According to many space operas intelligent aliens are common in the galaxy (and for budgetary reason look like us, God didn’t have the budget to make other forms). The list of species on Memory Alpha (Star Trek Wiki) is huge, same for Wookiepedia (Star Wars Wiki) and Marvel Wiki. The Babylon Five, Farscape, DC, and Mass effect wikis are not as big but list plenty of inelegant technological species.
The idea that the galaxy is teeming with intelligent life, while good for story telling, presents a problem. Specifically the Fermi Paradox. The Fermi Paradox is not really a paradox, it’s a question: if inelegant space faring aliens exist where are they? Any technological species that exists long enough will colonize other star systems and eventually get to us. They would broadcast signals out into space just through communication technology, those signals would eventually reach earth. Well in theory these would happen. There’s a flaw in the Fermi Paradox, it is the assumption of how many inelegant civilizations there could be, would develop advanced technology, and that they world spread through the galaxy. This gets into the Drake Equation, I’m not going to get into the Drake Equation because its variables are largely unknown.
The only example of intelligent life is us and it took a long time to get to us. The earth formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago. Between approximately 3.9 billion years ago and approximately 900 million yeas ago life was no more complex than single celled organisms. The earliest fossil that had a central nervous system is 520 million years old. The oldest primate fossil (humans are primates) is 55 million years old. The oldest evidence of tool use is 3.3 million years old.
It took about 4.5 billion years to get to us and most of the time life existed on earth it was no more complex than a single celled organisms. If anything had gone differently, if the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs hit the earth at a different angle or missed the earth, if there was a mass extinction that wiped out primates 2 million years ago, or anything else, we wouldn’t have evolved. Given how long it took to get to us and how easy things could have gone differently it seems, based on the history of life on earth, like intelligent life is unlikely to evolve.
Modern humans have been around for approximately 300 thousand years, but agriculture only dates back 12 thousand years. The Hero of Alexandria invented primitive steam technology in the first century CE, but the first practical steam engine wasn’t invented until the mid seventeenth century. It was a shift in the climate that lead people to abandon hunter gatherer societies to farm. During the seventieth century Europe was going through cultural changes caused by the exploration of the Americas, colonization of the Americas, the Protestant revolution and the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Computers were invented for use in decoding the German Enigma Code and to calculate bombing runs in World War 2. Historically changes in human societies were brought on by environmental and/or cultural shifts, outside those humans seem to be hesitant to change.
If we hadn’t had the climatic shift that pushed our ancestors to farm we might still be hunting and gathering, with out the cultural shifts of the sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries we might still be an agrarian society. The changes that lead to the development of civilization and the advancing technology we have today weren’t created because it’s natural for us to create these things. It was periods of change that forced people to change and accept change. This tells us that civilization and technological development might the exception not the rule.
The Earth is the only known habitable planet in the solar system. Other worlds might be, Europa and Ganymede are worlds covered in a sheets of ice that might have oceans beneath and Mars used to have oceans. If these worlds developed life it is unlikely it would ever be able to develop technology. If Mars had life and it survived it would be simple life living beneath the surface and would be more like the extremophiles that live in the Earths crust. If Europa and Ganymede have life it could be multicellular but being underwater makes them unable to make fire, any tool using life wouldn’t be able to make anything more advanced than stone tools with out fire.
These are worlds we know about, there are so many worlds we don’t. Other life baring worlds could have thinner atmospherics making inelegance more difficult due to the energy needs of larger brains. Worlds with chaotic climates would be difficult to farm on making technological civilizations on those worlds unlikely. Larger worlds have higher gravity making it harder to off of them, and a higher gravity worlds could have a thicker atmosphere making them even harder to get off of. Large stars don’t last long enough and red dwarfs are often flare stars that would irradiate the surface of their planets.
