Living in the Future


When I was a teenager or even younger, I thought the year 1960 was the future. “1984” was the distant future and the year 2000 was the unimaginable, far away, further away future. All those dates are gone now and are part of the history of mankind.

Now, we have the year 2017! I live in a present which was once a future, I was not able to contemplate at all. The last two numbers of years remind us of what happens one hundred years ago. That was a time just before I was born. When I grew up the First World War was still talked about without a quantifying number. It was the World War! That war and its aftermath were so bad that people did not want a repeat nor did they want any world war that had a number attached higher than one. They got one anyway.

My parents were both born in the year 1900 and were true citizens of the 20th century.  While they were growing up new inventions changed their lives. The telephone, movie films, electric trains, aeroplanes and automobiles, the wireless radio,  all those inventions changed the lives of millions. They lived in the most modern city in the world: Berlin.

When I was born, in an almost new hospital, I could not yet know that a madman was already in the process to destroy this modern civilisation. Only smart people could foresee what was coming and if they were able to, they left the country. So much of modernity was transferred to the USA.

All this is, of course, nothing new. There are constant changes and people who bring those changes about have themselves no idea what consequences their ideas ultimately will have. When Gottlieb Daimler fitted an internal combustion engine to a coach he could not imagine that one day it would lead to an environmental disaster.

In 1941 to 1943,  I walked past a tenant building on my way to school in which a young man, Konrad Zuse was inventing the machine that was to became the dominating appliance of human existence in the 21st century, the computer.

The present is always the precursor of the future. We always live in the present but in comparison to what went on before we would have called today’s present the future at any other time.

In today’s world, there are different struggles going on at the same time. There seems to be a religious struggle going on.  I say, “seems to be”, because actually it is not.  It is a rebellion by people who have enough after beeing controlled and exploited by others for centuries, if not millenniums.  Of course. they are guided by their culture, which includes their religion and tribal traditions.

In our European-centric or Western world, we find four main cultural ingredients combined: Roman, Celtic, Germanic and Slavic. All this with a mighty proportion of Jewish tradition to spice things up. Overlaying all this mixture is the Judaic-Christian religion. This is our framework for our  thoughts and actions.

Even if we are not religious we believe in the enlightenment and a basic morality. Apparently, the majority of our politicians don’t believe in any morality. They have been democratically elected to work for the benefit of the population as a whole. But once elected and when they know the ins and outs of the expense entitlement system they go for it like a pack of hungry wolves. They have no shame at all.

The question arises how good is Democracy if it throws up such a mob of parasites? Last century, especially after WW2, Democracy seemed to be spreading. The two shining examples are Germany and Japan. After they lost the war they took to Democracy like ducks to water.

After 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union true Democracy seems to be on the retreat. New governments are still being elected but after the votes have been counted some of the new governments think they have a licence to curtail the rules of Democracy.

On top of all this, globalisation has led to an increase in the influence of big business over the governments. The voters are reacting now by throwing out the governments that appear corrupt and they elect populist new governments which further erode the democratic way of life. That doesn’t mean the new governments are less corrupt.

The USA have voted themselves an unpredictable president who will probably govern by Twitter. Well, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, said the other day, the future will begin in a few days. We will see what is new about it.

I say, we have arrived already. We live in a future we did not imagine when we were younger. The climate is changing our planet Earth into an uninhabitable rock. What have we done to our children and all the generation who will follow us?

People all over the world don’t want things to continue as they did up to now and they say so in a recent poll.

They want a strong leader who takes the power back from the big companies and their greedy CEOs.

We are living in a present in which the dark clouds of the future don’t show any silver lining at all.


Are we a humane Society?

There is so much strife in the world today. Sixty-five million people are refugees and looking for a better place where they could bring up their children in safety. The refugees often assume the nations of the European Union are shining examples of a “humane” society.

I wonder where they got that idea from? We, in the West, believe that the Western nations have indeed achieved a high level of human existence. We convinced ourselves, that since the end of the 18th Century, and the birth of the Enlightenment, we had turned the corner to a better world populated by enlightened people. We thought we had become more humane.

The educational reforms following the Enlightenment produced a better-educated populace. Research and inventions pushed us progressively towards a capitalist society in which the majority of people were indeed better off in the material sense. But the seeming progress also brought extreme poverty in its wake. Henry George wrote about the reasons behind this development in his Progress and Poverty.

The rise of capitalism brought us two terrible world wars and we still live in the aftermath of those wars. That there is something wrong with Capitalism was recognised by a group of people who were members of the so-called “Frankfurt School“. Capitalism is not interested in a humane society. Its interests lay in making a profit in the shortest of time possible. Never mind the victims of this system. Exploitation does not lend itself to “humane” behaviour. The two world wars and the ideologies espoused by some societies surely put an end to the notion of a humane society.

