My plan to save mankind

By tripolar · Mar 18, 2010 · ·
  1. tripolar
    The hands of time move slowly. And they're tightening round your neck . . . but fear not

    Time is the strangest substance known to man. You can't see, touch, hear, smell, taste or avoid it. Time makes you stronger-minded but weaker-bodied, gradually transforming you from blushing grape to ornery, grouching raisin. Time is the most precious thing you have, yet you're happiest when you're wasting it. Time will outlive you, your offspring, your offspring's robots and your offspring's robots' springs. It will outlive the wind and the rocks, the sun and the moon, Florence and the Machine. Time, in short, is King of Things.

    Because time is invisible, it's hard to work out which bit to focus on at any given moment. It's even hard to work out just how long "any given moment" is. Right now, as you're reading this article, are you absorbing it by the paragraph, by the sentence, or on a word-by-word basis? When I type the word "word", does time temporarily slow down while you hear the word "word" spoken aloud in your mind, or have you already leapt ahead to discover the end of the sentence doesn't sense quite make? How big a "timeslice" can your awareness eat in one go?

    The more time you swallow in one sitting, the wiser you become. In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, we're introduced to the Tralfamadorians, an alien race who can see in four dimensions. They experience life not as a linear sequence of unexpected events, but a timeline of inexorable peaks and troughs, occurring simultaneously. Tralfamadorians aren't upset by tragic events or overjoyed at happy events, because the concept of "events" has no meaning; to them, sunrise, sunset, birth, death, peace, war are all just notches on the same stick. When confronted with tragedy, they merely shrug and say, "So it goes." That's why there's never been a Tralfamadorian on EastEnders.

    Anyway, while most people don't perceive life with the worrisome scope of a Tralfamadorian, they're capable of projecting at least a little. Take joggers. They weren't born with a pre-programmed desire to jog. No. One day they decided they'd like to get fit, and chose to sacrifice their immediate comfort in favour of delayed gratification: they got off the sofa and jogged themselves slim. Every jogger is essentially a clairvoyant. They've transcended the shackles of contemporary subsistence and risen above the likes of you and me, to witness a vision of the future so captivating it blocks out the pain of the present, so enticing, they're literally compelled to run towards it. Not only that, they've been organised enough to buy proper trainers and shorts and everything, the smug bastards. No wonder everyone else wants to hit them. Here's a tip: visualise a future in which you've toned yourself to athletic perfection by fighting random joggers in the park. Here's another tip: wear some sort of mask. And maybe a cape. We'll come up with a logo for your chest plate later.

    Joggers are a minority, but then exercisers generally are a minority. Even though we're repeatedly told that regular exercise combats heart disease and cancer and blah blah nag nag nag, more than 60% of the population couldn't be arsed trying, because it makes their legs ache. They're not necessarily lazy, but suffering from an inability to perceive the future as a solid and tangible thing, unlike those far-sighted seers in running shoes and sweat pants. Perhaps joggers have a few additional Tralfamadorian synapses; only by experimenting on their brains can we be sure. Meanwhile, the rest of us remain stubbornly wedged into narrow individual pockets of time, moaning that we need to lose a few pounds while sobbing into our chips.

    And we do the same with the environment: we fail to take painful measures in the present that could ease our existence in the future, because we think they're too arduous – unless you're a spluttering contrarian, in which case you think the whole climate change thing is a load of trumped-up phooey anyway, and that all scientists are shifty, self-serving exaggerators, apart from the brave handful who agree with you. Hey, I'm no scientist. I'm not an engineer either, but if I asked 100 engineers whether it was safe to cross a bridge, and 99 said no, I'd probably try to find another way over the ravine rather than loudly siding with the underdog and arguing about what constitutes a consensus while trundling across in my Hummer.

    Still, it's easy to picture a collapsing bridge. Picturing a collapsing environment is trickier. Hollywood has tried its best, but all I learned from sitting through The Day After Tomorrow is that, contrary to my previous expectations, the end of the world might be boring. What we need, if we're really going to work in unison to overcome climate change is a mix of Tralfamadorian perspective and joggers' resolve: to let visions of the future dictate our present, rather than the other way round.

    So: we need to loosen mankind's dogged grip on a linear interpretation of time if we're going to save the planet. But how? We can't go round injecting our brains with Tralfamadorian grey matter, because it doesn't exist. Instead the closest thing we have is LSD, which must be pumped into the water supply as a matter of urgency. A couple of months of steady supply should be enough to expand our collective perception. Let's start by testing it out on Stourbridge (no reason; just picked it at random: sorry Stourbridge). The results can be televised live. It'll be funny watching them trying to eat their own ankles or chase the town hall into the sky: just like It's a Knockout, but with a sense of civic purpose.

    Yes. For all our sakes, this must happen NOW.

    Charlie Brooker
    The Guardian, Monday 15 March 2010


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  1. enquirewithin
    The most dangerous drug isn't meow meow. It isn't even alcohol . . .
    Newspapers are the biggest threat to the nation's mental wellbeing

    I'm a lightweight; always have been. I didn't get properly drunk until I was 25, on a night out which culminated in a spectacular public vomiting in a Chinese restaurant. Ever wondered what the clatter of 60 pairs of chopsticks being simultaneously dropped in disgust might sound like? Don't ask me. I can't remember. I was too busy bitterly coughing what remained of my guts all over the carpet.