Even if inelegance evolves and the world does not hinder a technological civilization the species might hinder itself. Aliens may think very differently than we do, and that could hinder them is some ways, and help them in others. A species could be so hyper social that they don’t colonize, they grow but don’t split off from each other to form new communities, cultures or societies. On the opposite side an intelligent species might not be social enough to use or invent the technology that requires cooperation, living largely alone building their own stone tools. A species that has little individual thought might not develop computer technologies at the same rate we do and might not use them to build or invent the way we do. Of course the opposite of this could also happen. There could be aliens that, due to how they think may advance far faster than us.
Intelligent life in the universe could be rare, amongst intelligent life civilization could be rare. This could mean civilizations at this point in the universe’s history are so uncommon that it is unlikely we will meat or even hear from each other. It is even possible we are the only civilization in the galaxy at this point in time. It’s not good for space opera writers but it answers the question of “where are they?” may be: we are the first ones.
Before I begin: I have not seen Star Trek Picard or Star Trek Discovery, this is not based on those. It is based on what I observed in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and some Voyager.
If you watched early TNG (The Next Generation) you’ve seen the episode The Neutral Zone which reintroduces the Romulans. This episode had a b plot of finding a ship with people from the 20th century in suspended animation (with no explanation as to how they got that far from Earth). Picard gives speech to one of them (who was rich ass hole), “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We have grown out of our infancy.”
The sentiments of the speech are reiterated many times in TNG, DS9 (Deep Space Nine) and in Star Trek First contact. Earth is even even called a paradise. However if you examine what we see of the society in Star Trek it paints a very different picture.
It was said repeatedly that the Federation (or Earth or just Humans, it’s not clear, I’ll say Federation for simplicity) doesn’t have money but it has been demonstrated that they still have property. Many have argued that they are a post-scarcity society and they can be this quasi-socialist society because they are post-scarcity, they are not though. Energy is still a scarcity, they don’t have infinite energy and replicators require energy. They use fusion reactors to produce a great deal of energy that can power replicators (anti-matter is only used for warp drives and weapons). Another issue is mass; mass/energy can not be created or destroyed only changed from one form to another. The matter that the replicators use has to come from somewhere. The only way the replicators could work is they take matter, turn it into things people want and when they are thrown away the matter that made them up is stored somewhere in a different form. This is fine for food or cloths but what if you want a gold statue? The more massive the thing being replicated the more material is needed to replicate it. Then there are non-replicated and non-replicable materials, those have scarcity. It has been shown in the shows that people do desire non-replicated food, drinks, artifacts, antiques, and other things, and even if it wasn’t shown, people desire things that have no practical value and don’t benefit them (such as gold, jewels, mansions, collectibles, etc) in reality. Ships cost resources to make, and they are powered by dylithium (which can’t be replicated) and antimatter (I’m ignoring Voyager looking for deuterium because it’s common in the universe), those are scarcities. Then there’s land which I will get to soon. The Federation is not a post-scarcity economy, replicated food or cloths may cost pennies but the resources to make them are not infinite and somethings are very much scarce.
Lets looks at the captains for a moment. Kirk in the J.J. Abrums films grew up on a farm, in The Wrath of Kahn he was shown having a large apartment with antiques decorating his walls. Picard comes from a farming family, his father owned a vineyard which Picards brother inherited. Sisko’s father owned a restaurant on New Orleans (shouldn’t New Orleans have become another Venice by then?). Two come from land owning families, and one comes from a property owning family. In the TNG episode Family, the episode that introduced Picards brother and their vineyard, Picard is offered a job leading the Atlantis Project, a project trying to create a new continent on Earth (there is so much wrong with that by the way). The population of Earth is so high they are trying to create more land. Land is a scarcity, Picard and Kirk come from land owning families, Sisko come from a property owning family, on a world with so many people they are trying to make more land. This is worsened by the fact they don’t have money, with out money people can not attempt to save money to buy land meaning those that have land keep it and those that don’t can’t get it.
