I’ve been on a Bulfinch’s Mythology bender lately.
Why? Maybe because I recently finished watching “The Good Place” and “Good Omens” on Netflix, both of which I recommend. But, I also had a desire to know more about a certain Roman/Greek god Bacchus/Dionysus. (Don’t the Romans seem like god thieves?)
Regardless, I got to thinking about WHO DREAMED ALL THIS SHIT UP? Think about it, there was somebody, at some moment in the past, who had the inkling to say something akin to, “Boy, that’s some hardcore white streaks shooting down from the stormy sky. Someone must be throwing them. Maybe, yeah, maybe his name is Zeus.”
SOMEBODY had to have that first thought. Sure, there may have been discussion or what have you. But there was an original human who had that very first notion.
And then I got to thinking about all the other gods. And all the other words. And all the other ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ELSE.
“I sure am thirsty. I think I’ll drink some of that, um, trizzick. Uh, no. Bakabaka? Naw. Water. Yeah, I’ll call it water.”
Imagine, every word ever spoken was first spoken by one dude (or dudette). Every word. Somebody did it first.
And every thing created, every food eaten, everything. Somebody had to have done it first. Millions of unique names and objects.
And not just once, thousands of times for the same thing. How many languages have a word for “water”? All of them?
Individuals, millions of them, in their own time and minds, are responsible, at some point in the past, for every single word we utter, every thing we use, and every notion we understand.
Elon Musk wants to preserve the species. The ONLY way, he thinks, to do this is to make humanity a multi-planet race.
Ignoring the fact that the Universe is Absurd, that ultimately everyone and everything will dissolve into the void, let’s examine the factors that support or refute his hypothesis and come up with an alternative.
Let’s say we want to plan humanity’s continued existence out a billion years, out to when the Sun begins to bloat and heat Earth’s surface to the point of boiling off the oceans and roasting the biosphere to a crisp. What will we need to prepare for?
Super volcano eruption
Narrow beam gamma ray burst
There are other risks that don’t really rise, realistically, to the level of “end of days”: antagonistic AI, global warming, alien invasion, and those unknown unknowns. But I wager that humanity’s existence is not actually threatened by such things.
I’ll clarify here that we’re not talking about human civilization. Let’s start first with just persisting the species out into the future a few thousand to a few million years. Yes, we stated that a billion years is our target, but let’s start small and see how far we can get.
There are a few factors we’ll need to address. The first is timing, how quickly will humanity need this capability. Then there are resource requirements, sustainable independence, minimum viable population, and, if we want to retain or return to a technological civilization, the reemergence of industrial capability. We won’t get to all of these but we’ll skim over them for completeness.
Why are we bothering with this discussion?
Right. Here’s the gist: I posit that there’s an alternative means of human preservation that we should be pursuing right now, in lieu of and/or in addition to, spreading humanity’s legacy out among the planets.
What are we afraid of? We’re afraid of the surface of our planet becoming uninhabitable. Mitigating every one of the above listed risks involves sequestering an enclave of humanity *somewhere* safe, for years if not decades. We want to hide out in some protected, self-sufficient place until we can resume activities, hopefully Earth-top-side.
What if the surface of Earth never returns to a livable state? Bah! Five massive extinction events resulting in five returns from the brink of annihilation prove that, until the Sun swells to consume the inner planets, Earth will always return to a state of habitability.
Is space the only alternative? If not, then where, other than the surface of Mars or the Moon, can we squirrel away a self-sufficient, re-emergent pocket of humanity?
Queue the music…
Under the sea.
Under the sea.
Darlin’ it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me.
A city on Mars?
Bullshit. Build a city at the bottom of the sea. Or deep within the Earth.
Such a metropolis would be protected from cosmic radiation, volcanic winter, nuclear fallout, a ravaging plague of zombies, and all the toxins and trauma, malcontents and mayhem. We wouldn’t need to spend $billions blasting resources into space. Or traversing billions of miles of a very nasty inter-planetary void. We could leverage all the benefits of cheap labor, cheap materials and exhaustive know-how right here where we need them.
Within a few years we could build a vast network of cities, all self-sustainable, all independent. Such preserves could be supported by tourism yet isolated at the first signs of trouble.
Every disaster movie ever made makes provisions for such failsafe protections of humanity. And there’s a reason why — it make sense. Even if (or when) the worst of the worst calamity takes place, the buried and submerged cities would weather the situation far more easily than some half-baked outpost on Mars could survive the decades alone without support from Earth.
