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We Could've Had The Moon
July 23, 2011 5:41 PM   Subscribe


 
The billions we're spending on air conditioning Afghanistan could be spent on air conditioning here at home!
posted by Trurl at 5:55 PM on July 23, 2011


I know a lot of people will raise the objection that the space program is a pretty frivolous and costly enterprise; shouldn’t we be spending that money on health care/education/poverty, etc.? To these well-meaning people, who do make a valid point, I would respectfully submit that you please go take a flying leap off a low-gravity planetoid. We weren’t ever going to spend that money on health care/education/poverty, etc. because no one in power in this country actually cares about those things. And as long as we’re not going to spend it on that stuff, why not spend it on science?

my emphasis

To this bloke, I would respectfully suggest that if there's not a military application, then the US wasn't ever going to spend all this money on space, for precisely the same reasons.
posted by pompomtom at 5:59 PM on July 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's depressing when Kreider cares. I liked him better when he gave up, because he was right to give up:

"Me, I'm done caring. I believe that these things are important, and that people should continue to care about them; you, for example, should care. It just can't be me any more. Sorry, I put in my time. I cared for years and it nearly killed me. I refuse to return to caring even if the Republican policies only shame and outrage me; financially, they benefit people like me. The people Republicans ruthlessly screw are mostly the ones who vote for them, which I heartily condone. I endorse conservatives' repealing health care reform in their own states, refusing to get flu shots for fear of government nanochips, being allowed to carry concealed guns into bars. This is all just natural selection in action, elegant and just.

"I've emigrated to New York City, a civilized island nation off the coast of the decaying behemoth America. Here, people of all races, nations, religions and sexual orientations live together, mostly not killing each other. People read on the subways, at cafés, in the parks. We have Bonnard exhibitions, Mahler symphonies, Kurosawa retrospectives and roller derby. I don't care what happens to the United States anymore. I care about the survival of the human race, and of enlightenment civilization. If it gutters out here it'll flourish elsewhere. It doesn't matter to me who gets to think they're running the world a thousand years from now as long as someone, somewhere, is still watching Akira Kurosawa films."


After that essay in his Twilight of the Assholes, I have tried not to read Kreider any more. His words about Afghanistan and the waste of humanity at its heart are so true, it hurts, in fact. A kind of existential despair just takes over.

There's something to be said for just walking away.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:09 PM on July 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Nice essay. My thoughts exactly. We really are primitives.
posted by chance at 6:18 PM on July 23, 2011


Yes, because New York City's wealth is entirely divorced from the rest of the behemoth.
posted by effugas at 6:46 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Be careful what you say. Remember, the Manhattan Project created the atomic bomb. You think we didn't keep a few for, ahem, personal use?
posted by Splunge at 6:53 PM on July 23, 2011


Tim Kreider is quite possibly one of the best political cartoonist living today and it hurt to see him give up. I'm glad he's still kicking around, though, if only because I would hate to never hear from him again.
posted by flatluigi at 7:03 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, because New York City's wealth is entirely divorced from the rest of the behemoth.

Yeah, that's why that island business is complete B.S. Our Mahler symphonies... not sure if it's still the case, but NewsCorp used to be a major donor to Lincoln Center. So flyover cable news watching eyeballs are (indirectly) paying for your Mahler. (If not that industry than another has picked up the slack). It's all connected.
posted by Jahaza at 7:03 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


... the Moon and Afghanistan.

Right now Christopher Cross is kicking himself for not coming up with the lyrics for this one.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:21 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Politics of the post aside, I despise the way the media has framed Afghanistan as an inhospitable wasteland of sand and rocks. No one who has ever had a cup of tea at the Flower Street Cafe, looked out over the Panjshir Valley from the site of Ahmad Shah Massoud's grave, ridden a plastic swan on Band-e-amir lake in Bamyan, or witnessed spring in Jawzjan would ever describe Afghanistan's geography as similar to the moon. Though, sadly, the more we bomb the landscape the more this comparison is valid.
posted by philotes at 7:37 PM on July 23, 2011 [28 favorites]


philotes, that Jawzjan picture - breathtaking. Seems almost more a watercolor than a real place, were it not for the person walking through. I know that moon-like is an unfair comparison for at least parts of the country, but I'd not seen that view before. Thanks for posting.
posted by dorey_oh at 7:44 PM on July 23, 2011


I despise the way the media has framed Afghanistan as an inhospitable wasteland of sand and rocks.

