My thoughts on the future, close and distant.

I had hoped when I came up with the question that readers of the post Future Perfect would use the question to think about some magnificent human creation, achievement, or invention that would make life better a thousand years from now.

That people would use it as an opportunity to look beyond the now to envision the best of what human beings could do, or become.

And there were some funny answers, and some cute ones (travelling a thousand years forward in time to find a statue of yourself…I liked that answer a lot).

Some were scary-funny: Extrapolate the idiot in front of you in traffic with the cell phone jammed to her head. Now put her in a flying car. Now run away.

There were some folks who got the gist of the question, and suggested great longevity, improved health, space exploration and colonization, and more.

But there were four major categories of answer that exposed something horrifying, something lethal, sitting in the backs of the minds of folks I suspect are overall very good people.

And I think in the NEAR future, these answers and the thoughts that underlie them hold the seeds that can, if not recognized, make the lives of every human being on this planet from now until well beyond the foreseeable future hellish.

What are the categories?

Category One: Get Rid of Evil Technology

Lots of folks want to see “people” return to a simple way of life, get rid of technology, purify the earth of all the things that make life, in one respondent’s words, “too easy.”

I’m going to be a total asshole here and point out the hypocrisy in every single person who said this, because I guarantee you these folks are quite sincere, and think they want something good.

What they want, however, is this “good thing” for someone else. Why do I say this? Because each and every one of them could give this gift to themselves right now.

If you think you want the gift of freedom from technology, here’s how you get it.

First, take off your clothes. (The amount of technology it takes to create even simple, handmade garments is staggering. You need advancements in agriculture and animal husbandry just to get sheep you can catch and keep and cotton that grows with fibers long enough to be spun, metallurgy for something to shear the sheep and to grow and harvest the cotton, complex tool-making—in other words, you need tools to make the tools you need to make the thing you want to make—to create the drop spindle to spin with, and the hand loom to weave with…)

So you’re naked. Now walk outside, lock your door behind you, and throw away the key.

You’re done with technology. From now on, you get to dig a hole with your bare hands to shit in, find leaves to wipe off your ass, search out sources of clean water that no one else has shit in (because if they have, you’re going to catch dysentery or something else that will kill you, and without the technology of medicine, you won’t have anything but your own knowledge of local plants to cure yourself, or to ease the pain while you die).

You get to gather edible plants to eat, too. Word of warning—there are some poisonous plants that look just like edible ones. So maybe you decide you’re going to kill your food. With your bare hands, because ANYTHING other than your bare hands is TECHNOLOGY.

And you’re going to have to figure out a way to pull the skin off, because knives are technology, and it takes serious skill to make a stone knife. But you don’t want a stone knife anyway. Technology is bad.

And you’re going to have to eat the meat raw (because fire-making is technology, and so is creating a little box in which to store the ember of a natural-made lightning-strike fire).

And you’re going to have to eat a lot, quickly, because food preservation is ALL technology, and since you have no idea when you’ll be able to catch another fish or cat or dog with your bare hands, and then kill it, you need to not waste the meat.

If everyone else joins you (or is FORCED to join you) in this magnificent new low-tech world, you’re all going to die horribly of starvation, because technology (food preservation and storage through canning, freezing, and so on) is what makes food available during years with bad harvests now. Well, those of you who survive the dysentery, plagues, freezing, thirst, (as well as murder by people who want whatever you have and are willing to allow themselves the technology of a club or a big rock to take it,) might live long enough to starve to death.

So if you have ever yearned for a world without technology, you can have your dream right now. Good luck with it, and I wish you well.

But leave me out of it, because I’ve lived in third-world shitholes and gone without amenities like clean water and flush toilets, and did my share washing clothes by hand on a washboard when I was a kid, and cleaning nets so the fish wouldn’t see them when we put them back into the water, and I appreciate the hell out of technology. The bigger, the faster, the cooler…the better. Technology is what makes the life I value and I want to live possible.

Category Two: Get Rid of Evil Money and Greed

Again, the folks who yearn loudly for a life without money are not yearning for this life for themselves. Because if you want to live a life without money, you just do it. You give everything you own to someone else, and you go sit on a street corner and beg.

Oh, no, because that’s still a life with money. It’s just not money you earn. Beggars’ money is money someone else has to earn…but it’s still money.

So go a couple rungs farther down the ladder of social evolution. If you want to live a life without money, start by looking at the majority of history, where the thug with the biggest club took what he wanted.

Even in most societies WITH money, the thug with the biggest club still takes what he wants.

What money makes possible, though not inevitable, is a life (mostly) without thugs. If you want something, and you have money, you can trade your money to someone who has the thing you want. You don’t have to kill someone for it, and no one needs to kill you to take what you have.

