A Perfect World

 

J. O. Weiss

 
As the year 3000 approaches it seems appropriate to contemplate how much things have changed in the world during the last thousand years. More specifically, we will focus on changes in the United States of America, as it was called before the great world consolidation of the 28th century. It may seem idle to re-hash what is now ancient history, but it could be helpful to remind us how much life has improved and how much we should all be thankful for.

First of all we should consider the changes in our government. We will not dwell on the recent history since world consolidation, a period very well known to all of us, rather we will touch on some of the changes which occurred much earlier.

After the popular revolution in the 26th century, the government of the USA became quite different than the one which our ancestors came to despise and fought so hard to overturn. Our current history books pay little attention to the early part of this millennium -- a period marked by increasing corruption, dishonesty, and unfairness in all levels of the government. People distrusted all politicians and government officials and felt powerless to do anything about the problems besieging the country.

It is not surprising that corruption was rampant considering the archaic methods then used to select and elect people to office. Imagine if you can a system in which people gave money to politicians to help them get elected! Small wonder that these politicians when elected to office continued to expect people to give them money to get re-elected, to support the giver's self-interests, and to vote for measures that would favor these givers. Of course, they did not admit that this amounted to taking bribes; they called it "campaign contributions", and the people offering the money did not admit that they were paying for favors, they claimed that they only wanted "access".

Once in office their highest priority was to get re-elected which was so easy to achieve that a class of "professional politicians" developed. Most of these politicians could reasonably expect to remain in office for life, using the power of their office to continually get re-elected and to enrich themselves and the special interests that supported them.

These practices all changed after the popular revolution. The people's government immediately eliminated "campaign contributions" and all other forms of legalized bribery. Without the bribery, of course, the professional politicians quickly disappeared since there was no way they could enrich themselves by abuse of their positions of power.

Since that time we have had citizen representation in government. It has been considered an honor for the brightest leaders in our society to devote some of their most productive years to government service receiving only modest compensation. Of course, the government has funded their election campaigns, and our media have been required to make their facilities available for every candidate to communicate with the people. After serving their single term in office, they return to their businesses and other activities.

Time now to turn to our system of justice. Again, it is surprising to many of us today that people in the 20th century accepted a system in which lawyers representing opposing sides engaged in a game in which they were expected to do almost anything to make their side win. They called it "the adversarial system of justice".

Somehow it was expected to produce justice even though no one even pretended to try to find the "truth". Defense lawyers candidly admitted that they did not care what the "truth" was, that their role was to represent only their clients' interests, and let the chips fall where they may. Prosecuting attorneys also eagerly played the game, sometimes even ignoring evidence which would favor the accused person. Of course, in this system many guilty people were not punished, and many innocent people were convicted.

In those times it was also quite common for people to go to court to try to get money from other people for wrongs they thought they had suffered. Lawyers even sought out people and encouraged them to go to court promising that it would cost them nothing. Then, get this, if the lawyers won the case and the people who lost had to pay a lot of money, the lawyers would get to keep fifty percent of it as their compensation! Think of that!

And the amount of money the people had to pay wasn't limited by actual damages; the real money was in "punitive damages". And get this -- the winning side and their lawyers got this money too! No wonder the courts were jammed with all sorts of spurious complaints of damages. People even collected money when their injuries were incurred by their own actions because the law allowed companies to be blamed for "contributory negligence".

But it was commonly believed that this system, although admittedly not perfect, was the "best in the world". (Not surprising since people were led to believe that ALL of the elements in their society were the "best in the world" despite much evidence to the contrary.) The education and public information systems had become so provincial that few people were even aware that systems of justice elsewhere in the world were more effective and fairer.

They would have been surprised to learn that elsewhere it was quite common for all officers of the court, prosecutors and defense attorneys alike, to be charged with the responsibility to seek the truth no matter which side it favored.

However, in the USA it would take many centuries and a popular revolution before people decided that the justice system should serve the people, not the lawyers and judges and politicians. Only with a new Constitution was it possible to change the justice system to one in which all elements were devoted to seeking the truth. Of course, soon after this concept was introduced it was necessary to educate a whole new generation of lawyers and select all new judges since it was found impossible to re-train the existing ones.

