Belmont Club

The Age of the Demon

Buried in the depths of the trade press is notice that one of the 1950s ‘dreams of the future’ had come true.  The Terrafugia Transition became the first officially-approved flying car. “The FAA assigned the machine a special exemption as a ‘light aircraft/car,’ meaning drivers need only 20 hours of flight experience to operate the thing.” Because it is actually a car the vehicle had to conform to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in ways aircraft do not. “Items such as airbags, an energy absorbing crumple zone, and a protective safety cage will increase safety both on the road and in the air.”  But why aren’t people, despite the Transition’s $195,000 price tag,  celebrating? Maybe because we don’t dream of flying cars any more any more than we fantasize about rocket ships and Martian princesses. The last human being walked on the moon more than 40 years ago.  We’ve turned away from the sky and are glad of it.

Once upon a time the future was going to be fun and the assumption was that things were always going to get biggest, faster and better. But today a significant current in public thinking holds that the coming years are going to be dark — that they literally should be dark. The UN’s has promulgated indicators to indicate how much of anything we shouild be allowed to use. Today efforts are being focused on the degree to which we can reduce energy consumption, limit intensity of materials use, cut down on water consumption, limit land use and curb mobility. The dream of the future is no longer the man in the flying car but the man/womyn/transgender person living in the smallest possible cubicle, limited to the narrowest geographic circle possible and consuming his own waste.

And we are getting there.

A future in which America will have no capability to send a human being into space is already in sight. And good riddance to it, some would say. Along with the other crazy old white man’s ideas, we’ve also purged the idea of Progress; already returned to the ancient idea that the natural state of the world is continuous decline.  Entropy. Some ancients believed that everything would be worse in the future. “In Works and Days Hesiod divided time into five ages:–the Golden age, ruled by Cronos, when people lived extremely long lives ‘without sorrow of heart’; the Silver age, ruled by Zeus; the Bronze age, an epoch of war; the Heroic age, the time of the Trojan war; and lastly the Iron age, the corrupt present.” The Hindus saw future as headed for the Age of the Demon, the Kali Yuga. It’s attributes may interesting reading. In the Kali Yuga:

  • Rulers will become unreasonable: they will levy taxes unfairly.
  • Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality, or to protect their subjects: they will become a danger to the world.
  • People will start migrating, seeking countries where wheat and barley form the staple food source. But then, they will also love their subjects so much that they will sacrifice their lives for them.
  • Avarice and wrath will be common. Humans will openly display animosity towards each other.
  • Ignorance of dharma will occur.
  • People will have thoughts of murder for no justification and they will see nothing wrong with that mind-set.
  • Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable, and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life.
  • Sin will increase exponentially, whilst virtue will fade and cease to flourish.
  • People will take vows only to break them soon after.
  • People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.
  • Men will find their jobs stressful and will go to retreats to escape their work.
  • Gurus will no longer be respected and their students will attempt to injure them. Their teachings will be insulted and followers of Kama will wrest control of the mind from all human beings. Brahmins will not be learned and honoured, Kshatriyas will not be brave, Vaishyas will not be just in dealings and shudras will not be honest and humble to their duties and to the other castes.

And there will be no flying cars. In one sense the difference between the unlimited optimism of the 1950s and the dystopia we are being sold today was that the first was predicated on the bountiful universe of a Creator and the second on the cheese-paring, rationed, desperate world of men. In the first the stars were put there for us to explore. In the second the stars were placed at such distances so that we could not despoil them. In one we are children in the playground of a Creator; in the other we “children of the night, who have never been happy or good”.

But the Hindus also believed that the corruption could not last forever. Eventually even the Age of the Demon would end. “When flowers will be begot within flowers, and fruits within fruits, then will the Yuga come to an end.” Perhaps for us the sign will be an outbreak of joy; a time when people will find themselves unshamed to play and dream again. The corner will have been turned when we can take a flying car out of the garage, look up at the still distant stars and recite near forgotten lines the Fifties and be aware of the change in the second quatrain:

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
And death’s my destination.

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination.

To look up once and know that of all the lifeforms in all the galaxies we have been chosen to defend the frontier against Zur and the Kodan Armada.

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