Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Stars

One of the things I miss the most by living in an urban environment is the fact that you don't get to see the stars in the evening.  Sometimes you see a few, but you never see the full grandeur of the Milky Way. To get that, you need to be away from light pollution, and to get that, you need to be away from civilisation.

It's unfortunate. Not just because of the lost beauty. But I think it contributes ever so slightly to the relentlessly increasing narcism of modern youth. When you seen the enormity of the galaxy spread out in front of you, it's hard (for me, anyway) to not be reminded of the puny insignificance of one's problems. On the properly appreciated scale, your entire existence is so utterly inconsequential that it really doesn't make sense to get too worried about things. As A.E. Housman put it:

Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, and we were young.


  1. Ever read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books? There's an alien race in one that lived on a planet surrounded by a dust cloud, so that they couldn't see anything else in the universe. When they found out there were things besides them, they decided to destroy them all.

    That's not quite analogous to the situation now, but I suspect that's only because the kids still think everyone is the same as them. And they aren't too far off. Few are visibly and believably non-Universalist; there are just Universalists, Universalists-to-be, and those filthy savages in flyover country who the Universalists haven't managed to convert--about whom the kids get rather Streicheresque.

    I wonder: if it became undeniably obvious that some group elsewhere could not be converted, would they get Streicheresque about them? Given the way I've heard people talk about politicians like Geert Wilders, I'd have to guess they would.

    1. It's a good question. I can't imagine them taking things that far, particularly for a domestic group, but there's little doubt that the non-Universalists are considered "the enemy" in a way that more conventional enemies of national security never are (c.f. Benghazi). I think there is a reluctance towards explicitly advocating physical violence except on the extreme fringes. This is perhaps because the advocacy for non-violence has become elevated to such a high level in so many areas (foreign policy, criminal justice etc.). It means that there's a certain cognitive dissonance in advocating it against other political groups. More likely, they'd cheer and hope that someone else would do the job for them in a way that would leave them personally untainted. I remember Mark Steyn having a great quip about this years ago when Charlie Brooker had made a remark wishing that John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald were around to take care of George W. Bush.

      Well, wherever they are, they're probably saying: "Why bring us into it? When ol' Lee Harvey decided it was time for JFK to get assassinated, he didn't sit around whining, 'John Wilkes Booth, where are you now that I need you?' Get off your butt and do it yourself, you big Euro-pussy."

      As for the Hitchhiker's Guide books, I read the first one and enjoyed it, and then meant to read the rest but somehow haven't done it yet. It did seem to be full of great sardonic psychological insights like that though.