“Here’s another. Kill man’s sense of values. Kill his capacity to recognise greatness or to achieve it. Great men can’t be ruled. We don’t want any great men. Don’t deny conception of greatness. Destroy it from within. … Don’t set out to raze all shrines – you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity - and the shrines are razed.” 
-Ayn Rand, “The Fountainhead” 

"How come I ain't got no money here? Hmm! Whitey's on the moon." 
–Gil Scott-Heron 

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” 
–Oscar Wilde

I wish more of us looked with wonder and awe at the stars — and at the great men who brave fate to touch them — yet, I fear continuing to bicker in the gutter is much easier.  

Whatever we men choose, the most important things in life are the stories we weave for ourselves. The truth of our lives, especially our deepest-held convictions, is first found in the fabric of our own fictions. 

And what a horribly wonderful and delightfully awful fabric the tapestry of human existence is!  

Separate, seemingly opposing threads wrap around one another. Together they create a unifying series of tensions. The cruel and apparent paradoxes that trouble us all are really deeply abiding harmonies.  

Just as a sour note eventually sweetens with resolution in the proper chord, the dissonance of life can discover consonance in the proper context and time. If only more of us had the eyes to see the surface for its underlying tensions or the ears to hear the music find its way home, we would all be happier for it.  

Yet, blind division and deaf discord persist, especially when suffering men are taught to curse those who dare to dream impossible dreams independent of other men’s needs.  

Any man willing to belittle others’ dreams for the sake of his own suffering and needs will never truly satisfy his needs. Without respect for the dreams of others, he will never foster dreams of his own – and his needs will be endless. When men are encouraged to see other men’s attempts at greatness as a mutually exclusive cost to their lives, they cost themselves their own chance at greatness and beckon the rule of evil men.  

Indeed, it was while watching the recent nail-biting Starship launch by Elon Musk’s SpaceX that I was reminded of the fact that not all men have equally cheered the quest to brave the starry heavens.  

Not only has Musk been criticized for his spacefaring efforts by those who claim to want to end world hunger, but even the Apollo program of the 1960s was criticized as a waste of resources by civil rights leaders, as reported by Smithsonian Magazine: 

The day before the Apollo launch, Abernathy, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led a march of 25 poor families to the Kennedy Space Center to protest what he called America’s ‘distorted sense of national priorities.’ In perhaps the most vivid illustration of the gulf between America’s highest technological achievements and the abject poverty of millions of rural blacks, on the day of the launch, newspapers around the country described the scene: The protesters, with farm wagons drawn by four mules, marched across a field to meet the NASA administrator and other agency personnel, with Apollo 11’s 36-story Saturn V rocket on the launch pad in the background. Abernathy and the poor black families who marched with him (totaling as many as 150 people) told NASA administrator Thomas O. Paine the money spent on the impending launch could be better spent feeding people on Earth. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Paine responded by saying, ‘Poverty is such a great problem that it makes the Apollo program look like child’s play.’ 

‘If it were possible for us not to push that button and solve the problems you are talking about, we would not push that button,’ Paine added. During the 20-minute encounter, Abernathy urged Paine to put NASA technologies in service to the poor. While Paine questioned what NASA could immediately do to combat hunger, he agreed the moon mission could inspire the country to band together to tackle its other problems. He told Abernathy, ‘I want you to hitch your wagon to our rocket and tell the people the NASA program is an example of what this country can do.’ 

Luckily, in the decades following the Apollo program, more and more Americans from all walks of life have taken up Paine’s call to “hitch your wagon to our rocket.”   

In particular, more and more Black Americans have been recognized for their achievements then and now in America’s space programs. It ain’t just “Whitey on the Moon” anymore. 

In fact, it was never just whitey on the moon. The efforts of the Apollo space program helped clear the way for all to join in the impossible dream of becoming a spacefaring species by braving the unknown.  

Yet, I fear there are still voices of the gutter happy to sow discord for the sin of dreaming up impossible dreams, whether they be dreams of space travel or anything else. Such voices pretend to care for man’s needs, but their true aim is to rule over man by destroying the urge for greatness in man’s soul, lowering his expectations and fostering a bitter hatred of the good for being good.  

To anyone who is genuinely called to help those most in need, you would be wise to be wary of the wolves in sheep’s clothing who use the language of compassion, community and altruism to reign over men and pull their dreams back down to the gutter.  

Feeding hungry mouths in an enduring way requires more than just food for the day. Poverty is best solved by inspiring men to join in others’ dreams of greatness — or to look up from the gutter themselves and strive towards a star of their own.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email joeyclarklive@gmail.com. Follow him on X @TheJoeyClark or watch the radio show livestream.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.