Here’s to Future Days
I was 13 the summer that Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was released. Although it was rated R, and I was forbidden by my mother to see it, I went anyway. For many reasons, it left an indelible impression on me, and although I’m not prone to re-watching many things, it’s one of the few films I can view repeatedly with pleasure.
The movie was set in November of 2019. At 13, in 1982, this really did seem a lifetime away. I don’t think I considered that I would be 50 years old in 2019. My own parents were not yet 50 then, so it seemed a nearly-impossible age to be. But I do remember wondering if the future portrayed in Blade Runner was one I would live in.
Part of me wanted to. The Los Angeles of Blade Runner was a stark one, filled with constant rain and all the negative aspects of urban decay. But it was also grimly beautiful, and I was fascinated by the concept of the replicants and their longing to be fully human. Although the film suggested that humanity had in many ways fallen victim to the worst of its inherent weaknesses, it also promised that there were wonderful things left to discover.
As November 2019 is now a reality, I find myself thinking about the world I’d hoped to live in and comparing it to the one I got. At 13, I remember thinking that I’d live in a future where the world was at peace, where people were living easier lives, and where things like famine and death from easily-preventable diseases were long in the past.
Instead, I live in a world where decades-long conflicts are still raging, the 26 richest people have more money than the 3.8 billion poorest combined, health care is increasingly inaccessible, and diseases that were once thought to be eradicated are staging comebacks because a whole lot of people have decided that some anecdotal evidence from their cousin’s pet sitter is more reliable than two centuries of scientific research.
There’s a running joke amongst people of my generation that asks “Where’s the flying car I was promised?” This originates with the cartoon show The Jetsons. Set in 2062, The Jetsons foretold a future of not only flying cars, but also robot maids, food replicators, and clothing that magically dressed the wearer without effort.
This was a cheerier vision of the future than the one shown in Blade Runner. And we’ve got a few years before 2062 rolls around, so maybe we’ll get our flying cars after all. But I can’t help but think of all the things we don’t have that we should.
The best-paying jobs are in the “futuristic” fields of technology, as expected, but the education required to get those jobs almost always requires assuming crippling debt. It’s becoming more and more difficult for people to buy homes, support families, and save for retirement (if we can retire at all). Lives that were supposed to become easier have instead become more difficult in many very important ways.
It probably doesn’t help my mood that this week is the three-year anniversary of the night the Demented Orange Toddler elbowed his way into our lives, brought eight years of steadily-advancing, if imperfect, progress to a screeching halt, and life in America became a never-ending game of Oh Crap, What Now?
Instead of working for change, we’ve been too busy weathering a daily storm of incompetence, corruption, and egotism to do much else. And it’s not just here. Worldwide, a veritable parade of leaders seemingly bent on ensuring we can’t have nice things has risen up to try and ensure that the sparkling future we envisioned fails to materialize.
I know that making resolutions for a new year is an artificial way of hitting the restart button. But sometimes it’s all we’ve got. My hope is that November 2, 2020 is the real start of a better future. But that’s a year off, which right now seems like a lifetime, and I need something to hold on to until then.
So as 2019 winds down, instead of lamenting the future we haven’t gotten, I’m trying to envision the one I still want—one where nobody needs to run a crowdfunding campaign to pay for healthcare bills, where encouraging and celebrating education is the rule instead of the exception, where a living wage really allows you to live, where leaving a thriving planet for future generations is more important than making a handful of wealthy people even more wealthy, where truth is more important than personal opinion, where people live in hope instead of in fear.
And, of course, where we all have flying cars. ▼
Michael Thomas Ford is a much-published Lambda Literary award-winning author.