When I wrote the article below twentysix years ago, the world anticipated its future quite differently. The economic and financial circumstances were bright. But there was a widespread belief in a doom scenario for events occurring around the year 2000.
In spite of the changed circumstances I have not attempted to re-write all of the article. It may serve now as a reminder that society is in a constant change and threats are soon forgotten in the face of new ones. Before it was the year 2000 that was seen as heralding the end of the world. Thereafter Mayan prophecies caused fears for calamities in the year 2012. Another one was expected in September 28th 2015.
Anyhow the message is: don't get panicked by baseless predictions and fake news, but be prepared that there are always unexpected dangers lurking around the corner. The Lehmann Brothers collapse was not foreseen, nor the implosion of the mortgage market, nor the shift in economic power of nations, nor the distrust in the world's currencies, nor the threat of Islamic terrorism, nor the climate change, nor Russia's invasion in Ukra´nia.
Thanks heaven! We have entered the 21st century without all the problems predicted! Not that we were so na´ve to expect them. After all hardly ever experts have been able to forecast future developments.
For centuries the end of the last millennium has been prophesied as being the Last Day of the world as we know it. Catastrophes, atomic wars and doom beyond imagination were supposed to scourge the face of the earth and annihilate mankind with the exception of a few members of the right religious denomination.
Yet there are testimonials of people having foreseen future events in portentous dreams, visions or otherwise, which materialized indeed at a later date. The gist of these occurrences is that the forebodings were too vague that those warned could prevent the catastrophe taking place (although in some instances a personal accident could be averted!).
At any rate such predictions hardly ever came true if publicized to a wider public which might take action to influence the march of time. Portents are like pictures being seen without captions. Nostradamus made his predictions in the 16th century in such mysterious terms that only after the event took place could one surmise what one of his quatrains might have been about.
Some of these prophetic visions are of such remarkable accuracy that one is tempted to conclude that the future is predestined. For example the twin towers attack may have been foreseen by Nostradamus in this prediction as translated in the 1975 edition of Erika Cheetham's: 'The Prophecies of Nostradamus':
Earthshaking fire from the centre of the earth will cause towers in New City tremble.(I, 87).
The translator adds this commentary: An explosion in the centre of the city of New York making the land tremble, or could 'tour' (in the french text) here mean towers or skyscrapers?. Quatrain X,59 may be interpreted to concern a World Center that collapses in the underground basement.
Returning to the subject: it is my opinion that even if the future is foreseen by someone, it will always materialize in a different manner than anticipated. Admittedly man's journey is hazardous. Modern scientific discoveries have shown that our planet is prone to collisions, climatical changes and other dangers. In fact the emergence of homo sapiens is attributed now to the challenge climatical changes posed on the species a long time ago. However, climatical changes, now anticipated, pose a fresh threat. And speaking about predictions: Who predicted the corona pandemic?
We have always to bear in mind that a major catastrophe may occur resulting in the breakdown of society as we know it. The resulting upset balance of power will set a series of events into motion the outcome of which we cannot foresee.
Athough people's horizon has been broadened to an enormous extent their outlook has not undergone that drastic change as might be infered. A great part of mankind lives in backward conditions, often illiteracy prevails. These multitudes easily fall prey to the subversive gospels of modern day visionaries like those of the Islamic State. How alluring muddle-headed ideas of nut cases, like Hitler, are, even on educated masses, has been shown in history. And now we have Putin to content with, introducing another variant of the Cold War.
What Thomas S.Kuhn once wrote on the structure of scientific revolutions, may well
apply to different categories of closed systems that determine our lives.
Man's inability to think laterally and his inborn fear for the unknown makes for holding on to visions and structures that did well in the past. The result is inadequacy to cope with new situations. This applies amongst others to political, judicial and monetary structures that have outlived themselves and are felt inapt to cope with changed conditions by everyone except those who are part of that particular establishment and find difficulty in realizing that it has reached its limits and needs drastic reforms. If not modified peacefully, breakthroughs will overturn outlived closed structures, sometimes with disastrous results. The first decade of the 21st century has already exposed lack of insight in cyclical economic and monetary conditions as well as effects of pollution of the environment.
