Complexity Complex

It’s been said before, by far more eloquent people than me, but it bears repeating: the world is a complex place, and seems to be getting more so every day.

I really don’t mean to sound like an old man longing for the good old days. There are tons of things in the modern world that I love, and wouldn’t trade for anything … I love my car, that tells me, at the touch of a conveniently-mounted-on-the-steering-column button what the pressure is in each of my tires, what gas mileage I’m getting, how far I’ve driven, and what the temperature is outside … I love my 27″ iMac, that I can watch DVDs on from a foot and a half away and feel like I’m at the theatre (minus raucous kids, rudely talkative jerks, bubble-gum on the floor, and armored gunmen lobbing Tear-gas grenades, and spraying bullets from an assault rifle, of course.) I love computer games, and Wikipedia, and surfing the net, and being able to instantly settle an argument about just how big Kirsten Dunst’s boobs are, by consulting IMDB, and swapping stories on Facebook, and even texting with a friend (though I’d much, much rather talk with said friend!)

It doesn’t matter how romantic and glamorous Assassin’s Creed II makes Renaissance Venice look, I know in my heart I wouldn’t care to be back in those times, even if it meant hobnobbing with Leonardo Da Vinci and Machiavelli, because, let’s face it, indoor plumbing didn’t exist, yet, to say nothing of toilet paper …

There were no 24-hour Walmart’s in days of yore, nor were there Taco Bells, or Domino’s Pizza (both are among the few modern fixtures of living that actually WERE around in my youth!)  There was no Internet, no e-mail, no automated check-out at the grocery store, no ATM cards, and no instant news. There were only three TV channels, and you could only get all three in most places if you mounted a huge system of antennas on your roof and oriented it just right … There was no RedBox, no Netflix, no pirated streaming video, and if you didn’t like the one movie that was playing that night, you could read a book, but it wouldn’t be on an iPad or Kindle:  you either checked it out from a library that you actually had to visit and browse through, or you bought it, and the price was not going to be $2.99, but 5 times that, at least, and you wouldn’t be sipping coffee and munching on a muffin, in a cushy, overstuffed chair at the bookstore, either – in fact there was a sign right there on the door that said no food or drink was allowed!

Mass shootings didn’t take place, except among mob types (the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre comes to mind), and, while murders did occur (murder being mankind’s earliest innovation, according to Genesis) it was big news if one person got killed. Serial Killers had been invented in the 1890’s, with Jack the Ripper, they were, nevertheless, so scarce that nobody felt any need to start profiling them till Ted Bundy came along in the 70’s, and the scariest movies you were ever going to see involved Birds going ape-shit, or Norman Bates stabbing you while you were taking a shower, and it was ok to cheer for our soldiers because the Nazis really had it coming, and none of our boys was going to slaughter an entire village full of women and children, until Calley and his guys cut loose at My-Lai, because that just wasn’t the American Way ! (If you’re curious, of the soldiers originally charged with the murders, only 2 Lt. William Calley was convicted. He was given a life sentence for 22 murders, but, after President Nixon quietly granted him a Presidential Pardon, his sentence was commuted to time served, and he was released after 3 1/2 years of house arrest – and it can be argued that that is, in actuality, the American Way …)

Disasters happened, of course, but then, they always had, beginning with the Great Flood, if you want to accept the Bible’s version, or way, way further back (about 3.6 million years further back), if you’re willing to pay attention to hominid foot-prints in freshly-deposited volcanic ash, found at Laetoli, in Tanzania.  Nevertheless, they tended not to kill quite so many people because there just weren’t so many people, and they tended not to cause quite so much damage, because there were less man-made things around to be damaged (see previous comment regarding fewer people) … such people as were killed in these disasters (the cities of Pompei and Herculaneum, and the inhabitants of Santorini come to mind) were apparently caught by surprise, despite some fairly obvious warning signs, in the form of looming, smoking, quaking volcanos just a few miles away …

(Disaster movies, like AirportThe Poseidon Adventure, and The Towering Inferno were all the rage when i was a very young man, each scenario based on the human predilection for ignoring the obvious, then having the gall to be surprised when the obviously impending disaster actually takes place … after a while, they pretty much worked the theme to death:  audiences knew ahead of time that a bunch of idiots were going to ignore a perfectly obvious threat of imminent doom, and everyone would die except the leading man, who warned everybody but wasn’t listened to, and whatever delectable young woman he managed to save, presumably so that they could go on to make babies who would never behave in such an idiotic fashion. It was predictable. Boring. Insultingly preachy and formulaic – particularly coming from production companies which were all headquartered in buildings constructed practically on top of sunny California’s Hayward, and San Andreas Fault Lines!)

There was a time when Walt Disney could genially invite you to visit the City of Tomorrow, where everyone lived happy, contented, lives, and technology had a fix for everything (did you think all those old videos of Howard Stark that Tony had to watch in Ironman II were pure fiction?  They weren’t:  there was no Howard Stark, but nearly all of that stuff was a nostalgic reminder of good old Walt opening up the EPCOT center.)

It all sounds very confusing, but some good has come out of it:  I have at last determined the difference between the good old days, and the present.  Back in the good old days, I wanted God-like super-powers because that would be, well, kinda cool …

In these complicated days, my focus has sharpened, considerably:  now, every time I hear about something bad happening (approximately every day, thanks to CNN), I feel an over-whelming urge to shout, with Jovian authority “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!!”


~ by dourscot on August 8, 2012.

One Response to “Complexity Complex”

  1. Very cool to look at it that way. I think we as people have such a tendency to think “Oh, I would be happy if I was born twenty years earlier” or “I’d be elated if I was born in the next 20 years” but the truth is that generally, we’d feel just like this. There would just be a different scene surrounding us with different ups and downs.

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