Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

“Rain on the Scarecrow, Blood on the Plow”


In a comment on my last post, in answer to my question asking where all the people had gone who could actually fix real problems, Mark Hobson (The Landscapist) quoted one of my favorite old musical groups – Dire Straits.  More specifically, he referenced one of their songs (Money for Nothing).  What Mark said was this –

“Making money-for-nothing is way easier and way more profitable than making it by putting men on the moon, or being a doctor, or developing alternative energy solutions, or running a business that actually makes something tangible, or ….

and, did I mention that you also get your chicks for free?”

To which I can add………absolutely nothing.  He’s dead right.  Well, I don’t know about the “chicks for free” part, but everything else he’s pretty much nailed.  We can’t fix things – like leaking oil wells in the middle of the Gulf – because we don’t do those kinds of things anymore.  We seem to have learned how to screw things up royally, but once screwed up, we can’t “unscrew” them.  According to the latest news, a major part of BP’s disaster contingency plan involved “handling” the media.  They didn’t have a clue about what to actually do to fix it.  To make it stop leaking.  Yeah, good luck with that plan.

And we certainly don’t “make” a whole lot of stuff in this country anymore.  We do banking stuff and healthcare stuff and fast-food stuff.  Oh, and we do off-shore drilling, too.  All of which is making a few people very rich and killing the rest of us.

Clearly, Dire Straits was on to something.  In 1985, no less.  That’s when that song appeared on their Brothers In Arms album.  Not to be outdone, another favorite artist of mine – John Mellencamp – put out an album called Scarecrow that same year.  With the same kind of message.  In “Rain on the Scarecrow, Blood on the Plow” Mellencamp bemoans the plight of the American farmer, perhaps the first victim of our “new” culture.

So if these guys could see what was happening, why couldn’t we?  We loved the music, I guess, but failed to get the message.  As a country, we’re still not getting it.  A recent poll revealed that most people thought that the oil leak story was important, but over 50% of those polled didn’t think that they could do anything about it.  Most will soon forget about it all together.  They don’t know – or don’t want to know – that the effects will last for years.  Some of the damage may never be undone.

Oh hell, gas up the Hummer.  We’re going to the mall to buy some new clothes (made in Laos) and maybe a new flat panel TV (made in Taiwan).  Then we’ll go to McDonald’s and buy some Big Macs and fries – made right here in the good old U. S. A.!


10 Responses to ““Rain on the Scarecrow, Blood on the Plow””

  1. Markus Spring

    “Oh hell, gas up the Hummer…” – that’s a sentence I like! Same could be heard here in good old Europe. But you are right only statistically: Only most of “us” didn’t get the message. A certain percentage, different in numbers between the U.S. and Europe, does get it and they work their a** off to convince the majority that the prosperity must not outgrow sustainability.

  2. Markus Spring

    In all my occupation with your textual content I forgot to mention the image, but this is certainly not due to a lack of quality. On the contrary, the way you combine the near horizon on the hill’s top with the faraway clouds, and the lines of the straw with the cauliflower shapes of the clouds works very well for me.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Markus. I never thought of the clouds looking like cauliflower, but you’re right. You’re also right about some of the people “getting it”. There just aren’t enough of them to reach that tipping point where public opinion matters. And not nearly enough money to counter corporations like BP and their very large influence on U. S. politicians. The deck is stacked against us, I think.

  3. Juha Haataja

    You nailed it! It seems that we generate bigger and bigger challenges for our society, and understand less and less how to fix them. Instead, we reward those who provide fun for the masses.

    • Paul Maxim

      Heck, we seem dumbfounded by the “little” challenges. Dumbfounded and paralyzed.

  4. Don

    I feel sorry for the people in the Gulf first Katrina and now oil. I can’t believe all the engineering and design work that goes into these big productions, it is like they never plan for the worse. I am surprised that there is no kind of vacuum seperator to cut the oil and water. I guess it is time for the RPI students to work on that.

    • Markus Spring

      If I got the news right, BP did indeed prepare. The biggest part of their preparations was how to “handle the media”. Maybe this would need more drastic reactions: There is still a warrant in India for the former Union Carbide CEO. But with those lachrymose Republicans, fearing for the welfare of the oil drilling companies and their shareholders…

    • Paul Maxim

      I’m sure the technology is there somewhere, Don. Some engineer in some cubicle knows how to fix it. It’s just that nobody’s listening.

  5. doonster

    Clearly they didn’t get the “handling the media” part right either, as you lot have grasped the wrong end of the stick. managing public expectations is really important as news media will blow things out of all proportion, whilst over-simplifying the issues. The giant dumb-down of news.
    There were certainly mistakes made that led to this situation but fixing it is not a trivial matter. This is into man on the moon territory – some of the deepest water ever worked in.
    Last well BP drilled in the area broke all kinds of drilling records, but that went well so you’ve never heard of it.
    Just in the oil industry there are easily half a dozen man on the moon level projects on-going right now (heck some that make a moon landing look easy). But again, they’re going well so you don’t know about them.

    There is also a big difference between having plans to deal with this sort of thing and actually dealing with the event when it happens.

    Another take on why intelligent people don’t go into science & engineering any more: when you do great things noone notices or cares, when you get it wrong you’re publicly vilified. And the financial rewards aren’t there to support that.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks for stopping by, Martin. While I completely agree with your last paragraph on why people no longer get into science and engineering anymore, it scares the heck out of me. Sometimes I think we’re entering a modern version of the Middle Ages. Myth and fantasy seem to trump science and logic. Young people used to want to grow up and be astronauts or at least work for NASA. No more. For me, watching the shuttle program end – with nothing really to replace it – is very sad.


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