Two of the captains of the Enterprise, that flagship of the Federation, came from land owning families. Spock, the first officer under Kirk, was half human and was the son of a high ranking diplomat, Diana Troy was also half human and her mother descended from aristocracy. Janeway was the doughtier of a vice admiral. Sisko’s father owned a restaurant. If this weren’t Star Trek people would be saying that it looks like status and nepotism are how people get commands. It is Star Trek and I’m still saying it anyway. Based on the people in command positions who’s family backgrounds we know, it looks like people who come from high ranking families are given command positions.
Most of the characters are human, look human, were raised by humans, or were half human, making Star Fleet look human centric. There are Valcans but few of them despite their longer lifespans. Tellarites and Andorians were supposed to be the two other founding species of the Federation but outside of TOS (The Original Series), TOS movies, Enterprise, and maybe the shows I haven’t seen, they don’t appear even in the background. There are supposed to be hundreds of planets, thousands of colonies and hundreds of species in the Federation, so why are so few in Star Fleet. A response to this is usually: they didn’t have the budget and technology at the time to have all those species on screen. Okay, but they could have had different species when showing the admiralty and other ships captains, then explained it as: different species prefer different environments so ships tend to be filled with species that likes the environment on that ship. The writers didn’t do that, when high ranking Star Fleet officials are shown, they are human and sometimes Valcan. This makes it look like Star Fleet discriminates against non-humans, which makes the Federation look human centric.
All this paints a picture of an classist society not an egalitarian society. Humans and Valcins are higher ranking in Federation society, and humans from land owning families are higher ranking in society. Those who are higher ranking in society are given command positions over those of lower social rank. The speeches that Picard and Kirk give are based on the lies the people in Federation society tell themselves and others. With Kirk and Picard being from privileged backgrounds they refuse to see the flaws in their society and their own privilege. With out money or another way to gain property the poor in the Federation are stuck with what they can get from replicators or make themselves. Instead of an enlighten post-scarcity egalitarian society the picture we get is of a society clamming to be one when it’s run by and benefits a powerful few. A society only saved from the worst aspects of such societies by the prevalence of technologies that keep the populous fed, entertained, and feeds the lies that keep the people loyal.
There are those that will say the reason the Federation looks like a dystopia is because the writers moved away from Roddenberry’s ideas. I counter that Roddenberry is responsible. If Roddenberry had thought through the Federations economy he could have made it (more or less) work in universe. He had character proclaim that humanity had moved on from its past flaws with out working out how the society works. He told but didn’t show, as a result what we see is not an egalitarian post-scarcity utopia but a classist dystopia.
Just to hammer that last point in I will create a system that gets as close as one can get to Roddenberry’s ideas: First get rid on the no money idea, as I’ve pointed out the Federation is not a post-scarcity society and scarcity causes trade between people. Even if people give away what they produce for free, Guy has a bottle of Picard Wine, Gal wants a bottle of Picard Wine, Gal is willing to exchange and antique Micky Mouse toy, Guy collects antique toys. Even with out money people will trade, and some things, substance, or material would become some form of currency. Federation citizens get an allotment of money (I’ll call the currency fed because using the word “credit” for currency is as unimaginative as calling a substance unobtanium) per month (or however stardates are divided). The feds are use to buy food, cloths, and other goods which are very cheep, they also use feds pay for housing. Housing prices are regulated to ensure that everyone can have a decent place to live. The price of good are regulated, determined by time taken to produce, number of people needed to produce, difficulty of production, cost of materials, and maintenance costs. The price of services are regulated, determined by time taken, number of people needed to do the job, difficulty of the job, and supplies used. Schools, up to the doctorate level are free and easily accessible. Lastly, transportation across the federation is free.
I didn’t put a lot of thought into it but I came up with a quasi-socialist economic system that could potentially be used in a much more technologically advanced society. If more work was put into it and it was shown in the shows the Federation could have looked utopian.