And have they been to Nevada?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:57 PM on July 23, 2011


ridden a plastic swan on Band-e-amir lake in Bamyan...

a geologist would probably confirm moisture-derived erosion patterns in the background of that photo, which a layperson would probably describe as a moonscape. afghanistan != moon, too much free water, but still...
posted by ennui.bz at 7:59 PM on July 23, 2011


ennui.bz: "ridden a plastic swan on Band-e-amir lake in Bamyan...

a geologist would probably confirm moisture-derived erosion patterns in the background of that photo, which a layperson would probably describe as a moonscape. afghanistan != moon, too much free water, but still...
"

Hairsplitting. Give it a few billion years. How short sighted can you get?
posted by Splunge at 8:11 PM on July 23, 2011


I was going to clip a little bit from the essay and quote it here, but the little bit I wanted and that is relevant was pretty much half the essay.

Oh, yeah, and that graphic is priceless.
posted by Xoebe at 8:20 PM on July 23, 2011




Afghanistan is home to 70 million people who for the most part live in poverty. I guess it is easier to pretend it is an abandoned wilderness.
posted by humanfont at 8:35 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


We've put hundreds of thousands of men on Afghanistan, how many did we put on the moon?
posted by snofoam at 8:41 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's time to destroy the Moon as well.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 9:18 PM on July 23, 2011


I've emigrated to New York City, a civilized island nation off the coast of the decaying behemoth America. Here, people of all races, nations, religions and sexual orientations live together, mostly not killing each other.
New York City has a homicide rate higher than that of the United States as a whole. Likewise for robbery and aggravated assault. The remarkably low rape, burglary, and theft rates deserve sincere congratulations, but I think Utopia is still going to take a little more work.
posted by roystgnr at 9:25 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The end of the manned space program is a sad note, and I am appalled that more people are not concerned by it. It will take the emergence manned, weaponized platforms above us in space, manned by people hostile to our country to rekindle it. Five bucks says it will be about ten years.
posted by midnightscout at 9:59 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Afghanistan is home to 70 million people...

Or 28 million, but who's really counting (or taking 5 seconds to google)?
posted by Panjandrum at 10:39 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fairness, Obama did bomb the moon.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:12 PM on July 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I despise the way the media has framed Afghanistan as an inhospitable wasteland of sand and rocks.

Yeah, there seems to be a lot more to the country than rock and sand.

I saw a travelling exhibit of Ghandara sculpture up close (I could have touched it if I had wanted to) a few years ago, and it blew me away.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:38 PM on July 23, 2011


I'm saddened by the end of the US space program, it gave me hope that there were still people in power who were interested in science! and critical thinking rather than looking for the next group of people to exploit.

We could have had the moon indeed.
posted by arcticseal at 11:56 PM on July 23, 2011


Wasn't the Apollo moon program really just an ICBM research program in disguise anyway?
posted by PenDevil at 12:58 AM on July 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, because New York City's wealth is entirely divorced from the rest of the behemoth.

Well, it's true that the Rpublican voting states do rather slurp at the subsidy teat of New York's federal taxes.
posted by rodgerd at 1:19 AM on July 24, 2011


Perhaps if we could start a rumour that Al Qaeda is working on a moon base? With WMDs?
posted by Segundus at 2:02 AM on July 24, 2011


I do think human beings will go back to space

Does he think this because only Americans really go into space or because only Americans are human beings?

Chinese Space Program

International Space Station
posted by Grangousier at 2:22 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does he think this because only Americans really go into space or because only Americans are human beings?

Judging by the casualty figures he's listed, it's clearly the second.
posted by daniel_charms at 3:48 AM on July 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would like to hear more about the floating pleasure-dome on Io. Is it stately and are the towers girdled round?
posted by autopilot at 4:04 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:10 AM on July 24, 2011


"I know a lot of people will raise the objection that the space program is a pretty frivolous and costly enterprise; shouldn’t we be spending that money on health care/education/poverty, etc.?"

We are spending a lot of money on health care, education, poverty, etc... over in Afghanistan.

It's one of the world's poorest, least educated places, with some of the worst health care too. It's altogether easy to talk about civilian casualties or joke about a bombed-out lunar landscape... but what people aren't remembering here is that there's ample evidence that millions of the world's poorest people are benefiting economically and educationally, even during the course of this conflict.

