Meda: a Tale of the Future/Part V
I PROMISED to tell you something about the history of your country from 1888 to the present day. To do this in an exhaustive manner would take a lifetime, so you must be content with the merest sketch, giving but a few of the leading events that have taken place.
"When you have lived long enough with us to learn to read and speak our language I shall place all our records of history at your disposal. If your tastes lead you in that direction you can for yourself investigate them, and by personal study make yourself familiar with all that has taken place. All men and women of the higher classes of the present day must be familiar with the history of their country, if they wish to be respected. I hope, therefore, that you will in due time be able to carry this investigation out, thus gaining for yourself a knowledge that will place you on an equal footing with those with whom you will associate.
"I shall now begin my sketch of what has taken place since your day. Five hundred years after your time the populations of the various countries of the earth had increased enormously. So much was this the case that the earth was then literally a crawling mass of people striving and fighting for very existence. There had been many wars and many famines; still the destruction of life by these scourges had not any material effect in keeping down the increase of population. All the land that was uninhabited in your day was now peopled. What you termed the Dark Continent of Africa, as well as the great continents of were by nursing brought to the years of maturity and allowed to marry. Many thoughtful people used to wonder what this would all come to, if decrepit and diseased life was to be taken care of and perpetuated in this way. If the sickly and diseased were to be preserved, it must, they stated, lead to sad results later on. Their prophecies turned out to be but too true. At the time my sketch starts the people of the earth were in a deplorable state. They had not the proper means of living in common decency, and, notwithstanding the admitted great skill possessed by their medical men, diseased and decrepit people were more numerous than the strong and healthy. There had also been a great change in the government of England and its dependencies. The colonies long prior to this gave up all but nominal allegiance to Great Britain; all became practically independent, and only sought the assistance of the mother country when, like the prodigal son, they got into trouble; then they came quickly enough and claimed parental assistance.America and Australia, was over-run by humanity. For many centuries the various governments of the earth had made it a rule to do all in their power to preserve decrepit life and allow it to multiply. What between boards of health and sanitary boards, combined with great medical skill, the most sickly children
"All people, both men and women, got the right conferred on them to vote for members for parliament without any educational or other qualification save their manhood. The consequence was that the more numerous or uneducated classes had all the power in their hands, while they were not intellectually endowed with sufficient judgment to enable them to select even the more educated of their own classes as their representatives, although there must have been plenty of good, honest, intelligent men amongst them that would have made much better representatives than the noisy, self-asserting, ignorant men that forced themselves on them.
"Politics became a trade; a race of mountebanks that could rant and influence the people by bombast were returned as representatives of the country, while the better educated and intellectually strong minority were thrown out of all share of the responsible government of their country. As a natural, nay, an inevitable, consequence of such a state of matters, the country became degraded at home and abroad. Discontent arose in all quarters. Agitators put all the blame of this anarchy and confusion on the existence of a crowned head, and it was decided to turn Great Britain into a Republic. This was effected, fortunately without any bloodshed. A Republic was established, but did not improve matters; yet it remained in force for many generations.
"In the year 2888 things had come to such a pitch that England, while beset on all sides by her foreign foes, was not free from enemies in her very midst. These very mountebanks that were returned to parliament by a befooled and trusting people were plotting with her enemies against her; their only aim and object being to further their own selfish sordid ends. Now the intelligent part of the people were forced to see how things were going, and were convinced that if the government was allowed to go on as it was, the result would be utter destruction. They, therefore, called their leaders together, and assisted by many of the people, resolved to make a desperate effort to resist external foes and crush the plotters that they saw everywhere in their midst. This resolution was carried out with determination, and although it resulted in a bloody and cruel civil war, in which millions were slain, it cleared our country of traitors and enabled the people under the guidance of intelligence to defeat all its external foes.
"While India, the Colonies, and the United States of America were never actually at war with the mother country, on several occasions they nearly came to blows. Fortunately, the fact of their being situated far apart, together with the kindly feeling arising from kindred race, prevented such a fatal issue taking place. Besides, they all had their own troubles at home; they were all suffering from the same state of misgovernment; all had committed the fatal error of placing the control of the State in the hands of the ignorant, and all had come to the same goal. Like England, all had tried the principle of equality and fraternity, and all had proved it to be but a snare and a delusion. My Specimen, a nation can only be truly governed by its intelligence. An intellectual standard is the only standard of nobility that can ever endure, as all the people of this era found to their cost.
"After these terribly cruel civil wars amongst all the English speaking races; after all this bloodshed, and all this starvation and sorrow, there came a calm. A monarchy was again established in the year 3000. The Colonies again joined the British Empire. India gave in her allegiance once more, and they were again a united and comparatively happy people. The great reduction of population, caused by the wars and famines, that swept away multitudes of the weakly and diseased, resulted in again leaving room for those that had survived. Universal suffrage was done away with, and an educational qualification introduced. No man or woman, it was enacted, could vote for a member of parliament except the elector had passed a stiff examination. Every facility was given to teach the people, but all who wished to have the privilege of taking part in the election of parliament must be educated; nor did this safeguard for intellectual government stop with the electors. It was also enacted that all members of parliament must be men of the highest education, and they were also required to pass an examination of great severity in all subjects that men of education should be familiar with.
"In the year 3334 a most interesting event took place, and that was the union of the United States of America with this country. The Americans, like ourselves, came through terrible trials in the shape of civil wars, and other like calamities, arising from misgovernment by the ignorant. Even in your day there were indications of what was in store for this great nation. They led the way in making politics a trade; they led the way in introducing the payment of congressmen, thus lowering a duty that should be held as an honour by the citizens of every nation, to a means of acquiring gain. This degeneration became so bad in that country that the mere mention of the name of congressman, a senator, or even of president, was sufficient to brand its bearer as being a man that could not be trusted. I have not the time to explain all that took place in America, but it was practically a counterpart of our experiences in England, only much more intense. The result was the same as with the English. The intelligent part of the people revolting came to the rescue of the nation, and manfully did their painful duty. They, like our fathers, saw that Republicanism was a sham. They saw that while they had not a king to rule them, they had a man in power who, owing to the degraded state of the political world, was now invariably an all-powerful, ambitious, uneducated and unprincipled being that no one could respect, and who was supported and kept in office by men as bad as himself. With what feelings of regret did the American people of that terrible time look back and pray for the return of the political purity that existed in the days of Washington, or even in the days of Lincoln and Grant. At last the electorate saw the misery that was in store for them, and felt that, while they might differ among themselves, there was one duty expected of them above all others, to protect and maintain the honour of their great nation, and try to educate and elevate the people. They had had enough of Republicanism now. They learned by bitter experience that a movable centre like a president, that had to be elected every three years, only meant opening up a way to ambitious men to usurp the power of a king under another name. They at last saw, as our fathers had seen and proved, that a nation must have some fixed centre for government to move around. No matter how small that centre may be, if it exists, it prevents any scheming man that gets into a prominent position in the government of his country from assuming the power of a crowned head—a power that under such circumstances is sure to be supported by unprincipled followers for the purpose of gain.
"The British Empire in the year 3354 consisted of Great Britain, Ireland, North America, Australasia, India and Africa, and it remains the same to this day.
"The central government, as I told you, now sits at the great government halls not far from the ruins of London. The rest of the empire is divided into two hundred local governments, which practically manage their own affairs, simply reporting what they do to the Central Government, to whom they are responsible for local management. Each of these local governments sends three representatives to the Central Government; thus forming an assembly of six hundred members, who deal with imperial matters. This Assembly again elects from their number sixty members, who form the Upper House, which corresponds with what was called the House of Lords in your day.
"In your day such an arrangement as this would have been impracticable. But as science advanced the means of inter-communication improved, the result being, that now, with our speed of travelling, there is no inconvenience whatever. So, my Specimen, you see the whole English speaking peoples of the world, that were known as such, and as dependencies of England in your day, were formed into one great United Kingdom. But while all these reforms were steps in the right direction, their troubles, as you will see later on, were not at an end, although their position was much improved by the many changes that had taken place under the government of the intellectual party.
"Before going further with my sketch of the history of the past, I must here give you a little information as to the causes of the great change you have noticed in our language. The confusion of tongues on earth caused much inconvenience to all nations; this was aggravated by the improved and rapid means of travelling that were introduced. By universal consent all the governments of any importance in the world enacted that there should be one, and only one, language used throughout the globe. The next difficulty that arose was to fix on the language that was to be adopted. Delegates met to discuss this subject, and debated it for six months, but could not come to an agreement. At last, it was resolved that no existing language, taken as a whole, was suitable. It was determined therefore to create a new one; and seeing that the English speaking people at this date were the most numerous, it was determined to call it modern English.
