The future…past and present

16 Feb

Once upon a time, when predictions were made about the future, it included things like clean cities, efficient transportation and communication, fast transportation, peace, good educations, healthy diets, good health care, and all the things that we still are striving towards obtaining for our society as a whole.

I’m serious.  Here’s an article that lists some of 1911’s predictions in Ladies Home Journal.  They aren’t particularly accurate, although they do have some intriguing ideas.  Just for the record, I am glad the horse isn’t “practically extinct.”  I like horses, even if my riding days are probably long gone.

That article has some predictions about the future, with everyone having implants that monitor our health conditions and allow electronic house calls.  I’m not sure about that.  I may be wrong, but I don’t see that in the crystal ball I’m using.  My crystal ball seems to b e similar to the ones used by many people I know.  It’s a lot more gloomy than I like.

We see war, and we’ve seen war.  It seems to be an unending series of conflicts to me, punctuated with periodic “cease fires” and a change of venue, but it’s like a rock band that never stops touring.  It goes on and on…and on.  I’ve never been in the military myself, although other family members and friends have been.  A young man, sort of our adopted “god son” in a fashion, is leaving soon for boot camp, mostly spurred by the lack of jobs and ability to attend college because of money.  We worry about him, he’s newly married and a bright young star in our world.  He’s just a little bit younger than my son would have been now, and maybe that’s part of my attachment to him.  I understand the worry of a parent with a child going off to join the military.  There isn’t really any glory in death, just the loss of a bright young star in your life.  I don’t think politicians see it that way either.  Their kids aren’t going into the military as a way to escape grinding struggle and impending poverty, they are going to Harvard or Yale or Southern Cal…or anywhere but the US Army.

As for health care for the future, well, it’s obvious that something has to change.  I was talking to someone this week, they are having a health crisis with a serious disease, and the latest medication to treat it costs $30,000 per month.  It is hoped that this treatment will allow them to avoid chemotherapy in an attempt to control it.  What kind of medicine can justify a price of $30,000 per month for its use?  What can it be made out of?  I know research is expensive…but $30K a month?  No wonder the insurance company in question is refusing to pay for it.  No wonder no other insurance company would pick up a patient with a pre-existing condition like this either!  It’s as though the pharmaceutical companies are  blackmailing sick people and their families with “Either you pay us or you are going to die.”

What kind of a situation is that?

We’re seeing the middle class of America begin to vanish.  The jobs that once fueled the economy and put that vast middle class to work are disappearing into foreign countries, and the goods they once manufactured are being manufactured overseas.  Unfortunately, that also means that the people that once bought all of these manufactured goods are now suffering from “fiscal problems” and there are fewer buyers for everything from houses to cars to toy cars.  I wanted to buy an American made bicycle.  Unfortunately, there are very few of them anymore, and they are all very expensive, at least by my standards.  Many of those bicycles cost as much as the 1999 Chevy Venture Mini-van cost when we bought it several years ago.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to “buy American”.  Even on our mini-van, from an American manufacturer, probably contains a large number of parts and other components that were manufactured in some other country.  You don’t get a list of where those parts came from either.

So, in 100 years, where will the American middle class be?  Nearly extinct, I suspect.  That shrinking middle class will mean a lot of other things, once fueled by that vast middle class, will also shrink.  That will include things like government services, universities and colleges, school systems, sports, health care facilities, and parks.  Few people will get an education beyond the 12th grade, and we may see more drop outs, as the high school diploma doesn’t mean much either if there are no jobs to be had that require it.  Poverty, crime, and disease will spread rampantly through the country.  More facilities will employ both security guards and physical security structures to keep intruders out, including private residences.  Corruption in public offices will increase as well.

It’s a pretty gloomy picture, and while these dark scenes will play out in a large portion of the country, I believe there will be regions that remain somewhat ‘bright spots’ on the map.  These communities will pool their efforts to maintain peace and a semblance of prosperity, although probably a different model than the towns of today use.  These may be more along the lines of a “planned community” crossed with a corporation, designed to benefit the “shareholders” or residents of the community with everything from cooperative commerce to farming/agriculture and education.  Just like medieval times, they may employ features like walls to protect the town itself, along with armed guards at the city gates and patrolling the streets.  So much for those who advocate gun control–it’s the guns that make communities such as this somewhat safe from roving gangs.

I guess I don’t see our federal government as being capable of maintaining order any better than it has managed its war on terrorism or the war on drugs.  It’s invested too much in foreign aid and ignored too many problems here for too long.  We see too many cities and towns with too many streets that are not safe to walk down, too many schools that need armed security guards on duty, and too little learning going on within their walls.  We’ve had our head stuck in the sand as a nation for so long that I don’t see it changing anytime soon.  Apathy is rampant.

Then, there are the GMOs.  I don’t know if they are safe or  not.  The problem is…neither do they.  Genetic diversity and crop diversity are two features agriculture has employed to prevent a repeat of Ireland’s infamous Potato Famine.  We seem to have let that lesson get forgotten now though, and it may come back to bite us.  We need labeling and we need testing…and we need an FDA that is mandated to protect the consumer, not the corporation.  Right now, we don’t have any of that, and a famine or other biological disaster hitting these experimental crops could be a disaster unlike any we’ve ever seen before.  That would destroy this nation in a way that the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl failed to.  What if these foods cause a mutation in human genes resulting in some weird birth defects?  What if it isn’t in the first generation, but the second or third, that it hits?  What then?

I want a nice sunny future where my granddaughter lives in the Land of Milk and Honey…and it isn’t toxic.  I want her safe, happy, and reasonably prosperous.  I want her to be healthy.  The reality is that I’m not seeing these things as being commonly available to the masses in the future.  I’m seeing poverty, disease, despair, struggles, conflicts…and I don’t like it.  There is only one way to deal with such a future though.

Start working to change it.

Sitting around and singing the blues won’t fix it.  Neither will ignoring it.  We have to work now to ensure a safe environment and reasonable society for our grandchildren…and their grandchildren.  Do something.  Vote.  Write to your congressmen and women.  Be part of the change for the future, don’t wait for “them” to do it for you.



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