VOSPAR by Carlton Herzog
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any weirder, something came along to show me that there are no limits to the strange. It began with a camping trip into the deep Arizona desert. I needed to get away from it all and what better place than a barren patch of dirt where my only company would be cacti, fire ants, scorpions, tarantulas and Gila monsters.
I found it on the second day: an enormous machine that defied explanation. From a distance it looked like a gigantic spine, connecting the body of the earth to a brain somewhere in the clouds. The disks embedded in the earth didn’t move; the ones that arced upwards spun on the metallic spine; and the ones nearest the end detached and spun upwards to parts unknown. And for every disk that shot skyward, another would emerge from the earth in a never- ending cycle of emergence on one end and flight on the other.
Other than disturbing the ground and a few vultures, the contraption didn’t seem to harm anything or anyone in the immediate vicinity. The emergency radio I had with me wasn’t reporting any flying discs causing mayhem in population centres.
But something told me I needed to report it. So, I went to the nearest town and asked the first fellow I met where I could find the Police Department. He asked me, “Why?”
So, I told him about the great mechanical beast in the desert. After I finished, he smiled and said, “No doubt about it, that’s a VOSPAR.”
I gave him a blank look.
He continued: “VOSPAR stands for Very Obvious Problem Apathetic Response.”
I said, “I don’t get it.”
He laughed. “Sure, you do. There’s VOSPARs all around you: runaway climate change and sea level rise, mass extinctions, skyrocketing national debt, child trafficking, poverty, starvation, planet killing asteroids and comets, biological, chemical, nuclear arsenals. Very serious problems that get an apathetic response—VOSPARs.”
I said, “Okay, I get the concept. But what’s that thing in the desert doing?”
He said, “Well if you must know, it’s siphoning off the earth’s rotational energy into those disks. In a hundred years, the earth won’t spin at all. When that happens, the earth’s magnetic field will die, and you will all be cooked by the solar wind.”
I said, “That’s a very specific technical answer.”
He said, “I should hope so; it’s my machine.”
I said, “I need to report it.”
He said, “You can try, but like I said, it’s a VOSPAR. Climate change is killing the planet, but do you see anybody getting worked up about it? Hunger kills thousands of third world children every minute, but do you see anybody shedding a tear? Of course not, because the most certain and enduring feature of your kind is personal and collective apathy. It is for that reason that I chose this world; it’s a planet of sheep all too willing to be led to a slaughter.
“Of course, if you were reporting some problem with basketball, football, or baseball, or perhaps a sensational Tweet on Twitter, or an over the top post on Facebook, a piece on OJ or the Kardashians, or who won on the Voice, your kind would be on fire. It would be like Black Friday at Walmart. In other words, if an issue is meaningless, trivial and downright pointless and stupid, your kind is all over it like stink on monkey.
“But if the issue is consequential and requires effort and personal responsibility, your kind avoids it like the plague. Why do you think slavery lasted so long as it did in this country, if not for your kind’s propensity to look the other way?”
I said, “I’ll go to Washington.”
He said, “Those idiots only care about their phony-baloney jobs, and the special interests that grease their palms. Before Daniel Ellsberg gave the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, he offered it to Congress, which refused to publish them—and as a result more lives were lost in a pointless war.
“People will shun you and offer any number of ridiculous reasons for doing so.”
I asked, “So I should do nothing?”
He said, “Nothing is the human thing to do.”