Episode IV: A New Hopelessness
By Ed Driscoll · April 29, 2007 12:10 PM · Bobos In Paradise · The Future and its Enemies · The Return of the Primitive
In a couple of his Bleats this past week, James Lileks focused on the immediate post-WWII emotional fortitude of what he dubbed "nerd culture", young men who longed for the technological future that sci-fi promised, when that genre was at its lowest ebb:
You can almost imagine the sighs from the readers, who were doubtlessly male, 20s or early 30s, and desperately interested in the future. If only I could live there now. If only I lived in an age of rockets and spacemen and ray guns and monsters. Of course, people still think this today. I thought this when I was growing up. The difference, however, is this: I had Star Trek. I’ve always had Star Trek. Someone who’s 12 today has a broad and satisfying range of sci-fi options. But what did someone in 1946 have?If you watch any of the memorials for the original Trek, inevitably, they'll feature a cast or crew member who looks back wistfully and says, "What I liked about the show was that Gene Roddenberry had created a hopeful vision of the future; one that showed mankind prospering in space, and in the future".
Funny, I've always been pretty optimistic about the future, and judging by cultural touchstones like Star Trek, the 1939 World's Fair, and the sixties Space Race, historically, most Americans have been as well. For many though, that's no longer true.
One reason for the New Hopelessness might be the belief that America was founded in original sin:
This week saw a small and telling controversy involving a mural on the walls of Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. The mural is big--400 feet long, 18 feet high at its peak--and eye-catching, as would be anything that "presents a colorful depiction of the rape, slaughter and enslavement of North America's indigenous people by genocidal Europeans." Those are the words of the Los Angeles Times's Bob Sipchen, who noted "the churning stream of skulls in the wake of Columbus's Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria."Another reason to feel hopeless about the future is when you share a mindset that consistently seeks and derives pleasure in bad news:
Bad news might be good news when you've got no other news, but a perpetual search for bad news to the exclusion of all else would drive away readers and drive editors into psychiatric care . . . even faster than usual.If that seems like a rather toxic pair of mental bookends to operate from, add to it an elite that believes that technology must be rolled back--banned in several cases--and it's easy to see how such pessimism could become all-pervasive.
Almost 20 years ago, I remember buying an early version of the guide handed out to writers on the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation from the late 1980s. In order to prevent another round of episodes where Evil Computers Run Amok and the heroic captain of the Enterprise must destroy them, Roddenberry inserted a passage that reminded his writers that the crew of the Enterprise aren't Luddites: technology is what got them into space and keeps them there, so avoid writing anti-technology screeds.
Would that our current elites, who spread their message via television networks created in the 1940s for profit, and an Internet, created in the late 1960s by the eeeeevil US military (when this man was their commander-in-chief, no less) have a similar take.
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