Having established these limitations the inevitable conclusion is that presently there must be grey areas which we completely ignore because almost everybody does. At the time we wake up the damage has already been done, or we have wasted time on other trendy issues. (I wrote this more then fifteen years ago at a time that fundamentalist terrorism or climatical changes, Third World War were not recognized as a real threat. Moreover lack of insight in cyclical economic conditions, combined with man's greed, have endangered trust in the monetary institutions.).
On the following pages I propose to name a few other underlying conflicts:
The past century has been the testing-ground for political systems that aimed at given
complexer societies a unified control. Most of the ideals of these systems were inherited from
the nineteenth century but were never put into practice. It has cost unendurable suffering of
millions of people to come to the conclusion that all failed, with the possible exception of
The main problem is of course the human psyche and his animal instincts. Torn between egoistic drives and intellectual infatuations, only in exceptional cases man's ideals are realized, often at self-expense. More often than not the individual succumbs to selfish interests. His struggle between self and the good of society is reflected in the policies of nations. More than ever, behind smug appearances, nations strive at furtherance of their own self-interest at the expense of the welfare of other nations.
The chaotic structure of civilisation is influenced to an extent by man's herd instincts. Modern society relies on specialisms. As most people have no grasp of specialists' knowledge and considerations they leave decisions to their judgement. Cyril Northcote Parkinson observed that committees spend most of the time discussing expenditure of small sums of money on minor provisions, than devoting time to fundamental issues. Reason is that most people have a firm grasp of details but not enough insight to make sound major decisions, with the result that those are left to specialists, who come up with solutions that the public may find difficult to swallow ultimately.
Specialists' recommendations on legislature, education, economics, finances, explorations, or warfare are being implemented without anyone having a notion of the consequences, nor of similar past history. In small groups of insiders a culture may grow that is far removed from reality. Yet, their views may have far-reaching influence. In history such groups of politicians, philosophers, theologians, experts, or specialists have often been the nucleus of ideas that had far-reaching effects, sometimes extremist and detrimental, because its consequences could not be grasped by outsiders.
The same applies to important historical people. Genius are seldom recognized in their lifetime: Jesus, Galilei, Spinoza,Tesla, Vincent van Gogh, Alan Turing, to name a few, made an imprint on civiliation.
Matrism moving towards patrism
The future of society should be seen against the background of a variety of currents of tension. The state of the world is in a delicate balance. Societies are part of a chaotic system, an equilibrium of an enormous variety of factors. An idea, belief, invention, terrorist-, or individuals action, or any other unforeseen event may detonate an inarticulate mass-sentiment, or upset the economic, monetary, or political system to an extent that it veers in a direction that nobody had ever expected. The 9/11 attack was totally unforeseen . So wasn't the coronary crisis or Ukra´ne invasion nowadays.
Within Western society a number of tensions have already made way for a pull to the right. Rattray Taylor and other historicians have found in history a pattern of patriarchal and matriarchal societies. Patrism has alternated with matrism. In the seventies we reached the end of a matrist cycle. One of laissez-faire, a flowering of the arts, permissiveness in mores, pursuit of science, breakdown of traditional religion and exploration of boundaries and ideals. When the extremes of the matrist culture have been reached, patrist forces march in. The growing number of its adherents will try to undo the excrescences of the passed cycle, instil morals again, which may lead to puritanism, fundamentalist religion, suppressive communism, intolerance and nationalism. (All this has materialized meanwhile)
Density of populations is unevenly spread over the globe. So is the welfare of nations. In former times when transportation was either primitive, or costly, the privileged could rest assured that people would stay at the place where they were born. Not so any more. With modern mass-transportation more and more individuals and families, dissatisfied with their poor living-conditions and life endangering situations, decide to emigrate, often desperately taking the risk of loss of money and life. Moreover organized crime has found in it a fresh way to make money by laying its hands on savings of these people. If not plainly robbed they are smuggled illegally into countries with a higher standard of living, which in consequence become over-populated. Often they have gone on hear-say of a prosperous life awaiting them. Little do they realise that, quite unprepared as they are, a life in the lower levels of a strange society awaits them.
