Predicting the Future

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by Hayden Hollingsworth

How does one do that?  With unlimited hubris . . . that’s the answer.  Some years ago, I heard a well-known TV evangelist rattle off a list of predictions on his New Year’s Sunday program.  It got my attention; I don’t remember any of the things he mentioned, but they were all impressive, cataclysmic, and from a “reliable source.”  He paused for effect then said they were from the year just ended . . . and not one of them had happened.  His point was, I suppose, that we shouldn’t buy into the doomsday scenario but follow his suggestions for a better way of living.

Looking back at 2011 has been done to the point of triteness, but I could not resist a few of my favorites.

The media—can’t live with them and shouldn’t try to live without them.  My favorite for hype occurred on April 1(appropriately, the day of fools) when Terry Jones of Florida had his moment in the spotlight with threatening to burn the Qur’an.  The major fool was not Mr. Jones, but the media who nearly started World War III with their incessant and hyperbolic reporting.  Had it not been for them, no one, not even the Muslims, would have given him a moment’s notice.  The world is full of nutcases; we need not award them an international forum.

Who among us cannot marvel at the wonders of Congress?  Never has there been a truer case when all was said and done, much more had been said than done.  I heard on NPR that in terms of legislation signed into law, the 112th Congress was the worst in history.  Only 80 bills were passed. You can count on one hand (and still have fingers left over) the meaningful actions.  They avoided a government shutdown minutes before the witching hour.  The payroll tax relief got extended, also at the last second. The Super Committee couldn’t agree on anything except they were not “super.”  The bipartisan conversation was totally mean-spirited on both sides.  Of the 80 bills that became law, the vast majority of them were trivial.  One of the most common was the naming of various post offices around the country.  The analogy of Nero and his fiddling while Rome burned does not seem far off the mark.

Arab Spring–it turned into summer, fall and now winter.  The hopes that all would settle down were never grounded in reality. That despots have been removed cannot be undervalued but what will take years to sort out what will take their place.  For the most part, the United States has been in the background but by no means inconsequential. Without our support, Libya would never have happened.  Syria and many other Arab states are teetering on the brink of radical change and engaging in killing their own people.

We’re out of Iraq and leaving Afghanistan; the ethnic cleansing has already started in Baghdad.  While I am not in a position to know, many in Iraq say the troop surge had little to do with the decrease in Shiite/Sunni violence.  I was told by an army general that a lot of American money changed hands to have them stop killing each other.  That it has escalated so quickly after our departure would seem to lend credence to that idea.  Sadr City is back in the news.

The world was supposed to come to an end in 2011. . . twice, actually.  Of course, we now know that it really will happen on 12/21/2012, according to the Maya calendar.  I wonder if the Mayans accurately predicted their own culture’s demise.  There’s even an acronym for the date:  TEOTWAWKI—the end of the world as we know it.  I am somewhat alarmed that my spellcheck recognizes that as a real word; maybe my computer has an inside track from the Cloud.

Obviously, no one can predict the future although there are plenty who will take your money and give you answers.  I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the last year was a mess and 2012 holds potential to be even worse.  To end on a note of optimism, each of us should try making our tiny part of the world better.  That can’t hurt and, who knows, good things might happen.