A Warning From The Past Hits Home Today

Jul 26, 2018

In 1930, Olaf Stapledon wrote Last and First Men, a science fiction classic that is a history of Humanity’s future that takes place over billions of years. 

Written nearly 90 years ago, Stapledon closely imagines our present day reality:

“In the far West, the United States of America openly claimed to be custodians of the whole planet.  Universally feared and envied […] the Americans were rapidly changing the whole character of man’s existence.  By this time every human being throughout the planet made use of American products. […] Moreover, the American press, […] and televisor ceaselessly drenched the planet with American thought.  Year by year the aether reverberated with echoes of New York’s pleasures and the religious fervours of the Middle West.  What wonder, then, that American, even while she was despised, irresistibly moulded the whole human race.  This, perhaps, would not have mattered, had the Americans been able to give of her very rare best.  But inevitably only her worst could be propagated.  Only the most vulgar traits of these crude instruments.  And so, by the floods of poison issuing from this people’s baser members, the whole world, and with it the nobler parts of American herself, were irrevocably corrupted.” 

Written, as it was, in 1930, I find the accuracy of Stapledon’s fictional history both amazing and troubling.  I read it here not only because it is eerily prescient, but also because I believe that the “nobler parts of America” still have a chance to stem the poisonous floods that flow from our “crude instruments.” 

I am Michael Perry, and that is Olaf Stapledon’s perspective.