Eventually, if humanity can survive its own self-made ills, it might construct the means to disperse its seed into the cosmos. (Why we, here and now, should give a shit about that, is beyond me.) But, even if Elon wants to immortalize himself as some savoir of Humanity 2.0, then building a city on Mars shouldn’t be the first step. Establish a subterranean city for the Morlocks and Mermaids and then shoot for the stars.
Comparing a Martian colony to Nemo’s Atlantis we have the following factors:
Timing: How long will it take to get a viable habitat built, stocked and operational? Do we have 10 years before the next apocalypse? 50? We don’t really know, but surely sooner is better. With Nemo City we could start tomorrow.
Resource requirements: Besides air, water, nutrients and nearly everything else, what does Mars need to establish itself as a potential sanctuary for, not just humanity, but all of humanity’s dependencies? Think biosphere/ecosystem here. Again, for a earthly solution, all the stuff required for existence is right outside our front door. For Barsoom City? Oy! Maybe you won’t have to bring dirt for farming (provided you can wash the peroxide salts from the Martian soil).
Sustainable independence: Will a Martian colony EVER actually become independent? With technology, industry, agriculture and growth enough to blossom and return the favor back to Earth? Sure science fiction thinks so. But reality?
Minimum viable population: We know humanity prospers in the gravity well, with the oxygen levels and sunlight saturation of Earth. On Mars? What strange illnesses will reveal themselves, both on the red planet and along the months long trip to get there? Will human births suffer? Human fertility? What of restocking Earth with surplus Martians and surplus supporting biota (animals, plants, bacteria and fungi)?
A technological civilization and the reemergence of industrial capability: It took humanity thousands of years, and terrajoules of energy to lift itself up to a technological society. Will Mars be able to repeat this?
Elon, do you really want to preserve humanity? If so, maybe you could turn your sights down from the heavens to the ground beneath your feet. Use your Boring company to tunnel into the earth and there build an actual salvation city.
The malaise of disenchantment may be finally lifting, or not. No promises.
I was thinking about the dynamic range of dog sizes; teacup poodles to 200+ pound mastiffs. Yet, all these dogs seem to be manageable by their owners. We may not be entirely comfortable around a massive Irish wolfhound, but as long as the owner is near, or the dog wags its tail and stays calm — we’re good.
Imagine a house cat the size of a Bernese Mountain dog? Or, in other words, imagine a cougar or leopard living in your home.
I suppose it’s obvious why humanity hasn’t bred larger and larger house cats. We can barely trust the 12lb’ers we already share a couch with. Consider shooing a forty pound cat-like-a-lynx off your favorite chair. “No, that’s fine. You can keep it.”
The possibility of developing larger breeds of cats is no doubt an option. Cats of every size, from five pound Lil Bubs to five-hundred pound Burmese tigers exist in the wild so their body types can handle the size and weight increases. I think the bottom line is, we just don’t trust them.
With dogs, we’re the alpha-masters (or should be). With cats, their brains just never accept their natural place in a domestic hierarchy — at the bottom.
It’s true that dog breeds exist due to specific needs or work venues. But many strut the dog shows, well, just for show. And we know that breeds like Coon cats exist that push the limits of the house-cat size range.
Tiger King notwithstanding, living with a Labrador-sized cat would be terrifying.
The holiday season is an amazing mishmash of ancient and contemporary traditions: Greek, Roman, Turkish, Norse, Germanic, Dutch, English, American and undoubtedly others, each adding their local and cultural influence. It’s rather like a potluck holiday, don’t you think?
Happy Saturnalia, may your servants and slaves wear your best finery. May your gift exchange provide you with humor and honor. And may your sacrifices be slight, may the blood spill—only a little.
May Saint Nicholas help you spread gifts, kindness and hope to all the children of the world.
May your Yule log burn throughout the night. May the mistletoe remain vibrantly green in your doorway and its associated fertility seep into your familial line.
May Frau Holle (Holly?), Old Mother Frost, shake her quilt to dust your lands with snow.
May the Twelve Days count up with your true love’s strange taste in gifts and the arrival of the Three Wise Men.
May your midnight mass be filled with solemn song and humble hymns.
May Sinterklaas ride his fine white horse, delivering treats to kids in need of an early morning sugar rush.
May Santa Claus and his trusty caribou break the laws of physics and geolocate your home and the deserving souls within.
May you dismiss your servants to box with their families on Boxing Day.
May the oil feed your lamp with guiding light during your eight crazy Hanukkah nights.
May your first fruits of Kwanzaa be as tasty as those delicious Texas ruby grapefruit.
May the miles of your twinkling lights blink all night to your neighbor’s chagrin, and may your pets avoid nibbling the poison poinsettias.
