Meandering across the digital divide V: Finis-The people


Meandering in Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1945

This is the image I had in mind when I read the post at Highly Allocthonous early last month, that started me off on my own meanderings about the digital divide, that I am now closing the loop on.

From my side of the divide there is a certain amount of sediment that is being transported by the river of flowing time. I was 13 in 1945, living in Los Angeles, having been moved there with my family from a little town not far from Charlotte, North Carolina. My mind was certainly not on meandering streams.

Vicksburg, Mississippi is indelibly associated in my mind with images of the  civil rights struggle subsequent to 1945 that my wife and I were involved with, just as Dow corporation is associated in my mind with images of napalm and agent orange from later years.

All of which should have nothing to do with doing geology or teaching geology or being a scientist or blogging about any of these. Even so, it prompts me to wonder what was in the minds of those people in the photo. Men, apparently. Perhaps even Friedkin himself.

Individual motives cannot be read from photos, but institutional rationales are a little safer to surmise. That is, the people who payed for this research I think we can be confident about. They were out to control the river. First understand, then control.

We understand from this side of the divide that achieving that goal is not only undesirable, but is quite likely impossible. Perhaps a little too easily we attribute to the people in the photo aspects of vanity, arrogance,  even hubris. Perhaps a little too easily, I reacted the same way to the Post and its comment stream.

But a question lingers. Does restoring the river come down to controlling it, to making it move backward through historic time to some earlier ideal state?

Ideal state? Whose ideal? Who has the authority to define the ideal? Whence comes that authority? Questions as old as the human community itself.


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