"As you may imagine the formation of a new language was no small task. Delegates from all nations met, and discussed every word in the new vocabulary. It took them over twenty years to get this completed. The system followed was to select the most expressive words from all known languages, making it a rule to have a separate word for everything, allowing no two words to have the same meaning or more than one meaning.
"As it was not possible to introduce a new language without much preparation and time, it was agreed that twenty years should be allowed for instructing teachers, while other twenty years were allowed for teaching the young. But after this date, the new language was to be adopted as the universal language of the world.
"Fortunately, at this period and for some centuries thereafter, peace and industry reigned on the earth, otherwise this great change in the language of the world could not have been accomplished. As it was, however, all the world's governments adhered religiously to their enactment, and after two hundred years the new language was so thoroughly established, that the older languages became as in the past, only open to the more educated, who study them as dead languages.
"To proceed with the rest of the history of the world, without first explaining to you some curious changes that came over the people's convictions in two essential points, would only mean relating events without giving the causes from which many of them sprung. These changes of convictions were on the questions of religion, and of food and drink.
"As to religion, the world had come through many many changes. After years and years of experimental teaching, and the introduction of endless forms of worship, endless doctrines, endless beliefs, and non-beliefs, the people of the earth came back again to Christianity (from which they had wandered) about the year of our Lord 3260, and we still adhere to it. Our religion is now the Christian religion in its pure simplicity. We have done away with all sectarian dogmas which were purely the creations of man. I think you will admit that in your day man thought a great deal too much about these dogmas, and in fighting and squabbling over them they forgot what real religion was, although they called themselves devout Christians. The Romanists contended for the Pope and his Priests, and said (believing it to be true, no doubt) that the only way to Heaven was through them, assisted by the Virgin Mary. Their great dogma was that a Priest had the power of relieving his fellow creature of his responsibility to his God. The Episcopalians established man-created dogmas, which they said had better be observed, if you wished an easy road to Heaven. The Methodists were bitter against the Episcopalians because of these church rules or dogmas, and yet they set up another code, which they declared the right and true one to follow. The Baptists again said that no man was baptised unless he was fully immersed, as if this could be a question of vital importance. The Presbyterians said that Presbyterianism was the true way Heavenward. They again, on some silly man-created laws for church government, split into a number of sects, all bitter in their feelings toward one another through some absurd difference of opinion regarding these questions that were really of little moment.
"All said that they believed in the doctrine of the Christian religion, which is salvation through Christ; and still they neglected Christ's teaching, that is simplicity itself: 'Love God, and do unto all men, as you would they should do unto you.' Yet with this precept constantly before them, and with this doctrine of love for God and your neighbour continually on their lips, you will admit that they as continually abused one another, and even went to war and spilt their brother's blood about these miserable creations of their own narrow minds, crying aloud all the time that they were doing this for the sake of God, thereby disregarding all that was taught by the Master they professed to serve. This was bad in your day, but shortly after your time things became much worse. The people got so narrow-minded that dogmas became the entire religion, and Christ's teachings were entirely overlooked. Then the freethinkers came to the front as the natural result of these conflicting ideas. With all these experiences before them, my Specimen, our fathers saw that if they were to have a religion at all, they must strip off all creeds and dogmas created by man, and adhere to the constant and oft-repeated instructions of God's Son. This they tried to do, and the result has been most satisfactory, having now worked well for over two thousand years. We believe in 'Love for one another, absolute justice to all, and veneration for that mighty, all-powerful and incomprehensible Great Being who created and who controls the universe with love, mercy, and truth;—a Being so wonderfully great in His omnipotence, that we are a thousand times less in comparison to Him, than the smallest microbe which floats about in the blood of the most insignificant little insect, is to this globe on which we live. As I told you, if any one of our community through great learning, or great intellectual power, or through adulation begins to think he is greater or nobler than he is, we take him to the Observatory and he comes away with a true perception of his own nothingness. He is thus imbued with a larger desire to learn more from the inexhaustible field of unexplored knowledge that is yet but barely entered upon. I sometimes think, my Specimen, that should the world last for tens of thousands of years, its inhabitants will after that time feel that they know less than we now think we know, because as knowledge and intelligence increase, the greater that increase is, the greater will be man's ability to realize his own littleness. In your day some great thinkers presumed to state that there was no God, but when greater knowledge came to mankind this state of presumptuous thought was banished, I hope, for ever."