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The 21st Century's Gonna Suck Big-Time

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How could the 21st century suck big-time? Let us count the ways.

1) sex and demographics.

By 2050, about 9 billion people will be competing for an ever-shrinking pool of resources. That's scary enough. But here's the rub: there's a pronounced male-female imbalance in new births, especially in India and China. A recent edition of The Economist noted that in China, you have 120 newborn males for every 100 newborn females; in some places, the ratio is 130 to 100. That's a lot of dudes who will have a hard time finding ladies.

Will these frustrated young men settle gracefully into sexless bachelorhood? As if. Chances are, they'll do what previous generations of unattached young men with no prospects - all upstanding graduates of the Tony Montana School of Advanced Interpersonal Studies - have tended to do: get very angry, join mass armies and kill anything with a cakehole. Because when young men can't get their freak on, that's the sort of crazy they tend to pull.

2) climate change.

The international community, as things are, has a hard time confronting its problems. Now imagine that big can of delicious CrazyStupid™ served with a generous helping of desertification, rising sea levels, refugee flows, and competition over increasingly scarce water, food, and energy resources.


3) nuclear proliferation.

There's a pretty good chance that non-proliferation efforts could fail. If they do, then it is likely that sooner or later most major international actors will have nukes, and sooner or later, they will be able to deliver those nukes using cruise missiles.

"Oh oh, but wait!" you say. "That won't matter, 'cause we'll have a nuke shield!"

Look, I'm not an expert, but I am a bit skeptical that we could invent some kind of foolproof shield to stop a bunch of nukes. Don't get me wrong - we need missile defense against rogue states or terrorists. But if a couple of the big boys with second-strike capability (say, Pakistan and India, or China and India, or Iran and Israel, or Iran and Israel and the US, or Iran and everybody else) go at it, then some of those nukes are getting through. This would lead inevitably to the rise of Lord Humungus and his mohawked minions. All hail Lord Humungus, the Ayatollah of Rock-'n-Rollah!

This doesn't even consider problems like Western debt, the Internet's fragmenting effect on political discourse, the historically scary cluster-duck (yes, that's cluster-duck, because this blog is a family establishment) of China surpassing the United States in economic and political might, and yada yada yada.

So what do we do?

At this point the blog-writer usually waxes all optimistic, and says, "All these problems can be avoided if we 1) get in touch with our feelings or 2) buy my book or 3) eat more broccoli 'cause it's got lots of antioxidants."

Problem is, I don't see any solution here because we seem incapable of implementing solutions to global problems. Consumerism has deadened us. We only believe what we see on television, but nothing on television is true or real. Every ridiculous scandal and every suicide bombing becomes just another info-cookie to be chewed, digested and passed during the next commercial break. And when an economic crisis yanks us out of our fudge-sicle-like cocoon of pleasure, our oceanic ignorance makes us our own worst enemy.

In a nutshell: we're screwed.

Hey, I hope I'm wrong. I really do. This stuff worries the hell out of me.

But as we reflect upon the depth of our screwed-ness, it may be wise to remember a moment from the immortal 1987 film, The Princess Bride. Inigo asks Miracle Max why he's talking to a dead man, and Miracle Max responds, "It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead... Mostly dead is slightly alive. All dead... well, with all dead, there's usually only one thing you can do... go through his clothes and look for loose change."

So. Are we all screwed, or mostly screwed? Because mostly screwed is slightly unscrewed, which would describe most Tea Partiers.

Let's see. First, the chances that our kick-ass President can reach an agreement to stop nuclear proliferation are remote, but not, uhem, inconceivable. Secondly, it's possible that a lot of lonely young men could be peacefully incorporated into economically vibrant societies. Thirdly, if we put a price on carbon now (har-dee har har), then we might keep the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius - bad, but manageable. If, then, we can implement these three miracle solutions - I'm tempted to call them miracle pills - then it may be that we're only mostly screwed.

And if we can't find miracle pills to swallow?

Then someday in the 2040s Lord Humungus may ride a hybrid Hummer through a post-atomic desert wasteland with 300 million sexually frustrated bachelors to invade Wal-Marts all over the globe. You'll cower in the electronics section, hiding from their razor boomerangs, but you will be so obese from your 20,000-calorie-a-serving meal-colas that you won't be able to raise your arms to protect your head. "Why won't my arms move?" you'll wonder. And Fezzik will be there to tell you: "You've been mostly screwed all century."

Then your arteries will explode, and he and Inigo will go through your clothes and look for loose change.