Some of the conflicts in welfare-societies are the result of this. Yet it is hardly recognized publicly. It is noteworthy that in countries like Holland speaking of overpopulation was considered politically incorrect. Yet, after WW2, when the country had far less inhabitants, the government subsidized emigration as it was convinced that there was no future for many of them in their own country. However, a few decades later the same government aired a plea for hospitality and a greater tolerance towards admission of foreigners. Now that the devastating affects of this policy have come to the surface the trend is reversed again. Ironically, those who propagated immigration also expressed concern for environmental pollution, thereby overlooking that this is precisely the result of further industrialization, necessary to provide labour for the new inhabitants.
Too many people herded together in a small area may show symptoms of animals in similar conditions. Diseases, psychic disorders and even suicide may decimate their numbers to an acceptable level. (All this is happening meanwhile. A large part of the population in westren countries are suffering from depression and other psychological diseases.)
Overpopulation resulting in increased demands on the environment and earth's resources has become an issue of global concern. On the horizon clouds of problems are gathering resulting from insufficient water-supply and change of climate.
There are hardly any other acceptable compensating sources of energy. Atomic fission carries the problem of deposing of its nuclear waste. Despite decades of experimentation nuclear fusion is still in its infancy. If succesful it is expected to take four decades before such plants will meet to some extent the existing shortage. Windmills will never be able to deliver a major part of the energy required.
Even if some new source of energy were invented it would take years and years of experimentation before being in a stage of operation.
The aforementioned C. Northcote Parkinson in his 'East and West' predicted in 1965 an emerging Chinese superstate. He drew attention to an ever shifting balance of power between eastern and western countries throughout history.
Concomitant effects of over-population is the failure of developing a multicultural society. It has become neigh impossible to convert immigrants to another cultural outlook.
The autochthonous population has the advantage of being for centuries exposed to the
idiosyncrasies of their particular society. Only the offspring of the new inhabitants will have learnt in a natural way to adapt themselves to its pace.
Most newcomers hail from communities where family ties and religious observance were part of their culture. These customs are considered outdated in their new country where secularisation has taken place. No wonder that they will experience the fresh community's mores (or lack of them!) as harsh and even satanic.
The orthodoxy of their religious views will be assailed by western education. Outmoded fundamentalism in Christianity has already made way for more liberal views. Not so in Islam. In the Middle Ages Islam was the torch bearer of higher learning, yet it has moved since then towards a stagnant orthodoxy.
To foreigners Western morals will be considered lax, especially those governing sex. The education of allochthonous children, because of language difficulties and absence of traditional parental authority, will lag behind. High percentages of unemployment and drift towards criminality are the result. These problems will be overcome, but until that time, tax the society and its resources to a great extent. It may be hoped that the native population will show that kind of patience. Especially if the prediction of Professor Bernard Lewis of Princetown University comes true that towards the end of this century the majority of the population of Europe will be Muslim. Although unlikely this is bound to bring about explosive situations.< It is hoped that enlightenment will prevail.< /P>
Erosion of civic consciousness
With the growing complexity of society a breakdown of traditional community values has become visible. The ordered way of life of say half a century ago depended to a great extent on social control. The task of the police-force was facilitated by the cooperation of the community. Former values had their roots in religious morals. In the West it was Christianity that laid down a generally accepted conduct of living based on a distinction between what was considered good and evil. Most other religions like Islam have similar codes.
