As the painstaking search for MH370 continues and as families wait desperately for news – any news – of the fate of their loved ones, I can’t help but think we are in a dangerous mindset as a global community – that we are believing the hype of what we can and cannot do as a global civilisation.
Fact has merged with fiction – science fiction especially – and we now think that we have capabilities that will fix any and every thing.
What we believe we have is not what we have
Ongoing revelations of the capabilities of Intelligence agencies to spy on and store everything from everyone all the time add to the illusion that all information about everything is known or even knowable. It serves Big Brother well for us to think this – it curtails what we say and to whom. Fighting this is the core of the privacy movement.
From Hollywood we get the continual onslaught of militaristic salvation – any threat from anywhere will be defeated by our armies and our brave warriors – even if those are super heroes from comic books. We can carpet bomb, annihilate with nuclear devastation. We can even explore distant planets and keep in constant touch with our robotic vehicles on them.
Advances in medicine are offering promising defences against our micro-predators – we may soon even defeat aging. Technology is giving us exponentially faster, more ‘intelligence’ gadgets that give us more control on our architected environments and our man-made infrastructure.
All this unavoidably seeds the thought that, as a civilisation, are invincible – even if those capabilities are not actually universally available or applied. But nevertheless, there is a sense that when something truly tragic happens, we can harness our global capabilities to save lives and triumph in the adversity. But sadly, we can’t. The best we can do is pick up the pieces of disaster.
In reality – whilst we are not in the Dark Ages, we are still a small player in this big world. We are as nothing to the whims of weather. In the battle for planet Earth, she will always win, even if that means we become extinct. When we raise alarm about climate change, global warming and rising sea levels, it is not because we fear for the planet. We fear for ourselves and life as we know it.
Once upon a time, we knew our place in the system
Hundreds of years ago, when science was still in its infancy and knowledge was in the hands of relatively few people and the distribution network was basic at best, humans accepted – more easily- that tragedy happens and there is nothing we could do about it.
Ships would go out into the treacherous open oceans and may never return – the ocean bed is littered with unheard cries for rescue and salvation. As desperate as it sounds, humans had a more realistic understand of what they were capable of.
We knew our place within the system. Our place has not really changed – we have no more real responsibility than we ever had, we instead have increased our ability to meet the responsibility we have always had. Neither has the consequence of disrupting the balance of the our natural systems changed. Earth will whip our collective asses in the same ways – only the effects on us will be more devastating.
Be kind to the people who are doing their best
Against the backdrop of this misplaced belief that we can find anything are the people who are actually looking. They are discovering first hand that what they thought they had doesn’t really cut it. Hundreds of people using truely sophisticated technology – some so secret, we can only guess – are discovering that all this tech isn’t yielding any more than speculation.
The Malaysian government – as politically dysfunctional as any – are trying to do the best they can. But they are clueless – not because of a lack of competence – but because there really aren’t that many clues and even fewer promising ones. If everyone is grasping at straws, perhaps it is because there are only straws.
So let’s be kinder to them and everyone involved in both addressing the tragedy and breaking the news to us that we are believing our own delusions of invincibility. Perhaps we would be better engaged in trying to understand what we think we can do versus what we actually can do.
Will we ever find MH370 – I don’t know, I sincerely hope we do. Finding this plane – in whatever state it is in will ease the pain of not knowing for the desperate families of the passengers and crew.
Hope is what fuels us through adversity. We must be hopeful that we can be better and do better, but it mustn’t blind us to the false hope in capabilities we do not yet possess, because life and nature will call our bluff over and over again.