Wednesday, August 24, 2005

For The Time Capsule

About twenty years ago, didn't the U.S. send a probe into deep space carrying a collection of symbols of our civilization such as a Beethoven recording, eating utensils, etc? Sometimes I'll read a news report and immediately think that it belongs in a time capsule. Some stories are such perfect microcosms of the political, economic and social issues of our time that it's easy to imagine people in fifty or a hundred years looking back either in delight or "what the hell were they thinking" disgust. As I come across these types of stories, I'm going to post them under the header "For The Time Capsule." Feel free to send me any that you think fit the bill.

Let's start with this recent report from the AP (full story and photos at the link):
RICHMOND, Va. - A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far as to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line.

An estimated 5,500 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks.

Officials opened the gates at 7 a.m., but some already had been waiting since 1:30 a.m. When the gates opened, it became a terrifying mob scene.

People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.

Seventeen people suffered minor injuries, with four requiring hospital treatment, Henrico County Battalion Chief Steve Wood said. There were no arrests and the iBooks sold out by 1 p.m.

Blandine Alexander, 33, said one woman standing in front of her was so desperate to retain her place in line that she urinated on herself.
Monkey see, monkey do? WFB writes about the example set by our alleged leaders at the top of the corporate ladder.

As we continue on our "great noble mission" to spread democracy and capitalism around the world, can we really blame "less advanced" countries---particularly those with unique cultures, and perhaps where people urinate outdoors and not on themselves---if they look at us and decide that our way of life isn't exactly for them?

26 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly what I've been thinking for a while now. Thank you.

8/24/2005 9:24 PM  
Anonymous houstonpete said...

Bet they're not peeing on themselves in Tehran. :)

8/24/2005 11:11 PM  
Anonymous Leigh McK said...

Good to see an American actually being genuinely reflective about their country, some its problems, and how these might be perceived in the rest of the world. We need more of this rather than the jingoism of the Bushies or the reflexive anti-Americanism of the Chomskyites.

An Aussie reader.

8/24/2005 11:19 PM  
Anonymous jeremy said...

Apparently they were all going to put the $50 on their credit cards as well

8/25/2005 10:47 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

While I am a staunch capitalist I must agree that the side effects it can have on culture can be quite disturbing. That being said I'll take the wackos pissing on themselves and my indoor plumbing over someone elses unique pissing outdoor culture.

8/25/2005 11:33 AM  
Blogger David Studhalter said...

Not really a response to the point of the piece, but nonetheless: Pioneer had a little metal plate with the locations of nearby pulsars encoded on it, I guess so whatever evil Aliens found the probe could locate Earth and destroy it more easily...hmm, well perhaps that wasn't the nerdic motivation. Voyager (I believe all of them) had disks sort of like a long playing records, intended to be easily decoded, with binary encoded information including speech, some literary stuff, music, images, etc. and some info. intended to aid in decipherment. These gestures were more symbolic than anything else. Space is so vast that if you scaled the sun down to the size of a basketball, the next nearest star would be in France. A human built space probe creeping thru that vast space takes 40,000 years to travel that distance, but it isn't aimed at anyplace in particular, so the chance that any of these "time capsules" will ever be found by anyone intelligent is pretty negligible.

8/25/2005 12:26 PM  
Anonymous scott_api said...

"The surest sign that there's intelligent life out there is the fact that they haven't tried to contact us yet...

Calvin, to his pet tiger Hobbes.

8/25/2005 2:34 PM  
Anonymous grass root said...

I thought that the story was very sad. I scraped together everything I had to get my daughter a computer for college because she had worked hard and deserved one. This was a reminder that there are other parents out there with even less resources than me, driven to do something that demeaning and desperate. Easy for us to sit at our keyboards and forget what its like to be really poor. These are harsh times - only someone who has never been in those circumstances would think it was funny.

8/25/2005 7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the previous poster:

"Poor?" This occurred in Richmond, VA. Not Compton. Not rural Mississippi. The people in the photo look solidly middle-class, and quite well-fed. They lusted after a high-tech toy, not a lottery ticket or a pack of cigarettes.

Poverty had nothing at all to do with it.

8/25/2005 7:12 PM  
Anonymous jill1009 said...

agree with post immediately before mine, good point.

8/25/2005 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

calvin and hobbs had it right.

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