A Hundred Years Hence (Review)

A Hundred Years Hence (Review)

was sitting outside in a restaurant, waiting to place an order, my plague mask seated from nine months of experience, watchful for a don’t-give-a-shitter to come too close and breath all over me. Beyond my table and my Ipad, Corrine Drive flows with its morning hostility. Even though it’s a school zone, half the motorists are blasting through, and the other half have their phones balanced on their steering wheel. It’s voting day, and I’m waiting for reports of armed militia taking over the poles.

And on my kindle, A Hundred Years Hence, The Expectations of an Optimist.

Written in 1905, T Barron Russell made his half-full prediction of the next 100 years (putting him into 2005, fifteen years ago). And looking over the busy street, the overflow of media, the imagery, the chaos, I’ve got to think that this would be a hard call to make. Me, in an early novel of mine written in 1985, I predicted that the world would be a depopulated hellscape by this time. But the author makes some predictions based on his own observations. Some of them are amazingly close…

Account books, invoices, and all similar documents will doubtless be written by a convenient and compendious form of combined calculating machine and typewriter, which we may suppose will be called the numeroscriptor.

However (and to not openly mock him), his entire premises was built on the idea that education would raise human intelligence and morals to a higher plane in the next century. People would naturally do what was right for society, which would also be right for themselves. Morals, codified by upbringing and instruction (and not by YouTube, Facebook,  gorilla marketing, foreign corruption, advertisements, marketing campaigns and outright lies (verifiable yet ignored)), would lift humans to a higher level of existence.  Such as our uses for our leisure time…

We may consider it as practically certain that the pleasures of the new age will be largely intellectual in their nature. The stupidity of merely sensual pleasure will revolt the intelligence of the future.

He figured that railroads would be the primary means for moving people. Yet the car in its larval 1905 form is still mentioned…

In a perfect state it would doubtless be unnecessary to provide legal machinery to compel the owners of powerful and rapid vehicles to respect the rights of their fellow-citizens and to abstain from running away without identifying themselves when they had caused an accident. In proportion as the moral condition of the next century approximates to perfection, such ordinances as motor-car laws will be unnecessary.

Of course, with our horrifying election taking place, with all the anger, rage and bloodshed taking place, he still has his thought towards this very mindset…

Neither will they have remained so stupid as to think that whatever one body of politicians considers right must BE right and that whatever another body thinks right must necessarily be wrong.

Some of his calls are ghastly – he considered “evil” to be a trait that can be passed from generation to generation. In this, he slides towards the clinical horrors of the Nazis in his predictions…

The crime of permitting children to be born with brains abnormally predisposed to evil of any sort will more greatly revolt an intelligent age than any conceivable measure adopted for its prevention.

And so there you have it. The danger of placing all your eggs in one basket, of assuming that education and upbringing would herald a utopia of intellect, morals and understanding. This, written before two world wars, a couple of atomic bombs, several market-driven depressions, rampant drug use and cultural/sexual/societal divergence. This is the danger of assuming that people, in their intellect, will do what is right.

Looking up from my book, I see a young college-aged guy buzzing by in his car, changing lanes in a crowded school zone without a signal, his altered muffler spewing noise. And between his smirking lips, a cigarette.

Sure, let’s think our way out of this mess.