I urge...that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all the people.
Dear Arsenio Rodriguez and fellow traveler in hope,
In her jubilant note from 2060, Julia Sen Poniatowska claims a blood relationship with you, three generations removed. You refer to her note as a strange post via Facebook Messenger suggesting it may be a prank. I believe that she is your great granddaughter that you have transcended time. What I know is that you are dying to know what she looks like and to hug her! I assure you that this, my response, is no prank, neither fake nor trick of social media. At the same time I cannot completely rid myself of the thought that the note may be a future fake.
I must say at the outset that I did sign up to Facebook; its visage appeared innocent; since then I have rarely used it. It seems to me that although we have great universities, brilliant scholars and researchers, great orchestras, libraries, museums and many book shops the main source of information for citizens, locally, regionally and internationally comes through television and social media. Facebook now hires neuroscientists like me to tap brain knowhow for the purposes of marketing. As a somewhat philosophical neuroscientist I’m pulling more for classical Greek philosophy and global citizenship, which UNESCO has pleaded for, and for some time.
I greet you today Arsenio Rodriguez while trying to keep faith with the ghosts of times past and ask what the future holds for our children. Our only connection is that we are members of the human race. Strong relationships of blood and empathic solidarity should pull together. We are earth residents and worried grandfathers, one great, suspended between past and future. We are living in the presence of grave polarization, travelling in the same paradoxical time warp, trying to keep tempo with our times. Ours and past generations have taken too much from the earth to create a creeping disaster with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and earth surface temperatures. When they reach intolerable levels, depopulation of the earth will be well underway; more cemeteries and more untilled fallow earth. A species depleted earth will then re-absorb carbon dioxide through soil and the earth will slowly lose heat. The inhale-exhale of the earth’s bellows occurs on long and different time constants or scales. We are living its first phase and call it climate change. It may climax within one lifetime and denial is no deterrent to future disasters.
The lights of Europe went out in 1939 only to be relit at the end of WWII and with additional glow with the birth of the European Union (Common Market). 80 years later oxygen is now being turned off precipitating worldwide social emphysema, adding to social dementia; the mutually assured destruction policy of the Cold War is being replaced by a surely, assured policy of destruction, as nuclear control agreements fall apart and the planet goes plastic. I would suggest that a panel is convened by the international community to assess the symptoms and causes of the collective state of social dementia and less the state of mind of our political world. If we escape a nuclear war, which will not last long we still have to face an awful menu of creeping disasters.
I must say you are lucky to find in your inbox not just any note from the future but one from your great granddaughter. Fortunately, it survived spam, trash and deletion status. It is addressed you as My dear Great-grandfather. It would tweak anyone’s curiosity. You took the sweet bait. So did I, and without knowing why. It resides in her message of hope from her world of 2060, which is neither high on carbon dioxide nor short of bread or oxygen.
Her world depicts a fulfilling life for all, seemingly defined by Greek classical philosophy, which has become the organizing principle of society; a place where mystification, obfuscation and cover-ups are no more, where cooperation rather than competition prevail, where democratic governance is well distributed as a shared process and where the educational system recognizes the great importance of art and music, as tools for healthy human development.
In the world of 2060 human beings have re-found lost latitude and longitude and use appropriately, appropriate technology. It is a place where materialism is balanced with more highly valued cultural assets and where social dementia has been cured with philosophy, spiritual wisdom, and inner well-being.
Indeed the shipping news from the future is exhilarating even earth shaking. The future is doing well. Recycling is a way of life and science is working hard to repopulate the Earth with species that were on the verge of extinction and to resurrect others, an example of science serving humanity. It is gratifying to know that the social safety net and support systems for health, housing and special needs have been restored and reinforced and that the issues of inequality and distribution of wealth have been resolved. Most importantly, its breaking news informs us that an Earth Declaration was signed in 2040 by the Planetary Council, a body that replaced the failing United Nations. This is triumphant breaking news.
At 30, your great granddaughter with all other young people of her world have done much for humanity, more than today’s underfunded, somewhat self serving but more than ever needed, international community. This surely refers to a successful Children’s Crusade starting with Greta and the granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose mission is to restore balance in a world gone crazy, not to retake the Holy land. I am also pleased that you Arsenio have been given a few more years to make an additional difference and I for one would like to reinforce this sentiment. Allow me to petition the Gods on Olympus to imbue your remaining years with quality and ask Hades to forget about you. This goes for me too! Our distinctly different parts are complementary. Should you manage to send a return note, tell Julia that in the here and now, school children are being discouraged to talk about the much too political science of climatic crisis.
