Why Did We Do That? – Lessons in Past Behavior

I am a futurist.

I also believe when you look back in history you can find yourself extremely curious, even bewildered, at some of our early human behavior and why it is we did such things. Many of those things are, in fact, horrible by today’s moral standards, which is why many of us today are so indignant of the past.

Slavery is a good example. How could we have been so brutal? doesn’t seem right, and yet, this brutality continues today – just not out in plan view in America. In other parts of the world there is still tremendous suffering being committed by men to men, women and children everywhere. This sordid brutal behavior continues to persist, I am afraid to say, we pray it is on a much smaller scale. A reminder that we are only still emerging from the jungle.

We also used to treat women like dogs, even worse. Some still do even to this day. We also believed in strange things, like Greek Gods who controlled our destiny; that you were a devil if you talked in your sleep; that bloodletting was good hygiene; that cannibalism was a way to show respect for the dead, or that exchanging saliva was a way of greeting a new friend, or that having multiple wives was a sign of greatness and power. Even most recently, that everything in the universe was actually inside of a globe (Koreshans in the 1920’s)

How will our descendants view us in the 22nd century? Of our behaviors, our practices, beliefs and our rules, what odd or even offending behavior will they take note of, or even brood over as we do today about some of our wretched conduct of the past?

Let me take a stab at a few things I think we do today that a hundred or even two hundred years from now people will be appalled:

Adolescent sex change therapy. I believe future medical professionals will be extremely embarrassed that, for purely financial incentives, an industry was created (hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery) to service a dysphoria which would have been better served with simple counseling.

Marxism. After over 120 million deaths trying to create a utopian society where power is decentralized and people are generally servants to a dictatorial State, man will someday look back at this form of government and ask themselves why we destroyed so much to achieve so little.

Cars. There is nothing more dehumanizing than sitting endlessly in traffic, creating incessant pollution along the way, just to work. In the future I believe humanity will develop societies that do not require extensive or repetitive travel. Our workdays, because of technology, may only require us to work a few days a week, giving us much more time to enjoy arts, botany and other human endeavors that make us healthy in mind, matter and spirit. The idea of sitting in a huge electric or gas powered vehicle for hours on end every day will seem almost unbelievable trite.

Drug and alcohol abuse. Western civilization has a serious addiction problem, one of the pitfalls of a luxuriously materialistic society. Billions of dollars are spent each year on drugs and drink, billions more are spent on rehab and still billions more are lost in human labor and productivity., or wasted in treatment to repair damage done by excessive abuse. Future man, once his priority becomes focused on improved intellect and better health, will be astounded so much energy and resources were lost to this ancient behavior. In many ways, the Roaring 1920’s should have taught us a lesson, but in the 2020’s the party still seemed to be raging.

Cancer and cancer treatment. Once we discover the root cause and the ultimate treatment for cancer, we will look back with sadness that 1) so many people died from it, and 2) the way we treated it was barbaric and akin to EST (electric shock therapy on mental patients). Chemotherapy and its nasty stepsister radiation therapy are radical therapies that in far too many cases, are cures worse than the disease. Future medical professionals will see our current cancer treatment (with the exception of the newly emerging immunotherapy, which moves us away from kill-by-fire technique) as archaic and unbecoming of the Do No Harm doctrine.

Religious Extremism. Some day mankind will learn that God is not violent, nor judgmental, and that to behave in this manner is against true religious principles shared by many in the world. Just as the modern world casted off strict Church control during the renaissance, almost throwing away religion entirely, the tenets of faith will survive the future I believe, but our descendants will wonder why supposedly religious people acted with such childish and sometimes violent behavior, just as we look upon the early Christians and later radical Muslims as abhorrent to the principles of a sound and moral religion.

Media. The future race will see little need to stare at a TV or screen all day. This, our current age will be best characterized as the ‘age of material addiction, to our phones, to fantasy entertainment with little or no intellectual value, and to being “connected.” Individualism and personal liberty will thrive in the future when people learn how to make the most use of our time. Our future descendants will wonder why, with so much potential, so many people wasted their time doing innocuous and trivial things like posting social media and “liking” a friend because they shared an opinion, or watching endless hours of television that teaches people nothing.

Starvation. With so much food and mass distribution capability, our future offspring will be enraged that we could have wiped out starvation in the 2020’s. That we didn’t will be viewed in the same way we look at slavery just one or two hundred years ago. The nagging question will be, “why did they continue to let so many people suffer and die?”

With age comes wisdom. Perhaps I will be wrong and tomorrow’s society will be kind in our reflection and more forgiving of our behavior than I give them credit for. 

Or perhaps all of this history will simply not exist because we will have inherited an Orwellian government where the past keeps changing based on who is in charge. Either way, it is my sincerest hope that we start looking at our behavior now and try to fix some of it, so as to avoid the future embarrassment of holding the title of being a truly pathetic race of men.

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