What's the story? What's the view? What's the perspective?
What's the truth? (Strike that, this is not an epistemological lesson). The Arab Spring, the rise of a new Imperial China, the collapse of European (and American) capitalism, the once colonial now corporate slave-trade in Africa, the re-emergence of "God the Angry Father", the floods of Bangkok. A disturbing and despairing panorama of the decline of humanity? Hardly.
From George Santayana and others: to ignore history is to be doomed to repeat it. True? Perhaps, with this caveat: the human species is a collective of behavior, habitual, ritual, repetitive behavior—not doomed to repeat its history, rather self-programmed to recycle itself… and its history.
Nothing new under the sun? Absolutely nothing! What has changed is the level of transparency, the spreading discovery of what's already there, what has always been there. Seven billion humans are experiencing (at least on this planet) the result of exponential evolution—a "black hole" of technology that sucks in all impressions and expressions and spews out a nearly unfathomable ether of information and disinformation. It overwhelms the dyke of the 24-hour day and floods into an archival sea at the abbey of Saint Leibowitz known as… Google.
The media is in this mix, and the mix is in the media. Forget about television, it's a lost cause. Even the vaunted BBC can no longer seem to find people who can write to speak and newsreaders who can speak for listening. Ink print journalism has given way to digital print journalism and the inundation has caused them both to suffer. The majestic New York Times regularly publishes quickly-edited ramshackle articles and columns written with elbows instead of fingers. The Washington Post is deteriorating into a product-placement digest where intelligent copy-editing is reserved for the obituary section. The London Times—never mind, that's a Murdoch paper! Even my friend, Harper's Magazine, increasingly allows awkward, quick-clichĂ© writing in its essays where once it wouldn't.
The degradation to 'fast-food' journalism is evident all over the globe. Take a current headline event, for example—the floods of Bangkok. The disaster in Thailand is the result of 50 years of greed, political exploitation and incompetence. Everyone (I have to be careful here!), everyone with any power or powerful influence has been complicit. The '1%' took an agricultural society and pushed it into industrialization. In the face of annual flooding on the watershed topography of Thailand, they randomly and maliciously altered the landscape with industrial parks and housing developments at the expense of the intricately devised water-flow control system. All in the name of GDP and profits. Despite its glittering skyscrapers, high-speed expressways and a $4 billion world-class airport, Thailand remains a 3rd-world nation and amazingly, a poor one. It is the rebounding story of 1% vs. 99%.
Thai media shares in some of the ugly complicity. Thai television is stuck in the 1980's with news and journalism stuck in the 1950's. Many channels are simply political mouthpieces. Thai print media is not much better. There are many newspapers in the country, most of them Thai language and provincial. The two major English language newspapers, The Bangkok Post and The Nation, purport to be world-class and aren't. They both skew their editorial policy, trade in the gray area of editorial for advertising, are plagued with mediocre writing and hit-or-miss copy editing, and profile columnists who shouldn't be allowed next to a keyboard. Sound Familiar? I've read The Bangkok Post for nearly 15 years — it wasn't always like that.
Which brings me to the Q.
One of the best, long-lasting series on American television was Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was created by a visionary, Gene Roddenberry, with high production values, an excellent ensemble cast, and occasionally some great writing. One of its best characters was "Q", delightfully performed by John de Lancie, so well-crafted that he seemed to be an actor "created" to create the role (Holodeck anyone?).
Q is an omnipotent "being", part of the Q-Continuum, which is not, in its omnipotence, a godhead, or a divine being. It interferes in galactic events but it is not a source of redemption. It is a mystery, it is Q.
The individual Q in Star Trek harasses and challenges humanity, particularly the crew of the Starship Enterprise, the focus setting for the series. He is mischievous, sometimes malevolent, often breathtaking, always unpredictable and awe-inspiring. He is unrelentingly attracted to the human species. It is a "character-fault" he cannot overcome. He cannot resist humanity's will and spirit to evolve and survive.
There is a parallel here, a vision of the human species and its recycling history. If humans can outrun the impending implosion of this planet, if the species can spread out into the galaxy and beyond, the Q will be waiting for them. Because, the answer to What's the View? is that the destiny of the human species is to become… Q.