Monday, February 27, 2023
HomeWorldWe went nuts over a balloon! Thank you for saving us, Rihanna

We went nuts over a balloon! Thank you for saving us, Rihanna

Scientists cannot explain human consciousness or how we got it.

That explains politics.

Some believe they understand it.

That explains religion.

Who the hell knows how we achieve consciousness?

That explains the rest of us.

We struggle to figure it all out, often with inadequate information and limited time to verify it. Some say the resulting cultural ennui from this predicament has given rise to the popularity of zombie movies, lack of sense of humor, bland pop music and politicians who lack bladder control. But enough about George Santos.

Dystopia seems to be our creative narrative for the future.

We can’t imagine a viable heaven, but we can sure imagine a livable hell. Ask anyone who has survived a mass shooting, a war, cancer, wildfires and a day covering Congress. 

Perhaps people have trouble with the “pursuit” of utopia, because it is inconceivable to the human mind. On the one hand, we can see every day what our species, as the world’s apex predator, does to each other, our planet and other species of flora and fauna. We kill, hurt, poison and maim all of it — apparently unaware of the collective consequences we will all share. Some of us find amusement in the ride. Some of us make money from it.

We call ourselves Trumpers, Never-Trumpers, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, moderates, socialists, racists, misogynists, mother-rapers, father-stabbers, mother-stabbers and father-rapers! There’s mean and nasty father-rapers sitting on the Group W bench. I’m not going to explain that. Just look it up. If you already get it: “You’re our boy.” Step right up, and we will pin a medal on you.

If our unexplained consciousness shows us anything, then it has to be that we are, as a species, entirely delusional about nearly everything we experience. 

Nothing is more emblematic of our national delusion than our recent obsession with several things shot out of the sky by fighter jets over the past week. Some have taken joy in the spectacle and some are terrified, but corporate media is just happy to have product to sell. We can’t get enough.  

It’s not aliens. It’s not the beginning of World War III (unless we’re really stupid). It’s not my son flying his toy drone.   

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

The first sighting was easy enough to explain. It was a Chinese spy balloon apparently launched from Hainan island off the South China coast. It was supposed to travel east, but veered northward — apparently, according to recent reports, after high winds aloft associated with a cold front pushed it off course. The U.S. military tracked it for days, and according to national security sources was able to “passively protect” the balloon from collecting any sensitive information as it passed over the U.S. heartland — including a rural area near Millersburg, Missouri, where my in-laws still have a farm. Maybe they got some good shots of the hay field. The alfalfa is spectacular — though not usually in February. Then the military shot the balloon down a few miles off the coast of South Carolina, and has been trying to recover and analyze the 200-foot balloon and its payload (described as the size of three city buses) ever since.

Shortly after that, we shot down three more “craft,” according to John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, who spent a long time in the White House briefing room last week answering questions about the incidents from reporters. “We will not dismiss as a possibility,” Kirby told us, that the so-called craft were of commercial origin or from research entities and were therefore “benign.” So maybe it was some kid’s toy drone.

At the end of the day, a huge international crisis began because of a mistake or a gust of wind, and it was exacerbated because of ongoing tensions between China and the U.S.. Some think the whole incident was taken to another level of stupidity by the subsequent shooting down of three unidentified objects that posed no threat to the U.S. or anyone else. Others in government have speculated that the smaller craft could have been sent to test NORAD’s ability to detect smaller objects.

No matter. The world went nuts. Republicans went nuts trying to capitalize on others who went nuts. The comments, many of them insipid and stupid, most inane and some comical, left me shaking my head. The frenzy, in retrospect, was a seminal moment that shows just how damn delusional we are — even as we remain nominally conscious. 

The balloon frenzy, in retrospect, was a seminal moment, or at least should have been: It showed us how damn delusional we are, even as we remain nominally conscious.

Millions of people jumped to conclusions, declared themselves experts in downing high-altitude balloons or were too quick to blame Joe Biden for an overblown crisis that would’ve made a great plot point in “Seinfeld.” It was like accidentally tossing a Junior Mint into an open incision during an operation. 

Of course others think we’re simply covering the whole thing up and aliens from outside our planet (you pick the point of origin) sent in these craft to test us out. Kirby emphatically threw cold water on that notion, telling the befuddled White House press corps there was no possibility these things were alien. Entire publications dedicated to reporting about potential alien incursions from other planets were quick to slam the “conspiracy” label on that, further muddying the waters.

