Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chilling Story

And by story, I mean short story -- a work of fiction. 

At the suggestion of an acquaintance, I downloaded one written by Kurt Vonnegut called "2BR02B."  I got it free from Amazon, but it's also available free from Gutenberg in other formats than kindle.  The story is short and can easily be read while you're waiting for your dinner to finish cooking.  The only problem is that you might not feel much like eating when you finish.

The story begins with a description of what appears to be a utopian future:

Everything was perfectly swell.

There were no prisons, no slums, no insane asylums, no cripples, no poverty, no wars.

All diseases were conquered.  So was old age.

Death, barring accidents, was an adventure for volunteers.

The population of the United States was stabilized at forty-million souls.

How is this miraculous world possible?  One key component is keeping the population down.  That is accomplished by mandating that before a child can be born, someone has to volunteer to die and a special agency is set up to facilitate that painlessly.  If a volunteer can't be found, well, then the child will be euthanized.

One of the major characters is faced with such a dilemma:  his wife is about to deliver triplets and he has found only one volunteer (his grandfather), which means he has to choose which child will be allowed to survive.  The other two will be put down.

I think you should read this story, so I won't provide any further details, much less a spoiler.  Suffice it to say, however, that the powers in charge are all patricians.  It's clear that Vonnegut thinks this would be a terrible world to live in, even with all of the benefits.

Back in July, I posted on a subject no one wants to talk about:  population control.  It was based on the first of a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times on the burgeoning population on the planet and what that is doing to the air, water, climate, and quality of life for all living species.  We are now at the point that if we don't start planning ways to stop the population explosion, the planet will do it for us in all sorts of horrific ways.

Yet, no one appears ready to tackle the issue in any sort of rational and humane way.  If we get to the point where we can't ignore it any further, I fear that the measures taken will be draconian and imposed by the patricians, our 1%, if you will.  You know what that means:  99% of humanity will be in the position of that man waiting for his triplets to be born.

I am not optimistic.

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Blogger Charles said...

China actually had/has a policy similar to that. The penalties on anyone who violates the one-child policy are severe. India had a similarly severe policy but has replaced it with voluntary measures. We have been fortunate to be such a wealthy nation (in natural resources) that we haven't had to do so.

7:31 AM  

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