Belmont Club

The Return of the UFOs

The New York Times reports Elon Musk’s visionary proposal to colonize Mars as a giant real estate scheme, with the plan to get to Mars all about raising money for his rocket.  But they completely miss the point.  Although the Elon Musk show was technically about the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System everyone knew the real title of the presentation was When Worlds Collide. “The mood at the conference was almost as giddy as a rock concert or the launch of a new Apple product, with people lining up for Mr. Musk’s presentation a couple of hours in advance.”  Perhaps they had watched the 2016 election, made up their minds and were ready to go.

For those who’ve never heard of it When Worlds Collide  is a 1951 movie about desperate efforts to build a space ark to save and transport a small portion of humanity to another planet after it is discovered that the earth is doomed. Grist recognized the SpaceX presentation for what it was. “Elon Musk has a big idea to save civilization: Move it to Mars … ‘Someday soon,’ Musk said, ‘there will be an extinction event on Earth.’ We can either wait for it to kill us all, or ‘become a spacefaring species.'”

The irony is the threat may come from  a government which has become a ruling class.  Angelo M. Codevilla in a widely discussed article at the Claremont Institute titled After the Republic predicted that “‘America and the West’ now are so firmly ‘on a trajectory toward something very bad’ that it is no longer reasonable to hope that ‘all human outcomes are still possible’ …the 2016 election is sealing the United States’s transition from that republic to some kind of empire. Electing either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump cannot change that trajectory.”

Because it is difficult to imagine a Trump presidency even thinking about something so monumental as replacing an entire ruling elite, much less leading his constituency to accomplishing it, electing Trump is unlikely to result in a forceful turn away from the country’s current direction. Continuing pretty much on the current trajectory under the same class will further fuel revolutionary sentiments in the land all by itself. Inevitable disappointment with Trump is sure to add to them.

We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. Our ruling class’s malfeasance, combined with insult, brought it about. Donald Trump did not cause it and is by no means its ultimate manifestation. Regardless of who wins in 2016, this revolution’s sentiments will grow in volume and intensity, and are sure to empower politicians likely to make Americans nostalgic for Donald Trump’s moderation.

Whether that grim appraisal is mere hysteria or prescient warning it is hard to deny that the psychological mood in 2016 is not one of celebrating “gains” but of deep uncertainty.  Psychologically eight years of Hope and Change have brought us not to the promised End of History but back to the depths of the Cold War.  Now as then, we fear nuclear annihilation, tyranny and each other.

It is an an unease which may be just grim enough to justify building a migration pathway to Mars on the basis of the precautionary principle  — which was infamously used to justify paying billions to stop Global Warming.  Even the UFOs of the 1950s are back with a difference: in our imagination instead of aliens it is we who are embarked on the great ships, disappointed in humanity but hopeful too. If there is indeed a revolution some will stay to fight it out to whatever end.  The rest will go — or long to go — somewhere safe as man has always done, to the far off corners of earth or beyond, knowing that if we have failed as always, we will try again as always.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
ALL HANDS! STAND BY! FREE FALLING!
And the lights below us fade.
Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet —
We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

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