Looking back on the 21st century

Author’s note: I have no idea where this came from. And yes, for a reason that will become apparent as you read the fiction below, it’s meant to be the 21st century.

And though this is labelled ‘fiction’ — as this is a future history I don’t think is quite the most likely, told by a narrator with whom I don’t quite agree and who is something of a dick — this is a bit of a rant, too.

* * *

Well, Jesus didn’t come back. No Heaven on Earth. Instead the 21st century went to Hell, metaphorically speaking. There were several components to this.

First, global warming. Life became a bit difficult in Bangladesh and the Netherlands, but no-one cared much. Polar bears went extinct, but no-one elsewhere cared much. People are funny that way. No killer tornadoes, no giant tidal waves — no trouble! If the disaster comes slowly enough, gradually enough, people simply don’t care — like the lobster that will boil to death without protesting if you warm the water it’s in ever so slowly.

Well, then the droughts started. Changing rain patterns doesn’t sound so bad until you remember it means one poor sod drowning in a flood while another slashes open the throat of a neighbor just to have anything, anything, to drink. Poor people started killing each other for water — for simple drinking water, irrigation water, cooking water. Maybe even for bathing water; we humans don’t need a whole lot to go killing, looting and raping. The whole sub-Saharan Africa went crazy first, then all the other places. And then people running away become a flood of their own.

Wouldn’t have wanted to be a lone border guard that heard the thunder of feet and saw ten thousand ragged, hungry refugees coming, intent on getting to the supposed paradise called Europe. Guarding against illegal border-crossers is something that really doesn’t scale well.

And how could you stop people whose only crime is illusory hope?

Second, things started running out. Things like phosphates and oil and coal. Not a single one of them was absolutely necessary and vital, but guess what: people that make their money out of oil want to continue making their money out of oil; and people that use gasoline are used to using it and don’t want no changes until they absolutely have to change.

The lobster in warming water again, you see. Too slow warming to be a warning.

As a result, when oil ran out, there was a very nasty drop, a gap, before anything else got any traction. And that gap basically meant people with deer skulls on their heads shooting each other with AK-47s to get a gallon of the car-moving liquid.

I believe the photograph to which I refer was taken in, um, Chicago, I think. Though commenters of American origin — Chicago was a part of the US until the end — would be quick to point out the AK is a Russkie gun, and the deer-capped fellow was a French immigrant. And the oil was from the last wells of Umma Arabia.

It’s funny, in a very sick way, that when the US gas riots started, the very first people to get lynched or vehicle-immolated were those with electric cars. I guess the logic was “How dare that bastard have a running car when I don’t?”

The phosphate shortage — well, that’s the stuff fertilizers are made of, so there had to be some quick improvisation. There were a couple of years when “worth a shit” was worth quite a lot, thank you very much. My grandfather made a killing in that business.

Not in the same sense as that German, though — the late and unlamented Klaus “Corpse Fertilizer” Münich.

Third, and most important, people continued being total and utter pricks. The Third World died of AIDS, believing the Pope that said condoms don’t help, prayers do; the First World died of mumps and diarrhea, believing in homeopathy and acupuncture and other hokey woo. What’s the harm, indeed. There’s a very educational story in the eastern US smallpox pandemic of 2018, but it gets me chewing the furniture every time I try to tell it. Look up herd immunity if you want.

And, wait… First World, Third World… Russia was the Second World, back in the day when someone thought up these silly names, right? Russia. Isn’t it wonderful that you can have egocentric, opportunistic cretins in power, and democracy-demanding protesters on the streets — and no matter how many times you let the latter replace the former, the situation soon is the same!

Reinforces my belief that there are no good guys, only bad guys and worse guys, it does.

Elsewhere there was more political stability, meaning that politicians spoke mighty nice, but didn’t do anything that would be “radical” or otherwise likely to adversely affect their chances of re-election.

That’s the problem, right? A doctor can tell you that your scrotum’s infected and needs to be removed, because most sensible people don’t mind when a doctor tells them bad news; a politician that suggests higher taxes is burned in effigy and not re-elected. And aside from all the lobbying, if you cut defense spending, there will be a whole lot of angry people who used to work in defense voting against you. And of course there are huge chunks of people for whom a single issue is their Gawd, and no sensible politician will ever say a bad word about that issue because hope springs eternal, and a politician always believes he can get even those votes if he just adds a bit more honey and shows a bit more skin.

It’s somehow terrible that the best metric we’ve found for re-hiring our leaders isn’t prosperity, performance or quality of life — just a beauty pageant every few years. It’s even more terrible that what we have might be the best we can get.

