'To Boldly Grow' is the third of five sequences from the film
Tomorrow' (34m) presented here by itself as a single work.
TBG works as a stand-alone, because it focuses on the central problem raised by
TNT: the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet (such a statement
should not be controversial, but for a great many people today, it is
A little joy and strangeness came into my childhood around 1980 with the arrival of
'The Unexplained', a publication by Orbis. 165 issues were published; contributors / consultants / editors included Peter Brookesmith, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Professor A. J. Ellison, Brian Innes, Colin Wilson and Rupert Sheldrake. The tone of the magazine, contrary to popular perception, was more agnostic - many phenomena were actually debunked in the magazine, others left open.
I recently re-acquired my collection. This is the scan I made of issue #1. I'd like to make more - but it does take a shocking amount of time. Depends on how badly people squeak for episode #2.
Notice the absence of adverts (barring the one for the binder on the back
cover). Also notice the simplicity of the design/layout. There are rarely more
than two fonts per page, the text is spaced out for legibility, and there are no
stapled inserts with free samples for mens' cologne.
In the remarkable novella 'The Machine Stops' (1909), E.M. Forster described a system that
very closely resembles the internet and modern life.
from THE MACHINE STOPS by E.M. Forster (1909)
Then she generated the light, and the sight of her room, flooded with radiance and studded with electric
buttons, revived her. There were buttons and switches everywhere - buttons to call for food for music,
for clothing. There was the hot-bath button, by pressure of which a basin of (imitation) marble rose out
of the floor, filled to the brim with a warm deodorized liquid. There was the cold-bath button. There was
the button that produced literature. and there were of course the buttons by which she communicated with
her friends. The room, though it contained nothing, was in touch with all that she cared for in the world.
Vashanti"s next move was to turn off the isolation switch, and all the accumulations of the last three
minutes burst upon her. The room was filled with the noise of bells, and speaking-tubes. What was the new
food like? Could she recommend it? Has she had any ideas lately? Might one tell her one's own ideas? Would
she make an engagement to visit the public nurseries at an early date? - say this day month.
To most of these questions she replied with irritation - a growing quality in that accelerated age.
She said that the new food was horrible. That she could not visit the public nurseries through press of
engagements. That she had no ideas of her own but had just been told one-that four stars and three in the middle
were like a man: she doubted there was much in it. Then she switched off her correspondents, for it was time to
deliver her lecture on Australian music.
Vashanti's online lecture, which "lasted ten minutes" sounds a bit like TED, though more high-brow:
The clumsy system of public gatherings had been long since abandoned; neither Vashti nor her audience stirred
from their rooms. Seated in her armchair she spoke, while they in their armchairs heard her, fairly well, and
saw her, fairly well. She opened with a humorous account of music in the pre Mongolian epoch, and went on to
describe the great outburst of song that followed the Chinese conquest. Remote and primæval as were the methods
of I-San-So and the Brisbane school, she yet felt (she said) that study of them might repay the musicians of
today: they had freshness; they had, above all, ideas. Her lecture, which lasted ten minutes, was
well received, and at its conclusion she and many of her audience listened to a lecture on the sea;
there were ideas to be got from the sea; the speaker had donned a respirator and visited it lately. Then she
fed, talked to many friends, had a bath, talked again, and summoned her bed.
Today, these are called 'First-World problems':
The bed was not to her liking. It was too large, and she had a feeling for a small bed. Complaint was useless,
for beds were of the same dimension all over the world, and to have had an alternative size would have involved
vast alterations in the Machine. Vashti isolated herself-it was necessary, for neither day nor night existed
under the ground-and reviewed all that had happened since she had summoned the bed last. Ideas? Scarcely any.
Events-was Kuno"s invitation an event?
And just as today, the worship of the machine. Forster's imagination couldn't have run far enough to foresee the 'I f*cking love science' Facebook group, but this is pretty close!
By her side, on the little reading-desk, was a survival from the ages of litter-one book. This was the Book of
the Machine. In it were instructions against every possible contingency. If she was hot or cold or dyspeptic or
at a loss for a word, she went to the book, and it told her which button to press. The Central Committee published
it. In accordance with a growing habit, it was richly bound.
Sitting up in the bed, she took it reverently in her hands. She glanced round the glowing room as if some one
might be watching her. Then, half ashamed, half joyful, she murmured "O Machine!" and raised the volume to her
lips. Thrice she kissed it, thrice inclined her head, thrice she felt the delirium of acquiescence.
