15/09/2013 15:18 BST | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Things the Future Will Hate Us For: #1

We know we're on the cusp.

As a species, we almost always are.

But in the beginning of the 21st century - as everyone's favourite ex-rocker scientist, Professor Cox, said - we're making more discoveries per day than we ever have before.

I'm an optimist in many ways - a critical optimist in most ways. On good days, I think we'll eventually find a way to balance and even reduce the effect we have on the planet through the dissemination of information, rewilding, alternative farming methods, and improved community action through communication however this optimism for the future doesn't make me myopic to what's still wrong in the West, in the present.

For three years, I read everything about the period from 1837 - 1910 that I could get my hands on with a focus on 1858 so that I could write Purefinder. That focus is 155 years ago.

In looking back, I've looked forward.

Seeing life in 1858 made me see what the 2000s think was barbaric in, and what has continued from, 1858 to our time.

What this also prompts is the question 'What will the people living on the British Isles in 155 years see as barbaric about 2013?'

We're living in a golden age of communication and information - unmistakably.

Some of us have access to the biggest library of information ever known, if you're reading this then you're already accessing that library.

This is a wonder and an enabler - I've a friend who swears that everything he learnt for his current job, he learnt from YouTube. Truly an enabler then, if only a damn fine indicator of a great age of information dissemination and that's without mentioning the great advances we're making every day in all other sectors like medicine, energy, advanced chemistry, space travel, the [traditionally studied] humanities, and all the others I'm unaware of but even after saying all this, unfortunately, the UK government isn't keeping pace.

'We live on a small planet in a small galaxy.'

If you don't already, your children will look at Earth this way. My niece does.

When did you last ask yours how they see it?

We need to keep socio-political change apace with changes happening around it.

We need the importance of compassion and community reiterated when it's forgotten.

We need to welcome our neighbours, not instill fear in their citizens that move here.

I've many things I think the future will hate us for but I'm not going to list them...not today...not yet.

What I want to discuss today is compassion, dignity, and humility: these things are typified by something Terry Pratchett has been campaigning for - the right to die.

Why should those of us who suffer most be forced to undergo a costly and covert operation abroad when they were born and have lived here?

Why should anyone be made to feel shunned by the law - a construction built on its secular nature - when wishing to choose the end to the life they've built?

And why would a forward looking, forward thinking, Western country still have absurd laws in place?

Because we are not looking forward enough.

We are not forward looking nor compassionate enough. Not yet.

To some of you, I'm preaching to the t-shirt wearing - good.

To the rest of you, consider Tony Nicklinson, anyone with locked-in syndrome, or anyone you've ever read about that is paralysed from the neck down and in pain, feeling worse almost every day.

There may be a certain sense of gallows humour about it, there's also beauty to be found in the observations that come from such a state. There is not, however, a release anywhere to be found in the UK.

Now consider what you'd want if you were in their position.

'I'd live with it', you might say; 'I'd try to enjoy life to the fullest', you might murmur; after much fumbling for words and many excuses about the state of things, you might come to the conclusion that you'd want to die.

As I said, I'm an optimist but I also recognize when a situation is critical.

If a human can communicate well enough to tell you, calmly and with full understanding, that they want to die before x [x being the point at which they would no longer be happy, themselves, or consider their life dignified] should we not have the compassion and humility to accept their decision?

Lord Falconer's Draft Bill Consultation was due to be presented before the House of Lords in May, 2013. Has it come to anything?


As I've typed this, it's shocking, disheartening, and horrible to see the government-employed Atos doctors telling someone with a lifelong physical condition that they're likely to improve.

When our government encourages the cutting off of support for those most in need, I ask again: do you think we're compassionate enough?

We are not forward looking nor nearly compassionate enough.

Not yet.

Disability and the way this government has treated people with disabilities is something for another article.


This is the first article in a series examining 'What the future will hate us for' because these issues are so in need of change that every voice, every article, every critical optimist hoping someone will share his desire for greater compassion is important.

Have a relevant idea, gripe, or well-researched article you want to tell us about? Tweet me, write a comment here, disseminate, and let's discuss.