Actually, this column is titled “De-evolution, or Long Distance Pissing on the Moon,” but I didn’t think that would be the most genteel headline, so I waffled.
Regardless, I am amazed at the lengths we supposedly evolved and intelligent creatures go to in order to be utterly animalistic, and I don’t mean in drastic and outrageous ways either. We all know about our random acts of savage indifference to one another. It’s hard to think of Rwanda, Darfur, hell, even a family basement in Austria and assume we’re an advanced species. But these are extraordinary totems. Think of some of our more mundane acts, how we just can’t leave a place untouched or unsullied. We have to jump in, wipe our bums on the scenery and do a little victory dance in our wake.
Dunphy, you may comment, you’re overreacting. Okay, maybe I am, but perhaps I need to make my case a bit clearer. If we take it down to the feline species, the cute little housecat, and add a brand new wall-to-wall carpet, chances are that we’ll soon be seeing that same fuzzbucket dispensing a liter or so of Mine, All Mine on it. In nature, it’s called marking one’s territory. Moving up to our closest biological ancestor, the ape, we find similar traits. Gorillas don’t come across their own feces and wonder, “However am I to dispose of this?” They generally throw it or wipe it on the wall, a symbol of boundary. My kingdom, my poop.
This had little to do with a recent drive home from work, windows rolled down, car stereo playing something catchy. I was feeling pretty good. The weather felt decidedly spring-like, a rarity in New Jersey. Ordinarily we have prolonged periods of cold and then, the next day, right into the ’80s and air conditioning for the next five months. No, I was doing alright … until I saw this: a billboard proudly proclaiming “Moonvertising Is Coming.” A heaviness immediately landed in the pit of my gut. It also provided a website, which I checked out when I got home.
Sure enough, one of the last places not marred by modern marketing feces was, presumably, no longer safe. Rolling Rock Beer proudly announced that it would be projecting their logo on the face of every full moon, enticing thirsty werewolves and AA lunatics everywhere to take a suck off the rock. By using a strong but low-level laser, the image could be “projected” onto the moon face, although it is more likely that the image would have been caught up in the atmosphere between. But like the cat with the fresh, clean carpet or the ape with a handful of poo, the fact that someone looked up at the majesty of the night sky and said, “Damn, I could put a beer ad there” seemed somehow demeaning to the whole human species. I was relieved weeks later when our own Jason Hare pointed out to me it was an advertising stunt, but only slightly. You see, at one point in the past, we would have known instinctively this wouldn’t happen. We once respected boundaries. Now in this age of sprawl, a simple ad prank — inflicted on the wary and weary like myself and so many others –not only seems feasible but inevitable.
I’ve been down on the business of space for a decade now. It’s a lot different than my early, nerdy days informed by Star Wars and anything that left a vapor trail. Now all I see is a lot of money that would be better utilized down here being sent out there, a knife-wound of fire and gas being stabbed through an already scarred ozone layer and, on the whole, for what? Yet another battery of tests to see mold spores and mice doin’ it in Zero-G? What are we gaining and who are we fooling? Recall, if you will, how shortly after one of George W. Bush’s many, many, many continental brain farts he had an announcement: we were going to Mars! Oh joy! Oh rapture! Abu Ghraib, what’s that? Clearly, Dubya was trying to pull a Kennedy-esque deflection, pointing toward the heavens to divert attention from our earthbound troubles.
During the Cold War, the Space Race served double duty. Going to and landing on the moon was a cover story, the acceptable face for the actual race to get spy satellites up and reporting in. It’s a race we won, of course, and in the process we left a bunch of crap up there on the surface, but the nice thing is that we saved at least one American flag from those wacky flag burners (can’t set a fire where there’s no oxygen, so nyaah nyaah!!).
But what did we gain from that specific action? How was science advanced? Was it all just advertising for an overt aim while sheltering a covert goal? Thirty-eight years later, our preoccupation with outer space remains less about mystery and wonder and more about finding new places to park our junk, be it one-time vehicles or facades or the MacGuffin for crass ads. I see the same thing happening on earth, the way we just keep spreading out, the virus of progress or so-called progress. In my hometown, we’re suffering the same housing crash as everyone else. In any given neighborhood you can find at least five homes for sale. Some want out, while others are being forced out by financial misfortune. And yet the small remaining patches of woodland areas are still being plowed under by the likes of K. Hovnanian and Centex. If no one can afford to live in the old homes, why do they keep building new?
Again, it goes back to de-evolution, the rationale that thinks maybe this turd would go nicely over there. See, townships get a surge of money whenever there are construction projects. Workers work, they spend money in local shops, they take out plenty of licenses and permits. Citizens of said town will complain, “You’re ruining the reasons why we moved here!”
The township councils respond, “This growth will put money into our local economy, strengthening the infrastructure, lowering your individual tax burdens!”
The residents say, “Well, okay then!” Down come the woods, up go the condos, McMansions and ugly office parks. The office parks flourish for a year or so and are then abandoned for cheaper digs built on someone else’s remaining batch of trees. The vacancies cause a drain. And in the homes you end up with new residents. That means more tax monies coming in and it is better for all, right? Wrong! More people require more money for infrastructure repair, damaged and overused roads, stress on utilities, more schools for more kids — essentially, everyone needs to pay in more because there are more who need. We lost the corner park, the financial incentive and all the perks of that small-town life. For the cost of suffering a few acres of undeveloped land we gained yet another Dunkin’ Donuts.
The point I’m trying to make is that a society for which nothing is sacred is a society that constantly destroys while it thinks it’s creating. It’s a cat that pisses on the rug because it has to stake its claim. All the reverse psycho-engineering in the world can’t turn it into a political statement, an intellectual act or a desirable goal. It’s just an animal reflecting its nature. If human nature is nothing more than the same smear-job dressed up in the threat of a clever lightshow, how can we claim to be advanced? Does it matter that it was a stunt or is it endemic of a psychology that respects nothing? Why can’t we just leave good things be? Why can’t we just say “no” once in a while?