Boy, am I bushed?
Journal of a Futurist - 25 October 2001
Death of global consciousness, the decline of CNN, the brutality of warlords, East & West
Like many of you out there, I am trying to get on with my life, in the face of mounting bloodlust. This regular update, The Future This Week, is meant to monitor the thoughts & interactions of a feral futurist who travels the Asia Pacific to engage with corporate clients, community groups & convention audiences. Most people havent a clue what a futurist does, and, despite having provided the bulk of my income since 1995, the role is still a bit fuzzy and improvised.
The first point is this: a futurist is not a psychic. Its not about predictions, its about projections, the crafting of plausible alternative futures. A rich scenario conjures wildcards; those out of the blue, scene-shattering events which turn our world upside down. While a futurist projection fudges the detail high-jacked Boeings, exploding skyscrapers it will often incorporate big impact surprises that
come true. On July 29, I attended a talk at a conference in Minneapolis on the subject, BioTerrorism: Media Hype or Potential Nightmare?
It was presented by, Michael T. Osterholm, a noted authority on invisible nasties. For anyone in the audience that night, the current anthrax scare comes as no surprise. This astonishing session, which annihilated my scepticism, was backed up with an array of research, case studies and poignant anecdotes. Afterwards, Osterholm swept the Aussie contingent off to an Irish pub, bizarrely called The Brits, which swelled into a cabal of intoxicated futurists engaged in hypothetical ravings on the prospect of subway terrorists brandishing canisters of smallpox.
Two years before, in the opulent basement of Washingtons Hilton Hotel, I witnessed another projection that proved to be prescient. Entitled Alternative Visions of Future War, this session was presented by Dr. Steven Metz, from the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle. Based on the assumption that in a time of revolutionary change, preparing for the wrong sort of war is expensive and dangerous, Metz unfolded several scenarios: robowar, psychowar, biowar, nanowar, orthodox war, barbarian war and tech war. In view of the Whitehouse claims made prior to the bombing of Afghanistan, that America was facing a new kind of conflict, previously unimaginable, it is salutary to recall Dr Metzs climactic projection: NETWAR - coercive violence used by complex networks against states, corporations, non-state organizations or each other. In this scenario, now a reality, traditional state-on-state war declines in effectiveness and significance, to be replaced by infrastructure attacks, whether through traditional means or cyber attacks; and Terrorism, using both traditional means and weapons of mass destruction. Back in 99, Dr Metz s chilling conclusion was that State militaries will be hard pressed to understand and counter networked enemies.
Okay, lets stop mentioning the war. Except its almost impossible in the face of the prolonged, joyful, video game onslaught on the worlds poorest country by the worlds richest empire, in which the majority of victims are innocent. Also amazing is the on-camera gloating of the Wests well fed & spiritually famished leaders. Yes, many Taliban appear to be disgusting sadists, but must we sink to their level? (A brave British Labour MP has described this war as the moral equivalent of Mike Tyson going into the ring with a 5 year old boy.) A few quick points:
- From Londons Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald: President George Bush has told the CIA it can kill Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. By what authority?
- And by what means? Bombing as many caves as possible If truth is the first casualty in war, then the eco-system is the second, a subject forgotten since September 11. But why is Truth the first casualty? Surely it is the innocent bystander, whether a janitor in the World Trade Centre, a schoolgirl in Bethlehem, a toddler in Kabul. Anyway, Truth is a mysterious and endangered species, long gone from the screens of CNN, which has not, to my knowledge, screened the telling footage of numerous Afghani children mutilated by stray bombs. A sharp warning from the Whitehouse about coded messages from al Jazeera TV, and were back to familiar faces in flack jackets reporting far away from the not-so smart bombs.
- A dispatch from Tony Harnden in Washington, has heralded official approval for the FBI and other agencies to engage in torture, quoting one unnamed agent as appearing to mean injecting a so called truth serum into suspects or beating them. What is interesting about George Bush, psychologically, and his echo, John Howard, is the continued assertion, that we are a good people
we are generous people
we are a decent people, etc.
- How can the civilised world lecture the barbarians on ethics, while countenancing Israeli assassination squads?
- The killing of a child incurs a death sentence in Texas, home state of George W Bush. The killing & maiming of hundreds of Afghani children with the drop of a bomb receives scant attention, earns plaudits and medals, induces no remorse or apology. Good people
- The victims of the Taliban are now the victims of the Coalition. From one city alone, Kandahar, UN officials estimated 15,000 people had fled the fighting by October 22 and stood stranded at the Pakistan border with little shelter, food or water. These disconsolate pawns, like other Afghani refugees, whose children are dying in front of our eyes, played no part in the attacks of September 11. Meanwhile, the bombing of power stations dries up the water pumps. A generous people.
- At first, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied claims by the Taliban (liars, all) that his air strikes had flattened a hospital in Herat, killing a 100 patients and staff. Forced to retract, Rumsfeld snorted: It was only a military hospital. Good people. In addition, al Jazeera reported that US air strikes had killed 93 civilians in a village north of Kandahar, including 18 members of one family. Will there bodies be shown on CNN?
- Despite this, Australias own Prime Minister, John Howard, who supported the US war in Vietnam until the bloody end - (click here to view the anti-war Oz) - refuses to throw a lifeline to the Afghani boat people sloshing toward our shores. Instead, in connivance with the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, he imposes a Border Protection Bill, which incites ever more desperate embarkations. Yesterday, 350 refugees drowned. The Taliban may be our enemy. But to John Howard, the enemy of our enemy is also our enemy.
- To express such opinions To criticize this war is to invite a barrage of slander & bile. Not enough that Australias quality media is chockablock with stroppy right-wingers, it now recruits from the tabloids moronic extremists, who refer to dissenters as traitors.
- Meanwhile, students in the USA are rallying to join the CIA, fired with righteous anger, turning a blind eye to the agencys dark role in the developing world as the scourge of democracy. Soon, perhaps, with the latest boost to the CIA budget (another $A1.8 billion) these palmtop idealists will undergo training in torture. Lets hear a burst of Bob Dylan (Our PMs favourite songster, except, as he told ABC TV, he never liked the lyrics.) We shall overcome
Sure, with cruise missiles, truth drugs & volts to the testicles.
- The attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre are often described as a war against civilization. Our actions since then, both in Afghanistan and on the high seas, are also against civilization.
I come from Dresden, Germany, and constantly hear in connection with my home city's fire bombing: 'Served them right.' This is not different from Palestinians celebrating the horror event of New York, and it always feels to me like somebody emptied a bucket of cold water over my head. Another relevant thought: The innocents in Afghanistan probably include most of the pro-Talibans, just like so many Nazis were innocent (I know because I had relatives among them) - their mind set was shaped by the milieu of the times. These misguided arseholes actually thought that they were on the side of good fighting evil. Keep trucking, R H.