Tomgram: John Feffer, The View from 2016

August 21, 2008

It was probably all those afternoons at my local library when I was a kid, reading Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi version of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the Foundation Trilogy, and those nights under the covers with a flashlight — long after I was supposed to be asleep — frightening myself to death with H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds and the like…

Still, even at my age, I continue to enjoy a glimpse into the future. Of course, so do the Pentagon and the U.S. Intelligence Community. In fact, in recent years, they have practically taken out a copyright on the future. These days, they’re always producing scenarios for (and plans and weapons for) 2020 and beyond. As Frida Berrigan noted at this site recently, most federal agencies “project budgets just around the corner of the next decade. Only the Pentagon projects power and possibility decades into the future, colonizing the imagination with scads of different scenarios under which, each year, it will continue to control hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. Complex 2030, Vision 2020, UAV Roadmap 2030, the Army’s Future Combat Systems — the names, which seem unending, tell the tale.”

But my feeling is: Why leave voyages into the future to them? Okay, when TomDispatch writers look ahead, they only control budgets in the low double figures, but still…

Back in December 2006, I asked site regular Rebecca Solnit to bring that year to an end by stepping into the nifty TomDispatch Compac 1221 Time Machine, just the basic model of course, and zipping forward to the year 2026 in order to take a gander at the past we have yet to experience. She ended that post:

“The future, of course, is not something you predict and wait for. It is something you invent daily through your actions. As Mas Kodani, a Buddhist in Los Angeles, said in the early twenty-first century: ‘One does not stand still looking for a path. One walks; and as one walks, a path comes into being.’ We make it up as we go, and we make it up by going, or as the Zapatistas more elegantly put it, ‘Walking we ask questions.’ What else can you do?”Perhaps respect the power of the small and the mystery of the future to which we all belong.”

Solnit’s piece was so satisfying that, every time I noticed that snappy little, all-red Time Machine in my closet, I was beset by regrets. Fortunately, just this week, out of the blue — and the future — I received the following report. Buckle your seat belts, you’re in for a ride. Tom

Click here to read more of this dispatch.