Felix Baumgartner fell down very quickly. The world went ‘oooohhh’.
But exactly what skills are involved here? The ability to spend money and the ability to fall over – pretty much the same skills as an alcoholic then! Clearly something to admire.
What happened? Did he wake one day and check his pockets… “hmm, I have a large sum of money, what should I do with it?
Well, I could support a local housing initiative, maybe donate money to finding a cancer cure, or research clean energy.
Ah, stuff all that. I’m going to fly up in the air and fall down again.”
To sum up in one very old-fashioned and now unpopular word – decadent.
And before people start flapping their arms about how this is ‘pushing the envelope of human endeavour’ – it is not. It is pointless. Frankly unless he had reached the speed of light and travelled back in time in order to tell himself not to waste so much money being a twat and spend it helping people instead, I cannot see how it could have benefitted anyone.
We have a terrible habit of conflating the ingenious and the pointless. Risking and daring on the forefront of science to advance medicine, technology or knowledge in order to help humankind is one thing. Flying balloons round the world, jumping from planes or driving cars very quickly is another.
A human achievement really worth celebrating would be something like Bill Gates. Yes, yes, I know he gave us the most infuriating operating system in the world, but at least he has now taken his money and is trying to do some good with it. For every Windows crash, remind yourself that a child has just been vaccinated, their life potentially saved. Had Felix Baumgartner done something similar it really would have been wonderful, but probably not front page news.
Doubtless I will be called a cynic for not jumping on the celebratory bandwagon, but I cannot. I think people can be amazing, act with extraordinary courage and kindness, but those people do not make the front page. It then saddens me that pointless self-indulgence such as Baumgartner’s is given a million miles of press coverage and smashes the youtube record when it is little more than a firework show. This new world record is simply meaningless.
I don’t suggest the human race should be miserable and think only about sad things – but I do suggest that we start finding the joy in each other, in the simpler beauties of life. This ‘Skyfall’ seems to be little more than a Playstation game played out across the sky – a distraction that may be fun, but which offers nothing positive to the world, which only numbs us and enables us to forget the hard yet massively rewarding real work we have to do.
There are breakthroughs to be made, but we have to grow up and stop trying to pretend that we can keep treating life like a playground. We have an environment to care for, economic disasters to resolve, hunger to alleviate. These would be achievements to shout across the world.