Remember that American president struggling for re-election in 2024? There started going around a rumor that she was an atheist, so all of a sudden she’s a morning guest on Strong Willie’s Bonfireside Cast-that-Spirit-out-of-Thee Hour. She even got to speak in tongues, and to light the atheist manikin bonfire at the end of the show. And, hey, she got re-elected. Don’t blame the candidate; she’s just a reflection of the electorate.

Ahh, politics gives me acid reflux.

Imagine a doctor that wouldn’t get paid if the patient got angry. Such a doctor wouldn’t dare to do anything very drastic. Then, eventually, he would sort of worm away (probably when the patient started coughing blood), and the next doctor would forever be remembered as the Inept Angel of Death, because though the administration changes, the country’s problems remain the same.

No politician wants his predecessors tried for their mistakes and crimes, though — not when it would set a nasty precedent for themselves. Let me think — olden Nazis, Saddam’s Iraqis, the French — their war criminals and criminals against humanity were tried and found guilty. The ancient Americans, the Sudanese, the Finns — no trials, though plenty of uproar. The difference between these groups? The governments of the first collapsed, ceased to be as they had been, while the second had continuity. You won’t get politicians to court unless some outside force does it, unless there is some discontinuity. Since you really have to do serious crap to get your state to collapse, well — why should the highest power in the land care? If you survive to pass the power on, you’re a winner. No steenking justice for you. Forgiveness and unity trumps that idealistic shit.

And of course politicians are easy prey to nationalism — after all, the foreigners don’t vote. So who cares if a few million of them starve, or the UN bleeds to death, as long as your constituents can shoot the stinky browners and keep their own dead-end jobs!

Don’t get me started on those dead-end industries and protectionism, either — no politician had the balls to say that “this factory is too primitive to have any future here with the wages and benefits we have to give you proles”; not when the crowds were rioting in support of longstanding local dead-end things like the Southern Finland Plastic Two-Piece Assembly Plant.

A decade later the factory would go bust because doing the same in China was simply cheaper as Chinamen didn’t get paid as much; a decade after that the factory in China went bust because the workforce in Laos needed no costly insurance stuff; then the Laos factory folded because robots could do the same for no pay at all.

Then people started rioting and burning robots, because they wanted to keep their obsolete manufacture jobs.

That’s a bit like coach-drivers — horse-drawn coach drivers — rioting over the advent of the motorcar. Except, as far as I know, no politician ever made a vow that “as long as I am in office, there shall be no motorcars! I fully support our traditional, native forms of transport” — well, in case you don’t connect that, the politicians of several European countries made similar promises about their doomed low-end jobs draining to China or the like; one that opposed this and suggested the unemployed should be re-schooled to new, service-kind jobs, jobs with a future, was promptly branded “the minister of re-education camps”, intent on a “final solution of the factory problem”.

As I said, acid reflux. Uff. And sorry about getting started on those dead-end industries and protectionism and stuff.

Aside from politics, there’s the other wish fulfillment fantasy played with serious faces: religion.

I don’t have a lot of bad to say about the religious people, though. Their game was played as soon as they decided to isolate themselves. After a few really antsy decades — because launching a nuclear missile doesn’t demand that much technological sophistication if you just got the tool — it was just a matter of receiving the escapees: some disinfectant, less raggedy clothes, counseling and an elementary school ticket.

Meanwhile the lands they had left sunk farther and farther back into the Dark Ages and withered away. The last I heard, the Divine Autocracy had re-introduced public branding as a punishment for “pride” and “insufficient piety”.

One thing, though — the Land of the Prophet really hit itself in the foot with the Anathema of the Accursed — you know, saying that wicked sinners killed by the righteous, like homosexuals, female adulterers, meat-eaters and atheists, should not be buried, but be left to rot. Well, that was a deterrent until the epidemics started, and all they had in answer was massed prayer. Yeah, when a highly contagious epidemic rages, massed prayer… It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Is there any truth, by the way, to the rumor that a troop of hard-core Jesusites came out of that enclave in Alabama last year on a “righteous mission of war”, armed with swords and bows and breastplates cut from the doors of ancient cars? I’ve heard it twice, but it still sounds a bit… far.

So, three components — environmental disaster, material shortage disaster, and a human disaster. When you got a trinity like that, you don’t need no tripods from outer space to cause you trouble.

But look where we are now: we’re still alive, it’s been a decade since the last proven case of cannibalism in the Metropolitan Area, everyone gets his or her ration of ten litres of disinfected, desalinated, decontaminated water per day, and President Goodenough says we will be back on the Moon by 2126!

One Response to “Looking back on the 21st century”

  1. Looking back on the 21st century | cheaper car insurance Says:

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