As day turns to night, I once more find myself wandering the streets. My mind forever lost in a daze; I can’t seem to escape the monotony of my existence. As exhaustion, both physical and mental, overtakes me, I find relief on a park bench. My eyes scan the heavens above, wondering what it must have been like to transverse the stars as our forbearers did.
Back when I was young, and my grandfather was still alive, he would sit me down and tell me tales of being on the generational ship that brought my people to Salvation. He had never seen Earth, nor met anyone who had, but he knew all the legends of old. He would sit up late at night in the lower decks and trade stories of the home world. Most of those stories I know by heart, but they never caught my attention like the other tales they would trade.
They were to be the first generation in human memory to touch soil. To breath fresh air. To grow food and not have it printed out of old worn-down machines, which had long since lost the ability to make anything taste as it should. And they had plans!
My grandfather, the sweetest man I have ever known, would sit up with his friends, late into the night and plot their future. Plan what they were going to create. Map out the world that was going to be shaped by them and their dreams.
It was to be a Utopia, not burdened by the senseless class dynamics of the ship. Which seemed only to grow with each new generation. More and more families being pushed down into the lower decks, forgotten by those in power. Elite families teaching their decedents how to run the important systems, so as to maintain their importance.
The lower decks became a kind of living hell for many who lived there. Whole blood lines would die off from lack of food or warmth. For some reason, when there were power shortages, they only seemed to happen on the lower decks. And with each passing year the upper decks would seem to shrink and shrink. Not in anyway noticeable, but that could be the only explanation as more and more people were forced down below.
The sad irony is that the journey was undertaken by people who sought to escape the caste system of Earth. It is said that near the time of the departure, Earth was in a perpetual state of turmoil. Millions were dying daily in the asteroid mines. After all, the rich needed their gold. For what? No one seemed to know, but it was worth the cost of human lives.
The legends state that most people on earth at the time wasted their whole lives working in meaningless jobs. The promise that if you work hard and do as your told you can ascend to the ranks that tower above. A promise that most knew in their hearts to be false, but nonetheless, couldn’t help but play along.
My grandfather used to tell me, towards the end of his life, that hope is both the greatest and worst thing a human being can possess. It can inspire you to move mountains and keep you alive through even the darkest of times, but it can also be used to trap you. To trick you into working against your own ends to help someone else, with the misguided belief that the reward will be worth it.
Back on Earth, the greatest tool the wealthy used, was to elevate one or two people. Never to a station on par with those in power, but just enough that everyone else would feel a renewed sense of hope. Would try that much harder. Never noticing that within a generation or two, those lifted up, would be slapped back down.
The generational ship was to be different. It was to be a meritocracy, where everyone would be given the same training and chance to prove themselves. It was to be the great game changer for the children of humanity. Too bad it didn’t last.
Over the millennia aboard the great ship, things had a way of reverting back to the ways of old. For all I know, when the ship set out on his long journey, it held true to its promise. I would like to think so, but by time my grandfather and the last generation was born, things were as bad as back on earth. People who had achieved a level of importance passed it on to their children instead of those who could have earned the spot. Trapping others out of the key roles. Over time, jobs became hereditary. The class system had returned.
A fate that those of the last generation, born on the lower decks, swore would never come to pass on Salvation. This world was not to be earth. The children of humanity were to finally grow and treat each other with the love and respect all life is owed.
O’ the foolish fantasies of youth, if only they survived the crucible of reality.
A world is much larger than a ship, and where there is space, there is opportunity. For a time, when my grandfather was new to this world, his dreams flourished. The world was remade into what wished it could be.
Alas, humanity has its patterns. No matter how hard we attempt to change our ways, it seems like we always end up where we started. Stuck in a world of haves and have-nots. People taking power for themselves at the expense of others. Not because they have to, but because they want to. After all, what good is being rich if there aren’t people to lord it over? If there aren’t people to make your life easier?
The stars up above welcome me home. To a time when we could dream of a better life instead of facing the reality that this new world ended up the way of the old. It didn’t take long before those with means aboard the ship spread out. Taking over settlement after settlement. After all, the rich need servants. They need those who are willing to sacrifice of themselves to keep those in power in power.
As I leave the park behind and look out over the city that I call home, I’d be hard pressed to not admit it’s a great deal better than the world my grandfather lived in, but it falls far short of the promise that was made in its origin.
A land where everyone would have a chance, based on nothing more than their hard work and determination, to carve out a world for themselves. A land where there was plenty for everyone and the caste system that has plagued society since its conception would at last be laid to rest.
Instead we got much of what we left behind. A ruling class that forces arbitrary laws on us to keep us on our toes, mixed in with corrupt ones to keep us in our place. We have down on their luck human beings, living in the streets, while the city spends millions trying to recruit people from bigger cities to move here and help us grow. Building homes for potential residents, but not those we have failed.
We produce food enough to feed every living person on this world, and yet countless dozens die of starvation a year in this very city.
Those at the top see the world, enjoy the “fruits of their labors” while the rest of us toil away to provide them the means to do so, in the vain hope that we can one day join their ranks.
It seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I can’t help ponder what it’s all for? Is this all there is? A handful of people living a life of luxury while the rest of us waste away, serving them? Is there no middle ground where everyone can have a piece of the pie? Where working hard can achieve real rewards?
I make my way home as the night grows late; my heart heavier than when I set out. There is so much I want to do. So much I know I can do, if given half a chance, but alas, that’s not my lot in life. I spend my days building a world for others to live in and enjoy, while I waste away beneath its heels.