John F. Kennedy, speaking in 1961, announced to a divided but hopeful world, that,
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
Of course, we are noughties people, and noughties people are nothing if not prone to scoffing cynicism – so we may well react to this by damning the cold war; by making a ham-fisted ‘joke’ about American imperialism not being limited to the earth, yeah?; by bringing up the faltering sense of decline at NASA since the sixties…
But stop it – you grow dull and predictable in your received opinions. The only thing that really matters about the Kennedy moon speech is that it worked. He staked the pride of a nation on a single goal – and that goal was achieved. And the people who were too busy having sexy parties to bother writing trivial list-based pseudo-journalism at the end of the sixties could afford to do so with smiles on their faces. Sure, there was all that unpleasantness in Southeast Asia, but we went to the fucking moon. Score draw.
Imagine, if you will, an alternative noughties where a visionary young president had reacted to the horror of 9/11 by bringing back the best of the cold war mentality and making an enormously ambitious declaration of purpose.
My Fellow Americans
He’d have said
Today we have been attacked by massive dicks, and believe me, if I ever get my hands on them I will fuck them up. But while the sense of grief compels us to reorder the world, we will respond to the challenge of this day by looking not to the path of hate but to the future, to the continued greatness of this union, and to a day when we can look back on these first years of the 21st century not as a time of ending, but of renewal, of a new beginning for America. It is to this end that here, today, I announce this bold new commitment. By January 1st 2015, as God is our witness, we will have invented all of the technology required to make Back To The Future… Part II a reality.
Because – right – why hasn’t that film been a guiding principle of western governments’ science funding policies ever since it came out?
It was a very popular film.
If we get to 2015 without pizza-rehydrating, hoverboards, hover conversions, holographic 3D projection, drug-free sleep guns and bionic bullying implants a palpable sense of disappointment and despondency will seep through our civilisation like a disease. Sure, not everyone will make the connection, but deep in our augmented cultural psyches we will know. We will look out at the world through jaded eyes, crushed in some small, eternal way by the knowledge. We will cease to believe in our ability to invent, to evolve, to effect change – you think the credit crunch was bad? you wait.
We have wasted the legacy of Back To The Future… Part II in the noughties. While we were panicking about flus that never happened and disasters that never came, we could have been designing the talking jacket, we could have been making all those Jaws sequels, we could have been pouring public money into any area of research with the potential to harness the power of cold fusion, solve the world’s energy crisis, end pollution and global warming and give us those little Mr. Fusion things that make your car run on fag ends and banana skins.
Epic fail, western civilisation. Epic, epic fail.
Build Your Own Mr. Fusion and Gasify Your Car With Garbage - from Gizmodo