Seventy-one years after the end of World War II we can see the inhumane behaviour of our fellow men in action all over the world. In the Middle East, every group attacks any other group with a ferocity that reminds us of the Middle Ages.

Nevertheless, people all over the world are still dreaming of a better, peaceful  world in which they  can expect humane behaviour. But we are still waiting for such a humane society.

Can we ever hope to achieve a humane society, where love and kindness rules?

The reality of the present is always against such a hope. The reality of the present demands struggle. And as we struggle we alienate others and therefore create the conditions for future struggles.

We struggle because of our pessimistic view of our future. This view is the result of our fears. Our imagination regarding the future has two sides: a positive one, hope and a negative one, fear. Fear is a more instinctive emotion. Hope is an act of faith and not so easily achieved.

The people with a negative view of the future will build barriers, physical or psychological. For some people, it pays to nourish and spread fear and keep the masses bound to the grindstone of debt and consumption.

A humane society would be a simpler one than the one we have now, that is for sure. Perhaps we would have to throw out the smartphones first. We are addicted to the modern world of gadgets and apps. We are hooked on technology and are not a humane society. While we look at the flickering screen of our smartphone we don’t even notice the person next to us.  A recent power blackout in South Australia, due to a massive storm, started a political discussion along party lines because someone has to be blamed.

We lock up people in detention centres when they flee to our shores because life in their own societies became intolerable,  partly  because of our actions and interferences.

All this shows that our “humane” behaviour is just a thin veneer covering our inhumane capacity for greed and domination of others.

No, we are not a humane society. Not yet by any means.

Reflections of an old Man, living in a country at War

We Australians,  are at war. Our government, lead by a self-confessed liar (Don’t trust me, unless it is written down). He tells us, we are on a “humanitarian mission”. And he talks a lot.

We wouldn’t be there unless the US  tells us so. On our own we are not “humanitarian” enough to help those people in the Middle East who are in danger of being slaughtered.

When asked how long we’ll be there, they say, “For a long time,” or ,”when the Iraqi people can look after themselves”. I can tell you exactly how long we’ll be there. When the Americans have enough and cut and run, we will not stay one minute longer even for “humanitarian” reasons. President Obama said they want “to degrade and destroy” ISIS. I hope the US will “complete the mission”.

Our government is demonising  people of Islamic faith, so much so, that their women don’t dare going onto the street in fear of being harassed. They came up with the idea that women wearing a burqa are not allowed to sit in the public gallery of the parliament in Canberra. They will have to sit in a separate room with a glass window. Apparently the parliamentarians are afraid the ladies in question could do something  to endanger the lives of said parliamentarians. In this room normally  noisy children are kept so they cannot disturb the proceedings in the chamber. The Prime Minister calls the “burqa a “confronting  attire” ; but they want  to put children and those so clad ladies in one room. I hope the children are of sterner stuff than our PM is.

Never, ever has a burqa clad person been seen in  parliament. Any person that enters the public areas of the building is being checked out for any dangerous implements. But “No”,  more and more new laws and regulations are introduced to make daily life more inconvenient. The PM said, “We have to trade some freedoms, for more security.”

This new conflict in the Middle East will lead to realignments of old enemies and old friends. The Turks and the Kurds come to mind. The US has to re-evaluate its relationship with  Iran. Even the crisis in Ukraine is a bit on the  back burner, because Russia is needed to combat the ISIS menace.

Germany, who just celebrated its National Day, is still spooked by  WW II. Never again war, the slogan goes. But the world hasn’t stopped spinning and is spinning out of control fast. Germany has an army, but it is barely functioning. Their hardware is in disrepair and the defence minister is fighting for her own survival as a minister. When she asked for volunteers to fight Ebola in West-Africa she got 5000 ! In the Middle East they are sending weapons and equipment to the Kurds, but no “boots on the ground” as the saying goes. The Kurds are the only ones keeping up the fight and they are running out of ammunition.

Well, this war in Syria and Iraq, or “humanitarian” mission, will take its course. Young people from all over the world are flocking to join ISIS. And mothers can’t understand what has gone into their children. Why have they joined up? But soon they are  getting  a note from those people saying, “Congratulation! Your son is in Paradise now!”. This happened only recently to a German mother of an eighteen year old boy.

I went through WW II and have seen enough dead soldiers to last me a life time. Everyone was loved by a mother and they are still being dug up in the forest near Berlin, nearly seventy years after the event. Mankind has not learnt a thing. Today a right-wing journalist said, “Nobody is bombing Pakistan or Indonesia!” But he is wrong, because as we speak, American drones are killing people in Pakistan and making the population there more angry. No war has been declared. They are on a mission but it is not “humanitarian” either.