“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Nowadays most of us consider ourselves to be of average intelligence or better, even those of us who aren’t. It won’t be long, though, before future generations look back, shake their heads, and say to themselves, “what a bunch of idiots they were.”
We do that to previous generations, and future generations will do it to us. We laugh at those primitive people who thought the Earth was flat or that the Earth was the center of the Universe and everything else spun around it. Ha ha. What a bunch of idiots they were.
Many ancient people believed that the stars were gods, especially the sun. Nobody really knows what Gods might exist, so I won’t make fun of the dozens of Norse, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman gods that people worshipped in days of old. However, when I think about the people who thought that human sacrifices to these gods would bring about a good harvest, I have to think, “What a bunch of idiots they were.”
Most of the Native Americans who died after the European colonization of America died as a result of diseases brought here from Europe for which they had no immunity. That was tragic, but when our ancestors purposely gave them smallpox infected blankets to the Native Americans, that was genocide. We can’t deny it. We can’t look back favorably on those actions.
The microscope wasn’t invented until the 16th century, so I won’t make fun of the early surgeons who had no concept of germ theory and didn’t wash their hands before operating. However, when I think about the practice of bloodletting, I can’t help but think, “What a bunch of idiots they were.”
George Washington, the first President of the United States, woke up at 2 a.m. on Dec. 14, 1799, with a sore throat. After a series of medical procedures, including the draining of nearly 40 percent of his blood, he died. According to Wikipedia, bloodletting is claimed to have been the most common medical practice performed by surgeons from antiquity until the late 19th century, a span of almost 2,000 years. By today’s standards, those doctors were absolute idiots.
Thomas Jefferson penned the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” He campaigned against the evils of slavery, yet, he was the second-largest slave holder in the State of Virginia. He was considered one of the most enlightened men of his generation, but as the years roll by we look back and wonder how a man of his awesome intellect could have possibly missed the terrible irony of his inaction to free his own slaves.
Many people are outraged today when Football players take a knee during the playing of the National anthem. The really outrageous thing, though, is that back when Francis Scott Key wrote his glorious praise for “the land of the free” 20 percent of the population consisted of slaves. Incredibly, 200 years later people are still discriminated against and even killed just because of the color of their skin.
The Englishman Alan Turing, who said, “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine” broke the German Enigma code. He was very instrumental in beating the Nazis in World War II. It is estimated that his efforts shortened the war by two years and that his code-breaking machine may have saved 12 million lives. The machine he created was also the forerunner of today’s computers. Instead of being heaped with praise by his government, he was threatened with imprisonment when they found out that he was a homosexual. Imagine that. What a bunch of idiots they were.
How many innocent people were executed as witches in Europe and in Salem, Massachusetts? Speaking of witch hunts, we Americans pride ourselves for our Freedom of Speech, yet we allowed McCarthyism to ruin the lives of many Americans who exercised that right. What a bunch of idiots.
Cigarettes! Remember when they were really cool? Just watch any old movie and you’ll see everyone lighting up and enjoying those cancer sticks. What a bunch of idiots.
Remember when the government thought Prohibition was the answer to alcohol problems. Gangsters like Al Capone loved that solution. And how many kids went to prison for simply smoking a marijuana joint? Reefer Madness! The madness was the law that criminalized something that today is prescribed as a medical treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Arthritis, Epilepsy, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Insomnia, and End of Life Care. What bunch of idiots classified it as a narcotic?
Yes, looking back we can see many examples of how our ancestors appeared to be total idiots. But wipe that smug grin off your faces. It won’t be long before future generations look back at us with the same amazement.
The cruelty of the Inquisition was a long time ago, and we no longer believe in human sacrifice to appease the gods, but we do have religious leaders who preach that the killing of infidels will guarantee 71 virgins in heaven. Others preach that the earth is 6000 years old and that dinosaurs co-existed with early man. Mormons preach that Jesus lived for a while in North America, and the Catholic Church has protected many pedophile priests. We talk of religious freedom, but if you say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” some supposed Christians will get extremely irate.
We also have the issue of gun violence in schools. Someday people will look back on that and wonder what a bunch of idiots we were. The families of police and firefighters live with the constant worry that their loved ones will be injured or killed while performing their duty. That is extremely unfortunate, but it is a total abomination that parents of young school children must live with those very same worries.
The Cold War concept of Mutually Assured Destruction with the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is another head scratcher. We only hope that people will be around to look back at that and wonder how stupid we were to build enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire planet multiple times over. Now we have tons of unused weapons that we don’t know how to safely destroy, yet, the leaders in North Korea and Iran want to build more.
Global Climate Change is another big problem that we refuse to face. Someday, people living inland will probably wonder why we didn’t take steps to avoid that. I think our blindness to the problem is some kind of reaction to the Y2K problem, which was successfully averted by governments and private industry spending billions to prevent it. When planes didn’t fall out of the sky, banks didn’t crash, and government services didn’t collapse on January 1, 2000, many people thought the whole thing was a hoax. They didn’t understand the massive effort that was made to prevent the disaster. So now they look at the impending climate disaster as just another hoax. Hopefully, we will snap out of it before it is too late to do something about the problem.
On top of all that, we also made Donald Trump the leader of the free world. How crazy is that? What will future generations think of that bonehead maneuver?
We are the best educated generation in the history of the world. Through libraries and the Internet, we have access to the greatest thinkers of our time, and the wisdom of the ages. We have replaced widespread illiteracy with almost universal literacy, and yet, when future generations look back upon us they will wonder how we could have been such incredible jerks.
Let’s all try to be just a little smarter and make future generations proud to call us their ancestors.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,