With the new year have come the usual reports of how optimistic or pessimistic people are feeling about the future.
Some see nothing but clear sailing ahead, while others point to the mess in Washington, an inevitable bust of Wall Street, government snoops, computer hackers, manmade storms, the Trilateral Commission – well, you know.
These naysayers ruin it for everybody. I grew up as part of the future that H.G. Wells predicted in The Time Machine, which, if you recall, wasn’t too sunny. Before my time, writers looking ahead also had bad things to say in Brave New World and 1984.
Science fiction almost always sees the bad side of the future. Who wants to read about a world where war and rumors of war have become extinct, where pollution has been cleared up, where space travel has opened new worlds to us? No, conflict sells.
Movies, too, always lean heavily toward a future Earth in which mankind is barely hanging on, doomed by alien invaders, disease, tainted air, nuclear fallout or the rise of the machines.
And it’s so brown. Future Earth is brown. Not just the land and water and sky but also people’s clothes, buildings, the entire movie. I hate brown future Earths.
I’m an optimist. I like to think people can settle their differences and unite to combat the threat that is menacing the Earth of our future: dastardly politicians, terrorists from the country we’re not getting along with at the time the book or movie is made, robots with evil eyebrows, a meteor headed straight for the heartland.
We can work it out, The Beatles said. All you need is love. I’m on their side.
Some people see an iceberg and say, “Watch out, nine-tenths of the ice is hidden below.”
I say, “Well, it’s great that most of the ice is underwater so ships can have more room to sail on the surface.”
Many years ago, when I was the editor of a small newspaper, a fledgling politician visited my office. He was running for the Legislature and wanted my support. He was young and eager and fresh-faced. Honest, dedicated, sincere. A man with a plan.
He laid out his agenda for making a difference. He didn’t spout the usual electioneering nonsense picked up on by The Byrds in I Wanna Grow Up to Be a Politician: “And you can believe, the future’s ahead.”
Well, yeah, it usually is, but that’s the kind of line we always fall for during an election year, isn’t it?
That young political hopeful was given our newspaper’s endorsement.
He lost miserably.
His political career was finished almost before it had started. For a short while in the long-ago past, however, he had a bright future. We all did.
That was then; this is now. I believe people like him will make 2014 a better year for planet Earth. It will take a lot of optimists to keep our future Earth blue and green.