2011 As Time Tunnel

by Juan L. Mercado

“No one ever regarded the first of January with indifference,” author Charles Lamb once wrote. “It is that from which all date their time and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.”

Nine out of 10 Filipinos enter the new year upbeat, Pulse Asia reports. It polled a nationwide sample of 1,200 respondents.. President Benigno Aquino’s pledge to bear down on corrosive graft, under President Gloria Arroyo, gives hope and resonates, Pulse Asia’s chief researcher Ana Maria Tabunda, told Agence France Presse. “There’s a perception things will be better because we have a new administration.”

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language/ And next year’s words await another’s voice/ And to make an end is to make a beginning,” T.S. Eliot said

PNoy’s beginning stint got thumbs up from seven out of 10 Filipinos, Social Weather Stations found. The discontented (10%) are concentrated in Metro Manila. “Over all, he chalked up for a “very good net satisfaction rating of +64.”

That’s a solid base for this season of compulsive crystal balling. Why does passage of the old year spur peering into the future?

“He who does not take thought of the future will find troubles well at hand”, Confucius taught. “Prediction… is not to win a bet about the future,” explains MIT professor Sherry Turkle. ” “It expresses a hope about what we might like the future to be.”

On New Year’s Eve, the Kitchen God’s lips are rubbed with pork, so, he’d report favorably, on one’s household, to the Jade Emperor, ancient Chinese fables say.. And in the 1605 play “Macbeth”, Banquo challenges the witches: “If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.”

The New York Times, in 1931, invited American innovators to predict what life would be like in 2011. Average life span of Americans, then only 54, would rise to 70, , founder of Mayo Clinic, W.J, Mayo, foresaw. It is 77.9 years today, on par with the Netherlands – and ahead of the Philippines 72.2 years. Noting China’s rise, physicist Arthur Compton envisaged “science will no longer be a monopoly of the West.”

“Our ability to design new objects may be accelerating”, says Princeton University’s Edward Tenner, But “skill at modeling their long-term risks increases only arithmetically.

Early space travel visionaries didn’t not fully grasp the challenges of radiation and lunar dust on extended missions. “Long-term environmental and social change can be even harder to predict. “

That shuttles us back to the 1977 study “Probing Our Futures: The Philippines 2000 AD.” It was a probing-the-future effort by Development Academy of the Philippines, School of Economics and Population Instituite at UP.

The study analyzed population, natural resources, nutrition, education, health and incomes. The data was to underpin policy thrusts, “not for a preferred but for an attainable future…A generation should give us time to create a better future all around.”

UP’s Dr. Felipe Miranda oversaw fellow-scientists with impeccable bona-fides in this drill. Why did it falter?

“I fault the study…for assuming no political changes into the year 2000,” former Education Secretary Onofre Corpus wrote. “It projected martial law continuing over the next generation.( It ) assumed politics ( had) no effect on our future. T

“These assumptions are not tenable.” Population growth, new technology and “emergence of a new generation of Filipino Muslim leaders will create new configurations and result in sharper approaches to social issues.”

Neither did “Probing Our Futures” foresee radical changes, just blips on the radar screen in the mid-70s.

A trickle of overseas workers then become a torrent. One in every ten Filipinos works abroad today. Cyberspace spin offs from the 1946 advent of computers altered world communications. That reshaped human hopes.

First signals of climate change then morphed into the last three years as “the warmest on record.” World Meteorological Organization records reveal. In fact, 2001 through 2010 has been ” warmest decade“ It’s impact on food costs to floods and blizzards is still unreeling.

People Power, sparked by Benigno Aquino’s assassination, was nine years away when first drafts of the PRF study were circulated. A bejeweled Imelda Marcos, strutted on the censored “New Society” stage, with cloying “Blue Ladies.” Corazon Aquino was an obscure housewife, compelled to seek Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile’s permission to visit her detained husband, or in Boston exile, oversee studies of Benigno III and sisters.

Panfilo Lacson and some PMA Class 72 members were rising stars in torture chambers of a “Rolex 12 “ military. Shell Marcos foundations emerged in Lichtenstein and Bahamas. Erosion of Supreme Court independence was sealed in the pathetic surrender of habeas corpus safeguards to the dictatorship.

Is New Year’s Day 2011 also a “time tunnel”?

The Supreme Court today is “led by a twilight appointee (and) …objected violently to the country discovering the truth” about misrule by the former president, Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros notes. The medium term plan estimates volatile demand for overseas workers are unrealistically static. The run down on ecological capital continues. Economist Cielito Habito, this week, documented ratcheting pressure on fisheries.

In 2011, it is vital our scientists will resume efforts to discern our future.“If we open a quarrel between the past and the present,” Winston Churchill once warned, “we shall find that we have lost the future”.

(Email: juanlmercado@gmail.com)

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