As I read the scores of news stories and assorted opinion pieces that cross my desk everyday I am often not sure whether I should be laughing or crying. There is certainly good news, but hanging over everything like the Sword of Damocles is always the knowledge that we have pushed the planet beyond its limit and that despite much attention being brought on the fact, it is unlikely that much of substance will be done to correct it.
Damocles, for those who missed that part of their history lesson, is a mythic ancient Greek figure who flattered the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius, and was rewarded by being allowed to switch places with Dionysius for a day only to find at the banquet table he was seated under a sword suspended by a single hair. The moral being that great luxury comes with great peril. The peril hanging over the opulent and over consuming lifestyle that the developed world has enjoyed for more than a century is great indeed, and the hair restraining it weaker by the day.
Enough of the gloomy stuff for a moment, though. As serious as our situation may be there are always enough idiots around to make us laugh. For instance, last week marked the thirtieth anniversary of Elvis' passing to his pie in the sky. So what? The amusing thing is that tens of thousands of people had nothing better to do than, lemming like, flock to Graceland for the occasion, standing for hours on end just to get a glimpse of Elvis' house. Maybe the real lucky ones got to use his bathroom. The luckiest of all, though, is Elvis' estate as The King is the leader on Forbes's top-earning dead celebrity list. Even dead as a post he managed to rake in $42 million US last year.
Lemmings, by the way, for those whose biologic knowledge doesn't extend that far, are a class of small rodents that often migrate in large packs with the result that many are just going along with the flow and wind up being forced over cliffs, into waterways and into other life ending situations. The lemmings of Norway reproduce so fast that they actually reproduce themselves into near extinction. A fact that tells me that perhaps lemmings have a good lesson for humans.
Another laugh is the fact that the Conservative Party is sponsoring a NASCAR auto. Given that global warming is one of our pressing issues, one even the Conservatives have decided to pretend that they care about, why would anyone concerned with the environment support a wasteful, polluting racing car? Why would anyone even go watch one? Quite frankly if one is concerned about global warming and has an IQ bigger than their shoe size, then supporting auto racing is one of things that is automatically on the stupid list. Which leads us to the conclusion that either the Conservatives are stupid, or are angling for the stupid vote.
And then there is the realm of fantasy and fairytale. Recently I read an article on the Foundation for Scientific Research based in Turkey that is distributing its books in 59 languages around the world. What is their gig? Why creationism, and you might have thought that such silliness was the province of fringe Christian sects and Neolithic societies. Yep, Islamic creationists have joined the fight against Darwin and rational science.
Not to be out done, their allegedly Christian brothers and sisters have opened a creationist museum in Kentucky right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Here a family can spend a day watching dioramas of people frolicking with dinosaurs and such. Or, instead, one could just take the family to Disneyland and visit Fantasyland which compares in veracity, if not the exact same fantasies. The museum cost some $27 million US to build. One visitor summed it up nicely when he said "twenty-seven million dollars could have gone towards a lot of other things other than propping up a fairy tale."
Elvis fruitcakes, NASCAR nuts and creationist crazies, if nothing else, provide a rich fodder for social commentators. Too bad that they also vote. It may help explain why we get such bad governments.
On a more somber note it looks like the Brits have finally admitted defeat in Iraq and are wanting to pull out. Meanwhile the Bush administration continues to pursue the war, wasting more and more lives in the process, American soldiers and Iraqis, men women and children, while its military is slowly disintegrating from fatigue and over extension. One report said that the military death count in Iraq is highly under-reported since it does not count those that are wounded but die after their medevac flight leaves Iraq. Their estimate is closer to 15,000 dead rather than the 3,000 plus reported.
And, Canadian lives are still being foolishly wasted in Afghanistan. In addition reports indicate that heroin is becoming a problem among American troops. Will Canadians be far behind? I hope not.