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Chapter 14: Contamination
November 14, 2016, 23:50
Filed under: food, Health, Politics, Religion, Technology, Travel, Writing | Tags: ,

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If the Alliance feared the Independent Planets because of the threat of viral contamination it was nothing compared to their fear of cultural contamination. The whole point of the official Diaspora was to preserve humankind in all its purity. The problem is that in order to preserve their vision of humanity they had to compromise their humanity. It was not only the Independents that the official colonies feared, but any contact with alien species. The majority of humans on the allied planets had no awareness of alien species.

Centuries of science fiction had prepared humans for the possibility that any alien species they met would be hostile. Even if not deliberately hostile they would present threats to human culture and so any contact that occurred tended to be kept from a population who continued to be fed a diet of entertainment that propagated and preserved ‘human values’.

Of course by the time of the Cyber Wars human values had changed considerably from my youth and I had seen the changes. In each era the dominant values being dictated by a different culture: the Greeks, the Roman Empire, Christendom, the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, the Maritime Empires – particularly the British – then global capitalism. The decline of the western capitalist nations under repeated totalitarian regimes strong enough to oppress their own peoples, but not to prevent the rise of the East brought about a long period of economic domination from the Asian manufacturing nations. Resource rich African countries – largely Islamic democracies – became major players in the United nations by the dawn of the Twenty Second century.

The Twenty First Century was a time of upheaval with the rise of fascism in the west. However the war against Islamic extremism that so badly weakened the West also irreparably weakened Extreme Islam and throughout the Middle East a second Arab Spring swept aside the old regimes in an Islamic Reformation. The liberal Campaign for Quranic Values extended democracy to ordinary people throughout the region and that ethical Islam spread to Africa. Just as they had swept away corruption in the Middle East they swept away the dictatorships that remained in Africa.

The West was too exhausted and inward looking to confront the East militarily and so the United Nations became the playing field for the game of nations. It soon became apparent that the West needed the East and there was a necessary softening in relations. The liberals and socialists who had managed to survive the fascist governments of the West received inspiration and support from the Campaign for Quranic Values who had shown the world that far from a threat Islam had much that was good to give the world.

Perhaps the master stroke of the CQV was to protect the identity of Israel. Everyone especially the Israeli government who welcomed the rise of Western Fascism expected a resurgent Islam to seek to destroy Israel. The West had become too weak to protect them and so Israel readied itself for conflict. The Federation of Islamic republics that represented most of the Nations of the Middle East had several battle hardened armies at its disposal encircling Israel. People were just waiting for the worst when the President of the Federation Mohammed Ali Saud announced that the Federation would guarantee the safety of Israel in perpetuity. He then invited the Israel government to a summit to iron out the details of Israel’s relationship with her neighbours. It was apparent that between the the Islamic navies, armies and air forces could effectively isolate Israel so perhaps Israel didn’t have a lot of options. However on the day the invitation was issued the naval blockade was lifted and the Arab army withdrew some distance from the borders.

As you’ll know from your history not only were the talks a success, but Israel was largely responsible for breaking the deadlock between the Government of the USA and the Islamic Federation. If that log jam had not been broken there would have been no united response to the Great Flood and the rise of the Cybertrons. It was unfortunate that the response to the Cybertrons began with war, but it ended in negotiation.

The resurgence in liberal and socialist parties ensured that the United Nations could meet the melting of the icecaps with a coordinated response. This allowed for the maximisation of productive land use and the redistribution of populations to match available resources. There was a lot of moaning from conservatives about the falling standard of living, particularly after high rise living became compulsory, unfortunately for them the living standards of most people either improved or remained the same.

The decreasing landmasses caused real problems in matching food production to demand. The problem was offset to an extent by farming the sea. There was a coordinated program of fish breeding to take advantage of the increased oceans. However just as important were the sub-aqua farms where food crops were grown hydroponically in air filled domes beneath the surface of the sea. Each dome was a perfect micro climate and the water depth allowed a stable temperature to be maintained while not being too deep to prevent adequate sunlight reaching the dome. Condensation provided most of the water the crops needed and additional nutrients were piped in from the shore. The rising sea levels meant that there was more rain so in the remaining land masses drought had ceased to be a problem. Rice became the main staple crop and wheat became more of a luxury.

The reduction in acreage brought about restrictions on non food use of crops so the availability of alcohol decreased. However there was a great increase in electronic entertainment. Because of the need to exercise more control over resources and the new types of production there was an increase in mechanisation and computer control of productive activities. The major employer of human labour became the entertainments industry because when a population may not need to work it does need to be occupied.

With the decline of drinking as a leisure activity debating became popular. It provided a major focus of human interaction and the best debaters became stars commanding huge followings. The debates were on every topic of human interest, moral issues, religious issues, economic concerns, health, nothing was excepted from debate and the debates as well as attracting large audiences were televised. Of course the popularity of debating drove the final nail into the coffin of the discredited opinion polling industry who could serve no further useful purpose. What it did mean was that politicians were more in touch with the opinions of electors than ever before.

With so much leisure time the Leisure Industry at the dawn of the Twenty Second Century was the major employer. Along with the rise in electronic entertainment came a centralised effort from the world government the United Nations had become. The rising waters became the people’s playground. There were floating hotel cities devoted to water sport. Whereas river fishing was less available, sea angling and sport fishing provided both fun and food. Sunken cities provided scuba divers with exciting opportunities for exploration. One of the best loved television programs was ‘David Attenborough’s Sunken Cities’. Although the great man was long dead his programs were still being made fronted by a computer generated Sir David who still commanded the affection he had during his lifetime. Natural history changed and the world still needed Attenborough to explain those changes. So popular was the Sir David Attenborough brand that centuries later in the colonies of the Diaspora he was explaining the flora and fauna of the terraformed worlds to rapt audiences and the original programs from the old Earth remained popular with generations centuries removed from them. When Sigma Seven established its first university had a ‘Sir David Attenborough’ Chair of Zoology, he quite easily beat Charles Darwin who had never had a television audieance.

Computer games never declined in popularity and with so much leisure time television programs continued to be made. However the popularity of broadcast television declined to be replaced by on demand services. The broadcast media had declined in popularity and respect after their role in the rise of fascism was exposed. Even in the west the only news service that most people had come to trust was Al Jazeera who were supported by the Campaign for Quranic Values. Every home did have a dedicated screen for official announcements which also carried a scrolling news banner. Official communications would sit on screen waiting to be opened, but in practice because most people picked them up on their phones or watches the screens were not much used except by officials who used them for conferencing.

Apart from public events and official meetings scheduling became almost non existent. Even education was conducted mostly on line when the students chose their attendance being logged based on their signing on and off times. The bulk of the course work was also completed and submitted online. Ironically this stimulated the students to demand study centres where they could meet and discuss their work and lives. Attendance was optional and people turned up when they wanted. Teachers would announce when and where they were going to visit a centre so that those who wished to meet them could. There was a scandal in Twenty One Two when a student’s exam was rejected because his online log in did not demonstrate what the examiners considered adequate study time. The case went to court and he won because he could demonstrate that not only did he have access to one of the few remaining public libraries that held books on paper, but the library records demonstrated his attendance. This gave rise to several well attended debates considering whether access to old fashioned books provided an unfair advantage, whether online study should be compulsory. There were suggestions that we should begin printing books again, but the print industry had already been considered unnecessary so while the debate found that printed books were desirable they were at that time impractical. One of the attractions of the Independent Planets later was that, largely as an act of rebellion, they established printers and as a consequence a flourishing literary scene.

Most of the Independents had very little central control by government, indeed such government as there was tended to be a response to circumstances whereas the official colonies were settles and administered to a fixed plan. The biggest problem for the official Diaspora is that too often circumstances would not fit into a well ordered scheme. Many colonies maintained a veneer of organisation to plan, but beneath it was a patchwork of fixes and hacks as anarchic as anything in the outer planets.

The rise of fascism in the Twenty First Century had demonstrated humanity’s need for order and structure. Ironically the liberal backlash that followed and dismantled the oppressive national institutions of the fascists replaced them with a supra national central organisation that was certainly more controlling than the oppressive regimes it replaced. However it controlled by enrolling the citizens into a system where their voices could be heard and considered before a decision was made by the government on grounds of utility. Whereas previously there had been differences between nations – some that threatened all of humanity – under the central government differences were largely ironed out. Although there still remained a governing elite social inequalities more or less disappeared. There were no appreciable class divisions between people. There was no longer a working class or rather, there was and it consisted of machines.

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