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Across the Great Divide

March 27, 2012


Here we are in 2012.  The 20th Century, birthplace (birthtime?) of so many of us, fading into the past.  Imagine if your birthtime (so I made up a word, so sue me) were some time in the current century.  Of course, much depends on where you were born, and in what circumstances, but since I have always lived in the USA, and was born into a middle class family, I’ll use my own circumstances for this speculation.

So you’re born, in the 21st century, in the USA, into a middle-class family.  Of course, as we all now know, this could have been your circumstances, and before you were ten years old, your middle class family might no longer be middle class.  Might be living out of a car.  But that’s speculation for another day.

In your life, there has always been the internet.  Always been cell phones.  In your life your country, the USA, has pretty much always been at war, and unless your mom or dad are or were in the military, this has had little to no obvious effect on your life at all.  No rationing, no draft, no scrap metal drives.  Computers are a fact of daily life.  Probably having dozens if not hundreds of tv stations to choose from – yawn, big deal.  Carrying around a device the size of a pack of cigarettes allows you to listen to hundreds of music tracks, and perhaps watch tv or movies or videos.  Perhaps these functions are part of a phone you, not yet 12 years old, carry around with you, like many of the other kids.  When you watch television, you see people of all races – though mostly caucasians – and regularly see characters that are gay.  You may even know kids whose parents are gay, although I’d guess this is still somewhat out of the usual for most American kids’ experience.  Of course, some of those American kids are or will be gay themselves.

Twelve years old or younger, and what will the future hold?  Since we posited that you were born into a middle class family in the USA, there’s a reasonably good chance that you’ll live to the last or 2nd to last decade of the century.  Possibly longer if there are medical breakthroughs, and there are bound to be medical breakthroughs.  Of course, there’s also the chance that you’ll live significantly less years than that, if there are natural or man made disasters such as extreme climate change, or if there are wars that impact you.  Or if you are one of some statistically significant group that will be killed by violence, accident, or illness.  Perhaps you’ll live through the dissolution of the United States, or its subjugation by a foreign power after a war.  Or subjugation by alien invasion as we finally make contact with extraterrestrial life forms.  I wouldn’t bet on it, but who knows?

Evidently they’re now experimenting with growing meat in a lab.  Perhaps that will become the norm.  Perhaps you’ll grow meat at home.  Organ transplants are standard procedure now, even if they’re still risky.  Perhaps this will become something commonplace.  Perhaps there will be more items transplanted.  Fingers, eyes, genitalia…brains.  Perhaps there will be settlements on the moon (call it Club Newt) or Mars.

Or perhaps the great divide between rich and poor in this country will continue and widen.  Perhaps there will be little to no middle class.  There will be the very very rich, and the millions of poor who service their needs, when they have needs that can’t be fulfilled by machines.  Perhaps the USA will become the equivalent of a developing, or third world country, and our young 21st century citizen will find him or her self living in filth, hard put to find clean water or adequate food.  Perhaps there will be a great army of security forces to make sure the poor do not misbehave, or in any way discomfort the very rich.  Or perhaps the USA will turn around and become, once again, a nation of great wealth, somewhat evenly divided, and our young citizen – or perhaps by then not so young – will live in luxury, surrounded by gadgets and services that make life easy, if not necessarily happy.

Will it be a utopian future?  A dystopian future?  Surely there will be great changes.  It seems as though everything changes faster and faster and faster, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the rate of change continues to accelerate.  Perhaps humans have an android future, part man, part machine.

Someone who was born a century before our 21st century child, saw great changes and great events.  Two world wars.  A worldwide flu epidemic (around 1919).  A global depression that lasted over a decade and was only effectively ended by the great public expenditures necessitated by the second World War, after which the USA became very wealthy, followed a bit later by great financial health for the two principal aggressors of the war, Germany and Japan.  Automobiles went from horseless buggy to huge, sleek, elegant demons of the road, to cookie cutter lookalikes designed to be slightly parsimonious with fuel.  The telegraph was no longer new, but it wasn’t yet old, but now here came the telephone, and by mid century it was everywhere.  And by the end of the century cell phones existed though not yet ubiquitous.  Also electricity went from a rarity to being everywhere (in the USA, anyway).  Radio was brand new, became immensely influential, was supplanted by television, which was black and white then became color, and as the century came to its final years, so the internet came knocking, and the personal computer.

There will be great wonders, and great trials ahead, for a child, no matter when he or she is born.  No matter where.  Perhaps curiousity about what is to come is the most powerful reason there is to want to continue to live.  A story is being told.  What happens next?  Turn the page.  Of course, it can also be said that basically the same things happen over and over and over, with slightly different characters with different trappings, but then that never bothers us with movies, so maybe it wouldn’t with life.




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