The more creative and productive people are, and the more they are free to produce without having what they have made stolen from them by thugs, the more money becomes available, and the more the overall economy rises.

Many poor people in relatively free-market economies have TVs, refrigerators, flush toilets, and clean, drinkable tap water, because technology in relatively free-market economies becomes cheap, and lives become better.

Many poor people in countries with thug economies live in banana-leaf houses or mud huts and starve to death. I’ve lived in and traveled to countries with thug economies. I’ve seen the soldiers on the street corners and the head-high lines of bullet holes in the ruins of old churches.

I’ve seen the naked, big-bellied, starving kids, the banana-leaf hovels, the suffering that life with thugs creates for everyone but the thug and his cronies.

I also know what it’s like to be poor, but to live where it’s possible to work for the money that allowed me to make my life better.

So if life without money is of great value to you, then YOU live that life. But leave me out of it, because I don’t live in a log cabin in Alaska anymore where the toilets were “honeybuckets” we dumped on a midden downriver, and where we rounded out our diets with food we killed ourselves. Or in a single-wide trailer, sharing a fold-out couch with my sister in a room that didn’t even have walls or a door. And I don’t WANT to.

Oh. And about greed.

You cannot be greedy about something you have earned. You can only be greedy for something someone else has earned that YOU WANT. And want to use the force of government, law, thuggery, or your connections to take from those who have rightfully earned it.

Money and greed exist simultaneously, but are not related. People can be greedy for your wife, you as a potential slave or other exploitable resource, your dirt hovel, which is better than their leaf hovel…all the way down to the cockroach you caught and are about to eat.

And the farther away you get from the civilizing influence of money, the more likely the greedy are to kill you to get what you have that they want.

Category Three: World Peace

As far as I can tell, the people who are ardently in favor of ‘world’ peace are those who have never in their life lived in a war zone. I’ve lived in a war zone. When we lived in Guatemala in 1975-1976, the country was in a civil war. One thug government was trying to hang on, a number of other thug governments were trying to gain power.

People had legitimate reason to want the overthrow of the existing government. The potential suitors for the role of head honcho were thugs, too, however, and what was happening there was grim.

Some Maryknoll nuns were found murdered up in the mountains, buried up to their wired-to-each-other necks, all shot in the head. I’d heard that bit of news before my family was stopped in the mountains by a band of guerrillas, and I had the dubious pleasure of seeing what the inside of a machine gun barrel looked like, point on. The nun story I heard gave the moment context. I was fifteen at the time. It’s something you remember.

My father, mother, brother, sister and I each lived with one bag of our “critical” stuff packed at all times, and my folks had mapped out the route we were going to take to get out of the country should things get worse than they were. What the hell were we doing there, you ask? My lunatic parents were serving Jesus.

The earthquake in 1976 was our excuse to get the hell out of there, however, and my parents took it. Guatemala kept on fighting, tearing itself apart in the search for better lives for the individuals who lived there. Conditions for human beings were AWFUL when I lived there. I’m not interested in going back to see if they’ve improved. But from the numbers of Guatemalans living in the area where I live, getting out still seems to be a pretty popular option for those brave enough to dare it.

The folks who say they want world peace generally want the world to be a nice place, and they want everyone to get along, (and would be just thrilled if someone would come along who would MAKE them all get along). They imagine world peace as this place where everyone is pretty much the same as everyone else, and we can all be friends.

Only the majority of the folks in the world are not alike, don’t share religions or philosophies or governmental structures, and at the government level tend overall to be very much in favor of forcing people to be the kind of people the government wants.

And as I noted in the Perfect Future post, peace is not an achievement. It is the result of any of a large number of situations in combination or alone, and it can be good, bad, unthinkably bad, or outright evil. Enforced peace with individual human beings trapped in totalitarian governments, their lives hells of fear, deprivation, and suffering, is STILL PEACE.

And any system that maintains that status quo, that enforces peace regardless of situations, regardless of the consequences of that peace on the lives of those living under it, is evil.

The nature of human beings is unchanging. We are individuals, and some of us want the achievement of creation, and some of us want power over others, and some of us want something for nothing, and some of us want to be left alone to live our lives as we think best.

We do not all want the same thing, we do not all think the same way, we do not all share the same philosophy—and anyone who used force to make us either all think the same, or all live under the rules of one person’s or one philosophy’s dictates would rightfully earn the designation EVIL.

There is no one good way to live a life. There is your way, and you have a right to work your ass off to make your own life better, or make crap decisions that will make it worse, or to sit with your hand out waiting for someone to come along and save you.

You do not have the right to push what you want onto anyone else.

This is where both Religion and Collectivism meet in the middle, and this is why the political designations Left and Right are utter bullshit. There is no straight-line continuum. There is, instead, a circle, with people who value the right of the individual at the bottom half of the ring, and Religion and Collectivism at the top of the ring.

