Something got me to thinking about science fiction, as it existed back in the fifties and sixties. Everyone has seen this, and knows what it looks like. Everything is clean, there are flying cars, technology enables an easier life. Sometimes it was even diverse, as in the case of the original Star Trek. It is wholly optimistic. People had a great imagination about how what could be, and many people saw the world with wonder and curiosity.
We don't do that anymore. Our science fiction tends to be pretty dark, dystopian or apocalyptic. (Which is great art, for sure, but there isn't anything at the other end of the spectrum.) There is a whole subset of the American population that doesn't know optimism, and isn't interested in it. Many want to cling to a past that wasn't better, really for anyone. "Make America great again" implies that there was a better time, but better time for whom? Obviously that's a dog whistle, code for, "Let's go back to when the people of color and LGBTQ people were marginalized and the white people ran all of the things." So many of those people believe that their way of life is threatened by diversity and people that aren't like them. Unfortunately we can't just write it off as lazy thinkers or the willfully ignorant, because their actions have real consequences.
We've known for decades that there is unlimited energy coming from the sun, and it stirs up wind that can also be turned to energy. The technology to use this has been around for decades, and it's cheaper than ever. It doesn't pollute stuff the way burning dead dinosaurs do. It doesn't warm the planet. And our cars may not fly yet, but they can run on clean electricity. How can you not be excited by all of that? Who can in an honest, intellectual way, say that they want pollution that warms the planet and harms our health, when the alternatives exist today, and are cheaper?
Scientists pulled off nothing short of what would be considered a miracle even 50 years ago, when they were able to create a vaccine to battle a virus that had killed millions of people. In the process, they also figured out new ways to monitor disease (wastewater, gross), manufacture the delivery mechanism of medicines more efficiently, and the concept of custom drugs to treat specific patients no longer seems impossible. Meanwhile, regular people have found new ways to work, cash is becoming unnecessary and it's more efficient than ever to obtain goods by way of delivery.
But culturally, we keep looking backward. We're not celebrating the diversity of our neighbors, and a future where we all live together, peacefully. We have solutions to our environmental and energy challenges right in front of us, but we irrationally cling to the legacy. Experts in every field create and discover things, and instead of reveling in that, we reject their expertise as elitism.
The bright and shiny future is right in front of us, and we stubbornly refuse to move toward it.