Conventional wisdom, or at least the cliché, is that history goes in cycles, or is akin to a pendulum that only swings so far this way until, as if by a force of nature, it swings back in the other direction.
It is easy to forget – or simply never to have thought about at all – but the human condition was pretty much the same from the dawn of time until what I call the Modern Liberal Era (post World War II through today.) The “five thousand year leap” that was borne of Western Civilization in general and America’s founding in particular, was joined both by geopolitical realities and technological marvels over the past six-plus decades, to create a world vastly different than anything human beings had ever before known.
With it came questions that other civilizations rarely contemplated, and then only as science fiction. These futuristic mullings are now our world’s realistic possibilities for both good and ill. Never before, for example, did people have to give serious consideration as to how to sustain a civilization where aging can be slowed to a near-standstill, where average life expectancy will soon easily exceed a hundred years and where talk can seriously be engaged in about never dying at all.
How are these things to be paid for? At what age does someone who never dies begin to collect Social Security? Who’s to pay – and how – the medical bills of those who, with just another and then another implant or surgery can live forever?
Now that human life can be manufactured in a test tube and new species manufactured in a lab, is human life still the domain only of God and, if so, how does one control the genie now that it’s out of the bottle? Should we control it? Are we prepared to deal with the unintended – or in some cases, intended – consequences?
Further realties of our time – and no one else’s in human history – is the ease with which rogue regimes and evil despots can wreak havoc and even doom. How will the “Arab Spring” shake out? Will the world be faced with Jihad of the sort almost won by the Muslims the first time around only now with nuclear arms and hellacious toxins at their easy disposal?
These are no small questions nor idle and fanciful chatter. They are the realistic possibilities – and in some cases, already the reality – of our brave new world. How this plays out, history can offer little guidance. But for us to be going into this yawning and daunting unknown with our books out of balance, our resources left untapped and our military eviscerated is beyond irresponsible, it is insane.
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