10 minute read

Before Data, We Had the Moon

wonders!” She haphazardly grabbed onto the paintbrush, accidentally knocking over the paint, “SHIT. ” “Okay. ” Aspen gave a slight chuckle and a pat on her sister ’ s shoulder before grabbing a small pouch of gold, double-checking for her identification, and heading out the door.

Tracy Ross


I am sitting before my computer screen listening to techno music. I am on the wrong side of middle aged. I now have a one on one repore with my machine as I stare at the glowing screen, looking back on fifty three years of life. I had always prided myself in knowing that I was born a month shy of the 1969 moon landings. When I was taken home from

The Wayne Literary Review: Escapism

the hospital I was cradled in front of the TV set as Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind. I remember my parents starting out in a respectable little house in Detroit, Michigan. my father was a mail carrier and my mother was a stay at home mom.

During that time, Detroit was half on fire and full of hippies. My family was a joint effort of first generation European immigrants and Louisiana born Creole African Americans. My parents were bold enough to be an interracial couple who got married during a time when marriage between whites and blacks was still illegal in many states. I was a by-product of hipsters and multiculturalism during a time when both my parents were not welcomed in many states. They even had trouble traveling to the towns surrounding Detroit because they would be stopped by policemen questioning if they were lost.

Very early on in my youth, I knew I was different --I was damn near white and surrounded by a predominately black bourgeois culture I did not fully understand. There were family members on both my father and mother ’ s side of the family who called my brother and I “darkie ” children or

“ zebra ” depending on which racial side they were on and the political direction of the wind that day. My mother had been expected to marry a nice second generation Ukrainian boy from New England or New York and my father was supposed to marry a nice upstanding young black woman --just not too black. Fortunately, they were introduced in college. The Vietnam war helped my father quickly propose marriage in the early 1960’ s, and my brother and I made it to Earth. We were not only the children of baby boomers who, by default, were progressives based on the color of their skin. We were also placed in survival mode early on because of the tumultuous climate of Detroit in the late 1960s and early seventies.

Thankfully, our young minds didn ’t grasp the horror of the riots of 1967 and 1968 --how the city burned to the ground just miles from where we lived. I remember that the mornings smelled like burning cars from the Ford Motor Plants. The singed stench of burnt raw metal and splintered wood from clapboard houses lingered at least a year after the assassination of MLK.

The Wayne Literary Review: Escapism

Now, as I write from my tower of sanitized political correctness and globalization looming inevitably on the horizon, I smile sadly at the far away quaintness of it all. “Comfortably Numb” plays on my music selection through my computer and I realize that through all the pain, I have become a cold hearted son-of-a-bitch --yes, me. The progeny of the hippies, the freaks, the peace-nicks of the world who would march into hell for a heavenly cause despite heaven being on fire.

I say this because I have a pretty objective view. I won ’t use platitudes to make the situation more pretty or profound than it is. I was raised to believe in humanity ’ s most hopeful potential. But through the years, I have been pushed to the breaking point when the scales have tipped in the other direction. At about the age of five I realized that when you give power to the people, nine times out of ten, they don ’t know what to do with it.

I saw Detroit scurry out of survival, out of fear of obsolescence, turn to paranoia and distrust of those who populated the neighborhoods and communities because they were betrayed by General and Ford Motors. We fought for the last nuts and bolts of the machinery, beating ourselves to death with the very lead pipes we had cannibalized off of the rolling car chassis of the factory assembly lines.

Vietnam was the beginning of the no exit war strategy in guinea pig form. It was the springboard for how the money would operate and flow under the dynamics of constant war and crisis. For a short while, with the Mother ’ s for Peace and the protesters, we thought we had the power of agents of global change. It had seemed for a week of nightly news reports, the media had swung in our favor, giving the people the empowerment of progressive propaganda and 24/7 coverage.

Some say that the Vietnam war and Nixon brought on Watergate. I say that if it weren ’t for Vietnam, there would be no Watergate. You see, there is a difference. During Vietnam, something strange with the medium and the message happened. Pictures became more powerful than words. Images became more powerful than language. One picture could reach a billion souls and speak through the veil of different languages, alien cultures, a billion disenfranchised illiterates. They see them and say a culture was born. We can instantaneously absorb a

The Wayne Literary Review: Escapism

famous Vietnam War image of the enemy getting his brains blown out and screaming at the top of our lungs “BANG!” We will all get the idea. Enough said.

The nightly news catwalk was on and Watergate had center stage. It was such an entertaining circus that no one noticed our civil liberties go down the toilet. With each evening news special, we supposedly learned about the surveillance state as if it was a brand new shiny toy, forgetting that only two days after the phone was invented, so was the tape recorder. Heads were chopped off and they rolled only to be put upon totem poles for the benefit of political correctness and integrity. But what was really going on?

