Editorial: Billionaire space race highlights madness of consumer society

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The past few weeks the world has played witness to a bizarre billionaire’s game of one-upmanship, as the likes of Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have vied to take billionaire tourism to a whole new level by launching themselves and their guests into the stratosphere and beyond. 

These bizarre incidents of over the top consumerism are playing out against a backdrop of out of control wildfires taking place on several continents, droughts and wild weather patterns that threaten crops on a biblical scale and other evidence of a climate that threatens to become untenable for humanity within a generation. These entitled billionaires are literally playing these games while the world is on fire—pouring billions of dollars of treasure into a race whose vehicles add massive amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

There is no doubt that spinoffs from the space race have greatly benefited humanity through the advances in science that have been engendered by the effort, but like those scientific advances that have come from global conflict, the question must be asked ‘at what cost?’

Unlike the historical urban myth of Nero and his fiddle, the games commercial leaders are playing with our planet while the world around them burns are real and stand plainly for all to see.

Meanwhile, the global media entertainment industry (to be differentiated from news) lauds the destructive preoccupations of these out of control 21st Century robber barons, creating spectacle out of these ego-feeding exercises that far too many consumers eat up like so many trans-fat laden potato chips.

There is nothing wrong with success, it should be celebrated, but comparing the activities of these entitled locker room posturing billionaires to a Bill Gates, who has funneled much of his treasure into attempting to make the world a better and safer place, it is plain to see who is the better human being—despite any personal issues or failings, or outlandish conspiracy theories.

In these days of statues toppled due to historical transgressions, perhaps we should be looking to the present day in re-evaluating who we should be celebrating. If there ever was an argument against unfettered capitalism, the billionaire’s space race club would play front and centre.

The most celebrated robber baron of the 19th century, Dale Carnegie, once said that there was no greater crime than to die a rich man. He went on to found thousands of libraries and numerous performance halls, such as that most famous New York venue that bears his name. We suggest there is a yet greater crime than dying while sitting on a pyre of gold—hastening the end of humanity for vanity’s sake.

It is time to reassess our global economic system and take measures to rein in these outrageous extravagances—before those extravagances become the end of us all.