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Boom Towns

Welcome to the Don Quijote airport, where only the sound of a distant train breaks the silence in field designed for jumbo airliners. No, really.

The doors to the new air terminal are locked shut, the parking lot is nearly empty and the runway, built for Airbus A380 super-jumbos, has no traffic. The only breach in the silence over the nearby scrubland these days is the sudden whoosh of a train on the high-speed line to Segovia ...

It was conceived as Madrid-South, a second airport 100 miles south of capital, though only 50 minutes by train and across the tracks from where city fathers hoped to build the "Kingdom of Don Quijote," an entertainment park to include Spain's biggest casino. Unemployment in this town of 60,000 would have disappeared, and Ciudad Real would be on the map. That's not to be, for the airport closed down on April 13. At its closing, only a handful of flights used the facility each week.

It's not really unique. "An hour or so’s sail from the port of Nagasaki, the abandoned island silently crumbles." It known as Battleship Island. "A former coal mining facility owned by Mitsubishi Motors, it was once the most densely populated place on earth, packing over 13,000 people into each square kilometre of its residential high-risers. It operated from 1887 until 1974, after which the coal industry fell into decline and the mines were shut for good. "

In the American Midwest, you can take guided tours around the ruins of Detroit. "Come, travel with me, as I guide you on a tour through the fabulous and vanishing ruins of my beloved Detroit."

Further afield you can visit the Lost City of Chernobyl. It still remains much as it was when it was abandoned in 1986. Guided tours are available to view its ruins.

Kyle Smith, writing in the New York Post,  says we might easily be living in the actual equivalent of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.  "The world Aldous Huxley predicted 80 years ago has arrived — but would a young generation agree it’s a dystopia?"

If Orwell’s “1984” is a cautionary tale about what we in the capitalist West largely avoided, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is largely about what we got — a consumerist, post-God happyland in which people readily stave off aging, jet away on exotic vacations and procreate via test tubes. They have access to “Feelies” similar to IMAX 3-D movies, no-strings-attached sex, anti-anxiety pills and abortion on demand. They also venerate a dead high-tech genius, saying “Ford help him” in honor of Henry Ford just as today we practically murmur “In Jobs We Trust.”

That would be a mistake. To trust in Jobs. Look at Detroit. It trusted in Ford and look where it is. Man adapts or perishes. It stagnates at its peril. Innovation, the Design Margin, the unwillingness to believe that unlike Julia, we can trust in the assurances of bureaucrats for permanent security -- these are the secrets to survival -- though it would be inconvenient to feel wanderlust again in the bones of our species.  How did the dialog in Brave New World  go?

Art, science –you seem to have paid a fairly high price for your happiness," said the Savage, when they were alone. "Anything else?"

"Well, religion, of course," replied the Controller. "There used to be something called God–before the Nine Years' War. But I was forgetting; you know all about God, I suppose."  ...

"But if you know about God, why don't you tell them?" asked the Savage indignantly. "Why don't you give them these books about God?"

"For the same reason as we don't give them Othello: they're old; they're about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now."  ...

"Then you think there is no God?"

"No, I think there quite probably is one." ...

"Quite apart from God–though of course God would be a reason for it. Isn't there something in living dangerously?"

"We prefer to do things comfortably."

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."

"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."

"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

Trust in government must come a distant fourth or fifth. For bureaucrats cannot even guarantee their own perpetuity."And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."

The Controllers can promise voters the moon and the stars. But they don't always deliver, though it takes a while to realize it.

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away".

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