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The WMail Newsletter Essays
Volume V - Issue #39: January 2004

"The 100-Year Exercise"

        One minor event that had a major impact on my historical perspective took place on a visit 40 years ago to Grandmother B's house in Pasadena. I found a dictionary dated 1903 and perused it. I was amazed upon finding that there was no entry for airplane, nor for the alternate spelling aeroplane. The concept did not exist at the time – it was an eye opener to me.
        And here we are now celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Wright Brothers's first flight at Kitty Hawk.

        Back in 1903, the automobile was a rich man's toy, with only several hundred – all hand-crafted – in use in America. The hand-crank wall telephone was state-of-the-art technology. Nikola Tesla [1856-1943] was still inventing the radio. [Nope, not Marconi, Tesla: U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1943 – what you learned in school was a lie.]
        There were no anti-biotic medicines: aspirin was brand new (1897) and penecillin was discovered in 1928 and sulfa drugs were invented in the 1930's.
        The year 1903 included the invention of the ice cream cone.
        The flickering short films that were common in 1903 were exhibited in cast-iron 'nickelodeon' machines in American cities big and small. It was in 1903 that the first two-reel narrative film was exhibited – "The Great Train Robbery", a Western by Edwin S. Porter – thus launching the movie industry.
        (Go back another 100 years to 1803, and you have a U.S. population of 4 million in our 17 states, and Lewis & Clark making preparations for their 'Corps of Discovery' expedition across the uncharted buffalo-covered Louisiana Territory.)

        The First World War was not called that at the time: How could they know about Hitler and Dunkirk and Auschwitz and Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima & Nagasaki? The common term was "The War to End All Wars". The common belief at the time was that victory over the Huns in November 1918 had eliminated armed aggression between nations once and forever.
        Having solved that problem, it became time to party hearty – the Jazz Age, flappers, bathtub gin, oop-oop-a-doop! But The Great Depression was the supreme party-pooper, followed by the rise of war-mongers in Germany & Japan. And the Great War, the one that had 'ended all wars', had to be renamed World War One, because the world had blundered into World War Two.

        The Fifties are intriguing for the Space Race. Science fiction had its heyday, Ray Bradbury wrote best-sellers, and the launch of Russia's Sputnik satellite in 1957 caught America with its technological pants down. Science was the hot ticket. Magazine covers displayed projections of a science-induced future: individual air-cars alleviating ground-level traffic jams, houses that talked, and free solar electricity spurring a Cultural Renaissance For All. Health care would keep everybody alive for 100 years. Dick Tracy wore a wrist radio and travelled to the moon in his comic strip; bored with earthly delights, we too would soon vacation in colonies on the moon.
        All smoke and fantasy. You carry an irksome cell phone, but none of the other parapher- nalia have been delivered to the marketplace. We are, in fact, generally worse off than the 'Gray Flannel Man' Fifties, for the minimum wage is worth 25% less and under steady attack, less people have health care, and we are on the brink of another Great Depression – gonna have to name them Great Depression I and Great Depression II.
        Job security today is non-existent, society is increasingly unstable, and that is just in America. Around the world, Muslim fanatics are on the rise, civil & religious wars drag on and on in a dozen countries, scary despots are working on nuclear weapons arsenals, and fascist regimes hold fast in Australia, Indonesia, and former Soviet lands. We'll probably soon have to dust off the designation for World War III.

        The myopia of Western society – the Culture-Structure – is severe. Nothing existed before television, registered U.S. voters cannot name the Four Freedoms or five out of the ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights. The average young person in America cannot tell you who Calvin Coolidge was, or Charles Lindberg or Amelia Earhart or Will Rogers, much less Nikola Tesla (who incidentally single-handedly invented radio, radar, microwaves {as in your ovens}, lasers, robotics, and alternating current electric power – among his 700 patents).
        We think of the 'horse and buggy days' of 1903 as soooo backward: They were such fools, so primitive, not Modern like us. But a Working Mind will be able to grasp that the year 1903 A.D. was its own state-of-the-art – for 1903.

