Oh, dear. I really try to be upbeat; to see the better things in life. There is of course an infinite number of good and positive things to talk about: gratuitous kindnesses and stunning bravery and kittens and puppies and the smell of baking bread. This is the way life should be, and the fact that it is not so to the degree that I want and expect it to be casts me and other frustrated romantics like me into the role of snarling curmudgeon. All the good in the world is still offset by the infuriatingly incomprehensible and stupid things we humans insist upon doing to one another.
As a species, we have struggled for thousands of years to improve ourselves; to use our unique gifts to rise ourselves up and reach our potential. But in our concentration on the creation of our society and our culture, we have inadvertently created two Frankenstein monsters—one age-old, one relatively new—which have joined forces to threaten not only our society but our very humanity.
The oldest of these monsters is greed, which we have been railing against since biblical times. Of all human emotions, it is probably the one that most strongly rules our society today.
As recent events in the financial markets have proven, our entire world is built upon and is increasingly fueled by money. There is a growing gap between individual human beings and the culture in which we live…and which we, of course, have created. And as this separation continues and grows, guess which of the two elements, humanity or culture, forges ahead and which increasingly lags behind?
This morning I saw a news item saying that there is a new generation of parking meters which, the minute a car pulls away from it, flips back to zero so that the next car can’t use the remaining minutes! Oh, dear LORD! Just how cheap and money-grubbing can we get? (This is a rhetorical question, since all any of us need do is look around to see ample evidence of the answer.) People are dying of disease and hunger, wars, poverty, unimaginable suffering and deprivation, and we spend time, money, and scientific resources on designing a parking meter that will make the city using them an extra nickel—and the manufacturers of the meter untold millions?
The newer of our monsters is technology, which, we designed to make our lives easier. However, like an invasive plant species, it grows exponentially and to the detriment of those who created it. And now, probably naturally, technology has forged an unbreakable alliance with greed. The old adage that “fire is a good servant but a terrible master” can be modernized by replacing “fire” with “technology.”
Both runaway technology and unchecked greed are bad for humanity, but of the two, technology is potentially the most dangerous. There is no worse feeling for humans than that of helplessness and absolute lack of control, and in our increasingly technological society, this feeling grows stronger every day. The roles of master and servant are rapidly reversing.
And the most maddening thing, for me, is the knowledge that all my ranting, and raving, and arm-waving, and jumping up and down, and screaming at the top of my lungs does absolutely no good. It’s yelling into a hurricane, or trying to leave footprints on water.
I know...quite likely the sky is not actually falling. Somehow we have managed to muddle from disaster to disaster, calamity to calamity…always with the clock at one minute to midnight, always with Armageddon just around the corner, and we have somehow survived. Thus far. It’s almost enough to make me concede the existence of…something pulling the strings, writing the rules we cannot possibly understand. Whatever it is is not the benevolent, loving God of Sunday school, but a capricious, often petulant, totally unpredictable entity which takes delight in playing cat to our mouse.
So the sky may not, indeed, be falling. But I suggest you do not look up.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).