What do Pluto (the planet), Queen guitarist Brian May, the Israeli Beresheet lunar lander, tardigrades, comedian Dave Chappelle, and Netflix, all have in common?
Firstly, that they’ve all been very prominent in my news reader (and perhaps yours as well). Secondly, they all deal with socially divisive things (some more than others). Thirdly, they all caught my eye because they have to do with things I feel a bit strongly about (some more than others).
Let me explain…
I’m not quite halfway through Existence, by David Brin, but I’m enjoying it so much I have to start talking about it now. For one thing, it’s such a change from the Last Chronicles, which was a hard slog with a disappointing ending. (Still worth the journey, though.)
The novel is a standalone, not part of his Uplift Universe, but it apparently can be viewed as a kind of prequel to that reality. However: so far no alien contact, humanity is still on Earth, and computers are not conscious (but AI is very, very good). The year, as far as I can tell, seems to be in the 2040s or 2050s.
At heart, the novel’s theme is the Fermi Paradox; it examines many of the potential Great Filters that might end an intelligent species. But now an alien artifact has been found, a kind of message in a bottle that appears to contain a crowd of alien minds…
So very, very disappointing.
The headlines of articles I have no desire or intent to read proclaim that Lori Loughlin believes she did what any mother would have done for her child. I’m not all agog over actors, and barely recognized her name, but my impression of her persona involved a lot more of a moral center.
Recently, regarding our cultural calculus, I wrote, “Our greatest peril lies in disconnecting ourselves from truth,” because, “Life is hard enough these days without turning truth into a commodity.” Our social equation depends on us representing ourselves honestly, on not cheating.
Civilization demands that we play the game of life fairly.
I just don’t get the calculus behind the choices being made by people like AG Barr and so many others in politics and government today. Do they not understand that their legacy is likely to cast them as great Villains in American history? Could they be so stupid, so arrogant and vain, that they don’t care about history when the moment promises fame, wealth, and power?
Or do they think they can actually win, that they can remake the world in their image? That we have so lost our way morally and culturally, that they can run roughshod over us and seize the world for their own gain and purpose?
The former possibility is scary enough, but the latter is terrifying.
RIP Penny Marshall
Some called last year the Year of the Woman. There are good justifications for the phrase, the recent election, what’s happened in the #MeToo movement, but Christine Blasey Ford might have an opinion on how far we have to go.
With President Obama, we were confronted with the reality that, despite progress, racism is very much alive in our culture. The past year or two has spotlighted an identical dichotomy with regard to gender. Politically, socially, and personally, we seem to become ever more divided in ever more ways.
As a white male I can speak on the core of sexism or racism only from the outside, but as a member of a group perceived to be a key source of the problems in the first place, raising my voice in support seems crucial.
I am offended by people who are offended! It’s like how I am intolerant of people who are intolerant. It’s a challenge. Somehow I have to ignore the self-referential self loathing, but life is paradoxical and ironical, and I’ve always embraced both (and chaos) as personal philosophies.
Irony and paradox aside the whole idea of being offended has become an aspect of society today. We’ve turned it into a cottage industry, and both sides of politics have heavy weaponized it into a WMD.
The problem is often the legitimacy of being offended. When is it right to take offense, and when might the real issue be our own perceptions (and we should just STFU).