Those who read and study widely know that the past is often much
more complicated than the future. The future, whatever it will be, is
unpredictable, almost always surprising, but like the present, filled with
many details we can see, or otherwise confirm, with our own senses
(when it becomes the present).
The past is retreating irrevocably from us, and only the recent past
even has instruments of verification (photographs, films, recordings,
memories, etc) which give us imperfect or incomplete evidence of what
did indeed happen.
I don’t mean to be too abstract or philosophical about all this, but I do
mean to make a point about politics, and daily life, that is easy to overlook,
especially in times of cultural crisis, economic difficulty and political
As I see it, we are in a moment of all three, and it is easy to become
cynical, pessimistic and depressed about the future --- and to lose the
most vital human sensation of all, a sense of hope, and succumb to
dread and fear of what is to come next.
It is precisely for this reason that now is the time to survey, discuss and
prepare for recent and current innovations of human imagination and
creativity --- from the East as well as the West --- and plan as best we can
for the beneficial and positive consequences of those inventions, discoveries
and improvements of human life soon to come to us.
There will be, of course, many matters that we cannot predict, and it is
obviously problematic to try to anticipate surprises and unexpected
developments. On the other hand, the nature of contemporary life today
is the unprecedented velocity of technological change and advance.
This brings extraordinary benefits, yes, but also new consequences, risks
Nor is technology the only, or even necessarily the primary, source of
what is to happen next. Recent extreme and powerful earthquakes,
hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, floods, epidemics, new diseases and other
natural disasters remind us that there are many global forces greater than
human activity, and that we only share the planet with other organisms.
Recent controversies about so-called “global warming” indicate what
happens when unexplainable natural phenomena become politicized, and
are manipulated to achieve narrow consequences which might be beyond
our ability to control. Such activity also serves, consciously or unconsciously,
as a distraction from what we can do, and in some cases, what we must do,
to go forward.
My conclusion is that we can ill-afford distractions and indifference to what
is happening in the world around us. This has been increasingly true since
the human race became “civilized” (5000-10000 years ago), but now that
there are so many of us, and so many (wonderful/terrible) devices available
to us, we proceed forward “unconsciously” at our great peril.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.