Author’s note: In 1895, H.G. Wells wrote a short story called “The Time Machine”. This story turned out to be eerily prophetic of events that have happened during our lifetimes. In my opinion, it has special relevance to the question of gun control and gun ownership:
The story begins in the home of a brilliant English scientist of the Victorian era. He announces to his friends that he has built a Time Machine with the object of going into the future to witness the glorious destiny of the human race. He is greeted with polite skepticism, but his friends agree to return in one week to hear about his adventures.
On the following morning the Time Traveler mounts his machine and “Puts the pedal to the metal” so to speak. Days pass swiftly, then years, then centuries, and then millennia. When he finally decides to stop, the chronometer reads the year 802,017.
Dismounting from the Time Machine, he finds himself on a patch of grass set in a very beautiful countryside. Gorgeous flowers are everywhere and abundant fruit seems to hang from every tree. Looking around, he sees many small, beautiful people. They are dressed in brightly colored clothes and wear well-made sandals. Most of them are playing and frolicking in the sunshine.
Finally, they see him and slowly come closer. All of them are smiling and laughing. This surprises the Time Traveler since he is twice their size and calculates that he, being much stronger, should be treated with more caution. However, they show no fear and start decorating him with flowers.
All about him are very large buildings in partial decay. He soon learns that the little people, who call themselves the “Eloi”, live there. They eat abundant fruit, sleep on comfortable cushions and seem not to have a care in the world. Conspicuously absent are tools or weapons of any kind. The Eloi are not too bright but seem to be living a paradisaical existence. If this is the end of mankind, it’s not too bad he decides.
The following day brings the first discordant note. A young Eloi woman—we learn that her name is “Weena”—is caught in the current of the river and starts crying for help. But no one makes any attempt to assist her. We might say that the male Eloi are “Weenies”. They are generally incapable and loath to risk themselves for any member of their kind.
Finally, the Time Traveler jumps in the river and saves little Weena. She is grateful and through her the Time Traveler learns more about the Eloi. Even though Weena is a full grown woman, she acts like a trusting five year old child and fears nothing except the Dark.
Why does she fear the dark? The story tells us that the human race has spawned another group of descendants called “Morlocks”. These turn out to be hairy, white ape-like creatures that live underground. They only come out at night to hunt, kill and eat Eloi.
Realizing that the Morlocks are quite dangerous, the Time Traveler tries to find the ingredients for gun powder in an old museum. No fool he, he wants to fashion himself a firearm. This fails and he has to be satisfied with an iron bar that he wields like a club, and a box of matches that can be lit to scare the photophobic Morlocks. Only as an “Armed Citizen” can he cause the Morlocks to back off.
The Time Traveler tries to deduce why the human race that we know has bifurcated. He concludes that the Eloi probably descended from a privileged class who had everything done for them. They slowly became completely incapable. As being safe was necessary for the enjoyment of life, they became adverse to all risks. Eventually, they depended on others for their defense.
The other branch, the Morlocks, were descendants of the working classes. Working underground in the mines and pits of England, they retained knowledge of tools and machinery. And they became cannibals when there was nothing left to eat but Eloi.
Eventually, the placid Eloi, deprived of all defense, became the “cattle” of the Morlocks. They are provided for until the time comes for their consumption. If we see the gun as the ultimate tool of domination as well as resistance, in this tale we can foresee the final relationship between gun controllers and the gun controlled.
Some might object to such a conclusion based only on a science fiction story. However, within fifty years of the book’s publication, a nation arose that considered its members superior to all other human beings. The leaders of that nation set about treating other people as commodities to be exploited. The first thing, they collected from the “cattle to be” were their guns.
Fortunately, that nation was defeated. You know which one.
“Don’t worry,” say many of our present day politicians. “That was then and this is now.”
Really? Why do I have the feeling that they’re talking to us as the Eloi of tomorrow?
—Wallace Schwam, MD is a retired internist with interests in geriatrics and pharmacology who trained at Duke University. He rated expert in marksmanship in the Army and continues to enjoy hunting and tactical training with handgun, rifle and shotgun.
All DRGO articles by Wallace Schwam, MD.