        It is supremely arrogant for us all, for the Culture-Structure, to suppose that cell phones and guerrilla wars and over-priced healthcare and MTV are the culmination, the end-product of evolution. The Culture-Structure takes that precise stance and teaches the masses to believe it as Truth: that WE all – whether Republican, Democrat, Socialist, or Tory, whether Muslim, Jew, or hutu tribesman, whether businessperson of Asia or Europe or Africa or a tiny island, whether red, white, yellow, black, brown or Green – that WE deserve to reap unearned benefits and pleasure ourselves here and now, WE deserve to cash in our chips and consume ALL the resources of the planet merely because the planet is inhabited by US, ourselves, that WE deserve it ALL, and we want it NOW!
        Arrogant. Supremely arrogant. And suicidal.

        Standing on any factual variant about the Current State of the Planet, there is NO probability that Mankind will survive two more generations. The ecosystems across all seven continents are polluted, the oceans are dying, and the world economy is artificially propped up by the very consumerism that is destroying the Planet.
        John Kennedy proposed putting an American on the moon, which was done in July 1969 – and the last such mission was – when? We conquer one disease – polio, smallpox – and two more pop up – SARS, westnile virus, AIDS, 'mad cow'. And starvation by hunger ebbs and flows but never goes away.
        High school graduates can not name a dozen U.S. Presidents (much less more than two vice presidents), yet they can name all the Spice Girls and can repeat dialogue verbatim from "Matrix" and "Lord of the Ring" and "The Simpsons".
        A Teutonic troglodite weight-lifter is now the elected Governor of the State of California, and the Democratic presidential candidates for 2004 squabble like kindergarteners who didn't get their nap, while George Dubya's pals are chopping down National Forests and further polluting the Arctic and our rivers to make throw-away containers for CDs containing 'music' created by millionaire misogynistic armed thugs.
        Project that into the future...

        There is no designed future out there for us to work on together, no equivalent to the Space Race of John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, or F.D.R.'s New Deal. We are rats fighting over a finite amount of garbage, in a societal and personal frenzy to survive, with no purpose in mind.
        War, pestilence, hunger and stupidity we have in abundance. We no longer look to any Dream to give us guidance, to live into. The future from here is an unavoidable nightmare.

        This is why the signature block on my various email accounts contains the statement "Reason is the only frontier left". We've been to the moon's surface and back; we found the HMS Titanic in situ; we have images of quarks and evidence of black holes a million light years away – all those frontiers are opened and teeming with activity to no purpose.

        Looking back at us from 100 years out, the ultra-Modern society that may exist in the year 2104 A.D will think us primitive fools, forgetting that we of today (2004 A.D.) are indeed state-of-the-art – for 2004.
        A hundred years from now, in your future, if Mankind is not extinct, and is thus able to read about us in the history books, then that will be so only because latent skills in Reason were expanded and practiced and taught in the schools, because Reason supplanted religious fantasy as our compass, because enough Individuals somehow developed a Working Mind and lived from Reason in the face of and in opposition to the mindless hordes of human rats gnawing voraciously, chewing away at whatever is (today) left of 'Civilization'.
        With Reason as a minority practice, there may evolve a new species – Homo cogitus – who survive the chaos of the coming Dark Ages. There may be two classes of survivors, as in H.G. Wells's "Time Machine": the elite, priviliged 'eloi' and a cave-dwelling race of slaves.
        With Reason as a widespread practice, Mankind and Civilization might yet survive – even possibly reversing global warming, even possibly taking the revolutionary actions necessary to wrestle hegemony away from the Oligarchy, even possibly Fulfilling Mankind's Potential.

* *          * *          * *          * *

        Pick your nightmare or pick your Dream for Mankind. With Reason, Mankind can survive the next 100 years, and may even thrive, if we get our brains to work as designed, and if we put our backs into the effort.
        Reason must be invoked and it must be practiced. Reason must be generated as a Central Value for all civilized societies, and Reason must be brought to bear on all of the ills produced by and for the Culture-Structure as it now exists.

        If you do not Stand For Reason, there will be no White Knight to rescue you or your children & grandchildren from the terrible fate that you create for them.

[copyright 2004 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved]

        For an essay on the Four Freedoms, see the WMail July 2002 issue: "Injustice For All"

        For the full contents of this issue of the free 'WMail' exine, click here.

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