Another basic change, which eliminated all of the frivolous and most of the spurious claims, was to institute the practice of "loser pays". In addition, re-directing any "punitive damages" to the government rather than to the plaintiff pretty well drained most of the disreputable moneymaking opportunities out of the legal profession.

With our current virtually crime-free society it is difficult for us to imagine the world of the 20th, or even the 25th centuries. A thousand years ago the USA depended on a large police force and a punitive legal system to try to control crime. Of course, this approach was not at all successful. Even with larger and larger numbers of police and more and more harsh penalties (including even death!) crime continued to increase. People tried to protect themselves by inclosing their living areas with walls and hiring security guards. Many people even hired bodyguards for protection whenever they had to leave their homes. The failure of these extreme measures to make people feel safe was one of the factors that led to the popular revolution.

Our revolutionary forefathers recognized that some provisions in the old constitution had not led to desired behavior. Changing the old constitution before the revolution was not possible because people did not trust their politicians -- for good reasons. The old constitution focused on protecting the "rights of individuals" -- presumably from all sorts of abuses by governments and other people. This focus was so extreme that no one ever spoke of what was best for "society as a whole". It was thought -- or just accepted -- that if all of the "rights of individuals" were adequately protected, that everyone would be as happy as possible since they would enjoy maximum "freedom".

Of course, this extreme view led to results that today seem obvious: the philosophy which guided peoples lives was: "Get Yours". With everything focused on freedom-of-the-individual there was no balancing consideration of how-do-we-ALL-live-together-better. The people who enjoyed this focus on freedom-of-the-individual the most were, of course, those who enjoyed behaving badly, even criminally. At one time cynics referred to the USA as "an amusement park for criminals".

Our new Constitution provides a balance between individual freedom and the welfare of society as a whole. With this philosophy it soon became possible to view the sources of undesired behavior with better understanding. Individual activity that was anti-social was now seen as the responsibility of society to address and remedy for the good of everyone. This philosophy quickly led to changes in how the rampant problems of recreational drugs, violence, unwanted children, and racial discrimination were dealt with. (In the 20th century it was still possible to recognize differences in the racial backgrounds of the population of the USA. There were differences in skin color, which changed slowly over the centuries to the almost uniform tan color of people today.)

Recreational drugs were eliminated as a problem shortly after the revolution when the new government decided to de-criminalize the possession or use of drugs in ways that did not endanger other people. At the same time anyone whose use of any drug did endanger others was "educated" to understand that that behavior would not be tolerated by society. De-criminalizing the possession of drugs reduced drug prices and quickly eliminated the moneymaking opportunities of illegal drug-sellers thus eliminating all of the involvement of "organized crime" in the drug trade. Focusing on the undesired behavior rather than on the use of drugs itself was the key element in solving this problem.

The subject of "organized crime" deserves considerable examination. Up until the poplar revolution various crime organizations, known collectively as the "Mafias" (Italian, Chinese, Russian, Jewish, Brazilian, Indian, etc.) controlled many of the institutions and the majority of the economy of the USA. The government knew about what was going on, but because of the restrictions of the old constitution and corruption, nothing was done to eliminate this scourge on society. What did these "Mafias" do? They intimidated people to rig elections, to pay for "protection", to hire only their companies, to control unions, etc. Much of their money came from the importation and distribution of recreational drugs, but they also controlled all forms of gambling, which was also popular at the time.

This influence was ended when government itself took over gambling. During the 22nd century the central government ended the competition among the states and instituted a national lottery. The individual states took over operation of casinos, which left bingo and sports pools to local governments.

However, as organized crime continued to extend its influence, various Mafias more and more controlled government itself. By the 24th century it was no longer possible to distinguish government from the Mafias. By then the Mafias had also taken over all institutions and businesses in the country.

