It is an interesting phenomenon that citizens of the world are astonished by their fellow citizen’s ability to predict the future and get it right. Whether such predictions are made in the economic sector by the ones who saw the worldwide recession rolling in prior to 2008, or those who warn us from institutionalising the environment, mutilating our habitat through plundering resources with tethering ramifications of global, environmental destruction – those who can “see” are instantly hailed with fame and admiration.
Some are then esteemed into the upper echelons of cultural contributions, and you will read them in school. Take George Orwell’s “1984” as example. In 1948 he accurately predicted the future of our societies. Oceania was not just one country but a conglomerate of several countries formed and controlled by a pervasive government. We scholarly classify his novel as dystopia, but it has long been accepted by a large portion of the population throughout the world that we live in perpetual wars, under relentless surveillance and treacherous mind controls, which is exactly what he predicted.
The acceptance that we, as the now global society, have evolved in this way as Orwell predicted has been more or less a recent admission, with a conservative estimate of a time span that can be placed within the past 20 years. Twenty years ago it was 1991, his novel was written in 1949, which leaves us with a gap of 42 years. From this perspective the first memory that comes up for me is the 1991 Gulf War, where I marched in protest, risking to be thrown out of the country. You see, even this little memory probe yields a warfare in response. Bingo! Orwell.
Let’s go back to these 42 years that provide the gap between when we as a society finally realised that what Orwell predicted was ‘right on the money’. This is a good place to mention, or better reiterate, that human perception of self and the events that occur is extremely limited. Most of us will be challenged to answer the question what we had for lunch last Sunday, a week ago. How did Orwell do it? How did he accurately predict the future that we live today 63 years ago? I would also like to remind you that since then, since 1949, we have passed into a new millennium that has riveted many world-ending enigmas played up by Hollywood, and those who bank on the human capacity of denial, the light workers.
Orwell was an absolute realist. He was not trapped by numbers such as that a bigger number in a calendar will automatically make us better human beings, through some unknown higher force that suddenly decides to descent on earth to help us out. No, Orwell was a man who probably used his fingers to conduct his calculations. He used what he saw that was going on here in the physical world and then, yes, then what? Then he applied common sense to each one of his fingers to come up with the future scenario of our planet, depicted in the novel “1984”.
From this standpoint, there is no riddle to Orwell’s ability of predicting the future accurately. Common sense can be applied by anyone if he or she cares to do so. There is only one other ingredient to this procedure, and that is time. Take it from Orwell, he did not live to see how accurately we live his “fiction” today. Though, here I argue that time is now compressing the results of common sense because of the cumulative effects, giving us the (un)desired result easily in one lifetime. Yes, yours and mine.
Let me give you an example that will demonstrate what I mean. The key phrase to locate the starting point for this example I have already mentioned when I said that Orwell was “right on the money”. Well, I meant it that way, literally. So let’s move from this starting point and go to the year 1995.
In 1995 the photographer Kenji Higuichi collaborated with Nicholas Rohl in making a documentary on the people that surround the operational processes of nuclear power plants in Japan. In this documentary, titled Nuclear Ginza, he takes us to the lives of those who clean up these plants, work on the construction, and generally keep the machine running by getting physically involved. One of the first lines of this documentary that struck me was Higuichi mentioning that in a country where workers are know to be treated so well, no one knows that what is about to unfold in his documentary can possibly be taking place.
The picture that he paints is one that leaves no doubt of the inevitability of what we have witnessed of the events in Japan that have taken place in March of this year. Sixteen years lie between this documentary and the nuclear power plant incidences that took place last month. The people Higuichi searches out for interviews have several things in common, they all are low-income workers, and many are considered belonging to the lowest class in Japan. Some are recruited in Osaka’s slum where they hover in cheap hotels and sleep in public places until, well, until their death.
He tells us of the perils these people are faced with by getting involved in cleaning up accidents within the nuclear power plants. Yes, accidents, unreported so called minor accidents. Let me count the “nots” for you. The workers are not given any protective clothing, there is no measuring of radiation as they conduct the constructions or clean-up actions, and they are using tools which should be discarded because they have already been contaminated with radiation.
Higuichi continues to explain that he has met people who have lost their teeth and hair, who bleed from the gums and other bodily openings, who are anemic and have immediate bouts of diarrhea after exposure. The list of illnesses and symptoms is too long for my limited memory to recall and pass on to you. The last statement I remember, he makes, is that these people have told him that they consider themselves the living dead who only from the outside look normal.
Meanwhile, you may have guessed that these people are paid peanuts, they have no health insurance or even the possibility of a doctor visit, they are forced to return to do this job until there is nothing left of them.
So this is enough of an informative window that Orwell would have needed to write his follow-up bestseller if Orwell would have been alive and kicking in 1995 and he saw this documentary. He then would have sat down to write: “The global death in the making” – what do you think he would have predicted?
He would have predicted a nuclear accident of massive dimensions, it may have not been in Japan, because what this documentary reports could easily be found in any of the super powers who proud themselves with nuclear fission capacity. In addition, he could have inferred that human life has no value and that making money is placed above everything, everywhere. However, Japan would have been a viable candidate on his list. Japan is prone to earth quakes and it is an island, that’s a good setup for easy distribution of radioactive water, we do not just want to rely on air here.
He would have lined up the protagonists, the nuclear power reactors, in a row next to each other, similar to our concept of shopping malls. This makes for a more action-driven, volatile situation. Relying on the information he gathered from watching the documentary, he would have inferred that cutting overhead costs would have been high on the agenda of the companies that are maintaining these nuclear power plants. He would have predicted that sloppy security procedures impact all rescue operations, and possibly enhance the scenario by having conveniently expired fuel rods lying around.
Finally he would have predicted that the ocean waters would have been contaminated through massive radiation, and the news media would have been instructed to falsify the levels, or better, spread confusion. He would have predicted to suddenly lift the threshold of what we have previously identified as dangerous levels of radiation and so forth.
You get the idea. It’s quite easy to use common sense and spin this further. Now, the point I was making in the beginning was that the cumulative effects of our abuse of ourselves and everything in the environment are compressed – I assume I do not need to mention the oil spill last year – will speed up the results we shall be experiencing. If Higuichi and Rohl’s documentary was reporting conditions in 1995, and we see these nuclear incidents in 2011, then I ask you how long do you estimate when you are at a place where you will stand up and change things?
When these events literally matter in your world by pressing you on issues of daily survival – when you are willing to see that it is better to get involved with the most important purpose you can have in this life time, before the clock runs out, before you can no longer point fingers because there is not anyone left to point to – when do you think this will happen? You can simply do the calculation by using your fingers, just like Orwell did, and add all the factors together we have experienced in, say, the last 3 years. This would constitute a list too long for me to engage here in this already lengthy post, but you know and I know it would comprise anything and everything in our world – from the economy to the animals and the environment.
We have only one answer to this situation – and you know it – it is changing the system radically, to take the incentives away that got us in this position in the first place. Standing up, you and me, for providing equal money to every person in this world, will come into being only in one way- by adding together you + me + another + another + another… each person standing up for themselves and everyone else at the same time – until its done!