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in a web of glass, pinned to the edges of vision

It blew up.

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

mucha mosaic

It blew up.

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mucha mosaic
Okay, seven people died when a 30-year-old piece of badly-implemented technology didn't work right. Yes, that sucks. Yes, that's a shame.

It's reprehensible, in my eyes, that this matters MORE than the 70-odd folks who probably have gotten shot in Ivory Coast within the last 24 hours, or the Chinese government displacing millions of people in the Three Gorges section of the Yang-tze to build the largest hydroelectric project on the planet, or the starvation that runs rampant in Iraq, or...

Jesus, people. Get a fucking sense of proportion.


I've had a few conversations with people about the above, which is why I'm editing this post. It'd be unfair to yank what I initially posted and post something different, ergo setting it in italics.

Yes, this problem impacts the space program. That is bad- we need setbacks in the US space program at this juncture like we need bullets to the head. My concern is in main that the reason this is bad is getting labelled as 'seven people died, it's so horrible'. There's a lack of proportion. Towards a sense of proportion, I advance the following:
More than 7 people died exploring the American west. I think more than Apollo 1 + Challenger's 7 + Columbia's 7 were lost to that, too. Did the chain of tragedies involved in the Monroe Doctrine send the entire nation into a day of mourning? No. Why does this one?

A friend of mine suggested that we respond more strongly to local tragedy more than with distant tragedy; it's part of how human beings are built, basically. 'Local tragedy' involves a definition wherein anything that happens on the haunted fishtank in the livingroom is local. This begs a question: why doesn't the haunted fishtank show us the Ivory Coast? Why doesn't the haunted fishtank report to us the face of how miserable people being displaced up and down Three Gorges are?
Before you say 'this isn't what TV is for', think back to the 80's- starvation in Africa was rampant in the face of a huge drought. Ethiopian kids were starving like mad. Someone (Namely, Bob Geldoff) got together a bunch of public celebrities and made this problem local to us. And we responded. Why is it so much more important that these seven people we saw on television, read about, etcetera, died? On a strictly objective scale? It's not.
The lack of ability to respond with reason here is what is troubling to me. I am not trying to say 'no no who gives a shit, so what' in regards the sad events this morning. I'm trying to say that this sad event is not MORE IMPORTANT than other sad events that happened this morning-- but because of the folks who make shapes dance on the haunted fishtank, you don't even know about these other tragedies. And these events seem just as unpleasantly a betrayal of one of the greater dreams of mankind, to me. A friend of mine is tying the knot with the woman he's been seeing for several years... and the media circus about this is certainly going to overshadow anything about their silly little dream.
  • Are the insurgents in Ivory Coast exemplars of your way of life?

    Does starvation in Iraq inspire you with the understanding of the wonderful things made possible by directed human endeavor?

    Do the displaced of the Three Gorges show any personal virtue simply because they lost their homes, victims of their governmental persecution?

    Perhaps you need a sense of proportion, sir. You dwell on the banality of tragedy, of common cruelty and inhumanity - which has always been with us - and you dismiss as meaningless one of the few examples of a human attempt to dismiss mysticism and superstition and accomplish something wonderful through reason, science, and the rule of law.

    Why don't you make a post or two about the god you worship and finish the job?
    • Your words intrigue me. To quote: you dismiss as meaningless one of the few examples of a human attempt to dismiss mysticism and superstition and accomplish something wonderful through reason, science, and the rule of law.
      I am not quite comprehending how performing a scientifically-proven act which has been both theoretically and demonstrably possible for nearly 40 years qualifies as a human attempt to dismiss mysticism and superstition. The space station- there's more of a next step in human efforts in space. And the dream of human residence in space, of colonization of other worlds, is a fantastic, wonderful dream, no question.
      Does this mean that the dream of every human being endowed with his creator with the right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness stopped being a dream with value? Does the death of seven people in an attempt to accomplish the Manifest Destiny that drove US policy from the early 1800's through into World War I outweigh the deaths of hundreds who felt that taxation without representation was unfair? That's what your thesis seems to be, to me: this dream is more important than the dream of justice for all and inalienable basic human rights, and how dare you say that it is not. I am pretty sure that the men who framed the Constitution of this nation, and the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, would agree with me. We have an obligation to those men to defend that constitution-- and we betray that obligation, every day. Why are repeated attempts to murder that dream any less of a tragedy than the kneecapping of the dream of interstellar exploration?
      • Er - none of those people you mention are in the United States. They're not subject to the law of the Constitution nor do they share in the social contract made explicit in the Declaration of Independence.