After the popular revolution it took many centuries to completely eliminate organized crime in our society. With the new Constitution our approach to dealing with all problems changed to one that focused on eliminating causes of undesired behavior and finding ways to improve our society as a whole. Organized crime had its roots in the "Cult of the Individual" with all of its greed and selfishness. As our society changed, organized crime gradually declined and eventually disappeared. Lotteries, casinos, and other forms of gambling also gradually disappeared as people became better educated to understand that gambling is a fool's game and found more constructive forms of entertainment.

Another element of life early in this millennium was the religious taboo against all forms of sexual expression. Since as we all realize, sex is a natural and necessary part of life, the prohibition against normal sexual expression resulted in aberrations that were called "prostitution" and "pornography". (These terms refer to different forms of the selling of sex for money.) Of course, people today have difficulty understanding how sexual activities could have been regarded as illegal, but that is because they are unaware of the religious taboos that were strong influences on what was regarded as "politically correct" at the time. Naturally, just like prohibitions on the use of drugs and on gambling had no real effect on people's practices, the taboos against sex had little effect on how people behaved.

Abortion, unknown in our society for several centuries, was a growing problem throughout much of this millennium. Sexual transmission of diseases could not be dealt with effectively because there was even a taboo against educating young people on how to avoid disease. Instead, many well-meaning but misguided people advocated a wholly unnatural avoidance of sex. Their advice was to "Just Say No". This approach turned out to be just as effective as the advice to obese people: "Just Don't Eat".

When our revolutionary forefathers recognized that it was the very restrictions on sexual gratification that were largely responsible for the extreme violence in society, they took steps to end these mindless taboos, and facilitated the development of the natural, healthy view of sex which has served our society so well. Our young people have sex as freely as they choose without producing unwanted children, without transmission of disease, and without guilt from societal disapproval. With their natural sexual cravings satisfied our young people do not feel driven to relieve their frustrations through violent acts.

Another aspect of the problem of violence involved a change in our view of punishment as a solution. As violence increased century after century the government passed more and more laws with harsher and harsher punishments. This approach, of course, ultimately failed miserably. When people focused on finding the causes of violent behavior and decided to eliminate these causes, real progress began to be made toward the non-violent society we enjoy today.

It is hard to understand but centuries ago it was common to see violent acts depicted on television and in motion pictures as entertainment. (Early in the millennium "TV" and "movies" were the forerunners of present-day virtual reality experiences.) The most popular shows were the ones with the most gruesome violence! People of that time failed to recognize the parallels with the gladiatorial contests so popular a millennium earlier which helped lead to the downfall of the Roman civilization.

Because there was so much money to be made by presenting violence as entertainment, there was great resistance against any suggestion that it was in any way associated with the increasing violence in society at the time. Such an obvious association was overlooked for many centuries until the revolution led to revision of the old Constitution to balance its "First Amendment right of free speech" with a consideration of whether any so-called "speech" endangers society as a whole. Then, it was obvious that the violent acts depicted in the shows must be eliminated as an influence on how people behaved towards each other.

Yet another cause of violence was the great disparity in living standards between the poorest and the richest people. The politicians in the late 20th century actually made laws that accentuated the disparity rather than reducing it. The popular saying was "The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer", and of course it was true. In the extreme case this practice eventually led to an under-privileged class of people whose easiest access to money was to steal it from the privileged class.

Only after the revolution did the citizen-politicians begin to effectively address this economic problem. Again the old Constitution needed to be revised to include a provision making government responsible for creating conditions such that everyone had access to the basics in human life including food, housing, medical care, education, employment, etc. As this was accomplished along with other changes already discussed, people in the under-privileged class began to see more opportunities for a good life, and they began to behave better.

There was yet another factor that had a strong influence on violence in the USA. Trust me when I tell you that prior to the 26th century every person in the country including small children was armed to the teeth! In ancient times these arms consisted of only knives, handguns, automatic machine guns, hand grenades, landmines, and the occasional shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. Carrying these arms was entirely legal!

The pre-Revolutionary Constitution actually guaranteed the "right of the people to bear arms". School children even took weapons to school and blasted their teachers and fellow-students. Even with the introduction of the more modern laser disintegrators in the 21st century the government took no effective action. Thus, the problem continued until the people in the popular revolution took up their weapons and took charge of the government by force. (Poetic justice don't you think!)

