finding your car keys, getting your whites whiter, or brewing the perfect espresso. I mean such basic questions to humanity as political governance, work, and play, which can all be boiled down to the question of communication. "How do you design a communication system that everyone in the world can use to communicate with everyone else? And once you do, how does that radically alter the previous answers to political governance, work, and play?"
Our Mass Media will lose their grip on information and propaganda dispersal. When Americans will read about the effects of our latest bombing campaign, from the civilians being bombed themselves, it will be very difficult for our government to make its case for spurious war. War is only palatable to Americans when the enemy has been properly demonized by the war mongers, when they can be treated as "bodies" and not as human beings, when we can call our enemies by racial slurs or equivocate them with the "evil-doers", rather than recognize them as friends that are just as much victims of their government as we are of ours. When we all communicate daily with thousands of Iraqis, or Palestinians, or Israelis, or North Koreans, they will become our neighbors, and we would no more permit their deaths than we would Canadians'. And hopefully they, ours. Man's two-million-year-long history of Xenophobia will come to an end, and with it, War and Racism. And it will happen within my lifetime. I will help make it so.