        As I'm sure you'd agree - you've forcefully pointed it out in your journal several times - there are problems holding that dream together even at home. Difficult problems. Always have been.

        I often wonder where the idea of the universal brotherhood of man comes from. I certainly wasn't raised with it. I also wasn't raised to be cruel, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or any of the other common ills; but those folks over on the Ivory Coast aren't my people. Don't recall their asking for my help, either.

        (With Iraq, I have occasional twinges - that fertile Mesopotamian crescent between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the Akkadians, Bablyon, Ur of the Chaldees - that was in fact the cradle of my civilization. Dumping explosives on it willy-nilly seems arrogant.)

        I've read the Declaration of Independence, and also the UN Charter and its subsequent additions and amendments, and I have to say they strike me as a little far-fetched. Don't jibe with my experience. I'm a doctor, work in a hospital every day, and I can tell you every day the forces of Nature violate my patients' "right to life," "right to the pursuit of happiness," if any. Those are just words when you're screaming in mortal agony because cancer has riddled and fractured near-every bone in your body.

        Space travel isn't like that. Space travel is a bunch of scientists and engineers getting together and using data and reason and the scientific method to do a specific thing. When engineers build their spacecraft on a faulty assumption like "right to life" is when their astronauts all die. I find the success of this endeavor a nobler one.
        • To paraphrase very slightly: 'we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness'. Note that this does not say say that 'only Americans are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights'. This was the shot across the bow to King George: basically telling him 'no more'. If it weren't for that shot across the bow, what would've become of the world? I don't know, and neither do you, because that shot across the bow was the success that it was.
          Sure, it may be a bit idealistic to think people have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-- but so's the dream of getting human civilization off this rock-- and that dream is where the Space Shuttle came from. I don't find the success of an endeavor to get off this rock any less a success in enacting a human dream, in accomplishing a worthwhile goal, than the success of an endeavor to reduce starvation in the world and increase your fellow man's right to continue his life; I don't find it any less a success than the overthrow of General Pinochet and the subsequent increase in personal liberties among folks residing in Chile. These are dreams made real.
          Space travel doesn't employ social science, it's true. Does that mean that social science is suddenly rendered invalid in an eyeblink, to compare space flight against the length of time that human societies have existed?
          I have to admit I am finding a negative viscerality to my response to your posts on this that I don't enjoy witnessing in myself. As such, I'm going to just agree to disagree with you on the meaning of the points you bring up, but I'm not going to try to pretend your points are invalid. They're as valid as my own views.
  • Though this is tangential: not sure how much this will set back the space program, since the space program is vital to US 'security interests.' Those spy satellites have to get up there somehow. The shuttle program itself might not be as vital; the military may decide it's more cost-effective to develop some sort of disposable manned vehicle. But I don't think the government's going to trash the space program.
  • This begs a question: why doesn't the haunted fishtank show us the Ivory Coast? Why doesn't the haunted fishtank report to us the face of how miserable people being displaced up and down Three Gorges are?

    Damned good question, and one that has bugged me for years. So much goes on in the world that the average insular American never even hears about, because the news would rather do a story on a Pope-shaped squash in Podunk than step outside its borders to look at what's going on out there.

    Before you say 'this isn't what TV is for'...

    I would say, to this, the hell it isn't. It's -exactly- what TV is for. It's just not used to its greatest potential.

    I'm sad about the loss today, and my LJ pretty much sums that up, but yeah. A lot gets overlooked. Stuff people might care about if they were ever actually exposed to it.
  • A friend of mine is tying the knot with the woman he's been seeing for several years... and the media circus about this is certainly going to overshadow anything about their silly little dream.

    The Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was concerned that folks at home were making too much of a fuss over him, so he took with him into space a T-shirt of a women's group that works to prevent road accidents. He said that people needed to remember the little things too.
  • Moreover...

    It also illustrates the *creation* of public sentiment.

