Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Icarus or Prometheus?

Joplin, MO is across the state from St. Louis so the Mosaic floor wasn't damaged. But I reflected on this tornado season in the Midwest and compare it to the deer slalom on I-70. Someone is going to get killed and some deer are going to die. It's unavoidable based on that configuration of highways splitting wildlife habitat in half. From a global POV we only inhabit a little bit of space but from the point of view of a deer or turtle we are the black plague come to life. A world class sprinter couldn't cross that interstate at midnight. It was an unbroken chain of trucks and cars in four lanes. One need only use their eyes to see that isn't going to last. In a similar situation the warming of the world is creating a abundance of rain in some places and a deficiency in others. However, when a group-think experiment gone terribly wrong is taking place then we've got Atlas Shrugged being released as a feature film the same year the climate finally fights back against the beating Industrialists like John Galt have been giving her for 500 years. I think that's a noteworthy coincidence because a freethinking person would've recognized the peril involved in drilling for oil, refining it and then burning it on a scale of 7 billion people.

I want to photograph a city street with 10 or 20 thousand silverback gorillas all walking to work with briefcases. "The world with 7 billion silver back gorillas" Because although we use far more resources than a gorilla our bodies don't take up too much more space. It's only if a silverback gorilla got his thinking so completely twisted around that he procreated beyond the capacity of his habitat and he started building higher and higher buildings to enable him to continually enslave poorer apes. The total earth population of gorillas is probably a couple thousand.* You could fit them all into Fenway Park. And they manufacture nothing but manage to survive and raise young'uns. And they precede us on the mammal tree. My point is that if there were 7 billion gorillas on earth devouring every resource and destroying the climate and only 10,000 humans all either in zoos or protective sanctuaries, what would you think? Would you think, "Boy, those gorillas are pretty smart." I guess we are the most clever animal out there in the sense that a virus can develop an immunity to empirical data. That takes a prolonged propaganda campaign of the kind to be found in Edward Bernay's book and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

The debate for today is if we are symbolically following in the footsteps of Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind (a kind of forbidden fruit fable) or Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and burned the wax from his wings and fell to his death.

Anyone have an opinion before I tell you why you are wrong?

I think that without even looking into it very deeply the chances that mankind is lurching madly and violently, via wars and genocide and waste toward a utopia is very unlikely.
Atlas Shurgged basically argued that all waste, death, destruction, greed, and violence are broken eggs in the omlette of a peaceful and waste free world. Does this make sense to anyone?
At one time I felt that this was true because Rand used the most clever argumentation skill which is to propose the opposite. I've learned this one well enough to use it against her. She presented her ideal man, John Galt, a self-interested, guilt-free, emotionally independent free thinking electrical engineer. The short explanation she gives is that if this isn't the ideal man then let's examine the exact opposite characteristics and see if they hold up. I really applaud this method of debate because it plays with the mind and if well manipulated in her fictional world you can reach no other conclusion except that rational self-interest in the form of emotional independence is preferable to the co-dependent disaster that most of us live with. Of course. When given the two extremes the John Galt one is better. And if Galt is persecuted through the whole book not because of what he represents but because the failures of the world (me and you) can't even live with ourselves because Galt is alive, then he becomes even more attractive. Galt becomes the underdog and we identify with him even if we are at heart looters and mooches living in their father's attic apartment and driving his car for slave-made ice cream and buckwheat soba noodle stir fry.

That's the argument of the opposites.

But here is where I use it against Rand by saying, first of all, a utopia that is reached via genocide sounds PRETTY FUCKING SUSPICIOUS. Second of all, if conservation, humility and compassion are the trademarks of the self-sufficient Amish farmer and Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling are the embodiment of pure self-interest (persecuted because we are self-loathing moochers) then what is that utopia going to look like? If the maxim of your actions justifies unlimited use of planetary resources then isn't it possible physics will not accommodate your goals of a waste free energy source? I think the hell-bent exploitation of the planet has been fundamentally for the good of humanity...the pursuit of waste free energy, long life, human knowledge centralized in one globally accessible location, mattresses that don't burn when your crack pipe turns over, etc. Ok. So, we've gotten a little off track with toys and gadgets and multiple cars so movie stars can go in circles to a studio. See, none of this is part of the equation/resource budget plan. It's all frivolous but the waste is concrete and the consequences are real.

So, you might look at my life and say it's unrealistic. Low resource ride sharing mass transit hell. What good is it doing? Who knows? Well how realistic is it that the resources of the planet will only be used in critical operations? It's ludicrous, correct? But, the equation Ayn Rand's giants of industry map out demands that the resources be used exclusively for developing certain improvements. The finite nature of our natural habitat absolutely requires a very tight budget when it comes to resources. VERY VERY TIGHT BUDGET. Go on a trip to Labrador with me and you will know the meaning of a VERY VERY TIGHT BUDGET. Because if my budget gets stretched even a tiny bit I KNOW that Ellesmere Island will never be reached. This is as close to a privately funded moon mission as I can get. There is a point I will reach where there is no return and there is a point I will reach where there is no going on. My destination is close to the North Pole. It's going to be down to the pennies and fingernails. I know this. And the place Rand's theory falls apart is where she almost guarantees an oasis of peace because "the great minds will prevail" but she is assuming resources are so unlimited we can frivolously waste them in pursuit of video games and nothing will happen to impede our progress like a tornado six miles wide.

I already know Rand's defense of our planetary exploitation: Someone will make a tornado-proof house. That's the basis of her philosophy. Humans will adapt to anything because a free thinking, guilt free John Galt will always find a way to adapt. But the theory breaks down when the John Galts of the world ARE CAUSING THE NEED FOR THE JOHN GALTS OF THE WORLD. We're not at the mercy of nature, we're at the mercy of unnatural disasters caused in the pursuit of streaming video. The Amish don't need John Galt and they aren't fucking everything up. Their solution to tornadoes will probably not include geoengineering...which will be Galt's first plan of attack...because he's so smart.

This isn't a well thought out essay so don't feel bad if none of this makes sense. Years ago, I tried to write philosophical essays and, speaking of conservation, managed to take 5 pages to say a page's worth of arguments.

I guess if everything but the environment were progressing smoothly then I would jump on Rand's ship and sign up for the solar energy engineer degree at M.I.T.

BUT LITTLE RESEMBLES RAND'S UTOPIA!

Did anyone read how there are 30,000 prisoners in California who have to be released? That's more than the total population of Earth's silverback gorillas! And they are surplus criminals! Jesus Christ!
And the general adaptability of mankind hasn't changed at all. All that has changed is our means of communication. We have almost 3 million people in jail in the US alone. What possible utopia is going to exist with 2% of the population going to jail?

There's a fundamental flaw in the ethics we're being taught and my mission is to find it and change it. Right now you could say we've exchanged a stable climate for internet access. Rand suggests that's a fair trade but she's exercising control over all the other inhabitants on earth which, I think, negates any positive accomplishments. Otherwise, you have a pathological pursuit of self-interests provided you disregard the existence of anything else living.

I have an affinity for the Kogi tribe. I think: How will this affect the Kogi living on a mountain-top in Colombia? And if I suspect it will affect them negatively then I must change my course of action. And I will end with this question for Ayn Rand: If I suspect my actions will hurt the Kogi and I do them anyway then what kind of a person does that make me? What value does anything I do have? And if I don't even consider the Kogi then I'm not an ethically thinking human and have already joined the worst company in history so there is no argument to be had.

*It's less than 50K or about the capacity of Angels Stadium in Anaheim.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.