Advantages of Science
Is science all that distinguishes us
from earlier generations?
We still worship the rich and envy them,
pity the poor and despise them,
fear death and ignore it.
What did you expect?
Sometimes science gives us a chance
to do good, as when millions died
from famine in the Sudan.
This only got our attention
because science gave us television
to watch human scarecrows pull
their loose-skinned, accordion-ribbed cows
across the expanding Sahara,
children trailing behind like coat hangers.
By then the best we could do
was extend the misery of the living
by delivering enough food
to afflict parents with hope
while their children died.
Who could have dreamed
this infinitely little too much?
(Published in Disclosures)
First, poetry aficionados may notice that the last two lines were lifted from Robinsion Jeffers' "Science."
Here the speaker, looking around at the world, still suffers from the zero-sum game of depression--how grand attempts that fuel hope only serve to increase suffering--and what is worse than watching your children die? Too little, too late.
Still the speaker exhibits a growing courage to face the world, however pointless it appears, while his misanthropy persists. His disgust is no longer just with himself, but with the whole damn world.
A loss of faith in science is familiar to any who recall Hiroshima. The late 19th century was much more sanguine about science. At the end of the 20th century, however, despite unprecedented material advances, western man had little to have faith in--a great loss also alluded to in "Colors."
Thanks for reading,