Saturday, January 03, 2004

It's funny how panicky and alarmist people can be. I mean, really, they can get worked up over what, even just from the perspective of an old human, is really pretty small. By a perspective bigger than that, it is completely and totally pointless. For example: me. My initial impression of Bush the Younger was "Stupid", and over the past year it's worked its way down to a solid "Evil conniving bastard." I don't actually believe yet that he's one of those evil sadistic maniacs that are so common in movies and almost non-existent in real life. But over the past few months, I've stopped arguing with anyone who says he is. Rereading Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them", as well as a cyberpunk novel, has got me as cynical as I've ever been about the state of the world: "Our society is going to hell. This is worse than"1984" because the bastards in charge realize that censorship is self-defeating: why make martyrs of people who try to speak up for the little guy when you can just drown out their voices? One side is correct, or at least is trying to be, but how can you hear their message when the other side is filling the air with persuasive lies? We're doomed, I tell you - doomed!"

And so on. But earlier I was reading a Usenet discussion about some "scientific" predictions made back in the Seventies. And coincidentally enough, the cyberpunk novel I read fits in here as well. What were things like in the Seventies? Here's what I can figure out: people thought America was in imminent danger of being reduced to a satellite state of Japan. That's right, an island smaller than California, with a population a little more than a third of ours, was a credible threat to what was even then the top world power. Oh, and don't forget the Communists. A bomb shelter was considered a smart investment in those days, I understand. And apparently there is a Dr. Paul Ehrlich, a respected biologist, who published a book in 1970 stating with absolute certainty that America would need water rationing by 1974 and food rationing by 1980.

All that stuff seemed like the most important thing in the world at the time, but now it's either forgotten or people are embarrassed to remember it. And it's not medieval peasants or New Guinea tribesmen we're talking about, with worldviews so different from our that they could almost be considered alien - it's our parents. So worrying is inevitable, but... well, twenty years from now, a friend of mine who compared Bush to Hitler will look as dumb as Paul Ehrlich or a guy in the 50's who bought a bomb shelter.

Of course, I still don't like Bush. All I'm saying is that perspective is good.

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