I never understood wind. – Donald J Trump
Wait a minute. Alternative facts? Alternative facts are not facts, they are falsehoods! – Chuck Todd, Television Host, “Meet The Press”
That is not only not right; it is not even wrong. – Wolfgang Pauli, Theoretical Physicist
We are living in bizarre times.
In recent history, the last 80-100 years or so, society has made some incredible advancements in the fields of science and medicine. We have split the atom, escaped gravity and broken the sound barrier. Everyday at hospitals all over the world we trade our organs for new ones and implant tiny machines inside our bodies to keep them operating long after our ancestors would have simply passed away or lived with chronic annoyances.
We have the technological know how to produce clean energy for billions of people and drive enough agricultural output to feed every human on earth, extend life and maintain the planet. A journey from one corner of the world to another that used to take several weeks, even months, is now over in a matter of hours. It seems as though, there is no country or region that is too remote, no physical reality too complex and no disease too mysterious.
I graduated high school in 1991. Before the internet, biological cloning, electric cars or the construction of the international space station. Our coat of arms contained a Latin phrase;
Scientia Vincit Omnia – Knowledge Conquers All
Almost 30 years later, it seems to me that the people of my generation, with the help of those that have gone before and are coming after us, have brought humanity to the verge of conquering all that there is to know.
We live in the greatest time is history.
Billions live in poverty and die too young for lack of access. Our climate is changing rapidly and threatening the lives and livelihoods of the most economically vulnerable of our population. And the president of the United States openly admits that he doesn’t understand wind.
Now to be fair that last bit was said as his way of explaining his views on wind powered electricity but it’s still just strange and indicative of a larger problem.
That larger problem is this.
We now have the raw knowledge to solve just about all the world’s physical problems, what we lack is the ability to recognize and prioritize their severity and the moral fortitude to humble our own self-interest in the interest of humanity as a whole. Our political discourse has been reduced to constant bickering over the validity of proven facts. When we pitch our rhetorical tent on the wrong side of an easily provable position we are not dealing in “alternative facts”, as some have tried to assert, we are dealing in delusion. When we argue against clean energy because windmills are made in China but pretend it’s because they kill birds, (which is what the president went on to say when he talked about not understanding wind), we are speaking nonsense that is so far from reality and so impossible to prove that it can’t even be proven wrong, as Wolfgang Pauli so famously stated way back in the 1950s.
It’s 2020. We are standing at the dawn of a new decade with a new generation ready to step on the stage. My grandparent’s generation defeated fascism and started the world on the path to human rights. My parent’s generation defeated communism and pushed capitalism and self-determination to the forefront. My generation invented the internet and brought human understanding of the physical world to unimaginable heights. It will be the job of this next generation to tackle the moral and ethical questions brought about by the promises made possible by those that have gone before.
The tools we used to defeat fascists and communist won’t work in this fight. In fact, they could just as easily backfire. The tools we used to build physical knowledge won’t work either. We need a new paradigm, a new way of looking at the world and a new way of talking to one another.
I don’t know what the solution is. But I think it needs to start with this whole idea of “otherness”. Us vs Them, we are right therefore they must be wrong, my interests are more important than your interests, everything is a competition, cooperation is weakness; that is the old paradigm.
Donald Trump, his coked out frat boy meets Bond Villain rhetoric aside, tilts at windmills because they are made in China. China, not wind or clean energy or even a concern for the well being of birds, represent “the other”. And it’s that sense of otherness that must be conquered. Mr. Trump’s supporters point to the strength of the U.S. economy as reason enough for him to remain in power. They are all too prepared to gloss over and ignore his many moral and ethical failings, and the damage he has done to “other people”, even when they would personally crucify anyone else if the results didn’t serve their self-interest.
The age of self-determination; championed by my parent’s generation and which helped fuel the expansion of technology driven by my generation must now come to an end in order to allow true human equity, and economic sustainability to reign. We must be willing to submit our self-interest for the good of the whole.
Or because now I’m thinking about Latin and my generation invented Google Translate;
Plus Paucorum Necessitatibus Plurimis Necessitatibus
We have all the physical knowledge we need; we cannot allow that knowledge to conquer us. We must begin to use it to conquer inequality, inequity, bigotry, arrogance and selfish ambition. Otherwise we are no better that the fascists and communists that came before and the fight will start all over again, this time with better weapons and everything we have gained on the line.
Another Latin phrase comes to mind;
Amor Vincit Omnia – Love Conquers All
We’ve reached the point in human evolution where anything less, is worthless noise.