Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Responsibility

“Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations.”

~Ronald Regan

When I was child during the 1980s, many of the science fiction novels that I enjoyed were premised on a catastrophe sometime in the decades around the year 2000 destroying or radically changing society as we knew it. It was pretty much an accepted trope or genre convention at the time, one that William Gibson helped to break with in Neuromancer.

I am often struck by the sensation of "we are living in the future" when I think back to the speculative fiction novels of my childhood. Sometimes because the future is much more futuristic that we could have foreseen. Sometimes because aspects of our our present reality match those foreseen or or guessed at by authors who lived and wrote decades ago.

It would be a shame though, if the catastrophe trope actually came to pass. While I enjoyed the thought of society rising from its ruins or a setback with a clean slate, of a culture or a nation being reborn in a more rationalized form, the evolutionary approach to change is much kinder, and in my view, realistic. The accumulation of gradual innovations resulting in a moment of profound developmental change more often than not leaves a lasting legacy of goodness. Catastrophe on the other hand--what ever its opportunities--often results in as much scaring as improvement. Those scars are frequently a burden left for following generations to unravel.

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