A ONCE-A-WEEK (or so) LIST OF WHAT I GIVE A DAMN ABOUT. WITH 10 = MOST IMPORTANT; AND 1 = NOT SO MUCH
Are we better off today in 2012 than we were in 1812 or 1612? Are we happier? Is the world a better place, is there a universally improved quality of life and are we the beneficiaries of progress?
It occurs to me that the only absolute quantification of progress that we can identify today, is the extension of longevity. We live longer because of improvements in nutrition and hygiene. Superficially, the most basic elements of our improved knowledge regarding the transmission of disease, and the development of some outright cures could be argued as a formidable improvement in our quality of life.
Further, it could be argued that the economic aberration which temporarily created a middle class, could be considered in a context of progress. Therefore, proportionally, more people could be considered masters of their own destinies...within the confines of our limited, first-world experience.
I wonder, though in terms of quality and progress, what this really means?
We live longer and conduct our lives from a larger, more stable nest - that can be lit and heated ...if we can afford the utility bills.
QQ : 1. A HAPPY MEAL
As hunter-gatherers, we foraged for food and stalked game. Our lives centered around the quest for food. My favorite slogan from the recent past is... "There's a little McDonald's in everyone ". Great. Now I don't have to stress about where I will get my next meal. If my inner McDonald's is wanting, I fill it with minimal economic impact. But, that is in suburban, any-town, first world.
We continue to observe a third world that does not have this luxury. More people are starving to death on our planet than at any time in history.
I seldom quote others, but this one hit me:
"Every three days more people die from malnutrition and disease than from the bombing of Hiroshima. Every year more people die from preventable hunger than died in the Holocaust. Somewhere along the line, moral reflection and outrage have lost their audience."
Sins of Omission
Estimates I have read show that about one billion people on the planet are malnourished with a further one billion undernourished. Two billion potential McDonald's customers deserve a break today... and aren’t getting one.
I wonder where this sad statistic falls within our measurement of human progress? I sit in my heated, well-lit cave and watch the televised images-aghast.
At last count, almost forty-six million Americans currently use food stamps.
It could be said that their very availability is a symbol of progress.
I would suggest that their need is a social and economic disaster.
QQ : 2. ART FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE
I stare at Van Gogh’s, “Starry Night” in wonder. The Mona Lisa continues to smirk at me and the Venus Di Milo touches my inner Eros. What is it about these images and icons that transcends time?
Glenn Gould's masterful interpretation of a Bach Fugue written in 1722 slays me. Bill Shakespeare's deep insight into the depths of the human condition touches the soul and King David wrote a psalm or two that reaches through millennia to describe human spirituality in a manner transcendent.
Have we in our contemporary, educated, industrialized culture created equivalent or better artistic statements? Is there a contemporary psalm worth singing? Will we peer at a glassed-in image of an Italian aristocrat with its curious smile hundreds of years after the fact? Is there a poet writing today who will connect with our ancestors five hundred years from now? Are there iconic statements that will resonate a thousand years from now being created in new media? Will we watch viral YouTube videos that transcend time and make universal, life-affirming statements lifetimes after the fact?
It seems to me we live in times that lack true anthems or themes of any value. There are no new universal stories, no connective tissue that binds us.
The old, toxic remnants do remain and they poison us. Religious and political dogma and fundamentalism still raise the spectre of primitive paganism that joins damaged people together in a destructive agenda. Perhaps the GOP and the new, Hungarian fascists have their anthems and their art.
I wonder what graces Newt Ging-Grinches walls? I have read that he enjoys the craft displays at Tiffany's. That sparkly stuff likely does have some lasting quality. Hitler attacked canvas armed with brush and paint. He also attacked my people. He murdered both.
QQ : 3. LIVE BY THE SWORD
Every day, around one hundred people die from gun shots in the United States. That averages out to about 30,000 people per year. That statistic has been consistent for some time. This devastation does not make the News; It is not a topic at the top of anyone’s agenda and is an accepted fact of life. More people are murdered on the streets of America than in any ongoing war or revolution on the planet. Is this not a sort of ethnic cleansing where poverty has become an ethnicity?
The acceptance of this devastation as a fact of life in the richest, most powerful country in the history of the world is not progress. It is a Dark Age, hellish, immoral and bankrupt catastrophe. The Second Amendment, my ass. Glock this. Rather than freedom, the almost universal arming of domestic America is demonic.
In a country that has abandoned the care of its mentally ill; made lethal weapons available even to the essentially psychotic and the deranged as a constitutional right, seems to me suicidal.
I'm told that Glocks have very little recoil. There is no background check at a gun show.
It's gun show biz.
QQ : 4. IT’S ALL ESPERANTO TO ME
News reports tell us that former Republican leadership candidate, John Huntsman's command of Mandarin was a detriment to his progress through the ranks of his party’s primaries. Newt had to hide his command of Spanish and his expertise in the intricacies of modern European history. It is likely that he has read a book or two. Knowledge, especially classical knowledge, of language, literature, the arts and history is frowned upon by the new conservatives and regarded as a Liberal Aberration.
My father, like generations of classically educated bourgeois Europeans had years of the dead Latin language compulsorily drummed into him at high school. This gave him a useful command of French, Spanish, Italian and English. Beyond grammar and vocabulary, language is an entry point into understanding and communication.
English dominates and predominates our world, mostly in 48 character tweets, using acronyms , abbreviations and simplifications. Our communication has been dwarfed. WTF.
