Dateline 2012: As neo-conservatives around the world ramp up efforts to secure assets and avert environmental catastrophe, it is useful to put the prospects of 'remaindered populations' in context.
Human beings have always recognized that being bright, comely or strong was a good idea. Such individuals frequently enjoy splendid lives. They are encouraged and applauded by the rest of us because we hope to share in their spoils.
What the rest of us did not anticipate was the ways and means the fortunate and gifted would devise to share their fortune with colleagues and progeny.
Thus was born the aristocracy, nobility, capitalism ... and the rich/poor adventures comprising the historical record.
Although the rest of us still dream of such lives, history recommends that we anticipate what Thomas Hobbes called a "nasty, brutish and short" existence.
Then a new possibility seemed to emerge. Although the vast majority of human beings still have no chance of becoming wealthy, or even of remaining secure, modern communication technologies meant we could all participate vicariously in extraordinary lives. Fabulous wealth was thus made acceptable by publishing salacious details of the lives of the wealthy, of professional athletes and the often sad fate of lottery winners.
Hundreds of millions have come to depend upon such news to fill our days. What we do not notice is that this has also prepared us for the next stage in our Hobbesian career. The middle class is under attack. The global financial crisis that began in 2008 may signal the beginning of the end. The reason is simple. Although we did our best, the poor never could have elevated the gifted and fortunate to their manifest destiny.
The Industrial Revolution set the stage for the necessary repair. Folkways, self-sufficient individuals and communities became ashes in mouths of poor people. We herded - or allowed ourselves to be herded - into cities, factories and shopping centres.
The resulting middle class means modern nations can be thought of as three-stage rockets. The lower and middle stages serve to propel the payload into orbit. Once this function is accomplished they must be discarded - lest they bring the whole affair down.
As the 3rd Millennium gets underway, economic and political dislocations are signalling the collapse of lower and middle class populations into the ancient rich -- poor dichotomies. The reason is simple. The wealthy have achieved global orbit. The technologies made possible by a few centuries of industrial-strength profit-taking have spawned a globe-spanning super-nation.
They need only disencumber themselves of the stages that propelled them into ascendency.