If you were to drop into a bookstore or a library looking for an Arthur C. Clarke book, you’d quickly be directed to the Science Fiction area. There is however one of his works that’s worthy of also being categorized under Philosophy. Childhood’s End, published in 1954, is the work I’m referring to.
The story starts with a ‘peaceful’ invasion of Earth by a vastly superior alien race (dubbed ‘Overlords’ by the humans). It’s a peaceful invasion because the aliens didn’t have to use any physical force or harm even a single human being. The full motives of the Overlords were never explicitly shared and it took the better part of a generation for humanity to infer based on their actions. Their role however, was made crystal clear from their first communication to Earth:
“….But the content of the speech was more staggering even than its delivery. By any standards, it was a work of superlative genius, showing a complete and absolute mastery of human affairs. There could be no doubt that its scholarship and virtuosity, its tantalizing glimpses of knowledge still untapped were deliberately designed to convince mankind that it was in the presence of overwhelming intellectual power. When Karellan had finished, the nations of Earth knew that their days of precarious sovereignty had ended. Local, internal governments would still retain their powers, but in the wider field of international affairs the supreme decisions had passed from human hands.”
With the arrival of the Overlords, nations knew that they need no longer fear each other, and they guessed – even before the experiment was made – that their existing weapons were certainly impotent against a civilization that could bridge the stars. So at once the greatest single obstacle to the happiness of mankind had been removed.
By the standards of all earlier ages, Earth entered a Utopia-like era. Ignorance, disease, poverty, and fear had virtually ceased to exist. Crime had practically vanished. It had become both unnecessary and impossible. Life was more leisurely than it had been for generations. It therefore had less zest for the few, but more tranquillity for the many. Western man had relearned what the rest of the world had never forgotten – that there was nothing sinful in leisure as long as it did not degenerate into mere sloth. Utopia was here at last: its novelty had not yet been assailed by the supreme enemy of all Utopias – boredom.
Yet the Overlords didn’t come to Earth to establish a Utopia – at least not in an end of itself. Their real purpose (for which they were ‘sent’ by higher powers) was to ensure that the human race did not destroy itself because it had a greater destiny – a destiny best characterized as an abrupt non-linear evolution of the human race. An evolution that begins one night when a child dreams a strange dream and begins to develop remarkable powers – a metamorphosis termed by Clarke as Total Breakthrough. A metamorphosis that rapidly spread to the entire human race.
Now that I’ve provided an abbreviated book review of Childhood’s End, let’s get to the nub – how it has inspired me to start this blog on social entrepreneurs & civic organizations in India. You see, I’m convinced that the proverbial Total Breakthrough in human evolution, if and when it were to happen, will start in India. And guess what? No Overlords are coming from outer space to make things easy so we need every single social entrepreneur and civic organization to dramatically improve India’s social condition. I’d end this post with James Leigh Hunt’s rallying cry: “Social entrepreneurs in India: may your tribe increase!”