Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Aliening Ourselves To Death*

Our collective incredulity at the impossible aspects of the world is credible only insofar as our insight has credibility, which is to say, not very far. We like to occasionally marvel at how stupid everyone can be for believing in ridiculous things, and yet, we continue to tolerate the prominence of Dan Quayle, Bennifer, and various boy-wonder acts, not to mention any number of movies involving giant robots working out their postmodern metrosexual frustrations by engaging in intergalactic cage matches astride the boundaries of our various ecosystems.

Another way of putting this is to say, "It bothers you that some people think the moon landing was faked? Well, Transformers 3." Which pretty much settles any argument about quantitative or qualitative human insight, south of an evaluation of the political economy of Newt Gingrich's dissertation on South American economics.

We pride ourselves on recognizing reality, because we think it would be too hard, or too expensive, or too impossibly crafty, for someone to fool us. Us! Us, fooled? What, us worry?

Why, of course not! Who could possibly fool us? Well, if you've never visited an auto mechanic in the 1980s, asked a 1990s car dealer what his price was to get that demo model on the lot, or discussed a rather plain section of the Code with an I.R.S. Agent, then you might be a few pitas short of a takeout meal at Thalassa Manhattan. In other words, you're not the one who figures out each Agatha Christie before the end, no matter how loudly and often she drops clues.

Yes, we're smart. And yes, Yahoo! is so trustworthy that we know what's going on everywhere else. That's a given. But then we spill junior mints in our laps while spending 63 minutes watching IMAX helicopters hover over various large trenches in Antarctica. We watch the State of the Union speech, buy the third season of Downton Abbey, and use little plastic cards to make people give us the food we need to survive, unless the system is down, in which case we shrug and go across the street for stacks of green papers embossed with a picture of the eye of Sauron mounting the tomb of Ra.

Whether they be little green men controlling a hollow planet, or winged, platinum-haired avian anthros acting as the invisible guardians of our immortal souls, what makes us so sure that we would perceive their trails enough that, because we don't perceive them, they must not exist? The same people who are sure that the moon isn't in fact made of green cheese are also continually amazed by Sue Grafton's plot twists--ergo, no matter how convinced I am that there is indeed a moon, and that some nigh-dyslexic Air Force bombardiers did actually manage to stick a Betsy Ross in it, I wouldn't be particularly surprised to find out it was all faked. Right? How many burned Cambodians does it take to win a Caucasian Secretary the Nobel Prize around this place? 1,500? 240K?

No matter what Neil Postman says, I know that the vast majority of people have believed in various voodoos for the better part of human existence...and yet, we've still managed to invent the automated teller machine, the glory hole, and overhead televisions on the Concorde. It is indescribably childish to squeal about people who believe in angels or aliens in the era when both the existence and effectiveness of the fighter-bomber is indisputable. Or, need I say it again, the commercial success of Transformers 3--which, like it or not, was conceived of, made, and patronized by a lot more people than merely the Kentucky School Board.

Someone once suggested to me that all of these protestations of "hard realism" were related to the protesters' own problems with a lack of hardness in their own reality: specifically, their nether regions, which is why so many cultural critics try to suggest that "firm truths" disprove stuff like conspiracies where Bernanke hung up the green-screen for the fake moon landing.

Given how many pregnant women Barack Obama has killed in their sleep, I find it more feasible, not less, that he is a lizard in disguise than that he is a human being. I may not be right, but the argument that he's an inhumane beast is far more rational than 99% of what you're not shocked by. It certainly makes for a more sensible discussion than a budget debate, amirite? I mean, amirite?

Ultimately, then, we must needs conclude that alarmists who are alarmed at nonsense are more full of shit than people with tinfoil hats. And they also have access to international media, making them far spookier. Times ten. (If that level of baby-droning-insanity can even be gauged against wishfully angelic thinking, which it certainly cannot be.)

So, I hope the Fed raises rates about as much as I hope that Biden takes off his human-mask on national TV tomorrow. Peace.

* As requested, this is an obtuse reference to Neil Postman's 1985 book. Now there's an academic for ya.


  1. I like Postman. Even his mistakes are classy and forgivable.

    The whole human history is the history of our alienation. The problem is if self-overcoming and transcedence is in the cards as you, and most religions, seem to suggest, or not (as most philosophers and poets seem to suggest).

    I personaly don't buy it - at least for the humanity in general. Individual salvation through acuiring wisdom or through revelation seems doable though.

    1. I like Postman a lot also; he's a good writer. In using that particular example, though (when he frets about rust-belters who believe in angels and watch Jerry Springer, which this one has often done herself), he's made a bad choice. The point could've been better made with different examples. Of course, NYU doesn't want to hear that Hillary Clinton is a genocidal maniac; rather, they prefer ghost stories about trailer trash from Miz'sippy who might suddenly storm Saks and sBarro with burning Bibles. Ergo successful Postman. =]