Even more impressive was Forster's prediction of the effect of the internet on human culture - which like own seems incapable of creating much that's original, with the exception of the occasional spiderman or x-men or star wars or star trek reboot prequel sequel.
"Beware of first- hand ideas!" exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. "First-hand ideas do not really exist.
They are but the physical impressions produced by life and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a
philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that
disturbing element - direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine - the French Revolution.
Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch thought Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought
LafcadioHearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution. Through the medium of these ten
great minds, the blood that was shed at Paris and the windows that were broken at Versailles will be clarified to
an idea which you may employ most profitably in your daily lives. But be sure that the intermediates are many and
varied, for in history one authority exists to counteract another. Urizen must counteract the scepticism of Ho-Yung
and Enicharmon, I must myself counteract the impetuosity of Gutch. You who listen to me are in a better position
to judge about the French Revolution than I am. Your descendants will be even in a better position than you, for
they will learn what you think I think, and yet another intermediate will be added to the chain. And in time" -
his voice rose - "there will come a generation that had got beyond facts, beyond impressions, a generation absolutely
colourless, a generation
From taint of personality,
which will see the French Revolution not as it happened, nor as they would like it to have happened, but as
it would have happened, had it taken place in the days of the Machine."
And Orwell, a couple of decades later, on the debasement of culture and food that was well underway even at that time (for those who need reminding that historical processes are usually longer than a single human lifespan):
from “The Road to Wigan Pier” by George Orwell, 1937
To begin with, there is the frightful debauchery of taste that has already been effected by a century of mechanisation.
This is almost too obvious and too generally admitted to need pointing out. But as a single instance, take taste in its
narrowest sense – the taste for decent food. In the highly mechanical countries, thanks to tinned food, cold
storage, synthetic flavouring matters, etc., the palate is almost a dead organ. As you can see by looking at any
greengrocer’s shop, what the majority of English people mean by an apple is a lump of highly-coloured cotton wool
from America or Australia; they will devour these things, apparently with pleasure, and let the English apples rot under
the trees. It is the shiny, standardized, machine-made look of the American apple that appeals to them; the superior
taste of the English apple is something they simply do not notice. Or look at the factory-made, foil wrapped cheeses
and ‘blended’ butter in an grocer’s; look at the hideous rows of tins which usurp more and more of
the space in any food-shop, even a dairy; look at a sixpenny Swiss roll or a twopenny ice-cream; look at the filthy
chemical by-product that people will pour down their throats under the name of beer.
Wherever you look you will see some slick machine-made article triumphing over the old-fashioned article that still
tastes of something other than sawdust. And what applies to food applies also to furniture, houses, clothes, books,
amusements and everything else that makes up our environment. These are now millions of people, and they are increasing
every year, to whom the blaring of a radio is not only a more acceptable but a more normal background to their thoughts
than the lowing of cattle or the song of birds. The mechanisation of the world could never proceed very far while taste,
even the taste-buds of the tongue, remained uncorrupted, because in that case most of the products of the machine would
be simply unwanted. In a healthy world there would be no demand for tinned food, aspirins, gramophones, gas-pipe chairs,
machine guns, daily newspapers, telephones, motor-cars, etc. etc.; and on the other hand there would be a constant
demand for the things the machine cannot produce. But meanwhile the machine is here, and its corrupting effects are
almost irresistible. One inveighs against it, but one goes on using it. Even a bare-arse savage, given the change, will
learn the vices of civilisation within a few months. Mechanisation leads to the decay of taste, the decay of taste leads
to demand for machine-made articles and hence to more mechanisation, and so a vicious circle is established.”
A work by an amazing man, Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri – his poem, the Luzumiyat. It consists of just over 100 quatrains. This is the 1920 translation by Ameen Rihani, whose book is posted in full, below. Al Ma’arri was a true skeptic, with a world-view that seems distinctly modern. I’ve pasted the text of the Luzumiyat at the top, then follow with the entire book, which is my corrected version of the doc on google’s site, which was riddled with computer generated typos. I’ve corrected them as best I can. I’ve also moved the quatrains from the middle of the book to the top – a better choice for a blog page.
It should be noted that most of the works of this famed agnostic were destroyed by the Crusaders when they flattened his hometown during one of their weekend excursions. More recently,
US/EU backed rebels in Syria decapitated his statue, in their quest for freedom.
