Matt Gemmell

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More Life on Earth

personal 5 min read

<a href="">Steven Canfield</a> posted a 
<a href=";tb_id=/personal/life_on_earth.html">comment</a> 
on my <a href="">Life on Earth</a> post. 
Here's my response.
Steven first took issue with my assertion that "elections are a sham":
Elections are far from a sham. Infact, when I read this, all I can think is that perhaps you didn't vote for Bush? 99% of the time, the man the people voting want will end up in the position.
Steven rather misses my point (and incidentally, this isn't anything so simple as an anti-Bush issue; I'm British, and thus had 
no part in any US election). To be more clear, what I was saying is that:
  1. The people have little choice of candidates in the first place, and;
  2. The people are told who to "want" in any case.
In the face of this, it is neither surprising nor comforting that "99% of the time, the man the people voting want will end 
up in the position". US presidents (not just presidential candidates; the final winner) are preselected considerably in advance, 
chosen from a set of powerful families by organisations to which their is no public access and which have no public accountability. 
The presentation of candidates is the sham. Much more has been written about this by others more qualified than I.

Even if you take the election system at face value, and genuinely believe that it works the way you're told it works, it's still 
morally questionable at best. I'd have thought that the amount of money a candidate can receive from big-business is hardly a 
sensible gauge of how effective a political leader he or she will be. Indeed, surely the potential for corruption and perversion 
of responsibilities rises proportionally to said money?

The greatest problem, however, with the US election system is the quantity 
of propaganda surrounding it. It's sad fact that, if you tell people something often enough, the vast majority of them accept it 
as fact. In truth, being repeatedly told that something is democracy or freedom doesn't make it the case. Independent evaluation 
seems to increasingly be a lost skill. This is why people can get away with the outrageous claim that, for example, continued 
nuclear proliferation is part of a 
"<a href="">moral responsibility</a>" of the US.


Steven continues:
I'm offended that you call my life 'decadent and useless'. What more would you want us humans to do? An individual can do nothing to create a dent in the universe. If you think otherwise, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. There is nothing shameful about the power of groups.
Well, I've already questioned the power of groups against an established system so thoroughly corrupt and puppeteered. I also 
disagree that an individual can "do nothing to create a dent in the universe". Even so, that wasn't my meaning. The vast bulk 
of us in the developed world are indeed decadent and useless. We're born, fed such education as is deemed safe and acceptable, 
then we work to earn money in order to pay for necessities, and many luxuries we've been told are necessities. We then die, 
leaving our acquired possessions to the next generation, who are well on their way toward a similar, ultimately meaningless end.

In the process, we progressively destroy more of the Earth's natural resources, we are fed information designed to elicit fear 
and a "something must be done" response, and our personal liberties are progressively eroded. There is little laudable in that 
poor shadow of a life. I must also say that the "one man can do nothing to change things, so why try?" position has always 
offended me.

Individuals <em>could</em> seize back power from the hopeless corruption of current power-structures. The propaganda masquerading 
as news could be brought to an end. Work towards true and enduring peace, rather than exploitation and international bullying and 
terrorism, could become a genuine goal of our species. Our duty to absolute truth, regardless of how it affects our public image, 
could be reaffirmed in our society. The teaching of history could even actually become the teaching of history! I believe that 
we're <em>just</em> capable of eventually constructing such a society, but you can't get there from here. That was rather my point.


Next, we consider possible criteria for judging how fascist a government's policies are:
I'm pretty sure that the current state in America/Britain isn't the most facist regime in existance. Look at Iraq. Look at North Korea. When was the last time Bush ordered that his secret service go kill the family & friends of someone who dissented him (I'll give you a clue, since it's close to 40% of America who is against this war, and 0 of them have been knocked off for it, he's doing pretty good).
Indeed; I can picture the re-election campaign video now. More seriously, there is no implicit pardon in not being the 
"worst". So many people seem unable to understand that.


Steven then moves on to his core point; the achievements of humanity. He assesses a rather different area of achievement 
than I:
Basically, you can knock humanity, which is damn easy because we aren't perfect, or you can see that humanity, in it's infinitly small time on this planet has achieved FAR more than anything before us. We have made leaps and bounds in the span of a few millenia. We're just getting started too.
What is it that we've achieved? Technological achievement means very little; our mainstream science and our technology is the 
inevitable accretion of accepted observations and theories of any reasonably intelligent species. We can admire an Einstein 
or a Newton for being the specific individual who made such a "leap", but we surely cannot live in awe of the fact of it. To 
do so is to become preoccupied with our own genius, and then it's but a small step towards justification of anything. "We are 
magnificent! We are superior! We <em>deserve</em> this!" is a cry that has been heard before, and rarely does it lead to anything 

The primary gauge of a species' achievement and evolution must surely be in its values and principles. Our mighty democracies are 
corrupt and manipulative. Our purest religions are bigoted and repressive. Our supposed freedom is bought with guns and intrusive 
laws. Our societies continue to play host to the death penalty, sectarianism and exploitation. We purposely keep the vast chunk 
of our own species in abject poverty, offering them only debt and hardship in exchange for the natural resources of their lands. 
Those who don't comply are punished and bullied into line through acts of government-sanctioned terrorism.

To say that one country 
is "a great people" is a nonsequitur; we are none of us great until each and every one of us lives together in peace and truth. Perhaps 
that's an impossible goal, I admit. It nevertheless remains one of the few genuinely noble pursuits, and <em>the journey is the thing</em>.

Now, pretending there are aliens, what makes you think they need to be somehow morally superior to conquer the stars. You seem to suggest that, what, a people need to be above scrutiny? The universe is not like that. It is governed by simple laws, and we are the glorious result. That should be celebrated.
Putting aside the judgement of we being a "glorious" anything, the fact that a race can potentially so branch out into the 
wider universe without any moral or sociological qualification process was precisely my point.

So, no, I most definitely don't ask that we be above scrutiny - in fact, if you think about it, you'll realise that my position  
actually precludes the possibility of <em>anything</em> being "above scrutiny" - but I would rather settle for at least reasonable 
progress away from being beneath contempt.