When Freddy Mercury asked that question in song -- for the immortal Highlander, no less! -- he did so poignantly, as he himself teetered on the edge of life's abyss.
But seriously, who does want to live forever? If our news and our fictional best-sellers are any indication, the world is going to hell in a handbasket at high velocity, so why would anyone want to be around to see it keep getting worse?
The future will be a time when an evil dictator uses a televised gladiator competition to keep the unhappy hungry masses in line. The future will be controlled by the corrupt mock-religious priests who will control all that we ingest through head or mouth. Computers will overtake us and use our bodies as batteries. Children will be trained on video games to determine their skill piloting weapons of mass destruction. Few women will be fertile, and they will be highly valued as commodities, not people. Water -- or perhaps oil -- will be scarce, and humans will savagely destroy one another for it.
Who wants to live for that shit?
In the third season of thirtysomething, a zeitgeist show very much set in the late ‘80s, uberwife Hope Steadman makes the panicked and forlorn cry, “The world is falling apart around us!” She’s worried about the miserable world we’re leaving for her daughter’s generation, the future wasteland we are cultivating.
I love Hope, but I couldn’t help but chuckle.
No offense, but 25 years later, we’re lookin’ pretty darn OK. The Wasteland ain’t farther away, but it ain’t that much closer to the present, either. It’s right where it always seems to be: right there, just over the horizon, lurking.
What is it about our current time that we’re so insistent on things going downhill? Are we any more doom-obsessed now than we were 20 years ago, or 50 years ago? It really seems like we are. But maybe it’s more of a pendulum swing than a sea change.
Pardon me a rare moment when I’m not the voice of doom and negativity, but something about being inundated with dystopia has forced me to look for the rays of light.
Assuming our entire Internet isn’t taken down by a botnet worm, and assuming we’re not engulfed in nuclear war, and assuming we don’t run out of clean water, and assuming we don’t all become infertile or become decimated by some unforeseen disease, the future looks very bright.
Hope was worried about her daughter’s world. Janie Steadman would be 26 or so now, and the world would likely be her oyster. This world is far from perfect, but I’m pretty sure she’d laugh at her mom’s concerns for the future with a quarter-century of hindsight.
Even as we wrangle over whether gay people are people, even as I must repeatedly tell my old relatives that Obama is not a Muslim secret agent planted to destroy our country, even as we watch the superwealthy get more super while the rest of us swim around in our lukewarm baby pools, I feel as optimistic as I do frightened.
In another quarter-century, will we mock Katniss, or will we be hoping she swoops in to save us? Will we be protecting our children from cannibals or zombies, or will we just be watching that shit on higher-def, bigger screens? Will we still have energy, an atmosphere, freedom? Yeah, I believe so. It won’t always be pretty, but I believe our best days are still ahead. As a country and as a planet.
Pass the Kool-Aid. I’m still drinkin’ it, even if it occasionally tastes more like Popcorn Sutton's moonshine.