May you enjoy grandma’s fruitcake, despite its pickled fruit and leaden chew.
May the chocolate prizes behind each numbered door not taste of wax or plastic.
May your gingerbread house turn to stone, the gumdrop path escape theft and the candycane lamp post not droop to a sad, bent peppermint puddle.
May your stack of holiday cards grow each day, may your wreath avoid being blown down the street and may your tannenbaum retain its needles until you begin the nerve-wracking task of dragging its desiccated corpse from your living room.
But mostly, and I believe this is the primary reason we even celebrate this time of year, may the death of the old year and the birth of the new bring closure and the promise of better things to come.
May your KFC be crisp and your Christmas Cakes be light and fluffy and available throughout the holiday.
May your Christmas Eve fondue bubble like molten gold and your lobster, oyster or favorite stew be as tasty as it was in your youth.
May your stockings burst with a cornucopia of treats and tokens of gratitude.
May the repetition of a thousand holiday carols drill their insidious ear-worms such that even when you’re away from their constant drone you continue to hum them beneath your breath.
May your Nativity Scene remain aglow despite the weather or vandals.
May your candles flicker, their wicks grown long and their wax not drip into the carpet.
May you find your hidden broom when the snow builds on your doorstep.
Regardless of your traditions may they bring you joy and contentment. If you know of others that you’d like to share…
I’m reticent to even broach this subject for fear of retribution or retaliation. But, fuck it, progressives need better ammunition to fend off the irrational arguments of the Radical Right.
“You’re all trying to convert this country over to socialism!”
“Get government out of my business.”
“Big government is bad business.”
Yeah, I hear your words. Let’s just do a little theoretical experiment and we’ll see where you stand afterward.
#1 You don’t like socialism? Then, you must not like government programs that operate on behalf of society. OK, then, let’s do away with the socialism we currently enjoy. No more:
Judicial system which provides for rule-of-law adjudication of crimes and grievances. No more suing that corporation for poisoning your toothpaste. No more court system to ensure crimes are tried and resolved.
No more police departments.
No more fire departments.
No more emergency services. Your call to 911 will go no where.
In fact, no more telecom system as corporations will now own the airwaves and you’ll have to pay that monopoly dues to rent the air waves.
No more highway system. No more bridges, tunnels, lights, or smooth driving anywhere.
No more banking system. No more Fed. Your money will now be controlled (inflated away) by independent banking corporations.
No more financial system. No more FOMC or SEC. The stock market will become a Wild West of robber barons.
No more FDA or USDA, the quality of your food and drugs will now be controlled by corporations.
No more EPA, your air, land and water will become as polluted as corporations want it.
No more OSHA, your jobs will be as risky and egregious as corporations can make them.
No more Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, you get old or sick, oh well.
No more national security or military. Foreign governments will attack with impunity, with both organized forces and insurgents.
This list goes on and on and on… ***
You don’t like socialism? Well, guess what? You already live in a socialist society. AND YOU LOVE IT! And if it were gone — you would suffer.
(You know who also loves socialism, that is, a social system of government of the people, by the people, for the people? … The wealthy and the corporations they run. But do they pay their share for all of these amenities? These privileges? These first-world services and benefits. NO THEY DON’T. You want to point a finger at someone? Point it at the wealthy and their corporations.)
So you say you don’t like socialism, but yet you live in a highly socialistic society as evidenced above. So which is it? Are you a hypocrite or do you just not understand that government IS society.
Next time some Right-wing conservative attacks your progressive, liberal ideals use this argument. We’re not that different. We all enjoy a vast and beneficial social system. Making it work a little better for all of us is what we progressives want.
#2 Without government “in your business”, protecting your business, you wouldn’t BE in business. Without the agencies and laws and equality built into the system (albeit somewhat half-assed right now), your business could and would get commandeered or monopolized out of business.
#3 It’s not that big government is bad, it’s that bad government is bad. Corporate lobbyists that drive legislation — BAD. Lifer politicians that treat their office like a royal award and act more for themselves than the people — BAD. The wealthy who think they can buy elections due to corrupt campaign laws — BAD. Tax laws that ignore the monumental protections and benefits the wealthy enjoy without them owning up to said benefits — BAD.
Government IS us, We the People. If it’s not working for all of us, then yeah, let’s change it. But ignoring the fact that we’re already living in a valuable and advantageous socialism is denying the health and well being you’re enjoying right now.
[*** These are all social programs created by government to benefit society. Not “technically” socialism, but certainly part of the social fabric we voluntarily contribute to (taxes) and expect results from (all mentioned)… Including: USPS, National Parks, HUD, FEMA, SNAP, public education, and hundreds of others.]