The neural circuits of most people tend to get gradually dimmer over time, and as they dim, the memories tend to fade along with them. Some people’s dim more than others; I noticed that Senator Bob Kerrey stated recently that an important conversation he had with the president of the United States was now “lost from [his] memory bank”:

Moynihan wrote that former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey confided that he called Bill Clinton after the release of the 1998 Starr Report on the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, and told the president he should resign. “Wow,” Mr. Kerrey emailed after learning of the account. “This is lost from my memory bank. Whatever conversation I had (and I won’t second guess the content of the Moynihan memo) it had to be more of a discussion of options than a recommendation. I would remember if I recommended he do this.”

Well, there are a lot of things I can’t remember so it’s tough for me to sit in judgment on the memories of others. I do think that in some cases, memories never get written in to the circuitry of the brain in the first place. (If, for example, you don’t remember the next day what you did during a long night of partying the night before, it is unlikely you will ever have the memory to forget.)
Anyway, where was I? This was not supposed to be about Bob Kerrey’s memories, or who forgets what about the Clintons. Rather, a piece in today’s Inquirer made certain dim memory circuits light up.
Flashback to the early 1970s, and the beginnings of the anti-smoking movement. There is no way that I can prove that this movement started in Berkeley, but I moved there in 1972, and I will never forget my astonishment over what would today be called “political correctness” but which at the time I thought was the most whiny group of the whiniest whiners I had ever seen whining in my life — angry anti-smoking “activists” who had found each other and organized themselves into what was called GASP — the Group Against Smoking Pollution:

In the early 1970’s, people around the United States began to talk about the annoyance and potential health hazards of secondhand smoke. The smoke gave some people headaches, made some cough and gag, and in the worst case scenario kept those with respiratory illnesses from entering smoke-filled establishments. These concerned citizens banded together to form local organizations called Group Against Smoking Pollution (GASP) that initially engaged in educational work and eventually began to seek legislation to limit smoking in public places. Several GASP organizations sprung up in California and in 1976 they combined their resources to create California Group Against Smoking Pollution.

The 1976 official starting date seems also to be accepted by the evil Tobacco people, but I’ll never forget the first time I encountered these people, because I was still possessed of a young and impressionable mindset — a “revolutionary” one if you will — and I thought the anti-smokers were not only whiny, but wasting their time on a “frivolous” and “divisive” issue. Many people in Berkeley in the early 70s (nearly all of them were on the left in those days) agreed that they were ridiculous.
I remember ridiculing them and laughing at the way they would go up to smokers and whine “You’re polluting my air!” Of course, I didn’t smoke, nor did smoke bother me, so I had no axe to grind. It’s wonderful when you can watch such highly emotional things from a neutral and detached perspective, especially at the tender age of eighteen. On the one “side” were the activists — messianically whiny and in your face, and on the other were the smokers, none of whom had yet become accustomed to being considered evil, and who only seemed to want to be left alone.
While this experience did not cause me to break with Marxism, or leftism, it was about that time that the earliest cracks in my revolutionary veneer began to appear. It struck me that the “GASPers” (this was what we called them) had gravitated to their cause more for psychological than rational reasons, and I started to wonder (indeed, I worried!) whether a similar mechanism might be behind a lot of people who were attracted to “movements.” My worries were not alleviated when I heard an angry black revolutionary shout down an angry white revolutionary along the lines of “I’m fighting because I’m oppressed and my people are oppressed! You’re just fighting because you hate your father!” This might not have struck at the merits of Marxism, but it did make me wonder early on about the very different motivations. So did the fact that no sooner was the draft ended than anti-war demonstrations which had once drawn 500,000 were down to a trickle of 10,000 or so. The same war was on, right? What happened to the idealists who were against it? (Like, the 10,000 or so might have been in the “I hate my father!” group, but it occurred to me that the other 490,000 might have had a much more universal motivation of “I don’t wanna die!”)
Well, I’ve strayed so far from my point that I’m nearly in the dark as to what it was.
It was the light!
The article that triggered my memory synapses and made me think of the GASPers was about “light pollution.”
It is titled Let there be (less) light:

Light pollution – the glare of civilization that makes it hard to see the full blanket of stars at night – has long been an environmental issue, but mostly among stargazers, who contend the dark sky is one of the world’s fastest-disappearing natural resources.
Try as they might to enlist support, they were often dismissed – except in places such as Arizona, home to a major observatory.
Now, however, a confluence of concerns is ratcheting awareness up. And getting lights turned down.

