If you are not familiar with this phrase, you should be – these are the words one must utter to prevent the earth from being utterly reduced to a burned-out cinder. At least, that’s the story line from the classic 1951 science fiction film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still".
For those not familiar with the film’s plot; an alien ship from a far away solar system is dispatched to inform the Earthlings that their progress has not gone unnoticed among the Community of Planets. In actually their message for the inhabitants of Earth is a bit more draconian: they are compelled to deliver a stern warning to the aggressive and warlike human race against expanding their barbaric proclivities to the other peaceful planets. Oh and in case further admonishment proves inadequate for Earthlings to fully grasp; constable Gort, here (a robot), will ardently and dispassionately enforce the intergalactic law with absolute and devastating consequences.
The rather dire plot from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” was a product of our national fears of mutually-assured nuclear annihilation during the height of the Cold War. It was a time when many of my generation were taught to Duck and Cover in response to a surprise nuclear attack on our country.
But in thinking about this film I was drawn recently to ponder the method that space visitor Klaatu engaged in his attempt to convey his message to the whole of earth – he chose to seek out the best minds, the top scientists, the brightest intellects, in the hope that THEY would be the ones most likely to comprehend and successfully convince the global population of the dire nature of the message. It made me wonder – now, at a time when it seems we need it more than ever, where are the voices of the best minds, the scientists, the intellectuals today?
We are supposed to be living in The Information Age, yet our mass media is awash in an unmilled proliferation of facts, lies, opinions, conjecture and utter nonsense. Much of it is packaged as entertainment; quite often it is difficult to sort out which is which. Add to that the desire to pander to the lowest common denominator, packaged in sound bites, blurbs, jargon and catch phrases.
It’s no wonder we have trouble reconciling the limitless spectrum of ideas floating around. Recently the Boston Globe published a story (which was picked up by National Public Radio) reporting how facts SELDOM change people’s minds and can actually instead further confirm incorrect information in people’s minds.
There are hundreds of scientific, psychological, economic, sociological and other research organizations throughout the world which appear virtually untapped. Add to that the universities and foundations doing serious work (and I am not talking about political “spin” factory think tanks). Yet instead we are awash in the sea of banal talk show blather, profound stupidity and outright disinformation. And frankly, I’m getting quite fed up with the ubiquitous idiocy of Sarah Palin at every turn.
The base elements who have garnered most attention as of the last decade are blatantly anti-intellectual. Indeed, one of the prime “criticisms” leveled toward Obama during his campaign was that he was an “intellectual” (like that's a bad thing???) Twice the electorate demonstrated that Americans apparently preferred someone who was just like them; a dolt who they could share a beer with. (Unbeknownst to most of them, George Bush was a recovering alcoholic; he didn’t drink beer. But again, who needs facts!) These are now the very same simpletons who are decrying that the current administration is leading us into Communism or Fascism… complete with poster pictures of Obama with a Hitler moustache.
Yet frighteningly history records that the first steps that all Fascists regimes took on their road to power was to round up the intellectuals. Hitler did it, Stalin and Pol Pot as well… the list is long and it continues in areas of this globe even today. The intellectuals represent thought, reason, critical thinking – in short, potential opposition to those who would truly oppress us.
So that’s my question:
WHERE ARE THE VOICES OF THE BEST MINDS, THE TOP SCIENTISTS, THE BRIGHTEST INTELLECTS? And more importantly, when will they begin to become more fully engaged in the process of stewardship over our nations and our future?