Monday, February 13, 2012
So you might have seen this picture making the rounds on Facebook and Google+ (Ok, maybe not Google+...) along with the requisite thousand-plus comments railing against decadent corporate growth, the heartless advance of technology, the desecration of ancient culture, the plight of the vanishing rainforest. Or at least that's what they'd all be commenting about if they could spell those things. You may have seen this news item and wondered, deep down in your heart-souls, "What does Sam Tyner think about all of this?"
Basically, what news articles (like this one) boil this down to is the Brazilian government saying "this isn't going to fuck anything up" and the chief of the Kayopos tribe saying that it in fact will, along with a ubiquitous picture of a semi-official (for Brazil, anyway) man looking down at the shirtless, backwater chief as he cries for the fate of his river. Because native peoples are allowed to "own" nature but it's vulgar for anyone else to.
We Americans may like to poke fun at our dumber citizens and worry that our high schoolers can't find America on a map, but we are one of the most educated and enlightened cultures in the history of the world. So we watch other growing countries doing THE EXACT SAME THING WE DID AS A DEVELOPING NATION and point our fingers and whine about it, never wanting to acknowledge that developing a civilization has never been a clean, polite endeavor. We also like to think that we know what's best for people in other countries and have no problem voicing our comically uninformed opinions to anyone who will listen on the internet.
The article I linked to also mentions a "plea on Facebook to aid the native people" which I think underscores a larger problem in our society. With the internet being more integrated into formal news channels and the line blurring between reputable sources and "Dave's Internet News Shack," the reality of giving everybody a voice is sinking in. The problem is not that we should completely discount what certain people say, it's that those people don't have to inform themselves at all to be able to have their voices heard. A thousand people will read the same 50-word snippet on dlisted.com or 4chan and fire off a knee-jerk comment about "when will are copratate greed sotp!!1" or "stay the fcuk out da rainforrests!!" and that's considered the voice of the masses by news outlets. Reddit becomes an engine for change all of a sudden.
But this post isn't about retards on the internet. It's not even meant to belittle the struggle of old ways against new. This is about our cultural preoccupation with hypocritically condemning technological expansion. Now that's a wordy subject, so I'll try to be less wordy with the rest of this post. People that complain about deforestation or displaced natives can only do so in complete ignorance of the entire history of humans. People that complain about how technology is going to ruin our future and end our species are presuming to know a lot more than anybody can about the future. And people that complain about any social issue need to read past the headlines before anybody is allowed to listen to them.