We are language infants communicating in ones and zeros. LOL.
Homer's twitter feed would have been a sad read 48 characters at a time and I am not referring to Homer Simpson. :)
QQ : 5. HOW SHALL I COMPARE THEE TO A SUMMER’S DAY
An unprecedented phenomenon has occurred that is unique in all history to the extent of its size and popularity.
Our bards, our music makers, our drum messengers and our troubadours have embraced a unifying message. That message is Misogyny. They hate women. We sing about women as whores and bitches.
After we deal with the bitches, we sing and chant about violence and our most base, narcissistic, primitive, animalistic nature. Narcissism sells. Bling-Bling. As "music", this is a most unusual phenomenon. Sing along, bang a gong. Hit me with your disco stick Bitch. It's sick.
Art is generally a reflection of society. I don't like what I see in that mirror. More than anything else, it is a sad current reflection. Play me some Mingus. He was angry too, but, there was a beauty and a layered and mysterious aesthetic that went far beyond the superficial. Let me hear the torment of Beethoven or of Charlie Parker. They were angry, too.
QQ : 6. A BALE OF COTTON
Slavery never went away. It just has another name.
Indentured servitude becomes the norm when workers are banned from organizing. Without worker representation, we become a feudal society. That reversion to feudalism is more than a backward step. We have re-embraced slavery. Apple deserves our scrutiny of its current conduct in China. The worker bees who made this tablet have become our serfs. Apple’s current cash surplus at their Serf's expense is a satanic way to pocket the suffering of these unfortunates.
Decades ago, Fritz Lang's, “Metropolis” and Chaplin's "Modern Times" were sad prophecies of what was to come.
QQ : 7. AARGH!!!
The Industrial Revolution that gave birth to our Modern Times, to our Metropolis has been a continuum of ‘progress’ since it began with coal power. There has been a steep price to pay. We still burn coal.
Which aspects of the industrial revolution have given humanity innovative, progressive, forward motion? In what ways are we better off with the burning of hydrocarbons? Have we reacted, or adapted? With the explosion of human numbers to the tune of 7 billion currently, are we adapting or reacting?
A ‘reaction’ is not necessarily innovative or positive. A reaction can produce destructive energy.
Cultivating a crop that requires damming which results in the devastation and desertification of formerly, productive land is questionable progress.
The genetic modification of seeds that result in our bodies rejecting simple peanuts as lethal poison is not progress. Aargh!!!
Feeding meat to cattle is not progress. No wonder they get mad.
We have reacted, we have not adapted.
QQ : 8. QUALITY CONTROL
Who is ‘the decider’ when it comes to the Quality of our existence. Is it the Free Market? Whom should we trust to monitor true innovation?
We are in reactive times. We fight windmills as symbols of left-wing ideology. Even Cervantes can join Chaplin in a giggle at our audacious objection to wind-blown vanes.
If we insist on procreating at a rate that the earth cannot support, then we are compelled to react. However, we do have options.
Emancipation of women would be a good start. Perhaps they would choose control of their own bodies and their decision to bear children or not. The GOP mullahs, our moral police, think otherwise. The state of Mississippi nearly banned all forms of birth control. Clearly, that state needs more people on welfare.
Education at every level would also help. But the quality of education matters. We have longer lives. What do we do with these longer lives if they have no quality?
We breathe coal fumes, eat GM peanuts and procreate profusely.
Is this progress?
QQ : 9. EDJUMACATION AND THE QUALITY OF KNOWLEDGE
Teach your children well.
That is a very broad concept that can mean many things to many people.
I ponder the question of what kind of education will be of benefit to my children and their children?
We must function within the world as it is, not as we would hope it to be.
However, if we hope to leave the earth in better shape that how we found it, I believe we are failing... miserably. We deplete its resources; pollute its atmosphere; undermine its geological stability and dis-arrange its weather patterns.
All of this is reversible, if we recognize that we are in a Reactive era.
We google, tweet, blog and poke each other in impersonal, long-distance, pretend relationships with questionable love, compassion or true friendship.
We sell our souls, our privacy and our intimacy to an Algorithmic Ether that manipulates our data and narrows our experience.
This is not progress.
The old adage suggests that knowledge is power. We are entering an era of narrowed exposure to knowledge. We know what the algorithms allow us to know. And that has infinite quantity and zero quality.
QQ : 10. EEE EQUALS EM CEE SQUARED
Perhaps humanity is in a perpetually, neutral condition.
Like Relativity, Energy and Mass are always interchangeable.
For what we perceive as progress, we always pay a price that neutralizes that progress in the long term.
A re-evaluation of progress is essential for the survival of our species.
We used to be afraid of nuclear annihilation. That is not the thing to be most afraid of. We should be more afraid of progress that is not vetted.
We should fear the regression to feudalism. We should fear repression, that comes in the guise of economic or technological “progress”.
Perhaps we should stop fighting windmills and re-discover the original, genetic makeup of a pre-Monsanto peanut that does not poison us. Don't make the cows mad!
Listen to some Bach that has not been transferred via an mp3. It might make everything make sense and help bring us back into focus.
We have a lot to learn and it seems to me that we teach our children less and less about what really matters. Perhaps that line in the American Declaration of Independence that refers to the "pursuit of happiness" is a concept worth re-examining for all Humankind.
Etched on my stone tablet.
Editing : Batsheva