The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Future I Refuse to Support

I am an optimist and a futurist. I firmly believe we humans can work to bend the future in the direction we would like it to go. We can't always succeed, but we can aim for the future we'd like to have.

For me, that is a bright future of greater equality, less suffering, more community in which the members actively work to raise each other up, more peace ... a future quite unlike the dystopian imaginings of tomorrow that are all the rage today. I understand well that we are flawed creatures and we are quite willing and able to cause each other as much harm as good in any particular circumstance. Still, I choose to work for what is good, what is morally right, what my faith and my upbringing dictate are proper ways to treat others and to expect to be treated. I choose to work for a bright tomorrow and a better today in any little way I can. No one will ever be able to convince me I should do otherwise.

So, when NPR ran a report on an economist and his new book, I was far less than pleased with this individual's view of tomorrow. I won't name names here as I try not to disparage people and their writing, especially when I've only heard an interview and have not read the book. I don't fancy myself much of a book critic.

Still, this view of tomorrow repels me. In this darker future world, there will be a rise in the total number of wealthy individuals. Their class will rise to a whopping 15%, which the economist came back to several times as the bright and shiny carrot for us all to chase after. Sorry, my friend, that's far too little carrot and way too much heavy, bludgeoning stick. The middle class will be rolled back from the "aberrant, post World War II 1950s-60s era" and return to "historical levels of inequality." (Hmmm, I'd ask descendants of the French aristocracy how that worked out for them in the revolution ... if there are any.) What remains of this beleaguered class will now live a "bohemian" lifestyle (say, have I been part of this bold new future for years now?) with greater struggles and far fewer members. Economic life for these people and for the poor will be a life of economic fragility. I guess this means that this 15% nouveau riche will be standing on the necks of increasing numbers of always struggling poor people who will die young while the lucky few enjoy the "good life."

In what seemed to me an icy tone, this individual stated there would be far fewer second chances. Screw up young and you'll be a screw up for life is what I heard. No ability to redefine yourself and create a new life in a new town, not with your electronic trail tattling on you wherever you go in this no secrets society of tomorrow.

Trying to paper over all this bleakness, our intrepid visionary assured us this will be a fantastically creative time where we are "liberated from factory work" and will have more educational opportunities online with computers. People who aren't rich will still be able to be extremely happy because they will be able to educate themselves online and take part in the new online jobs of tomorrow. REALLY?! Sure, the rich will be able to do so, and this bohemian middle class of shrunken proportions, I suppose. But what about all the rest? How will they afford the computers? When will they have the time to get online while working two or three service industry jobs to try to make ends meet while the wealthy wail about how bad it would be for business if such service jobs were forced to pay a living wage. As a final thumb in the eye, our dreamer of this particular future added, with a nice dollop of judgment, of course, not everyone will take advantage of these opportunities, but the new paths to creativity will be there.

I enjoyed the reporter's rather pointed summation of this view of the future. He stated, it sounds like you're saying, "Don't even argue. Give up."

I will argue. I won't give up. I won't surrender myself, my family, my descendants, or any of you, to such a grim and dismal future. I choose to actively work against such a world of tomorrow. How about you?

To explore this topic further, see:

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