If there are any aliens in the universe, then they must know by now there’s no intelligent life on this planet, so why bother testing us? And if there were aliens from another planet and we could identify and  shoot down their craft with a 40-year-old jet fighter (the F-16 in the Lake Huron incident) then we really have little to worry about — except for those members of the Republican Party who would declare the intruders illegal aliens and demand they be deported so they couldn’t get free health care, unemployment, Social Security and Medicare, take away all our jobs and then vote Democrat in the next election.

Meanwhile, in China (remember China?), the government first denied the balloon existed, then shifted gears and apologized, saying it was a weather balloon. They finally settled on Donald Trump’s favorite tactic, deflection, turning the bad news around and accusing the U.S. of flying surveillance balloons over China. Mind you, none of those balloons (if they exist) have been shot down. Kirby denied that the U.S. has flown anything over Chinese airspace. International waters are another issue.

But by Tuesday the fever had broken — at least enough so that Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime show could take up residence, center stage, in the three-ring circus of disharmony that captures most people’s attention. Getting into that ring seems to be the sole focus of attention whores  in Congress. You know them as those who scream at the president and strut across the stage with their “Mean Girl” act, bragging about the need for more guns, or who sit in committee hearings making asses of themselves in short-sleeved shirts. 

Soon enough, comments about the Chinese balloon and Rihanna from the more extreme members of Congress, with their cocaine eyes and speed-freak jive, will be little more than memes and fodder for banal talk shows. Real issues and critical thinking have about as much chance of surviving in today’s divisive public environment as flatulence in the wind. 

Speaking of Ron DeSantis, that’s why many people speculate he will upend Donald Trump and claim the GOP nomination in 2024. In other words, some are betting Ron DeSantis is the flatulence that is actually a bowel movement. He keeps smelling bad and won’t go away, rather like Trump, but he’s a fresher squeeze of the cheeks. Into this open latrine of cesspool politics, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley has now tossed her political Medusa tentacles, hoping to make history as the first woman to become the Republican presidential nominee. She has a better chance of shooting down a high-altitude balloon with a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.

Several Republicans have told me proudly that Nikki Haley is the first woman of color to run for a major party’s presidential nomination. History is real, guys! Shirley Chisholm in 1972: Look her up.

But it’s no matter. Several Republicans have told me, history be damned, that Haley (who is Indian-American), is the first woman of color to run for president from a major political party. Hell, the GOP can’t even remember its own history. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was the first major-party female candidate way back in 1964, as a Republican. You know, in the days when the GOP embraced people who didn’t have a hooded white robe in their closet. In 1972, Rep. Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run as a Democrat and the first woman of color to run in a major party. 

But the Republicans love a show, even a bad one, and they’re bound and determined to put one on from now until we enter the voting booth in 2024. Welcome to America Lite. It’s all performance art, at least until the next mass shooting, which no one in American leadership wants to tackle. We’re proud of our guns, or in the case of Rep. Steve Scalise, still fighting gun restrictions even after being seriously injured in a mass shooting.

A fanatic is someone who won’t change their mind and knows but one subject. (Apologies to Winston Churchill for that one.) The GOP knows no other subject. Republicans want power and they want it now. They have no idea what to do with it, other than swim in it the way Scrooge McDuck swims in a vault filled with money, but hey, they want it and want it bad.

They may be conscious, but barely so. Their desire for power has so corrupted them they can no longer feel empathy for other people — either out of ignorance or arrogance. Jennifer Rubin, the author of “Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy from Donald Trump” said on Mary Trump’s podcast this week that lacking empathy is a central problem for those who are conscious, but not conscious enough to know that short-sleeve shirts are a poor fashion choice. “That lack of empathy…. How do you make people care?” Rubin asked.

That is the only question that matters. How do we teach ourselves to care about one another? If you’re only conscious enough to try to remain center stage at all times, then you’ll never be conscious enough to understand empathy — and you don’t have to be a scientist, politician or cleric to understand that problem.

So while some of us wrestle with how our species became conscious, perhaps the rest of us should reconsider what we do with this amazing gift. Or we could just keep on making fun of George Santos.

Read more

from Brian Karem on life in a divided America

Source link



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here



Most Popular