Friday, May 3, 2013

The Roller Coaster of Change

Once when hiking I was in with a group people that were very serious about enjoying nature. They knew all the different plants, the call of the birds and all the little intricacies that made up the natural environment.

The trail was on a ridge. It was originally a deer trail and existed long before people lived in the area. Unlike predators that have both eyes focused forward for binocular vision, deer have their eyes set almost 180 degrees apart.  Being on top of a ridge let the deer use his extended peripheral vision to his fullest advantage.

It was also pointed out that on one side of the ridge was the watershed of the Delaware river and on the other side Susquehanna and Chesapeake watershed.  It was only the difference of a few feet that separated which way the rain would run off and find its way back to the ocean.  It was an odd to think about how so many inconspicuous things can have a major influence on the end results.

The first downloadable song I heard and the first video clip I ever saw was over twenty five years ago.  The video clip was a two minute snippet of The Three Stooges and the song might have been something by Paul McCartney. Neither seemed to be much of a threat to the world at large.

These days I can't help but to have this feeling that the world is on the edge of a ridge. Or maybe it more like being at the top of a roller coaster. The cars have been slowly cranked up to the peak and we're looking over the edge a split second before the cars come racing down the track.       

Computers have changed the world but like Moore's Law that predicts the exponential rate of growth for computing capabilities, I feel like there should be a parallel equation for social change. Maybe because human logic is either fuzzier or less well understood, that equation could seem more like a sub-branch chaos theory trying to predict the future.

Of course people have always indulged in some willful ignorance whenever anyone suggests that social should be regulated or that something as nebulous as happiness should be valued over profits. As long as there is a Gold Rush mentality out there the predominate mindset is to get what you can now and not worry about the long term costs. Like the words of a poem that questions success:

Oh America, America
Why do your dreams taste like rot gut whiskey?     
Strong heady stuff that leaves you hung-over
and screaming the next morning "Oh God what have I done?"

Some of this same angst was felt during the Industrial Revolution. The first steam engines were hailed as marvelous things but when the steam engine became a common fixture and started to change huge swaths of English society people began to rebel. Secret groups of unemployed and displaced workers would come at night to smash up the steam engines that did their work. These acts of industrial sabotage were attributed to Ned Ludd or Captain Swing. You might have heard of the term Luddites, once they were what groups like Anonymous are today.

Thinking about it, employee driven industrial sabotage has continued to stick around.  There was one engineering firm that I temporally worked at.  The owner of the company was a real hands-on bully.  Because the company was a virtual monopoly in some of the services it provided it was never hurt by its piss poor management and high turnover rate.  The company did have a "breakage" problem where critical pieces of equipment were often inoperable because some small key part was lost or broken.

In the end the Luddites didn't stop the Industrial Revolution.  People adapted to the change and if they didn't embrace it at least accepted it.  Back to that day hiking on the trail. All of the hikers felt the industrial world was dangerously consuming the planet but they all drove to the trail head in their own personal automobiles. And here I am looking worriedly at the electronic future while I'm posting on a blog.

I can't imagine the human need to be with other people will ever disappear or be supplanted by anything electronic.  Of course I could be wrong. Human beings have a need for food but look at what most people eat these days. The vast majority of food available to the average person is industrially produced crap of marginal nutritional value.  It is no coincidence that as mega industrial food corporations take over the population becomes obese and sick with illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
Look in your local supermarket. Is there more shelf space devoted to sugary soft drinks than fresh fruit?  Are there more pounds of frozen French fries for sale than potatoes?  How many isles in your supermarket are nothing more than chips, snacks, ice cream or other junk foods?

After you take a critical look at your supermarket look at your computer. Check your search history, keep a log of how many hours a week you're looking a at screen. Add it all up, TV, YouTube, emails, texting , video games and whatever else you do. Then ask -am I lonely? -am I bored? -am I just wasting my time?


This weekend as a small act of social rebellion host a vinyl party. Old vinyl records are becoming retro cool and on the bottom of some party invitations I'm seeing more and more, BYOV -bring your own vinyl. And you just can't beat the fun going through a stack of records to find that one special gem or looking at the cover art and wondering -what were they thinking?  

I'll leave you with a few of the stranger album covers I have found -and then wish you all a great weekend.

Also like to mention this Saturday, May 4th, is World Naked Gardening Day.

So back to those album covers-



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