Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Mankind Is Good, and Getting Better"Mankind is good, and getting better all the time," she said, with all the the knowing confidence of a college student who is taking psychology and sociology classes, and knows more about the world than the people who have been living in it instead of holing up in an ivory tower of academia for the last four years.
"Define better," I said.
"Well," she replied, "for starters, just look at our computers, our medicines and surgical procedures, our transportation systems, our media technology. We didn't have all that stuff just a hundred years ago."
"Okay," I said, "I'll grant you that. So you're making the assumption that our technology is an improvement."
She looked at me suspiciously, like she thought I was having some fun at her expense. "Are you saying technology isn't an improvement?" she demanded.
I shrugged. "I didn't say that. Some of it might be, some might not. I was just pointing out that your premise is predicated on another premise which you haven't yet proven or convinced me of - namely, that technology is good."
"Fine," she said. "I wasn't planning to get into the whole devil's advocate thing, but if you want to play it that way, we can." She thought for a moment and then said, "We don't have lynch mobs and public hangings any more." Then after a moment's reflection during which she was undoubtedly thinking of the capital punishment still found in some states, added, "At least, not nearly as much."
"True," I said. "But hey, at least we slaughter babies by the truckload."
She didn't say anything in response to that; she wasn't interested in discussing abortion with me. Whenever we did have that discussion, the arguments always spun around in circles interminably, because we based our views on entirely different premises, and since we couldn't convince each other of our fundamental starting point, everything else was just smoke and mirrors with which we confounded and aggravated one another.
So she switched tactics again. "Mankind is smarter now."
"Smarter?" I said, pretending outrage. "Smarter? Try taking a test like the ones they gave to children a hundred years ago, and see how you do, never mind how an elementary student would do."
Her tone of voice changed now, and I knew it was the same pedantic tone of voice I would have heard if I'd visited one of her college classes. "That's because in the old days they drilled people on facts, instead of how we do it today, searching out meaning and truth."
"Ah," I said. "I see. Since people give tests the way your college professor thinks they should give tests, he calls them smart. Sounds to me like the only thing that proves is that your professor thinks he's smarter than people used to be."
Now she was glaring at me. "Well," she said, "if nothing else, mankind is more efficient today than a hundred years ago."
I pondered this for a moment then said, "You mean lazy, right?"
"No. I mean efficient. Simplifying and streamlining the processes that fill our lives in order to have more time for more meaningful pursuits."
"Like playing X-Box," I suggested, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.
"Oh shut up," she said, no longer hiding her irritation.
"Besides," I said, "you're quite wrong about our efficiency. We're too lazy, or too dumb to even figure out how to be more efficient."
"Yep. Why, just last night I flipped on one of those crime shows, and they were talking GSW this, GSW that."
"GSW?" she asked.
"Gun Shot Wound," I explained. "It's an acronym. Quicker to say. Makes them more efficient."
"Gun - Shot - Wound. Three syllables. Gee - Ess - Du - Bul - You. Five syllables."
I rest my case.
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