Considering the level of lawlessness in Afghan society, civilian deaths are not astoundingly high in Afghanistan. The UN documented 1,462 civilian deaths for the first six months of 2011. But what's not pointed out when people mention those deaths is that the Taliban and anti-government forces were clearly responsible for about 80% of those deaths... about 1,170 in the first six months of this year alone. In comparison, NATO bombing killed about 79 civilians in the first six months of this year. Indeed, there is speculation that the Taliban might be responsible for many of the kidnappings and murders that Afghan civilians have faced, many of which aren't included in these statistics.

The UN report even specifically points out that many of the civilians killed by pro-government forces died because the Taliban were using their residences -- usually against their will -- for shelter and protection.

It's tragic that about 2,900 Afghan civilians will probably die this year, as a result of the war. But how many of you are willing to lay the blame for nearly 2,400 of those civilians on the Taliban's doorstep, because they have decided that killing civilians indiscriminately is a lot easier than actually taking the fight to either NATO or the Afghan troops?

And will NATO get credit where credit is due for making roads, reconstruction, and education -- especially for women -- possible for millions of people who would otherwise be left in the dark?

Is the Afghan government flawed? Sure... but even for all his faults and widespread corruption, a recent survey of Afghan civilians indicated that Karzai's rule was widely considered the most just era since the Soviets invaded the country, ranking three times higher than the rating for the Taliban, and far, far higher than for the period of warlord rule. Although Karzai's rule is considered the most financially corrupt in recent history, surveys also indicate that it has the greatest press freedom, the greatest degree of press freedom and lack of repression for intellectuals, lower levels of insecurity than either the Taliban or warlord rule, a *much* lower level of extra-judicial killings or violence against people's beliefs than under Taliban rule, and the lowest level of population displacement since before the Russian invasion.

I was recently reading a report by Emilie Jelenek, a French reporter in Afghanistan. She is pretty cynical about the likely success of the peace jirgas, but mentioned this about Afghanistan:

"I rarely ever saw any Afghan women in Gardez or Khost; that’s not to say there aren’t brave women there ready to stand up and defend their rights, there are - but they are few and far between. Kabul on the other hand is a vibrant place. You get the impression that real change is possible and is happening. The country’s future is in the hands of a new confident generation, and it’s wonderful to witness. I doubt next month’s jirga will be particularly meaningful, but one day, these young people will lead their own peace process, on their terms."


Yes, the Afghan people are paying a high price for the few, improved freedoms they now have. What you might want to ask, though, is whether that price is worth it, and, maybe, one worth supporting, given the consequences of invading their country, only to leave a civil war and a Taliban/warlord government behind them.
posted by markkraft at 4:21 AM on July 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I've emigrated to New York City, a civilized island nation off the coast of the decaying behemoth America. Here, people of all races, nations, religions and sexual orientations live together, mostly not killing each other."
New York City has a homicide rate higher than that of the United States as a whole. Likewise for robbery and aggravated assault. The remarkably low rape, burglary, and theft rates deserve sincere congratulations, but I think Utopia is still going to take a little more work.


I think it's adorable when sheltered residents of wealthy boroughs assume their little East/West Village, Chelsea, UWS, or whatever is representative of NYC. And I guess the Bronx, East New York, and Jamaica isn't.
posted by melissam at 5:03 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wasn't the Apollo moon program really just an ICBM research program in disguise anyway?

It was more of a "We're smarter, bolder and wealthier than everyone, especially the godless commies" race.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:58 AM on July 24, 2011



Does he think this because only Americans really go into space or because only Americans are human beings?


No, probably because thus far only the Americans and Russians have accomplished anything of note in regards to breaking new ground in space exploration. The rest of the world is still playing catch-up 42 years after Americans set foot on a foreign world and 50 years after Russians broke through into the stars.

But don't let that minor detail keep you from twisting the author's words to fit him into the ugly American stereotype. Eventually that square peg will fit into the round whole if bang your head into it enough times.
posted by WhitenoisE at 6:43 AM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]



There's something to be said for just walking away.


As seductive as "off-the-grid" thinking and as fallacious. NYC is embedded in the New York State and Federal Governmental Authorities. It is occupied by a significant percentage of people who design and execute increasingly arcane financial and legal instruments that will likely play a part in destroying civilisation. It is a nexus of (relatively efficient, in comparison with the suburbs) consumer and consumption-driven lifestyles and the associated media machine designed to promulgate that culture until the last drop of oil is gone. All the Mahler and Reading and Kurosawa and Benneton rainbow nation hugfests in the world (which, incidentally, feed off the detritus of the above activities) will not help if you truly "....care about the survival of the human race".

