Near, neighbour, rather Proxy

By A. Autino

While I'm writing the 51 IAF Congress is in progress, at Rio de Janeiro. Business engagements kept me from participating and my paper -- on new credit tools especially conceived for the take off of the Mercantile Astronautics -- is being presented by Dr. Michael Martin-Smith, at the Space Commercialization Symposium. My best wishes to make a good work, to the congressists, even if this number will be issued after the end of the works. While the astronautical congress, very important for the ones who believe in the mankind's future, goes on, lights and shadows alternate on the political-economical planetary scene.

The ascendant parabola of the network communication phenomenon continues, that, on the one hand, shows the borders of dark and horrible zones of our global society: never the baffling (global) size of phenomenon pedophilia was showed so much clearly. It is hard to say if it is really increasing or if simply, for the first time in history, it is shown in all its monstrosity: let's think, for instance, as pederasty and pedophilia are traditionally part of the misogynous, oriental (sub)cultures. Surely, for us astronautical humanists, the spreading phenomenon in our post-industrial societies in any case sounds like a heart-rending alarm, that must not be unheard. Since a long time, in fact, I maintain that the morally and psychologically weakest part of humanity (the borders of which are beyond any ethnic, social or geographical frontier), prisoner of the philosophical concept of the close world, in the apparent impossibility to grow and to evolve, in the painful conviction to be devoid of any future, will rebel against their own children in an infanticidal paroxysm, suicidal and auto-cannibalist.

On the other hand the Internet will operate a so deep social change that all the industrial and social revolutions put together will appear, in the historical perspective, nothing more than rehearsals of orchestra, of the huge future concerto, out of proportion to our present imagination. Instead, the danger is that the stench of the shown rotten, and the awful news that every day are given to us with vulgar banality, end to depress and to demolish enthusiasm and hope even of the most visionary people. And these ones could not have, besides, any benefit by isolating themselves from the society, not to mention what damages humanity could have, missing the propulsive and enlightening push of the few minds that, against the stream, dare to think about the future in a positive and progressing way.

However the requirements for a change do exist, and are of incalculable dimensions. For instance. A great person, or a great innovating movement exceptionally ahead of times (that the ones who believe in God think to be the God's son incarnate), formulated the social paradigm that have ruled human relations over 2000 years, the concept of neighbour: "love thy neighbour as thyself", he said.

Neither history nor gospel say to us if he meant to say a) "love at least your neighbour, and more better all humanity" or b) "strive to love your neighbour, i.e. your next-door neighbour, because it is more difficult to love him, than an abstract concept of humanity". Alarming is the immediate corollary too: if somebody is not able to love himself will he obviously end up to being bad for the others, in virtue of that "as thyself"? Apart from that, the neighbour is the one that bothers us, perhaps he makes a noise, or he possesses things that we wish and have not, he look at our wife or husband, or so on. After all it is more difficult to love him, even more difficult than us.

Maybe Christ meant just this: loving the neighbour, we get closer to God. We became more human, and we get far from the bestiality of the origin, could say a lay humanist, a little bit Darwinist. But after all those two could even share goals of moral and civil growth. And, instead, the recent extremist steering of their Excellency the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Catholic Church (leaded to commit the sin of pride by the parade of the two millions of jubilating people in Rome) would make them far each other again: just sin. And, still, it is just the neighbour that the murders ends to kill, not yet a people on the other side of the ocean (unless here they are sent by mad generals), as it is shown by the recent fresh outbreak of ethnic hate between Israeli and Palestinians: people that are physically neighbours, but not fellow at all! And so, if they could learn to love the neighbour, perhaps at last they will not kill him. Think it over: notwithstanding the recurrence of tragedies and the irresponsible blowing on the ethnical hate fire by political and religious authorities of all kinds, on all it we can now reflect more impartially. Why? Because, before realizing it, we have begun by looking at the matter from a historical view. Yes, because it is finished, closed, old.

With the Internet, we can easily annoy (so to say :-)) a people on the other side of the ocean, even ten times in a day, if so we feel like it. In other terms, we became his neighbours, and we not even had realized it. So, as the downstairs lodger knocked at the ceiling with the broomstick and, if fuming by our infernal noise, called for local policemen, our web "neighbour", if annoyed by our network excitement, can rely on the anti-spamming law or, at least, send us his insults via e-mail.

Out of the joke, do we realize what does it mean? The whole humanity has become neighbour, and so it is more difficult to love it, more easy to see it (or almost impossible not to see it), also when it makes horrible things. And we always are to consider that the network concept is however something of disconcerting in itself, challenging any faculty of reason, even the most logically iron and tidy. It is chaotically subversive, with its blind mixing of sublime and aberrant - light and shadow - in its cobweb of optical and satellite channels. From this bubbling magma nobody can isolate himself: only the next generations will say if from this will born excellent minds, able to reason in another higher way, or if the humanity simply will be able to ruin its intelligence, bartering its liberty of movement for a virtual navigation, so condemning itself to the specific obsolescence, attempting to globalize its communication and to became whole neighbour.

In Europe some light really glows, among many shadows. In the United Kingdom, today European vanguard of space politics, really interesting processes are going on, of which we give regular information on TDF forum. Several astronautical organizations, coordinated by our partners of Space Age Associates (which president is Michael Martin-Smith), recently have united in a sort of federation (umbrella-organization, they call it) representing today about 5-6000 people in England and in Scotland.

This organization by now seems to have say in the matter, with the English government. Proofs are the late decisions of the UK Government itself, on the subject of preventive defense against possible asteroid impacts, while most European Governments keep on turning a deaf ear and burying their head in the sand.

Well done, English friends! I am proud to be your neighbour, and to have you as neighbours! Somebody (it seems to me that I hear him) eager will ask what are we waiting for to move in this direction also in Italy, and in other European countries. Well, the reality is the following, as far as I see: TDF has about 50 access in a day (a slow but steady grow), fifty or so members of the magazine (they are also growing), but mostly silent, and seldom showing themselves in forum. Well, until we'll not know if our fellows are willing to support a movement, to debate the strategies of it and to make it great by their enthusiasm and activity, TDF will not ignite the engines: I don't aim to leave on foot my neighbour most neighbour! People maybe love us, tolerate our oddities and find TDF of some use, but they still need to think and reflect about the whole matter: everything is to have time to mature. Evidently in UK the pro-space movement has a longer history, compared to us. Space Settlers, for instance, the organization of witch Andy Nimmo is the chairman (today chairman also of the federation) is over 30 years of activity, and, since long time, actively talks with the UK politic power. If we call some minister surely we would be kept waiting at least six months long (if it is enough)! And then I doubt that they would listen us in earnest -- provided that we could activate a communication channel -- so busy they are acting the part of contentious historical personages, of mythical Right and Left of industrial age (how the neighbour is far, sometime!). Never mind, friends, it will come also our turn.

European Union and ESA, as for them, have decided to launch an association, or joint venture, for the support of European space activity. The report mentions as positive factors the growing dependency of economics by satellite communication, put some emphasis on European engagement for satellite environmental monitoring and wishes a greater involvement of companies in space research. The announcement at least is conservative: it vaguely mentions the building of space infrastructures, but (don't be afraid the bureaucrats fearful for their armchair) it doesn't speak about Astronautics. The infrastructures are for tele-communication, strictly not garrisoned, thus disposable hardware, targeted to plunge further the orbit. However I think the event is of great politic importance, because it shows a positive push, that this structures, yet elephantine and difficult to move (especially to innovating lines), begin to take note of. Because it is a matter of bureaucracy (even if in ESA case we can say the most advanced part of bureaucracy), it tends to move only when perceives a social pressure of some substantial character. Nothing in the world could lead a bureaucrat to risk his chair with risky operations and not supported by appropriate social pressure. So, let's pay attention: we are exactly in presence of social pressure, and a very substantial one! Well, friends, let's take enough time for reflection, but see about not being obsolete by fashion! Yes, because the miscarried revolutions due to inherent cultural shortage or due to media insufficiency of the ideologists become fashion and then they pass. And can you imagine how it is frustrating, to see famous opinion makers repeating in TV - perhaps bungling it - the concepts we have been saying for years, without at last recognizing to us a shadow of paternity, and with nothing that really is changing or getting done!

[English translation by Diana Baroni]

AA - TDF 3/2000 - 14/10/2000