Click on that bad boy right there.
If I changed the text on that map to read: 2005 Schoolyard Shootings With Death Toll Over 10; or perhaps: Cities with at least 400 Starbucks, or maybe 1995 Alien Abduction Sites, you probably wouldn't bat an eye. You'd e-mail it to your friends, or not, and maybe hope the aliens clean the probe after every, well, probing.
But if you're like me, you read the caption that says that this is a map of all the cities -- just 160-- that had a population of at least 25,000 in the year 1900, and your jaw dropped. Really?
The map is from the Library of Congress. While it's true that Congress has no idea what's it's doing, at least when it's not engaged in actual perfidy, the library has always been pretty good. I bet this is legit.
I live out in the sticks, and I bet I can throw rocks and hit more than 25,000 people. That map would look like you shot it 25 times with buckshot if you used the same criteria now. So what's it all mean?
To me, it means that people have lost all perspective. People forget what it was like when Jimmy Carter was president; (shudder) how are they going to have any sort of judgment about the changes wrought over a century? Great big things have been happening. They are not directed, really. No one "decided" how we were going to fill in that map. We all did it on our own without any guidance, thank you. Check that; we did it despite your guidance, you busybody know-nothings. Things are always happening, and on a grand scale. Things that don't seem to be directed by anybody in particular make people nervous now. And one of the funny side effects of people losing their faith in god, or God, or whatever, is that they don't replace the idea that we all bump along in the grand scheme of things as best we can with: the invisible hand of Adam Smith. No, they replace it with: Comrade Stalin will be along with his five year plan soon. People get nervous about "things" happening, and elect persons willing to prey on people's fears of those "things" happening by promising to stop those "things" from happening. Or start them. But they can't just happen.
There are, as usual, numerous politicians claiming that they are willing and capable of directing vast sectors of human existence better than we can all do it ourselves. I ask you: would these new voluntary directors of even the minutiae of our lives be able to identify what's already happened? I doubt it. Let's put this map in front of them, and ask them what it represents. If they know what it is, if they even know what's already happened, then maybe I'll listen to them when they tell me they know what's going to happen, and what we should do about it. I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.
-Are those are all the places where I've solicited sex in a public bathroom?
-All the places I've got haircuts that cost more than 400 dollars?
-All the places I might have buried Chandra Levy?
-All the places I've solicited campaign contributions from a boy named Hsu?
-All the places I've crashed my car into things while wacked out on Ambien and Chivas?
-All the places I've shot people in the face...