I say this as someone who has lived away from the city for 4 years, and is returning - likely permanently - this week, partially for all the fantastic cultural reasons listed in Kreider's comment. But one should not delude oneself. We will lie in the bed we have made, and NYC is part of that bed........the rot may take time to come, but it will come. In all but the most superficial, individualist sense, there is no walking away.
posted by lalochezia at 8:03 AM on July 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an Afghan-American, I get really sick of articles and opinion pieces like this that treat Afghanistan as a wasteland of desert and rocks with barely any thought to the millions of people who still live there.
posted by yasaman at 9:45 AM on July 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yasaman, I'm so sorry. I read that piece and immediately latched onto the geography metaphor, and by spending my words disputing his surface point I actually contributed to the real crime of the piece: the erasure of the Afghan people. I apologize.
posted by philotes at 1:12 PM on July 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I actually really loved the pictures, Philotes, so no apology necessary! Also, pictures of Afghan people tend to have the whole "look at these poor oppressed people isn't it a tragedy" subtext, which ugh. I always remember my mom telling me that when my brother was little, and there were pictures of Afghanistan and Afghan people in the news, they were always of the poor oppressed people and starving children type of pictures. My brother asked if that was what it was like for my family in Afghanistan, and my mom had to show him our family pictures of life in Kabul in the 70s to convince him that our family wasn't all starving in rubble-blasted streets back in the day.

The point is, and I swear I have one, that I wish media portrayal of Afghanistan was more nuanced period. There is tragedy, oppression, and suffering yes, but there are people living their lives as best they can too, and there is hope. And those people living their lives can speak for themselves too, so I wish pundits and analysts would let them occasionally, rather than analyzing around them.
posted by yasaman at 1:42 PM on July 24, 2011


But don't let that minor detail keep you from twisting the author's words to fit him into the ugly American stereotype.

I thought it was odd him suddenly talking about humanity when the rest of the article was about the United States. I don't have a problem with his problem with the U.S. - end of empire is emotionally quite difficult to cope with. I remember having children's books from the Fifties (Eagle annuals, with Dan Dare in) when I was a child in the Seventies, and feeling a tremendous sense of loss of Great Britishness and imperial greatness (from a distance of only twenty years). The process from there was realising that all that had been lost was political power, and that that power had never meant the British were actually in any way more important or better than the people from the rest of the world (or, y'know, Venus*), just that we could pretend we were. It had been a lie all along, and I came to feel we were better off without that lie (especially when we had a government led by someone who believed in preserving the lie as strongly as she believed anything). Loss of "Greatness" is a liberation.

Here's the whole paragraph:
I do think human beings will go back to space--if not our civilization, then the next one, after another thousand-year interregnum or so. When they get to the Sea of Tranquility, they’ll find a curious artifact there--a plastic dime-store flag mounted on a telescoping pole. Not far away there's a plaque. Who knows whether they'll even be able to read the language inscribed on it: We Came in Peace for All Mankind.
Thousand-year interregnum? The current Chinese aim is to have people regularly working in space, with manned missions to Mars in the next fifty years. There are human beings in space now, and there will be human beings in space for the foreseeable future. I don't see that the non-U.S. human beings are doing anything especially different from the the U.S. human beings who might not be doing it any more. And I really don't see the dime-store flag thing as other than vanity.

He's not just talking about operations of note, he's explicitly saying that if the U.S. are not going into space, then no one is, and that's the end of civilisation as we know it.

So. "ugly American stereotype"? I dunno. It just seemed to be a thoughtless remark** which I thought deserved some snark. And I don't think it takes any manipulation of what he says to demonstrate that. Square peg. Square hole. No banging necessary.

*Dan Dare in-joke.
** A thoughtless remark from someone who thinks there's life in Afghanistan "If you call that livin'".
posted by Grangousier at 2:53 AM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So okay, we can find out whether that old PSA about lead poison that gave us nightmares as kids is on YouTube yet, or get back in touch with our middle school crushes on Facebook. That’s cool, I guess. But we could have walked on Mars.

If I could get in touch with my junior high crush, I would give up Mars. Mars? Fuck Mars.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:25 AM on July 25, 2011






Asian powers jostle for position amid vast mineral reserves and strategic oil pipelines, while West keeps bombing.
posted by adamvasco at 1:19 AM on July 31, 2011


Without an improved security situation those mineral reserves and pipeline deals are going nowhere.
posted by humanfont at 7:11 AM on July 31, 2011


China is expanding its footprint in Afghanistan.
The US wants China in Afghanistan as there is no military solution.
posted by adamvasco at 10:51 AM on July 31, 2011








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