I made a new Google account (I’m trying to leave some stuff behind) In doing so I had to deal with the privacy setting including turning off customized ads. I had to do the same thing when I got my laptop so Microsoft is even doing it. We all know (or should know) Twitter and Facebook is doing it.
Last year the US capital was attacked. Qanon is an insane conspiracy theory that famous actors and political figures are in a satanic cult that molests children. Republicans and Democrats fear each other. The Flat Earth Society exists.
All of this and so much more exist because of echo chambers. An echo chamber is when a person or people are fed information that confirms and reinforces their existing beliefs. The customized content (including targeted ads) that Google, Facebook, and Twitter feeds people creates echo chambers. These echo chambers created by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, etc reinforces peoples beliefs to the point of radicalization. This leads to Qanon, leads to fear and hatred of the other side, leads to people attacking the US capital!
I don’t want customized content. I want multiple perspectives. I want facts even if I don’t like them. I want the truth even if it hurts. I want the reality.
John Morris-Mick and his wife Mary May Morris-Mick sat in a real estate office with real estate agent Jan Han. John was five eleven, with a slight receding hair line, he wore khakis and button down green shirt. Marry had brown hair, she wore khakis and blue blouse with slightly lighter blue dots. Jan had shoulder length black hair and dark skin, she wore a blue skirt, blue blazer and white button down shirt. “You love the house?” Jan asked the couple.
“We do.” Mary answered.
“It’s everything we want.” John adds.
“Including the pool. And for a good price.”
“Especially in this market.”
“Yes-” Jan paused. This was the third couple she had to tell the history about the house. “I have to tell you that-”
“People were murdered in the house, we know.” John interrupted.
“It’s not just that, the previous owners fled from the house. They claimed it was haunted. The said the ghosts tore up their furniture.”
“Haunted?” Mary asked rhetorically, “We’re not afraid of ghosts.”
“Oh good.” Jan said, relieved. I’ll get the papers to you by tonight and hopefully by the weekend you’ll be moving in.”
Monday they got their stuff in and mostly unpacked. They lay in their bed in their new bedroom smiling Merry in blue pajamas, John in blue and green striped pajama bottoms.
“It’s a good house.” John said looking around at the room.
“Good place to make a family.” Mary added, looking at John.
“Good school district,” John added, “walking distance to the grocery store.” John looked at Mary.
They looked at each other, kissed, she put her hand on his should, her put his hand on her hip. They both though it was time to start that family. They were interrupted by sounds of cabinet doors, and drawers opening and closing, and the sound of banging on the floor and walls.
John rolled back onto his back, moaned angrily. “I got this.” He told Mary.
John walked into the kitchen/dining room with a base ball bat and a pissed off expression, he hit the dining table with the bat and yelled: “Shut the fuck up!” The ghosts stopped. “If If I hear one more thing out of you I will suck you into the vacuum cleaner and beat the bag until you cry!” The room was quiet. James walked back towards the hallway, stopped turned, yelled some more: “If I have to come back out to night I’m sending my wife, she makes me look nice!”
The front door opened, a wind blew through house, out the door.
James shut the door, locked it, and went back to the bedroom.
It’s a simple question. Does it benefit the 90%, 50% 1%, or 0.1%? Does it benefit the government, corporations, or the people? Does it benefit the poor, middle class, or the wealthy?
In America we have a saying: “Pull yourself up by your boot straps.” What are boot straps? A small loop on the back on boots to help get them on. Taken literally it means grabbing shoes and pulling yourself off the ground. It originated in the late 1800s from the question “Why can not a man lift himself by pulling up on his bootstraps?” and was originally meant sarcastically1. The sarcasm in the idiom disappeared over time and has come to mean: Don’t ask for help, work hard and though your own effort you will become a success.
There’s a reason this idiom started out sarcastically. The reality is individuals don’t exist in a vacuum, the people and world around us affect us. Some people are born with advantages, others are born with out advantages, some are born with disadvantages, some gain advantages, and other loose advantages. All through no effort or fault of their own. People who are born into poor families tend to stay poor in adulthood, people born wealthy tend to be stay wealthy in adulthood2 3 4. The wealthy have opportunities the poor don’t, and the poor have problems beyond their control that hinder them.
The central concept of the bootstraps idiom is: doing it on your own. The concept is strong enough in American culture that asking for help is not uncommonly seen as a weakness or personal failure. Most people are not lucky enough to become wealthy, or achieve some difficult dream. This leads to lower self image in the poor and unsuccessful which can hinder people from trying, thus creating a feedback loop. People spend years working to get somewhere but still don’t get there, they blame themselves for the failure, become burnt out and or depressed and stop trying.
No one makes it on their own, everyone who became a success (what ever ‘success’ meant to that person) they made it with the help of others. Poverty doesn’t always stop people from becoming a success, people have made it out of poverty but not on their own. It is with the help, encouragement and opportunities offered by others that people make it out of poverty.
Work is another issue in American culture. Hard work is seen as a virtue and people who actually live their one and only life are considered lazy. America is the one of the hardest working of the developed countries5. Yet it has a higher wealth gap then the UK, Sweden, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, and even Russia6. Some people say “work smart, not hard”. In my subjective experience it has been used by people to justify laziness, so I went to Google. The closest I got to an actual meaning was “Everyone has their own definition of this phrase,”7. The rest was bog standard advice that doesn’t apply to a great many working people.
This is not to say that hard work (or smart work depending on what it means) doesn’t help, it does, but hard work alone doesn’t make one successful. Again, no one make it on their own, no matter how hard or how smart they work.
Racism started as justification for exploitation, slavery, and genocide commuted by Europeans during the “age of exploration” and afterwords. Racism isn’t as old as most people think, while ideas of cultural superiority go as far back as ancient Greece and China, the idea of race itself didn’t exist until the 1600s24. Prier to the 1600s people would not have judged other based on skin color, the wideness of their nose, hair type, eye folds, etc.
Racism is part of American culture, still is, and has been sense the beginning. The US committed genocide on the Native American population8, forced thousands of Native Americans off their lands9, and even gave Smallpox contaminated blankets to the Native Americans in what was primitive germ warfair10. When the country started almost all black people were enslaves. Slavery was eventually outlawed in the northern states and during the Civil War was outlawed nationwide11. After the Civil War southern states created “Black codes” that effectively made Black people slaves again. This was ended under reconstruction12. When the racists couldn’t use the law to enforce the pre-Civil War status they used terrorism against Blacks, Northerners, and those who fought for equality13. After reconstruction ended southern states passed segregation laws14. All this was not limited to the south, racial violence and even segregation existed across the US15 16. Asians faced extreme discrimination in the US including an outright ban on immigration from China19. Racism still exists, Blacks and Latinos have to work harder to get the same pay and respect as White people17 18. Asians are facing increasingly violent attacks20. 90% of fortune 500 CEOs are White21. Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be shot by police2223.
Racism didn’t and doesn’t help poor White people. Racism denied poor and middle class White people things that could have helped them or even needed25. Racism hurts the economy by slowing needed growth and limiting how high and economy could grow26. Discriminating against skilled people because of their race denied the racists access to that skilled person. For example: The inverter of the gas mask was a Black man, he had to hire a White mane to pretend to be the inverter because racist White people wouldn’t buy something from a Black man27. Fear of minorities increases stress and anxiety in the racist, excess stress and anxiety is associated with depression, anger, lack of sleep, high blood pressure and heart disease28.
If these are so bad then why are they part of the culture? Lyndon B. Johnson once said: “If you can convince the lowest White man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” 29The people who make the culture are the people who benefit from the culture, not the people harmed by the culture. The ideas of making it on your own, not asking for help, and working all the time benefits the few wealthy and powerful. When poverty becomes the fault of the poor, people don’t organize against unfair or dangers working conditions, economic or politico issues, and people are too busy to question the status quo. Racism limited poor peoples ability to organizing by keeping the poor White people hating and mistrusting other races they could have organized with. The wealthy used and still use racial minorities as scapegoats for social problems caused by the wealthy people in power.
Using these ideas the wealthy and powerful justify their power and hedonistic lifestyle. Business leaders can continue to exploit employees. Corrupt people in power can maintain their positions and corruption using these ideas. These ideas serve the few and harm the majority, the culture serves the few wealthy and powerful individuals, not you.
The strong admit when they are wrong, the weak fear appearing wrong.
The strong do not fear showing weakness, the weak are terrified of exposing their weakness.
The strong seek to educate, the weak seek to control.
The strong share their wealth and power, the weak accumulate wealth and power.
The strong take responsibility, the weak take power.
The strong work with others, the weak try to control others.
The strong do their job and step aside, the weak hold on to power.
The strong express their emotions, the weak hide from their emotions.
The strong change, the weak fear change.
The strong learn, the weak claim they already know.
The strong think beyond themselves, the weak think only of themselves.
The strong share what they have, the weak accumulate.
The strong moderate, the weak are hedonistic.
The strong live and act with and despite doubt, the weak have faith.
The strong can live with doubt and uncertainty, the weak fear doubt and uncertainty.
The strong know they are not unique, the weak believe they are special.
The strong know there isn’t always a best way, the weak think their ways are the best.
The strong question their beliefs, the weak have faith.
The strong don’t fight unnecessary fights, the weak fight unnecessarily.
The strong forgive, the weak hold grudges.
The strong compromise, the weak want total victory.
The strong are open to new and different ideas, the weak fear what is different.
The strong surround themselves with people of a variety of opinions, the weak surround themselves with those who agree with them.
We’ve all heard this saying in many forms. “I wasn’t meant to happen,” “if it’s meant to happen it will,” “it’s part of Gods plan,” “God has a plan,” etc. I hate these sayings, I hate, hate, hate them.
Bad things happen, bad things happen to good people for no reason what so ever. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people. Bad things happen, abuse, rape, child molestation, cancer, coivd, mass shootings, locked in syndrome, mass homelessness, and much, much more happen for no reason what so ever.
If everything happens for a reason, or God has a plan then the universe, fate, the Fates, or God is a sociopathic sadist. There is no reason for all the bad in the world to happen. Someone doing something stupid and getting themselves hurt or killed is one thing but a child being being molested and catching HIV from the molester adds nothing good or positive to the world. Why would the universe, fate, The Fates, or God mean for such a thing to happen? The only explanations are 1. there are no plans, nothing is meant to be, or 2. the thing(s) that mean for it to be is a sadist that enjoys peoples suffering.
Some might argue that bad things happen to teach future people not to do bad things. Three words: allegories, parables, and lies. You can teach people with out causing harm. Allegories and parables have been use to teach people since per-history. If it is important enough for people to believe that the past was filled with evil, lie about it.
Others will blame evil in the world on the Devil. 1. Either the Devil is more powerful than God, 2. God may be more powerful than the Devil but is indifferent to people suffering, or 3. God is more powerful then the Devil and the Devil is doing what God wants it to do. Otherwise God could snap his fingers and Thanos the Devil and the demons away or at least stop them from causing bad things from happening.
This concept is not only bad, it is dangerous. If all the bad in the world is meant to happen that means we are pawns of fate and we have to accept our fate. It is fatalistic, it says that the bad things can’t be avoided or stopped. There is no point in trying to stop or mitigate global warming, there is no point in going to the doctor, there is no point in helping others. If it’s meant to be or if it’s part of Gods plan it will happen, we don’t have a say in the matter, so why even try.
If everything happens for a reason, or is meant to happen, then all the bad things are meant to happen. That’s not comforting, that is frightening. That means the force(es) that control the world want evil to exist and want bad things to happen. If the world is just chaotic, then all the bad things makes sense and it means good things can come and if people learn how to work with the chaos we can make the world a better place.
Dannie Rich walked into an office with an angry look on his face. He looked back at the door that shut itself. He looked at the desk, a cheep desk with in an in and out box and a center on a large calendar. At the desk sat a woman with red skin, black pulled back hair, and short horns. A window was behind the demon women with its curtains closed.
“Mister Richman, please have a seat.” The demon women gesture at the see on the other side of the desk.
“It’s ‘Rick’, ‘Dannie Rick’!” Dannie replied.
“Okay Mister Rick.”
“No! Dannie Rick! No ‘mister’! Just call me Dannie, or Dan.” he snapped.
“Okay Dan, please have a seat.”
Dannie sat, maintaining his angry expression.
“Thank you,” She smiled. “I’m Zock’sha’ckatak but you can call me Zock. Do you know where you are?”
“Yes, I was hit by an idiot driver who doesn’t know what a red light means and was then ran over by another car.”
“Okay, do you know-”
“Hell! I’m in hell. Yes I know where I am, Hell!”
“Okay. It is my job to find a place for you here.”
“Then tell me where the Devil is so I can kick his ass and take this place over!”
“Oh, you’re one of those.” Zoch said lowly. “Well we have three options for you. The first is the Battle Royal were you and others like you will battle to the death for supremacy.”
He looked at her for a moment, “Can I die again?” He asked.
“No, you can’t die again.”
“So we’d be just fighting for eternity?”
“No!” Dannie snapped, “I won’t to rule the place.”
“Okay, the second option is to be adopted by one of Princes of Hell.”
“What would I do as a son of a Prince of Hell?”
“You will serve him.” pause, “sexually.”
“Like a sex slave?”
“We lake to call them ‘rape slaves’.”
“Like whips and chains?” he asked with a look of contemplation.
Dannie thought for a moment, “Will the Prince die at some point?”
“No, no one dies here.”
“Lets mark that as a maybe.”
“Okay, the third option is to rule a region of your own. You will have a territory and serfs. Now the surfs are obligated to hate you and will try to over throw you.”
“Wait, wait, wait. I won’t to rule Hell, not a region. Point me to the Devil so I can kick his ass!” His angry expression was back.
Zock sighed, stood up, opened the window behind her, then stepped aside. In the distance Dannie saw a massive angel with six wings, four heads, and four arms sitting on a building sized throne. “That’s the Devil,” Zock said, “he’s sixteen stories tall.”
Dannie looked at the angel in the distance with a look of shock. After a moment of silence, “About that region thing, will I get an army?”
“A small one, they’re lazy.”
“But I could flog and beat them to motivate them?”
“You’ll have to, very often.”
“Okay, I’ll take that.”
“Good,” she sat back down. “We have three regions available, Scab Valley,-”
“Lll.” Dannie grunted.
“-and North Boneland.”
“Eww. Do the bones still have meat on them?”
“Eww, I’ll take that one I guess.”
“Okay, I’ll get the paper work and send you on your way.”
From memories of playing games as a kid to the veneration of the 1950s, nostalgia has become a substantial part of western culture. It is the basis for the existence and success of the Transformers and J.I. Joe movie franchises, and it is major part of conservative mythology (and yes liberals do have their own mythology). There is a major problem because: nostalgia lies.
Nostalgia is the good feeling people get when thinking about the past or experiencing things from their past. When your thinking about the way things were, watching that show/movie/playing a game from your childhood, or listening to music from your teen years, that happy sentimental feeling, that is nostalgia. Nostalgia is based on memories of the past not the quality of the thing/event you are experiencing. Nostalgia takes bad to good things and elevates them to positions they don’t deserve to be in. Many shows, games, foods, events, places, and entire eras are elevated by nostalgia.
