Saturday, October 22, 2011

In fifty years, what will our sins be?

In my early years white male heterosexual superiority was pretty much hardwired into my culture. I grew up in Quebec, so in my earliest pre-engagement years add the local theocracy of the Catholic church.

Mental illness, including schizophrenia, was a shameful sin. Hitting children was normal and even encouraged. There were few laws protecting domestic animals. There were almost no environmental protections. Children and adults with cognitive disorders were scorned and neglected. Physical disabilities were shameful; there were few accommodations for disability.

Our life then had a lot in common with China today.

Not all of these cultural attitudes are fully condemned, but that time is coming.

So what are the candidates for condemnation in 50 years? Gus Mueller, commenting on a WaPo article, suggests massive meat consumption and cannabis prohibition.

I am sure Gus is wrong about cannabis prohibition. Even now we don't condemn the ideal of alcohol prohibition; many aboriginal communities around the world still enforce alcohol restrictions and we don't condemn them. We consider American Prohibition quixotic, but not evil.

My list is not far from the WaPo article. Here's my set:

  • Our definition and punishment of crime, particularly in the context of diminished capacity.
  • Our tolerance of poverty, both local and global.
  • Our wastefulness.
  • Our tolerance of political corruption.
  • Our failure to create a carbon tax.
  • The use of semi-sentient animals as meat. (WaPo just mentions industrial food production. I think the condemnation will be deeper.)
  • Our failure to confront the responsibilities and risks associated with the creation of artificial sentience. (Depending on how things turn out, this might be celebrated by our heirs.)

The WaPo article mentions our isolation of the elderly. I don't think so; I think that will be seen more as a tragedy than a sin. This is really about the modern mismatch between physical and cognitive lifespan.

The article is accompanied by a poll with this ranking as of 5800 votes:

  • Environment
  • Food production
  • Prison system
  • Isolation of the elderly.

No comments: