Friday, June 13, 2014

The crazy years?

The famous and influential science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein, was known early in his career for creating a future history in which individual short stories were framed. There was a big timechart in which the stories and other background events were located. One feature that looked big and important on the chart, which was never quite developed by Heinlein was "the crazy years." Presumably all sorts of bad things happened in that time, one of which was specified: the creation of the repressive puritanical theocracy in the United States.

Back in the 1990s I was thinking about the future history and I thought that Heinlein had really blown it. He himself, when he put together that chart, was living in the crazy years, which included a worldwide depression, the rise of genocidal and frankly insane regimes in major countries, and finally a huge world war. Surely these were crazy years?

Looking back from now until 2001, however, I have to say that I am less critical of what was after all a fictional construct for the fun of it. Put aside 9/11 and the American reaction to it – at least the direct reaction. How about today's events, as seen through various Internet sources?

  • In a major jurisdiction in North America, a gay woman is elected premier and nobody notices or cares.
  • After billions and billions of dollars invested, an American client regime in Iraq begins to collapse, with American trained soldiers throwing away their weapons and stripping off their uniforms.
  • Next to the World Cup, the most puzzling sporting event is the Battle of Nations, "medieval historical warfare" mostly fought between teams from Eastern Europe at a venue in Croatia. Russia and Ukraine, which are almost at war with each other now, are leading in the standings.
  • And of course one must mention the lunatic spouting of American politicians who seem to be dedicated to building a theocracy.

One of these things is not like the others, of course:  the election of Kathleen Wynne's party in Ontario. Everyone who cared about the sex life of Ontario's Premier, a smaller number than you might think, knew she was gay. She had been premier for a while, succeeding her predecessor when he retired. This was the first time she led the party into an election. Her orientation was not even mentioned during the campaign.

I was at an event in Ontario not long ago where same-sex couples are allowed to take part in a prestigious contest on an equal basis with heterosexual couples for the first time. There was a very positive response to this turn of events, but I was blasé and did not mention it when I wrote up a short account of it. I told a friend that I did not know whether society had moved on on this issue, but I had.

Now there is evidence that at least in this part of North America, society seems to have moved on pretty definitively.

Which does not cancel out what I said about the crazy years. I'm just glad to keep some aspects of the crazy a little bit further away from me than some people are able to do.

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