Unless there is a totally unexpected medical breakthrough,
I will not be able to re-read this article on June 28, 2064. It’s
possible, but I am not counting on it. (My father, blessed be
his memory, did come within several months of reaching 100.)
The real question is, of course: Will anyone now alive be
able to re-read this article 50 years from now? And further:
Will any human person be alive 50 years from now?
This is not an article about an apocalypse. I am not predicting
global catastrophe. I am not closing any books on the human
race. Annihilation is truly remote, although for the first time
in our understanding it is not out of the question.
What this article is about is how the present time will appear
half a century from now to those who might read about or study
We do this all the time with the past, often using great historical
events as an excuse to do it. There is, for example, an enormous
disgorging of opinion about the Great War, or World War I, going
on this month and week, the centenary of that singular conflict
of the 20th century. I’ve thrown my two cents into this cauldron
of opinion, suggesting that World War I did not actually end, but
has continued for a violent century to the present day.
There now seems to be some agreement that, whether it ended
technically, or still continues, the “Great War of 1914” still
insinuates its aftermath throughout the globe today.
An international movement of anti-nationalism arose long ago,
and today follows a course of ending national borders, local
laws and customs, and imposing international standards, rules
and laws on the earth’s more than 7 billion persons.
Included in this movement has been the “global warming”
environmental cause, and the attempt to transform the
economic European Union into a genuinely political union
with no national sovereignty. Previously, the League of
Nations and its successor, the now-failing United Nations,
were perceived as vehicles that might go beyond peace-keeping
to some kind of international sovereignty.
All of this anti-nationalism and its “one world” idealism were
primarily understandable reactions to the violence, suffering,
depravity and inequality in the world, especially in their 20th
century forms and the human carnage which resulted.
At the same time, this idealistic movement in its various forms
came almost entirely from elites in various parts of the
so-called “developed” and industrial world. Rarely were whole
electorates consulted or persuaded to go along. Some of the
ideologues of this movement ranged from far left to far right,
and in far too many cases only disguised totalitarianism and
further suffering and deprivation of the masses living on the
As we observe the centenary of “incident” at Sarajevo today,
an incident which became the excuse to set off a “war to end all
wars,” we observe notable but limited advances in the world’s
economic state, even as the technological advances have been
astonishing. Democratic capitalism has grown and flourished,
but is under attack from within by bored and insensate elites
who have become addicted to romantic abstractions which are
neither democratic nor capitalistic.
Marxist-Leninist-Stalinism, which masqueraded under the
rubric of “communism” had a shelf life of about 70 years;
fascism lasted less than 30 years. Both were inherently
totalitarian. Their successors on the right and the left have
The United States of America, for more than 60 years now the
dominant military and economic power in the world, appears
to be going through a short period of hesitation (some would
call it a retreat) following a period of intense intervention in the
world defending not only its interests, but the cause of free
markets, human rights, democracy, and enabling nations and
societies across the globe to survive and recover from natural
disaster as well as political disaster. Some American elites are
tiring of this role (and claim they are supported by public opinion
polls), but it is not clear whether or not the electorate will reward
this impulse in the long run.
This national hesitation, begun during and in the aftermath of
the Viet Nam War, and exacerbated in the recent U.S. role in
the Middle East, is understandable, but the nature of life on this
planet in the early 21st century suggests to some others that
an American leadership role in the world, “unpleasant” as it might
be at times, is vital in the foreseeable years ahead.
Fifty years from now, the quandries, choices, and political
ambiguities of our own time will have become history. Almost
certainly by then it will be quite a different world, and by then,
role of the United States, of Europe, of China, of Russia, of India,
and perhaps of some other emergent national entities and global
forces will have dramatically changed in ways we cannot now
We can only hope that the Great War of 1914 will by then have
been submerged into the DNA of world history, and no longer
be the active pathology it is today.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.