Quote of the day--but not one inch of lunar soil fell to godless communism edition

>> Monday, June 25, 2012

"For me, the most ironic token of that moment in history [the Apollo 11 lunar landing] is the plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon that Apollo 11 took to the Moon. It reads: 'We came in peace for all mankind.' As the United States was dropping 7.5 megatons of conventional explosives on small nations in Southeast Asia, we congratulated ourselves on our humanity: We would harm no one on a lifeless rock."
- Carl Sagan (h/t Teabonics)

It's a blinkered way of looking at things, of course. For one thing, the Moon doesn't have any petroleum, and, for another, although I'm sure that countless generations of French people have claimed the Moon from afar for lovers, none of them ever bothered to establish an unpopular and exploitative, caste-conscious colonial regime there.

But you have to consider the implications of Americans getting to the Moon before anybody else and planting a flag, plaque, and the abandoned hindquarters of a lunar landing module there; suppose, instead, the Soviets had gotten to the Moon first: we have to consider that a Soviet lunar landing would carom, if you will, to other planets. First the Moon, but then Mars and Venus, Mars to Jupiter and Venus to Mercury, Jupiter to Saturn and Saturn to Uranus and Neptune. I'm talking about the Billiards Theory, of course, that the fall of one celestial sphere to godless interplanetary communism will bounce and rebound until--well, until the whole universe has gone Red, and where would we have been, then?

Younger readers must realize that this is a parody of how we really used to write and talk about the world. Young and old readers alike might need to remember, though, that much of the craziness of the Domino Theory wasn't so much a slippery slope fallacy as it was a drawing of false inferences: international communism was indeed spreading through the postwar world, but it wasn't so much some kind of chain reaction where Vietnam falls because China and part of Korea falls, then Laos and Cambodia fall because of Vietnam, etc. A superficial look at things might confuse effects for causes and think that this is exactly what happened, but more knowledgeable students of history are aware that what was really going on was the collapse of colonial regimes and/or the collapse of weak, foreign-subsidized post-colonial surrogate regimes installed by the former colonialists or by the United States. There was also an erroneous premise to the whole thing driven by a weird ideological bias; i.e. the Vietnamese communists hated the Chinese and distrusted the Soviets, and would have been happy in the wake of WWII to be friends with the United States, but we decided we couldn't abide commies of any kind, and anyway we were BFFs with the French, "C'est la vie."

But, whatever. The Moon remains peaceful and serene, untouched by human boots since 1972. It may be all for the best if we never go back--in darker moments, one fears all we would manage to do is wreck up the place. It's with heavy-handed, dark-hearted, tongue-in-cheek irony that I write that Space: 1999 may be the most realistic and accurate appraisal of man's future in space. Oh, sure, you might be thinking: what could be more scientifically implausible than the Moon getting knocked out of orbit and traveling to a new alien planet every week? But think about it this way: the basic premise of the series is that man goes to the Moon to live, and the first thing he does is he fails to properly dispose of his waste materials, thereby causing a cataclysmic environmental accident that doesn't totally destroy everything but does make it uglier and more unpleasant. Nobody gets to take a walk on a moonlit beach anymore, the tides are all screwed up and not as good as they used to be, probably a whole bunch of animals and plants get wiped out and things just kind of suck and the whole thing could have just been totally avoided if they'd figured out something clever to do with the trash in the first place, right? In short, we have a way of just fucking everything up; standing there with the bag handles in our hand and our feet covered in milk, juice, jam and broken glass, bitching about the plastic bag and not blaming ourselves for, you know, overpacking the bag or not double-bagging it; yeah, it's totally the bag's fault.

But hey, we love the Moon. Peace.


Jeri 2.0 Monday, June 25, 2012 at 12:46:00 PM EDT  

I had a college professor ask the class what they considered the most important invention mankind had ever developed. We all sat there coming up with the expected answers like farming and animal husbandry, machines and industrial growth, automobiles and highways, improved medicine and health care, and on and on. He let us all prattle on for awhile and when everyone had said their piece he told us we were all wrong. The single most important invention mankind had developed was the sanitary sewage system and household toilets. And when you think of current population densities and the way disease can spread even in clean environments, it makes complete sense. We really are messy little shits.

Warner Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 11:13:00 AM EDT  

Thank you for the h/t to Teabonics, that was Eric's post not mine, mine are marked [W] or [wwj], but I'll pass it on to him.

Eric Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 12:18:00 PM EDT  

I try to give credit where it's due, and thanks for passing that along to him, Warner.

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