I am generally able to avoid fits of depression– when I am taken by a mood it is usually more a mania than a melancholy. Still it can be very, very hard to remain blissfully optimistic and truth to be told it is likely quite unhealthy. I have noted before that it is important to take a view from a different perspective from time to time as a sort of reality check (this from a writer who purports to have lived more than 3 millennia- irony knows no bounds).

That in mind I have to wonder if mankind’s slow, steady climb up from ignorance, brutality and despair is merely an exercise in finding a sufficiently lofty perch from which to leap to its collective doom. Empires and shining examples of civilization have risen and fallen throughout recorded history, but in most cases each iteration left something of itself behind for those who remained to build upon, so while the chart of human progress is marked with peaks and valleys the general trend has always been positive. Even the Nazis contributed as the warning case: “don’t let this happen to you”. What makes me wonder, the thing that sometimes fills my heart with a cold, white void, is the knowledge that humanity cannot endure too many more collapses without the aforementioned trend beginning to reverse.

Humanity presently occupies a very precarious perch: with a world population of some 6+ billions the margins for error are becoming extraordinarily thin. It is not so much a matter of resources for the west has demonstrated repeatedly that technology and determination offer hope in the face of even the most stridently catastrophic prophecies, rather it is a question of what cultural direction will mankind follow? Will it have the courage and the energy to stare down the challenges it faces over the coming centuries? This is a perpetual question as there is no absolute or irreducible answer- it is measured instead in terms of desire, hope, aspiration and daring. Sometimes I fear that humanity may be found wanting.

When the United States made her landing upon the surface of the moon there were many who saw this as the first step in a logical process that would lead to further, greater exploration and exploitation of outer space. Those with a more pragmatic viewpoint recognized that the moon landings were little more than a political victory. Yes, good science flowed from the Apollo program, but the ultimate purpose was simply to show up America’s ideological foes. Nonetheless, the west was poised upon the brink of great achievement, advancement far in excess of what the world has seen between 1969 and today. I was living in the desert in the southwest, one of a collective of would-be artists and deep thinkers seeking Truth through simple living, carnal excess and chemical enhancement of perceptions. Even those people seemed to understand what could be, and also to realize that it would never be, not with the way the world worked then. America lacked the will, or perhaps the foresight, to take the next step, and the world suffers as a result.

Since then I have yet to shake my firm belief that if humanity fails and remains trapped upon this small and ultimately doomed sphere future historians of the declining ages will point to the twentieth century and say “This is where Man went wrong. This is where He took the wrong path. This where We sealed Our own doom.”

I remain an optimist, but on those nights when my mind wanders in to dark, cold corners I can only hope that time proves me wrong.

3 Responses to “Humanity”

  1. You might consider that the romance of the exploration of space was deliberately punctured. Recall the argument that we had more important needs here on earth than to throw limited resources away on space exploration. Recall that a meme was loosed — the walk on the moon was faked, so if you think you feel the tug of a great human adventure calling for your participation, you are a sucker. Space is bogus. The money spent on space is needed for programs here to ease the lot of the disadvantaged. We can’t afford the dream of progress until we’ve enriched and empowered everybody on earth, first.

    There were still some benefits gained from the moon shots. Political advantages were always apparent and the promise of technology was always the temptation. But the program also contributed great growth in the know-how required to manage enormous, complicated, risky projects while distributing project information in a whole new way.

    But the space program doesn’t advance the old political agenda any more. We won. And I guess management innovation couldn’t last forever. There appears to be a rule of nature that successful new organizations eventually freeze in place. The benefits of the early moon/space program have been realized and we are living the results. Except for the dream.

    The dream can’t be reinflated, more’s the pity. Those who thought of themselves as the champions of the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised appropriated the energy contained in the dream. In so doing, they erased the sense that we could move into a future where know-how could improve all of our lives. They replaced it with a sense that there is only a finite amount of benefits available so anything is justified so long as you get your fair share, or that and a little bit more. And that benefits held by others deprive you of benefits.

    Damn them.


  2. I have more to say on this, but I am a deliberate and patient person by habit. Your frustration is more than a political viewpoint, it is an insight to the dynamics of the collapse of energetic systems as they relate to human society.

    All I can say to you today is that I am not yet in a state of despair. Hope is humanity’s greatest asset, and I am nowhere close to giving up hope. Not yet.

  3. The above comments were first posted on 02/14/2003 before re-posting here.