Carouse, ye Sovereign Lords, the wheel will roll...
from THE LUZUMIYAT OF ABU’L-ALA
11 Ay, like the
circles which the sun doth spin Of gossamer, we end as we begin; Our feet
are on the heads of those that pass, But ever their Graves around our Cradles
15 With tombs and ruined temples groans the land In
which our forbears in the drifting sand Arise as dunes upon the track of Time
To mark the cycles of the moving hand
16 Of Fate. Alas! and we shall
follow soon Into the night eternal or the noon; The wayward daughters of
the spheres return Unto the bosom of their sun or moon.
Tread lightly, for the mighty that have been Might now
be breathing in the dust unseen; Lightly, the violets beneath thy feet
Spring from the mole of some Arabian queen.
19 Many a grave embraces
friend and foe Behind the curtain of this sorry show Of love and hate
inscrutable; alas! The Fates will always reap the while they sow.
21 And still we weave, and still we are content In slaving for the
sovereigns who have spent The savings of the toiling of the mind Upon the
glory of Dismemberment.
22 Nor king nor slave the hungry Days will
spare; Between their fanged Hours alike we fare: Anon they bound upon us
while we play Unheeding at the threshold of their Lair.
like a spider’s house or sparrow’s nest, The Sultan’s palace, though upon the
crest Of glory’s mountain, soon or late must go: Ay, all abodes to ruin
27 So, too, the creeds of Man: the one prevails Until
the other comes; and this one fails When that one triumphs; ay, the lonesome
world Will always want the latest fairy-tales.
“Indeed, it is becoming ever more obvious that it is not famine, not earthquakes, not microbes,
not cancer but man himself who is man’s greatest danger to man, for the simple reason that there is no adequate
protection against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating than the worst of natural catastrophes.
The supreme danger which threatens individuals as well as whole nations is a psychic danger. Reason has proved itself
completely powerless, precisely because its arguments have an effect only on the conscious mind and not on the unconscious.
The greatest danger of all comes from the masses, in whom the effects of the unconscious pile up cumulatively and the
reasonableness of the conscious mind is stifled. Every mass organization is a latent danger just as much as a heap of
dynamite is. It lets loose effects which no man wants and no man can stop. It is therefore in the highest degree
desirable that a knowledge of psychology should spread so that men can understand the source of the supreme dangers
that threaten them. Not by arming to the teeth, each for itself, can the nations defend themselves in the long run
from the frightful catastrophes of modern war. The heaping up of arms is itself a call to war. Rather must they
recognize those psychic conditions under which the unconscious [tsunami-like] bursts the dykes of consciousness and
“… We’re not reasonable and rational creatures. Far from it. We resort to reason when
it suits us. For most people life is comfortable today, and we have the spare time to be unreasonable if we choose to be.
We’re like bored children. We’ve been on holiday for too long, and we’ve been given too many presents.
Anyone who’s had children knows that the greatest danger is boredom. Boredom, and a secret pleasure in one’s
own malice. Together they can spur a remarkable ingenuity.
You’ve seen the people around here. Their lives are empty. Install a new kitchen, buy another car, take a trip to
some beach hotel.
People are bored, even though they don’t realize it … There’s one thing left that can put some energy
into their lives, give them a sense of direction … Madness … A willed insanity, the sort that we higher
primates thrive on.”
”Elective insanity is waiting inside us, waiting inside us to come out when we need it. We’re talking primate
behaviour at its most extreme. Witch-hunts, auto-da-fes, heretic burnings, the hot poker shoved up the enemy’s rear,
gibbets along the skyline. Willed madness can infect a housing estate or a whole nation.
This may go some way to explaining some of the shock and apparent lack of unpreparedness of the world’s nations to the
various events that blindside them:
“The SNAFU Principle”, explained by Robert Anton Wilson:
It’s what I call the “snafu principle.” Communication only occurs between equals–real
communication, that is–because when you are dealing with people above you in a hierarchy, you learn not to
tell them anything they don’t want to hear. If you tell them anything they don’t want to hear, the
response is, “One more word Bumstead and I’ll fire you!” Or in the military, “One more
word and you’re court-martialed.” It’s throughout the whole system.
So the higher up in the hierarchy you go, the more lies are being told to flatter those above them. So those
at the top have no idea what is going on at all. Those at the bottom have to adjust to the rules made by those
at the top who don’t know what’s going on. Those at the top can write rules about this, that and the
other, while those at the bottom have got to adjust reality to fit the rules as much as they can.
