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That was odd...

Human Nature

Human Nature

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retsnimdecorp
Every few days I have to stop and remind myself that I live in the year 2009. Slightly under a decade ago, there was mass panic about the World Ending because a bunch of programmers thought to save a bit of space in their code. Everybody gets worried about it, the whole thing becomes a talking point, and thence to paranoia. Even my family stocked up for the worst-case scenario.

Not that that's a bad thing. One should always be prepared for any eventuality. Keeping about a year's supply of food is just good practise, after all. Sure, a Geiger Counter is not strictly necessary, but the Y2K thing was a good pretext for getting a nifty new toy. And while it probably wasn't going to be radiation that happened (if it happened), it was still a good idea to dig up a few copies of Pulling Through and familiarise yourself with what you can do.

But that future never came. Instead, we got through the crisis just fine. Sure, there were a couple of bugs, but for the most part nothing truly terrible happened. No stock crashes, no Banks losing record of your money, nothing that inconvenienced basically anyone. Rather than fall (as predicted) the Sky stubbornly kept to itself, way the crap up there.

Skip forward a bit, to just a tad before Bush was re-elected. Again, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, because imagine what the monster who stripped so many of our rights away with the Patriot Act would do if given another four years of carte-blanche decision-making? Many swore to move out of the country should this be the case, still more thought that he would single-handedly destroy America.

While there was quite a bit of slipping done, we pulled through. Sure, there are a lot of things that could have been handled better, but there were also several things that could have gone much much worse. On the whole, I think we came out about even. As for those people who publicly declared they would leave the country? Most didn't. While there were several notable people who did just that, the vast majority decided to suck it up and stay home.

Again, the Sky minded it's own business, not caring a whit for the vagaries of us people on the ground. Also, I completely missed the article about the attempt to assassinate Bush. Most likely because the grenade didn't go off, but whatever.

Anyway, we're now in 2009 and Obama is the President-Elect. While there are many out there who are crowing that the sky is falling, I'm just going to sit back and ride this through. After all, people were utterly convinced that we had very little time left just a decade ago, and we're still breathing. I personally don't think that this world will end because of Obama, and I think 2013 will prove me right.

Which brings me to the people squawking about the year 2012. I'm not hearing as many people talking about it, anymore. A year or so back, it seemed that it was the talk of the town. Maybe people have realised that claiming the world will end because of some flimsy evidence supporting a supposed 'prophecy' is not quite the way to gain credibility anymore. Or maybe they're just waiting until we hit 2011 to crawl out of the woodwork again.

It's human nature. We all panic about bad things that in all likelihood will never happen. We panic about losing our jobs, our cars, our money, our Future. We panic because it's in our nature to worry about things. Ever since our oldest ancestors first realised that maybe that other guy wants what I have, we have fought with all of our might to keep what is ours. The best fighters have a little bit of adrenaline on their side, and nothing quite gets adrenaline going like fear. So, those who fear kept their stuff from those who would take, and it just kept getting reinforced down the line.

It's the panicking about the Future that fills me with confusion. All throughout my life, I have read stories about the future based in the Year 2000, that grand and wonderful place where every household has a personal aircraft and all of our material needs are met. Sure, the social problems still exist (sometimes to a greater extent), but the standard of living is phenomenally better than it was.

I look back on those stories now, and I realise: We are living in the Future. Not the future that these people imagined, sure. But we're living in the future. Think back on every single time when the world was going to end. People thought we weren't going to make it past 2000. Before that, it was the Cold War that we couldn't possibly survive. Before that, World War II. Before that, the Great War. And so on down the line. Two things remain constant throughout this list. One: People remained convinced that we could not possibly survive. Two: We did.

We survived everything that we threw at ourselves, and we did some incredible things along the way. We cured diseases, made mockery of those who thought we would never fly. Hell, we did one better than that, we got into Space. And then, just to prove we could, we set foot on the Goddamned Moon! There is nothing that is barred from us, should we set our minds to it.

But of course, human nature gets the best of us. Despite the proof that collectively we kick ass and take names, we focus down to our individual selves, and whine and mope about things that we cannot change. We concern ourselves with minutiae that does not matter, when we could be pulling back together and starting this millennium off with some more things thought impossible by the common man a mere century ago.

What do we have so far? Well, for starters let's be small. The telephone. Odds are, you own one. It's small, it fits in your pocket, and you can use it basically anywhere. The first proposed mobile telephone was way back in 1908. It was clunky, and not very useful. Skip forward half a century, and they're still clunky, limited to a few select applications, and not generally thought of as something that would be in the hands of the common man.

Skip forward another half-century. Mobile phones are owned by an incredible number of people, are cheap and easy to use. Not only that, but many have an integrated camera, are internet-capable, have voice-activated dialing, and even the lowly calculator is built-in. They're amazing! Unfortunately, a miracle that occurs often enough becomes commonplace.

Look around yourself right now. I'm going to say with 100% certainty that you are within arms reach of something that would have blown the mind of somebody right out of the water a mere fifty years ago. But we're inured to it. Every single day we come into contact with these things, so we take it for granted that they exist. And so, we stop thinking about them. This is where we go wrong.

Rather than ignore the miracles of human ingenuity surrounding us, we focus on the inconveniences that beset us. Rather than rally behind making yet another impossible thing yield to our will, we sit and mope. Rather than embrace our destiny that was ordained for us ever since we started using tools, we squander the time we have on petty squabbles. Mankind is not meant for sitting still, we are meant to change the world as we know it.

We don't cower at the sound of thunder, we find out what makes it tick! Our curiosity asks for nothing less than to discover and explore. Squandering time on things that don't advance Humanity is at best a waste of time, and at worst a betrayal of our heritage. No matter what happens to us, we learn from it. Doesn't matter if the event was positive or negative, we come out of it just a bit wiser.

I think it's about time we stopped just existing in the future, and damn well started living in it. Seize the day, take notice of the commonplace miracles, and bask in the glory that is Curiosity. We've been straining at the boundaries of our cradle for too long, and it's time we started pushing for a Big Kid's bed, out amongst the stars.

Stop muttering about how it's impossible, how we can never do it. We do the impossible every day, and we don't pay attention. I said this earlier, and I say it again: There is nothing that is barred from us, should we set our minds to it. Nothing is impossible, if we try hard enough. Nothing can stop us, if we band together. Nothing can keep us from our destiny amongst the stars, except for ourselves.

Embrace the future, people. We've been part of it for nine years now. It's time to recognise that fact and make it ours.

Goodnight everybody, and stay safe out there.
  • Thank you for putting into words many of the jumbled up thoughts I've been maintaining. :) I've always found it essentially pointless to fret about things like an unpopular politician taking office or the impending end of the world. It seems to me that these ideas have been showing up throughout all the ages of humanity, and somehow... we've always managed to survive these potentially 'catastrophic' events.

    They say we should study history to learn about the world we live in and the future... but how many people really do this, even while studying history?

    Nevertheless, I will admit I find doomsday things exciting and look forward to seeing how the world will react to the year 2012. :) A movie about it is in the making, yay.
    • Yeah, I saw the preview for that movie while waiting for "The Spirit" to start. It looks interesting, but there's no way I'm going to pay full price just to see it.

      As for the rest of your comment, I think an even better summation was written by Heinlein. And, like almost all of his writing, it's as applicable today as it was fifty years ago.
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