Kathy went down to the southern farm this weekend, and the phone is out down there, so there was nothing for me to do late last night but watch television.
I watched an episode of the 1930's Buck Rogers, and a biography of H.G. Wells.
Both of these were fine and interesting in their day, but part of me wanted to jump up and yell at the screen about the mistakes they made.
No, no! There is no such thing as the aether! The Michelson-Morley experiment proved that, even before the 1930s! And there are no men on the planet Saturn either!
No, No! Free Love doesn't work either! Children need a stable home environment in order to grow up with a reasonable chance of having emotional stability. (Yes, there are exceptions, but they are rare. Most come out with more damage than is necessary.)
Why do I get upset over stuff like this?
Because I Want It To Work!
One thing that I very much want to work is to build a better world. A Utopia of some type, where people are free and happy.
H.G. Wells wanted that too. And he was very much in favor of the thoughts and ideas of the time that pushed humanity toward what they thought was Utopia. Unfortunately, the thoughts and ideas of the 1930s didn't have the experience of the 20th Century to
H.G. Wells rebelled against the stuffy society of his Victorian era with Educated Aristocrats overseeing the masses and wanted to replace it with an Enlightened Educated Elite who would oversee the masses. (Oddly, in "Things To Come" the enlightened Airmen of Wings Over The World were headquartered in Basra, Iraq.)
The experience that H.G. Wells lacked (The Michelson-Morely experiment of sociology) was that of the history of the 20th Century. We know from experience that Educated Enlightened Elites quickly begin to act exactly like those Educated Aristocrats of his day that he so hated.
They didn't talk much about his ideas on the benefits of Communism, but it became apparent that he didn't have the slightest idea that it would turn out to be a bad thing. Of course he couldn't have known that at the time. The USSR was very good at covering up it's abuses and getting others to cover them up for them.
They did say that towards the end of his life after many such things were revealed as false, H.G. Wells did realize that many of the ideas he'd been pushing were wrong and he became very depressed about it. (Gene Roddenberry gets no such excuse as H.G. Wells does.)
But, now I come face to face with the problem that H.G. Wells was facing at the end of his life:
I want to envision a better world where people are free and happy, but all of the conventional ideas on how to do this were tried out in the 20th Century and have been shown to be utter disasters.
However, I do have one thought that many of them seem to have ignored:
People are people and you can't change them.
People have attitudes, emotions, prejudices, needs and desires and one can not simply wish them away with a wave of the hand, the point of a gun or the pointer of a teacher. Re-education doesn't work, even with the power of PowerPoint behind it.
Oh, they may change their tune, briefly, but their needs will soon sublimate their behavior into something similar. Deny a group of people the need for something, and you'll find the same need gets expressed elsewhere.
People have a need to feel valued and superior. Some people will say that all people are created equal. The way they feed their need to feel valued and superior is in the belief that anyone who disagrees with them is obviously inferior. (Many of these folks
believe they are, or ought to be the Enlightened Elite of the future.)
To get back to the point, How do you build a perfect Utopia with such imperfect beings as people around. And here's the key:
Maybe we don't have to build a *perfect* Utopia. A close approximation should do us very well!
The problem is you're trying to build a great shining city, but you have to look at the material you're working with before you can build it. You can't go around saying I want to build a sky scraper, if all you have are bricks.
Now, you may not be able to build a sky scraper with bricks, but you *can* build some wonderful, marvelous things! A great deal of the problems of Utopian plans is that they require steel, where they have bricks. So, their first plan is to gather up all the bricks and try to turn them into steel. They crush all the bricks first to try to extract any iron in them. But, all you end up with is a pile of crushed bricks.
(One dissident of the USSR observed that it's true that to make an omelet, one must break some eggs. However, millions of eggs had been broken for the Party, but no one had ever tasted an omelet.)
Well, in my brickwork analogy, people can not be molded, beat into shape, cut with a torch, or welded together. You have to use older methods to join them together. Mortar, cement, and you have to lay them out one at a time.
Bricks have properties that are important. Size, shape, strength, color. These should be used, because we're hoping to create a building in which all the bricks are happy, whether they are part of the foundation, or part of the ornamentals.
Understand why the properties of those bricks are important. A brick must be able to stand on its own. Evolution has made them that way so they can survive on their own.
Of course, people are not bricks. We are not inanimate,interchangable, soulless blocks of no individual consequence, who's only significance is where we are part of a greater structure. That is a property of humanity, that many Utopian designers have failed to take into account.
So, what is the concrete and mortar that holds people together?
Laws enforced impartially
What are the goals that Utopia hopes to achieve?
We may argue the differing value of each of these, but these are what we have to work with, and where we want to go.
Can we build a perfect Utopia? No. We can not. Nothing will ever be perfect for everyone. But people are clever and they work hard. Ancient astronauts
didn't build the pyramids. Human beings built the pyramids.
We can build a close approximation of Utopia, but first someone has to figure out what the plan is and how to make it work with people that exist the way they are.
This article originally appeared on the 21st Century Fox website on May 8th, 2011, reprinted here by permission of the author.