Pale Blue Dot

The Earth, seen from Apollo 8, December 1968

I first watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: a personal voyage in the early 1980s, and to this day it is as enthralling, fresh, humbling and awe-inspiring as it was all those years ago. Neil de Grasse Tyson’s re-telling, Cosmos: a spacetime odyssey is different in style but also, in its own way, a soaring spiritual experience, like Sagan’s. Sagan’s narrative about our pale blue dot is particularly memorable, and I have been thinking of it for a little while now, because of the rise of populism, nationalism, proto-fascism, and the existential challenge with us all right now, climate breakdown.

There are now a lot of people sharing the pale blue dot, our ark floating in the chaos of spacetime. It is the Anthropocene, and humanity has become a force of nature, in an unbalanced relationship with the biosphere, on which all life is reliant. There are a lot of political parties around the world too, in all the different countries around the globe. I think it is possible to put political parties into one of two categories – either they are in the politics of belonging category; or they are in the politics of division category. Sadly, it is all too easy at this time to think of the names of many political operators who fall into the latter category: Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, most of the GOP, Mark Francois, Steve Baker, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Ian Duncan Smith, Priti Patel, the entire ERG basically, Steve Bannon, Victor Orban, Marine Le Pen, Stephen Harper, Scott Morrison. They have limited vision, and little empathy. There are many more of course. I have come to the conclusion that political failure is ultimately a failure of imagination, a sometimes wilful failure to see things from the perspective of another’s lived experience, and thus a failure to seek, and find, creative solutions.

There are political operators in the politics of belonging category too, in the process, I hope, of finding a collective voice, with a narrative of a different future. Perhaps as part of our evolution as a species we will see the balance tip decisively and permanently into the politics of belonging category. It is where we need to get to in order to have any prospect of organised human society in the future, a global village.

Perhaps if Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot were to be compulsary viewing for all MPs at the beginning of every parliamentary session some, perhaps most, would think a little more widely and take a much longer view. Might do some good, would certainly do no harm.

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