America and world at a turning point?

Changes will eclipse the '60s, say some futurists, but not all agree


April 06, 2003|By Garret Condon | Garret Condon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Coalition forces are pounding Iraqi targets as war protesters fill the streets of cities across the world - including many in the United States. The stock market is flat. The homeland is insecure. Who knows what the future holds?

Actually, no one. But there are hardheaded oracles - called futurists - who get paid to look beyond the horizon. Nationally known prognosticators don't necessarily agree on what's ahead, but several say America and the world are at a major turning point.

"The revolution has begun," said Gerald Celente, director and founder of the Trends Research Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and author of Trends 2000. He said that the anti-war protests around the world are part of a broad, anti-corporate, anti-greed movement that predates the threat of war in Iraq. However, the war and protests against it are accelerating these linked movements.

"These aren't just kids taking to the streets," he said. "There is the mother, the father, the husband, the wife." People in their teens and 20s - the so-called "millennium generation" - are driving the "revolution," he said. Their economic prospects are grim, and they face a future in which America's enemies can bring the battlefield to us. The possible result? Social and political change larger than the turmoil of the 1960s.

"Something big is going on," Celente said.

Futurist Joseph Coates, based in Washington, is mainly concerned that America is tampering with its most fundamental organizing principle: democracy.

He said the normal process of fully informing citizens and letting them debate the pros and cons of homeland security measures or of an action on the scale of the Iraq invasion, has broken down. The administration, he said, has offered little information and dealt mainly in abstractions as it has gone about incarcerating suspects and largely ignoring the concerns of the United Nations over the Iraq war.

"This is a turning point that could, potentially, become disastrous," he said. "We're in danger of becoming a police state."

Fellow futurist David Pearce Snyder of Bethesda, contributing editor of The Futurist magazine, does not share the dire prophecies of his colleagues.

"I am prepared to believe that in 100 years we will look back at this the way we look at Custer's last stand," he said. "This is a minor moment in history." Snyder said that the events of Sept. 11 and the current war in Iraq are elements of the growing, but long-standing, conflict between modern and traditional cultures.

Snyder said that if the aftermath of the war is handled badly - and if cultural friction is not taken into account - the result could be more war and chaos. But he guesses that this will not happen. And he suggests that, if culture war is everywhere and on the rise, we all have a responsibility to help make peace.

"In our lives," he said, "we have an opportunity to defuse this thing every time we meet someone from another culture or have a dialogue with another part of the world."

Garret Condon is a reporter for the Hartford Courant, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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