Better education has made a greater number of people look at life through scientific instead of
religious spectacles. Church dogmas have become questioned and with it church-attendance
has decreased drastically. Religion has made way for an easy atheism and indifference.
With it community values crumbled. Young people are not automatically instilled with civic consciousness either at home or at school. Instead they have been taught to question them and resist pressure from outdated social hierarchical structures. This process dates from the late sixties when leftist views became fashionable amongst the intellectual elite that strongly influenced the media. In the wake of this kind of cynical approach towards life the feeling of togetherness has diminished in spite of appeals to 'solidarity'. Fact is that the threshold separating youngsters from crime and cruelty towards fellow-beings has been lowered in the last decades.
The loss of vision of a nation cannot but have repercussions in all divisions. In the past citizens might have been divided according to their religious affiliations, yet their outlook fitted into a broad pattern. Now that the foundations of conscience have been rocked there is no controlling factor left besides the law. Education does not instil in children a sense of being involved in a great adventure anymore calling for courage and responsibility. It does not emphasize spiritual values. Young uninformed minds may conclude cynically that: "Life ends at the grave", "there is no such thing as a soul", "live for the moment as there is no accounting for one's deeds", "the clever ones inherit the earth".
There are no transcendental values left because these have never been proven scientifically. The view that our lives may have a far greater reach than we can imagine is considered outmoded. So are spiritual values and a grand vision for mankind and its place in the universe. In the materialistic outlook of modern science morality and responsibility have no actual foundation. Why should one observe these values if life ends at the grave?
Anything transcendental that cannot be proven and therefore does not fit into the ever-changing concepts of the scientific establishment, is fiercely combated by sceptic societies like CSICOP, which have a great grasp on the media.
Apparently the only cause that can rally a nation now is catastrophe, terrorism, pollution and war. (Another statement I wrote 25 years ago is now being fulfilled.... alas)
These are a few of the factors that contributed to an upsurge of crime and violence. Modern world citizens have become more individualistic - it is everyone for himself now. The result is an unfriendly society in which neighbourly aid is pushed to the background. Many people do not dare to open their front-door anymore for fear of hostile strangers. They cannot be blamed. They have read or seen on television enough cases of innocent or helpful people becoming the victim of crime. It is the age in which the adage: 'a good deed never goes unpunished', holds true. It is not only the resulting feeling of insecurity that matters. The loss of pride in being part of a caring society has dangerous aspects. It means that ties that held the nation together and gave it impetuous, start to crumble. Further alienation leads to more individualism, etc.
An added problem is the way offenders are being punished. To lock them up with fellow-criminals
may worsen their morality. In that respect corporal punishment may be far more effective, but
What has been said before about education also applies to internment. To instill prisoners with civic consciousness and re-educate them is not an easy task in an inequal society. Yet, absence of rehabilitation of prisoners with a new outlook and vision on life deepens problems.
Modern man has become the slave of comfort providing facilities. He needs power-supply for the host of apparatus that has made his life easy. Internet has become part of his life. Contact by mobiles throughout the day keep him/her from a moment of rest and silence.
The politicians in the administration, with a very short memory and shortlived responsibility, once promised housing, work and perpetual care to the voters. Now that these election-promises have proved too high a burden for the budget they are being scaled down even at the cost of national defense. By this time newer generations have become unaccustomed to bearing such responsibilities themselves. They have never learned to put aside part of their income for bad times for instance. Admittedly, no interest earned on savings is no encouragement either.
More and more people are reaching an older age thanks to advances in medicine. This poses a fresh problem for younger generations: will they be willing to provide for the increasingly large elderly population in future?
Outdated laws are a menace to society. Yet changes are often enforced a quarter of a century late. Legislation is often the result of bickering between political parties, all of whom wish their points of view reflected in order to please their voters. The result is an undecipherable conglomeration of articles and jurisprudence strewn with so many exceptions and reservations that one needs a life-time to make head or tail of them (like manuals!).
