Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Future Affects the Present and Affected the Past

I've been thinking about how many of the struggles of the last few centuries were because of a belief of one form or another in a prediction about the future. There was "Manifest Destiny" in the U.S. There was the establishment of the state of Israel, at the heart of the middle east conflict.  I don't know enough about how the ideas of Nietzsche and Hegel were adopted by the Germans to say for certain, but I have the impression they saw German domination of the world and eugenics as a historical inevitability that they were working out.  Certainly the Communists believed that laws of human nature led inevitably to the conclusion that there would be a revolution and that Communism would eventually encompass the earth.  All of these are beliefs about how the future would necessarily play out, science fictions that profoundly altered the unfolding of history by being widely believed.
The idea of population explosion in the 60s and 70s, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, current beliefs about global warming-- all these ideas seem to be based on a belief that we can accurately say what will happen, that we can extrapolate.  Not to say that these ideas are right or wrong, just that I find it interesting that the belief that they are right is a powerful force in historical events.

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