Capitalism and The Beast

A humorous look at late 20th Century history as we turn to a new millennium.

Written February, 1997 by Russell D. Hoffman, technologist, futurist, humanist, computer programmer and essayist.

This is a true story. If you read this and you are already familiar with these facts, hopefully you will still enjoy the way I've strung them together. If you are unfamiliar with these facts, then I hope this story opens your eyes wider than they've ever been opened before.

Who Killed The Beast?

'Twas Chernobyl, killed the beast.

Surely there is not a soul in Kiev who wants to live there, who is anything more than an imbecile, and a wretchedly poor one at that.

President Ronald Reagan went to the unified Germany and stood by the Berlin Wall acting so proud and victorious, and our generals and politicians all thumped their chests, but they had nothing to smile about, really. They hadn't done a thing. Or if they had, it wasn't what they thought. They didn't beat Communism. Communism beat itself. Beat itself to death.

Communism collapsed under its own lies. And the precipitating lie was Chernobyl. Trying to lie about Chernobyl backfired, and it made all the other lies so obvious to the population that the leaders could not survive. They were toppled in country after country across eastern Europe.

This is a fact that historians will hardly deny.

Every report I've heard -- from friends and family who have visited there, from little pieces of news reports, from entire network shows about it -- indicates clearly that the real reason Communism collapsed was because of the weight of its lies. And the weightiest lie of them all -- the biggest mistake the Communist leaders committed -- was trying to hide a huge, smouldering, radioactive dead elephant called Chernobyl. It didn't work. The people's intelligence was insulted once too often. No government that would try to hide the horrors of Chernobyl could possibly be a benevolent government. Later, the Communist leaders tried to open up about Chernobyl, but it was too little, and it was too late. The people had had enough. Whole pillars of Communist society came tumbling down.

Some things last a lifetime. Some don't.

The real lie started, of course, when they built the wretched thing in the first place. Chernobyl had no chance of ever fulfilling humanity's dream of cheap, clean energy.

That is all man ever dreams of, really.

Besides staying alive as a species, that is. Do you dream of sports cars? That's energy you're dreaming about. Raw, powerful, V-8 energy. Have you ever wanted to be an astronaut and go to the moon someday? That takes A LOT of energy! But it can be done. Do you like to read? Energy brought you the paper or the electrons or the transmission you are reading or hearing right now.

Everything in life, from dollars to donuts to dredging operations, takes and gives energy to "the system". For many economists, the cash system is the ultimate barter coin, but really it is energy. Dollars and other cash systems fluctuate in value more on the basis of current energy costs than anything else, when averaged over time. This is because every step of every process of everything we do can be translated into it's energy equivalent -- you don't need dollars at all, really. They are just a big mathematical gimmick mankind has come up with, in order to facilitate the barter of the real coin -- energy.

Our Government Lies to Us.

It lies in big ways and it lies in small ways. It supports coverups and obfuscations. It makes you follow one story while it secretly does the things that really are news. For example in early 1997 NASA announced that the Russian part of the proposed space station Freedom may not be good enough. The reason? They (NASA) estimate that the shielding on the Russian portion will not be able to withstand the random collisions with space debris currently in orbit (mostly man-made). NASA estimates that the Russian portion might be hit by a catastrophic piece of space debris once every 30 years. NASA doesn't like this. 30 years is not good enough for NASA. NASA is mad at Russia.

NASA Builds Things Much Better Than The Russians Do.

They really do. On this NASA and most environmentalists agree. NASA says the American portion of the space station is safe. On this, NASA and the environmentalists disagree. NASA says our portion is safe against the random collisions with space debris which mankind has placed in orbit over the past four decades or so. NASA says that our portion of the space station is safe because, in NASA's opinion, a catastrophic accident is "unlikely" to occur within 50 years. 30 years. 50 years. That is not a big difference!

It's a crap-shoot up there anyway! NASA does not track any piece of space debris smaller than about the size of a softball (it tracks over 9,000 of those, but not very well.) But something the size of a small marble is big enough to "catastrophically" destroy any portion of the space station -- Russian, American or European! What we're talking about is something the size of a pea! NASA's is better than Russia's because it can withstand a slightly larger pea!

The reason so small a piece can do so much damage is threefold: First, everything up there travels at speeds around 25,000 miles per hour or faster; the space station, the marbles -- everything. Second, it costs a lot of money to put big, bulky shields on space stations. Third, a seal can be damaged by even a small speck traveling at 25,000+ miles per hour, let alone a marble coming head-on at a closing speed above 50,000 miles per hour!

But This Is Not What We Hear.

Russia doesn't have much money. Nor do the Europeans. And nor do we. So we all make do with lower safety standards, and NASA gets all upset and jumps up and down and stammers about how bad the Russian portion is. And NASA does this, not because it is relevant, but simply to take the heat off of NASA.

