Happy Christmas! Since the domination of Christianity in Rome, it has replaced the pagan holiday of Saturnalia though now has become just as secular as surely Saturnalia must have been during its decline. Let us celebrate our lives, friends, and families. Let us exchange tokens of our affection in examples of the wonderful progress that humanity has achieved after the brilliant collaborative effort by learned and well-intentioned people of science: iPods, computers, cell phones, DVDs, what have you.
When you have finished, take some time to reflect on the mentalities of those who worked to bring you the iPods or the ability to read this blog: people such as Galileo Galilei, Issac Newton, Allan Turing, James Maxwell, Benjamin Franklin, etc. Then take some time to reflect on the political leaders that have tended to dominate while the scientists progressed to our current state. Surely the scientists had a great deal more to do with our current quality of life than did those politicians and rulers and those rulers who did give us progress did so only through listening to the scientists and technocrats.
As we close 2006, let us all recognise that humanity has tried its very hardest to spite the unquestionably positive phase it has entered in the information technology revolution and revert to: a) the Dark Ages of ignorance by religious fundamentalism and jihad; b) the breakdown of the International political system of diplomacy between cooperative sovereign nation states as seen in the run up to the Great War with the war in Iraq. c) the utter fecklessness of International negotiation and treaty organisations a la mode de League of Nations in performing their vital roles to coordinate and enforce basic regulations for the peace and prosperity of mankind on the planet. I refer of course to the collapse of the Kyoto Protocols or any system to limit and reduce the emission of Greenhouse gases and other factors in the sixth extinction currently taking place. As with the League, the non-participation of the United States in climate protection was the decisive factor in its ineffectiveness. d) the erosion of civil liberties and the enforcement of basic constitutional law with a popular nationalistic, jingoistic mobilisation for war against innocuous innocent bystanders with the ultimate aim of seizing military position, valuable resources, and as some sort of unholy experiment in a backwards and ill-founded ideology disturbingly similar to the Fascism or Communism of Eurasia in the 20th Century. Iraq has lost on the order of 600,000 people as a result of the Invasion, only one order of magnitude below the relative losses witnessed in 20th century conflicts.
As we approach January, let us remember Janus, the god of mirrors, the god of doorways, the god of two faces - one looking forward, one backward. New Years, the modern acknowledgement of Janus is coming soon, and so let us reflect.
So far the twenty-first century since the birth of Jesus, which was to be the payoff for the ~10 millennia of human effort and suffering that went before has been a reminder of the lessons of the previous century. We can either choose to learn those lessons the easy way, through an intellectual study of the past and a willingness to cooperate and act properly as responsible, sentient, civilised beings, or to continue to give in to our racial, sectarian, and nationalistic passions on a clear path toward self-destruction.
That having been said, Robert X. Cringely, one of the technocrats, points out in a much less dramatic way some simple examples of how our resources could have been better applied this second millennium since Jesus. It seems almost non sequitur after all I have said, but believe it or not, this post has provoked my end of year meditation.