“If I were to teach, I wouldn’t teach a course in photography. I’d teach a course called ‘What Matters.'” -Ralph Steiner
While the practicality of many of the predictions launched in the cartoon are far-fetched, one can scarcely deny that we are not as far along the developmental scale as possible. Had we realized a bit more of our potential, it’s quite likely that we would be off fossil fuels, have more efficient means of transportation, and perhaps even solved problems that put our natural resources in danger. So, what happened?
I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few reasons we don’t have nice things.
Jailing The Wrong People
We have developed a bad habit over the years of jailing people for little things and letting those who commit more egregious crimes walk away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. A failed war on drugs has saddled way too many young men, especially young black men, with criminal records from which they can’t escape, making education and employment difficult. Meanwhile, the bankers, brokers, and politicians responsible for the 2008 recession received … nothing. The institutions for which they worked received fines, but none of the individuals were held responsible. Even worse, politicians pushed us into a totally unnecessary war, committed acts in gross violation of the Geneva Convention, were responsible for the deaths of thousands, and yet are allowed to continue living lives of luxury as though nothing happened. If we are going to move forward as a society we need to fix this issue promptly and find ways to keep young, non-violent offenders out of jail.
Every time society begins to take a step forward, such as with birth control to help stop over population, or gay marriage so those who love can legally be with those they love, or allowing women to make their own decisions and run their own lives and dress how they please, there is always one religion or another claiming that such a move defies their mythology and therefore, no one should be able to progress. While one has the right to believe whatever they wish to believe, they do not have the right to impose that belief system upon anyone else or use that belief system to prevent others, or society as a whole from progressing. Religion is great at bringing comfort and peace to people who can’t find it elsewhere. Society seeks out religion when there is none. However, that is not to say that religion should be allowed to dominate society or determine its progressive direction. There is no place for religious authority outside the religion itself.
How we treat other people is a significant factor in how society progresses and we seem to be doing a great job of blocking ourselves simply in the way we treat others. Not only are we, as a society, still dealing with issues such as homophobia, racism, bigotry, and class warfare, we can’t even drive to work without being disrespectful and rude to each other. We fight for the best parking space at the gym. We bully people for dressing different or having body shapes we don’t find attractive. We make fun of people behind their backs and there’s no way we’re letting that co-worker get that promotion. A progressive society has to figure out how to be supportive, considerate, and caring of each other. Otherwise, we’re dooming ourselves.
We know monopolies are bad. We know oligarchies are oppressive. Yet, we’ve not done anything to stop either. Big banking. Big pharma. Big tobacco. Big media. Big Internet. Big Oil. By allowing certain industries to become, “too big to fail,” we’ve put them, rather than us, in the position of deciding when, where, and how society progresses. If they don’t like an invention, they squash it. If they do like it, they try to buy it and control it for themselves. There is no “trickle down” to the economics here. What big industry captures, it keeps. Forever. If we are to move forward, we must do more to prevent progressive development and innovation from being squashed and swallowed before it gets off the ground and break up the monopolies and oppressive industries that hold us back.
I’m still not sure how we’ve gotten here, but politicians and governments, especially at the state level, have done more to hold back progressive development and social change than anything or anyone else. They’re purposefully and maliciously imposing themselves over things in which they have absolutely no business being; things such as who can marry whom, restrictive business regulation, and even who can or cannot be consulted on important matters. Scientists have been banned from discussions on the climate and space. Experts are not allowed to be consulted on matters ranging from education to public transportation. We could easily be light years ahead of where we are if the politicians of the world would simply get out of the way!
We could and should be much further progressed as a society than we are. Yet, much like a parent disciplining a child, the universe will not let us have the nice things such as flying cars until we learn to be more responsible. We control our destiny, and we can blow it.
Don’t blow it.