Mr. G at Teledyn explores an interesting meme: the Untravelogue, describing in detail real places that one has never visited, but would very much like to in one’s lifetime.
For my untravelogue, I’d follow the Trans-Canada Highway over the top of Lake Superior. Superior is the only Great Lake that I have not seen, and completing the set is as good a goal as any to have while travelling.
I’m currently watching a bad disaster movie called “10.5” — oh, man, this is hilarious. Especially the scene where a widening crack in the earth is chasing a train down the tracks, and the ground falls away beneath the last car, which falls down into the gap, dragging all the rest of the cars with it, and in the rumbling silence that follows, you, the viewer, realise that the crack has stopped widening right there, just as soon as it caught up to the train. This is the sort of movie they make in order to support drinking games.
So, we tuned in, and sure enough we’re treated to cosmic forces with tragic senses of irony. Localized disasters threaten our heroes on cue. There’s overacting, stereotypically closed-minded politicians, romantic interest between scientists, the works! There’s even the bright idea of trying to seal the San Andreas fault with a nuclear explosion. It’s quite a hoot.
Best moment? When the beautiful seismologist theorized that a river was changing direction because of “sudden changes in local magnetism”. Erin and I were rolling on the floor over that one for a while.
Life is Politics, and Politics is Life
There has been a bit of controversy about Nightline’s decision to dedicate a whole forty minutes to the reading of the names of those American soldiers killed in action in Iraq, and of the decision by Sinclair Broadcasting Group to ban the show on its affiliate stations. Those critical of Nightline anchor Ted Koppel’s decision to move forward with this story called it “a political act”.
I think that many people don’t realize how natural politics is to the human condition. Some people tend to use the term as an epithet, but there is nothing evil about politics. It is simply the natural result of a group of individuals getting together in society to decide what must be done and how to go about doing what must be done. Politics is a symptom of free will. If every individual agreed with every other individual about what must be done, then politics would cease to exist, but so would individuality. We would be automatons, and we know that this isn’t how God made us.
I have used this quote before, from my first year political science professor, Thomas Qualter. I know I overuse it, but only because it’s so true. From his book Conflicting Political Ideas in Liberal Democracies:
“The need for politics arises from the conflict of human desires and from different understandings of the world. If everybody agreed, there would be no need for government or politics, for all would simply go ahead and do whatever it was they wanted to do. But this is not the situation around us. Even with the best will in the world we disagree not only about what should be done, but also about ways of doing those things. On any issue of consequence, people will honestly and sincerely hold different opinions. One should not expect to find, in any random gathering of people, a unanimous opinion on any issue: capital punishment, the right of public servants to strike, the sale of government owned corporations, the proper status of the French language in Ontario, the times and places where one should legally be able to buy beer, and so on. On none of those things are we agreed, and the people who disagree with our position are not necessarily, for that reason, fools or rogues.
“Commonly, we will find in practice that those who argue for forgetting about politics in the interests of the common good are really saying ‘I know what I think, and I don’t want to have to consider any one else’s opinion.’ On many local councils, school boards and club executives, you will hear it said, ‘Let’s keep politics out of this.’ This view reveals a profound misunderstanding of the nature of a democratic society, which in essence is based on the propriety of politics. Political activity to resolve conflict is at the foundation of our way of life, without which we would not be a democracy.”
So, dismissing Tom Koppel’s Nightline special as a political act is a rather simplistic way of shoving aside the argument. Politically speaking, what harm is Tom Koppel doing? And is the harm really his fault and his fault alone? Is it wrong to say that America’s actions in Iraq are causing harm to families at home, and if putting faces and names to the consequences of America’s foreign policy threaten America’s dedication to its own foreign policy, is America’s foreign policy truly sound?
I am sure there are reasonable answers to all of these questions. Unfortunately, too many people aren’t interested in making them. In the chatter, it’s too easy to put one’s hands over one’s ears and shout “politics!”
I know. I’ve done this myself more than once.