Mars One As Part Of The REAL Counterculture


So you hear people yakking about something called the “counterculture.” Every long haired hippie who has ever driven a van that looks like something out of the Muppets claims to have been part of it, and I can’t say they’re wrong. However, that word kind of gets misused sometimes. Miley Cyrus obliquely laid claim to it on the grounds that twerking onstage in front of an audience of millions of people is not normal. It might not be normal in the eyes of mainstream society, but she completely misses the fact that she’s been mainstream since the world first heard of Hannah Montana.

What IS mainstream, then? I see mainstream culture as the people who go to work in the morning, toot their horns and maybe flip the bird at that crazy driver during rush hour, spend most of their waking hours at a white-collar or blue-collar job, and come home feeling a little irritable because the boss made an offhand comment that implied that their job could be automated. Most days, they might not think much beyond the next weekend or the next time their mortgage payment is due. They wonder what’s going on with their teenage daughters’ obsessions with Justin Bieber and the latest iPad. They fool themselves that they’re living the good life while pursuing the American dream.

And then there’s people like me who maybe don’t do so well in the normal 8-to-5 world. Dragging myself to the office every day just isn’t my idea of a good time. Don’t call me lazy, though. I’ve been called a powerhouse for my ability to crank out eight articles a day and then turn out another article for my own blog for several days in a row. If you see me hyperfocusing on my computer screen, that means I’m in the middle of writing another article about an interesting topic somebody handed me.

Does that make me part of the counterculture? If it was just in the sense that I work from home, the answer would likely be no. With the Internet being the excellent tool that it is, more people are freelancing or running businesses from home these days. There’s still a lot of misconceptions about freelancing, but we very often work full-time just like everybody else. I see the real counterculture types as the ones who are willing to go out on a limb and apply for Mars One. We’re the ones who haven’t forgotten how to dream and that makes us a little unusual in modern mainstream America.

I’m not even sure that mainstream media outlets even know what to make of us. Poor Bas Lansdorp has been laughed at and mocked to his face right on national television. Bloggers have called us dreamers, suckers and sometimes worse. Not that long ago, us applicants had to put up with a considerable amount of mockery in the local press when we could get an interview at all. It’s still bad on Reddit. Some article writers still need to check, or at least update, their facts. If the mainstream can’t figure us out, that’s usually a good sign of being part of a counterculture.

As people who are serious about colonizing Mars, we have a lot of countering to do. An entire generation of people have grown out with the space program as background noise. Very few Americans have traveled to Florida specifically to see a space shuttle launch though I’m sure there were more who wouldn’t have objected to seeing one if they happened to be in town that day. More people have seen Chris Hadfield’s cover of “Space Oddity” and know that he did a duet with Barenaked Ladies. So maybe there is hope. But many people will barely even notice that we have a space station, and that’s where us counterculture types come in.

We’re a minority made up of people who think it’s actually not only possible, but a very good idea to colonize Mars. This is something that people like Doctor Robert Zubrin have been trying to get the ball rolling on for years, even though I’m sure he often felt like he was trying to swim upstream against all the antihumanists and the people who complain about the expense and the ones who just don’t see how anything to do with space has to do with their daily lives. Space exploration isn’t even a hot issue that everybody on the streets is talking about. Talk about counterculture – I admire his determination and the Mars Society he founded does well with running its simulated Mars habitats on a limited budget.

So modern counterculture could well be the people who can fight the lonely uphill battles for something they believe in. It’s the people who develop a thick skin about the fact that mainstream society calls them nuts. Mars One is fighting the battle, too. We’re asking for $6 billion to get the ball rolling on our colony and that money is not going to be very easy to raise without much more interest than we’re getting. People still look askance at the one-way trip thing but folks like Bas Lansdorp think it would make for good TV and we can earn the money we’ll need through mostly media rights. That’s from people who watch shows like “Survivor,” so it’s doable with very good marketing. There may be entertainment value in watching those of us who don’t conform to what most people consider normal duke it out in a series of challenges and then go through training as Marstronauts. I just hope they don’t laugh at us too loudly. Well, maybe they can. Then we can hear the sound of them going, “Holy toledo, they’re really serious about this.” And that can be sweet to those of us who are willing to go counterculture to fulfill the dream of colonizing Mars.

Margaret mead quote
Image credit University of Asia and the Pacific

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