For me, the point of this show is to talk about the essential opposition that makes us human. We are, all of us, unique individuals. We are, all of us, endowed by our creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are, all of us, someone who matters. But we are also, all of us, part of a larger whole, and not just because we need our fellow humans to be whole in our lives, both emotionally and physically.
Humans have been around for 100,000 years (or more, depending upon how one defines the term). For almost all of that time, we lived in small, nomadic groups of no more than 150 people. We have lived in larger societies for only the last few thousand years. The world we live in today has been utterly transformed by those who have come before us. We have cut down forests, sowed crops, dug up minerals and oils, moved plants and animals all over the planet, invented a staggering array of technologies, and discovered profound truths of our universe.
Because of people like Michael Faraday, Enrico Marconi, Thomas Edison, J. P. Morgan, and Franklin Roosevelt, I can sit in a basement in Northampton, MA and be heard by people all over the pioneer valley. Because of people like Tim Berners-Lee, Al Gore, John Von Neumann, Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and Alan Turing, people all over the world can hear me over the internet. Because of people like George Washington, Ben Franklin, and my ancestor Stephen Dow, we live in a nation that has enshrined freedom of speech. Because of people like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and J.K. Rowling, a muggle like me speaks English as I do. Because of my mom and dad, I came to exist in this wonderful, confusing, beautiful and terrible world we call home.
We are, all of us, standing now on the shoulders of all who came before us, shoulder to shoulder with all the other people who share the universe with us. And getting along together is hard. That struggle, so frustrating and so necessary, is politics. Just because we all have to work together doesn’t mean we agree on what to do or how to do it. The oldest surviving story, the epic of Gilgamesh, begins with the ordinary citizens of one of our first cities complaining about their government–and that was a few thousand people living in mudbrick houses. Our world today, because of all that has come before and all that is happening all around us right now, is so complex. We need the best from ourselves, and from each other. I hope that our discussions help to make that possible.
Michael Dow, Host