Okay, did I miss a memo? This stuff happens when I’m writing.
Last time I paid much attention to the-thing-that’s-going-to-kill-us-all, it was supposed to be Global Warming, I mean Climate change, I mean Catastrophic Weather Event or whatever they’re calling it this week.
All the scientific magazines screamed with it; documenting just how hot we were was made a major mission of NASA (along with convincing Muslims that they’re not cultural losers and that finding new ways to stone/hang mouthy teenage girls and gay teenage boys is TOTALLY the equivalent of coming up with new ways to build computers or a new medicine to replace antibiotics when they stop working.)
Everything from People Magazine to Scientific American was off its mind about the need to toughen up our health systems, find places for climate refugees, etc etc, because the warm was coming and it was going to be terrible. Oh, yeah, and we needed to bio-engineer chickens to survive warming (I swear I read that somewhere.)
Of course, they never explained why the warmth would be terrible, when, historically, humanity does better in warm periods. I think it was supposed to wipe us out because “shut up.” Or something.
But at least they could wave some vaguely scary things, like tse tse flies extending their territory, malaria mosquitos… stuff like that. (BTW, technically the malaria range is shrunken in our time, because in stories about the Napoleonic wars, it was possible to catch malaria in Portugal. It must have been warmer, because in my time, the only people who caught malaria were those who traveled to Portuguese colonies or foreign parts.)
That was then. This is now.
The new hotness for end of the world stuff is “inequality”. Inequality is not only supposed to be a justification for an international tax on investment, (International tax is the polite term for paying Dane Geld and it ends exactly as you imagine.) but also will cause the end of civilization as we know it, if unchecked.
And this has me scratching my head.
Look, guys, yes, some societies have been more egalitarian than others – mostly very poor societies are egalitarian because everyone is poor. – pioneer societies tend to be more “equal” because everyone is struggling, for instance. However, anyone who’s read bios of colonial times knows that some people came over with all their fortunes, some with the clothes on their backs, some people did the absolute minimum to survive, and some worked their tailbones off and went from rags to riches. As everywhere in history.
Equality? Don’t make me laugh. Not only has it never really existed, but societies that try to enforce it become blood baths like revolutionary France, or hell holes like Cuba. And even then they’re not egalitarian. Those at the top, enforcing the “equality” always end up far better off than the masses, because, well, some animals are more equal than others, right?
So, how is inequality supposed to become a civilization-ending blight?
That I remember from studying history, some of the most expansionist, thriving civilizations were highly unequal. Say, Rome. Or ancient Greece. Or England as a colonial power.
When you ask for a clarification, you get some bleating about entrenched classes. But look here, that doesn’t happen in a free society, where the state is not trying to enforce either equality or redistribution. The only places where rigid quasi feudal classes emerge are in places like the Soviet Union or, yes, Cuba, or North Korea, where the people in power make themselves aristocracy.
Yes, our clowns are trying to do that, controlling access to the best colleges, and whatever. The difference is that as long as we’re free enough (and it’s amazing how even a little freedom can disrupt these schemes) we retain the right to make their success markers irrelevant. What? Went to the best schools and have all the contacts in the old media? Watch me be more successful than you with a simple blog. Same for indie publishing, and for … well, almost everything.
This of course is why our ruling classes are beating the drum for inequality, threat or menace? Because if they convince us it is a world-ending catastrophe, we’ll give them the power to remove what remains of our liberty, our freedom of movement and our pursuit of happiness (under which falls also the ability to accumulate and spend your own money as you please) and to – in our name – make things “fair.” Which means making everyone but them equally poor.
I say we laugh at all mentions of “inequality.”
And we tell the grave, chin-stroking academics trying to make envy THE virtue to go get stuffed.
Otherwise the next menace they try to foist on us to justify taking all our liberties away will be even crazier.
I am not ready to face, without poisoning-levels alcohol in me, the dawn of the day when every magazine at the checkout is plastered with “Tiddlywinks, the End of Civilization as We Know It.” Laugh at them now. This can only get worse.