Space age seems dead. Long live the space age.
What resonated in that article for me, was how entrenched the pervasive “myth” of the space age has been in much of the World’s collective conscious during the cold war period, regardless of caste, creed, colour, race, religion and whatever other division we know of. The other common myth that carries the same fixation and following of a similar scale was discussed by Jacob Fisker in his aptly titled, “Myths and the future”.
Seriously, the comments on Greer’s post were equally chilling for me too, becaue it showed how much every cold-war boy/girl around the World that was drawn into the “Space Age” propaganda (Yes, like all other myths, this one too is clever propaganda, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves it isn’t).
I still have vivid recollections of animated discussions on Skylab around the house, due to the characteristic helicopter blade look of the satellite and the controversy regarding its “reentry” and damage. We were also flooded with Soviet Cosmonaut books (courtesy of the great “Mir publishers”). And if you believe, we sent a man into space (due apologies to R.E.M). The Indian mass media was not far behind! We had wall-to-wall television programmes on Space such as Space City Sigma and Indradhanush (Rainbow) (*)
(*) This one showed Disney’s Flight of the navigator running on a TV screen on the background — the creators’ nod to their source of inspiration, I suppose (I like references, however oblique they may be). My father was astute enough to spot it and took me to watch the film later on when it was released finally in India.
And then there was the overdose of Superman comics too (thanks to my father again :-)) (Bottle city of Kandor, anyone?) And so, I too was not spared of this juggernaut, and growing up, space was all that was, and I wanted to be a “rocket scientist”! I was hooked!
But I “grew up” (both metaphorically and realistically) and realised that if our track record of how we managed terra firma is anything to go by, I do not want us to be going anywhere at all!.
I later found out that Bill Watterson, had actually done a strip echoing my innermost thoughts with a Calvin and Hobbes’ “trip to Mars” (as early as September 1988. The man was quite prescient)! With that motivation and background, enjoy Calvin and Hobbes’ adventures to Mars. Each panel is dripping with Watterson’s ironic commentary of the famous “American/Humankind” projected self image — Notice that rant from Calvin in response to Hobbes’ subtle hint “Maybe they don’t like us”. This mindset and outlook verily dominates the Indian blogosphere a lot these days because of the misguided “India has arrived” mindset. So, Americans take heart, we are soon to be joining your ranks due to our own hubris as well.
Enjoy the abridged trip to Mars!
I was part of the space crowd growing up. Strangely, Star Trek never moved me… but Giant Robot was a big hit with me (Oh those finger missiles were ‘deadly’!). Eventually, I realised that it is much more important to focus on the here and now rather than Space and beyond to indulge in ego massages!
Before anyone accuses me of being shortsighted and pessimistic, think about this. Granted, given the need for Humans to strive beyond, stretch their imagination, etc…etc… we have consistently chosen immediate security again and again (and continue to do so). So in the lines of the old Chinese quote “Dreams don’t cook rice” which is what we all fundamentally need in the end. Ermine discusses this in his latest post and so does Jacob Fisker in his gardening for self-sufficiency post. Laugh all you may at their so-called “naivety”, but store those two posts in the dim recesses of your memory. Mark my word, for they will come to haunt us in the coming decade!
Have a good weekend and take care!