The blank stare project
Assume, you are an individual who is extremely passionate about space and astronomy. You have blogged for 3-4 years fantasising what it would be like to explore Europa, to travel to Mars and beyond. You have written detailed articles about NASA’s faults and misplaced priorities. You have even written scathingly critical articles about the bad design of the Saturn class booster rocket nozzle. You have even formed group blogs with other equally passionate space enthusiasts. From interviews with NASA officials to coverage of space shuttle disasters, you have done it all. Now, if NASA launched a manned mission to mars – is it natural for you to completely ignore the event ? This is what I call a “blank stare project”.
As 2006 draws to an end, we in India are greeted with blank stares from exactly those groups we would expect to have a strong opinion on the social policies of the day.
I am reading an excellent book (albeit poorly proof read!) called “We, the Nation – The Lost Decades” by Nani A Palkhiwala. In one of the chapters, he points to an excellent essay by G.K Chesterton called “The Mad Official”. He talks about when nations go mad, even monumental actions are received with silence and disinterest. It is worth reproducing here.
This slow and awful self-hypnotism of error is a process that can occur not only with individuals, but also with whole societies. It is hard to pick out and prove; that is why it is hard to cure. But this mental degeneration may be brought to one test, which I truly believe to be a real test. A nation is not going mad when it does extravagant things, so long as it does them in an extravagant spirit. Crusaders not cutting their beards till they found Jerusalem, Jacobins calling each other Harmodius and Epaminondas when their names were Jacques and Jules, these are wild things, but they were done in wild spirits at a wild moment.
. . .
Now things every bit as wild as this are being received in silence every day. All strokes slip on the smoothness of a polished wall. All blows fall soundless on the softness of a padded cell. For madness is a passive as well as an active state: it is a paralysis, a refusal of the nerves to respond to the normal stimuli, as well as an unnatural stimulation. There are commonwealths, plainly to be distinguished here and there in history, which pass from prosperity to squalor, or from glory to insignificance, or from freedom to slavery, not only in silence, but with serenity. The face still smiles while the limbs, literally and loathsomely, are dropping from the body. These are peoples that have lost the power of astonishment at their own actions. When they give birth to a fantastic fashion or a foolish law, they do not start or stare at the monster they have brought forth. They have grown used to their own unreason; chaos is their cosmos; and the whirlwind is the breath of their nostrils. These nations are really in danger of going off their heads en masse; of becoming one vast vision of imbecility, with toppling cities and crazy country-sides, all dotted with industrious lunatics.
Happy holidays everyone !!