Everybody is held to know the law. Yet hardly any citizen does! For reasons stated above laws have become that complicated that no authority in the country pretends to know them all. This has given rise to an overpowerful legal profession only bent on maintaining the status quo to further its own interests. The old class-justice has made way for wealth justice.
Those who can afford it - and many criminals do - engage the best minds to find loopholes in the law. Criminals will evade justice on account of an insignificant detail being overlooked by the prosecutor. Furthermore flaws in judicial practice cause such anomalies as an innocent person pleading guilty (in the U.S.A.) in order to avoid a long hazardous legal procedure.
In many Western countries the law appears to favour the criminal over the victim. Damages suffered by the victim can be claimed only in exceptional cases from the culprit. The latter being aided by all sorts of institutions and welfare workers. The victim by hardly anybody. The end of the road has been reached. Although no one dares to acknowledge it, everyone knows that the good have to foot the bill for the bad..(Here again improvements have been made)
Antiquated monetary system
Another area of conflict in modern enlightened capitalist society is its antiquated monetary
Money is based on assumed value. We may laugh at tribes who set great value at sea-shells, which have become the basis of their barter trade system. Yet, their securities are not much different from our pieces of paper, banknotes, or mere figures, symbolising assets and liabilities in our financial system.
Our present monetary system of attributed values should have a function of regulating economy, capacity, resources, income and trade. Yet, we see that it fails to check the continuing cycles of overheating and recession in the economy that affect the lives of people in society.
The collapse of the IT hype, unfounded theories of a New Economy, and near-breakdown of the banking system were examples of human shortsightedness. Greed fuelled expectations to such an extent that all propriety and sense of moderation were lost. Expert advisers repeating each other, brushing aside all economic rules, caused many people's savings being lost. The ECB's excessive bond-buying is another example of risky policies. So is the danger of the US Fed Bond Binge, boosting Inflation.
Excessive bonuses make managements of some major conglomerates overstep all bounderies of propriety. Its effects were disastrous for employees, shareholders and the economy in general. In the past, under pressure to perform, banks set aside all traditional policies of caution in lending, resulting in the subprime crisis, the worst after WW2.
It is curious that novel (Keynes-like) approaches to world's monetary/economic policies are noted for their absence. The interest instrument seems to have lost much of its effect. Its wrong use contributed to the present financial situation and the end of it is not in sight so far. Nations have oversized debts outstanding. There is no guarantee that as a result of an unforeseen occurence people will prefer to invest their money in goods and estate instead of money. In fact this proces is already in motion, but it may become catastrophic one day as has already happened in many 'underdeveloped' countries.
Present-day economists, like scientists, are absorbed in specialist research, no one daring to overstep its boundaries to propose a new unified system to meet current needs. Only a major conflict might make world's wise men force to come up with a drastic solution.
If interest rates were to rise to the level of the eighties, the housing market will collapse. Many countries might go into recession then.
In peacetime economy waste acts as a motor for the industry. Fiscal regulations make expenses deductible from profits. Thus companies are encouraged to go through a never ending cycle of renewal of installations, machinery, buildings, furnishings and the like in order to make full use of tax deductions.
This shameful wasting process, ironically, creates jobs and keeps the economy buoyant, irregardless of it acting as a drain on resources, some of which will be exhausted in this century. Moreover it causes further energy dissipation and environmental pollution.
One wonders why these finite raw materials are not being taxed higher than the factor labour. More expensive raw materials and cheaper labour taxation should solve some problems.
Another aspect is that developing countries are not paid adequately for their raw materials and produce, causing inadequate income and poverty of their masses.
Owing to the above described chaotic model of different pressures within present-day society, projections into the future are bound to be unrealistic. As long as the nature of man is fragmented and governed by selfish motives it is foolish to project too idealistic concepts on a future society. Even the faintest attempts to form communes on idealistic principles like Walden, have failed. So did an attempt to practise communist ideals amongst early Christians in spite of warnings of punishment and damnation (Ananias, Acts, chapt.5).
