We are in Cusco, Peru and will be staying here for a few days to adjust to high altitudes. The Inca Trail will be a physical challenge, and my wife and I will be the oldest people on the tour. (Cue worried expressions on faces of twenty others in our group). But we walked up Mt. Quandary in Colorado before we left, a 3,450′ climb to a 14,200′ summit, and we’re able to do it with only normal pain and suffering. We feel confident that we’ll be able to keep up with all the thirty-somethings in our group. (It’s coming down 3,450 feet that is a killer!)
The above photo is the courtyard in our hotel, where I sit as I write this. It goes back to colonial times. We have enjoyed the streets and people of Cusco. It is lively and while there are hawkers aplenty, I don’t feel the oppressive poverty of, say Kathmandu, Nepal. It is clean here, busy. The people are mostly Indian with some Spanish mixed in, a very attractive people, although many are short and frumpy, which I do not find as attractive. The high hair lines and intense gazes give off an aura of intelligence in many we meet.
A young man tried to sell us stocking caps last evening, and we said no, but he was persistent. His face was bright, his English as good as ours. I finally decided to just give him the profit margin on one cap to make him leave. He said he does not make anything, that the entire amount goes to his “college,” which I took to be a private high school. Oddly, we did not think he was lying about that, as he seemed so fresh and genuine, so we gave him a little money for the school. Either we are very stupid and he very good, or he was just a nice, bright and assertive young man. I hope the latter. (I should have taken his picture so you could see those bright eyes and friendly smile.)
I brought the book Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan with me. Sagan is easy reading, and had an annoyingly persistent habit of inserting strangely adverb-like-sounding adjectives in his sentences. He was very wise, not the best astrophysicist around (there are no important papers published under his name). He just popularized science, using his 160+ IQ for public relations purposes, helping us advance in our own understanding of our existence.
In the back of my mind is Galileo, whom Sagan wrote about in the pages I read last evening. People were very smart then, more so than now most likely. The Catholic Church knew science, and surely knew that Copernicus and Galileo were right about the heliocentric universe. But that did not matter. The Catholic Church owned the truth, and any who threatened that truth threatened its power. So all about had to pretend the Church was right. That’s a hell of a way to live, so eventually they internalized it. They really believed that the earth was the center of existence.
2+2=5. In Orwell’s 1984, it was not enough to pay lip service to that lie. It had to be … convincingly internalized.
Of course, I’m thinking about Jonathon Kay and David Frum and the CSPAN BookTV video I watched before leaving. Power still owns truth. The government knows what really happened on that day 13 years ago, along with who killed JFK (Sr. and Jr.), MLK, RFK, John Lennon and who shot down MH17 and all of the other menacingly important events of our times. Frum and Kay exhibited stunningly submissive and compliant fealty to official truth.
Things have not changed. Where in Galileo’s time the Church owned truth, now it is owned by the nameless faces that own the United States government.
That is … distressingly obvious to me, hidden in plain sight, easily seen and understood, and yet out of reach of most of us.