Posted by: rolfsky | January 3, 2007

hope and selfishness keeps us from living in the future

We live in the past, because we are resigned to do so. When we don’t expect more, there isn’t a market for more, so nobody builds it for us to buy.

This afternoon I was reading predictions of what life in the 21st century would be like, written in 1950. Of course, the society and culture have reached a point where near utopia is attained, and cooking only takes a few minutes to thaw the flash-frozen steaks and soups that were delivered to your door in a city of concentric circles dominated by parks and gardens. The question is, of course, why don’t we have this utopian society that was described in 1950? Haven’t we seen some tremendous advancements in the last 50-odd years?

What struck me, was the inclusion of parks and gardens, even surrounding the apartment buildings(!). And I thought to myself, “this seems to be a recurring theme in utopian societies, beautiful open space with lots of neatly trimmed grass,” but we never get around to actually doing it. Why not?

The answer simply is, “because we have more important things to do,” though that is really not the whole answer. The whole answer is something more like, “because we all don’t see parks as a priority when we’re struggling to pay rent and keep food on the table.” And it all comes back to our hierarchy of needs, the first being that we gotta eat. And people will do pretty much whatever it takes, so that they can eat. This includes working a crappy job for even crappier pay, maybe their entire lives. If you decide not to work your job, guess what? Someone’s willing to do your same job, for less, because they just need to put food on the table. So you keep working at whatever job you do, maybe you get promoted.

Unfortunately, the company you work for is also just trying to keep the lights on, so they’re not interested in paying you what you deserve, even if that could be accurately measured. They don’t have the time or money to pay you enough, so that you could afford housing built in a low-density manner that would allow for parks and gardens. And because you can’t afford it, nobody is going to build it, because the builders are just trying to stay alive too, so they have to make what sells. Furthermore, your local government isn’t going to enact legislation requiring parks and gardens, because they know that they are beholden to their constituents, who are lobbying them to keep energy costs low.

And so, the intangible gets the squeeze. We ever hopeful we’re going to get ahead, and work our dardest to do so, not sparing any time or money on what doesn’t support our goals. You can put a price on greenery, but you can’t justify it against dinner and a warm pair of socks. It’s important, but it’s not that important.

Interestingly enough, the church figured this out a long time ago, “you give us 10% of whatever you make, because if you don’t, you may rot in hell”, effective, eh? Now… if we could only inspire “faith” in pepople to donate to the concept of a better world.


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