It is now the year 2020, 30 years since Voyager was sent back to us from 4 billion miles away. We appear as but a speck of dust in the cosmos. When life as we know it on this tiny home of ours is being brought to a near standstill by a microscopic virus, the words of the late astronomer and advisor to NASA at the time of the Voyager mission, Carl Sagan, call out to us. Writing of the distant photo of Earth in his 1994 book, “Pale Blue Dot,” Sagan was issuing a plea to humanity:
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” – – Carl Sagan, “Pale Blue Dot,” 1994
Humans, us, we, are at a crossroads, a critical juncture in our evolution on a “Pale Blue Dot” voyaging through the Universe. A mindless, moral-less, belief-less, dangerous, microscopic virus is bringing us great clarity if we allow ourselves to see. It is trumpeting the words of Sagan if we allow ourselves to hear. It cares not what we “believe,” cares not our “economic” ideology, cares not our ethnicity or location on the globe, cares not who thinks themselves the “chosen,” the “special” people. A mindless virus is telling us — we, the people of Planet Earth, travel together. We succeed together – we fail together. No one is coming to save us. It matters not what we think we “know,” what we “believe.”
The Universe speaks only in truth, operates solely by the only eternal Laws – the laws of physics. At a moment in time when a simple, mindless virus threatens all living humans, to say that we cannot “afford” to provide healthcare for all when all of the physical and intellectual resources needed to do so are waiting to be employed, is proof that our “economic” thinking is far from the truth. When global warming is an even greater threat to all of us than the mindless virus, to say that we cannot “afford” to convert our energy systems to green, renewable, non-polluting sources to save ourselves and our planet when all of the resources and knowledge exist to do so, is an economic insanity far from the truth.
If the physical resources and technical know-how exist (and they do) to repair or replace failing roads, lead water pipes, and other infrastructure, we can “afford” to do so. If our man-made “economic” system says we cannot, it is time to get rid of the flaws in that system. If we can “afford” to wage endless wars around the globe and continue producing ever more dangerous nuclear arms to blow ourselves into extinction without a single politician saying – “How are you going to pay for it?” – we can afford to do the things necessary to eliminate the need for war, the things necessary to provide for all.
Congress and the president just passed a $2 trillion stimulus/relief package to rescue the U.S. economy. Not a soul in our government asked “How are you going to pay for it?” We critically need to understand what just happened here. The U.S. Government didn’t “borrow” $2 trillion, it didn’t “tax” $2 trillion, it created $2 trillion – out of nowhere. Supplying the nation’s money is the constitutionally authorized duty of the federal (not state or local) government. We are seeing glaring proof that the federal government, not private business (that now is on the government “socialist” dole to survive the crisis), is the ultimate source of the nation’s money. It doesn’t need to tax, it doesn’t need to borrow. The function of “taxing” and “borrowing” by the federal government isn’t to “pay” for spending. These are simply tools to (among other things) control the amount of money in circulation.
Of course, the inflation alarmists will come screaming out of the woodwork. “It’s the end of the world, the dollar will become worthless!” This is false. As long as there are physical resources to be purchased – healthcare for all, infrastructure repair, green energy systems, housing for the homeless, repairs to aging public schools – new money is not inflationary. There is much that needs to be done to improve the life of average Americans that we have the physical and intellectual resources to do. Whether or not we do them is a political decision, not a financial or economic one. The $2 trillion relief package proves this.
But let us return to the larger picture. Like Sagan, but writing two decades earlier in his book, Utopia or Oblivion, R. Buckminster Fuller also implored humanity to see the real stage upon which we live:
“Think of it. We are blessed with technology that would be indescribable to our forefathers. We have the wherewithal, the know-it-all to feed everybody, clothe everybody, and give every human on Earth a chance. We know now what we could never have known before – that we have the option for all humanity to make it successfully on this planet in this lifetime.
Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment. Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in Universe. If man chooses oblivion, he can go right on leaving his fate to his political leaders. If he chooses Utopia, he must initiate an enormous education program – immediately, if not sooner. The World has become too dangerous for anything less than Utopia.” – – R. Buckminster Fuller, “Utopia or Oblivion,” 1972
Fuller’s words are both a great, realistic hope, and a prescient warning. This is especially so today. Now, more than ever before, we have the knowledge to “feed everybody, clothe everybody,” and exercise our “option for all humanity to make it successfully on this planet.” But now, more than ever before, humanity risks failing Universe’s “final exam.” We can overheat, we can blow ourselves into oblivion. “There is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
It is now the year 2020. There is really only one question facing humanity: “How do we make the world work for everyone?” Nothing else matters, no less a goal will do. We choose Utopia or Oblivion. And perhaps there is another eternal law which we humans must obey: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly accepts letters to the editor from residents, officials, and candidates for local offices. The views of our readers are not necessarily the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, send to firstname.lastname@example.org.