The Poverty of Prophecy

paraglider family picnic, c 1959, scanned from kodachrome slide
family picnic, c 1959, scanned from kodachrome slide


It is the year 2210. At the podium, a Professor of Historical Sociology is about to give a lecture entitled The Poverty of Prophesy. Let's listen in.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the year 2010, generally considered the beginning of Modernity, though of course the rump of Primitivism took at least one hundred more years to fade to oblivion. Traces of it remain even to this day, but for the most part we must go to the re-enactment societies and historical "movies" (two-dimensional projections of "moving" pictures) to get a feel for the barbarism that was once the norm, and even celebrated as virtue.
2010 was indeed a remarkable year, though as is always the case, very few commentators of the period understood or even noticed the significance of the changes that were taking place. Foremost among these was the collapse of the European economy. This, coupled with a major volcanic eruption in November (there had been a minor eruption six months earlier) effectively isolated most of Europe from the rest of the World for a period of fifty years. At first, the isolation was primarily physical: "airliners" (early flying machines powered by fossil fuel) were grounded, and road transport came to a halt soon after, as so-called "inflation" rendered fossil fuel unaffordable. But what made the isolation complete was the unexpected failure of high frequency communication networks, as the suspended volcanic ash prevented all satellite access. Local communication was largely unaffected and there was a quaint revival of Medium Wave radio, but to all intents and purposes, Europe fell off the World.
The rest of the World effectively abandoned Europe as a lost cause (i.e. of no economic or military significance - such was the poverty of early 21st Century conventional thought) and continued along its self destructive path. Supra-national financiers continued to accrue power and wealth to themselves, while cynically propagating hatred, prejudice and ignorance among the people, to keep them in a dismal round of conflict at home and war overseas.
The greatest irony is that such writings as have survived from this era refer to Europe as having entered a new Dark Age, whereas we now know it was Europe, and Europe alone, that had escaped the collective madness of competitive global consumerism.
So, what was happening under that ash cloud? At first, there was a great deal of hardship and considerable loss of life. There were outbreaks of disease and even of madness, as unsustainable technologies, infrastructure and primitive social practices collapsed, one by one. But in contrast to this "decline in civilisation", there came great advances in community and in "conviviality" as first talked about by Ivan D Illich fifty years previously. And from this convivial atmosphere came a re-valuing of what we now understand as true "wealth" - the virtues of intelligence, imagination, compassion and cooperation, so absent from the manic world outside.
For us, today, it is difficult to see anything remarkable in what we have just described, but we must remember that prior to Europe's second Renaissance 200 years ago, public morality had so far declined that politicians held more sway than philosophers, competition was preferred to cooperation, celebrity was valued over talent, personal wealth over integrity, and greed was the top of the pile. A strange world indeed, not unlike the "hell" mentioned in the old religious texts. And there is another delicious irony here too, that the most vociferous defenders of this "hellish" lifestyle were often the greatest devotees of the "holy" books that purported to abhor evil in all its forms. This is, of course, entirely typical of the uncritical confusion that characterised the Primitive era.
However, our purpose here today is to discuss the "Poverty of Prophesy", not merely to summarise two hundred years of history, so let us close this introduction by simply acknowledging that it was Europe's convivial society alone that made possible the cooperative development of our two great para-technologies, telekinesis and hyperacuition, that, following the final dispersion of the volcanic ash blanket, were poised to usher in, Globally and irresistibly, the Convivial Era of Modernity that we have enjoyed for the last one hundred and fifty years.
Let us now turn to our subject proper - The Poverty of Prophesy.
Or let's leave that for another day.
Thank you for reading!
(This hub, and my return to hub-writing after nearly six months lay-off, can be blamed on my good-natured friend, James A Watkins, and in particular, to this)

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