Your thoughts and emotions affects your perception, your perception and memories affects your thoughts and emotions, your perceptions affect your memories and experiences, when you remember you experience your memories, and your memory is built from your experiences (convoluted sentence, I know, I’m sorry). Thoughts, perception, memories, and experiences all affect each other. If after watching the if it bleeds it leads news you think back to your childhood when things seemed safer you experience that sense of past safety thus reinforcing that sense past safety. You may not have been safe in the past, you may be safe now but you feel like the past was safer.
People have a psychological need for joy, we need to have positive feelings. When all one feels is negative, they become self destructive, suicidal, and addicts. When you don’t have a lot of options you will take some joy in what you have. When what you have is not that great, you take what joy you can. This joy is remembered with the experiences, and when those memories are recalled that joy is recalled.
When your young the world seemed so much simpler and better, things seem new and more interesting. Novelty is enjoyable, and to the young feel the joy of novelty more often than adults because they have so few experiences. The joy of that novelty is imprinted on memories so when, as adults, people look back they reexperience that joy.
Memory is fallible, it fades, and can be altered. Memories are made of connections between neurons. The more often something is remembered the more connections that memory gains and thus the stronger that memory gets, memories that are not recalled will have fewer connections and over time will fade12. Those nostalgic memories people keep looking back on or bring up with their media gets reinforced, the memories that are counter to that nostalgia gets forgotten.
The fog of time not only effects your memory, it effects cultural memory. People often say the music of the past is better than the music of today. It’s not true, there was plenty of crap on the radio then, it has been forgotten. The bad music, even when it gets onto the top ten (which happens disturbingly too often) will be (usually) forgotten and the good music will be remembered. There are positive and negative aspects of the past, the negatives have a tendency to be forgotten by the nostalgic and the classes in power. The cultural memory of the things people liked are remembered the things people didn’t like are forgotten.
The 1950s was not a great era but many people look to it as a great era because it has been mythologized. The mythologized past is the fog of time amplified by myth. This gives us an inaccurate depiction of an era leading to inaccurate beliefs about that era and a lionization of that era. When an era become mythologized and lionized even the bad aspects of the era can be elevated.
Confirmation bias is tendency to look for and remember information that supports a preexisting opinion3. When one thinks the world was better in the past any modern issue becomes evidence that the world was better in the past. When someone points out that the problem existed in the past the nostalgic will say, if they acknowledge the problem pointed out which they might not, that problems today are worse.
All of these cause memories and beliefs that elevate things, and experiences of the past, these create nostalgia. But these feelings are not accurate. Modified by age, reinforced by biases and lies, and/or based on experiences with surrounding circumstances that made them seem better. Nostalgia lies, nostalgia only lies.
This is dangerous, this false sense of the superiority of the past is harmful. Over half of Americans think that the world has been getting worse sense the 1950s4. A time of racism, sexism, segregation, sexual repression, McCarthyism, the threat of nuclear war, children blamed for the sexual abuse they suffered5, when a men could legally beat and rape their wives6! The rate of violent crime has been dropping for thirty years7. People now have near infinite access to information on phones they carry around with them. People are living longer8. More people are surviving cancer9. There are fewer wars10!
Thing have been overall getting better, yes 2014-2021 have been crap but over the decades it’s been getting better. Nostalgia lies, telling people otherwise. Nostalgia lies about the past and when culture and people in positions of power accept those lies they can attempt to regain some aspect of the mythologized past bringing back or helping harmful ideas and institutions. This harms society and people.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t lessons to be learned from the past. There is good in the past, bad in the past, and both can be learned from. The key word here is “learn”, it is learning from the past not going back to the way things were. It’s the future that matters, the future that we need to look to. Nostalgia will not give anyone a better future, it keeps people stuck in the past. If something is good, keep it, if something is bad, get rid of it but don’t let nostalgia tell you what is good and bad.