Nevertheless, the framers of the new Constitution realized that even in our almost stress-free society weapons in the hands of people were not only unnecessary they were dangerous as they have always been. Since people have been educated to avoid conflicts and differences of opinion have been resolved by arbitration, weapons and violence in our society disappeared.

No discussion of change during the past millennium would be complete without dealing with the problem of population control. Of course, in the USA of the 20th century even the discussion of population control was taboo, again for religious and racial reasons. As the most powerful nation in the world at the time the USA attempted to force its philosophy on the rest of the world (much of which had more sense than to go along with that notion).

The government vigorously opposed any means of population control: birth control, sex education, abortion, etc. Over the centuries nature provided its own solution: starvation! Along with starvation came disease, and despite all the efforts to provide food and medical services to people who could not help themselves, starvation and disease ultimately became the solutions to the population problem. Only after the popular revolution did reason triumph over ignorance. The policies that had led to worldwide disaster were finally changed. Sex education was begun and birth control was provided to everyone at the age of ten.

By this time, however, world population had swollen to almost eighteen billion and much of the damage was irreversible. For example, compared to the second millennium people during the third millennium became crowded together into the gigantic above- and below-ground cities of today. By the 23rd century the last individual family homes had disappeared. Problems with increasing automobile and truck traffic disappeared with the automobile and the truck (petroleum deposits had been exhausted by then anyway).

By the 24th century the development of our efficient urban and inter-urban transit systems and our underground conveyor systems began. Our dependence on hydroponically-grown food and ocean fish farms became complete by the 26th century about the time when we could no longer afford to feed food-animals. Shortly thereafter the last animals became extinct as the last zoo farms closed due to urban development. For many generations after the revolution families had to restrict themselves to no more than one child. Only recently with our lunar agricultural colonies has it become possible to relax these restrictions.

Finally, we must consider how education was conducted at the beginning of this millennium. Then, it was common practice for students to spend as long as twelve years sitting together in "schools" where "teachers" were supposed to teach them what they supposedly needed to learn. In fact, this practice developed primarily as a means of keeping children occupied and under control and to free their parents from responsibility.

This system was, of course, terribly inefficient and frequently failed to provide even the basic knowledge and understanding for a person to fully function in society. It was common for some children to "complete" such education and not be able to read, write, or do basic arithmetic.

Initially, pressures increased on the teachers to "make" their students do better. Later, it was recognized that failure of students to learn was largely the responsibility of the parents. Progress began to be made when the parents of poorly performing students were required to become educated themselves. Over time as parents became better-educated; students also became better-educated.

When it came to be understood that "teaching" is of no use without "learning", and that "learning" requires mental activity by the learner, it was only a short step to realizing that "teaching" was not really necessary for "learning". As parents became better educated more and more of them began to opt for providing their children a learning experience at home, and with the advent of effective computerized guidance programs and standardized tests students became ready for work or advanced education at earlier ages.

Thus, our present system evolved slowly over the centuries. Today no student has the chance to fail to learn.

The subject of language also deserves some discussion. The question, of course, arises: "Since everyone in the world now speaks Spanglish, why is it necessary to learn so many 'dead' languages?" The answer is that much of the ancient literature was written in Spanish, English, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, German, Latin, Russian, etc. It is obvious that translating all of this literature into Spanglish would be easily possible today, but much of the flavor and richness of the original literature would be missed. And it is important to remember the great debate in the 26th century when Spanglish was adopted as the world language. At the time many people argued that since the great majority of people in this country spoke Spanish, why not make Spanish the world language? But eventually we decided to compromise with the English-speaking world on Spanglish.

So, whenever we take for granted the comforts of our lives and the near perfection of our institutions in providing for our well-being and prosperity, think back to the old days and be thankful that you are living today and not then. Of course, if you feel you need to 'get away from it all' you can move to one of our colonies on the moon or to really get back to nature be a pioneer and come to one of the new villages on Mars.