The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
History ... Outer Space ... Personal Reflections ...

There was a BBC show the other nite on the local PBS channel about the early days of the American manned spaceflight program. I.e., the Mercury and Gemini programs. It made me nostalgic for those days, the 1960s, when the USA established its presence in space and proved it was ready to go to the moon. I was growing up in the suburbs, and my father worked for an aerospace company that provided some pieces of the guidance systems for those rockets. Watching those launches on TV, hosted as always by the unsinkable Walter Cronkite, was always a thrill. America just seemed back then like a place that did things right and got the job done.

Versus today. Ah, what happened? What changed? Well, perhaps it is as much a case of me changing as well as America. There are hundreds of reasons, many of them good reasons, to lament the decline of our nation in recent years. I have discussed some of these things here from time to time. But it occurred to me that perhaps America is still doing some great things, despite all the not so great things going on in and around it.

Like what? Well, we elected a man from an ethnic minority group as our President not long ago; that would have been unthinkable in the space-race days. Until the recent financial crisis hit, the portion of American families owning their own homes reached record highs. The portion of Americans living in poverty is somewhat lower than it was in the mid-1960s, although that percentage stubbornly refuses to come down any further. The portion of Americans who are rich is probably a good bit higher than it was in 1968. Gays and lesbians are slowly gaining rights and recognition as equal human beings, not sick perverts and “queers” as they were known in the old days. And our culture is slowly becoming more racially intermixed, or at least the races seem to be getting a little more comfortable with each other. We still get into brutal wars, but at least some of our wars have arguably humanitarian purposes (Bosnia? Haiti? Libya?) in addition to defending our geopolitical interests. And the internet and other technologies has opened a world of information and learning and fast communication to nearly everyone, something hardly imaginable back when you had to schlep down to the library to look up facts or poke thru a bulky newspaper to find out what was going on.

So yea, maybe American is still accomplishing good things. But in different ways than in the 1960s. The days of rocketing our guys into the final frontier, with all the drama of trying to get them home safely, is probably over for the foreseeable future. I’ll miss it. But hopefully, we will find other things to believe in and be proud of, as the 21st Century progresses.

. . . and yet . . . I can’t help but think about the Popeye cartoons that I watched as a kid, especially the one when Popeye became convinced that he no longer needed the can of spinach that he carried around to give him strength in times of need. He chucked the spinach can into the river, and as it was floating away the can made a parting comment: “you’ll be sorry”.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:44 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I too remember the first launch of an astronaut into space. The school I was teaching at had it over the PA for all the students to listen to. I told my class: “History is being made.” Now it seems after all these years, we’ve gotten used to going into space.

    I also remember as a young girl noticing every single plane that flew overhead. They were still “amazing” then. I could see the propellers as I looked at the plane; every plane could be heard by people on the ground. Now there are no propellers, planes fly so high we can barely see them and only really hear them if we are in a flight pattern of some kind, and we are used to space flight. How times change in what seems a relatively short period of time.

    And as to the speed and changes in technology: I’ve been thinking about the new technologies and fast communication of these days. I find myself wondering if we may not be at the beginnings of a return to work the way it was in the middle ages when work was done from home by a master who supervised apprentices and journeymen. We won’t return to precisely what was done back then, I realize. But I wonder if there may be the start of a version of an economic system that relies much more on work done from home. This then sets me to wondering just what kinds of differences people’s work will take if such changes take hold on a really broad basis. The changes the industrial revolution brought on people’s work were massive; what kinds of changes will the information revolution bring to people’s work? MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — March 23, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

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