They stole the future
Growing up, the future was bright, interesting, and full of mysteries. I grew up surrounded by the golden age of science-fiction novels, dreaming of space travels and discovering great mysteries still hidden from us. I grew up with the European Union growing stronger, bringing a dream of unity, peace, the removal of borders, and the promise of being able to travel anywhere.
The Internet appeared, and suddenly the future also promised unlimited knowledge, the possibility to find any answer at the tip of my fingers, giving me the chance to delve into anything and quench my thirst. It was discovering that I could talk with people from all over the world, uncovering new cultures, new countries, forming bonds across physical space.
It also offered so much freedom. Entire days were spent riding my bike, playing games with my best friend while his mother yelled at us to go outside and enjoy the sun (the sun and I have never been friends, at least that hasn't changed), building forts in trees, pitching tents to spend evenings in the garden, crossing barriers to explore fields and evade cows, imagining cities buried in the past among some trash left in a field that looked a lot like ruins.
But then they stole the future. The first blow was Dutroux, a child molester in Belgium. Suddenly, our world shrank. I had to call every time I arrived at my best friend's house. We were doubting people who were loved before, spending days outside on our bikes, just the two of us, was a thing of the past. Unsupervised times when we lost ourselves in the woods, dreaming of wonders, building imaginary worlds were taken from us and our mothers, who were once so keen to ask us to play outside, suddenly looked kindly at us spending time behind our computer screens.
Then my grandfather fell into a coma, destroying my refuge, the place where I felt the safest, the person with whom I shared the greatest times of my youth (along with my beloved dog). The unity, safety, and warmth I felt in my mother's side of the family were suddenly destroyed in one fateful day. He never came back the same. Years went by, trying to get to know another version of him, only for him to leave us a second time as we built fragile bridges.
The final blow was 9/11. While it was distant from me, I lived the moment through television, feeling like I was in a dream, totally disconnected. The event itself didn't impact my life much, but it changed the world afterward. Where the world once seemed limitless, it suddenly shrank even further. Borders that were once open were now scrutinised; traveling became a cumbersome idea; strangers, who were once bringers of mysteries, suddenly became bringers of doubts and unknown terrors.
My world shrank, gradually filled with fear. Suddenly, adults were terrified of everything: a train, a plane, a trip to a land a bit "too foreign." And with this fear, they changed the politics and rules that governed our lives. Countries turned inward, blaming "the outsider" for everything, enacting laws after laws enabling more and more surveillance.
The Internet transformed from an infinite space full of knowledge to a wasteland surrounded by a Big Brother surveillance system where every part of our lives was subjected to creating more and more money. Knowledge became hard to find, hidden behind all this garbage, often locked in walled gardens.
Our hopes for the planet were crushed. While in the '90s, we were slowly fighting greenhouse gases, and everyone seemed to want a greener future, suddenly, the momentum stopped. Every possible solution was debated, often giving up on the best ideas because of biased politics or unfounded fears. Looking ahead, I don't know how people are still able to conceive children with the climate projections and the present immobility.
I miss the future "from before." I miss being able to look at the stars and dream of reaching them. I miss dreaming of chrome cities, filled with robots helping us enjoy our leisure time, with clean air and blue skies. I miss dreaming of limitless travels, of building bridges with people beyond physical limitations. I miss being able to see further than the short-term future without being filled with anxiety.
They stole the future and replaced it with the tiniest world, filled with fears and problems they are adamant to ignore until they die. And we are left with ashes of our dreams, waiting for them to depart, hopefully quickly, to at least be able to salvage some parts of them before it all turns to dust.