|Submitted by G.S. Williams on Thu, 04/26/2012 - 15:36|
Combat training was a bit of a blast. Not only did I master the apportation ability, so that I could move freely in a combat zone and make it all but impossible for opponents to hit me, I learned to combine my natural ability with the chronometer.
For instance, the chronometer could bend wavelengths to let me walk through walls. Once I'd peeked through a wall once, I could apport around in the new room, since I had a visual. I could also go through floors. Or I could use the chronometer to travel to specific coordinates, and then move around. I could use the holoprojector to create distractions or hiding places. It was an amazingly useful tool.
Paralleled with combat training was more study of the history of the Continuity Integrity Agency and the current era. I supposed Johnson and the Mentor figured that I could better protect the society if I understood more about it.
“Your history lessons before the Survival Test largely painted broad strokes about how your era in the twentieth century led to this one in the twenty-fourth,” the Mentor said at the start of our next class. “Today we will begin a more in-depth analysis of this specific society, instead of world politics.”
“Okay, shoot,” I said.
“The beginning of the twenty-first century is marked by our historians as a turning point in human history. Just as the collapse of Rome led inevitably to the Dark Ages, and then the Renaissance laid the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution and the twentieth century's technological progress, the twenty-first century was a time of transition. The increase in communication technology led to frustration with the disparity in wealth between individuals and nations. One of the symptoms of this frustration was rebellious uprisings, and another symptom was terrorism.
“Our society grew up out of a small group of survivors, and the foundations of that group were laid in this time period following the year two thousand, long before the ultimate collapse of the old United States of America,” the Mentor said.
“So someone guessed that there would be a collapse?” I asked.
“The symptoms were fairly obvious to anyone with an understanding of history, though of course hindsight is twenty-twenty. We believe that initially the group was founded to try to prevent the collapse, more out of a sense of preparedness than paranoia.”
“So how did that come about? And why was a group, designed for one function, able to then promote the survival of society?”
“The Founder recruited scientists from multiple fields, as well as writers, artists, computer programmers and historians. Anthropologists, astronomers, biologists, chemists, doctors, economists, geologists, geneticists, philosophers, physicists, psychologists, and zoologists all came together in one facility to work on problems and design programs. The original facility had an above-ground public face, but extensive underground space that eventually became our standard way of life.”
“They sound like they were very thoughtful and organized,” I suggested. “So then what happened?”
“Initially, as I said, the work of this team went towards slowing down the decay of civilization. They hoped that research into clean energy and efficient food production would help prevent conflict. What they didn't then realize as an emotional fact, which we know now, is that easy access to better resources leads to a larger population and too-rapid increase in population leads to conflict. And further that an increase in communication that demonstrates that one group has better resources than another also contributes to conflict.”
“What do you mean, 'emotional fact?' I don't get that,” I said.
“In theory, it is fairly obvious that the increase in productivity wrought by the Industrial Revolution led to the world's population exponentially growing to tremendous proportions over the course of the twentieth century. There were one billion people in 1800, and then two billion by 1927. World population doubled again by 1974, and again around 2020. So all of human history generated one billion people by 1800, after hundreds of thousands of years, and then that many more came into being only a century later and kept doubling. More resources led to more people. That's basic math and anyone studying population charts would notice it. However, no one emotionally grasped that this was the key to all the conflict. Too many people competing for resources, and disparities in access. The more that was made possible, the more the people who had things wanted, and the more the people who didn't have things felt disadvantaged. Material wealth didn't leave anyone satisfied, it caused the desire for more.”
“Okay, so what you're saying is, that even though they wanted to help prevent conflict, they really helped generate more?”
“Yes. The Founder realized the futility of this, and cut the projects off from the rest of the world. They watched society collapse inwards but avoided participating in the turmoil. They went underground and defended themselves only as necessary. They used technology to hide, much as we do today, and let the outside world tear itself apart. Then we emerged to pick up the pieces.”
“What did we do in the interim to be different?”
“That scientific and rational outlook was applied to all of society's patterns, and decisions were made about what worked and what didn't. The culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries was driven by the illusion of individual choice, that you could define yourself by having a different colour car or a different shirt. What that culture failed to realize was that choosing from three cars or three hundred didn't change the essential fact that you were still you, and the car you drove didn't ultimately matter. We removed choice for a time period, sort of as a cultural enema. Everyone dressed the same, ate the same, learned the same things. Then we worked on teaching true individual responsibility, at a philosophical level. Meditation and executive decision making abilities were stressed as vital, and personal responsibility became more central to the culture than personal entitlement.
“We made that possible through instituting the Survival Test - we had near limitless resources, so competition for food and shelter was unnecessary. However, by making it more accessible we increased the sense of entitlement. So, we had to make people earn their resources again. The Test allowed an individual to emotionally grasp their self-worth as a capable, independent survivor. Then, they had truly earned the resources that enabled their survival in this society. They had actual physical experience to prove their self-worth, ending the previous culture's search for self-esteem based on abstract popularity that constantly shifted. An individual cared about themselves because they had fought for their own survival, and what anyone else thought of them ceased to matter.”
“That didn't breed conflict too?” I asked.
“No, because you could respect your fellow citizen because you knew they had worked just as hard as you had, and would continue to contribute to society. There was no turmoil over parasites, immigrants, differing political parties, different levels of income or property. Everyone was everyone else's equal. You were here because you worked to be here, and wanted to be here.”
“So who was the Founder who designed all of this in the beginning?” I asked. “They sound pretty smart.”
“Calla Wiley-Franklin. Your sister.”