So, on Twitter, as I am most of the time these days (sorry, blogs/news/kitten sites), I saw that the President made a pretty bad speech (I didn’t read or see it, but even journalists thought so), and that he seemed to have brought up going to the moon together.
So this is a bit of a sore spot with me, because as we know, he’s just mothballed NASA (a generalization, but there are no more space explorations planned, and sorry but anything else can be managed in universities (another generalization)), and the Golden Gate Bridge just had its 75th anniversary, which can only remind one that that sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore (true, they’re replacing the east span of the Bay Bridge, but it ain’t the same), and basically the only thing that gets built anymore is housing developments of identikit McMansions and airport terminals named after Norman Mineta (another generalization but you get where I’m going with this).
So then I read Mark Steyn on the subject! Whee…
The problem is the ever-widening gulf between the speech and the slough of despond all about.
Take, for example, the attempt at soaring rhetoric: “That’s how we built this country – together. We constructed railroads and highways, the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did those things together,” he said, in a passage that was presumably meant to be inspirational but was delivered with the faintly petulant air of a great man resentful at having to point out the obvious, yet again. “Together, we touched the surface of the moon, unlocked the mystery of the atom, connected the world through our own science and imagination. We haven’t done these things as Democrats or Republicans. We’ve done them as Americans.
Beyond the cheap dissembling, there was a bleak, tragic quality to this paragraph. Does anyone really believe a second-term Obama administration is going to build anything? Yes, you, madam, the gullible sap at the back in the faded hope’n'change T-shirt. You seriously think your guy is going to put up another Hoover Dam? Let me quote one Deanna Archuleta, Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, in a speech to Democratic environmentalists in Nevada:
“You will never see another federal dam.”
That seems pretty straightforward. America is out of the dam business. Just as the late Roman Empire no longer built aqueducts, so we no longer build dams. In fairness to the Romans, they left it to the barbarians to sweep in and destroy the existing aqueducts, whereas in America the government destroys the dams (some 200 this century) as an act of environmental virtue hailed by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior.
Obama can urge us all he wants to band together because when we dream big dreams there’s no limit to what Big Government can accomplish. But these days we can’t build a new Hoover Dam, only an attractive new corner office for the Assistant Deputy Assistant Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Secretary of Deputy Assistants at the Department of Bureaucratic Sclerosis, and she’ll be happy to issue a compliance order that the Hoover Dam’s mandatory fish ladders are non-wheelchair accessible, and so the whole joint needs to close. That we can do! If only we dare to dream Big Dreams!! Together!!!
But read the whole thing.
And speaking of the Romans!
It is one of the tragic delusions of the human race that we believe in the inevitability of progress. We look around us, and we seem to see a glorious affirmation that our ruthless species of homo is getting ever more sapiens. We see ice cream Snickers bars and in vitro babies and beautiful electronic pads on which you can paint with your fingertip and – by heaven – suitcases with wheels! Think of it: we managed to put a man on the moon about 35 years before we came up with wheelie-suitcases; and yet here they are. They have completely displaced the old type of suitcase, the ones with a handle that you used to lug puffing down platforms.
Aren’t they grand? Life seems impossible without them, and soon they will no doubt be joined by so many other improvements – acne cures, electric cars, electric suitcases – that we will be strengthened in our superstition that history is a one-way ratchet, an endless click click click forwards to a nirvana of liberal democratic free-market brotherhood of man. Isn’t that what history teaches us, that humanity is engaged in a remorseless ascent?
On the contrary: history teaches us that the tide can suddenly and inexplicably go out, and that things can lurch backwards into darkness and squalor and appalling violence. The Romans gave us roads and aqueducts and glass and sanitation and all the other benefits famously listed by Monty Python; indeed, they were probably on the verge of discovering the wheely-suitcase when they went into decline and fall in the fifth century AD.
Whichever way you look at it, this was a catastrophe for the human race. People in Britain could no longer read or write. Life-expectancy plummeted to about 32, and the population fell. The very cattle shrunk at the withers.
Oh BoJo, and that’s before he even got to the hypocaust.
And yes, this is me in my “loving all of mankind” mood.