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March 15, 2004 | by  | in News |
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W.

It’s a public relations coup. Presidential elections are looming and the sound of the Republicans scratching their ancient scalps in search of a high publicity vote winner have been heard even in this corner of Antarctica. Perhaps you mistook them for your neighbour’s dogged attempts to start the lawnmower last Sunday. I’m talking about the Mars program (God of War, a coincidence?). All the major publications of the western world have taken up the baton. Even those with a shred of cynicism are somehow pushing Bush’s barrow for him, in much the same way that due to the objections of America’s Jewish community, we’re all dying to see Mel’s latest big-screen offence for ourselves. We’re talking The Economist, Time magazine, The Listener and now your very own Salient.

Bush’s pledge to put man on Mars resonates with the Texan homeboy’s mantra ‘think big, boys, think real big’. They’re after shiny, sleek and televisable.

However, visible doesn’t correlate to valuable. Avoid buying those bananas that vibrate with a glossy yellow desperation to be eaten. And this is my sole piece of advice to first-years: Bonita bananas come from radioactive swamps in Honduras.

And neither is Swampman himself to be trusted. What value can a man who supports the suppression of evolutionary theory in schools give to a scientific mission to Mars? What value does shipping a human to Mars have over sending a robot? Er… Safety? Expense? Reliability? The answer, ma’am, is none of the above.

Real value would be, say, annulling developing world debt. Or how about paying their own debt to that fail-safe clean-up crew, the UN. And let’s get really hypothetical here… what about addressing the poverty, health and education issues right there in the land of the free? Even us arts majors know the marketing worth of catering to the needs of the hoi-polloi is insignificant in comparison to planting flags in foreign lands. We all know that there’s nothing like a major offensive to cement a nation’s faith in its leaders. But this time Bush is planning something with less casualties. Something to inspire and uplift. Something more upbeat. It’s a shame reggae’s been done already.

This November, Bush is going to make sure Americans across the land know which box to tick. For those of us who are wondering why our friends and family are still being targeted by terrorists with heavy vehicle licenses, or who scripted the WMD bit, or are tinkering with the notion that this war was about global safety, won’t the Mars program provide a bit of light relief? Sure will, bub.

Apes in space is not a new theme, and this rehash is as transparent and ridiculous as any b-grade flic. But I’ve thought exactly that about countless Hollywood blockbusters. 1969 was the year that Armstrong set foot on the moon and gave America something other than the Vietnam war and civil rights to discuss over their sugersnaps. Bush is planning a sequel to a scientifically irrelevant advertising scam and while the world’s attention is directed at the stars, Junior will be taking possession of the gutter, again.

I’m taking bets on the first man on board. Having already done ‘Hands across the Baltic’ with the Hubble, the republican oligarchy will be wanting to show that just like the cold war, that unfortunate piece of business in oil-land is well and truly over. Everyone’s good buddies now. In recognition of the new flower of goodwill that has bloomed around the world due to the benevolence of the US military, I predict that the captain of the first mission is going to be POW Bin Laden (held without trial since his capture just two months before the 2004 presidential election. Coincidence?).

That way, when the ‘US Vote for Swampman and sons’ goes the same way as the Bush administration’s previous efforts at rallying the people, i.e. into the first school that looks like it might be manufacturing aspirin, they’ll have someone other than themselves to blame. Flawless.

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