People don’t refer to the Middle Ages as the “Dark Ages” as frequently as they used to. I guess we figured out that things weren’t as dark as we previously thought or something. Still, I hope we can all grasp the concept of a “dark age” metaphorically. And if we think about it for more than thirty seconds, we can see that we’re in a dark age right now.
That’s right, I said it. We’re in a New Dark Age.
Okay, it’s true that there was some light in the Dark Ages, just as there is some light in the New Dark Age. I’m talking about an over-arching theme here, not writing a doctoral thesis. As Dr. McCoy would say, “I’m a writer not a History professor.”
Star Trek is a great way to frame my theme because that show was a bright and shiny view of the future. Gene Roddenberry (the show’s creator, in case you were raised under a rock) thought that things were going to be so bright we’d all have to wear shades. I think he saw people waking up to the evils of racism and protesting the Vietnam War, saw all the technological advances and the booming space program, and he thought that we really were at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
But the reality is that we are like the tribbles in Star Trek, the little creatures who fucked their brains out and then starved to death in a storage container full of grain. We continue to multiply on an overpopulated world and, though we’re steeped in mind-boggling technological advancements, we’re starved for intellectual nutrition and meaning.
We’re camping in line for a week to get the new iPhone, but there are no lines forming to get 40 acres and mule at the new Mars colony so we can ease population pressure here. Nobody’s pre-ordering that new cheap, easily installed hyper-insulation for their existing home, or even standing on queue to ride that new super-efficient mass transit system, because those things haven’t been invented yet. World saving isn’t sexy and it doesn’t pay. Not like app-cloning, social media development, and stock brokering do. I guess that’s why so many of our promising young minds are headed to Silicon Valley and Wall Street.
In Roddenberry’s day we were dreaming of the stars, planning our first manned space shot, and thinking of going to the Moon. We were evolving spiritually too. New Age philosophy was drawing its first breath and Wicca was starting to take off. The Unitarian Universalist Church formed in ’61. Minds were opening up to new possibilities. Things were looking up.
Fifty years later: the space program is abandoned and we’re mired in endless wars. We’re getting dumber and dumber every year. We’ve literally and metaphorically given up on trying to “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.” We’re no longer seeking out new worlds inner or outer, no longer trying to find new lives and new civilizations here or elsewhere. Like the Roman Emperor Nero, we’re fiddling on electric devices while the earth burns, reducing communication to 6 seconds and/or 140 characters, and cracking each other up in the Reddit r/atheism thread.
What we need is a new Renaissance. We ushered one in before and we can do it again. In the ’60s the saying was “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” In the 10s it should be “Turn off (the gadgets), tune in, drop out.” If we wake up and get our butts in gear, that should be no tribble at all.