My career bridges the industrial and intellectual revolution; physics, coal and steel and the age of information; bit, artificial intelligence and robotics but now rests in public health and health diplomacy. In my recent follow up letter to the Clintons my expressed desire: to rise early, drink Greek, Turkish, Byzantine or Subska coffee, do my part at least over the next 10 years in the Balkans, a still most fragile European region. Your career has promoted sustainable development and a much needed alliance for human understanding by the integration of the change agents of social equity, environmental consciousness, and human rights with artistic expression and culture into a platform of influence. Having cut small swaths across some parts of the globe we are now residents of eternal cities, Athens and Rome, relate to the United Nations and as experimental electro-physiologists we cannot rest until nerve is put back into the international community, which may just help Julia, our children and our grandchildren.
In a recent talk in Sicily, I drew upon the plot of Tigerman a recent fiction, which comes too close to reality for comfort. It is set on the Island of Mancreu in the Arabian Sea and has long been exposed to harsh mining; a ticking time bomb that fortunately never explodes. To the west lies the Yemen, where billions in arms sales to Saudi Arabia have exploded; Somalia, where on-shore dumping of waste is legion, famine is widespread and on its high seas, piracy prevails; Ethiopia, whose Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus directs the WHO from Geneva, During the most recent World Health Assembly, he stated that it is unacceptable for 3 billion people to breath deadly smoke, adding if we do not take urgent action, sustainable development will never come close.
Mancreu is a lawless little island with an active volcano; an ethnic jumble where on and off-shore criminality are freely licensed and held in the claws of the anchored ships of the Black Fleet, which ring it. International law is suspended as the island's lawless waters support extraordinary rendition, organized crime, ship surgery where if there is no organ; heart, kidney, corneal graft, one will be found at a price.
The Island is toxic from chemicals; the chemical men came, dangerous gases erupted from beneath the sea, strange and cataclysmic discharges clouded the sky, changing the sex of fish, increasing sexual behavior with children born who can never speak, their Broca brain area absent. Representatives of the United Nations and World Health Organisation arrive, German neurologists, the British Consul Brevet and a soldier, Ferris; Dirac, a libidinous French consul; Pechorin from the Ukraine and of course Jed Kershaw from American intelligence rounded out by a team of Japanese scientists to oversee the creation of the first Interventional Sacrifice Zone. The ISZ is reminiscent of the exclusion zones of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Did I forget the presence of NATO and the European Union? In line for obliteration everyone will evacuate Mancreu.
Arsenio Rodriguez the heady shipping news from 2060 must be forwarded immediately to the WHO and all institutions in the international community, to Foundations that provide needed funding as well as all other influential and interested persons. I suggest the use of the diplomatic pouch; otherwise it will never ever reach its intended recipients. Even if it arrives, its reading may be postponed until the statutes of limitations run out. If only for posterity, the shipping news should be sent to strike out the referenced dark unacceptability as a figment of our imagination on World Environmental Day, 2060, a ghost from the world’s sullied past. Beware though, that they may take the credit for it.
Let me add that when near water I still look for bottles containing messages. I actually off-loaded a batch of bottles into the seas around Malaysia once filled with wine from Nemea and sipped at home. They were addressed to Ban Ki-moon and Irena Bokova. I had hoped that with favorable winds one at least would reach its destination. I did learn that one escaped into the South China Sea but was never picked up by a tycoon’s yacht to pique his curiosity. Not one bottle found its way back to the sender.
As you say Arsenio, memories push us back into the past or good old days while existential concerns project us into our tomorrow and in our case to contemplate breaking news from the future. Unfortunately, deterrence is no fail safe against nuclear blunders. Fukushima is where an earthquake come tsunami was transformed into a man-made disaster. It is a place now where robots roam and where homeless nuclear gypsies make their daily bread cleaning up contaminated soil in the exclusion zone. Now, the hands of the Doomsday Clock stand at 2 symbolic minutes to Midnight, which is the sorrowful hour that humanity is threatened with extinction. What a paradox when now close to midnight, poverty is being pushed back for one fifth of the population of large countries boosting daily income to a level of more than $5 while AI now helps biodiversity and benefits the intelligent elephant, which together with man came out of Africa so long ago. .
As I reflect on future perfect, no one knows whether a change of the world’s heart will occur this evening, or tomorrow. Thanks to beta mode Timepost, a vital intra-generational note arrived over a gap of 40 light-love years. Julia’s most noteworthy note adds substantively to the important Papal Ecological Encyclical Laudato Si’, a universal here and now appeal for dialectical solutions to environmental challenges noting that the fight against climate change is a question of social justice and human dignity that can return us to the concept of know-what and the principles of wisdom and morality embedded in classical philosophy.