Further west : does the developed world need a new America?

NASA have plans for manned missions to Mars by the 2030s. There’s some guff about capturing an asteroid and dragging it about space during the 2020s. To give us space legs or something. Listen to me NASA – this is all too late!

In September, Elon Musk told Wired magazine he will take us to Mars and save humanity. He is cagey about when though and the estimate is it could take another 10 years. Even that’s too late!

There was a bit of news recently concerning a new space colony: Asgardia. As of tonight it apparently encompasses more than half a million people – it’s bigger than Cape Verde. Except that there’s nothing there. Beyond a nifty website and some pleasing sentiments regarding peace and knowledge. It’s a great concept. Is this the way we need to think?

Then there are the Seasteaders. To lift some of their blurb: “Seasteaders are a diverse global team of marine biologists, nautical engineers, aquaculture farmers, maritime attorneys, medical researchers, security personnel, investors, environmentalists, and artists.” Could this be what we’re looking for? Is this the solution? Massive colonies on the sea? Like the idea but the list of who they are seems a little exclusive.

We need somewhere new. Where we can stake a new claim. Without having to disrupt already settled communities.

But why? What is the problem I’m trying to solve?

In essence, what I’m calling for is a new America. Not as in the land mass to the west of the Atlantic Ocean, I mean as in the concept ‘America’ (embodied by the United States but also prevalent in some of the South American countries and Canada). That is, to act as a place where dreams can be made real, where your old status should not matter, where you can actually realise your potential without barriers. Whether this was actually ever true, I’ll let somebody else decide (and we’ll not bring up the fact that the lands were already inhabited). But we cannot argue that there was never an American Dream. Or that there was a period in history where you could leave behind all your class-bound, religious, even racial baggage and make a fresh start. America used to drag in young people, energetic people, people with ideas and energy from all over the world. Particularly from Europe.

Europe, at the time, was a place stuck in class-bound stagnation. There was little chance of social mobility. Agricultural workers being replaced by machinery, small-time farmers having to move out for the big landowners, urban working-class being left high and dry by boom and bust cycles of industry.

That was then. But now, what do we have? Social mobility has stalled in the US, in the UK it’s going backwards. Across the rest of Europe, the baby-boomers have all the rest of the wealth tied up. And all the power. The downside of democracy: tyranny of the majority. Direct action and sit-ins will only do so much.

Then something weird happened. Brexit. Trump. We don’t realise it but all the young activists (distraught by recent events) and all those who have felt their wealth drain away over the last thirty years (who caused the recent events) are all in the same boat. Their future is in doubt. Their future is stalled. Brexit. Trump. Hand grenades thrown into the west. Likely to make things worse rather than better. But, unless something is done, they realise their children are likely to be poorer than they are.

Go back a couple of hundred years and those same children would know exactly what they had to do to avoid such a fate. They had to get onto a boat to New York.

But where is our new Statue of Liberty? Our new Ellis Island? Could it be on the sea? On Mars? In space? Possibly one or any or all of those places. The one thing I do know is that it will all be a little too late. We need our new America now.