Friday, June 24, 2005

Days of the Future / Past

(Click the Picture for an Instant Tan)

The random connections of the past and their affect on our lives.

I am often pondering the decisions made in history and how they affected / affect our lives today.

Back in the 30's, life was rural. There were no interstate highways, there were no trans-continental airlines, and there were barely any long distance telephone calls. No television or McDonalds. No nuclear power, no ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles), no gas shortage, no HIV, no MTV.

We tend to think that all these things were just the natural progression of history, and they would have come about one way or another. But we are wrong.

History is a fluid thing, just like the future. We stand in the middle of stream. We don't know where the waters came from and don't know where they are going. But they do tend to sweep us down stream from time to time. When history floods, there is no way to tell where the waters will spread and what they will cover, or what they will fertilize and make grow.

Japan became industrial in the 1920s and followed the lead of the other world economic powers and expanded their territories for much needed resources to feed their ever growing factories. The United States and Europe didn't want the competition and threatened to blockade oil from their homeland. Result.....Pearl Harbor (what would you do if your country was backed into a corner?)

Germany was a major player in European politics for centuries until the end of the First World War. The victorious nations repressed the fatherland and drove it into depression and bankruptcy. Fertile ground for a right wing idealist to make his vision of a Wagnerian Utopia a reality with the Hebrew nation (and the Slavs and the gypsies) as his whipping boy.

Could the Japanese Diet have forseen a North Korea bristling with Nuclear weapons? Did Hitler in his wildest nightmares see his vision of the Germanic super race fostering the state of Israel?

My point being, that the western powers reaction to the empires that they helped foster changed everything for the next 100 years. Those superhighways that we all love to drive on in America were modeled on the German autobahn that General (soon to be president) Dwight D. Eisenhower marveled at when he invaded Germany. Those nifty cruise missiles that drove Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad are the children of the V-1 Buzz Bomb that the Nazi's terrorized London with in 1944. Toyotas, Hondas and Mazda's, all come from the new factories that were built from the ashes of a fire bombed Tokyo. And that Bomb... the one that makes the nifty mushroom cloud. Would never have been made (nor the power plants that sprang form it) if we hadn't needed a really BIG stick to finish the job in 1945.

So where has all this led us, and more importantly, where is it all leading us? It has led us to a consumer society that is mostly urban. And the more you pack people together, the more crime, fear, greed and envy you get. It has given us an individualized transit system that is only 'mass' in its size, not its purpose. Prior to the Great War, there were few people who owned cars. You walked or took the trolley. Most old world countries still work on this premise.

That nuclear power is really cheap, but there is that little problem of those spent fuel rods. And try as we might, we have not been able to keep that nuclear bomb secret from the Israelis, the Pakistanis or the North Koreans.

So what of the internet, virtual reality games, universal translators, world currency and countries without borders? Where is it taking us? A world where secrets are harder to control and to find? A world where the repressed see any option as valid, even flying airplanes into buildings or strapping explosives to school children and putting them on a bus. A world where reality is relative? Right and wrong a matter or interpretation?

The leaders of the great economic armies could not have seen the world of today on September 1, 1939 when Hitler rolled into Poland. Or understood what would happen to North Korea and China on that sleepy Sunday of December 7, 1941. But after those dates, the future was sealed in one way or another. They fought the war for the immediate goal. Then the fight was for national honor and economic security. Today we are fighting a war on global terrorism while still seeking economic security, only now the marketplace is global and interconnected. Have we really learned from our mistakes? Are we able to understand the ramifications of our current actions?

The future 25 years from now is being sealed by all of us today. What will that future be? What are we doing right now, and where will its flood waters come to rest?

Hope you have a good inner tube.