    Not a big drinker, then. Like virtually every other member of my generation, I smoked dope throughout my early 20s. It prevented me from getting bored, but also prevented me from achieving much. When you're content to blow an entire fortnight basking on your sofa like a woozy sea lion, playing Super Bomberman, eating Minstrels and sniggering at Alastair Stewart's bombastic voiceover on Police Camera Action! there's not much impetus to push yourself. Marijuana detaches you from the world, like a big pause button. The moment I stopped smoking it I started actually getting stuff done. I still sit on my sofa playing videogames, necking sweets and laughing at the telly, but these days if I have to leave my cocoon and pop to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk before they close, it's a minor inconvenience rather than a protracted mission to Mars. That was the worst thing about being stoned: there came an inevitable point every evening where you'd find yourself shuffling around a massively overlit local convenience store feeling alien and jittery. Brrr. No thanks.

    I tried other things, only to discover they weren't for me. LSD, for instance, definitely isn't my bag. Call me traditional, but if I glance at a wall and before my very eyes it suddenly starts smearing and sliding around like oil on water, my initial reaction is not to be amused or amazed, but alarmed about the structural integrity of the building. My most benign lysergic experience consisted of an hour-long stroll around an incredibly verdant, sun-drenched meadow, watching the names of famous sportsmen appear before me in gigantic 3D letters carved from fiery gold. Eventually someone passed me a cup of tea and the spell was broken: there I was, sitting in a student halls of residence, watching late-night golf on BBC2 on a tiny black-and-white TV. From that point on it was like being trapped in a David Lynch film that lasted for eight hours and was set in Streatham. Once again: Brrr. No thanks.

    These days I'm sickeningly lily- livered, by choice rather than necessity. I don't smoke, I drink only occasionally, and I'd sooner saw my own feet off than touch anything harder than a double espresso. I don't want to get out of my head: that's where I live.

    In summary: if I've learned anything, it's that I don't much care for mood-altering substances. But I'm not afraid of them either. With one exception.

    It's perhaps the biggest threat to the nation's mental wellbeing, yet it's freely available on every street – for pennies. The dealers claim it expands the mind and bolsters the intellect: users experience an initial rush of emotion (often euphoria or rage), followed by what they believe is a state of enhanced awareness. Tragically this "awareness" is a delusion. As they grow increasingly detached from reality, heavy users often exhibit impaired decision-making abilities, becoming paranoid, agitated and quick to anger. In extreme cases they've even been known to form mobs and attack people. Technically it's called "a newspaper", although it's better known by one of its many "street names", such as "The Currant Bun" or "The Mail" or "The Grauniad" (see me – Ed).

    In its purest form, a newspaper consists of a collection of facts which, in controlled circumstances, can actively improve knowledge. Unfortunately, facts are expensive, so to save costs and drive up sales, unscrupulous dealers often "cut" the basic contents with cheaper material, such as wild opinion, bullshit, empty hysteria, reheated press releases, advertorial padding and photographs of Lady Gaga with her bum hanging out. The hapless user has little or no concept of the toxicity of the end product: they digest the contents in good faith, only to pay the price later when they find themselves raging incoherently in pubs, or – increasingly – on internet messageboards.

    Tragically, widespread newspaper abuse has become so endemic, it has crippled the country's ability to conduct a sensible debate about the "war on drugs". The current screaming festival over "meow meow" or "M-Cat" or whatever else the actual users aren't calling it, is a textbook example. I have no idea how dangerous it is, but there seems to be a glaring lack of correlation between the threat it reportedly poses and the huge number of schoolkids reportedly taking it. Something doesn't add up. But in lieu of explanation, we're treated to an hysterical, obfuscating advertising campaign for a substance that will presumably – thanks to the furore – soon only be available via illegal, unregulated, more dangerous, means. If I was 15 years old, I wouldn't be typing this right now. I'd be trying to buy "plant food" on the internet. And this time next year I'd be buying it in a pub toilet, cut with worming pills and costing four times as much.

    Personally speaking, the worst substances I've ever encountered are nicotine (a senselessly addictive poison) and alcohol (which spins the inner wheel of judgment into an unreadable blur). Apart from the odd fond memory, the only good thing either really have going for them is their legality. If either had been outlawed I'd probably have drunk myself blind on cheap illegal moonshine or knifed you and your family in the eye to fund my cigarette habit.

    But then I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to narcotics. Like I said, I'm a lightweight. I can absolutely guarantee my experience of drugs is far more limited than that of the average journalist: immeasurably so once you factor in alcohol. So presumably they know what they're talking about. It's hard to shake the notion half the users aren't trying to "escape the boredom of their lives": just praying for a brief holiday from society's unrelenting bullshit.

    Charlie Brooker The Guardian, Monday 22 March 2010
  2. popco
    Thought provoking stuff guys. I've long since suspected that one of the root causes for the deterioration of modern society, is that the ability to freely think isn't really nurtured or even given the chance to develop. It's passed over instead for the ability to absorb and parrot information, which, as I hope, you all won't agree with, but sit and think about for a while. I don't think this is a government conspiracy or anything similar, just that as a species we lack foresight, and have just kinda ended up here. Oops, back to the drawing board I guess...
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