NASA complains about the Russian space station, and all the media fall for it, and report to you that something is being done about the problem of SPACE DEBRIS, but it's a bunch of malarky. Neither the Russian portion, nor the European portion, nor the American portion is very well protected against the very junk that NASA and other space agencies have been carelessly placing in orbit for the last four decades! The true news is that NASA and other space agencies are continuing to pollute Near Earth Orbit at an incredible rate. Every piece of junk we leave up there makes every mission which follows just that much more dangerous. It's NOT like leaving a wrench on the ground. It's like leaving a bullet perpetually in flight.

And even many environmentalists are fooled. NASA is concerned about one thing: It's funding. And it sees only one way to get funding: present the right image to America. They don't care about what they do. They only care about what they look like.

Behind the curtain of lies and misinformation is a tangled web of deceit and corruption, of backdoor deals and golf-course handshakes. NASA lies. Government lies. And Americans, fooled by the lies, ignore the real facts. In the case of the Space Station Freedom, it's a boondoggle. 30 years. 50 years. What's the difference? Both are guesses -- they don't know when a piece of junk will hit a spacecraft. They can only estimate some goofball odds. And somewhere in the calculations NASA adds several orders of magnitude to the remoteness of an accident (making it appear less likely to occur). And somewhere else in the calculations they remove several orders of magnitude when they talk about what the health effects might be if an accident actually does occur (making it appear less catastrophic than it actually would be).

For example NASA estimated the chance of a shuttle accident at about 1 in 100,000 before the Challenger explosion. After? About 1 in 73. And NASA estimates the number of deaths from cancer from a Cassini high-level incineration at only three to four thousand people around the world, but many responsible physicians put the estimate as much as 1000 times higher! NASA has made things look 1000 times safer merely by ignoring the reports of some dissenting -- but highly credentialed -- first-rate scientists! And they very likely have underestimated the likelihood of an accident by about the same amount but in the other direction! The effect is cumulative: Things are about a million times worse than NASA wants to admit. That's a lot.

NASA and Reality Are Worlds Apart.

NASA would destroy this planet, and the next one, and the next one after that, in order to get your funding, but they'll tell you they are the highest order of high tech wizardry that mankind has achieved. One small step indeed! Mankind took one small step, and stepped in something. NASA needs to come clean.

NASA is Only a Symptom.

They are an extreme example, but other Government policies, from weapons to forests to diets, are designed for businesses, corporations, military agendas, and bureaucrats, not for the people. Government lies. But they are not alone.

Our Media Lies to Us.

It lies by not presenting the truth. It lies because it knows that it can present most of us with a 60-second version of something, which might represent thousands of pages of testimony, and we will decide what we as a people should do based not on the thousand pages of testimony (even if they are available on the Web) but on the media's sound bites.

It lies to us by not presenting both sides of issues. Instead, it presents a scientific side and a ghostly, superstitious side. Or it presents a scientific side and a corporate spokesperson side, and the PR person has no idea of the facts even as they pertain to the story, let alone its global ramifications. But they are well-trained in getting media attention. That is what they are good at, and that is all they are good at. But they're very good at it!

Presenting both sides would actually mean giving two opposing scientists airtime. Instead they give the scientist 60 seconds, and, with his years of work and burdensome pages of proofs which have been approved by fellow scientists, he must compete against a dogma that some knucklehead has been spouting, and that his predecessor before him has been spouting, for centuries.

Are we an enlightened people or aren't we?

That poor scientist! He should be competing against a scientist who has also done the research and taken the time to prove his position. THAT'S fair reporting! But instead his reports are matched against some famous nitwit who preaches a dogma of dissent against anything new or complex, or worse yet, he is up against some astrologer or other mystic who repeats that doing this or that is wrong or inevitable or proves nothing anyway. Or repeats some factoid like: "So many other people's cousin's have seen a UFO, that they must exist." As scientists like to say: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Bring me the body.

To the scientific mind, miracles don't happen. Yet this world could sure use a miracle, it's true. But it would have to be on a scale so vast, that the likes of which no one has ever seen or written about! 40 days and nights of flooding now would only exacerbate the problem and swirl our piles of pollutants around and about! We need a bigger miracle than that! And we are going to have to provide it ourselves.

Reality stinks.

But that's the reality. Yes, a miracle might happen. But it's not what we should be planning for. We should be planning to do the work ourselves and it starts by stopping. We have to stop making things worse, day-in and day-out, before we can ever hope to make things better. This planet is in sad, sad shape and only a nearly-universal attitude adjustment can save it. When the best the U.S. Government can do to save the planet is publish commemorative endangered species stamps, something is seriously out of kilter.

What Hasn't Been Proven To Exist Might Still Exist.

And if it does, so what? What's the point? Do we base our own behaviors on fears or dreams of what might exist, or on what is a reality right in front of our faces, right now as we speak to each other (or read this online)? Yes, a miracle might solve all our problems. But it would have to be a pretty big miracle, and it would have to happen mighty soon.

The Missing Miracle: Our Rational Behavior.

