A history lesson from the future

A short drama about how history repeats itself. 5 min read.

The year 3000 A.D.

A middle school history class

TEACHER: Today I want to talk about borders. Believe it or not, for a brief period of human history, people actually used to block off enormous sections of land mass to prevent people from outside getting in.

STUDENT: What, you mean they built, like, a wall around it?

TEACHER: Yes, walls and fences, and the purpose was to allow some people to access that land mass, and to deny access to other people.

STUDENT: How did they decide who was allowed access and who wasn’t?

TEACHER: Well, it was based on where you were born. If you were born inside the closed-off section of land mass, you could leave and return, and if you were born outside the section of land mass, then it depended on the relationship between your leader and the leader of the other section of land mass.

STUDENT: That sounds totally random. How can you influence where you were born?

TEACHER: You can’t, but nevertheless, people used this system, and what’s more, they often judged people based on where they were born. So if you were born on a certain land mass and you were denied access to another land mass, the people from the closed-off land mass very often believed you were inferior to them.

STUDENT: So they thought that because you were born in a certain place, you were stupider than them?

TEACHER: Yes, stupider and less civilized.

STUDENT: That’s ridiculous!

TEACHER: Yes, it is, but that was how people thought back then. They thought a lot of things back then that we now know are not true.

STUDENT: So why did they close off certain sections of land mass?

TEACHER: They believed that because some people who were born in certain sections of land mass were less civilized, then they were more violent, so they thought that if they could contain them to certain locations and restrict their freedom of movement, they would be able to achieve world peace. Or, at the very least, they thought they could contain the violence to those restricted locations.

STUDENT: But freedom of movement is a fundamental human requirement. People cannot live without the ability to move freely wherever they want to go.

TEACHER: Yes, we know that now, but people didn’t realize it back then.

STUDENT: But it’s so obvious!

TEACHER: A lot of things that seem obvious have to be learned through very hard and painful lessons.

STUDENT: I don’t get it. Didn’t they know that if there is pain and suffering in one part of the human species, then there is pain and suffering in all parts?

TEACHER: No, they didn’t. At this point in history, nobody had realized that human beings are all connected in ways beyond the five senses. There were people who talked about it, but they spoke in terms of spirituality, and were ridiculed as a result. Nobody realized that the connections between humans was from the realm of physics, that just as stars are connected through gravity, humans are connected through quarks, particles and energy. In fact, if you go down to the atomic level, you can’t tell where one human ends and the next begins. But there was another, simpler reason why the situation was as it was.

STUDENT: Uh huh?

TEACHER: Whenever two civilizations come into direct contact, one must try to destroy the other. This is a simple rule of existence that cannot be broken. So, for most of human history there were many civilizations continually fighting each other. Often they were divided along lines of race. Eventually, people began to understand the concept of human rights, and that all humans were equal. This took a very long time for people to come to terms with, though, and so for many centuries after the recognition of human rights, people still behaved as if they were from different civilizations, without ever realizing that they were now all part of the same civilization. And one consequence of this behavior was the erection of borders.

STUDENT: So how did we eventually overcome this misunderstanding?

TEACHER: As I said, it took a very long time, many hundreds of years, but eventually people learned about the concepts of action and consequence, that it is not possible to live well by exploiting others, that a civilization can only progress as a whole, and not in parts. If one of us wants to lift ourselves out of the gutter, then we all must rise together. We had to learn how to right past injustices, and this was a very difficult thing to do.


TEACHER: Because to right a past injustice, you have to take two important steps. The first is to recognize the injustice, and this is the easy step. Most people were able to do this. The second step, however, is much harder. People needed to accept responsibility for those past injustices, not on a personal level, but on an ancestral level. While the people who had committed the injustices were long dead, their descendants enjoyed the advantages gained through those injustices, and it was only when those descendants accepted responsibility for the actions of their ancestors that human civilization began to take meaningful steps forward.

STUDENT: So how did the borders finally come down?

TEACHER: That is a very sad story. It wasn’t until many millions died in many world wars that people realized the errors of their actions. Still, for such a long time, people thought that they could bring about peace through conquering their enemies. If they just used enough force, they believed, they could end the violence. They didn’t realize that violence only ever leads to more violence, that violence never has, and never can, lead to peace.

STUDENT: If that’s the case, then why are we at war with the Glargbraks from Solar System XJ342?

TEACHER: That’s totally different. They hate us. They have a hateful ideology and they want to destroy everything we stand for, and if you don’t believe that, then you’re unpatriotic and you’re a Glargbrak sympathizer. Are you a Glargbrak sympathizer?

STUDENT: No, I hate them! They’re the reason why our economy sucks and why my dad lost his job at the solar mines. I think we should defend ourselves by attacking them, and we should build a wall to stop them getting in here, and we should make them pay for it too!

TEACHER: I have taught you well.


Copyright©2017 Bohemian Breakdancer

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Published by William Alan McNeice

I have been writing for most of my life. I write novels, plays, screenplays, and short stories, usually with a strong element of humor or satire. Go to www.bohemianbreakdancer.com for more. I live in Madrid, Spain, and work as a copy editor, editing fiction, academic texts in the humanities, and computer programming texts. I am a fan of the Oxford comma. I have lived in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Germany, Poland, and now Spain, and my wife and I intend to settle down somewhere, someday. In my spare time, I like to set myself ridiculous challenges. For 2017, I am spending the entire year offline (except for work), which means that I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the world today. It is very relaxing.

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