I’m on a plane heading to Seattle and on to Anchorage where I met a fascinating Foreign Service officer who is flying home to say goodbye to his grandmother before she passes on. We had a fascinating discussion on mostly economic related topics, but relating them to issues such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the presidential race, the long term effects on the standard of living. It’s been a wonderful and enlightening conversation as his insight and knowledge of economic reality and theories as well as the most current prediction is a distinct contrast from my current perspective of Lobbying on Iraq, Iran, Native Americans, etc. I made a comment that we, at FCNL, don’t have an economist and that it’s not really our bailiwick, but yet it doesn’t behoove us not to take a longer view and understand the pending credit crisis, it’s implications for the recession that we are likely in. To him, this credit crisis coupled with the Energy crisis are the two largest current issues that we need political and policy leadership in.
He took a nap and I started watching another Ted video, which was yet another digression from the world I live in and potent in considering the wide economic view of the conversation we were having. Deborah Scranton talks about her recent documentary called “The War Tapes” which embeds from the inside out, using soldiers to do the talking, video work, and be the characters, providing humanizing views of life behind the wire. As she spoke of the soldiers combat view of the war in iraq, I’m struck again by how humans are affected by the slightest moves of a large scale. We may be individual cogs in a great evolutionary social and political system, but now more then ever before, it’ should be the most momentous time for us to remember the individuals all over are human, just like I am. Flawed, just like I. It is here most news most distinctly fails to give the recipients the perspective of all walks of life in all places, while teaching us who and what the history of those people are.
This mis-education of the populous is done at the populations behest as given the choice (as are faced with daily) most would allow themselves to be compelled by media that plays on the biological addiction of fast moving pictures and brain pleasing sugar we consume. It is frustrating to bridge that gap between the life long cerebral satisfaction of asking question and learn by research or experiment and being entertained by the brains simple pleasures.
One of the results of this is a society that is to we live in a dichotomy between the most high brow intellectually stimulating society ever while also being one of the most classified and addicted society ever.
That battle between the brain stem and the upper brain is at the core of intellectual and rational existence. It’s worth realizing how it affects our lives in our models of economic thinking and the social system in which we operate. Over time a I’ve come to have a view that takes small functions and parts and builds on them and rather then depending an existential force. I am desperate for the world to learn more about these functions, both to teach me more about it, and to move beyond this chaotic and destructive existence we live in. However, I know full well though that the best knowledge learned is one learned by hard knocks and secondarily that if you are open enough you can learn those lessons from history, so I (nor we) cannot shove lessons down the throats of our fellow humans and expect them to buy into it.
As Evan (my plane-mate) indicated, gentlemen of a past era spent their free time penning letters for fun and engaging in dialog of topics. That was an era that also comitted atrocious violence, racisim, and more stupidity then we could imagine, but it is a lesson of history that we should consider. We are now facing more need for engaged learning then ever before, given the impact any single human can have is dramatically more then it has ever been before, in carbon footprint, intellectual contribution, and political engagement. Consider as you turn on that television what you are doing with your time and ask yourself if watching CSI, Desperate housewives, or even the discovery channel is really truly satisfying to your happiness or is it just the easy way out? Life is still nasty, brutish, and short, but not nearly as much as it was and perhaps these facts are more insidious then overt.
The question remains how to teach those hard knock lesson of history with advanced technology becoming more ubiquitous and with the consequences of re-learning those lessons the hard way again and again possibly causing a collapse of human society, the likes of which history hasn’t seen before, the worst case being that individuals with power become so irrational and thinking with the brain stem as to use nukes. (Another perhaps even less direct option is that we ignore our environment so long as to cause a catastrophic feedback loop collapse that destroys the majority of the progress humanity has made in the last century.)
There are answers, but I ask you to consider what your answers to this might be.
I’d have to say that this was one of the more satisfying flights I’ve ever taken and worth every penny of the money and time I invested in it, as I again feel centered back into remember that my life Washington, DC is just one part of the whole world.
P.S. I landed, took off, and landed in Anchorage so I’m safe and sound and have had time to find a coffee shop and upload some pictures from the plane window too…