null_sequence

If Your Plans Require an Apollo 13 Effort, You are Doing it Wrong

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Over a month into the Gulf Disaster a rising wave of desperation may be easing somewhat as the risky ‘top-kill’ procedure appears to be proceeding well.

And the media is noticing that there are a lot of smart, amped-up people working long hours in offices and control rooms to pull off this fix.

For our dumbed-down pop media culture, iconifying the people in those rooms is a least confusing assumption. We have come to expect a world where a few redemptional heroes brandish a simple and immediate fix, just as the timer clicks down to zero. Pumping them up as a “dream team” and invoking NASA heroics during the Apollo 13 crisis are just ways to fill out roles in a pre-packaged narrative. But that is an ephemeral fantasy.

Today a variety of experts are being called upon to come up with an instant fix for an increasingly catastrophic problem. For the moment they are being listened to, for the time being their voices and opinions are granted effectual weight in the halls of power. And if they manage to pull it off, to supply the fix, cap the wellhead and stop the Gulf Gusher they (at least the top tier) will be feted with the appropriate 15 minutes of LUV.

A few days later they will go back to being mostly ignored and barely tolerated. The annoying little twerps who keep the gas in the pumps, cell phones running and the lights glowing. I have news for you; the terms “geek” and “nerd” are NOT terms of affection but rather dominance and submission.

Because a distressingly large proportion of America has somehow become infected with a ravenous, cancerous anti-intellectual mindset. Education and intellectual displays are tolerated only to the extent that they catalyze the generation of large amounts of money. And never mind the existential sideshow of ecosystem destruction, fixing the Gulf Gusher is associated with lots of money. So open up that cellar and fish out the gimps smart people who can jump into the panic.
For the legions of the Proudly Dumb (and their imitators) there simply is no downside. If the leak gets stopped you buy some cookies to sugar-off the the dorks until the next panic. Otherwise it’s a magnificent affirmation of the uselessness of education and the ascendency of Fate and Divine Control. Win baby, Win.

As a descendant consequence we replace planning and preparation with corporate-political exigency and a patch-up kit. This panic-by-design approach will no doubt characterize our eventual tackling of the Really Serious Consequences of disruptive climate change. Not much of anything will be done until the last possible moment, right as the abyss opens and existential doom throws out a claw. Then a fire-fight and a patch.
But no preparation, indeed keep to sociopathic priorities. No education; cut the school budgets! Fire some more teachers! Keep the prisons full and the taxes low. If all else fails we’ll just nuke anything dangerous that comes our way. Like asteroids, or deepwater oilwell blowouts. It works in the movies.

Because Apollo 13 had a happy ending. Smart, dedicated people came through in the nick of time, under total pressure to save the day.

But those Apollo heroes did not just get delivered from a temp agency. They were there all along, working long invisible hours for Wall Street cab fare salaries. And they would want no part of being called “heroes”. They made their magic because they practiced for routine. If your planning depends upon crisis mode heroics you are Doing It Wrong. You are also an idiot.

We want the magic but absolutely nothing to do with the routine. The entire magic supply chain, from early-childhood education to post-doctoral positions is beaten down, denigrated, downsized, ostracized. Wages and salaries are cut and cut and cut again. Teachers are in the front ranks of the expendable whenever local or state governments get themselves in a budget bind. They are easy to dump because any consequences will mostly arrive years later. Certainly after re-election time.

So, slowly the pipeline supply of potential magicians runs thin and you should not be too surprised when you find that there is an insufficient supply in-house. And then you will rent and you will pay and you will do whatever the market demands. Which is a shame because Peak Magic, unlike Peak Oil, is a voluntary condition. And the future does not care.

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Written by nullsequence

May 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Posted in travesty

Tagged with ,

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