Жанр книги: Научная Фантастика
Robert A Heinlein To Sail Beyond The Sunset

i) Millions of women who found it more rewarding to have babies out of wedlock than it would be to get married or to go to work.

I don't understand time line three (code Neil Armstrong) so I had better quote Jubal Harshaw, who lived through it. ‘Mama Maureen, ' he said to me, ‘the America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. A perfect democracy, a "warm body" democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens. .. which is opposed by the folly and-lack of self-restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes for his own self-interest as he sees it. .. which for the majority translates as "Bread and Circuses".

‘"Bread and Circuses" is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, the day marks the beginning of the end of that state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader - the barbarians enter Rome. '

Jubal shrugged and looked sad. ‘Mine was a lovely world until the parasites took over. '

Jubal Harshaw also pointed out to me a symptom that, so he says, invariably precedes the collapse of a culture; a decline in good manners, in common courtesy, in a decent respect for the rights of other people.

‘Political philosophers from Confucius to the present day have repeatedly pointed this out. But the first signs of this fatal symptom may be hard to spot. Does it really matter when a honorific is omitted? Or when a junior calls a senior by his first name, uninvited? Such loosening of protocol may be hard to evaluate. But there is one unmistakable sign of the collapse of good manners: dirty public washrooms.

‘In a healthy society public restrooms, toilets, washrooms, look and smell as clean and fresh as a bathroom in a decent private home. In a sick society -‘ Jubal stopped and simply looked disgusted.

He did not need to elaborate; I had seen it happen in my own time line. In the first part of the twentieth century right through the thirties people at all levels of society were habitually polite to each other and it was taken for granted that anyone using a public washroom tried hard to leave the place as clean and neat as he found it. As I recall, decent behaviour concerning public washrooms started to slip during World War Two, and so did good manners in general. By the sixties and the seventies rudeness of all sorts had become commonplace, and by then I never used a public restroom if I could possibly avoid it.

Offensive speech, bad manners, and filthy toilets all seem to go together.

America in my own time line suffered the cancer of ‘Bread and Circuses' but found a swifter way to commit suicide. I don't boast about the difference, as in time line two the people of the United States succumbed to something even sillier than ‘Bread and Circuses': the people voted themselves a religious dictatorship.

It happened after 1982, so I did not see it - for which I am glad! When I was a woman a hundred years old, Nehemiah Scudder was still a small boy.

The potential for religious hysteria had always been present in the American culture, and this I knew, as my father had rubbed my nose in it from an early age. Father had pointed out to me that the only thing that preserved religious freedom in the United States was not the First Amendment and was not tolerance. .. but was solely a Mexican stand-off between rival religious sects, each sect intolerant, each sect the sole custodian of the One True Faith - but each sect a minority that gave lip service to freedom of religion to keep its own One True Faith from being persecuted by all the other True Faiths.

(Of course it was usually open season on Jews and sometimes on Catholics and almost always on Mormons and Muslims and Buddhists and other heathens. The First Amendment was never intended to protect such outright blasphemy. Oh, no! )

Elections are won not by converting the opposition but by getting out your own vote, and Scudder's organisation did just that. According to histories I studied at Boondock, the election of 2012 turned out sixty-three per cent of the registered voters (which in turn was less than half of those eligible to register); the True American Party (Nehemiah Scudder) polled twenty-seven per cent of the popular vote. .. which won eighty-one per cent of the Electoral College votes.

In 2016 there was no election.

The Torrid Twenties. .. Flaming Youth, the Lost Generation, flappers, cake eaters, gangsters and sawn-off shot-guns and bootleg booze and needled beer. Hupmobiles and Stutz Bearcats and flying circuses. A joy hop for five dollars. Lindbergh and the Spirit of St Louis. Skirts climbed unbelievably until, by the middle of the decade, rolled stockings permitted bare knees to be seen. The Prince of Wales Glide and the Finale Hop and the Charleston. Ruth Etting and Will Rogers and Ziegfeld's Follies. There were bad things about the Twenties but on the whole they were good years for most people - and they were never dull.

I kept busy as usual with housewifely things of little interest to outsiders. I had Theodore Ira in 1919, Margaret in 1922, Arthur Roy in 1924, Alice Virginia in 1927, Doris Jean in 1930 - and they all had the triumphs and crises that children have, and aren't you glad that you don't have to look at their pictures and listen to me repeating their cute sayings?

In February of 1929 we sold our house on Bentos Boulevard and leased with the option to buy a house near Rockhill Road and Meyer Boulevard - an old farmhouse, roomy but not as modern as our former Nome. This was a hard-nosed decision by my husband who always believed in making every dollar work twice. But he did consult me and not alone because title was vested in me.

‘Maureen, ' he said to me, ‘do you feel like gambling? '

‘We always have. Haven't we? '

‘Some yes, some no. This time we would tap the pot, shoot the works, shout Banco! If I failed to bring it off, you might have to go out and pound a beat, just to keep a potato soup on the table. '

‘I've always wondered if I could make a living that way. Here I am, forty-seven in July -‘