Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In The Year Two Thousand (and ten)

Jason has posted an interesting video from National Geographic, outlining the fact that we have reached seven billion people on the planet. This number will continue to rise exponentially, which raises real questions about how we are going to provide clean water, food, and power to all those people.

As usual, there are a number of interesting comments over there, (and I'm really interested in reading DuWayne's post on world security when he posts it) about how we are going to manage to provide food, clean water, and power to such a massive number of people. Sadly, I have to say I don't really hold out much hope for making progress in being able to sufficiently support such a massive and growing population, at least not in North America. Certainly not at this point in history.

The way our society works right now, we have an uninformed, disinterested electorate, who spends more time worrying about what celebrities are doing with their spare time than what their government is doing to effect their lives, and what corporations and banks are doing with the environment and the world economy.

Government is basically a rich political class that is increasingly using secrecy, propaganda, and fear in order to manipulate the 40% of the population that actually vote in order to keep the politicians in power. The politicos then use that government power to enrich their corporate friends, who in turn throw money back at the political sphere in order to keep their paid cronies in office. Sadly, this corporate ownership of the political sphere seems to be pretty much the same across most of the spectrum. Politicians that truly wish to fulfill a mandate to reflect the will of the people find their careers ending early.

Fixing problems with food and water distribution, and making power cheaper and easier to produce threatens the power & financial structures of the most powerful corporations and financial institutions. Since those same interests are what provide the vast majority of political funding, it makes sense that most politicians are not suicidal enough to actually attempt to bring any true reforms into the financial or corporate sectors.

On top of that, the media has become complicit in all of this. In order to keep all-important access to political figures, large news organizations have become little more than government mouthpieces. Reporters in the US have been tripping all over themselves for the last 18 months to cover what should be a ridiculous, fairly crazy and relatively small group of angry Republican white folks* (rebranded as the Tea Party) that protested against the Obama administration. However, those same news companies essentially ignored much larger, anti-Iraq (and Afghanistan) war protests back in the early 2000's. Remember the greatest, most catastrophic oil spill in history: the BP oil spill? It took months to close the hole dumping millions of gallons of oil into the ocean, and by the time it was finally capped the media had all but moved on. Six months later, and somebody brand new to the North American mass media probably wouldn't even be aware that such a massive disaster took place so recently.

In short, we're fucked. Politics, like investigative journalism, science and most other things worth doing, is hard. And the last thing that the majority of people these days are interested in is doing anything more draining than finishing a day at work, followed by flopping their fat asses down on the couch and vegging out until it is time to head back out to work.

That critique includes me: I'll fully admit that I rarely do more than complain on the internet or to coworkers about political and scientific ignorance. I'm also not nearly as dedicated to following politics as I was when I was younger. (I wonder if that's because I used to be very conservative, and I recognize how little chance there is of reaching out successfully to my former bretheren.)

I guess the old saying really is true: we get the government we lazy, ignorant idiots deserve.

Oh, and here's the video:

* - Republican white folks? But I repeat myself!

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