Human beings have the power to fix this planet. But we have to base our behavior on the choices that are presented to us by Nature, or by God, or by whatever means it has happened that we are here. We cannot wait for a miracle: We have to be the miracle!

You mean me?

Each of us, on this tiny, fragile planet ... We are not really going anywhere else, and we are not really here for very long. Each of us, and even all of us as a species, are but a small speck in the cosmos. But we are each a big piece of our own existence. We matter to our family, and we matter to our friends. We matter to our children most of all, and to our children's children and so on ad infinitum. Or ad nauseum. Which will we provide for our decendents? A future that is nauseating, or one that is nice? We control the destiny of future generations. Our own children's children. That is a responsibility one should not take lightly.

If there is a God and He is watching us, fine. More power to us. I think that's wonderful. But whether there is or there isn't, or He is or He isn't: What should we do next?

Let's all foul our little space around us and make everything yecchy and stinky and disgusting and wretched and dangerous and poisonous and radioactive.

Or better yet, let's not.

We own this planet -- we run it. We grease it, we oil it, we clean it's spark plugs. We eliminate and eradicate the species we don't like--even the peoples we don't like. We drive this poor little planet as hard as we can. But there's a limit to what it can take. We can, for example, eliminate species with ease, but we are a long and torturous way from being able to create them. We can observe evolution but we cannot duplicate it, for it is a global experiment. And whether God is watching us or not, He has not shown us a solution to the wretched state we have made of this planet.

We have to find that solution ourselves. If it exists, it is within us. It's within each of us to know the truth.

The Commies Got There First.

They tasted the foul odor of cover-ups and lies. They saw the deformities, they lost their friends and family. They died. They are still dying.

We are not far behind. We are a nation of polluters and we are vile in the way we attack other species, and other peoples, and most stunning of all -- our own decendents. While building Hoover Dam to last 3,000 years as a working hydroelectric dam, we build nuclear stockpiles to fight against an enemy that doesn't exist. We ply the seas with giant megadeathships filled to the brim with poisons of all sorts daring anyone to oppose us.

This is not the behavior of the righteous, it is the behavior of the bully.

While Saddam Hussien's troops were burning the oil fields of Kuwait in the biggest act of mass ecological terrorism the world has seen, we were firing several million shells of depleted uranium pellets into the same soil, pellets which are not nearly as benign as they may sound. We were bombing their infrastructure--dams, dikes, levees, power stations, bridges, tunnel entrances, transmission lines--we knocked them back to somewhere around the 16th century, in 90 days or so of intensive "pinpoint" bombing.

We even bombed a nuclear power plant! The health effects of that action will continue for many centuries. Long after the sands of the desert have covered up Saddam's infernal mess and Saddam himself, and all of us, are laid out in our graves, the bombed-out reactor will be releasing its toxins to the environment. We did this. What have we to say for ourselves? Or to the people whom even President Bush said at the time we have no quarrel with (only with their leader)? What have we to say to their children, or their children's children? We did this, when we didn't even have a quarrel with them? Imagine what we might have done, if we had been angry!

And we hardly bloodied our own noses. War without blood, practically, we thought. A few deaths from friendly fire, and a few skirmishes with the enemy, but really: Hardly anything. We could go out and do it like this every year. War without blood.

War without whose blood?

War without our blood, that is.

And we did this with our wizardry weaponry: With laser-guided, high-tech, globally-positioned, fire-and-forget, over-the-horizon, terrain-following, Hussien-seeking missiles. We blew up schools and mosques (by accident, of course) and T.V. stations and apartment buildings. Of course, we missed one little thing -- the madman in the middle.

We have made war imaginable again -- we imagine we can wage a war and not get hurt at all. It's almost true! What will stop us from waging war when we are sure that only the enemy, and not one American, will be killed? Morality? Is that the only defense other people will have against an attack from us? No. They will still have infiltration and terrorism within our borders. And as an open nation, a nation of peoples from other nations, we cannot close the borders. We cannot deport or jail all the insurgents that could possibly try to hurt us. If we have learned nothing else in the last few years, as terrorism hit home, we must have at least learned that we are vulnerable from within. A free nation will always be vulnerable from within. And for all our weaponry, the best in the world, we have one stated goal--to live as free people.

Let's stay on target.

We have to know what's really going on before we can change our behavior. Each of us has a role to play in presenting these truths to ourselves and to others. Only by admitting what is really happening can we expect to change our behavior.

Be well-read, and be skeptical. The news is not the news. The free society is not free. And the mess we've made, we will have to sleep in until such time as we choose, as a people, to clean it up.

by Russell D. Hoffman

Copyright (c) 1997 by Russell D. Hoffman

A followup article titled Alternatives to NASA was posted online in early March, 1997. It discusses aliens, space travel, and what NASA could be doing.
The author would like to add the following to this World Wide Web Page: Please distribute this document IN ITS ENTIRETY or request written permission to excerpt. Please link to it rather than placing it on another server. Thank you.
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Written February 20-22nd, 1997.
First published online February 22nd, 1997.
Last modified March 27th, 1997.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman