This week, the question is mine, and for once it’s pretty short:
If you could choose five nationalities to be born into in your next five lives, which ones would you choose?
Now, having said this, it’s pretty hard to think five lives into the future. You know, it’d even be hard to choose my next life strategically. So I guess I’m going to do the reverse of what Kim Stanley Robinson did in exploring history, and I’m going to make up a future history in which my future lives are played out.
Future Life 1: A Brit during the great collapse of America. After all, America, like any great nation, will have its rise and its attendant fall. And when America falls, it will fall hard. I suspect it will fall a little harder than Britain fell after the end of the Empire, in the slow arc down to the 1980s and their economic crisis. I would like to be a Brit in this time because Britain’s fall as The Great Superpower of the World is still semi-fresh in cultural memory, and it might be interesting for me to see how the American collapse looked from that perspective.
Future Life 2: I think China would probably step forward as one of the nexuses of power after this. Not the only one: the EU would come up as another, a kind of slick debutante-type green-and-corrupt-yet-stylish-and-relatively-liberal superpower, and perhaps some other surprise would come up, India or Brazil or something. One never knows.
This time, I think it’d be interesting to be in a peripheral nation, rather than one of the superpowers. I think the peripheral nation I’d prefer to be in would be one that was relatively developed, and unlikely to become a battleground for the emergent superpowers; perhaps Japan or maybe Moscow (a city state, by this point), or even Mexico. I’d want to be on the sidelines, watching, writing (I imagine I’d be writing in most of my subsequent lives), and maybe traveling into the superpowers but never living in one. (Kind of like how I imagine my life will turn out this time around, actually.)
Future Life 3: A war will break out, of course; I’m guessing it’ll be between China, who’ll be getting expansionist again when the opportunity arises, as it did in the past, and the EU, who wants to stabilize central Asia. Though it’d be a short life, I imagine, I want to be a radical reporter from China, who goes to the site of the war, and reports honestly. I would imagine maybe I would defect to some other country, but in the end, I probably wouldn’t survive long enough to do that. After a few years of reporting, I’d be heading towards the red light again.
Future Life 4: At some point, the model of nationstate and citizenship will break down, and people will have elective citizenship in one (or, if they can afford the taxation, several) distributed states that have land in various parts of the world. This sounds a little like something Neil Stephenson wrote once, though I had the idea myself before I read his book.
Anyway, I’d be a member of some radical secularist state, all tied up in the advancement of science and the recovery of universal agreements on human rights and such things. We’d try to be a haven to people, but it’s always problematic.
In a sense, at this point, I wouldn’t be a memeber of a nation so much as the idea of a nation, a kind of ideonation. But that’s cool. I’d like that now, if it were possible. As it is, there are plenty of things that are more central to my identity than being a Canadian.
Future Life 5: Humanity, after making a royal hash out of life on Earth, will have expanded out into space by this time. I think I’d be a little slow on coming back after that last life, hanging out and waiting to see what kind of long term-effects (if any) my efforts would have. This time, I’d be nominally a member of some ideonation or other, but that’d be so peripheral to my life it wouldn’t matter in the least. I’d be living in space, either in a space station or some kind of permanent colonial settlement within the solar system, maybe on one of the moons out there, or on Mars. It’d be a hard life, but knowing that I’d have a long series of lives afterwards, I’d do it if only to fulfill the fantasies of one of those versions of me that lived at the turn of the 20th century. (Whereas this me living now would probably never agree to live in space within his own lifetime, as it’s too brutish and dangerous now.)
In the end, I’m not sure why I asked this question. It seems a little silly to me, now. But, ah well, it’s been asked. I’m curious to see what others will answer. If you are too, check out the other F5 posters under the dropdown menu to the right.