A glimpse into the past and the future
If we could put Einstein's theory to the test and travel faster than the speed of light, bending time and jumping forwards, what would we find?
Or on the other hand, suppose we traveled backwards two thousand years, to Roman times and to Rome itself? At first sight, we would be overwhelmed by the noise, the hustle-bustle on the streets, the rumble of carts, the clattering of hooves on cobbled streets, the shouting of orders over the cacophony of one million souls crammed into the capital city.
We would recognise the Colosseum and other buildings, we would recognise the shops beneath the buildings, we would see a carbon copy of our barbers shaving faces, trimming hair and beards, even performing operations such as removing varicose veins and pulling teeth with instruments looking remarkably similar to what we see today in our visit to the dentist. On the hour we would marvel with everyone else at the water clock marking the new hour with balls moving around carried by the liquid.
We would find it strange that people started their day so early, then when we would hear the roars from the Colosseum during the games in the afternoon, we would understand that they worked until early afternoon and then rested or played or went to the baths. We would be surprised to learn that most people did not get drunk every day and throw up in the vomitorium, indeed it was considered intemperate to drink wine which was not mixed with water and anyway, the vomitorium was the space through which crowds left the Colosseum.
As for the rest, the housing market was similar to ours - the rich lived in the best neighborhoods, the poor lived in slums, the middle class lived in apartments, many up to five or seven storeys high; those who wished to earn more money sublet the rooms in their home or even parts of rooms, the wealthiest lived on the ground floor, the higher up you lived, the worse your socio-economic standing.
The temperature was generally warmer than today (the Roman high), children were taught how to read and write, learning by rote in open-air schools, or behind a curtain in a shop, if their parents could pay; the elderly were cared for by their families, if people did not have money, they exchanged fish oil for eggs or rabbits or wine. We would have heard tales of travels and experiences as people gathered in the evening before going to bed and they would have been interested in our stories. Nobody ventured out at night for fear of cut-throats, there was no housing safety (buildings collapsed with frequency) and no housing security (if you did not pay your rent, in the case of the poorer people daily, you were evicted and ended up on the street.
Now let us thrust the lever forwards and travel ahead in time, two thousand years to our time then another two thousand years forward. I could write three scenarios - one where we find nothing except for weeds pushing through the pavements, cities falling apart or having disappeared into the undergrowth, wondering exactly when and why this cataclism happened, but marveling at the number of animals springing about happily, unaware of our presence and not caring anyway.
The second could be a carbon copy of Roman times, the atmosphere being one of recovery from some kind of catastrophe. No cars, organic pollution.
The third could be some unsettling planet with little water, a changed climate, people living in mega-metropolises interconnected with high-speed magnetic transportation systems, no wild habitat, few animals, and an eerie twilight when people scuttled into their homes and bolted the door against the horrors of some unseen evil at night.
However, I would like to write about the scenario which I would like to find. I would like to encounter a world in which people woke up in the morning, motivated and happy, with plenty of activities to do, plenty of time to learn and study, time to travel and to lead comfortable, affordable lives with a high quality of living and a high degree of satisfaction.
I would like to find free and excellent education systems, free and excellent leisure time activities, opportunities to practise and learn sports, voluntary work placements, facilities to cccooonduct research with all the equipment necessary in full working condition, comfortable and free housing and utilities, safety inside buildings and security on the street. I would expect to find free and excellent healthcare systems, easily available dental care, a world in which every (wo)man and child had the same rights at birth and a wide range of opportunities to choose what (s)he wanted to do.
I would like to find all this in a world in which there was no sexual or religious or racial or gender discrimination, in which use and trafficking of harmful drugs had disappeared, in which the trafficking of weapons systems to murder people had long since ceased, a world in which energies were for embettering the world and ensuring that the Planet remained healthy.
I would like to find the skies, the land and the seas unpolluted, I would like to see nature reserves in which species which had been close to extinction thrived in sustainably balanced and developed ecosystems, a world in which animals did not run for cover the second they sensed the presence of a human being.
As I write, in 2018, I can hear a van pull up outside my window. It is white. Two men dressed in dark clothes wearing sunglasses are getting out. They have a bulge in their upper left inside jacket pockets. They are looking at my window as they walk to my front door...
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru. He is an official translator, a coach, a consultant and a professor.