The growth of bureaucracy and totalitarianism has, then, far less to do with sinister influences than with the mere mechanics of control in an impossibly complex system of interrelations. Alan Watts
What passes for history is, by and large, the whim of a few professional stuffed shirts under threat to publish or perish. I say this in light of having spent years chained to a desk in a crusty Institute of Higher Learning (and I was, too), memorizing the finer points of a philosophy that was about as genuine as Richard Nixon's passion for the environment.
Despite the snazzy parchment declaring my status as a Master of History, I suspect that the subject is a phantom, invented by ghosts for the sake of folks that should know better. On the other hand, knowledge itself is a dubious condition, so to hell with niceties. As some wise guy said, "Know thyself."
They say that those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat neurotic primate acts of stupidity. The sad fact is this: Primates, being endowed with sundry permutations of genetic drift, have an innate tendency to act silly. This ironic neural trait, currently known as "culture," turns out to be greatly magnified when primates have access to watching each other act out redundant dumb ass behavior. With this in mind, I can safely say that television is the single most egregious factor in the long, sordid devolution of Homo erectus asphaltus (displacing the mirror for top honors).
But where does that leave us? After the clinical trials have been completed and we awaken to the realization that channel surfing one's way through life doubles as a shortcut to a seriously funked up attention span (read: brain disorder), then what?
Let's play with the energetics and see what happens – ZAP!
According to the Census Bureau, our humanoid population will hit 7 billion by the year 2012. This is up from 6 billion in 1999. That's 13 years to add a fat billion to an already crowded planet. As Brother Dave Gardner would say, "Ain't that weird?" Answer: Historically speaking, yes.
Things get even screwier (or ignoble, depending on one's proclivities) when we grok that there were only a mere billion of us as recently as 1800. It took roughly another 130 years for naked apes to double that figure. I know, too many numbers embedded in a family-friendly piece on the inner meaning of history. But, you get the drift. And if you sense a pattern emerging, don't rush to call Dr. Wayne Dyer, you're not suffering from apophenia.
I have a history of saying it, so why not again – you don't need Al Gore's inconvenient nightmare to see that 7 billion gas guzzling, computer crunching, iPhone yapping, beer swilling drunk monkeys are hell on planets. Earth included. We're not talking premeditated pathology here, rather a pandemic case of terminal myopia. Even folks programmed not to bet on history, such as myself, need to be looking over our shoulders right about now, aiming our razor focus on the smoldering coals of ancient Greece, Rome, the Ming Dynasty, and/or what's left of Detroit.
No, global warming is just the icing on history's proverbial cake, yet another side-winding tangent in the human circus that seems to be metastasizing beyond any semblance of control.
Ah – there's the drift – control. The buzzword of every politburo from Moscow to Bangkok to Birmingham. When things get out of hand, and they are, some capricious form of equilibrium must appear and set the Record straight, if only to begin the Wheel turning anew, one more time.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
though the streams are swollen
keep them dogies rollin' Rawhide!
I hear election bells ringing from church towers across the flooded plains, the hiss of TV pundits touting the virtues of "Yes, we can" and "Hold the pork, pass the Prilosec." Ideological freak-shows being what they are, the sitcom of electing the Leader of the Free World has become little more than a soap opera sans soap, or a decent soprano. Where's Pavarotti when you need him? (Or Pavlov, for that matter?)
Let's be real about this: Anybody fool enough to aggressively seek the job of being the President of the United States is either a psychopathic numbskull or has a bad case of needing c.o.n.t.r.o.l. Or both. Controlitis tends to slide past the filters of our claim to common sense. What's a hopeful American to do when confronted by rock star politics in the wake of a two term tsunami of what can only be described as the "The Big Huge Bungle"? Gamblers understand that when dealt a bad hand, it's often better to fold than to proceed like a buffoon possessing more money than prudence.
But here we sit, astride one of history's more sardonic crossroads, placing bets on the stuff dreams are made of. You generally awaken from the average dream, even the kind that wads the sheets thanks to an overdose of cortisol-infused nervous implosions taking place deep inside the Limbic netherworld. But waking up from what ails America requires more than trite slogans and a well-oiled political machine. What we need now is not to be found in modern political parlance. Perhaps call it a cosmic enema of gargantuan proportions, if you like. Sounds good to me.
I say this with the understanding that my fellow Americans appear less inclined to think for themselves than at any prior point in our brief, if boisterous, history. As a result of being bombarded by an incessant stream of banal pabulum laughingly referred to as "news," American political discourse has become little more than a sophomoric exercise reminiscent of the old vid-bomb: The Gong Show. (If recent Presidential debates had exhibited half the chutzpah of a Chuck Barris production, a glimmer of sanity might yet remain. Alas.)
What's he saying, Ethel?
I'm saying that the only wise move a voter can make in a scenario that includes a human population of 7 billion souls is to pack the bags and book passage on Richard Branson's rocket ship to Mars while seats remain available. But that's silly – there's not enough water on Mars to bathe more than a few grungy monkeys a year. Dare we engage in a touch of realism?
Here's my litmus test for determining who to vote for in 2008 – Which candidate requires each American to exercise the greatest amount of personal responsibility? Which party's health care program requires each of us to maintain something akin to optimum (ok, reasonable) health? Who is ready to make it easier for a 3rd, 4th, or 5th party to join the fray? Or is willing to step up to the fact that fundamental rights come with fundamental obligations? Or that 7 billion Homo erectus asphaltus is akin to a global game of Russian Roulette? Or….
"The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind…." And that noise is little more than the effects of gut gas passing through the doors of the Theater of the Absurd. Tonight's performance features a newly adapted version of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes." Action!
If history is to serve as the barometer of human foibles, curious people might wonder when the bulb of enlightenment will suddenly appear over our collective heads (yes, I like that word collective; however, said usage in no way infers a reference to the red glare of Stalin, Mao, or that goof ball in Venezuela).
Maybe Diogenes had it right with his "praise of a dog's virtues." But dogs follow the vicissitudes of Fate as their numbers rise and fall in concert with readily available calories. Left to their own devices, our canine friends eventually come into balance with the forces of Nature, their population hovering on the brink of carrying capacity, always poised for the boom and bust cycle that is their way of life. Cruel, perhaps; but freedom never came easy, to dogs or men.
Too bad history fails us where it counts. But there it is, strewn across the screen in a miasmic pixel orgy for anyone to see. The wise are making plans, hoping to remain one step ahead of the inevitable, which appears to be a self-induced case of cultural necrosis with a side order of "Welcome to the 3rd World, gringos; you want to buy a watch real cheap?"
Is it too late for us to start thinking for ourselves? Do we need pop icons, whether in bikinis or Presidential wingtips, to give us hope in ourselves? Do we require constant supervision in order to carry out our so-called "pusuit of happiness?" Or is happiness something intrinsic to one's own efforts, irrespective of what the present slate of control freaks espouse?
Perhaps it's later than we think.
But it ain't that late.