Help Me Save the World

There it was. It happened just now. It happens millions of times a day, on every continent, in every culture. In the time since you began reading this is has happened thousands of times and it will continue to happen, every moment or every day. It has the potential to unmake humankind. It is dangerous, it is continuous and, I have realized, there is nothing we can do to stop it.

People are having bad ideas.

Everything of substance that has ever occurred in human history, both good and bad, began as a single though, an inkling, an inspiration, an intellectual tick in the back of someone's brain. Every work of art, every scientific discovery, every act of exploration, every religion, every symphony, every engineering marvel is the result of a person's conception made real. Likewise, every atrocity, every act of cruelty, every machination of corrupt government, every war, every scandal, every lie ever told is also the result of a single embryonic thought that gestated in a human mind.

I used to think that we could eliminate these bad ideas, these thoughts, these inventions that corrupt society, that erode human achievement and that ruin or end so many lives. I believed that we could educate ourselves, that we could see past our ambitions, our egos and our own plain stupidity and put an end to bad ideas But, I have realized this is not possible. We all have bad ideas, probably a lot of them. I've had half a dozen bad ideas since breakfast, I'm sure. There's simply nothing one can do to stop them; they come of their own accord.

I then realized that it is not the idea, per se, that is dangerous. Bad ideas erupt in our brains constantly, spiraling up from the eddies in our thought flow like sea serpents and then fading away back under the waters of our intellects. No, bad ideas aren't the problem. The problem is that, though most bad ideas pass away unheralded, a scant few get spoken aloud. Most of these are recognized for what they are, bad ideas, and are addressed as such, immediately or in due time. For a small section of these, a fraction of a fraction of the world's bad ideas, someone else hears them and says, erroneously or maliciously, "that's a good idea."

That person is dangerous.

Bad ideas may never stop but the people that agree with them, those people can be dealt with. I don't know exactly what method we should use handle these people. I suppose it depends on the nature of the idea, how vociferously the extolled it or how far in action they carried their support. I suppose it also depends on whether the second person legitimately thought that the bad idea was a good idea, in which case they need to be educated, or whether they deliberately pushed an idea they knew to be bad, in which case they need to be punished.

I will grant that not all ideas are fully understood when they first germinate. Some bad ideas may seem legitimately good at first examination, "Boston will be so much prettier if we put all the highways underground," while some good ideas initially seem bad, "Nobody's ever going to pay two dollars for a cup of coffee." I'm not so sure what to do about those, unless of course someone advocates for too many good ideas turned bad. In which case, they can be held accountable for consistent lack of foresight.

Someone said, "Hey, we should build civilian Hum-Vees that get three miles to the gallon."

Someone else said, "Sounds like a good idea."

Tell that guy to shut up.

Someone said, "Let's use injected botchilism as a beauty aid."

Someone else said, "That's brilliant!"

Slap that person.

Someone said, "I've got this idea for a TV show about a girl named Hannah Montanna."

Someone else said, "You might be on to something."

Fire them.

Someone said, "Look what I invented. It's a flat piece of metal that becomes a bracelet when you slap it on your wrist!"

Someone else said, "I wanna order ten thousand."

Tell that person how stupid they are.

Someone said, "We can end world terrorism if we invade Iraq."

Someone else said, "You might be on to something there."

Lock that person up.

Someone said, "I think we should change the formula for Coke."

Someone else said, "I think that's the future of soft drinks."

Shoot that guy in the head.

I'm not saying that we can make the world perfect but I'm sure we can make it better. Who's on board?


Snoozepossum said...

I'm trying to remember the name of the science fiction novel about a culture where the phrase "You have not thought this through" is one of their worst insults . . . .

I feel a sense of progress that I only have to accidentally blow something up once to learn from my mistakes.

John Myste said...

You are so damn odd! I am not on board, too violent. However, this was piece was a good idea, a very good one, and I enjoyed it very much. I will now wait for the repercussions of my appreciation of it, as people hearken to your advice and come after me.

Anonymous said...

Please help me? I know what the worst idea ever was - the kind everyone thought was brilliant. And i have been trying for a year to get people to listen. I am an idea person though. I am not a promoter. So i have been ineffective.