Past Tense Visions of Future Imperfect

Sunday, September 16, 2012

1984-2I was recently going over some background notes for a novelette I originally wrote many years ago. I found it shocking to see just how little has changed—or perhaps come full-circle—in the years since those notes were written. Those notes posited a time in the future where the socio-political landscape of that time had continued down a dystopian path that provided the backdrop for the story. That period in future history is targeted is now.

What is most disturbing, I find, is the strength in which some of our political leaders cling to the past. The “old white men” of today often refer to that period of the past of some kind of golden era. It was, I suppose, for the wealthy and powerful, supported by a Republican political power base—which is what they want to return to today.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or, as was repeated many times as scripture in Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before, and will happen again.” I hope, like they did, we realize the fallacy of this belief.

Part of what I also find interesting is that during that time period, technology has advanced in ways and uses that many science fiction authors had not foreseen. It is the human part of equation, unfortunately, that seems unchanged.

It’s actually unfair to brush all of humanity with such a broad stroke. Some progress has been made in several areas, but, as seen by the observations above, their hold is tenuous, bucked against by the wealthy and powerful—just, I suppose, as it has always been since the beginning of human culture.

I try to be optimistic for our future. I have to believe that, eventually, we will get our collective act together and, as Captain Picard told Lily Sloane in Star Trek: First Contact, “The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves, and the rest of humanity.”

The alternative is a future too bleak and oppressive to consider.

Yet, as I examine it, the difference between that future and a bright, optimistic one lies on a razor-thin boundary. Sufficient force—and I suspect not very much of it, driven by social forces rather than military and political ones—can send us in either direction.