Sunday, May 27, 2012

The coal-dark SILVER DART flight of 1909: VOLCANIC modernity ...

   Abstract: It is an irony much unnoted, that is was only thanks to the efforts of dirt-faced coal miners, labouring deep in the dark beneath the sea bed, was it possible for one of humanity's first flights into the bright ,clear, pristine skies high above the earth to occur.
Libertarians (aka DENIERS) the world over celebrate humanity's first flights in heavier-than-air craft, above all for flight's ability to slip Earth's surly bonds : no more kids, wives, bosses, mortgages, no taking out the garbage, no more picking up socks.
    "Thelma and Louise" : but for guys.

   Free, free as a bird,free at last, free to go anywhere, do anything at any time --- LIBERTARIAN bliss in any of the three dimensions.
   One such famous pioneering flight took place in tiny rustic Baddeck Nova Scotia, far from the scientific centres of the world - then or now.
    But in February 1909, a plane called the SILVER DART rose of the pristine ice of Bras D'or Lake and  slipped Earth's surly bonds for the first time ever in the British Commonwealth.
     Or did it ?
      Baddeck was the summer home of Alexander Graham Bell , an early and wealthy proponent of the possibility of humanity flying.
   His Baddeck summer home - thanks to the wealth of Bell and his wife - could afford the best workshop machinery in the world, circa 1909.
    Without that machinery, the SILVER DART would never have soared to the heavens.
   Machinery powered by electricity - electricity generated by burning local coal.
    "Sea coal" as the English used to call it.
    In this case 'sea' coal was still appropriate.
    This dark elixir was essential to mankind's hopes to soar into those clear blue skies, those broad sunlit uplands of unlimited liberty.
   But ironically, this coal came from not just deep under the dirty ground, but deep under ground and then along,further, to deep under the ocean floor of the Cabot Straits.
   Dirt-faced coal miners, struggling in the dusty dark on their knees to bring us the coal to fire our electrical-producing plants, are essential to manned flight - then and now.
   Not just coal either - all the exotic metals that make aircraft and space rockets possible come from the labour of miners deep under the ground.
   Ancient volcanoes take matter from deep under the ground and spew it high into the air.
   Man's High Modernity does just same --- and so ,ultimately, it is just as volcanic as Mother Nature.
   By contrast, life before 1870, and perhaps life again after 2070, was mostly built on biomass materials.
   Wood, bone, skin, glue, fibres animal and plant, food energy.
   Renewable energy - from lifeforms obviously, but also from sun, wind and water.
   Field rock. Plaster, glass and ceramics were manmade from materials obtained in small shallow mines - also the source of the tiny amount of metals in use.
   Life sustained itself from material obtained on the surface of Earth or a few metres down.
   The sky provided sunshine, air and rain.
   High Modernity, 1870-1970, changed all that.
   Now humanity went deep into the dirty dark earth to be able to soar high in the pristine bright clear skies.
   You may fault High Modernity's choice of decisions - fair enough, so do I.
    But what I find most horrific is High Modernity's lack of self consciousness, humility, sense of humour and of irony.
    No histories of the SILVER DART - or of Flight generally - honour the dirt-faced miners without whom it won't be possible.
    None sense the irony, the essential Fruede-Durch-Arbeit-ness of the whole affair.
    Viewed in this light, High Modernity's lack of irony - and of shame -  allows a direct line from Baddeck to Auschwitz...

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