Sunday, January 2, 2011

My own personal Pale Blue Dot

This video is a good introduction to my 2011 new year's resolution.

Last year I joined the 50-Book Challenge, and although I lost track of the number of books I read, I'm sure I surpassed the 50 books. It ended up being somewhere between 55 and 60 books. One of the recurring themes in my last year's selections was culture clash... human cruelty to fellow humans... bigotry, oppression, and sometimes genocide. It really struck me.

It struck me how little I know about the history of my species as a whole, and about what we're doing to each other currently that's not necessarily getting into the newspapers.

So this year, 2011, is dedicated to the pale blue dot. This year I'm going to read 50 books again, and at least 25 of them are going to be about social justice, social injustice, and human history. I don't want to walk around with this vague sense of outrage. I want an educated, well-informed, specific sense of outrage. I want to know what the atrocities were/are instead of steaming inside about some abstract notion of atrocities.

I want to figure out what made Mao tick. No. Really. I think ultimately this all leads to my interest in Mao Zedong. Ever since my vague non-conversation with our Chinese guide, in which both of us discussed difficult topics without actually mentioning them, Mao has become an elusive meta-character who... well... I mean, he was human! And I'm human. And yet the scale of his reign of terror was just far beyond my natural ken. I have to work to solve the puzzle of Mao.

And yes, I know that 1.5 billion people are also trying to solve the puzzle in their own minds at this time. Because they're living in the aftermath. And they can't really discuss it. Not with each other, anyway. That only encourages me. If they find it worthwhile to try to wrap their minds around the puzzle, I do too.

And, also, he wasn't the only one. In China, the madness became systemic, but that's happened in other places at other times as well.

So 2011 is for you, Pale Blue Dot. You and your most tragic secrets.

Happy new year, everybody.

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