June 11th, 2007


Actually, the good old days sucked.

Tigerhawk discourses on why this is the best time in history to be alive. He refers to an Asimov essay on the same subject he read in junior high school, which I remember (or possibly it's a similar Larry Niven piece) as making the valuable point that for most of human history, life for most people (i.e. those not in the tiny tiny sliver of aristocrats) has been poor, nasty, brutish and short. This didn't really change to any significant degree until the Industrial Revolution, when the peasants started leaving their subsistence farms and going to the cities to work at factories and mills, and incidentally making inexpensive things available for people to use so they didn't have to spend so much time making it themselves.

This is one of the reasons I don't like the Renaissance Festivals or SCA or Pennsic or any of that sort of thing. I'm a historian, and I get no thrill out of imitating the lifestyles of people who at their best didn't live half as well as I do. It's also one of the reasons I think most environmentalists ought to be forced to live under the conditions they think would be so awesome for everybody else so we can reform them and not have to shoot them. A lot of these people clamoring for a return to the simple life really have no fucking clue about how awful that simple life would be without the massive infrastructure of 21st century capitalism providing things like cheap electricity, relatively inexpensive health care, and helicopter-borne S&R teams to retrieve them from the ass end of some hostile wilderness when they get lost. The ones that do have a clue, and insist on blocking things like nuclear reactor construction and drilling off the coasts for their own political ends, are hypocrites and deserve to die.

Kinda-sorta related: a comparison of Huxley's Brave New World with Dostoyevsky.