"Socrates’ Lesson to his Pupils on April 1st, Anno-Pre-Dominis 383
Socrates: Guys today I’d like to have a little chat with you, and obviously also ask you a few little questions, about the world of the future 2,396 years from now, on April 1st 2013.
Pupils: But Teacher how can one know today what the world in more than 2000 years will be like? In such a distant time?
S: Don’t worry guys, with my Method one can manage to understand and know many things.
P: O.K. Teacher, please go ahead, we’re listening
S: Today as you can see we’re all sitting here nicely and peacefully in the shade of this magnificent tree, we can see the sea and the sun and the olive trees, and in a while the fishermen will bring us some fish and we can talk about philosophy for hours and hours.
P: And won’t it still be this way in 2013?
S: Not exactly guys. The sea will be polluted, there will be very few fish, the air of Athens will be un-breathable, there will be billions of people around doing nonsense, everyone will be quarrelling with everyone else and almost nobody will be talking about either ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, or about how better to govern society.
P: Good god and wiser Athena Teacher , what an ugly world ! But how come it will be like that? Surely they will have read all the books that we Greeks have written or will write and will leave for them?
S: Yes, but either they won’t understand a damned thing or they couldn't care less about any of it.
P: Teacher but how could they possibly be such impoverished, uncivilized and uncultivated beings?
S: It’s a long story guys but I’ll summarize it for you and then we’ll move on to examine the problems of that future society and how maybe those people of the future could have solved them.
P: O.K. great Teacher, please go ahead and we’ll be listening, this seems like a truly interesting story!
S: After us Greeks, various empires and various religions cropped up and did their thing. Our texts unfortunately were forgotten for a couple of millennia until finally there was some sort of a renaissance. But right after that more empires, kings, aristocracies, heads of religions and a whole bunch of other dickheads cropped up again. When finally a bit of our democracy returned, those guys started burning all the coal and petroleum in sightand continued to have children non-stop until they became seven billions and there wasn’t any more room for anybody. And they even stole the ideas of our good old friend Democritus, split the atom, and built a whole bunch of atomic bombs to threaten each other with, and also set some off every once in a while over the cities of their various enemies.
P: It really seems like a very ugly society Teacher by any aesthetics and any ethics that you taught us but then how did they manage to go back to living a bit better? Was it possible or had they already destroyed everything that matters and is important to the point that they couldn’t do anything about it at all anymore?
S: Regrettably guys, my Method also has some limits and I am not able to foresee beyond 2,396 years from now, but I can tell you that they had a whole bunch of problems. But if about certain of their problems and various related things I am not able to answer you, you can always go over and ask Cassandra.
P: O.K. fine, but what problems Teacher?
S: Well, besides the millions of problems some of which I had generally speaking already mentioned to you a while ago, they had three big problems quite a bit bigger than the others but they were so busy with various nonsense that they were not even able to see them.
P: Really stupid people Teacher those people of the future, but then what were (or what will be) those three big problems of the future that they won’t even be aware of and be able to see and analyze by our Hellenic methods?
S: That’s pretty easy to explain to you guys. One was peak petroleum, another was climate change and the third was limits to growth.
P: Teacher but how come those were problems? And what exactly is this petroleum stuff and why were they using it, and how come the climate was changing and what limits to what growth?
S: Guys it’s a bit difficult for you now to understand those things because we are few, there is lots of space and even if we gorge ourselves until we drop over or waste a lot of things it doesn’t matter much because there are many others. I can only tell you that those guys using some of our own ideas developed a whole bunch of science and technology, they started to use a lot of resources, and after a while there were hardly any left. It’s a bit hard for me to explain climate change to you but trust me and just believe me that in 2396 years it will be there.
P: O.K. fine Teacher we have a lot of trust in you and in your Method and if you tell us there will be climate change we believe you. But those people 2396 years from now, will they too believe their teachers of the future when they will tell them that there will be tremendous storms, fires and other terrible things if they don’t change their habits?
S: Unfortunately not, guys
P: But how come Teacher that those three problems will be so difficult to solve? To us they seem fairly easy.
S: They seem that way guys, but they aren’t.
P: Teacher, you are always able to summarize with your theory of the essences that you told us you later also would explain to Plato and to Aristotle and you also always know how to come to the essentials quickly. Please tell us in a few words what might have been the solution to each one of those big problems. simple. As concerns peak petroleum all they had to do was use a lot less petroleum. With respect to climate change all they had to do was use the energy of the same sun which you see shining up there now. And to solve limits to growth they only had to reduce their own growth and produce and consume less stuff.
P: And who among them could have done these things Teacher? To us they seem pretty easy things to do if someone wants to do them.
S: Yes, it’s true, they would have been pretty easy to do if they had wanted to do them. And those who could have done them are the governments, enterprises and individuals of those future times.
P: But did they have (will they have) democratic governments like our own now, or will they have some other kind of governments of an inferior nature and form?
S: This question is a bit complicated guys. Let’s just say that in one sense they had democratic governments but in other senses not at all.
P: Teacher, please explain to us a bit better, we can’t understand.
S: Guys, let’s just forget about all of that for now, I will try to answer you about that question later and so let’s just stick to the subject at hand; and please while I am speaking to you please listen to what I am saying and don’t let yourselves be distracted by all those noisy bothersome grasshoppers and crickets up in the tree. (Beppe Grillo’s last name means grasshopper in Italian) As concerns the three big problems that those people could have solved the most important thing you need to understand is that it wasn’t possible because there were political, economic and cultural interests both outside and inside those governments, enterprises and individuals which prevented them from doing it.
P: Teacher, but then those Interests really screwed them ! Why didn’t they try to do something against them and what could they have done?
S: Well about that they couldn’t seem to manage to agree, but in my opinion I think they could have done a couple of things. Another fairly intelligent person who lived a long time after our own times was a guy who wrote a book about the story of a Prince who knew a thing or two about such stuff. Had they read it, they could have done a couple of things to those Interests. Either they could have divided them, put them one against the other, and while they were quarreling and fighting among themselves, go around them and get the governments, the enterprises and the individuals to do what they had to do. Either that or they could have kicked their butts in the middle of the street. But at least in the year 2,396 after this one, (Anno post-dominis 2013) either they hadn’t figured that out, or they didn’t know how to do it, or they were afraid to do it.
P: Teacher, and had they instead done it?
S: As I already explained to you guys my Method has some limits and I am not able to see beyond 2396 years from now but quite probably those problems could have been resolved and that future civilization even if not too civilized by our own criteria and norms could have managed to survive. And also since the governments, the enterprises and the individuals all knew already more or less what they needed to do.
P: O.K. Teacher we can understand that even you and your Method may have some limits. But we cannot believe that you don’t have at least a couple of little ideas about all of that. We beg you, please tell us how that whole thing probably ended!
S: O.K. guys I’ll tell you but if I don’t hit the bulls-eye please don’t come and tell me later that I am not a good Teacher. I had already told you that even my Method has some limits just as there are some limits to growth and other limits. I will explain all of this to my friends Plato and Aristotle who afterwards surely will write some great books that both you and those people of the future will be able to read.
P: But Teacher didn’t you tell us that those guys don’t give a damn about our books?
S: Yes, but as I also had tried to tell you there are limits to everything including I am not sure about anything. And if that’s true for me who doesn’t do anything but think from morning until night every day, imagine what it will be like for those brainwashed turkeys of the future! But fundamentally and simplifying everything a bit, I think only two things could have happened. Either they would be able to kick those interests out and away from around their feet so they could walk properly and also out of their minds so they could think properly, and therefore their governments, their enterprises and they themselves as individuals would consume a lot less petroleum, would change over rapidly to solar energy and would give up growing forever, or they probably will all croak and will return to live as just a few, more or less like us, but unfortunately with a lot less trees, fish, fresh air and all the other nice things we have now.
P: Thank you Teacher for having explained to us the situation of those men and women of the future. To us it all seems pretty clear. Do you think it will be clear for them too?
S: On the first of April of the year 2,396 from now and as far as my Method can see, it still wasn’t very clear. But maybe it will be clear by their next April 1st. And besides they too have fun with fish during that period just like us. (a pesce d’Aprile or April fish means an April fool’s prank in Italian)
P: O.K. Teacher we have understood everything and thank you so much for this N to the nth power multiplied by pi and added up by sigma, beautiful lesson. This one today was truly interesting. When will we see each other again?
S: Guys, as you know I am always here sitting under this tree thinking almost every day, so you can drop by and visit me anytime you like.