Light pollution? Are they serious? Or is it safe to laugh at them the way I once laughed at the GASPers?
I don’t know what to think. But there’s an organization called the International Dark-Sky Association which is pushing for less light. With new help from the forces of Global Warming alarmism:

Lately, dark-sky advocates may have found their best ally yet: energy conservation.
Saying that about 30 percent of lighting is wasted – it is “ill-conceived, ineffective or inefficient,” they say – the International Dark-Sky Association, based in Tucson, Ariz., estimates the annual toll is as high as $10 billion.
Not to mention increased air pollution and global warming from burning fossil fuels.
“People are starting to realize everything is connected to everything else,” says Dennis Ward, of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. He recently coordinated a citizen science effort, the Great World Wide Star Count, to chart light pollution.
In two weeks, he got more than 4,000 observations from 61 countries. He hopes the results will raise awareness and eventually illuminate trends.
Unlike most environmental ills, light pollution is easy to fix – turn it off, turn it down, or shield it from your neighbors. And the heavens.

I can just hear them now…
“You’re polluting my natural darkness!”
“You’re warming the planet!”
Can anti-light complaints (lodged by neighbors against neighbors, naturally) be far away?
Am I still allowed to laugh while I can? No, I really shouldn’t because my laughter is grounded in cynicism and denial, and this is an issue which touches on the human spirit, on poetry, love, and even God!

In the darkest spots – such as Cherry Springs Park in Potter County, Pennsylvania’s first “dark sky park” – as many as 14,000 stars are visible. In most cities, you can hardly pick out 150.
Ultimately, our new world of day and partial day may be as much a loss for humanity as for science.
The bejeweled sky has inspired humans to create myths, write poems, compose sonatas, ponder the existence of God, and fall in love.

Well shame on me and my hateful and flippant light attitude! (Someone from the forces of beneficent darkness will probably flip me off sooner or later. Maybe society should try experimenting with mandatory “lights off in the neighborhood” campaigns…..)
Lest you think this is just an example of the light-headed kidding I enjoy in this blog, remember something: these people are activists.
And activists always want laws!

In response to increased inquiries from municipalities, the Dark-Sky Association and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America are drafting a model ordinance.

Ironically, I think that as a practical matter, this “movement’s” worst enemy might turn out to be the personal injury trial lawyers, most of whom are solidly on the left. That’s because unlit spaces are a very fertile source of legal liability. A lot of accidents occur at night when people cannot see, when paths are not illuminated, and a lot of crimes are committed by thugs and rapists hiding in dark alleys and parking lots. One of the reasons for the omnipresence of well-lit spaces in urban areas is the ever-lurking specter of crime. Much street crime occurs at night — especially in dark places.
Ratcheting this issue up will take time, because there will be much resistance, not only from trial lawyers, but from ordinary citizens who want to feel safe. And people who really don’t want to be thought of as polluters simply because they like to read in bed. And considering that soccer moms always worry about their own safety and that of their kids, I don’t expect Hillary to to be leading the way in the progressive fight against the light.
However, by offering the satellite picture, the Inquirer article did shed some light (if I may still say that) on something else.
We have been seeing the world in the wrong way. When we gaze at the satellite pictures, we tend to regard the darker spaces and the less illuminated countries with pity, because we see them as “backward.” And as “undeveloped.” What we need to remember is that they are the ones leading the way to a better, darker future!
Anyone remember the map showing the two Koreas?
north_korea_1.jpg
Remember how we used to laugh?
Shame on me for laughing at the most progressive country in the world, and at the most progressive leader, the dimmest of the dimmers, the enlightened endarkened Kim Jong Il — shown here while his benevolent stargazing “inspires humans to create myths, write poems, compose sonatas, ponder the existence of God, and fall in love.”
kim-jong-il_1979.jpg
That was in 1979, before his further, um, elevation.
More recently, he met with Madeline Albright, who seems to have done little more than present him with a letter from President Clinton:

“The secretary and Kim Jong Il met for three hours. The conversations were substantial; we found them useful,” U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Pyongyang.
Boucher said that during the meeting, Albright gave Kim a letter from President Bill Clinton dealing with Clinton’s expectations of how to further develop relations between the two countries.
He said Kim and Albright were expected to meet again on Tuesday because “they have more to talk about.”
During their meeting Monday afternoon, Kim and Albright focused their discussions on issues of how to improve ties between the two countries and Clinton’s possible visit to Pyongyang in the near future.

While the last article doesn’t point it out, she also presented him with a basketball signed by NBA legend Michael Jordan. Might that have been an environmental hint? Aren’t basketballs globe-shaped like the earth? Could this possibly have been a subtle way of acknowledging the need to protect the environment?
There’s the famous photo of the two of them drinking a toast, but what I’m more intrigued with is this one, showing them in front of the ocean:
Kim_mad.jpg
I think the above picture has a decidedly environmental flavor. Still, not a word seems to have been uttered by Albright in praise of Kim’s world leadership in saving energy in general, or his country’s amazing absence of light pollution in particular. However, later Albright did seem to go out of her way to state that Kim was not a nut.
Far from it. He’s leading the way to a darker future!
Dimming the lights may be a long way off, but we have to start somewhere.