August 31, 1999
by Jay Higgenbotham
Rebeholding the 21st century, it becomes clear why humankind is readying to celebrate the onset of the 22nd century. In the 1990’s, humanity was enduring the most catastrophic epoch in its history. A hundred years before that, it had been optimistically enjoying the “gay nineties,” looking forward to a new age, to be made more bearable by the lights of science and industrialization, with mounting faith in the idea of “progress.”
Early in the 21st century, however, progress made an abrupt turn and by century’s end society had become virtually anarchic. Civilization came perilously close to destruction, conventional wars resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions, and threats to the environment increased alarmingly. The principal question became, “Can humanity survive its own conduct?”
These chief threats to survival - nuclear war and accident, famine, chaos, overpopulation and destruction of the environment - remained through much of the 21st century. Such crises were not finally overcome by increased GNP, cybernetics, infotech or technological advancements, but by a fundamental change in human outlook and behavior through new found universal consciousness. Out of sheer necessity, arising from a series of near-catastrophes, humankind became fully conscious for the first time during the years 2030-2070. As a result, humanity managed to survive, but survival, resulting from radical changes in moral focus, adoption of a global ethic and new ways of behavior, including the subordination of materialism, was but a first step toward gaining meaningful lives. In adopting these new ways, human beings did not reject the older ethics or religions en toto but retained and improved the best parts of them, chiefly those agreed upon. Leaders of the new age inspired followers of the various religions to live up to their professed tenets: Christians and Muslims began respecting one another in spite of differences, as both Jesus and Mohammed had commanded, not make war as they for centuries had done.
The resulting transformation (as this age became known), coming partly out of necessity (as an answer to forces threatening survival) and partly out of the opportunity to become fully human by embracing ideas worth living for, encompassed many aspects, including the religious, political, economic and aesthetic, even the scientific, which became characterized by more responsible inquiry and development.
Perhaps the most characteristic concept of the Transformation was cooperative exchange - the practice of imparting the power and energy of love through concrete acts of sharing to every individual from the first moments of birth in order to make such habits a life-long behavior beneficial to the individual himself, to his family and associates and ultimately to all human society. Instrumental in this new found consciousness of the necessity for cooperative behavior was the ascendance of women who for the first time in history assumed an equally active role in political organization, in shaping public policy and bringing to its direction the wisdom and passion of nurturing gained over thousands of years.
Life has changed immeasurably since the perilous epoch (1914 - 2030). Because humans have overcome their destructive proclivities and learned to love and cooperate in spiritual and concrete endeavors, the species is for the first time beginning to enjoy those blessings and freedoms humankind has so long sought, the lives of all inordinately free from hunger, fear and hatred. Humanity, after millenniums of a difficult pregnancy, is finally reborn, breaking forth now with a joyful cry into a stirring new world.