Don’t Blame This Sleeping Satellite

Last night, before I went to bed, I was able to spend one last evening with some of the young relatives of my host before they had to go back home. At some point recently, someone in the household had purchased a black and white small television screen attached to a very lengthy wire with a camera at the end. Naturally, the girls had a fun time with it. Although the owner of the apparatus wanted to see the view of the trampoline, the young ladies preferred to dress up as if they were cloaked ghosts, or to videotape their pale faces, or the very pale balding spot on top of my head. It was all in good fun, and even better, it was fun with a purpose, for when I inquired as to the reason why this setup was being tested, I was told that it was with the intent of spotting vermin for their prompt elimination. That is a purpose I can wholeheartedly support, not being someone who is very sympathetic towards garden pests that destroy and damage the property of gardeners and farmers. I suppose this friendliness to such surveillance springs at least in part from my own background in a farming family plagued by the frequent and pestilential presence of groundhogs in our farmland, which led our family to have as working animals various clever breeds of hunting dogs skilled in killing such animals.

Shortly after arriving at work this morning, my boss wrote a note for me to let him know when one of his other subordinates, who used to be my immediate supervisor but is now somewhat of an ambiguous primer inter pares, arrived in the office. Apparently the two of them were supposed to plan and engage in various strategic work early in the morning, and the fellow did not arrive at work until nearly an hour after he was supposed to, which prompted me to write one of my fairly typical laconic and drily humorous e-mails upon his arrival. It was unusual for me to be asked to pay attention to the specific time someone arrived by my boss, but it is far more common for other coworkers to ask me to keep surveillance on my boss to let them know when he is available for them to come to talk about various matters under his purview, some of which I am involved in when it comes to researching and reporting on the backup for various decisions. Later on in the morning, I received a friendly and flattering message from the outside company who does marketing efforts for the company where I work, seeking my advice and support on a desire to expand their marketing operations into several additional states. I politely but firmly informed him that it was above my pay grade to be discussing matters of strategy, or to do my boss’ job, but I did forward the request to my boss and let him handle it, while also giving some relevant statistics about the request that would be useful in framing a reply to the request, whether favorable or unfavorable. Sometimes being a known and obvious node has its advantages, like being able to keep others in the loop about important matters.

I have long been fond of songs about satellites. Admittedly, this is a very odd thing to be fond of, but at least since the time I was fourteen or fifteen I have been fond of songs about satellites. The first was probably the song by the Dave Matthews Band called “Satellite,” which is an ode to a satellite in the sky that spies on the secrets of others. This is perhaps a bad precedent for the course of my own life. Later on, of course, I became greatly fond of the Guster song of the same title [1], which I relate to those people fond of revolving around me, even if they are forever out of reach. Other noteworthy songs about this same subject include the beautiful and somewhat melancholy “Sleeping Satellite” from the otherwise obscure British singer Tasmin Archer, to the upbeat album track “Satellites” from Sugar Ray’s eponymous fourth studio album. All of these songs, in some way or another, reflect on satellites as being in space, but not quite stars or planets, but objects of our own creation, and also usually refer to the fact that as objects they tend to be somewhat more observant than most beings. In an age that has grown to doubt on the watchful care of God in heaven above, we put objects in space to watch us, and to watch others, so that we know that something in the heavens is watching us, at least, and that we do not exist for ourselves alone without something revolving around us or paying attention to us.

The more ominous sense of being watched from the heavens is far more frequently discussed in movies than in songs, which tend to view satellites somewhat wistfully or even fondly. In movies like “Enemy Of The State” and “Syriana,” the satellite is an agent of death-dealing under the control of the American government. Given that at least one book I have read and reviewed [2] dealt with the fact that Israel apparently leads the world in weaponized satellites, possibly equipped with nuclear warheads, clearly the threat of death from the heavens above is a matter that must be taken seriously by those who are knowledgeable about the state of technology, even above and beyond the ubiquity of drones in our collective fears and concerns. Satellites are far more remote, further away, and far less accountable to our observation and scrutiny. Yet we would be foolish to blame satellites for their danger, whether it is the danger of surveillance or the threat of violence, for they are but machines placed in orbit around our planet by men for our own purposes. The machine, whether it looks for vermin to kill or whether it seeks to keep tabs on the location of people of interest or keeps its eye on places of interest, is merely the servant of mankind, doing however perfectly or imperfectly the bidding it has been programmed to do. If blame must be placed, it can only be placed on those who have programmed and put it where it can do harm in the first place, yet that requires us to look at our own leaders, and to wrestle with questions of what it is that we truly want from our technology in the first place.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/concert-review-guster-kishi-bashi-03312015-portland-or/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/non-book-review-sword-shield-of-zion/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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