One of the biggest reasons why I don’t look forward to elections and rush to shut off all political news shows in earshot is that today’s politics simply infuriate me. From giving clueless dullards inordinate sway over our scientific development to debates by soundbyte and out of context quotes, it’s as if a nefarious committee went over the legal codices of civics and representative democracy with a fine tooth comb while wondering what they could do to make everything from voting to public political discourse as pointless or painfully vapid as humanly possible. My claims to expertise in civics aren’t exactly on par with those of Constitutional lawyers to put it mildly, just an AP class on law and government in my senior year in high school. But I don’t think that you need a doctorate in political science to howl with rage and frustration when conspiracy theories from Coast 2 Coast Radio become a major political party’s platform for science.
For the sake of FSM’s noodle-wrapped meatballs, what is wrong with these people? Yes, once again we’re dealing with their paranoia of Agenda 21, the toothless, vaguely worded collection of lofty ideas which amount to endorsements for free trade zones, observing basic human rights, a call for sustainable development if it tickles the signatories not to dump a few million barrels filled with toxic waste into the ocean on a regular basis, and using their powers wisely. Signatories on the agenda can’t be punished for not following through, there are no specific metrics for them to hit, and there’s no tax or legislative measure that the U.N. can levy to compel the countries to go through with what the agenda says. Yet in the minds of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones, pundits who are so afflicted with paranoia it’s almost tempting to ask if they’re suffering from a condition that should be diagnosed and treated rather than blasted across the airwaves, Agenda 21 is a New World Order wish list that nations must follow under threat of force.
Agenda 21 has been a favorite hobbyhorse of Glenn Beck, who argues that it is a covert means of achieving “centralized control over all of human life on planet Earth” as well as Alex Jones’ all-purpose conspiracy theory clearinghouse Infowars, which calls it a “globalist death plan for humanity.”
Globalist death plan for humanity? Do these dimwits listen to themselves? It’s like getting a little heavy handed advice from a stranger on where you should park your car in a busy city center, then lashing out that you’re being threatened with beatings and arrest if you park your car on a different street corner. And yet, this is what the regressive wing of the GOP is doing, questioning whether new bike paths, parking meters, or a change in the zoning laws was dictated by a death panel from the U.N. plotting to take their guns and put them in reeducation camps North Korea-style. Now, in a rational democracy, the parties would laugh, point out that Agenda 21 has about as much bark as a newborn kitten and about as much bite behind it as that passive aggressive text you might get from an old ex, and go on with the business of actually running the nation. Not today. No, today the Republican Party kowtows to every right wing follower of InfoWars, Prison Planet, and rabid Beck fanatic. It’s one thing to have a "big tent," it’s another thing to turn your party into a circus ran by proud ignoramuses who take their marching orders from lunatics.
Meanwhile, a seemingly unrelated article from the same source by David Rothkopf laments the loss of a time when the government inspired research and development projects on a massive scale, projects that took us to the Moon and turned so much science fiction into science fact. I’m obviously aware that the processes involved were not idyllic and we shouldn’t get all misty eyed about the peak of the Cold War. However, Rothkopf makes an important point that makes tech-obsessed, scientifically educated nerds like me want to say "yes, yes, a thousand times yes!" In the 21st century we need a government that turns to knowledge and cutting edge technology for permanent solutions to an economic malaise, and for which a knowledge-based economy isn’t just a trendy buzzword for having a majority of the GDP being generated in the services sector, but a commitment to research and development. We need hyper-efficient 3D printing factories that put Chinese cheap labor to shame by matching their cost and greatly exceeding the quality of the products they make. We need a thriving space program that creates tens of thousands of jobs and can lay the groundwork for making money from space travel.
Instead we have hysterical soundbyte fights, conspiracy theories, and voters who have no idea how their taxes are being spent asking where the jobs are while dismissing their best bet on an entirely new economy through scientific innovation as a pointless waste of money by a cabal of godless, communist heathens on the right, and either malicious, profit-driven exploitation of the public by global syndicates, or misguided materialism of the left-brained on the left. If you allow me to paraphrase a titan of science fiction, Isaac Asimov, they seem to believe that democracy means that their ignorance is just as important as others’ knowledge and instead of saying no to their more fevered fantasies and fragile ideologies, we bow down before them. Politicians whose understanding of science and technology is actually decent and who are completely reasonable in their approach to the subjects, like John Huntsman for example, are written off and doomed to failure as other politicos decide to rule in the style of Roman Caesars; by giving their followers bread and circuses instead of a future. And this, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t just realpolitik that we have to accept with a sad shrug. It’s a tragedy, one only better education and an overhaul of the current media pundit class can ever hope to fix.