Astrophysics and The Socio-Political Context
The “Big Bang” has been well established as how the universe began. It is also clear that we (homo sapiens) exist because of an extended series of unlikely but fortunate events that occurred in the evolution of the universe. Some take the existence of this series as evidence of a divine hand. Others say, well, what if this universe is just one of many that have come and gone over time, each one banging out in a different way. Some may have simply created a universally barren landscape devoid of life. They may well have fostered other types of lifeforms too bizarre for us to even imagine.
Another way of looking at this issue is that our universe trundles along beside an infinite number of other universes, some very similar and others very weird (from our perspective).
One of the staples of science fiction has long been the idea of someone slipping from one parallel universe to another, for good or ill. At times like these, I tend to think of other more appealing parallel universes, like one in which Donald Trump is not president, or one in which something like “compassionate conservatism” really existed.
But, I am mired in this universe. We have Donald Trump; deluded terrorists kill children; uncaring companies make workers and neighbors sick to make more money; uncaring legislators are prepared to let people die or starve so that they can give tax cuts to the rich.
And, more and more nut jobs, who are nuttier and nuttier, seem to lurk around every corner. As Dr. Hunter Thompson so aptly put it, “When the going gets weird; the weird get going.”
How strange has our corner of the universe become? One episode of extreme weirdness caught my eye recently.
In Florida, an ex-neo-Nazi, 18-year-old Devon, was rooming with three of his ilk. But, he saw the light and converted to Islam. Hang on, now, it just gets weirder and way more horrible.
He first came to the attention of law enforcement last weekend when he went to a smoke (head?) shop and held a few people hostage at gunpoint for some short period. But, he relatively quickly surrendered to police when they arrived.
After his surrender, he took police to his apartment to show them the dead bodies of two of his roommates. He seems to have indicated that he killed them because he had been on some neo-Nazi websites where he found exhortations to kill Muslims, and he thought maybe the reverse was only fair. So, he offed his two neo-Nazi buds who had been disrespecting his new-found faith.
As they approached the apartment, the authorities found Devon’s fourth roomy in the hallway outside the apartment crying and nearly hysterical because he had just walked into the apartment and found his two buds shot dead. When the police later went through the property they found explosives and detonators in the garage, as well as a framed picture of Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bomber) in the bedroom of the fourth roomy. He was later arrested on charges of possession of an explosive device and illegal storage of explosives (or something like that).
However, the sister of one of the murdered men said he was “a wonderful guy with a good heart” who loved dogs and hiking.
One hopes there is another parallel universe where guns don’t function, hate doesn’t twist people like pretzels, religion isn’t used as a cudgel to beat others down; C4 is an apartment number rather than an explosive, nails hold together wood and are never used to fill pipe bombs or IEDs, and someone is considered a serious sociopath when he or she doesn’t apologize when they bump into someone else, even if it’s the other person’s fault.
Also, in this other world, if guys love dogs and hiking, they join the Sierra Club and Animal Rescue, and there is no such thing as neo-Nazis.
All of the above may seem like some bizarrely slapped together mess with questionable relationships among the different elements. But, that is what I sometimes feel we have going on in America today. The “populist” candidate’s wife wears a coat on their trip that costs as much as the average American makes in a year. The candidate’s son-in-law wants to send message to Putin through a secure Russian embassy line? The email scandal basically kills Clinton’s candidacy, when her opponent does something worse at least one time during the average week. Also, a majority of white women voted for a guy who bragged about being able to grab women by their vaginas.
Maybe this time in our history is like the segment of the movie Network where the Howard Beale character has his TV audience scream, “We’re mad as hell, and we won’t take this anymore!” The audience members all mouth the same words, but each individual has his or her own anger, which can range from irritation to white-hot rage, and their own personal “this” that they have identified as the source of the pain in their lives
Or, maybe this point is history may be more reflective of the moment, later in the film, when Beale, Peter Finch, summarizes the entirety of the Faye Dunaway character’s life.
“You are television incarnate, Diana,” he tells her, “indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality.”
Are we now seeing that indifference and insensitivity with such frequency it is becoming so commonplace and unoriginal as to be banal?
I should now conclude with a paragraph that takes all these disparate elements and weaves them into a coherent piece that shines a light into some darkened corner of our world or give us a clear direction for our best course in the future.
Sorry, not going to happen this week. Maybe, later.