Along with images taking over the imagination --video slowly killing the radio star, we as a world were being truncated in our language. Hence our understanding of the human condition and our abilities to communicate. The world was shrinking due to the accessibility of transportation. The trans-Atlantic cable, trade, corporate greed and the inevitable new and improved glass free beaches brought to you by the DOW Company.

During slavery, the masters were evil enough to realize that if you take away the language of a people, you take away their capability to operate and organize effectively. How do you take away a language and knowledge from the people who brought you flower power and sit-ins? You give them the power of pictures which override anything the mind can conceive before they can get up and change the channel. Render them speechless. How brilliant indeed. Make the nightly news a fashion show, with blood and gore, and Nixon standing in front of a Mobile Exxon sign, saying, “I am not a crook…!” Give the people what they want, god damn it. Give them so much truth at 360 degrees that their heads will twist right off, their little minds not having a chance to ask, “What did you say?…Gobble, gobble, plop!”

In the end, between the scotch and whiskey and bourbon shots, even Nixon didn ’t know why he wanted to be a fly on the wall. And everyone who was caught with glue on their feet like bad little flies, did their time as sentenced by a jury of their peers for their love of apple pie on the Fourth of July.

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That’ s when research and development had a great little idea. They figured out how to put a trillion bits of information on a metal chip with a glob of silicon. They figured out how to make everything dependent on the one utility we all eventually would worship --energy. When Getty once assumed, those who would rule the world would own the mineral rights, he realized early on that no matter what form the mineral rights took--Earth, rubber, lights, electricity, solar power--it would end up being an energy war, not a war of combat for land and sea.

With language in the back pocket of a medium that needs energy and electricity to operate, and an on and off switch dependent on the accessibility of that power, who is to say who gets the last word…? Can we equate the power of language with the accessibility of data? Hence, is freedom illusory and the choice to not partake in the grid ultimately a joke?

I wish I could say it was different --that I wasn ’t a cold hearted son of a bitch. I wish I could say, after all is said and done, that I carry the torch for Mom and Dad. That I want to work for our survival, that I want us to be envoys for the rest of the universe to spread the goodness of mankind and all the wonder we have to offer to other intelligent life out there. But do I have a choice?

We have killed the planet, consumed more than half of the natural resources and have become prime examples of man ’ s inhumanity to man in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The world is kicking and screaming in the high chair, fighting globalization like a poisoned bowl of corn flakes, thrashing about in the throes of beliefs, and freedoms, and greed. It is time to regroup. It is time to swallow the milk with the honey and realize the species mutates forward despite war, pestilence, and ignorance.

Before the data, we had the moon. Before flower power, we had a chance to get it right without the great boomerang of liberalism coming back full throttle and hitting us in the face, rendering us unconscious. You would be amazed that we don ’t see the cycles, but those that don ’t know history, or even look back, are doomed to repeat it.

It is 53 years since the 1969 moon landing, not that it was the first or will be the last, but it was a watermark in human consciousness during a

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time when, for a sparse moment, between the killing, between the peace keeping smear of jingoistic war mongering, that we had grasped a world collective vision of where we could go.

The space program in its infancy has its origins in Europe during the early turn of the century, especially Germany. It took until 1969 for Americans to be the center stage audience for what the human species was finally ready for--to step outside the bubble--if just for a few hours--if just for a news broadcast--if just for the blink of an eye between seeing helicopters on TV in the jungle and commercials for Tang with our morning eggs and toast.

Then the question arises. When does the shit hit the fan? How long is the incubation time between invention and popular consumption? How much do the R and D guys really know and do we really care? There are statisticians working out your future grand children ’ s demise and how many cans of Coke or Pepsi they will consume in their lifetime for the benefit of sugar futures. Sure. Are you getting the picture? And when sugar cane can ’t be grown any more in the good, dead earth, it will be made in a petri dish and poured down the gullet of diabetics like liquid gold.

Remember, before the data, we had the moon. And after the data, we still will, because after all, wherever you are there it is, an estranged satellite pulling at the liquids of your innards like an ancient carnal ritual, telling you that 53 years is quite enough time to realize going backwards doesn ’t pay. There isn ’t enough silicon in all the grains of sand on the beach in the world to build a stairway to heaven. Moon children go forward, because, after the bank’ s been broken, what have you got to lose but the chains you were born in? Happy 53rd Birthday, moon children! Welcome to the brave new world.

The Wayne Literary Review: Escapism