So I call this the burden of omniscience: those on the top are supposed to be doing the seeing, hearing, smelling,
tasting, and all the sensing, apprehending and conceptualizing for the whole society and those at the bottom have
to adjust to what those at the top think based on all the misinformation flowing up in a hierarchy where
any speaking of the truth can get you punished.
digital orrery. It has two settings: Earth centered (Tychonian), and Sun centered (Copernican). You can select any time to see the positions of the planets, by clicking on the outer ring at the zodiac:
This is about the abuse of the first-person plural, or WE-Syndrome.
WS is nicely demonstrated by the British Comedy duo, Mitchell and Webb, using the example of a typical sports
“Most people are not rational, they are TRIBAL: “my gang yay,
your gang boo!” It really is that simple. The rest is cosmetics.”
If only WE-syndrome was limited to sports fans! When reading sites like
theoildrum.com for analysis of Peak Oil and resource news, WE-syndrome
is there as sure as herpes. Comments such as these are common:
“WE need to build x amount of solar panels…”; “All WE need to do is switch
to Geothermal…”; “Once WE make breakthroughs in thin-film solar
panels…” etc. etc. etc
Who is this “WE”?
We-people write as if they were part of a collective, sharing mutual influence and power (having a "national conversation",
as in that awful PR cliche). In thread after thread, various individuals will
propose the solution. It always involved “US”…and “OUR” options…things that “WE” would do to solve the problem. The delusion of 'having a say' serves to
distract these people from the fact that they're impotent.
Systemic problems do have systemic solutions - but sadly, any attempts at
collective action are soon hampered by the inability of the participants to
engage in any real, meaningful action (the sort that requires real-world
On the SF website io9.com, this abuse of “WE” can
reach comical proportions, where writing in the first person plural is the
'house style'. At the announcement of a new scientific breakthrough, the headline will almost invariably be a variant of “WE may have made an amazing breakthrough in materials…”, or “WE have found an amazing new planet”. Correction! WE did no such thing. Scientists and engineers, after years of rigorous study, hard work and sacrifice have made the discovery or breakthrough. WE did diddly squat, other than READ about it on the internet – and fund it through a
very small percentage of total taxation.
Whenever there’s a dark story on the above mentioned io9.com, there’s an abrupt difference in emphasis. A
recent example being the accidental destruction of a rare beach ecosystem caused by the filming of the TV show “Game of Thrones”. The article read:
“…one environmentalist is calling HBO real-life (bad guys): They covered a protected
beach in Malta with fake sand, resulting in “total elimination” of the ecosystem.”.
It did not read:
“WE may have destroyed a rare ecosystem”.
Why is it “WE” when something good happens, but “THEY” when something bad happens? This is the "I didn't do it"
mentality of Bart Simpson.
If a new Pixar movie comes out, would the headline read:
“WE have just made another animated classic”?
The idea is absurd and insulting to the animators who toiled for years on the project - but it’s no less
silly to take credit for scientific breakthroughs that belong to others, surely?
Doug Stanhope gets comedy out of the Xenophopic/Chickenhawk/Jingo abuse of We:
And deep ecologist Derrick Jensen (who, ironically, over-uses the first
person frequently) does a funny takedown of “WE”, and exposes the psychological process of “Identification” that underlies it.
Orson Welles provides 2m30s of insight. From “F For Fake” (1974):
And this has been standing here for centuries. The premier work of man
perhaps in the whole western world, and it’s without a signature: Chartres.
A celebration to God’s glory and to the dignity of man. All that’s left most
artists seem to feel these days, is man. Naked, poor, forked, radish. There
aren’t any celebrations.
Ours, the scientists keep telling us, is a
universe which is disposable. You know, it might be just this one anonymous
glory of all things, this rich stone forest, this epic chant, this gaiety, this
grand choiring shout of affirmation, which we choose when all our cities are
dust, to stand intact, to mark where we have been, to testify to what we had it
in us, to accomplish.
Our works in stone, in paint, in print are spared,
some of them for a few decades, or a millennium or two, but everything must
finally fall in war or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash. The
triumphs and the frauds, the treasures and the fakes.
A fact of life.
We’re going to die.
“Be of good heart,” cry the dead artists out of the
living past. Our songs will all be silenced — but what of it?