It is quite obvious that the United Nations should have the power to oblige its member-governments to conform to a code of administration that will guarantee the safety and welfare of its citizens. If not, the U.N. should step in and compel governments who are out of control, or obviously a menace to their population, to accept an interim U.N. administration until an acceptable form of democracy is restored (Meanwhile this applies to Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and some African countries).
Many governments now shrink back to accept a rule as drastic as this because it is considered interference in internal affairs. As a result racial or religious tensions cause an immense bloodshed. It is hoped that the nations, under the weight of world indignation, will adopt a moral code for governments under the U.N. Charter and enforce it.
On the subject of manipulation on molecular levels nanotechnology is being developed rapidly and applications used in all fields of science and computer technology. There is apprehension of far-reaching dangers, for instance of out-of-control self-replicating robots.
For that mattter there is fear of robots taking over more and more human functions. Their effect is already apparent by compulsary redundancy and widespread unemployment. Computers programmed with algorithms may take over more and more tasks. It is forgotten, however, that these robotlike machines have no human features. They have no human qualities, such as compassion, sympathy, subtility. They behave ruthless and impersonal and are by nature stupid entities without morality. Algorithm may behave just as ruthlessly as robots and threatens to overtake human response.
This is already apparent in dealing with major companies like Google, Ebay, Microsoft, etcetera. Try to get an answer to your problem from them. No person will answer your call. An email address is absent. A set of ten standard solutions are being offered and if yours is not amongst them, as is the case usually, may heaven help you ! The reason being that help desks are too costly as shareholders are expecting a yearly raise of dividend and less staff expenses.
More and more is being expected from (elderly) citizens. Everyone is expected to have a smartphone to authenticate oneself. Privacy protection is being misused to introduce all sorts of complicated procedures which few people understand.
A drastic change might occur with a fundamental find like the discovery of life on other planets bringing nearer the idea of a contact with an advanced interplanetary civilisation. This would have a tremendous impact on our view of man in the universe. Yet, again, the outcome of such contact is unpredictable. We have no idea what to expect from other forms of life. Such encounter may even result in a general loss of respect of earthly traditional values (for whatever they are worth!).
In history nations who first came into contact with a so-called higher Western civilisation (India, Japan) abandoned their traditional cultural values until they rediscovered their own again when it was too late.
A more gruesome prospect is that of mankind only becoming united because of an acute common danger like that of an impending environmental disaster as a result of changed climatic conditions. proliferation of a virus, or the threat of a catastrophe such as an imminent collision with an asteroid, calling for an all-out effort to minimize the consequences.
From the above examples it is clear that society in our 21st century faces many tensions and may move into directions we have no idea of presently. Many of today's problems may be ascribed to backwardness. Not only for lack of education, but also due to the sway of outdated religious and political myths concerning people's minds, blocking enlightenment.
Some of the major discoveries that would influence future developments for better or worse and the outlook of man:
Man's emergence appears to be the result of a miraculous series of co´ncidences. From the blind forces of nature our being has emerged that for the first time could observe and interpret the cosmos. in all its majestic splendour. That expanse has now an observer: mankind. Or are there more? From quantum physics we know that a spectator influences the outcome of an event. What impact will we, as spectators, have on the universe as a whole?
In an incredible short span of time in earth's history homo sapiens has evolved into a human being making some strides in civilisation, but still imbued with the instincts of its ancestor-primates. It may well be that the favorable circumstances that were conducive to its development will end by some event or development. Some day the globe may not be able to support its species and human society anymore. The phenomenon of man on one of the millions of planets in the universe called Earth will come to a halt then. What imprint on cosmic history will our civilisation leave? Will its achievements be lost, or have a sequel?
© Michael Rogge 2022
Responses welcome. Email to manandu@NOSPAMxs4all.nl after deleting NOSPAM from the address.
Created July 1996. Latest revision: 27 April 2022
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