Thursday, June 3, 2010

BP and Things

So, this will probably be a short post, to ease me back into the whole idea of posting. I've been locked in an epic battle with the Plague for some time now, which has mostly involved me sitting on the sofa watching Family Guy reruns and going "uuhnnngh" while my immune system does the epic stuff, but I have had the wherewithal, at least, to continue sloughing through the daily news because I figure it's nice to have at least a vague idea of what's happening on the planet.

So, BP oil spill.

There are enough people on the internet already yelling about this - the consequences, long and short term ramifications, long and short term solutions, blame game, Worst Case Scenarios, how ineffective and offensive everyone involved is being, etc. - that I don't really feel the need to throw my hat in.

What's interesting to me is that this is A Thing which is going to define this time period. It's still happening, right now, and everyone already knows that it's an epoch, something that will be in our history books from the next edition on. And it's also something that 99.9% of the world population is completely powerless to do anything about. It's not a revolutionary historical moment, it's a disastrous one, and short of engineers and think-tanks directly involved in solving the problem, the most anyone can really do about any of it is... well, this or this, or this.

Which, to me, feels like the final union of a lot of factors that have been on my mind in recent years. To whit - the bitter, cynical rage my generation has against an inefficient and untrustworthy government; a deep-seated feeling of helplessness and the inability to effect real change against a system which, though broken, is bigger and stronger than us, and ultimately immutable; and the ability to instantly purge the anger to assuage the feeling of helplessness through our technology du jour.

Now don't get me wrong: Yes, fund raising is happening. Yes, protests are happening. Yes, people are pissed, and with good reason, about something which is, genuinely, out of their control. But I think something larger, socially, is at work here. Because all too often our anger about something is manifesting itself in the form of humor, which to a point makes sense - when something is so bad, you either laugh or cry, and mockery is a powerfully destructive tool against authority - but on the other hand, at what point do we just go "haha, yeah, little mermaid" "haha, yeah, Michael Bay would totally make that movie" and close the window and move on to our next favorite lol and forget about it. Is the act of "empowering" ourselves through instantaneous social satire really helping us ignore what's going on. I said at the beginning of the post that, more or less, I like to keep my finger on the pulse of things, but I'm not Diana, I don't read eight independent news sources a day or have cameos on C-Span. Mostly I bum around on yahoo news and publisher's weekly and keep my eyes and ears open with my grain-of-salt-tinted glasses on. Compared to genuinely informed people, I'm a total noob, and I'm a victim of what I'm talking about, too. I have a very peripheral understanding of what's going on on this planet , just enough to feel like I don't have to dig deeper.

I don't want to sound like some googly-eyed alarmist, and I'm not even saying we should all form a symbiotic relationship with bbc.co.uk. I just have this vague sick feeling like it's getting too easy to laugh off our righteous indignation. Which, when the new definition of beach gear is these guys, really that anger is about all we have going for us.

And the easier it gets to chuckle and click past this one because we can't stop the oil from spilling, I wonder how much easier it'll get to gloss over things that maybe we could change.

Or is it just me?

**Edit** apparently not just me. Today's newspost at Penny Arcade gives an interesting, if brief, assessment of our expectations about the human capacity for problem solving created by videogames. Silly Tycho, didn't you get the memo? Gamers are going to save the world!