Some Religionist-Collectivists you’ll find grouped to one side or the other, and some you’ll find right in the middle, signed up for everything on the menu.

BUT…

Religion and Collectivism both want EXACTLY THE SAME THINGS. They are the same entity, with the same vile mind, hidden behind two equally ugly faces.

Here are the premises of both:

  • Live for others, live for God, live for what we tell you is important, because if you dare to suggest that your life has meaning or value to YOU, if you dare to want to live for yourself, you are evil, you are selfish, you are bad.
  • You have incurred a (nonexistent) debt simply by existing (either the claim of original sin or the fact that you have the nerve to breathe “the people’s” air without our permission) and because of this debt you owe your time (the only irreplaceable resource you have) to others, and to be valuable in our system, you must use your time not for your own purposes, but through volunteering to ours (soup kitchens, mission fields, marches, protests).
  • If you want to be rewarded by our system, you need to bring in converts, bring out the vote, go door to door, deal with these troublemakers, join our youth group, adult study group, party, PAC, SIG, and make people see the error of their ways.
  • Give us your money. God or “the people” need it more than you do. (And who are “the people”? Everyone but you.)
  • Force is justified to bring about the kingdom of heaven/the greater good, and it is entirely acceptable to slaughter blasphemers, the rich, infidels, witches, Jews, proletarians, the educated, the producers, the crippled, the black, the unproductive, the members of any other religion or race or nation or philosophy to create our better world.
  • Sacrifice everything you love or need to survive or that makes your life worth living: your mind, your knowledge, your children’s hearts and minds and souls, the income from your labor, your own dreams of a better life, your own desires for comfort, privacy, individual rights, individual volition
  • You won’t live to see our better world. Your reward will come after you are dead: You will get something cool but unprovable when you’re a corpse, or your children (or their children) will someday benefit from what you do now.

World Peace is a lure of religion and collectivists, and an excuse to use force to make people become the slaves of the system that is pushing for it. It’s a new version of “The Kingdom of Heaven”—same lie, same benefit for those who hold it out as “Something we can all have someday if you just give up everything that matters to you and makes you who you are now.”

And the best trick of Religionist-Collectivists? Pointing fingers at each other, and saying, “THOSE guys are evil. WE’RE here to help you.”

Category Four: Get Rid of People

Finally, there are those folks who want a world “in balance with nature.” They want to get rid of the tech, the money, government, all that evil stuff, and just live in harmony with the trees.

Big problem here is that, to have the world they want, they’re going to have to murder about 7 billion of the rest of us.

And the thing about all those billions is that they are NOT “humanity.”

They are best friends and lovers, the girl you had a crush on when you were fifteen, the guy you thought you were going to grow up to marry, your mom, your dad, your favorite uncle, the band that plays your favorite song.

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, those are the people who live there…and who live everywhere else. If all the people on the planet aren’t all of those things to you, they’re all of those things to someone.

And these are the people the “we want to live in harmony with Gaia” folks want dead.

Technology spread with individual rights and individual freedom and a philosophy of “no force except for self defense” can give us places in the world where peace is the norm, where human accomplishment means something, and where integrity trumps greed.

But the only thing that can give us a world without 7 billion people is a holocaust.

And the folks who want that empty world…want that.

If you want rich, empty worlds, get to work finding some new ones. This one is occupied by decent people who want to live better lives, and to give their children, lovers, or friends a chance to live better lives.

So.

  • Do you really want to live your life without technology?
  • Do you really want to live your life without money?
  • Do you really want to live your life with whatever form of “world peace” you’ll get from any government that promises it?
  • Do you really want to cheer on the slaughter of most of seven billion people?

In the near future, and in the farther future, and in the distant future, someone who wants power is going to offer these things to you in exchange for your vote. Or is going to march into your world with men with guns, bringing them by force.

The image at the top of this post is Skulls from a mass grave of Khmer Rouge victims in Choeung Ek aka the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh

The Khmer Rouge were collectivists who pushed agricultural reform, mandating the low-technology “simple life.” If you’re not familiar with them, please read the linked article to see how that worked out in real life on a SMALL scale. (Cambodia is a tiny country.)

Envision the Khmer Rouge world as your world…and then as the WHOLE world.

I don’t know what you want, and this time, I’m not going to ask you to tell me.

I’m simply going to ask you to think about this.

Is what you thought you wanted
what you really want?

If you’ve reconsidered and decided it’s not, welcome. You belong here. I’ll hear from you on another post somewhere down the road.

If the reality behind those four big dreams appeals to you as much as the dreams—if, in other words, you see yourself in the role of Thug In Charge—please go away. You have no place here.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.