Meda: a Tale of the Future/Part VI
"I THINK, my Specimen, we have now had enough history for one day, so meanwhile I shall postpone this subject; as time permits I will revert to it again. We shall now talk about the present for a little.
"It is most interesting to read the writings of the past and study the changes of thought and sentiment that took place in the various decades of the life of our nation. At one period, the thoughts of our fathers seemed to be exalted and pure in tone, while at another, we find all these noble aspirations gone, and replaced by ideas and thoughts that are immoral and degrading. This changing reminds me of a number of great ocean waves, rolling on the shore. At one moment, you see them clear, pure and beautiful, at another, they are dim and muddy, having stirred up and become polluted by contact with the bottom's dirt and filth. But as decade after decade passes, the tone of our fathers' writings has gradually improved, until at the present day immorality of thought has ceased to exist, and purity and wisdom reign in its place. Not, my Specimen, that I want you for a moment to believe that we have now arrived at perfection—that is a goal we can never attain. And I think it is well it is so, for had we not got some greater and nobler object always in view, we should be like the climber of mountains who had nothing left for his ambition to attain—after having climbed the highest, he must either remain on the top or descend again to the level from which he made his start. Our mountain is one whose top we can never attain. We will get higher and higher, but as mortals, we can never hope to reach the summit.
"We differ much in duration of life from the people of your period. I think I am right in saying that in those days the average life of men was about forty years. Some, it is true, lived to one hundred, but these were I believe very rare exceptions. Now we live to an average of one hundred and fifty years, while many reach two hundred. The death rate among our young people is very low. Our children remain helpless much longer than those of the ancients, rarely beginning to walk before they are three years old, greater intelligence bringing this burthen with it. A man does not arrive at maturity until he has reached thirty years, while a woman arrives at maturity about her twenty-eighth year. Our marriage laws are very strict. No man can have more than one wife during his life, to have a second wife is a terrible crime in our eyes. He must not marry until he is forty, nor can any woman marry until she is thirty-five. A woman rarely has more than three children, and never more than four.
"In the selection of husbands and wives, young people are left very much to themselves, subject to only two conditions which are, a presumed educational equality and non-relationship. Both the man and the woman must have passed the highest educational standard of their class, this being the only test of nobility that has any weight with our people. If a man or woman neglects this law in the selection of wife or husband, he or she loses social caste and is degraded in the eyes of the nation. Love, we believe to be a true, pure and holy feeling, a love for the spirit and intellect rather than that carnal love for the body and worldly riches that was so prevalent in your day, and for thousands of years thereafter. By strictly adhering to this law of selection, we find that the offspring of intellectual people are more susceptible to develop an improved intellectual power. Marriage is not allowed between relations. The experience we had before us, of the evils arising from marriages between near relations in previous generations, which, without exception, produced and perpetuated diseased bodies, and decrepit and idiotic minds, caused this law to be enacted and rigidly adhered to. It is an understood unwritten law, that the further removed the husband and wife are in relationship the more pleased the parents and the state will be. People afflicted with disease are not allowed to marry. Love of parents is strongly developed in our race; and our love for the country of our birth is intense. Parents devote themselves to their children until they have arrived at maturity, and children have the highest veneration for their parents.
"Men and women can compete for all ordinary occupations, and they mix together with the greatest freedom. Yet immorality is unknown, the fact being that intelligence has gained such a control over our people's passions that everything is held subservient to it."
At this stage of my friend's description of his fellows, I ventured to ask, "What object can your people have for which to live and work? They do not eat, therefore, it cannot be for food or the pleasures of the palate. All garments appear to me the same, therefore it cannot be for the love of clothing. They don't seem to use money, therefore it cannot be from a desire to amass wealth." He replied, "You forget, my Specimen, that intellectual food for the mind is of more value to us than the miserable food you used to cram into that sink of iniquity, your stomach. You forget that to us mental raiment is worth more than all the clothing that in your day was so much prized and sought after. You forget that we have no use for that bauble money, that you sought for, fought for, and for which you degraded yourselves. You forget that the rays thrown out by one brilliant thought, or one great conception, are possessed of more grandeur and beauty, for the present generation, than all the diamonds and rubies that were so much prized by the ancients. But while we are more alive to the beauties of thought and the gems of intellect, than to any of the so-called jewels, clothing and other treasures of the ancients, we do not despise the beauties of these gems or of this raiment. We look on gold and silver much as we look on lovely flowers without life. We admire and prize the grand effects that can be produced by their artistic arrangements and settings. These effects we study and arrange in great halls of instruction, the property of the nation. No individual possesses or cares to possess these things; he considers them curious, interesting, and beautiful, and no more.
"The simple uniform garments we adopt serve all our wants. If women on fête days wish to adorn themselves they use flowers, which have a charm of simplicity and beauty about them, far beyond gems, that—could their history be told—would reveal a deplorable chapter of crimes committed for their sakes. Think of the tyrants they have adorned; think of the immorality they have bedecked with borrowed and deceitful rays of sparkling beauty; think of the envy they have engendered in the souls of generations; think of the deceits, the intrigues, the blasphemies, the miseries, the murders, and the degradations that have been enacted for them, and then say is their record deserving of recognition or respect?
"On the other hand, when our women adorn themselves with flowers, they adorn themselves with beautiful new born beauty, short lived, it is true, but pure and free from the curse of a horrible record of crime.
"Yes, my Specimen, when we look back on the history of the past, and remember what a shameful part the cupidity of man caused gold, silver, and the precious stones to play in the world's history, we cannot help coupling and associating man's worst instincts with these otherwise harmless substances. They are truly in themselves possessed of singular beauty, but this beauty is so dimmed and disfigured by the doings of men, that we cannot see one apart from the other. We live for none of these; we live for a more true and lasting pleasure."