A Couple Of Big Mistakes!

Anybody who isn’t prepared to acknowledge that the world is messed up right now is probably still writing their emails with crayons.  Besides all the regular stuff – crime, poverty, injustice, starvation — we’ve got the big bogeyman Covid-19 hiding under the bed.  And that’s kinda supersized our inability to deal with this crap.  Admit it: agrarian reform is Sub-Saharan Africa is not exactly your #1 priority these days, is it?  The fact is, our world is in big trouble and we’re mostly worried about whether our facemasks make us look fat.  So, how did we get on the express bus to Disasterville?  Easy answer!  Back in the day, we made two fundamental mistakes, and ever since then, we’ve been muddling around, trying to fix them — without ever actually admitting we made them in the first place.  So just to clarify: here is where we screwed up.

We got rid of Latin – Anybody who’s ever studied Latin will tell you it’s a completely whacked-out language.  It’s full of things that just don’t make any sense.  For example, there are 3 genders, about 100 verb forms and God only knows how many declensions (whatever they are.)  It takes years of study, an incredible memory and dogged determination to learn Latin.  In fact, teachers used to have to beat little kids with sticks to make them learn the damn thing.  However, Latin had one thing going for it.  Because it’s so godawful difficult, it was the language of serious people.  That’s why all the serious stuff is written in Latin — legal stuff, (like habeas corpus and modus operandi) religious stuff, medical stuff, even sex stuff, plus astronomy, anthropology and all the other ologies.  Even today, everything on Earth that walks, crawls, flies, swims or grows has a real Latin name.  For centuries, anybody who wanted to be taken seriously did it in Latin.  Think about it!  Isaac Newton (totally serious guy) wrote Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica — not An Apple Fell on My Head.  But the very best bit is, Latin kept people who weren’t serious from jumping into the conversation with their 2-bit idiot opinions.  They didn’t know the words, so they had to shut up when serious people were talking.  Thus, the world had a quick and dirty way to distinguish the people who actually wanted to deal with the problems that plague our planet from the other folks who just wanted to flap their jaw.  It wasn’t foolproof, but it worked.

We invented YouTube – In the old days, if you didn’t know something and your friends didn’t know it either, you had two choices.  You could either spend hours in a library, looking at books, or shrug it off and go watch TV.  This separated the serious folks from the rest of us who had a life – even if it was only reruns of Gilligan’s Island.  These days, however, if you don’t know something, all you have to do is click YouTube, and suddenly there are 15 videos that answer your question.  The problem is those answers aren’t necessarily the right ones: they’re just the most popular.  Plus, a 12 minute video on how to make a missile out of a Pringles tube, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda doesn’t make you a rocket scientist.  YouTube has made information available to the masses, but it has also made a bunch of people (who should be watching Gilligan’s Island) into make-believe experts.  And these fugitives from Basic Cable think they can talk the talk with the big people.  But the very worst bit is there’s nothing to make them shut up, and they’re muddying the intellectual water for the serious folks who want to take a drink.  Not to mix too many metaphors, we simply can no longer distinguish the conversation from the noise.

So what do we do? 

Unfortunately, the horrible conclusion is until we bring back Latin and limit the influence of YouTube so we can distinguish the populo gravi from the fatuis, we’re pretty much screwed.

Disclaimer: We live in unsophisticated times, so I have to point out that this is satire.  I do not advocate banning YouTube or beating children with sticks, so please save your emails!  Cheers.

Stupid Is As Stupid Was

quotesIt’s generally agreed that we’re living in an age of extraordinary stupidity.  Our role models are celebrities whose careers consist of wardrobe malfunctions, the highest ambitions of our children don’t reach higher than the stars of Reality TV, and our vision of the future is Season 8 of The Walking Dead.  Let’s face it, folks: Einstein, Newton, Archimedes and Copernicus are all spinning in their graves — even though most of us don’t know who the hell those people are!  However, here’s a thought: I don’t actually believe the human race is any stupider now, than it’s ever been. It’s just that, these days, our technology makes us aware of it.  Here are a few quotes from the past which illustrate my point.  First of all:

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  Charles H Duell, Commissioner of US Office of Patents — 1899

Telephone

“It is impossible to transmit speech electrically. The ‘telephone’ is as mythical as the unicorn.”  Johan Poggendorrf, German physicist — 1860

“This telephone has too any shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”  Western Union internal memo — 1876

Film

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”  H.W. Warner (Warner Brothers Studio) — 1927

“I have determined that there is no market for talking pictures.”  Thomas Edison — 1926

Television

“Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility — a development which we should waste little time dreaming about.” Lee de Forest, inventor of the cathode ray — 1926

“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Darryl Zanuck, movie producer — 1946

“Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.”
Mary Somerville, radio personality — 1948

Computers

“There’s no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”  Ken Olson, Digital Equipment Corporation — 1977

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”  Thomas J. Watson, Chairman IBM — 1943

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”  Bill Gates — 1981

“The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper.” Cliff Stoll, Newsweek — 1995

Flight

“Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible,”  Simon Newcomb, mathematician — 1902 (two weeks before the Wright brothers proved him wrong.)

“Airplanes are interesting toys, but they have no military value.”  Marshal Ferdinand Foch — 1911

Odds and Ends

“It will be years – not in my time – before a woman will become Prime Minister.”  Margaret Thatcher — 1974

“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology — 1872

“No audience will ever be able to take more than ten minutes of animation.”
Walt Disney executive, considering Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — 1930s

“That ‘rainbow’ song is no good. It slows the picture down.” an MGM producer, after first screening of The Wizard of Oz — 1939

But this is my favourite:

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles — 1962

I rest my case.