New Times / Shredder
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 29, Issue 5
The metaphor bear
It’s time to talk about the 48-year-old American black bear in the room. Also, the black bear is really tall—like, hundreds of feet tall or something. I don’t know exactly because I haven’t yet taped together enough measuring tapes to get an accurate reading, but I don’t need 20 measuring tapes to tell me what my eyes already know: He’s just a really big bear.
And he might kill us all. Or at the very least, make a really big mess in our yard. I don’t mean to be alarmist or anything, and it’ll probably only happen if he gets really mad, like if there’s some kind of intense storm or earthquake. But his handlers assure me that such an event will probably almost likely never happen, unless it does, but let’s focus on the likelihood that it probably maybe won’t. And they’re not saying this because Teufel—oh yeah, his name’s Teufel—is a huge source of income. I mean, so what if he is? Just because you get paid to say something doesn’t mean it’s not true. It might mean that you’d say it whether it was true or not, because you like being able to pay your rent and feed your purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback, Princess Pepperjack, who can trace her bloodlines to Attila the Hun’s prized war steed Princess Provolone. But it could be true. It might be nice to hear it from someone who isn’t on Teufel’s payroll, but let’s not criticize an imperfect system when the only consequence of not doing so is that a giant bear who hardly ever eats human flesh might maul us all.
And for all of Teufel’s faults—and scientists responsible for his care have identified two major ones—he does emit rainbow waves of energy that we use to power our smartphones and charge our laptops, so there’s that. How does he emit them? Well, you know what bears do in the woods.
Now there are people saying that maybe it’s not a good idea to have this enormous bear who might or might not decide to kill us all in our backyard. Sure, the authorities responsible for making sure we don’t all get mauled by an obscenely large bear who shits rainbow waves of energy initially concluded that Teufel didn’t pose a threat to San Luis Obispo County. But that was before scientists realized hat he was vulnerable to storms and earthquakes. Things change. And maybe that’s a good thing. As science and technology advance, we should know more than we did 48 years ago when we first gazed with wonder upon Teufel, the rainbow wave-shitting bear who was going to power our laptops. I mean, hell, we didn’t even have laptops back then. Or smartphones. It’s hard to imagine, I know, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
The question is: How are we supposed to react to the fact that things change? Do we continue consuming Teufel’s magic bear energy waves or do we frankly and seriously assess whether we’re willing to accept that he might one day take a giant non-rainbow crap all over our collective yards? And, given that all discussions about these sorts of bears tend to involve a lot of reports that take several years to produce and discuss—and many of which never seem to see the light of day, but hey, who wants to read a report by a scientist about whether a local power source might kill us?—what do we do with Teufel while we’re waiting to figure out how likely he is to kill us?
His handlers are arguing that while we’re trying to figure everything out Teufel should be allowed to continue doing his thang—and yes, they did use the word thang, or I would never repeat it—despite all the uncertainties, despite the now-obvious dangers of an enormous rainbow-shitting bear who hates storms and earthquakes. And while I personally like Teufel and happen to think he’s a good guy with a lot to give, I never really understood why the incredibly important responsibility of figuring out exactly how dangerous he was fell to people who had a financial investment in the outcome of that figuring out. Either Teufel’s dangerous or he’s not. If he isn’t, then the science—ideally done by people who aren’t drawing a paycheck from Teufel—will bear that out. And if Teufel is dangerous, then his handlers need to drop the evocative and highly sensual semantic dance they’ve been performing ever since the public started asking questions like, “What happens if there’s a storm? Will Teufel destroy us all?”
In response to these questions, they produced a graph that indicates Teufel is probably a very nice bear—except when he’s not. Then they don’t know how he’ll react.
Call me old-fashioned, but all I ask is that my publically paid bureaucrats do a credible job lying to me about the threat level posed by the giant rainbow-shitting bear who powers my laptop. And if they’re not capable of silencing the scientists who are waving their arms and pointing at Teufel, yelling something that sounds suspiciously like “potentially dangerous” and “fault line,” then maybe it’s time to hire some bureaucrats who don’t rear up on their hind feet and dance in little circles every time Teufel tosses them a piece of fish.
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