    I do believe this is a tragedy, and a horrible way to die. It's horrible for the familes, and for the future of the space program (potentially).

    But I like what you get at, which is the creation of what we should feel tragedy for. I note that our government now wants us to feel for the Iraqi people who have been repressed. But we don't feel bad for the Iranians who were killed because we propped up Saddam. We are supposed to feel for the Afgani people who were repressed by the Taliban, but most Americans didn't here about that until after we lost two skyscrapes and 3000 people.

    I agree that this country has lost a sense of perpective. That is the larger tragedy.
  • Actually, for me there is sadness, and this is despite being well aware of things happening all over the world. You barely even hit the tip of the iceberg with the examples you cited. I can look just about anywhere to find atrocities going on, from blood diamonds in Africa to X dictator torturing people who didn't agree with him or were seen with someone who didn't like him, to the religious persecution going on just about anywhere you look, to the N violent crimes which happen every minute in the US. And those are just some of those which are more abhorrent because they involve forethought in their malice -- the idiot who gets behind the wheel while drunk and then goes and kills some people (often as not not even having the decency to Darwinate) is also violent and terrible, and happens a heck of a lot more often than astronauts die.

    In fact, it's safe to say that if I concentrated on every horrible thing happening everywhere in the world, I'd have no time for anything else, and even if I did, I would be paralyzed with grief and horror. It's tragic that these other things are happening, but it's just too much to be constantly monitoring all of them. On the other hand, the seven astronauts give us, or at least me, some hope amid all of the atrocities and tragedies; the notion that perhaps people can rise above all of that an perhaps do something worth remembering. I read every news story I could find about the flight as it progressed, and I was waiting to see the results of some of the experiments mentioned. The loss is therefore more vivid to me, because it's not just a case of humans unconcerned about or even delighting in others' suffering; it was the loss of some people doing things for the good of others.

    And I'm also worried for the space program as it stands. Yes, as someone pointed out, the military will need some way to launch more satellites, but they could just as easily gut NASA and only use it for that. One of the recent republican presidents or congresses wanted to scrap NASA completely and use its funding for the programs they were cutting in order to fund more military spending. I remember there being a few tense years in which it felt like the axe would drop any minute. I hope this isn't used as an opportunity now to see that through, the loss of life versus the lack of anything of interest to those in power.
  • You haven't said anything here that I disagree with. What you say is difficult for some people to grasp, but I stand behind you and thank you for saying it.

    --Kynn
  • All too normal...

    I think that part of the reason this is such big news is the sympathetic vibration in our meat-brains with the Challenger(David Brinkley apparently had a freudian slip and /called/ it the Challenger) explosion in '86-- I don't know about you, but I know exactly where I was and when it blew. Moreover, this wasn't something that we were prepared for by news flashes, which was sanitized for us at all. Many school children all over the country watched that thing explode live, the plumes of falling smoke. It was visceral, and I'd argue a formative experience for many of us similar to the way the Kennedy assassination impacted the prior generation.

    The reason dead presidents and blown up astronauts resonate so loud is that they represent our dreams. Man dreamt of space and the stars, and now he hurtles into them, 'conquering' them. We invest in our politicians-- not all of them(the Shrub does not hold my hopes in his hands) in the sense that we even like them, but in a sense, they are a reflection of our society, the dream that is America. Nothing hurts more than a shattered dream. So-- 7 people die in an explosion, and the whole country stops breathing.

    The reason the Ivory Coast(etc) doesn't impact us because they aren't /us/-- they are, rationally, people, but they are alien, prone to our species tendancy towards xenophobia. To many Americans, 7 Americans dead will always be more important than a thousand men in Africa. Their dreams aren't our dreams, so we don't hurt the same way when they pass. It's the same reason that the death of your sister(if you had a sister) would impact you more than the death of your neighbor, and your neighbor's more than someone in the next town over, etc, on and on out to the whole populace. It's not simply a media-focus issue-- because they are so removed from us culturally, our empathy is dulled.

    It's not a good thing, it's not a reasonable thing...But it's terribly human. Or that's my take, anyway. And yet, despite the media circus, I doubt very much that this will truly interfere with the personal dreams of your friends-- for them, that dream will shine bright through any shadow the media casts over their day.

    Wallah
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