Notes from a Bygone Future
Actually, that’s not entirely true. As you’re reading this, we’re in Spain’s capital…but when we were writing it, we were in a makeshift office in the dusty and chaotic Medina of Marrakech, Morocco. We actually took a horse-drawn cart to our temporary digs. No kidding!
Traveling to Morocco is very much like stepping back in time. And it ain’t always easy ridin’…
To those who answer that common dinner party question, “In what age would you like to have lived” with a droopily romantic, “Oh, oh…In the [whatevereth] century, in the long-distant past,” let us assure you…life then was harsh. Very harsh.
For men answering the question with a lustful gaze t’ward some ancient, bygone time, be sure to check the average life expectancy for that period. Chances are, you’d already be dead! And women might want to check on the social and religious practices of the time. Forget being able to vote or work… Depending on your desired hypothetical birth date, you might find yourself teleported directly to a dunking stool or tied to a burning stake.
Like many poorer parts of the world, life expectancy here in this North African nation didn’t surpass 50-years until the mid-’60s. And, although there are encouraging signs of social liberalization, many women are still forced to dress in what are essentially burlap sacks, cut off from the world and shamed into a most servile status, far beneath that if their menfolk.
In many — arguably most — cases, the distant past was a scary and inhospitable time in which to live. Not to say the future doesn’t also inspire in us a degree of trepidation…but it is fear of the unknown, fear of uncertainty, that we must learn to grapple with…and even to embrace.
In questions of political uncertainty, there is understandable, palpable, fear in the air. The mere suggestion that humans might be better off shedding our demonstrably-failed 6,000-year experiment with The State, for example, inspires, even in thoughtful, contemplative individuals, a deep and dark fear of the unknown.
“Who will build the roads? Who will protect me from violent mobs? Who will guarantee my government-promised welfare? Who will educate our children?”
We imagine similar anxieties must have gripped those arguing against setting free the slaves.
“Who will plant the corn? Who will pick the cotton? How will we feed ourselves?” And perhaps, as an afterthought, “How will they feed themselves?”
Of course, freedom is always the right answer…even if, and often times especially when, it implies an uncertain path ahead…