Have we collectively lost our ability to inspire and be inspired?
This thought came to me reading the news coverage of two billionaires, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, who have just made it to the edge of space – and back. Reading through these events, I was left with a sense of emptiness. Billionaires competing amongst each other for headlines. Holding out the promise of space tourism in an age of climate change, rising inequality and threatened societal breakdown in that Earth that they looked down upon from the edge of space.
It is maybe inevitable that these latest events are contrasted with the first moon landings. Sending humans to the moon was a project initiated by President Kennedy as one that would capture human imagination, asserting that ‘No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind’. Many at the time thought it was unachievable.
In a later speech, Kennedy said: ‘We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.’
Much of the world was glued to its TV sets on that July day in 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module on to the surface of the moon. A moment that was labelled as a giant leap for mankind. Besides its global inspirational value, the Apollo programme also spawned a range of new technologies from which we all still benefit today.
Of course, there was a geopolitical aspect. At the height of the Cold War, space supremacy was an important objective. Yet Kennedy managed to formulate the programme in a way that inspired.
Today, we seem unable to do anything of the kind. We have descended into a world that is pedestrian and utilitarian. Seemingly driven by nothing else other than day to day concerns, commercial gain, or celebrity strutting. Any politician who dares to construct any kind of inspirational project is immediately castigated as narcissistic and told in no uncertain terms that the money could be better spent on filing potholes and improving garbage collection.
When we have collectively constrained our thinking to such a degree, is it any wonder that we no longer have any sense of shared endeavour? Of shared aspirations? Of a collective spirit that reaches for the stars? Only by being collectively inspired can we hope to work to solve the issues we face and build a better world.
Instead it has all become replaced by collective paranoia, easy outrage over the slightest of issues, finger pointing as to who is to blame every time we choose to feel slighted, and constant public bitching about almost everything.
Really, is that the culture we want to instil to our children? Besides being destructive and a sure road to nowhere, it really is no fun.