Tuesday, April 4, 2017

No, It's Not Your Imagination. We Are All Completely Crazy!


I am completely overwhelmed right now.  It's like when I first started hearing about GMOs.  I just knew that I had to do something.  As it turns out my something was completely inadequate, and while I've managed to minimize the GMOs that my family consumes, it doesn't matter.  Most people don't think anything about it. 

We have no idea what the long-term consequences will be of genetically modifying seeds and then planting those seeds outside where they can be open pollinated and the seeds can be allowed to disperse on the summer breezes.  We know what happens when alien species are loosed on fragile environments.  We know about invasive species and the resultant species loss.  You'd think that we'd be more cautious and concerned about these, not only alien, but also unnatural, seeds being allowed free-rein. 

But GMOs are cheaper at the grocery store, and cheaper wins.  Always.  And we're okay with that.

We're okay with that.

The other day I saw this meme on Facebook.  There were two pictures. 

The top picture was titled, "1950s" and showed a woman on the phone speaking in hushed posture.  The caption read, "I don't want to say out loud.  They might be wiretapping my phone." 

The bottom picture was titled, "2016" and showed a woman in her kitchen holding a cellphone.  The caption said, "Hey, wiretap.  Do you have a recipe for (something - I don't recall)?"

If we think about it - I mean REALLY think about it - it's chilling how far we've slid into this kind of apathy when it comes to external control and monitoring of our lives.  Back in the 1950s, the idea of  Big Brother watching our every move was horrifying.  These days, we have a whole TV genre devoted to people living in conditions in which they know their every move is being taped, watched, and scrutinized ... and we're okay with that.

We're okay with that.

There's this BBC television series called Black Mirror.  It's available on Netflix, and a friend told Deus Ex Machina that we should check it out.  It's the most disturbing thing I think I've ever seen. 

It's similar to the Twilight Zone, a television series from back in the 1950s and early 1960s in which, as they describe it, "ordinary people find themselves in extraordinarily astounding situations."  There was the one episode about the guy with the nagging wife.  All he wanted to do was read, and she just nagged, nagged, nagged all of the time.  Then, one day, there was an atomic explosion, and his wife was killed.  He found himself in a library with all the books he could read for the rest of his life.  Then, he leaned over and broke his glasses.

The television show, Black Mirror, is similar-ish, because it takes these situations that are extraordinary, but completely plausible - based on where we are heading as a society.  Many of the episodes we have seen deal with our increasing dependence on technology, especially social media.  In one episode society revolves around one's popularity on social media, and everyone is rated every day based on personal interactions with others.  Rudeness to a server will result in a downgrade.  Smiling kindly at a stranger could result in an uptick.  The goal is to achieve a 4.5 or higher rating, because people in that category receive all sorts of social perks, like discounts on trendy, high end apartments.  People with lower popularity scores find that they are ineligible for certain amenities, like renting a newer model car. 

But it's just like with money in our society.  Those who have it, somehow always find a way to get more of it.  Those who don't have it, struggle every day, just to have enough to get by.  It's a constant battle.

Essentially, it's just exactly what we have in our society right now with regard to economics, but with social media ratings.  People who are lower on the socio-economic ladder have fewer social perks than people who make more money.  And please note that even our word for one's "level" is social-economic, because our social status is very much entwined with our ability to pay.

The law in the United States was specifically written in an attempt to eliminate an aristocracy, but somehow we've still managed to cultivate this, sort of, class society.  Poor people are the lowest class (don't we even call them upper class and lower class?) with the least ability to move freely about society.  The upper class can, essentially, do whatever they want - cheat, steal, destroy, perpetuate violent crimes, even murder, and get away with it, because they have the ability to purchase away their crimes.

The BBC show was a lot like Wall-E - a very blatant criticism of our social structure.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?

People at the top aren't interested in what happens to the people at the bottom, and in fact, will continue to simply live their lives as they have been for centuries - with little regard for others as long as they remain comfortable.  Let them eat cake!  Oh, but then, pass an ordinance that prohibits baking so that they have to purchase the cake that they will eat ... or they have to go hungry. 

The sad, sad fact is that even people at the bottom, as they try climbing that social ladder, will show these same sorts of apathy toward others.  We have all sorts of clichéd statements to describe the phenomenon of stepping on others as we try to increase/improve our own social standing.

The fact is that all of the jobs that we do to maintain our way of life are extremely important.  Don't think so?  Try figuring out what to do when the garbage is overflowing and no one is taking it away.   Why do we think garbage men are less important than CEOs? 

I imagine that in a completely uncivilized life system, the organisms involved don't have these sorts of personal conflicts where their importance is questioned by someone higher on the food chain.  They are all important.  They all do a job that is necessary.  If one organism fails to do his job, everyone suffers.  Even the lowly fly larvae serve a very valuable and necessary function.

I watch these shows, and I'm terrified for us, as a culture.  We're heading down a very slippery slope.  Fiction writers have been warning us against it for decades, and instead of heeding those warnings, we're happily grabbing all of the amenities that our culture is giving us, thinking, "Oh, that makes life BETTER!"

But we're sicker, and we're sadder. 

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Seems we might be a bit insane, as well.

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