Saturday, 10 April 2010

Hope & Despair

Last week saw - for me anyway - the definition of the best and worst of the USA on the same day. Thanks to Professor Cox on Twitter (how someone can go up in one's estimation after being a member of D:Ream, eh?) I logged onto the NASA website and tuned in to live images and audio of the launch of Discovery. Like Prince, I may occasionally question the idea of spending billions of dollars on a space programme whilst there are such basic issues around feeding kids and fighting preventable diseases, but I do marvel at the wonder of a launch every time I see one, and am too amazed that we have become so blase about it. To soothe the conscience, I always say that there are plenty of other things we could scrap (such as private jets or weapons or vast bonuses for those oh-so clever businessmen) while holding on to the space programme.

Brian Cox, as I was saying, fuelled my enthusiasm and it was a great feeling, like receiving a tweet from an astronaut, to feel part of this latest (and perhaps one of the last for a while) adventure into the infinite. God speed you, black and white, male and female emperors!

And yet. On the same day, again via Twitter, I heard of the leaked video showing the murder of Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists by a couple of Uncle Sam's finest chopper jockeys in 2007.

This of course, is the flip-side of the coin. The very worst expression of gung ho American Imperialism that you are ever likely to see. I know that there are some who will say that the soldiers are fighting a war, god damn it, and no soft civilian like me has the faintest idea of what that can mean. Force must be met with force, and all that. Well, that may be right, but if you take the 17 or so minutes needed to watch that video, I don't think you will be sticking to that argument for long. There is no threat from the group of people who are gunned down, and no excuse for heat of the moment reaction. All is done in a deliberate and calculated manner. What it does show is the total de-humanisation of the solider. The inability to see a fellow person in the gun sights.

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