Apollo 11 is nice and well, but we have other priorities now. We don’t focus on actual achievements, but on social remedies, never realizing that our social remedies were achieved as spinoffs of achievements and that social problems can only be solved as part of the upward ascent of a civilization. There’s no percentage in thinking that way. Not when there are a lot more jobs for servicing social dysfunction than there are going into space.
The core element of the space program was competence. It’s the same competence that allows us to still land jet planes every day, even if the rate of improvement in the technology slowed down long ago, or perform open heart surgery. But the number of professions in which competent counts has been decreasing over the years. And so has competence as a quality.
We have replaced confidence with attitude. And the difference between them is the same as the difference between a civilization and the savages outside. Confidence comes from competence. Attitude comes from rituals of pride uninformed by achievements.
Attitude is what actors, musicians and the endless swathe of reality television cretins project. And as a society, we value attitude more than competence because not everyone can have competence, but everyone can have attitude. Not everyone can walk on the moon, but everyone can work for the government.
We could go to the moon again, but why bother, as NASA’s chief, whose mission, as handed down to him by Barack Obama, was not space exploration, but the enhancement of Muslim self-esteem, told critics. And he’s right. Why bother? Back then, in those ancient days when men who are now in their eighties flew, we went to the moon as part of a larger plan and statement about our place in the universe.
We were going to go the moon and then to the planets beyond. We could find new frontiers, plant our flags, build colonies, jump from world to world, star to star, and turn our civilization into something more than another archeological dig. Maybe it was all just a crazy dream, but looking at the eyes of the men who did it and who died and die seeing it undone, there is that sense that they believed that it could be done.
Going to the moon was a crazy idea of course. Going beyond it would have been even crazier. Instead we settled down to the important things, like race relations, the importance of listening to music, breaking up the family, importing huge numbers of people with little use for our way of life and all the other stupid suicidal things that dying civilizations do to pass the time. The eagle landed in a mud puddle in D.C. The last men who walked on the moon will probably be dead within a decade.
We’ll tell our kids about it and they’ll shake their heads because what’s the big deal anyway? Everyone flies around in spaceships in all the movies. Why bother doing it in real life? They don’t bother doing anything in real life. And then they’ll go off to another class that will teach them how much carbon waste the space program added and how many super-hurricanes it caused and how much better off we are now that we no longer have cars, plastic bags or air conditioning.
We could have gone to the stars, but we took another road instead. Maybe we can still turn back to a time when we could do great things before it’s too late.